Friday, February 27, 2015

Not So Random Acts - Tracy Krauss

Random Acts of Kindness...

This month's prompt reminded me of an activity our youth group did many years ago when we were in full time ministry. The youth group decided to do several random acts of kindness around the small town where we lived. Stacking firewood and shovelling snow were among the typical activities. Fun and fellowship; outdoor exercise and fresh air... these were the payoffs beyond the good feelings that doing something for someone else brings.

End of story, right? Well, I need to caveat this next part with a little explanation about my husband. He is a 'go big or go home' kind of guy. Doing a few odd jobs for the elderly, although a nice gesture, just didn't seem like enough.

There was a certain man in our town who had a problem with hoarding. You actually could not see his house from the street because there was so much junk piled in his front yard. The town had served him with multiple fines over the years to no avail. The next step was to send in a clean up crew, which they threatened to do, and which he would have to pay for.

Hoarding is actually a serious form of mental illness. For those of us looking in, it seems ridiculous to form such an attachment to what looks like garbage. The gentleman in question had a brother who lived nearby our church, and he asked if my husband would go over and see his brother, who was by this time extremely distraught. I might mention that the man with the hoarding problem was also a bit of a recluse. He drove around in his van collecting bottles and spending lots of time at the dump, but didn't interact much with people.

Part of the irony of this story is that my husband is a clean freak. For instance, he won't take out the garbage without wearing gloves. Seriously. He likes a tidy house. (And yes, he helps keep it that way!) But he's also compassionate and loves Jesus, so he went over to talk.

The man with the hoarding problem actually didn't see anything wrong with his property. Not only was his yard FULL, but his house was the same. Even his van was packed with so much stuff, mostly salvaged from the dump, that only the driver's seat was free. There wasn't much my husband could do on his own. The town crew were coming the following week with a loader and a big dump truck. The homeowner was overwhelmed.

But then my husband had an idea. Here was a way to show the love of Jesus to a man who was, by most standards, unloveable. He assembled a crew of teens and just showed up after school one day and started sorting. With the homeowner's 'supervision', they managed to pile things up into groupings. (Old washing machines here, engine parts there, scrap metal, bottles and cans... ) They were even allowed to take several trips to the dump with some actual garbage.

Several evenings and an entire weekend later, the yard, while by no means a show piece, at least looked organized. It was enough to make the town officials postpone their clean up operation, and it made that man weep with gratitude.

In the end, his yard continued to pile up once again. I'm not sure whether the town came and did something about it after all, since we moved away. But the experience certainly had an impact on the youth that were involved. It was not glamorous or fun. It was a dirty and disgusting job. But sometimes the love of Jesus shines best in these kinds of circumstances.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Inspiration in Aloneness by Glynis M. Belec

     When I need to refuel, there are three places I go – to the Word of God, to my daily planner and to the words in my ledger.  Inspiration comes to me in my aloneness.

       I wish I could be the kind of person who could go to busy malls to people watch; to libraries with wonderful treasures of inspiring words; to a coffee shop to be stirred into writing longhand while staring at the interactions of those around me and worst/best of all— I wish I could be refuelled by going outside to take in God’s amazing creation.

       I feel a little ashamed confessing that these don’t do it for me, but it’s no use kidding myself. I know they are a sure way for some to refuel. But I know my brain.

       If I were to take a few hours sitting in a mall watching people, I would be lured in by the hustle bustle and end up writing nothing more than a shopping list of things I wouldn't
mind having from this store or that. Heaven forbid I would see a ‘50% off Sale’ sign.        

