Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
It was a cold blustery day in September, but despite the weather we had a good visit catching up with the lost years that time and situations had imposed upon us. Really, we had been out of touch since I was a child, except for a brief meeting at an airport in London, England, as I waited for a plane to return to Canada after visiting relatives in Gloucester for a couple of weeks.
Since getting involved in my genealogy I had been in touch with Thelma and Denys at our annual Christmas card exchange and, a few years ago they asked me if I would collect postage stamps for Denys' collection. This I gladly did and added them to the Christmas card each December. Only recently did I realize that Denys sold these stamps for charity giving the money to a local private hospital that was situated near where they lived.
|Cousins Judith and Thelma|
This long introduction is leading up to the fact that the envelope in which I saved the postage stamps for Denys suddenly was lost. Since learning of their difficulties these stamps had taken on an importance to me beyond any monetary value. They signified something that I could do for them and kept us in touch with one another.
|Judith and Denys|
Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she find it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, "Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin." In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents. Luke 15: 8-10 New Living Translation
[Please also pray for Dorene Meyer whose day this is to post on this blog. She is unwell at this time and is therefore unable to post a blog today.]
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The monitors, tubes—even the smell and atmosphere of the Critical Care Trauma Centre in a hospital brings the fragility of life and the reality of eternity into sharp focus.
In quick succession, the scenarios brought to mind by the ‘what if this is it’ possibilities, flash through one’s mind, with bitter anguish. The reality of how life would suddenly and forever change stares you in the face. The concern for the loved one in the bed, is stirred in a jumbled mixture with desperate thoughts of how you will manage a new kind of life.
Sitting there with a dear friend whose husband was the centre of that activity, especially having experienced the loss of my own husband, brought back vivid memories. In her face I could see reflected some of those same thoughts and feelings and I felt the anguish all over. Words are wonderful conveyances but sometimes even those fail. All I could do was offer an arm and pray.
This time, though, there was an added dimension which I couldn’t fathom, for I also accompanied a sixteen year-old son to the bedside. As I stood holding his hand, again, all I could do was be with him and silently pray.
In the following days, I learned again the meaning and comfort of constant prayer. I felt a little like Moses keeping my arms and the cause of my friend lifted to the Lord during the battle that was raging in that hospital room. There was scarcely a moment that I was not aware of that stance—even when I awoke in the middle of the night—the last thing on my mind at night and the first thing in the morning.
The pause in the battle came one day when he was able to squeeze the hands of his family and briefly open his eyes. Our hearts gave thanks and our spirits lightened with hope. But the next day there was a relapse into coma.
Then, ten days after the onset, I found myself sitting again beside that bed speaking with him. Oh, he still has a battle to wage, but now he is aware and able to consciously join in the fight.
We give thanks and praise for the hope and believe that the curtain has fallen back into place without having passed through. However we are once more aware of the gossamer qualities of that curtain, how precious life is and our need to fully appreciate what we have. It is also important it is to be ready at all times for the day when we will most certainly pass through to the other side. If we are, there can also be a joy in the anticipation for our own passing, and a preparation if we are the one left behind.
Experiences such as the past few weeks aren’t ones we ask for, but they are learning and growing experiences that can enrich our lives—and they can also cement friendships if we stand with others during such times. I humbly and gratefully give thanks.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I feared opening the email that contained Lawrence's story. If he writes like most pastors and evangelists, this will be a nightmare, I thought. From the beginning the theme of Lawrence's story drew me in. In the first chapter, he nails together a primitive slab door for the cabin he's built for his family.
Scores of people, from tribal friends to globe trotters enter the humble Lawrence home through this door. Each chapter is a story of one who entered. As a reader, I entered. I met the Oksapmin people. Some became life-long friends to the Lawrences, like Guyhem Bek, a “co-worker, superb translator, clear thinker, and learner” who helped translate the New Testament into his language. The book is dedicated to him.
I didn’t meet Marshall and his wife Helen until after I’d read The World at My Door. By then, I felt that I already knew them. Throughout the book, Lawrence's writing smiles with humor. Still, the reader feels his grief when one by one his four boys leave home at an early age for boarding school.
Marshall and Helen, now retired, live in Echo Bay, Ontario, near Sault Ste. Marie,where I lived until last year. One afternoon, the Lawrences came for tea. Marshall said he wasn’t sure if he should publish the book or just tuck it away. Tuck it away? I can’t remember my exact words but I tried to convey how tragic I thought it would be if the book wasn’t published. Others who love stories will want to know the Oksapmin people. Through Lawrence’s book, these gentle souls can knock on their doors.
