Friday, January 29, 2016

Encourage one another/MANN

Recently, I’ve been personally challenged to accept grace and offer it unconditionally to others. It can be rather illusive at times, until we share it, exercise it and verbalize it. And then it’s like the flood gates have opened and the cleansing waters of encouragement and empowerment flows.

Mercy withholds what we deserve and grace blesses what we don’t deserve. Or look at it this way, Mercy is something you don't get when you should and grace is what you do get when you shouldn't. I used to see this repeatedly when I chaplain in the prison system. Often God was ready to step up to the plate while people stood contemplating. It was like seeing Jesus sitting at the well waiting for the woman of Samaria to come for water. Time after time, God was at work in another’s heart before the person or others were ready to admit it. 

It always helps to encourage one another to extend grace when its importance hasn’t been grasped. Often, it takes a release of a grudge or an experience of forgiveness to have the courage to offer grace to someone who doesn’t understand.

When one holds a deep resentment, forgiving grace is often not identified. And when another has wronged us, it’s difficult to recognize God has already preceded anything we could possibly do. And yet we are still called to echo that grace, give it voice, offer a healing presence.

Forgiveness is not easy for some people – pain has been too deep – memory is too alive. And yet, if they decide to carry the grudge, they risk continued connection to the offender giving him or her personal power. Slowly this diminishes the light of love within.

A while back, our church book club studied ‘Made for Goodness: and why this makes all the difference’ (Desmond and Mpho Tutu) “We are made for God, who is the giver of life. We are made by God, who holds us in life” (p.13) are statements that remind us of our and other’s creation, causing us to think twice about undoing any of God’s work. My elderly Aunt Emily was known to confront anyone who spoke against people with these words, “Now Johnny, they are all God’s children.”

Therefore (my friends and all who read this) encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Joy of Letting it Go (and Getting it Right) by Glynis M. Belec

If you do your best, you will get it right every time.
(Photo by Amanda Belec Newton)
     The other day I caught the tail end of a program on CBC radio. Even though there wasn’t much left of the show, I think I caught the best part. From what I could gather, the story being presented was giving Kudos to a young musician who loved his calling and pursued it with great passion. He not only worked as a musician during the day, but his spare time was spent helping youngsters hone their skills and foster a love for music.

My favourite part of the program was at the end when one of his young charges – she sounded like she was about 9 or ten years old – said this:  “If you do your best you will get it right every time.”
I thought her a wise little Miss for sharing those words. I even jotted them down for reflection.
And reflect I did.

It started me wondering if I have an obsession for ‘rightness’. I have to be my own worst critic. (I think that’s why I find marketing such a chore and downright exhausting some days.) I never think I am ready and I don’t like settling for mediocre. Sometimes I think that my story is never good enough. My house is never clean enough. My presentation never good enough. I do it to myself, though. Maybe self-criticism is a good thing. Maybe it helps me hone my skills and my craft.
Sometimes I just don’t know what to do to make what I am working on better, though. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist – well maybe a little – but I wonder if maybe, just maybe I need to realize that I might have already arrived at my best.
Then there are those times when I let it go. I think those are the times when I easily smile and find the most joy and like that little Miss on CBC – actually feel like I have ‘done it right’.

As I ponder this, I keep thinking about the scripture in Romans 12:2 where it says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Notice this scripture verse does not say that I should be transformed by the removal of my mind. I need to keep my mind on Jesus and be renewed because of Him.  It’s all about renewal because, now that I think of it, when I became a child of God, my motivation is all about being right according to His will rather than what the world tells me is best.  I find when I pray and find joy in my work, I feel more renewed, refreshed and more keen to continue.  There’s the key!

So I suppose the best thing to do, then, is to pour my heart and soul into the task at hand – whether I am writing, serving, speaking, creating, planning. If I do all that to the best of my ability using my God-given gifts and take the time to enjoy the journey, then I am doing it unto the Lord and that is as right as I can ever hope to be.

Okay, little CBC Miss. I will take your advice and try my very best.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17. 
Ha! There’s the key – giving thanks for everything that I do and I will be right every time! By George I think I’ve got it! 
                            By George

                                                  I think I’ve got it!

Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in her home office. Her latest children's book - Hopeful Homer offers hope and encouragement to anyone who might find herself in 'the pit'. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Snow Ball Effect - Tracy Krauss

The theme for this month was 'new beginnings', a very apt topic for the month of January when so many of us like to set goals. I've noticed that many of my writing goals sound quite similar each year which leads me to wonder: Perhaps beginning something multiple times really isn't 'beginning' at all...

For many years, my reoccurring lament was, "Why did God give me this desire to write if nobody is ever going to read it?" My only writing goal in those early days was to just finish something. Sixteen years after starting my first novel, I managed to complete it. Finally! Goal number one crossed off my list!

