Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Risks God Takes - Arends

Here is my newest Christianity Today column, which, judging by the online dialogue at CT's site, was much more controversial than I expected.  I'm going to resist the urge to defend my points or explain where I feel folks might be misunderstanding me, because I'd love to hear what YOU think.  Thanks!

The Risks God Takes
Why a little church history is a necessary--and dangerous--thing

From the June issue of Christianity Today
Posted online on 06/17/10

My kids are growing up in North American evangelicalism, just like I did. My husband and I load up the family wagon every Sunday for primarily spiritual reasons, but as a byproduct, we are also marinating our offspring in a specific cultural broth. By the time they leave for college, they will have spent 18 years in a Reformational stew.

Church culture is the norm for our kids. They have no reason to believe that Christendom has ever been different, although they do recognize progress in that they can wear jeans on Sunday mornings.
One of the quirks of growing up in certain streams of evangelicalism is a lack of historical context. In my youth, a church father was a dad on the deacons' board. If we had to summarize Christianity's history, we would probably reference the apostle Paul, Billy Graham, and our congregation's building committee.

I would have remained ignorant if it weren't for books. G.K. Chesterton cajoled me to respect tradition as a way of "giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors." My ancestors, it turns out, are a lively bunch. I discovered them scattershot—Augustine's introspection, Eckhart's mysticism, Therese of Lisieux's humility, Benedict's organizational genius. I began to see church history as a trove of devotional information, a 2,000-year stream to be mined for the golden testimonies of saints who pursued God and recorded what happened.

Hungry for context, I delved deeper—and soon realized why we don't share much church history with our kids.

Yes, there are bright lights in the story. But there are also dark moments when the church and state joined hands to form one iron fist. Sacramentalism (the teaching that God's saving grace comes only through the sacraments) was often turned from a means of grace into a way to secure power (for only the church could perform the sacraments). To challenge official church doctrine meant consigning your soul to hell—and the church would likely help you get there quickly.

When Tertullian claimed that "the blood of the martyrs is seed of the church," he could not have dreamed how much blood would be spilled at the hands of other Christians. Like that of Jan Hus, a Bohemian preacher who argued that Scripture should be available to the masses and have the ultimate authority in doctrinal matters. Seeking church reform, he preached against corruption.

When Hus refused to recant his positions before the Council of Constance in 1415, he was condemned as a heretic, strangled, and burned. But a century later, his blood helped to seed the ideas of Martin Luther and Menno Simons. Out of the pain of their difficult labor, my own church tradition was born.

Then there's the case of Michael Sattler, a 16th-century Anabaptist who was pronounced an "arch-heretic," tortured, and executed for concluding that Scripture did not advocate infant baptism. A few days later, Sattler's wife was drowned for holding the same view.

How do we process these stories? I open my Bible, and I recognize my debt to those who fought for the accessibility and authority of Scripture. My church holds a baptismal service, and I think of those who were drowned for claiming the right to be baptized as adults.

I recognize, too, that without dissenting voices, there would have been no Reformation. This tempers my response to fellow Christians whom I believe are doctrinally unorthodox. I disagree with them as my conscience dictates, but I must also respect them as potential sparks in a reforming fire. As long as the church is made up of humans, it will need reform, and reform will require dissent from the status quo.

The story of Christianity ultimately leaves me shocked at the risks God takes with humans. Even the greatest lights in church history were dishearteningly imperfect. For all his heroism, Luther attacked the Jewish faith so polemically the Nazis later misappropriated his writings for their anti-Semitic cause. Reformer Ulrich Zwingli advocated justification by faith and concern for the poor, but he also endorsed the executions of two of his brightest disciples because they became Anabaptists. Simons was an inspired Anabaptist leader, but he overzealously excommunicated many who did not live up to his pious standards.

Yet God did great things through these flawed people, much as he did with Abraham, Isaac, Peter, and Paul. As long as there is a human element in his church, it will be prone to corruption. But as long as his Spirit moves, there will be reform and renewal.

When our kids are ready, we will give them context for their religious heritage. For now, they do not understand that the church they file into on Sunday mornings is a place as dangerous as it is holy. But if God is willing to keep taking a chance on it, so are we.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

O'Leary's favourite science books - Denyse O'Leary

This question started out as "science and religion" at another list but the religion part got lost somehow, not because I am unreligious but because I wasn't sure how much religion, as such, you can learn from a serious exposition of the reasons for thinking that design is a feature of our universe.

All you can really learn from books about design is that materialist atheism is nuts.And, not surprisingly, all the materialist atheist mooches and tax burdens do everything they can to try to sink such books in the ratings. Don't usually succeed, of course, but can't blame 'em for trying.

Anyway, here are my five top picks (exempting any book for which - so far as I know - I had anything to do with the text):

1. Michael Denton's Nature's Destiny: Denton discusses the world I know, all the more authentically because he addresses the southern cone, not my beloved northlands. I first got interested in design issues about a decade ago, and Denton's book was a key reason. I was sitting in a bookstore cafe in a northern city, and my brother saw I was interested, so he bought me a gift certificate so I could buy the book. The book just made so much sense. It describes the world I know, where things do not happen simply by chance or survival of the fittest.

2. Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box. When I first encountered the book, I was flush with the success of having landed a science and faith column in a Canadian Christian publication (since, abruptly cancelled). When I first read Behe's book, I was astonished to discover that there is a lot of evidence against Darwinism and little for it - despite endless local obsequious coo's from bible school profs that "there is no conflict between science and religion (even though I knew of theist profs who were at that very time under serious threat.).

The "no conflict" profs really meant, of course, that there is no conflict between Darwinism and Christianity, as the Biologos Institute would have us believe. But, of course, "survival of the fittest" and Christianity are irreconcilable, as I noted when I saw former Biologos golden boy - and still a golden boy in many Christian circles - beaming with joy over human embryonic stem cell research.

I myself was astonished to discover, in interview, how foolish Christian women abandon live human embryos (their early stage children) in fertility clinics, so the kids end up getting processed for - whatever.

And if that is the "religion" part of "no conflict between ...", deal me out right now! Elsewhere, it is called being a "useful idiot." But you will see a lot of it in the Christian press these days.

3. Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial: Still a classic in asking the right, serious questions, principally about the way in which Darwinism became popular culture's icon, and what that actually means.

You can see it if you travel the subway in a major city today - full of tattooed, pierced, unemployable people, absolutely convinced that the "government" owes them a living, because they are the somehow surviving apes. It is hard to know where to begin, in countering this view because it is implicit in their education. Johnson was especially good at skewering "theistic evolution" (= how to sell out to atheism without openly admitting it).