The World at My Door was published by Guardian Books. And in 2011 it won the Award of Merit from The Word Guild.
Meeting inspirational people like Marshall and Helen Lawrence expands my view of God's work in the world. I’m glad for the day they walked through my door.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
That mayor and council need to wake up! Their burn-and-slash program of cost-cutting, while having little effect on their personal well-being or cramping their lifestyle, will affect many people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale! These block-headed ideologues can’t see past their noses, and all their campaign promises count for nothing when their actions are akin to those of Judas who betrayed his Lord with a kiss. These characters are betraying the poor and all those depending on the programs they are about to cut.
WHOAAH! Who’s speaking? What council? What cuts? Whatever happened to this column?
It’s O.K. – Honest.
A week or so ago I read a front page article in The Toronto Star. In it the author berated the Toronto mayor and members of the council in language decidedly more graphic and scathing than I’ve employed above. I reckoned that he’s actually a skilled writer and knows how to write and grab attention, and that his style would likely generate discussion, and maybe garner reader comments – usually good for newspaper sales and keeping reader interest alive.
I said to my wife, “My goodness, what if I were to write like that? I’d probably get sued, or something.” She replied, “But you’re not that kind of writer.”
That got me thinking further. Well then, what kind of writer am I? Now please bear with me in a little navel gazing. (Granted, it takes other people to provide objective analysis of us and our efforts in any field of endeavour.)
My review took me to consider several key factors in my life and phrases that I coined and adopted that have served as guides and governors over the years.
First, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ; He is my Saviour and Lord. God is my Heavenly Father, and I have to give account to Him of how I live my life. The Holy Spirit is an ever-present influence in my life.
Second, as a Christian person I honour the Lord, and do not wish to bring disgrace to Him.
Third, I represent other people (the Christian community, my wife and family) who depend on or may be influenced for better or for worse through my judgment or actions.
Fourth, my worldview is informed and tempered through my Christian faith and understanding of the biblical scriptures. And so I write – and do a whole stack of things in life – out of that milieu.
The fifth (and I’ll make it the final) area that is part and parcel of “the kind of writer I am” is reflected in two statements.
In 1975 I adopted two words – “Recommending Christ!” – as a ministry motto. Throughout my pastoral ministry I sought to do just that. If I were working with a couple whose marriage was in trouble, or with a bereaved family, or whatever negative event barged through the door of their lives, apart from any practical steps that might be necessary to help them, I essentially recommended Christ as the ultimate solution.
In January of 2005 I adopted a writing slogan, “Raise the Gaze” – more fully expressed as, “Writing to raise the gaze from the mundane to the marvellous, from the secular to the sacred, from the material to the spiritual, and from the temporal to the eternal.”
I’m that kind of writer.
© Peter A. Black. Adapted from original article published in P-Pep! column in The Watford Guide-Advocate – September 22, 2011.
Black is the weekly inspirational columnist at the Guide and is the author of “Parables from the Pond” (Word Alive Press; ISBN 1897373-21-X).
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
|Highway of Holiness is now available for sale on my website: www.judithlawrence.ca|
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Doug and I have always had a small group in our home since we discovered the enjoyment of learning together with other people. One gentleman, whom I’ll call Jack talked a lot about living in the moment. He maintained that if we loved to the fullest, acted appropriately, kept the Great Commandment in mind at all times, our live and others would be changed, in the moment.
What is different from casting my view at the horizon of my thinking, my fears and decisions, or as Jack would suggest that I stand, ‘in the moment’? Could it be that everything I touch, see and feel will directly affect me now—my attitude, my ability to do, to be? Could this in turn strengthen me, encourage me, empower me more to then go forth and do what I’m called to do . . . in the future?
http://www.donnamann.org/ Watch for the Agnes Macphail books
Monday, September 19, 2011
People who volunteer may live longer than those who don't, as long as their reasons for volunteering are to help others rather than themselves, suggests new research published by the American Psychological Association.
This was the first time research has shown volunteers' motives can have a significant impact on life span. Volunteers lived longer than people who didn't volunteer if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study, published online in the APA journal Health Psychology. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.Accounting for their finding, the study authors suggest that those who volunteer to help others are not as poor or stressed, and therefore do better healthwise. Which simply does not correlate with observed experience.
