Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Mountaintop Experience - Meyer

I’m too serious and I work too hard. I’ve tried to change this, and have made some progress over the thirty some odd years that I’ve been conscious of the problem but have discovered along the way that it is pretty much impossible to completely get away from your religious and family upbringing.

My first monumental step in the right direction was to marry John, an eternal optimist. He’s cheery, friendly and energetic. While I would rather sit with a book or watch a movie, John likes to get out and meet people and do stuff like biking, canoeing and hiking up mountains! Once I’m actually on the move, I enjoy it too. It’s just that I can usually find a million reasons to procrastinate on anything that drags me away from my current task at hand.

This summer, we had grand plans for a book tour but bit by bit, it fell through. I didn’t feel disappointed as much as confused – what did the Lord have for us this summer? Gradually, I started listening to what the Holy Spirit was speaking into my heart – it was time for some R & R – and strangely enough, some time alone with my husband. I say “strangely enough” because we are empty-nesters. But my husband has to often compete for my attention with my work, which often consumes most of the day.

So, here we are in Wyoming – my favourite spot in the world! I absolutely love it here. And we’re doing a lot of things together, John and I, that are just plain fun. We camped for three days by a creek, drove through scenic mountains, biked several times around a small desert town, and generally enjoyed ourselves. I am still working on editing a manuscript which is due at the publishers tomorrow – but John has been reading it with me and making a lot of very helpful comments. And writing is a pleasure for me, one I too often neglect to do. Taking time to write (not including course outlines and course materials!) is something I really wanted to do this summer as well.

The highlight of my “mountaintop experience” has been a four hour trek through the mountains driving a four-wheeler. I honestly felt I was risking life and limb through most of the trip – it was some very rugged territory and it was my first time driving an ATV! I can certainly now understand the attraction people have to extreme sports. You have to keep going. There’s really no turning back and it’s best not to hesitate but to just plough right on through, even if the way ahead looks totally impossible.

We’re meeting some really cool people, too. This one couple just stopped by our campsite to visit and eventually ended up asking us if we’d like to go four-wheeling with them (hence the adventure described above). In church this morning, we met some folks from Tennessee and a couple of alumni from the same college that I went to in Indiana!

We’re heading up to Cody next where there’s a singer (Don Miller) who sounds just like Roy Rogers! And we’ll go to a rodeo there before heading to the ghost town of Virginia City.

Hope your summer is going as great as mine is!!

Dorene Meyer

Contributor to Hot Apple Cider series

Author of Jasmine, Lewis and soon-to-be-released Joshua

Published by Word Alive Press

Friday, July 29, 2011

Debt and Famine - Boge

The spiraling US debt should cause us to re-examine how we define a disaster.

In the Western World, debt is the result of choice. We want and don't have so we print money. We want more and still don't have so we print more money.

The US dollar used to be linked to the gold standard which made it easily the best post war currency. But uncoupling the US dollar from the gold standard in the seventies and making it a defacto oil based currency through a deal with OPEC has proved to be a serious problem for the US.

The bad mortgage deals in the US is only part of the problem. I realize it is the one aspect that many people turn to as a scapegoat, but that would only be promoting a smaller cause to the status it does not deserve.

The real culprit is overspending. And before we blame the US, we should not that Europe is in a serious struggle as well. Canada is faring better.

So why does this matter?

When countries get into serious debt problems it prevents them from seeing the bigger picture.

When we borrow and borrow and borrow and borrow and nobody has the guts to say 'stop borrowing' at some point we will lose the ability to make our own choices and someone will make them for us. It is the same on a personal level when people sink in debt, it is the same on a national level.

We borrow and presume that inflation or better economic times will cover our inability to reign in our overspending.

The result is that when millions are starving to death in Africa, we simply don't see it clearly enough. We see it only as a sliver in the pie of all the troubles we have. Nationally, we are sinking in our own debt and so are not able to help those in need. We spend to much time ensuring our lifestyles stay protected that we lose sight of the lives that are unprotected.

Where to go from here?

I commend those governments that cut all non essential services because they could not balance their budgets. It is a step in the right direction.

You never know. Maybe once we get our eyes off of our own debt problem we might be in a better position to see the plight of others.

Ultimately, it is not a conservative or liberal problem. It is a lifestyle and priorities problem. We need to re-examine the scriptures to see what Christ taught about needs and wants.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Legacy of Words Ruth Smith Meyer

Our five grandchildren were ages 2 ½ -8 when my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer that had progressed too far for successful treatment. He was only sixty-three.

He had been feeling fairly well for some time after his second surgery when one day he kept going to the couch for a nap. My suspicions, aroused, I asked if he was sleeping because he was tired or if it was to avoid his thoughts.

“Probably the latter,” he admitted.

I suggested we go for a drive and talk. Driving through his favourite country-side the words tumbled from him.

“It’s not that I’m afraid to die,” he shared, “it’s just that there are so many things I still wanted do. I hate to leave you so soon, just when I thought I was going to relieve you of some of the house work so you could write. I’m proud of our grown children but I had hoped to continue to support and encourage them until they were much older. I have so many ideas for ways to spend quality time with my grandchildren as they grow up, now I will be leaving them while they are so young they may not even remember me or know how much I love them.”

The agony in his voice tore at my heart. What could I say? He was right! Then God planted a thought in my mind and I expressed it before I could give it more thought.