4. Steve Meyer's Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009). Meyer explains how new information about the cell shows that Darwinists and "Christian" Darwinists are simply wrong in supposing that Darwin's ingenious "survival of the fittest" explanation shows how intricate machinery can occur with no design at all. Darwin's claim is a complete imposture, and should have occurred to anyone who works for a living, but many British aristocrats like himself in his day and many civil servants and lobbyists today never did practical work, and wouldn't really know why we cannot create intelligence from mere matter by accident.

5. Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution was one of those books everyone heard of - if they work this beat - but no one had read. After all, Darwin's mob did a pretty good job of wasting his co-theorist Wallace, right? And Wallace's only serious crime was not to be a materialist atheist.

In the world according to Darwin, you are either a materialist atheist or a useful idiot for same.

Wallace understood the world I know much better - not at all surprising, because he was a much better naturalist than Darwin. In the world I know, co-operation matters.

Eighty-five years ago, my devout grandmother told my five-year-old father to follow a turkey hen up into the hills and find out where she was caching her eggs. The trouble was, a coyote could get them. The boy - not much taller than a turkey hen himself - had to follow the hen discreetly, because she would turn around and look at him. But he found the eggs, and his mother promptly put them under a broody chicken hen, in the henhouse, so they could be safely hatched.

(Note: Obviously, I have avoided speaking of any book with which I was in any way involved - so far as I know. Because I work in publishing, it is always possible for some Darwinist sponge or tax burden, with no more useful activities to occupy his time, to pretend some case for my involvement with a book, but, as I always say in such cases, ... pffft.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bread Making – Lawrence


For 25 years, I have been making my own bread. I love the feel of the moving, living yeast beneath my hands as I knead the dough.

About five years ago, I switched to using a bread machine. I was having trouble with shortness of breath because my heart valves were not working properly and I was to have heart surgery to replace my own valves with mechanical ones.

One wouldn't think that kneading bread could make one short of breath but it gives one quite a work out when one’s heart is not as strong as it could be. I knew it would be some time before I would be able to do that activity again—probably months, I thought.

Well months went into years. I was satisfied with the bread machine results and it didn't occur to me to go back to the mixing and kneading process that bread by hand required. However, after several breakdowns of bread machines of late, I began to think about my pocket-book and decided to once again try the real hand-made bread.

It is wonderful! I am enjoying doing the bread by hand, and I am certainly enjoying the results! And I’m not having any difficulty with shortness of breath. Why did it take me so long to go back to baking my bread by hand? I suppose I had just got into the habit of doing it this way, it just never occurred to me to stop using the machine—it worked so well. Sometimes, we can get in a rut and keep on doing things that started because there was a necessity for them to be done a certain way and continue to do them because we just don't think of changing our pattern.

This can happen in our spiritual lives too. We get in a habit of doing something that works for us for a time and we just keep on doing it even though it doesn’t serve us where we are in out spiritual lives now. Something will get our attention sooner or later, courtesy of God’s love for us, and we grow a little more in spiritual maturity and closer to God when we become aware that he is calling us to a new path.

From time to time we need to examine where we are in our spiritual lives. Are we still drinking milk when we should be taking solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2 & Hebrews 5:12)? Are we still using bread machines when we could be kneading by hand? Is it possible that God may be calling us to a new spiritual practice or a deeper relationship with him? If he is opening up a new path for us, we should take up the challenge and see where God leads us.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Storage Bins - Ayotte



Life is like a closet full of clothes. It’s very difficult to know what you want to give away, donate or discard. It’s even harder to discard some of those items that have been given to us as gifts or those that have sentimental value. Some of these items may have little or no monetary worth but they fill our drawers and our storage bins. I have many such items that I cannot part with because they mean so much to me.

If I keep these items, will they have any special meaning to my children or my grandchildren? The last birthday card signed “with love” by my mother-in-law before she died over twenty years ago, the ripped sheet of paper from an old prayer book with my father’s signature so proudly written on it, the scribbled notes that my granddaughter left in the bathroom cupboard, the popcorn pictures and artwork from my other grandchildren, and the albums of numerous pictures that my husband so conscientiously organized...who will want these treasures that I have saved?

When I was sixteen years old, my then boyfriend was chosen to go on a school trip to Vancouver, BC. On his return, he gave me a beautiful sweater. That was over 40 years ago. That boyfriend became my husband, my friend, my lover, my confidant. Who will want that “holey” not “holy” sweater I have so carefully wrapped and stored in some box in my basement? Our children are going to have a huge laugh on us one day as they sort through our belongings and discover how sentimental we are!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Just a Twisted Old Thing - Austin

Countless black walnut saplings grow on our property. They come up thick around a twisted old tree. A number of years ago I transplanted them in the hundreds -- without success. Little dry sticks protruded through the grass all over the field, brittle sticks that snapped off and disappeared. I next tried pails full of walnuts, simply tramping the field with a shovel and a bucket, and much like planting potatoes, dropped a few walnuts into the cut behind the shovel and moved on. Now they are taking over.

Black walnuts are a mixed blessing. These have an exceptionally hard, thick-shelled nut with little nutmeat in them, although that doesn't discourage the squirrels. Shelling them for the rest of us requires a hammer, a pig-headed stubbornness, and body armour. The pieces fly like shrapnel. The leaves and twigs are toxic to horses, and somehow the tree poisons the ground around it, so few things can grow close.

Our property borders an old gravel pit. Topsoil is thin and the ground dries rapidly. Getting trees well established has proved a challenge. Yet the walnuts seem to thrive, and grow with astonishing speed. We have six and seven meter trees that can't be more than five years old.

The old tree is painfully lacking in elegance. Hacked up by boys building a tree-house more than 30 years ago, the scars still show. Knobbed, arthritic arms stick out in all directions. More than a meter through at the stump now, the wood is highly valued for quality furniture. If you price it on the internet, the old tree sounds like a gold mine, BUT -- the near certainty that a saw would find nails embedded to the very heart also means the neighbour with a sawmill won't touch this tree. Still, if it can't make us wealthy, it shelters a playhouse, fittingly named by our grandchildren, "Eeyore's House." It also produces bushels of bullet-hard walnuts every year.

A bare field that hasn't seen a grazing cow for ages is fast becoming a grove of trees -- offspring -- most of them, from this gnarled old thing. A few other verieties struggle or thrive according to their nature, but the walnuts seem to have staked a claim and are making good on it.

