Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back to the Rock - Eleanor Shepherd

I walked into the hotel room and went straight to the window. Gazing over the harbour the flurry of the seagulls drew my eyes to The Narrows. Immediately, I whispered to myself, “I mus

t call Dad and tell him where I am. He will be so thrilled.” But no. I could not do that. I can’t call him anymore to share such moments. Yet somehow, it was comforting to know that were I able to do so, it would have brought him joy. He would love to know that the land he loved so well brings me warm thoughts of him.

I am back in St. John’s, the place of my birth. Although the city is recognisable from what is was like in those days, the topography does not change. As I look out my window, Signal Hill still stands guard over the city as it has from the time of the earliest town settlers. The narrow harbour entrance still keeps the vessels safe from the raging seas beyond.

No wonder they call the island The Rock. Not only must the vegetation be able to

survive in the few inches of soil piled on top of rock in many places. There are many bays where the rocks are worn smooth by the constant onslaught of wave upon wave, year after year. It has the permanence of rock that remains fixed with all of the changing landscape.

I found out today that not only the house that I was brought home from the hospital to live in is gone. So is the hospital where I was born. In the steady march of urban development they have been removed to make room for new homes and business and new health care facilities. I am reminded again that there are few things in our lives that escape the advancing tide of change.

Yet there it is, that narrow harbour opening, not significantly altered from when my father first came to watch the fishing vessels from the Grand Banks come through it with their catch. Now the port is populated by large container ships. As my little friend, three year old Will ate supper with me last evening his eyes grew wide watching the tall cranes extracting the containers from the ship.

Many of the rows of frame houses rising from the harbour are gone. The old stores with exotic names like London, New York and Paris, or Ayers and Sons, or Bowrings are no longer found along Water Street. Come to think of it, it seems like the only stores that remain downtown are boutiques. There are mostly restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and of course there is the large hockey arena.

As I observe all of the changes in the city and the harbour, I ask myself how I feel a

bout all this transformation. Would I prefer that it remained as it was? I don’t think so. The memories evoke a certain nostalgia, but I rather enjoy being able to come to this city and find the same stores and coffee shops and restaurants that I find no matter where I am in the country. I like finding the familiar everywhere. I also enjoy the uniqueness of the place – The Narrows that marks this as being a place unlike any other.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mary Wilson - P. A. Black

With tear-glistened cheeks, her face inclined heavenward, and her countenance radiant with gratitude and delight, the woman — a slightly rotund, grandmotherly figure — pours out her thanksgiving, adoration, and worship to her heavenly Lord who has done so much for her. And with colloquial eloquence she lays out before the Lord the treasures of a grateful heart, every sentence overflowing with loving intensity from a soul on fire.

The occasion is a customary and participatory segment of the communion service held each Sunday morning in her home church in Aberdeen, Scotland. She is in her 70s. Mary Wilson, widowed many years before, became a Christian through personal faith in Christ when she was 46 years of age, and always regrets that it took her so long. From that time on, she has never ceased to wonder at the merciful love and grace of God towards her. “Sister Wilson” as we usually called her, was indeed grateful for every blessing she received. Not only was she a grateful receiver of God’s blessings, but she was a great giver! Now, she didn’t parade that as a fact, for deep humility was also one of her distinctive characteristics. She believed in “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”— that is, doing deeds of kindness in Jesus’ name while keeping things anonymous, wherever possible.

Mary was a woman of very humble means, living in a rented tenement garret (an attic apartment) above a busy downtown street, with no bathroom or inside toilet. Well, there was a flush toilet, but to get to it she had to go down three or four stories to the outhouse in the back yard. She worked two early morning cleaning jobs to supplement her old age pension, and that better enabled her to contribute in practical ways to Christian ministry and to the needs of others.

Rising at about 5 o’clock each weekday morning, she headed out — journeying on foot and by bus — to clean an office, then make her way to the Christian bookstore and clean it ready for opening time. Mary Wilson provided and faithfully set up the communion emblems each Sunday morning, and donated a beautiful spray of flowers for the sanctuary every week, year after year.

Sunday afternoon would find her at the Sherratt Court Mission, serving up soup and sandwiches to the homeless and down-and-out, for whom she had great compassion. Evening usually found her in church at the Gospel Service. She had a neighbour of about 10 years her senior, who was confined to her attic room. Mary ensured she had groceries and meals, and helped bathe her.

She never forgot that it was the love of Jesus who lifted her. I didn’t know much about her pre-conversion life, but in her thanksgiving in the communion service she often reflected in her Aberdonian brogue: “Father, I caunna’ thaunk ye enough fur’ a’ yer mercy and love t’ards us. Phaur kens whaur I widha’ been if Jesus hadna’ lifted me!”

Mary Wilson gave largely — “bigly” — out of the little she had, and was kindred to the widow Jesus commended in Mark 12:42-44, whom He observed putting two small copper coins into the Temple treasury. The Master declared that compared to others participating in the offering, “. . . this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”

She is also in the company of Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister, who freely poured out her costly perfume on our Lord and wiped his feet with her hair in a lavish, yet humble, expression of gratitude and love (John 12:3).

As I reflect today on my journey through Lent my thoughts drift back four decades to those times I sneaked a peek at this dear saint of God, and marvelled again at her pouring out the sweet, pure perfume of loving adoration to the One who loved her and gave Himself for her.

Her humility was Christlike, and her love sacrificial.

I am inspired and moved.

Contempt sizzles on the fires of my burning pride.

And yet I journey on towards Calvary.

And the Cross.


Peter A. Black is a freelance writer, and writes a weekly column in The Watford Guide-Advocate. He is the author of "Parables from the Pond"

(Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Can we have Easter Delights without Lenten Fasting? – Lawrence

A few weeks ago, when I was out doing the weekly shopping, I was surprised to see all the Easter goodies on the shelves. This was not just the usual chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs but Easter crackers in pastel pinks, yellows and blues—Christmas crackers transformed from red, green and silver into the more gentle colours of spring.

There is rarely a day throughout the year when there is not some reason given for buying greeting cards and chocolate goodies in order to celebrate one event or another. Chocolate Santa Claus and chocolate bells are in stores by October; Valentine hearts are on the shelves almost before New Year’s Day is over; while Easter eggs and St. Patrick’s Day clover leaf emblems sit side by side with little distinction between the two occasions.

It occurred to me that we are continually looking for and being tempted by the good stuff in life; we don’t consider that sometimes we have to go through difficult times and, in fact, it might even be good for us to do so. We begin to think that it is our right to have the good things in life without ever having to experience bad things—we don’t look for the dry bread of Lent, only the sweet treats of Easter.

