Friday, May 29, 2009

Write & publish shorts for kids - Nesdoly

Three weeks from today (June 19th), I'll be at Write! Canada. By now I will have reunited with friends I met when I came to the Write! Canada conference in 2004. Hopefully I'll also have come face to face with other friends whom up to now I've only chatted with online. I'll be in the thick of stimulating classes and workshops. And on that Friday, I'll be anticipating then looking back on the workshop I'm scheduled to teach.

If you're also coming to Write! Canada, you have doubtless pored over all the goodies offered in classes and workshops. If you're a children's writer, this is my personal invitation to attend "Writing for the Children's and Young Adult Christian Market."

Here's how it's described on the Write! Canada website:

A3: Writing for children consists of more than dreaming up the next Veggie Tale picture book, Faithgirlz™ series or Narnia-style fantasy. In this workshop we’ll discuss six types of short writing for children: devotions, articles, puzzles, stories, activities, and poems. Children’s magazines, Sunday School papers, and Web sites have lots of little spaces to fill. Learn to write a variety of short pieces in a lively, interesting, and fun-filled way to improve your chances of getting published. Lots of examples and marketing suggestions will be provided.

"Oh," you say, "but I don't want to write short stories, articles and fillers. I want to write books."

Sure you do. But you also want to get published, don't you? It's way easier to get a short story or article published in a magazine than in an expensive-to-produce picture book. And do you realize that credits for publications in periodicals can be a step toward your goal? Not only do they look good on your resumé, but such writing gives you experience and credibility with editors, a portfolio of clips, not to speak of a little cash to splurge on the newest latte at Tim's.

Even Jon Bard, editor of Children's Book Insider, agrees with me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Find Your Voice and Shout - Arends

Note: My blog contribution this month is geared specifically towards writers, but I hope if you are engaged in any creative endeavor--be it writing, preaching, teaching, music, visual/fine arts, team leading, coming up with Sunday school lessons, or any number of other activities--you'll be able to apply these ideas to your own unique calling and vocation.

My friend Bernie Sheahan (an extraordinary writer and the sort of person one never forgets) says the best writing advice she ever got was this: "Find your voice and shout."

Not every writing genre benefits from a strong personal voice, of course. But those of us who are mining personal experience to write fiction or reflective non-fiction can benefit from the advice Bernie received. We each need to inhabit our own skin when we write (or sing or speak or teach or relate), expressing the perspectives, senses of humour and turns of phrase that make a piece uniquely ours.

Ironically, one of the ways most of us get there is by absorbing and even temporarily copying the voices of other writers we respect. The songwriter Nick Lowe talks about this process from a musical perspective:

"… I hadn’t been writing songs very long and, like everybody else who starts out doing anything creative, you start off plundering your heroes’ style and catalogue. When you’ve exhausted that, you move on to somebody else and do the same thing with them, and the day comes when you’re rewriting your latest hero’s works, and you put in a little bit of the first guy’s thing that you ripped off, a middle eight, or a bridge, and as it goes on you include more and more of these bits and pieces that you’ve ripped off, until, suddenly, you haven’t ripped them off at all. They’ve actually become your style. And then all you need is a good idea. And then you really are in business. I remember having this idea—“What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding”—and almost falling over in astonishment that I hadn’t heard this before, that it really was an original notion.

We each become a unique amalgamation of whatever we take in. That's what makes immersing ourselves in great work so important. If you want to be a great writer, read great books. If you want to be a great painter, view great paintings. If you want to be a great songwriter, listen to great music. Conversely, if you want to be a vacuous artist of any ilk, watch reality television. (That's a tangent, but it made me laugh, so I'm leaving it in!)

So I'm going to adapt the advice Bernie was given just slightly:
Listen to great voices, let them become part of your own, and then shout! If you are faithful in both the listening and speaking, you will most definitely have something unique to say.

I'll leave you with this, from Eugene Peterson:

"The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God's creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before."

Happy Shouting!

Carolyn Arends

I blog, therefore I am at:

Songville (brand new site for songwriters) (where I muse on Stuff That Matters)

Wrestling with Angels (where I park my Christianity Today columns and other pieces)

Carolyn Arends Newsblog (where we post goings on, twitter updates, and other news relating to my work as a recording artist and writer)

INVITE GOD - Bob Scott

"Today God is reaching down. It is no longer about Him coming down but about our reaching up and responding." – Pastor Steve Gray, World Revival Church

I believe that the perception of most church-goers is that we should be working harder to increase the number of people who attend our services every week. Many of us come from a time when the pews were filled, or almost so, every Sunday. But I doubt that a large turn-out, on its own, will bring any lasting results.

