Friday, June 28, 2013

Removing Fences in Writing/MANN

Recently, I parked the car in a side lot of a small rural church, facing a cemetery. Over the years, I had stood there as family or friend to say goodbye to a loved one. I had also stood as pastor offering words of condolences and Jesus’ words of eternal life. However, I hadn't been here in several years and noticed that even parked where I was, I felt a part of the total property.
There was something special about the cemetery today, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was. I wondered if it was because the trees surrounding the property were in full leaf, forming a canopy over the grounds, or maybe my eyes noticed the white, red and other flowers perhaps left from a recent funeral. The tombstones stood symmetrically like guardians watching over their loved ones, speaking volumes of heritage and tradition.
I continued to wonder. Suddenly, I realized why everything stood out clearly, colourful and welcoming: someone had removed the front fence. Maybe it hadn't been there for years, but I noticed it—today. A large open fenced acreage to my right looked inviting.
It was this last realization that caused me to reflect on previous writing I have done over the years. Some time ago, I wrote a blog that encouraged writers to bring out those old pieces of work and look at them with a new perspective—in other words, remove the fences, the expectations and the verdict we might have given them. I had stated that life experiences and new perspectives gave a clearer vision of the purpose of previous work.
When I do this, I am always pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Why would I have written this story with such a limited audience in mind?” Even as I read these pieces, I add snippets in the margins of new insight I've gained since the last write. Occasionally I stroke out complete sentences or paragraph, admitting that my theology or perspective of Godly opportunities and guidance has changed from the time I initially wrote the work.
Is this refreshing? Indeed it is. By removing some fences, I add a completely new perspective to the work. In this way, writing can become more welcoming to the stranger who might find us by surfing the Internet, to a visitor who stumbles upon our blog or even to a regular supporter who always feels included in whatever we write. Removing fences doesn't mean we compromise individual beliefs or personal convictions—it might just mean that colours are distinguishable, parameters are clear, and we are able to define what is important to us in a way that creates a large circle of readers.
I liken this in some ways to church lawn signs, “Everyone is Welcome.” I’m never sure if that actually means everybody, or if it means, ‘if you’re like the rest of us.” Therein offers my writing challenge.
Aggie’s Voice: The Stratford Years is the third YA novel in the Agnes Macphail trilogy, coming early fall 2013 (Brucedale Press)
A Rare Find: Ethel Bullymore—Legend of an Epic Canadian Midwife, coming October 15, 2013 (Castle Books Books Canada). 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Solstice---Carolyn R. Wilker

Summer Solstice for the Cambridge Toastmasters, of Cambridge, Ontario, is traditionally an outdoor meeting in a park with an author. This June, I was that invited writer with my book, Once Upon Sandbox. The last time I was their guest, the anthology, Wisdom of Old Souls, had recently been published.
I arrived to find a small group of parents with their children playing at the splash pad—a relatively new addition to the park—and members setting up for the outdoor meeting in the band shell. 
We were ready for the mosquitoes, but I suspect not for quite so much action around us—parents talking, children splashing and playing, and a lawnmower running nearby. Also, the usual traffic of trucks, motorcycles and cars on the main street. More sound apparently than is usual. Perhaps the light breeze kept mosquitoes at bay, though it flipped the club banner a few times and sent it to a crumpled  heap on the platform where we were sitting.

 A young boy of 4 or 5 years of age ran up the ramp a number of times, curious about what we were doing. Each time an adult scooped him up and took him back to play. One of the members said, “ Bring him back when he’s about 10 years older.” He corrected himself among us, “Maybe 12 years older,” for membership starts at 18 years of age for those who are interested.

Toastmasters, challenged to make themselves heard, carried on with their meeting, without a microphone, including a lively table topics session on vehicle of choice, a given amount of money and a summer vacation. There was an award presentation to the current president of the club and his challenge was to give an acceptance speech off the cuff. An educational session on impromptu speaking  was delivered by the member who had been sitting next to me in the circle.

In time the lawnmower was done with his task, the children went home with their parents, and the traffic seemed a little lighter. Now I was sure I could be heard. At least I hoped so.

My reading “What a Car!” seemed appropriate to this group and place, the beginning of summer when people often go for a drive. During my time at the lectern, when I read about buying my first new car, only a few loud motors sounded on the main street. For that I was grateful.

