Thursday, August 30, 2012

Man's plans; God's Purpose - M. Laycock

The men of Dawson City Gospel Chapel had just finished a prayer breakfast and were about to start work on the new church building. They were all anxious to get at it because the date of the dedication had been set and they were behind schedule. The pastor had prayed that morning for a couple more carpenters to help with the work.

They were about to begin when there was a knock on the door. The pastor answered and listened patiently to the man's story. He and his son had been trying to leave town, heading for Alaska on their vacation. But every time they tried to drive up the long hill out of town their vehicle broke down. "I was told there's someone here who is a good mechanic," he said. "Could I get him to have a look?" The pastor invited him in and explained his situation to the other men. Then he turned to the man and asked his name. "Bud 
Carpenter," the man responded. "And this is my son, Josh Carpenter."

He was a little puzzled when the men started to laugh, until the pastor told him what he had just prayed a few moments before answering the knock on the door. Bud then laughed with them and explained that he was taking his son to Alaska as a graduation gift and they really had no firm time schedule. "I'm pretty good with a hammer. We'd be happy to help for a few days." They stayed for a week. The mechanic looked at their vehicle and found nothing wrong with it. The work was finished on time and the pair continued on their way after the dedication celebration. They had no trouble climbing that hill.

I was thinking about that story the other day and thinking about how we are all like those Carpenters in a way. All of us are busily going on our way, with our own agendas and plans. But sometimes God throws a bit of a detour into the plan. We can react to it in two ways. We can fight it and keep on trying to climb that hill, or we can stop and listen for His voice to see if perhaps there is another plan in place.

A friend told me a story about going on a mission trip to India. The plans had been well made, the itinerary laid out and everything seemed in place. But when they arrived no-one met them. My friend said it was interesting to see how the group members handled it. Those from North America were stressed and some were angry. They wanted to call some one and get it all straightened out so they could get back on schedule. But there were two fellows from Africa who counselled a different way. They suggested the group wait and pray. So they slept in the train station that night and prayed.

The next day a young man arrived on a motorcycle. "I've been sent to get you," he said. But he was not from the mission and had no idea why he was sent to get them. After some debate they decided to go with him and ended up having a tremendous time of ministry and growth in his village. Nothing was structured. Each day was a routine of waking up and praying to see what God wanted them to do. And each day they were blessed. They never did connect with the original group they were supposed to work with but they all knew they had done what God intended.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Marcia's devotionals have won awards in Canada and the US. Her devotional ebook for authors, Abundant Rain is now available for Kindle. Visit her website to learn more about Marcia's writing and speaking ministry.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seasonal Junction - Nesdoly

spider web

 Seasonal Junction

The shouts of the kids from the pool
and the smell of chlorine alternate
with the smack of a kicked soccer ball
and the prairie-wheat fragrance of grass
on a breeze that blows summer-to-fall
like the warm-to-cool currents that pass
over swimmers in blue summer lakes

— © 2004 by Violet Nesdoly (published in Calendar)

We are rapidly approaching the season that doesn't know whether it is summer or fall. The Labor Day weekend, coming up, joins the two together. We got home from holidays yesterday so I'm still in summer mode, though the air feels distinctly like fall and the calendar reiterates its nearness.

Here's hoping the new season brings us all new ideas of how to navigate the uncharted writing and publishing seas, along with courage and success.


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Experience Egyptian slavery, the exodus, crossing the Red Sea. Meet Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Hur, and Bezalel.  Eat quail and manna. Drink water from rocks. Live the temptations and questions of wilderness wandering.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wisdom and Knowledge, Spirit and Truth - Carolyn Arends

I love this quote from Kent Nerburn:
 So, along with knowledge, you must seek wisdom. Knowledge is multiple; wisdom is singular. Knowledge is words; wisdom is silent. Knowledge is standing outside, understanding what is seen. Wisdom is standing at the center, knowing what is not seen. No person can be whole without both dimensions of learning.
       Remember the words of the musician who was asked which was greater, knowledge or wisdom. “Without knowledge,” he answered, “I could not play the violin. Without wisdom, I could not play the music.”
And for some reason it makes me think of this, from Jesus:
     God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

