Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Celebrate Poetry - Nesdoly

If writers were musicians, poets would not be the rock stars, the pop icons or the members of the symphony orchestra. In fact I doubt they'd even rate as mainstream among readers as jazz does among listeners. They're pretty much to writing what indie bands are to music - autonomous, little known, more focused on producing their content than becoming wealthy or famous.

Despite the generally cold shoulder of readers, we poets keep writing anyway because we love poetry and get some kind of strange fulfillment producing more of it (droll Billy Collins says it so well).

April is National Poetry month in Canada and the U.S. It's a time when poetry organizations of all kinds celebrate their particular brand of writing with readings, displays, contests, and book sales -- a month we poet odd-balls will be filling the airwaves with our strange music, from haunting to humorous. On this March 31st eve of National Poetry Month, I'm inviting you to join the celebration. You might just find that you enjoy these strains more than you ever thought you would. Some suggestions:

  • Subscribe to a daily email poem. The Writer's Almanac with its entertaining, easy-to-understand poems read by Garrison Keillor is an excellent choice.
  • Attend a poetry reading in your community. Check the bulletin board in your local paper.
  • Enter a poem you've written in a free contest. That's right. I said FREE. Check it out here.

Finally, while I still have your attention - here's a poem. It's about why I write poetry...

I Take My Walk Just In Time

I take my walk just in time
under the frowning sky
share the green with black crows and white gulls.
They graze while I ponder should I
give it up this tinkering
with words that pilfers time
from creased shirts and dusty corners?
There’s little coin to justify
hours spent and what will be its fate
on that final bonfire-trial day?

Beside my path stands a gull so near
we could touch.
smooth pearly gray
wingtips telescoped to perfect
white dots on black.

Surely God, the original and extravagant Creator
Who thought it no waste
to paint alpine flowers
craft ocean stars
and decorate with this polka-dotted petticoat
understands the urge I feel
to build for the epiphanies of my life
little piles of words?

I turn home with lighter heart
step to subtle happy rhythms –
a woodpecker rattling her way up a finger of snacks
and on my jacket the intermittent pat pat
pat of reconnaissance raindrops.

© 2003 by Violet Nesdoly

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanks be to God

"For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful: though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." It's just a simple mealtime prayer. But our grandparents probably would not sit down to any meal, no matter how bland or meager it was, without saying those words, or words much like them.

It wasn't so long ago that Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Christians of almost any background, would not sit down to a down to a meal without thanking God for the food. They also thanked the human cook, usually Mum. Even people who rarely attended church, at least said Grace to God and expressed appreciation to his human helpers. Now family meals are rare, grace is rarer. And God help the cook who serves the same thing twice in a week.

Not so long ago, most Canadians believed the thought, not the thing, matter when a gift was given. Now gifts are returned for cash by people of all ages. A sense of entitlement, no thankfulness prevails.

While some Canadians still say Grace at meals and, as a nation, we're often mocked by comics for being too polite, I doubt we're nearly a good at being thankful as previous generations. Worse yet, when we do say 'thank you', whether to God or a human being, we often really don't mean it. We really don't appreciate the love that goes behind gifts of any kind. Especially God's gifts to us.

We can rationalize our reasons: Perhaps,earlier generations remembered days when the platter on the table was nearly empty; when the crops failed, when the hunting was bad, and when the livestock died. Perhaps they remembered when shining up perfect Mackintosh apples or, heading to town for a box of exotic mandarin oranges at Christmas was a huge, much appreciated effort. They were valiant fights to create celebration when there wasn't much, materially at least, to celebrate.

Sometimes a bowl of porridge was a feast to a pioneer family. Fresh eggs may have been a nearly forgotten delicacy when a hen stopped laying. Not so long ago, many urban Canadians drank powdered milk. But they gave thanks and meant it: to God and to the human hands that brought those meals in front of them.

I think they knew something most of us have forgotten.

As the psalmist said, "Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks; yea, unto thee do we give thanks. Thy Name also is so nigh; and that do they wonderous works declare" Psalm 75:1.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Extra Effort – Lawrence

What happens when we give that little extra effort to our regular job? What happens when we give out that 110% we hear people speak about sometimes? What happens when we go beyond the call of duty?
One hears, from time to time, whether on the TV news or in the local newspaper, of someone who did just that. The reason it gets noted in the news is that people are surprised by it; surprised that someone makes that extra effort to help another person rather than walking away in case one might get hurt or involved in another’s business. (Sounds a little like the parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, doesn’t it? Luke 10: 33.)