Evaluations completed, the chairperson thanked everyone for coming, including me as their guest. He said, with a grin, just before closing the meeting, ``Carolyn still has a few payments left on that car and those who want to buy a book are to see her."

The meeting was adjourned, and indeed I sold several books, including to our affable chairperson, Dave. Members planned where they'd meet afterwards—at a local pub for refreshments—as  the chair put it to me in an earlier email, "for a wee dram."

They betook themselves to their location and I drove home reflecting on the two years of promotion of this book and all the experiences and fun I`ve had in the process, at my own club, other Toastmaster clubs, and with other organizations. It was a privilege to join this group n their meeting, and I`m so glad that I went to Toastmasters long before this promotion process began. It's made the process so much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Medical Benefits of Prayer -HIRD

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird  

Many of us put prayer in one category, and medicine in a totally separate category.  What if they could work together to help people become healthier?  There are a few misguided people who have suggested that we should only rely on prayer, and not go to medical doctors.  They forget that two of the books of the Bible were written by a medical doctor, St. Luke the Physician.  Luke included many specific medical terms in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  Other people think that with advances in medical science that prayer is no longer relevant.  Both attitudes are short-sighted.  When we are battling serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, we need all the resources working together for our healing.

                Many churches regularly pray for those who are sick.  At St. Simon’s NV, we often give thanks for answered prayer, particularly in the area of healing in body, mind or spirit.  Healing prayer is mysterious in its effect.  In recent years, there have been a number of studies on the effects of healing prayer.  Dr. Candy Brown wrote a ground-breaking book entitled “Testing Prayer” which gave preliminary indications that there is a measurable impact in healing prayer.  Her research involved the ethnographic approaches of participant-observation, written surveys and oral interviews, clinical measurements and statistical tests, and narrative analysis and archival research.  Dr. Brown’s team of researchers used audiometers and vision charts to test hearing and vision before and after times of healing prayer.  Many but not all participants in healing prayer showed significant improved function in the post-prayer diagnostic tests.  Dr. Brown suggested that the empirically observable effect deserves more research and followup, involving larger-scale more-refined clinical trials of the effects of healing prayer.

               Science cannot prove why healing prayer works, but it can measure its effects in helpful ways.  The founder of Christianity, Jesus, was consistently involved in teaching, preaching and healing the sick.  His early followers regularly participated in healing prayer.  For over two thousand years, healing prayers have been offered up for those in need.  It is encouraging that careful research is being done, indicating that healing prayer makes an empirical difference.  My expectation over the next number of years is that many more scientific tests will be done, that will teach us a lot more about the empirical nature of healing prayer.

                Through decades of healing prayer, I have seen many people transformed in body, mind or spirit.  My prayer for those reading this article is that many of us will see similar breakthroughs in our areas of need.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church, North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article for the July 2013 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 e-mail . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New at The Best Schools - an education blog - Denyse O’Leary

Enjoy!  The best advice you will ever hear about how to be a good writer

Sales of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four soaring

Religious schools facing chillier climes in U.S.?

 Students, relax: Abe Lincoln was considered an idiot in his day

 Did you ever wonder where the term “wave of the future” originated?

 What goes wrong when you don’t study geography

 Avoiding student debt: Author offers sensible strategies

Nursing pays best as college degree?

Want a career in social work? Learn about and avoid pathological altruism

 Should our concept of intelligence be mechanical and less human-based?

 Is university just glorified technical training now?

Friday, June 21, 2013


by Linda Hall

I’m pretty much known in my local group of writers as the podcast queen or the podcast groupie. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I plug myself into my iPhone when I’m walking, working out at the gym, baking or cooking, or at night when I’m lying there and can’t sleep. (I used to lie there and just lie there and just lie there - some of you know the drill?) 

I listen to some news and politics podcasts, a few on health, a few more which review movies, a devotional one - and a whole lot on writing and stories.

Because I didn’t attend Write Canada this year - and for that I sadly cannot come with memories and things I learned - I thought I would share here a few of my favorite writing podcasts. 

One of the earliest podcasts I tuned into - even before I had an iPod and merely listened on my computer while I did busy work - is Writers on Writing out of California with Barbara DeMarco Barrett. When I first started listening it was affiliated with U of C in Irvine, but I think through the years it has morphed into a podcast on its own. Barbara interviews literary agents and authors and is aways very interesting. Her interviews are more on the literary side, but I have ‘met’ some fascinating authors and learned a whole lot from the agents and editors she has interviewed.

