Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why I DON'T Write -- Payne

Last post I wrote on why I write. Now I want to share with you my thoughts on why I don't write.

Sometimes I fight writing. I know I have a great idea and I’ve even started it inside my mind, but I put the brakes on. I don’t want to transfer it to paper because I’m afraid that if I start and then am interrupted by the telephone, or by a child’s cry, or by the dryer’s buzzer I fear that I may lose it altogether.

Instead of starting, I keep it inside to protect and nurture it until the timing is right to let it loose. But have I lost ideas entirely because of this? I don’t know. I can’t remember. Perhaps blissfully I lose ideas but is this better than knowingly losing ideas?

I’ve never chanced starting to write knowing that I had only 30 minutes to get my idea down. I’ve never risked it. I’m too afraid that if I let the idea loose without completing it, well then, I’d lose it forever.

I don’t know if I could pick up where I had left off. I don’t know if I could get myself back into that frame of mind.

I feel like I move in spurts. There is a period of incubation and formulation. The thought is tossed and turned in my mind. Then the moment comes where the idea bursts forward and splatters in ink on my paper. I cannot stop it and it runs like a locomotive fiercely out of my mind onto the page.

But as the ink dries, the idea dies out. The writer is spent. And once spent, I return to incubation.
Do I unleash the train before it’s ready? Do I dare ever proceed or yank the brake cord just as the train gathers speed?

This is my dilemma as a writer. Do I take my opportunities as they come up, or wait for the ideal moment? Do I write regardless or steal those moments to luxuriate in reading?

As I pose these questions to myself, I already know the answer. A writer writes.
No more excuses. No hiding behind reading. A writer writes when the ideas are there. And when the ideas are not there. A writer writes through the incubation and into the inspiration. A writer writes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just in case you need a reminder ... - Nesdoly

(Click on image to enlarge - from )
Canadian Tax and
Financial Information

Spring Isn't

Spring isn't pallid snowdrops
shyly coil'd in chilly Feb.
It isn't jewel primulas
or burgeoning rhodo's red.

Not hyacinths poking through dirt
or blossom bursts of plum,
not heather clumps abuzz once more
with bees that float and hum.

Not tulips or camellias
unfurling on the scene,
nor lilacs or forsythia
soon giving way to green.

But in the vernal equinox
'midst sprouting oats and flaxes
it's bureaucrats whose grasping hands
insist I spring for taxes.

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly


- Personal: prompting
- Writerly: Line upon line
- Kids daily devotions: Bible Drive-Thru

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HIding What They Seek - Arends

This is from my newest Christianity Today column, which was recently posted on their website.

Hiding What They Seek
In my desire to be 'seeker-friendly,' I'm often guilty of concealing Jesus.
A friend was involved for years in a weekly service intended to reach out to inner-city kids, the majority of whom had little church experience and no acknowledged relationship with Jesus.

If it had been up to me, I would have made those events "seeker-friendly." I'd have focused on building relationships, avoiding anything too religious or high pressure. But my friend went a different way. Every week, he led worship, one song after another, always unabashedly about—or to—Jesus.

I'm sure some of the kids walked away and never looked back. But hundreds stayed. Many made decisions to follow Christ.

Some ministry leaders were concerned that teens who didn't know Jesus were being asked to participate in worship. My friend would reply, "How else are they supposed to get to know him?"

It's a good question. People come to the Christian faith via many different highways, but the eventual crossroad is always an encounter with Jesus. I wonder if my attempts to keep my witness nonthreatening and accessible sometimes end up shielding the unchurched people around me from their own crossroad. Jesus can certainly meet them without my assistance. But I would rather be a help than a hindrance.

I was definitely a hindrance in Mexico. My husband, Mark, is a public high school counselor. A few years ago, a group of 11th graders asked him to coordinate a humanitarian trip. He contacted one of our favorite Christian organizations, and they agreed to facilitate an excursion to Mexico to build a playground in an impoverished area. Mark was careful to explain that the students participating were unchurched; should there be even a whiff of proselytizing, parents—and the school board—would feel betrayed.

There were 24 students and 4 teachers; my kids and I tagged along. Upon arrival, we discovered that the arranged accommodations at a local Rotary Club house had fallen through. Instead, we would be sleeping on the cement floor of a church basement in downtown Juârez, one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. Mark could already imagine the parent phone calls he'd receive when word trickled home. Weary from a long day of travel, we set up sleeping bags and tried to ignore the exposed wiring, hole-ridden walls, and scurry of cockroaches.

In the morning, we drove to the site of our project. Jaws dropped and eyes welled as we observed the abject poverty around us. But we also experienced the sweet rush of doing something worthwhile. At the end of the day, we returned to our cement floor feeling good.

All was well until the nausea hit. Sometime around 3 A.M., the first wave of students became ill; by morning, there were clusters of miserable people draped on every available garbage can. Mark held his head and imagined a new wave of parent phone calls. Mostly he threw up.

Around 9 A.M., the two local women who were preparing our food arrived on the scene and surveyed the carnage. Despite the language barrier, their distress and concern were unmistakable. They had followed all the guidelines for cooking for foreigners, and we were still sick. Eventually, one of the women approached the only teacher who could speak Spanish and asked for permission to pray for us. Too ill to object, the teacher nodded yes.

