Monday, May 31, 2010
In researching material for my current work of non-fiction: Highway of Holiness: Soul Journey, I began to read some background on Meister Eckhart, a 14th century Dominican and mystic. I have to admit that, at times, I find it tough going because the scholarship is far beyond my learning thus far. However, I continue to read on because of the nuggets of wisdom and understanding that I receive from time to time.
Eckhart speaks of “the fused identity” as being the essential meaning of “ground”. “The one ground in which we attain fused identity with God is rooted in the oneness of Christ’s ground,” says Eckhart; and “The more someone knows the root and the kernel and the ground of the Godhead as one the more he knows all things…Go into your own ground and there act—acting out of a well-exercised ground is to live and act without a why.”
This living and acting without a why, I think, is not following God’s direction blindly and without question, but it is as if life’s right actions become effortless because, being united with God in the ground of his being, enables one to “live and act without a why”, without constant struggle of right against wrong. One does not have to fight within oneself to do the right thing; one naturally and in the spirit does the right thing because one is living and acting out of the soul’s unity with the Godhead—out of the ground of holy being.
© Judith Lawrence
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Regular readers of this space will know that I take a keen interest in the assault on civil rights in Canada by “human rights” bodies, of which Canada has 14. These bodies essentially manufacture “rights” out of thin air, blundering into media, religion, entertainment, and just about anything else they think needs regulating (think: everything). For more, read Shakedown, Lights Out, or Tyranny of Nice.
Brave Canadians are beginning to fight back, but, sadly, too many wait until “human rights” strikes someone close to them. Then they run around shrieking “What’s happening?!”
Only what happened to all the people whose plight you ignored, fella. And now that it has happened to you, others will say, “Oh well, he must have done something wrong.”
Here is a roundup of recent events (not exhaustive), with comments interspersed. For regular coverage, go to MarkSteyn, Ezra Levant, Five Feet of Fury, Blazing Cat Fur, or Deborah Gyapong .
Next: Intellectual freedom in Canada: Court okay with government-dictated hiring practices for Christian groups
Intellectual freedom in Canada: Court okay with government-dictated hiring practices for Christian groups - one change at a time, of course
Christian Horizons is reported to have won in the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Horizons provides homes for seriously handicapped people in a Christian setting. The issue centred on an employee who - in contravention of a lifestyle code - was living a gay lifestyle. The Ontario “human rights” Commission came down very hard on Christian groups insisting on lifestyles in accord with Christian teachings. Horizons was exonerated by the Ontario Divisional Court, but only on such terms as no one would want to be exonerated - it is okay to be a Christian as long as you don’;t really mean it.
Of course, it wasn’t really a victory at all, despite crowing by groups such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
As Don Hutchinson observed (May 20, 2010) in The National Post,
The Ontario Divisional Court concluded that the job Ms. Heintz was doing was not impacted by her being involved in a same-sex relationship, contrary to the accepted practices of the faith community with which she was serving and contrary to her own signed acceptance of those practices before she started working there. Accordingly, they struck the “same sex relationship” provision from the lifestyle and morality policy of Christian Horizons, concluding Ms. Heintz had every right to work there.But it is never time to stop, once the principle is established that government is judge over Christian lifestyle teachings that go back two thousand years to the New Testament, teachings to which the charities’ employees have actually assented.
... They have just issued a remedy that violates the very concepts they supported earlier in the decision when they approved of religious communities deciding what they believe and the practices that line up with those beliefs. They have also decided to ignore decisions issued by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 (Trinity Western University), 2002 (Syndicat Northcrest v Amselem) and 2009 (Alberta v Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony) which clearly state that once the court establishes that a practice has a nexus with a sincerely held religious belief it’s time to stop.
Columnist Charles Lewis notes (May 20, 2010) that Christian charities are now unclear about what’s allowed and what’s not. I can clear that matter up for them, pronto: What’s allowed is whatever the government happens to allow for now, as secular lobbies systematically dismantle the norms of traditional Christian communities.
The secular lobbies will be back for something else next.
Can anything change this situation? I doubt it. Few Christians, and especially not the Christian elite, have the stomach for it, and they would rather bash the working class brethren who embarrass them. Also, a person close to the Harper regime in Ottawa assures me that, despite window dressing, the regime has no intention whatever of reining in the “human rights” industry.
Harper knows full well that the secular lobbies will gain the ear of sympathetic media and Christians will continue to sneer at their brethren instead of rallying for the separation of church and state. A wise man once pointed out to me that the benefit of this approach is that the wolf is usually devouring someone else just now. If all serious Christians directed their resources against the wolf, it might bed riven off, but all would need to take risks.
Next: Intellectual freedom in Canada: Will you have ice in that think?
Friday, May 28, 2010
You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139:2
God guides me along my way and I follow where God leads. I take every step that God takes. We step together as in a line-dance—side by side and in the same direction. It is not like dancing a waltz where one person goes forward and the other must step backward. No, this is a dance where we go in the same direction. We move side by side, our eyes looking toward the same goal, the same outcome—God is the direction and God is the way.