I have seen this extra effort even in nature. In fact, I have seen it this month in one of my indoor plants, which is what made me think about this concept of doing more than is expected of us and the joy that it brings to others. Yes, to answer my earlier question, that is what happens when we do more than is expected of us—it brings joy and happiness to those around us; it gives a lift to the spirits of others.

Now, to my plant story—a few years ago, I knocked a Christmas cactus plant on the floor. It actually survived the ordeal quite well apart from losing some of its earth out of the pot, which I replaced, and breaking off a couple of its leaves. I decided to plant the two leaves into some earth in a small pot and hoped that they would put down some roots. I had to take it on faith that the leaves would produce roots because they were hidden from me, but I knew that they had done so when, after several months, new growth began to sprout out of the tops of the leaves.
Eventually, I put the young plants into a larger pot and, when several years later they grew too big even for this pot, I provided a large pot for each of them.

We call these plants Christmas cacti though, in actual fact, the ones that I have bloom in October. They have beautiful pink blossoms, which grow out of the tops of their leaves. In 2008, all three of these plants bloomed well and were covered all over with healthy pink blossoms for about a month from first sprouting to their final withering and dropping to the floor.

Earlier this month, March 2009, I noticed that one of the plants was producing a bud. It’s true that sometimes they do put out little pink protrusions other than at their normal October blooming time but these usually shrivel up and come to nothing. This bud, of which I am speaking, was definitely showing signs of developing into a mature flower; it was putting forth an extra effort.

It is now almost three weeks until Easter and this one flower on this one leaf of this one Christmas cactus is showing forth, in parable, the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
I pray that all we who are Christians may make the effort to do the same—shouting out our own hallelujahs in our own joyful song.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! Isaiah 35: 1 & 2, New Living Translation.

© Judith Lawrence
Read and listen to Judith’s monthly meditation on her website at www.judithlawrence.ca

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remembering to Forget

Her name is Maria and her story is one I will never forget.

I sat beside her at Mully Children’s Family in Kenya conducting research for a follow up story to the life of the founder, Charles Mulli. MCF is a home that rescues children from the slums of Kenya. I was there for the first time five years ago. I came to teach for 3 months.

But when I got there, I was invited to write Charles’ Mulli’s story - how at the age of six he was abused by his father and then wakes up one morning to discover his family has completely abandoned him.

Charles went from hut to hut begging for food. Unable to afford school he started working and eventually started his own businesses. He ultimately became a multi-millionaire and was on a first name basis with the president. Then one day, God called him to sell all he had and to go into the slums to rescue street children.
Today he has more than 2,000 children under his care.

One of them is Maria.

I sat beside her and took notes about her tragic life. Her parents divorced when she was young. She went to live with her father. Then one day while her dad was at work she took Maria and left for a remote village. She never saw her father again. Her life with her mother went from bad to worse. Her mother became and alcoholic and turned violent towards her daughter.

I found it difficult to hear her story. At this point she stopped and looked at me.

“Are you taking notes of this?”

I felt terrible. I explained that I was doing a follow up book on Charles Mulli and…

“Yes, yes I understand that,” she said with typical African compassion and kindness. “You explained that all to me. It’s just that all of this that I am telling you up to this point is just background information. The real suffering in my life hasn’t happened yet.”

I sat there stunned. Too shocked to continue writing. I looked into her young eyes, eyes that had experienced more pain and suffering than many of us could even imagine.

She began to recount her life story. I’m not sure that there are words to describe what she went through. I recall an interview with Tom Hanks about Saving Private Ryan. He commented about recreating the Normandy scene and said something to the effect that what it looked like they can get, but what it felt like we’ll never know. I hope no one has to experience what Maria went through.

But I realize that this is wishful thinking. There are Marias all over the world going through what she went through.

She stopped halfway through the interview and heard the singing of the children in the evening devotions. She asked if we could go and join them. We walked in and she got onto stage and called me up. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then she invited me to join her in leading the group in singing the song “I’m trading my sorrows…for the joy of the LORD.”

So there, in front of 400 kids, she sang her heart out about how much she loved Jesus.

We came back and finished the interview. I was in a state of disbelief. How does someone who has been through so much still love Jesus? I felt outclassed. Embarrassed. Ashamed of my Christianity.

Mostly, I admired her. I was with someone who had totally transformed my thinking.
She finished her story. She described the real suffering in her life.
After a long pause I turned to her.