As soon as the woman began to pray, I knew we were in trouble. I thought, Maybe everyone is so ill they won't mind the praying. But my hopes for a low-impact prayer faded quickly as the woman became increasingly emotional. She prayed for five minutes. Ten. Maybe more.

Gracias Padre, Gracias Jesús, Gracias Espíritu Santo, she wept, over and over. I began a prayer of my own. Please make her stop. I don't want Mark to get fired. I don't want these kids to be put off of religion.

When she was finally done, I took a deep breath and forced myself to raise my flushed face, dreading the reactions I knew were inevitable.

Things were not as I expected.

There was not a dry eye in the room. Students were hushed, visibly moved. "That was beautiful," whispered one teacher. Several people nodded. To them, the prayer had been not unwelcome proselytizing, but a heart cry—passionate, desperate, and utterly authentic.

I was ashamed, of course, and humbled. The Holy Spirit had been moving, and I, one of the few mature believers in the room, had missed it.

I wish I had prayed different prayers in Mexico. These days, in increasing measure, I do. When faced with potential encounters with the living God, even among the uninitiated, I am learning to pray Yes and Thank you rather than Stop. After all, how else are any of us supposed to get to know him?

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)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hope in a Hurry

It's a scary world, have you heard? Swine flu, pirates, shootings, wars, and rumors of wars.

I admit, my knee jerk reaction to all this bad news is get upset. Turn to my husband and say, "Did you know how bad it is? Has anyone told you? Let me tell you how bad it is!"

One good thing about being married to a pastor is that I have instant access to calm sanity and spiritual enlightenment. Sorta Jesus-advice on tap. When I get rankled by incessant fears surrounding us all, I'm able to snuggle up to my pastor and say, "Help me feel better, please."

And he does. He prays - for the situation, but also for me. That I would more fully embrace the peace that Christ holds out to me. Crazy Jesus peace that defies circumstances and fears. And just like that, I do feel better.

Every one of us faces moments when life seems too out of control, too big and hairy for us to face. A deadline we can't meet, a sick child or parent, a relationship on the rocks, an accident, whatever it is. But Jesus promises us that as long as we build our house (our life - this one and the one we spend in eternity) on the foundation of His truth, our house will not fall. Battered - yes, it will be battered (the bible says the wind blew and slammed against the house), but we will not fall. Jesus holds us up, hold us together, holds us close.

You may not have a pastor in your house, but you have the Holy Spirit who guides, teaches, instructs, and points to Jesus. You have hope in a hurry when you build your life on the foundation of Jesus.

Bonnie Grove is the author of Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You (Beacon Hill Press) available now at and anywhere you like to buy books.

Her debut novel Talking to the Dead (David C. Cook) is available for pre-order anywhere you like to buy books.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Under God’s Guidance - Lawrence

On April 27th 2007 my blog on this site began with the words, “Writing is such a thrill isn’t it? It’s full of highs and lows, thrills and disappointments, agony and ecstasy. In a moment, our hopes and dreams become devastation and nightmares before turning once again to joy and exhilaration.”

When things don’t go exactly as we had planned or when things don’t go as we had envisioned, it is wise to take a prayerful second look at what God is asking of us. We may have had a good run of published novels and we wonder why the one we are writing now is causing us so much difficulty. We may have been writing regular articles in a magazine or in a particular style but suddenly they just feel stale. Perhaps the regular market for our work has dried up or we are not getting the same thrill from writing for it as we used to. Instead of being discouraged over this time of apparent writer’s block, why not take a little time in prayer to see if God is asking you to do something different?

Last year in May, I went to St. John’s Convent in Toronto for a retreat about prayer and the labyrinth. Through walking the labyrinth and through art work, we were led to search for what God was revealing to us about the next step in our lives. I was shown that my writing could make better use of advancing technology and that I didn’t need to limit to book form only, my telling of God’s love. Though, I must say, I do like to see my meditations in the finished book form.

Over the past year I have continued to put my meditations about God in text form on my website and in November 2008 I began to record them also. In April of this year, I put what I learned from the book, “Podcast for Dummies”, to good use and added some recorded music to my new meditation. What joy and excitement I feel in learning and doing new things. God is the great Creator and encourages us to be co-creators with him. At present, I am putting some of my poems and meditations on a CD to give as gifts—you’re never too old to learn something new.

I am amazed at what God does for us and through us if we keep our ears open to his leading. It is easy to stay in a familiar zone but if you are feeling disheartened, discouraged or dissatisfied with that zone look to God to see if there is something new that he would have you do.

© Judith Lawrence

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't let them dance on your dreams

Yesterday, I packed away a little New Testament my mother gave me. It's now on the mantle at the new house we'll move into as you read this. (Anyone who knows me, knows I despaired of God giving me back my own house. I also thought I would never remarry, get a book published or make a living from writing. In turn, each gloomy prediction has proven wrong.)

One of my forebears, probably Granddad or Great-Granddad Boyle, turned down two pages in that little testament that came to us from the Bible Society of Upper Canada in 1896. One page is turned down to Revelation. Another is turned to a chapter in the book of Hebrews. The chapter promises God will never foresake the children of a good man (or woman).

