Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lemmings for False Liberty? - Arends

Here is my newest CHRISTIANITY TODAY column, on how we might best foster moral development in ourselves, our children and each other.  In it I am exploring not how we earn God's love, acceptance or salvation (that is a gift entirely given by Grace), but rather how we accept His invitation to live this life well.  I'd love to know how it hits you!

Relationship That Leads to Life
Why God's law is good news.

My husband and I are trying to get our kids to consistently do their chores. We've tried threats and rewards but worry that our extrinsic motivators are holding our kids back from learning to obey simply because it's the right thing to do. "Gee," we long to hear them say, "my folks love me and know what's best for me, so I better pick up that broom and chip in."

Our struggle with our kids got us thinking about God's struggle with us. Surely he wants us to do the right things for the right reasons. As his people, do we behave "Christianly" because of extrinsic or intrinsic factors? As his church, what are our ideas about moral development?

I once spoke at a family camp of believers and nonbelievers who had been meeting for years. One morning, a seminary graduate shared his story with the group. David had weathered a crisis of faith when his father—a sternly religious man and prominent church leader—had been exposed in chronic sexual sin. David said that healing had come slowly and that, looking back, he realized the Christianity of his upbringing had overemphasized "morality" in place of "relationship."

It sounded to me like David's dad might have benefited from a little more emphasis on morality. And I worried that David's take was not what the group needed to hear; two affairs had fractured their community in recent years. To me, it seemed they were suffering from too much relationship and too little morality.

I remember my reaction now with chagrin. I've since seen individuals and church communities with a robust focus on morality fall countless times. I get David's point: An emphasis on holy living without a genuine, life-changing relationship with a holy God can lead to rigid legalism on the one hand or secret sin on the other—and often it leads to both.

I also know Christians who emphasize relationship—and God's un-earnable, inexhaustible love—yet who have catastrophic moral falls. Such failings do not disqualify us for God's forgiveness, but they often have shattering consequences.

So what works? When it comes to shaping character and behavior, is it better to focus on God's law or his grace?

Psalm 119 is a love song to God's law, which seems odd. My friend Steve Bell says he never understood such passion for a moral code until he thought about children playing near the edge of a cliff. Without a fence, the children are always in danger, never able to relax. But if a barrier is installed, they can play freely and without fear. God's law is God's grace. It's a safety fence that brings incredible freedom.

Of course, it's only a matter of time until a kid starts to wonder what's on the other side of the fence. If she doesn't know or trust the fence builder, she might suspect that the barrier is holding her back from bigger fun. So she hops the fence, a lemming for false liberty. Humanity has an extensive track record on this front.

Fortunately, there's more to the story. God's law is not only a safety fence; it's also a mirror that shows us we can't live up to his standards without his help. Jesus comes not to abolish the law but to finally fulfill it. Yet many of us keep hopping the fence. Why? Partly because we still don't really know and trust the fence builder.

God doesn't expect morality in the absence of relationship. The first line of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) is not, "You shall have no other gods before me," but, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." God defines the relationship first, then describes a life lived in its context.

Psychologists warn that extrinsic motivators for morality erode intrinsic ones. When our preachers thunder warnings about living right to avoid God's wrath or earn his favor, we run the risk of drowning out that still, small voice that beckons us to live out the holiness given us solely by our Father's grace.

Conversely, when the message is that our behavior doesn't matter, that God's grace is unmerited and therefore morality is not a major issue, we seem not to know our Father at all.

In the end, it isn't morality versus relationship. It's morality because of relationship. "Grow up," Jesus says in his most famous sermon. "You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you" (Matt. 5:48, The Message).

If we know our Father loves us, and we love him, we'll trust whatever he asks of us. We won't need the threats and rewards that can skew real faith toward pharisaism. We'll just pick up our brooms and chip in.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Have You Tried Doubting Your Doubts - Reynolds

This meditation has been around a bit -- a sermon, a newspaper article, or you can look it up in A Troubled Faith, chapter 5. A good number of people have indicated that it has been a real help to them. I hope you find it worth the time and effort. And don’t miss the delightful bit at the end forwarded by Dianne Anderson.

If you feel bothered by doubt, go ahead and examine your beliefs. Question the things you have been taught. But don't stop there. Keep on. Doubt your doubts. Question them as thoroughly as you have questioned your faith. I think you will find that, while many things you think you should believe may fall, in the end you will find that belief makes more sense than unbelief.

Too many times, I have had someone, usually someone young, tell me that they went to a priest or a pastor with questions about their faith, only to be told that they should not question, only believe. Of course, if faith is "assent," intellectual assent to the teaching of the church, then doubt is wrong.

If faith is "trust," then doubt may not be such a bad thing after all. It is, in fact, the only way that false beliefs can be shown to be false, that bad customs may be replaced by good customs, that ancient idols may be toppled from their thrones. We can understand Aristotle saying that "doubt is the beginning of belief," and Galileo calling doubt "the father of discovery."

People once believed that the earth was flat. But Christopher Columbus said, "I can't believe that!" and sailed on until he discovered the Americas.

Martin Luther was taught to accept the penitential system of the medieval church and the sale of indulgences as a means of salvation. He said, "I can't believe that!" He tacked his "protest" to the door of the parish church of Wittenberg, and the Protestant Reformation was begun.

When the steam engine was new, there was speculation that perhaps ships might be equipped with it and even run the whole course of the Atlantic Ocean powered completely by steam. Someone wrote a book showing the impracticability of it, but one person who read that book exclaimed, "I don't believe it." Indeed, the first boat to cross the Atlantic solely by steam carried a copy of that same book.

Jesus of Nazareth, in this sense, was one of the greatest of doubters. The Jewish people considered the Samaritans to be an ignoble and inferior people with whom proper Jews should have no dealings. Jesus refused to judge all the people of Samaria by that notion, and told the story of a good Samaritan who was a better person than either the priest or the lawyer.

He was taught that pleasing God meant keeping every letter of the Law. "I don't believe it!" He said, and taught that healing the sick was more important than keeping laws of the Sabbath, and that justice and mercy were more important than tithing herbs.

Progress, the development of truth, is built upon such doubters – the questioners who stop to think and to inquire.

