Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Story is God Writing in Your Life? by Rose McCormick Brandon

 A few weeks ago, I began teaching an evening class called, Write Your God Story.
At the first class, we sat at a round table and introduced ourselves to one another. Then I asked, "What stories do you want to tell?" I nodded to the woman on my left to begin. She told of leading a double life; nursing by day, drinking by night, sitting in the pew like a holy person on Sundays. She continued this hypocritical existence until one night she was stopped by police and her car impounded. Fearful of losing her job, the following Sunday she knelt alone in the church sanctuary and begged God to free her from alcohol. In one holy moment, the need for alcohol left her and she hasn't had a drink since. That's only part of her story. The bulk is about what drove her to alcohol in the first place. Her story made us all teary.
Tears continued as my students told of childhood sufferings, sexual abuse, addictions and abandonment. Profound sadness for them kept me awake that night.
I instructed them to choose one experience and begin writing about it. The following week, they took turns reading. That's when I learned that each had had a transforming experience, a moment in time when God had swooped into their lives and rescued them.
This transforming moment is the nugget of their God stories.
My students are writing their stories and I hope to move them all to the publishing stage. With God's grace this will happen. People need to read their stories. Readers' hearts will be moved as mine is being moved. If you saw them, you wouldn't believe where they've come from. You might gape as I almost did when one by one they read their work.
The Bible tells a story of Jesus healing a man of mental illness. Afterwards, the man wanted to travel with Jesus but Jesus told him to go home and tell his family and everyone he knew about the miracle he'd experienced. (Read this story in Mark 5)
That's what my evening class is doing through writing their stories - telling about the new life Jesus has given them.
What story is God writing in your life? Is it a story of finding daily strength to face difficult circumstances? Whatever it is, don't let anything diminish the power of your personal story.
God is writing a story in each life. A story of Grace. Grace overlooks our faults, takes pity on our sufferings, reaches into the darkness and rescues us. Grace hugs the unhuggable. Grace sees the inside and doesn't judge the outside. Each of our small stories has a special place in His big story. Each one is important.
Even if you consider yourself a poor writer, take the time to sit down and write out what God has done for you.
Then pass your story on . . .
One of my students has been published already. Here's a link to Shari James's story.

Rose McCormick Brandon 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, an investment consultant, with whom she also co-authors articles on finances. Visit her blogs: The Promise of Home and Listening to My Hair Grow. Contact address: rosembrandon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Supreme Symbol of Help and Hope (by Peter Black)

A disaster happens somewhere in the world, and it’s likely that—where political systems allow—Red Cross personnel and vehicles, bearing the large emblem of a red cross on a white background, are dispatched in response, bearing emergency supplies to help people in desperate need of life-sustaining essentials. (Of course, we acknowledge that much good work is also contributed under the emblems of the Red Crescent and Red Crystal, among others.)

Scores of Christian-based NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are often there helping, funded by donations from people like many of you, who embrace the message and meaning of the Cross. My niece Gillian works for a Christian-based NGO, and recently returned from central America, where she was involved in coordinating humanitarian projects. 

Hitler’s Nazi Swastika, with its angled (let’s say, bent and broken) arms, is perhaps the most widely reviled form of cross—the antithesis of the Cross of Christ; not of help and hope, but of hate and genocide.

I’m glad the Cross is the supreme symbol of help and hope in the world. Good Friday’s commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ reminds me that out of the ugliness of crucifixion—among the most excruciating, slow and painful forms of execution ever devised—has come healing, help and hope to countless millions.

It is reckoned that as many as 1,000,000 crucifixions took place throughout the provinces of the Roman Empire during the first century AD. Intended as punishment for criminals and rebels, it also served as a warning to others. Yet, only one crucifixion, one victim and one cross led to the ugliness of crucifixion’s becoming this revered symbol of help and hope. And that was when Jesus of Nazareth—the helper, the healer, the friend—died on an old rugged cross. 

