Friday, July 31, 2009

If you don't sleep together, you soon won't cheep together? - Denyse O'Leary

[This is the sort of thing I write for a living. Hey, new venues welcome. - d.]

Speciation - animals dividing up into separate species - we are told, is "notoriously hard" to observe in action - a remarkable fact, given that it is so common, according to most sources.

Sometimes, researchers are driven to look for very slight evidence indeed:
"The question of whether these two populations are on the road to speciation comes down to sex. When two populations stop exchanging genes—that is, stop mating with each other—then they can be considered distinct species. Uy and his team wanted to see if these flycatchers were heading in that direction."
Well, they might head in that direction, or they might head back again if a shortage of, say, lady birds in one group threatens to disrupt the mating season.

Anyway, pardon me, but isn’t "When two populations stop exchanging genes—that is, stop mating with each other—then they can be considered distinct species." like saying that a couple can be considered no longer married if they are no longer sharing a bedroom?

How do we know that won’t change? Prudent people wouldn’t consider them “no longer married” unless they moved to separate addresses and file for divorce.

Doesn’t this story really show how rare evidence of speciation is?

I mean, if scientists are relying on this kind of thing, it’s the same principle as:

In the quiet Canadian community of Wawa Waupoos, where nothing much ever happens (if you don’t count occasional drunken driving and ice fishing deaths), neighbours try to find out surreptitiously if couples still sleep in the same room. Lord knows, that’s all that those neighbourly investigators have to go on - and in the winter, it is all they have got to do as well, unless you count daytime TV. – cheers, d.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Has Any Body Rained On Your Parade Lately? - MANN

I think I will rewrite the quote "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" (Robert Burns) to read something like, “the best laid plans of skunk and Mann went astray.” My mother always told me that I could prepare for anything except the unexpected—for that, I needed to learn how to make the best of it. Those of you who read my last blog will know that I’ve retired for the third time and that I’ve laid out perfect plans to do certain things: set priorities for writing deadlines, rewrite my website, get Hi Speed internet, arrange for a new email address and make myself more accountable to my writing space. Valerie Sherrard told us at Write! Canada that we write better in a tidy space with order. I have since found this to be true so I’ve added it to my list.

All of the above are goal orientated and measureable, so with good management I can make them happen according to plan, without the unexpected. This doesn’t always happen with plans and that’s where the rewritten quote applies.

Doug and I are good at spending quality time with our family, but this summer, we thought we’d add something new to our usual events. Doug thought he'd bring his cousins and sons together for a Mann's Day at The Meadows, and then some other relatives a few days later to complete the circle. If you’ve ever prepared picnic meals, you’ll know how important refrigerated food, location of table, chairs, BBQ and sound system is to conversation and eating space. We did our part well and prepared ourselves to finish our work, sit back, relax and let it all happen.

This is where the plans ‘went astray’. We didn’t have a skunk on our invitation list, nor did we ask one of the cats to be the welcoming committee. Added to that, we didn’t need added aroma to our already fresh smelling rural environment. Thankful that the strong breeze blew from the West, we gave a sigh of relief that we could have this picnic outdoors, after all. As if the previous unexpected plans were not enough, I confused the oven temperature gauge twice when I set and reset the timer, ending up cooking my rhubarb and apple pies three times over, while the BBQ was running out of gas before the burgers were finished. And yes, it rained on our parade, so we ate in the Shed, which ended up working well in spite of everything.

The Grace in the unexpected turn of events was in the mix of the emails we received following the picnic: the guests wrote about the things they’d enjoyed, very different than we planned—again, the unexpected. The skunk, well, we didn’t hear from him, again.

New web site coming soon. In the meantime, keep in touch through, OR

Watch for:
Aggie's Storms: The childhood story of the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament.
WinterGrief: A Personal Response to Grief
WorkShop Resources for "Telling a Story on me or Someone Else"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Symbols: Pressing the Button - Black

Symbols are everywhere – on our streets, roads, and highways; in hospitals, institutions, and thankfully, on the doors of public washrooms. They adorn food packaging, medications, electrical appliances, automobile controls, and are found in places of business and worship. We encounter scores of symbols every day and learn to interpret them – well, some of them.

A symbol, when properly understood and interpreted, holds meaning, whether, for example, it’s the skull and crossbones on a package containing a poisonous substance, or a checkerboard sign at a T-junction on the road, or a silhouette of a slope with tumbling boulders. Those are designed to forewarn us of hazards, for our safety. The symbol of justice in the blindfolded woman bearing a pair of scales reminds us that justice is supposed to weigh only evidence presented, and not be swayed to favour or disfavour either the plaintiff or accused, based on their appearance.
Symbols have no power of their own, other than the reality they represent, or when, in the case of warnings, they are heeded, and appropriate action is taken. Consider symbols of the faith: The Cross is arguably the supreme symbol of help and hope in the world. The wearing of a cross, crucifix, St. Christopher medallion, or any number of items bearing religious symbols, are powerless to save a soul from sin, or to keep one spiritually safe.

Granted, individuals have been physically spared death or injury when a projectile or weapon struck a metal emblem on their person, instead of penetrating their bodies. However, a crucifix serves to remind us of the price paid for the forgiveness of our sins and redemption. A plain, empty cross signifies that the cross on which Jesus died and the tomb in which He was buried are empty, because He rose from the dead, and therefore reminds us of His victory over death, hell, and the grave.