Moreover, isn’t doubt necessary to real faith? We don't attain real faith through sticking our head in the sand in order to believe. Real faith is not hereditary. It's not something we're born with, something we inherit from our parents. We must find it for ourselves. A creed is the expression of someone else's faith, not ours. It is something outside ourselves. It is not ours until we test it, question it, doubt it, and wrestle with it as Jacob wrestled with the stranger in the pre-dawn darkness (Genesis 32:22f.)

Only by facing our doubts, looking them dead in the eye, will we come to a faith that is ours, that is strong and secure. Then we may come to understand, believe, and cherish it for ourselves. We can’t claim faith for our own unless we have faced the possibility that there is “nothing there,” until we have taken the risk, like Peter, of stepping out of the boat onto the water (Matthew 14:28f.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Seeing the Whole Picture - Smith Meyer

Several years ago, I accompanied a group of women going on a tour of quilting places. We saw many beautiful quilts and came away with countless ideas for projects of our own. I also came away with the promise of receiving monthly, a letter giving me six progressive sets of instructions for a Mystery Quilt. I was excited by the idea.

The first letter arrived a few weeks later with instructions to buy so many yards of a dark solid fabric, so many yards of dark printed farics, light tone-on-tone and light printed fabric. When I went shopping for those farics I was confronted by the first clue of how I was going to react. How was I going to choose good colours and contrast if I didn't know the pattern of the quilt? I agonized over my choice. Would I regret the colours I finally chose? Which fabrics were going to be the main pattern and which the background? Already I was filed with apprehesion.

The next letter contained instructions to cut triangles , rectangles of various fabrics. I dreaded cutting into good, new fabric without knowing what the finished product was going to be, but I forced myself to do it.

The next letter was hard to even open. My feelings were unease, bordering on anxiety. More cutting of the different fabrics was required. It felt as though I was committed to the unknown and it didn't feel good.

When the next letter advised me to begin sewing them together, I balked. That was too much. Now even though I used the excuse that I was just too busy to continue with it, the truth was I just couldn't keep on that way., Athough I felt more than a little disgusted at my inability to go on step-by-step, I wanted the whole pictiure first! As each subsequent letter arrived, I guiltily stowed it, unopened, in the box which held all the supplies for the Mystery Quilt.

Finally, the sixth missive srrived and I opened it first. There was the picture of the finished product! All of a sudden my schedule was free enough to get my sewing machine buzzing. It wasn't long until I had my quilt done. It was beautiful.

Beautiful as it was, the experience continued to haunt me. Then one day, my teacher-daughter was telling me how the children in her class worked differently. Some needed to be given small, progressive steps to complete a task. Telling them all the steps to a project overwhelmed them and made them freeze up, unable to begin. Others, she said, were just the opposite. Given only one instruction at a time made no sense to them. They had to have all the instructions and an idea of what the finished project was to look like before they could begin. "It is just the way they are made, the difference in how each child functions." she said.

B-o-i-i-n-g! It was like a "slap-uside-the-head" as my son would have said. The light went on. I am the kind of person who wants to see the whole picture. That bit of insight gave me a bigger understanding of how I operate in life.

Having that picture set me to thinking about other parts of my life. How does it affect the way I commiunicate with others? What difference does it make in the tasks with which I am presented in various parts of my life? How does that trait influence my walk with my Lord and Saviour?

Again, those thoughts came back to me repeatedly and I struggled with feeling inadequate and unfaithful until one day I was reading the story of the disciple Thomas. His reaction when the other followers of Christ told him that Jesus had appeared to them had dubbed him doubting-Thomas ever since. In this reading I suddenly saw another side. Maybe Thomas was just withholding his opinion because he needed the whole picture. Less didn't make sense. He was waiting to get the last few peices of the jig-saw puzzle before he could see the end result. I began to have a lot of empathy for him.

Now how should the Thomas in me reconcile my personaltiy need-for-the-whole-picture and my need to follow Christ with my whole heart and mind regardless if I knew the outcome? Can I trust him with the unseen parts of the picture, or do I withhold my belief and allegiance until I can see more?

I struggled several days with those ideas and my dilemma. God made me the way I am. Is he now asking me to operate differently? Was the way he made me not as good as those who want only one step at a time? Then one morning I read Jesus' conversation with the disciples, "I am the way, the truth and the llife," he told them--another light-bulb moment! That IS the whole picture! If I keep my eyes on Jesus, then even if I can't see beyond the bend of the road, I still have the whole picture, because Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH anbd the LIFE. What could be more complete?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Acknowledging God’s Guidance – Lawrence

Carolyn Myss, in her book, Entering The Castle, says, “Once you acknowledge guidance, you will always be shown pathways through whatever difficulties arise…You will gradually develop the stamina to act on the guidance you receive, confronting whatever fears surface along the way…you know what it is to hear God. That doesn’t settle the challenge of whether you will follow this voice.”

Regarding the manuscript I have just completed, “Highway of Holiness: Soul Journey”, I have been seeking God’s guidance on what I am to do about its publication.

I feel that I did receive God’s guidance in the following words, “Wait a little while longer; there is a place for you.” Shortly after this, I remembered some suggestions about publishing a manuscript that a fellow author had shared with me and I believe that they were part of the way on which God was leading me.

I sought God’s guidance; I believe I received God’s guidance; yet I seemed to be fighting against the guidance I had been given.

In order for me to discover why I was unsettled about following God’s guidance, I posed a series of questions to myself in my journal and tried to answer them honestly. Here are my questions and answers.

1. Q. Do you believe God is giving you guidance over your present manuscript? A. Yes.

2. Q. What do you believe that guidance to be? A. I believe that God is guiding me to search for a publisher through the O.A.C.’s Writers Reserve Program.

3. Q. Why are you hesitant to follow God’s guidance? A. I am impatient for the book to be published. I know that I could self-publish it easily and have it on the market quickly without all the hassle of going through the slow process of publishing with an established publisher.

4. Q. Will you commit to prayer, and practice following God’s guidance as it has been revealed to you? A. I will try, knowing that this will help me to develop stamina to act on the guidance I have received from God.

5. Q. You know what it is to hear God’s voice; are you willing to follow God’s guidance? A. With the Lord’s help, I will follow the path that God is showing me.

I continue to struggle with this but I hope that, through this struggle, I will develop the stamina to act on the guidance I have received, grow in patience, and confront whatever fears surface along the way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New book announcement: William A. Dembski and Denyse O'Leary slam "Christian Darwinism" - O'Leary

In Christian Darwinism: Why Theistic Evolution Fails As Science and Theology (Broadman and Holman, November 2011), mathematician Dembski and journalist O’Leary address a powerful new trend to accommodate Christianity with atheist materialism, via acceptance of Darwinian ("survival of the fittest") evolution.

