Thursday, January 28, 2010

Preserving Your Library - Smith Meyer

"When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground," is an African proverb many of us have heard. As authors, we cringe to think of such waste.

That adage came to my mind in stark reality this past month. Within two weeks, I attended the funeral of my 68 year-old brother and a 90 year-old aunt. I wondered how many stories died with them.

My brother’s funeral came first. He was a busy man, always looking out for others, often to the detriment of his own work. We became more aware of how many and how much as we stood in line for the visitation and when well over 600 paid their final respects at his funeral service. Many spoke of him as their spiritual father. Community and business people told of his kindness and concern for their welfare. Many stood when asked to do so, if they had spent time in his class room, and some spoke of the great influence he had on their lives. I feel sure there were many more stories that could have been told.

Aunt Bernice’s funeral was a glorious triumphant home-going for a faithful saint. The funeral was almost completely conducted by her family--sermon and all. Stories were told of her as a trustworthy companion to her husband, a watchmaker, her dependability as a mother--her encouraging ways and her gentle reprimands. Her grandchildren recounted happy times they spent with their grandparents and the lasting influence on their lives. It was a heart-warming day

Both of these occasions were indeed full of story-telling and as usual, I hoped those who this was all about were told at least some of those stories while they were still with us. However, I believe those tales were just the proverbial tip of the iceberg and only what others knew about them. How many insights, how many personal experiences could have benefited those left behind, had they been put on paper? I cringed at the waste!

Soon the Haiti earthquake struck—more libraries burned down in the space of minutes! And yet out of the rubble miraculous stories arise. Accounts of bravery, or self-giving, an outpouring of money, materials and energy in this impoverished country—some survived and others didn’t, but their story will go on and perhaps inspire others to give their time and money in similar ways.

These happenings renew my desire to write, write, write. Not that I have that much wisdom, but I have been taught valuable lessons in my years of living—many coming from learning through mistakes. I know that, through reading, I have gained much from others’ experiences. Some have guided me through my own life-happenings and some have helped me avoid more of my own blunders, steering me through the obstacles to a clearer path. Some have inspired me to give more in whatever way I can give. I owe them a debt of gratitude and an obligation to pass on my own stories and those of others. God gave me the desire and ability to write and I want to use the gifts given to me in the best way I can. Is it coincidence that my children's book, Tyson's Sad Bad Day just arrived? It is a book helping children and their parents deal with death and grief. Check it out at

And if God has called you to write, don’t wait any longer—write!

Stepping Out of the Boat - Meyer

Last Sunday in church, we were blessed with a visit by four Bible school students who made the 800+ km journey up here to Norway House, Manitoba from Steinbach Bible College. They shared their testimonies and one of them preached a short sermon. I was very impressed by this young man’s insights into God’s word and his ability to apply scripture to everyday life.

Malcolm (photo on the right) preached about the passage where Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, everything was okay but when he looked around at the wind and the waves, he began to sink. Malcolm pointed out that, even in our times of doubting, Jesus is there reaching out His hand to help us stand again.

I guess the sermon really spoke to me because once again, I am stepping out of the boat, taking a huge risk and making a large investment. It’s taken me almost a year to reach this decision. My book, The Little Ones, is doing well across Canada and people are asking for more books by the same author. I actually had the next book written but just wasn’t sure if that was the direction the Lord wanted me to go. I also have a manuscript ready for the very first book I wrote: Rachel’s Children, which is the very beginning (it even pre-dates Colin’s Choice which was published in 2005). Well, the long and short of it is that I decided to move forwards instead of backwards. This will be a brand new series even though it involves all the same characters as The Little Ones and occurs chronologically only 9 months after The Little Ones.

The new series will follow a fictional support group. Each book covers one week and there are seven books which explore various challenging topics such as teen pregnancy, abortion, the sex trade, homosexuality, AIDS, miscarriage, family relationships, verbal and emotional abuse, adoption, and Aboriginal issues such as residential schools and land claims (NOT all in one book!!). Woven throughout each story is the love of God at work in people’s lives, bringing hope and healing.
Each book also features one person’s story so the title of the first book is: Jasmine (subtitle: The Group, Week One).
Every book will have questions at the end for personal reflection or group discussion. These books can be used for small groups or can be enjoyed individually.

Wow – even as I’m making this announcement, I’m trembling in my boots! Or to go back to the original metaphor, I’m looking at the wind and the waves.

Stepping out of the boat sure is a scary thing to do! I’m so glad the Lord has promised to “never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Dorene Meyer
author of (in chronological order):
Colin’s Choice, Deep Waters, Pilot Error (children’s), Get Lost! (children’s), The Little Ones and coming soon… Jasmine.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After you write THE END - Hall

Right now I am in the tail-end of a very grueling novel deadline. We had sickness and other challenges to deal with over the month of December. This particular book has really taken a lot out of me, and to tell you the truth I had no idea what I was going to write about this morning here. My mind feels blank, my back is complaining, and I’ve had enough cups of coffee to feed a small army -- or a pot luck supper of Christians.

But ,with my wonderful husband at my side - who is my first editor and re-writer, we’ll get through this.

I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel and thinking about celebrating. Some friends and I were talking about what we do when we write THE END,

Suggestions ranged from a new book, a long bubble bath with a romance novel, a new CD, a nice bottle of Chardonnay shared with ones spouse, a long walk, a long run, a bicycle ride, a walk through the art museum for inspiration for one’s next project, a dinner out with one’s spouse, a day at the park with one’s children (or grandchildren), and a new item of clothing.

In my tired state here’s what I want to do: 1. Spend the first day lying on the couch watching spacey TV like The View or Opera. 2. Spend the second day cleaning my desk, 3. Spend the third day cleaning my office. 4. Go for a long walk listening to all the podcasts on my iPod that I haven’t been able to for the last week, and finally I am going to browse through iTunes and treat myself to some new music.

What do you typically like to do when you write THE END after the final sentence of a book, or a manuscript, poem or a song?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti and Hope - Shepherd

Every Friday in my regular early morning prayer time, I pray for several countries specifically. One of them is Haiti. On the morning of January 8th, I felt particularly burdened as I prayed for that country. Usually, I use the Scriptures as a guide when I pray. That Friday morning, as I prayed for Haiti the verse that I read was from Acts 4. The Contemporary English Version says in verse 30, “Show your mighty power, as we heal people and work miracles and wonders in the name of your holy Servant Jesus.” I found it a beautiful image but had no idea how significant it would be just a few days later, after the earthquake hit on Tuesday, January 12th.

