Thursday, June 28, 2012

His Strength is Made Perfect

Questions asked at Write Canada 2012 drew old stories from half-buried memory banks. The questions brought me to tears more than once. “Those stories need to be shared,” she said, while I struggled to maintain my masculine dignity. I had told her, half laughing, that when men first learn how to cry, they have no idea where to find the “off” switch. Twenty-two years later the “off” switch remains uncooperative.

Jail time had never been on my radar. I grew up in a strong Christian home. I knew my Bible well. I respected the law. I respected the police. As a husband and father of three young daughters (I have grandchildren as old now) I had good reasons to stay on the right side of the law. This isn’t the place to argue the strengths and weaknesses of the Pro-Life Movement. But I think it fair to point out that my time in jail suggests more than a half-hearted belief.

My first several arrests felt like triumphs. We were doing what was going to change the world. We sang, we prayed, we celebrated. Then the police released us and we returned home. They were great days.

A reality check had to happen sooner or later. You only deliberately put yourself in the place of arrest so many times until charges are laid.

I thought I had the strength. I thought I could face anything you could throw at me. I deliberately moved myself into the place of the toughest opposition. We were committed to non-violence, but our opponents had a different agenda. I took as much of the kicking and elbows on myself as possible, protecting those around me.

I’ll spare you most of the details of my first three days behind bars. But a high tolerance for physical pain is not sufficient preparation.

Clang of bars.
Great gates of steel.
Metallic crunch of massive locks.

The movies play it well
but . . .

Different . . . the sound falls on the ears
from the inside,
from the wrong side,
when the keys
by other hands are guarded.

Different . . . the eyes search
old, heavy steel,
pitted and painted,
drab and cold,
hard and cruel.
Steel that forms the cell
or outer range.
Still barred.

Different . . . the nose tastes stale air,
sour bodies,
hatred breathed,
innocence damned,
The curse more natural than breathing.

Clang of bars.
Great gates of steel.
Metallic crunch of massive locks.

(An excerpt from an unpublished poem titled “Not This Christmas” by the author.)

To this day, if I was asked to describe Hell, the holding cells beneath the courtrooms of Old City Hall in Toronto would be my starting place. Ten hours. It feels like a life-time. The toilet, out where everybody can see it, is smeared with excrement. The only tissue in sight is in a puddle of urine on the floor. Endless hours later a mattress on the floor makes me the 3rd body in a two-man cell. Hand-cuffs, leg-irons, court appearances and strip-searches.

We knew the strip-searches were coming. We tried to prepare mentally, but the experience defies preparation. Six strip-searches in three days. . . It somehow becomes cumulative, a toxic build-up. In one of those searches a 76 year old Roman Catholic Priest stood naked beside me. His nakedness brought pain beyond anything of my own, and my own humiliation was more than I knew how to bear. Crying was foreign to me, but I cried for most of the last 24 hours.

I went back. I felt I had to, though I knew what waited me this time. About half-way through a 31 day stint behind bars I came back from court to Remand 2C in the Mimico Correctional Centre of Toronto. I’d expected physical and emotional exhaustion. I’d watched others coming back from court head direct to their bunks. Only three of us from the last “Rescue” remained in jail at the time, two of us in Mimico.

We’d let it slip that we only had to sign conditions to walk away. That painted us as religious nut-cases, too stupid to use the “Get-Out-Of-Jail-FREE” card we held.

It was a weekend and the TV stayed on late. I slept, but woke about 1:00 A.M. Most of the time I was spiritually and emotionally armed. More than 1,000 people across Canada were praying daily for the three of us still behind bars – but my mind was sluggish with sleep.

The TV seared my brain with a rape and a murder-suicide. I couldn’t keep it on the screen. It became real. All these years later I can still see the blood pooling on the bed and dripping on the floor.

I spent much of the night sitting on a ledge in the bathroom, Bible in my hands, trying to flush those images from my mind.

Jail’s a world of steel, concrete and glass. Everything echoes. Mid-morning, the TV and radio were both blaring. Men shouted over the din. Several calls to “turn it down,” were ignored. I turned it down, then yanked the cord when it was immediately turned up again.

Most fights I saw in jail followed brief moments of shouting and cursing. The guards got inside quickly, before I faced blows – or gave any. My “non-violence” commitment had been pushed to the recesses of my mind. Then I added a second violation by pleading with them to put a limit on the noise. You DON’T ask guards for favours in front of other inmates.

I knew I’d blown it. I didn’t know at the time that people in jail die for less.
Fifteen minutes later I asked permission to speak. The prisoners astonished me by giving me the opportunity to apologize.

