Saturday, March 29, 2014

Growing older different than growing old

Last week, I read this quote, “Don’t regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied many.” I though about the truthfulness of this quote. 
Growing older is a natural progression of human nature. Enjoy it! Jane Fonda struggled with understanding after she heard someone credit senior years as fulfillment time, “After all, 75 isn’t supposed to be better than 35,” she commented after celebrating her last birthday. But it is in many ways. If one’s health is good, 75 is a wonderful age. It’s a time when responsibility and accountability has changed to personal choice. If, like in my situation, one’s spouse is in good health, it is a different time to build relationship. Yet, I know many widows, widowers and single people who love this time of their life.
In one’s life time, tragedies and personal struggles are all too familiar. By learning to cope with these times in our life, we free ourselves to live each day with meaning. It is also how we release the negative and stress and welcome God’s comfort and presence that makes the difference. Everything helps as we begin to enter midlife and older age with a sense of knowing who we are in God’s love.
I love my age! I look back over the years and remember so many beginnings. For example: exercise and bone strengthening medication, watching the first man step down to the surface of the moon; the movie camera collecting family treasures, 4-track, real-to-reel recorder saving the mystery of laughter, story-telling and music; the DOS computer operating system, the Tandy 2000 and its density 5.25" floppy disks with it potential to do great things . . . slowly, and of course the flip-up cell phone where you had to tap the A three times to get C to show when texting. Plus the kitchen and car gadgets—it’s all an interesting ride and I look forward to more eye-openers. I find such a thrill in exploring more of God’s creation and putting it to good use.
Oliver Sacks M.D. says, “At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60” (New York Sun Times).
The Psalmist in 90:10, says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away . . . considering ‘strength’ as perseverance.
Shakespeare thought it worthy to paraphrase in Macbeth, 1605:  Threescore and ten I can remember well: Within the volume of which time I have seen hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night Hath trifled former knowings.
As a woman of faith, my mother, because of osteoporosis, suffered many broken bones, surgeries, casts and uncertainties in the last decade of her life as she learned to use walkers, wheelchairs and request help. She used to chuckle and say, “I’m living in my ‘perseverance years and enjoying everyone of them.”  

Donna Mann
Check out
The Aggie series published by Brucedale Press
A Rare Find published by Castle Quay Books Canada

Friday, March 28, 2014


Most newly-ordained ministers are familiar with the horror stories of other newly-ordained ministers whose first wedding, baptism or funeral had been something of a disaster.  I was newly ordained and new to the congregation.  I was determined that my first baptism would not be remembered for my fumbles and botches.  I prepared thoroughly.  I memorized the baptismal service and considered every move that I would make.

The little village of Waterford sits amid the hills of southern New Brunswick in a beautiful valley where two streams join.  The Waterford United Church sits on a knoll of solid rock in the midst of the village.  It is a well-proportioned church with a high steeple, “beautiful on Mount Zion.”  The entrance was at the front of the sanctuary, resulting in some embarrassment for visitors arriving late and on entering, finding the whole congregation looking at them.

On this particular Sunday morning, two baby boys were to be baptized.  All was going well and we were singing the baptismal hymn, when I looked down from the pulpit and realized that there was no baptismal font, no bowl, and no water.  This was 1954, and the Waterford church, typical of country churches of the time, had no electricity, no running water, no kitchen – just sanctuary and vestry.  What to do?

First, I remembered that there was a brook about fifty yards down the road.  There was water.  But the hymn would be finished before I could get there and back.  Well, the congregation would just have to stand there and wait.

But what to carry the water in?  An elder of the congregation lived next to the church, perhaps I could get a dish there.  What if the house was locked?  (They were all in church.)  I would just have to take the chance. People in those days usually didn’t bother to lock doors.

I started for the door.  As I came down from the pulpit platform, I noticed the wood stove used to heat the church in colder weather.  I remembered that there was an old rusty tin can used in the winter to throw kerosene on the wood to get the fire started quickly.  If the house was locked, I could get water in the kerosene can.

