Thursday, November 29, 2012

Orgy of Consumption

by Glynis M. Belec

Ecclesiastes 3 says it best:

         There is a time for everything,
         and a season for every activity under the heavens:
         a time to be born and a time to die
         a time to plant and a time to uproot,
         a time to kill and a time to heal
         a time to tear down and a time to build,
         a time to weep and a time to laugh,
         a time to mourn and a time to dance,
         a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them
         a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
         a time to search and a time to give up,
         a time to keep and a time to throw away,
         a time to tear and a time to mend,
         a time to be silent and a time to speak,
         a time to love and a time to hate,
         a time for war and a time for peace...

     Looks to me like God has indicated in His Word that life happens and there is a designated time in this life for a whole bunch of things. But, for the life of me, I cannot see where it says in this passage that there is a time for greed and a time to go absolutely stark raving bonkers because advertising and mass media said so.

     Every year it seems to get worse. Black Friday rolls around and people lose their senses. In an effort to get 'stuff' cheap, some will stop at nothing in order to fall into the trap of consumerism.
     I read of an incident in Georgia where a few days ago, a man was killed because he tried to steal two DVD players. The security guard caught him and beat him so badly in the parking lot as he was allegedly trying to resist arrest. Last year a woman pepper sprayed  crowd of people because she wanted to get to the bargains first.

     In 2008 a store employee in New York was killed when shoppers stampeded. Security videos showed the 34 year old employee being knocked down as the doors opened, then as she was trampled by hundreds of shoppers rushing into the store.

    I just don't get it. What is it about our society that compels people to place such emphasis on material possessions? I like my nice house and what I have accumulated over the years, but the older I get, the more I think about how it's only stuff and it's a guarantee that none of my nice 'stuff' is going with me when I head heavenward! So why bother? I shake my head when I hear about how some people have been injured or have lost their life for the sake of trying to save a buck or two. 

      Jesus issued the big challenge when he said to that rich young ruler, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Luke 18:22

     The rich young ruler couldn't do it. He was obviously a little too attached to things. I like to think that for me it is a no-brainer, but then I look at my home and there are some things that hold lots of precious memories or pretty gifts or meaningful items that have been passed down. Could I do it? Maybe. Hopefully. I already feel the urge to purge. So that has to be a good thing. 

     Perhaps the first thing I need to purge is my own heart. Yep, that's definitely a good place to start. I guess that's the part where it says 'a time to keep; a time to throw away!'  or maybe 'a time to be silent; a time to speak. Now if I could only strike a good balance. That would be a very good place to start. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Share your life—if necessary use Facebook--Gibson

I don’t use Facebook much. I post my weekly newspaper columns and when I have time, I jot a few notes to others. Rarely do I share more. But then, ordinarily I sit DOWN to breakfast, not ON my breakfast.

I’m talking more than semantics here, understand.

In my defense: everyone knows that few things can jigger a smooth curve of productivity like a snow day—or several. In the previous two days, a storm had dumped almost two feet of snow over my dot on the province.

I spent the entire weekend not doing things I’d hoped to and doing others I hadn’t planned for. My mistake was just one of a series of blizzard-induced misalignments. My frustrated Facebook post, “I just sat in my bowl of porridge. Don’t ask,” was another.

After that impulsive post, I left Facebook alone for a day. When I checked it again, I found twenty responses. (Sometimes I forget that Facebook people are real—and really curious.)

“I hear another article with a valuable life lesson coming on!” said Maxine. “Oh my...”jotted someone else, adding a long series of “hahas”. “Sorry, but it strikes me funny,” commented another. “Bummer!” spake one. “A novel technique, but I prefer a spoon,” quipped the mayor. (Who says politicians have no sense of humour?)

Several friends hinted that oatmeal is good for the skin. A few, including one person at least two countries away (and my very own son-in-law around the block), wanted more details. Others noted that they couldn’t stop laughing at the mental picture my post provided. Someone even demanded photos. I declined—the logistics puzzled me.

Bringing up the rear of the comment thread, and because I now realized I couldn’t leave those people panting for the bottom line, I explained. For my Sunny Side Up readers who also wonder, here’s the back story.

It’s simple: In the midst of still-falling snow, I walked into my office with my bowl of porridge, preparing to write. Noticing that my desk was too cluttered for my bowl, I set it down on my chair to clear a space.

