Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Appreciating the Beauty by Tracy Krauss

Psalm 19:1  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

It is easy to take the beauty around us for granted. I live in, arguably, one of the most beautiful spots on earth, yet I sometimes feel dissatisfied, discouraged, and disappointed. It's natural, I suppose. As human beings we often think the grass is greener somewhere else.

My little community of Tumbler Ridge, set in the mountains of northern British Columbia, has suffered a disheartening economic setback in the last couple of years. As resource prices plummeted, so jobs disappeared. The exodus which began as a trickle has left our town overgrown (literally) with unkempt lawns and foreclosure notices. It's a losing battle against the clover, dandelions, and other weeds that have taken root, no matter how diligent one might be. One out of every four or five houses is occupied. Yes, that's what I said - occupied. That leaves four out of five vacant.

The only thing that hasn't diminished are the people in need. I volunteer at the local food bank and our clientele has increased. Many of the new clients are low income families who have relocated here because of the cheap rent. While there are some positives, (Tumbler Ridge was recently declared a Global Geopark - one of only two in North America!) there is an overriding sense of discontent among the residents who are still here. My husband and I have managed to hang on due to the security of my teaching job, but it hasn't been easy. We've had to put our faith to the test, trusting in God with more than just our lips.

Fortunately for me, my husband is also relentlessly optimistic. This is a good trait, although it makes it irritatingly difficult to wallow. (For those of us who feel like doing so on occasion...) In any case, rather than focus on the negatives, we've decided to try and enjoy some Sunday afternoon mini-vacations right here at home. There are more than thirty waterfalls within a short hike of town - some just minutes away from the town centre.

Quality Falls
Here we are at 'Quality Falls', just a very short hike from the trailhead just minutes from town. 

The next picture shows 'Flatbed Falls' literally minutes from downtown and a favourite spot for young people. One of the rights of passage is jumping off the cliff into the pools below. It's only about fifteen feet, but it certainly feels farther when you're looking over the edge... 
Flatbed Falls

Photo by 'Epic Power Sport Getaway'
The most spectacular falls is Kinuseo Falls, which is about an hour's drive from town in Monkman Provincial Park. (Also pictured in the poster above. Of course the falls come without the dinosaur!)

As the opening psalm states, the beauty of nature really does proclaim the glory of God. There is nothing like getting out and experiencing God's creation to help put life's inconveniences in perspective. 


Tracy Krauss writes from her home in Tumbler Ridge, BC, pictured above. When she's not living her fantasy writer life during the summer months, she teaches secondary school Art, Drama and English.  Visit her website to read more or to check out her many published books and plays.

Monday, July 18, 2016

"Take Your Time" - by Heidi McLaughlin

I am fixated on the British Open Golf Tournament taking place in Scotland at the Royal Troon Championship course.  It’s the 3rday of the tournament and Phil Mickelson, my favourite player, is in the lead. I focus on his drives, short pitches, brilliant putts and the interaction between him and his caddy. “Jim Bones” Mackay has been Phil’s caddy since 1992 and they have established a trusting relationship.  

This part fascinates me.  On every tee box both Phil and “Jim Bones” go through the routine of Phil’s next shot. They establish wind velocity, precise yardage, angles and hazards. Conversation takes place back and forth; they pick the right club, Phil steps up to the tee and then I hear Jim Bones' last words, “Take your time.”  With that simple, yet powerful send off for success, it feels like everyone can breathe again.

We need to hear “take your time” more often. We live in perilous times where we take pride in how much we can pack into one day.  Taking our sweet time about anything is simply not an option. It might even be considered laziness.

Little children teach us to savour the moments. They love to take their time playing with Lego, sitting and listening to stories. We are the ones who teach them to hurry. I can still hear myself, “Get your coat on we’re running late.” “ Quit fooling around, you need to eat your lunch so we can get out of here.” I wonder if subconsciously we learned that it’s bad or wasteful to take our time.

Our relentless pursuits to find fulfillment and success cause us to become weary, overwhelmed and sometimes cynical. I don’t think we were designed to hurry our way through life. Jesus modeled simplicity. “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 MSG)

I confess I am also a card-carrying member of the rat race of blogging, tweeting, posting articles, Facebook memes, Instagram, Pinterest and on and on. But with all that we've invested in becoming writers and speakers I would like to suggest that we pause and “take the time” to learn from Jesus and enjoy our journey. We are to throw off all those things that are “ill fitting” and focus on the things that will bring us joy on our pathway to success. So I have to ask myself, “What do I need to take the time to throw off so that I can live freely and lightly?”

Not many of us have a “Jim Bones” to help us become successful and remind us to “take your time.”  But we have Jesus who says we are to watch and learn from Him how to live freely and lightly.  Jesus never hurried. He took time to interact with people and model The Father’s love. He focused on His purpose. He changed the world. What can you and I learn from Jesus that will help us to stop hurrying,  take the time” and enjoy our privileged season as writers and speakers?

