Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beyond Thankfulness

Colossians 3:17  “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.”

Our American friends are finishing up their turkey along with a weekend of thankfulness and family, probably laced with some football thrown in. For anyone who follows the CFL, you will also know that today is 'Grey Cup Sunday' - our version of the 'Superbowl'. In our house, Grey Cup Sunday is a big deal. We always savour the game with good food and fellowship, even if our team isn't involved. 

The theme of thankfulness, kindness, and gratefulness permeates the media at this time of year, all leading up to that crowning celebration called Christmas. Peace on earth and good will toward men seem doable, despite life's obstacles or unstable world affairs. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could maintain this positive outlook all year long?

For those of us who know Christ on an intimate level, it is possible. Jesus isn't only the 'reason for the season', but He is the reason for everything. Let's keep this sense of wonder always in focus, not only for the next thirty days, but right through the next 365 - and beyond.

Blessings.

Tracy Krauss lives and writes in northern BC, where she and her husband of nearly 34 years try to celebrate life and God's goodness all year long. Visit her website: tracykrauss.com - fiction on the edge without crossing the line -  


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Silent Night by Glynis M Belec

(This was originally published in my Reflections column in 
The Drayton Community News, November 25th, 2016; slightly edited) 

One of the best parts about the Christmas Eve service at our church is the lighting of the candles and singing Silent Night at the close. It’s a beautiful simple song that reminds me exactly what Christmas is about.
Ya’ll probably won’t want me to sing it to you any time soon lest I get mistaken for the braying donkeys, but oh, those lovely lyrics are worth pondering.
Silent night, holy night!  All is calm, all is bright.

Busyness and bustling distracts us from the true holiness of the season. Help me God to remember why we celebrate. I secretly wonder why people who don’t believe in Christ, make such a noise. And then some try their best to steal Christ from Christmas. Let my heart be calm, even so and let my eyes, as they consider You, be bright, Lord.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild,

The proof is in the pudding. Or should I say in the Scripture – Luke 1:30-31: But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. And Luke 1:34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Jesus, you kept your tenderness and mildness because I feel it in my life sometimes, especially when the world renders me weak. Thank you, Holy Infant child grown up.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace

Why does the world battle You with such hatred? All they need do is seek Your face and the peace that passeth all understanding will follow. When you were a Babe, did you sleep in heavenly peace, really? Or was Your heart unsettled for Your soul knew Your destiny?

Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.

I think if I saw a host of angels in my face I might quake a little. But then I would hope I’d discover that the silent, holy night was not about me being fearful but about You being holy and perfect and born.

Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

I love that God was the first to introduce live streaming with all those glories, on that wonderful eve! I’m joining in with the heavenly hosts on this one (just turn down my microphone a little).

Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born

Triple amen on that one. I love when people say they believe Christ was a great prophet and a wise man. But they just cannot believe He is the Son of God. Then I laugh a little because in the next breath I discover they believe in some Divine power – um…what’s the hold-up with believing that Divine Power is Jesus, born in the flesh? I’m thinking it must do with facing up to a sinful nature, maybe.

Silent night, holy night! Son of God love's pure light.

God is love. It says that over and over in the Bible. A son carries on the traits of a father. Thank you, Jesus, for bringing God’s love to earth. I’m so glad we have a special, designated day to focus on the Light - the real Reason for the celebration. You’re the best, God.


Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Redeeming Grace. That’s a mouthful. And a heartful. I don’t deserve one iota of Your Redeeming Grace, Lord. But You really have saved a wretch like me. You tell me it’s not where I’ve been, it’s where I am going that matters. When I keep looking behind me, like I am wont to do, I miss the radiant beams of Your beautiful, Holy Face. I will keep trying. Promise.

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

You were born. You were Lord when you were born. You were the most amazing Gift that ever could be and You came here to die when you were born. How can I express anything else this Silent Night?  Thank you, Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Christmas is fast approaching, although I do not put up decorations or do too much prior to December, I won’t have the opportunity to send my greetings to you this way so for now let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas, friends. May you and your families enjoy a truly Silent Night this Christmas.


