Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is It All There Waiting?/MANN

When we lived at the end of a long farm lane in Grey County, Doug laboriously drove the Massey tractor drawing a snow blower after winter storms—often coming into the house looking like a nice abominable snowman. He gained a new snow blower during our first winter in town, but often remarked how cold his hands got during his task of clearing a wide driveway, sidewalk and patio.
During this month (in his third winter of blowing snow on this property), he complained at the right time about this. One of our sons said, “Dad, that blower has hand warmers. Put them on.”
I liken this illustration to the many discoveries and inventions that the human race finally grasp and bring to light throughout centuries. And I marvel at God’s endowment of marvellous unlimited resources. Do you think that everything is waiting for us to explore, define and utilize to make the world a better place? That thought humbles me with overwhelming gratitude. Granted, mankind has mixed and muddled ingredients and elements that create destructive formulas, and at times the result becomes negative, harmful and even violent. And I offer no excuses for this, except greed, feeding the ego and poor choices. But, even when this happens, it’s only a matter of time that scientists, doctors and other learned people in particular vocations offer a response in the way of an answer, an inoculation, a safe-guard, a device or discovery of knowledge that is world changing.
I was asked one time, “Donna, why are you surprised?” I respond now that I’m no longer surprised as I believe it’s all there waiting to be recognized, acknowledged and utilized. Some cultures are very much in touch with God’s gifts to the world at large and draw on them without hesitation, while other cultures seem reluctant to consider what does not appear obvious.
Perhaps trust plays a huge part in this. Trust, that God has already provided for the seen and unseen; for the developed and undeveloped. This makes life more exciting when I wonder, what is provided for us that we haven’t explored and discovered. 
We wonder why there is not a cure to some diseases. People pour in financial funds to support research. Time and effort fills the marketing sites with information and challenges. Can we trust that the cure has been provided, but we haven’t discovered it yet? One of these days, I hope that in some country, some person will explore, investigate, and discover exactly what the rest of us need to know. Another one of those gifts will be opened to bring healing and health. 
Finding the button to turn on the hand-warmers is welcome on a cold and snowy January day.
Donna for updates on the YA Aggie series and A Rare Find (Story of an Albertan midwife).  Both published the fall of 2013.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Living To Write - Tracy Krauss

Tracy Krauss

Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, and to top it off, you must brace yourself for criticism and rejection. Who in their right mind would put themselves through such stress when the pay-off financially is often minimal?

Well, even though you can’t see me, my hand is raised. It reminds me of something I read by a fellow author who posed the question, “Do you write to live, or live to write?” For the vast majority of people writing in today’s ‘new reality’ of publishing, we aren’t making enough to live on and thus have to hold down another job. However, to not write is inconceivable. It’s just what I do. It’s who I am. In many ways, it defines me. I guess that puts me smack in the ‘live to write’ category.

Lest you think I’m complaining, let me set the record straight. I am very thankful for the small amount of success I have managed to achieve in the past few years as a writer. Still, it has been a long time coming. You see, despite some relative ‘success’, I’ve been writing now for twenty-eight years, which is more than half my life. (I’ll let you try to figure out the math...) Through that time I’ve experienced some setbacks, rejection, and even health related issues that kept me from using my computer, but somehow I managed to keep on writing.

Someone asked me once how many more books I plan to write. I was momentarily puzzled. “As many as I can,” was my answer. That or when I run out of ideas. I don’t see that happening any time soon. My dream is to have all the time in the world to just pound away at the keyboard. I could probably write three or four novels a year at that pace. Reality isn’t quite as prolific, but even if I don't retire from teaching, I know I’ll still be writing. I’m thankful for every minute I currently have.

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author, artist, and playwright. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and teaches secondary school Art, Drama and English – all things she is passionate about. She and her husband have lived in five provinces and territories including many remote and unique places in Canada’s far north. They have four grown children and now reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. She has several romantic suspense novels and stage plays in print. For more information visit her website at

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Marshmallow Test

   by Glynis M. Belec

A few weeks ago my pastor shared a sermon he entitled "Overcoming Temptation." We explored temptations found in the Bible including Eve's pride, David's lust, Judas's greed and Paul's constant struggle within.

     When Pastor Duane spoke about the strength that Jesus had to turn away from temptation I was, again, reminded about how mighty He is and how weak I am. Imagine lasting 40 days without food? I would be lucky if I could last one day without filling my face with something. And I am thinking that I would be pretty tempted to show that devil how powerful I was in the desert and how easy it would be for me to call upon all the powers of the heavens to intervene. But that was just the kind of power the enemy wanted. No matter how tempting the offer, Jesus didn't cave.

     Subtle, elusive, restrained; the enemy still stalks and deceives. He keeps reminding me how unworthy I am as a writer and how foolish I am to think people would pay to read my words. He reminds me what a loser I really am; after all I have a file full of rejection slips and I don't know enough about technology to make it as a writer today. And then when I try to fight back and present all my accomplishments he whispers into my ear how proud and conceited I am. So I shrivel.

