|Speaking to Rotary Club in November|
Friday, November 29, 2013
Children speak naturally enough when they’re small. They find out that their words cause pleasure and joy, and even laughter. They, too, may be silent when a parent asks them to perform in front of family or friends.
I’ve decided that when the world becomes a stage, humans either jump into it or shy away from it, and I wonder whether Shakespeare was more comfortable writing his plays than performing them.
Standing in front of my peers and speaking was never easy. In school we were expected to present a speech or book report with virtually no guidance on presentation other than to practise at home.
Even before that, I have a memory of a Christmas program at our one-room schoolhouse when I was in Grade One. We had practised our lines and songs for days and we knew them well and were excited when the day finally arrived. A large stage was set up at the front of the classroom, and parents, grandparents and others would fill the chairs in the audience that evening. Near the end of the program, when the entire student body was on stage singing, I ran to the edge of the stage, to my mother, after my nose began to bleed. Mom must have learned to sit near the front, because it happened more than once.
By Grade 5 I was doing better, and my classroom speech was deemed worthy of entry into the county level competition. My mother held the copy of my speech that evening as she sat in the audience. I was allowed a prompt if I needed one. I looked out at the dark quiet audience, then straight over people’s heads at the clock at the back of the room as I had been instructed. At one point, I forgot the next words, froze, and only resumed when my mother prompted me. I finished the speech and walked off stage.
I didn’t go on to the next level. There may have been some measure of relief and perhaps some disappointment, for I knew my speech well, but it would be years later before I answered a question easily in class.
According to Wikipedia, glossophobia, or speech anxiety, is the fear of public speaking, or of speaking in general. Public speaking sits at the top of the list of fears, according to Mandel Communications, higher than financial problems and even higher than the fear of death, leading Jay Leno to joke, “I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”
The Wikipedia article also notes that an “estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety when public speaking.” The article lists Toastmasters International and other speakers’ organizations under help and relief.
I joined Toastmasters in 2004 and am glad that I did. The experience has been incredibly helpful in overcoming that fear. Many speakers I know who are Christian ask for prayer before going on stage; I suggest a combination of speaker training and prayer. The training can add an extra level of poise and professionalism, and the prayer will certainly help with courage and knowing that others are supporting you as you give your message. A speaking coach in our networking group had a line on his business card: Get the “um” out. The “ums” are just one of the possible distractions for an audience.
Incidentally, one Toastmasters meeting was not enough; continuous practice in a safe environment has helped me gain confidence in myself and my message. Professional coaching has provided additional benefits.
When my first book was published in 2011, I enjoyed the promotional events— the reading, speaking, and conversation at book signings. Do the nerves ever go away? Not necessarily. We just get better at channelling them.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
[Recently, I began a series on the ways in which questions in science are shaped in order to produce an atheist mindset … even when it isn’t even reasonable. I have linked the series to date below, but start with a short excerpt:]
For him, as for its inventors, it had a deep philosophical appeal -- the universe existed, from everlasting to everlasting, in a uniquely self-consistent state. When conflicting evidence emerged, Sciama therefore sought a loophole (even an unlikely seeming one) rather as a defense lawyer clutches at any argument to rebut the prosecution case.
Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train
Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.
“Behold, countless Earths sail the galaxies ... that is, if you would only believe ...”
Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
But surely we can’t conjure an entire advanced civilization?
How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?
Monday, November 25, 2013
So my next writing project is high on the 'better stop procrastinating and get done' list. I've missed the Christmas deadline so now I'm thinking [hoping, praying...] for Mother's Day! I'm especially praying that God will use this women's devotional to minister to lots of ladies (and maybe even a few fella's)
Here is a little sampling:
HELP…I NEED A NEW FIG LEAF!
“Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh…” Encouraging stories for the descendants of Eve.
When God created woman he obviously had a plan. Adam, tired of his one-way conversations with the beasts and birds, gladly offered a rib in exchange for his helpmate, Eve (Genesis 2:18-23).
So what did Adam and Eve do? They blew it. Eve listened to some two-bit, conniving creature. In an attempt to provide a little variety to their bland, vegetarian diet and to perhaps expand her gray matter a tad, Eve became one of the founding members of life, as we know it today.
