Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Multi-tasking to One-track Mind by Ruth Smith Meyer

Motherhood, for me, was a crash course to acclimatize me to that state in which many of us operate—multi-tasking. Our first two babies, only fourteen months apart assured that I learned fast.  With the birth of our third three years later, I heard the truth of my mom’s quote, “With one you pick up and run, with two you make do, with three you stay where you be,” but I tried to ignore it and still find a way to do everything I thought I should do.

               As the years progressed I learned to juggle house work, child care, gardening, home canning, baking, cooking sewing, committee work, home and school involvements, volunteering.  As the children passed to pre-teen and teen years, I added driving to and from extra-curricular activities, youth activities, concerts and much more. Then the children entered university and adult years.  The nest began to empty, but I was on a roll. 

As school and youth involvements for my children slowed down, I began to take evening courses to enhance my own education and learning since I hadn’t been allowed to go as far in school as I would have liked.   To gather experience, I volunteered in church and wider church activities, in a kindergarten classroom and committees, juggling that with my home-maker and mothering roles all the while, multi-tasking through busy days and weeks.   A part-time job came along and I added that to the mix, cutting out very little else. When I broke my leg and ended up in a cast for five months, it felt as though that was the only way God could get through to me the idea that things could continue without me and that maybe, just  maybe, I should slow down a bit.  Even while in cast, I filled my moments writing letters, doing crafts and drawing that I normally wouldn’t have taken time to do.

 By and by, I helped establish and run a Senior’s Day Program.  My multi-tasking continued, but in more focused form as I planned a varied program for the seniors and began a regular column in several local newspapers. My job, by its very nature, still required a lot of multi-tasking.

When that job ended, I began a writing career.  For a few years, especially in the transition from married woman to widow, writing became my central focus. Although I still maintained a few other involvements, they were scheduled to accommodate my regular time for writing. Gradually though, a life-time habit crept in. Soon I was once more busy with committees, volunteering and a host of other undertakings. A new marriage once more added the role of spouse to my agenda.  That was and is a joy, but it changed the balance of my days somewhat.

A few months ago when my husband was diagnosed with tumors in his spine, our lives began to spin around the possibilities that condition may impose on us.  When he entered hospital for surgery and an expected 3-5 day stay which was extended to 17 days because of complications, the centrifugal force spun many of my activities to the outer edges.  My mind went into a one-track mode aimed at supporting my beloved, encouraging and advocating for him, doing everything in my power to get him well. 

I found that much of the help promised to me while they tried to get us out of the hospital, turned out to be training me to do it myself.  Wound care and giving needles were not in my training background, but became part of my routine.  An emergency trip back to hospital when he developed blood clots in his lung, also kept steering my focus on that same track.  I accompany my dear wise one to his daily radiation treatments, although thankfully we have dear friends who offered to do the driving.  

It has been quite a change from my usual multi-tasking.  It’s been another learning experience.  I’ve learned again, that the committees on which I serve can indeed go on if I miss a few meetings. I’ve learned that although I’ve missed some seminars, concerts and grandchildren’s activities, I’ve been able to affirm them and they’ve learned to understand the needs of others sometimes take priority.  I’ve learned that certain things I thought were important are less so when a greater need is present.   I’ve learned to pray on the run for those on my prayer list that I want to continue to remember and I’m sure God hears and understands just as well.   I’ve learned to accommodate our special meal requirements by careful planning.  I’ve also learned that writing is as important to me as those meals, so I squeeze in a few minutes at my computer putting into words thoughts, my feelings, my insights and my prayers. 

         So I thank God for the wider view, but I thank Him also for the well-defined focus.   I learn much from both!

Out on a Limb - Rose McCormick Brandon

 An 84 year-old woman went skydiving to celebrate her birthday. Another octogenarian, bungee jumped off a bridge to mark his 85th. . These two defied gravity and the ancient voices of their mothers telling them to keep both feet on the ground. They did it to satisfy their youthful desire for adventure. People, who defy their fears and survive to do a follow-up interview, report these experiences as thrilling and liberating. But risk-taking isn’t limited to physical adventure.