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:
Heidi's latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places was released July 14th, 2016 and can be purchased on her website or

Monday, July 11, 2016

Being a Good Samaritan—Carolyn R. Wilker

Last evening, I was sitting on my front porch reading and enjoying the slightly cooler air. My neighbours were playing a game of Frisbee, the father with his 12-year-old son, and two smaller children playing on the lawn. Noah, who’s just two, ran out onto the road and around the car, out of sight, while his father tossed the Frisbee to his older brother. I called to the father about Noah, and he went to retrieve his son. [Fortunately there were no cars coming by at that moment.] Olina, who’s four, came over to say hello and I stepped off the porch to talk with her. She wanted me to come over, and then I was invited to play Frisbee too.
This is nothing unusual. I’ve talked with the parents many times and visited in their home. We’ve talked about gardening, our children, and in my case, grandchildren. This family is from Ethiopia, but that’s not unusual for they are among neighbours who come from other countries in the world— Africa, Germany, Croatia, England and Romania—just on our side of the crescent.
Yesterday the presiding pastor at our church read the story of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asks a question of Jesus, the Messiah— “Who is my neighbour?” And Jesus, knowing the lawyer’s mindset, tells a story.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers…” (Luke 10: 29b) The man had been beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest came by and passed by on the other side of the road. He did not stop to help the man. Next came a Levite, who acted in the same way. Sometime afterward a Samaritan (named by the place he came from) came by.  He felt pity for the hurt man and showed compassion. He bound the man’s wounds and took him to an inn. The Samaritan gave the innkeeper money to take care of the injured man and promised to pay any extra expense the innkeeper incurred when he came back that way.
Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought was the neighbour. The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” [Some versions use the word ‘kindness.’] Jesus tells the lawyer to go and do the same.
It didn’t matter to the Samaritan that the injured man was a foreigner to him. He showed compassion on another human being in need. 'Good Samaritan' has come to mean one who offers help.
We are called to do the same. The injured person could be someone who’s African, Romanian, Buddhist, native Canadian or Inuit. Here I’m not speaking of those who play the game of being 'in need' when in fact they are not, but for someone who has been hurt in some way and needs immediate help.
It may be that you can do no more than stand with the person, call for medical assistance and wait until help arrives. You might call attention to a child who has run onto the road, because you don’t want to see the child get hurt. It could be a person falling on the sidewalk where you're walking. Stopping might be simply helping to right the person again and taking time to inquire if the person has been hurt. Or it could mean applying first aid, if that’s something you can do, after an accident and until an ambulance arrives. It could even be blowing snow on a driveway in winter for someone who cannot shovel it.
We, too, are called to be a Samaritan.

 Carolyn Wilker is an author and editor from Southwestern Ontario. Learn more about what she does here.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Like Father, Like Son? -HIRD

By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

I am so grateful that my father is still here on earth.  When a person deeply admires their father, it is easy to feel that one can never fill their shoes.  When I lost my voice for eighteen months in December 1980, I remember feeling that I must be disappointing my father.  What I have discovered over the years is that my father has been one of my greatest supporters, and has never stopped cheering for me. 

Recently I read the book Rebel with A Cause, which described the fascinating relationship between Billy Graham and his son Franklin.  Growing up is rarely easy, especially for those with highly successful, famous parents.  During his time of rebellion, Franklin learned that he could truly be himself rather than have to be another Billy Graham.  Franklin commented: “Almost every child who has a famous parent struggles with finding his own way and wondering if he is being viewed as an individual, not just an extension of his father or mother.”  Finding out whom we really are takes time, self-reflection, and willingness to grow. 

Franklin’s deep love for his now ninety-seven year old father shines through every page of this book.  You can also see how the family sacrificed because Billy Graham, being in such demand, was away for long stretches of time.  Successful parents are often forced to travel a lot, often at great cost to their families.  Franklin’s mom Ruth was a rock of stability and caring in the midst of the whirlwind of Billy Graham’s global travels.

A major part of Franklin working through his rebellious phase was through his participation in the early days of Samaritan’s Purse, a relief agency perhaps best known nowadays for Operation Christmas Child.  Franklin commented: “…I didn’t like seeing people getting hurt when they couldn’t do much to help themselves.” 
The Graham family has a deep spirit of adventure which causes them to sometimes hang over the edge.  Out of compassion for workers at a Jordanian medical clinic, Franklin and a companion drove a much needed land rover from England to Jordan, travelling thousands of often precarious miles through nine countries, including Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.  When international or North American tragedy strikes, Franklin through Samaritan’s Purse is often one of the first to be there helping.  The book tells gripping stories of risking life and limb as lives are helped in the tumultuous Middle East and in war-torn countries like Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  Through Samaritan’s Purse, many doctors and nurses like Dr. Kent Brantley have served in places like Liberia during the Ebola epidemic, even sometimes contracting and surviving the virus themselves.  Samaritan’s Purse reminds us that the love of God and love of neighbour go together.  Jesus not only shared good news with people.  He also practically fed the poor and healed the sick.  May we too be people who love both God and neighbour.