We could have had it easy; walking around Eden, not worrying about what to wear, eat or drink; never lifting a finger to sew, clean, cook or chase after cheeky children (they, too, would have been perfect); strolling past luscious greenery chatting to the Creator; what a paradise it could have been.
Instead, after the fall, out came the needle and thread and the fig leaves. Tools had to be fashioned because no longer were the perfect couple allowed to live off the land in Eden. Squatter’s rights were relinquished.
When God banished the disobedient pair, he gave them instructions to start the process of begetting. Years passed. Before long, the earth was filled. Although Adam and Eve made a poor choice, God still loved and cared for them. What a gracious God we serve.
It was 1986. The time was ripe and I was ready. Through an incredible, personal experience prompted by utter despair, I fell on my knees and became an organ donor - I gave my heart to Jesus.
Although my problems remained, my grumpy old ‘woe is me’ attitude altered and I started to count blessings instead of burdens. For a while, though, I moaned about all the wasted years that I could have been serving the Lord until I saw that I was wasting more time moaning about how I had wasted so much time.
Finally, I got it. It was then I saw Adam and Eve’s goof-up as a challenge; I determined to do better.
When I look back on my own life, though, I shake my head wondering why I chose a particular path. At the time, I am sure I thought it was a wise choice.
But, just as God gave Adam and Eve another chance, He gave me another chance. He also gave me a sense of humor and, thankfully, gave my husband and children an even better one. (My dearly beloved no longer checks the wedding certificate for the fine print.)
A sense of humor, I have discovered over the years, can benefit both body and soul. There’s nothing like a good chuckle to lighten the moment, diffuse tension and give the body a workout - inside and out. In fact I read somewhere that healthy laughter can also burn calories. Now that’s my kind of aerobics.Fasten up your fig leaf and come stroll for a
while. Allow me to introduce you to my family and let me demonstrate how God has
used them and other everyday situations to teach me important lessons over the years.
Look closely. You may even see a reflection of your own life.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
My apologies. I’m red-faced, since I overlooked posting as scheduled on Nov 12 – the day after Remembrance Day. Here is a slightly modified edition of my column article published in P-Pep! column during the week in The Guide-Advocate – on November 14, 2013.
With Remembrance Day now behind us for another year, we look ahead towards other upcoming points on the cultural calendar horizon. Most notable – if not unavoidable, Christmas and New Year. In between times some Canadians of African heritage will celebrate Kwanza, while the Jewish community will observe Hanukkah.
And yet, should we relegate Remembrance to only one day of the year – shrug off the spectre of war, and the broken bodies and minds and the ravaging disease and death that it brings, especially when it’s still happening elsewhere in the world?
The human condition and humanity’s survival require that we move on; therefore, seasons of celebration are needful and appropriate, even when there remains much over which to grieve. Hope is a forward-looking view and emotion. Without the expression of hope, civilization would collapse and fall into an abyss in which evil and darkness and despair reign supreme.
Hence, we honour our war dead and wounded, and our veterans and armed forces personnel, by moving forward in hope, enjoying the freedoms and liberties secured at tremendous cost. However, do we not advance into the future and celebrate freedom best, when we keep in mind the price that was paid and are not indifferent to the plight of others still oppressed?
The Advent season begins several weeks from now, commencing the preparation period in anticipation of celebrating Christmas and the birth of Christ. I mention it now because that observance illustrates my point about hope and moving on, while keeping in mind the historical past.
Advent culminates in the celebration of Jesus Christ’s coming to earth in humility through His birth at Bethlehem – Divinity enrobed in humanity. That’s celebration of a past event. Yet Advent also looks forward in hope of His coming again in glory, honour and authority. That’s anticipation.
Most branches of the Christian community convene communion services at regular intervals during the course of the year, in which emblems of the Lord Jesus’ body and shed blood are represented in morsels of bread and wine or grape juice. By their partaking of those emblems communicants express their confidence or faith in the Lord Jesus’ sufferings and death as the all-sufficient sacrifice for their sins and failures, the means through which they are reconciled to God.
Like Advent, communion is a celebration of Jesus’ first coming (First Advent) and anticipates His return (Second Advent). When instituting this service (The Last Supper – Jesus’ final meal with His disciples, before His betrayal and crucifixion) He instructed them to “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Later Paul wrote, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). There you have it: celebration in commemoration of a past event, and anticipation of an event yet future.