Faith in God has declined. The church has become less important to more and more individuals. Christianity is perceived as something for past generations but “not for us.” For many it is promising a place to go “if you die today.” But that is of no use if you plan to continue living in this world of ours.

The difficulty of establishing a vital faith increases when we stop calling God into our lives. It is disastrous if we stop reaching out to Him and inviting Him to impact our world. We can see the results of not asking Him to be central in our society.

We went through an era when it was proclaimed that God was dead. The real problem, then and now, is that God is unemployed. If we fail to look to Him to be part of everything we do, we are missing the great blessings He offers here and now. A helping hand is held out to a needy world. Grasp it firmly and we will see changes, not just in our experience of worship. The wisdom of reaching out to God for today will be confirmed in the changed lives that we will experience.

"Rip the heavens apart! Come down, LORD; make the mountains tremble." - Isaiah 64:1 CEV

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

Monday, May 25, 2009


Now that it's spring, many of us are pruning shrubs, pulling out weeds, and planting flowers. As spring schedules give way to summer freedom, we will more chances to think about another kind of pruning: pruning our lives.

Many times, our lives becomes cluttered with weeds and suckers that detract from our main purpose. These things may be part of what God has called others to do, but for us, they may be distractions.

So, instead of writing a long post, I'm going to ask you to think and pray about what planting and pruning you'd like to do in your garden and in your life this season.

Blessings and Happy Gardening.

Jane HZ

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tribute to Mom - Eleanor Shepherd

On Sunday it will be exactly one month since she left us.  To honour her, I want to share with you my tribute to my Mother.  Throughout her 95 years, there were three loves that came to define the life of our mother.  My two brothers and I became aware of them while we were still quite young.  The most important love in her life was her love for God.  I have often told the story of how I came to understand that as a little girl.


My parents were the corps officers (pastors) of The Salvation Army Edmonton Temple corps (church).  Every Sunday night before the evening service (called the salvation meeting) in those days, the faithful gathered for prayer.  I think it must have been that there was nobody to look after us, so we accompanied our parents to the prayer meeting.  I recall one Sunday evening, hearing my mother pray with great fervency for one of the men who attended the services sometimes, but had not yet made a decision to accept Christ as the Lord of his life.  As I opened my eyes, somewhat mystified by the intensity in her voice, I was amazed to see the tears falling as my mother prayed for this individual.  I began to understand how important it was to her for people to enter into a relationship with the Lord, whom she obviously loved so much. 


My adult children told me a story that they heard from their Grandpa one evening, as the family began to gather around my mother, sensing the end was near.  They saw a faraway look in his eyes, and asked, “What are you thinking about, Grandpa?”


He responded with a story that dated back about seventy years.  He told of my Mother living in a little town called Hant’s Harbour on Trinity Bay in Newfoundland and how he lived in another town on the same bay called Winterton. They had begun going out together and he planned to travel that Saturday from Winterton to Hant’s Harbour along the coast in a sailing boat.  All day long Mom went from window to window, inside the house constantly glancing toward the head of the cove to see if the boat was in sight.  Then finally as the sail came into view, she beamed with joy at his arrival.  That was so much a picture of their relationship.  They loved being together and for sixty-six years they treasured their relationship as husband and wife.  There was never any doubt in the minds of us at their children that the one woman above all others that Dad wanted to be with was Mom and the one man around whom her world revolved was Dad.  What a wonderful security that provided for us as we grew up in their home.


The third great love of my Mom was her children and grandchildren.  Each of them had their own special place in her heart and in her prayers.  As I talked with my brothers after Mom’s passing about what I should choose to talk about in  my tribute to Mom, my brother, Donald shared with me an experience I understood so well.  He told me about spending some time with Mom last year when he was visiting here from France, where he lives.  He had an opportunity to ask her if she still spent time praying for his children.  When she assured him she did, he felt that it really did not matter what else she could do.  Her blindness and physical frailty did not define her.  It was her prayers that really counted. 


Not knowing about this conversation, about six months ago, I too was visiting my parents and had some time alone with Mom.  I was particularly concerned about my children at the time and I asked the same question, “Mom, do you still pray for my kids?”  Her assurance that she continued to do so was a great reassurance to me.  Their was no better way I knew for her to show her love for me and for my children. 


These were the three loves of my mother and she refused to allow the experiences of her life to diminish them.  When nearly thirty years ago, she lost her sight, she did not stop loving God.  She found new ways of cooperating with Him to help to bring His love to others with an enriched prayer life. 


One of the notes that I received this week told me a story I had never heard.  The person recounted to me how my mother was leading a women’s conference, just after she had received the news that nothing could be done to improve her sight and it was only going to deteriorate.  That morning the women sang,


“Pilot of souls, I trust Thy guiding hand;

Take thou the helm, and at they blest command,

I sail straight on until, the harbour won,

I reach the glory of they sweet well done. 