One of my acts of bravery began when an article outlined itself in my brain. I had a resume of only two published credits, one in my Bible college yearbook and the other in a writing contest. I put the piece to paper and mailed it to the editor of a faith-based magazine. After dropping the submission in the mailbox, I tortured myself with images of the editor exclaiming, “I’ve never read such rubbish!” A few weeks later, a letter arrived from the magazine saying he intended to publish my work. “Do send more articles on any subject,” he added. My writer’s heart did a joyful leap. I hadn’t parachuted from a tall building onto a trampoline but I’d crawled out on a tiny limb of possibility and – gasp – it held.

 By casting my words on uncertain waters, I’d risked rejection, a thread no one wants to weave into the fabric of their lives. The alternative was to suppress the desire to write, a desire that felt like it came from God. But I wasn’t 100% positive. I had to knock on the publishing door to find out. Fear of rejection can make us dumb when we should speak and glue us to the floor when we should go. This fear whispers negative comments like - you’ll make a fool of yourself, surely others more talented, more connected and more prepared than you should write these articles. If I’d heeded these messages, I would’ve remained chained to my security blanket.

  The need for security is rooted in human nature. We see its influence in the way some responded to Jesus’ call to follow Him. They marveled at His words, recognized His divine authority but when know-it-all Pharisees accused them of being swept off their feet with lies and threatened to excommunicate them; they distanced themselves from Jesus (John 7:45-53). If we step out of our comfort zones criticism will come, and often from unexpected places. People may misunderstand our motives. They may not see value in our goals or they may simply not get us. It’s alright to shed a few tears over rejection because it’s painful but it’s not alright to let a strong need for security dictate our futures.

 The other basic need rooted in our natures is for significance, a sense that our contribution to the big picture matters. If we stay wrapped in our security blankets we invite boredom. Taking risks for worthy reasons add exhilaration to life, much like jumping out of a plane. 

Our relationship with Jesus is meant to fill our need for significance. When it doesn’t we run after other things, searching for something that gives our lives purpose. Or we strive to become the person we believe others want us to be. Both responses lead to what Chandler calls lesser aspirations.

 Many God-called people let God-given ideas lie dormant because they fear rejection. Like those who almost followed Jesus, they retreat to their comfort zones and choose man’s favour over God’s. Daniel tells us that the people who know their God will be strong and do exploits (Daniel 11:32). That doesn’t mean becoming famous and it doesn’t require being the best at what we do, it simply means having the courage to take on the tasks God gives us. That’s how we grow into the people God intends us to become.  

 God is the ultimate story-teller. He’s writing a story in each person’s life. Our pages hum with joy, grief, pain and pleasure but no novel is complete without adventure. The adventure chapters in our stories chronicle the times we’ve chosen significance over security, the times we’ve knocked on strangers’ doors, uncertain whether we’d even come to right address. In her book Conquering Insecurity, Deborah Smith Pegues writes, “There is a passion, a fire that refuses to be quenched when you lock into God’s plan for your life.” (2) For many submitting an article to an editor who may reject it isn’t risky – for me it was and sometimes still is.

I haven’t sky-dived or bungee-jumped (yet) but I suspect taking the plunge helps participants to face challenges in other areas of life. The bottom line for Christ-followers is this: if we don’t risk following wherever He leads, we’ll never know the joy of crawling out on a limb and finding ourselves exactly where God wants us to be. 

Rose McCormick Brandon is a frequent contributor to faith magazines, devotionals and compilations, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul. Rose writes, edits and compiles stories of British Home Children at The Promise of Home. She writes on enjoying God and His creation at Listening to My Hair Grow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Need an Idea? - Peter A. Black

Ideas. Ideas are everything. At least, when you need one, they are. When you have a dilemma, such as when the car breaks down

in the middle of nowhere in the boonies, or somewhere like the middle of an intersection during rush-hour.
That’s how I introduced a newspaper article several years ago.

In that piece I wrote about a writer’s need for getting ideas. Generally it’s not too difficult, considering there’s lots happening in the world around us at home and abroad to engage the mind and stir the emotions – whether prompting admiration and appreciation, or provoking angst and anger.

My friend Jan has several website blogs, and sometimes has guest bloggers who write articles for her. These blogs are of an inspirational nature, one of them being dedicated to the subject of prayer (I’ve provided several items for it). On another, she intended posting an item every day, but found that with maintaining these sites and caring for responsibilities in life, it was demanding more time and energy than she felt able to give. Yet, she also felt she was to keep it up.

And so, she prayed, and came up with . . . yes, an idea. She would do a “daily five” – that is, she would write for five minutes on whatever topic came to mind. Some friends were invited to guest-write for it on the same basis. Spelling and grammar didn’t have to be perfect, but of course, it must be done in five minutes.