“You’ve learned in Marriage Encounter to write love letters to me. Even though you didn’t like to write and found it hard in the beginning, you do it beautifully now. Perhaps you’d like to write one to each of your children, in-laws and grandchildren.”

The face of the dear man I loved lit up in relief and gladness. There was a ring to his voice as he said, “I believe I will do that.”

In the next week or so, he labored over the words he wrote until at last he had written all twelve letters sharing special memories of each individual. His love and delight in each of their unique characteristics, his desires and wishes for them were all expressed with love affirmation and deep longing. He asked me to type them on nice paper and together we worked at fashioning envelopes for them. At first, he thought he would let me give them to the recipients after he died, but he couldn’t wait. I’m glad he gave them for it gave the adults a chance to reply to him.

What brings all these memories to my mind now? The two youngest were just, and not quite three when their grandpa died. For some time, their parents read their letters to them, but as time went by, they were stored away to be saved until they were older. As adults, we tend to think because we know and remember, the children will too. However at three, it’s hard to hang on to those details.

When the mother of one of those ‘little’ ones (now fifteen) casually mentioned the letter from grandpa, that young lady was shocked to know there was such a letter. When it couldn’t be immediately found, they asked if I still had them on my computer. I did. I read again those precious words before sending them on. The strong feelings and emotions of those days came flooding back, but something more happened. What a treasure my children and grandchildren have in those missives. Those words are a legacy that money can’t buy. Although I am still relatively healthy, I want to write letters of my own.

Expressing my love and delight in the strengths of my family and the people around me on a day-to-day basis has always been important in my mind. I want them to know while I am still living, how much they mean to me. I want also to express my encouragement and affirmations. However, there is something about the written word that seems more lasting. Some spoken words linger on in our minds, but if we can go back and read again what someone has told us, in their own words, it can be refreshing and sustaining each time we do so.

This blog is read by people who know the power of the written word. Our articles and books are also a legacy but may I suggest we all take the time to write personal letters to our loved ones or people who are important to us—letters that express our love and appreciation, our positive observations about who they are and our hopes and desires for them? We may choose to keep them until someone sifts through our important papers, but it may influence lives more if we give them right away. They could be a legacy that begins to give now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keep Telling the Story of Jewish Suffering

A friend recently sent me a link to the Auschwitz Album, a rare set of photographs discovered by accident and donated to Yad Vashem.

At age 13 I stood in front of my grade 8 class, knees knocking nervously, mouth dry, to speak publicly for the first time. My subject? The Diary of Anne Frank. I'd stayed awake late into the night, captivated by the writings of a teenager's diary. For the first time I became aware of the holocaust's magnitude and the affect it had on an ordinary girl's life, so aware I confronted shyness and stepped in front of my classmates to tell her story.

Anne stimulated my appetite for many books and movies on Jewish suffering. Almost two decades later, I discovered Corrie ten Boom and read about her concentration camp experiences. Corrie suffered not because she was Jewish but because she created a Hiding Place for Jews in danger. By a miracle Corrie was released a short while before all women in their fifties were gassed. She returned to Holland minus her father, her sister Betsy, her brother and a nephew. All died in camps.

Anne wasn't released. Opportunities to travel the world and share her story, as Corrie did well into her eighties, never came. But, through her simple diary, she touched millions.

Anne, an ordinary teenager. Corrie, a humble spinster watchmaker. People powerless except for the power of their pens and their stories. The woman who discovered the Auschwitz Album is akin to them. She used a few pictures found in the pocket of a prison guard's coat to let the world see the faces of people who died because hatred is irrational and violent.

My heart was moved by the faces of Jewish suffering, much like it was when I was 13. Some say we've had enough reminders of the holocaust. A glimpse of middle-east turmoil makes the possibility of another extermination seem possible. For that reason, the world needs more reminders, especially as we move into generations beyond the sufferers.
To view this album visit The Auschwitz Album.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“I’ve Got Your Back” - Shepherd

            A phrase I do not remember hearing frequently, has surpized me in the last three days, at least twice, in totally unrelated contexts.  It strikes me as powerful words of encouragement.  The phrase is “I’ve got your back.” 
            Although I am unaware of the origin of the phrase and could not find a definitive explanation on line, one possible meaning suggested on Yahoo Answers received 50 percent of the votes.  It was the idea that when soldiers are on patrol, the only way that they can be sure to have a 360 degree view of what is going on, is by standing back to back.  Whatever is behind one is in front of the other.  It mentioned that time honoured comment that we do not have eyes in the back of our heads. 
            At a wedding I attended, the best man was praising the qualities of the groom.  He said, “I knew Matt always had my back.”  By that, I understood he was saying, “Here was a friend who I could count on to protect me by watching out for my vulnerabilities.”  I thought that to have a friend like that is a priceless treasure.
            The phrase cropped up again at a long-term care facility, where I am a chaplain.  A worker was helping a frail woman transfer from her wheelchair to a recliner.  “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ve got your back.”  By her chuckle, I knew that the pun was intended.  Yes, she was supporting the elderly woman’s back physically, but she was also there to help and protect the woman and make her feel safe. 
            As my intrigue with this phrase led me to other places on the Internet, I discovered that some folks in Brooklyn, New York have been trying to get a campaign going to address street harassment.  “I’ve got your back," is the code expression they have chosen to try to motivate bystanders to become involved.  When bystanders perceive someone being threatened by a harasser, they are encouraged to ask the person if they need help and assure them that they have got their back.
            “I’ve got your back,” is a term that suggests solidarity.  It is a way of saying, “You can count on me.  I will be there for you.”  What music those words are to the ears of someone who is alone, afraid, and perhaps confused.  Whatever they are facing, they know there is someone who will not take advantage of their weaknesses, and more than that, will be there to step in and offer them strength and courage.  
            If you tell me that you have my back, I know that I can confront whatever is before me, since I will not be ambushed from behind.  You are looking out for me.  What a sense of empowerment those words provide.  They make it possible for me to believe that what I could not do alone, I now can do, because you are there to share the task and ensure that my deficiencies do not cause me to fail. 
            As an encourager, I am going to include this phrase in my bag of tools to help others as I try to practice it.  If they know that I have their back, they will be able to reach new heights and do what they thought was impossible.      
           As a writer, encouraging writers, when I have your back, I can help you express your unique voice without fear and discover how it blends with the voices of other writers to uplift and encourage our readers.  I believe that as The Word Guild this is what we are doing with Hot Apple Cider and A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.  We have got each other’s backs.
Winner of The Word Guild
Christian Leadership Award 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Little Bear Finds Courage - Peter A. Black