That was then I noticed the flutter of wings at the feeder on the deck—an unusually large flock of several species, driven to our free buffet by the blizzard. They startled me so much I sat down to watch them. And that, dear readers, is how and why this middle-aged observer of faith and life plunked her nether end down on her bowl of hot oatmeal.

Though I was doing both, I don’t think this story is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to consider the birds and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. But the responses to my short post reminded me that nothing builds bridges like sharing our flaws and laughing together. And building bridges is crucial in the sharing of both life and faith—but so is crossing them.

Fellow followers, build bridges. If necessary, use Facebook.

Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in her newspaper column, Sunny Side Up, and on her radio spots, Simple Words, aired weekdays on numerous Christian stations around the world. Find her online at

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Was Made for This - M. Laycock

I was made for this - to "write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness."

The journey to accomplish that calling began in an attic in my father's house where I wrote short stories and poems for my dolls. They didn't complain so I kept it up. Then, at the age of eleven an aunt gave me a copy of Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery and I realized that you could call yourself a writer. I determined in my heart that someday that's what I would be.

My teachers encouraged me and in grade eleven I saw my name attached to a piece of writing in a book for the first time. But in grade twelve my favourite teacher said, "If you don't have something of value to say, don't you dare write." She would have been horrified to learn that her words made me stop writing for some time.

Although I had received a lot of praise for my writing in school, I had huge self-esteem issues. I did not believe I could possibly have anything of value to say to anyone, so, other than the assignments I had to do for school, I stopped writing.

The root of this low self esteem came from an incident when I was about 8 years old, when I was sexually molested by a neighbour. That one incident coloured everything that happened in my life. It became the pivot on which everything else turned and affected how I saw myself and my world. It even affected how I saw God. Because of that one dark incident I believed that I could not be accepted or loved by anyone, most especially God. I believed I was unworthy and of no value to anyone.

But I went off to university and began to study to be a journalist. I discovered that though I wanted to write, journalism was not for me. I did not have the aggression needed, nor did I believe I could ever be good enough to succeed in that profession, (or any other). So after the second year, I left university and ended up in Alaska, helping some friends build a cabin in the wilderness. I wandered the north, in Alaska and the Yukon and finally settled in Dawson City.

It was there, while surviving -60 degree temperatures, that I sat by my wood stove and began to write my first novel. It was a fantasy about talking ravens and it has never been published, thank goodness - but as the days and weeks went by I was caught up in the story and realized writing was of supreme importance to me. It was my way of escape when I needed one, my way of dealing with the world. When I was lonely, I wrote. When someone hurt me, I wrote. When I believed my life had no purpose, no direction, I wrote. I told myself that everything was okay, that living day to day was the way to go. And I wrote. Of course I never showed any of my writing to anyone else because I believed no one else would want to read it. And I was very unhappy. In fact, though I would not admit it, I was miserable. The writing was only a band-aid, not a solution to the inner emptiness I felt.

But God had a plan and a purpose. I met a young man who was to become my husband. We built a log house on the Klondike River and settled into a lifestyle of self-indulgence until one day when death came and stood on our doorstep. About a month before our wedding my husband’s best friend committed suicide. The day we were married, a neighbour’s baby went missing and was assumed drowned in the river. Then, a few months after our wedding, another friend shot himself and two others died in accidents. Death became a very real presence in our lives.

We tried to escape it but everywhere we went it seemed death had gone before us. As God kept us in turmoil, my husband began asking questions – what’s life all about? What happens when we die? Is there a God? To find the answers, he began meeting with the missionary pastor who had performed our wedding ceremony. Then he decided to start going to church.

I saw this as a potential crisis in my life. I thought I knew all about the “religion game” and I didn’t want any part of it. Deep down I believed I wasn’t good enough for God, so I convinced myself he did not exist. But Spence challenged me to try to articulate what I did believe. Was God some kind of force out there in the galaxies? What was he like? And what did he have to do with me?

One Sunday morning Spence got up and suggested we get ready for church. I told him I was going to visit my friend Brenda who lived 150 miles away - a perfect excuse to not go to church. As I packed to go that morning I came across a small book someone had given me and it fell open to the words, “Why do you resist me, who flows through all things?” I tossed the book to the floor and headed down the road to Mayo. I was determined not to think about spiritual things, but the harder I tried, the more all those questions kept spinning around in my head.