Her focus still is on the inspirational and spiritual dimension of life, and so far it is working well – a great idea. People are involved and others are visiting the site and reading the blogs, and now Jan has a little more time to be a grandma and tend her gardens, whatever.

The inventor of Dyson vacuum cleaners is portrayed on television commercials informing the world that he looked closely at the basic design of vacuum cleaners of the past 100 years and figured how they could be radically improved. Now his revolutionary designs are

changing that industry.

The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers and all things “i” – iPod, iPhone and iPad, et cetera, was a gifted individual with great imagination and business acumen, and developed revolutionary ideas in the field of cyber-technology, personal computing and portable communication applications. And that story still goes on.

Are you stuck for an idea in your life at the present time? I’m sure many of us would like to hit on an idea that would make us a fortune. But life is often more basic than that.

Is yours a need for working through a difficult situation or relationship with a person at work, or dealing with a troublesome teenager at home, or navigating heaving marital seas, or maybe solving a tricky repair problem around the home, and you’ve no idea how to go about it?

Perhaps you’ve exhausted ideas for finding employment, or are concerned with something deeper, more personal than any of these – you sense your need is spiritual; something’s not sitting right, and you know you need God.

You need an idea . . . where to turn, of whom to turn to? Coming to God in prayer right where you are, humbly depending on His grace, is a great place to start. Ask for wisdom – His idea.

You may need to take thoughtful, careful and deliberate steps when the idea comes.


For further reflection: James 1:5; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 16:3

Peter A. Black writes a weekly inspirational column in The Watford Guide-Advocate, and is author of the children's / family book "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X)

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Passion - Eleanor Shepherd

“When you don’t have a clue what to write about, write about your passion.”  This advice to authors running on empty, appeals to me today.  One of my passions, I realized in conversation with friends on Saturday, is work being done to help mothers and children in the developing world.  It is not only because this work is the bread and butter of my husband, Glen and mine also for two days a week.  The efforts to help grab my heart and get me choked up, when I hear about conditions there.  I immediately want to tell everyone about it, so they will engage in this work too.
What is it like in the developing world?  It is filled with ordinary people like you and me, except they had the disadvantage of being born in a part of the world that has not enjoyed the economic prosperity and political liberty we so often take for granted. 
The truth of this hit me again when our daughter offered us a gift of medicines sent to the developing world in our honour, as the Christmas present from her baby daughter, Sanna.   My joy is to go out and buy clothes and toys for our little granddaughter who brings such pleasure to us.  She is our first grandchild and I cannot do enough for her.  If her mother even suggests she could use something, I run off to the store to get it for her. 
The note our daughter gave us with her gift, reminded me again of how fortunate we are.   If Sanna had been born anywhere in the developing world, she may not have made it, and we might have lost her mother as well.  It is so common for mothers to die in childbirth.  Chances are Elizabeth’s elevated blood pressure would never have been diagnosed.  Not having delivered eighteen hours after her water broke, she would likely have suffered from infections, spreading them with Sanna, with no antibiotics to treat them.  Had Sanna weathered all of that stress, emerging with the cord around her neck, would likely have been the end for her.  Today I would be living with grief and loss, instead of gratitude and elation.  These reflections increase my compassion for so many grandmothers in the developing world, who having survived overwhelming odds themselves, are hit with the sorrow of the loss of child and grandchild. 
While these thoughts are sobering, hope keeps me going. The United Nations established Millennium Goals that include the provision of care for women giving birth and for children under the age of five who often die of easily preventable diseases.  They have set specific targets for the reduction of the mortality level of women and children. We are working to see those goals realized.    
Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) is working with partner agencies to establish a training program for rural medical teams in the developing world so that they can recognize and address some of the high risks in pregnancy, and therefore save the lives of mothers and their babies. 
The nurse, who administers a rural health station, in the developing world often handles many different diagnoses in the course of a day.  She may observe in a child, unique symptoms she has never encountered before.  To help her, HPIC and its partners are producing a pediatric handbook, developed by a doctor who spent his career working in rural Africa.  Hard copies and electronic versions will ensure widespread distribution.  This guide will save the lives of many children. 
The initiative that most excites me is in some senses the simplest, but may well be the most effective.  A kit of basic medical supplies will be available from women in the community who receive a level one training in health care.  They will know how to deal with the most common health problems, arising in the developing world.  The kits will equip them to address these situations.  For examples, we know many of the children who die in the developing world, do so from dehydration brought on by diarrhea.  This can be effectively addressed and cured and children’s lives saved.  Mothers who if they were well nourished would have the strength to deliver their babies will be able to receive vitamin supplements.  None of this is rocket science, but it makes a huge difference in the lives of families in the developing world.             
I love being a mother.  I love being a grandmother.  I want others to share that joy.   Helping make it happen ignites my passion.
Health Partners International of Canada website is
Winner of 2011
Word Guild Award
Christian Leadership