I climbed to my bunk then—and cried. Did I say something earlier about men not knowing where to find the “off” switch? The tears simply refused to stop. I used my towel to mop them for more than an hour.

Everyone knew I was there as a “Christian.” I had tried so hard to be strong. I had tried so hard to watch every word and action.

I stayed in my bunk and refused to come down for lunch. By the evening I had cried myself out. Convinced I was failure personified, I forced myself to choke down a bit of the meal.

I’ve spent my whole life in the church. I’ve read through my entire Bible many times. Yet I’ve always found some verses hard to understand. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, is one of those verses.

A good night’s sleep gave me a bit of emotional balance, but didn’t ease the sense of failure. I knew my apology couldn’t undo the damage. I’d failed myself. I’d failed them. I’d failed the Pro-Life movement. I’d failed the people who consistently prayed for me. And mostly, I’d failed God.

Yet a subtle change had somehow happened.

They had seen that I hurt like they hurt in this place of incessant noise and no privacy—where somebody else held the keys.

My failure made me one of them.

I hadn’t seen a Bible in that range, other than my own, a Gideon New Testament. But they began appearing. Men began cornering me to ask questions, sparking small, brief Bible studies. My failure—my weakness—allowed a door to open in that maximum security section of a minimum security jail—that I could never have forced open in my strength. My breaking in front of those men, and the raw pain of that breaking, opened lines of communication.

To this day I find no possible explanation except, “Look what God did!”

Clang of bars.
Great gates of steel.
Metallic crunch of massive locks.

BUT – GOD. . !

Standing Alone - Meyer

When you lead a charge into battle
Don’t be surprised
When you find yourself
Manitoba Launch of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider
Standing alone

There’s times they’ll be with you
And times when they won’t
It’s not really a betrayal
But just the way things are

It was your idea in the first place
You who rallied the troops
You who convinced them
The cause was worthwhile

They seemed to be with you
Eager to help
Eager to join in the fight
But when the chips are down…

And you lead the charge into battle
Don’t be surprised
When you find yourself
Standing alone

I wrote this poem a while ago, and although there are times when this is very true, I want to share with you today some cases where I have not stood alone.
The Word Guild recently celebrated their 10th year as an organization that gives support to Canadian Christian authors.  I have been a part of this wonderful organization for the past eight years. I recently returned from Write!Canada, a conference that unites writers from all across Canada. I plan my year around this conference. I have had travel grants from the Manitoba Arts Council which have enabled me to attend in previous years.
The Manitoba Writers Guild recently celebrated their 30th year. I’ve been a member of that organization for the past eight or so years as well. There is a bookstore in Winnipeg, McNally Robinson Booksellers, that is VERY supportive of Manitoba (and other) authors hosting book events almost every night of the year.
As the owner of Goldrock Press, I have had the privilege of being the editor to various anthologies. Each time, there is a bond of friendship that grows between the writers. On July 1st, I will be doing a joint book signing at “The Forks” in Winnipeg with a writer from my Prairie Writers anthologies, volumes 1 and 3. Recently, this writer, Barbara Becker went on to be the editor of her own anthologies and I was privileged to be part of one of these: Measured Words, volume 2. On July 1st, Barbara and I will have a table with both of our anthologies on it. Also on that table will be some copies of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, another collaborative effort between authors from across Canada.
And yes, there are still moments when we will feel alone. The picture above is a case in point. A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider has sold over 5,000 copies across Canada but I had only ONE person show up for the “Manitoba launch of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.” Some days are like that. And I wasn’t truly alone even then. That one person and I had a very good, long overdue, visit. And the carrot cake and hot apple cider were quite yummy.
And although there will be times when we FEEL alone, we are never truly alone. Jesus promised “I will be with you always.” Anytime… anywhere… in our good days and in our bad, He is always with us.
Dorene Meyer

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Write it! by Ruth Smith Meyer

Write It!

Elsa was a storyteller supreme.  When she started relating a tale from her childhood exploits, she riveted the attention of staff and fellow clients alike.  Her nonchalant manner was negated by the twinkle in her eye.  You knew something comical was coming, but she kept you in suspense until the last moment. Elsa (not her real name) lived with her son and his family in a few rooms built especially for her. When Elsa spoke about her family, she glowed with love and pride.  

When she died after a short illness, I wanted to convey to her family the gratitude for being so supportive of their elder.  When I spoke about the love and pride she had in them, they looked at me strangely.  