“Aren’t you angry at God?” I asked. I probably shouldn’t have. But I had to know. You can fake Christianity for a while. But you can’t fake getting abused, then getting up in front of 400 kids and singing your heart for Jesus. There was something deep going on.

“No,” she said. She smiled. “That’s all in the past.”

How is it that this young girl who has lived through unspeakable pain can be so loving to Jesus?

It reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s writings in Philippians 3 – Forgetting what lies behind…I press on toward the goal.

That’s a challenge for us as Christians.

We need to remember to forget.

We need to remember where our focus should be.

Am I more interested in complaining about my past, or more interested in pursuing Jesus Christ?

Paul is the author of Father to the Fatherless: The Charles Mulli Story. His first feature film Among Thieves, a movie about the Iraq War comes out in April. www.firegatefilms.com/amongthieves. His latest book about Winnipeg inner city pastor and activist Harry Lehotsky will be available later this year.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Further Reflections on the Church - Eleanor Shepherd

One of the most exciting parts of the week for my husband, Glen and me is Sunday morning at ten o’clock. We have the privilege of facilitating a class of teens and young adults at our church. We have come to call it the Discovery Class, because that is what we do.

More than being offered the standard answers these young people want to ask burning questions about how they are to live out their faith as Christians, and not be judged for doing so. They have heard it all, since most of them have been coming to Sunday School and church since they were infants. Their questions reflect the challenges they face in trying to authentically live out their faith every day in their schools, work places and homes.

For example last Sunday, they wanted to know how do you tell someone who does not share our faith that they are wrong. As we entered into a discussion about it, we concluded that to come right out and declare that they are wrong would really do nothing for the relationship. It would only affirm the opinion of some that Christians are arrogant bigots who think they have all the answers.

We tackled the subject from several viewpoints. One person recounted a recent experience about walking along the boardwalk at the beach on vacation in Florida. There were two young men at the open air stage with their Bibles open shouting at the crowd how they were one day going to be judged for the failure to accept God’s message. Even as a Christian, to hear the condemnation made one cringe and not want to identify with that kind of intolerance.

One option explored was keeping the dialogue going with our friends, convinced that if they are genuinely seeking the truth they will find it. Isn’t that what the Scriptures tell us? Somehow we need to be ready to listen and help them think through the conclusions of what they believe until they themselves see that they have not yet come to a knowledge of the truth.  We took this idea a little further. It is actually possible for Christians to learn some things about faith by carefully considering the questions of those who have not embraced the faith. There are questions that do not have easy answers and to reflect about them can increase our appreciation of the reality that God cannot be reduced to someone that we can figure out. His ways truly are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. Nevertheless, slowly we can tease out truths that strengthen our faith.

There are times, when it is necessary for us to gather up our courage and with dignity and respect tell our friends that they are on the wrong track. Interestingly enough, a few days later Glen and I were having lunch with some friends who recounted to us just such a story. One person in a group, they were involved with was making choices that were not only detrimental for themselves but also brought into question the faith and character of the other Christians in the group. The only choice was to confront them with the consequences of their behaviour. Even those who were not Christians agreed that this was necessary.

The outcome of our discussion was that there cannot be rigid rules set down about telling someone they are wrong. What is essential is that the person be treated with dignity and respect. Then when we have to point out error it can be seen as that and not as an attack on the person. What must motivate our decision is love. This is not the kind of love that is a mushy sentimentality. Rather it is love that follows Jesus, willing to do as He did and lay down one’s life for one’s friends. It is a love that seeks the best for the person who is the object of that love.

Was that not the message of Jesus who said that the world would know that we are His by the love we show to one another? These young people sure set a high standard for us.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why I must write - Payne

In order to feel “fulfilled” I know that I must write. Reading is great and I really do love it. But, it doesn’t offer the same release. Gardening and tending to the house, again feel good, and I like to check off things from my “to do” list, but they still leave me wanting more. Walking makes me feel good, but it doesn’t help me to empty myself so I can be filled again. Only writing.

Nothing purges my soul like writing. Nothing fills the well like writing. I can go about my day, finish a million tasks, have a sparkling house and tend to gardens, but the only thing that feeds me back is writing.

It’s theory until I write about it and only then does it become practice. The stuff I take in does not solidify until I regurgitate it back on paper. I think best when I write. All these thoughts that are swimming around in my mind are usable once put on paper. All my questions get cleared away and answered. I don’t feel like I can tackle the day until my thoughts are in order. And my thoughts are not put into order until I write.