Winner of 2009
Award of Merit
Human Interest Article

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Empty Egg/Mann

When I wake up on a Sunday morning, my first thought is always, “It’s Sunday.” That’s all I need to think before a flood of current questions beg recognition. “Church? What will the music be this morning? What scripture will the minister interpret? Will Mrs. H be able to come? Should I take my turn on the roster?” Sometimes, I actually begin to contemplate where we’ll go for lunch after church or if I’ll nip into the county library and pick up a book. By this time, the cat has discovered I’m awake and thinks it’s a good idea to go out and watch the squirrels.

I can honestly say, when I was in pulpit ministry, I didn’t always wake up with such elation, as thoughts of unfinished business from the last session meeting would likely emerge during coffee hour. Perhaps the fire that I was able to put out last week would have begun to smoulder and I would see little licks of flame here and there during the morning. I admit those kinds of thoughts only lived a short time before current happy questions would take over with feelings of anticipation about the day.

Anticipation makes life interesting, prepares us for change and gives us opportunity to see options. Anticipation tells us there is more than what we experience at the moment. It asks us to look over the edge, to listen for the yet to be spoken words, to taste the sweetness of what is to come.

Last Sunday our congregation was invited to renew our baptismal vows, rededicate ourselves, and receive the sign of the cross with prayer. Our family pew empties quickly as we go forward. Later from my seat, I watch through my tears as people that I’ve known since childhood file by — dear men and women who are living a lifetime in service to Christ, helping and caring for one another, being the church in the community, supporting the local missions as well as those places where God is at work in other countries and communities.

As we walk to the car, a friend shows me an empty robin’s nest she’s found on a picnic table. “New life,” she said and smiles at me. “Freedom!” I have the feeling she is talking about herself as much as the baby robin.

Isn’t it precious how everyday things can bring hope and joy when one has been in the presence of God? No religious jargon or theological definitions required – just a willingness to live in the moment and know God is there with you. Look, experience and celebrate. “New life – freedom.” It doesn’t get much better, does it?

Donna Mann

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Remembering Ben—Carolyn R. Wilker

Last week, I received the sort of email no one wants to get. I learned of the death of one of my students—a mature student in my Creative writing class at the community centre. Ben had attended both the fall and winter sessions and said at our last class in March that he’d take a break and just do some writing, maybe attend a critique group session. And so his death took me by surprise since I didn’t know he’d been in hospital or even that he had been ill.

Ben was one of those students who keeps a teacher on her toes, in this case it was me. He had been a newspaper man in his prairie town and so he had done a lot of writing—news, social columns, likely obituaries as well. He knew about writing to a deadline, in fact had met many of them working for more than one newspaper. He was a gifted writer with an uncanny wit and keen interest in people and events around him. He asked focused questions on grammar and writing conventions and sometimes offered an explanation on a topic that he knew well.

Ben always entered the room with a smile on his face, did his homework and joined in discussions. He conversed intelligently on many topics that came up in our class and often joked about being the only male in our class; he was glad when another man joined the class the next session, but really, he didn’t seem to mind and went along in his usual good humour.

Unbeknownst to me, he had borrowed my book from the library and asked one day, “Are you C. R. Wilker?” 

When I answered yes, he said he was reading my book. 

“It’s not the kind of book I usually read,” he said, but his curiosity was so great that he wanted to see what it was about.

Another day he asked, "Are you a Christian?" I answered that I am and he seemed satisfied and recalled some detail from my book.

While some students might wonder why he came to class, since he already wrote so well, I think he was there to keep on writing. Sometimes writers do that to keep the words rolling and the pen moving. Then perhaps he also came to the centre to get to know other people in the community that he and his wife had moved to so recently.

