Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Leaning Into Faith/DONNA MANN

I recently sat at a Presbytery meeting and listened to the various reports, while knitting. I am thankful I no longer feel called to chair any of these committees. Been there and done that. I marvel at the many ways God calls people to serve. As I listened, I found myself thinking about my faith journey and how it has paved the way for my present understanding.

Because I’m attending a workshop on ‘Writing about Faith and Religion” in the next few weeks, I’ve been watching for resources pertaining to particular faith issues that might be helpful. I have a book on my shelf, “Writing to Inspire” to which I often go when wanting to balance my passion on a topic with a reasonable approach so my reader hangs in with me.  Not saying my passion can totally tip the scales when writing, but they’ve been known to do this.

Mary Lou Redding says, “Devotional writing is not just pleasant-sounding words that make readers feel good inside, verbal stroking. On the contrary, good devotional writing often makes readers not more, but less comfortable, because it confronts our inertia or resistance and leads us to see where we can be more responsive to God’s work in our lives and in the world around us” (Writing to Inspire (p112).

But, isn’t that when I can get in trouble, even with friends? Do people not expect others in their circle to write what they are comfortable in reading – saying what they like to hear?  And how is one to know the different faith positions that any person might take at any given time? Certainly faith is not a static condition where one believes in this moment exactly as one believed twenty years ago. Conditions and experiences often enhance faith and yet for some, even make it fragile.

Thinking about this blog in reflection to the upcoming workshop, I wrote the following words in the margin of my Presbytery agenda, “I had to go to the edge to find where I didn’t belong, acknowledging that I didn’t even want to be there.” This didn’t have as much to do with choice as it did listening to other’s fears about not being in a specific place with a particular understanding and using certain experiences, phrases and words.  Are we to write what pacifies another’s beliefs or stretch them?

There is a certain freedom about ‘coming home’ in one’s faith and feeling the presence of God that some would be surprised to read in inspirational or devotional writing. With this understanding, I look forward to what is next. 

"Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. 3"For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations And will resettle the desolate cities.… (Isaiah 54:2)

Agnes Macphail Series (2003;2010;2013)
A Rare Find Legend of an Epic Canadian Midwife (2013)
NEW: Little Red Barn Children's Stories (formerly Meadowlane) now on iTunes. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dying to Live - Tracy Krauss

Anticipation. Kindness. Fulfillment. Refreshment.

These are some of the one word prompts that were suggested at the beginning of this year. This month we were asked to speak on 'refreshment', especially as it relates to our faith. As I have been reading through some of the blog posts written by other writers, I am actually feeling refreshed. Good thing, too. I've been going through a bit of a dry spell in terms of my own writing inspiration and need a bit of refreshment.

However, it reminds me that many facets of life require a dormant period before renewal comes. Nature is a prime example. The seed must 'die' before it comes to life again. Jesus himself is the ultimate example. He died so that He might rise again. Without that death there would be no new life.

Dying to live. The paradox is not lost on me. And so I embrace this season, hopeful that 'spring' is right around the corner. Even that hope makes me feel refreshed. 

Tracy Krauss writes - and rests - from her home in British Columbia.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Need refreshing? Perhaps it's quitting time! - Kathleen Gibson

“Fame is not acceptance, it doesn't validate you as a person. It means nothing.” Quite a statement coming from the muffin lady behind the counter at a local café. The one  taking customers’ money to pay for your muffin and her wage. And what does she know about fame after all?


In any other café, maybe nothing. But in the small coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario, it's best not to make assumptions. The lady in that café knows a lot about fame – and how to turn her back on it.


Kathleen Edwards has been called one of popular music’s brightest lights. But in 2014, at the age of 36, after years of tramping the globe performing on one solo concert stage after another, of writing and recording her own music, of singing with and opening for some of the music scene’s biggest names…after all that, Kathleen Edwards quit. Emotionally exhausted, tired of trying to be what others expected, she traded the stage for a box-like building she found on the main street of Stittsville. She put down her guitar, picked up a sledgehammer and fashioned the box into a café. Then she named it Quitters (love that) and reassembled her life.


 She serves coffee to her fans and community now. Makes morning glory muffins. She’s not done with music forever, she says. But for now, she’s pressing pause. She’s found something more valuable than fame.

“You know what means something?” Kathleen asks. “Having people from the neighbourhood come in, getting to know them, seeing their families, and hearing them say ‘thank you for giving us a place to go.' That's . . . awesome.”


 Only a few people experience fame, but most adults I know can relate to the tendency of hanging on to something we do far longer than we ought. Perhaps praise stokes our ego. Maybe we wonder what others – even God? – would do without our contribution. Or perhaps we don’t let go simply because we don’t know how.

Kathleen’s story makes me ponder the things I do, and why I do them. Reminds me to listen for God’s whispers that speak of pressing pause sometimes. To spend less time on things that don’t matter much in the end, and to make more time for enjoying the blessings and responsibilities of connecting deeply with people. Face to face and voice to voice. Especially people who know and accept me as I am: flawed, imperfect and unfinished.


The best - and most refreshing - life God planned for you and me finds its validation, not through others’ esteem or clever use of our gifts and talents, but as Kathleen Edwards has discovered, through serving and sharing in community with others.