“Are you sure you’re at the right visitation?” one of them asked. 

“Why would you say that?” I questioned.

“We never experienced those sentiments from her.  She always complained and we thought we weren’t able to please her no matter what we did.”

Too often we hear, at someone’s death, the wish that the living would have done or said more while the departed were still alive.  It can work both ways.  We need to express our deep-felt appreciation to people while they are still alive, but we also need to do our part while we still are here on this earth. 

How sad if we feel it but don’t say it to the ones for whom we have tender sentiments or if we tell other people instead of the ones who would benefit the most from hearing it.

Last fall, I took advantage of my husband’s 75th birthday to give opportunity for some of those word gifts to be made to him.  At a dinner and open house I had slips of paper made up with “Characteristics of Paul that I enjoy” and “Memories” with space for people to fill in their personal responses.  Those were to be their gift to him.

My dear wise one, like many, has been a giver most of his life, but hadn’t realized the influence and effect he had on others.  He certainly didn’t have an over-inflated opinion of himself. We had a lovely day as we celebrated him.  He was amazed at how many turned up for the occasion.  Afterward as he read through the comments people had written, I sensed a change in his demeanor—a level of contentment, comfort and acceptance of self-worth more pronounced than before. That has been a lasting effect that I believe has helped sustain him through several difficult months of pain, surgery and recovery since.  I am now putting those comments along with pictures of the day in a book that he can read and reread. 

 When I was growing up, whether it was just in my family or whether it was society in general, there seemed to be a reticence to affirm children for doing well or for their strengths, for fear of making them too proud.  In my personal experience, that left me with two tendencies I’ve had to work hard to overcome.  First, I am so apt to doubt myself, even when I’ve done my best—I always think I should or could have done better.  Second, when I am affirmed now, for doing well, I find it hard to accept or know what to do with those expressed sentiments. It has been difficult to just say, "Thank-you!" It seems to me, that a child will be much better adjusted if given affirmation, from day one, when they genuinely deserve it. 

How often do we appreciate something someone has done, or a gift they freely share, a strength they display, and just keep our feelings of appreciation inside?  How often are we apt to mention it to a friend or spouse, but not to the person?  Why not write a note to the one we admire or appreciate and tell them so?  What do you think it would mean to them if we told them?  What could the loss of that affirmation mean if we don’t?

Saying it is good, but for writers, putting it on paper is even better!  For then those words can be read over and over.  I dare say that some of those notes will be kept for years and treasured in the hearts for whom they were meant.

I don’t know about you, but I want my family to hear my love, pride and appreciation from my own lips and pen before I die.  What about a note for each of my family members, for my diligent, committed co-worker, my faithful fellow-church members, my caring pastor, the friendly clerk at my usual grocery store…

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Transformed - Rose McCormick Brandon

At 14, I was a disgruntled church-goer. I went because it was one of Mom's compulsories. As young as 5, I couldn't wait for Sunday School to end. By the time I was a teenager my dislike for church was in full throttle. I sat with ears closed impatient for the benediction.
Two months before my fifteenth birthday, a young couple came to pastor our shabby little church. (The people weren't shabby, only the building.) My cousin, who loved church almost as much as I hated it, asked me to go to a Sunday evening service, something I'd never done. Since we were joined at the hip, I went. The sermon went in one ear and out the other. Afterwards, the pastor invited the congregation to join him in the prayer room. Everyone filed out of the pews and downstairs to a squat little room with wooden benches. I went because not going would've drawn attention to myself.
On my knees at a bench, the pastor's wife, a 22 year-old newly-wed, came and knelt beside me. Her name was Bev Friesen. She whispered, "Would you like to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?"
I said, "Yes" because I knew it was the right answer. I repeated after her a simple prayer. The meeting soon ended and I went home. When I opened my eyes the next morning, something stirred in my chest. I felt new inside, as if I was breathing different air than I had the day before. On the way to school, everything around me seemed re-born - sky, grass, sounds. Over the next few days, people I hadn't much cared for became loveable. I'd stepped into a fresh world.
My attitude toward church changed. I, who had no use for Sunday School, became a diligent teacher of a young class. By praying a simple prayer to receive Jesus as my Savior, I experienced a spiritual birth.
One night a rabbi, Nicodemus, came secretly to Jesus to ask what he thought were deep questions. Jesus answered him, "You must be born again." A simple answer for a scholar who didn't want his colleagues to see him conversing with Jesus.
Nicodemus remembered Jesus' words. After the crucifixion, he became a daylight disciple. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, another night follower, he went to Pilate and requested Jesus' body. They lovingly wrapped it and laid it in a new tomb. Like me, Nicodemus was born again.
As I ponder my youthful transformation, I still feel awed by Jesus, still see the world through His eyes. Two thousand years after his death and resurection, Jesus is still birthing people into His kingdom.
The young pastor's wife led me in a prayer that went something like this: 
 Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Savior of the whole world and that no one can experience spiritual birth except through you. I invite you into my life today.