 Then I remember - Jesus. I remember the strength I find in Him once I shift the focus from me to Thee! I remind myself - or perhaps I should give credit to the Holy Spirit for reminding me about how the Spirit of God comes through the Word of God. I crack open my well worn Bible and begin to see all over again that I need not be tempted to fall prey to the subtle lies and deception. I am encouraged to write my own words through the strength of the Lord for Him to bless accordingly.

     As I recall snippets of what Pastor Duane said a few Sundays ago, I am reminded of the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow Test. Since Pastor showed the video that day in church I have watched it more than a few times over. I love it and see it as such a great demonstration of how temptation seizes us and, in some cases, makes us almost explode. I wonder which kiddo I would be. How about you? Gotta' love that little red headed girl who had the marshmallow in her mouth before the instructions were even over. Please God make me more like the little boy at the end.


A Meditation on Joel 2:1-17 (Alan Reynolds)

Blow the trumpet to sound the alarm, for the “Day of the Lord” is coming, “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness (Joel 2:1-2).
Blow the trumpet again, this time to gather the people, to call a solemn assembly, to sanctify the congregation (vs. 15-16).  “Let the ministers of the Lord weep.  Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord.’”

It sounds simple, almost mechanical.  God is angry, we repent, and hopefully God will be merciful.  But when you read the intervening verses (3-11), it is not so easy.  There is a scene of utter devastation.  It is announced in verse 2, “a great and powerful army comes.”  “Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, but after them a desolate wilderness” (vs. 13).
We know little of the judgment of God.  Our place has been pleasant and our time one of ease.  We gather, Sunday by Sunday, and we say a prayer of confession and receive assurance of pardon, and carry on as before.  We may have known trouble in our individual lives, but our nation, our culture, has flourished. 

Since World War II, it has been largely onward and upward; giving basis to what theologian Douglas Hall calls our “official optimism.”  We have little conception of such a “day of darkness and gloom.”
But one senses an increasing uneasiness in our place and time, recognition of disease.  There seems to be a sense that the good times are behind us and there are tough times ahead.  The daily newspaper certainly gives that impression.

But the Bible never leaves us in despair.  “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful….  Who knows whether he will not turn and relent?” (vs. 13 & 14).  There is hope, the possibility of mercy.  Always, no matter how desperate the situation, there is hope.
Whatever the future may hold – for our church, for our culture, for our world – the end is in God’s hands.  We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.

Grace and peace, to you and yours,



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Follow Peace - Gibson

I entered a church I don't usually attend one day. Turned and found an old friend standing below me on the steps. Until she smiled, I mistook her for someone else. But only one person smiles like that.

We hugged, opened our mouths, and started in, just like old times in another church foyer. We almost wore the carpet thin after worship, standing there yakking. Back then we discussed rebellious kids, our dissatisfaction with our prayer lives, the upcoming women's retreat, new dessert recipes...

All those decades ago, when we first met, she came wary to worship. Hurt. Prepared for rejection. Not expecting the friends she found. Eventually we shared committees, planned events, went on retreats together; chatted every mile.

Together with our husbands, we spent time at each others' homes, enjoying an easy companionship. Bright. Helpful. Solid.

But life is gritty sometimes. Like a sandstorm, petty little things gust in, swirl over and blow us away from the people we care about. And suddenly you wake up and realize a friend has gone missing.

I can’t recall what it was exactly, but hurts and disappointment clouded over our comradeship. The sun of that friendship got lost for years. No final words, no real explanations. Just a far quieter phone. An empty pew. And sometimes, tears on the pillow.

Years later, crises visited both our homes. One day, driving by hers, I picked up my cell phone, almost without thinking. Punched in her number.

“Just drivin’ by,” I said, all in a rush. “Wondered if….”

“Please come,” she said.

Around the kitchen table, the conversation felt fragile and cautious. We dodged the sensitive things. Our husbands, our partners in hard times, talked between themselves. Slow words, polite, but cool. Mostly, we listened.

But when I left, something had changed. “D’ya think…” I asked myself. “Don’t do that,” I answered myself. “You think too much. Follow God, one step at a time.”

We kept meeting accidentally after that. God’s doings, I’m sure. Like that day in a church neither of us attended. In restaurants, at stores. Gradually, the ice thawed. Now when I see my friend we talk as naturally as we ever did. Laugh, too.

Thank God for hard times. Difficulty, disaster and disease, if we’re paying attention, bring clarity. Make us see the important things we can’t otherwise—like our own pettiness, and what we’ve sacrificed to hang onto it.

The specific hurt that drove a wedge between us is long forgotten. In light of the really big stuff we’ve both faced since? Not even worth discussing. Somehow it feels more important to simply grab the present opportunity. To embrace the moments and the people God has allowed, for as long as he allows them.