What do you think?  Is there a connection between wisdom and Spirit, knowledge and Truth?  How do we in the church do with encapsulating both sides of those coins? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone - Laura J. Davis

Going from a music ministry into the publishing industry was not only a leap of faith for me, it was a learning experience. I knew where to send any songs I had written for copyright and I knew what organizations I needed to belong to so that I could receive royalty cheques on those songs. I also knew what I needed to do for publicity, how many songs it takes for a 40 minute concert, how long to talk in-between songs (keep it short!) and how much it costs to produce a record (not a CD, that was before my time). However, I didn't have the slightest clue on what to do with a complete novel. So, I tossed it in my dresser drawer and forgot about it. Well...I tried to...that didn't work very well, as God didn't like that idea too much and my best friend was furious that I wouldn't do anything about it. So I approached everything the way I did with my singing...I took some courses and continued to hone my writing skills. I read some books (lots of books), scoured the internet on everything that had to do with writing and publishing and realized quickly that I should have left my book in my drawer!

Nothing scared me more than these questions from publishers (which I ran into frequently in my searches): 
  • What qualifies you to write this book?
  •  Why did you write it?
Why did I write it? Um...God told me to? Nope! Can't say that. That was the number one rule I learned at one of the many courses I took. Don't ever say God told you to write your book. Why? Too unprofessional. 

What qualifies me to write this book? Um...I love Jesus? it was about there that I started to convince myself that God wanted me to self-publish and that He only wanted me to publish enough books for my family and friends. 

Big mistake. Never assume God has small plans for you, or that He wants you to take the easy way out of a situation. God wants the BEST for you and usually His best requires you to step out of your comfort zone.

I was about to learn that lesson the hard way.

Until next time!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Family Ties

Since our marriage enlarged our family from four to eight, it keeps us doubly happy.   Parenting changes over the years, and yet some things about parenting never change.  As grandchildren mature, their parents’ lives change as well.  At times, we don’t perhaps see as much of our children as we would like, but there is satisfaction seeing them busy with their own families.  Occasionally without planning it that way, we see many of them over the space of a few days.  That’s the way it has been for us in the past week. 

We have a grandson and his wife almost ready to leave for an adventure in India and Nepal.  Another is planning to leave for medical training in Australia and still another off to North Bay to begin post-secondary training. Two more grandsons leave for third and fourth year in university and a grand-daughter just got her first job after finishing her training and one just starting high. We share deeply quite often with another grand-daughter who is growing by leaps and bounds in her understanding of herself and in her relationship with God.

In the past week we had repeated connection when a few of our children experienced crisis in their lives. We had several stop in unexpectedly for brief visits, Monday my three daughters and I spent the day together and today I had a delightful lunch with another grand-daughter.   Each one of our family brings their own special kind of joy to us.  Those connections and family ties bring us much joy and sense of completeness.  How fortunate to have such ties—none of them broken—in a day and age when that happens so frequently.  As I reflect on the way our lives have touched so many of our family this past week, my heart swells with thankfulness and joy. 

Yes, parenting changes over the years.  We no longer change diapers and get up for night feedings.  We no longer rush about taking our children to sports or other activities.  We no longer worry about when they’re coming home at nights. But what never changes is our love for them.  When they hurt, we hurt. When they face difficulties in their work places or relationships, we ache for them even though we know that those difficult times signal need and opportunity for growth.  When they worry over their children or finances or health, we pray with renewed zeal and hearts full of care. And through it all, we love them ever more deeply—that never changes.

The older I get, the more I understand my heavenly Father’s love and care.  No wonder he planned for us to live in families.  And I give thanks.