When I asked students what they wanted to gain from this class, Ben said that he wanted to learn how to write a short story. I’m not sure if he meant the literary kind or creative nonfiction style. I don’t know whether he felt he had achieved that goal. We shared the stories we wrote in class, and I remember several of his stories about riding on buses and the characters he met on the way. We felt that we were riding with him, seeing the people he wrote about. 

Perhaps this creative writing was an outlet after so many years of tight deadlines with the newspapers.

Ben also loved poetry, I discovered. He shared a poem that he was still working on and asked for our thoughts and ideas. 

Then in evaluations at the last class of the fall term, he was one of the few to sign his form—B.K. He asked for more poetry and time to “hone” it and offered a compliment on my teaching style and ideas for future classes, including “being more critical of work presented in class” to help the students fix and build on what they had written. Wise words.

I learned more about Ben at his memorial service, including his many accomplishments and something of his faith journey. He had written the entire service several years ago and had chosen the hymns, even suggesting how they were to be played.

 I hope that Ben shared some of his stories with his wife and family; reading them now could be comforting, even bringing laughter as they say good-bye, for now, to one they love.

Oh, for just one copy of his story about riding on the bus. I’d treasure that.

Rest in peace, Ben. We’ll remember you in class.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Faithful Father's Day - Hird

By Rev Ed Hird  


It is too easy to take our fathers for granted.  My Dad continues to impress me more and more each year.  It is so encouraging to see people age well rather than end up grumpy and negative.


In 1910, Father’s Day was invented in Spokane Washington by Arkansas-born Sonora Smart Dodd.  It is not without significance that her dad William Jackson Smart, was a civil war veteran who singlehandedly raised his six children. When Sonora was only sixteen, her mother died in childbirth.  This left Sonora the only daughter helping her dad raising her brothers.  While listening to a sermon about mothers, Sonora was very excited by Miss Anne Jarvis’ invention of Mother’s Day.  June 5th, her dad’s birthday, was the original intended date for Father’s Day, but it was delayed to the third Sunday of June in order to have time to make arrangements.  Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is celebrated on a Sunday because of its original connection to Sunday morning worship.

I thank God for my wonderful father, Ted Hird who, with my mom Lorna, will soon be celebrating their 62nd wedding anniversary. It fills me with gratitude to have a loving father that believes in me.  My dad is such an encourager; he is often sending me e-mails and notes telling me how pleased he is with my work, my family and my life.  I want to be like my father in his remarkable gift of encouragement.   It is so easy to be someone who sees what is wrong with other people. My dad looks for that which is working and builds on it.

When my dad became an electrical engineer in 1950, they were still using test-tubes for radio communication. Over sixty-two years later, my dad is still growing and learning.  I want to be the kind of father who never stops learning, never stops changing, never stops expanding my horizons.  Technology is always changing, but my dad has never been left behind.  My father is a passionate reader who consumes books in a way that keeps his mind active and fresh.  I want to be a father that always keeps reading, and inspires my own children to read for the very pleasure of reading.  

My father is a born leader.  He rose from very humble circumstances to become the President of Lenkurt Electric, at that time the largest secondary industry in BC.  I have seen my father make wise decisions again and again in very difficult leadership situations.  As a trained leadership coach,  I want to lead like my father, with wisdom and patience. My father has raised up many younger leaders who have made a lasting difference in the world.  Like my father, I have a passion for raising up the emerging generation of leaders.


Through my father, God passed on to me my gift and passion for writing.  Writing for me is like breathing. That is why I have invested the past twenty-four years communicating with you as a Deep Cove Crier columnist. When my father writes, he is sharp, crisp and clear.  I love to receive from him new chapters every couple of months about his ever unfolding autobiography.

I often wish that I had my father’s carpentry skills.  It is remarkable how many gifts that he has built through love for various members of our family, including my book shelves and my wife’s dining room cabinet.  My dad is always willing to help whenever he can.

My father has developed a strong faith over the years that is a great encouragement to me.  As a former agnostic, my father has become very interested in understanding the bible for himself.  It is great that I can openly chat with my father about our common faith in Jesus Christ.  Taking the Alpha Course was a major step in my father’s spiritual pilgrimage.   My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us will discover fresh ways to honour our fathers for all the good that they have done in our lives.