God is the map for our life. God traces our way as on a triptik. On a map, we see many roads that can take us to the same place. Some are direct like straight highways; some are country roads that meander their way along—perhaps their surface is not as good as the surface of a highway but the surrounding scenery maybe more beautiful. Some roads pass among houses, some among office buildings; some are pathways through parks beside little streams while others may cross over fast-moving rivers. The goal for our life is constant but the journey can take us along many different routes at different times in our lives.
I always enjoy the cartoon of Charlie in the weekend newspaper. How he loves exploring along his way when he leaves home on some excursion, making the most of every thing he sees and every person he meets, trying to make his trip as long and as exciting as possible.
As we go through life and grow in our spiritual life we experience many stages on our journey. There are times of walking and times of resting; there are times of climbing mountains and times of descending into valleys; there are times of fasting and times of nourishment. Through all these times God is with us as our guide and companion; our sunshine and our shade; the coordinator of our lives.
Life is continual change—little deaths and little births, a new experience every morning. Yesterday has passed away, today has come and is present now, tomorrow will be our new life. Our moments come, are lived and pass away into our memories where we can relive them in joy and remember God’s loving protection and guidance along our journey.
The goal of our journey is eternal life with the Divine, the ways to get there are diverse but all bring us to the harbour for which we are bound, in God’s infinite wisdom and love.
© Judith Lawrence (This meditation was first published on my website www.judithlawrence.ca in August 2007)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
My apologies for being so late with this post. My computer is in intensive care at the moment. It looked pretty bleak last night when I finally gave up at 1:00 am, but it is now looking like it might survive. Since I'm in the middle of processing Book Orders for Write Canada, now is NOT a good time for it to die, so here's hoping and praying. I'm posting this from the Library computer at our church -- where they have just installed a bigger monitor for me. What a delight it is.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Fair May morning here
Arriving first class
Dazzling sunbeams rise,
Bid the world hello.
Flowers bright appear
Against green, green grass,
Elixir for eyes
Soothes away night’s woe.
Robin sings his cheer—
Version of high mass—
Brings a glad reprise
Praise bursts forth, sincere,
Joy will come to pass.
God’s love, glad surprise,
Set’s my heart aglow.
Ruth Smith Meyer, May, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Not so long ago, we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with our friends/acquaintances. We enjoyed a delicious potluck supper and shared some interesting stories with each other. This special time took place at the home of an American couple whom we first befriended when we started to winter in Mesa, Arizona. We love this couple and we now have many mutual friends. Initially, all of our mutual friends were American. As the years have gone by, many other Canadians have now been accepted into our circle of friends.
The event that took place was unique by the fact that it was referred to as a Maple Leaf party. In other words, this couple invited only their Canadian friends to attend. Ironically enough, some of us hardly knew each other or only met for the first time that day. The one thing that we had in common was the fact that we were all Canadian. I know the intentions of our wonderful hosts were good, but it still brought some sadness to my husband and me.
We have always merely enjoyed the many friendships that we have formed in Mesa and we fear that one day there will be an American party that we may not be invited to attend, although the majority of our friends are still American. This is not the first time that such an occasion has arisen. A few others have started to do the same. They mean well because they want to “host” the Canadians in what they consider to be a proper and fitting way.
Personally, I don’t want to see this happen. In this particular instance, whether I am Canadian or not, is irrelevant. What matters the most to me is spending time with my friends. Their country of origin is of little importance because I see the friendship, itself, as having far more value. I don’t want to be segregated because I’m Canadian. I merely want to spend time with my friends.
At times, I feel that we can mix up the important words/adjectives in how we view things. For instance, whether a Canadian friend or an American friend, in my opinion, the key word is friend. I think the same holds true for us as Christian writers. I feel that whether we are Canadian, American, German, French, etc. writers, editors, or publishers, the key word to remember is that we are Christian.
Being a Christian far outweighs everything else. It is our Christian beliefs that universally unite us and that which creates the bond we all share. There are no borders, no skin colors, and no gender differences and so on that comes before our role as followers of Christ. It is not always easy to remember which word is of more importance. To me, Christian friend/author wins “hands down” regardless of one’s heritage or country of origin.
Author of “I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay”
Monday, May 24, 2010
Two prolific authors share their experiences with tear sheets:
Ray Wiseman shares, “I keep them because I like to look back to review topics I dealt with years ago--sometimes it's fun to have a nostalgic moment and go poking through them.
I have mission mags from the 70s written from overseas and copies of newsletters--that goes way back before I was a 'writer'. This was good research material when writing *When Cobras Laugh*.
I have most of the major reports and bulletins produced for Rogers in the 80s and copies of the Partners magazines I wrote for in the 90s--kept strictly for nostalgia reasons.
When I began writing newspaper columns in 91, I would keep a copy in a scrapbook (only the tear sheet with the date and name of publication). I quit doing that a few years ago and now file a hard copy of every column in a three-ring binder. These are strictly for backup, because I have computer files of everything I have written since the mid 80s.
Newspaper columns features, and books and other articles I keep on my hard drive--other things I have on disks. This way I can do word searches and find almost anything I have ever written about in 25 years.