Why should this stake of barbaric execution, with its dark and bloody association with the torture of the worst of criminals, be revered and embraced as a beloved symbol? The cross is forever beautified by the One who hung upon it—the sinless Son of God incarnate who, through His sufferings and death, paid the price of all humanity’s sin and rebellion and resistance to God’s grace. 

Jesus was betrayed by a close associate, abandoned by those of His close circle, rejected by a frenzied crowd, and mocked by bigoted religious leaders who plotted his death, and forsaken by God His Heavenly Father. It was all in the divine plan, predicted centuries beforehand in various scriptures (e.g. as in Psalm 22; 41:9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Zechariah 12:10).

The Cross is offensive to some people, but it’s not so much the symbol, as its message (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-30). Is it offensive to your view of yourself and God? Does the biblical teaching that we humans have so offended God that we need to be redeemed and reconciled to Him, and forgiven and cleansed, offend you? Do you have difficulty accepting the assertion that we can’t do it by our own effort, all by ourselves?

The Cross strikes at our sense of self-sufficiency and self-dependence; knocks the notion that self-improvement is our pathway to our ultimate destiny and eventual delight. 

How wonderful the understanding that, since we’re unable to atone for our own sins (faults, failings, self-willed thoughts and actions, arising from human weakness) which separate us from a ‘right’ relationship with God, He in mercy provided the solution. In Jesus, God paid the debt, making possible our restoration to personal relationship with Him. 

The means was the Cross and the One who gave up His life on it: “. . . God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!” (Romans 5:8-9).  
Let us embrace more than this supreme symbol of help and hope, and in faith embrace the Christ of the Cross who is our help and hope—our Lord and Saviour, Redeemer and Friend. 

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book."  (Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X )
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

With Just the Two of Them/MANN

Have you ever done something just because it seemed right and pleasing to do? This is not to achieve, to earn popular consensus or even to impress. But, just because you have the gift to communicate acceptance and show love. I saw this lived out during a mid afternoon surprise visit to old friends, a while back.

Doug and I had occasion before Christmas to drop in on some folks we hadn't seen for ten years. I went to the door first to see if they were home. After chatting for a few minutes they sent me out to the car to invite Doug to come in to 'have a bite to eat' with 'just the two of them' . I glanced behind her and saw the table formally set. An aroma of turkey filled the air. My taste buds immediately responded and I accepted her invitation.

After their gracious welcome, Doug and I sat down at their table. It was difficult to realize that what met my eyes had been 'just for the two of them'. The tall-stemmed crystal wine glasses sat to the right of warm English bone-china plates. Sterling silver cutlery placed on satin place-mats lay on a white hand-embroidered tablecloth. Linen napkins sat peaked in front of each plate. Wine rested on ice.

A centrepiece of fresh flowers adorned the table. Tall silver candles burned brightly at each end of the table. They brought an already carved duck and placed it on one end of the table and set a platter of turkey at the other end. Our hosts passed mashed potatoes, parsnips and peas followed by shredded cabbage, cranberry sauce and pickles. Freshly baked dinner-rolls peeked from a heated basket under a quilted cover.

Conversation was rich, laughter was contagious and stories continued to remind us of past experiences together. "Do you remember when you came and picked out a kitten from Tiger's litter?" she asked, "and I remember when I suggested you remove those terrible plastic flowers from your flower boxes." (I've never liked plastic flowers since - anywhere.) "And what about all those salmon-on-brown sandwiches you brought to the house," I added. One story led to another. The catch-up time was precious.

I wondered how these two dear people in their 80's would have set the table had they known we were coming? My conclusion? Just the same. They were as important to each other as we were to them. Such is love!