Sometimes I wear a lapel button in the form of an anchor. It reminds me of the verse that says Jesus Christ is the anchor of our souls, both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19-20). The small bar near the top forms a cross with the word Sure, while the anchor’s tines bear the word Steadfast. I’ve had that button since 1957, when I became a member of The Boy’s Brigade, a Christian organization in Scotland. That anchor button has no power, but the reality it represents does, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus who entered heaven and whose sacrifice on the cross twenty centuries ago obtained for us forgiveness, cleansing, a restored relationship with God, and a living hope in this life and beyond.
Imagine: You stand before a closed electrically-operated door. You tug and pull at the handle to no avail. Then you notice the ‘Open’ symbol on a large button on the lintel. You press it, and the door swings open to admit you. The symbol had no power to open the door, but the mechanism that was activated by the pressing of the button did. The symbol’s role was to draw your attention to where you must apply pressure in order to activate the mechanism.

Dear reader, religious symbols do not save or bring us into right relation with God, but can be useful in drawing our attention to the spiritual and eternal realities they represent. Jesus is the doorway to life. Faith moves us to press the button.

© Peter A. Black 2009. This article adapted from Peter’s column P-Pep! in Watford Guide-Advocate, a Southwestern Ontario newspaper.
His first book, "Parables from the Pond" ("written for children, read and enjoyed by all ages") is published by Word Alive Press. He can be contacted at and

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Upgrades, Downloads & Defaults - Austin

I've downloaded several upgrades lately and it got me thinking -- what if my wife decided upgrading was in order for the character who shares her bed?

Scheduling might change. Her model is a night-owl and she gets up early. Her model's cravings are often ill-timed and poorly communicated. He's the word guy but has gaps in his vocabulary. So -- a better dictionary with an illustrated section on romance outside the bedroom would be appreciated. Besides flowers more than once a year, communicating that the vacuum cleaner works in the corners of a room and that "Yes Dear" includes eye contact would be helpful definitions to hold in internal memory. She would also appreciate a change in the default mode of audio sensors. She is wise enough (after much life experience) to ask him to repeat what she has just said if his fingers continue to tap the computer keyboard as he "listens" to her. She is not into computer jargon, but somehow the message seems to blink across his forehead as he stares blankly: "Too little memory. Please close some files."

Visual sensors show deterioration. She is generous with her thanks when his hands are in the dishwater. But she sees spots without her glasses that he misses with his. The barbs are gentle as she returns things to the sink. Since Dr. Smalley makes much of the "wall of conflict" in the growth of a deep and mature love, this marriage shows much promise if other glitches do not undo the gain.

She is quite willing to put up with the mature look but there are aesthetics she would gladly change. Why does he grow hair on his ears but reflect more glare from the top of his head? Why does he get up from the table or the couch slowly, stooped and stiff like an old man, yet five minutes later swing the grandchildren over his head? And why can she count on him complaining of a backache the next day? Is she really expected to feel sorry for him?

She wasn't quite sure what she was getting when she married him. Architect wannabe defaulted to pig farmer, then construction worker, then Bible Bookstore employee, poet and author. A trade-in on a newer model has been mentioned. But there seems to be little after-market value to her present model. Plus, three daughters who have newer models all report many of the same quirks and romantic shortsightedness outside the bedroom. They don't report from inside the bedroom but keep adding grandchildren. So trade-ins seem to hold little promise.

Migraine isn't the upgrade she would have asked for, though used by God to bring medical doctors down a notch or two. She'd tell you that God doesn't single doctors out. He finds effective ways for others, even writers, when they get a bit too full of self-importance. But migraine has a way of defying easy diagnosis. Migraine with visual aura is even more baffling. Being a brilliant writer with a vast command of language, it only took three years for her model to come up with the magic words that triggered an "instant" diagnosis. A tiny pill a day does wonders. It's not so common now that her model "sees through broken glass," though he still can't see the spots on newly washed dishes. Dull headaches and visual distortion have been reduced, with frequent headache-free days thrown in as a bonus. Visual distortion is rarely so bad that he cannot read -- just bad enough that when font size and distance change he struggles. Reading prices and counting money are his biggest daily challenges. A minor nuisance really, since people take their money so lightly. Perhaps it's the guessing at the cash register that drains him, for even with the medication he leaves work exhausted. However, he claims to get his best sleep behind the wheel so there are benefits.

Her model has given notice at the Hanover Bible Bookstore. For almost 12 years he has worked at a job he loves. But it would seem useful to have someone behind the cash register who can read prices and count money. It might prove useful at home too, but she prays for bigger miracles.

The guy who shares her bed has been a "professional" writer for years. She thinks "profession" should buy groceries. He likes to think positive too, and weight-loss plans do generate good income. BUT -- he has trouble seeing well enough to balance the books these days, so will just enlarge the font on his computer screen again and keep on writing.

On good days there is little or no headache and he's only aware of visual distortion when he reads or drives. Bifocals just aren't what they used to be, although large print Bibles are a treasure. On bad days, which fortunately never come more than seven days a week or last more than 24 hours each, his wife offers to shoot the guy who comes home from work -- and he offers to load the gun. (Teamwork is critical to a good marriage.) He never used to be a liar but he's told 40 people he is "fine," then played with their credit card while pretending he can see the numbers he's punching into the machine. He's something less than a Knight in Shining Armour when he stumbles in the door those days.

Upgrades, downloads and defaults. . . She has given wonderful support. It's only when she offers to help speed a certain poet's career advancement that he wonders if he should worry. "Poets are only famous after they're dead," is one of her quotes. Still, after putting up with him for more than 30 years she has earned the right to tamper a little -- so he'll let her push buttons now and then. Every once in a while she pushes just the right ones -- and -- well -- some things are still possible in shared beds, even for guys with headaches and poor eyesight.