This trend includes "Evolution Sundays" at churches and endorsements by high administration officials like Francis Collins.

Dembski and O'Leary say it all just doesn't work. How can we accommodate self-sacrifice as the imitation of Christ with "altruism is just another way you spread your selfish genes!" How can we accommodate monogamy as the image of Christ and his church - for which he gave himself up - with "The human animal was never meant to be monogamous!"?

In the authors' view, no accommodation is possible. More to the point, accommodation is not even necessary. There are good reasons for doubting Darwin and good reasons for adopting other models for evolution - or for deciding that there is not enough evidence to make a decision.

Dembski and O'Leary insist that this conflict has nothing to do with the age of the Earth. Darwinism is, as they will show, the increasingly implausible creation story of atheism, which diverges at just about every point from the Christian worldview on which modern science was founded.

Yet Darwinism is publicly funded, and taught, in many jurisdictions, without any criticism permitted.

Reactions - not only praise but criticism - are expected and much appreciated! Regular updates will be provided at www.uncommondescent.com, so persons who wish to comment on the project can post there.

Contact: Denyse O'Leary oleary@sympatico.ca

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In His Strength - Austin

Feelings of inadequacy plague the lonely task of writing. Few of us have egos so heavily armoured that we feel no bruising from the "Thank you for submitting, but. . ." responses to works we have laboured over and loved. We question our calling as writers. We wonder why we feel this compulsion to wrestle with words when the rewards of a nine-to-five job with a regular pay cheque would actually pay bills.

We can catalogue our weaknesses. Some of us save rejection notes. They are surprisingly effective in bringing reality checkes when an acceptance does arrive. We are inadequate, and as writers we are given ample reminders of that. Yet God, being God, makes even that a triumph. In the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 1, he speaks of God choosing the foolish, the insignificant and the despised things. Given those qualifications, almost all of us can write a convincing resume.

We are inadequate. Yet in spite of that and sometimes because of it, God can do great things through us. That in no way excuses carelessness in our writing. But I've noticed that when lives are touched by my writing, it is usually in areas where I have exposed a weakness and made myself vulnerable. It is rarely from works where I have pushed back from the computer and patted myself on the back because I have written something brilliant.

We are inadequate. BUT GOD IS NOT! He could feed more than 5000 people with one kid's lunch. Why then are we surprised when he takes our words and impacts lives? Who was ever more inadequate that that child on a hillside in Israel? I suspect he still got shivers when he told his grandchildren about that day.

It is that very inadequacy, and the shivers I get when God does something I never anticipated through words I have written that brings rewardes out of all proportion to my qualifications for this calling.

Like almost every skilled writer I know, I strive for professionalism, constantly seeking to hone my skills. I deliberately draw from my strengths. Yet I try to yield my weaknesses to God as well. I offer to Him and to my readers the reality that I am less than I wish to be as a writer, even as I reach for ever higher standards. When God, sovereigh though He is, has my active surrender to use my weaknesses as well as my strengths, my inadequacies as well as my professionalism, He accomplishes things I cannot imagine. It imposes a vulnerability in my writing that touches lives on a level I can never reach by professionalism alone. It lets His strength show in places where there is no question of it being my brilliance. Strangely, it is humbling but not humiliating; uplifting but not ego inflating. An added bonus? It's a fun ride.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Talking to Yourself -- Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild discussion forum, Peter Black asked the question, “How many of us engage in the practice of talking out loud to ourselves? (I know I talk back to the radio and tv more than I ever did!) ~Is it something that comes naturally to us because we are accustomed (especially fiction writers, perhaps) to working out dialogue between characters? Perhaps inner conversations so easily become an outward thing with us (er, at least some of us). Hmm, could be dangerous!”

N. J. Lindquist answered, “Not only have I talked to myself pretty well all my life, but I've also discussed things with my dolls, stuffed toys, paper dolls, my children before they were born and when they were less than a year old, and my dogs. My family is used to hearing me talking and ignoring me - rather annoying when I'm actually talking to them. :-)”

Like N. J., Darlene Oakley talks to herself all the time. “I do this all the time. I talk to the radio too. Just don't start arguing with yourself. The good thing about talking to yourself is you're always right, you have a very attentive audience, and there's no chance of you being ignored! :-)”

Benjamin Collier shared, “I believe it was Tolkien's Gandalf who said of talking to one's self, "A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to." Of course, I've had that habit for a while now and I'm only in my 20s - but I do have A.D.D. I use it to defend both sides of an argument, if I'm expecting to have a deep spiritual conversation with someone in the near future. It's also good for brainstorming and problem solving. I don't know how "normal folk" get along without it. :)”

Do you talk out loud to yourself? Has it helped you in your writing? Has it caused any embarrassing situations? Do share!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

IT IS WHAT IT IS - Eleanor Shepherd

“It is what it is.” Perhaps it is a reflection of my age and my frustration with trying to change things that I cannot change, but I find that this phrase has become my mantra as I try to come to terms with my life and the way that things never seem to work out the way I anticipate they will.

I entered into ministry with enthusiasm and determination to change my denomination and to make it relevant and dynamic and appealing to my generation. I retired and found that despite all my efforts the next generation realized that they needed to really transform that denomination if it was going to be relevant and dynamic and appealing to their peers. Did I really make a difference? Time alone will tell, but I do know that whatever I and my generation created is not static but dynamic. It is what it is; it is not what it was yesterday and not what it will be tomorrow.

I became a parent determined to get it right. I would listen to my children and encourage them to develop into creative adults with confidence in their skills and abilities and they would be so convinced about the way I did things that they would become my clones. Oh foolish woman! They have become creative adults and do have some confidence in their skills and abilities but not because of the things they learned from me. They are unique individuals and their choices are their choices. I think they are my clones, when they do some things that are brilliant and that cause me to puff up with pride. In truth they are more like me in other areas of their lives, where as in mine, the jury is still out. It is not up to me to determine or even pretend to know their destiny. It is what it is and I can choose to accept that or reject it.