Somehow, I'm not sorry the wood can't be sold. Scarred and twisted, there is something noble about the way the old tree still stands against the weather and spreads broad, protecting arms over the playhouse. Like a gradmother bending over the stove, not because she must but because she chooses, this weathered lady dishes up great servings of walnuts every year. If squirrels alone are thankful for the bounty on the ground beneath her, the more venturesome of our grandchildren will soon discover she has broad branches perfect for climbing. She's a twisted old thing and probably not flattered by my description. But somehow, she's a lady all the way through.


Spring's slow stirrings
Summer's shimmer of green
Reluctant drabness of fall

Winter, so stark
but once in a while
lace and diamonds -- the richest of all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Musings - Smith Meyer


WRITE! Canada 2010 has happened--and it happened without me. Each year since I first went, it has been an important event every June. While I always return bodily tired, my mind and my enthusiasm are renewed and invigorated. Of course that exhaustion is partly due to not wanting to miss anything, staying up for the night owl sessions and rising for the early bird or prayer sessions.


Although my publisher again entered my latest book in the contest for an award, this year because of events in my life, I decided I couldn't attend. My mind didn't listen though and from Thursday to Saturday I was conscious of what I was missing.


Then today, four days after the close of the conference, the TWG letter containing the judge's evaluation and remarks came in the mail. I debated if I really wanted to know what it said, but curiosity won out and I tore it open. After several years of work, editing and redoing, testing it out on children of the ages I had mentioned (with good response) having positive affirmation from the publisher, my writing group and from people who have purchased the book, the judge's feedback didn't reflect any of that. On a scale of one to five, the categories were marked. 2,3,3,3,4,1,2,2,5,3. Was it disappointing? Yes, but not devastating.


Again, I was thankful for what I have learned at WRITE! Canada and in my writer's group. We all differ in our likes and dislikes--even fellow writers and the honourable judge. The very thing one person finds the most intriguing or heart-warming just doesn't do it for another. What charms one reader makes it hard for another to connect.


We need to seriously weigh what the "experts" say, put tu use those suggestions that feel right to you the author and then extend to yourself the grace to trust in your own intuition as well. It is helpful if there are additional judges (and I would recommend that) so that the picture is more complete, but each critique deserves our full attention.


Is it nice to capture a few awards? Yes, I think that can be very satisfying. Is it nice to Wow your judge? I surmise it may be. However, as Tammy Wiens says, "I have found that I've gotten so caught up in trying to please the industry at times that I've forgotten my audience. In the end, they are the ones who buy my books and let me know if they are good or not--not editors or publishers."


My biggest and best award comes from the people who have been helped in facing their own challenges by reading my books. If I have brought understanding, growth or comfort to even a few readers, then my writing has not been in vain. Instead of a sticker on the front cover proclaiming my book to be a finalist or award winning book, there is a warm spot in my heart, knowing God has used my efforts to bring help, healing, or even enjoyment to my fellow travellers in life.


Childless Mother - Ayotte




My husband and I recently returned from a brief trip to Swift Current to attend our granddaughter’s Confirmation. As you can see by the picture, Grandpa is the proud sponsor. He was very pleased with the unbelievable honor she bestowed upon him. I witnessed his pleasure first hand when our granddaughter called and personally asked him. We hadn’t visited with them since before Christmas and we saw a huge change. The girls have grown and matured and as usual we enjoyed our short visit.

On the way home, we always listen to the local radio station to get a bit of news about the surrounding area. The talk show on this particular morning was about an unfortunate car accident that took place on March 29, 2009 in a small town just outside of Swift Current.

The topic immediately grabbed our attention because two of the mothers that had lost their daughters were being interviewed about the tragic event. Three young girls, two sixteen years of age, as well as a fourteen year old were making a left turn when a car driven by a seventeen year old male tried to pass them on the left. He was driving 128k/hr when he hit them. All three of the girls died in this horrible car accident. The mothers, the families, and the friends of these girls have been beside themselves with grief ever since their loss.

The young man happened to be sentenced the week before, therefore, the talk show revolved around the punishment received and whether it was adequate enough. Although the judge gave him a sentence to suit his age when the accident occurred, even though he is now eighteen years old, some people who called in to express their opinion, did not think he received enough of a sentence.

My heart goes out to the mothers who lost their daughters in the prime of their lives and in such a tragic way. They were both quite big minded despite their unbelievable loss. However, comments were made by some callers that this young man had his whole life to live while the girls had so sadly lost theirs by his reckless actions. Some felt that he did not show enough remorse.

Later on in the talk show, I briefly heard the comment that the young man was having difficulty coping since the accident. My heart goes out to him and his mother as well. Unless this man has no conscience at all, I cannot phantom that he has been unaffected by having had a hand in the death of these three young women.

I would have to think that he will somehow or other be scarred for life. He lives in a small town where he would have little or no anonymity. He will live with the reality of his careless actions for the rest of his life. He will probably marry one day and have children of his own. He may very well learn to pray and appreciate the quality of life when he faces his actions as a more mature individual.

Yes, those young girls, their families and their friends got robbed, but I personally do not envy the life that this young man now has to live. Anyone who thinks it is going to be easy is only fooling him/herself. I also feel for this young man, his family and his friends. I’m sure his mother’s heart is aching too because there is much more to face in her son’s life and he will need the support of them all. They have all lost so much and their lives are forever changed. Three mothers lost their daughters on March 29, 2009 and one mother lost the innocence that her young son can no longer enjoy. All four mothers lost children that fateful day. Only now, one has to live with his actions for the rest of his life. Not a fun way to grow up.


Author of “I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How do you improve your writing? Kimberley Payne




On The Word Guild listserv, Denise Rumble asked, “How are you, as an individual, improving your writing? What are you doing to accomplish this? What other ways can we use to improve our writing?"

Earl Silver believes in taking courses. He shares, “I am taking a course taught by professor Brooks Landon entitled Building Great Sentences. I plan to follow that with a study of Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition.”

Lisa Wilson improves her writing by reading books on writing. She says, “I'm reading Donald Maas' new book The Fire in Fiction. I'm highlighting as I go. When I'm done, I'll begin reading some of the works he quotes. I did this with his other book Writing the Breakout Novel and found some great books that I might not ordinarily have read and learned a bunch.”

Donna Fawcett agrees with Lisa. “I try to find 'how to' books that continue to give me new ideas on writing. I also try to read as many new authors as possible as this gives me an idea of trends.”

Tammy Wiens takes a different approach and asks her readers. She shares, “I have found that I've gotten so caught up in trying to please the industry at times that I've forgotten my audience. In the end, they are the ones who buy my books and let me know if they are good or not--not editors or publishers. So I've expanded my test readings to include more diversity in my readers.”