Meaningful remembrance inspires thoughtful action and an upward path of life. It is why my niece travels to remote communities in developing countries, initiating and monitoring programs for feeding and better farming practices and well-digging.
My late friend, Rev’d Fr. Saldanha, remembered the poor and orphaned in his native India, and inspired others to accompany him on trips back home, bearing help and hope for a better future in Jesus’ name. It is why my pastor-missionary colleagues Ken and his wife Marge return to encourage their beloved friends in Africa. They remember the price Jesus paid and move forward in hope.
May meaningful remembrance inspire us also.
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. Peter’s current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
“I’m just as busy as I ever was but I get less than half as much as I used to do in a day,” my grandmother used to say. I used to laugh in response to that dear lady who had such a sense of humour.
I thought of her a little while ago when I came across a diary I kept when our children were small. At the time, I helped milk our herd of Holsteins twice a day. I did many loads of laundry each day, sewed clothes for all of our family, had a huge garden and canned a lot and froze enough to fill two large freezers every summer. Besides that I was involved in our local home and school, taught 4-H, was on various church committees and on and on. Now I wonder how in the world I got that much done. As I read of all I got done in one day, it seems preposterous. If I didn’t know that I wrote the truth, I would believe I was being delusional in thinking I could do that much in a fifteen-eighteen hour day. It almost made me tired to read it.
In a recent blog, I shared how I was trying to sort through things as I prepared to get ready for laminate flooring on our main floor. The floor is now laid and looks wonderful. We look forward to easier cleaning and the fresher air with the dust-laden rugs gone. Box by box, I bring the contents of my drawers back in the house, sort them into Keep, Give Away and Throw Away piles. With a pile of perhaps 18 boxes at the most, one would think a week should accomplish the task. However, with medical appointments, committee commitments, family involvement, daily exercise necessary for my health, telephone calls—including those pesky sales calls—and many more interruptions, the days just don’t seem long enough. Or is it that I’m like my grandma—I’m just as busy as ever but I don’t get half as much done. Of course my day no longer starts at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and I seem to wear out before 9:30 or 10 p.m., the time I used to quit my work. Suddenly, I understand that although Grandma was laughing at herself, she was telling the honest truth.
No matter what age we are, we need to do face the facts of life. The fact is we need to do it over and over again. Someone has said that no matter what stage of life we are at, we begin it inexperienced and have to learn over again how to be and live in the present stage in which we find ourselves. What is appropriate and possible at one stage isn’t fitting in another. What was difficult and seemed impossible in one period, comes with ease in another. Some things can be carried on from one phase to another, but others must be left behind.
All my life I had a long list of things that were important to me, things I wanted to experience, be involved in, be able to serve and to be able to enjoy. I worked with great enthusiasm to accomplish as many things as possible on that list. I found much enjoyment and fulfillment as more and more of those items on my list came to pass. Often along the way I also discovered a few more things to add to the list. The world is full of wonderful things to do.
With advancing years and age, limitations sometimes restrict the ability to accomplish all we had hoped for. So do we quit? I can’t say that I have done that yet. The list is still there, but I’ve pared it down to a more realistic panorama. I’ve reevaluated what is really important and what could be of lasting value. I’ve sorted these also into Keep Doing, Pass the Torch and Let it Go piles.
My mind went back to watching my dear mother-in-law aging and then waiting to pass through that gossamer curtain to fly into eternity.
A soul is born –
birthed from protective womb,
yet still cocooned
in parental love.
Clawing at life,
we struggle to be free,
to stretch our wings,
to be ourselves.
wisdom seeks entry,
until in the end
to be beautifully content
as part of the cycle of life
and we let go-
freed to fly home.
Ruth Smith Meyer
“I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15
Author of Not Easily Broken, Not Far from the Tree, Tyson's Sad Bad Day
Contributor to the anthologies, Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, Grandmothers' Necklace, Fifty Shades of Grace.
Authorities explained that she'd been played. As she turned to look at the woman asking for help, another woman had stolen her purse. She felt devastated. Several phone calls later, helpful airline staff had her on the plane. "Don't let this ruin your plans. Go and enjoy yourself," her husband said. But as Enis settled into her seat on the plane, a knot of despair lodged in her chest. How could I be so stupid? Why didn't I have my purse looped over my shoulder? I must look naive, that's why these thieves picked on me. This is the story of my life, always getting picked on. Ugly, self-accusing thoughts rolled through her mind.