I went to the stove, got the kerosene can and started back for the door.  All this seemed like an eternity in my own mind, but the congregation was still singing the baptismal hymn.  As I got to the entry at the front of the church I noticed the flowers of the communion table.  There was my water!

Going to the table, I poured water from the flowers into the rusty kerosene
can and turned to the congregation just as they were finishing the hymn. 
The baptism proceeded without  interruption.

Some twenty-five years later, I was invited back to this congregation for an anniversary service.  I was extremely pleased (and maybe a bit relieved) to find that these baby boys, now young men, were both elders of the congregation. Water from the flowers in a rusty can, but I guess the baptism “took.”

  Alan is the author of Reading the Bible for the Love of God, and A Troubled Faith: Affirming Christian Faith in the Twenty-first Century. Both books won awards from the Word Guild.
He lives in Richmond, B. C., and is still married (since 1962) to beautiful, blue-eyed Brenda. They enjoy great family times with four children and their spouses (all above average), and eight wonderful grandchildren.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Pivotal Point in Time - Tracy Krauss

Who doesn’t love a good stage play? The immediacy and intimacy of a live performance beats a motion picture any day. Anything can happen – and often does. From an early age, I participated in school and church productions, and later, once I was in college and beyond, I started writing and directing as well. My ‘real job’ is teaching Drama at the secondary school level. You could say I lucked out when it comes to a career. I get to do something I love each and everyday I go to work. 

I credit my fascination with drama to a few key people. My high school drama teacher, Mrs. Rees, was an inspiration – albeit a taskmaster. Before that, though, I can pinpoint an exact moment in time when my love for the dramatic arts came into being. I wrote my first play when I was in Fourth Grade – a dramatized version of a book I’d read called Ghosts Don’t Eat Sausages by Marion Koenig. For some reason that now escapes me, I loved that book and decided to make it into a play. I then convinced several of my friends to act it out during recess time.

It’s a wonder the ‘actors’ could even figure out their cues, let alone read my writing. I corralled my chosen cast every recess - either outside or at the back of the classroom if our teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, would let us stay inside. I think I was a hard taskmaster as a director. I remember feeling frustrated on more than one occasion when people didn’t know their cues. No wonder - there was no such thing as photocopying at that time and I didn’t even bother with a typewriter. I just hand wrote the entire thing and then recopied individual parts and handed them out on scraps of paper.

Thankfully, the cast was patient, and there must have been something about the project that inspired them as well, since we persevered for weeks, perfecting and rehearsing a plot that was likely full of holes at its inception. When we started, I don’t think I knew exactly what the final objective would be – just that this was a good story and it needed to be told! Mrs. Sullivan must have seen something of merit, perhaps in my tenacity in doggedly whipping my actors into shape. It wasn’t long before she suggested that we perform the play for an actual audience – the entire school population, if we were up for it.

Say no more! That spurred us on to even greater efforts as we added costumes and props and continued to perfect the line delivery and action. Finally, the day of the show arrived, and an assembly was called. I don’t remember if we were the only item on the program or not. It really didn’t matter, since for me, this was like getting recognized at the academy awards. As I recall, the show went off well. We got a full page in that year’s yearbook and I was credited as the ‘writer and director’.

 All these years later I still look upon that seemingly insignificant experience as a pivotal point in my development as a writer. I've gone on to write and direct dozens of stage plays, some of which are published and have enjoyed a measure of success across stages in North America. If it wasn't for the encouragement I got from my Grade Four teacher, I wonder if I would have gone on to write another play. It's something to ponder. 