Donna Mann

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Looking forward to spring --Carolyn Wilker

 Today the snow falls again, lazy flakes that blow this way and that on their way to the ground, coating the road once again and covering the rooftops of the houses. From my office window, I see the ceramic birdhouse swinging from the eaves of the workshop, in tune with in the wind.
I ache for spring to arrive, for the snow to melt, for the first plant shoots to emerge from the ground. I’m tired of winter, though a bright sunny day in January or February, with fresh snow on the trees and ground, looks quite lovely.
Even as I write, the wind picks up and blows the snow across the yard before it clears again. If the groundhog really were a determiner of when winter ends, he is surely wrong this year. Perhaps it is that I’m tired of the cold, ready to shed winter boots and heavy coats, ready for warmth, and to put away snow shovels. Besides, the calendar says it’s spring, even if it doesn’t look like spring outdoors here yet.

 I look forward to seeing the first flower stems emerge from the ground and standing with my neighbours outdoors chatting. Except for shovelling snow, going outdoors to start up their cars and going to work, so many of them have stayed in their homes all winter. In spring, the snowbirds return too—those folks who flee to Florida for the winter months.
Solomon wrote, “Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  He understood the reawakening that comes at this time of year, even if he’d never experience cold like our Canadian winter.
Spring has always been my favourite time of year, when creation is so full of promise. It’s entirely appropriate that Easter falls in the early spring. If winter is associated with sorrow, then cannot spring associate itself with rebirth and … spring fever? The kind that gets us out of our homes and in the open more freely, the time when children get out their skipping ropes and ball gloves and enjoy the sunshine on their faces. The time for adults to also feel a new spring in their step, and in tune with nature.
 Spring is coming soon, I just know it, and I’ll be ready.

Carolyn Wilker, author, editor and storyteller


Friday, March 15, 2013

Zeal for Teal Penny Appeal

        Zeal for Teal, an ovarian cancer fundraiser, began in 2009 the year after I was diagnosed with the so-called disease that whispers.  Zeal for Teal was actually the brainchild of my amazingly supportive daughter, Amanda. She wanted to help. She needed to find a way to help give back and support her mama.  So she came up with the idea of holding a special scrapbooking day where we could both fundraise and help educate women about the insidious signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Zeal for Teal Executive 2010
            The idea was a hit right off the starting line. We hosted the first Zeal for Teal in the fellowship hall of our church.  The response was fantastic and we were encouraged to make this an annual event. Over the past four years, our numbers grew so we ended up having to rent the local arena. For the past couple of years we have almost reached capacity.
            As outlined in our Statement of Purpose, the original intention for Zeal for Teal [when chairpersons, Amanda and Glynis started it in 2009] was to first of all – raise awareness and inform participants and others – especially susceptible women, about the signs and symptoms and the importance of detecting ovarian cancer in the early stages. The secondary purpose of Zeal for Teal was/is to raise funds for the Sunflower Seeds team as they participate, annually, in the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope in September.
Zeal for Teal Executive 2011 (The serious side!) 
Zeal for Teal 2012 (As photogenic as ever!) 
            I know there are people out there who are likely fed up of hearing me speak about this insidious disease and how unsuspecting women can succumb without even realizing anything is amiss initially. And I know there are women who have much sadder stories than I do, but when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer and endured the rigours of chemotherapy, I made a pact with God. My friend actually prophesied at that time, that I would go around speaking, writing and helping other women who may one day face the same diagnosis. So because of encouragement from my friend, a promise to God and a brilliant idea of Amanda’s, Zeal for Teal will be celebrating five years on April 27.  We expect women from near and far to gather for another wonderful informative day of hope and encouragement.
            A wonderful blessing and encouragement during this year’s Zeal for Teal planning has been Johanne Robertson, Maranatha News editor, and great friend to many TWGers. She has not only spurred me into action, she had a great, practical idea.
            “How about asking each person to bring their pennies?” Johanne suggested.
            It seemed perfect. Zeal for Teal Penny Appeal. It not only rhymed - it made sense. The government is getting rid of the penny; those of us involved in Zeal for Teal want to do our part to help get rid of ovarian cancer!
            Johanne has rounded up some people and they are getting on board with her great idea. I have already been interviewed by Heidi McLaughlin and some generous folk have contacted me about their penny collection that they would like to donate to our cause. We have jars strategically placed down town Drayton and Zeal for Teal participants are being asked to bring along pennies on the big day.
            How blessed we are. One hundred percent of the Zeal for Teal Penny Appeal goes to the Sunflower Seeds Team for the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope. I am so grateful to Johanne for spearheading this and, like I said in a recent article I wrote for Maranatha News (, “…the turmoil that happened as I journeyed through the valley of cancer changed my life forever, but the people God brought into my life as a result was a blessing beyond compare…”