Another I really enjoy is The Creative Penn  with Joanna Penn. All about indie publishing and marketing, she is on the other end of the spectrum from Barbara. I have learned a lot about genre writing from her. Plus, she is spunky and fun and you’ll love her Aussie accent. 

The Narrative Breakdown is great fun to listen to. The two hosts dissect movies and books as they talk about craft. Recent episodes have been about craft, revision techniques, subtext, irony and point of view. 

And it goes without saying that CBC’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers is always at the top of my list. You also might enjoy Writers and Company there, as well, and Canada Reads. 

I also listen to stories. Every month The New Yorker,  Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and Ellery Queens Magazine present one of their stories in audible form as a podcast. I’m first in line for those each month. I also enjoy the short, short stories at Bound Off  Plus, did you know all of the Dave and Morley stories are available as podcasts? They are faves of Rik and me as we travel. (And if you don’t know who Dave and Morley are I will ask you to turn in your Canadian membership card immediately!)

I also listen to the short stories at Selected Shorts.  The beauty of these is that they are read by well known actors, so it’s more like listening to a professional audio book. 

A brand new one I've just discovered is Kindle Love Stories, sponsored by Amazon to showcase some of their new writers.

There may be more. I am only scratching the surface. If any of you have favorite podcasts, can you share them here? I'd love to add them to my Playlist!

I’ve given you the web addresses of the various podcasts, but they are all on iTunes, and you can more easily subscribe to them there - just follow the directions for your particular device, whether it be iPhone, android, Blackberry etc, or just a plain old computer. And most of all they are free.

Happy listening.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cleaning Up


by Glynis M. Belec

     The day started magnificently as brilliant rays of sunshine penetrated the living room window, hinting at the necessity to clean soon. I smiled and put the task on my mental to-do list. The sunshine was a lovely reprieve after the rains and the chilly temperatures. All seemed well.

    Still shimmering from last week’s Write! Canada Conference, my motivation was high and I was keen to get marketing my new book; I had blogs to write, articles to complete and my regular column to attend to.

      Last evening as I flitted from Facebook to email; from blogs to my idea file [as my brain is wont to do] I noticed a random toolbar that had somehow attached itself to my Google homepage. I cannot stand clutter in my techno space unless it is intentional clutter, and I hadn't a clue how it had attached itself – supposedly uninvited. I wanted to eliminate it.

     Long story short, it seems some things are harder to get rid of than others. Sometimes I can be creating a lengthy Facebook post or a thoughtful response to another ‘friend’s’ post, and for no obvious reason other than my sausage fingers, it disappears in a wink without warning.

     But the doggone toolbar, which I didn’t even invite on board, was not going anywhere. I tried everything. I searched high and low in the add and install programs part numerous times. I finally came across something that looked suspect, so in my impatience to zap the annoying toolbar into cyberspace, I clicked on uninstall. When it opened I panicked for a split second thinking I might be messing where I shouldn't. I pressed cancel and then basically gave up, resigning myself to thinking that I would ask someone later who might be more in the know. It was bedtime anyway.

     Next day when I went to my office and pressed the power button, I never gave things a second thought. I didn't even remember the annoying hitch-hiker toolbar that gave me so much grief the night before. I watched my computer boot. As I tried to get into my email program and then Word and then Google and then Facebook and then - PANIC! Error messages slapped me in the face. I finally got Google opened in a roundabout way and there it was - that wretched toolbar gawking and guffawing in a technological sort of way as my body stiffened. I didn't know what to do but all sorts of odd thoughts pushed me over the edge of appropriate behaviour. I am usually a positive thinker but when it comes to my writing and my computer, I go into hyperventilate mode. My writing life was crumbling in front of me and I convinced myself that all my files and emails were gone.

 I finally gathered my wits and started to plan. I decided it was time to implement the rule of three that I usually do when in computer panic:

1. Ask God if it is okay [odd, weird, selfish] to pray for my computer and then do it.
2. Call Gilles and go through a tirade of 'what ifs' and how my writing life is over because everything I need is on my laptop
3. Call Ben. Ben is the sweetest, nicest, most patient technological master ever

     I am sure when Ben hears my voice, he rolls his eyes. I am almost positive when I call he sits down because he knows there is going to be a long, dramatic song and dance as I try to explain what happened.