I also have kept a few samples of some of the periodicals I have written for.
I have kept some things thinking I would need them for promo reasons—I don't remember ever doing that.”
How does he store all of it?
Donna Fawcett shares, “I have found tear sheets to be very useful. I have proof of where and when I had those articles published and have actually been asked to supply issue dates of publications containing my articles--once. That editor wanted to make sure I really was who I said I was.
They are also encouraging to read after I receive a rejection slip:)
And I use them at book signings as a promotional tool for credibility. I've had people approach my table as skeptics and walk away with a book because of the tear sheets.
I store them in a binder after laminating them. I keep the magazine cover and my article and laminate them back to back.”
Do you keep tear sheets? If so, what do you do with them?
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico indicates how an inability to stop a problem once it is detected can cause major damage.
Sufficient contingency plans were not in place to deal with the failed platform causing incredible damage to life and the environment. Ironically, engineering controls that are required in Brazil and Norway were not required on this rig.
Once the catastrophic leak started, there was no immediate plan in place to stop it.
Sin is similar to a failed oil pipe.
King David saw Bathsheba and instead of stopping sin at that moment, he continued on and the result was adultery, deception, and eventually death.
Instead of dealing with his adultery with Bathsheba, he decided to have Uriah killed in battle. What started as temptation grew into a problem far greater than he had ever imagined.
The faster we run to Jesus, the quicker he will heal us of our wounds, and the less damage we and others will incur because of our sin. Sin is pervasive. It waits for an opportune time to strike. We can avoid the massive blowout in our lives by ensuring we are following Biblical principles in honouring Christ.
But when sin does occur, we need to come to the only One that can fix the problem. The failsafe conducted on the oil rig did not include for the quick containment of a massive blowout.
Are we quick to employ the help of Jesus Christ in our lives? Or are we busy trying to fix it on our own, hoping we can stop it without anyone knowing?
The Apostle Paul said that the things he wanted to do, he didn’t do. And the things which he didn’t want to do, he did. Our sin is like an oil reserve that will continue to pollute our lives unless we choose to allow divine intervention to seal off the flow.
Fortunately, we have a Saviour who loves us and can come to our aid particularly when we realize we can’t fix it on our own.
Paul H. Boge is the author of The Urban Saint: The Harry Lehotsky Story
Friday, May 21, 2010
Hunter believes that culture can change not through legislation or even public pressure but rather through the presence of God penetrating every aspect of the social sphere in which we live through faithful presence. He points out that this is not new, as it is faithful presence that has always been operative our culture, in the creation of hospitals, in the flourishing of the arts, in excellence in scholarship, in attempts to provide social care for those most desperate, in responding to the social needs of all.
During the interview, Hunter identifies four aspects of the social power of Jesus. It is this social power that make possible faithful presence. Jesus power was derivative. It came from the intimate relationship that He enjoyed with His Heavenly Father. It was fruit of His conscious and chosen submission to the will of His Father.
The social power of Jesus was humble. He chose to reject all of the rights and privileges that belonged to Him, not holding on to His status or worrying about His reputation and even being willing to accept indignities with calm and confidence, rather than resignation.
According to Hunter, the social power of Jesus was compassionate, and that compassion was not limited to the confines of His narrow circle but rather embraced everyone. His desire was the good of all, not just His followers, or the Jewish nation, or people who accepted Him, but all people.
Finally, the social power of Jesus was non-coercive. He chose to bless rather than to curse. Not only did He preach this, He practiced it in His encounters with what His people saw as the opposition, people like the Samaritan or the Romans.
The social power of Jesus is the basis for faithful presence. In my book More Questions than Answers, I present the type of evangelism that I believe is appropriate for using our social power in faithful presence. It means choosing to walk with others and listen to their heart cries, their fears, their doubts, and their joys and meeting these in the way that Jesus does.
Our social power for this faithful presence is found in our own intimate relationship with God our Heavenly Father, made possible by Christ. As, in His presence, we examine our own fears our reactions and doubts, we can open ourselves to His love that overcomes fears, forgives our wrong choices and actions and assures us of His presence in the way that we need to know it.
As we then bring to Him our concerns for others, our inability to provide them all the answers they need, He assures us that His Spirit is able to do what we cannot do. He intimately knows the heart of each person and as we present their needs to Him, He will respond in the way that is best for them. For us, intercession becomes an act of submission. The assurance that comes with that submission gives us the social power to approach others with an open, accepting spirit rather than anxiously trying to impose our solution for what we perceive to be their problems.
A current McDonalds commercial shows a boy in a car seat talking with his Dad on the way to McDonalds. The child says to his Dad, “Are we going to help the kids before or after we eat” Then they pull into the parking lot, and we see the Dad pushing his son in his wheelchair into the restaurant, where they will be donating to the cause to help other kids.
The social power of humility is not a denial of what is noble and good in us, or the accolades that we have accumulated, with a false modesty. Rather it is the recognition that these do not define us. We are part of a community and we value the contribution of everyone to that human community. On the days, we experience that kind of humility, we take the time and effort to discover what is good and noble in others whether they have received recognition for it or not. We focus on what they have, the spark of the divine within them, rather than what they do not yet have.