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, 
for those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A Cheeky Look at the Rules of Writing

When I first started writing I made a lot of mistakes. I still do. My major problems stem from bad habits. For example, when writing dialogue, I tend to use a lot of exclamation marks. I know I shouldn't. I know that I'm going to have to go back through my manuscript and cut them all out. But when a scene is exciting I forget and fall back into my old ways.

I was thoroughly chastised once by a fellow writer, who read an unedited chapter of a novel I was working on. He counted 25 exclamation points - and that was just one chapter. I'm so embarrassed to admit that! Oh my gosh! There I go again! Ack! I can't help myself! I love exclamation points. They allow me to express myself in ways that a period cannot. And that is the problem. If I have to use an exclamation point, I am telling not showing.

Exclamation points, along with several words that I've learned to cull from my vocabulary are, unfortunately, a no-no in the literary world. My writer friend told me that editors will allow four per novel. Now, I don't know if that's true, but I can tell you one thing - there is no way in a blue moon that I am going to be able to limit myself to four exclamation points in a 300 page novel. It's impossible! See? There I go again.

For what it's worth, I no longer have 25 exclamation points in that chapter. I have zero. I'm heartbroken. I'm also wondering why my English teacher never told me that someday I would have to give up these little wonders. I mean seriously, why make them at all if you can't use them? Who decided to cut them out anyway? I may just stage a protest in defence of the lowly exclamation point. But not now, I have to make sure the following words and phrases are not used either:
  • Almost, actually practically, probably, naturally, virtually, undoubtedly, positively, definitely, suddenly, really, absolutely (oh what the heck, get rid of anything with -ly on the end!)
  • As you must know
  • So - Yep, you can't use it. It's like so not appropriate! I'm not even sure why, but this was one of the words listed in a book I have on words to avoid.
  • But - Again - why?
  • Just - Okay, I get this one. This word must be weeded out of the English language.
  • Oh - Really? Oh?
  • Well - Why? I don't know.
  • Little - You can use tiny, minuscule, small, wee, but apparently not little.
  • Tiny - Oops! My mistake, you can't use tiny either.
  • It goes without saying - So there really is no point in saying it.
  • As you can see - If you can see it you don't have to say it.
  • Anyway - Yeah, I don't get that one either. 
  • Then - Try to explain a series of events without it. Go on - I dare ya!
According to some, these are words and phrases that have to be done away with if you are a writer. Some of them are filler words. For example: I just went to the supermarket, is better said - I went to the supermarket. See what I mean? "Just" is not needed. 

I have learned recently that some of these words are being allowed once again. I've also learned that the rules of grammar we studied in school, probably won't apply once you get out of it. These rules seem to change every year. 

For now, go through your manuscript and weed out the above mentioned words and phrases. Some of them may be legal now, but don't worry about that, because once you go through the weeding process you'll have tightened up your manuscript. 

Oh, and one more thing - don't forget to get rid of your exclamation points!

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


This will be my last blog post.

When sifting through my goals for the year and the next ten years, I am having to prioritize what I most want to do with my time. I am primarily a fiction author and I would like to write fiction – something I haven’t been doing at all lately. I also am a part-time college instructor and the owner of a small publishing company. I am working 50-60+ hours per week and need to remove something from my schedule.