###




Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in her home office. 
Her latest children's book, JESUS LOVES ME WHEN I DANCE, celebrates and shows us that with Jesus Love, we'll never lose! 
             www.glynisbelec.com 






Thursday, November 17, 2016

A State of Readiness by Susan Harris


It’s been over a year since I’ve lived in readiness each day. In spiritual readiness to meet my Lord. In

mental readiness with uncluttered mind. In business readiness with files in order. Even the red lipstick laying next to red nail polish and shoes was ready since “fashion consultants are not necessarily hired in funeral homes,” I had observed to my husband. 

I continue to live in greater readiness now. With our house for sale, the home must be ever show-ready. Trash is removed daily. Laundry baskets are empty. Dishes are cleaned and put away immediately upon use. Closets are pleasing. Showers and tubs are spotless. Furniture and d├ęcor sparkle. I’ve done this for two weeks now and was astonished to discover that the initial displeasure of work overload in keeping the house show-ready has given way to a desire to do the chores with anticipation, for I have enjoyed living in a near-perfect house. The calm, the peace of de-cluttering and keeping organized is a state of readiness I want to emulate long after the house is sold and we've settled into the new one.

Matthew 24 and Proverbs 31 are but a few places in Scripture that point us to being ready and organized. It often takes a long time to get there but once there, is it repudiating to go back. I’m reminded too of Proverbs 26:11, As a dog goes back to its vomit, so too a fool repeats his foolishness. No fool’s classification for me.

I pray daily for guidance to live forward, upward, for things heavenly, my gaze fixed on high, to be ever ready. Truly when we seek the Kingdom first, all other things will be added, even housekeeping insight. The catching up in the physical realm is reassuring and it is far more important to have the spiritual intact over the physical but it sure feels good to have them both line up.


Susan Harris is the author of eleven books. Her thoughts are never far from Heaven and she lives in anticipation of Eternity.  She loves to share the good news of the hope of Heaven and to travel, but in travelling, is always conscious that as breathtaking as God’s creation is on earth, it is unmatched to what we will see in Eternity. www.susanharris.ca

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bearing the Scars—Carolyn R. Wilker





Across the country today, people will gather at cenotaphs and lay wreaths for the soldiers who gave up their lives for our country. There are likely only a small number of those veterans from the World Wars remaining who might lay a wreath to their comrades or read from a list of young men from the community who ‘answered the call’ to fight in a war that was not of their making.

In many communities, you can see names carved in a monument of citizens who went away to fight and never returned. Of those who came home, many were physically wounded and bearing scars we can’t see. It would change their lives forever. While Remembrance Day is mainly for the World Wars, our military has also fought in other places around the world, including Afghanistan, where they were called to defend or fight. A soldier might go away bravely, but come back different and unable to cope, or they might pick up their job and try to carry on.

All wars have a cost. The soldiers went away, likely believing they could make a difference and those who returned home either talked about it or they didn’t. I only know from the stories I’ve heard of people who lived through war in their country, who were deprived of a bread winner who was enlisted to fight, or that they were fearful for their lives about what was going on around them. In Canada, we’ve had more distance from it.

My own mother-in-law shared little, but she did tell me about one situation in her life during the war. I could only imagine her family’s fear when soldiers came knocking on their door demanding their home as a place for soldiers to stay. The family could only take with them what they could load on a wagon. Their place for the nights and days that followed was the forest. She told me of worrying about wild animals there while they slept on the ground. I hurt for her as she told it. I felt fearful for her as a young girl, a fear she carried into adulthood and to the end of her life. It caused her much angst; her experience changed her and affected the lives of those around her.

A storyteller relates an occurrence of soldiers laying down their guns on Christmas Eve in France, sharing treats, pictures from home and singing carols with their opponents and then having to pick up those guns the next day. I’m sure there were many stories of bravery too, and of being decorated for a heroic act, but I cannot write those. They are others’ stories of survival.

Today is one of heaviness that’s hard to talk about and harder to write, maybe a reason that few go to the cenotaph service. If we remember anything from those who speak candidly of their war experiences, show respect and help us to recognize the cost. 

If we can work for peace, all the better for us.

We do have one who bears scars for us. Jesus Christ died for us and experienced the agony of the cross for humanity’s sin. He died that we might live. We were loved before we could love. If it helps at all today, let us think about peace and practise it.

“Make me a channel of your peace...”  inspired by the prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Listen to the song here.