In frustration, I pulled into a lookout spot on the Stewart River and started talking to God. I knew I needed forgiveness. I’d heard enough of the sermons in that tiny mission church to know I had done things in my life that were against God’s law, against the people around me, and even against myself. So I asked God to forgive me. I admitted I was confused and challenged Him to do something to prove He existed. 

Then I thought, this is really crazy. Here I am talking to a God I don’t really believe exists. If he is out there he must think we humans are pretty humorous. Then something happened that is still a mystery to me. I “heard”, though the words were not audible – “Yes, you are humorous but I love you anyway.”

At that point I thought I was going crazy. Now I was hearing voices! So I put my foot down on the accelerator of my truck and literally almost flew to my friend’s house. All we talked about that weekend was spiritual things. But by the time I headed home I had decided I wanted nothing to do with Christianity and I’d just have to hope that Spence’s involvement in church wouldn’t tear our marriage apart.

Sometime later, I woke up one morning and was very ill. Then I sat down and ate a big breakfast. The next day was the same, and the day after that. I confided in a friend that I had "this strange flu." The words "morning sickness" seemed to make sense but I knew it could not be. I had not told anyone, but the first desire of my heart was to have a baby. I think I saw it as yet another way to feel loved and at peace. All my friends were having children and my biological clock was sounding alarms. 

But Spence and I had been together for five years by this time and no babies had happened. So we decided to apply to adopt a child and we were told we should have tests done to determine why we had not been able to conceive. So we had done that, at Shaunessy hospital in Vancouver. The doctors told us it was highly unlikely that we would conceive a child together, so we had decided to pursue the adoption process.

But that strange flu did not go away. Then one morning, as I was emptying my stomach I realized that I was indeed pregnant. And at that moment I realized God had indeed done something. He had given me the desire of my heart – a child. She was born on Nov. 30th, 1982. (do the math - she will be 30 on the 30th of this month. :)

It was about that same time that the pastor in that tiny mission church asked if there was anyone in the congregation who would like to commit his life to Christ. I glanced at Spence but he didn’t move, so I didn’t either. But I started to smile because I realized that I had already done that. When Spence shook Jack’s hand at the door he told him he had decided to “give Jesus a try.” I nodded and said, “yeah, me too.” Jack began to weep. We were both puzzled at that. What was the big deal?

As the days and weeks went by I began to realize what the big deal was. I felt a kind of lightness – a sense of peace and freedom and joy that I had never known could be possible. It was spring time in the Yukon and I wrote this short little poem to try and express it.

                     Green so fills my eyes
                      I sway
                      with spring
                      a song
                      alive and swelling
                      out of winter grey and white
                      the colour
                      in fields and ditches
                      and I wonder
                      was there life
                      before this day?

Everything around me seemed more vibrant, more intense, more full. When I realized that God did indeed love me, I wanted more than ever to know him. Spence felt the same, and we both sought Him in every way we could. Our home became a place of meeting and worship for the believers in that tiny mission church and we began to learn about who we were as Christians and children of God.

The change in our lives was so obvious people began to comment on it. Within two years we found ourselves at Briercrest Bible College where Spence studied to become a pastor. In our last year there I attended a seminar with Carol Kent called Speak Up with Confidence. I only attended because a friend talked me into it but by the time that day was over the Lord had rekindled a burning desire in me to write. 

But how to begin? I knew nothing about manuscript preparation, or submission guidelines or any other essential information that would help me break into print. But God supplied. In the first week in our new home my husband met with the previous pastor of our new church. Pastor Don laid out a long list of responsibilities. He had just stood up to go when he turned back and said, "Oh and I almost forgot, you have to write a weekly column for the paper and it's due tomorrow."

My husband came home with his head swimming, overwhelmed by all the responsibilities, and asked if I could "put something together for the paper." I wrote my first devotional that night, took it down to the editor the next day and was delighted when he said it was fine. That was the beginning of my new column, The Spur, which ran in that paper for eight years and in another for about twelve years. That column developed into three devotional books that have travelled further than I could have dreamed possible.

