Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Common Ground in Differences - Donna Mann

Summer is camp weather — and we’ve done a lot of it through the last few months. We often contact people in the areas we’re travelling to see if they have time for lunch or maybe a coffee at Timmie’s. Such was the case in our recent trip.

It was a situation where we recently visited old friends of the Mennonite tradition while travelling east. We had known one another for many years; trust and friendship had developed between us.  In the past we’d learned about our mutual churches, congregations and groups within faith communities, and at times discussed biblical passages and God’s expectations.

We looked at photo albums and listened to stories from the past decade. As I coloured pictures, read stories and laughed with the children, it was like having my own grandchildren around my knees. As the father/husband asked God’s blessings on us individually before our meal, it was truly drawing us all to the same table. Indeed, we shared common ground in the oneness of God’s care and love, as well as our faithfulness and return of gratitude.

On our second day, we were scanning the roadside for a rest area, when we noticed a rural United Church building with a big empty parking lot—big enough to turn this rig around. As no one was there, we couldn’t ask permission, so I just put on the kettle and opened our lunch packages. Within the half-hour several cars came rushing in. As it turned out, the women’s group had arrived to practice a skit for an upcoming event. Later, as we talked together, it reminded me of coffee hour after church. Again common ground in location, witness and mission.

My last experience was one of urgency: later in the day, we parked in a mall lot and as Doug checked the hitches and lights, a tall foreign man came up behind him and asked for a screwdriver. “Straight” he said. At first, my fear heightened. Doug gave it to him without looking back. We watched him walk toward a huge loaded transport, to stand facing the passenger door. He obviously attempted to open the lock. Doug ventured over to offer further assistance and it happened the driver had requested permission from a grocery store to unload, but wasn’t granted consent because he was not wearing safety boots. His newly purchased boots were now in the cab, but so where his keys.

With a clothes hanger from the trailer and a little fancy manoeuvring, Doug opened the huge truck cab door.  Even with a language and culture barrier, a pressing need, and established trust (albeit short-lived), the driver was able to deliver his load before the deadline. The men had found common ground in the differences: a need and a willingness to help.

We laughed as thirty minutes later, we saw the same truck cab, minus its long trailer move in a circle around our RV, heading for the exit—his way of saying thankful.



Check out donnamann.org
21 Promises: Honouring Self in Grief is available now on Amazon and Kobo.
"Grieving is a natural process. No 12-step course or structured online lesson can teach us to grieve. It comes naturally once we give ourselves permission to do so. . . "

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Faithful to Write - Tracy Krauss

The words of Habakkuk Chapter Two resonate in the ears of many Christian writers I know - including me:

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what He will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it. (NIV)

This passage is clearly about the calling that many feel to write. And yes, I believe this applies to fiction writers, too. The fact that God uses story to reach people is well documented. After all, Jesus himself used parables to get his message across.

Stories are a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer and can influence and impact long after the entertainment factor has worn off. Take for instance Frank Peretti's iconic This Present Darkness. It continues to be a spiritual warrior's call to action, even after almost thirty years. (Apparently a revised edition came out in 2003. I still have the original 1980s version...) Authors like C.S. Lewis, Francine Rivers, and others come to mind as weavers of stories that have had a lasting and profound impact on a spiritual level.

I don't presume to lump myself in with such glowing examples, but I have been blessed to receive feedback from readers telling me my work affected them in a positive way. I love to tell stories of redemption and grace based on characters that are less than squeaky clean, but whom God uses anyway. I think people appreciate the fact that God keeps short accounts when we come to faith in Christ. There is hope for everyone - even the most unlikely.

This month we were encouraged to write about 'Faithfulness'. I can't help but think how this applies to us as Christian writers - even those of us that have committed to write for this blog. I am grateful for the men and women who are faithful to post here each month. I know that many of us lead very busy lives and it isn't always easy to find time to write yet another blog post. As well, it takes effort to think of something new to share that is both interesting and relevant. Thanks, too, to our lovely moderator, Glynis Belec, who keeps us on track.

Keep on writing faithfully, my dear friends, both here and in the other things God has laid on your heart. It is a high calling not to be taken lightly.


Tracy Krauss writes fiction, non-fiction, and stage plays from her home in British Columbia. http://tracykrauss.com

Friday, September 18, 2015

SAND IN MY SHOES - by Heidi McLaughlin

The feeling of being barefoot and feeling sand squish between my toes evokes giddiness and freedom. When I flirt with the ocean I am a child experiencing the joy of the occasional splash of gorgeous, turquoise sea water and the sun warming my cheeks. I am free to frolic, run, laugh and giggle. Being barefoot in the sand unleashes a brazen abandon that I find in no other place.