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author and playwright. Visit her website at: 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GYMNASTY-ICS by Glynis M. Belec

     Five years ago my ovarian cancer diagnosis slapped me in the face. After initial moments of my world crashing in and consuming me, I pulled up my big girl stretchy pants and prayed. Then I slapped back. I decided to focus on the positive, confess that it was God in control - not me and make the best of each day.
     First, I determined to be joyful that my stint at the gym for that past year had paid off. I’d jiggled and gyrated 23lbs off my middle aged body and because of that I was able to feel an odd lumpy area in my abdomen. That forced me to high-tail it to the medical wise ones for further investigation. Left any later, they tell me things might have been a lot different. They found two honking tumours on each ovary. I only felt one. Second, I was glad that the whirlwind began. Before I knew it I had surgery, chemotherapy, lost my hair, lost my dignity, fought the good fight and won!
                 ‘Course, given the whack of steroids that accompanied the bittersweet poison, the exhaustion and the menopause, I gained all 23lbs back and then some. I blamed my weight gain on anything my addled chemo brain could muster.
                But now that I have reached the magic ‘five year’ mark, I have run out of excuses. I needed to do something radical. Like exercise. So I did it. I took the plunge. I signed on at the local gym once again.
                How thrilled I was that it was 24 hour access, too, this time. My plan was to sneak in at opportune times when no one was there. I feared any young buck guffawing at me and my jiggles. I wanted to become a new me again without anyone watching me sweat. I needed free reign to grunt, to move from one torture device to another and to scream in agony if I had to.

                It’s taken a while but this past Saturday, I found the best time to be alone at the gym. 12:30 am. All was well for the first 30 minutes on the tread mill. Then I decided to switch the station on the TV. Not sure if was my heavy breathing or grunting but I needed to up the volume. The temperamental remote didn’t seem to be communicating nicely with the TV so I hopped off the still-moving treadmill and got closer. Presto, it worked like a charm.
                I headed back to the treadmill and hopped back on. Within a few seconds my life flashed before me. My middle age body was catapulted against the partition and quickly dropped to the floor. There wasn't a lot of room between the row of beastly treadmills and the back so I was pinned against the wall with my knees in prayer position – burning like rubber as the conveyor belt continued to turn at level 5. I could almost sense God shaking his head at His crazy clumsy female creation now curled in a fetal position, who always manages to land herself in immature situations. 
                 I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but I eventually untangled myself and smacked the ‘stop’ button.
          Perhaps I need to reconsider my workout time choices. What I am really freaking out about, though - the many 'all angle' video cameras in our 24 hour access gym.  I know God doesn't need a video camera to see me and He understands my heart and my lack of ladylike tendencies. I am really grateful that He loves me no matter what, but right now I am a little concerned about America’s Funniest Home Videos and Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that. Sigh.

Romans 8:35
 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Glynis Belec, a freelance writer, author and private tutor, faces each day with hope and thanksgiving. She rejoices daily that she is on the right side of the grass and counting blessings is getting to be a daily addiction. Glynis loves capturing life in words and can’t wait for tomorrow so she can feel inspired all over again. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Breaking Sugar, Fixing Me -- Gibson

Remember the nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl? “When she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was naughty, she was HORRIBLE.” That’s me, in the area of sweets. Mostly I behave well. But when I don’t, I really don’t. And lately, I haven’t. 


A few Fridays ago, I sat at my desk to write. Hours later, feeling weak, I wandered over to the pantry. Yanked out the first thing I saw. A long, almost-full box of thin, square, orange-filled dark chocolates.


At afternoon’s end, the chocolate box sat nearly empty. I sat nauseated, shaky, thoroughly disgusted with myself. Sensing keenly God’s frown. I had, for some time, treated his property – my body – poorly.


“Forgive me, Lord, I know I must not be horrible any longer,” I prayed, and tossed the one remaining chocolate in the trash.


One week earlier I’d complained about my high sugar consumption to a friend, confessing my lack of incentive to change. To my surprise, she admitted that she also struggled with a passion for sugar. “Every so often,” she said, “I go on a ten-day sugar fast. It helps me get my balance again.”