Enis was overcome with self-hatred. She prayed, God, help me. Somewhere over the Atlantic, this thought, quiet but firm, came into her mind - you need to forgive yourself. She prayed again, "I do Lord, I do forgive myself. I recognize that anyone can be taken advantage of." Immediately, the self-accusing thoughts stopped, her shame disintegrated..
Is something in your life causing you anguish? Do you feel taken advantage of by others but blame yourself for it?
Perhaps God is telling you what he told my friend - Forgive yourself. Say the same kind things to yourself that you would say to others in a similar situation.
We are loved by Someone who understands us, Someone who forgives us. Therefore, we can love and forgive ourselves.The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulnessEcclesiastes 3:22,23
Rose McCormick Brandon's book, One Good Word Makes all the Difference, is available at http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com
Monday, November 11, 2013
Remembrance Day has always been an uncomfortable occasion for me. It is not that I do not value those who have been willing to give their lives for values that they believed in and that I believe in. In part, my discomfort stems from my choice to be a convinced pacifist. The whole idea of war and combat of any kind, I find abhorrent. Yet I know that others are convinced there are times when there is no other alternative but armed conflict. I am not in agreement with them and my strongest argument I believe is the Cross of Christ. Instead of surrendering to death by crucifixion, He had the option of calling all of the armies of heaven to His defense and chose not to do so. Instead, He willingly surrounded His life, with the words, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Despite my convictions, I was not around when the First and Second World Wars began, those conflicts that we usually remember on November 11th. I do not know ways they could have been avoided. It appeared a few years ago that the concept of Remembrance Day was dying out. Then things changed with the coming of the war in Afghanistan. Once again, heroes received honours for their combat with the forces that might deny others of their rights. The perpetual turning to arms, generation after generation does remind me that the Bible is true when it says that our hearts will constantly pursue evil.
In addition, I have observed in people what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I saw this in relatives who survived the Second World War and observed it in friends who survived Afghanistan. My husband, Glen understands something of this firsthand from his visits to Afghanistan, where he discovered that waiting around the next corner might be a suicide bomber. Although Glen goes there to supervise the distribution of Canadian medicines that will improve the lives of Afghan mothers and children, he is still vulnerable to acts of war.
How might I find a way to resolve this internal conflict I have about war and remembrance? It is not likely that wars are going to cease. It is equally unlikely that I will be able to convince many people to become pacifists. The choice that remains for me is to do what I am required to do when I find less than ideal situations in other areas of life. I need to honour people for their faithfulness to their convictions. I need to be clear and respectful in sharing my own convictions and I need to pray for the day when peace will come on earth. That is how I plan to spend my two minutes of silence on this Remembrance Day. What about you?
|Word Guild Award|
|Word Guild Award|
Thursday, November 07, 2013
How many stories have you heard from childhood until now that have coaxed you into a plot, setting and dialogue with this invitation? And how many times have you sunk into the heart of characters because of this subtle summons to enter into a person's suffering and celebration. Those four words open time for you.
I don't turn my clock back for one whole day on the time-change weekend. It's like found time. It seems like a gift. And maybe even more than that, the hour seems to open up the morning as if the clock has stopped. Even the second day after the time change, I'm up waiting for the day to begin enjoying my gift of an hour. Perhaps a bit of a game, but it's a pleasant one.
The second gift in this time of the year is that when I wake up, I'm not wondering around in the dark. Day break has opened the skies. Yet through the day, I'm very much aware that I've been given an hour—a whole hour. It's already been lived once, yet waits to be enjoyed again. Now I could turn my watch back and miss all this fun. All I have to do is look at the other clocks in the house—Doug has changed them, which makes it even funnier as he's either early for dinner or I'm late.
Some people use the word time in disgust when you're late or miss a deadline, "It's about time!" showing their lack of tolerance or patience. But, it is about time, isn't it, as most things are. Some people punch a time clock at the beginning and end of each day. The school bus regularly stops at the front of the house at the same time each day. At times, you've probably thought, "I'm going to spend quality time with. . ."