Does that mean that I think God orchestrated the earthquake that caused so much pain, suffering and grief for the people of Haiti, so that these gracious deeds could be done? No. I do not understand what the cause and effect relationship is between disasters and the will of God. What I do know is that whenever and wherever on this earth disasters occur, God is there listening to the cries of the suffering and bringing hope and healing through all kinds of people. My heart broke every time I turned on the news and saw the desolation in Haiti.

I saw a photo of the caved in roof of the house where we stayed when we were there in 2006. I have also seen God’s mighty power at work in incredible ways. Just this morning, I read in the Montreal Gazette about a man who tunneled his way out of where he was buried under debris, twelve days after the earthquake. He managed to find food until the last three days. He avows that God kept him alive.

The cynic may well ask if God did it for him, why He did not do it for others. Of course, I cannot answer that. Only God knows. However, that does not mean that the man is wrong in giving praise and thanks to God for sparing his life.

Such tragedies put us in touch once again with the essential realities of life. It is not what we have that matters, but where our hope lies.

This weekend my husband, Glen, was on an Air Canada flight that took medicines and supplies as well as volunteer medical personnel to Haiti to try to help in the mammoth relief effort that is taking place. The project was organized by Air Canada and employees who participated did so voluntarily, without being paid. The plane returned early Sunday morning, bringing the first of the Haitian orphans to Canada. Sitting next to Glen, on the way to Haiti was Father Raymond De Souza. One of his tasks was to pray for the mission.

As the flight prepared to leave Canada, the priest reflected and based his prayer on the words from Matthew 25 – how meeting the needs of those in desperate straits is ministering to Jesus. For the return flight, when the twenty-four orphans and Haitian evacuees were on board, his focus was James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

I mentioned in an earlier blog, how I always pray as I enter an airplane because of my fear of flying. However, I have never heard prayer offered over the public address system on a flight. But then, I have never flown as mission like that one. To me it is an example of the mighty power of God being shown in healing and working miracles and wonders in the name of our holy Servant Jesus. I believe that out of all the pain, suffering and devastation a new Haiti will emerge that will remind us where hope is found.

When I read the story of Father De Souza’a prayer on line this morning, I discovered that there were those who commented negatively about it. How sad I felt as I read their remarks. Then my husband reminded me that they have possibly not yet come into the light. They are not aware of what God is doing.

I saw a related CTV news item last night. As a reporter was passing a church service being held outside the collapsed church building in Port-au-Princes, he was called to the microphone by the pastor. The CTV reporter was able to tell the congregation that there were people throughout the world who were contributing aid to help in the terrible tragedy that has befallen their country. They had no idea people outside Haiti knew or cared. Yet, God is at work on their behalf and knowing that they sing with joy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time to Write - Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild discussion forum, writer Benjamin Collier asked, “I find that unless I know I have four straight hours of writing time ahead of me I feel like I can't get into the right "mode". But then I have made some good progress in two hours or less. It's the anxiety that gets me. And I liked your plan of breaking it up into smaller projects. If anyone else out there has similar issues, do you guys have any additional advice for dealing with this?”

Sandra Reimer of Reimer Reason Communications offered this advice:

1. Free yourself to write garbage in order to get going. Tell yourself you must write something in a given time period. It doesn't have to be good. This sets me free from creativity-killing anxiety. Writing garbage is like making small talk. In the same way that small talk leads to deep, intimate conversation, writing mediocre material often leads to something worthwhile-or at least something that can be distilled into usefulness in the editing process.

2. If after trying to write for awhile you are still feeling jammed and unconfident-take a break. I get a snack, take a nap, go for a bike ride etc.

3. I find being able to write well or to be creative is deeply tied to feeling confident. For me, reviewing past successes or achieving success in a small area kick starts my confidence and can free me to write.

4. If you are breaking a large writing project into smaller chunks, I find it immensely helpful to keep a "working journal." I jot down where I am in a project and what still needs to be done. I review this before I get going in the next session. I finished a screenplay in 1 to 2 hour chunks with a few longer sessions over about a year. My working journal helped be more productive in those short sessions.

Darlene Oakley commented, “Great idea, Sandra! This would be such a great thing considering I have the affliction of not-being-able-to-finish-because-of-life-itis. I've started work on many of my stories only to have life interrupt and I not being able to get back to them. When I start working on them again, I often have to read and review what I have already done and try to re-establish my thought processes and where I wanted to go and where I still need to go. I will have to do this - since I love notebooks!”

Have you got 101 ideas for articles or books but a schedule that’s too full to allow time for you to write? Do you have any other suggestions?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Open Door - Belec

[First published Monday, September 15, 2008]

Once upon a time there was a door. The door, slightly ajar, beckoned the curious girl. Should she heed the counsel of the wise? After all they were the ones who had affixed the 'do not enter' signs Were they not the ones who knew best; who knew what was good for her; who knew what really lurked there in the darkness?

The girl did not want to enter the way via the ominous door but the urge was overpowering; luring; impossible to resist.She had been warned in a dream long ago that she might discover this inviting, open door one day, but she had also been cautioned in a second dream, about the perilous path connected to the door. She had paid no heed over the ages, thinking it a bit of a foolish delusion.

Now, compelled, the girl reached for the handle. A sudden rush of pain surged through the girl's body and she immediately tried to release her grip. But she couldn't. Soon she was pulled behind the door. "No! No! She cried. Her tears fell. Unrelenting. Before she knew it she found herself spiralling down, down down. Her landing offered only thuds and more pain.

"Self-inflicted," someone said. "If she hadn't gone through the door, this would not have happened."
"If only she would have listened and not believed the lies then this may not have taken place. The people gathered and peered in, not daring to tread even close lest they get drawn nearer to the abyss.

The girl heard the muffled moans and the cries of the wise ones above. She worried what she might do to escape, to flee, to run and hide from the darkness. She wanted to return to the familiar, the comfortable, the place where accountability was shrouded in what worked best for her. Being with the wise ones made her feel secure. Why did she choose the door? She chastised herself and waited for the wise ones to drop the rope and rescue her.

As the girl lay, waiting, hurting at the bottom of the pit, she became cognizant of her blindness. Her eyes were open but the light would not, could not, pierce the moment. Her terror slowly turned into panic. Screaming. Dreading the end. The darkness settled as a fog but for a split second, the girl caught a glimpse of light. Her flailing arms ceased. Her laboured breathing steadied. The blindness began to subside. Shadows appeared.

The girl listened for the voices of the wise ones. She heard no moans or calls. As her eyes adjusted to the strip of light she tried to make sense of the shadows. Her heart hurt for a moment for she sensed the wise ones had used their knowledge to her detriment. She knew the mindset of the wise ones. She knew they had decided that better one lost than an entire populace.