     So this afternoon I will entrust my laptop baby to Ben, who said he will more than likely recover much if not everything [Does he know I had 7,000+ emails?] He told me not to panic; he said it was highly unlikely that I lost everything. He's a nice fellow, that Ben guy. His calming ways is a nice balance to my Tigger type personality.

     Meanwhile my techno life continues on my desk top and Blackberry. But all the important stuff is on my laptop. What if...

     Maybe this is just God's way of telling me to cull the ridiculous amount of emails and stop the information overload that happens on my laptop. It's good to find a lesson in every experience - right? But what if my files are really lost? What if all my emails have been blasted into never-never cyberland? What if...

Okay that's it. Where's the Windex? I'm gonna go clean some windows!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You Know It's A Good Conference When... den Boer

Every session you attend teaches you something you didn't know before.

You like all the food.

You make new friends.

You reconnect with old friends.

You buy books.

You buy more books.

The books you buy are tax deductible.

You sell books.

You sell your own books.

You enjoy your volunteer position so much you have to be told to tone down.

You meet editors who might want to work with you.

You come out of your faculty appointment with hope in your heart.

You read from your WIP at an Early Bird session and people laugh at the right places.

One of the keynote speakers is the twin of a friend back home.

You realize your WIP needs a ton of work and you're not even upset.

You come home and supper is on the table and the house is cleaner than when you left.

That was a good conference.

Thank you Write! Canada.

Marian den Boer is the author of Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress. You can follow her current WIP, Minnie Goes to Heaven, on her blog

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Faith Dancing -- Gibson

“It’s time to get your faith dancing,” croons gospel singer Sandi Patty.

I’m sure she means the good days, when you live up to what you say you believe, and know you’d die for the same. When you sit slow at Jesus’ feet, and stand up fast for what you know is right. When you stay silent in the face of accusers, and speak up in the face of wrong. When you love the things God loves. Hate the things he hates. When you wake, stirred up to serve and fall into bed at night, thinking, “God and I were SO GOOD today.”

On those days, the music of life rings sweet, and the dance of faith feels graceful.

I’ve had some days like that. One, at least. I think I marked it on the calendar. I’ve had plenty more when it seems I can barely take a single step without messing up. When my walk of faith feels less like a dance than a series of bumbling missteps in all directions. Like trying to perform ballet while wearing clogs.

Then I have a father memory, and I remember what to do...

Years ago, I tried to show my visiting elderly dad a polka step I was learning for the musical production, Oklahoma.  I’d taken only a few steps when Dad grinned and cleared his throat. “That’s not the polka,” he said. His feet tapped the floor in front of his chair, demonstrating steps they hadn’t taken in a half-century, not since his youth. He was the most sought-after dancer on the barn dance circuit before his love for dancing out his faith overshadowed his passion for dancing a fine reel.

“You put this foot here, and that foot there, and your rhythm is all wrong—ya’ don’t do it so fast.”

I started over. A one, two, three…and a  one, two…trip.

He chuckled and shook his head. “Nope. Still wrong.”

I tried again. Tripped over my feet again. Messed up the rhythm. He laughed harder.

“Daddy,” I said, frustrated. “Just get up and show me!”

He grinned a boyish grin, as though he’d been waiting for me to ask. Then he stood up, took me in his arms and led me. As I leaned into him, I began to catch the rhythm. The pattern began making sense. And in my father’s arms, the steps came not perfectly, but at least more naturally.

The dance of faith is best done like that. In our Heavenly Father’s embrace, moving to the Holy Spirit’s rhythm and following the steps of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean the dance doesn’t get messy; that toes won’t get stomped on and steps missed. Or that you won’t fall.

None of that means failure. Failure is refusing to get up, to listen for the music of the Spirit, to start again.

How goes your dance? Get up. Start over. Father God is longing for an invitation to lead.

Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in her books, columns, broadcasts, and articles.

The lady still can't polka.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Trouble With Cussing Christians - Arends

Here is my most recent Christianity Today column. It has engendered by far the strongest viral reaction of any of my columns--repsonses both strongly for and against. I'm tempted to introduce it with dozens of caveats, clarifications and "other-hands," but I best just let it speak for itself, at least to begin. I'd love to have a conversation about it, though. Let me know what you think.