We certainly won’t see the dry bread of Lent being sold in the supermarket but without some difficulties in life we can never truly appreciate the rich chocolate of Easter eggs. Without the wilderness of Lent, or the rites of Holy Week and Good Friday, we could never truly appreciate our Lord’s resurrection and what this means to us as Christians.

© Judith Lawrence

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finding Your Space

How does one sing a song in a strange land? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself over the last three months as we prepare to leave a beloved country property and move into town. Surroundings to which I trusted my voice and shared my deepest yearnings now seem to wait to see if we can actually leave. Some days I feel like a nomad, pitching my tent in a different county and looking for water to satisfy my insatiable thirst for stability. In our ‘new to us’ home, I look for possibilities to find my space. Several rooms, yet unidentified to their future use begin to stimulate thoughts. My voice echoes through the open space and emphasizes the house’s emptiness. My questions about one area being too small or another definitely too large, causes me to wonder what will fit where. Walking through the rooms, I slowly begin to vaguely see the images of my favourite rocking chair in a corner with natural light from a nearby window. From the edge of the room, I see a rug has been pulled back to expose a lovely 100-year-old white pine floor waiting to possess its former beauty. Wallpaper has been teased away from its unmarked plaster, leaving itself open for a fresh coat of paint.

Looking through the wide expansive windows, I see a robin, home from her long journey, sitting on the fence wishing away the snow as she sings her new song. I look at a blanket of snow, yet I know it lies over, what I hope will become a garden to behold. Through the glass, I notice the disappearing snow has exposed grey-looking grass and I know given time, it will change to a fresh and soft green mat. Crocuses and tulips push through the snow, a reminder that beauty is just below the surface of the unknown.

This is the time of Lent. Newness will come. Grace will triumph. Hopefully, I will see the covering of sin and omissions in my own life disappear as new life frees, allows and welcomes new growth. I look back to the empty rooms and I think, “Truly, this too shall pass” as it gives way to a fresh invitation of a new season of life. At the moment, our empty home is void of furniture, dishes and texture, until the moving van arrives. However in that emptiness, what counts most is obvious: people, love, forgiveness, challenge, co-operation and God’s love. Truly that’s a good beginning to finding my voice, and listening to a new song in this new and somewhat strange land. Donna Mann (Farm Stories for kids)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Destiny - HIRD

By Rev Ed Hird

Many of us enjoyed the Valkyrie movie which showed the courage of those who sacrificed life and family to put an end to Nazism. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, though not mentioned directly in the movie, was instrumental in the Valkyrie plot to stop Hitler. Martyred for his faith just 23 days before the Allies liberated Germany, Bonhoeffer’s last poem and his Barmen Declaration are printed in the ‘Lutheran’ hymnbook.[1]

Coming from a highly educated, aristocratic family, Bonhoeffer shocked his family by deciding to become a pastor.[2] Bonhoeffer was spiritually impacted by his Moravian Brethren ‘nanny’ Maria Horn who introduced him to the practice of having daily devotions.[3] After earning his doctorate at age 21, Bonhoeffer moved to the United States where he encountered African-American gospel music and preaching at the 14,000-member Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY. The Abyssinian Church was led by Dr Adam Clayton Powell Sr, the son of slaves whose mother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Dr Powell told a powerful story of his conversion to Christ from heavy drinking, violence and gambling.[4] Bonhoeffer was deeply moved by Dr Powell, saying “…here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.”[5]

Moving back to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer warned people about the dangers of Nazism, but many brushed off his prophetic statements as alarmist. The Nazis worked carefully to first silence and then take over the Churches in Germany, birthing a movement called the German Christian Movement which discarded the Old Testament, putting the swastika at the centre of the cross.[6] At the Berlin Sports Stadium in 1933, in front of 20,000 supporters, the cross was denounced as ‘a ridiculous debilitating remnant of Judaism, unacceptable to National Socialists.’[7] Nazis believed that it was un-aryan to let Jesus take our sins on the cross.

Bonhoeffer responded by forming the Confessing Church movement which rejected racism and hatred of others. The Confessing Church started five seminaries/centres for training future pastors. Many Confessing Churches were firebombed by gangs of Hitler Youth. On December 1935, the Nazis declared the Confessing Church to be illegal. They forbid the Confessing Church to hire employees, send out newsletters, take collections, or train students for ordination.[8] In 1937, the Nazis banned worship services from being held in unconsecrated buildings, homes or in public meeting halls. It also became illegal to pray for anyone who had been sent to prison.[9] Many Confessing Church pastors ended up in prison.

In 1938, Bonhoeffer quietly contacted Admiral Wilhelm Canaris who was involved in the German resistance movement. As the leader of the Abwehr Intelligence, Canaris was seeking for a way to remove Hitler.[10] After the annexation of Austria and the destruction of over three hundred synagogues and 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses on the night of Kristallnacht, Bonhoeffer was persuaded to return to the United States. His friends were sure that Hitler was about to destroy Bonhoeffer. He had no peace in the USA, knowing that Germany needed him. Bonhoeffer opened his bible to the verse: He who believes does not flee. After only four weeks, he embraced his destiny, taking the last ship back to Germany.[11]

After the invasion of Poland and then France, Bonhoeffer was now required to report regularly to the police. He was forbidden to speak in public or publish books.[12] In 1943, while working for the underground, Bonhoeffer fell in love with and became engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer. Three months later he was arrested by the Gestapo. “Your life would have been quite different, easier, clearer, simpler, had not our paths crossed,” he wrote to her. But Maria stayed faithful to Bonhoeffer to the very end.[13] While in Tegel Prison, Bonhoeffer wrote: “Church is only church when it is there for others.” One of the guards, Sergeant Knobloch, tried to smuggle Bonhoeffer out disguised as a mechanic. But Bonhoeffer rejected the escape plan in order to protect his fiancĂ©e and family.[14] A British fellow prisoner said later that ‘Bonhoeffer was all humility and sweetness with a deep gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive.’[15] After Bonhoeffer was hung at Flossenburg, the prison doctor reported: “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”[16]

I thank God for the courage of Bonhoeffer that he sacrificed his own life in order to make a way forward for others. Bonhoeffer was truly a man who embraced his destiny.