The girl wiped her eyes. Her sadness pulsated for a moment. As she turned her head toward the light, she felt a chilling, refreshing shiver. The light was the direction. The girl's heart quickened. She could see no ground before her, yet her senses were heightened.

"" the sound reverberated from within. She journeyed on. Clueless. Yet she experienced an odd sense of peace. It was a peace that seemed to pass any understanding that she had ever experienced before in her life. It was a peace that defied any words offered by the wise ones. The peace was indescribable; comforting; real.

Soon the girl realized the darkness had dissipated. She looked around the vast, green fields that lay before her. She reached out. Fine ferns brushed against her face, caressing her like a mother's gentle hand. Creatures, great and small frolicked and played in the meadow before her. She wanted to call them animals or insects but she could not find words appropriate; satisfying; suitable.Then she spotted the people. The people. Glorious people. Radiance abounded. The Light enfolded each one of them as they danced reverently around the throne.

The mighty, adorned throne shone as a spectacular, radiant jewel. Brightness and beams of light travelling from the throne to the people defied magnificence. A deep longing filled the girl's soul.

"What must I do to receive this Light?" she asked.The people turned to face the questioner."" The chorus echoed in superlative song. The girl listened for a long time. The voices continued and she felt loved like never before.

The girl looked up. "I confess...I believe...I trust..."A symphony of voices joined the girl as she rejoiced.

"But what about my people?" The girl concerned herself for the wise ones who had cared for her.

The Light stood up. The people were jubilant and joyously worshipped. The Light pointed to a set of stairs on the other side of the throne.

"Your journey begins. Go tell the others what you have seen...Tell them what it means to be truly wise."

Sundance Film Festival - Boge

Sundance Film Festival

Today marks the beginning of Sundance Film Festival. It’s America’s best known film festival showcasing emerging talent and highlighting new material from household names. It’s fascinating. The premiere filmmaking cultural event of each year taking place in Park City, Utah.

Reviewing the list of feature films, short films, documentaries and other forms of film from American and International directors reveals a diverse mixture of themes and stories. Included in the mix are a couple of films that deal with miracles and God’s role in healing.

Films are a tremendous medium for investigating truth. That’s sometimes why Christian films have a harder time finding a broader audience.

The challenge comes when Christians are motivated (and rightly so) by a desire to convey a specific theme – salvation, forgiveness, etc. That’s great. But the potential problem with theme-motivated films, whether Christian themes or any other theme, is that sometimes theme becomes the only goal, and the story comes along for the ride. Sometimes a story is forced along to ensure that the right aspect of the theme is convincingly portrayed at the end. And audiences feel as if the film is being manipulated.

So what to do? Do we go soft on theology and ‘investigate’ truth, or do we stick to our guns with a strong message and ensure that all the characters tow the line? It seems that neither option is particularly attractive.

In the end, it takes a truly inspired work of God to make audience draw forward in their seats. And it takes a committed and faithful team at His direction and power to work to see that vision carried out.

I’m encouraged by the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts. Acts 17:17-21 says (thanks Bible Gateway):

17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then[a] certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Of the many things to highlight, one stands out: Paul was in the marketplace. To get invited to Sundance is no easy task. Gone are the days when Christianity was the centre focus of our culture. Paul reminds us to be in the marketplace, and when it comes to film it means making films that people outside the Christian faith would be interested in seeing. Again, no easy task.

We need to believe in the medium of film and invest in our youth to encourage them in filmmaking. It’s a tough road. Anyone in it will confirm it. You try and be relevant, but you don’t want to water down the message. It can be done. People are doing it all the time. Christians in mainstream Hollywood are making a difference.

Next, we should evaluate how we view Hollywood. Culprit or mission field of cool people? We’ve never had a problem sending missionaries to China, India, Africa or South America. But we’ve had a decidedly different view of Hollywood.

Part of that, I think, comes from realizing that people might get caught up the busyness and business of Hollywood and potentially lose focus of their relationship with Christ. It’s happened to be sure. But this shouldn’t stop us from making movies or investing in our youth’s future in the field.

We need to ask ourselves the most important question – has our message to Hollywood been: We love you, Hollywood?

Let’s make great movies. Movies that the world will take notice of. Movies that Sundance and other festivals will consider. Movies that will show people from an honest story point of view the great message of the Cross.

Paul H. Boge is the writer/director and one of the producers of FireGate Films Among Thieves – an award winning feature film about the reasons for the War in Iraq.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Intentional Life - Fox

(The following is a guest post by Grace Fox, national co-director of International Messengers Canada, a popular international speaker and author of four books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. She has written hundreds of magazine articles for publications including Focus on the Family and Power for Living. Grace can be found at )

The word intentional has become a key word in my vocabulary. For me, it implies deliberate, thoughtful action in every aspect of life. One of those areas is physical well-being.

A year ago I learned that my body can’t properly metabolize wheat and dairy products. By becoming intentional about following a recommended diet, I found freedom from debilitating pain and lost more than 20 pounds. In order to become more physically fit, I also became intentional about exercise and began working out at a women’s fitness centre several days each week. Focused effort produces results.

The same is true for spiritual health. Several years ago, I struggled to find time for regular Bible reading and prayer so I asked God to wake me when He wanted to meet with me each morning. The next day…and the next…and the next, I woke at 5:15. This has since become my favorite time of day, and it’s a precious time indeed as the Holy Spirit shows me truth from God’s Word and teaches me how to apply it to real life.

With the dawn of 2010, I believe the word intentional presents me with a new challenge. Between Christmas and New Year’s, I had the privilege of attending Urbana ’09 – a triennial missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. One of the keynote speakers told the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4). This woman – despised for her ethnicity and gender – was empty and broken, rejected, and hungry for love. Everyone in her neighborhood avoided her. But one day Jesus showed up, and everything changed.

Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman was not coincidental. He knew she needed love and healing, and He took deliberate action to see her needs fulfilled. Rather than skirt Samaria to avoid the ethnic outcasts, He entered the woman’s space to meet her. That’s intentionality at its height, rooted in love for the woman’s well-being.

Every day we cross paths with people whose lives are hurting and broken, people hungry for love and acceptance. Do we consider them a nuisance? An inconvenience? Do we avoid them because they make us feel uncomfortable? Or do we take deliberate action to bless them, to show love, and to splash them with the living water?

This year, I resolve – with God’s help – to be intentional about loving other people as Jesus did. That might happen through words aptly spoken; it might be through acts of kindness. Opportunities are endless, and they’re often simple.