The Trouble with Cussing Christians

Do Christians have a unique call to avoid strong language?
Carolyn Arends [ posted 4/15/2013 ]
The Trouble with Cussing Christians
Recently, rushing late to my son's orthodontic appointment, I missed a critical left turn. Much to my surprise, I exhaled a "bad" word by our family's standards. (Please understand, dental receptionists don't suffer tardiness lightly, and my punctuality track record isn't strong.)

"Mom!" exclaimed my children.

"What?" I stammered, feigning innocence, and adding the sin of deception to strong language.

Apparently my mother was right all along. One sin leads to another. And we shouldn't use bad words.

Except … it's cool these days to be a Christian who swears. It gives the curser an "I'm into Jesus, but I'm not legalistic" badge. A recent tweet about a behavioral study that linked swearing and honesty went viral among my church friends (although no one could produce a link to the actual study). Many of these friends point to the arbitrariness of the cuss-word system.

"What if table was a swear word?" asked my daughter. "Or elbow?"

She has a point. There is something absurd about the designation of particular words as profane. And yet, neither table nor elbow is in the curse category, and the majority of swear words have earned their designation according to a certain logic. Other than words associated with deity, most profanity involves associations with biological function in the areas of sexuality and waste elimination. The God-related curses are right off the table, if one takes the third commandment seriously at all. But what is a Christian to do with the remaining "strong language"?

All language is a kind of social contract. We agree—as heirs of centuries of etymological development—to call the pointy thing in our arm an elbow, just like we agree to label things we find despicable with words we identify as profane. The words themselves hold only the power we give them. But curse words tend to be powerful indeed, because to linguistically reduce something or someone to the level of biological functions (and their resultant products) is almost always an act of contempt. And contempt is toxic.

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the work of psychologist John Gottman. In Gottman's lab, spouses were asked to discuss something mildly contentious while sensors recorded their physiological responses. After years of studying the nuances of these exchanges, Gottman became startlingly successful at predicting which couples would divorce. The most telling indicators, he claims, are expressions of contempt. An eye roll or a mildly disdainful put-down was more worrisome than outright conflict. In fact, the presence of contempt in a marriage affects not only the survival of the relationship, but even the immune systems of the parties involved; spouses who live with chronic contempt get more colds than those who don't.

Contempt is a mixture of anger and disgust, expressed from a position of superiority. It denigrates, devalues, and dismisses. It's not hard to understand why even subtle levels of contempt are damaging—not only in marriages but in all human interaction.

If profane language has a privileged place in the lexicon of contempt, then Christians have a unique mandate to avoid profanity. It's not that abstaining from pejorative language outfits us with some holier-than-thou halo. It's that we are called to live with a servant's heart, affirming the dignity of every human and the sacredness of existence.

Theologian John Stackhouse points out that our primary vocation as Christ followers is not to "stay pure," but rather to cultivate shalom. From Isaiah's picture of a wolf living peacefully with a lamb (11:6), to Paul's description of a new reality that obliterates racial, socioeconomic, and gender-based power structures (Gal. 3:28), the biblical vision of shalom dissolves any notion of hierarchy. All of creation joyfully submits to the beautiful rule of its Creator. There's no room for one creature to hold another creature (or creation itself) in contempt; God alone occupies a superior plane.

Of course, it's possible to religiously avoid disdainful language while being seized with contemptuous thoughts. But, as the Book of James reminds us, our tongues are like rudders to the ships of our thought lives. Taming our language, in other words, is a good place to start.

And so I am trying to avoid language that expresses contempt towards people, situations, and yes, even traffic lights that dare to defy my will. Such an endeavor goes beyond comedian George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television"—even the most innocuous words, if uttered from a contemptuous heart, can mutate into curses. Conversely, certain evils can indeed be worthy of contempt and there are times when "adult language" is appropriate. But in every case, our words should reflect our calling to participate in hallowing, rather than profaning, the world. If it's truly strong language that we're after—language with power and impact—what could be stronger than the language we use to cultivate shalom?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do You Have an Accountability Partner? - Laura J. Davis

Everyone is accountable to someone - your boss, your spouse, your bank,  your weight-loss coach! The word accountable according to Dictionary.Com means, "subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable."

As a writer, it is very important that you have a group of people, or a good friend that you can be accountable to. I have a wonderful friend who encourages me when I want to give up. She is also my sounding board when I am frustrated. She deserves to be paid, for putting up with me and I'm lucky to have her in my life. She also prays for me and I can feel her prayers (especially when inspiration takes over!).