Many years ago, I wrote a three-act play entitled, "The Gift of Time" for our church's 140th anniversary. The script spanned four generations showing how people used time to learn, relate, grow in faith and carve out a life out of The Queen's Bush in Grey County. It was an interesting write and it created an indelible mark in my memory of honouring God, family time, past generations as well as the responsibility to prepare for future generations.
"God moves across the pages of time, Giving good things to you.
You've tasted joy and strife. It's all a part of life. Oh, that precious gift of time."
Take some time on Monday, November 11th to remember the men and women who gave their lives, as well as those who served and returned home.
Aggie's Voice: The Stratford Years was launched October 29, 2013 (3rd book in the Aggie trilogy)
A Rare Find: Ethel Ayres Bullymore - A Legend of an Epic Canadian Midwife; book launch Dec. 7/13 at Faith Family Books and Gifts/Toronto
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Speaking to Rotary, Guelph, ON.
Matching the banner behind me was not planned.
Photo courtesy of Jan C. Jofriet
On November 1st, I was invited to be guest speaker for one of the Rotary Clubs in Guelph, Ontario. While I also offer memoir workshops, the presentation deemed most suitable for this service club was my keynote GPS: Goals, Plan, Success.
It's been a bit of a journey getting here though. Now that I think of it, one of my teachers in high school predicted that we’d have more than one career in our lifetime, possibly as many as three or four. It was hard for me to believe that since all I wanted to do was teach. I'd wanted to do that from the time I was a little girl in Sunday School.
My father was a farmer and it was his life’s work; most other people I knew stayed with one career or type of work for their entire working life, though there were a few exceptions even then.
Yet at the time, apart from teaching small ones in Sunday School, I was hesitant to put up my hand in class for fear of being wrong. If someone had told me then that I would be speaking and writing one day, I would not have believed it.
When I began to write, I learned that I would indeed have to speak, and if I had a book, then for sure I would have to promote it, or give a workshop or talk about writing. I respected people who could stand up and speak, but the thought of doing it myself made me anxious.
I’m convinced Marj was put in my path to get to Toastmasters—my first tentative, shaking step. I kknew nothing of this organization until I met her at an authors association meeting and commented on the ease of the speaker who was giving a presentation that evening.
The respectful mentoring and evaluations of fellow members, along with all the practice I was getting, helped me to hold the butterflies at bay, but it took time.
Then along came two world-class coaches and speakers, Jeremy Tracey and Sarah Hilton. At the first boot camp, when I found out I would be writing and presenting a keynote speech, I thought, What am I doing here? Where would I start?
Having experienced a number of jobs, including small business ventures in crafts and custom sewing, election work, part-time jobs, work in a book store, and later university courses, I settled on the topic of change for my keynote, and how to adapt to it, even when change is thrust upon us.
Italian Canadian Club, Ferguson Street in Guelph, Ontario
After finding the Italian Canadian Club where the group meets, I set up my books at a designated table and then sat at the head table where I would be for the duration of the luncheon meeting. That large room that was the size of a banquet hall. I would certainly need the microphone.
I had been told that there could be as many as fifty to sixty Rotarians present, and I think that day, between thirty and forty men and women sat in my audience, the largest one to which I had spoken, not including the speech at our daughters’ weddings last year, delivered to well over one hundred souls each time. But this was a keynote, not a 5-minute wedding speech on the part of mother of the bride, times two.
There I was in the city of Guelph, ready to speak to Rotarians—professionals, business leaders and entrepreneurs from the community, and I saw them nodding their heads. Surely a great many of them had either gone through such an experience of changing jobs for whatever reason, or knew someone who had.
It's still surprising to me that I can say "yes" when someone asks me to speak, even more when I seek out opportunities myself and go out to different places and address a group of total strangers and some people I know.
When we step out in faith, even with a good deal of trepidation, God is there with us. I knew that before, but I had to get ready for this kind of opportunity, grow as a person. A verse from Philippians that I memorized years ago comes back often. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
God goes with us when we’re in strange waters. In a new job in a preschool. As a sole entrepreneur, an author, an editor, as a writing instructor, storyteller, and now as a speaker too. He's with us in each step we take, familiar or unfamiliar, sought out or something new. We just have to ask and trust him.
Workshop presenter at Write! Kitchener 2013
Photo by Glynis Belec
Leading a workshop for Writers United, October 2013
Photo by Glynis Belec
Storytelling at the Enabling Gardens, Guelph, Ontario, August 2013
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