The scene is idyllic. Amidst the beauties of mountain scenery an adult male cougar scales a rocky outcrop. Lips pull back and whiskers bristle into a snarl, as his attention fixes on a bear cub rooting around several hundred metres away. The cub, unaware of the predator, frolics in the scrubby grass, grunting with delight, without a care in his world.

Feline fangs bare, and the cougar pants. His tongue shoots out to wash hungry lips. He scrambles down from the rock with a snarl. The cub hears, and now alerted he flees, gasping in fear, with the cougar in pursuit. He bowls along furiously, panting and whimpering in terror. Rippling muscles, hissing breath, padding paws – the cougar streaks after the bear. Will the gap soon close and the big cat make the kill, and the hapless little bear become its dinner?

A fallen tree, partly spanning a fast-flowing river with rocky rapids, offers the cub a glimmer of hope. He clambers along it, but his yelps signal utter despair as, nearing the far end of the trunk, he discovers it doesn’t quite reach the large rock near the opposing bank. Turning around, he faces the approaching predator, which is now on the tree advancing towards him. Still facing the cougar, he shuffles backwards along the trunk, the big cat advancing menacingly. Desperate, he shuffles back further, cowering and whimpering.

The cougar, only metres away, lets rip with a snarling roar of anticipated victory. Suddenly, the upper trunk of rotting tree beneath the bear cracks, breaking off. Bear and wood plunge to the rapids below. He disappears beneath the white, churning waters.

The part of the trunk that broke off resurfaces and floats, and is soon borne along by the rapid current. It is forked with a section of branch. Resurfacing, the cub lunges after it, giving a desperate, plaintive cry, and scrambles onto this ‘raft,’ for the forked formation gives the wood stability in the water. Rushing waters carry the little bear downstream.

Meanwhile, the cougar, although taken aback by this turn of events, isn’t ready to abandon chase – or his meal, and vacates the fallen tree to clamber over rocks and boulders flanking the shore, his plan is evident – intercept the pray further down the river. A series of boulders provides leaping points across the river, and the cougar, now ahead of the bear, positions himself on one – right in his path!

Again, the prey finds himself staring death in the face. Frantic, the cub abandons his raft and struggles in vain against the surging waters. He’s heading straight for the cougar who, like a coiled spring, crouches with muscles tensed, ready to strike.

The little bear makes repeated efforts to get away from being swept into the cougar’s reach, but they are fruitless, for the current keeps bringing him back towards his foe. The cougar leaps onto an even closer rock, and with a great snarl and vicious swipe rips the bear’s snout. But the little guy fights back, snarling and swiping, surprising the powerful cougar.

It’s as though the little bear has found his courage! His snarl soon changes into a light roar. With his fur standing on end, he continues roaring. His voice sounds deeper. The cougar looks up, surprised, then pauses. Completely unnerved, he beats a retreat, slipping and sliding off rocks and getting soaked in the water, while the little bear yells insults with bared teeth.

What happened? Behind the cub, over on the shore, a massive adult bear stands astride, roaring with mouth gaping wide, and waving its forelimbs menacingly!

With danger now past the little guy, with palpable relief, turns around and fairly skips over to his protective parent, to be comforted and calmed – his bleeding snout bathed in loving licks.


In this story I’ve described an amazing You Tube video clip of a short film by Jean-Jaques Annaud that friends forwarded to me some time ago. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

I reflected on how the tables turned for that bear cub, and the reason for the transformation that led to his standing his ground before his foe – the presence of one who was greater than his problem.

Consider the following thought:
God’s weakest child can gain courage and strength when he (or she) knows his Heavenly Father stands ready to back him up.

Isaiah 35:3-4 (NIV) Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

1 Peter 5:8-9a (NIV) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .

Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NIV) . . . God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

© Peter A. Black.
Black is the weekly inspirational columnist at The Watford Guide-Advocate,
and the author of “Parables from the Pond” (Word Alive Press; ISBN 1897373-21-X).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Marketing Prayer — Lawrence

The marketing process is perhaps more difficult to go through than the writing of the book. There is a lot of advice about marketing on the internet today so it should be a cinch to get one’s book out there and onto the shelves of the many users of the net. However, because there is so much information if I was to follow it all I think my brain would either explode from over- excitement or permanently go to sleep from exhaustion.