Rose McCormick Brandon writes faith articles, devotionals, personal experience, biographies and fiction. She has two blogs: The Promise of Home (stories of British Home Children) and Listening to My Hair Grow.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Changed Plans: Pivot Points of Destiny -- Peter Black

Large trunks and packing crates appeared in the house, and over time clothes that were not in season were packed away in them.

The kids in this large family bounced through the door each day after school to find it barer and less like home. A table-lamp that sat over here had disappeared, and the boxed silver cutlery set and Mom’s best china were no longer on the sideboard over there – these and much more were now packed in blankets, hidden from
sight in those crates.

The location – an industrial town, about 20 miles from Glasgow, Scotland. The destination – Australia. How exciting for the kids! What an adventure. They’d soon
be embarking on their long voyage to the other side of the world in a huge ocean liner. That family was my wife’s. The time – the early 1950s.

Alan, my wife’s youngest brother, became ill, requiring hospitalization and surgery. The sailing date passed and the whole Australia venture was called off. The family had already given notice on their house, so had to find another home. She and I met over 10 years later at a church near the home they’d moved to.

Elsewhere, in the mid-1960s, a young couple living in Glasgow had pursued emigration to New Zealand. They had two little girls – a toddler and a baby, just months old. They didn’t have a lot of stuff, so they wouldn’t have very much to pack. That was my sister and husband and family.

My brother-in-law was an officer in Glasgow’s fire department, but learned that it may be some time before being accepted for emigration to New Zealand, since he had no one to sponsor him. The immigration officer suggested that with his firefighter’s experience and his former trade he could obtain entrance to Canada, and urged that the family get their medicals and start the process. They did and were accepted.

Bill flew out several months ahead of Marg and the girls in order to find employment and a home. He initially boarded with a Canadian military veteran in Windsor, Ontario. This man had boarded with Bill’s grandparents in Glasgow during WWII. Bill's family joined him in early 1966.

We were married later that year, and eventually came to Canada to serve in ministry with them eight years after that, with two little boys and a third on the way. The rest is history, with much water under many bridges; and now you’re reading about it.

If those two families’ plans had not changed it’s highly unlikely that you would be reading this article today. It’s unlikely that my wife and I would have met and that she would’ve been the girl I married. Unlikely that I would have the same kids and grandkids. Unlikely that we would have immigrated to Canada.

So much in life seems to turn on small decisions, as well as large. Like a well-timed watch, the cogwheels of life have a way of pivoting according to a plan that’s not quite what we would have chosen. A master watchmaker understands perfectly how the timepiece he has designed and created works inside, but most of us only see the numbers on the watch-face and the hour, minute and second hands going round. The Almighty has His plan, too.

Hmm, what if Alan hadn’t been sick, and the family had gone to Australia? What if Bill and Marg had gone to New Zealand . . .? What if . . . ?

The Master Designer has plans and our times are in His hands.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).


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)

Friday, June 22, 2012

OPEN OUR EYES - Eleanor Shepherd

As Glen and I bowed our heads for prayer together before leaving the breakfast table at the beginning of our day, I prayed.  "Lord, open our eyes to the ways that you choose to show us Your love for us today."

After work, I picked up Glen and we drove to Dorval airport where we planned to have supper together before he boarded his flight to London’s Heathrow airport.  Since it was early for supper but the line for security was long, we decided to skip supper together and we would each eat later.  After waving him off at the gate to go through security, I headed to the parking garage stopping at the automated machine to pay for my parking.

I put the parking ticket into the slot and when the amount I owed, six dollars, showed up, I pushed my credit card into the machine to pay.  When after a short wait no transaction took place, I withdrew the card.  I had been having some problems with the magnetic strip on that card.  Sometimes automated machines did not recognize it on the first try.   Not too concerned, I tried again.  On the second rejection, I wondered if I might have put the card in the wrong way.   I turned it over and tried again. Words came up on the screen telling me that I had inserted the card incorrectly and I needed to insert it in the way indicated by the pictures on the machine.  I tried again, inserting the card according to the diagram, as I understood it.   Again, the machine spat out the card, unable to read it.  Clearly, I had to find another alternative.