     If I went to the library to be inspired, I would browse the aisles checking out all sorts of books from Charlotte’s Web to How to Shed those Extra Pounds on the New Chocolate Diet.
Then I would find a bunch of movies that I would just have to see. Then I would take out too many and end up paying my $1 a day fine on each of them.  Frustration would set in when I remember, once I unload it all at home, that I have a pile of ‘to-read’ books already at my bedside and my own DVDs are collecting dust on my shelf.
     If I tried refuelling at the local coffee shop, the only thing I would refuel is my large Apple Cinnamon tea – one bag in, one out. And then I would probably end up buying a toasted cinnamon bagel with cream cheese and maybe even an apple fritter to complement my tea (but not my figure).
     And if I dared to try to step outside to gain inspiration, I know exactly what would happen. I mean what do squirrels do outside, anyway? I would dart here there and everywhere. I would need a list of seeds I have to plant this year. I would have to plan the garden; the arrangement of the outside furniture; the tidying up of the garden shed—and that is only in my back yard. Give a squirrel a few acres to contend with and I will find myself gathering nuts and planning holidays.
      When I go to my Bible, though, I find the focus I need. God is definitely my inspiration and if I make a date with Him, then I feel like I can leap tall buildings. I try to find a scripture that pertains to whatever I am writing – Christian or otherwise.  God’s Word inspires me and calms my soul. It causes me to reflect on what and why I am writing. It also reminds me how I need to be still and trust God for every idea, notion, approach and action as it pertains to my writing. If it wasn’t for God, I couldn’t create.

      Although I may not come off as the most organized person and if one would gaze upon my desk most days it might be hard to fathom that I really do like to have all my ducks in a row. Reading through my agenda is like encourages me to forge on.  If I take it to bed with me and cross of all the things I accomplished in a day then transfer the remainder to the next day, along with a page full of other to-do tasks, I feel so good and I know the next day will be a good one. Because I am not always wont to be organized, grabbing my agenda before I leave my bedroom in the morning gives me inspiration.  I feel organized, inspired by my focus and will be ready to write –as crazy as that
    My lovely big, green ledger, is another way for me to go on feel renewed. My writing life, although I love it, has not all been sugar and spice and everything nice. I have two ledgers where I have faithfully documented 30 years of submissions,  rejections,  and published works; a running account of my writing life. Having this documentation gives me reason to go on; it shows me how hard I have worked over the years to get to where I am today. I still have a long way to go and some days my brain isn’t big enough to take in all the new ‘stuff.’ I try to get on the ball—technologically speaking, but when it comes to record keeping computer files don't cut it for me. I've tried. As I look through my old-fashioned, trusty ledgers I am reminded how God has led me on my journey. I see the odd hiatus in my writing and I remember there is a season for everything.  
       I know these likely seem cockamamie ideas to some, but to me aloneness with God, my agenda and my dusty old ledgers inspire and refuel me. Maybe not your typical way to replenish the muse, but they work for me.  

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
 which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  
Ephesians 2:10

Glynis keeps busy being inspired by God, her old ledgers and her dog-eared agenda, but she always has time to share her passions with anyone who cares to listen. Her latest passion is her children's picture book, Galloping Gus. . At this very moment, she is preparing a Galloping Gus colouring and Activity book as a companion book for kids (of all ages!) Hers is a busy office lately. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Write the Forgiveness Cheque - Kathleen Gibson

I like my cat, Grace. A lot. But our previously untested relationship hit the wall a few months ago, starting the evening I brought home an overnight guest. A grey puffball of a kitten with round green eyes.

“Now, Smoky,” I told her. “Don’t get comfortable. Tomorrow you’re going to live on the next block.”

As I carried the newcomer into my office, His Grace hovered nearby, sniffing. Suddenly, his fur pointed ceiling-ward and he began growling like a dog. Then came hisses and darting paw strikes, razor sharp claws outstretched. His theatrics convinced me that in his mind, I had delivered the penultimate betrayal of our relationship.

Picking up the petrified Smoky, I pushed my own cat from the room and slammed the door. For an hour we sat in my green prayer chair, getting over it while Grace paced the hall, still growling. Finally the Preacher took pity on us all and banished him to the basement.

Smoky went to live with the Beans the next day, but Grace Cat nurtured a grudge against me for days, maybe even a week. He didn’t mind the Preacher, but me? Oh, no. He had seen me carry in the kitten. In his mind, I had violated the terms of our relationship, and he couldn’t get past it.

For my part, I barely recognized the previously friendly pet I thought I knew so well. His tiger stripes run deeper than his fur, I learned. Whenever I neared him, he slapped my feet, clawed my legs, attacked my hands. When I made the mistake of trying to cuddle him, he bit my cheek.