-an article for the June 2016 Deep Cove Crier

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Ottawa Christian Writers' Fellowship Mingle event - Denyse O'Leary

The Ottawa Christian Writers' Fellowship had an excellent workshop with Perth-based middle school children's author Jenn Kelly June 18, 2016, at Ecclesiax Church, 2 Monk Street, Ottawa.  

If you live in the area and are interested in writing, we are a great resource for free or low-cost training. 

We are having an informal get-together on Wednesday, July 27, at 36 Scout Street in Nepean, Ottawa, 7:00-9:00 pm.  

If you'd like to write, come and see how we can help you. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Uncomplicated Prayer by Rose McCormick Brandon

Religious teachings often complicate the simple act of prayer. For example, I have booklet that tells how to pray perfect prayers. Predictably, each of the nine points in it begin with the letter "P."
Books like this can be helpful, I guess. But not to me. I've already been down the complicated prayer road. I found it cumbersome and disappointing and I won't travel that way again.
Jesus taught the simplicity of prayer. We see this in the first few verses of Matthew 6. What he said boils down to three simple truths:
He sees us
He hears us
He answers us
We don't need the "right" words. We don't need a team of pray-ers but it's fine to ask others to pray. And it's marvellous to join a large group where everyone is in agreement.
There's no right volume, tone of voice or vocabulary for prayer.
We don't need to be "somebody" in the religious world for God to answer our prayers.
No one has God's attention more than another. The Father wants us to speak to him honestly from our hearts. He's listening.
"Your Father who sees you in your secret place will reward you in public." Matt. 6:5
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She writes personal essays and devotionals for several publications.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Not the Greatest? . . . Maybe, but Still the Best! (By Peter A. Black)

The following text is an adaptation of P-Pep! article published in The Standard Guide Advocate June 30, 2016.
Canada – the greatest country in the world! (Really?)
Having or being the greatest nation isn’t the exclusive claim of the USA; it is also said of Canada. Modest Canada lovers might be less effusive and counter: I wouldn’t go that far, but even if Canada’s not the greatest it’s still the best! Fair banter.

O Canada! O Canada!
Canada so free;
Bless’d jewel of the nations fair,
Our home of liberty.
Those lines are the chorus of a patriotic song I composed in 1997, marking the 130th Anniversary of Confederation. Canada rode high in the international scale of the most desirable countries to live in, then. We’re not scoring so high now, but ours is still one of the most desirable countries in which to live.

National pride can be a fickle thing. The way it is expressed by any nation could be viewed as though on a spectrum from benign sentiments and benevolent creeds and deeds, to diabolical ideologies and destructive deeds and creeds.
A couple of basic examples: A mild form of national pride is expressed with benignity and benevolence through Canada’s granting religious and civil freedoms and striving for harmony and equality, while providing international aid and receiving refugees.

We recently saw an extreme, twisted form of national pride in the vicious murder of British Member of Parliament, Jo Cox – a wife and mother of two children. And why? Seemingly because she favoured and promoted Britain’s staying in the European Union (in view of the then pending “Brexit” referendum whether Britain should stay or leave the EU).
Jo Cox’s murder quickly faded into the background in the political upheaval that’s still unfolding in the wake of the “leave” side’s win – but not for her husband and children. No doubt their hearts continue to grieve deeply for their wife and mother.

Similarly on the negative, both WWI and WWII were to a great degree initiated by diabolically destructive expressions of personal and national pride. We also see despicable prideful expressions in mindless hooliganism, when violence and destructive looting break out at major league soccer matches (especially in the UK and Europe) or other major sporting events.

Let us keep our gaze raised to see and perceive the positive and wholesome. And now that we’ve entered our nation’s 150th anniversary year, it would be a positive and worthy exercise to ask ourselves why we love Canada. What are we proud of in a ‘good national pride’ way?
Three Big Chips off the Small Block
Introducing and maintaining the element of gratitude helps me to keep pride in its place.

Someone might say, “Peter, you and May must be really proud of _____” (naming any of our three sons). Or they might refer to one of our grandkids. My response will often go something like: “That’s kind of you to say. Yes, I’m gratefully proud . . .” 
What I mean is that any pride I have on account of accomplishments or qualities in Jay or Chris or Jerome’s life, is tempered by gratitude. Grace and mercy are involved, so I don’t take the credit.

Tho’t: Gratitude is benign and leads to beneficence.
Now let us reframe the question:

Signing pose, after the crowd left! :)
a) Despite Canada’s many challenges and imperfections, for what aspects of our beloved country are you gratefully proud? (Gather a pretty big bouquet!)
b) What is greatness, anyhow? Or, in what should a nation’s greatness consist?

My Beloved and I are gratefully proud of Canada – still the best!

The concluding verse of Psalm 144 says, “. . . happy are the people whose God is the LORD” (NRSV).
A Happy and Blessed 150th Anniversary Year to you and your loved ones!


~ Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart

~ Parables from the Pond



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