There were families also in my books, Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree.  They too learned and grew in their relationships through difficulties and joyous times.  Let me know if you'd like to read about them.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blessings and Surprises/MANN

Awards are very special to receive. I’ve received a few of them myself for writing and gardening. I’ve always felt encouraged. Recently I read Jane Kirkpatrick’s newsletter noting that a national literary organization had just announced winners and finalists to which she’d entered. She says, “No, I wasn't a finalist or winner this year but two of my favourite authors were.” And then she goes on to confirm the authors mentioned.

Sometimes we have opportunity to lift people up and then bask in the opportunities given to them; while other times we are the ones lifted by someone who feel we deserve recognition: the latter often remain anonymous.

Through time, I’ve found such enjoyment in forwarding names for recognition or awards and then pleased to step back and watch the individual’s delight and surprise. Never knowing how panels or judges actually make their choices makes the waiting game even more interesting. Reading how specific people gain judge's attention often teaches the qualities they seek.

I remember nominating a woman for an award and carefully filling out the information sheet from questions asked by the organization. Thinking I’d answered them appropriately, I gave it to the person to read and check the points. She returned it to me and said, “Who are you talking about? This isn’t me.” I chuckle when I remember this, as we sometimes have difficulty seeing ourselves in other people’s tribute. For these reasons, I am glad we have judges who watch, listen and think deeply.

I was recently nominated for an award for volunteer work and recognition of outstanding contributions made to community, province and country which led to an invitation to receive a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. I’m always humbled by any kind of recognition, but I’m excited to receive it on behalf of those I’ve served. For without them, the volunteer work would be unmerited.

I spent a lot of time thinking just how I was going to tell others about this award and surprised at how difficult it was for me. My husband would say, “Have you told anybody yet?” My response was “No, but I will.” So, here goes—to my friends who follow this blog and others who enjoy hearing about people who believe in people.

Go and find someone to encourage,

Donna Mann

Humane: More, or Less Human?

I wonder. Did I lose any fishing enthusiast friends over my previous post, “If Worms Could Scream and Fish Could Cry,” [ here  ] describing Tom’s fishing interest and his threading a worm onto the hook then snagging and reeling in a hapless bass? Hopefully not. 

Confession time: Yours Truly hasn’t fished for years, but was seen last year baiting the hook for his grandkids. This year Austin, ten, baits his own hook, but Abigail, at seven, is not yet ready to do that; so I’m likely to get the honours again before summer’s out. 

In any case, it’s good to be aware of the implications and effects of our actions on other people and, to a lesser extent, on other creatures. Here’s a thought: In treating creatures humanely, I am more fully human than if I were to treat them inhumanely.  

That said, I enjoyed my fish supper last night, and I’m sure I will thoroughly enjoy my next chicken dinner. However, I know that such creatures pay a high price in my. You’ve maybe heard some version or other of the old gag about a chicken and a pig who talked at said, I enjoyed my fish supper last night, and I’m sure I will thoroughly enjoy my next chicken dinner. 

However, I know that such creatures pay a high price in my. You’ve maybe heard some version or other of the old gag about a chicken and a pig who talked about going into the restaurant business. The chicken suggested their spebout going into the restaurant business. The chicken suggested their specialty should be eggs and bacon, and said, “I’ll invest my eggs into the enterprise and you can invest your bacon.” “What? No way!” said the pig. “Your eggs would be a donation; my bacon would be a sacrifice!

Moving right along, we accept that in the wild, nature’s ongoing food-chain fight for survival happens all the time without it giving a thought for the suffering inflicted. But it’s different for us – or should be. Our being the godlike creatures that humans are, with characteristics reflecting – however imperfectly – aspects of the Divine, such as reason and logic, and choice and conscious values and spirituality, brings with it scruples of conscience and moral judgment.  

News reports from home and abroad tell of murder and mayhem, wanton killing and destruction; of governments oppressing and repressing their people, killing and maiming and casting bodies into mass graves. We witness indescribable acts of violence even closer to home, besides the systemic exploitation of common people and workers by corporate enterprise, criminal elements and organizations. On and on it goes, down the line till it comes to . . . to me. How do I treat others? 