Let it go, people. And follow peace, in Jesus’ name.


Reprinted from a 2012 edition of Sunny Side Up. 

Author, columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson lives and writes in Saskatchewan. Sunny Side Up, her faith and life column, had its start in 2001, and is published weekly in numerous Prairie newspapers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Does Your Profile Picture Say About You?

Find Lisa on Facebook here.
A picture is worth a thousand words - at least that's what they say. If you're working to promote your writing or build platform using social media sites like Google+ or Facebook, then learning how to represent your brand visually is very important.

Your profile picture is the first thing people are going to notice. What does your profile picture say about you? Can people see at a glance what kind of writing you do? Does your profile picture scream non-fiction, paranormal/urban fantasy, suspense? It should at least hint at the kind of writing you do AND look professional.

You don't have to pay big bucks for a professional photographer, save that for when you're making the big bucks. I just had a coworker with a good eye and a nice camera take a few shots on a lunch break. Voila. You'd never know I didn't pay a cent for my profile picture.

It's important to use the same profile picture on all your social media accounts so you're easily recognized. And use a current photo. I go to conferences and people seem surprised. "You look just like your picture on Facebook." Isn't that the point?

So, let's lose all the sofas growing out of the backs of our heads, stop hiding behind books or pets. You want to appear approachable and friendly -- someone a reader would like to get to know. All it takes is a bit of fore-thought, and a friend or a camera with a timer feature to pull this off. 

Here's a fun exercise. I've compiled a collection of Facebook profile pictures from bestselling authors. I think all these authors have done a really fabulous job of portraying what kind of writing they do (their brand) visually. Only one writes for the Christian market - hope it's not hard to guess which one.

 No cheating - take a minute and see if you can guess what kind of books these writers publish. How do they tip you off? Are you only looking at their clothes? What about their stance? Their facial expression? 

Here's the answers - see if you got it right.
Ted Dekker writes dark fantasy and thrillers/suspense for the Christian market.
Laurell Hamilton writes urban fantasy -- best known for her Anita The Vampire Slayer series.
Jayne Ann Krentz writes womens fiction/suspense, and previously romance.
Ryan Winfield writes womens fiction/erotica.
Lee Child writes suspense/police thrillers - best known for his Jack Reacher series.
Seth Godin often writes about marketing, but is known as a forward thinker and ideas guy.

What does your profile picture say about your writing/brand? Think I'm way off? Do you agree that a profile picture should do all of this?

Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer and syndicated columnist in the Canadian faith-based market. She writes dark fantasy novels and blogs at Lisa's teaching a class on January 25, 2014 on How to Interview Like A Journalist. Use code Lisa20 for 20% off registration price.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Need for Mystery - M. Laycock

Marcia Lee Laycock
“Let mystery do its work – encourage the listener (or reader) to participate.” Jeffery Overstreet

“Awaken the questions. Tease the mind into active thought.” – C. H. Dodd

Jesus was the master of mystery. He spoke in parables and hyperbole and metaphor. He rarely, if ever, gave a direct answer to a question. Often he answered a question with another one.

I imagine his disciples were often wandering around with quizzical looks on their faces as they tried to figure out what it was he was teaching them. And I imagine they found that very frustrating. But I’m sure, after wandering the landscape of Palestine with their teacher for three years, they came to an understanding that it was as they searched and pondered and struggled to understand, that they learned more and more about Him and His kingdom.

As writers I believe this is something we should emulate in our work. I believe, as C. H. Dodd said, that we should “awaken the questions” more than seek to provide the answers. It is when we leave our readers asking questions that they become completely engaged in our stories. They want to find the answers and it is oh so much more satisfying when they are led to discover them on their own.

Think about a book you love. What was it about those words that drew you in? The poetry of language perhaps, the lovely flow of words that seemed to sing? Or was it a deeper understanding of something that had eluded you before, the epiphany, the discovery of that which had been hidden? In most cases our favorites are books that were a blend of these things, books that made us think, made us ask questions, books that led us deeper into the mystery of life and the spiritual realm.

When our readers are caught up with the mystery of our stories they can’t let them go. The characters linger because there is a bit of a puzzle in their personality. Their motivations are deep and complex, their fears and foibles real yet still something to make the reader wonder. And then, when the mystery becomes clear, the reader understands more about the world, more about himself and more about the One who created both.

As  David Weinberger has said, "We don't need more information. We don't need better information ... We need understanding ... And understanding is not more or higher information. If you want understanding, you have to reenter the human world of stories. If you don't have a story, you don't have understanding."
So let’s follow Christ. Ask the questions, spin the tales, tease the mind and awaken the soul. It’s what He taught us to do. It’s what good writing is all about.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone, was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Spur of the Moment is now in third edition.  Visit Marcia’s Website

Abundant Rain

Abundant Rain, a devotional for writers of faith is available on Smashwords

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