In faithful presence, compassion is the music that fills the silences. It is what kindles hope when there is no reason for hope. Hell is the place where there is absolutely no compassion. Compassion is that divine spark within that we see erupt in times of global disaster like tsunamis and earthquakes. Compassion overcomes defenses and melts hard hearts. Compassion sees a better world, where sorrow, pain and grief no longer have a place. Compassion keeps opening the door and inviting all to enter and find their place. Compassion is the fruit of the Spirit within us, overflowing and lifting up those around us. This is its social power.
Evangelism through faithful witness is non-coercive and that might be one of our greatest challenges. We know the way. We want others to know what we know, but we must patiently wait until they come to know their own need of Christ. We want to thrust Him at them. When we do, they are unable to see Him as He is. We must allow them to come to the place where they discover nothing else is ever going to fill their God-shaped vacuum. Then they will be ready to meet Him. He will have been there all along, hovering over them in love, sending us, along with others, to walk alongside them and be authentic about our own lives and our need of Him. It is all of grace and that we find in a never ending supply in the faithful presence of Jesus.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
A couple of months ago my husband and I adopted a year and a half old black cat from the SPCA shelter. And ‘Captain Hook’, named thusly for the hook in his tail - has taken over our lives and our hearts. At our SPCA the cats are given categories from “I will be your computer assistant” meaning - I will jump all over your lap and walk on your computer and purr in your lap when you’re trying to write, to “I’m aloof but want to be your friend” which means, I tend to hide under beds but with the right treats I’ll come out and try to be your friend.
Well, we got the “computer assistant”, and he is just that - our computer assistant. If he’s not up walking all over my computer keys and purring, he’s down at my husband’s office doing the same.
I can’t tell you the number of times my work in progress suddenly ends up with a couple rows of Z’s.
And now I get to why I am posting this. Since getting ‘Cappy’, which is he now called, I’ve done a lot of ‘cat research’ online. (Oh, I am SO becoming a cat person), and did you know that having a cat reduces blood pressure and calms anxiety and that stroking a cat’s fur for twenty minutes calms yourself (not to mention the cat). Writing can be stressful. Rejections - in the form of rejection letters - or bad reviews - can cause one to flee to the chocolate jar. I have now discovered why so many writers are cat people. Every once in a while we need the soft fur and a face nuzzle from one of God's special creatures who loves us.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
(The following is a Guest post by best-selling author Elaine Ingalls Hogg, whose latest book Historic Sussex and Area, Nimbus Publishing Ltd., was launched on April 29th, 2010. She is also the author of two previous historic books and the editor of Christmas in the Maritimes (2006). Hogg writes an inspirational column for the Kings County Record and has had stories included in anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and CBC radio. Elaine lives near Sussex, N.B., with her husband, Hugh. For more information on Elaine, go to her website at http://elainehogg.com )
In my last column, I wrote about a dream that revealed the solution to a problem. The problem? – finding a topic for my column.
When the ideas dry up or when I’ve collected a stack of rejection slips then thoughts of retirement flood my mind. Why write? It certainly isn’t for fame or money. Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006 reported that the average book in America sells about 500 copies. An article, “The 10 awful Truths About Book Publishing” by Steven Piersanti, President, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, June 15, 2009 states that, “The average book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.”
So the question that romps through my mind and the mind of several of my friends who are writers is this. “Why bother?”
This week I read about Jeremiah an author who wrote his story without the aid of a computer. He slaved over his futuristic prophecy until it was fit to show the king. On a winter night while sitting in front of a blazing fire, the king had his servant, Jehudi, read the story to him.
Judging from the king’s reaction to the story, I picture the colour rising in his face as he listened for he wasn’t pleased with what he heard. After Jehudi finished reading a section the king grabbed the scroll out of his servant’s hands, cut off that section with his knife and threw the words into the fire.
I can’t imagine how Jeremiah felt as he watched the flames lick the words on the parchment and turn them into a heap of ashes. To lose his work sent a more powerful message to the author than any formal rejection slip. Jeremiah didn’t have a back up disk to return to in order to revive his words. His hours of work were gone!
If Jeremiah was like most of the writers I know, he most likely experienced self doubt and asked the same familiar questions: Why am I writing? Is this the best use of my time? Did I really hear God telling me to write or am I wasting my time?
What did Jeremiah do? How did he react? He refused to give up. Instead, the Bible says, “He took out another scroll and dictated again to his secretary Baruch. He wrote everything that had been on the scroll King Jehoiakim had burned in the fire.” The part I like best about Jeremiah’s report on this setback is summed up in seven words, “Only this time he added much more.”
It’s tough to start over when setbacks and discouragement come our way. Whether the difficulties are the result of a health issue, come from rejection, or we experience a financial loss, going on isn’t as easy as pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Fortunately, we don’t have to face life’s challenges alone. God has promised to give each one of us the courage we need to face whatever comes our way today.
May those of you who are discouraged with your writing find the strength, courage, and direction to begin again and like Jeremiah, discover God has given you the ability to, “This time add much more.”