Would you agree that in every inhumane act humans commit they become that much less human, and less godlike? In making themselves “God,” deciding who should live and who should die, they become actually less like God – ungodly.

Conversely, call to mind occasions when you have acted very humanely, whether towards animals or people – especially in unselfish kindness and caring towards people. Did you feel more fully alive? Put it this way: did you have a sense of living more fully; you were that much more completely human? In that sense you were more like Creator God, our Heavenly Father, and more like Jesus Christ His Son, who revealed what God the Father is like. 

More pointedly, He revealed God:  “I and the Father are one”); “. . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. . .” (John 10:30; 14:9 NIV). 
And now, from threading unwilling worms onto barbed hooks to catch unsuspecting fish, and from the high cost to creatures to help meet our nutritional needs and satisfy the palate, and from considerations of humans and humaneness – or lack of it – to godlikeness, I’m led to considerations of redemption.

Hmm, that was where we concluded last time.

Redemption costs! 
“In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood [shed in his sufferings and death by crucifixion], the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace . . .” (Ephesians 1:7).
I have been redeemed.
And I’m grateful.

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and author of a children's / family book, "Parables from the Pond." An earlier version of this article was published in his weekly column in the July 26, 2012 issue of The Watford Guide-Advocate, and has been modified here.His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not As Simple As It Seems - Eleanor Shepherd

This week, on vacation we were able to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I have always admired the Reverend Billy Graham and his single-minded determination to present people with the claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is consistent whether he is speaking to heads of state, media moguls or crowds of ordinary people. 
                What I liked about the presentation is the recognition that while God has used Billy Graham for His purposes, many other people have been a part of the ministry.  The history of evangelism portrays how the life and ministry of Billy Graham have their part in what has gone before and what will come after in terms of world evangelism. 
                As I watched video clips of the Billy Graham crusades, I realized again how easily we make assumptions that evangelism is simple process.  Billy Graham preaches the clear Gospel and people immediately respond and make a decision to follow Christ the rest of their lives. 
Billy Graham Library - Charlotte, NC
                As I listened to the testimonies of different individuals who came to faith at Billy Graham crusades or through his television and radio ministry, their stories confirmed it does not usually happen quite that magical way.  The process is often much more complex.  Someone who makes a commitment to Christ in response to the preaching of Billy Graham has often been thinking about the meaning of life for quite a long time.  They may have had brief encounters or long discussions with friends, family members or work acquaintances about faith.  Somehow, as Dr. Graham preaches ideas begin to crystalize in their minds and they decide to act upon this understanding.  Often a loved one has been praying for them to come to an understanding of the truth for many years.  The Spirit of God brings together many different incidents in the life of a person and uses the ministry of Dr. Billy Graham, supported by all that is going on in prayer and spiritual warfare behind the scenes.  Integration begins to take place in the life that person and they are able to recognize the truth of the Gospel message. 
                We love to believe that somehow like magic, when a person has the opportunity to hear the Gospel preached they will suddenly see the light and be transformed.  We crave quick answers and easy fixes.  We want things fixed and in good working order right away. 
I think about how when I arrived at my hotel this evening, I wanted to be able to link up to the Internet right away, so I could be in contact with everyone and do what I needed to do this evening.  However, I needed to get the code for the Wi-Fi from the hotel receptionist.  I needed to dig my computer out of the trunk of the car, set it up and wait until I could log in to the Wi-Fi before I could begin.  These are not complicated transactions, but they do take a few minutes to get up and running.  How much more so is it with the life transformation and integration that we are expecting of people when they come to faith?
My experience  reminded me of the dimmer switch analogy that I use in my book about evangelism, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening.  There are many things going on in our lives that keep us from making quick decisions about profound changes.  We need to integrate our knowledge of God and decide to apply that knowledge in the everyday decisions of life we make. 
This integration is what I mean when I talk about the dimmer switch.  One element in our lives is our knowledge about God.  This may be minimal, just as there is very little light when we turn the dimmer switch down low.  On the other hand, we may have been learning the truths of Scripture all our lives and have a great deal of knowledge about God and His ways.  This would be like when we turn the dimmer switch up high and brighten the whole room. 
In either of these cases, where the dimmer switch knob is located makes no difference if the knob has not been pushed to turn the light on.  This action requires a decision from us.  We must decide to turn the light on.  When both actions take place, we turn on the dimmer switch when we choose to begin to apply our knowledge of God to our daily lives.  Then integration and life transformation begin to take place.  
Word Guild Award
              Christian Leadership 2011   

