Friday, May 30, 2014

Half a Ton of Books and Things—den Boer

What does 900 pounds of  bookstore product look like? I would find out soon.  According to the phone call these books were being delivered on a skid which would be inconveniently placed outside the little back door at our little Christian bookstore.

Head office had been sending us lengthy emails about this shipment for weeks. Nothing about what kind of books, or what else was coming, just that the product was coming (lots of product) and we were being asked to sell it all Dutch Auction style.

At a Dutch Auction the prices go down as the sale proceeds. The early birds have selection and those who wait get deals.

I imagine half a ton of product wrapped in plastic sitting on the pavement outside the store. I imagine a rain storm. I imagine traipsing in and out of the store bringing in box after box. I imagine the pile slowly reassembling in the middle of the store. I imagine a backache.

Then I go to a tea party with my husband's cell phone in my pocket, expecting it to vibrate when the delivery comes.

A hour and a half, several cups of tea, a piece of pie, five licorice sticks and much conversation later, I decide to check the phone. The skid has arrivedover an hour ago.

I rush down to the store. The others are already there. They have already traipsed in with the several dozen boxes. A sign is posted announcing the Dutch Auction next week.

The early birds did everything. I got the deal. I'm told that's how a Dutch auction works. Did I tell you I'm Dutch?

Marian den Boer works (sometimes) at The Gospel Lighthouse in Hamilton, Ontario. Dutch Auction starts June 4th. Marian will be there June 9th.

Designation or Destination? SUSAN HARRIS

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Jim Elliot wrote in his journal on October 28, 1949.

On 30th June, 2014, I too will give up something.

It would be accurate to say I'm attracted to the "people" industry and that attraction may have led to a career in Human Resources. Many who are serious about HR pursue the coveted CHRP (Certified Human Resource Practitioner) designation, and I decided to head there. In 2008 I was inducted into the CCHRA, the Canadian Council of Human Resources Association.

I re-certified in 2011, but since I had shifted into project management, finding credits to maintain the designation proved challenging. Relocating did not help as I had to leave behind the mentoring post that would have added valuable points.

While still in the post of project manager, I decided to return to HR, and sent out resumes accordingly. But like Cinderella's carriage that lasted for a time, those offers were no longer coming my way. It became evident to those around me that the corporate world was fast becoming a thing of the past, and a new era of writing, publishers, guilds and media replaced the HR focus in a smooth and natural flow. But I had studied hard and invested a ton of money into HR education, prep courses and formal exams. I was fond of my title that showed my proven expertise in a field where many dreaded to tread and where many failed too. I was vested in my CHRP.
June 2014 is the month for recertification. Nothing short of a miracle would provide the 200 credits needed.
I considered volunteering but the bumps were too well placed to be coincidental. The companies I approached did not need volunteers. Some did not respond to my cold-call emails. I had spent my entire life in church but churches could not accept me as their by-laws only allowed elected members in the capacities I sought.

Recently, still searching for ideas to maintain the designation, I heard out of the blue space the whisper of a name. "Ann V." I couldn't spell the last name but I had glimpsed the dark-haired author once on the television program, 100 Huntley Street, although I had not read her book nor even knew its title.
Landing on her website I read two simple lines. "I had a full-tuition scholarship to university and never finished. I married a Farmer instead & came home to gravel road & cornfields." (
Peace settled.
I too had married a farmer. One with emerald eyes that the stone on my engagement ring attempted to mimic. And I came home to canola fields and cats.

"GIVE IT UP," God was saying. And I was released from the designation to the destination He had planned for me.

I'll continue to be a "CHRP-less" member of the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resources Professionals and live by the ethics. I know that my love for people and compassion for humanity is spurred by the mind of Christ. I've picked up His cause as my cause, and I only need to hear from Him in order to be successful.

Are you struggling to let go?

 (An excerpt from "Insights into Being Successful Right Where You Are" coming later in 2014). 

Susan Harris latest book Remarkably Ordinary - 20 Reflections on Living Intentionally Right Where You Are is available at your favourite Amazon site.

Susan Harris is a former teacher in Management of Business. Her credentials include a B.Sc. in Management Studies, post-graduate diploma in Education, Diploma in Writing, Diploma in Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Certificate in Theology. She holds membership with the Canadian Council of Human Resources Association (until June 30, 2014) and notable writing groups in Canada. She is the author of four books - Remarkably Ordinary, Golden Apples in Silver Settings (White Lily Press), Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids (Borealis Press). Alphabet on the Farm will be released in the fall from Borealis Press. Susan was born on the tropical island of Trinidad but now lives in the city of Melville with her husband, daughter and the gregarious cats, where she is on contract as Tourism & Economic Development Manager.