I write much better than I talk. My ideas are clearer. I’m able to come up with solutions. What feels like questions, ideas and words floating freely in my mind are channelled and organized out of this free-flowing sphere to be built up, piece by piece.

My ideas are like puzzle pieces loosely scattered within a small box. When I write, I take one piece out at a time, examine it, touch it, look at it and find its place in the big picture. Once I write it down, it’s no longer free-floating but instead adding to a much more beautiful scene.

Once those loose pieces have found their place on paper, my mind conjures up new ideas, a new creation. This is how I learn. This is how I grow. This is why I must write.

Can you relate?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As this entry is published, it is twenty-five days until Good Friday. We are approaching the most important festival of the Church year.

Some may wish to challenge me on this point but I believe that, were it not for the events of Easter, the rest of what we do would be senseless and empty.

Certainly, Christmas gets the most attention from the secular world. There are more special programs on television. The community seems to become more involved in the events leading up to the Nativity. That has been true, at least, in the nine or ten communities where I have lived in my church career. SEARS does not put out a Spring edition of the Wish Book.

What we do at Easter is something that no other faith community can do. We celebrate an empty grave.

Let's not have any foolish talk about grave-robbing followers, a swooning Jesus who rolled back the stone after he recovered from a pain-induced faint, or any of the other fantastic theories that eliminate the possibility of the intervention of God, the Resurrection of a Saviour, and the salvation of all who put their faith in Him alone.

Christians, of all the so-called 'faith communities' of the world, are the only people on earth who do not have a grave where the mortal remains of the object of their worship lie. We can thank God for that. Because of what the empty grave signifies, we should be a people who reverence this season more than any other. Without the Resurrection, Christmas is just another, elaborate baby shower. Without the Easter reality, there is no reason to gather as the community of faith to worship.

If Jesus did not die for the express purpose of taking away our sins; if he did not rise again to demonstrate that God has the power to do such a thing; if Jesus is just another 'guru' with a new way to express belief in 'a higher power' that could be just about anything you choose to call 'god', then we would be better off following our favourite author in the 'Self-Help' shelves of our local book store.

Somebody has got to say this. It might as well be me. We are wretched sinners—all of us. We deserve eternal separation from God. We are supremely bad people, no matter what the 'feel good' proponents tell us. Folks who can't stand to hear that they are sinners are making those folks rich.

With regard to our relationship with God, we messed up pretty badly. Read Genesis to get your first inkling of how bad things went just shortly after the creation. The Bible is full of stories about bad people and the account of the life of one divinely good one.

We may do 'good' things. We might not have intentionally hurt anyone. At least, we have not heard many complaints about our behaviour. But, God looks at it differently. He said that the penalty of eternal separation was what we deserved for our disobedience.

Like a loving parent, though, He wanted to bestow His grace upon his Creation. Someone else took your place and mine. Someone else experienced what it would be like to have the Heavenly Father turn his back and just walk away. At the moment that Jesus cried out, “… why have you forsaken me?” he was feeling that abandonment that should have been the outcome for us all.

Easter is a happy occasion for Christians because God demonstrates His love for us. Jesus came to take away the fear of a vengeful god. Christ died on the Cross, took our sins, bore our shame, and experienced the penalty for our sins. And finally, and gloriously, He rose again. And he has commissioned us to spread the good news.

He is risen indeed!

Robert Scott is a pastor and the author of ADVERTISING MURDER, LOST YOUTH and MURDER EXPRESS, titles in the Jack Elton Mystery series, Published by AVALON Books, New York, N.Y.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

C.S. Lewis: a prototype for writers today - Martin

Even with so much being written, year after year, I find myself often drawn back to the writing of C.S. Lewis. What does he offer, that hasn’t been done better since? Why does his writing hardly seem dated? Why is he so well known today? It’s fascinating to note that he gained fame in quite unrelated forms of writing, and that that fame has not diminished since.

He is well-known, within scholarly circles, for his academic writing. With his book,The Allegory of Love, Lewis is said to have re-established Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen as an important work of sixteenth century literature, and to have proven himself to be a major literary critic. This in itself is an important contribution, but is Lewis’ least known.

He is best known, by the general public, as a novelist. C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, including Perelandra which is being performed as an opera this year in Oxford, and his children’s fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, carry significant weight within their light frames. Lewis saw how story could delightfully illustrate truths in a way more palatable than more direct methods. Since he was a voracious reader, with a passion for good books, his stories work independently as stories, even without thought given to what they speak of beyond themselves. Lewis managed to teach through his stories without really being didactic, because the truths he demonstrated arose within the framework of the story, not as something imposed from outside.