As I glided up the aisle of the church while the organ swelled with the majestic tones of the wedding march, I was determined to be the best wife I could possibly be. I had no idea how difficult that would be in the rough and tumble of daily living where so often I was convinced that my way had to be the best way, even when consequences revealed the error of my thinking. How could two people who loved each other so much find so many things that could reduce them to silent antagonists? Yet in spite of all the frustrations and disappointments there have been the glorious moments that have also played a role in transforming a starry eyed romantic relationship into a solid bond of closest friends and fully committed lovers. It is what it is and that is so good!

I know my experience is not unique. I am amazed as I talk to my peers, at how many of them after spending a lifetime in a career feel that what they anticipated when they began proved to be quite different than the reality they experienced. It did not matter whether they were teachers, or doctors or insurance salespeople. Many of them feel like aliens in the world that their adult children inhabit. Their intimate relationships have been stretched and altered and transformed.

I think that for many of us these changes have been a part of the ever accelerating changes that our society has experienced. These have made it hard for us to keep up and constantly reinvent ourselves. Instead of frustration and disillusionment about what our professions, or our children or our relationships have become or how the goalposts have shifted we can choose to recognize that nothing in our world is the way it was or the way we thought it was going to be. However, it is what it is and there are myriads of things for which we can be grateful and we need not live in either fear or regret. It is what it is and there is truly only One who knows the end from the beginning and His greatest desire for us is to know that we are loved.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Shed - Black

An original edition of the following article was published in the June 24, 2010, issue of The Watford Guide-Advocate.

They were offered ‘On Special’, and my wife and I ordered one. We eagerly awaited delivery of the 10 X 7 foot shed. It came last week, in two packages. The smaller, perhaps weighing 50 pounds, contained the galvanized metal foundation. The larger box, weighing approximately 260 pounds – more than twice my scrawny weight – contained the shed.

Packages of nuts, bolts, and screws, sheets of painted steel, and lengths of galvanized reinforcement, adorned the back yard. This was our shed! Fortunately, instruction booklets were provided. But, my ... what a back-breaking, knee-joint-wearing, whole-body-muscle-aching job, it all turned out to be – and that’s not to mention the frustration and emotional befrazzlement of trying to figure out obscure aspects of the instructions, and too-small illustrations.

No, I didn’t curse ... not even once; but I groaned – a lot. And fussed. Why can’t they provide nuts with quarter-inch depth to go with these bolts, instead of these little eighth-of-an-inch things? They would be so much easier for the socket and wrench to grip, without slipping off all the time! A coupla’ dollars more for those, and it would save hours of pain and frustration. Were we tempted to give up? Close, but not quite.

At one stage, I’d been trying to figure out a particular instruction illustrated by a way-too-small diagram, and unsuccessfully applied considerable intellectual reasoning to putting several components together. The result didn’t look quite right. May woke up the following morning with the correct solution (so much for the male ego and the intellectual approach, eh?). She also suggested we take a gander at Canadian Tire, where a similar, though smaller, unit was assembled.

Ah, yes. Our eyes were opened, we gained insight through someone else’s efforts, and could then see our way ahead. And now, we have a handsome two-tone garden shed. It’s waiting for me to finish telling you about it, so I can get out there and install a plywood floor (not included with the purchase, I might add). We learned from our mistakes and gained insight into interpreting the instructions, by viewing that other completed project.

The lesson in all this? Live, look, and learn.

Living involves risk. We attempt things we’ve never done before, and go places in our experience we’ve never gone before. Living provides a life-long opportunity to learn and grow.

Looking and observing how others have handled situations in their lives provides opportunity for us to learn from their experience, especially from those who have faced similar challenges as we, for that can provide insight into our situation.
Our individual challenges are in some sense unique, yet there are often similarities with those of others, and our observing them can inspire hope and ignite renewed courage to press on and not give up.

Learning certainly is a life-long process, and is the result of living. Living intentionally. Living with purpose. Living with direction.

The biblical scriptures have been described as a road map for life and as an instruction book on living. And yet, the map in places may seem hard to follow, and the instructions obscure. That’s where the experience of others who have walked the way–who have built their lives and found valuable instruction, can help us.

Jesus Christ is "The way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and through Him we find our way to God and our heavenly home. Who wouldn’t give up a tin shed for that!

Peter Black continues writing a weekly column in The Guide.
His children's/family book "Parables from the Pond" -- described as, "mildly educational, inspirationally-oriented, character-reinforcing fiction for children 6-10 or kids from 5-95!" was shortlisted by Word Alive Press, and published by them in 2008.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How To Write a Blog - McLachlan

Publishing 101–every published writer must have an online presence. This is a rule any agent or publisher will tell an aspiring writer; one of the new rules they didn’t have when I started writing. An online presence. It sounds dark and brooding and sinister. It is.

Because I have a confession: I have never written a blog before.

I’ve written poetry and short stories and novels and magazine and newspaper articles and two College textbooks. But not a blog. I’ve written journals and all types of letters and reports and proposals and email and even floundered my way onto facebook. But I have never blogged.

Okay, I told myself when asked to do this, how hard can it be? Blogging can’t be harder than facebook, which is like going back to high school, right? I mean, in a facebook entry, you get one sentence, maybe two, and somehow you have to sound cool and casual and like you’ve got something to say. Meanwhile all those friends, and friends of friends are watching you embarrass yourself. Mark Twain wrote, “I’m writing you a long letter because I don’t have time to write a short one.” Unfortunately, I could die of old age before distilling my thoughts into one cool sentence.

If facebook is high school, blogging is like graduating to college. You have more time to explain your point in a blog, as in a seminar. Time to put your foot in your mouth and take it out again and make it look like it was done intentionally, for emphasis.

No wonder I’ve never blogged.

You can do this, I told myself. So, fortified by self-deceit, I plunged ahead. Every kind of writing has its own conventions, and step one is research. I read some blogs. It seems there are no set conventions for blogs: anything goes. Which is reassuring, but not a lot of help. After all, your first blog sets a tone. It should be confident, erudite, witty and unique—in short, brilliant. Oh-oh. I felt the need of further fortification. I looked myself in the mirror and said, out loud this time, “You can do this.” On to step two—get advice.

“It’s like writing a diary,” my daughter said. I thought of my writing journals. No way.

“Write it as an essay,” a colleague at the college where I teach suggested.

“Duh,” my other daughter said. “Bo-o-oring!”