The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
-published in the March 2011 Deep Cove Crier
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 . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide
[1]Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 1906-1945: martyr, thinker, man of resistance, T&T Clark, 2010, P.xxii
[2] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, March 20th 2009,
[3] Schlingensiepen, P. 10, 228, 382 “chapter 1 ft 6 “the Moravian Losungn ( watchword for the day), the daily devotions book, played an operant part in Bonhoeffer’s life and is still widely used today.”
[4] Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy , Thomas Nelson,Nashville, P.108
[5] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, March 20th 2009,
[6] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
[7] Metaxas, P.193, P.290 Himmler told Moni Von Cramin: “As an Aryan I must have the courage to take responsibility for my sins alone.” He rejected as ‘jewish’ the idea of putting one’s sins on someone else’s shoulders.
[8] Schlingensiepen, P. 193
[9] Schlingensiepen, P. 205
[10] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
[11] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
[12] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
[13] Valkyrie’s Forgotten Man: Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
[14] Schlingensiepen, P. 359
[15] Schlingensiepen, P.369
[16] Metaxas, P.464

The Check-Up

by Glynis M. Belec

I'm here. I made it. Six months since my last visit and I sit in my forest green chair and I wait my turn. As I join the many people seated in the cancer clinic, that old familiar feeling surfaces in the pit of my stomach. I have spent my five minutes in the lineup at Clinic Reception 2 and have now traded my appointment slip for pager #103.

"Go fill out your questionnaire, please, then have a seat," says the kindly receptionist behind the screened area.
Like an obedient puppy, I obey. I know the routine. The black Acer screen beckons me with its cancerous finger. I forget my password. I don't want to appear a fool so I try to reset it. An older gentleman clad in the gayly coloured lemon-yellow volunteer's smock with the cancer society logo on the pocket, appears from nowhere.  I confess I have forgotten my password. Six months is a long time and my cerebral hard-drive contains 15 or 20 other passwords.

"What year were you born?" asks the kindly volunteer.

A rather personal question, I think. Then I remember nothing is hidden at the cancer clinic. 1956. I punch it into the keyboard. Bingo. It works. I answer all the required questions. Eventually the printer spits out the completed page and I clutch it to my chest.

As I take my seat, I see a woman about my age, holding a beautiful, ebony-haired toddler. Grandma - perhaps? The mother hangs on to the empty stroller and positions herself three seats over from where I sit. She chooses the pink chair.

Dear God, I find myself thinking. Don't let her be the one with cancer.

I do not want the Grandma to be the reason they are at the clinic today, either. But my heart was heavy lest it be the young mother of that beautiful little boy.

Soon the dreaded sound of my pager buzzing brings me back to reality and Kay, the nurse, catches my eye. She greets me in her usual, professional and friendly manner. She settles me into the sterile exmination room and asks me for my completed questionnaire. We speak for a while. She documents my concerns and tucks them into the file.

"Doctor S will be in to see you soon," she smiles.
She hands me my less than glamorous hospital gown and tells me to take my time because Dr. S is busy today. I wait. I dig into my red, Write! Canada bag stuffed with papers, my camera, a writer's magazine, my agenda and a notebook. I don't know what to do first.
My brain plays tricks.
"Your cancer is back! Your cancer is back!" The enemy has a heyday.

I pull out my Fellowscript magazine and start to read. I smile when I see the article written by Marcy Kennedy and Lisa Hall-Wilson - TWG members, on co-writing an article. I remember the listserve discussions on this subject a while ago. I flip through and read articles by more TWG authors. I suddenly feel like the prayer team is with me today - although I didn't tell them I was coming.
Then I think how hesitant I was telling my family about what I would share today. The enemy prods me again - ...the sin of ommission is you lied to your family...what kind of wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend are you?
Then I feel the presence of Jesus. A peace washes over me and He tells me not to believe the lies. He tells me that it is honourable to care about the feelings of others and that I ommitted nothing. He soothes my soul and tells me it is well.
I hear the footsteps. The door opens and Dr. S enters..

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thanks Sweetie - den Boer

The physically challenged Charis told me matter-of-factly that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Her mom had told her. Her mom was right of course. Sweetie talk worked for Charis. She had lots of friends and a comfortable well-furnished apartment.

There wasn’t anything God and a little niceness couldn’t accomplish.

“It’s who I am. I’m nice. Why not, it’s better than being a bitch, wouldn’t you agreed?”

I agreed.

Still...I hated being called sweetie or hon or any sugar-coated name. I let this bother me for several months.

I didn’t mind picking up Charis for church. I didn’t mind pouring the hot water into the cup, (be a sweetie) getting the milk out of the fridge, (thanks sweetie) holding the elevator, parking close to the curb so she could step from her walker into the van (thanks hon).

But, with each confectionary name, the irritation grew inside me. I would silently push down my ugliness.

One Sunday morning, I decided I had to say something. We couldn’t go on like this. I wanted to like Charis.

At our destination, “Charis,” I said as I opened the van door and placed her walker where she could reach it. “This is more about me than you. Could you stop calling me sweetie? I hate it. It stirs up something inside me, something ugly.”

She was shocked. More shocked than I anticipated. Any shock was more than I anticipated, as I hadn’t anticipated shock at all. I had naively believed that she would entirely understand my dilemma.

Now we were on opposite sides of an abyss. She didn’t think I should ask her to change who she was. I didn’t think that was what I was doing.

We talked a circle.

“Maybe God is using me to change you,” she concluded.

“I’m sure He is,” I agreed.

She hasn't called me sweetie since and I don’t feel like a fly anymore.

Marian den Boer is the author of Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snipers in the Church-Gibson

Sometimes they send their stories by email. But often the hurting ones approach my husband and me after we speak. People who begin talking in whispers, first glancing around the church, restaurant, or hall to make sure no one’s listening. Then, emboldened, their stories of slaughter spill out. And they’re breaking our hearts.

It’s not a full-scale slaughter we’re hearing about. I’d call them “sniper in the church” tales. But the result is the same: moral, emotional, financial, even spiritual devastation, perpetrated by fellow church members against other church members, including pastors.

We know about the snipers, of course. We’ve experienced them ourselves, during our thirty-plus years of ministry life. But during our last three years of travelling to churches of many denominations across Western Canada we’ve become more aware of the problem within the Body.

That the Church has enemies is not news. We’re told to expect them. We’re told to arm ourselves against them. We know they operate on the orders of the devil, even though they wear human faces. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that Christ-followers don’t wrestle against flesh and blood—but against (among others) spiritual forces of evil.

Every time I read that classic spiritual warfare passage, I’m always jerked to attention by the next few words, for where does Paul place those spiritual forces of evil? In “the heavenly realms.” In heavenly places. In, even, the local bodies of the Church.