Reverend Ed Hird, Rector

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article for the June 2012 Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

From The Best Schools blog, my recent posts on credentialism - O’Leary

Part I: Credentialism: How much of your education do you really need? In a recent article in New Criterion , Charles Murray, whose book, Coming Apart, I have been considering here,, offers another scholar’s view that expertise in a field requires 50 000 chunks of information:
Fame can come easily and overnight, but excellence is almost always accompanied by a crushing workload. Psychologists have put specific dimensions to this aspect of accomplishment. One thread of this literature, inaugurated in the early 1970s by Herbert Simon, argues that expertise in a subject requires a person to assimilate about 50,000 “chunks” of information about the subject over about ten years of experience—simple expertise, not the mastery that is associated with great accomplishment. Once expertise is achieved, it is followed by thousands of hours of practice, study, and labor.
But surely this calculation does not apply across the board. In many fields, information and interaction are not easily divided into 50,000 chunks in the same way that $50,000 can be divided into 50,000 chunks of one dollar each. That fact bears on the problem of credentialism as a barrier to getting a job.

Credentialism? It means an emphasis on acquiring academic credentials in a field before one can be hired. Before I go any further, let me make clear what it does not mean: Obviously, we want our nurse practitioner to have credentials, that is, to have learned human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and medical procedure and ethics to the satisfaction of her educators before she treats you.

But so many courses today offer a different, cloudier picture. Consider business courses, for example. In “The Case Against Credentialism” in the Atlantic in 1985, James Fallows observes,
The rise of the M.B.A. has occurred during precisely the era in which, as anyone who follows business magazines is aware, the content of graduate business training has come under increasing attack. “We have created a monster,” H. Edward Wrapp, of the University of Chicago's business school, wrote in 1980, in Dun's Review. “The business schools have done more to insure the success of the Japanese and West German invasion of America than any one thing I can think of.” I'd close every one of the graduate schools of business,”

Credentialism evades this fact by padding and lengthening courses, raising fees, and marketing prestige or exclusivity. If all that added up to productivity in running a business, US firms would not need government help.

The problem came home to me when I was doing some editorial work years ago on a textbook for sales personnel, as part of a business course. More.

 Part II: Those less well-advertised reasons why credentialism is so important today [...]

 The usual explanation is that more and better education results, which helps students, prospective employers, and society in general. Maybe credentialism does all that. But here are some other things is also does:

 * It keeps younger potential competitors out of the work force for several extra years. That can be better news for government and industry than for the students who must finance those years by incurring debt.
 * It makes achievement in getting credentials sound as important as achievement in the field itself. That’s problematic. Does getting high marks in a certificate course in hotel and resort management show that a person can run a hotel or resort? Possibly, but so much of what we really need to know can only be learned on the job.
 * It forms an industry for the people who create the courses and grant the credentials. That’s not a bad thing in principle. In practice, its value depends on the true relationship between credentials and later performance. More.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Do I Write?

by Glynis M. Belec

So I dished out the homework at our last Writers Unite meeting and no one grumbled.

"Write a 200 - 300 word essay titled: 'Why Do I Write?'" I said in my nicest voice.

I handed out the usual directives to write from the heart and let the words flow.

"Dig deep and try to fathom the real reason you use words - whether it is through song, poetry, prose..." I did prattle on.

My lovely fellow scribes are a contented and wonderfully supportive group when we gather each month at our obliging little down-town studio. (And I still am in awe at the way they seem to trust me lots when it comes to the written word.)

Some days, when I get zero accomplished in the writing department, I feel such a phony. At the meetings I encourage everyone to try to find at least some time in a day to write. I tell them the importance of keeping at it and I tell them to never give up hope and to pursue with passion what God has laid before them. I need to practise what I preach!

As I was enjoying the beauty of  today, and contemplating dropping a Facebook reminder to everyone to not forget their homework, I realized that I, too, need to do my homework. I need to do my homework not because I fear the backlash of my fellow writers, or anticipate the naughty chair. After all, should the leader be required to do homework, too?

Ah yes, I need to do my homework and ask myself Why do I Write? so that I can inhale deeply and be refreshed and reminded about how much God has blessed me with something I never thought I deserved.

So...why do I write?

I write because the words that I need to come out of my mouth don't.
I write because I have little voices inside my head compelling me to do so.
I write because God gave me a voice.
When I look around I see the hurried, the harried, the beleaguered, the forlorn.
I see the beauty, the purpose, the confusion, the significant.
And I want to write about it.