Sara Davison uses a combination of techniques. “I've done a lot of different things to try and improve my writing - attended Write!Canada and other conferences, classes, workshops etc., read books in my genre and on the craft of writing, had my work professionally edited - but the absolute best thing I have done is join a writers' group. I belong to two different groups, both of which meet once a month. We read our work to each other and give and receive feedback. Not only has this (hopefully) strengthened and improved my writing skills, it has also increased my confidence and comfort level with public speaking.”

Eric Wright also believes in the value of critique groups. He says, “I try to participate in 2 online critique groups, including The Word Guild's, and 2 local face-to-face critique groups. I find that keeps me on my toes through repeated revision. Also I keep referring back to the books that have helped me most; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Making Shapely Fiction, etc.”

D.S. Martin is also a big believer in editing. He shares, "With poetry the answer lies, first, in reading lots and lots of the very best contemporary poetry. The second step is to be a fanatic reviser --- trimming, fine-tuning, and improving poems. Usually a short poem takes longer to write than several pages of prose ever would. For fiction it's not quite so intense, but the same principles apply.”

How do you improve your writing?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The World Cup - Boge


Every four years the greatest sporting event on planet earth produces the world’s next soccer champion. While there are 7 billion people on the planet, it is estimated that there will be a combined total of 30 billion person-game views of the matches.

So what draws us to soccer? Even for those who aren’t fans of the game, there’s something we can learn from the power of this game.

First, it’s accessible. This is largely because it’s cheap. Hockey is not as accessible. You need skates, sticks, equipment and then, of course, snow. But soccer is available everywhere on the planet. A field, a ball and some friends. I’ve played soccer with westerners in Canada and with former streetchildren at Mully Children’s Family home for rescued children in Kenya. It really is the world’s game.

Second, it’s simple. Kick a ball through two posts, don’t use your hands, don’t go offside and don’t hurt the other player. Everyone understands the game. Compare that to the complicated rules of other sports.

Third, it’s full of surprises – like life. A game can turn on a dime. Rarely is a team considered out of the match. The best teams don’t always win and in an instant a game can dramatically change.

It reminds me of the Gospel.

It’s accessible. The Gospel is available nearly everywhere in the world. Ironically, while many in the West have diligently sent missionaries to Africa, Asia and South America and done extremely well, we are now finding ourselves in the position of recognizing that our Western countries are in dire need of the Gospel message.

It’s simple. God sends Son to earth to save mankind from sin. The Gospel is easy to understand by all people. The brilliant are challenged by it. The poor are encouraged by it. The Gospel transcends education, wealth, class, race, gender. Anyone, anywhere can learn it. We would do well to remember that even the basic tenets of the Gospel – God loves you, Jesus died to give you eternal life, your past can be forgiven, - these simple truths that we have heard a million times are revolutionary to those who have never pondered them.

It’s full of surprises. For those who really want to follow Christ and abandon their own sense of controlling their lives, the Gospel will take them on an adventure that will challenge and encourage them in every area of their life.

So the next time you’re watching soccer (or what the rest of the world calls football) remember that even how a simple game can engage the whole world, so the Gospel can inspire all those who hear it.

Paul H. Boge is the author of The Urban Saint: The Harry Lehotsky Story

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Saga of a Book- Marketing our Writing by Eleanor Shepherd

When I began to work on my newly published book, More Questions than Answers, I gave no thought to the marketing of that book. I knew that I wanted to write about love as the distinguishing mark of a Christian. That was about all. Then as I picked up books and articles, I kept coming across phrases that related to listening, caring and accepting without judging. When a tragedy struck our family I was forced to look deep within for some answers. I had begun to develop a collection of these articles and chapters of books and when I was ready to begin writing I began to sift through them and try to organize them into consistent categories, coloured by the experiences of my pilgrimage. Slowly my book began to take shape.

The gestation of the book lasted ten years during which time its form developed during evenings at the computer where I spent hours writing and editing and rewriting and editing some more and then rewriting and editing again. Finally, I arrived at a stage where I dared to let some trusted friends who seemed to be on the same wavelength read some of the chapters I had written. Their comments and suggestions led me to more rewriting and editing until the manuscript was polished enough to present to publishers.

Each year I sent the manuscript for advance critique before attending a writers’ conference. The critiques helped me to see areas that needed improvement and the positive comments that accompanied the rejections gave me enough courage to keep persisting because the material itself had merit.

Finally, an editor was ready to consider publication but assigned me the task of rewriting the whole book in a less scholarly and pedantic way, creating instead a friendlier, everyday manner of expression more consistent with the material in the book. It was the advice my husband had given me. The timing was precise. It happened just at before I was laid off one job and was unable to start a new one for three months. The amount of time was sufficient to do the rewrite.

By this time, I was convinced the Lord could use what I had to say for his purposes. I had come to a fork in the road. I loved the material of my book, but I knew that I either had to persist, rewrite and see it through to publication or let it go forever. I prayed what I thought was a bold prayer. “Lord, if you want to use this book, you will have to give me the time to write. I cannot work full time and give it the attention that it needs. “ Two weeks later, I was laid off from my employment.

The next three months were such joy. Every day I spent eight hours at the computer rewriting the text as a story and not as an instruction manual. I found that my own heart was stirred as I read over what I was writing. I sensed the presence of the Spirit with me. I knew that I was the instrument that He was using to echo His thoughts and ideas. They were being fashioned in His love.

When it was rewritten, I submitted it to another publisher and it was accepted. When I first read the e-mail, I could not believe my eyes. Signing the contract with the publisher was only the beginning of the next stage. The book required professional copyediting and preparation for typesetting with re-readings at every step along the way.

I loved the cover that the publisher created and I sensed it was just right. I was so excited the first time I clicked on the publisher’s website and saw the book there ready for purchase. I did not even have my author’s copies yet. They were in the mail to me.

By the time my copies arrived, I had begun to understand something about the next stage in the life of this newborn. I could not just tuck her away in a corner and expect her to survive. I had to care for her, to nourish her, to expose her to the light and take her out to be with others. That was going to mean I had to learn about marketing.

When writers want to learn about anything, the first place they look is in books (or at least that was the case before the internet). I went online to The Word Guild listserv and requested suggestions of good marketing books. Off I went to the local bookstore to buy the first one. The others I ordered on line.

While the publisher is helpful, I know that they have hundreds of books to market and if I am going to get mine into the hands of those who will benefit from it, it is up to me to try and find as many markets as I can myself. I am gleaning ideas about marketing from all kinds of sources. Just as when I began to think about the book, I kept running into articles and stories about listening, now I am constantly finding material about marketing.