For example, I recently baked banana-chocolate chip muffins for a neighbor who left a Christmas card and bottle of wine on our doorstep during the holidays. I don’t really know this gal – we’ve only chatted twice since we moved here two years ago. Surprise registered on her face when she opened her door and saw me standing there, plate in hand. I thanked her for her kindness, gave her the muffins, and asked if she’d had a nice Christmas.

“Oh yes,” she said. “It was lovely.” That was it. She stepped back inside, smiled, and closed the door. Not exactly what I’d expected, but that’s okay. I’ll keep my eyes open for future opportunities to show kindness and see where it leads.

What does the word intentional mean to you? How might your life change if you applied it in various areas? Let’s resolve together – with God’s help – to be intentional and see what happens. Focused effort produces results!

Monday, January 18, 2010

High Drama - Black

The horrific devastation wreaked on the island nation of Haiti is very much in our consciousness and on our hearts just now. And yet, as I contemplated writing a piece for this blogspot, I reflected on the near-tragedy of the Christmas Day, 2009, would-be bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Haiti's is an actual disaster of catastrophic proportions. The other was no disaster at all -- except, perhaps, for the deluded individual who endured burns through his own misguided actions. And so I invite you to journey back with me several weeks, as I share an article adapted from what I wrote then.

Flight crew personnel pace through routine protocols, preparing their cabins and passengers for landing. Ah – to get feet on solid ground, see the last of the passengers off, carry out the final check, and complete the paperwork, then kick off those dress shoes for an hour or two. Hmm, nice. Pilot and co-pilot cherish similar thoughts.

Passengers anticipate relatives and friends greeting them with smiling faces – some bearing cheeks tear-streaked with joy, then embracing in loving reunion. It’s Christmas Day. Soon, they’ll be chauffeured through city streets, getting caught up on all the family news, on the final stretch of being "home for Christmas, Happy Holidays." At last, they’ll share a sumptuous seasonal meal with their loved ones.

A young man returns from the washroom, having excused himself twenty minutes or so before, claiming his stomach was a little upset. He tells passengers seated in his row that he feels better now. Reseated, his in-flight blanket is pulled around his waist, concealing his hands; just warming them up, of course. He is, however, injecting liquid acid into a small package of highly explosive material secured in his underwear, expecting this to detonate it and blast a hole in the jetliner, thereby striking another blow against decadent American imperialism.

But the aircraft is not in American airspace at this time, twenty minutes before its scheduled landing at Detroit Airport, in Michigan. Several miles below, Canadians prepare Christmas dinner in Ontario’s Middlesex County. Children squeal and play with new toys. Some families enjoy a delicious Christmas Day brunch, oblivious to the high drama taking place in the skies above.

Suddenly, a deafening, screaming roar emanates from the skies, shattering excited conversation, drowning out blaring stereos and televisions, followed seconds later by catastrophic destruction and a blazing inferno, as hundreds of tons of aircraft, jet fuel, baggage, eleven flight crew, and two hundred and seventy-nine passengers, descend on homes in the Village of Watford, Lambton County, where I live. Hundreds dead in an instant. Sudden destruction. The community is devastated.

No, mercifully, that Watford part didn’t happen. However, it very well could have, for – as I understand – Watford was beneath the flight path of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Had Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s suicide bomb attack been successful, even if our community had not received a direct hit, a trail of debris might have rained down for several kilometres, affecting and forever changing many of our lives.

Who, but the Almighty knows what stood between that grave scenario and its actually being a non-event? The possibility for the explosion to happen was there. Passengers and staff quickly sprang into action, and the would-be bomber was subdued and unable to make another attempt.
We are often unaware how close we come to a dramatic altering of our plans, or to disastrous intrusions into our lives, or even their sudden end. It’s just as well, for there’s no joy in living in fear. It is much better to live with confidence and faith. Those Northwest Airlines Flight passengers had quite a narrow escape; our community had more of an escape than we dare imagine.
Let us progress through this New Year with deep gratitude and humility, courage, and faith. Not faith in ourselves, but with confidence in God’s provision for our eternal welfare through the Gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His death and resurrection. Let us embrace Him.


The original article was published in The Watford Guide-Advocate, Jan. 7, 2010, in Peter's column, P-Pep!

Friday, January 15, 2010

News media bankruptcy - and what now for writers? - Denyse O'Leary

Recently, almost the entire CanWest newspaper chain was put up for sale after filing for bankruptcy. This echoes a theme many of us have recently been heard to harp on at our Write! Canada conferences.

Basically, here is my take, as the local business teacher: The old media cannot pay you a decent wage for your work because they don't have the money. That's all you need to know.

I hear endless conspirazoid theorizing on how editors oppress writers. But after a lifetime in writing, I have learned this: When people have the money they buy what they want and they pay what it costs to get the job done the way they want it done in their own environment and at their own convenience.

When they don't have the money ... all sorts of nonsense starts up.

On a list I frequent, there was at one time some discussion about "farming out" writing to cheaper jurisdictions.

Yes, that is possible. But, as always, everything depends on the service required. If it is generic, it might work. Otherwise, it won't.

Sometimes, everything useful about a story depends on the specifics, on the local factors.

I lived through the Toronto garbage strike, and would not be very happy to hear it was being covered from Sri Lanka. Not because I doubt the ability of Sri Lankan journalists to cover such a story in principle. But I was here and they were not. If no one wants to fly them in, why assume they can do a better job from afar than the local help can do on the ground?

Local people often know stuff that fly-ins don't, stuff that can be highly relevant to understanding the story.

As I have doubtless mentioned before, the reason for the popularity of blogs is immediacy.

A blogger can tell you things that are happening right now - like mounds of garbage piling up in Toronto.

Not to worry, it was a cool summer anyway and the strike is long settled, so don't hesitate to visit. But back then, you would want someone to tell you what was happening right now back then.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Appreciating the Past in the Present - MANN

As I pulled the hot bread from the oven on New Year’s morning, in preparation for the pot-luck dinner at our neighbour’s later in the day, I was reminded of past years. I thought about my Mother’s assortment of bread and dinner rolls that she’d place on the cupboard counter ready for the family feast. I looked out the kitchen window to the snow covered hay field and in my mind’s eye could see the red cutter and black horse that brought my grandparents across the field for the goose dinner. Funny, how memory gives one the gift of love and comfort at a time when we are far removed from the generation and century.

This feeling stayed with me during the day as each step I took placed a landmark of memory in view. As I walked up the shovelled path to our neighbour’s house, he flung the door open and shared words of welcome and blessing. Immediately, I saw the large Christmas tree recently hauled from the back bush, filled with a history of Christmas ornaments to tell the old story. The Century farmhouse soon filled with friends and relatives of all ages. The children played at our feet while the men sat in one area to talk about feed prices and ways to get the Massey tractor started and the women talked about recipes, Afghans and new babies.