Just so you know -- the character my wife continues to put up with has had his eyes checked several times. He had a doctor's appointment today. The lab siphoned him of blood. He's supposed to increase the dosage of Norvasc, and he's booked for an MRI. If they don't find anything between his ears you can send sympathy cards to his wife.

The headaches are rarely severe. Visual distortion wears him out but the pain is quite manageable. The right hand image below is a pretty good representation of the worst distortion. Fortunately that is limited to two or three hours a week. If it is your credit card he is playing with during those two or three hours -- well -- there are verses about not laying up treasure on earth. He can actually manage to function even when visual distortion is at its worst. If you look carefully at the right hand image you will see two characters still in focus. If necessary he can punch in the 13 digit ISBN number and he can convince the debit/credit machine to take your money. He just wants a nap after each transaction.

Somebody needs to tell Heidi not to trust this guy to count money at the Write Canada bookstore next year.

This bar code belongs to a treasure picked up at Write Canada 2009. Don't send sympathy cards. Identify the book and send your credit card. If your card is billed but the book never arrives -- well -- he's been practicing this excuse long enough to almost believe it himself. The book is well worth the purchase and a slow, thoughtful reading, so if you decide to obtain it from a more reliable source he will understand,

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writers Help Writers - Martin

What I have found so delightful about established writers — particularly about writers who are Christians — is that they are ever-so-ready to encourage other writers. Why is this? It can’t be merely the flattery of imitation, for often they help those on quite divergent paths. It can’t be merely motivated by having a book to sell — for they often help others to become established as competition for their own books. I believe it has to do with the feeling of contributing to something substantial, something bigger than their own careers. As Christians, it takes on a sense of ministry, when there’s a shared sense of Kingdom work..

A well-read writer will often direct a fellow writer to read the very best books in the area the other is working in. Often she will make editing suggestions on a manuscript. Frequently he will write an endorsement for a book jacket. Sometimes one writer, with connections, hears of an opportunity that would suit another quite well, and either passes on the information or even puts in a plug for the up-and-comer.

It’s true that sometimes this help is paid for, coming in the form of teaching or critiques — for the worker “is worthy of his hire” — although I know that I get paid better in my professional life, than I do for any of the work I do within my vocation as a writer. Even so, sometimes it’s done for free, such as through writers groups or correspondence.

What I have found to be delightful about serious beginning writers — particularly about writers who are Christians — is that they are ever-so-ready to encourage the established writers they meet. This can come in the form of writing reviews of that person’s latest book, seeking out their advice at teaching sessions, buying a copy of their book, and encouraging their friends or even their local library to also buy a copy.

The fellowship of Christian writers is stronger than anything we have with our non-Christian counterparts. The Word Guild is a wonderful way to connect with so many other Christian writers. Thanks to those of you — both established writers and beginners — who have been an encouragement to me.

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

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thin Spots - Laycock

The day shone glorious, full of sunshine and light, full of fellowship and a strong sense of belonging. It was all the more significant to me because I was not among my home congregation. I was just over five thousand kilometres away, in a beautiful little church in a tiny village in Nova Scotia Canada. And I felt right at home.

I joined with the congregation as they sang a few songs, led by the pastor and a worship band, then one of the leaders stood to talk about all the upcoming events. He did so with a flourish that made us laugh often. Then he grew a bit more serious and said he knew of an old Scottish legend about “thin spots.” They are described as places where we sense we are close to heaven. He sincerely prayed we would all feel that we’d been in a “thin spot” by the end of the service. As the time grew to a close we celebrated communion and his prayer was answered.

As I left the church that day I realized that it is the “thin spot” that I am trying to achieve in my writing. My goal is to draw the reader into a place full of sunshine and light, where he or she will sense the presence of God, ponder His mercy and grace and respond. I realized too that in order to achieve that goal I must find myself in that place often. In order to draw my readers there, I must have been there myself. It’s part of the often heard, “write what you know.”

The good news is that we already exist in that place, whether or not we feel it. By God’s sovereign design, we are continually in His presence, indwelt by His Spirit and guided by His hand. As writers I believe we need to understand that profound truth and live in it, acknowledging the longing in our own hearts and expressing it as best we can in words, sentences and paragraphs that sing with truth.

The Bible tells us that we must train our minds. I believe we must also train our eyes to look for God’s signature in the ordinary, hear His voice in the intonations of those around us, His glory in the spill of light on the door of a village church.

We can stand in a thin spot every moment of the day. Then it is our privilege and our responsibility to write that experience.

All to the glory of God.
Marcia Lee Laycock was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone. She is now trying to organize her life around working on the sequel.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Say No to Bitterness in Marriage: HIRD

by Rev Ed Hird+

All married couples want a relationship filled with joy and intimacy. Sometimes the disappointments of life can steal our joy and leave us with the root of bitterness. Hebrews says that bitterness will defile and harass our most valuable relationships. Bitterness can leave our hearts hardened and cold. Without realizing it, we end up exchanging a heart of love for a heart of stone. Hardening of the arteries can be not just a physical thing, but sometimes a spiritual and emotional reality.