I would like to follow much of the information that I have read but I know that I cannot follow every good suggestion for lack of time, energy, or desire. After reading a lot of good suggestions I have prayed for God’s leading and chosen those that I feel are suitable for my situation.

It is important, I think, to do things that are a little different from the crowd, something that is within one’s budget, and something that arises out of one’s prayer to God.

As my latest book came close to being published, I wanted to have a Book Trailer. I looked into having it done professionally and found it to be way more expensive than I could handle. Many writers, especially seniors, have this problem. I am quite artistically inclined so, instead of searching for someone to do it for me I searched for a program that would provide me with the means to do one for myself.

I found a program called Smilebox, a program that had many uses as well as being very reasonably priced. For a year’s membership, which included a free month’s trial, it cost $39.00, and I could use it as much or as little as I wished without any extra charge.

Everyone said that Social media was the way to go to market one’s work. I did give it a try for a while but I found it was not for me. I found it took up a lot of my time and gave me very little reward. Besides, everybody was doing it. I wanted to find God’s special place for me and follow that. I composed a prayer to say daily and, by keeping my ears and eyes open to God’s leading, I have found some special marketing things just for me.

At the time of the publishing of my second spiritual book, Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years, I began a website,  Now, with the launch of my new book I revamped my website giving it a new look for the new publication, Highway of Holiness: Soul Journey. I have focused the home page on my latest book, added an internet Press Kit in PDF format so that anyone who needed information about me could download any or all of it without a lot of extra work for them.

Last but not least, I composed my prayer for marketing and am diligent in praying it daily and listening to God’s answers to my prayer. If you do nothing else in the marketing arena, I would advise you to do this—to pray and be open to God’s guidance.

Here is the prayer that I wrote and pray daily. You’re welcome to use this as a basis for your own prayer. May God bless each one of us in our writing and marketing efforts.

Marketing Prayer:       Heavenly Father, you have chosen special marketing spots for my newest spiritual book, Highway of Holiness: SoulJourney. Open my eyes that I may clearly see them; cleanse me from fear that I may boldly claim them; assist me to be generous that I may put this book into people’s hands so that they may follow their own soul journey and find their unique relationship with you. This I ask in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Lord, Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Materialism vs. science in archaeology, and the difference it makes - Denyse O'Leary

My PhotoIn "First Person: The Bible as a Source of Testable Hypotheses"(Biblical Archaeology Review (Jul/Aug 2011) Hershel Shanks tells a story from Biblical archaeology that explains more than I ever could about how materialism stifles science: In his new book Excavating the City of David, Ronny Reich of Haifa University treats archaeologist Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University "dismissively" and accuses her of acting “unethically.” What did she do? She used the Bible as a guide to where to excavate.

Let me unpack this: As Eilat read the Bible, it seemed to indicate just where King David’s palace might be buried in the City of David—at least, it did to her. On this basis, she decided to dig there.
This was highly improper and unscientific, according to Ronny. When he heard that Eilat was using reasoning like this to find King David’s palace, he knew immediately that, proceeding in this way, “she would certainly find that building” (emphasis in original).
If she found the building, using the Bible, she did wrong. Shanks adds,
I would have thought that Eilat would have been praised for proceeding quite scientifically—according to the vaunted scientific method that has produced so much for our civilization. As I understand it, you formulate a hypothesis and then you proceed to test it, either proving or disproving it. Eilat had a hypothesis and she wanted to test it by digging.

But you can’t do that in the case of the Bible, according to Ronny. The reason appears to be that you can’t trust the archaeologist to test his or her hypothesis in an unbiased way once he or she formulates a hypothesis based on the Bible. If the archaeologist proceeds in this way, he or she will “certainly” find what was hypothesized. Besides, in archaeology you can’t repeat the experiment; once a particular area of a site has been excavated, it cannot be re-excavated.
Will "certainly" find what was hypothesized? People looking for lost wallets should be so lucky. And generally, archaeology is not an experiment. Once you find a tomb or a city, you stop looking for it, same as you would if you find your wallet.

Here, materialism has substituted as a governing criterion that no method can be used that would support the idea that the Bible was written by truthful people. This criterion is irrelevant to whether a method that assumes so produces results. The materialist would as soon not have results as have results that support the Biblical account.

Are we entering a new "dark ages" of materialism where science decays by stages, illuminated by episodes like these?

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good In All Things/MANN

“We need a new organ in the church,” an elder said at an annual meeting. Elated feelings of excitement flood through me like fresh cold water on a hot July afternoon. A new organ! I can barely bring myself to believe it. The key of G will be heard in my preludes, the expression pedal will invite the congregation to stand at an appropriate time and the music holder will remain firm under the rumble of those treacherous bass notes. What excitement I feel.

I listen as the chairman asks for volunteers to go and look at what the music stores are offering. A woman from the Women’s Group and two men from the Stewards put up their hands. I’m not asked! Then again I don’t offer, but an invitation should be a given. Granted I am young and have never been on a committee to buy an organ, but the three people who offer don’t share any Sunday morning music responsibility.

However, those same people will probably pay for it, so I am thankful. (Journal mid 60’s).

Situations often repeat themselves although circumstances and people change. I am always amazed at how human nature can see the good in most circumstances. Regardless of having to rethink the process, one can usually find the positive. Those of you who have followed my blog over the past six months will know that Doug & I moved from a large farm house into a modest town dwelling.