By now, I was certain that the next customer standing in line behind me was becoming impatient.  My best option was to cancel the operation and take the time necessary to search through my handbag for another credit card. The second one, I sometimes used, had not been in the pocket where I customarily kept it, when I had reached for it after my usual card did not work.  I ran into a problem.  I could not figure out how to cancel the transaction. Trying to get out of the way, so the line could proceed, I panicked when what I thought was the cancellation button produced no results.  After pressing several buttons, I finally hit on the right one and out came my unpaid ticket.  In the meantime, I continued rummaging in my bag for that second credit card.  I knew it had to be there somewhere. 

“Go ahead,” I said to the person behind me in line, so he would not have to wait, while I was searching for the elusive card.  I emptied the pockets of my purse, where I kept all of my cards to no avail.  I unzipped my wallet and rifled through the cards in it.  No credit card. As I kept searching, trying to consider what other options I might have, the man who had been behind me in line, having paid for his parking, stopped and stuffed a ten-dollar bill in my wallet.    He said to me, "I saw the amount on the screen and this will cover it."

"Thank you!" I was so surprised I could not think of anything else to say. Besides, there were others joining the line behind me waiting to pay for their parking.  I quickly put the cash in the machine and l out popped my paid ticket as the change rattled into the cavity at the bottom of the machine.  I grabbed the change and looked around for the donor, so I could return it to him.  Then, I realized that I had been so distracted that I had no idea what he looked like.  I did remember that he did not strike me as someone who was particularly wealthy.  However, he seemed to have disappeared, so I could not give him his change.  I headed out to find my car, saying repeatedly to myself, “What a sweet man!  What a sweet man!

I was so excited about this unexpected kindness that when I stopped at the bank on my way home to order a replacement card, I had to tell the service representative there about this kindness.  I think she was as pleased as I was to find that there are kind people around who will do things like that. 
From the bank, I went to my Weight Watchers class.  As I weighed it, I had to tell the person who was weighing me about my good experience at the airport.  I could not seem to keep quiet about the kindness I had been shown.  As I sat down for the class, I remembered my prayer that morning, asking the Lord to help me to see the evidence of His love during my day.  I had seen it, in a kind deed done to me by a stranger and I had shared it.  My prayer now was that those with whom I shared it would come to understand Who prompted such acts of kindness.  Maybe, like me, they were praying for eyes to be open to see God’s love that day.  
|Winner of 2011
|Word Guild Award
Winner of 2009
Word Guild Award

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Any Loose Ends?

I went to the theatre
With the author of a successful play.
He insisted on explaining everything;
Told me what to watch;
 details of directions,
The errors of the property man,
The foibles of the star.
He anticipated all my surprises
And ruined the evening.
Never again! And mark you,
The greatest author of all
Made no such mistake.
Christoper Morley, No Coaching; (Still Waters, Deep Water Devotional: 1989)
Sometimes it would be easier for me if everything was laid out before me, defined and interpreted, explained and revealed. I wouldn’t have to think, just accept what is said and press onward. It would certainly save me a lot of time and keep me in good stance with other like-minded people. In the case above, I could leave the theatre having learned enough of what to avoid the next time, especially if I hadn’t read the author’s last lines.

Imagine getting a message everyday in my INBOX from the resident co-ordinator inviting me to upcoming activities with a promise that I’d get a list at the door of all the things that might hinder my enjoyment. I wonder if that email would jump-start my initiative to begin the day?

It is obvious the author was a bit miffed. He might have liked to be challenged, to explore, to question and to use the mind God gave him to fully assess the given situation. That didn’t happen.

I always find it interesting to read between the lines of authors’ work. In this case I wonder how this might read if the author of a successful play had encouraged his guest to enjoy, see the goodness in the event and take away with him the parts that strengthened him in his life.

In writing blogs there is usually an event that starts the process for me. I recently visited a friend who spends most of her time in a wheelchair. She invited me to walk down to her garden, built on rather a steep hill with several curves. She was unable to work in it anymore, but enjoyed other people’s impressions. As I pushed the sliding door open, she said, “Don’t expect too much from the roses; the heat got them. And by the way, the Ivy has got away on me; don’t let it spoil your view.”

When I returned I told her about the red peonies and white clematis and, oh yes, the spectacular fish pond. “You went that way?” she asked, and then added, “Oh, yes, I’ve always loved that path. I’m so glad you had a pleasant walk.”