Cecil Osborne once said: “Marriage is the most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.” Studies have shown that no marriages are free from occasional marital conflict. The famous marriage researcher Dr John Gottman commented recently: “when Julie and I do our workshops with couples, one of the main messages we give is that we've found that really good marriages, people who are really happy, have terrible fights, where they're thinking at the end of the fight: Why did I marry this person?” Some marital problems never go away, but the wise couple doesn’t get gridlocked on these unsolvable problems. They refuse to go bitter inside. The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.” No one can really change or fix one’s spouse. It is always better to work on oneself, which requires ‘the courage to change’.

How interpret the meaning of marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself. Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the challenges of marital conflict. It is vital that married couples do not give up on their ideals and dreams. This is why Dr Gottman encourages couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning. Higher expectations for romance and passion have been linked with increased marital satisfaction. Sometimes in a desire to get along, spouses give up something essential that actually fuels the romance and passion of their lives. Bitterness is often about the death of our dreams.

One of the ways out of bitterness is through the use of gentle, self-effacing humour. Aggressive humour like sarcasm kills marriages. Blaming and mocking seals the coffin on your marriage. Dr Gottman found that successful marriages have on average five times more encouraging behaviours than negative behaviours. Encouraging behaviours do not just have to be the extraordinary, like taking our spouse to Maui or to Crete. Despite what Hollywood sometimes implies, a healthy marriage celebrates the ordinary, not just the extraordinary. After thirty-two years of marriages, my wife and I are learning afresh the joy of simple pleasures: taking regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

While doing my doctoral course this spring, I was pleased to discover that the social sciences have verified the benefits of forgiveness in healing marriages. Dr Grace Ketterman found that couples who refuse to forgive pay a heavy price: “The physical costs of unforgiveness may include hypertension, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name just a handful. Because negative emotions have a depressive effect and can suppress immune function, unforgiveness may even have an indirect link to major and severe disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.” Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you will be forgiven’, say Ketterman, lie at the heart of marital harmony and health. She speaks both as a psychiatrist of the Christian faith and as a victim of infidelity who chose to forgive and remarry her husband.

Research also indicates that shared spirituality can help protect against the roots of marital bitterness. Ordinary practices like attending church, reading the bible and praying together have been shown scientifically to strengthen one’s marriage. Sadly I have found that many couples view the idea of praying together to be too intimate.

Before my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’. Research shows that couples who view their marriage as something that God has joined together are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage. I have discovered that God invented marriage and believes in it; therefore marriages are worth fighting for.

Anything that we believe in, we invest in. I admire the courageous couples I know who have been willing to go to marriage counselors like Bonnie Chatwin. There is no quicker way to make progress on marital bitterness than to go for professional help. Social science studies prove that counselling is much cheaper than divorce lawyers.

My prayer for those reading this article is that our marriages may be sweet and full of joy, and that any roots of bitterness will be eradicated through the bonds of love.
The Rev. Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

-previously published in the August Deep Cove Crier 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Neil Armstrong, My Grandmother's Death, and the Sewing Machine - Lindquist

40 years ago this week, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, went to my grandmother’s funeral, and listened in astonishment as God told me to learn how to sew. Three things I’ll never forget.

I had turned 21 that January and graduated from Brandon University in the spring. I’d worked the previous summers, but that year, for some reason, no jobs appeared, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that concerned. I had a student loan and a teaching fellowship for grad school in the fall, and I appreciated having time to read mysteries and goof off before the heavy stuff began. Plus I could always work a bit in my dad’s clothing store.

When my grandmother died in Winnipeg, my dad and I drove the two and a half hours from Souris for the funeral. My mother was already there. We stayed at my aunt’s apartment, and I vividly remember my aunt and my parents buzzing around getting ready for the funeral while I sat mesmerized by what was happening on the TV. The others were aware, in a distant way, of the space flight, but after a week of hospitals and many hushed conversations, their minds were completely focused on the here and now of the funeral.

Just moments before we had to leave for the church, I watched Neil Armstrong walking around on the moon. When we stepped out of my aunt's apartment building, I looked up at the sky. How impossible it all seemed. Could a man really be walking on the moon?

Less than two hours later, we watched my grandmother’s coffin being set down into a rectangular hole in a new cemetery just off the Perimeter Highway. The place didn't look like a cemetery to me, but more like a large park with sprinkling of small plaques and flowers and a few trees dotting it.

Again, I was transfixed. How impossible it all seemed. Was that really my grandmother in the coffin. Was it only her body? Was her soul actually in another place none of us could see? Like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon?

Two days after the funeral and the moon landing, we were back home in Souris, and God told me I needed to learn how to sew.

Did I really hear his voice? Well, not the way I might hear my dad’s voice. But I was quite sure the little voice in my mind was God speaking to me. And I knew for sure that learning to sew wasn’t my idea.

My mother didn’t know anything about sewing. She could manage a button and maybe a hem that was coming down, but anything more than that and she hired someone to do it for her. And then there was the fact that my father owned a clothing store. In fact, I’d been helping choose the clothes to put in the store for years, and I got my own clothes at wholesale prices. Why should I learn to sew? I’d never even considered taking home economics.

But I knew beyond any doubt that God wanted me to learn.

Being a fairly independent person, I went to a local store that carried a small selection of sewing materials and chose the easiest pattern and the cheapest fabric they had. When my parents asked me what I was doing, I told them I wanted to learn to sew. As far as I knew, they'd never recognized God's voice talking to them, so I didn’t say anything to get them worrying that I was hearing voices.

I followed the directions on the pattern, cutting out the material and sewing the seams with a needle and thread. It was a dress with only two pieces—back and front—and wide sleeves—kind of a short muu muu. The material was red with various dots all over it.