I write because I am fascinated with how 26 little letters can be combined to create thousands of words.
I write because I love to hear someone say, "I can really relate to that" or "thanks for giving me a smile" or "I understand what you are going through."
I write because God gave me a purpose.
When my mind drifts, it drifts to places that excite and spur me into action. I want to write down what happened because I am sure someone would like to know about it. Or not.

I write because I love to communicate; to connect; to impart learned ideas or thoughts.
I write because a teacher once told me I was good at it.
I write because sometimes it feels like I am worshipping God.
Pouring out my heart on a page is balm for my soul. Behaviour modification is accomplished when I focus and adapt. Then I still myself - ready to think and speak through words. I love that feeling.

I write because of the satisfaction I acquire from seeing how words can stir a soul.
I write because of the sense of accomplishment.
I write because there is so much to share about God's Amazing Grace.
When I write there is something surreal about the journey - the beginning, the middle, the end.
When I write with God on my mind...and with gratitude in my heart for the love of words; when I listen for His direction and respect His timing, I feel like I understand a little tiny piece of God's heart.

...That is why I write...

Oh, that my words could be recorded. 

Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, 
carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, 
engraved forever in the rock. 
"But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, 
and he will stand upon the earth at last. 
And after my body has decayed, 
yet in my body I will see God! 
I will see him for myself. 
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. 
I am overwhelmed at the thought! 
Job 19:23-27 (NLT) 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Homemaker—den Boer

Tuesday morning I awoke promptly at 6:30 to the smell of bread baking in the bread-maker and the sound of the baby fussing in her crib. I shuffled down the hall to the baby’s room. Little Elizabeth smiled winsomely as she arched around to greet me.

Sixteen and one quarter hours later at 10:45, I filled the bread-maker with ingredients and shuffled off to bed. My question is, did anything in those 16 hours between emptying and filling my bread-maker produce fruit that would last?

I could rate my activities by how soon they would have to be repeated. Filling my cupboards with clean dishes from the dishwasher wouldn’t have to be done again for another eight hours. Washing a load of baby Elizabeth’s diapers was good for two days. Having the rugs shampooed and scotch-guarded would last up to a year.

On the other hand, something relational like my reaction to the question by the carpet-cleaning man when he heard baby noises, will possibly become what is called a lasting memory. “You have grandchildren here?” is not what this mother of a seven-month-old wanted to hear. I’m only 45. I told him rather pointedly that the baby was mine. He got embarrassed and mumbled something about his own grandchildren.

If I took an eternal measuring stick to the day, I would have to look at deeds done for others. What were my motives?

I like to think that each of the six times I fed the baby I did it out of love...or was it duty? And each of the half dozen times I changed her diaper, I did it out of love...or was it necessity? Genuine love caused me to wave at my eldest daughter Angela on her way to work as our vehicles passed each other on the street...or was that pride? Surely, love motivated me to let Paul stay home from school. He was covered with an itchy rash. Or was my motivation fear that he would contaminate his school mates?

Love certainly didn’t figure in as I spring cleaned behind the refrigerator. I did this to appease Marty who doesn’t like dirt. Then again maybe I did it out of love for Marty. I finished designing a two-page newsletter on the computer simply for money, although I did enjoy doing it. (Was this love?)

I drove a neighbour who doesn’t have a vehicle over to the Housing Authority so she could pay her rent. I did this because she asked—or was it because it made me feel good? Or was it love?

When Nora, whom I hadn’t seen for 20 years, phoned me to invite our family to her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I chatted for a quarter hour, I was genuinely interested in her family—or was I just nosey?

At the end of the day, all I can say is, “Lord, purify my heart.” I want love to be my motivation and I want to be pure.

I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last...I command you to love each other. (John 15:16b–17, New Living Translation)

A friend read this description of my day and immediately felt sorry for me. It seemed to her I was striving to become acceptably righteous. That is not the case. God chose me; I don’t have to earn His approval. I was merely examining my day for fruit that would last. I’ve been grafted into the vine. Now I want to produce plenty of excellent fruit.

As I complained to the Lord about my friend’s misdirected pity, I heard Him say, “How do you think I feel when people misunderstand My book?”

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When the Bright Lights Dim - Gibson

The “Painter of Light,” as the world knew him, died last month. Artist and author Thomas Kinkade, widely known as a devout Christian, was among the world’s highest earning and most popular living artists.