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Chip’s email preceded an email announcement of the winners of the Novice Writing Contest http://www.thewordguild.com/ and that was shortly followed by the announcement of the shortlist of winners for the Canadian Christian Writing Awards http://www.canadianchristianwritingawards.com/ .
So what do you think about contests?
And how do you feel in general about winning and losing?
Do you think competition is a good thing – a Christian thing?
I’ve been on both sides of the contest arena – both as a judge and as a contestant. And I honestly don’t know which one is more difficult – or more rewarding.
It’s a very difficult thing to make a decision that you know will affect someone’s future in a profound way. As so many judges say, I too often lament, “They are all winners. All of them deserve a prize.” And I want to say to all the writers: “Don’t give up! Keep on writing!”
I’ve also won awards in previous years and been shortlisted several times. And I wonder why some of my books and articles are chosen over others. And how does this affect my life as a writer – as a follower of Christ?
Simply put, it doesn’t.
Winning or losing on this earthly stage is “small potatoes” compared to winning or losing on the heavenly stage. And what keeps me going day by day and minute by minute as an author is not whether I’ve won or lost an award or had a book proposal accepted or rejected. It can’t be – or I’d go crazy! Because the life of an author, perhaps more than any other vocation, is a constant mix of rejections and acclamations.
For those of you who didn’t win the Novice Writing Contest and who were not shortlisted for the Canadian Writing Awards, I want to tell you to “hang in there” – to not give up. And to tell you that it never really does get easier. There will always be rejections of one sort or another mixed in amongst the acclamations. And as an author, you just really have to “go with the flow.” And keep remembering why you chose to pick up a pen in the first place.
You have a story. It is a story that only you can tell. No other author, no matter how famous, can do the job that you are being asked to do. Tell your story. Listen to those around you who offer advice. Pay attention to the judges, the editors and the book reviewers. But don’t allow their opinions to cause you to throw up your hands and quit.
The number one characteristic of a successful author is not talent but perseverance. Don’t give up!
Author of The Little Ones
Shortlisted for Canadian Writing Awards: Independently Published Fiction
Shortlisted for Canadian Writing Awards: Mystery/Suspense
Author of Jasmine
Now in book stores across Canada
Both books distributed by Word Alive Press http://www.wordalivepress.ca/.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The year was 1965. My father and I were on a short holiday at Wullie’s place on the island of Islay, in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. My Gaelic-speaking grandmother was born on Islay, and Dad spent some boyhood summers there. Wullie, his cousin, had visited Scotland’s mainland many years before, but was in no hurry back.
Island time was different to mainland time. Sixty minutes to the hour, twenty-four hours to the day, and seven days to the week; these were the same, but the mental and emotional approach to living life within those boundaries was different.
Speaking of the changeableness of the weather and its effect on shipping, Cousin Wullie said, "If the boht [boat/ferry] disna’ [doesn’t] come in today, then perhaps it’ll come in tomorrow, and if it disna’ come in tomorrow, then maybe it’ll come in the following day. But if it doesn’t, then there’s no point in fretting about it; the boht will get here when it gets here." Then, with the sagacity of a learned and true islander, he added, "Ach, life is far too short as it is, without rushing out of it!"
Ah, who knows? Perhaps there was a consistently high level of efficiency, compensating for lack of speed by the making of fewer mistakes; and maybe islanders like Wullie McNeil lived at a pace that could really be called ‘living’. They ordered their lives in such a manner that their inner voice was less crowded, their vision less clouded, and their enjoyment of the goodness of the Creator unbounded.
He is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press).
His current project is ghost writing an historical biography, and he continues writing weekly in The Watford-Guide Advocate.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
All I really need to know to live in Toronto I did not necessarily learn in high school. Many of us were the children of immigrants with English as our second language, but almost all of us were European. Most had Christian backgrounds. There was a little – very little – more diversity. Our school included a Muslim family and a Jewish family. (The latter moved to Toronto when I was in Grade Ten.) And that was the extent of our variety.
I’ve lived many places since, including two seven year stints in the US where I was constantly surprised by how ethnically segregated cities there still are. When Canadians visited us in Chicago, I’d take them for rides. For a few blocks, most people were Latino. We’d cross a street and suddenly all pedestrians were black. A couple miles later, each person was white.
Now I am a newcomer in the very big city that I used to fear back when I was a small town boy from St. Davids (population 500). I go to a new doctor and one receptionist is Indian, one West Indian, and another Middle Eastern. Neighbors on my block include Chinese, Sikh, and Indian. On the day we moved in, I struck up a conversation with a neighbor, a Sri Lankan, who told me about the demanding work of his sister back home as she works with civil war trauma victims. I have so much to learn and discover.
I grew up with an awareness of Europe and its history, particularly World War Two. As a young adult, I learned a lot about Latin America, its history and cultures. But now I keep meeting people from Asian and African countries about which I know embarrassingly little. Sometimes I’m not even sure where on the map to find where my latest conversational partner was born.
I get my hair cut at a shop populated by Iranians. People of my particular political stripe certainly never valued the Shah. Imagine my surprise when my barber tells me that most Iranians deeply miss the Shah. I sit back, listen, and learn, as my hair is washed and trimmed.