A debate that rages is particularly acute for us as Christian writers. The key issue is whether we need to market ourselves, which is often what we are doing as we try to sell our books or whether we just leave it to the Lord to bring the people who need them to our books. As with most debates, I expect this is not an either/or question but there are times when we need to speak out for our books as Arthur Paul Boers pointed out in an earlier post. At other times, we will be able to stand still and see God at work using the creation that He has gifted us with for His purposes in ways we could never have imagined. It is not all work and it is not all grace. As it so many other areas of life, it is cooperative grace.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Living in the Moment - Kowal


(Our Guest Post is by Maureen E. Kowal. She is the author of two Grade One Vowel Books, The Candy Map and The Loud Chime published by The Perfection Learning Company. Maureen is a freelance writer as well as a poet. Her poetry has been published in Eternal Ink, an e-line magazine. She is an Early Childhood Education graduate who has worked with children of all ages. She is a professional member of The Word Guild, and a member of CANSCAIP.)
Our church has been setting up special Sundays on different themes. We come to church and instead of the sermon, we break off into groups. Each room in the church accommodates a different group and can be for 10-12 people or maybe more.
Recently we had one on stars. One group was lead by an amateur astrologist who taught us about the stars, God’s lovely creation. Another group was led to a knowledge of stars of the Bible, particularly the star that led the wise men to Jesus. Another group was in the music room to sing a song about the star of Jesus. And then of course there were children’s activities.
Children went bouncing downstairs, where they coloured stars for a collage.
There were also stars that were already cut out, which could be coloured and names printed on them of people who had been helpful stars in their lives.
I was one of the ones bouncing down the stairs. I don’t know if it’s my E.C.E. background or just that I’m a big child myself—but just put me in a room with adults and children and I will go with the children every time. So there I was downstairs with the children colouring stars.
Children are so much fun to be around. They are so open about their views. The stars in their lives are moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, and teachers. Mom is special, she took me here; dad is special, he took me there; my teacher is special, she understands me.
It made me think that each of us is a star in God’s kingdom. Each of us holds a special place in someone’s heart. Each of us, without knowing it, can be a twinkling light in someone’s dark night.
Sometimes we feel down and wonder what we have accomplished; wonder if we have helped anyone.
You have, believe me, you have, In the littlest things you have done, you have been a star to someone.
Our lives, as we have walked hand in hand with God, have touched the lives of others.
May God continue to be the bright star in your lives as he is in mine.
“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 4:14.
© Maureen E Kowal

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mortality, Legacy, Love, and Life - Black


Some of my most enjoyable social and inspirational moments are spent in our seniors’ residences and care facilities, whether I’m leading a scheduled worship service or engaging in an impromptu music session. I have a whale of a time singing my head off and playing an instrument, and sharing encouragement with my dear friends.
But, no illusions. It has to be getting unpleasant listening to this guy as the voice gets older, less dependable, and ornery (wants to do its own thing); but the gracious residents invite me back. It can be embarrassing, though, when singing a song or hymn I’ve known for decades, only to have the words evaporate in mid-verse, or the voice pop-fly somewhere I don’t intend. Besides, while concentrating on playing the instrument I seem to have insufficient brain power left for concentrating on pitching my voice and singing the words correctly, and as a result I sing flat and words come out jumbled. (Didn’t used to do that, but it happens now!)
Do you identify with my experience on one level or another? Those things which were no problem from the time of our youth become increasingly problematic. It might show up in a little breathlessness when hurrying, or in one occasionally aching joint, then another, and then another–and more frequently; that sort of thing.
It’s a reminder (as if one needs reminding) that we live our temporary lives in an aging body. Although good diet, dietary supplements, exercise, and all-round healthy living are to be encouraged, and may result in the enjoyment of a higher level of mobility and health–and for longer–than if we didn’t engage in them, the fact is our lives as lived here are temporary.
Once the realization strikes some people that they aren’t going to be around forever–for the invincibility of youth has fled, and their ‘up-an-go has up-and-went’–they begin to face their mortality. Some prominent personalities, tycoons, and leading politicians attempt to set in place a legacy, such as establishing a foundation that will better the lives of others.
For example, a century ago the Carnegie Foundation provided for the promotion of literacy and the arts in North America and Britain by funding the establishment of libraries and art-related institutions. Prime Minister Jean Chr√©tien set up an aid program for Africa. Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft Corporation channel funding and resources towards areas such as education and healthcare. A ‘temporary immortalisation’–to live on in collective memory– may be achieved by doing significant deeds to enhance the lives of others before passing off the stage of life and time. Few of us have either that kind of money or influence. Have we no legacy to leave?
Thank God for people in our community making a positive difference in the lives of children, youth, adults, the physically and developmentally challenged, and seniors, as they give of their time and share their abilities. Doing this with genuine humility and grace reveals loving action. "Love is from God," and "God is love," wrote St. John (1 John 4:7a, 16). And, "The world and its desires pass away, but the [person] who does the will of God lives forever" (in 1 John 2:17).
We can enjoy a legacy of life now and forever as we respond to God’s love through receiving the gift of His Son into our lives. I daren’t leave this life without Him!
~~+~~
The above article was first published in the Southwestern Ontario newspaper, The Watford Guide Advocate, June 19, 2008 - home of Peter A. Black's weekly column, P-Pep!
He is the author of the children's / family book "Parables from the Pond," which is being used in a variety of settings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your Very Own Best Book Promoter - Boers



Several years ago I conducted an informal book promotion experiment. Speaking at events I often set up a table and tried to sell my books. But I felt bashful and usually did not refer directly to them. I arranged them attractively and then assumed that they spoke for themselves.

But I grew curious. So I alternated my approach. At one event, I said nothing about the books. At the second event, I mentioned them, not saying much, just acknowledging their availability and how they connected to my topic. At the third occasion, I would be quiet again. And so on. The results were predictable: I consistently sold more books when I mentioned them.

That’s how I learned that I must promote my own books.

In the months after The Way is Made by Walking, mostly I arranged book signings at independent and chain bookstores (four within 20 miles of my house). A funky independent bookstore 45 miles away gladly hosted an event. I had many engagements that involved travel and so I arranged signings in B.C., Michigan, Pennsylvania, Montana, as well as Ontario. At the most disappointing event, one book sold. But several occasions sold 30 or 40 copies. (Book-sellers tell me that they often expect to move only half a dozen or so.) A few times, bookstores sold out. Happily, I always carry extra copies. (Always, always bring books. At one store, the manager had not ordered any books at all!)