It wasn't long after that I saw an advertisement for the Alberta Christian Writers' Fellowship, meeting in a small church about an hour's drive from where we lived. I was delighted to learn there was such a thing as a Christian writers' organization. As I attended their conferences and entered their contests my writing improved by leaps and bounds. I learned how to submit my work and began to have success in publishing. The encouragement of those who had been writing for some time was invaluable. I was also given the opportunity to 'give back' by serving on the executive of that organization (now InScribe Christian Writers' Fellowship) for many years.

One of my greatest joys has been to receive letters and emails from readers who have turned their lives over to the Lord after reading something I'd written. It would be all too easy to think it was my inspirational writing that accomplished that but only God can change a heart. I am humbled that he has used my words to accomplish His purposes.

There have been many small steps along the way, all of them leading to God's purpose for my life, to honour and glorify Him through all I do, through all I write.

In his gracious mercy He has allowed me to keep writing, and used my writing to bless others. As my husband once said, it now comes from a place of strength, not weakness, because it flows from a heart that has been changed, a soul that is the home of His Holy Spirit.

Recently He took me on another journey, through the "valley of cancer." It seems outrageous to say it, but this journey has been a gift that has deepened my dependence upon Him and my understanding of true faith, true joy, and it has deepened my writing as well. I look forward to what He intends to do through these new words. (read a sample here)

I don't pretend to assume that my words will be an "everlasting" witness but I know they have already affected the lives of people in pain, people who need to know that God's deep love is for each and every one of us, no matter where we've been or what we've done or what we're going through.

And that is more than enough, because God has made it plain. I was made for this.

Abundant Rain, Marcia's devotional ebook for writers of faith is now available for Kindle at Amazon or can be downloaded in any ebook format at Smashwords
Visit Marcia's website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The good new days - Nesdoly

This month of remembrance has me thinking back to when I first started writing and all the changes I've seen in a mere 15-or-so years.

Horse and buggy days

It was in 1997 (March to be precise) that I made my first manuscript sale to Keys for Kids. What an exciting day that was! I had begun my ICL course "Writing for Children and Teens" just a year before and had promised myself five years of trying before I'd give up on my childhood dream of becoming a writer. Now I had made my first sale just a little past one year in!

Those days my ICL Magazine Market Guide was my writer's bible and a laid-in stash of Canadian and U.S. postage stamps my calling card to request magazine samples and send out manuscripts.

I operated like that for a few years, until the internet came to our house. During our family's first days online we only had the family computer connected so I was still relatively free from the distractions of email and online life. But once I connected my computer to the web, how quickly everything changed for me and my writing business.

Writing goes digital

One by one publishers began accepting email queries and submissions. The speed of this was pushed ahead by 9-11 when publishers suddenly became wary of opening unsolicited packages (after a few mystery deliveries contained ominous white powder).

The internet had other attractions too. As search engines improved, a world of information became available at a mouse click. And I found places online where I could post my writing—places that had "Buy this Article" next to every piece I posted, implying that there were buyers out there who might be interested! My naive hopefulness changed to realism after a few months of offering pieces there without receiving a single offer. But there were other payments to vie for—comments, clicked stars, votes, possible inclusion in anthologies, altogether far too much excitement to ignore!

And then blogging came along. I first got on the blogging bandwagon with with my personal blog  promptings in October of 2004. Of course I soon found out that if I wanted people to read and comment on my blog, I had to read and comment on theirs. I recall how nervous I felt the first time I left a comment on someone's blog with my signature a link back to my blog. I don't know what I thought would happen—the world would come flocking to my little place on the web to find out who violet was? I'll bet you can guess what did happen. That's right. Nothing!

All these changes brought with them not a little dis-ease too. I remember, even in the early days when the speed of online life was still half the pace it is now, thinking—What am I doing? I should be back in my old womb-room writing instead of indulging in all this online gadding about.

But I couldn't go back. It was as if I had shed too-small clothes, moulted,* if you like, and returning to the way things had been before was as unthinkable as a snake trying to fit himself back into the outgrown, shriveled skin of last week.

Changes have continued. I've begun many blogs, joined Facebook, become active on Twitter, set up my own web page, read and sifted through books and articles about blogging, self-publishing, marketing, publicity and selling, and earlier this year published a book...

At each new stage I get some of the same feelings I did when my writing life changed from solitary to web-based: I'd like to go back to the way things were before. But  just like then, I can't. In some strange way I feel like I keep outgrowing the old.