Many Christ-followers appreciate their churches because, in a world rotting in corruption, they are perceived to be refreshing corners of love, support, and sanity—a haven from the rest of the world that helps equip us to be salt and light to the rest of the world. We feel safe in laying our armour down around our fellow believers. After all, we’re loved by those people who are part of God’s family. That’s what Christ prayed, didn’t he? That we may be known for the way we love each other?

But according to scripture, the walls—figurative or literal—of our churches aren’t a guaranteed safe place from attacks of Satan. It’s the Church he seeks hardest to infiltrate. That means that even in our places of worship, just as in the clearly dark places, those who follow Jesus must make sure we’ve got our spiritual armour on, and hold tightly to the shield of faith, which is our only defense against sniper attacks.

I speak carefully here. I am a child of one arm of Christ’s Church. My husband and I have spent our adult lives in ministry. Without the friendships and connections God has allowed us within it, our lives would be impoverished. Not only that, Jesus founded the Church. Died and rose again for the Church. God has called out the Church as his very own Bride.

But the Bride, quite frankly, has some catty bridesmaids, and they’re spoiling the engagement.

Call them what you will—controllers, well-intentioned dragons, misguided ministry leaders—our conversations, experience, and email tells us that the devil’s ruinous agenda is (and always has been) furthered by well-placed people worshipping alongside us within our congregations.

In an article I wrote for a major newspaper several years ago, I spoke frankly about the things that puzzle me about the Church. About the gap between what the Bible calls us to, and what we’ve become.

Responses to that article dismayed me. I received a few long emails from people—including pastors, who had been deeply wounded by fellow “good Christian soldiers.” People who were their friends one week—fellow worshippers, parishioners, pastors, Sunday School teachers—and their enemy the next.

To my amazement, a large mainline church asked for permission to make the article into a bulletin insert and a handout tract. I agreed, though not without sorrow that such a bundle of words was so eagerly received.

Somewhere along their Christian walk, the snipers in our midst have allowed Satan to convince them that because of their _____________ (superior walk with Christ, long history in the church, inside knowledge, education, position of leadership—you fill in the blank), they have a God-given mandate to shape their local bodies after their own images.

Whether it means scheming for leadership positions, beginning a smear campaign, outright confrontations, withholding of salary or benefits, rallying sides, fomenting for change or indoctrinating newer attendees regarding correct behaviour, the snipers are determined to sing Frank Sinatra’s signature song… “I did it my way!” And in so doing they become tools of Satan in his mission to disrupt and destroy the message of the gospel and the work of Christ’s Church, just as surely as the recent earthquake wrought destruction on Christchurch, New Zealand.

Perhaps understanding the motivation of the snipers in our midst may help us deal with them in mercy and love. It suspect that if most were able to articulate the reasons for their behavior, perhaps it would sound like this: “I’m afraid that if everyone doesn’t act/believe/speak like I do, I can’t live out my faith the way God would want me to, and, even worse, God can’t do what he wants to on earth!”

But regardless of what Satan uses to drive them, the problem is that along the way people get hurt—and worse. Shot by their own fellow Christian soldiers. The battlefield doesn’t look pretty. Congregations split. Churches close. People lose faith. Pastors’ good reputations are slaughtered. Church members drag each other into court. God’s name is slandered. And though we know God has already won the battle, in those sniper-generated skirmishes Satan folds his hands and chalks up another victory.

A few weeks ago I walked into the living room as my husband watched the news of the unrest in Libya. I stared in horror at a line of soldiers laying face down on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs. Blood, in wide dark pools, puddled around them.

“What happened?” I asked, when I could get my voice back under me.

“The government asked them to open fire on the protestors,” said my equally horrified husband, “but they wouldn’t shoot their fellow citizens.”

Another report, also from Libya, stated that two helicopter pilots bailed from their bombers rather than follow orders to bomb a city held by anti-government forces.

Fellow Christian soldiers, take note. If even faithless soldiers are willing to sacrifice their lives rather than submit to an evil leader who demands they shoot into crowds of their fellow citizens, how much more should we do the same? We follow the One who is Life and Love!

Leaders of districts and local bodies, stop closing your eyes to the sniping in the name of “keeping peace” and deal wisely with the known snipers in your congregations. God gets no glory from a peace that carries the stench of death.

In the spirit of the Apostle Paul…onward, Christian soldiers! Pray ceaselessly. Love mightily. Act fearlessly. And for goodness’ sake, keep your armour on.

Strength and hope to you.
Kathleen Gibson is an author, speaker, and faith and life columnist for Yorkton This Week and elsewhere.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Martin

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was the most popular American poet of his time. He wrote extensive stories in verse form, such as Evangeline and The Song of Hiawatha, as well as shorter poems. To some he may be best known for his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”, and to others for “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” which has become a popular Christmas carol.

He is considered to be one of the Fireside poets — which include William Cullen Bryant and Oliver Wendell Homes — who were the first American poets whose popularity could rival that of the British.

Longfellow not only wrote his own poetry, but translated poetry from such languages as Spanish, French, German, Danish, and Swedish, and was the first American to translate The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.


I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial-ground God's-Acre! It is just;
It consecrates each grave within its walls,
And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.

God's-Acre! Yes, that blessed name imparts
Comfort to those, who in the grave have sown
The seed that they had garnered in their hearts,
Their bread of life, alas! no more their own.

Into its furrows shall we all be cast,
In the sure faith, that we shall rise again
At the great harvest, when the archangel's blast
Shall winnow, like a fan, the chaff and grain.

Then shall the good stand in immortal bloom,
In the fair gardens of that second birth;
And each bright blossom mingle its perfume
With that of flowers, which never bloomed on earth.

With thy rude ploughshare, Death, turn up the sod,
And spread the furrow for the seed we sow;
This is the field and Acre of our God,
This is the place where human harvests grow!

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:

This is this week's post from: Kingdom Poets Follow this link to see dozens more, including many contemporary poets.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Carrying the Cheese - Laycock

I heard a well-known story recently, about David, the future king of Israel. As I listened, I pictured David as a young man, eager for adventure, eager to take his place beside his brothers on the battlefield. I wonder if David schemed a bit, when his father called him home. I wonder if he didn’t fantasize, just a little, about wearing armor and carrying a sharp sword. Imagine his disappointment when his father placed a donkey’s lead in his hand instead. He was not being sent to the front lines to fight the great battle and win the victory. He was being sent to give nourishment to those who were.