I promote book-signings in several ways, overcoming my aversion to self-promotion. I invite everyone I can think of in the area: friends, former congregants, fellow church members, colleagues, relatives. I encourage contacts to invite others. I email local churches that I have some connection with, especially from my denomination. Sometimes I email all area churches and explain why my book is of interest (local author, Canadian content, Christian writer … whatever seems most applicable).

Local media can be a big help. I and my publisher send press releases. The press often need several nudges. Local angles should be mentioned. I pointed out to one paper that I was born in their city; to another that I went to its university and lived my first year of marriage there; to others that I pastored in their town; and to another my Bruce Trail connection. If you have contacts, use those. I once wrote articles about a famous Canadian writer who happily linked me with a prominent newspaper columnist. I asked a friend about his local paper and he mentioned a reporter that would like my ideas. I emailed that columnist and – voil√°! – he did a great piece.

My best media coverage came through recommendations. I appeared on Canada’s “100 Huntley Street” because someone heard me guest preach and liked what I said; she knew a producer at the show. My appearance on CBC “Tapestry,” amazingly enough, was the result of a reader (whom I had never met) taking the initiative and emailing the program about my book.

I approach magazines and pitch article ideas related to my book and write or adapt pieces accordingly. I encouraged various friends to review my book in magazines. I gently (and repeatedly) invite editors to have my book reviewed. I review related books to establish myself as an “expert” in that subject. With everything that I write I include information about the book.

As I plan trips, I consider whether there are churches where I might have a connection and contact the pastor and offer to preach. While planning a trip to Winnipeg Manitoba to speak at a conference, I managed to add a radio interview, a reading and a signing at a nearby university.

Finally, BookTour.com allows writers or publicists to set up a web page. You can post information about your book/s (with photos), links to your own or other relevant websites (e.g. publisher) and a detailed list of where you will appear in the future. BookTour.com subscribers get notices of when authors are in their area. Or they can subscribe to your page and follow your progress. They can also contact you through the site. The service is friendly, thorough, and free.

My small book promotion experiment converted me into someone who is not exactly bashful about promoting his own book. If you’ve done the hard work to write something that you are passionate about, then you should not be bashful either.

Arthur Paul Boers
Author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wisdom in Aging - MANN

Interesting how a room full of grandmothers can initiate so much laughter and a ton of topics. I’m always amazed at the wide range of conversational tidbits that surface when I speak to senior women. Even as I am one, I learn from them and wonder what they will think of next. Recently I had opportunity to speak about the wisdom people gain with age, men and women alike. Adding to this is the knowledge that their circle of influence is far wider than they might ever expect.

Although in any of these gatherings, there are always certain family dynamics that rise around adult children and grandchildren, some of the more relevant issues being family secrets, playing favourites and knowing when to listen rather than advice.

An area that received a lot of response was about preparing our grandchildren (and sometimes even more importantly our children, so they can teach their children) about our aging process. Into that mix there are always times when we have accidents or become sick. Glynis Belec graciously shared with me a poem and story that she wrote a while back to explain to Trenton, her then three-year-old grandson, why her hair had disappeared. When I finished reading it, the whole room erupted with applause. Even though it’s difficult to share honestly with loved ones, it’s so important to do it.

Recently, I thought I’d like to have silver-white hair like my husband. I had his vote and my own, but one of my sons said, “Why would you like to do that, Mother.” Another time when I complained about ‘not being able to do that anymore’, another son said, “Just do it, Mother.” Even when our statements might be misunderstood, I believe that it’s important to celebrate our age, the colour of our hair and even sometimes our creaky bones.

I don’t plan on going anywhere, but I continue to ask how can I be a better Mother. And how can I be the kind of Grandmother that all my grandkids will remember with love. I'm still learning this one on a daily basis. Spending time with them whenever I can is a high goal. And those with whom I can’t spend physical time, I email a little extra or surprise them by showing up a little more often on their Facebook, right along with all their friends.

Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” I don’t mind getting old-er, in fact I’ve had lots of fun doing it. It does matter because I never want to take life for granted and I always want to appreciate every day as a gift from God.

Donna Mann
http://www.donnamann.org
Visit MeadowLane Children's MP3 site at http://meadowlane.homestead.com
Aggie's Dream - another Agnes Macphail Young Adult Novel coming in September

Saturday, June 12, 2010

THE THREE R'S - Ayotte


For those of you who have been have read some of my background information you already know that I am a former elementary school teacher, During my teaching years, I spent a great deal of time teaching the three R’s of education, reading, riting and rithmetic as they were so fondly called in those days.

Today we are utilizing many other words that start with R such as recycle, reuse and restore in an effort to be energy conscious and to help protect and sustain our environment.

Although, I left the classroom many years ago, the classroom has never left me. Once a teacher, always a teacher! It’s in my blood. In fact, my book “I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay” is what I consider to be a teaching tool. In my opinion, you can take the teacher out of the classroom but it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to take the classroom out of the teacher. My blog site falls into the same teaching category as my book. My posts are not meant to offend but rather to educate.

The reason I have chosen to discuss the three R’s of education is because other than the ones I have already mentioned in the first two paragraphs, there are many more equally important words starting with R.

A few of these are responsibility, respect, and reciprocity/relationship. When people hold themselves accountable for their actions they demonstrate a sense of responsibility. When they become more accountable and accept responsibility, they develop self-respect and in turn earn the respect of others. When they earn the respect of others, this eventually results in a mutually respectful relationship, which is what I refer to as the beginnings of a reciprocal connection or affinity. Whether positive or negative, people eventually become the reflection of each other.

In other words, those around you will be a reflection of yourself and your values.

Previously posted on my Blog Site (May 24, 2010)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Marked or Marketing?- CARLETON

Fall 09 head shot

The other day I noticed a tweet from Christine Caine that read “It is far better to be MARKED by God than to try & MARKET yourself...marketing makes you known...being marked makes you anointed & effective.”

That tweet has been going through my thoughts repeatedly.  Since my book came out I have felt the pressure to play the marketing game.  I must admit that I have dabbled in this game, even though I felt extremely uncomfortable.  I admit that I did receive some degree of publicity and a sense of being “known” while playing the game.

As I look back over the time since my book was published I would have to conclude that the time I spent developing and growing my relationship with Christ rather than my marketing campaign I have seen God sized works.  I have witnessed things much greater than I could ever dare to ask or hope for.