Too much of a good thing

Changes are in the wind again. I've come to realize that I'm a little burned out with blogging and have decided to simplify my online life.  A few weeks ago I shut down my writing blog (Line Upon Line) and have now begun blogging from my website. This will become my main blog.  Though I will keep recycling my kids' devotions and writing my daily adult devotions, my dear old personal blog promptings will change to a photolog with mostly photos and less words. This will be my last post on the Canadian Writers Who Are Christian for a while as I'm taking a break from posting to group blogs as well.

Where is God in all this? I trust that He is in the restlessness to shed some of these commitments  now, as I sensed His go-ahead to get into them them years ago. But as in many things, it's faith, not sight.

Will I be back? In the comments for sure. But as a blogger—perhaps, perhaps not. You see, it all depends on what the next moult allows.

*"Molting, or Moulting, the shedding, or casting off, of feathers, hair, horns, shell, or a layer of skin by an animal. Molting is a periodic process of renewal, the cast-off parts being replaced by a new growth." (emphasis added) - Animal Planet

- by Violet Nesdoly (first published on Inscribe Writers Online - November 12, 2012)
Author Violet Nesdoly on Facebook

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Should You Self-Publish?

Should I self-publish my book or find a "real" publisher? That is a question many people seem to have on their lips these days. With the advent of  technology we are seeing more books self-published than we ever have before. There are so many pros and cons to self-publishing though, that you need to step back and take a serious look at what is right for you, before you proceed any further.

After I foolishly self-published 30 copies of my first book, I was surprised and a little afraid at what happened next. Once I realized what I had gotten myself into, I did some research and didn't like what I found. It seems that books don't sell by themselves. Who knew? Apparently, if you have a book that is published you have to market it too! What a concept! So I started with who I knew and presented my book to my local Christian Bookstore. Fortunately, I knew the owner and she was so lovely and supportive of me that she gave me shelf space and even put my book in a beautiful display at Christmas. Remarkably, I started selling books! Woohoo! 

But, I learned that was only the first step. I needed to do something more and get my name out there. I needed to take some classes on marketing. But where? With whom? That's when God introduced me to The Word Guild, Canada's largest community of Christian writers, editors and publishers. I signed up right away, especially when I found out they were going to have a conference in London called Write! London. One course I took was lead by award-winning author Donna Fawcett whose pen name was Donna Dawson. She suggested during her course that book reviews are something every author needs if they want to sell their books. So, immediately after class I handed her my book and asked if she would review it. Hers was the first review I ever received and she has been a source of inspiration to me as well as a dear friend ever since.

As I got to know the people, and talked to more experts, I quickly realized that not only did I need to think of a marketing plan, but I needed to have a book signing. Once again I went back to my local Christian bookstores and much to my surprise and delight both stores in my city agreed to host me and yet I found myself in a difficult position. I needed more books printed. 

Suddenly, self-publishing was becoming inconvenient and too expensive. There had to be a better way!

More on that next time!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Gift Idea - Meyer

A few days ago, I pulled a copy of the original Hot Apple Cider down off my shelf and started reading it. I had read it when it first came out four years ago but I’m enjoying it all over again now. I am an extremely fast reader with a low retention rate, which allows me to enjoy all over again books that I have read in the past.

Hot Apple Cider is a book worth reading again. In the past four years, 30,000 copies have been given out at Girls Night Out and Couples Night Out events, and 15,000 additional copies have been sold, making Hot Apple Cider a Canadian bestseller.

Jane Kirkpatrick says, “Inventive and filled with grace, Hot Apple Cider is just what its name implies: an open door, a warm invitation, a friend when needed and least expected, a gentle calling toward a generous life. From the shores of Australia and a woman’s grief, to Romania and a choice we all must make, to the town of Stuckville anywhere in the world and a dozen other settings, in prose and poetry and non-fiction, these stories remind us that God draws us together and speaks to us uniquely and in community. If you’re looking for inspiration, something to breathe in for reassurance that you’re not alone, something to remind you to hear God’s voice in acts of compassion, spend an afternoon with Hot Apple Cider. It could just change your life.”