“Try not to be too opinionated,” my husband, who knows me too well, said. “Remember, everyone and anyone could read this.”

Back to the mirror. “This is really hard,” I muttered. My mirror image looked at me reproachfully. “You can do this?” I asked her. She nodded.


Just like that, she vanished.

At first I was ticked. I mean, what good is a mirror if it doesn’t show your reflection?

Then I got it. This isn’t Publishing 101—it’s Writing 101. And the first rule of writing is to step outside yourself--into your character, your plot, your idea, the person you’re interviewing.

Before I start to write, I often imagine myself going down a deep hole. There, like Alice, I am just an observer, trying to understand and record the strange characters and amazing things I see. The secret for blogging is the same as any other writing: step through the looking glass and leave your own reflection behind.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I thought I was in heaven, but it was only my high school reunion - Boers

I don’t know about you, but there was much about high school that I hated. I was a nerdy, studious fellow, disdained by jocks and other “cool” people who knew how to dress fashionably. And, truth be told, I disdained them as well. I was very, very glad when those tough years ended and it came time to go off to university. I never stepped within the halls of Niagara District Secondary School (NDSS) again, not for thirty-plus years.

But when NDSS decided to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary – in the year as it happened that I turned 50 too – I felt drawn to attend. It would be my first high school reunion. I approached with mixed feelings. I was excited about seeing friends that I’d maintained contact with. I was interested to meet folks that I’d been fond of back then. I was curious about what had happened to many people. But I also wondered: How would I respond to those I found cruel and off-putting years ago? Would I feel centered out and isolated once more? Would being there reawaken old anxieties? How long could I last? How many hours – or minutes – would it be before I reverted into an ill-at-ease adolescent again? Even so, my excitement also increased as more and more people signed up on the website and I noticed that people important to me were planning to attend.

My first surprise was how much I’d forgotten. I pride myself on having a good memory for names, faces, conversations, facts, and events. But many people who spoke to me seemed unfamiliar. I could not place them, even when they told me their names. Sometimes when they told me who they were, I realized that I had not thought of them even once in all the intervening decades!

My next surprise was how eager folks were to sum up entire lives in a few sentences. We all had particular themes about marriages and divorces, number of children, jobs, accomplishments, set-backs. Hard to believe that all those years of living could be condensed to a paragraph or two.

But two epiphanies in particular brought me up short.

First, many fellow schoolmates talked about the hardships they endured during those high school years. We recalled a classmate who committed suicide after his parents’ divorce; both divorce and suicides were rare in our experience back then. One told of sexual abuse by her father. Another acquaintance spoke of the physical and emotional abuse he received from his dad. Another talked about how her mother’s mental illness forced her to drop out in Grade 13. And here I thought that I was the only one in high school that was hurting.

Hearing these accounts reminds me of a favourite saying by a famous ancient philosopher, Philo of Alexandria: “Be compassionate, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

And, second, I also visited at length with people that I actively disliked back in high school. And here too I heard about their struggles. Those were good interactions. We were all hurting back then and lashing out at each other from our woundedness. Like the old cliché goes: hurt people hurt people. Now, however, we had mercy for each other. We understood and even forgave one another.

I decided that that’s what heaven will be like. Here on earth, in the midst of heated battles, conflicts, misunderstandings and dealing with disappointments, it’s sometimes hard to know what to make of the decisions and actions of others. But when we get to heaven, we’ll visit each other with defining stories and see how all of us in our limitations and brokenness were fighting great battles. Our compassion and forgiveness will be full and complete.

Before the reunion if you’d asked me to label high school, I might have been tempted to compare it to the realm of brimstone, wailing, and gnashing teeth. But the anniversary celebration was a foretaste of heaven. I’m looking forward to that reunion too.

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, August 13, 2010

Precious Childhood Faith - MANN

This morning when I was dusting, I took time to lift the small white bible with its trail of silk red roses glued on a white silk ribbon. I had carried this as a wedding bouquet more than fifty years ago. I wouldn’t have thought that some people might have been critical of me being pious or religious. It just seemed right and proper to do and something that reflected who I was as a young teenage woman.

At this time, all my friends were talking about the flower sprays they were going to carry on their wedding day: one wanted a Posey, another a Nosegay, while my cousin wanted a sheaf across her arm.

I remember a friend saying, “Oh, Donna, you won’t have anything to throw. You have to throw your bouquet, you know. That’s tradition. What will you do? You can’t throw a Bible into the crowd.” Granted, she had a point there, but I wasn’t really thinking about tradition.

Another friend said, “It’s September, Donna. You’re having all fall colours for the bridesmaid dresses and their bouquets are browns and golds. You can hardly have red roses mixed in with that. It just doesn’t match with anything.” Okay, I even gave them that much – it sounded right. But, the colours red and white seemed perfect for my purposes and understanding about God and marriage. I stayed with my choice.

As a young farm girl who had never known any other church but the little white one on the back concession of the farm, I would have had a Sunday School understanding of the significance of the Bible and the roses, yet, even in my early faith development, I was passionately aware that it was important. I have come to believe as I write my memoirs and read my mother’s school journals that early faith positions are sometimes more theologically steeped in God’s will and reason than some understandings we gain as adults.

In many ways, my faith was as strong and confident as it is today. I am amazed as I encourage people to think back to what they might see as a dormant time in their life, and they discover that God was busy tilling the ground of faith for further growth. Folks, for the most part, work away faithfully at developing their faith. And sometimes the seedtime is equally as important as the harvest.

The first question in the study guide of The Emmaus Series (2006) is, “What are some of the things that shaped your childhood faith?” As I apply that question to my life, the Bible and roses make a clear statement.

Donna Mann

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wisdom on Mammon from Dr E. Stanley Jones -HIRD

By Rev Ed Hird

Worry, fear, and anger are the greatest disease-causers. They can literally eat us alive, from the inside out. The root of most anger is fear. Many males feel safer and more powerful being angry than in facing their fears. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, best-selling author of 28 books, spoke of the law of self-abandonment by which we are able to say: ‘I do not want anything, therefore I am afraid of nothing.’ Similarly he said that ‘there are two ways to be rich – one in the abundance of your possessions and the other in the fewness of your wants.’