Three or four years later I had four finished manuscripts. By that time, my new goal was, "Get published." This was before the self-publishing revolution. (In retrospect I am very thankful for that, since none of these books were actually worthy of publication at the time.) I had less control over this goal than the first one. Reality was a tough taskmaster and I went through many more years of submission and rejection - almost to the point of despair - until, 'Eureka!' I signed my first book contract in 2008. The next logical goal was to be able to quit my day job and write full time. I'd done the hard part, so this next step should be easy. Right?

Once again, reality slapped me upside the head and woke me from my fantasy. My first book did not become an overnight success, and I did not make large sums of money or gain an instant following of readers. Instead, I was painstakingly introduced to the concept of building a platform, step by slow step. Marketing, social media, and other para-writing activities now demanded my attention, and with that my list of goals for the year became long and complex. Somehow, 'Write full time,' now depended on social media stats, learning new marketing strategies and the like. What ever happened to pure, unadulterated writing for pleasure?

Not that I'm complaining. I have enjoyed a small measure of 'success', if one can call it that. Since my first book came out in 2009, I've been blessed to have more than 20 books and plays published - almost 40 if one counts the novella sized serials that came out each month before they were compiled into full length collections. I've also written multiple magazine articles and anthology contributions and I have maintained my personal blog and consistently contributed to several other blogs like this one. The snow ball effect is certainly evident as my repertoire expands along with the demands on my time.

However, despite all this activity and an armload of published material, I am really no closer to meeting that ultimate goal of becoming a full time writer. Writing for profit turned out to be harder than I had anticipated. The competition is fierce and the market is flooded. It's why I hesitated this year when it came time to do my customary 'goal setting' session. Sure, I came up with a long to-do list of things I want to accomplish this year. More books, more marketing, more busyness... But am I really getting any closer to my real goal?

I can't answer that question. All I know is, I've come too far to stop now. I am a lot older and a bit wiser than when I started, but I'm still pursuing that dream. Just like a small snowball that can turn into a large one, I'm hoping that momentum is on my side. Only time will tell.

Tracy Krauss writes from her home in Tumbler Ridge, BC, where she also teaches secondary school Drama, Art and English. Visit her website for a full list of her novels, stage plays, and other books. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Double Rainbow Revelation-by Heidi McLaughlin

            In January of each year I walk, pray and wait for God to give me two words or a phrase that will be my “teachable moments” and spotlight for the coming year.  January 2005 was the year I received a phrase that jolted my life.

            That year it was already the middle of January and I still had not received any direction and I knew it was time for another long walk. On a cold and dark evening I bundled up and walked through the vineyards and then up and down the hills of our beautiful neighbourhood.  Each time I put one foot in front of the other, I repeated this prayer: “God, do you have two words or something that will give me focus for the coming year?” I walked, waited and listened.  Halfway through my cold and dark adventure, a phrase came to me that was as clear as a banner across my forehead. “Reflect my Glory!”

            It almost took my breath away. Glory! That is a huge and mysterious phrase. God You are so Holy, Glorious and Majestic, what does that mean? How do I reflect your Glory?
            Those three words became even more ominous as I researched the word “Glory” and found it encompassed every single area of my life.
·      Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for glory, whom I formed and made…” (Isa. 43:7 NIV).
·      “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31 NIV).

            After two months of studying this phrase and still not fully grasping the whole concept, I became as brave as Moses at the burning bush and said: “God, will you show me what it means to reflect Your Glory?”

            Weeks and months passed but I never gave up hope. One day in June of that year my husband Jack and I decided to go for a long walk. Even though it had been raining all morning we bravely ventured out with our umbrellas.  On this splendid spring morning the summer flowers and foliage had been washed by rain and were bursting with fresh brilliant colors. The grapes on the vines were just beginning to take shape. God was really showing off that day.

            Close to the end of our walk the sun broke through the clouds and we saw the most magnificent rainbow. If that wasn’t enough, what I saw next literally took my breath away, The most glorious second rainbow. But for the first time in my life I realized that the second rainbow was a REFLECTION of the first. It took my breath away because I knew this was God’s way of showing me what it means to “reflect His Glory.”  It showed me this: That I am a reflection of His beauty, His promises and His love. I stood in awe wanting to fall on my knees and worship.

            For me it was a revelation that I wear His coat of beauty and love wherever I go and whatever I do. With everything I do and say. I always ask myself this question: “When I write, speak or am among other people. Did I leave God’s love and beauty?”

            The discipline of asking God for two words each year has been one of the simplest, yet one of my most powerful spiritual practices. This year God gave me: Rejoice and Glorify.  I wonder what He will teach me this year.
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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