People sometimes find they have a bit of extra time during the Christmas season to read a book. Hot Apple Cider is a great choice for winter reading for yourself, or it would make a great gift for just about anyone on your Christmas list. You can also put it together as a gift set with A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. Both books are available on Amazon or directly from the publisher

To beat the winter blues, curl up with a cup of Hot Apple Cider!
Dorene Meyer
Author of Rachel's Children
Also available as an eBook

Friday, November 16, 2012

Erma McAllister - Still Writing at 96 by Rose McCormick Brandon

            A sturdy gate and tidy flower garden lead visitors to Erma McAllister’s back door. My mother, sister Carolyn and I recently visited Irma in this house where she’s lived since the 1940s, located across the road from her childhood home.

            Erma’s best known for her column in the local weekly newspaper, The Manitoulin Expositor. She writes about social and township events in her Island community, Spring Bay, a tiny village surrounded by farms. In my recent story, Manitoulin Connection, for Chicken Soup for the Soul O Canada, I mentioned how our family’s visits to Manitoulin Island appear in Erma’s column because of our Island roots.

            After much urging from her children and grandchildren, Erma, at age 90, decided to write her life story. Her life entwines with the rich pioneer history of the area. It appeals to those who treasure their roots, which on Manitoulin, is nearly everyone. At 92, Erma self-published her memoir, Reflections and Stories. To date, her sales are just short of one thousand copies, an enviable number in the self-publishing industry.

            I read Erma’s book and found references to both sets of my grandparents. It turns out, Irma loves to dance and often step-danced to my Irish grandfather McCormick’s jigs and reels. I envisioned him sitting on a wooden chair, his right foot stomping in a heel-to-toe pattern as he fiddled, dreamily lost in his music. And Irma, a young, limber, step-dancing beauty.

            Erma tells of home prayer meetings attended by most people in Campbell Township. My mother remembers gathering with local families, kneeling on hard, often cold, floors, taking her turn talking out loud to God. Hard-farming adults, children in tow, regularly cleaned up for prayer meeting night.

            A week after our visit, this appeared in Irma’s column:

“Mildred McCormick and two of her daughters were in to visit me on Tuesday morning. Mildred bought a book from me. I now have 36 books left. Her daughter, Rose, is writing a book and very active in writing stories, etc. I enjoyed their visit. Mildred was raised on the Beaver Road.” (Erma’s reference to Beaver Road lets readers know we’re connected to the Island; connections matter here.)

                        Erma’s enthusiasm for life inspires her family, friends and readers. We spent less than two hours with her, but all three of us – Mom, Carolyn and me – exited her gate with a stronger belief that participation is the key to a meaningful life. A widow of more than two decades, a non-driver, alone in a country setting – she has earned the right to grumble and succumb to self-pity. But succumbing isn’t in Irma’s DNA. In her soul, Erma’s still step-dancing through life, drumming the message that staying connected to one’s community and writing about it keeps us young at heart.

Rose McCormick Brandon’s most recent book is He Loves Me Not . . . He Loves Me. Her articles and essays are published in magazines, books, newspapers and devotionals in Canada and the U.S. She is an award-winning writer who specializes in personal experience, faith, life stories and the British Home Child Immigration period of Canadian history. Rose is married to Doug and lives in Caledonia, Ontario. She has three adult children and two grandchildren. Visit her blogs: The Promise of Home and Listening to My Hair Grow. Contact her at: 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bare Bones and Basic Plots

Many people dread November with its dreary, damp, bone-chilling weather.  In fact I just recently read a blog by my very dear friend decrying those very things and expressing her dislike of the month. She had the grace to apologize to those whose birthdays fall in this month.  I happen to be one of those, so perhaps because of that I try to find the good that must also be there. 

               To me, the world seems to wait in hushed and contemplative ambience during November—almost like a lady stripped of her clothes, standing in front of her closet, envisaging herself in the gown she wants to wear for the upcoming gala.  Of course I’m one of those odd-balls who love winter too, so even in November, I like that lady, anticipate  the beauty of snow-laden branches, silvery tree branches surrounded by pristine whiteness highlighted by either sunlight and blue skies or a full moon,  and I  look forward to the beauty and more relaxed winter months. 

               Somehow, November reveals to us the “bare bones” of our world—what is underneath, holds up or provides the basis for all the growing things of summer and beauty of fall—the source that provides the bountiful harvest and the beauty we enjoy in the warmer months.  It’s a good exercise to take a look at those basics now and then—in our world and in our lives.