Perhaps David’s cry to God went like this – “But Lord, You’ve given me strength enough to kill lions and bears. You had the prophet anoint me king. So why, Lord? Why do you ask me to only carry the cheese?”

But David obeyed. It was later he discovered that submitting to the role of the servant was God’s way of putting him where he would do the most good. God did have bigger things planned, and David’s journey to get there was part of his preparation for an even bigger picture. God was making David not just into the boy-hero who slew the giant, but into a King worthy of his anointing.

Sometimes writers dream and scheme as David did. We know our gifts, we see the needs and are eager to do great things. But often the path God tells us to walk does not seem to lead to the place where we think we would do the most good. We would do well to remember that God knows the bigger picture. He knows the plans He has for us, “plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Like David, we are being shaped into useful tools. And like David we are best shaped when we are serving others.

Is there a donkey’s lead dangling in front of you? Perhaps God is telling you to get up and carry some cheese.
Marcia's devotional books have been endorsed by Jeanette Oke, Phill Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Visit her website -

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Be Too Cool - Arends

A Word to Those Who Create Stories:

There is a tremendous fascination with the anti-hero in literature and media these days, to the point that noble characters are often dismissed outright as one-dimensionally nostalgic. A word to all you writers out there: Do not grow weary in creating good, or at least in creating protagonists who are capable of redemptive choices. Here is some encouragement from the brilliant novelist Mark Helprin:

A lot of people hate heroes. I was criticized for portraying people who are brave, honest, loving, intelligent. That was called weak and sentimental. People who dismiss all real emotion as sentimentality are cowards. They’re afraid to commit themselves, and so they remain ‘cool’ for the rest of their lives, until they’re dead—then they’re really cool.

Be truthful about the ruinious effects of Original Sin, by all means. But don't be so cool you miss chances to infuse your work with the shimmering realities of Original Grace. 

May God bless the work of your hands,
Carolyn Arends

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One Thousand Gifts - a review (Nesdoly)

Title: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
Author: Ann Voskamp
Publisher: Zondervan, February 2011, available in hardcover and Kindle editions
• ISBN-10: 0310321913
• ISBN-13: 978-0310321910
“They say memory jolts awake with trauma’s electricity. That would be the year I turned four. The year when blood pooled and my sister died and I, all of us, snapped shut to grace” (Kindle location 45).

In this early paragraph from One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp relates her first memory – a tragic accident that overshadowed much of her life. Then she whisks us forward to her adult self, the wife of an Ontario farmer, a mother of six, and a fearful woman on a quest to understand and trust a God who would allow a baby to be snatched from her family.

Through vignettes from her life she takes us with her on the journey. It begins when she discovers the Greek word eucharisteo which embodies "giving thanks," "grace," and "joy." At about the same time a friend challenges her to list one thousand things for which she is thankful. She begins keeping a gratitude journal.

Along the way we rush to the ER with her and her son the day he mangles his hand, overhear her dealing with a hurting child, and feel her toe-clenching fear as hog prices plummet. Intertwined through these and other stories is what she learns about God and trust, fear, beauty, humility, service, and more.

Voskamp’s openness and vulnerability are moving. She buttresses her vivid storytelling and poetic prose with quotes from sources as varied as St. Augustine and John Piper. The rich text begs to be read slowly and savoured.

One Thousand Gifts is a powerful and convincing apologetic for thankfulness. It illustrates how the practice of gratitude can morph from a mere exercise of accumulating items on a list to a trusting, joyful lifestyle.

Ann Voskamp is a member of The Word Guild and blogs at A Holy Experience.

© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly
This review was first published in the March/April 2011 issue of Faith Today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Play the Waiting Game - Derksen

I look out my back window every morning, hoping to see less snow than the morning before.  Winter, snow, blizzards and the like are getting old. I want it over. I want to see the green haze of spring erupt on tree branches. I want to see farmers till the soil so it can soon have that green sheen of new growth. But…it’s not for me to decide. It’s all in God’s timing so I need to show patience.

That’s hard, isn’t it? Waiting. Waiting for a baby to be born…waiting for the chemo to take affect and the tumor to shrink…waiting for winter to end…waiting. We wait for a friend to finally understand that God is who He said He is and that He can do what He says He can do. We wait for an injury to heal so we can pick up our life where it was and carry on.

The world we live in swarms with instant this and instant that. When I was a young woman, I used to write home a couple of times a year. It would take a couple of weeks for my parents to receive a letter. Now we can turn on the computer and visit online…right now…with our daughter who lives in Pennsylvania. We can pick up the phone anywhere we are because we carry it with us. We don’t even have to wait until we get home to see who left us a message.

God wants us to take time. He wants us to use time to get to know Him better, to listen for His still small voice. He wants us to focus on His plan for our lives and to appreciate that He takes the time to be with us, plan with us, and wait for His timing. He wants us to stop and appreciate the things around us that He created so we can appreciate His love for us.

Instead we rush…hither and yon…doing sometimes meaningless tasks, busyness that interrupts our quiet time when we could be sitting at his feet absorbing His words. The world has taken on the Martha persona and God wants us to be Marys…enjoying Him, seeking His face.

When I look out the window, all my impatience has not made one iota of difference. In fact, it snowed again last night and the piles are larger than they were the day before. My wanting is not going to make it so and besides my wants are not important in the greater scheme of things. God knows…the best time…the right time…and everything will happen according to His timetable…not mine. I need to learn to relax, enjoy the day, and listen.

Barbara Ann Derksen is currently working on her thirteenth book. She resides in Manitoba Canada. Her books can be found at or at Barnes and Nobles,, and Borders. Vanished and Presumed Dead are also in e-book format. and can be found at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Structure/ Our Stature – Reynolds

“The self knows the world, insofar as it knows the world, because it stands outside both itself and the world, which means that it cannot understand itself except as it is understood from beyond itself and the world.” (Reinhold Niebuhr, Human Nature, p. 14)

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.
Your glory is chanted above the heavens by infants and little children,
whose praise shames and silences Your enemies and Your foes.
When I look up into Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars that You have created,
why do You take heed of mere mortals?
Why do You care for our humanity?
Yet, You have made us only a little less than divine,
You have crowned us with glory and honour.
You have given us dominion over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things under our feet –
sheep and cattle, even the wild creatures,
and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes through the sea.
O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Your name in all the earth.
(Psalm 8)

In the 1730's, Alexander Pope wrote his "Essay on Man!" The previous two hundred years had seen the turmoil and bloodshed of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, two hundred years of wars over religion -- the Christian religion. European society had become completely disenchanted with "revealed religion," and with theology as "queen of the sciences." The most knowledgeable people of the time were beginning to turn to "natural knowledge" and to the physical sciences for understanding of life and of human existence.