Word Guild Award
                Award of Merit 2009

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Summer Pause that Refreshes - HIRD


By Rev Ed Hird

As summer rolls into August, we know that we are entering the home stretch of the holiday season. Most of us really enjoy our summer holidays, particularly when the weather co-operates. Earlier this summer it seemed like summer was never going to start. Then suddenly it felt too hot but people didn’t want to complain because we were so grateful to see the sunshine. There is something about a sunny day that can help with a sunny personality. That is why so many people move to California. But good weather alone does not guarantee the summer pause that refreshes.

I remember when I first went to Hawaii. The weather, surfing, swimming, and sights were great. The only problem with Hawaii was that I was there. I brought with myself that same sense of emptiness, that something was missing from my life. Last year, when I once again visited Hawaii, I happened to stumble upon a bagpipe ceremony for a person who had died tragically young. Just a few feet from a beautiful Hawaiian beach, I was reminded that all the beauty of creation doesn’t ultimately satisfy our inner longings. I love the beauty of creation particularly on a beautiful summer day, but the beauty of creation is meant to point beyond itself to the beauty of its Creator.

I come from a long line of overfunctioners and hard workers. Sometimes people in my family of origin have neglected the summer pause that refreshes. Sometimes they have attempted to keep going in their own strength. Sooner or later the body gets its revenge. Either we enter into the pause that refreshes or our body will force us to stop, sometimes in a rather shocking way. The Creator of this amazing world designed our bodies so that they worked best if we took pauses that refresh. That is why healthy people take regular days off. That is why summer holidays are so vital to our health. The Good Book calls the pause that refreshes the Sabbath. Similarly academics call their pause that refreshes a sabbatical. No one can function at their best on a 24/7 basis.

Because of our workaholic culture, some people do summer holidays with the same frenetic intensity, leaving them more exhausted than they started. They never pause to reflect, to enjoy, to observe, and to renew. No wonder that so many people half-jokingly say that they need a holiday just to recover from their holiday. What if in the final portion of the summer holidays, we actually rested? The heart of the Hebrew word ‘sabbath’ is ‘rest’. The Great Physician once said ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ So often our souls are weary, burdened, and restless. What if this summer we embraced the pause that refreshes? What if during this holiday season we actually rested? What if this summer we allowed the beauty of creation to point us back to the author of creation? My August prayer for those reading this article is that we would each become deeply refreshed and renewed in our body, soul, and spirit.

Rev Ed Hird, Rector

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article previously published in the August 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

All Things Bright and Beautiful—Carolyn Wilker

When I was a little girl in Sunday School, I learned the song “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” As a five-or six-year-old, it didn’t matter who wrote the song. Neither was it important that the song was ages old, only that it was something that I cared about.

On researching this song, I see that it was written originally as a poem in the 1800s, specifically for young children. Cecil Frances Alexander wrote about flowers that open, ripe fruit in the garden, birds that sing, and how God made and loves them all. After singing the song so often in Sunday School, much of it is deeply rooted in my memory.

One line came to me as I walked through our local farmer’s market last week: “The ripe fruits in the garden, he made them everyone.” I knew what I would write about this week. Such a wonderful array of colour—the red of apples and raspberries, the green of pears, peas and beans,  pink blush on peaches, purple eggplant and so much more.