To my surprise it worked. It even fit, although I never wore it out of the house—not with that material!

I then found a fairly easy pattern for pants with an elastic waistband and a top without sleeves that opened like a vest and had a sash. No buttons, zippers, or frills. I chose some inexpensive yellow material that I sort of liked and went to work, again sewing it all by hand. Once more, it fit. This one I actually wore in public.

For my third attempt, I chose a really nice red polyester material and a pattern for a dress with short sleeves and buttons down the front. I made the dress by hand, right up to sewing on the buttons, but my mother paid someone to make the buttonholes. It was quite wearable and the seamstress was impressed.

Summer ended and I went off to university, my sewing done for now.

A year and a half later—a whirlwind year in which I started, then dropped out of grad school, ended up in Bible college, took a summer course in teaching, and found myself teaching high school English—my father bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. Not long after that, he sold his clothing store and retired to Brandon.

While I was teaching, I made most of my clothes. For the first two years of marriage, my husband attended university and I took a correspondence course in writing. God took care of our financial needs. And I sewed pretty well anything we needed, from curtains to duffel bags for camping.

Later, when my husband was hired by IBM and needed tailor-made suits because of his broad swimmer’s shoulders, I learned to make men’s suits. I also made most of our first son’s clothes, including his sleepers, as well as myriad other things, from a bassinet to bedspreads to hangings for the walls.

I haven’t done as much sewing in recent years, but it’s so handy to be able to hem a pair of too-long pants, change up a garment that isn’t quite right, or throw together a costume.

Was it a good idea for me to learn to sew?


Do I still think God told me to learn?

Who else knew how useful the ability to sew would be for me?

But then, I also believe God showed various people how to do the things necessary to get a rocket ship to the moon, and—even more amazing—back to earth again!

And I believe that this life is only a prelude to the next one, and that it’s completely possible for a soul to be gloriously alive while the body it lived in for a time is decomposing in a grave.

The problem is that God doesn’t always tell us why He wants us to do something—just that we should do it. And it’s up to use to go ahead in faith, just as Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew acted in faith, believing that a rocket could actually get people to the moon.

So my best advice, for anyone, is to listen to God’s gentle voice and do whatever He says.

N. J. Lindquist

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Aging: the silver lining - Nesdoly

In June I shared some thoughts about writing and aging on my personal blog. Did you know, for example, that some agents won't take on aging writers? It can be a depressing time, with a lot going on - and off.

Of course, aging can also be a time of satisfaction as we take on new roles, strategize on how to age creatively and reflect on a successful writing career. There must be something to recommend it, considering all the characters aged 50 and older in recent novels.

Despite all the cliches about aging, as Christians, we really shouldn't be all that concerned about it. Here's why:

  • Our general assignment is to be faithful stewards of the time, talent and opportunity we've been given (Luke 12:48; Luke 19:12-26).
  • God has a specific job for each of us too (Ephesians 2:10). Bible characters like Abraham, Moses and Caleb illustrate that when one's assignment isn't complete, age is no obstacle. In other words, God's purposes aren't hindered by His vessel's advancing age.
  • Finally it is God who determines what our life's work is actually worth (I Corinthians 3:10-15) and He's the one we need to impress. Os Guinness calls it living before the "Audience of One." (The Call, p. 70).

As we focus our attention on the things above, we can be as oblivious to the advancing years as the woman described in Proverbs 31: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." (Proverbs 31:25)

Violet Nesdoly's web site
Line upon line: writerly blog
Bible Drive-Thru: daily devotions for kids

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Never Your Way Again - Scott

Luke 14:27 - "... anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

I believe that we need a major revival across this land. But, revival will not fully come if we hold back. We can get 'that close' and miss the blessing by inches.

What do we value most? What could get in the way of total commitment?

Let me ask you a question that God has given for your consideration:

“What if you never got your own way ever again?”

It is contradictory to claim to be followers of the Master and then to demand our own way. The good news is that there is the assurance that we will not be denied our heart's desire according to God's will.

Have you been demanding your way? How's that been working for you?

I have seen God working in the congregation I attend. I believe we are on the verge of a great revival.

Many folks get cranky when something different happens. We often hear the 'Seven Last Words of the Church': WE NEVER DID IT THAT WAY BEFORE.

Some might admit, “Yeah, I'm sort of like that.”

Well, it's time to change.

From Macedonia and Greece, Alexander the Great subjugated the entire area of the Mediterranean. One day he received a report that one of his men had fled in the face of the enemy. Alexander wanted to speak privately with this soldier. The young man came to the great leader's tent. The general was almost ready to excuse the young soldier's impulsiveness. But then he asked him “What is your name?” The soldier answered, “Alexander, sir!”

“What is your name?”

“Alexander, sir!”

The General looked straight at the young man, straightened to his full height, and said firmly, “Soldier, you have only two choices. Change your attitude or change your name!”

What is our response?

Unwilling to give up the demand to have our own way, we can be very selfish. That's what got this world into trouble in the first place. The Bible is a record of individuals and nations that wanted their own way. The list is a long one.

What are the saddest words in the Bible? Here is my choice: “It takes eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea by way of the hill country of Edom.” (Deuteronomy 1:2 GNB)

If you’ve ever read the story of the Exodus (or watched “The Ten Commandments”) you will have learned that the people of Israel wandered for 40 years before arriving in the Promised Land. What the verse from Deuteronomy tells us is that the trip should only have taken eleven days. Selfishness and disobedience led to the Israelites taking a whole generation to make what should have been a trip of a week and a half.