O man of Galilee!”


Holding tightly to His hand she walked, trusting Him when she could not see from that day until Friday, April 24th, when she opened her eyes and saw His loving face, leaving us with the assurance that our love for one another can be nourished from the same source.


Thanks, Mom, for your loves. 


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Navigating the Conference - Payne

The Write! Canada conference is coming up again soon (June 18, 19, 20). This will be my 6th year attending. In light of this, I’d like to repost an article I wrote some years ago (First printed in Exchange Newsletter April 2005) that I feel is still relevant today:

As I left the conference, I got lost and was sinking into a panic. “I’m on Bloor Street, heading east, in a traffic jam. The DVP is closed. Help!” The calm voice on the other end of the line guided me in the right direction. From his comfortable chair at home, my husband knew the roads of Toronto like his own shoe size.

I recognized that same panic at home when I looked at my pile collected from the conference.

By taking simple steps, you will be able to navigate yourself without getting lost.

· Pray. Earnestly pray for yourself and all others involved in the conference.
· Prepare ahead of time. Give thought to what you want to get out of the conference. I pore over the brochure.

Would you like to learn about a specific writing technique? Choose workshops to meet this goal; have backup choices.

Want to meet with an editor? Review the faculty biographies for those who fit your area of interest, and plan to make an appointment with at least one.

Hope to network with other writers? Develop a list of questions to discuss, and psych yourself up talk to everyone you can, not just to those you know.

· Pray. Be in fervent prayer throughout the conference, and pray for a teachable spirit.
· Collect freebies. Carry a bag to gather sample publications, writer’s guidelines, handouts and books.
· Mark business cards. On the back of the card, jot what you discussed with the cardholder, the date, and the conference.
· Sit by yourself. This allows you to focus on the presenter and not miss important information while chatting with a friend.
· Highlight main points. The pile of notes can grow heavy, and important points can be easily lost. Take a highlighter to underline the significant points for easy reference.
· Asterisk actions. Put an asterisk beside each idea that you must take action on later. Once home, label a blank piece of paper with, “To do – Conference Title – Date” and filter through all conference material, seeking out the asterisks.
· Colour Website addresses. Use a coloured pen to write important Website addresses. At home, add them to your “favourites.”
· Ask questions. Now is not the time to be shy. Participate in discussions and ask questions. Chances are, someone else will be grateful that you had the courage to ask.

· Pray. Pray for guidance, because the real work begins when the conference is over.
· Write an encouraging note to all who blessed you at the conference.
· Organize your pile of conference goodies soon, while everything is still fresh in your mind.
Business cards: File alphabetically.
Flyers and promotional materials: Put into a file labeled with the name of the conference and date.
Workshop notes: Punch and place into a large binder under suitable headings, e.g., Inspiration, Non-fiction, Technique, Business, Marketing, Legal.
Writer’s guidelines: Staple onto the front cover of the periodical, and file.
· Get cracking on your “to do” list. Review the asterisk list, prioritize, and follow up immediately. It’s too easy to fall back into routine and lose the steam of enthusiasm from a conference.

Don’t get lost in a wave of panic after a conference. Follow these simple tips and you can navigate a conference with enthusiasm and confidence.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can archaeology really support the Bible? - Denyse O'Leary

[This is one of my recent columns for ChristianWeek, for which i have written for eleven years.]

Well, the answer to the title question depends mainly on the kind of support you are looking for.

While spectacular finds like King Tut’s tomb make world headlines, archaeology depends largely on the rubbish dumps of ruined cities, accidentally lost items that once belonged to people who have been dead for thousands of years, accidentally found donation receipts, etc.

It can never take us back in time to watch the key Bible events for ourselves. So no, it can’t confirm that the events really happened in the sense of providing live television coverage.

It can, however, address certain common "skeptical" objections to the stories recounted in the Bible. One objection is, that people made up the stories in the Bible hundreds of years after the fact, as pure fiction, and another is that, even if they hadn’t, we have no way of knowing that the Bible was handed down in an accurate form.

With respect to the first objection, over the decades, archaeology has slowly but surely been filling in pieces, showing that the people and places described in the Bible could certainly have existed. An interesting recent example is an early Philistine artifact that concerns, of all people, Goliath of Gath, the Philistine giant who, we are told, menaced the Israelite army (1 Samuel 17, NIV).

In 2005, archaeologists digging at Gath, Goliath’s home and assumed burial place, found a shard of pottery that includes his name. Okay, the shard does not prove that the giant Goliath existed or that David, future king of Israel, killed him. It does, however, remove one theory from contention: That people simply made up names like Goliath, centuries later, for political or religious purposes.

Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar-Ilan University and director of the excavation, told news agencies, "What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath," in which case "It shows us that David and Goliath’s story reflects the cultural reality of the time." (Independent, 12 November 2005)

In general, my advice would be, in matters of this sort, do not bet against the Bible. There are still lots of unearthed shards ...

Okay, so what about accuracy in transmission? The Dead Sea Scrolls, to be exhibited in June at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, provide a useful example. Contradicting centuries of claims otherwise, the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah (a thousand years before the Masoretic text) was 95% word for word to the original text, the only differences being obvious copying errors and spelling differences.

Today, such errors would be virtually impossible, because we use mechanical devices to make copies. But when all copying was done by hand, errors were abundant, unavoidable, and not usually due to political or religious bias.

There is a tendency (no surprise) in popular media to front questionable information, as if it were reliable, as long as it brings traditional Christian beliefs into question. The Jesus Tomb is a good illustration.

In February, 2007, James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici announced that they had found the family tomb in which Jesus was buried, along with family members. However, when people who understand statistics have run them on the Jesus Tomb, it comes up empty - at least of Jesus and his family. Sure, some people were buried there, but not Jesus’s family. However, the whole affair has been clouded by unusual demands for secrecy on the part of the archaeologists. (See note below.)

And the James Ossuary? In 2002 the Biblical Archaeology Review announced that the burial box of Jesus’s brother, Jame,s had been found in Jerusalem. The ossuary was exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 2002-2003. Christians flocked to see it. After all, if true, it might support Christian beliefs.

Doubts surfaced, however, because the box came from a private collector, not a dig. And by 2005, the James Ossuary was formally treated as a fake.

My conclusion? What archaeology unearths is interesting, but the best evidence for the truths taught in the Bible is the difference they make in your own life.

Note: See for a comprehensive discussion of the Jesus Tomb question.

Denyse O'Leary is a Toronto-based Canadian author, journalist, and blogger who is the author of By Design or by Chance? and co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul (Harper: August 2007).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Answering Your Call and Buckling Down — MANN

Sometimes the position of between writing projects is as scary as the excitement of beginning or finishing an assignment. With the latter, I have my story down, I know my characters well and the setting is somewhere I’d like to spend the next month without a cell phone or Blackberry. However, that in-between position is a problem. It gives me too many options that take me nowhere, except to the flowerbeds to weed, or maybe the upstairs closet to fill that bag for Value Village. Feelings of regret that I can’t get going again, or fear that I’ll have nothing to write, or worse yet that the birthday I’ve just celebrated with my family, including my great grandchildren, tells me I’m tired of writing. Maybe I should just climb into our RV, turn on the engine and say, “Go West, old man, go West . . . and take me with you.”

Some of you who read this will say, Been there, done that. Either some of you will still be there or you will have taken a right turn and come full circle back to respond to your call of writing. Call is something that doesn’t go fishing, or hide in excuses or dismissals. Call is a gift. A fisherman became a disciple, a seller of purple cloth became a church leader, a Tax Collector became an author, a wife became a judge. They were someone else and they became something different—because of their call.

Writers in the between position have only to wait until the moment. Perhaps the key is using everything you do, see or feel in the in-between to reflect upon later. Then you will begin to think and dream and ask those funny questions of why, when and where. Pick up your pencil to write, boot up your computer, knuckle down because it’s going to be hard work to response to your call and give words new life.

Like a new baby that can’t do everything he or she will be able to do when mature, the new writing project goes through growing stages as well. Each time you pick it up and nurture it, it becomes a little more independent and takes on a life of its own. Until it is developed, enough to stand alone with out your help, and speak its voice to the world, it needs you.

Then you are back in the between position again. But, now you’re practiced at letting go and beginning again with the knowledge that your call will continue to draw you out to give birth to something new. Behold I make all things new, even those old dusty manuscripts in the back of the closet.

Keep in touch:
Take Time to Make Memories: a life time of living
WinterGrief: a personal response to loss
Aggie's Storm: the story of child who grew up to be the first woman elected to Canadian parliament.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Obsessive Compulsive? That's Me -- Sorta'!

I have no claim to clinical or academic knowledge of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or its near relative, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). However, even a quick peek at what Wikipedia says about these conditions indicates that whereas I probably don’t have either of them as a diagnosable condition, I do exhibit certain characteristics that I suspect may be considered obsessive by some folk, plus maybe one or two traits that some might reckon are compulsive. (Please don’t take this as a self-absorbed navel-gazing exercise on my part – it only looks and sounds like it!)

One simple example: After drying a sinkful of coffee mugs I insist on stowing them back in the cupboard with all the handles set in the same direction and angle as each other. My wife, however, usually sets them in a rather random manner. I think, That doesn’t make any sense! and if I think I can get away with it, I’ll spin those handles round ‘to where they should be’. Pretty bad – if not plain dangerous, eh?