"It is reasonable for people to volunteer in part because of benefits to the self; however, our research implies that, ironically, should these benefits to the self become the main motive for volunteering, they may not see those benefits," said the paper's co-author, Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis, MA.Not to worry, guys. The evolutionary psychology crackpots will soon come up with a reason why putting strangers first benefits one’s selfish genes.
Maybe we can think up such a reason ourselves: Volunteering among strangers increases the chances of having children with them, which prevents inbreeding. There. That settles it. That’s science. Well, “science” actually. The health effects of sincere voluntary service are just fact.
Friday, September 16, 2011
In August we saw a plant we recognized as a sunflower by its leaves. It grew tall among the jewel weed beneath the humming bird feeder. The plant, transformed from rejected seed, grew tall and produced three buds at its top. They opened up, one by one, into small seed-centred, yellow-petaled sunflowers.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Carolyn R. Wilker--A Changing Fall Fair
This past weekend, I attended our hometown fair—an event our family never missed when I was growing up and one that continued as a tradition when my husband and I had our own family.
We arrived in time to see the parade on the Saturday; and a couple of times our children participated in the parade, one of them doing cartwheels during the route, thus I walked the route too.
Our children, like us, enjoyed the midway with its rides and games, watched the jumper horses and riders as well as the carriage horses pulling their decorated or plain buggies. There were small animals to see, and pigs and chickens in pens for judging. We always took time to go into the arena and look at the exhibits and see who won the prizes—most often it was me who needed to see those entries, for some years, I entered sewing and other items for judging.
We went to the church booth for a sit-down meal in the late afternoon, then made one last round of the midway before putting on warmer clothes, finding a seat on the bleachers, and watching the air band contest in the evening.
The fair has changed; there’s still a parade, exhibits in the arena and a midway with rides and games. There are still jumper horses and carriage horses, judging of cattle and sheep, grains and 4-H displays and exhibits and commercial displays in the arena.
Ball games once played under the lights on Saturday evening gave way to an air band. The air-band competition continues—this year was the 26th— drawing young and old in its audience, entertained with music and dance acts that have us reminiscing or moving to the music. One year, a group of young people from our family, along with a school friend, performed the YMCA song, as recorded by The Village People, complete with uniforms and hats. They had the crowd singing with them.
Instead of a Fair Queen competition, we have a Fair Ambassador contest, in which two nieces have previously competed. The church booth, too, has changed. No longer do the ladies serve a hot full course meal; now they serve hamburgers, hot dogs, pop, and home-made pie, and there’s still a place to sit and eat behind their booth.
This year was different for me. Having judged poetry in children and adult categories in previous years, and exhibiting sewing or photography or pickled beets, which I didn’t enter this year, I was part of the concessions, representing my book, Once Upon a Sandbox, that was published this spring, and my editing business.
The only event I could not miss was the Fair Ambassador contest Friday evening and my niece’s speech. My husband graciously stayed near my table during that program, while I went off, camera in hand, to be in the audience that a good part of the community also attended. This year, my niece Alex came in as runner up. We are so proud of her as we’ve been of the other girls entering in past years.
I had a different perspective this year, one in which I was the salesperson, persuader, instead of the one being persuaded. I did a good deal of people watching too, and observing change.
Like the Fall Fair and the Agricultural Society that runs it, things change, whether it’s for improvement, efficiency, or even convenience. It can mean trying something new, like the air band that’s been so popular, or the newer additions of baby show or the lawn tractor race. Even the theme this year, Go Green, is about change and how we can work with it and try to improve our world.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
by Linda Hall
Right now I’m in the middle section of a new novel, that part of writing that seems to go on and on, the part that’s slower than a car on the 401 between four and six p.m. (well, really, any time on the 401). Writing anything, from an essay (a blog post) and a novel to a nonfiction book is sort of like driving in traffic.
There are spurts of energy when the road up ahead looks absolutely clear, and if you can just squeeze into that left lane you’ll be home free, final chapter here we come. And then, just as suddenly, you are up against a brick wall of cars. Ideas have slowed to a standstill and nothing’s getting through.
When I’m in the confused, mixed-up middle part of my novel traffic, I like to remind myself of three things: Purpose, Hook and Cliffhanger.
PURPOSE: Each chapter in a book, each paragraph in an essay, each word in an article must serve a purpose. Every sentence must move the reader’s thoughts to the next point, idea or plot. If the chapter is just so much chatter, there is no reason for it to be there.