“I can’t live with a cat that hates me,” I told the Preacher. “Off to the farm with you,” I told Grace. More than once.

But I decided instead to get some advice from online cat-experts and to follow it. I spent extra time with my tiger. Enticed him to twice-daily play periods, using his favourite toys and treats. Talked to him frequently. Didn’t try to pet him or pick him up unless he approached me.

It took awhile, but eventually the old Grace Cat emerged from his angry, betrayed place – energetic, playful and affectionate – with only his usual touch of spice. He trusts me again, and I have forgiven him for the injuries. We’re at peace once more.

Every relationship carries the potential for nasty surprises. Most benefit from seeking and following wise counsel. But surviving a betrayal takes the most essential element of all – total forgiveness.

In a prayer seminar I attended, the leader, Dr. T.V. Thomas, made a statement that impacted me deeply. He said that he keeps in his heart a signed cheque made out for total forgiveness. No matter the injury, no matter the perpetrator. Why? Because Jesus himself said that until we forgive others, God can’t forgive us. (Matthew 18:35)

Who do you need to forgive? Got a name? Write the cheque.


Kathleen Gibson writes about the connection between everyday life and faith in her weekly newspaper column, Sunny Side Up, among other places. Find her on her website, or ask Mr. Google.
Write the Forgiveness Cheque was published earlier this year on Kathleen's website and in newspapers running Sunny Side Up.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ON FIRE TO RETIRE-by Heidi McLaughlin

For years people have been asking me, “So when are you going to finally retire?” For years my response has been: “Retire from what to what? I will KNOW when it is time for me to retire.”

I knew God would give me absolute clarity when the time was right, and that time has come. I woke up one morning and in my spirit I clearly heard the words, “It’s time to retire.”  At the moment it is an exciting yet daunting and mysterious time in my transitional life. At the time of this blog, I have 9 working days left. 

I have had a fulfilling and exciting career for the past 35 years. I have managed a large law office and for the past 21 years I have been the controller for two car dealership franchises. For the past 18 years I have juggled my career with a speaking, writing and mentoring ministry, being a pastor’s wife and being a mother and step mom of a large family.  It has been a rich, fulfilling and satisfying era and an exciting and mysterious future awaits. For over 35 years I have had a scheduled routine of getting up at 6:00, doing my devotions, going to work, working all day and then doing my other ministry in the evenings and weekends.  When the glow wears off, what does the new future look like?

I have discovered that when it comes to the subject of retirement there at two camps.
Camp #1 – “Oh dear, you’re finally going to retire. What are you going to do?”

Camp #2 -  Great news, you are finally retiring. You are going to love it.  You will now have a new freedom and you will wonder how you ever managed to hold down a full time job. I know God has great and mighty projects waiting for you.”

At the moment I am chomping at the bit to finish my 9 working days.  God has richly provided for me all these years and I know without a shadow of a doubt that He will care for me and meet all my future needs. I am on fire to discover:
  • What it’s like to write a book during the week, and not until midnight and on weekends in my P.J.’s
  • What it feels like to NOT have to get up early each morning.
  • To be able to take vacations and long weekends whenever I want. I can’t even imagine.
  • To take the time to write articles, submit stories to publishers, and linger during the beautiful summer evenings.
  • Not get agitated with interrupted interruptions.
  • Embrace divine moments.
  • Linger with friends.
  • Leisurely plant the flowers on my deck and take the time to beautify my garden.
  • Be fully engaged in what God has for me in this next season of life.
Our wonderful God tells us in the book of Ephesians 2:20 that “He has good works for us to do”, and I eagerly await the picture of what those good works look like.

For those of you who have already embraced this season; I would love your words or encouragement and wisdom to help me transition through this most marvellous and mysterious season.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. You can reach her at:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I WRITE through Christ who strengthens me - SUSAN HARRIS

May our love for people and hope in God's Word  flow through our own words. May we use our time wisely and productively. May each keep in mind the focus of what we're called to write - that we are not in competition because we are each called with  a unique and specific mandate. As Paul describes in Philippians 4:13, I write all things through Christ who strengthens me (writing being one of the things we do). He gives me inspiration.  He helps me carve out time, set my priorities, and steers me from distractions towards self -discipline. He leads me in the paths of favour with readers and publishers.