No end to the bounty from people’s gardens. It reminded me of the garden we had when I was growing up and my first garden as a young 4-H member.

Tomatoes from my garden
It’s no wonder then that I come home with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Peaches, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, red pepper and more.  No wonder my kitchen smells like a canning factory in summer. This summer it has already been filled with the scent of tomatoes and peaches as I made fruit relish, and cucumbers and dill for dill pickles. There will be peaches too, when I get to them.

Of course, it’s a lot of work keeping a garden. We have one at our home—very small compared to the one my mother kept, or even my garden when I was 13. We prepare the soil, cultivate and till until the soil is soft and friable. After marking out long straight rows, it’s time to plant seeds; then after the plants start to grow, the thinning and the weeding. I wondered some days if we’d ever get to the end of the row.

 There was time in the garden picking strawberries, peas or beans, and afterwards podding the peas and “snibbling” the beans. We relied on sunshine and rain for the plants to produce their fruits, then ate the produce fresh from the garden, and preserved even more for winter. The overflow we shared with our neighbours or friends who came to our garden to pick what we didn’t need and put extra food on their tables.

Additionally, for two summers our family grew cucumbers for the Matthews-Wells Company. We had green fingers, literally, from picking every other day, rain or shine. Every time we passed the pickle aisle in the grocery store for years afterwards, we remembered those hours in the garden.

At the end of a growing season, after all the harvest was in, my mother had the satisfaction of enough food stored up to feed her family until the next summer. Not too much, but enough in jars and freezer bags. Then in winter, my mother bought only those fruit or vegetables we didn’t grow, and we ate well until the next growing season.

 This morning after writing my column, I went out to my garden and picked fresh tomatoes and basil. We still rely on the sunshine and rain—and during a drought, our water barrels.  I feel that same satisfaction when harvest is in, and in winter when we eat peaches, tomatoes or beans, that we can enjoy the food before us.

 Indeed, we have many gifts from our creator who has good things in store for us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More Than Just Words?

A change in Internet Service Providers (we still don't have a new email set up) and a move have kept me away from the computer for most of the last several weeks. Looking at gaps in blog posts suggests we've had company in distractions. I thought a weekend might be a good time to get this one on line, since it's sat in the draft file for most of a month.

A continuation from my June 29th post: His Strength is Made Perfect.

My journal records this account in stark detail. I was thankful even then that I didn’t know the whole story up front. The man came into jail with an abscessed tooth, visible swelling on the side of his face. He paced the floor for hours.

His story came out in bits and pieces, interrupted by pacing. He seemed hollow, empty, emotionally dead.

With his wife and child, he had taken part in the first Pro-Life rally in Toronto I had participated in. As a family they’d been active in a church. I don’t recall him telling me where or if he was employed, but they already faced financial hardships and obviously had no insurance when his tooth became infected.

My journal asks one set of questions, summed up as: how could any man stoop so low? But a second set of questions, even more painful, haunt me today. Where was the church? How could any family be part of a Christian church here in Canada, where love is integral to the vocabulary and creed, yet feel compelled to choose such a desperate path? Was there no one among that body of Christians who recognized the need? Was there no one responsive to a little nudging from God?

Privacy in jail is rare or non-existent. I asked for the privilege of praying with him, but, in front of all those other men? I can’t fault him for turning me down.

I prayed for him. But the opportunity never came to pray with him. He spent only one night in Remand 2C. Then, in one of those perverse twists our justice system imposes, the care our government could not give to him as an ordinary citizen was given under police escort, at many times the cost. He was taken from our unit to have his tooth dealt with. I never saw him again.

There are a number of practices I find exceptionally abhorrent. Pimping, child sexual abuse, and senior sexual abuse top that list. My Bible uses an old word, “sin.” It uses the same word for stealing a candy. I acknowledge that all are equally wrong in God’s eyes, but confess that my gut reacts to some much more than to others.