The people wanted comfort, peace, and victory over others. They wanted God their way and either adopted the false Gods of other nations or created their own image of what He should be in order for them to get their own way.

Jesus clearly says we can't expect to have our own way if we want to know and benefit from God's way. All we have must be gladly yielded when Jesus asks for it. “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 GNB)

It's time to decide if we can be satisfied to never have our own way ever again so that God can revive his church. Is our legacy going to be 40 years of wandering or do we want to enter the Promised Land TODAY?

If God's way is what you really want, you will receive your heart's desire. He is waiting to bless TODAY.


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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yesterday – Lawrence

I close my eyes and dip my cup into the bowl of overflowing memories. Faces of children, parents, uncles and aunts come to my mind; events and objects—picnics, merry-go-rounds, donkey rides, and Sunday school trips bring a smile to my face; snippets of remembrances, good and bad, float by as if in a dream. Sadness comes with thoughts of illness and deaths in the family; joy pours in with remembered holidays away and visits from relatives and friends.
Into my cup, pours a memory of a young 24-year-old woman, eyes wide open with expectation and hope as she rides, all alone, on a train to Portsmouth. She wonders if she will meet her true love on the big ocean liner, as she’d seen in romantic movies. She was leaving England and immigrating to Canada; a new world was opening up to her and she was so ready for what was to come.
I think of that young girl now. It’s almost 50 years ago and a lot has happened in the intervening years. Each day since then is another yesterday and another memory in the overflowing bowl. I have no regrets about coming to Canada—as soon as I landed I knew I belonged. Memories are still being made and, tomorrow, these memories will be yesterdays; they’ll join with all the others and become inspiration for short stories and fireside conversations.
© Judith Lawrence

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

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Do We Write? - Shepherd

What do you say when someone asks you, “Why do you write?” I am tempted to say, “I write because I can’t not write.” That would be cheeky and does not really answer a genuine query.

For me, writing is a way to express what I really want to say. I would far sooner send you e-mail than pick up the phone to talk to you, especially if I have something important I want to communicate. When I speak on the phone, I am not able to take the time to find the exact word to convey the meaning that I want, and risk being misunderstood. When I write, I can read over my first draft and then edit it many times, until I express as accurately as I can what I want to say, before I push the send button.

To me ideas are precious. Concepts are valuable ways of handling the material that makes up our lives. Through internal dialogue initially, our ideas are created, shaped and refined, until finally they can no longer be contained and must be committed to paper. There the refining continues as they are edited and re-edited and the final product is our well thought through views on a particular topic. When they have reached this stage, they are ready to enter the public forum for more discussion and refinement.

Case in point: the book that I am working on about spiritual accompaniment. This has been in process at least ten years. Initially the idea kept coming to my attention in articles and books and I began to note these. This collection began my research files. Then, came a time in my life, when opportunities arose to ask myself first and then others, some probing questions around the whole concept.

The writing of the book itself followed on the heels of these conversations, nurtured by the material gleaned from them. After several drafts, I gave the first chapters to friends as well as those who were conversant on the subject to review for me. Then I began talking with publishers and getting their feedback. Now the book is in the rewriting stage. I came to realize that the tone of the writing was inconsistent with the content.

As I interact with the material of my book, I again feel the adrenaline rise. I must find a way to effectively communicate these exciting ideas with others so they too can share the joy of my discovery. That is why I write.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How big is your desk? - Payne

How big is your desk?

This question was asked on the Inscribe Fellowship listserv to generate discussion. Immediately, I leaned back in my chair and admired my 10-year-old cherry-wood desk. I love my desk. It’s u-shaped with the computer in the middle, a hutch with four cabinets to my left, and an open desktop to my right. Under the cabinets I’ve shelved my writing books including such titles as, “Careers for your characters”, “The complete guide to self-publishing”, and “Handbook of English” to name only a few. Beside them, I have my 4-level desk tray of work to do. I generally keep my current projects piled to my left.

In the centre, sits my computer screen with my tear-away calendar with cartoon of the day, telephone, paper clips, tissues and two containers – one to hold my pens, one to hold my pencils. A calculator, eraser, and pen with inscription, For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37) complete the centre.

To the immediate left of my screen sits my scanner/photocopier. To the right, the computer tower – to easily slip in CDs and upload pictures. Beside the tower is my colour laser printer. Everything is right within arms length.

Elsie Montgomery’s desk sounds similar to mine. “My desk is horseshoe shaped. One side is actually an L that is 6' x 6' with a hutch on one arm and a pin board on the other. There is a keyboard tray slung under the corner where the two arms meet. The other arm is an attached peninsula that is 26" deep and 6' long. On this I have my computer, two printers, and the books/stuff that I use every day. I love this space and can spin in my chair to all parts of it. Most of the time it looks like an explosion in a paper factory, but I have neat days --- few and far between, but sometimes you can actually see the top of it. It is cherry wood and black. I covered the pin board in a leopard print and have zebra and jungle prints stuff here and there. I just need a water tap on one end and I'd be totally happy!”

There are many different styles of desks. A mission-style oak corner desk may be your preference. Or maybe an a-frame espresso desk may be more to your liking. Or you could be like Joyce Harback who doesn’t use a “formal” desk to write. Joyce uses her Macbook on her lap, sitting on the sofa where she has a great view out the window. She says, “I spread papers beside me or on the coffee table, which means they have to be gathered up if we have guests. I have a lovely office downstairs, but I rarely use it. Being in the main family room means I can interact easily with my family as they come and go.”