I’d kicked sugar before, too – for more than a year, about a decade ago. I felt so healthy I told myself I’d never want or need sugar again. I’d lost the craving forever, it seemed. But a few major life crises later, I’d found it again: that comforting taste that stays constant when everything else changes.


No sugar had become a little sugar, and a little more sugar. Then a lot, and finally a full-blown, “oh-who-cares-we’ve-all-gotta-die-of-something-so-stuff-it-in,” attitude. That’s why, on the Friday I mentioned, eating chocolates felt as natural (and far easier) than pressing pause on my thoughts to peel carrots, make a salad or open a can of beans.


Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor,” Ecclesiasties 4: 9,10 reads. “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”


I needed someone to help me up. “I’m ready to start my ten days,” I told my friend that Friday evening.


“I’ll do it with you,” she responded graciously. When I later mentioned my intention on Facebook, several friends who wanted to give sugar the boot joined us.  


I don’t know about the others, but ten days later, I have more energy. Food tastes better. My thoughts arrive more clearly. I’m rarely drowsy in mid-afternoon. My sweet tooth has faded. Sweet balance, like long-awaited spring, is reviving my body and spirit.


Too much sugar feels like a safe, moral addiction. It’s neither. It robs us of health and years of serving others and God. We all fall down, but the only true failure is refusing to get up. With a little help from my friends, and God’s outstretched hand, I’m getting up – again.


You can too. Believe it.

The above Sunny Side Up column ran earlier this year in various Western newspapers.

Interested in busting sugar too? I've just created a Facebook page for companions on the journey. Pop over if you'd  like to start a conversation.

Along with other writing, Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in her newspaper column, Sunny Side Up, published, among other places, in her local newspaper. Her 90 second radio spots, Simple Words, air locally and internationally on syndicated radio show, Sunday Side Up with host Ray Sargent.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ted Dekker Coming To Write! Canada - Lisa Hall-Wilson

Ted Dekker is a best-selling author known for his fast-paced, plot-twisting thrillers and fantasy novels. In every novel he works out his faith through his characters, and that authenticity is what seems to have created such a loyal readership for him.

Dekker’s father is Canadian, and Ted recently revealed he carries a Canadian passport and lives and works in the USA on a Green Card. He lived in Toronto for a short time, and attended Langley’s Trinity Western University for a year. “I’m a jungle boy. I’m standing at a bus stop [in Toronto in winter] and I’m shivering. It was so cold I thought I was in hell.”

Ted Dekker is coming to Write! Canada

Know what I love about Ted Dekker’s fiction? This“We Christian writers must paint evil with the blackest of brushes, not to sow fear, but to call out the monsters to be scattered by our light. If Satan cloaks himself as an angel of white, intent on deceiving the world, any attempt on our parts to minimize evil is only complicit with his strategy... Turn to the light; don’t fear the shadows it creates.” ~Ted Dekker, The Slumber of Christianity

I had the opportunity to chat with Ted last summer to help promote his Toronto event. Total fan-girl moment. Ted called me from his Austin, TX home. Here’s some highlights from that interview. 

If you’re on the fence about going to Write! Canada, even if you don’t like Dekker’s fiction, register now and get the early bird savings before April 1. Dekker knows how to craft a compelling story, weave a message of faith into the story, and is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of marketing and promotion – and he has some of the most loyal fans in the business.

LHW: Do you consider yourself a Christian writer?

Ted Dekker: Am I a Christian writer? [pauses] It’s just a label. What does it mean? I write stories as a person who grew up in a Christian faith to understand that faith. You can call me whatever you want. It’s just a name.

Every Christian writer’s conference I go to, I hear someone say: But Ted Dekker can write stuff like this and get published, why can’t I? So I asked Ted: Who is it you’re writing for?

Ted Dekker: I have no clue. I’m writing for my own journey. People who read my books are not afraid of an authentic journey and they understand the language in which I write. I’m just exploring truth, God’s heart, my place.