One of the treasures in packing and unpacking is discovering items long forgotten. Here in an old journal, I’m reminded of the circle of emotions from anticipation to disappointment to thankfulness. And here on another hot July day where I’m seeking out cold water, we work in the basement and try to stay cool. We can actually see the last round of boxes, and it feels good.

Unlike the committee who liked to listen to music more than play an instrument, Happy Hubby and I have learned in this move that we’re both experts in unpacking those boxes we’ve packed. So whether it’s an organ, tools, books or dishes, it really doesn’t matter who does what . . . as long as there is a positive side and it’s bright enough to notice.

Donna Mann

Sunday, July 17, 2011

To God Be The Glory - Amen! (TGBTGA) by Glynis M. Belec

Wednesday will be the fourth anniversary of my mother's crossing over to that better place. She died a glorious, pain free death surrounded by her family - just the way she wanted it. Today I was thinking about her and I was looking through my Bible. To my surprise I came across this lovely poem that Mom had in her possession.  Mom loved poetry and could recite everything from memory from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha to The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. I am pretty sure that Mom learned this untitled poem when she was in the service during the war. According to the story, it was found in the pocket of a dead soldier:

They say you will not come again
But I can always hear
Your voice in silence and in song
And feel you ever near
They say that you have passed beyond
Unto the land supreme
But I can always call you back
Into the land of dream
For death is but a gateway
To the Great Reality
A new beginning not an end
Of human destiny
Love is all and life goes on
In spite of grief and pain
But deep within my heart
I know that we shall meet again.

We thought that Mom had taken that poem with her to the grave but Dad found it in a drawer shortly after her death. We were pretty happy to find it because it was a special poem to her. She would often recite it to friends who had lost a loved one. Mom did not know Jesus until two days before she died. Now, as a bit of a tribute to that wonderful reason to celebrate I want to add the following:

But now that you are in the land
Called Great Reality
And seeing Jesus face to face
For all eternity
I know that you are free from pain
And resting from your race
One day I will see you there
And rejoice at God's good grace!

TGBTGA...Miss you mom! xx

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Once Upon a Sandbox— Carolyn Wilker

After attending my first writer’s conference in 2001, and joining the Word Guild in 2002, I decided to try different kinds of writing to find what I most enjoyed.

My first publication credits had been informational articles. I wrote book reviews, children’s stories, opinion editorials, family stories and poetry. While I found markets for my reviews and poetry, locating a market for family stories seemed elusive, and so the stories remained stowed away in my computer, and backed up on discs, until the day I would bring them to light.

In my early days as writer and member of The Word Guild, co-founder N. J. Lindquist, reminded members that eventually writers need to get up in front of an audience and speak. Early in 2004, knees knocking and with much trepidation, I joined Toastmasters and embarked on the journey of stage time, so that I would be ready whenever the opportunity presented itself.

It took me awhile to call myself Writer, but on the journey, I found I liked to tell stories, which led me to the Story Barn in Baden, Ontario, and then the Storyteller’s Guild. I attended Open Story Night and told regularly. I was hooked on storytelling and listening to stories.

One evening at the Barn, we celebrated the launch of Latitudes of Home, written by fellow storyteller, Sally Russell, about her years of growing up in Georgia. I always enjoyed hearing her tell stories and so I bought her book. I was not disappointed.

The more I read, the more I pondered what if. What if I assembled some of the stories I had written? What if I wrote some of the stories I told so that readers could pick up a collection anytime they wanted to? Who would be interested? Judging by the growing movement in storytelling, and how eagerly listeners at the Barn received the stories, I thought there’d be a sufficient audience.

And so I gathered what I had written, wrote others and put them together in a manuscript—stories about rural living and what it meant to me as a child, recollections of chores and learning to cook, whitewashing the barn, taking care of my 4-H garden, and pet and children antics. I discovered that I needed more material to fill a book and so I wrote more.

While working on a family history the same year, we talked about how things were in my grandparents and my parents’ earlier years. I asked questions and made lists of possible stories, rewrote and revised stories with the help of The Word Guild online critique group. Thus began the manuscript for Once Upon a Sandbox that was released in June.

While my manuscript was under consideration and afterwards, I made a greater effort to get up and speak at my Toastmasters club, entering contests in the club last winter and representing the Energetics at the area International speech contest. I worked on new stories for telling and shared them. I also wrote out a tentative plan of where I could speak and promote my book.

With my first launch behind me and information from our latest Write! Canada conference still whirling around in my head, I add to my promotion and marketing plan, limited only by my imagination and resources. As in any project, it takes one purposeful step at a time, and even a marketing plan gets done. One step, two, and three— I’m on my way. Here’s to Once Upon a Sandbox, a memoir.

For more information on Once Upon a Sandbox or to follow my events, go here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Good Deed, Indeed!—den Boer

It began with a phone call from the church hospitality committee, “Could you make supper for John and Gena Vanderlip this Wednesday?”

“Sure,” I said without hesitation or reservation. Although we didn’t know them very well, our family had been thinking about and praying for the Vanderlips for the past few days. Gena had just had a baby. There had been serious complications—the baby was fine, but mother was feeling pretty feeble.

“I think I’ll make my special broccoli with rice dish,” I said to myself as I wrote “Cook for J and G” in the Wednesday block on the kitchen calendar.

The week was flying along as usual when one afternoon as I was preparing the family meal, I came across a head of broccoli. “What day is it?” I wondered in panic. A glance at the calendar confirmed my fear—Wednesday had already happened. It was Thursday.