               While thinking about November, I saw that our esteemed co-founder of The Word Guild mentioned on facebook that she, in her haste to get going on her novel-writing month of November, realized she was madly writing—without a plot!  I smiled.

Immediately I imagined a bunch of leaves without a trunk and branches to hold them up in some semblance of order to make a tree—I realized it can’t be done—neither can seeds, trees or shrubs be planted without rich soil in which to send their roots deep for nourishment.  We need those basics from which we can sustain ourselves and our world and from which we can cultivate and develop life and beauty.  We also need the “bare bones” of our faith on which we can rely in cold and bone-chilling times, and on which can grow leaves and blossoms of beauty.  And in our writing we need the “bare bones” of a plot and a reason to tell our story.

Recently I heard a minister deliver his sermon the same way Nancy was writing her novel—without a plot or even a sense of direction.  (Although Nancy probably had more sense of direction)  It was a jumble of thoughts and ideas, some of them very good, but nothing fit together or flowed from one to the other.  At the end it left the listener wondering, “Now just what was he trying to tell us?  Did even he know, or was he just trying to fill his allotted time?”

So as in all of life, all of us, including writers and speakers need basic plots and reasons for our writing, speaking and indeed our living.   It is only then that our readers and listeners and fellow sojourners can grasp how to use what they learn to dress up or enhance the basic structures in their own lives.

Yes, we need to sit up and pay attention to the Novembers in our lives.  Author of Not Far from the Tree, Not Easily Broken, Tyson's Sad Bad Day.  Finalist for story in Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Late Autumn-Fall -- It's Time (Peter A. Black)

The Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, Hallowe’en, the American Presidential Election and Remembrance Day 2012 are now behind us – and hopefully, the Atlantic hurricane season, as well. Tens of thousands – perhaps millions – of Eastern Seaboard dwellers might not breathe easy on that score as yet. Thousands still have no permanent dwelling, due to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy and the other stormy onslaught that followed.
 We’re now in the latter portion of the autumn / fall period. Fall fruits are mostly harvested, and in parts of Southwestern Ontario tawny field-corn stands forlorn and dwarfed by drought.
 I consider autumn as a time for reflection, and it’s also a time for us to continue sowing and watering seed of God’s Word and the Gospel – the good news of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with that, we sow good seed in deeds of kindness in Jesus’ name. These prepare for a harvest of the Spirit.
 Thoughtful people often take to reflection in their later years. This period of life, commonly likened to autumn and called “the golden years,” conjures up warm sentiments, and rightly so, although some venerable citizens might describe them as “the groanin’ years”!
 I reckon that “autumn” is a nicer word than “fall.” Leaves fall and temperatures drop. An increasing danger for seniors is falling. You’ll have heard the old wheeze or seen the cartoon of an elderly woman who bemoans that by this time of life her chest has fallen into her drawers, or perhaps the one about the old fellow who went about with his shoelaces undone. When asked why, he said that he just steps into his shoes, but when he bends down to tie them it’s too hard to get back up.
Late autumn – when trees shed the last of their leaves till none but the most stubborn remain, and when hoar frost greets us in the mornings, or gusting winds bring chilling rain or sleet, or much more than a dusting of snow – reminds us that winter’s a-comin’! It’s a time to bundle up when going out into the cold, or hunker down to stay inside where it’s warm. It’s always time to read and reminisce, and to pray and give thanks for God’s mercies.
Of course, there are those active 50-plus jet-setters who energetically stride around the neighbourhood, or square dance and jig, engage in sports, or spectate their kids or grandkids playing hockey or some other activity. Perhaps you’re a hunker-downer and prefer most nights to listen to music CDs or view favourite TV programs.
It’s time too, for the aroma of hot apple cider and cinnamon or hot chocolate to fill the house. My Beloved has been getting Christmas baking underway (hmm, smells great!). She’s distributed some already – and there’s church and community functions requiring baked goods, too.
Psalm 90:12-14 (NIV) reads: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . . Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
Whether you call the season fall or autumn, it is a time for counting our days and our blessings, and a time to make our days count by blessing others in word and deed, extended in the name of Jesus, with the love of God in the heart.


Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and author of a children's / family book, "Parables from the Pond." A version of this article will be published in his weekly column in the November 15, 2012 issue of The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.

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