I had spent as much time with that man as I could, trying to encourage, to challenge him to cling to the remnants of his faith. Then I learned that he faced pimping charges, “living off the avails of a prostitute.”

His wife had been working the streets of Toronto, trying to raise money to pay a dentist.

HE HAD FAILED!! On my scale he had failed about as miserably as a man possibly could. He had failed as a Christian. He had failed as a father. He had failed as a husband. On my gut-level emotional scale you couldn’t have dug a hole deeper than he had already fallen.


God found me there—in Remand 2C of the Mimico Correctional Centre. I had prayed for the opportunity to reach out to these men. God held me to that prayer. He expected me to put hands and feet and words to His love.

HOW? How do I move past the revulsion and see the man? How do I move past my abhorrence, and reach out to the deep, raw hurt, the self-condemnation, the shame? How do I share the love of God in a place where the most privacy is a ledge in the bathroom, facing a row of five exposed toilets—and the man I’m called to love has bottomed out my scale of “unlovables?”

I can’t. That’s the simple truth. I don’t have it in me. BUT GOD CAN. And somehow, God can use even a guy like me to do it.

In the hours I spent with that man I ached with him and for him. Before I knew that he was “one of those kind” I had entered into his pain. When he spilled that last self-damning confession, God had already taken me beyond myself.

Did I fail him? Did I fail God by never finding a time to pray with that man? I don’t think so, although I regretted it deeply at the time. Embarrassing him in front of 30 men, most street-hard and cynical, would have done little to draw him closer to God.

What did God accomplish through me? I have no way of measuring if even 48 hours later, a single word I said lingered in that man’s mind. I do know that a man who felt his life was worth nothing heard repeatedly and directly from God’s Word, that he was loved. I know that man knew he was accepted AS A MAN, not as the scum of the earth – by at least one person in that room. I think it’s fair to call that love—but I must acknowledge that it is a love way beyond my own capacity.

Twenty-two years later my gut-reaction hasn’t changed toward certain practices. But perhaps the most profound thing I learned in jail was that these men and women, who have often committed acts I find abhorrent, dream like I dream. They hunger for love, for respect, for understanding. They ache for something better. But society, and too often the church, has told them they are scum, and they’ll never be anything but scum. People tend to “rise” to our expectations.

And we – the church – hide behind our stained-glass windows, in our air-conditioned sanctuaries – and use the vocabulary of love. Every week people like that man come through our church doors and listen to our language.

Do they hear more than just words – in your church – in mine?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Deadline... by Glynis M. Belec

The desk in my motel room. Oops, I think I see
Facebook on  my screen!

I have the sweetest hubby ever. Maybe he just wanted a bit of peace and quiet around the castle for a couple of days, who knows? But whatever his motivation to ship me out, I still think he is the sweetest.

"Just go!" he said [using his inside voice, of course]. Life, lately, was consumed with much. I had arranged for my lovely editor to start on my children's novel the following week, thinking my manuscript would be completed  by then, but it wasn't looking promising. Distraction after distraction entered in and I just was not able to complete it at home. I contemplated getting up early, but I already did that. I thought about staying up late. But I already did that, too.

So when my dearly beloved suggested I go to a motel with my laptop and just write...I couldn't believe my ears. He told me he was going to be having some long days, too, because he had some work to get done.  So he would be fine. I tossed it about in my noggin for a while. I remembered some other commitments that I needed to look after. But both my sister and my daughter assured me that getting away to write was a great idea and they would look after what was pressing - caring for my elderly Dad, re-scheduling students, doing some paperwork, and so on.

For a little while prior to my departure, I dealt with guilt. I had trouble getting my head around, first - paying for a motel. We could spend the money on something a lot wiser than time away for yours truly, I reasoned. Then I thought because there was a swimming pool at the motel, I would have to use it once in a while (to get my money's worth, of course). Then I would feel guilty again because my poor hubby was slaving away at his job and there I would be - lolling around the pool. But a deadline was a deadline. I told myself that a dip in the pool would be a reward. Every 1500 words I could swim. Gotta' love those deadlines.