I pulled myself together and got on the phone. It rang and rang. She was probably feeding the baby or maybe resting. Finally Gena answered, and I introduced myself.

“Yes,” came the short cold reply.

No doubt the hospitality committee had informed her when and who would be sending meals.

“Oh, Gena, I am so sorry, I was supposed to make your supper yesterday.”

“That’s okay.” She sounded almost forgiving. “When we finally got over it, we had oatmeal instead.”

I apologized all over the place, and she forgave me a million times, but nothing could change the deed not done.

As an exclamation mark to my sin of omission, that very evening at our small Bible study group we happened to discuss:

For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

If the Vanderlip Wednesday night meal was a good work God had prepared in advance for me to do, why didn’t He remind me to do it? Maybe I was too busy doing my own stuff to hear about His stuff. Maybe I’m not tuned in. I wonder how many other good works I’ve left undone.

I know good deeds don’t get us to heaven—that’s a gift. But I do want to live out God’s purposes in my life.

An excerpt from Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress
by Marian den Boer

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How will life end? What will come after? -- Gibson

Riding high on his Harley, Dwayne had no reason to think about how his life would end or what would come after. Suddenly plastered against the side of a semi-cab, Dwayne had no time to think about how his life would end or what would come after. Weeks later, now a paraplegic in a rehab bed, Dwayne had no wish to think about how his life would end. And especially not about what would come after.

And that’s when the Preacher and I met Dwayne—feisty, determined to get back on his bike one day, and constantly upchucking. The two men shared time on a rehab ward. Every so often they exchanged greetings when their wheelchair and stretcher passed in the halls. The greetings evolved into in-room visits, then into long conversations about life as it once was and as it may be.

Weeks later, doctors told Dwayne why his nausea wouldn’t leave. Diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, given weeks to live, Dwayne had no option but think about how his life would end and what would come after.

“Dwayne,” asked the Preacher one day, “do you ever pray?”

“Rick,” he said. “I’m sixty-three years old. Never been to church in my life. Why would I call on God now that I’m dying?”

The Preacher told Dwayne about the condemned thief who died on a cross next to Jesus—the one who, recognizing Jesus as undeserving of a criminal’s death, pled for mercy.

“Dwayne,” he said, “far as I can tell, the only time that thief ever prayed was when he was dying. Yet Jesus told him ‘today you will be with me in Paradise. ’” He let that sink in, then asked if Dwayne would like to pray too.

In a shattered voice, the man on the bed, eyeball to eyeball with death, answered, “Rick, I don’t think I have enough faith.”

Following inner directive, the Preacher told Dwayne about four friends who the Bible says carried a bedridden friend into Jesus’ presence for healing. “Dwayne,” he said, “Do you have enough faith in my faith, that what I believe is true for you too? Enough faith to let me carry you into the presence of Christ?”

Weeping, Dwayne agreed, and the Preacher led him in a simple prayer for mercy and salvation. In the following days, Dwayne learned that other friends had, through their prayers, been carrying him to Christ too—some for years.

On the day an ambulance took Dwayne home to die, the Preacher sat in the door of his ward room. As the gurney rolled past, Dwayne smiled, stuck out his hand, grabbed the Preacher’s and squeezed hard. “Rick,” he said, his voice confident. “You I WILL see again.”

Riding high on something better than a Harley, plunked down in the presence of Divine Hope and Forgiveness, Dwayne had no reason to worry about how his life would end or what would come after.

We heard later that right to the end he didn’t.


Kathleen Gibson is a newspaper columnist, author, and broadcaster. She and her clergyman husband, Rick, live in Saskatchewan.

Find Kathleen online at, and other places.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kingdom Poets Introduces John Robert Lee - Martin

John Robert Lee, of St. Lucia, is a well-established poet whose writing has been anthologized in such books as The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse, and The Faber Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories. His collected poems, Elemental, appeared in the UK from Peepal Tree Press in 2008.

He has been involved in theatre as both an actor and a director — has expressed his faith as a preacher, writer and broadcaster — has worked as a professional librarian, and in radio and television as a broadcaster and producer.

Fellow St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott (who won the Nobel Prize in 1992) called John Robert Lee “a scrupulous poet"; he continued, “it’s not a common virtue in poets, to be scrupulous and modest in the best sense, not to over-extend the range of the truth of his emotions, not to go for the grandiose. He is a Christian poet obviously. You don’t get in the poetry anything that is, in a sense, preachy or self-advertising in terms of its morality. He is a fine poet.”

The following comes from his chapbook Canticles (2007):

Canticle XXXI

---------It is clear she was beguiled by the Serpent’s sinuous
-----------But he, was he — seduced by her full-curving softnesses,
------------------------------allured by those flittering
---------lashes — tripped into the parting chasms of her sweet
----------------mouth? (So says the old poet.) Or, eavesdropping,
Curious Man, did he wonder about the Crystal Gate, the proffered
-------------the deadly enticements of wisdom? Whichever, flouting
-------------the order he chose.
-----------------------------Just one more query — those tunics of
-----covering skin,
--------were those the first-born lambs they had loved above all

(Posted with permission of the poet)

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 some of the world's most celebrated poets, as well as some lesser known treasures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Some Christians Have a Problem - M. Laycock

Some Christians have a problem with other Christians being involved in dance, art, writing novels, playing certain kinds of music. They see these endeavours as being part of the world from which we are to keep ourselves separate.