As I heard the words of thanksgiving for the food and people who’d gathered for the meal, I couldn’t help but reflect on my Grandfather’s few, but meaningful words of gratitude that he’d share at such times. Isn’t it nice when good experiences always connect with other fond memories of the past? It has a way of bringing what might be forgotten into the present to once more enjoy and be strengthened.

The chatter and laughter, teasing and joking filtered down the table, along with the tragedy of pig farming at this time and the corn still standing in frozen fields, having to wait until spring for harvesting. This wove in through the more serious discourse at my end of the table which had developed into theological and psychological conversation. I became aware of the wonderful diversity of people at such a gathering as this and how entering into the areas of interest of those with whom you’re seated, offers a wealth of personal appeal.

As the sun lowered in the sky and the shadowed fell across the front veranda, the children, who had dressed warmly to play outside following the dinner, began to feel cold and retreated into the warm house, covered with snow, revealing red cheeks and noses. Then as lights were slowly turned on here and there around the room, more coffee and tea poured and the hands of the clock turned yet another hour, most of the adults continued to sit at the table to talk. When we finally moved back to the couches and easy chairs, the conversation continued with the same enthusiasm, and I brought my knitting out of its bag.

It wasn’t long before we were invited back to the table with, “Come on and eat up the leftovers.” I noticed how we all went to our same chairs we’d left only the previous hour, to finish a light meal. When we finally began to say our goodbyes to the younger ones who had to take their children home, and those who had to go to milk the thirty cows waiting in the barn, someone joked, “I wonder what we’ll have for breakfast.” What a treasure to live in a farming community amongst good people. This day held a reflection of the past, reality of the present and a promise of the future.

Donna Mann
Aggie’s Storms. The Brucedale Press
WinterGrief. Essence Publishing

“More Than Gold” Olympic Passion - HIRD

by Rev Ed Hird

2010 has arrived! A new Olympic Year is with us. Vancouverites have put tremendous energy into the 2010 Olympics. With less over one month to go, the lengthy preparations have indeed been a marathon.

The world’s most famous Olympic race is the marathon. The original Battle of the Marathon in 490 B.C was just twenty-two miles from embattled Athens. A Greek soldier ran all the way, day and night, to Athens to give his dying words: “Rejoice. We have conquered”.

In 1896, the modern-day Olympics were revived in Greece, spreading throughout the globe. Each one of us in our own way is running an Olympic marathon every day of our life. The Bible tells us: “Run with patience the race set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Dr. William Barclay commented: “It is easy to begin the race of life but hard to finish. The one thing necessary for life is staying-power, and that is what so many people lack. It was suggested to a certain very famous man that his biography should be written while he was still alive. He absolutely refused to give permission, and his reason was: ‘I have seen so many men fall out at the last lap.’ It is easy to wreck a noble life or a fine record by some closing foolishness.”

There will be many gold medals won in another month, hopefully a good number by Canadian athletes. Winning is exciting. Many athletes realize that the Olympics are about more than gold, more than just winning. Olympics co-founder Pierre de Coubertin, inspired by a sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, wrote the following ‘creed’ for the Olympics: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." The Christian community in Greater Vancouver has come together for the Olympics across denominational and ethnic barriers to affirm that life is about more than gold. You can learn from Ryan Walter, Assistant Coach for the Vancouver Canucks about the More Than Gold Olympic outreach by dialing into The wider Christian community is committed to playing its part in truly welcoming the world to Vancouver. Many athletes are sharing their experiences of what it is like to win medals, and what is worth more than gold to them. You can watch them online at

Probably one of the most famous ‘Olympic runners’ is the apostle Paul, a former Rabbi who was knocked off his horse while racing to Damascus, Syria. He often used Olympic Marathon language to communicate his heart: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly...” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).

Paul’s dying words were profoundly Olympic: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” As Bishop Michael Baughen depicts it,
“The relay runner is pounding round the track, using every ounce of energy, heading for the hand-over point. Ahead of him is the next runner in the relay, feet beginning to move in anticipation, eyes on the runner coming towards him, his hand now outstretched to take the baton at the appropriate moment and then to run and run, while the man he took the baton from collapses breathless on to the grass. Paul is pounding towards the end.”

The Vancouver Olympics will come in like a storm and then be gone. The Gold medals will soon be a distant memory. The lasting question is how your daily marathon is doing? Are you stretching each day towards the finish line? Are you running the race of life in such a way as to get the prize? Life is truly about more than gold.

My prayer for this Olympic time is that the love of God will pour through us in the gift of hospitality so that the world will come to know the prize that lasts forever.

Rev Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

See Computers, See People - Gibson

At high noon on December 28th – or as high as noon gets at the dawn of true winter – I sat in my husband’s big recliner. Plunked myself down, just to stare out the window. Alone for the first time, it seemed, during the holiday season. And very tired.

All was calm, all was bright. Only an occasional breeze nudged the trees. When they stirred, they flashed. Sparked like static between bedsheets.

A light application of hoar frost, barely noticeable, rested on surrounding spruce, maple and cedar. They wore their jewels like self-conscious royalty.

I liked that. Liked the still house, the quiet angels, the surprises over. Blessed residue of Christmas past.

Across a sky as blue as forget-me-nots, a white streak began and lengthened from the west, tracing eastward.

Just a jet, I thought. Wonder where it’s goin’ today.

A jet? the Holy Spirit interrupted. (Never fails. I sit down to be quiet. He interrupts.) A jet, Kathleen? That’s people up there. Human beings thirty-five thousand feet up, travelling 550 miles an hour. People leaving home. People going home. People happy, people sad. Mad people. Afraid people. Confident people. People, Kathleen.

Well, of course, Lord. I know that. So what?

Don’t call it “just a jet,” that’s all. I don’t even see the jet myself. Only people.

Into my silent day, holy day, into my all-is-calm, all-is-bright moment sparked a realization: computers too, are mere people vehicles.

I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to the computer. Not in practice — in mindset. I keep my website pages and blogs operational, but I’m slow to plunge deeper. Social marketing scares the bejeebies out of me. I see dangers there — making ourselves in our own image, mostly. Creating our own buzz. Becoming digitalized people. Would Jesus tweet? Honestly, now.

Clouds obscured the blue bowl above, the vapour trail dissipated and the jewels stopped flashing. But there we sat still, God and I. Remembering the people Christ died for and I craft words for. Talking over the messy business of communicating vital life messages using the tenuous mediums of dead trees, broken sticks, podiums, pixels, and 140 characters.