Despite the fact that several of my great-great-great grandparents are buried in Canada, I watched Susan Boyle's Britain's Got Talent performance on YouTube, with a sort of clanish pride. So did my cousins. I doubt Susan is related to us. (We come from a long line of Protestants.) But, somewhere along the line, my Loyal British forebears picked up the same ability to defy convention and dream audacious dreams.

Susan's cheeky optimism and self assurance protected her from the caustic assessments of judges and bad mannered audience members. Without them, she may have walked of the stage without proving them wrong. Without them her life would be far less joyful.

That silly dance, irrepressible grin and quick wit mimic my mother's antics. (Not to mention those of her siblings.) Many times her goofy jokes made the teenage me cringe. These days, she wants to grow up to be 'The Old Woman who Wears Purple."

Then there was Susan's very direct comment when her age, 47, was brought up: "And that is just one side of me," she said, wagging her head for emphasis. That isn't a far cry from what my mother told provincial bureaucrats who interviewed her for a job after she graduated from university at age 50.

Can't remember if it was her age or her gender that was brought up. Her reply though is clear. "Is that a problem for you?" Apparently it was: She didn't get that job; she got a better one.

God guides us to our dreams. Don't let anyone trounce on yours.

Relinquishment - Eleanor Shepherd

I was reminded today of an experience I had when I lived here, in Montreal, in the 1980s.  At the time our children were about seven and twelve and my husband Glen and I were both fully engaged in ministry. 

Glen went in to work early.  Then, I drove the children to their schools and went into the office.  It was such a busy time in our lives! There were also unresolved issues in our relationship that were causing tension between us as a couple.  Some days I felt I was on a treadmill, and it would not slow down long enough for me to get off.  

 One morning, after I dropped the children, I was overcome with weariness.  As I headed toward the office, uninvited tears began to roll down my face.  Habitually, this time alone in the car had become my opportunity to speak aloud to God and tell Him how I was feeling.  That morning torn between fatigue and frustration, I cried out, “I just cannot go on!  Please help me.” 

 Then I became aware that my mind was heading down the familiar route of self-indulgence. I was setting myself up for one big pity party. Instinctively, I realized that would be a dead end street.  Clenching my teeth, I determined I would not fall into this trap.  What could I do to stop it? 

 Glancing at the seat beside me, I spied a cassette tape.  I grabbed it and shoved it into the car tape player.  Suddenly the gentle voice of Joni Eareckson Tada floated out of the machine.  What hit me were the words she was singing. 

             “He careth for you.  He careth for you,

             When the worries and cares of your life,

            Seem to block out the rays of His light.

            Never forget. Never lose sight.

            For He careth for you, for He careth for you.

 Then she said, “Remember 1Pet 5: 7, 'Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.'” 

At that moment, I knew that it was not only Joni’s voice I was hearing.  The Holy Spirit was graciously reminding me how much I was loved.  I did not have to carry these cares alone.  He was with me and was waiting for me to turn them over to Him, so that He could accomplish what He wanted to do for me.

 It was an unexpected turning point in my life.  I dared to turn it all over.  To all appearances, nothing changed in that moment.  Yet the person I have become since that day reveals that everything changed. 

 That does not mean that I have not had anxious moments since then.  Had I known that eighteen years later my son would find himself paralyzed like Joni, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to carry on, but God is merciful and kind.  His assurance was what I needed that day and He has continued to remind me of His care, even in the darkest days. 

 Strangely enough, I spoke today with a friend at work who had a similar kind of experience.  He became a widower with three young children and faced trying to raise them alone.

 One day, he too came to the end of his resources and cried out to God, as he relinquished the children to Him.  It was also a turning point in his life.  Although today they have become fine young adults, he acknowledges the credit does not go just to his parenting. 

 We find ourselves at another time of relinquishment in our lives today.  This time we have the opportunity to give back to God the wonderful ministry that He has provided for us.  We are living in tough economic times and support is hard to come by.  Yet what we sense is that He is in control and what He wants from us is our willingness to place the future of our ministry in His hands. 

 As a young mother the books of Catherine Marshall, particularly Something More, profoundly impacted me.  She recounted there her own relinquishment experience.   The turning point in her life was the day she decided that she would quit grasping tightly her struggle with ill health and would give it over to Him.  Then came her healing.  In her prayer of relinquishment she was quite specific.  She affirmed God’s presence with her, His love for her and His sovereignty, that He knew what was best for her. 

 Having read and reflected on her experience was likely what enabled me to take the step of trust that morning in my car, prodded by Joni’s song. 

 Today I know that God is present with us in our ministry.  He has shown us many concrete examples of His activity.  I know He loves us and equally importantly, He loves those we are serving.  He also knows He can best use our ministry.  Why would we not surrender it to Him?  As the apostle Peter said, “To whom else could we go?”

 Maybe that is also the secret to successful writing.  We need to remember that He cares about us and values the writing gift that He has entrusted to us. He wants us to be able to use it well.  He loves us, and all those who read what we write.  He knows where our writing needs to go and who needs to have the opportunity to read it.  Maybe He is waiting for us to relinquish it to Him.

Why not? 