When I examine the phenomenon of blogging, I would compare it in the print world to a column. Though I have done many things in my writing career, I have never been inclined towards being a columnist. Even when I was editor of a small newspaper, I would write news and feature articles and some profiles, but I always sought out others for the regular columns. So that is perhaps part of the issue here – why I dread it so much when my turn is coming up to blog – it’s just not where I’m naturally inclined as a writer.

I think there are some excellent bloggers out there. Sheila Wray Gregoire, Tracy Campbell, and Jean Ann Williams come to mind. I have been an active part of The Word Guild blogspot for the past five (or possibly six) years and would love to continue to support it but I know there are many other fine writers out there who will continue on.

So farewell and thanks for all who have read my posts in the past. Thanks especially to Peter Black who regularly comments on all of our posts. It’s great to know that someone is out there!

Dorene Meyer

Author of Jessie's Secret launching on March 28 at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, MB

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Learning through Vulnerablility

Perhaps there are some people who love to see themselves in pictures or in video, but I’m not one of them. I guess others are used to seeing me as I am, but I still harbor high hopes that I look different than I do.  Seeing myself as I am on a big screen--how I look, how I talk, my facial expressions, breaks through those cherished delusions!

In a series of worship workshops I that I led, we came to Effective Scripture Reading. I suggested that the scripture passage be copied and printed from the internet in a size that is easy to read, then to make indentations in the lines so it’s easy to keep track of where you are after you look up at the audience for that important eye-contact.

After demonstrating how to mark the chosen scripture passage with underlines and bold print for emphasis, and then adding gentle reminders such as smile or speak tenderly, for expression, I invited each person to mark their own copies in readiness to read. 

When I told the gathered group that we had the capability to video-tape each person as they read their prepared passage, there were a few groans, but my heart was warmed and I was encouraged that everyone there was brave enough to take part. They were willing to be vulnerable in order to learn.

That takes some vulnerability!  In fact, the willing response encouraged me so much that after everyone else had done it, I said I would also take my turn.  I’ve done a lot of worship leading and reading of scripture, but I had never done it in front of a video camera.  That experiment revealed to each of us where we had done well and where we could improve. 

·       We could see what a difference it made when the reader looked up as often as possible.

·       We also realized the benefit familiarity with the scripture would be in order to do that. 

·       We understood that each word needs to be plainly spoken--not just the ones being emphasized. 

·       Some readers vividly confirmed what a change it makes in the understanding and reception of the passage when the readers demonstrated the feeling behind the words—and we knew the reader had taken time to enter emotionally into the incident being portrayed.  That too, takes vulnerability in order to learn and to help others learn.

Eugene Peterson says, that  "Printer’s ink" can become "embalming fluid" if it’s read flat off the page.
Anyone who has attended church over the years has, I’m sure, been exposed to a lot of embalming fluid.  Scripture reading time is the place in the service that it’s easy to tune out, take a nap or read bulletins. You think you’ve heard this all before.

Years ago while attending a workshop on Scripture reading, our instructor sat on a chair, put his feet up on another, crossed his arms and with a terribly bored look on his face intoned in a “churchy” voice, “Fire…fire.”  We all laughed, but no one left the room.  He did this to emphasize that how we say something—our tone, our body language and expression,  makes it believable or unbelievable.
Ever since, when asked to read scripture, I take it as a challenge to keep my listeners awake and hearing it as for the first time.  That too, takes time, prayer and vulnerability, but is rewarding when you look up and see people almost leaning forward—you know the reading has full attention of the audience.  When comments are later made about the scripture coming alive for people, the vulnerability is well worthwhile.

As writers, wouldn’t we be pleased to have people read our stories with  the same emotion with which we wrote it?  If God preserved the words of the Bible for all these years, for our benefit, I think we should do all we can to get his message across with the same love that he displayed in  making such a big sacrifice just so we could walk with him in intimate communion.

So it may not be such a big sacrifice to make ourselves vulnerable enough to learn.  After all, it isn’t how we look that is important—it’s how well we present the message.

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