Find Susan at:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Born Into Mission/MANN

Last month’s blog took me on a memorable journey into writing and the when, why and what. I will continue in this direction, looking specifically how my life has been influenced in mission work. Recently I was invited to write a paragraph of introduction after accepting the invitation from my denomination’s mission and service to be conference mission interpreter. In reflection I can see where this could turn into an essay, but I will begin with the thoughts that started me writing about this topic. 
I was steeped in mission from the get-go: from childhood memories of my mother rolling bandages for the Red Cross, to my parents holding fund raising house parties in their farm house to raise money for an on-site ambulance and other necessities during the war. My mother’s loyalty to the WMS (Women’s Missionary Society) was rooted deeply in her keen interest of her cousin, Dr. Walter Strangway’s service in the United Church of Canada hospital in Chassimba, Angola, Africa. Mother joined with others to raise money to buy beds, mattresses and coverlets through church teas and to encourage generous contributions from interested people.
This dedication to missions continued personally in my rural church through  Mission Band in which I both attended and then gave leadership. Later, the “Ella Rees Mission Circle” organized by our minister’s wife, was held in the town church. It was here that we learned about missionaries in foreign countries, how to write letters to them, and ways to cut material to form quilts and blankets.
At this time, my heart was in overseas ministry: I was going to Africa. Needless to say, this didn’t please my father who thought every farmer’s daughter should find a nice young farmer to marry. In the end, family life won over; although I married a nice young steamfitter.
Training as an overseas worker was no longer available to me with a small family. My passion for missions continued to be fed through connections with Dr. Walter; Muriel Bissell, a missionary from the Elora United Church (1964) serving in Zambia (adjoining country to Angola); and later several women missionaries with whom I corresponded for many years.
I could never figure out why a woman could serve as a missionary and go halfway around the world, but could not serve in ordained ministry in her own country. When I heard on the radio in 1968, that women could be married and ordained in our denomination, I began to take lay ministry seriously, hoping that one day it would lead me onward. And it did; I was ordained in 1982 and have served the church in this capacity for more than thirty years.  
Now, I begin this new chapter in my life of service. Although I still hope to continue to supply occasionally; as Mission Interpreter I will serve the conference and focus on ‘God’s Mission, our Gifts’.
“What does the Lord require of us, “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:9). Aggie Macphail series (Brucedale Press) A Rare Find (Castle Quay Books) LittleRedBarn Kid’s Farm Stories (Previously MeadowLane)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life Is Like That - Tracy Krauss

I am a teacher and I live in British Columbia. If you follow the news, you may know that BC teachers have been in contract disputes with the provincial government for over two years. At the time of this writing, the latest development is a lockout where teachers are restricted to working with students during class hours only. This means no time spent with students during lunch, breaks, before or after school.

Big deal, you may say. Well, for me it is kind of a big deal. I teach Drama. This means that the June show which my students and I have been working on for months now, has been cancelled. To say that I am upset is an understatement. I take a lot of pride in my work and many of my students are like my own children. My senior class and I co-wrote a two act play called MURDER ON THE PARADISE EXPRESS - a murder mystery with a supernatural twist. I have had many of these kids as drama students for the past five years and for some it will be their final show before they graduate.

We came to a compromise and are allowed to perform two matinees, but trying to set everything up and fit in the necessary rehearsals - all within 'class hours'- is a huge challenge. I am trying to remain upbeat, mostly for the kids' sake and my motto remains: "The show must go on!" (Although it will be a pared down and somewhat unpolished version.)

This is a huge valley for me, but I am hiking doggedly up that hill.

As for a peak, I managed to stay within my deadlines and finish a contracted story for the COLONY ZERO series that I am collaboratively writing with six other authors. It is a Sci-fi series set 800 years in the future and has been a wonderfully energizing experience. SINS OF THE FATHERS releases on June 4. (Volume 5 in the COLONY ZERO series)

As writers we experience peaks and valleys on an ongoing basis. Rejections, writer's block, computer crashes... Contracts, good reviews, a new book published... The journey is never smooth and it is certainly unpredictable.

As a final thought, I hope each of you that are attending Write!Canada this year will find refreshment and inspiration. I wish I could be there... but I have 25 Drama students waiting in the wings...