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gypsy Ghetto - Fox

Gypsy Ghetto - A Canadian Couple Blazes a Trail into a Destitute Slovakian Culture

Several grey, concrete apartments stand clustered on the outskirts of Kosice, Slovakia, forming a community of their own. Unlike other apartment blocks in the city, however, this complex, known as Lunik IX, has no grass underfoot and no swings or slides for the children. Instead, an abandoned Fiat draws kids and teens like a magnet. The car’s doors are ripped off, its windows are smashed, and a teenage boy hammers on the dashboard while his buddies watch and cheer. Garbage lies in heaps around the place, and many of the buildings’ windows are shattered.

Lunik IX is the largest gypsy ghetto in Eastern and Central Europe. Approximately 6,500 people live here. Sometimes three or four families share a two-bedroom apartment. Electricity is available only in the mornings and evenings, and heat and hot water are usually non-existent, but there’s no shortage of alcoholism, gambling, usury, abuse, and incest. The unemployment rate is 98 per cent. Poverty and hopelessness pervade. In the midst of the darkness, however, the Light of Christ shines – thanks partly to the ministry of International Messengers missionaries Karla and Brad Thiessen from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

When the couple moved to Slovakia in 1991, they were unaware of the gypsies’ desperate situation. It didn’t take long before they saw and understood. The gypsies, officially known as Romas, are originally from India. They were invited to Europe to work as blacksmiths and artisans centuries ago. They established their own leadership and social structure, but that structure was destroyed when Communism moved in. The government forced them to live in the ghettoes and work as street sweepers – society’s lowest paid job.

The economy nosedived when Communism fell in 1989. The Roma lost their jobs and became dependent on capitalism’s welfare system, receiving payments partly based on the number of children per family. The result? Large families and a never-ending poverty cycle. Every day, city residents found Roma sifting through the garbage dumpsters outside apartment buildings, searching for scrap metals to recycle or edible wastes to sell to farmers for pig food, and leaving a mess behind. Thievery became commonplace. Alcoholism skyrocketed. Society responded with discriminatory attitudes and actions. Christians struggled with discrimination, too, sometimes turning the children away from their Sunday schools.

Shortly after the Thiessens settled in Kosice, Brad opened an English language school in the city’s downtown center as a means of establishing relationships with the Slovak people. One day, as he looked out his second-storey window and watched the Roma children playing on the street below, an idea came to mind: Start a kids’ club and share the Gospel with them.

Each week, the children enjoyed a basic English language lesson, a simple craft, and a Bible story. The children loved it; the school’s landlord hated it. “He showed up drunk one day and yelled that he would kick us out if we continued the kids’ club,” says Brad. “After he left, the children looked at me with wide eyes and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I told them I was going to continue.”
Brad refused to let the threat intimidate him. Instead, he prayed that God would not let the landlord sleep until he changed his mind. His prayers were answered – the landlord returned and said, “I haven’t slept for four days. Go ahead, continue using the building for your kids’ club, but invite them to come more often.” Before long, the children’s parents grew curious and began attending the club. Numbers increased, and a local Christian woman offered to help. Eventually she volunteered to host a weekly Bible study at the school, and Roma responded to the Gospel by committing their lives to Jesus Christ.

Laco – a man addicted to smoking, gambling, and alcohol – became a believer several months after his wife’s conversion. The day they moved into Lunik IX, as he watched his wife share her faith with their neighbors, he sensed the Holy Spirit say, “Do you understand what’s happening? I love the Roma people, and I want to use you in this place.” Laco began sharing the Gospel with others in Lunik IX, and within two days, nearly a dozen people placed their faith in Christ.
A decade later, Laco pastors a small church in Lunik IX. Addiction-free and committed to sharing the Gospel with his fellow man, he preaches the Word and writes worship songs that are sung by Roma believers across Slovakia. “My heart’s desire is to see my people come to know Jesus as Savior so they, too, can be set free and experience healing in their lives,” he says. God is answering his prayers. Two women’s discipleship groups, a children’s outreach, a teen program, a men’s discipleship group, and two church services meet in a remodeled ghetto apartment in Lunik IX every week.

Located a half block past the beat-up car, the church building is surrounded by a chain link fence and a cage to protect its glass windows from vandals. The sanctuary holds about 40 people. If more attend, they stand in the hallway. Young children chatter and dash to and fro as the congregation sings worship songs accompanied by a guitarist, a drummer, and a blind accordion player. The facility provides bare essentials for the congregation, but it’s much nicer than the facility they’d considered before International Messengers provided funds to remodel an existing structure.

“Christians in the ghetto needed a meeting site, but the only place available was in the basement under one of the apartments,” says Laco. “It was a mess, littered with human waste and infested with fleas and lice. The city authorities refused to give permission for us to meet there because the ceiling was too low. In retrospect, we know that God was protecting us. He had a better place.”

It appears that a better place yet awaits, one that’s large enough to accommodate a growing congregation. Amazingly, in the summer of 2007, the local government donated a piece of property to the Lunik IX believers. At the time of this writing, Laco and the other Christians were praying for the means to hire someone to draw the plans for their new facility and to fund the materials. They plan to do the construction themselves.