Sometimes I forget you write too, I said. An anthology, sort of, wasn’t it?

Yes, said the Living Word. Bit of time. Bit of effort. Not many read it. I speak some too. Even fewer listen.

I’d rather forget about the blasted computer, mostly, I said, yawning.

I know that, too.

The sun stretched two fingers through a ragged cloud, poked a glaring hole in my neighbour’s blue spruce and pinched shut my weighted eyelids.

That okay, Lord?

Okay. Just remember. People.

Hmm, hmm.

Hey, Kathleen?

Sigh. Now what?

I use computers too.


Kathleen Gibson

Practice by Pratice, a collection of Kathleen's Sunny Side Up faith and life newspaper columns will be published later this year by Word Alive Press, Winnipeg.

In 2009, BPS Books published West Nile Diary, One Couple's Triumph Over a Deadly Disease.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flying High — den Boer

A cold sunny Sunday afternoon found Marty, myself and our two middle children, Paul and Michelle, cross-country skiing at the local golf course. We kept our heads down into the wind as we skied across the rolling landscape toward a tobogganing hill Michelle had discovered several days earlier. She led us to the crest of this giant hill where we stood anticipating a long exhilarating run, possibly right to the distant woods.

“You go first, Michelle,” Marty said, thinking he’d give her the honour as this place was her discovery.
Michelle picked up the challenge, but took a tumble right in the middle of the slope.

Paul and Marty quietly discussed and pointed to the base of the hill as they patiently waited for Michelle to untangle herself. From under my wool hat I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Anyway, I really didn’t see the need for a discussion. It was a big hill. I could easily avoid Michelle. There was even a nice track several feet over from where Michelle had wiped out. I pushed off with my poles.

“Watch out for the ramps!” hollered Paul. His words blew away on the wind. I assumed he was yelling some kind of encouragement as I blindly followed the well-worn tracks down the slope. What a lovely hill! Then just as the ground started levelling out, I saw the ramp. It was a wide well-built ramp guaranteed to send any toboggan, sled or snowboard hurling through the air. I was within a ski length of this ramp when I noticed it. I was travelling too fast to bail out. It was too late to steer clear.

Now let me assure you, this 44-year-old woman is not a fearless wonder. I don’t do ramps—if I know about them. I don’t jump off diving boards or ride on roller coasters. Yet here I was flying through the air like Eddie the Eagle. I tried to line up my skis for a graceful landing, but to no avail. The tips of my skis overlapped and I ended in a jumbled heap on a patch of ice. That earned me some rather painful bruises on both knees and elbows.

...but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Looking back, I see that I address life much as I approached that hill. Just as I didn’t see the need for a discussion with Marty and Paul about the hill; in life’s decisions, often I don’t wait for direction from the Holy Spirit. It’s not possible to be Spirit-led if you don’t listen. How can I even want what He wants without being in constant communication?
An excerpt from my book "Blooming"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Of Dreams and Schemes and Fishy Things - Austin

A rousing discussion took place on the TWG listserve some months back. The key word many of you might remember was "Scanner." The focus looked at the vast range of interests many of us as writers pursue. The book, "Refuse to Choose" by Barbara Sher, suggested that the inability to fix our focus on one thing and stick with that was a strength, rather than a weakness.

According to Barbara there are a number of distinct types of "Scanners." The one I most clearly identify with has a cyclical pattern. I will work at something with an almost addictive compulsion for weeks or even months, then suddenly find myself abhoring that topic for a while. I've learned not to discard the work, because a few months later the compulsion will hit again.

It's the in-between times that bug me. There is something satisfying within the compulsion itself. I can work as much as 20 hours a day and feel energized. But when the pendulum swings, sometimes for days or even weeks, I find myself lost.

Human identiy, especially male identity, ties into occupation. If you listen to men introduce themselves, you will almost always here some reference to their work. 'I'm Brian and I'm a writer.' That identity becomes problematic when weeks go by with scarcely a word written. With one major project completed and in the publisher's hands, a computer full of half developed stories and poems offers more than enough possibilities for focus and attention. But something in me rebels. It is not writer's block exactly, although the results are much the same. It's more a deliberate switching of gears for a time. My wife finds it alarming. She is convinced I sit around the house and dream up ways to spend money. Why did God make wives so insightful?

A unique synergy infuses the relationship between intense fish production and ideal greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Fish provide all the nutrients required for optimum crop production in a system that draws from and improves on hydroponics. The crop production in turn, as it draws nutrients from the water, purifies and filters that water in a natural and healthy way, optimizing its quality for the fish. Large volumes of water provide thermal mass to stabilize the temperature in a greenhouse environment, while a new generation of greenhouses use soap bubbles between two layers of plastic to provide as much as R30 insulation value yet still allow passage of light. The soap bubbles themselves are essentially the same as children delight to blow through small rings. By selectively filling cavities between walls, they can allow maximum light through the day and maximum insulation at night. They can also alternate between east and west or north and south walls to take full advantage of the position of the sun as it moves across the sky, while insulating any walls where heat loss is greater than heat gain. And of almost equel importance, the same properties can insulate against excessive heat in the summer.

Since buying my first aquarium at the age of 12, small finny critters have had a place in my life for amost the total of the next 43 years. Always I have tried to keep limits on my spending. But always I have longed for more tanks and bigger tanks. At one time I had so much heated water circulating that the humidity was literally destroying our house. Many times through the years I have dreamed and schemed of ways my fascination with water and fish could managed to carry itself financially, or in a perfect world, actually generate income.

The farm I have done tornado cleanup on since this past August just happens to be a fish farm. A tour of that enterprise one morning proved more than sufficient to get all my desires for fish on a big scale all worked up once again.

Now, drawings litter the table in our family room. Many hours of research have calculated the hydro consumption for pumps and lights. Greenhouses, that typically have an R2 insulation value for double wall plastic (R0.8 for a single layer) can be prohibitively costly to operate through Canadian winters, but suddenly become realistic when R30 is possible. Yet R30 comes at a cost, nearly tripling the installation cost of a greenhouse. With our very small land base, our barn has never been a money maker, yet it figures in all these new dreams and schemes. If I ever become foolish enough (and brow-beat my wife enough) to invest in the cost of transforming our 1.68 acres, that barn would be the starting place. Even now, two fish-farm tanks boast a small collection of koi, with temperatures set at the bare minimum to keep things from freezing.

My wife hopes I'll catch the writing bug again -- soon. Getting rich on writing doesn't look overly promising -- but the half million price tag of my latest scheme (shhhh -- don't tell her how crazy I am) doesn't promise riches any time soon either. And since we have now enjoyed a few months of debt-free living, the idea of a new half-million debt-load just so I can have more and bigger aquariums might prove a hard sell.
Now -- if we were to win the lottery. . ? Not very likely, since we refuse to buy the tickets. But -- someone usually buys a ticket for my birthday each year, so who knows.