I’m guilty of chatter. Sometimes, when I’m stuck, I write whole chapters of dialogue that really do absolutely nothing for the plot. They’re just people talking. In the final analysis, they will end up on the other side of the DELETE key. Sentences that serve no purpose are like the off ramps telling you to go here or go there when you know if you just stick with the traffic flow, however miserable it seems right now, you’ll get to the final destination much quicker.
HOOKS: Every piece of writing needs to begin with a hook - something that draws the reader in like bait on a fishing line. The first sentence of my current novel reads like this: I was in the middle of the Jesse dream when Kricket disappeared. Here’s one from mystery writer Stephen White’s Manner of Death: Adrienne’s tomatoes froze to death the same night that Arnie Dresser died. When you have a moment take down a book from your bookshelf, any book, and look for chapter hooks.
Hooks aren’t just for fiction, either. Malcolm Gladwell (The Outliers, The Tipping Point) is famous for his stories, and just about every one of his chapters start with one. And who can argue with the profound four words that begin The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren? It’s not about you. (Actually that’s the whole book in a nutshell. He could have ended right there!)
CLIFFHANGERS: You must leave the reader wanting more. Every chapter, every paragraph needs to end with something that makes the reader want to turn to the next page, read the next sentence. Another example comes from my current wip (Work in progress): She stared at the screen for several minutes. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
Agent and author Donald Maass says that you should take all of the printed pages of your novel and throw them up in the air. Then grab them at random. Every single page should make the reader want to read the next one.
With these three things in mind, getting through the traffic of your writing might be just a little bit easier.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
"Ants" is an excerpt from the book Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress by Marian den Boer.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Sitting in the mall it was interesting to watch all the "normal, healthy" people. Some avoided my turbaned head, some smiled a wee bit, some just stared then looked away. Then I noticed a woman walk by whose neck was a bit crooked. Another had a slight limp, another dragged an oxygen tank behind him. Not so "normal and healthy." And I thought, how many times did I breeze by them all in a mall like this, uncaring, oblivious to all the hardships and pain around me. In the glitz and glimmer of a shopping mall it's easy to think the world is all as it should be as we spin along on our quest for consumer items, avoiding the pain, the sadness, refusing to look it in the face, refusing to do anything to alleviate it.
But the reality is, the world underneath all that shine and polish is rather sad and broken. A friend posted a quote from CS. Lewis on Facebook recently - "Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him Happy." So very true.
Yet there is hope, there is purpose.
The author of the second book of Corinthians said it this way - "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows" (2Corinthians 1:3-5).
As we see the pain and suffering around us and attempt to minister to it, we enter into the ministry of Christ through His suffering. We enter into the humanity of our race, joining ourselves together with bonds that hold us all up as we stand at the cross. And in so doing we are made more human, moulded more and more into the image of God, which is our true identity.
And some of the brokenness is healed, the sadness turned to joy, the reality of God's love made known. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
My friend, she the lovely one–rake thin and blonde–waits inside the art gallery, at the top of the stairs, chatting with the curator. They stop when I get to the top. ”I feel like an escapee.”
They laugh, and the curator excuses himself.
“Monique*,” I say.
“Kathleen,” says she, reaching out her arms.
We hug, then stand back to size each other up. It’s been a few years since we made time for each other. Since we really looked at each other. Her face looks different. Older. Thinner. And sadder, somehow. I never expected that.
I wonder what she sees when she looks at me. The same, perhaps.
Gusts of time and circumstance swirl bitterly among kith and kin sometimes. Contrary winds too easily make strangers of friends. My last few years have not dealt kindly with some of my once-dear friendships.
I will not have that. I will not give in. I have begun beckoning back those I have most missed; first in my prayers, then using words. Come, please. We have rich gifts unopened. Treasures too long stored. Do you still have room?
They’ve begun to arrive, alighting like tentative butterflies on the petals of my soul. We are older. We are not necessarily wiser. And we are more tired. But we are still lovely together.
Monique and I wander through the gallery. I am stunned by the gems conceived in her own soul, hanging now for the world to see. Her chapbook, which features her exquisite India ink sketches and God's words, has blessed me to hell and back these last years. I tell her so. But you published it, she says, surprised. But we both know I played mere midwife.
We amble down the road for cold iced tea on the porch of the vintage coffee house. We steep in each other's presence for almost two hours, and find it sweet.
God is good. But life is hard–and far too short to watch friends drift away without trying to hold them just once more.
One at a time, I will unfurl my petals. Alight, butterflies, alight.
*not her actual name
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