Oh there’s more–a whole lot more. But surely you’ll know what I mean. I don’t feel right about the job unless I have those handles aligned uniformly. And believe me, I have what to me is a logical rationale for that little penchant; but others would read the action as obsessive. Do you obsess about certain matters, or approach some activities compulsively? As a student of human nature, I think that many of us do.

What precipitated my writing about this at the present time is that I enjoy reading my TWG colleagues’ offerings on this blog. Generally, I look for something positive in people and most things in life, and believe in the power of encouragement, and so it was natural for me to leave a comment from time to time. And then I did it more often, and eventually I was leaving a comment about everyone’s post. But then I didn’t feel right unless I did – even when busy and backed up with work! Ah, but Yours Truly went cold turkey – pulled the plug, and heroically broke the cycle. (And that’s the reason, my fellow TWG authors blogspot friends, why this guy hasn’t left any comments about your wonderful articles for a couple of weeks or more. Nothing personal, O.K.?)

Interestingly, the apostle Paul (in 1 Corinthians 1:15 NIV) commended Stephanas’ household because “they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints [believers in Christ].” The KJV renders this, “... they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (emphasis added). They had a sense of compulsion about practical, hands-on ministry, and just felt they had to do it. My guess is that they thrived on serving others with joy in Jesus’ name.

Those of us who love to write languish – some even with a bit of a fret – when we can’t get around to doing it. We don’t feel right when long periods pass and we don’t create pictures and stir thoughts and feelings with words. We feel fit to burst, and like the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 20:9b NIV), we lament, “... [the Lord God’s] word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

Whether obsessively, compulsively, or both, we who contribute towards this blog are in some measure addicted to doing what we do. Please don’t pity us – it’s O.K., honest! We are bound to write, and we do it with great liberty and joy in our souls.

Peter writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, and is author of "Parables from the Pond" – a finalist in Word Alive's 2007 publishing contest. He enjoys writing short fiction and biographical sketches, worship/praise songs, and poetry, and has presented readings along with vocal / instrumental music in various venues.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chasing After the Wind

I’m not sure why I turned to Ecclesiastes this evening, though I delight in the poetic beauty of the passage beginning,
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:”
A time to be born and a time to die. . .
Somehow Ecclesiastes seems like a fractured book. My writing tonight feels fractured – bits and pieces that overlap and draw on each other, but won’t come together neatly.

Daily, for more than a year, we have prayed for the sale of a house. Skillfully built with careful attention to detail, it had been an ambitious, perhaps audacious undertaking – yet begun at a time when houses could not be built fast enough for the market in that community. At the high end of the price range, it was a showpiece for the builder. The market went sour and that new house – that meticulously built house – has caused untold grief to two families, bringing them both dangerously close to bankruptcy. And though I am sure God has heard our prayers, He has not – to this point in time – given the answer we hope for.

There is a time. . . We’re just not sure when that time is. Nor are we sure what else we can do. Even if we sold our own home and gave everything, it would make only a small dent in the debt load.

Now if I could just get a bidding war going on my novel manuscript. One of those half million advances that a couple writers in each generation seem to get would just about do the trick. Hey! Who said writers couldn’t be dreamers? Somehow though, I’d be surprised if God answered that way. Besides, I have a problem with huge advances. I would much rather a half million commitment to marketing the book (although if some publisher insists on that kind of an advance I can probably be persuaded.)

There is so much pain in this world – some of it very close to home. Some days when I sit at my computer, the hope that my writing might make a difference seems like chasing after the wind. The hope that I can bridge the communication gap between two hurting families at a time when both have many questions but no answers, feels like trying to get my fists around the wind and hold it. Yet there is much love between those families. In the midst of the hurt there is much for both of them to celebrate. Maybe – just maybe, I can share enough of the hurt that they can draw close again. And if nothing else, perhaps I can be a sounding board for each. It’s not the most comfortable position, especially for a guy who wants to “fix” the situation. But it seems like there is something gained each time they are able to “cry a little” before going on.

There is a time for everything under heaven, and I’m quite sure God has better things planned than just “chasing after the wind.” Three families are praying for a specific house to sell. I’ll dare to ask readers to join in that prayer. I won’t say more because it’s not my place to give identities.

A chasing after the wind? No. A chasing after the God who made the wind.

Learn To Write Poetry at Write! Canada - Martin

If you haven’t yet registered for Write! Canada (June 18-20, 2009) let me encourage you to wait no longer. Held annually in Guelph, Ontario, Write! Canada is Canada’s largest Christian Writers Conference.

If you’re already coming, I want you to take my workshop “The Essentials of Writing Poetry” on the Saturday morning. This workshop will be valuable for all of your writing ventures — and especially helpful when you’re writing poetry. Since poetry is the most concentrated form of writing, the skills you fine-tune here will quickly transfer to your fiction, and non-fiction too.