When the Thiessens started the kids’ club, the Roma were considered an unreached people group, having no established church in their language. Today there are approximately 500,000 gypsies living in Slovakia. Estimates say 500 are Christians. There are two established evangelical Roma churches in the Kosice area. Besides ongoing discrimination, however, one of the biggest challenges Roma believers face is not having the Bible in their own language. And one of Laco’s biggest challenges is to disciple the believers so they don’t fall away from their initial decision to follow Christ due to their discouraging economic and physical circumstances. “There’s much work to do among the Roma people; we’re praying for the Lord to send more laborers into the harvest,” says Laco.

As the spiritual light in Lunik IX shines under Laco’s leadership, Brad and Karla continue to support the believers there in practical ways. They also focus on other avenues of ministry to the Roma. In 2006 they helped establish Life Art, a non-profit training institute for unemployed men and women. Women learn sewing skills, and men learn woodworking skills using modern equipment. The second woodworking class completed the four-month course in October 2007. Tony was one of those graduates.

Tony, age 38, had been unemployed for ten years. Married to a woman with a life-threatening heart condition and sharing a 12x12-foot room with their four children ages 8 to 17, he was taking medication to fight depression when he starting working for Life Art. At first he was unsure of himself and lacked math skills needed to calculate measurements for cutting wood. Time and teaching increased his skills, however, and his self-confidence blossomed. He learned valuable work ethics and gained the ability to teach his peers. Best of all, Tony became a believer and gained the courage to tell his peers that a relationship with Jesus is the only means to a transformed life. He still lives in the one-room apartment but he now has hope that someday his family will rise above their poverty.

The transformation in the lives of Roma believers is difficult for city officials to ignore. They recognize that government programs have done little to reduce abuse and alcoholism or to provide hope for those mired in poverty. But those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have undergone dramatic changes. Addictions no longer hold them hostage, and their countenances reflect joy rather than despair. The men show concern for their wives and children. They feel valuable, and they have hope in Christ.

The Thiessens credit God for what’s happening among the Roma people. “God loves these people and wants to see them set free from their bondages,” says Brad. “We’re witnessing what Scripture says – when people know the truth, they will be set free.”

Grace Fox

This article first appeared in Power for Living, March 22, 2009. Copyright © Grace Fox.
Grace Fox is an international speaker and the author of four books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. She’s also the national co-director of International Messengers Canada, a ministry that offers creative short-term and career opportunities in Eastern Europe. Read about her most recent ministry trip to Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Intellectual freedom in Canada - Denyse O'Leary

A book that should be on every Christian writer's reading list is Shakedown, by Ezra Levant.

Here are some critic's comments.

In that book, Levant traces the way Canada's "human rights" commissions - started to deal with real issues in housing and employment, etc. - have morphed into a social engineering squad - one which, incidentally, disproportionately targets Christians who support traditional values and beliefs about charged issues like homosexuality.

The skinny:

Situation 1: The landlord kicks you and all your possessions out into the snow because he thinks you are gay - that's a problem.

Situation 2: The landlord advises you that the gay lifestyle is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches - why is that a problem?

For one thing, it is true. For another, if you don't care what the Bible teaches, you can just ignore him.

That's one reason why freedom of religious has been historically important in Canada. You can just say you would prefer not to discuss the matter. And it isn't really his business.

Unfortunately, the "human rights" commissions - apparently not finding enough of the first type of case to justify their existence - morphed into agencies dedicated to dealing with the second kind - hence the recent, celebrated incidents where they went after famous media figures like Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, as well as many minor ones, in an array of increasingly ridiculous cases.

I've been covering this story myself for some time, and feel that Levant has provided an excellent overview from the trenches. So have Kathy Shaidle and Peter Vere in The Tyranny of Nice.

I first decided to get involved because friends were endangered and because our legacy mainstream media have done - well, I would like to say they have done a lousy job - but the fact is, they did no job at all until very late in the day.

It was the blogosphere that started to publicize what was happening very early - and is still the best source today. I especially recommend Fr. Sean Binks's site, Free Mark Steyn (the name references the troubles that columnist Steyn had with three different HRCs).

Here's Steyn's testimony to an Ontario legislative committee hearing.

As for the legacy media, just keep in mind that we bloggers don't call them "the legacy" for nothing. (They are sort of like the stuffy old furniture Grandma left you. You wish someone would just steal it, but no one is likely to - and leaving it out in the rain really won't help.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Write Out of Your Passion – MANN

Over the past few weeks, members of The Word Guild have reminded us of different ways we can encourage one another to blog in a variety of writing efforts. New, seasoned and between writers can join hands and learn from each other. Writing can be a lonely difficult journey mixed with self-esteem issues of celebration and failure. We begin in our passion and invite that passion to flow through our words, hoping that someone else will identify and connect with what we’re saying.

I started to write stories when I was seven. I would dress up my cat, put her in a sunny place and read to her. Later I wrote music and lyrics that gave invitation to show my emotions in an acceptable way. Words that I would have liked to shout, I immersed between notes and phrases of melodic rhythm. Later in Sunday school, choir and women’s ministries, I wrote skits and poems to involve people to participate in the time. Then I began writing family stories about men and women in past generations for our family history. When I later went back to school to answer God’s call to ordained ministry, I found myself immersed in many different kinds of writing assignments.