“People”, said ES Jones, “retire to enjoy their wealth. Nothing is more elusive and fatuous. You cannot enjoy your wealth. Your wealth must be creative in creating and in augmenting the joy of others, or else it is ill-th, not weal-th.” Mammon/money drives the driven and lashes the tired. At age sixty-five there are twice as many women alive as men. The medical verdict is ‘high blood pressure’, but E. Stanley Jones saw it as ‘high blood-money pressure’ which drives men mad or to the mortuary.

ES Jones spoke of ‘the two greatest problems of life, namely, money and women’ (i.e. male-female relationships). Counselors tell us that the three greatest causes of marriage breakup are sex, money, and in-laws! Jones believed that ‘our greatest sins are economic sins, sins so hidden under respectability and under custom that we are scarcely aware of them.’ Quoting the counselor Dr. Alfred Adler, Jones commented: “All the ills of personality can be traced back to the fact that people do not understand the meaning of the phrase: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.

Jones humorously commented that some people suffer from a spiritual headache because unsurrendered wealth is pressing on the nerve that leads to the pocketbook. He tells the remarkable story of Asa G. Candler. Candler kept struggling unsuccessfully with his addiction to alcohol until he heard a Voice tell him to surrender himself. From that hour, he was delivered not only from the desire to drink, but also from the love of money. Asa Candler, who founded the Coca Cola Company, was so grateful to Jesus that he consistently gave seventy-five percent of his vast income to God’s work. Candler believed that ‘the central thing in Christianity is the final and total yielding of the self, its renunciation and rejection and the entire surrender of the life to the will and way of God.’

ES Jones believes that “the greatest single factor that keeps people from going on to perfection is the deceitfulness of riches, for no one ever feels that it is a danger to him.” It has been said that we need two conversions: one of our heart and a second one of our wallet. ES Jones told the story of a poverty-stricken boy named Colgate met a steamboat captain who encouraged him to give his heart to Jesus and give one tenth of all he made to Him. The boy promised both, and through his Colgate Toothpaste Company, ended up giving millions to serving others.

Jones believed that abundant living depends upon abundant giving. He knew that outflow determined inflow. If we don’t breathe out, we can’t breathe in and we will literally smother. Similarly, said Jones, if a cow is not milked, it will go dry. How many of us may have gone through times of spiritually dryness because our financial udder needed milking?

Jones once said that ‘wealth is like manure: put in one pile it is a stinking mass, but distributed across the fields it produces golden grain.’ Jones took seriously the biblical call in 2 Corinthians 9:7 to be a ‘hilarious giver’. He knew that it is wrong to give out of fear, guilt, or pressure. Only joyful gratitude to God will do. God is always more generous, more self-giving, more loving than we will ever be. I thank God for the many generous people I know who have discovered that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

The Rev. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-previously published in the North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Our True Home - Belec

by Glynis M. Belec
If someone were to tread across my threshold this very minute then I am sure the curious soul might draw the wrong conclusion. Lest anyone think I have resorted to strong drink, be it known that liquor store boxes are strong and are the perfect size for moving.

Yep. We're on the road again. Moving.

When our landlord rang the doorbell that day looking downcast, we knew the news was not going to be good. He was apologetic about asking us to move but the house was going to be used as part of a wage agreement with his new hired farmhand.

Although our sheepish landlord told us we had been model tenants, this did nothing to soften the blow. It was not the first time this had happened. Twice before we had started to put down roots, only to be told that we had to move because the property had been sold.

So this time around we decided that we were probably in fairly decent shape financially and ready to approach the bank. We did. They said okay and now we are up to our ears in building our new home.

Although I am happy about this and am excited when I get to pick out colours and styles and sizes, I can't help thinking about the fleeting aspect of it all. I find solace in Christ's words of assurance,though, that there is a prepared place for each of us in heaven. It will not be a temporary location that may be sold if the landlord has a change of heart; it will be a house with many rooms where we will dwell with Christ forever.

I treasure that assurance. I pray that as I focus on the leading of the Holy Spirit and realize that everything on this earth is temporary, I won't get hung up on what might have been or what I don't have.

I want to realize what I will have one day when Christ calls me home.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

(A portion of this post was adapted from a devotional I had published in The Upper Room in 2001. That was another time that we were greeted by another downcast landlord!)

What? Blooming is Not a Finalist?—den Boer

I was so sure Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress, "packed with inspiring spiritual truth" was winning material, that when The Word Guild’s awards short-list came out without a Blooming mention, I felt disappointed, confused, and full of trepidation about what the judge would have to say.

Would the judge counter the reviewer who said, “Her stories run the spectrum from hilarious to heart-wrenching”?

Would he dispute the review that claimed "Marian’s charm and wit jump off the pages"?

Obviously the awards judge didn't agree with the reviewer who advised, "Watch for Blooming when the short-list comes out for this year’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards."

My publishing consultant at Word Alive was equally surprised at the no-show. She suggested ‘Christian Living’ may have been the wrong category.

Possibly my pilgrim’s progress wasn’t helpful as an example of Christian living. Possibly my celebration of “the agony and the ecstasy of being human with humour and honesty, while leaving the reader begging for more!” was an example of un-Christian living. Maybe I should have entered the ‘Other’ category.

All this speculation led to more trepidation. What could the judge say? A few weeks after the Blooming-less list came out, a fat envelope from The Word Guild landed in my mailbox. Would a judge say that much? With nervous apprehension I opened what turned out to be my membership renewal papers. Phew.

Several months later, another, much thinner envelope arrived. This had to be it. I sat down. I stood up. I sat down again. I pulled up the flap on the envelope, and edged out three sheets of paper. A cover letter told me, “Enclosed you will find the judge’s marks for your entry. We hope that there are some useful points that will help you with your writing.”

The letter also said, “Just a reminder that judge’s comments and marks are confidential and are not to be publicized as reviews.”

I found the judge's remarks to be positive and encouraging. I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but he used the word ‘clever’ several times and complimented my writing style. And, he identified the flaw in my book which is the flaw in my life.

If you are not yet familiar with Blooming, the book leads the reader through my life as I move from a self-righteous Christian who lives by the law into becoming a Spirit-led Christian. The flaw: I don’t live or articulate the Spirit-led life as masterfully as I lived and wrote about the old self-righteous me.

But, I press on.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

Saturday, August 07, 2010


August 7, 2010


People have found these stories interesting and I hope you will too. Last week, “First Baptism,’ this week “First Communion.” Next week, wait and see.