If I need to meet a deadline, all she has to say is, "How is the writing going?" and if I hem and haw, she knows I'm having problems. That's when she becomes someone I can bounce my ideas off of, to see if they are plausible. She is also not afraid to critique my writing. Not criticize - but critique. There is a difference. One is helpful and encouraging, the other is discouraging and serves no purpose.

A good accountability partner will:
  1. Encourage you
  2. Pray for you
  3. Listen to you
  4. Be aware of your deadlines and gently remind you when they are due
  5. Make sure that you get out of the house (writers are notorious loners, so it's good to step away from your computer once in a while and have some fun!)
  6. Basically, she/he will be a wonderful friend that you will have for life
Now, just in case you think this is a one-sided relationship where you as the writer get pampered by your best friend and she/he gets squat - think again!

A good writer will:

  1. Encourage their accountability partner (aka - best friend!)
  2. Pray for them
  3. Listen to them
  4. Be aware of what is going on in their lives and offer support when needed
  5. Take them out for coffee
  6. And above all enjoy their friendship!
Of course as a Christian writer, my accountability to God always comes first. If I'm not writing to glorify Him then I'm doing it for all the wrong reasons. That is another good reason to have an accountability partner. To make sure that what you are writing stays true to what you believe.

So how about you? Do you have someone who gets you through that next chapter? 

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Love in Many Colours by Ruth Smith Meyer

Love blooms in many places, times and ages. Saturday we attended our third wedding in four weeks. None of these weddings were what is most apt to come to mind when you first think of such an occasion.  You know—a young couple discovering the one with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives, inexperienced but blissfully happy and looking forward to a life of happily-ever-after, the wedding day a culmination of careful planning and nervous anticipation.  Love, new young love is exciting for what it is and what it can become.

The couple at our first wedding the beginning of May, had known each other since grade school and had off and on crushes on each other.  Sound typical?  No not quite, for they both married others and have gone through the agony of break-down, feelings of entrapment and failure and final severance of those first vows.  It’s not what any of us would long for, but it happens.  Then they found each other again, still reeling from the difficult times they have faced.  They are older and perhaps wiser.  The happiness on their faces reflected their love. Love has risen from the ashes and bloomed again.

The second wedding was between two forty-somethings who never found the right one before they discovered each other. Although they are inexperienced in marital relationships, their lives so far have been full—they have experienced varied slices of life and service, growth and maturation in many other ways. They’re comfortable in their skin.  The light and joy on their faces too, spoke of their happiness in this new love they have discovered in each other.  Love, long-awaited has finally burst into bloom.

Saturday was different again.  This time it was two seniors who had loving partners for many years and grieved to see their spouses slip away and to leave them widowed. They have struggled to find who they were as single people.  After a life time of sharing everything, their meals eaten alone, the places they wanted to or needed to go feeling so different with no one to share, the end of the days coming with no one to talk over what happened and to sound out new ideas they uncovered, no one to really need them.  Then they discovered each other. Even though the groom needed a little help in walking the aisle, he was almost giddy with joy and excitement.  The bride’s face shone with love and care. Love has bloomed again like fall asters surrounded by autumn leaves fallen to the ground, we could see real magnificence and a deep hue of beauty reserved for those with such a level of maturity and stability.

It’s something God has built into us—the longing to share our lives intimately with someone else. It’s beautiful when the connection is made and grows into that kind of love.  We rejoice when two people discover a deep love and commit themselves to each other.  But it doesn’t always happen. 

There are many women and a few men in my circle of friends who have my admiration.  Those are the ones who have dreamt of having that special someone and for love to bloom in their lives but it hasn’t happened (at least yet.)  However they have found ways to be happy, to serve and be special friends and encouragers to others in their lives.   They are happy and living useful lives, spreading their own brand of happiness.  It may not be romantic love, but love blooms there too.

Love in any life is important.  There are so many aspects to love and ways to experience love.  Perhaps the best way to finish this reflection is part of a rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 read at the most recent wedding:

We know only a portion of the truth,

       what we say and know about God (or love)

                  is always incomplete.

But when the Complete arrives,

our incompletes will be canceled.

We shall know fully,

                                    even as we are fully known,

(and isn’t that part of our longing for love?)