When I wear shoes I do not enjoy the same freedom. It is blatantly unrealistic of me to think that I can frolic in the sand and not expect to get sand in my shoes. Those irritating grains of sand eventually find a little open crevice and rub at me until I either take off my shoes or leave the beach. Annoying, hurtful and disappointing!

An unrealistic expectation is like an irritating grain of sand-a silent thief that robs us of freedom and joy. When people do not meet our expectations we get mad, feel hurt, rejected, disappointed and blame them for letting us down.  Here is a paradigm shift to reality.

Everything in this life is a created thing and has the potential to disappoint us.  It’s a harsh statement, but once we get it, it will unleash the same kind of freedom as running barefoot on the
beach.  I have found my greatest freedom in this life by identifying and learning to let go of unrealistic expectations. How do we do that? Realize that:
1.     It is not other people’s job to make us happy.
2.     Everyone sees the world through a different set of lenses.
3.     People orchestrate their lives to make them feel loved and comfortable in the way that has been modeled for them.
4.     We can never assume anything-always check the facts.
5.     God has made us all unique, and we cannot expect people to climb into our life’s journey and be like us.
6.     God is shaping each person’s character in a distinctive manner. It is not our job to shape other people’s characters.
7.      It is unrealistic to think that granite countertops, a flashy career, a perfect spouse, a face lift, fitting into skinny jeans, or a diamond ring will bring us lasting, and fulfilling joy.
8.     Everything in this life ends up in a box…one way or the other.
9.     We need to treasure what God has placed in our hands and receive it as a gift to be held loosely while we are on this earth.
10.  When we buy into unrealistic expectations we are setting ourselves up to be robbed of our freedom.

God is so kind and gracious to us. He tells us in John 8:31, 32 “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

What truth? It’s all right there in the bible-every word and story is a realistic expectation and promise to set us free from the hooks of this world. People and things were not put on this earth to give us freedom, only Christ can do that. Once we recognize and believe it, we will be empowered to make choices that will be as freeing as running near the ocean barefoot. No chance of gritty, annoying sand in our shoes.

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: www.heartconnection.ca

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I noticed Mabel’s new haircut last Sunday as she passed in front of me to get to her favourite pew. 

“Your hair looks lovely.” Mabel smiled at my compliment, then gestured to her ear and replied, “I didn't  want it so short but I couldn't manage it and I still can't reach the back because of my arm.”

“Here, let me help you.” I attempted to finger-comb the back of her hair just as the pastor called the service to order. But ever so often my mind darted back to Mabel and her arthritic arm. Then my thoughts went to Jesus and His commendation of the widow and her copper (Luke 21:1-4). How its significance was measured in the context of net worth. And I could not shake the feeling that finger-combing Mabel’s hair would be the most significant event of my barely-started Sunday. 

 Then my mind drifted to widows and orphans, groups close to Jesus’ heart (James 1:27). And a step further to writing – the widows and orphans in our books. (A widow is a word or line of text that is forced to go on alone and start its own column or page. An orphan is a single word at the bottom of a paragraph that gets left behind Experts say it matters because an orphaned word at the bottom of a paragraph creates an interruption in the flow that breaks the reader’s focus. This break is caused by the unintended white space that calls more attention than necessary to the single word. Similarly, a widow divides the thought in the sentence (http://opusdesign.us/typographic-widows-orphans/). 

Clearly, widows and orphans are undesirables in good writing, as they were in the social context of Jesus’s day.  Scorned by the religious. Thus Jesus spoke that what constitutes the religious, what is pure and without fault, is taking care of widows and orphans.The notion of widows and orphans being an inconvenience persists up to the present, and got tagged on to writing.  And running through the maze of thoughts as I sat in church pondering Mabel, Jesus, widows, coppers and orphans (while finding the texts in my Bible as the pastor unfolded his sermon) was a comfort that if my books contain widows and orphans, they would not suffer because of it. 

(Photo credits MajesticImagery of Free Digital Photos)

Susan Harris is the author of six books and has also contributed articles to magazines and anthologies. She first heard of widows and orphans in a writing context after Little Copper Pennies was published.  In spite of the number of widows and orphans that lived there, the book was successful and went on to be picked up by a larger publisher. 

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