I write with the talents He has given me, and in so doing, I glorify Him, but my lips also declare publicly that I am successful because of grace. Grace, undeserved yet freely offered to all, given to anyone who accepts. Like an open book the Lord supervised my conception and watched me grow to birth, after that all the stages of my life were spread out before Him. Similarly, He watches us create our books, from inspiration to publication He guides our literal works. All the preparation, chapters, people and stages are spread out before Him, timetabled before we even had the desire to write. He knew our beginning before it began, and He knows the ending. An ending that He has designed, and we know that He only unfolds that which is good and perfect.

So we rest our works into Your mighty hands that span this earth, Lord, our manuscripts and keyboards, pens and jot pads, the final publications that goes abroad this universe that Your hands span. And believe that as we have created and written, planted and watered, You will give increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

SUSAN HARRIS is the author of six books and 1-Minute prayer

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Antique Rocker

By David Kitz

We found it in the derelict farmhouse –
the abandoned house –
not really a house now.
For many years this home-of-the-pioneers had been used as a barn.

There in the lean-to kitchen it sat.
The ornately carved pressed back chair
looked so out of place,
yet somehow at home
in the grime and dust.

There through the decades it sat –
weathered into
its chicken coop surroundings –
A treasure sitting in the barnyard filth.

I lifted it up
Out of the mire
Out of the manure.

Then, I saw this was no chair.
From the muck and straw
emerged the rockers.
Here was an antique, pressed back rocker!

Now redeemed
It sits in my house –
In my home –
Washed clean,
A treasure.

On this antique rocker
My son was nursed.
His tears were wiped.
His cry was soothed.
Here he heard the Redeemer's lullaby
Just like a hundred years ago.
Just like a hundred years ago.

Rock me gently now,
My antique rocker.
As I drift off to sleep
Rock me gently.
Let me hear the Redeemer's Lullaby.
Rock me gently now,
Just like a hundred years ago.
Just like a hundred years ago.

Rock me gently now.
From the seat of sweet redemption
Let me sing redemption's song.
Let me sing redemption's song –
the Redeemer's Lullaby –
Just like two thousand years ago.
Just like two thousand years ago.

Because you pulled me from the mire,
Let me sing redemption's song.
Let me sing redemption's song –
the Redeemer's Lullaby –
Ten thousand years from now.
Ten thousand years from now. . .

As I drift off. . .
Rock me gently,
Antique Rocker.

David Kitz is an occasional poet and the award-winning author of a passion-of-Christ novel, The Soldier, the Terrorist & the Donkey King. You can check out his other works at: 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Well Buttered Bread by Ruth Smith Meyer

Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days”—and someone has added “well-buttered!”

That casting your bread upon the waters is similar to random acts of kindness, the suggested theme for this month.

The first time I read about Random Acts of Kindness was in a Reader’s Digest article many years ago.  It captured my mind and for months and even years, I periodically tried to think of things I could do to brighten someone’s day—a plate of cookies for a busy mom, folding the dry clothes from a neighbours line and stacking them neatly in her wash basket, a Tim’s gift certificate in for the mailman, a container of soup for a mom of one of my bus kids who I knew had just returned from the hospital, a suggestion for a helpful routine to my Sunday school pupils—whatever crossed my mind when I saw a need.  It became a way of life for me—sometimes more frequent than others.  When this idea was new to me, I got a real rise from just doing it that lasted for days.  As those times became more routine, I still feel satisfaction and thankfulness, but now it’s a deeper, quieter sense of working with God.

Random acts of kindness that are deliberate and thought out are good, but I often feel the best ones are those we do in our regular day without thinking what the results may be.  Just recently, a pastor who was in my Sunday School class as a young teenager sent me a gift.  I knew from the shape and feel that it was a book.  When I read her letter and her expression of thanks, I was astounded.