Newtown-Waterford Pastoral Charge, in southern New Brunswick, consisted of seven churches in the country surrounding Sussex in the beautiful Kennebecasis valley. Indeed it was beautiful, especially when in the late afternoon the sun cast shadows on the surrounding hills. The main point on the charge was Sussex Corner, just outside of the town of Sussex.

Newly ordained, I was there for less than two weeks when I got a call, my first pastoral crisis. It was the day of the annual Strawberry Festival at Sussex Corner, a big event. People from all over the countryside came to the Sussex Corner Strawberry Festival. The minister was expected to be there, of course, putting in an appearance, mixing with the crowd, urging the troops (the women of the congregation) in their efforts, and of course sampling the strawberry shortcake.

Then someone came up to me to say that Mrs. Dalling had had a stroke. The doctor said she would not live till sunset. Would I come?

Not knowing what else to do, I went home and got the home communion set that had been given me as an ordination present. With the communion set containers filled with grape juice and little cubes of bread, I set off for Russell & Jane Crowe’s place. (Jane, who had been a Dalling, was a daughter.)

Russell had a farm up the New Line Road, a couple of miles from the Corner. He grew vegetables for the Saint John market. Entering the house, I was shown into a first floor bedroom. In the bed was a little old woman, quite unconscious. Surrounding the bed were her children, about six of them and all of them BIG – tall, and not one under 250 pounds. They didn’t look too friendly either.

Unsure what was expected, I opened the communion set and prepared to give the unconscious woman communion. After a prayer, I began to repeat the 46th psalm, “God is our refuge and strength….” From the unconscious woman on the bed, a voice seeming from the grave, came the response: “… a very present help in trouble.”

I went on to the next verse, “Therefore will I not fear.” Again the response, “though the earth be removed.” The voice faded.

Of course my attempt to give her communion was quite unsuccessful. Fortunately it didn’t do any harm. In fact, Mrs. Dalling lived far beyond sunset. She quite enjoyed life for another three years and more. Finally, though, she died and, as they said, I “had to bury her.”

I have never forgotten the mystery of that first communion service. Who am I to say that faith was not a central part of that healing occasion, the faith of an old woman who had lived a hard life but who knew the psalm and had no doubt repeated the words often not just in church but in the quiet of her heart for her own comfort and strengthening?


This from Phil McLarren, in response to last week’s “Puzzled Philosopher.” You may remember George Carlin had a series of “Why’s,” like Rumours had. My favourite has always been, “Why do we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?”

And from Bob Latimer, re the piece on baptism: There was the day in Orangedale when the baptisee relieved himself during the baptism and the drips fell through the heating register grating, setting up both an audible hissing sound and then the wafting of steam vapours.

If you wish to respond, please respond to reynoldsrap@shaw.ca.

It was my barber, Corky Knight, who told me this story first, a number of years ago. Don Wade sent it to me this past week with a number of other “clergy jokes” which will no doubt appear from time to time in this spot.

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, "I'm not going.""Why not?" she asked.
“I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "They don't like me, and, I don't like them."His mother replied, "I'll give YOU two good reasons why YOU SHOULD go to church.One, you're 40 years old, and two, you're the pastor!"

It’s a Rap. Grace and peace to all. Alan

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Truth, The Half-truth, and Nothing But -- GIBSON

I attended a humour workshop awhile back. The facilitator, a friend and film producer, explained the art of writing a rant. It took me a year or more to get up enough nerve to clamber of my “gracious all the time Christian” perch and try it. When I got started last week, I couldn’t stop, it was so much fun. So, fellow writers....here’s the result of my experiment. Try it. It heals things.

I’m a personal essayist, primarily. I’m not terribly prolific, but I’ve been published more widely and earned more money than a few people who call themselves writers. My writing and broadcasting has won awards at almost every regional level, from provincial to national to international. I’ve counseled, cajoled, encouraged, edited, taught and judged other writers and their writings for years.

I’m a faith-writer, mostly for people of no faith. BUT today I feel like an amateur in faith and writing. Or a has-been. Whatever I feel, it feels an awful lot like done in.

The day is hot, and the backyard appealing. The shoulders hurt like fire, the words won’t come, and no one seems to care about the drivel I write. I should just stop.

I’m getting old. Books are too much work. Editors are half my age. Little kids are writing best-sellers, and seniors with more rolls than brains make more money posing in swimsuits for calendars than I do in an entire year. Magazines that pay two cents a word are taking all rights—even moral ones. They should talk to the calendar seniors. The glory days are over—it’s time to change tenses. I write. I wrote.

I’m tired of having to know what’s hot in publishing, and who’s not in blogging. I’m weary of trying to catch up to the latest trends in social marketing, and I can’t remember why I got into this racket in the first place. I think I lost my edge a long time ago. I’m dreaming of quitting while I’m behind.

I have scores of Facebook friends who wouldn’t drop a tear at my funeral (forget that, they wouldn’t even come to my funeral) and a few real friends who think I died long ago. I’m tired of pumping myself up like an air mattress with a gash in the bottomside. I’m bogged down with blogging and I’m so Linked In, I feel like chain mail. Quitting never looked so good.

I’m weary of learning about apps and codes, formatting and podcasts, digitalization, e-books, audio-books and Kindle Readers, and getting verified by Google. I’m sick of being tweeted at, poked, forwarded, e-mailed, RSSed, free newslettered, forummed, Skyped, and IM’ed. My heart longs for, dreams of, wishes for one phone—only one—one that won’t follow you around, but when it rings it sends you clear to triage. One with no caller ID, with holes for your fingers and a dial that goes around and around and swooshes home again all by itself.

I spend so much time in my home office, sitting at my desk, that my fanny has spread to Newfoundland and my brain feels like a block of tofu. Parts of my house are verging on squalor—and those are the neat rooms. Yesterday our parrot said “oh, glory” and fell off his perch when I passed his cage. The cat wanted out, and we don’t even have a cat. I’ve forgotten how to cook and remembered how to suck my thumb. This morning I brushed my computer, defragged my hair, edited my breakfast, cooked my books, and tried to convert my husband into an email-able PDF file.

It’s most definitely time to stop. Where’s that swimsuit?

Kathleen Gibson, author and speaker

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Writer’s Block – It’s A Nasty Thing - Atchison

I am sitting with idle hands, trying to figure out what to blog about here at the TWG blog. Writer’s block is a nasty thing, almost like bottled up tears that just won’t come. You know you have to cry, but are either too mad, or upset to let go and do it. The key here is blockage and trying to figure out why the words won’t come.