Carolyn Wilker, editor, author and storyteller from southwestern Ontario






Thursday, November 10, 2016

Success!

I’m a firm believer in having goals in life and in my writing career. I don’t want to wander through life without ever thinking about the purpose of it, without attempting to live an impactful life. My husband and I have often made a five-year plan for our family and job situation. (Yes, multiple five-year plans can happen when you’ve been married over 35 years!) Have we always met them? No… but we’ve gotten a lot closer to the bulls-eye than if we’d never tried to discern where the center of the target should be.

I had been writing for twelve years with three traditionally published books behind me when I prayerfully made the decision to go indie in mid-2014. The whole concept was daunting. I researched, watched others, prepared manuscripts, and prayed.

One of the keys I picked up was the necessity of a business plan for authors to be reviewed regularly. This made total sense, so I downloaded a template and began to fill it in. Some of it was easy. What were the products for sale? Contemporary romance novels by Valerie Comer.

But when I got to the section on financial planning, I was at a complete loss. My first traditionally published book was still selling, albeit slowly, but my other two had been rights-returned. How could I guess how many copies I might sell on my own when they’d done so poorly for the publisher?

I had to put something in the blank. What were my goals? I knew I would release three books almost simultaneously (remember I’d gotten rights back!) and two more in the remainder of the year. So my first goal was that, from the middle of July to the end of December, I’d have averaged one e-book sale per day.

Thank the Lord sales soon blew that conservative goal out of the water. And then I made a new goal: match what I’d made at my previous 30-hour-a-week minimum wage job. God blew me past that one before the end of the first year as well.

The point isn’t to brag. The point is that I had a goal, and I knew when I’d succeeded. I was ecstatic to average sales of more than a book a day for several months. It was success. If my averages were at that level in 2016, I would be crushed. I no longer think of that level as success.

The thing with goals is that you decide where to set them. You are in control of what success looks like. Then you can choose to raise the bar and shoot for a more difficult goal, to mix a few metaphors.

“They” say to set goals that are achievable, but a stretch. If my goal was still to sell one e-book a day, I’d be settling. There’d be no stretch, no drive, no motivation.

What if my very first goal — my only goal — would have been to reach the USA Today bestseller list? This is a big goal, and the number of authors that have launched directly to a major list is infinitesimally small. I would have spent two years feeling a failure.

God put that goal on my heart last winter, and I achieved it, along with eleven other authors in a box set built specifically with that goal in mind. The time was right.

I’m human. I tend to rely on my own ‘wisdom,’ set my own targets, and work in my own strength to achieve them. But then God gives me a nudge and reminds me what His goals are. While He’s indulged me some of these personal dreams, I am successful when I’m aligned to His plan, not when He’s applied the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval onto my own plan.

What is biblical success? Living for God. With God. Immersed in His will, each and every day. Using the talents and time He’s given me with His ultimate purposes in mind: to make me more like Him, and to minister to others.

 Fred Smith put it this way in Christianity Today: “The person doing the most with what he's got is truly successful. Not the one who becomes the richest or most famous, but the one who has the closest ratio of talents received to talents used.”

How about you? How do you measure success? How often do you revisit your goals?


Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She has been called “a stellar storyteller” as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at ValerieComer.com.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Healing from Judgmentalism -HIRD