I am going to hang that tweet right beside my computer screen and when I am tempted to the play the marketing game I will do an about-face and invest in what holds lasting value-- my relationship with my Lord and Saviour.  His marketing plan is always better.

front cover

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 by visiting www.cjcarleton.com You can also connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guest of the World - Lawrence


(I wrote this prose poem in 2001 and share it with you today.)

As a guest of the world I want to see all its beauty; when I return to heaven I will tell of the white purity of snow, the delicate pastels of spring blossoms, the deep blue of the summer sky, the flaming reds and golds of autumn.

As a guest of the world I want to hear all its sounds; when I return to heaven I will tell about the sound of ocean waves crashing to the shore, the song of birds, the baby’s cry, the howl of wolves, the eerie night song of the spring peepers.

As a guest of the world I want to savour all its tastes; when I return to heaven I will tell of the sweetness of honey, the refreshing tang of an orange and the sour sharpness of lemon. I will describe the burning heat of chili peppers and the juicy delight of grapes from the vine.

As a guest of the world I want to touch all its textures; when I return to heaven I will tell of the roughness of a tree’s bark, the velvet softness of a cat’s fur, the prickliness of a rose’s thorns, and the sting of a nettle.

As a guest of the world I want to smell all its scents; when I return to my heavenly home I will tell of the heady perfume of lilacs, the warning odour of a skunk, the smokiness of a wood fire, the moist earth after rain.

When I return to heaven I will tell of the wonders of the earth and the many blessings I was given as its guest. And I will thank the Creator for such an exciting and marvellous place, where I learnt so many new things. And like all weary travelers, however kind the hosts and enchanting the country, I will be glad to be home and give thanks for my safe return.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Abba Day Blessings.- Belec

How blessed I am to have my 84 year old father still here, living independently.

How blessed I am to have my husband, the father of my own two beautiful children, still by my side after 32 years.


How blessed I am to see my son step into the role of fatherhood and is doing it masterfully!



How blessed I am that my son-in-law regards his responsibility as a father with passion.

*****************************


Father's Day is coming up. It's a day most of us set aside to remember and honour fathers and other special men who have been a father figure in our lives - stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, "Big Brothers," and others. I'm not particularly fond of the commercialism that goes along with these special days, although I am putting out for a round of golf for the man who has stuck by me through thick and thin. I think the most important thing I can do to make a difference is to love without abandon or condition. My prayer is that I can do that with all the special men in my life.
******************************
It might be a little premature talking about Father's Day but I always like to think ahead these days. One never knows what dastardly surprise lurks behind the bushes. So I am rejoicing today. I am thankful today. And I want to publicly declare my love today for the men who have made a difference in my life.
*******************************
Mostly, I want to publicly declare my love for Abba, my heavenly Father, who has taught me not to fear those dastardly surprises that lurk and appear suddenly, intent on consuming souls.


"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."









Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Psalm 51 as it Happened to Me—den Boer





Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Psalm 51:7&8 NLT

When I asked the Lord to purify me,
The thought of pain didn’t occur,
Until I couldn’t sleep.
Confusing, wicked schemes whirled through my head all night.

Without love, joy or peace
I went to a friend’s house and accused her of nonsense.
Patience, kindness and goodness escaped me.
Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were impossible.

I went to the doctor;
He gave me pills to dull my brain.
Friends tried to comfort me.
My pastor prayed.

I went to Christian counsellors;
The Holy Spirit showed them the garbage I was carrying.
They commanded away wrong spirits
Too numerous and filthy to mention.
I went home;
I knew there wasn’t a single thing I could do
That would make God say,
“That’s my girl. Isn’t she good!”

I questioned why He would even want my worship.
I saw all my prayers tainted with sin.
I cried—I felt so dirty.
I was broken.

Then for the first time I knew,
Really knew in my spirit—
Not just in my mind—
Jesus is my only righteousness.

My joy is coming back.
Excerpt from Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress by Marian den Boer, published by Word Alive Press, Winnipeg.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Beyond the Swimsuit Issue -- Gibson


We took to the water recently, the Preacher and I. Bodies filled the indoor pool, sporting a colorful array of swimsuits, in varying coverages. We wore boring, conservative styles, befitting our weathered frames.

A few decades ago, we looked different.

I shrieked the first time I saw the Preacher in a bathing suit—a roaring-twenties-style, one piece, purple full-body costume. He bought it himself, “because no one else had one.” Sleeveless, it flowed almost to his knees and floated clear up to his collar bones. It had narrow green and white horizontal stripes, and buttons down the front.

Even in the seventies, that swimsuit was an anomaly.

The Preacher’s physique has changed since then. He once had the profile of a pencil (with long wavy hair), weighed a mere hundred and sixty-five pounds, and enjoyed the reputation around campus as an academic and sports heavyweight.

Wearing that suit made him dangerous. His well-aimed teardrop dives erupted in volleys of splashes that sent clusters of co-ed girls, myself among them, squealing in protest to the pool’s edges.

My own most memorable bathing suit was only that for me: a rather conservative black bikini with tiny bright flowers.

I’d purchased it in spite of my raising, one that installed in me a deep-seated certainty that only the female lower legs, arms, neck, and facial skin could tolerate direct air. I’d never owned a two-piece, let alone a bikini, and I wore it only once, on a swim date with the Preacher. (At least one of us was properly clothed.)

On another visit to the local pool with my grandchildren, a lovely lady wearing a truly teeny, weeny, eensy bikini entered the pool area. Benjamin’s already large eyes widened even more. “Nana,” he exclaimed, in loud amazement. “That lady is wearing her undies!”

I chuckled. “It sure does look that way, doesn’t it?”

He watched her slip into the water, then turned to me, “Nana,” he said again. This time his voice softened into full-blown compassionate wonder. “Did she FORGET to put on her bathing suit?
Does she HAVE a bathing suit? ”

“Do you think she needs one?”

He nodded slowly. “Yaw. She should get one. Mama should give her one, I think.”

Right there, I felt a pang of sadness. Our sexually charged culture will assault that beautiful innocence. Attempt to batter it on the craggy cliffs of peer pressure. The devil will help.

My grandson looked at a beautiful body, and saw need—hers. Many others would have seen need too—their own.

Pornography, flourishing through easy internet access, has become a terminal cancer among us. The Preacher and I have watched it kill marriages and rot friends and colleagues from the inside out.

Christ grieves those tragedies—many involve his own children.

Nevertheless, like the Preacher’s well-aimed teardrop dives, websites like www.pureintimacy.org , www.covenanteyes.com , and www.x3pure.com, splash a volley of refreshing hope in the midst of the maelstrom.

If pornography has seared you, remember: God is far bigger.