My daughters wanted to join a local dance troupe when they were young. Over the years we watched their performances and there were times when we doubted our judgment. It was not all good, it was not all redemptive, but we came to see that their time there was marked with God’s purpose.

In her senior year with the company, Laura, our middle daughter, was asked to dance a lyrical solo in the troupe's year-end performance. She agreed under the condition that she could choose the music and her costume and do the choreography herself. Over the next weeks the music seeped through the walls as she practiced in her bedroom.

When the night of the final recital arrived, Laura’s excitement was intense. The auditorium was packed; the first two rows were taken up by teens from Laura’s high school. I thought that was why she had seemed so nervous. When she stepped onto the stage to take her place, I sat up to get a good view.

She was dressed in a flowing green velvet dress, her hair smoothed back in ballerina style. She stood poised, waiting for the music. Then the words began to flow and Laura began to move. She danced the words of a song by Sara Groves – “I’m just a seeker too, in search of God.... I have no other way to communicate to you that this is all I have; the only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free.” As the last verse rang in the auditorium, my heart pounded as my daughter’s boldness amazed me and the audience stood to their feet in applause.

As we left the theatre that night, a local pastor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “That was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.” Then he grinned. “So when is she going to perform it at your church?” We laughed together at my reply, “Oh, I wish.” Then, simultaneously, we said to one another, “Maybe, someday!”

Some Christians have a problem with dance and other creative endeavours. But it was through dance that Laura formed an expression of herself that will, for many years to come, reinforce her understanding of her identity in Christ. In some ways, that final recital was like a baptism, a dying to what is not good, an embracing of all that is redemptive. It was, as a baptism is meant to be, a public display of who she truly is, one set free by Jesus Christ.

Some Christians have a problem with Christians writing novels. But it is through the writing, the telling of "story," that we come to understand who we all are in Christ; it is through the writing that we communicate how we all must die to what is not good in ourselves and embrace what is redemptive, that core that is the essence of our being, the very image of God.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Some Killer Apps

I couldn't resist that as a title. I love it when we get new words added to our dictionary. I love especially the word 'blogosphere.' Isn't that a cool word? Now. back to topic. :)

When it's my turn to post here, I usually try to offer reviews of novels or nonfiction books, or movies that I have enjoyed and which might be of interest to other writers. Well, today I decided to list a few of my favorite 'apps' and why. I'm using a broad definition of 'App' to include software.

1. MICROSOFT WORD. Word is the standard in the industry, and if you are not sending your books and articles to your editors in Word, they will call you threatening names over the phone. If you are still using Word Perfect, you will need to change your documents to Word before you send them. Since I write on a Mac, I use their proprietary software called Pages, which easily converts to Word when I send my stuff to editors.

2. SPEECH RECOGNITION SOFTWARE. This is a wonderful tool for the writer, and includes Dragon Speech for the PC and MacSpeech or Dragon Dictate for the Mac. I use MacSpeech which I bought three years ago when I broke my right arm (and yes I am right-handed - don't even ask.) and had a book deadline. I use this a lot for early first drafts when I can lean back in my office chair, close my eyes and envision the action occurring in my book. Then I talk about it. When I look up, paragraphs later, it's all magically transcribed onto the screen. I then work in the details.

There is a free Dragon App for the smartphone. It's not 'voice-trained' which is what you do with the speech program, (which costs some). It works in a pinch, but you might get some strange sentences if you don't speak clearly into it. I have used it, and then I email the passage I dictated to myself. Then I cut and paste it into my document.

3. WRITING ORGANIZATION SOFTWARE. I won't mention a lot of names here. If you write novels or stories, you might want to try the Snowflake method, or Scrivener. There are many others. Just google 'software for writing novels' or 'articles' or 'whatever' and you'll come up with hundreds of choices. Usually - and this is the good news - you're allowed a 30 day free trial to see if you like it or not. We all write differently and what works for me might not work for you. I use a program called Circus Ponies Notebook and like it very much.

4. DICTIONARY and THESAURUS. 'Dictionary' and 'Freesaurus' are both free smartphone apps that I use. I know that Stephen King says that 'real' writers never use a thesaurus. I say, balderdash to that. I freely use a thesaurus. Most writers do.

5. KINDLE APP, KOBO APP, STANZA, IBOOKS. All of these are apps which can turn your smartphone into a Kindle or a Kobo or other ereader. Because I don't have an eReader - yet - (I'm in the looking stages - hint hint Mr Santa Claus) I have downloaded these free apps onto my iphone and then have purchased ebooks. This effectively turns my iPhone into a Kindle. I've been doing more and more of my reading on my little phone.

5. ITUNES. I couldn't function in a world without iTunes. I buy all my music there, tune into internet radio when I write, and listen to podcasts. There are SO many free podcasts for the writer that it would take another full blog to write about them all, so I'll leave that for then.

6. AND ONE FINAL WORD - PLEASE, please, please BUY all of your online ebooks and music. Please shun places where you can download this stuff for free - or better yet, when you come across a place like this, report it. Every time you download something for 'free' on one of these sites, you are stealing money out of the pocket of a writer or musician.

And that picture of the book up at the right? The my newly re-edited version of Sadie's Song. I'm so very proud of the new cover. I think it's one of my favorite books I've written.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies (Nesdoly)

If you’ve detected some changes in yourself, your kids or grandkids since the coming of the Internet, video games and smart phones, you’ll want to read The Next Story by Ontario author Tim Challies. When this pastor and writer began to notice how his beeping and ringing gizmos and gadgets had him on an ever shorter leash, he decided to do some investigating. The result is a holistic book that not only gives information about technology but also provides a well-researched, well-reasoned and biblically based context for its use.