So Pope wrote,

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man.

In contrast, in the twentieth century, an American poet could write an "Epitaph, found somewhere in space:"

In desolation, here a lost world lies.
All wisdom was its aim: with noble plan
It sounded ocean deeps, measured the skies,
And fathomed every mystery but Man.
(Hugh Wilgus Ramsaur)

Our western culture, through the twentieth century and into today, has had great difficulty in finding our measure in the universe. The tools and categories of science and "natural knowledge" have somehow not seemed adequate to an understanding of ourselves. In the attempt to analyze our structure, we have forgotten the measure of our stature. But it's not by our structure that we take our true human measure, but by our stature.

Shortly after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, an American newspaper carried two cartoons side by side. One showed the terrible scene of that cold April night in the North Atlantic Ocean, the gigantic liner ripped open by an iceberg as though it has been a child's plastic toy. Underneath was the caption, "The weakness of man and the supremacy of nature."

The other drawing was also the sinking of the ship, but this one showed a close-up of a certain distinguished passenger stepping back to give his place in the last lifeboat to a woman and her child. Underneath was the caption, "The weakness of nature and the supremacy of man."

In construction work, the important thing is structure. When you're building a house (or even a small shed), it's important to know whether the beams and joists should be "two-by-four" or "two-by-eight." When you're building a bridge over the river, or a large downtown public building, you must understand some rather complex things about stress and the capacity of steel
and reinforced concrete. In this "brave new world" we've been building, structure has naturally seemed to us of prime importance.

This emphasis has been carried over even to our understanding of ourselves. We have analyzed and dissected, probed and examined, until we know not only the muscular structure of the body but also the molecular structure of the cells, not only the circulation and the chemistry of the blood but the very secrets of the DNA molecule, and have begun to experiment with the possibilities of cloning.

But structurally, we are such puny creatures – whose lives may be instantly ended by a falling stone or a flying bullet, or by an unseen virus, germ or blood clot. Before the face of the universe and before the force inherent in the atom, we are creatures infinitesimally small and weak, whose whole corporate existence and history may be obliterated in a second by worlds in collision or atoms in division.

It would take 1,300,000 planets the size of our earth to equal, roughly, the size of the sun. Yet the sun is but one average star in the galaxy of stars we call "the Milky Way." And astrologers tell us that there are not just millions but trillions of other galaxies such as the Milky Way.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
. . . When I look up into Your heavens, the work of Your
fingers, the moon and the stars which You have created,

Structurally, we are like ants, crushed by the heel of fate. "Our days are few and brief. Like grass, like the flower of the field, we flourish. The wind blows upon it, and it is gone, and its place can recall it no more." (Psalm 103:15-16)

But it's not our structure which gives us significance. It's our stature!

Remember the words of Blaise Pascal:

Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he
is a thinking reed. ... By space the universe encompasses
and swallows me as an atom; by thought, I encompass the
universe. (from Pensees)

Before we allow ourselves to be overcome with a sense of our utter insignificance, think again. In one sense we are greater than the universe because we comprehend the universe in which we exist. Physically the universe engulfs us. Mentally, we encompass the universe.

Imagination boggles and breaks down trying to conceive the vastness of the cosmos and the making and unmaking of its stellar galaxies. The thought of it can stagger us, bulldoze us into utter insignificance. Are we not complete nonentities in such a cosmos? Then the Christian thinks again. After all, which is more marvelous, more indicative of what ultimate reality is
like, the fact that the vast universe so encompasses us, or the fact that our mind can encompass the vast universe, measures its distances, plots its laws? This is the critical juncture where man's varied philosophies meet and part. “The mind that encompasses the universe is more marvelous and revelatory than the universe that encompasses the mind.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, A Faith For Tough Times, pp. 25-26)

Perhaps the twentieth century was gradually learning this lesson. So much of the early literature and art of the century has shown an utter inability to comprehend our human stature.

Back in the 1920's, Ernest Hemingway wrote one of his more powerful short stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." It was the story of the death of a man, at the foot of Africa's greatest mountain, because of an infected scratch on his knee. "The weakness of man and the supremacy of nature." But one of Hemingway's last works was the short novel, The Old Man And The Sea. In this story of the old man's heroic but futile struggle against the forces of nature, there is the hint of something more, something recognizing our human stature. "Man is not made for defeat," Hemingway wrote in this later work. "A man may be destroyed, but not defeated!" Exactly! Because you can destroy structure, but you've got to defeat stature.

It's in our stature that we are big -- so big that we can wriggle the universe under our toes.

You have made us only a little less than divine,
You have crowned us with glory and honour.
You have given us dominion over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things under our feet.

We can only understand and appreciate our human stature when we are able to see and understand that we are created "in the image of God."

When you've got that vision, you can never put your humanity completely down -- no matter how mean and ignoble your life, or the life of others, may become. It's true, of course, that the image of God in our humanity has been sadly obliterated, scarred and marred, “seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil.”(G. M. Hopkins, "God's Grandeur") And yet, we do have this capacity, this self-transcendence, this ability to categorize, to order things around us, to arrange them and use them, to "have dominion." So we can never be merely creatures of time and space, for we inhabit a dimension other than time and space. We are created "in God's image," for responsible relationship with God.

Alexander Pope could write, "The proper study of mankind is man." But I believe that in this twentieth-first century we have begun to realize that we cannot understand ourselves simply in terms of ourselves and of our empirical existence. We can only understand our humanity in terms of our stature, of our sense of transcendence and our consciousness of the spiritual and the eternal. And we neglect these dimensions of our existence at the peril of our humanity.

The obvious fact is that man is a child of nature, subject to its vicissitudes, compelled by its necessities, driven by its impulses, and confined within the brevity of the years which nature permits its varied organic forms, allowing them some, but not too much latitude. The other less obvious fact is that man is a spirit who stands outside of nature, life, himself, his reason and the world. (Reinhold Niebuhr, Human Nature)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grieving Those Still With Us - Austin

Like joy, grief comes in many forms. Often it takes us by surprise. We think we are prepared, then find that preparing our minds fails totally at preparing our emotions.

No one lives forever here, and we grasp that without difficulty -- as a theory. But some people, even in long distance relationships, have entwined themselves in our lives so deeply that we cannot imagine a world without them.