I guarantee you’ll come away with plenty to think about, and a lot you’ll be able to apply immediately to your current writing. I’ll share with you the principles of good poetry, and share examples from many of the best Christian poets of our time. For those who have had little exposure to contemporary poetry, this will broaden your conference experience.

On the Friday, I’ll also be hosting the Night Owl Poetry Reading. Bring your favourite poems to share with other like-minded people.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Captain Robert Dollar: One of Scotland's 50th Wealthiest - HIRD

by the Rev. Ed Hird
One year ago, on May 1st, I sensed that I was to once again visit every home in Maplewood and Deep Cove in North Vancouver BC. Thirty-two hundred homes later, it seemed time to visit the connecting community of Dollarton. While in Dollarton, I met my good friend Keith Cameron who lives in the historic Dollar Mill Office built in 1918. Keith pulled out the book ‘Echoes Across the Inlet’ published by the Deep Cove and Area Heritage Association, and said to me: “You need to write an article about Captain Robert Dollar. He was a sparkplug for this whole area”.

For many years, the Dollarton Shopping Centre on Dollarton Highway and Dollar Road was the only food-shopping option. The more that I have learned about Robert Dollar, the more fascinating I find his life-story. Captain Robert Dollar (originally spelt Dolour) was the founder of Dollarton and its first major employer with hundreds of local residents working at the Dollar Mill. He was a very visionary individual who could see North Vancouver’s potential in terms of international trade and commerce.

Coming to Canada penniless from Falkirk in Scotland, Robert Dollar became one of Scotland’s fifty wealthiest individuals, amassing a fortune of over forty million dollars. Leaving school at age 12 to work in Canadian logging camps, he saved up enough cash to buy into the lumber trade itself. As most loggers spoke French, Dollar taught himself French and took over the camp’s accounting. At their peak, Dollar’s mills produced fifteen million board of lumber. As mentioned in ‘Echoes Across the Inlet’, even in the lumber camps, Dollar ‘always made it a practice on Sunday to take out (his) Bible to a quiet place and read it, even in the coldest of weather.” Dollar “attributed much of his success to the teachings received from this daily reading.” Dollar advocated “clean habits, clean thoughts, plenty of exercise, fresh air and plenty of sunshine...and plenty of work....Last, but most important, fear God and keep his commandments.”

In 1895, Dollar purchased his first ship in order to move his lumber down to American markets. His first boat became a huge success because of the number of people making their way to the Alaska Gold Rush. Out of this, he began the 40-vessel Dollar Steamship Company (later becoming American President Lines). Known as the Grand Old Man of the Pacific, Dollar started three head offices in North Vancouver, San Francisco and Shanghai. Dollar’s ships bore the famous "$" on their smokestacks. During his lifetime he made some 30 voyages to Asia, being the first to bring North American lumber to Asia. While in China, Dollar built a Y.M.C.A., an orphanage, a school for the blind and a village school.

In 1923 at age 80, Dollar purchased seven “president” ships from the U.S. government which enabled him to pioneer round-the-world passenger service, being the first to publish scheduled departure and arrival times. In 1925, Dollar Line acquired the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and its trans-Pacific routes. Dollar was on the cover of the March 19th, 1928 Time magazine, and written up in the Saturday Evening Post in1929. Dollar was a family man with a strong work ethic and solid faith. His granddaughter remembers visiting her grandpa, saying: "We all arose at 6 a.m. and went to bed at 9 p.m. Grandfather read a passage from the bible each morning and we joined in...Grandfather sat at the end of the table and said grace before each meal. At festive occasions he would tell us a story about his life in the Canadian north woods and have us all spellbound and laughing."

Dollar’s mom died when he was nine; his grief-stricken father became an alcoholic. Out of his family pain, Dollar developed four principles to which he clung to: 1. Do not cheat. 2. Do not be lazy. 3. Do not abuse. 4. Do not drink.
In Dollar’s 1920 diary, he wrote: 'Thank God, from whom all blessings flow ...we start the year with supreme confidence in the future, knowing that God is with us and hoping prosperity will enable us to aid humanity with our money, and that we will be permitted to leave the world a little better than we found it."

Dollar never retired, saying: "It would have been nothing short of a crime for me to have retired when I reached the age of sixty, because I have accomplished far more the last twenty years of my life than I did before I reached my sixtieth birthday ... I was put in this world for a purpose and that was not to loaf and spend my time in so-called pleasure ... I was eighty years old when I thought out the practicability of starting a passenger steamship line of eight steamers to run around the world in one direction ... I hope to continue working to my last day on earth and wake up the next morning in the other world."
Robert Dollar died of bronchial pneumonia in 1932, at the age of 88. Some of his final words were: “In this world all we leave behind us that is worth anything is that we can be well regarded and spoken of after we are gone, and that we can say that we left the world just a little better than we found it. If we can’t accomplish these two things then life, according to my view, has been a failure. Many people erroneously speak of a man when he is gone as having left so much money. That, according to my view, amounts to very little.”