Going to a specialist, I needed to do a long intake interview with the nurse. This delightful woman – who insisted on addressing me as “Mister,” nothing more and nothing less – began instructing me about Guyana. We discussed history, language, culture, food, and religion. She was openly fascinated with my clergy status and I with her Islamic practices and beliefs. We spoke frankly about how our faiths often misunderstand each other. We commiserated on distorted over-reactions to September 11. And she pressed me on tough doctrinal questions that I did not answer that well, to neither her satisfaction nor mine.
My wife and I stop one dark rainy night at a brightly lit ice cream shop, a famous franchise chain we’ve known since childhood. The servers – one black, the other Chinese – are in late teens. Both speak with an accent. One wears a large colourful cross. I compliment it. She tells me that it is from Ethiopia, her country of origin. Both she and the cross are Orthodox.
We discuss Ethiopian food, a cuisine that I love, a taste I acquired while we lived in Chicago. We inquired about the best Ethiopian restaurants and she gave recommendations. Then she made a stunning offer: “I’d like to take you both to one of them some time.” This to complete strangers. A hospitable gesture that I’m still not sure how to compute.
We’ve not visited any of those restaurants yet. But we will, my wife and I, probably alone. I still have a lot to learn. I used to live not so far away really, just across the lake, but living here exposes me to a much wider world.
Arthur Boers is the author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (InterVarsity) and holds the RJ Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.
Friday, May 14, 2010
How often do we give up before finishing something important? How often do we lose hope in the midst of trying? In my first pastoral charge in Alberta, I was told, “The second point is 25 miles north, through the Battle River Valley on the road to Lloydminster . . . and watch your driving because the gumbo is like driving in bottomless mud.”
So the second day of my new duties, I decided to visit the northern congregation. I had an old 1975 4-door Pontiac that I discovered later, travelled just as well through fields to make pastoral calls, as it did on muddy roads.
On that particular day, I took the elder’s directions and drove further and further north. I met a farmer driving his tractor on a road on which he said later, he'd never seen a car on it before. So you can tell I got slightly off the beaten path. Any way, back on the main road, I went as far as I thought I should while having some fear of getting lost under that big sky.
I remember stopping the car, getting out and looking over the vast fields. With no trees as I remembered in Ontario, I could literally see for miles. Off in the distance, east to where I was standing, I saw three grain elevators. Now that should have given me a clue that I was close to my destination. (I was soon to learn that every little town had its own grain elevators.) But, east? I decided this could not be a town. After all, I'd been told to go north.
So, I turned back, at times my front bumper pushing the soft mud to open the way. As I looked down at my brown heeled shoes, I reminded myself that I was not in the city now, and if I got stuck, I'd surely have to walk back in my bare feet. When I got into town, one of the elders visited me and asked how I found the folks over the valley. I told him about my journey and that I didn't find the town. “Other than a few ranchers working in their fields, I only saw grain elevators to the east.” He looked at me and laughed. Then he said, "And you didn't go far enough to see the sign to turn to Paradise Valley?”
I’ve always been a cautious person, and I admit that too often I’ve missed the signs. Sometimes I think we make life a lot more difficult that it is. Is it a fear of investing too much time and energy and then having to turn back anyway? Maybe it’s because we’re not willing to risk certain areas of life. Or, possibly having it in our minds how things should be or what they must look like, limits our willingness to live in hope of how they could be. Writing personal experiences can fall into this category too. It can be very intimidating and sometimes easier just to put them in our top drawer and leave them there. This Mother’s Day, I submitted an article to Christianity.ca that I’d been revising for fifteen years. I’m glad I kept going and didn’t turn around.
Check out Kid’s MP3 Farm Stories at http://stores.livingwordsmann.com
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Who do young girls today see as their mentors? Actresses? Models? Singers? Are they looking for the fame and fortune? Or maybe they are looking to their teachers, young adults in the church or maybe their friends? Who is encouraging, supporting and building up today’s teen girls?
It is an interesting, yet scary world out there. Here is a quote I found- “Today’s teens have grown up seeing less of their parents and more of the evil world than any previous generation. They are without heroes’. They are desperate for love, in need of guidelines and seeking a reason to live.”
Titus 2 instructs women to teach younger women. I am curious to ask teen girls what we may be teaching them.
I see so much hurt in the lives of teen girls today. I often ask myself what I am doing about it? Am I living up to what God has instructed me in Titus 2? Do the young women today inspire to be women of God? Why or Why not?
I am asking myself a lot of questions that are burning on my mind these days. What I have been finding in my own life is that I am too busy. That I busy myself doing things with my family, with friends, work, etc. But I leave little to no room for opportunities to be a positive example in the life of someone that God has placed before me.
In order to fulfill our calling in Titus we all need to “make” the time and be open to any opportunity that sets itself in front of us. The word mentoring doesn’t always mean taking someone out for coffee once a week. A new term that is being used is “lifestyle mentoring” which is more of what I am thinking about. That we open our lives to a younger woman with a need that has entered our path.
Take a few minutes today to read through Titus 2 and open yourself to what may cross your path.