Can this be the same man who moped around when he hit 50, because life was over? He's done quite a bit of living in the years since. Ninety-two is just nine days away as I post this.

In his 70's and 80's Dad was one of the key fund-raisers for the Canadian Leprosy Mission. With another man of the same vintage, they gathered scrap aluminum and copper, as well as old betteries and raised more than $50,000 each year. At 76 Dad set an age record for the zip-line at Camp Harmattan, and he still talked of getting roller-blades at 80, his wife telling him to act his age. On that particular birthday, Dad reached 80 push-ups, a goal he had worked toward for quite some time. It seems only yesterday that he would go for a walk and break into a jog.

Can this be the same man, tottering on uncertain steps, turning his body, then trying desperately to convince his feet to cooperate? Can this be the same man, who can still recite "The Cremation of Sam McGee," but asks the same question five times in 15 minutes? Can this man who relates stories from 70 years ago in minute detail, be the same one who cannot remember where 'home' is? Can this be the same man who moves so slowly from the couch to the phone, who has enough alertness to know he is losing some of his mental abilities, but no way to slow that loss?

How many times have I joked that he would outlive me, more than half expecting it would be true? How many times have I anticipated his line on the phone, "I'm pretty good for an old man," and somehow delighted in its predictability? How many times have I reflected on the richness of knowing he and Evelyn had prayed for my wife and I, each of our children and grandchildren -- by name -- within the last 24 hours? With close to 80 names in 10 extended families the last time I was present for one of those prayer times, there were mixups and prompts. But what price could you put on such a heritage?

Thirty-five years of daily prayer with Mom & Dad until Mom died in 1978. Thirty-two years of daily prayer with Dad & Evelyn. I'm getting up there, but that's more years of prayer than I've been around. They might have left millions for the seven families on Dad's side and the three families on Evelyn's side to squabble over. But how many millions would it take to balance this richer heritage of a lifetime of prayer? How many millions would it take to balance lives lived for God -- not perfectly -- but consistently?

I ache as I write this. I can hardly wrap my mind around this man who would still walk five miles a day two years ago, now shuffling in slow, uncertain steps. Yet in the midst of the ache, a deep joy wells up. Dad's time here is almost over, but he is finishing well. The losses hurt, for him and for everyone around him. But his faith in God remains strong. As we plan a trip west for another visit, the richest tribute I can pay him is to let him know my wife and I carry on this tradition of prayer -- daily -- for our children and grandchildren. I know the same thing is happening in most of those 10 extended families. These days it is also our privilege to be praying for Dad and Evelyn on a regular basis.

Dad's involvement in fundraising for the Canadian Leprosy Mission was integrally tied to his workshop. He stripped insulation off hundreds of pounds of copper and aluminum wire for recycling -- a tedious task, but somehow deeply satisfying for him. He also spent countless hours puttering with tools acquired over a lifetime, often reparing something for a neighbour who might be 40 years younger. Ranking someone else's losses is a dangerous thing, but possibly the biggest single loss in Dad's life since Mom died so many years ago was the loss of that workshop.
Those first years in a luxurious senior's complex wore at Dad. If he could have just gone out to the shop for an hour or two, the rest of it would have been a foretaste of heaven. He might have needed an ambulance on standby. His workshop had seen quite a bit of blood spilled through the years, but it had also left an imprint for good on many, many lives.

Grieving. . . It's a strange process. Dad is grieving a body that no longer does his bidding, and a mind that delights in the distant past, but is baffled by the present. Every one of his kids, the youngest past 50 now, grieves as well -- that this man who has seemed timeless, now somehow measures every day against a clock fast winding down.

Ah, but love is a rich, rich treasure. And we do not grieve like those who have no hope. For love, combined with a life lived for God and for others, leaves a legacy of immeasurable value.

Thank You, God, for Dad! And thank you Dad, for living your faith in God!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fan of Facebook - Meyer

Social media is here to stay – whether we like it or not. So I figure, I might as well like it!

I was going to entitle this blog post “I love Facebook!” but thought that might be taking things a bit too far.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I don’t dislike Facebook as much as I used to (lol). Acquiring a high-speed Internet connection has helped a lot with my acceptance of this form of social media.

Reading this poem by Stephanie Nickel also really helped me to “see the light.”


While admitting
I have wasted
Far too much time
On a certain social network,
I also proclaimed
My excitement
That I’d made friends
All around the world.
To that statement,
One lady responded,
“Who needs them?”
Or something to that effect.
Time for a big breath.
Is definitely not a substitute
For face-to-face,
In my case,
And for many others,
It is a wonderful way
To connect,
To support,
To stay in touch.
As I’ve mentioned,
I’ve made
Some great friends
I’ve kept in touch
With friends
I rarely get to see.
When I’m too far away
To hug a hurting friend,
A (((hug)))
At least let’s her know
I’m thinking of her.
When another friend
Shares exciting news,
I can
(jump up and down)
And rejoice.
When the miles separate,
My friends are as close
As the computer screen.
My heart soars
At the thought
That I can brighten someone’s day.
Who needs them?
That’d be me!
As long as I’m able,
I’ll continue to soar
In cyberspace.

Published with permission of author, Stephanie Nickel. Poem originally posted November 29, 2010 on Stephanie’s blog at

Personally, I still find Facebook more of a worry than a joy. I worry that I’m not sending a flower in return for the flower that I received or participating in the newest poll or building a farm or a city or even chatting! I don’t know where to stop or start on such things so I usually just dip in for a quick visit every once in a while but don’t spend a lot of time there.

Having said all that, I would love to be your friend. I just need to get a "roundtuit" and accept some of those friend requests.

Facebook can keep you busy for hours! And there is a ton of good stuff out there. One Facebook page that I would like to recommend to you is
On this page, you’ll find out about a wonderful new anthology, A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, edited by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles.

See you around cyberspace - maybe even on Facebook!