May the example of Dollarton’s Robert Dollar inspire all those reading this article to make a difference in our lives.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-previously published in the June 2009 Deep Cove Crier

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Roots--Meyer

We were reading Ephesians 3: 17-19 in different translations. They all say basically the same thing, but one phrase in the Living Bible- May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love suddenly brought two vivid pictures to my mind.

Several years ago, we had a nice spring with just enough showers to get the corn crop off to a good start. As spring turned to summer, the showers came less frequently and then almost came to a halt. It was hot and dry. But the corn seemed to flourish in spite of it all. Late that summer it was still dry, but a farmer had to dig deep beside the corn field to fix a stretch of drainage tile. Several feet down, he noticed the corn roots still reaching down into the soil. His interest was piqued so he kept following the roots to see how deep it would go. Even at seven feet and beyond, the roots had still travelled down to get the nourishment the corn stalk needed. Because of the persistence of those roots in the darkness and rich humus of the soil, hidden from the human eye, the corn stalk above ground remained healthy and productive.

The other picture comes from a visit to the lake country of England. Several years ago, on a hike through the countryside, I observed something unique and intriguing. A stone wall ran through a wooded area. There, we saw it. On top of a three or four-foot stone wall that was more than a foot wide, grew a tree whose trunk was already at least six inches through and the crown reached a height of 25 or 30 feet. The roots grew down each side of the stone wall and into the ground at the base. The roots were sturdy and thick, anchoring the tree well and providing the nourishment for the tree to remain healthy and strong.

Our roots are vitally important too. In fact I wonder if we are as diligent as that corn or the tree about reaching down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love, finding there nourishment for our souls. How diligent are we to follow the life-giving ‘moisture’ that makes us impervious to the inevitable droughts that come?

The corn or the tree did not think its aims to be self-centered or selfish to make roots the main focus. The verses in Ephesians following that phrase, urge us to put down those roots until we can feel and understand how wide, how deep and how high his love really is and to experience that love for ourselves even though we will never fully fathom its greatness. And guess what! If we do this we will be “filled up with God himself!” That should be incentive enough.

If we concentrate on putting down roots, growth “above ground” will surely happen and God will look after the pruning of that part and we will become more fruitful that we ever could without those vital roots. . Verse 20 says that, in fact, our life will flourish ‘infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes. Wow! What am I waiting for? What about you?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Shoulder Season – Lawrence

This is the shoulder season, a time when we go from winter to summer in a day then settle into spring. We go from white snow to green grass then settle into a drizzle of rain for several days.

The spring shoulder season is often grey and drab but the overcast skies and rain give the plants the moisture they need to grow and bloom. The grey dampness may not seem very interesting but it is the steadiness of which our summers are made—April showers bring forth May flowers, as the saying goes.

In the lives of writers, the shoulder season is the one where we settle in to do the bulk of our work. Before that, we have the rush of exciting ideas and the development of a story outline; after the shoulder season, we have the publishing of our book or article, play or poetry—the elation of seeing our finished work before our eyes and holding it in our hands.

But, the shoulder season—ah! that is the all important time—the steady, daily showing-up at the computer; the continuous paragraphs and chapters, written word by word, phrase by phrase, and sentence by sentence; the editing of grammar and spelling. Without this steady, repetitious, often wearisome, carrying of the yoke on our shoulders, the season of our ideas will never reach the season of its completion.

We must be strong, steady and faithful in our daily writing. To this end, we should take up Christ’s offer to share the shoulder season with him; take his yoke upon us, for his yoke is easy to bear and his burden is light. (Matthew 11: 28) There is a saying: A burden shared is a burden halved, and if we share our writing time with Christ by praying to him for guidance before we begin each day, we will certainly find that the work becomes light and joyous.

Enter in to your shoulder season of writing with Christ as your partner and discover how delightful it is to walk along your writing path when you share his yoke.

© Judith Lawrence

Read and listen to Judith’s monthly meditation on her website at

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Courageous Women in Fearful Times- HIRD

by the Rev Ed Hird+

The first girl that I ever had a crush on was named Debbie. We were both only six at the time. Debbie or Deborah is a fascinating name. Deborah is actually a Hebrew word that means ‘bee’. You may remember the boxer Cassius Clay/AKA Mohammad Ali saying: “I float like a butterfly. I sting like a bee.” The original Deborah was aptly named as she stung like a bee to those who threatened her children. Who were her children? Deborah did not just stand up for her own nuclear family; she stood up for the whole community, for all God’s children. That is why Deborah received the title “Mother of Israel”.