Lewis also became famous for his Christian apologetics. He took on the toughest issues of faith in such books as The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and Mere Christianity. What makes these books valuable is not only his ability to reason, and debate, but his amazing skill for metaphor. In Miracles he said, “...if we are going to talk about things which are not perceived by the senses, we are forced to use language metaphorically.” He knew that we would better see what is meant, if he gave us a picture.

Ironically his first desire was to be a poet, but he was far too old-fashioned to be a successful 20th century poet, too stuck within the forms of the past. Surprisingly, I believe it is this same disregard for his times that has helped to make all of his other writing timeless. By writing of the universal, he transcends changing fashion. His success in one genre, helped to renew attention in what he had written in another, which of course led to book sales. C.S. Lewis always wrote from the depth of who he was, and what he loved. This is how great artists always work.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his new poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), and his chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed are available at www.dsmartin.ca

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watching for Daddy in the Fog - Laycock

The little girl’s nose was pressed into the window pane, her chin cupped in a small hand, her breath making a small circle of moisture on the glass. She peered into dense fog beyond the window, fascinated and a little frightened.

She had never seen fog like this before, so thick it blotted out everything normally seen from the window, even the bright street lamp on the corner. She knew fog like this was dangerous and she knew her daddy was out there somewhere, on his way home. Every now and then the little girl turned to look at the kitchen clock. Every minute that passed, without any sign of her dad, made her a little more anxious, but she kept up her vigil. She stayed at the window for a long time and at last was rewarded.

Out of the grey mist, her father materialized, smiling, happy to lift his child into his arms when she ran to him with a shout of relief – “Daddy, you’re home!”

There will be a day when we will be taken into the arms of Jesus in the same way. He promised, as He left this earth, that he would return one day. He will appear, as my father appeared out of the fog long ago, and He will expect to be welcomed.

Waiting for Christ to return is a lot like that little girl waiting for her dad to come home through the fog. We can’t see beyond our present state. As much as we may peer into the future, it is hidden from us. We cannot see what is unfolding in the spiritual realms. Often we glance at the clock and sigh. Will it ever happen? Will the One who loves and cares for us as no other can ever arrive? We don’t know when we will see Jesus materialize before us, yet we believe, by faith, He is out there and He is on His way home.

Luke 12:35-40 describes this point in time – “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him” (v.35&36). Notice the first two phrases in this passage – “Be dressed, ready for service.” We are to be occupied while we wait for Him, serving one another as we long for his appearing. “Keep your lamps burning,” don’t give up.

Though the fog of this world is dense and allows no glimpse of the spiritual realm, keep watching with expectation. Say with the prophet Micah, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour” (Micah 7:7). There will be a day when we will joyfully cry out, “Jesus, you’re home!”

Marcia is the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award (2006) for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Visit her website - www.vinemarc.com

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Welcome Visitors! - Meyer

Just wanted to take a moment to welcome all the visitors that drop by our site - some on a regular basis. We usually have between 600 and 1,100 visitors per month with peaks at certain times of the year (May and September). Our visitors are from many different parts of the globe (we had a recent long visit from someone in The Netherlands).
To all of you, I wish you a warm welcome. We hope you are enjoying the blog.

Please feel free to post comments! We would love to hear from you today.

On behalf of all the authors at The Word Guild,

Dorene Meyer, moderator TWG authors blogspot

Friday, March 06, 2009

Harking Back with Horatio -- Black

"That would be good for him. Just be nice," she wrote. "When I was leaving for France I'd hoped to hire him out. But we didn't have any takers." Lydia was referring to Horatio, who has a rich, full voice, and stands about four-and-a-half feet tall.

Horatio, my young friend's cello, has languished with nothing to do since she left for a year of study in Nice, last summer. And now I, who only ever had my hands on a cello for one weekend's brief musical flirtation -- and that, forty years ago, am afforded the honour and daunting task of trying to make him sing (in private of course!).

For me, it's like trying something new, and yet not altogether new. With Horatio, I have a harking back to my youth, to when I played double bass -- the cello's big cousin -- in the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra; but that stint ended almost a half-century ago. The experience and technique employed in playing the one instrument, although gained in distant decades past, are factors I hope to draw on in my attempts to play the other.

Many things in life are like that. My late mother, an avid knitter, took an interest in crochet, and found she had a head-start, in a familiarity with the medium and aspects of the form. Driving a car is quite different from driving a bulldozer; however, they share similarities and employ some related techniques.