My daughter, who works for me, booked the motel and I was committed. To tell you the truth, I was jolly excited. I could hardly wait to get away where I wouldn't have to feel obligated to do anything but write. I know lots of writers who would think I was whacko and why couldn't I do it at home - but you've got to know my home and my ability to rationalize why my work isn't as important as the demands of others. I am working on that.

To make a long story a little bit less, I came. I wrote. I went.  My room was amazing and the pool 'reward' was exhilarating. The free breakfast lasted me most of the day and I am happy to report that I managed the 4,500 words I needed to complete my book. And, I did some other writing-related chores, had some wonderful, contemplative moments with God and actually relaxed every 1500 words. I tried my best to stay off Facebook and e-mail, but the WiFi was free!

In one of my idle moments (one hour prior to checkout time on the second day) I came across the origin of the word - deadline. Don't ask me how that happened. I think I was checking something out for a grammar issue. One thing led to another and I soon learned that the word deadline referred to a line around a military prison beyond which soldiers were authorized to shoot escaping prisoners during the American Civil War. Hmm...Gotta love trivia!

Getting away was a brilliant idea. Happy Hubby gets a gold star. I met my deadline, and I am happy to report that I am now thinking that I need a special jar on my desk to save up for the next motel writing retreat...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Friends, faith and hard times - Gibson

   The first time I visited my friend’s home, her dogs curled up at our feet and her horse hunkered just below the front door. That’s not important really, except I found it odd. The door opened from the second story. No stairs below, just prairie grass poking through the snow, and that patient horse, poised like the proverbial steed under a castle window (though with no waiting knight). If I had the nerve, I told my friend, I’d open the door, hop on and ride off into the West. She chuckled. “The plan was to put in stairs, but the horse was free.”
   Funny what you remember.
   We were three friends gathered, all women. We’d found a common day, shucked our regular schedules, and carved out time for the thing women once did more than we do now—get together for an Olympic talking event.
   We ate salad. We drank hot tea. Then we swaddled on couches in that cavernous, unfinished, husband-built and mostly unheated house. A wood stove in the basement puffed its hardest, but 3,000 Asquare feet wants a lot of logs. We kept coats on our shoulders and quilts on our laps.
   Along the west wall the pale winter sun streamed through a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, setting the counter-less cupboards and chipboard floors aglow. It dappled the flea market finds and the old dog on the pillow. The crazy one, leaping from lap to lap, didn’t sit still long enough for dappling.  
   Two of us were grandmothers, but we giddied up like girls. Like men in an ice-fishing shack, but without beer. Our words tumbled out. We interrupted each other. We laughed until we cried. One of us cried until she laughed. Someone said, “Hey, you finished now? It’s my turn!”
   We spoke of life’s worries and warts. Of investments gone bad and dreams detoured by debt and disability. We talked of how dollars depart the bank account before days depart the calendar. Of faith. Of frailty.
   We drank copious pots of herbal tea, warming our hands on our mugs. We gave each other advice, and swapped money-saving tips. But we talked longest about what God had taught us through our hard times.
   All that tea has to go somewhere. I got up and headed south through the house a quarter-kilometre or so in search of a washroom. On the way, I trod on manna—scriptures scrawled in permanent marker on the chipboard floors. Living words like these:
    “Don’t worry about tomorrow—it has enough trouble of its own,” and  “All things are possible with God,” and, “Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord,” and, “Some trust in horses, and some in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
   Investments crash. Jobs end. Governments disappoint. Health fails. My friend knew this well, but creatively chose to remind herself and her large family of life’s only true security.
   Worried? Trust God. If necessary, buy a Sharpie.


Find author, columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson on the web at
Sunny Side Up has been published weekly since 2001, in Yorkton This Week and elsewhere. Kathleen also voices a daily radio spot, Simple Words, aired weekdays on internet and conventional radio stations in over twenty countries.

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