As I reflect back, I remember many times when I was tempted to put my work aside, talking myself out of its merit and value. Yet, the adventure of creating, contributing and making a difference always won out. And in that, I somehow found a sense of peace and accomplishment.

I too can look at a pile of unfinished ‘stuff’, rejection slips and files of ideas for further development. This is not failure. If anything, it is energy waiting to happen. It is black and white proof that I continue to open the gift of writing that God has given to me. I admit, some days are slower than other days. There are times I grow impatient with myself and want to clean up, finish up and move on. It is then I pause to remember all of this is a journey. Maybe I just need to change my walking shoes.

Keep in touch:
Aggie's Storms(2007)Agnes Macphail's story of growing up to become the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


What shall we make of this? We read about the sad state of the churches and declining attendance. Okay, maybe you experienced a packed service this past week-end. So did I. What will next Sunday look like?

I couldn't have said this, a couple of weeks ago, but I'm prepared to say it now. In the congregation where I worship, it will likely be just as full, give or take a few out-of-towners. The reason will surprise you.

We hear how the Church is mostly populated by the older folks these days. We expect to see a lot of grey hair or bald heads when we head through the door. This situation speaks to the way we have conducted our services over the years. We need to be dignified. We need to follow the prescribed order. And so, we rehearse what are called 'The Seven Last Words of the Church.' (SLWOTC)

They are, “We never did it that way before.”

That may be true. The folks who are attending congregations that are guided by those words may like it that way. My question is how's it working for you, growth-wise? What's the enthusiasm level in your place of worship? If you are satisfied with the answers, you can quit reading now. I'll probably be back with something less controversial next time.

I am part of an older generation so please don't accuse me of being one of those young rebels who just wants to stir things up. I've ministered in, and worshipped with, congregations who have made the SLWOTC their gospel. But things have changed.

Last year we began attending a church in our new home town. It would be called 'Full Gospel' so you can be assured that it was a little more exuberant than others. I have been part of the main-line denominations all my life but have been part of the Charismatic movement since the seventies. We have enjoyed the freedom of worship in our new church home.

So, why do I say that I expect a full house again this week? The answer is simple—YOUTH!

Our young people have been revived. It would take more space than I have to go into all the details.

Essentially they learned that you can break out of the 'dignified' mold and still worship God. They went to a conference and were blessed so much that they came back and told us that Sunday to Sunday was too long a space of time to wait for a corporate worship experience. We started mid-week services last Thursday.

Passing enthusiasm? I doubt it. We have young people writing music for our services. One of the youth has written more than twenty-five new praise songs since his return. Look at the faces of young adults who have been changed and see the difference a true encounter with God has made; the emotional healing that has taken place. This is not a mountain-top yet to be descended from. These folks are down to earth again but have a whole new approach to the challenges that previously caused concern and despair. And, as you might have guessed, their enthusiasm is rubbing off on the rest of us.

Space is limited so let me close with one more evidence of the change. The youth are in the front row. It used to be almost impossible to have anyone sit in the front row. Now they are there, giving visible proof of their desire to participate and to lead in worship to God.

Church can be alive. We’ve never done it that way before. But we’re doing it now!

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, April 14, 2009

A Good and Perfect Gift

Delight or despair?
A call from the hospital.
Too early – and yet. . .
Hope and fear.
The anniversary of a birth
followed so shortly by a death.

God is the author of life
and for this child we have prayed
But. . .
God measures life against eternity.
Not so far-sighted – my perspective,
knowing God does not always answer
as I wish.
Fears – yet trust.
Trust – yet fears.

The stuff of life draining away,
but a heartbeat steady and strong.

A tiny cry,
piercing, sharp,
different from any newborn I have heard,
yet alive, vigorous, protesting.

So tiny, this little life,
so vulnerable.

High-tech nursery,
artificial womb,
pinnacle of human skill
yet so much less
than womb designed by God.

Compassionate, professional care
for child and mother.

A little one squirming,
arms and legs rarely still,
tubes and wires attached.
yet overflowing with life.
Arms that ache to hold
Cameras clicking, clicking,
trying to catch the magic
of each moment.

Needles, tubes, sensors,
wires and leads.
A mother rejoicing to hold
for the first time.

Triumphs, setbacks,
weariness, celebration.
And still the cameras click.

Fears – yet trust.
Trust – yet fears.
For this child we still pray.

Paige Ruth – a joyful name.
Young Assistant – Blessed Helper,
Companion – Faithful.
A Messenger of Hope.
Each day a little stronger
and hands that long to touch, to hold.

Fears – yet trust.
Trust – yet fears.
For this child we will pray
for God is the author of life,
the giver of every good and perfect gift.
Is there any gift more perfect
than a newborn babe?

Hope – in a broken world.
Joy – in a hospital’s corridors.
Love – in a young mother’s eyes
And the father
with stilted words
says with body language
what lips and tongue cannot express.

Love – surrounding a little one,
cherishing her,
pouring life into her.
Not just from mother’s breast,
though very much from there.

Joy – in every motion,
every rise and fall of tiny chest,
curl of fingers,
stretching toes.
So much life
in such a tiny bundle.