Free fall writing is one tool an author can use who is experiencing writer’s block, which can come from wanting to censor or edit as we are writing. The inventor of the freefall method of creative writing was well-known Canadian author, W.O. Mitchell. To practice the free fall method of writing, writers must tune out that internal editor, which is nagging them with thoughts of what and how to write. Forget the editor, and write whatever thoughts come to mind. Be sure to take into account sensory information and memories. The trick is to keep writing, leave the editing and read-back until the end of the writing process.

Free fall is a great idea and wonderful tool to use in most cases of writer’s block. But creativity can still be diminished by those thoughts and feelings that are dragging us down and upsetting us. In this case, it can be just as easy as shutting down the computer and going for a walk, doing meditation, letting go and crying, or praying – leaving it simply for another day. Deadlines loom though. What is a writer to do?

The theme of self-help these last few years is information about The Law of Attraction, thinking positive thoughts, putting out positive affirmations. I believe with the Lord’s help, it is good to be positive, but at times, we also have to let our true emotions surface so that we can take care of ourselves and acknowledge that which is upsetting us so. If we keep trying to build a hard shell, over time, surface cracks may appear and threaten to break apart.

Writers are especially vulnerable to writer’s block through mood upsets. Unless there are a fortunate few who can loose themselves within their projects and forget their emotions. This might work well for a novel, or non fiction piece, but a blog? Blog articles need to reflect a high level of creativity. Words written need to come from the heart and be of interest to the audience.

So as this author struggles with writer’s block after being away on a beautiful summer vacation, struggling to catch up on work that has piled onto my desk, I hope that some creativity, though a bit bland may have peeked out of my surface cracks. I’m still tending to the giant crater that has blown my creativity to bits. (*smile*).

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

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Literary Pilgrimage to Paris — Martin

My love of literature is only one of the many reasons I had for visiting Paris this summer. The first reason being our 25th anniversary, and that neither my wife Gloria, nor I, had ever been across the Atlantic. Paris, of course, has such a rich history, with beautiful architecture, and wonderful art galleries such as the Louvre, which houses the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo — and the Musée D’Orsay, where the work of such impressionists as Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh are exhibited. It is, also, said to be the city of love.

Paris is the home of Notre Dame Cathedral where the story of the hunchback takes place. Even the hotel where we stayed is the Hotel Victor Hugo. It’s called that because it’s close to Place Victor Hugo, named in honour of the novelist; another nearby street is Rue Paul Valéry — a well-known French poet. O, how good it is to be in a city where they value their poets!

For me Paris is also the city of Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald — and even of Canadian novelist Morley Callaghan, who spent a summer in their company back in 1929. To people-watch from a smoky Parisienne café, makes me feel just that little bit closer to these greats.

Seeing people coming up out of the Metro — the Paris subway — I couldn’t help but think of the fascinating little two-line poem by Ezra Pound, called
“In A Station of the Metro”:
-----------The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
-----------Petals on a wet, black bough.

While riding in a coach through the English countryside, I was reading from an English poet — in a book I’d just found in a used bookshop — a poem about a Van Gogh painting, which I was familiar with from a book at home, but had also seen up close in Paris the week before.

As a writer these are all good reasons to travel to a city as inspiring as Paris.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. 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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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Just Touring? - M. Laycock

You could not stand before the building without looking up. It was one of those massive European cathedrals, built in the age of religious fervor, whose architects seemed to have one message - look up, look way up. Every line of the structure flowed toward heaven.

As I melted into the stream of people entering the church, I could imagine the throngs who, centuries ago, crowded into this cathedral to hear God’s word. It did not take long for that illusion to disappear. A tour guide with a voice like a megaphone began his litany of historical facts: how long it took to build the structure; where the stone was quarried and how many men it took to finish the job; who commissioned and who designed the works of art.

As we entered the sanctuary, the atmosphere changed as the building opened into the massive open area supported by pillars and framed in stained glass. For a moment I had the sense of history again, a sense of understanding the purpose for this edifice. The tour guide’s voice again broke through as he began to lead us toward the altar.

It was at that point that I frowned. From the back of the large group, I watched the guide lead the people up a short flight of stairs onto the platform, where a priest was in the midst of celebrating the mass. The megaphone voice was lowered slightly as the group passed behind the altar. I noticed some of the other tourists at least had the courtesy to look sheepish. Caught in the flow, I continued with the crowd, feeling as though we were all participating in a crime. When I think back on that moment, I realize we were.

When I think of it now, I realize at times we still are. In the presence of our God, we remain aloof. We stand back and gawk, yet remain indifferent and unmoved, failing to rejoice, failing to call others to see and be amazed.

Some time ago a cartoon appeared in the pages of many Canadian newspapers. To Canadian baby boomers, it had immediate significance. One of our childhood television heroes, The Friendly Giant, had died. “Friendly” always began his program with the words “Look up, look way up,” as the camera moved up from the toe of his large boot to his smiling face. The newspaper cartoon echoed those words and showed a large hand reaching down toward him.

But it is not only in death that God tells us to look up. Like the architects of old, He designed our world to make us turn to Him. He put a yearning in our hearts to worship and made us into His church. He put a yearning in the hearts of writers to record and express the experiences of life and to proclaim His glory. All the lines of life say, “look up, look way up.” As writers of faith we must often ask ourselves, are we just touring the cathedral? Or are we striving to look up and reach for the glory of God in every word we write?

“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Marcia Laycock is a pastor's wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website - http://www.vinemarc.com/

Monday, August 02, 2010

While I Am Away - Nesdoly

Have you taken your summer vacation yet? Here's a vacation every true-blue writer would love to take, despite the fallout:

While I Am Away

While I am away
hiking the hills and valleys of plot
people-watching memories
then eavesdropping mumbled conversations
spelunking caves of character and motivation
running rapids on Verb River
storm-chasing metaphors and similes...

the laundry basket
grows obese with ironing
new life forms of pink, green and black
take up residence in the bathroom
kitchen floor becomes a banquet table
spread for ants
and the ripe redolence
of the last brown banana
nourishes yet another
generation of fruit flies.

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly (first published in Calendar)

Happy vacation everyone — whatever vacation you're on!


Website: www.violetnesdoly.com

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