Ah, but there is something wonderful and restful about an aquarium. Many a time a fussy toddler has quieted in my arms as we have stood before a tank. My Bible tells me heaven will be better than anything I can ask or imagine. Like most writers, I have a pretty well developed imagination -- so I wonder if there will be something fishy there?

Foolish dreams. They're not such a bad way to bridge this transition time until the itch to write must again be scratched. And if, by chance, you hear strange rumours of a huge aquaculture enterprise going up just south of Durham, Ontario, don't wake me up and spoil the dream. Let me savour it as long as I can.

Grandpa's smallest tank is a perfect height for little people -- and even gets Grandma into the picture.

Friday, January 08, 2010

"The Princess and the Goblin" — Martin

“I have never concealed the fact that I regarded MacDonald as my master,” C.S. Lewis has said. This alone was reason enough for me, years ago, to investigate the novels of George MacDonald (1824–1905) — a Scottish writer who left a secure career as a minister to scratch out a living as a novelist. Although he spent his life in poverty, he is also acknowledged as an influence on such fine writers as Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein and Madeleine L’Engle.

His best works are fantasies — particularly two for children The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, and two for adults Phantastes and Lilith.

Between Christmas and New Year’s this year I reread one of my favourites: The Princess and the Goblin (1872). In this tale, MacDonald shows us what it means to believe. A soldier is mocked by his unbelieving peers for the strange creatures he tells them he’s seen; one by one each of the soldiers gradually comes to his side, because of their own experience. A brave miner boy disbelieves the inexplicable story of an invisible thread, until he himself feels it; a nanny is unable to believe even her own eyes — and the little princess begins to doubt her own experience as some kind of dream, when evidence seems to contradict it.

At one point the princess’s wise grandmother tells her, “People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less.”

I highly recommend MacDonald’s fantasies. If you have small children, read The Princess and the Goblin aloud to them; if you don’t, don’t wait until you have young kids in your life to make this discovery.

British poet W.H. Auden wrote, “To me, George MacDonald’s most extraordinary, and precious gift is his ability, in all his stories, to create an atmosphere of goodness...” This is something rare and beautiful, which kingdom writers today would be wise to cultivate.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Letting Go and Holding On - Laycock

When we made the decision to sell the home we had lived in for almost ten years, our middle daughter, Laura, was living with us. She had come home from Bangladesh where she’d worked with a mission group for a year.

She was excited when she realized we would have to pare down our belongings. Every day she would ask, “What room can I de-clutter now, Mom?” She’d grin at me. I didn’t grin back. I would remind her we had six months before we had to move. She’d laugh and remind me that we were moving from a five bedroom into a two-bedroom house.

It was like a cold cup of water – thrown in my face!

But it was reality. My husband had convinced me to follow the advice of the realtors and renovate our home before putting it on the market. We tore down and built up, we ripped out and replaced. We even bought new furniture. The process was not easy for me. I resented and resisted all these changes. I confess I am a packrat and I tend to hold onto things a little too tightly. I had a hard time letting go. I felt safe and comfortable in the midst of my clutter, my own little nest, surrounded by all my things.

And Laura, dear minimalist that she is, set about enthusiastically deciding what had to go. The problem was, she was a little too enthusiastic and my husband was cheering her on! For the next few months there was a litany that sounded in our house. “Laura, what did you do with… Laura, you didn’t throw that away, did you?”

Then came the day I couldn’t find my favourite potato peeler. I didn’t care that it was cracked, it was my favourite! Laura had thrown it away. And I was upset. In fact I was downright angry. The potato peeler was the proverbial last straw. Nothing in my house was the same anymore. It didn’t feel like my home, my nest. It had been disrupted and I was disturbed.

I realized that day that I’d forgotten something. My reaction was disproportionate to what was happening. I told myself that it was only stuff, that I shouldn’t be so attached, that it was good to let go. But when you let go of something you have to find something else to hold onto. I knew what that something else should be. Or rather, that Someone. I knew I had allowed my identity to be wrapped up in a house and a lot of ‘stuff’ instead of in Jesus Christ.

I remembered the passage in Matthew, one my husband would half jokingly point me to – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth …” (Matt.6:19).

I realized then I needed to not only reorganize my home, but my heart as well. As we head into a new year I pray we can all let go of those things that don’t matter and hold onto the One who does.

Marcia Laycock writes from Central Alberta where she is working on the sequel to her novel, One Smooth Stone, which won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Her devotional book, Spur of the Moment has just be reprinted.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My single resolution for 2010 - Lindquist

It’s pretty simple. My resolution for this year is that I’m going to ask for help. At least once a week, if possible. From people who aren’t married to me and didn’t come into this world because of me, and therefore don’t owe me anything.

I’ve never really liked asking for help. Don’t actually like asking people for anything, if it comes to that.

I grew up as an only child who spent an inordinate amount of time around older people, as well as an adopted child who very likely had some trust issues. So I became self-sufficient at a pretty early age. If I wanted to know something, I tried to find the answer by myself, usually through books.

I still tend to be that way. Of course, now that we have the internet, it’s even easier to find things out. For example, chances are 100% that if I go to my doctor to get his opinion on something, I’ve already got a list of all the possibilities from my own research.

But there are some things you can’t find in books. And some kinds of help where you need another person.

I also firmly believe that we were created to be in community, which implies needing each other, and that implies helping one another, which involves asking for help…

Earlier this week, I blogged about the fact that most people actually want to help others, but that we’re often too embarrassed to confess our need. But that’s not why I don’t like to ask for help. I don't at all mind acknowledging that I have needs. The reason I don’t like to ask is because I’ve had people say no. Well, a bit more than no….

One day when I was in junior high, I was having trouble with the math problems we were supposed to be doing in class. I’d missed a couple of days of school, and although I’d read the directions in my math textbook, my computations simply weren’t working.

Let me preface this by saying I was a good student, usually second or third in my class, quiet to the point where people assumed I was shy, never making waves. However, I did tend to miss a day or two of school each month, due to a vague kind of not feeling well, involving nausea and stomach aches. Now, I know it was likely a lactose-related problem. As a baby, I was put on buttermilk because I couldn’t drink milk. But that connection was never made, so no one, including our doctor, had any idea why I frequently didn’t feel well.

Back to the math class. Realizing I couldn't solve the math problems on my own, I put my hand up. The teacher walked over and asked me what I wanted. I said, “I missed a couple of classes and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Could you please help me?”