Kathleen Gibson, faith and life columnist. Author, West Nile Diary, and Practice by Practice
This column was published on June 2, in Yorkton This Week, and online.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Road Taken - Atchison

Recently in a writer’s workshop I was re-introduced to a Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. The last few lines of Frost’s poem caught my attention the most. Perhaps, these few lines are some of the most popular ever written.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then the
other, as just as fair,
And hav
ing perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

What chosen path has made all the difference in your life? I have to be honest. I don’t like change. I fight like crazy to keep my life from changing, but then I know that God must have a plan for me. So why can’t I trust Him?

I’ll pray for changes in my life, and then when things start going awry, I wonder, "What the heck is happening?” and try to keep everything normal. I like the road in my wood to be downtrodden, with plenty of nice picnic areas along the way, good scenery and no stones to trip over.

Whereas the road God sends me down has long grasses that block my view. I stumble upon obstacles I can’t see in the dense fog that is in my new world. I don’t know where to turn, and for those I meet on the road, I don’t know who to trust.

Yet somewhere on my new travels I find sunshine and views that are spectacular. Where there are no picnic benches to rest upon, I keep going, finding instead rich meadows that I can sing and dance around.

When change comes I still the pounding of my heart and trust in God and the different paths He chooses for me, be they the same road I am familiar with or something totally foreign. For I know every road I travel will take me to places that make me a stronger, better person, bringing me closer to God and His plan for me.

Change is imminent! While I may not see it coming, and when faced with a choice in the road to take, I’ll take the one less traveled. For I know in my heart that I’ll not walk the road alone. God will be there with me, every step of the way – and that will make all the difference!

Patricia L. Atchison
Website: www.patricia@patriciaatchison.ca
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com

Friday, June 04, 2010

Discover the Poet in you at Write! Canada 2010 — Martin

I hope you’re planning to come to Write! Canada — June 17 to 19th. There will lots of wonderful opportunities for you to learn and grow, and to connect with like-minded people who can help you develop your writing career.

For the first time, anywhere, I will be taking my popular workshop — The Essentials of Writing Poetry — and expanding it significantly into a real hands-on opportunity for you to write poetry, and to have it discussed by other participants. The following blurb comes directly from the Write! Canada website:

Principles of Writing Poetry…Well — D. S. Martin

Beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder; quality in poetry is not merely a matter of taste. In this workshop you’ll learn to discern what is needed for well-written poetry, and how to apply these principles to significantly improve the quality of your own writing — both poetry and prose! You’ll be enabled to write your own poetry as part of the workshop, and be able to give and receive feedback with the class.

Together we will go through the principles of what makes poetry good, and you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to put these principles into practice. You are encouraged to bring a laptop computer (if you have one) in order to better facilitate the sharing of work as a group. You may want to write rough drafts for several poems ahead of time; do not, however, bring poems (for this purpose) which you would be unwilling to significantly revise because you consider them to be complete.

This class will be an interactive format. The instructor will lead the discussion of poems-in-progress, but all will be encouraged to share feedback.

Participants are encouraged to bring as many of the following items as possible along with them, as inspiration for potential poems:
1) A photo of a friend or family member in a place that has special memories
--------((bring several)
2) A picture of a painting that speaks to you
3) A selected scripture passage that resonates for you
--------(an entire Bible would help)
4) A favourite poem from a famous poet
5) A favourite non-fiction book
--------(preferably well marked up!)
6) A list of your favourite places
7) The name of someone you love, and a list of things he/she does well
8) Other items that would be of unique inspiration to you.
--------(All but #5 might be able to be saved to your laptop)

I hope to see you at Write! Canada, and have the opportunity to help you grow as a writer!

Check out my blog about Christian poetry: Kingdom Poets Become a follower, or 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

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Day I Faced My Failure - M. Laycock

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at gardening. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously but so did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “Tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on. When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times - a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp fall air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of tubers into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have another.

I cultivate words, tilling until there are no weeds, pruning away the excess so the fruit can shine through. God’s gift to me has blessed others as, like my friend with the potato patch, I’ve administered the grace and passed it on to readers all over the world. I no longer feel guilty about my black thumb, or about the many things I can’t do that others can. I feel blessed by what I’ve been given and how God has used it to bless others.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Earth-keepers - Nesdoly

"You have made him (man) to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet..." says the psalmist. But we humans have blown it. Literally. Since April 20th, oil has been pouring from a blown oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Look at the devastation.  All efforts to cap it have so far failed, and oil continues to spew out at the rate of thousands of gallons a day.

It's not only human-caused accidents like this that soil the environment. It's our regular behaviour over months and years that shows up in places like the stomach of a grey whale washed up on the shore of Puget Sound April 20th: contents: "20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball."

Though on principle I get my back up at the message of tree-hugger, save-the-earth types like the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society etc., many of their warnings are worth listening to. Their  methods are often extreme but they are definitely on the side of preserving nature from mankind's carelessness and greed -- something God gave humankind responsibility for when He said to Adam: "…have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28). As a sidebar article in my Bible puts it:
"The world literally stands or falls based on the actions and stewardship of human beings….we should never be satisfied to dwell on a mere lower level of creaturely existence, but strive to live at the highest and fullest level of our human nature. God designed for man a more noble destiny than creation could ever bestow. We should continue to explore what it is to be human, made in the image and likeness of God and given dominion (stewardship) over all the Earth."
Charles Blake /Jesse Miranda "Twin Truths: Man's Dominion and Responsibility" New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 691.

It's not hard to find green initiatives with which to align oneself. The trouble is, many of them arise out of world views that are anti-Christian in their origins (Naturalism, Materialism or Pantheism for example) and lead finally to their own brands of idolatry (e.g. the reverence with which our society treats animals).

Still, the fact remains that in general we humans (Christians included) are doing a lousy job of stewarding the earth. Which is why I think we're wise to go along with local initiatives that are for stewardship wherever, in good conscience, we can -- things like recycling, obeying bans on cosmetic pesticides, treating pets and work animals with kindness, picking up after ourselves etc.

Eating foods produced close to home is one green initiative that is growing in popularity. It's based on the desire to limit the need for transporting foods from afar and all that that entails. The 50-mile Diet encourages people to eat only things grown within a 50-mile radius of where they live.

Simply In Season carries a similar message. This colourful (and gorgeous!) spiral-bound cookbook was commissioned by the MCC, and helps North Americans identify and prepare foods that are local and in season.

As each of us does his or her part, we can make a difference. In this one thing, at least, we find ourselves on the side of political correctness, even though our actions may flow from a motivation many eco-warriors would find unacceptable. 

(First published at Other Food: Daly Devo's)

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