For several weeks those many years ago, I had handed each of my students an envelope with seven short scriptures on separate pieces of paper with instructions to choose one each morning, read it over several times and then stick it in their pockets or wallets, carry it with them and read it again now and then through the day. They were amazed at how relevant those scriptures were each day. One of them wondered how I knew what they were going through. I explained that is what the Word of God is like. It applies itself to our everyday living—that the very same verse may take on different meanings depending on our circumstances.
On a whim, I had bought each of my pupils a small Hilroy note book and suggested to them that they entitle them, God’s dealing in the life of ________ (and insert their name.)  I told them to share in the journal their struggles and how God met them in the midst of those times: their joys and how God brought pleasure to their moments. I suggested that after a while they go back and read their record and indicated that they may be quite surprised at how good God is and how evident is his work in their lives.

The gift from this dear girl, now a grown woman was one of those books with empty pages.  It wasn’t just a simple exercise book, it has a beautiful cover.   She told me she has filled many books since the one I gave her and often she goes back through them and is amazed at how God has led her through both difficult and triumphant times.  The entries weren’t always daily, but those journals were a record of her growth and understanding of God’s touch on her life.  She was expressing thanks and passing back an act of kindness.  How special for her to offer me thanks so many years later.

I had long ago forgotten that piece of bread cast on the waters, but now it came back—well-buttered. 

Watch for Ruth Smith Meyer's newest book--Out of the Ordinary--the story of her life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Step at a Time—Carolyn R. Wilker

Writers soon learn that getting to publication takes many steps, and that it’s one step at a time. In early days of writing, there’s so much to absorb—show, don’t tell; use active voice, good grammar and correct spelling; transitions from one scene or thought to another. To a new writer it may seem overwhelming. And yet, in time and with much practice, even the newer writer gradually gets those separate elements together. With the help of an editor, the prose or poetry comes out looking polished.
A serious writer is always learning, striving for a stronger voice and a story that meets people where they are, and so learning is never done. Some writers seem to develop a natural way with words or a poetic or literary voice. And others, like my aunt who wrote poetry for her own enjoyment, and shared it with family, are also writers.
Perhaps from a young age, a one-day writer becomes adept at telling stories or standing up in front of friends acting out imaginary scenes, then recreating them for a larger audience. Like a nine-year-old I know who started her first newsletter recently that her homeschooling Mom supervises. Her Mom put up a link on Facebook and then the publisher of the local papers saw it and decided to include one of Rachel's stories in each edition of its publication. Go, Rachel, go! I suggested that one day she might be on the Youth Editorial Board for our regional paper. She continues to learn and that's good.
Life is a lot like that too, learning one step at a time. I awoke one morning recently and the line of Kris Kristofferson’s song, came to me: “One day at a time.” Just like composers of song and story, we never do it all at once. A baby is born, and there’s much for the child to learn. She sits up, stands, walks, says those first words, and later communicates with others. She tries things out, and her family learns in time what she does best.
After a long progression of words, actions, songs, performances, you, too, arrive at the present moment, and it’s as though all those steps were leading you there. You’re encouraged by your family to keep going, or by others around you. Sometimes a road block stymies your progress and stops you for awhile, and other times, you’re just not so sure of yourself and your abilities.
Faith journeys are like that too. At first parents and Sunday School teachers offer simple lessons, such as God loves you, through song and Bible stories, and you go from drinking milk (simple concepts) and eventually to eating solid food and digging into the  meanings of  a messy life and God’s grace and how God loves you, messy life and all.
Maybe you find release in resuming that gift that was dammed up, and other times it’s simply daunting. One day at a time.
As I tell my students in writing workshops, “If you keep working at it, you get better.” And they do, because I see improvement as they continue to write. In the same way, we understand better, in time, the lessons God has for us and the gifts he gave, and we continue to develop as his children, even when we’re all “grown up.”
If your calling is to write, then it’s time to get started. If you’ve taken a hiatus for whatever reason, there’s room to start again. Share what you know, where you are in your faith journey. Learn as you go and be persistent.

Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox. Carolyn will present a workshop, Making True Stories Memorable, for Canadian Authors Association, Waterloo-Wellington Branch, on February 28, in Waterloo, ON, and will be on faculty of Write Canada 2015, co-leading the Creative Nonfiction Intensive workshop.


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