And this story
though a million times told
is still so new, so fresh,
so brimming with life and promise.
And under all, God’s hand,
holding, protecting, loving.
The Creator Himself
intimately involved.
He knows her name,
watches each rise and fall of her chest,
each beat of her heart;
Wove her in her mother’s womb,
knit her together,
fearfully and wonderfully;
Loves her with the same fierce love
that chose a cross
rather then letting his people perish.

Fears – yet trust.
Trust – yet fears.
But GOD. . .
. . .
and that is enough.

Due April 9, but born March 5, we continue to rejoice in our newest granddaughter. She has been home from the hospital for a number of weeks now and is steadily gaining weight.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Ghazal - D.S. Martin

Our faith is full of mystery; some are uncomfortable with this, but that’s the way God intends it to be. Can we ever claim to have full understanding of the resurrection of Jesus and all that it means? No matter how many Easters we’ve celebrated, it’s still awe-inspiring. When we try to fit God into our nice little packages, we can look absurd — and we can, unfortunately, make Christianity look absurd. God has not given us a book of systematic theology, but a book of poetry.

Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University Theology Professor, recently said in Image, “To see the world, to see ourselves in the light of the resurrection, means that Christians cannot help but discover that our language is inadequate for the task. That is why poetry is so important for the work of theology.”

The following poem, from my book Poiema, is one of my little works of theology. When we embrace metaphor — as Jesus did — we interact in a living way with truth.


Bound by winter’s fist when the air is chilly
a buried bulb’s the dead memory of a lily

The empty shell of a loved one in a closed coffin
lies still as we all will beneath a lid draped with lilies

The green shoots surprise us no matter how often
we witness soil first opening to a hint of lily

Its green rapidly rises then cone buds soften
white trumpets opening disguised as lilies

Each silent as the stone that sealed the tomb until he
blasts on that trumpet then we’ll rise like a lily

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, April 10, 2009

Under the Cross - M. Laycock

I stepped into my Jr. High Sunday School class and studied the wall. I team-teach so often when it’s my turn there are new and surprising things that have been put up in my absence. This time the effect was startling.

A large portion of the wall was covered with newspaper clippings. They were the kind I often skip after reading the headlines. Titles like, Child Pornographer Caught; Rape Victim Testifies; Stabbing Shocks Quiet Town. Disturbing words. Disturbing images. Then I noticed there was a large piece of paper spread over the top. It bore one small word that encapsulated all the headlines. The word was ‘Sin.’

And there was something even larger layered on top of it all – the shape of a large cross.

As I said, the effect was startling. I’ve known since I first became a Christian that Jesus took my sins away by giving his life on the cross, but somehow seeing the words and images on that wall brought it home and impress it upon my mind and heart. I was struck once again by the magnitude of what he did when he took the sin of the world upon his shoulders.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

As I peered at the wall I thought of what it means to all of us, that such sins could be forgiven. I am a firm believer in justice but I am tremendously thankful that our God is a person of mercy. Without his mercy none of us could find peace and wholeness in our lives; none of us could hope for the blessings of heaven and eternal life. But because of his mercy the moment we accept his sacrifice, acknowledge our sin and proclaim Jesus as our saviour, we are free – free to own life as it was intended to be, and to welcome death as a portal into His presence.

There are a lot of sins buried under the image of the cross. There are a lot of sins yet to be transferred there. Where do your sins lie?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Timothy Leary would be 88- HIRD

by the Rev Ed Hird+

There are few people who had as deep an impact on the Baby-Boomers than the late Dr. Timothy Leary. If still living, he would be 88 this year.

Many people remember him for his hippie slogan ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out.’ I recently read a fascinating Timothy Leary biography by Robert Greenfield. It showed me how little I actually knew about Timothy Leary, and yet how deeply he impacted the lives of my fellow baby-boomers. Just like his ‘great American hero’ 83-year-old Hugh Hefner, Timothy Leary was from the older ‘builder’ rather than ‘boomer’ generation. So why did we boomers trust someone over 30 when Leary advocated the LSD revolution? Dr. Timothy Leary’s impact came from his Harvard & Berkeley university credentials, his oratory skills, and his claim that LSD would open you up spiritually and socially. Some people see him as the ‘Forrest Gump’ of the counter-culture; he was always there reinventing himself as culture shifted, even in the 1990s. Timothy Leary was a tragic ‘pied piper’ figure who led many youth into addiction while destroying his own health and personal relationships.

Despite what my adult children may think, I was never a hippie. Relative to the 70’s, I thought that my hair was relatively short, even if it was way over my collar. I remember when my parents warned me against drug usage at the local Oak Park that I hung around. I naively told my parents that there were no drugs at Oak Park. Later that night, I saw drugs everywhere. I noticed a pecking order in drug usage. Glue-sniffers were definitely at the bottom of the heap, as everyone knew that this was bad for the brain. I can still remember the smell of young people doing gluesniffing late at night.

My favorite band as a teenager was Led Zeppelin. Yet seeing them in person at the Pacific Coliseum, I wondered what was missing. Out of the blue, someone offered to sell me LSD. I unsuccessfully bargained with the pusher for a reasonable price, as I felt that he was overcharging me. Later that year, a teenage girl at Oak Park opened my wallet, took out my money, and went off to buy LSD. Coming back later, she offered to share it with me. I thought: “Well, I paid for it. I shouldn’t let it go to waste”. But then I heard voices from my Winston Churchill High School Guidance Class, saying ‘don’t do it. It might hurt your brain.’ After a twenty-minute internal struggle, I again said no.