We don’t yet see things clearly.

      We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

But it won’t be long before the weather clears

      and the sun shines bright!

We’ll see it all then,

see it all as clearly as God sees us,

                                    knowing him directly just as he knows us!

  But for right now,

until that completeness arrives,

we have three things to do

            to lead us toward that consummation:


Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

 And the best of the three is Love.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Near to God's Heart by Rose McCormick Brandon

Last Sunday morning I awoke in the hospital. I'd had surgery a few days earlier and my mind was foggy from medication that didn't mask the pain. I managed to get myself ready for my going-home day then I eased my wounded body into a chair.

I'd been weepy for a couple of days. Life-changes, good or bad, often render me teary - not sure why - I accept this as part of my make-up and no longer try to fight against it.

Truth - I enjoy a good cry. It cleanses my soul and forces me in weakness to draw closer to my heavenly Father. As I sat in the chair, the sun, which hadn't been seen for days, shone through the window beside me.

Then, a hymn rose in my heart -
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God
A place where sin can not molest, near to the heart of God
O Jesus blessed Redeemer sent from the heart of God
Hold us who wait before You, near to the heart of God.

I hummed along, sensing harmony with the ball of fire lighting up the room. The same hands that formed the sun holds my life. As a mother snuggles a baby close to her breast, our marvellous God draws us to a place close to his heart.

Do you feel weak? Far from God? Let the words of this old hymn remind you that you too have a place where you are nestled in His arms, close to His heart. This special place is always available no matter how old, or how weak you become or how far away you may  sometimes feel from Him.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
Rest your whole being in Jesus today.
(My book, One Good Word Makes all the Difference is available here.)

Friday, June 07, 2013

Eyes-Down Danger . . . Raised Gaze --- (Peter A. Black)

He was probably 12 or 13, and swept right off the sidewalk from an intersecting street.  
I saw him in the nick of time and took evasive steering and braking action, averting a collision between my car and his body and bike. The kid carried on his sweet way with his mobile music device buds in his ears, as though nothing had happened. The sidewalks and roads were all his.

The adrenalin rush hadn’t quite settled down before a youngster on a skate board flipped it on the sidewalk and stumbled onto the road.

An automobile takes a corner ungainly and wide. The driver, steering with one hand, holds a phone at the ear.  Another driver’s eyes are down, peering at a smart phone screen, thumb flicking out a text message.
You’ve seen them—skaters ghosting along on roller blades, youths careening down the road on skateboards, longboards and bikes, staring blankly ahead, preoccupied with whatever’s coming through their mobile sound system ear buds.  And I suspect some joggers too, get lost in a world of intimate sound. 

Several weeks ago I witnessed a car come crashing down on its roof after slamming into a stationary vehicle, in broad daylight. The driver’s life was spared, but she was charged with careless driving. It’s believed that the woman had been texting or otherwise using a mobile phone, while accelerating after leaving an intersection.  That’s eyes down danger!
Little babies and toddlers with "eyes-down moms" can be put in very real danger. Have you seen this sort of scenario?: A mom’s conversing or dialing on her mobile phone—or worse, texting—while pushing a baby stroller. She arrives at the kerb, but is preoccupied with twiddling her thumbs over the touchpad, and her eyes are down. Her attention’s not on the child or the traffic conditions. She dips the buggy onto the road and saunters out.
At that moment a driver swerves to avoid hitting them. Next, a vehicle comes round a corner and barely misses the baby buggy bearing its precious cargo. The mom jabbers away, crossing towards the other side, pushing her infant’s carriage ahead of her, oblivious to the fact she’s placing the child in danger. Her baby is first on the road and in the primary position of danger.
Of course, operating a mobile phone and texting can be done safely. Unfortunately, many people use this useful tool in unwise and inappropriate ways.

We can go about our lives with our spiritual eyes down. Putting much of our focus on the trivial and minutiae of life, we can become unaware of either the blessings around us or the potentially harmful situations we may stumble into.
Let us raise our gaze from the incidental to the transcendent, as we make our way through life. This can help us avoid unnecessary danger, while enjoying life and appreciating and sharing its blessings.

Isn’t that also a necessary approach in regard to developing and maintaining healthy relationships, and nurturing our spiritual and moral life—to focus on where we’re headed and yet be aware while on the journey?
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT).


Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing).
  (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.



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