I think that my first 6-7 books were very Christian. To be honest with you, the first few books I wrote like Showdown, Black, these were rejected because they were too edgy at the time. Once I had an audience, I went back to what was more natural for me like Showdown. I lost some of my older readers, but the younger readers were really attracted to those kinds of stories. I’m writing more spiritually intense, more like Black, Red, and White.

Lisa, which of my novels was your favourite?

LHW: Me? Adam. I was saved out of the Occult so that book really spoke to me.

Ted Dekker: Adam – it was very disturbing for many people. There are people who have faced the darkness and been swallowed by it and are afraid of it. The only people who aren’t afraid of it are those who faced it and learned there’s power over darkness. Find the light within you. Shining a light in the darkness. It’s fun no longer having fear as a master.

LHW: What is it about your writing that speaks to younger generations?

Ted Dekker: My writing is a reflection of my own journey…I write to explore what I’ve been taught or what it means to be who I am…My books have been very dark because at times I’ve been looking for the light in the dark, that demonstration of that power. Over time there’s always been this missing link – this understanding of my own identity. I’ve come to embrace a new understanding of who I am in Christ.

LHW: What is it about the thriller genre that appeals to you?

Ted Dekker: I’m a very passionate person. Thrillers allow me to put characters into extreme situations to see how they react…explore more extremes. I think young people do speak the language of extremes and experience more extremes than older generations. I think that’s why I gravitated towards thrillers. Not all my books are thrillers. A third of the books I’ve written are thrillers, plus my fantasy novels and storyteller books. They all have elements of thrillers in them, they’re not classical thrillers as such.

Are you fan of Ted Dekker? What is it about his writing appeals to you?

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 Through The Fire at

Connect with Lisa on Facebook.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Language Learning By Marcia Lee Laycock

My face was beet red. I slouched into my chair with a dismal sigh. Bruno, my language teacher, having not the slightest inclination to save my damaged pride, was laughing. I managed a weak smile. It was a bit funny. I had just asked him if he wanted his sister in his coffee. When he stopped laughing, he told me the correct phrase and made me practice it several times. The difference between the word sister and the word sugar was in a single vowel. It was not my first nor last mistake of the day.

Later that afternoon, I despaired again of ever being able to speak Melanesian Pigeon, as another teacher outlined the grammatical structure of the language. I could barely remember English grammar, let alone bend my brain around a language made up of three European lexicons with a few national languages thrown in for flavour. By the end of that day, my enthusiasm for learning the trade language of Papua New Guinea had vanished. It was then I realized I didn’t want to learn it, I just wanted to know how to speak it.

I wanted to be able to communicate with the people we were to live with, so I had to dispel the illusion that I was going to wake up one morning and be fluent in their language. I had to face the fact that I had to work at it. I had to face the fact that I was going to make a lot of mistakes. I was going to be laughed at. I was going to feel dumb and have to continually ask questions. I was going to have to get used to having to listen so intently my head hurt. I was going to have to get used to being like a little child, again and again.

When I came to terms with that reality, a surprising thing happened. The process became a delight. I looked forward to going to the market to learn new names for old vegetables. I relished going to work, so I could learn new expressions and phrases. I loved standing in the middle of a crowd of black faces and just soaking in the sound. And best of all, I loved being able to communicate easily with the people around me. As my language skills grew so did my delight in living among them.

Such is the journey of a Christ follower – it’s the journey of a child, a journey of continually learning, listening, asking questions, making mistakes, yet continuing on because there is such delight in growing closer to and growing more and more like our master. When we come to terms with that reality we realize it’s worth the effort because the joy of being in His presence and soaking Him in can be compared to no other.

In Matthew 18, the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest in God’s kingdom. Perhaps they thought they’d learned enough, and done enough, to merit that position. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

Like a little child – willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to work at it. Again and again. 


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. 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 short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards, 2013. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia’s Website

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