Shortly after this, I had a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ that took away any desire to do drugs. Countless hippies and other young people turned from the hollowness of Timothy Leary’s promises and became part of the Jesus movement of the 1970s. I remember going to the 1972 Easter Be-in at Stanley Park where a person would be offered drugs every twenty feet. But instead of doing drugs, we sang spiritual songs, gave out free food, and were baptized in the ocean at 2nd beach. Part of our generation’s attraction to Leary’s drug promotion was that we were spiritually empty, and needed to be filled up on the inside. Even today in 2009, being filled up spiritually is one of the best antidotes to the emptiness of drugs.

The Rev Ed Hird+, Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-previously published in the North Shore News

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What is Our Writing Worth? - Dawson

Sometimes I find myself wondering if my writing really matters. Did God really call me to this task or was it simple vanity? And then someone comes across my path in answer to my doubts. Recently I had a gentleman—an ex-biker, ex-gang leader—email me and ask for my opinion on his autobiography. At first, I was overwhelmed by the twisting road that God had led him down just to find me. And then I was humbled by the realization that this man has a tremendous story to tell and God sent it my way to edit. I'm not an editor. At least that's what I keep telling God. He simply reminded me that he called me to write for him and that my writing is a tool he will use to tell this man's tale. As I began to read Michael's manuscript—as I dove into the mind of an underworld leader—I began to see that my writing is of value and that God truly did call me to write for him.

It's very easy to get caught up in the isolation and loneliness that comes with being a writer. And it's equally easy to count the pennies. (I tend to believe that it was a writer who coined the phrase 'starving artist') But what of the eternal recompense? What of the soul that is yanked from hell's door because of a simple turn of phrase we have shared? What is that worth?

As I draw to a close on the editing of Michael's life story—a story that takes a young man to a hell on earth—a story of God's redeeming love that lifts that young man from his personal torment—I am again reminded that the sacrifices that come with being a writer are but a pittance compared to the rewards of being part of such a great ministry. We are writers. Manipulators of words. It is a heady and a weighty calling. One that most definitely matters.

Donna Fawcett writing as Donna Dawson
Writing instructor/Fanshawe College, London, Ontario
author of Fires of Fury, Vengeance, The Adam & Eve Project, The Quinces and Redeemed
"You would do very well to read Fires of Fury by Ms. Donna Dawson, for it is a book that inspires along with entertaining!"review by Rob Shelsky

Countertops, Cupboards & Craniums - Black

Bomp! Ouch! A short while later: Thud! Oochsh! "Man, not again – that hurts!"
Just a brief sound-scape, occurring with fair frequency, when a certain cranium comes in sudden painful contact with overhanging cupboards – especially in kitchens.

Most houses we’ve lived in over the years have had these cupboards handily located, yet out of the line of vision when someone’s head is inclined and the gaze directed towards the workspace of the counter-top. Problem is, I get so absorbed in what I’m looking at on the counter that I forget the cupboards are there above me, then when I straighten my back and lift my head I get a swift and painful reminder that they are indeed still there.

What’s this got to do with Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter – or inspirational things in general? Well, nothing, really. But, maybe – sort of. This period affords a wonderful opportunity for us to look closely at our lives and at the heart of our faith; to look at the counter-top of grace and see the provisions God our Father in Heaven has prepared for us. And yet, the effect of it will be to elevate our gaze. We can look up and see the treasures through open cupboard doors – as it were – with clear heads and full hearts, in worship and praise to God for the Son He has given, our Saviour and Redeemer, and the price that was paid for our eternal redemption.

To help us do that, a good exercise is to read the latter chapters of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (especially in John from chapter 11 and on), and follow Jesus through the later scenes of His earthly life and ministry, to His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, and to meditate on these things. Nowadays, it can be difficult just finding the time or even a few minutes' peace and quiet to concentrate – let alone meditate! However, it needn’t take a whole lot of effort to elevate our mental eye-level and tune-in our interior ears. Just takes a little thought, an opening of the mind, and a breathing space of relative solitude. Sometimes it helps to flick off a few switches for fifteen or twenty minutes on several lines of information, communication, and noise, such as radio, tv, Internet, personal music playback device, cell-phone, or even the house phone, et cetera.

Some people work their way through these gospel narratives during Holy Week to focus on each of the Stations of the Cross. Others take any one of those scenes each time, and seek a deeper insight into its significance, while yet others in their quiet times will mull over a verse or two, or statements Jesus made during the closing days and hours of this period, including His words spoken from the cross.

As we do whatever is helpful to us with love, faith, and sincerity, we may well find ourselves becoming quite absorbed in this noble theme of God’s love for us demonstrated in Jesus Christ. But, don’t worry about getting a bomp or thud on the head; rather, anticipate receiving an elevated focus, a feast of good things for the spirit, and a gentle, comforting glow in the heart.

Peter Black
Author of Parables from the Pond published by Word Alive Press
"Written for kids - read and enjoyed by grandmas and grandpas too!"
This piece adapted from P-Pep! column by P. A. Black published in The Watford Guide-Advocate, April 13, 2006.

Popular Posts