Listen to the muffin lady at the counter. She knows.

Kathleen's books, columns, essays, and radio spots have found homes in hearts and media outlets worldwide. She prays some of those words have made a difference. Find a few at her website, on Facebook, and in other places.
This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Refreshment by Marcia Lee Laycock

Bird of Paradise
It took us almost 5 hours. We had to walk through the jungles of Papua New Guinea to get to an airstrip where we would climb onto a small plane for the flight back to SIL’s mission station at Ukarumpa. I had prayed a lot, knowing that rain would make the trek difficult. God answered my prayers. There had been little rain all week so the rivers we had to cross weren’t flooded and the trail was relatively dry.

We chatted and laughed as we walked, my seven-year-old on the shoulders of one of the national men, my other two daughters easily keeping up using the walking sticks one of the men had provided. We had started out early in the day, but the jungle was already steaming with humidity, making our clothing cling to our bodies and our foreheads bead with perspiration. We used our water bottles often but the tepid water was not as refreshing as the chunks of sugar cane the men cut from time to time. The natural electrolytes in the stalks gave us the energy we needed to keep going.

An astonishing variety of insects kept up a constant buzz and hum and our heads often swivelled as brilliantly coloured birds and butterflies crossed our path. Their appearance spurred us on each time. The men got especially excited when a huge black cockatoo swooped by as we crossed one of the many rivers. The rare bird, they told us, was a good omen.

We stayed beneath the canopy of green, stepping out of it only when we reached the airstrip and realized how that high roof of foliage had protected us from the punishing tropical sun. The plane was waiting for us so there was no time to rest. My husband took off his shoes and handed them to the translator we had been visiting. His were falling apart. We pulled sweaters out of our packs and had them ready for the chilly temperature as the plane reached a high elevation, soaring over mountains and into the clouds.

By the time we arrived at our home at Ukarumpa we were all exhausted and thinking about only one thing – a refreshing shower. My oldest daughter made it into the house first so the rest of us had to wait our turn. My husband pulled out the box of mail that had accumulated while we were away. There was much excitement when we realized there was a “care package” from home, complete with newspapers, letters and photos from members of our Canadian congregation, packages of candy for the girls and many other delights. Suddenly our exhaustion was forgotten and we oohed and aahed over each new discovery. When Kate emerged from the shower none of us were eager to pull ourselves away from that connection to home.

But oh, the delight of that fresh running water! I had been almost ready to collapse when we arrived, but the shower and the delight of watching my family’s excitement over that care package revived my body and soul.

Refreshment. God provided it, in the laughter as we walked, in the delight over the beauty of the jungle and its creatures, in the natural boost from the sugar cane, in the joy of finding mail waiting for us and in the delight of a long cool shower.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jer.31:25). That is a promise God made to the Hebrew people through His prophet Jeremiah. It is a promise He keeps to all His people, to this day. 

Marcia writes from Alberta Canada where she lives with her pastor/husband and two golden retrievers. She is a columnist with and her devotionals are widely distributed. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her debut novel, One Smooth Stone. It was followed by A Tumbled Stone which was also shortlisted for an award. Marcia's fantasy novel, The Ambassadors, was just shortlisted for a Word Award. Several ebooks are available from Amazon and Smashwords

Visit Marcia's website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Row Your Boat - by Heidi McLaughlin

“I’m going to give you some wisdom that you might find simple and a little strange”, I said to the harried woman sitting across from me. "But please listen as I explain."  Her jaw dropped and her forehead produced a few extra wrinkles as I started to sing a simple nursery rhyme.

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.

I probably didn’t seem smarter than a third grader, but I quickly went on to explain my version of this uncomplicated, picturesque piece of advice. I felt compelled to help her because I knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I went on to explain how many of us feel a delusional sense of responsibility for things that don’t belong in our boat. “And further”, I said, “we end up listening to all the things we ‘should’ do because we are comparing ourselves to T.V. commercials, Facebook bragging and unrealistic expectations.”
To feel fulfilled and joyful we must learn to row our boat gently down the stream. This means learning to quit paddling and working so hard work and go with the flow of life which is generated through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The bible tells us that: “In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NLT), and that we “…have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT).  God has given you and me everything we need to flow merrily down the stream. But, we must decide to dock our boat, stop and take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit who will help us make the next move.

I had to eat my own words the last two years as I found myself exhausted, frustrated and depleted.  When I clearly felt the Holy Spirit telling me it was time to retire and trust Him for my future, there were many heart pounding moments wondering what my new stream would look like. I’m in my new boat now, but in order to get settled I had to unload many oversized toxic boxes and debris that should have been chucked years ago.  These days I feel so free and merry that I can hardly contain my joy.

Am I certain as to what my future looks like? No, but as I told the woman sitting in front of me, “God is smarter than you and me.  We need to take deliberate steps to find a place of solitude where we can listen to the nudging of the Holy Spirit to tell us what unnecessary stuff we need to cast out of our boat. God is on our side. No matter how easy or difficult our situations are, God will gently and lovingly guide our boat down the stream of life on the route that He designed for us to take.”

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:

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