Cj Carleton is the 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Award winner for her first book “What Makes You Unique? Discover the Truth or Believe the lie”. Learn more about Cj and her Mentoring Webinar by visiting www.cjcarleton.com You can also connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The only thing worse than not getting your own way is actually getting it! Being both successful and miserable is one of life's worst curses. You may remember the famous song "I Did It My Way". There is something inside all of us that wants to do things our own way, that doesn't like to be controlled by others. But getting my own way too often usually means winning the battle but losing the war, winning the argument but losing the intimacy, winning the contract but losing the friendship. It is legendary how many good business friendships have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate success.
Intimacy and Control
All of us need close friendships, but too often our task orientation leaves us feeling detached. All of us, if married, need intimacy and vulnerability in our marriages, but our desire to "have our own space" can leave us feeling very empty and alone. All of us, if parents, want joyful, open relationships with our children, but our fear to "loosen the reins a bit" when appropriate can often drive them far away. All of us want closeness and caring in our relationships, but our need to do it our way so often leaves us in the H.A.L.T. position (H.A.L.T. - hungry, angry, lonely or tired). At such times, we are particularly vulnerable to discouragement, to wondering what it's all about. We may be saying to ourselves, "why beat myself to be successful and accomplish all these objectives if there is no one to share it with at a really intimate, caring level?" At such a point we realize in the words of the old 1960's song that "Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose."
Our Deepest Fear
Conference speaker Patrick Tomter said a while ago that our fundamental enemy is fear (fear of losing control). This is why we tend to say "My will be done" instead of the alternative "Thy will be done".
Tomter believes that our mission in such situations is to identify the enemy (fear) and learn to embrace it, so that it becomes a tool for our growth. Embracing fear means to stop running from our fears and start accepting fear as part of ourselves. True friendships emerge when we finally accept the other just as they are, without preconditions or stipulations. To surrender our need for our own way is to finally stop, see and hear the other person for who they really are. There is no greater gift than to be truly listened to by someone who truly accepts and cares for you. That is why people have always been so attracted to Jesus, even if they couldn't stand the church. They have sensed that here is a friend who truly understands, truly listens, and truly cares. Friendship is about giving our heart away to another. Friendship is about the willingness to not have our own way. Friendship is about being vulnerable enough to even let the one we love, hurt us without striking back.
That is what the world's most famous individual, Jesus, did as he hung on an executioner's cross in unspeakable agony and simultaneously said "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." If you feel led to pray the Lord's prayer this week, remember that to pray "Thy will be done" is both the death of the need to get your own way and the birth of a new level of friendship. Friendship in life is our deepest need: Friendship with others, and with Jesus the Source of life.
My prayer is that those reading this article may experience a new depth and reality to their friendships in the days ahead.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) is the name behind this amazing organization. As part of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, members do their utmost to find ways to raise funds and bring awareness to the quietly courageous grandmothers who are going it alone.
Before Patricia Ann Elford, editor and compiler of the Grandmothers' Necklace anthology, made the callout for submissions, I have to shamefacedly admit that I had never heard of this organization. I quickly started to read and research and came to the conclusion that the need is great and the support is necessary. I am honoured to be even a little part of the SLF and helping our sisters in Africa.
On May 1st, at our launch about 30 people dropped by to listen to the readings, purchase books, chat to the authors and visit the Omas Siskonas. The Omas Siskonas, pictured above in their lovely teeshirts, are an amazing group of grandmothers and 'grand-others' who want to do their part to help. Again, I was not even aware that such groups exist. Apparently they are well and thriving across the country and their presence is welcome at such events as we held last week. These grinning gals provided a wonderful array of sustenance for our book launch guests and were most gracious as they shared.
Carolyn Wilker, our chief organizer and planner for the day, did a great job of pulling things together and delegating tasks. Ruth Smith Meyer, another Word Guild member helped make the afternoon one to remember.
According to the report in The Hamilton Spectator, they handcuffed Po La, and when he said he was Po La (not the man listed on the warrant) “officers smashed his face on the floor and began kicking him. Po La was scared to move, believing they might be robbers despite the uniforms.”
“Our officers attended an address to apprehend a party wanted for trafficking narcotics,” said Chief Glenn De Caire.
The Hamilton police, under the leadership of their new police chief, are making a concerted effort to clean up the downtown. As the Spectator reports, in an effort to take drugs off the streets the vice and drug unit targeted street level drug traffickers. During a two-week project, they made 49 arrests, 100 charges, and seized $1.2 million in drugs including cocaine, crack, marijuana, oxycodone and crystal methamphetamine.
But, why beat up a man who is handcuffed? Even if he had been a drug dealer, why beat him up?
I believe the police are frustrated with the justice system. Again and again they see criminals return to the streets after an appearance in court. So, they are tempted to take justice into their own incapable hands.
This reminds me of Habakkuk’s complaint to the Lord, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” Habakkuk 1:3,4
Saturday, May 08, 2010
My mother, (God bless her unbuttoned heart) never encouraged me in the kind of relationships that would make me a mother myself.
Consider this entry in my childhood diary. I was ten years old.