Donna Mann

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Running the Race--Carolyn R. Wilker

Carolyn R. Wilker

If you’ve ever engaged in any kind of sport, you know that just going out and doing it produces one result. If you were to prepare for the sport, warm up your muscles, learn the right way to do it, and get in a lot of practice, you may get a different result—perhaps success. 

When I was a young school girl, I found running races and doing the high jump challenging. My legs were shorter than many of my classmates, and I didn’t have the same amount of energy. With practice, I ran faster and jumped higher and further than before. I gained strength and became a better runner, more able, for example, to make it to first base in a game of softball, without being tagged out.

For those who don’t write, such comparisons may lack meaning. “Can’t you just write?” they ask. And my answer is that writers pay their due.
Linda Hall, novelist from New Brunswick, practised on shorter news pieces first, probably writing words in the thousands and honing her writing ability even further before beginning a first long work. Likewise, N. J. Lindquist, author of young adult fiction and mysteries, began writing as a young girl, submitting stories to the newspaper. And perhaps Jayne E. Self, winner of the mystery category in the recent writing contest sponsored by The Word Guild, has always read mysteries and later began to write Murder in Mum Harbour.

Coming to writing a little later in life, I discovered that there’s much to learn, which helps me understand why an author can be preparing for many years before sending out a first book-length manuscript for publication. Just like practising piano or learning to hit a ball and run fast so I wouldn’t be tagged out. Getting the muscles in tune, warming up, and focusing on improvement.

Soon after I attended my first writer’s conference, The Word Guild came into being and made it possible for members to learn all they can about writing, using gifts given to us and being responsible in using that gift by presenting our best work.

Being part of a writer’s organization, I met other writers, had access to learning tools and workshops, conferences and mentors—writers who may not have necessarily known they were mentors. All good models for a novice to learn from. 

The Word Guild has grown too and expanded its writing contests, stressing excellence in writing, that we as Canadian Christian writers may be taken as seriously as our writers south of the 49th parallel, and that we as Canadian Christian writers in our own country have as much opportunity to share our messages as our fellow Canadians, whether we write for secular or Christian markets.

In 2011, after much writing practice, editing and revision, my first book, Once Upon a Sandbox, was published. I cannot say I’m done running this race, if one can even call it a race; there’s always more to learn, and yet in submitting my book to the Life Stories category of the contest, I sucked in my breath and let my book go into the nether regions to be judged by people I did not know. To see where my work stood among so many others. I was delighted that my book was shortlisted and to be part of that anticipation on the gala evening.

Whether we call it a race or not, we’re developing our writing muscles and focusing energy on our craft, as a pianist or a ball player would work toward the best use of their talents. Using gifts we were given and developing them further, we strive to do our best so that our message reaches the world in its best possible form.

So if you’re a writer, exercise those muscles; sit down and write. The world waits. 

The Word Guild Awards Gala, June 13th, 2012, Mississauga, Ontario-- shortlisted books

Author of Once Upon a Sandbox
Editor of and contributor to Big Ideas for the Big Stage

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BJ McHugh: 83-Year Old Marathoner -HIRD

By Rev. Ed Hird

While working out at a local weight room, I had the privilege of getting to know Betty Jean McHugh, the world’s fastest 83-year old long-distance runner.  Interviewed on TV and newspaper, she has been called the flying granny.  Jack Taunton, Chief Medical Officer for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, called her one of the most remarkable senior runners we have seen.  Betty Jean is so positive and energetic that she inspires the rest of us to not give up on our health goals.  Recently I met her at the Parkgate Village right next to the Bean Around the Worldcoffee shop.  She told me of her tri-generational plans to run in the December 2012 Hawaiian Marathon, along with her son Brent and her grandchild.

After reading her new book My Road to Rome, I knew that I needed to celebrate BJ’s achievements as a Mother’s Day marathoner.  One of her great lifetime highlights which she talked about extensively throughout her book was an all-expense-paid trip to run in the Rome 2009 Marathon.  There are now five million North American women running, compared to less than one million in the 1980s.  Women, many of whom are mothers, now outnumber men at running events.  BJ has run in 14 marathons and over 300 road races.  Running four times a week at 5:45am, BJ has broken a dozen Canadian and world records.  She started running at age 55, a time when many others were hanging up their running shoes.  While BJ has been injured many times over the years, she never gave up, saying that she ‘was not going to accept the ravages of time without a fight.’  Running has become for her as much part of her life as ‘brushing her teeth’.