And right in front of the entire class, my teacher exploded. “You think you can just miss school whenever you want and all you have to do is ask for help, don't you? You don't care what you missed. You think you’re special because your dad owns a store…” and on and on for several minutes, in a very bitter, very cold voice.

I sat there, numb, wondering what on earth I’d done wrong. I hadn’t skipped school; I’d been sick. I didn’t feel I was better than anyone else. I was completely stunned. And all I wanted to do was melt into the floor of the room.

In truth, I’d never liked the teacher, but that was more because I was a little afraid of her than for any other reason. Okay, the actual truth is that, for some reason, I was terrified of all my teachers throughout school, though I really don’t know why. But I still liked most of them well enough, and some I liked a lot. But not her.

While we all sat in shock, trying to pretend nothing had happened, the bell rang to end the class. Since the rest of the kids were as surprised as I was, nobody said anything to me, other than, “What on earth was that all about?”

But I had learned an important lesson. Asking for help can be dangerous. Not everyone wants to help you.

We lived in a very small prairie town, so after school that day, I walked downtown, as I often did. One of my friends lived on Main Street above the post office, so we’d go for a soft drink and then she’d go up to her place, and I’d walk down the rest of the street to our store, and say “Hi” to my dad, and then usually walk the five or six blocks to our house.

After school that day, for some reason I can't recall, I was alone on Main Street near the restaurant we congregated in when I saw my teacher walking toward me. Short of ducking inside the nearest store, I couldn’t avoid her. I did, however, move as close to the street edge of the sidewalk as I could. I would have passed by without looking at her, but she addressed me, and I stopped, keeping my distance. She apologized for what she’d said in class. Said she didn’t really know why she had said it. I said it was okay, and got away from her as fast as I could. And neither of us ever referred to that episode again.

Years later, thinking about that day, I realize there’s every possibility it wasn’t me, but my parents, that my teacher was angry with. She was a single parent who had to work to support her family. My dad owned a clothing store, and while we weren’t well-off, both of my parents dressed well, they hung around with the doctors and bankers in our town, and they gave an impression of success. My mother stayed at home and looked after the house and my dad and me. And had a nervous breakdown when I left for university. But that’s another story.

I expect my teacher saw me as a pampered, only child, and it was very likely a case of the "grass looking greener" combined with my teacher's having a really bad day. None of us know what’s actually going on in anyone else’s life. We just assume we do, and invariably we think “they” have it better or easier than we do.

The memory of that moment when my teacher berated me in front of my classmates for asking for help has stayed with me over the years, and I’m sure it enforced everything I’d already learned about not asking for help. Not exactly a good lesson for someone who wanted to become a writer, since writers are told "No" by editors and other people with regularity.

Of course, I've been told "No" after asking for help by other people too. But never quite so forcefully. However, each time, I've come away feeling as though it was wrong of me to ask.

And I realize that this feeling of my being at fault because I was bothering people by asking for help has to be a lingering effect from that unexpected encounter with my teacher. And I simply have to get over it.

So, in 2010, I’m going to ask for help. And if I get a "No," that’s okay. I’ll just ask someone else. I can do this. I’m not in junior high any more.

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. blogs on life at

N. J.'s tips for writers at

N. J. directs Write! Canada

N. J.'s latest book

Be encouraged! - Nesdoly

(This post was first published in July 2008 on the Inscribe Writers Online blog.)

The other day (this would be back in July of 2008) I got an email from my friend Maralee. (Maralee is a ventriloquist who has a TV show called Maralee Dawn and Friends.) She told me about an email exchange she had with a man named Bear. He has an idea for an animation series and told her how he wrote to artist and illustrator Kevin Scott Collier about his idea. Collier wrote back and included a couple of sketches of what Bear’s characters could look like.

(The name Kevin Scott Collier rang a bell with me. So I checked and found this was the same KSC who interviewed me for Kid Magazine Writers in 2005. I read on with interest…)

Bear emailed Collier back: “Just looking at these pics again. They are awesome. So how does someone become so generous with their talents?”

Kevin Scott Collier replied (quoted with his permission):

Dear Bear,

Let me tell you something. In November 2003 I wrote a short story for a niece about a boy who accidentally gets an email from an Angel in heaven. (Heaven had gone high tech.) When I was writing the story I felt God's hand on my shoulder. He spoke into my heart that this story would be a book for all kids to read. I prayed to God asking if this were true, where would I find a publisher, whom should I contact... how was this all going to happen. God touched upon me that if I trusted in Him, he would bring me everything and everyone I needed.

As I was mailing the story to my niece, I overhead some men in the next line talking about books to the clerk. I wandered over and asked who they were. It turned out to be a youth fiction publisher from another state, who just happened to be in the area on business. We chatted, and two days later after receiving a copy of my story, drove back up from Indiana to Michigan, took me to lunch, and signed me to a book contract. "" was published.

Now I was a published author, but I was always an artist. I stumbled across the internet and met a lady who had written a poem. I asked if she could email it to me, as she wanted advice. For fun, I illustrated the entire poem over two nights, and created a pdf "book" for fun to email her back. Turned out she was a minister's wife from Ohio... and she showed it to a friend of hers that was a book publisher... it was contracted, and Topsy Turvy Land went to print.

In the summer of 2005 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Later, on that very day, a publisher I had never heard of contacted me and asked if I would illustrate a book cover for a survivors book on Breast Cancer. I did it for free, and I went on to illustrate a dozen other books for them, too... and mom recovered.

In late 2005, I had an idea for a book based on Noah's Ark I wanted to write. I wanted a co-author, however, someone who could add to my idea for a book. I found a lady named Kristen Halter in a writers group, and we began writing "Natalie's Ark." I discovered this godly woman was a single mother, and her son never knew a father... didn't have one per se, he had vanished. So, Jarod prayed every night to Jesus for a dad. I fell in love with this woman (who live 350 miles from my home in Ohio) and married her, and adopted her son. Now I am a dad... you can see us all on our homepage...

I recently stumbled upon the Old Schoolhouse Magazine's website and saw they had a mascot (frog) for their reading program, and it was clip art... so I redrew the character and sent it to them for free just to help. They liked my stuff so much, they want to hire me as an illustrator for their magazine.

Know what life is all about, Bear? Planting seeds and having faith that God will lead you to the right people.

I'm here.

- Kevin

I thought Kevin’s letter was a great illustration of how God is at work in our lives even when we aren’t aware.

So be encouraged. God has barely begun to do the ministry through your life. Stay the course. There is something big ahead for you. It is God who sets up the big appointments and they are supernatural. Keep planting those seeds and following His lead.


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