After his death, I sat with one of his books on my lap, and one of my grandbeans at my side. Reading aloud. Every so often she stroked a page. “That’s SO beautiful, isn’t it Nana?”

Indeed. Page after page showed heavenly views. Homes and cottages with lighted windows; abundant, colourful gardens, tidy stone pathways leading to quiet forests, and skies resplendent with God’s glory.

The artist chose to illuminate his paintings with words like these from poet Eliza Cook: “Sweet is the hour that brings us home, where all will spring to meet us…”

Kinkade was good at making people long for home. Repeated references to his own home and family cheered and encouraged admirers of his work: Keep your hearts at home. Enjoy the good God has given you there, at your side. Those were Kinkade’s messages.

But the artist’s simple pastoral canvases, of late, hid something disturbing. The last several years of the fifty-four year old painter’s life included great personal darkness. As critics in the art world accused him of schamltz, sentimental trip-trap, and the equivalent of artistic harlotry, reports of his bizarre behavior increased. Gallery owners accused him of defrauding people in the name of God. He battled with alcoholism. He replaced his wife with another woman, and became estranged from his family.

Pedestals are perilous places. Pride and popularity taper up to the jagged pinnacle of greed and wealth, and not many can keep their balance there. Apparently Mr. Kinkade lost his. I grieve that, but I understand it.

And this: When my grandchild and I finished reading that book on the warmth and blessings of home, every page filled with something that fingered her tender heart, she closed the book, stood up and said, Nana, I want to go home. So I walked her home. Her daddy greeted her with a hug and welcomed her there.

Good work, Thomas, I thought. No matter what you were.

Like Mr. Kinkade, I strive to serve God and others well with the gifts he has given. But also like him, I am a worm. An earth-crawler with dirt on my face, the hope of heaven in my spirit, and a prayer in my heart: “Lord, may the seeds I plant grow a longing in people’s souls for all things right and good.”

But God forbid that thinking I stand, I fall. For one day he will judge me and Mr. Kinkade and you, too—not on what has grown from our lives, but on whether he finds love and acceptance of his own Son, Jesus Christ, nestled in our hearts.

As did my grandbean, I pray to arrive safely home to be met by my Father’s embrace.

(Sunny Side Up-wk. of April 30)

Among other places, author, newspaper columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in Sunny Side Up and on Simple Words.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

French Fries or Yam Fries? - M. Laycock

I began writing when I was very young. It was as natural as walking, as enjoyable as eating my favourite food when I was hungry. My parents encouraged me; so did my teachers. My first publication was in a high school anthology. I'll never forget the feeling of seeing my name under that title, in print for the first time. But it was many years before I was to feel that tingling again. In fact I was in my thirties when I sent a short story to a magazine and a cheque came back. I was thrilled. My husband said, "Hey, do you think you could do that again?"

So I started looking for markets. I joined a writers' organization and entered their contests. My writing won prizes. The readers of my column asked me to do a book. So I did. Then another, and another. I got a day job that allowed me time on a computer so I wrote a book. That won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award and was published. Now the sequel, A Tumbled Stone, has just been released.

Then a friend gave me her fantasy manuscript to critique. I loved it, enjoyed it, got lost in it. And I realized something. Somewhere along the way I'd lost a little of that "natural as walking" thing and a little of the joy of writing that I'd had in the beginning. What I'd been writing wasn't so much fun anymore - it was primarily market- focused. Reading my friend's fantasy reminded me that at one time that's what I wanted to write. But everyone said no-one would buy fantasy. So I stopped. It's not that I didn't enjoy writing the two contemporary novels that are now in print. Once I got going I did lose myself in the stories and the characters, and my readers tell me they do the same. But it wasn't quite satisfying. Kind of like eating regular French fries when what your taste buds are screaming for is Yam fries.

So I did a crazy thing the other day. I dug out the fantasy novel I wrote several years ago and sent the first 3,000 words to an agent. I'll be meeting with him in June at Write!Canada. I'm scared to death, but excited - more excited than I've been about my work for a long time.

What does all this mean? Well, you can keep on eating regular French fries and be quite content. You might even have some success. But those Yam fries ... they're going to give you what you really long for. And there's just no substitute. Life is short. Eat Yam fries.

Write what you love to write, the kind of work that gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. Maybe no-one will buy it, but you'll be satisfied just in writing it. Maybe it's what you were meant to do.

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