In Part One Challies lays the groundwork for a discerning utilization of technology by first relating it to God and theology. Next he explains what theorists have discovered about ways it changes society and individuals. Finally he takes us on a tour of digital technology through history, showing us how we got here.

Part Two delves into modern digital technology’s impacts on communication, mediation (use of media instead of face-to-face contact), distractibility, family life, information (e.g. the sheer volume and questionable quality of it), truth/authority (e.g. Wikipedia versus an encyclopedia written by experts), and visibility and privacy.

Throughout Part Two, Challies relates technology’s challenges to the foundational discoveries about spirit, soul and body he arrived at in Part One. Each of these chapters has a “Questions for Reflection” and “Practical Application” section, good for personal or group use.

As someone who has interacted with digital technology for years, I saw my behaviours described often in this book and found myself thinking, “So that’s what’s going on!” Whether you’re a technology newbie, a seasoned digital immigrant, or a digital native, there’s something for you in its pages. Digital technology is here to stay. This book will help you see how you can remain its master instead of allowing it to master you.

Title: The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion
Author: Tim Challies
Publisher: Zondervan, 2011. Hardcover, 208 pages. $21.99
ISBN-10: 0310329035
ISBN-13: 978-0310329039

Review first published in Faith Today - July / August 2011 issue.



Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hardworking Sloths - Arends

Here is my most recent CT column:  Some uncomfortable (for me, anyway!) reflections on the way our busyness can mask our spiritual laziness or distractedness.  Let me know if you can relate.

Hardworking Sloths
Disguising Spiritual Laziness
Carolyn Arends
(In the June issue of Christianity Today, posted online 06/13/2011)

My family used to play "Where's Waldo?" with a three-toed sloth at the zoo; eventually we'd find him suspended like a hammock from a tree branch above us. I used to think he got a bad rap as nature's laziest creature. After all, I don't have the strength to hold myself upside down on a set of monkey bars for 10 seconds. Then a zoo volunteer explained that sloths have curved claws that allow them to dig into branches and hang without effort. Our sloth, it turns out, really was as unmotivated as he looked.
I found myself thinking about that lethargic critter the other day while listening to a recorded Eugene Peterson lecture and arguing with my MP3 player.
Peterson: Pastors are highly susceptible to the sin of sloth.
Me: What are you talking about? Pastors are some of the most overworked people alive.
Peterson: Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness … in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.
Score one for Peterson.
I'm not a pastor. But I am busy, like almost everyone I know. When Peterson declares that "the pastor's primary responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God," I can readily apply that job description to my roles as wife, mother, musician, and author. The mandate can be stated even more succinctly regarding my task as a human: Pay attention to God. If I don't, I'm guilty of spiritual sloth, no matter how hard I'm working. In truth, there is an inverse relationship between how overwhelmed I am doing things and how much energy I can give to being attentive.
But did I mention I'm really busy?
Part of the problem is that spiritual receptivity requires unglamorous practices like prayer, time in Scripture, and attentiveness to what God is doing in the people around me. Telling me, "Prayer promotes spiritual growth!" has as much wow-factor as announcing, "Reducing calories leads to weight loss!" I want something new—a development that will lead to breakthrough. Peterson observes that spiritual disciplines have "not been tried and discarded because [they] didn't work, but tried and found difficult (and more than a little tedious) and so shelved in favor of something or other that could be fit into a busy [person's] schedule."
Scheduling is no small matter. Attending takes time without offering quantifiable results. It requires stillness in a culture that rewards industriousness. It's inefficient in a world that considers getting things done next to godliness. A pastor who refuses to be slothful in the areas of silence and reflection stands a good chance of getting fired.
Our emphasis on external productivity over internal fidelity goes back a long way. Consider the case of King Saul, reported in 1 Samuel 13. Early in his kingship, Saul and the prophet Samuel had an understanding: Samuel would lead the people spiritually, and Saul would lead militarily. However, holed up with his troops facing a brigade of Philistines, Saul faced a dilemma. Samuel failed to show up on time to offer the sacrifice that Saul and his men relied on to keep them in God's favor. As typically happens when things go off schedule, disorganization set in. The longer Saul waited, the more restless his men became; he was losing them.
Saul did what any good manager would do. He took action. He offered the sacrifice himself.
If I were conducting Saul's job evaluation, I'd give him a bonus. He took initiative and solved the problem, saving time and boosting morale in the process. But Samuel didn't see it that way. He told Saul he had failed to keep God's command, and thus would be deposed by an incoming king—a "man after God's own heart" better suited for the job.
God is not looking for leaders who take matters into their own hands. He values faithfulness over efficiency. It's no good to organize the whole world yet be oblivious to the God who created it and holds it together. Yes, we have practical commitments we need to take seriously. But part of being responsible is being response-able: centering our lives in such a way that we can respond to the world around us with the mind of Christ. Such response-ability is impossible if our obligations crowd out any opportunity to get to know him better.
It makes sense that the sloth is the official mascot of spiritual lethargy. I've begun to see my incessant busyness as the set of claws that keep me holding on for dear life, dug in, hanging upside down, not getting anywhere. With God's help, I want to let go, trusting him to show me how to live right side up. My job is to pay attention.

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