Besides the style of desk, there are a variety of colours to choose from. You may prefer a walnut-finish or a distressed black finish or maybe even a glass top computer desk.

Nathan shares, “A friend custom-built me a desk out of oak 16 years ago, and I still
use it daily. It is 6 feet 8 inches wide and 3 feet deep. Two men cannot lift it. No, there is no empty space on it.”

No matter what the size, style or colour of your desk I think all writers can agree that it’s nice to have a favourite spot to muse. How big is your desk?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Next Chapter? - MANN

“All good things come to an end,” or so an old saying suggests. And when a minister comes to the end of an appointed time with the church, he or she gives the benediction and hands in the keys. However, I know from experience it is not that easy. It just doesn’t happen that way.

I’ve never been able to retire totally from the call of God on my life to ministry, even though I’ve attempted three times. So I ask myself, what makes it different this time? How does one retire from a call? It doesn’t matter if you punch a time clock or simply put your final papers on the boss’s desk; retirement is possible and with some emotional effort, can be accomplished in most cases. Perhaps the question for me is not about retiring, but what shape this retirement will take?

The key in acknowledging my retirement as different this time, was in the Chair of Counsel’s parting comments he offered on behalf of the congregation. He thanked me for spending this chapter of my life with them, acknowledging "there were probably more pages than I’d originally planned." Yes, I thought. Life is never as we plan and it’s important to be flexible to accommodate what else surfaces is in the mix.

In reflection, I have come to think of that comment as a gift of invitation, as I rethink God’s calling and see it in chapters and pages. Ministry has showered blessings on many chapters of my life over the last thirty years. On some of these pages, the print was too small, that I had trouble deciphering the words to expose the way, while on other pages; the font clearly defined purpose with its boldness, leaving no doubt as to intention. Yet, more times, than I could grasp, the pages turned in perfect succession with complete and total direction, showing letters that formed words to show the Way.

Perhaps now the call is to my writing, to take seriously this particular chapter and to celebrate every page. When Oprah recently told her television audience she was entering a new phrase of her life to lose weight and live a different lifestyle, she was closing one chapter of her life and entering another. People do it everyday, so why not me? I know there is more for me after I hand in the keys to the church.

Take Time to Make Memories: Memoires, Manna Publications
WinterGrief: A Personal Response. Essence
Aggie's Storms: The childhood of the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament.Brucedale Press.

Keep in touch with Donna Mann at

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tale of the Field of Clay -- Black

Word spread amongst the farms and gardens of King Solomon’s Kingdom that a certain piece of ground wasn’t at all happy.
Now, the hills of Bethlehem were very happy with their being honoured as the place where King Solomon’s father, King David, had kept sheep and played his harp, and where he sang songs of praise to the Lord. So, they weren’t the unhappy ground. Besides, these hills were raising sheep to be used in sacrifices at the magnificent Temple, which was then being built, and lamb would also be served at royal banquets around King Solomon’s table!
The land of the royal gardens in Jerusalem prided themselves in the many beautiful shrubs and fragrant flowers which graced the King’s palace. And the royal produce garden grounds were especially proud of the herbs, vegetables, and fruit, grown for the royal table. No – they too, were very content. So then, which of the grounds wasn’t happy?
Word eventually came that it was a field near Succoth and Zarethan, across the River Jordan, which was very upset. That field complained, "The fields of Bethlehem don’t have to do anything; they just sit there and rich, tasty grass grows! Sheep just love it and grow big and strong. The ground of the royal gardens is so easy and workable that the gardeners say it’s a pleasure to till and work it. Besides, King Solomon’s always showing the gardens off to his important visitors."
"So what’s your problem?" asked the other grounds.
"Well, whenever anybody comes to till my ground, they run into all this tough, heavy clay, and the poor oxen just about die from the strain of plowing it up. And then, because I don’t produce a good crop, farmers just give up."
"Oh, poor Succoth-Zarethan. It’s too bad!" the other grounds said.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. One day the king learned that many years before, things made from bronze were cast there, and so he sent a clever man called Huram to head up the work of casting all the bronze articles needed for the Temple.
And so it was that the old clay-soil field became very useful, and the beautiful huge pillars, the gleaming altar, the laver – that is, a huge wash-basin for the priests – as big as a small swimming pool – and all the basins, tongs, and equipment necessary for the priests to offer sacrifices to the Lord God, were cast in this field using its clay in the process. How honoured and happy this piece of ground now was, after all!
How honoured we are to be used of the Lord to help influence people’s lives, so that they too, may be strengthened in character and the likeness of Jesus Christ, and be fitted for His Kingdom’s service!
Scripture References: 2 Chron 4:16-17; Ps 40:1-3; Rom 8:29-30
© Peter A. Black 2000 / 2009 (This piece was written to accompany and illustrate a sermon.)
Peter writes a weekly inspirational column in the Watford Guide-Advocate, a Southwestern Ontario newspaper.
His first book, "Parables from the Pond" (written for children, read and enjoyed by all ages) is published by Word Alive Press. He can be contacted at and

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Christians Who Disagree?

The story of Creation related in the Bible is a study in brevity. It doesn’t give some of the details I wish for. It doesn’t lay out ground-rules, telling us this is symbolic and this is literal. It begins with a faith statement of astonishing breadth in just four words: “In the beginning, God. . .” It lays a foundation that seems from a surface reading to lack solidity, yet embedded within that foundation are countless bits of evidence that stand up to the toughest scientific scrutiny.