Writing, I find, engages one in the process of harking back. As writers, do we not frequently draw on memories, lessons learned, and old familiarities pertaining to the sociological and psychological dynamics of our being human and interacting with our material, cultural, social, and spiritual environments? We draw from the personal relationships, emotions, and experiences of our own past, and from what we've observed in the lives of other people.

Life is a continuing school, an academy of learning, a place for building a body of wisdom -- solid material, laid down like sedimentary rock, layer upon layer. Or, picture life as mineralized water, naturally filtered through the gravel of experience, gathering in subterranean reservoirs of memory.

The writer -- whether philosopher, writer of teaching text-books, biographer, novelist, or short fiction writer, or journalist -- hews out and builds his or her work from the rock of experience, and along with the poet and songwriter, draws from the deep well of lessons learned in life. However often the bucket is lowered, it need never run dry, for the longer and more meaningful our living, the deeper and more adequately supplied the well. Hewing from the rock or drawing from the well is a harking back.

I don't suppose I'll make Horatio sing very well; I'll be happy to make him sing at all. And I may never write a best seller; however, as I hark back and hew from the rock and draw from the well of experience of the grace and mercy of God, I hope that what I write will raise my readership's gaze to a level where they will catch a vision of His glory and grace that will cause their hearts to sing.

~~~ Psalm 95:1 (NIV) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

~~~ Peter Black's first book is being read and enjoyed by children and adults in various settings, such at home, Bible Club, Christian school, church, seniors residence, etc.

Peter also writes a weekly inspirational column for The Guide-Advocate, a community newspaper in Southwestern Ontario. E-mail: raisegaze@execulink.com .

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lessons from history - Nesdoly

I recently read Something Out of Nothing – Marie Curie and Radium. It is a compelling account of Marie Curie’s life written for children by Carla Killough McClafferty. Especially instructive is the way the world first reacted to radium.
Mme. Marie Curie

After its discovery – announced in December of 1898 – the Curie’s and other scientists began to realize that radium destroyed tissue. That led to its use in treating cancer. Once doctors had successfully destroyed malignant tumors with it, they began prescribing it for other conditions as well – high blood pressure, acne, diabetes, infected wounds, skin problems. It was the new cure-all and for a time radium could do no wrong.

People, believing it was good for health generally began fads like “Radium tea” where Paris socialites gathered to play cards, visit, and drink tea in rooms where oxygen, which had been passed through a container of radium, circulated. Manufacturers added radium to a variety of products from toothpaste and bath powder to glow-in-the-dark buttons and fishing lures.

During World War I the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation hired girls as young as 12 to paint the dials and numbers on wrist watches so they would glow in the dark. To do this they mixed dry radium powder with paint thinner and zinc sulfide. On a good day a painter completed 250-300 watches. Of course such delicate painting needed a fine-tipped brush. To keep the tip as sharp as possible, girls shaped the brush tips by passing them between their lips before dipping it in paint. They did this hundreds of times a day.

In 1921 one of the girls developed a severe toothache and swollen mouth. Her tooth was pulled but the socket wouldn’t heal. When infection set in, her dentist found her entire jawbone had deteriorated to the point he could take it out of her mouth. She died in 1922.

It wasn’t until more of the factory painters came down with the same symptoms that people suspected radium as the culprit. In May 1925 a New York times headline finally declared, “New Radium Disease Found; Has Killed 5.” By the early 1930s the five watch painters who had banded together to sue their former employers (known as the Radium Girls) had all died agonizing deaths.

This and other stories from McClafferty’s book fascinate. From our vantage point of over 100 years after radium’s discovery, we wonder how they could have been so casual with this radioactive element. Their experience brings two thoughts to mind.

1. The almost epidemic prevalence of cancer in our society raises the question, what killer products are we naively exposing ourselves to?

2. Spiritually, radium has some similarities to sin. The initial results of sin in our lives may seem harmless, even beneficial – the thrill of an illicit affair, the prestige and power of illegally gained wealthy, the popularity and fame of a sensual, no-holds-barred lifestyle. But like prolonged exposure to radium inevitably kills, so sin’s continued presence in our lives leads to eventual destruction.

History teaches some important lessons, in both the physical and spiritual realm. Let’s pay attention and learn them.

Interesting links:

Web presence: Website
Personal blog promptings
Writerly blog Line upon line
Children's devotions blog Bible Drive-Thru

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