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author and playwright living in Tumbler Ridge, BC. For more visit her website:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Climb out of your cage - Gibson

After we adopted Grace Cat, spicy with a hint of left-over predator from his stray days, Ernie, our Amazon Green parrot, got his beak out of joint. He sulked at the intrusion of fur in his territory, and rarely came out of his cage.

Prior to Grace, we often left Ernie’s cage open so he could come and go at will. He ate and napped inside, but spent hours on top of the cage, watching the goings-on around him, laughing and sounding off.

As I worked around the house or at my computer, or even jumped rope for exercise, Ernie sat on my shoulder. When the Preacher napped, he stood guard on his shoulder. Pity the person who approached the bed when Ernie the watch-parrot stood guard.

Not a frequent flier, he also took walkabouts. Sometimes, if we weren’t in the room, he slid down his cage bars and shuffled through the house to find us, feet swishing. Ducking into each room, he gave a series of inquisitive chirps we understood as, “Any people in here?”

Things changed when Grace arrived. To a cat, all tall things – including chrome-barred cages – exist for climbing. And flappy things with beaks and feathers mean either fast food or animated toys.

No surprise then, that for the first few months, Grace intimidated Ernie by his keen interest in our feathered pet. We kept the cage shut more, but even when we put the cat downstairs and opened its door, Ernie rarely came out.

He still practiced his crow-caws. Screamed like a woman in childbirth. Wolf-whistled when he heard the shower running. And, on hearing the click of my computer keys in the office, he screeched so loud he muddled the puddle of my thoughts.

One day, about six months after Grace joined the family, Ernie decided he’d had enough of his self-confinement. Instead of sulking in his cage, open at the time, he popped out and slid down the bars. Without hesitation, he strutted like a miniature Roman emperor across the floor – straight to Grace. The cat watched, ears erect, tail thrashing. Swish by swish, the parrot approached the enemy.

A few feet away, Ernie paused. Cocked his head. Then, almost as though he’d made up his mind to wade into battle or die trying, he sped up. Stopped only inches from the cat’s whiskers. The cat froze, and fur and feathers faced off.

I moved closer, ready to intervene.

Ernie stepped forward. Grace stepped backward, bemused. Feathers backed fur up several more steps. Finally Ernie thrust a vicious peck in the space that Grace's nose had just vacated. Then, turning his back, he shuffled off, victorious. The cat did not follow.

Ernie has new confidence now. He has faced his fear – several times. Feathers, at least for now, have triumphed over fur.

Too many Christ-followers allow fear to hold them back from the freedom and inner strength Jesus promises. If that’s you, climb out of your cage. Confront that fear. God stands near.
This Sunny Side Up column ran in various Western newspapers the week of May 19th, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Journeys - M. Laycock

I love hearing stories of people’s lives, how they came to be where they are now. I especially love it when they acknowledge that God has designed that journey for them and want to shout “praise the Lord” when they recognize his grace and mercy along the way.

I’ve been thinking a bit about journeys in the past while, perhaps because of the release of the first volume of my latest novel, a young adult fantasy called Journey to a Strong Tower book one in the Ambassadors Trilogy. It’s been a delight to write these books, detailing the harrowing journeys of two young people whose destinies are intertwined and bound by the parameters of God’s love. It’s a fantasy but it has its root in reality, as all books do. 

I believe all of us are on a journey designed by God. I once wrote a suite of poems that was broadcast on CBC called Journey to Each Other. It detailed the path my husband and I took to find one another, and our Saviour, in Canada’s far north. As I wrote those poems I was overwhelmed with God’s amazing plan and the deep love He has for us all – a love so deep that He details every step of our journey on this earth, all to His glory.

Reading the books of the Old Testament which detail the journey of the Hebrew nation is inspiring for that same reason. The record reveals the protection and plan of God and the strengths and weaknesses, the victories and failings of the Israelites  – “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. In spite of this you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go” (Deut 1:30 – 33).

And it is because God told Moses to record that journey that we are able to read about it. Numbers 33:2 says – “At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey.”

I believe God still tells us to record the journey, to write down both in fiction and non-fiction, the details of how He has kept us, protected us, and yes, carried us throughout our lives. By this testimony we glorify Him and remind ourselves of the greatness of our God. 

And we can certainly acknowledge, with Moses, the truth of these words – “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness” (Deuteronomy 2:7). 

So write the record of your journey. Broadcast it in every way you can, all to God’s glory.

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 also short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards and her work is short-listed in three categories this year. 
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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