Dorene Meyer

Author of The Little Ones and Jasmine
Now in book stores across Canada
Distributed by Word Alive Press
Available online and as ebook on Amazon (key in title of book and publisher: Word Alive Press).
Also author of Lewis, to be launched March 30!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Writing, Painting and Relationships - Smith Meyer

A two week hiatus from intentional writing to get a few rooms painted seemed like a good and workable idea. Of course before the painting could begin, there was considerable clearance to be made. That included sorting. I don’t think I’m alone in the problems that arise from that task. Each item required a decision. In accordance with those “De-cluttering” TV shows, I made piles—to keep, to give away, to throw away, and a few landed on the think about it pile.
Since many of the items came with my second marriage and had no emotional attachment, it should have been simplified, but sometimes it was harder because I didn’t know why something had been saved and what meaning might be attached to it.
Eventually the time our granddaughter could help with the painting was upon us. (My writing had already been shoved aside for almost two weeks.) I moved the rest of the undecided items to a closet so the furniture could be moved to the centre of the room and the painting could begin.
Painting has always been an exciting undertaking for me. The transformation that happens within a few hours is exhilarating. Although my shoulders won’t allow me to do much of it anymore, younger arms accomplished the job and I got the same thrill of seeing the basement lose its drab blue/gray as it was warmed with the colour of Cinnamon Toast.
But something more was happening. A girl, now turned into a young woman, warmed my heart as much as the new colour warmed the room. Just seeing her take charge and work steadily and carefully yet with confidence awakened an even deeper appreciation for who she is and who she is becoming. As we worked and chatted, I could sense the maturity in her. I was thrilled in the depth of her character and insight. She even gave me good advice regarding that think about it pile, relieving me of guilt and indecisiveness. As satisfying as the changing of a room can be, the transformation, the growing and maturing of a person, the deepening of a relationship, the savouring of a friendship is much more fulfilling to the soul.
So tonight, when I realized tomorrow was my turn for The Word Guild Blog entry, my writing had to come out of hiatus. I was and am thankful for the rich relationships with which I am blessed for those relationships and my attempts to share the joy they bring, the learning they provide and knowing the One who made us for relationship is what inspires most of my writing.

Fiction: Why I Read It And Why You Should, Too - Linda Hall

I've posted here before with names of non-fiction books which have meant a lot to me - books that inspired me to be a better writer, a better person, a better Christian. I’ve gone through with you the names of books which have caused a seismic shift theologically in my thinking - books by Tim Keller, NT Wright, Carolyn Custis James, Philip Yancey. There are more. In fact, I keep a section of my ‘Notebook’ (not a real notebook - this on is on my computer and the piece of software has the fancy name of ‘Notebook’) devoted to ‘life-changing reads.’

I read my nonfiction slowly in the morning along with my Bible and that first cup of coffee. I’ll read a chapter or section a day with my highlighter pen in hand making notes in the margin.

But, yet, I am a novelist, not a theologian. My life’s blood is fiction. Stories are the air I breathe. I read fiction very differently than nonfiction. I read nonfiction because I want to learn and grow. I read fiction simply because I want to read fiction.

The best day possible in my imagination? Sitting in the back of my boat all day, reading a novel. I reward myself with novels. ‘Okay,’ I tell myself, ‘you just get this floor vaccumed and then you can plop down onto the couch with that latest library book.’

And my most favorite fiction? Mysteries and thrillers with just a touch of romance. The top of my list include authors like Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, (what a last name for a mystery writer!), Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, I could go on. I read Saturday’s Globe and Mail faithfully taking note of Margaret Cannon’s column. I will have the newspaper in one hand and my laptop opened to my public library’s website with the other, and putting what looks good on hold at the library. I can often read a book a week.

Novels, and especially mysteries keep one’s brain active. Watching television is a passive activity. Your brain’s not much engaged. Reading novels, on the other hand is active. (I actually read somewhere - but can’t for the life of me find it now - that reading actually burns more calories than TV watching!) It allows your brain to think, to imagine, to create. Yes, create - when you ‘get lost’ in a good novel, you are ‘creating’ all the time - new worlds, what she looks like, what that house looks like, etc. This is opposed to television where it is all laid out for you.

Reading novels also relieves stress. When you can pull yourself out of your own life and peculiar stresses, and sit down and immerse yourself in a whole new world of your own making, you will ‘wake up’ refreshed and ready to do battle. And yes, it’s your own making. Ten people reading the same novel will come up with ten different ‘pictures’, ten different stories - which is why there are Book Clubs and not TV Clubs.

Are you getting the picture? We are made in the image of God. We were made to create, to live in our imaginations, to appreciate beauty. And reading novels, immersing ourselves in stories is one way.

What am I reading at present? I have Bram Stoker’s Dracula on my iPhone. I noticed it was free in iBooks and realized I had never read that classic. Very good - plenty of ‘atmosphere’. I’m also reading Ruth Rendell’s Not In The Flesh. It is excellent, of course, as all of her books are.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Don't Call me a Fan - Rose McCormick Brandon

I placed the book on the counter and fished in my over-large bag for my debit card.

“Are you a fan?” the clerk at the book store asked with an amused smile. The other clerks peered over to see my purchase. Suzanne Somers latest medical journal perhaps? Their noses wrinkled when they saw the title – Decision Points by George W. Bush.

A surprising question - am I a fan of George Bush? Oprah has fans. On television recently they wept and swooned over face cream, candles and other give-aways.. I winced with embarrassment for them. Had they never seen toiletries? Oprah moved with gusto from one big gift reveal to another. The veil lifted from a set of kitchen knives. Tears streamed, women jumped on the spot for sheer joy. Several seemed close to fainting. I wanted to scream, “Hang onto your minds; you’ll need them some day.” Instead I pressed the off button.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a fan,” I answered the clerk, unable to visualize myself dancing on the spot, arms waving, weeping for George Bush. “But, I also don’t believe everything I hear in the media. I thought I should read what he has to say for myself.”

“Oh, I never thought of that,” said my ever-smiling clerk.

Some unflattering labels are drifting around. If you don’t swallow 100% of a particular view you may be labeled a global warming denier, a fundamentalist, a racist, homophobic, neo-conservative, an uneducated barbarian or just a plain old-fashioned nut-case.

This cheery clerk meant no harm. But her question reminded me that the name George Bush has been vilified to the point that one must give a reason for wanting to read his memoirs. After reading the book I can say that W. isn’t an illiterate cement-head. Brash, smart-mouthed, yes. He admits to this and says it comes from his mother’s side. That’s a good line.

I found out that faith in God is important to Bush, his major decision point. He doesn’t just make a show of carrying his bible to church for the cameras he actually reads it in a systematic way. Uh-oh, another label – Bible thumper. This one sticks to anyone who believes the Bible’s a book worth reading. Please don’t mess my hair when you fasten this label to the back of my head.

Am I now a fan of George W. Bush? If Oprah’s audience gives meaning to the word “fan”, then I’m no fan, not of Bush or any other human. A respecter? Yes, I think that’s it, I find myself respecting the man who wrote Decision Points.

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