This Mother’s Day, I know that there are many Deborahs, many ‘Mothers of Israel’ reading this article, many women who will stand up to protect the lives and health of all the children in our local community. One Deep Cove Deborah is Janet Pavlik, who deeply cares for our local community and has invested heavily in serving others, especially through her support for the Deep Cove Historical Society, the Lions Club, the Deep Cove Crier, and the Deep Cove Theatre. In the past twenty-two years serving the Seymour/Deep Cove community, I have met hundreds of local Deborahs, many of them relatively unknown who selflessly dedicate their lives to serving their family and their community. This Mother’s Day I want to say ‘thank you’ to each of the Deborahs reading this article. You are appreciated and deeply valued for the sacrifices that you have made so that our local community can be more healthy and safe. Without mothers creating healthy homes, chaos prevails on the streets.

My wife, my sisters, my mother and my grandmothers have all been ‘Deborahs’ in my life. Their long-suffering devotion to family in good times and bad continues to inspire me to be a better person. Just the other day I received an e-mail from one of my ‘Deborahs’ reminding me that it was time to go to my GP for my regular checkup.

Deborahs fight for the significant men in their lives, for their sons, their husbands, their brothers, their fathers. They want them to win. They want them to thrive. They want them to fully live. Deborahs care deeply and can’t stop caring if they tried.

The first Deborah was a very powerful, courageous woman in fearful times. She used to sit under a palm tree and serve as the Judge for all of Israel, deciding the difficult cases that couldn’t be solved otherwise. She was also a prophet, who had unusual discernment about what to do in impossible times. Deborah had an unusually close relationship to God, and had really learned to listen for that still small voice. Judges Chapter 5 describes a song that she received which inspired her whole nation to action.

For over twenty years, the Children of Israel had been trodden down by Sisera, the Canaanite Army Commander with over nine hundred iron chariots, the top military technology of those days. It had become so bad that local town life had been decimated and no one could safely travel by road. Deborah knew that this had to stop. So she approached Barak, asking him to bring 10,000 men and confront this injustice. Barak, who lacked the military hardware, answered with profound ambivalence, saying: “If you go with me, I will go. If you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Because of Barak’s timidity, Deborah had to prod him until he finally took action. An unexpected downpour occurred, which landed the Canaanite iron chariots deep in the mud. After this great victory, Deborah led the Children of Israel through a time of peace for forty years.

The Song of Deborah says: 'Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song!’ This Mother’s Day, my heart-felt prayer would be ‘Wake up, Wake up Deborah! Come into your destiny and calling. Don’t let the fear or ambivalence of others hold you back. Fight for both your family and your community. Stand up for what you know is right and just and fair. Show compassion to the widow and the orphan. Be a Mother of Israel in your local community.’

The Rev. Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

-an article previously published in the May 2009 Deep Cove Crier

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

John DonneDevotions uponEmergent Occasions, no. 17(Meditation)1624 (published)

In the close-knit First Nations community of Norway House, where I live, the flags are quite often at half-mast.
I can't remember the first time that I read John Donne's famous poem but the words come frequently to mind, especially when I hear of someone's death or see a lowered flag.
It seems, as I mentioned above, that the flag is at half-mast more often here in this community than in any other place where I have lived. And it makes me wonder... who died? Why was the flag lowered in their honour? Were they a dignitary? A soldier? Was there a tragic event that took many lives all at once? What merited the lowering of the flag?
I've come to the conclusion that each live is so valued that it doesn't matter who it was. An "expected" death of an older person is viewed as the very sad passing of a valued community member, a wise elder, a treasured grandparent. That person's death, as John Donne says, "diminishes me."
I suppose it is because, even though the community has a population of 6,000 or 7,000, families have lived in this same place for generations - and if you don't know someone in the community, you know someone who does. There is no 6 degrees of separation here - maybe 2 or at the most 3.
It may seem strange to be thinking about death in the springtime. But the fact is, most suicides occur in the spring, especially in the far northern communities. Spring is a rather dismal time with bare trees, mud, and gray, thin ice on the lakes.
Whenever I see a lowered flag, I try to remember to say a prayer for the greiving family. I may not know them personally but they are a part of me, nonetheless.
Ask not for whom the flag is lowered. It is lowered for you.
Dorene Meyer
Author of The Little Ones
"Dorene Meyer approaches the difficult challenges faced by foster parents with compassion and a deep understanding. Throughout the book, the focus is always on the promises of God to never forsake His children. Really a touching, inspiring read!"
Crying Wind, author of Thunder in Our Hearts, Lightning in Our Veins

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