Two fascinating books look at many of those bits of evidence. They both carefully and skillfully articulate their viewpoint. They both anchor their arguments on scientific and biblical evidence. They both claim that evidence points with incontrovertible weight towards a designer of super-intelligence. They both dare to name that designer the God of the Bible. They invite the reader to better know that God. Yet they disagree strongly with each other.

Ken Ham argues for a young universe, literal 24-hour days of creation and a global flood that accounts for much of the fossil record around the world. Hugh Ross argues for an ancient universe. Perhaps most fascinating though, both detail an intricacy of design so incredibly fine-tuned that the possibility of it arising from random accidents of nature is outside the realms of mathematical possibility.

In his book, More Than a Theory, Hugh Ross suggests 13.5 billion years since the dawn of creation. He argues for a local flood and each “day” of creation as an age. He points to detail after detail after detail that must fall within incredibly narrow tolerances for life to exist. He argues that those tolerances are so fine-tuned that the probability of finding any other habitable planet in the known universe is statistically nil. He chronicles step after step in the development of our globe so that it could be prepared for life, yet makes the claim and backs it with overwhelming evidence, that the fine-tuning of each of those steps could not have happened by accident.

Ken Ham in The Answer Book points with compelling arguments to creation at 10,000 years ago or less. He believes, and supports his belief with scientific and biblical evidence, that death was unknown before the fall of Adam and Eve. He argues that all animals were vegetarian before Adam’s sin, and that Noah carried juvenile dinosaurs with him on the Ark. His arguments too, draw on a multitude of fine-tuned details that fall within such narrow boundaries as to stretch credibility beyond the breaking point to have happened as a result of random accidents.

Ken Ham writes with slightly less scholarly language, but both authors articulate their arguments with skill and solid science. Both authors have done a great deal of in-depth study. I will not consume months in researching which author has the most compelling presentation, but I will strongly recommend that people interested in this subject read both.

As strongly as they disagree with each other, both authors are fully convinced God is the one and only creator. Both authors point out an intricacy of design completely outside the realms of random possibility. Both authors draw the reader to a deeper appreciation of the majesty of creation and the wisdom of the God behind it.

I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to disagree as Christians, if we can do so respectfully, and still somehow draw people to a deeper grasp of the majesty of God.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Can Anger Help Your Marriage?- HIRD

By the Rev Ed Hird+

For the past twenty-two years, I have been privileged to invest in many families in the North Shore area. As both a Social Worker and an Anglican priest, I have been struck by how many North Shore couples are successful in business but challenged in the area of relationships. It has been our privilege over the years at St. Simon’s NV to help many couples fall back in love and rebuild strong marriages.

While teaching at the CWIPPThink Conference in San Diego, God rekindled my dream of doing a doctorate in the area of marriage and families. I heard that Dr Paddy Ducklow, a North Shore Pastor and Counsellor, was being appointed Professor of Marriage and Family Ministries at Carey College out at UBC. I have known and respected Paddy since attending West Vancouver Baptist’s Salt Circus during the 1970’s Jesus movement. After much prayer and reflection, I decided to begin a part-time doctorate at Carey designed specifically for full-time clergy.

My first ‘Family Ministry’ doctoral course was taught this spring by Dr. James Ponzetti, a professor in the Departments of Social Work and then Sociology. I decided to focus on ‘Managing Anger in marital conflict’. After reading forty books and 150 Social Science articles on marital anger, I was left with the impression that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages. Researchers note how many men detach from intimacy, leaving their wives very frustrated. Because women are so relational, they are often tempted to suppress their legitimate anger in favour of protecting their marriage. The problem with stuffing our anger is that it leaves us isolated and disconnected.

Dr John Gottman, one of the world’s foremost marriage researchers, suggests that there is a better way forward. Even healthy long-term marriages will experience marital conflict and anger. No one is exempt. We need to rediscover anger as a positive emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Drs John & Julie Gottman, in their best-selling book ‘10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage’, actually recommends that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side. While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change. The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr David Mace compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm. Research shows that most marital conflicts are about housework, physical intimacy, money, and children. When we become angry, our heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of our energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Dr. Gottman actually monitors such levels in his marriage ‘love lab’ in Seattle. Many couples, when their heart rates goes over one hundred, become overwhelmed or ‘flooded’ by the intensity of their emotions. Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do if ‘overwhelmed’ while intensely listening to our spouse is to choose to take a short time out and go for a walk so that we can re-regulate our emotions. Gentle humour and affection are other proven keys to reducing emotional intensity. It takes humility to accept influence from our spouses, to become more gentle, and to make bids for connection when we are tempted to stonewall them.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged people to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other person. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. We need to learn to express our anger gently and respectfully in a way that honours our spouse. We also need to learn to deeply listen to our spouse’s anger in a way that hears their longing for a healthier future together. As James put it, we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. The Good Book teaches in Ephesians 4:26 that it is possible to be angry without being destructive. Even Jesus, who was so full of love, felt angry at people’s insensitivity to handicapped people (Mark 3:5) It is vital that couples commit to not going to bed angry, because it is far too easy to wake up bitter and resentful. While short-term anger can be a positive force, chronic anger has been shown to increase our risk of heart disease by as much as 500%.

My prayer for each of us reading this article is that we will embrace the gift of anger, and learn to harness it for the good of our marriages and families.

The Rev. Ed Hird+
St. Simon’s North Vancouver, Anglican Coalition in Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier, North Vancouver

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