I don’t know who you are or even if I’ll ever have you but if I do I hope you like pets. I have three. One is a hamster. We could clean out his cage together.
I also hope you would never want to hug or kiss because I don’t like that stuff.
The other day my mommy and me were looking out the window and we saw a couple lying on the grass together kissing and hugging and my mommy said it looked awful and I said that I thought it looked awful too so then me and my three friends got the garden hose out and turned the cold water on and sprayed the couple and got them wet.
Somehow that diary entry escaped its pages, and almost ten years later dropped in at my wedding. After our emcee revealed this bit of embarrassing literature to our guests, he, clearly relishing the moment, presented me with a gift. A squirt-gun. Then he went into some great length of detail on how I was to use it. In case the Preacher ever became amorous.
I didn’t need the lesson: my mother had already taught me.
Ahem, ahem. Two children, and three grandchildren later, it seems obvious: I misplaced the squirt-gun. Mom forgave me the instant she laid eyes on our babies.
At ninety-one, her mind as sharp as her best paring knife, but her plucky little body ravaged by a quarter-century of ill health, Mom prays fervently for all her progeny. She wishes we could live closer, she says. And she urges me to not work too late at night, get plenty of rest, and take good care of the Preacher.
“Are you cooking him good meals?” she asks sometimes, when I visit her in Chilliwack.
“Mother. Does it look like he’s starving?” I ask her. She giggles.
One day I mix a batch of her favourite cookie dough to freeze. She watches. I leave the room for just a moment. When I return, there she stands, grinning. Rolling the dough into balls, and with a sharp flick of her wrist tossing them onto the freezing-sheet across the table. As though they were pebbles, and she a child on the shore.
She giggles at my laughter. Later, with excruciating difficulty—her shoulders have come unraveled—she raises her arms. Cradles my face in both hands. Looks me in the eye. Says I’m a wonderful daughter and she loves me, and am I eating enough?
My mother (God bless her generous unbuttoned heart) doesn’t use words much. But for over five decades, she’s been my North Star in life and faith, humour and wit, mothering and grandmothering.
When I grow up, Lord...
Yeah, just like her.
Author and faith and life columnist, Kathleen Gibson. This column was published in Yorkton This Week and online at Sunny Side Up.
Friday, May 07, 2010
“Well, you go to your friends houses to visit with them don’t you?” He’d say.
“Yeah,” I’d reply.
“Well, going to church is like visiting the Lord at his house.”
That made sense to me, and I viewed being in church a little differently after that. When I went, I felt like I was making a visit to a friend in His house.
As I grew up and matured, and became busy, my church visits lessened. I missed church, but then I found a different perspective.
I decided that if I wasn’t able to go to church, I would find other ways to visit the Lord. I reckoned that taking a walk in a park, or hiking up a trail to a vast meadow and taking the time to stand in prayer was somewhat like visiting the Lord, and I didn’t have to wait for Sunday and church to do it. Everyday I can and do take moments to visit with Him in prayer.
To me prayer is a visit with God. I can sort through my problems, pay heed to things I am grateful for and put my thoughts out to those I know need help. Prayer is a visit that is unannounced. It just happens and afterward I am happier, uplifted and I walk with a lighter step.
My favourite times to visit the Lord in prayer are at night, ‘before I lay me down to sleep’, to reflect on the days events, to pray for family and friends, the world and its hardships, and to be grateful for the day I’ve had. Upon waking, I pray for a happy and successful day and the good things that will come my way; for a good outcome to upcoming events and any challenges that I might encounter in the hours ahead.
During the day, especially if I am out in nature, with the hot sun on my face, while driving, waiting, or just sitting quietly for a moment, I like to take time and visit the Lord in prayer once again. This time I pray for thanks, an acknowledgment of my life and the good things in it.
So while I’ve learned that church once a week is a great time to visit my Friend, so too is anytime of the day to slip in unannounced, chat, discuss and feel welcomed. I’ve yet to be turned away. My Friend’s door is always open.
Patricia L. Atchison
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Start a list of the very finest Christian writers in whatever genre you most enjoy, and chances are they’ve appeared at the festival. What is particularly amazing is how many of them appear in the same year. The festival also broadens to include writers of other faiths, and secular writers who address well the issues of faith.
It is the poets who interest me most. This year Luci Shaw, Robert Siegel, Scott Cairns, Christian Wiman, Jeanne Murray Walker, and several other top-notch Christian poets appeared. In 2008, I was delighted to meet Paul Mariani, Franz Wright and Rod Jellema — to name a few.
Many Canadians make the biannual trip — particularly from southern Ontario. Four friends from my writers group came this year, as well as a number of others I know. Hugh Cook presented a workshop, and Rudy Wiebe, was another speaker. I didn’t get a chance to catch either of Rudy’s presentations, because there was too much else going on. In most time slots there are ten different options, most of which don’t require preregistration.
This was my fourth visit to the festival, and am already planning to attend in 2012. My report following festival 2008 is available here
Here's a link to the festival website.
Check out Kingdom Poets become a follower, and leave a comment.
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: www.dsmartin.ca
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