BJ’s determination is an inspiration to watch. She not only runs and works out at the gym, but also has been an avid North Shore skier since the early 1950s.  BJ even climbs the Grouse Grind with her grandchild.  Such athletic involvement helped condition her to become a leading octogenarian runner.  She acknowledges that there are thousands of times when she felt like not bothering. “Excuses are easy; commitment is hard”, says BJ.  But she just keeps putting one foot in front of the other and goes for it regardless.  Every marathon, says BJ, is a journey into the unknown.  You train and train and train again, and think that you are ready. But you never really know how your body is going to fare over 42 kilometres of running.

One thing that keeps her going are her running partners to whom she is committed. “How can I sleep through an early-morning downpour”, says BJ, “when I know that my friends will be waiting for me at our meeting place in ten minutes?”  Running, says BJ, has given her friendships that are powerful and lasting.  Through her running with her partners, they experience ‘the elation of reaching the top of a hill, the pain when (they) increase the distance on a training run, the slogging through rain and dancing through a sunlit forest.’

In BJ’s book, she talks about being raised in the poverty of the Great Depression in Stanwood Ontario.  The local church was the centre of the community.  BJ comments that ‘as a child she liked everything about church but the Sunday service…The minister droned on about subjects I never understood, and I had to sit in the pew with my hands folded politely.’

Once while running in a Vancouver marathon, she became more and more concerned about finishing well: ‘I feared hitting the dreaded ‘wall’, that point at which the body has used up all its reserves.’  Finishing well is a challenge for all of us, whether in a marathon, in our business, or in our family.  It  is about ultimately facing the question: will my life have made a difference?  BJ is an example of someone who is finishing well, whose life is making a difference.  She has chosen to give her best into what she believes in and is passionate about.  BJ is leaving a legacy that other younger people will be able to tap into.

One of my mentors, Paul, said that he fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Even though Paul was tragically killed, he finished well.  Paul also recognized that physical exercise was of real value, but he pointed us to the even greater significance of spiritual exercise (1 Timothy 4:8).  Part of finishing well is a commitment to being healthy in body, mind and spirit.  If we neglect any of those three, we are the poorer for it.  Life is a marathon. Life is about discipline.  Life is about finishing well.  My  prayer for those reading this article is that BJ McHugh’s example will inspire all of us to discipline ourselves in body, mind and spirit so that we may truly finish well.

Rev. Ed Hird, Rector

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article published in the May 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

Monday, June 18, 2012

You can tell it’s an election year when ... - Denyse O’Leary

Some psychology researchers are demonizing or marginalizing voters with opposing views and calling it “science.” ... when psychologists try to explain why people vote as they do. Most of the time, it’s harmless, but recently, a new, nastier tone can be detected. It’s something to keep an eye on because, as commentator David Brooks explains, it involves a key change in how human decision-making is understood:
“The cognitive revolution of the past thirty years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract logic, perceptiveness over I.Q.”
The term “hardwired” is a frequent shorthand for this new approach. For example, commenting on negative political advertising, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, remarked that “there appears to be something hard-wired into humans that gives special attention to negative information… I think it’s evolutionary biology.” When emotion is considered to be “hardwired” to prevail over reason and experience, it is no surprise if some researchers demonize or marginalize voters with opposing views and call it “science.” More. Denyse O’Leary is the author of The Spiritual BrainThe Spiritual Brain and By Design or by Chance?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let the Little Children... by Glynis Belec

When I go to heaven I sure hope God lets me help in the nursery. I love children of every age and ilk. I love their innocence and their honesty. I love their forthright display of feelings and their demands for basic human needs. Feed me, I'm hungry. Change me, I'm wet. Cuddle me, I'm lonely. Total dependence. Total faith that a loving mommy or auntie or grandma...will tend to their needs.

The other day I picked up Amanda, Trenton, Jocelyn and Janice and we headed to my niece's home for a baby shower. Gilles, my happy hubby, has six sisters and this niece is on his side, so you might well imagine the estrogen that was circulating.

The sisters and daughters, daughters-in-law and nieces and girl cousins and toddlers and babies and pregnant mommies present were a joyous feminine crowd (with a few baby boys tossed in for variety) and were a tribute to God's instruction to go forth, be fruitful and multiply.

"It's like we're at a day care centre!" one grown up gal said. I agreed. It was lovely. Babies and children squiggled and squirmed. They gurgled and drooled. They even joined in the games and played tape the bottle on the baby - a variation of 'pin the tail on the donkey.' It was fun. It was fun to celebrate Lisa's soon to be baby arrival. It was fun to be with family. Most of all it was fun to gaze upon all those little sweethearts who were no higher than a chair leg, but a lot more active.

When Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 -"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..." I am thinking he was pointing out to us (stubborn people,) that we need to be more like children and to have that simple child-like faith. Being a follower of Christ isn't hard. It's child's play really when you consider the mechanics.

As I watched the little ones play and laugh and focus on the moment this afternoon, I thought how we big people get our knickers in a knot sometime about things that really don't matter. I'm thinking that if we took a few lessons from the little munchkins around us, we would be a lot less stressed and would be a lot more likely to find pleasure in the world around us. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trust Heavenly Father - Gibson

They joined the Bruce trail at Old Baldy on the Niagara Escarpment: the Preacher and our teenage son. It’s been decades now—just yesterday in memory for them both.

I likely warned them before they left the house, exuberant, eager. “Baldy’s lumpy. Tree roots and stuff. Stay away from the edge.”

Eye-rolling. “We’ll be fine.”

That evening, after everyone was home again, calm again; son in cast and both subdued, I pieced the day together. Our son, tackling a cliff, had tumbled. Tree branches broke the speed of his fall. Thirty feet or so down, the landing broke his arm.

No way up—except for his father, who clambered down to fetch him.

Ever tried to climb a cliff face with only one good arm?

“Dad, I can’t,” he said, terror splashed naked on his boy face. So the father stuck his child between himself and the cliff. Spidered him up. Leg on leg, arm on arm. “You’ll be fine, Son. Just do what I tell you.”

I still shudder at the final moment, the one just before safety: boy alone on a ledge reaching up, father stretched full out on a tree limb, reaching down. Hands meeting, grasping. Guts twisting. A one, a two… SWING. Child traces an arc through clear blue.

Terra firma.

How much do you trust God? Enough to believe he meets you at the bottom? Enough to know that even when you feel abandoned, terrified—even when it’s YOUR fault—he has a plan?

You can trust him that much. Do what he tells you. That's your Father stretched out on that tree.

Find columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson at

Monday, June 11, 2012

Words Immortal - M. Laycock

While attending a trade show recently I entered a draw at a booth advertising photos put on canvass. I won a 40% discount on a 12x18 canvass and the woman told me I could send them any photo I wanted and any wording I wanted to be put on the photo. "You can even put a poem you wrote on it if you like," she said, showing me an example. "It will be immortalized." My ears immediately perked up. I liked the sound of that.

It was a few days before I got around to picking a photo. I scanned through some of my writing to find something appropriate but couldn't settle on anything. Then I began to think about that word 'immortalized.' Wow. A big word. A big concept. Then I chuckled at myself. Yes, it appeals to my writer's ego to think that my words might last forever, but I know the concept is flawed. A printed piece of canvass may last longer than a piece of paper but it cannot be immortal. Only God's words can and do make that claim. The prophet Isaiah tells us, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

I saw proof of that fact in Jerusalem a few years ago. I was stunned to silence while walking through The Shrine of the Book that houses the Isaiah scrolls found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea. It was awe-inspiring to see those fragments of scripture penned so long ago, amazing to think that though the parchments are fragile and disintegrating, the words themselves have survived and will survive, forever.

There was another book on display that day, one that literally made me catch my breath. Encased in glass and set in a prominent place is The Aleppo Codex. This manuscript was created in about 920 A.D. and is the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible in existence. It is also the first manuscript to be bound the way books are bound today, rather than rolled in a scroll. In essence, it is the first book.

The history of the Aleppo Codex is intriguing and speaks to the zeal of the Jews for preserving God’s word, and to God’s zeal for doing the same. Though it has been stolen, ravaged in riots, almost destroyed by fire, and lost entirely, (in fact a chunk of it is still missing), the book has survived.

There was something stirring about seeing it. I wanted to touch it, but of course the glass prevented that. But I still had a sense of profound connectedness. Here was an ancient object, words copied by a rabbi centuries ago, that is still used today to teach about God. These are the same words that are in the various copies of the scripture I have in my own home, the words I can sit and read any time I want to. These are the words God has given us to teach us about himself. As I stared at that first book, the feeling of being connected to those ancient people and to God himself was deeply moving.

The experience has given me a new awe for this thing I do called writing. No, my words will not last forever but God has given me the skill and will to write because He has purpose for my words. What an amazing thing God gave us when he inspired those men long ago to create an alphabet. What an amazing thing that God continues to call “scribes” to record and create, using the tools of writing, all to his glory.

I sent the photo away to that company to make the small canvass with words on it. But they aren't my words. I chose a passage of scripture instead.
Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone has just been released. Visit her website -

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