By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Many people dream of Christmas time being a family time where everyone can get along.  Sometimes people drink heavily at Christmas as a way of self-medicating the pain of being in close quarters with their family.  Most of us find it painful to be around people, including spouses, who are being very judgmental and negative.  In some families, judgmentalism is the air that we breath.  It is all that we know.  What might it look like to be healed from judgmentalism at Christmas?
When Jesus famously tells us not to judge in Matthew 7:1, he is not telling us to be undiscerning, but rather not to condemn and reject other people with whom we may disagree.  Yes, there is a place for constructive criticism with our spouses, family, coworkers and friends, but it needs to rooted in an environment of love, acceptance and encouragement.  This is why Dr John Gottman found that in healthy marriages and relationships, people make five positive comments for every negative comment.  Healing from judgmentalism involves choosing words of life over words of death and destruction, especially at Christmas.
Billy Graham, who turned 98 this month, insightfully said this year that being judgmental and constantly criticizing others is wrong in the eyes of God.   It is not one of the gifts of the Spirit, like the gift of encouragement.  You can’t criticize and condemn people into Christlikeness.  Dr. Graham, who has spoken in person to over 260 million people, observed that a judgmental attitude also blinds us to our own faults. (Have you ever noticed that judgmental people almost never criticize themselves?) Jesus said that such judgmentalism is like having a log in our eye while trying to doing eye surgery on someone else’s speck of sawdust.  Judgmental people are often very insecure, and are constantly seeking to build themselves up. One way they do this is by tearing other people down. But in reality, said Dr. Graham, they end up tearing themselves down also, because no one wants to be their friend.  Judgmental people are often the loneliest people on earth.  Renouncing judgmentalism restores the gift of relationship particularly with our families.
Jesus gave us a difficult task: to judge or discern nonjudgmentally: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:54) At the heart of judgmentalism is prejudice, which means to pre-judge, to judge too quickly before you have taken time to examine the facts. Jesus can deliver us from the curse of prejudice.  It is not a sin to have moral convictions about right and wrong, but we need to take the time to carefully listen to other people’s viewpoints and never condemn other people when we disagree with them.  Healing from judgmentalism requires a willingness to die to the need to win arguments for their own sake.  People become more important than our need to always be right.   I will always remember my sister advising me about a difficult situation: “Be kind.”  We can all learn to be more kind like Jesus, gentle like Jesus, humble like Jesus, and nonjudgmental like Jesus.  Even when Jesus challenged people to repent and turn from sin and selfishness, he was always loving, tolerant, and kind. 
You can’t reach people for Christ to whom you are being judgmental.  Judgmentalism just drives them away.  Is there anyone in your life that you need to stop judging this Christmas?
 
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

-an article for the OSL Christmas Issue of the Canadian Healer

Monday, November 07, 2016

Our Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship’s Facebook page’s new Writing Tip of the Day feature – Denyse O’Leary

One must apply to join the group here.

But here are some recent tips, for either technique or marketing:

1. Writing tip of the day: Words for sounds, fiction and non

--

From Reference for Writers: bang, bark, beep, bellow, blare, blast, bleat, bong, boom, bray, buzz, cackle, cheep, chime, clack, clank, clap, clatter, clink, cluck, clunk, crack, crackle, crash, creak, dingdong, drop, drumming, fizz, glug, gnashing, gobble, grating, growl, grumble, gurgle, hiss, hoot, howl, hum, jingle, jangle, kachink, knock, mew, moan, mod, murmur, ... zap

http://referenceforwriters.tumblr.com/post/51422933610/word-list-taste-smell-sound



Explore this list and others, linked, before you decide to go with a word that doesn’t sound quite right.

2. Writing tip of the day: New Christian Writers’ Manual of Style (Zondervan 2016) http://www.zondervan.com/the-christian-writer-s-manual-of-style-2 https://www.amazon.com/Christian-Writers-Manual-Style-4th/dp/0310527902

Now in its fourth revised edition, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style provides answers to writers’, editors’, and proofreaders’ most pressing questions about language, style, and usage, focusing on the particular issues involved in religious writing. US$34.99

3. Our Christmas gathering: Dear Christian Friend, You, your family, and friends are cordially invited to attend Festive Fundraiser 2016, at the home of Honorary David Kilgour, in Rockcliffe on December 6, 2016, 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm.

The entertainment features a biblical dramatization by David Kitz, surprises, beautiful music, refreshments, decadent desserts, engaging fellowship, and an enchanting ambiance. Donations are gratefully accepted on behalf of The Word Guild, Canada’s Christian writers’ association.

Our local focus is building a community of Christian writers in our nation’s capital, which include teaching, mentoring, and raising seed money for our popular annual conference. We would love to meet you for an evening of merriment, so mark your calendars now and see you then. Reply to: ocwffundraiser@gmail.com

Sincerely yours,

David Kitz Ottawa Christian Writer’s Fellowship - a Chapter of The Word Guild - Building a community of Christian writers in our nation’s capital

Join the Word Guild: Discover the writer in you

4. Writing tip of the day: The art of understatement, fiction and non

Saying more by saying less, from Carmel Bird:

-- “It is seldom advisable to tell all.” —The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

One of the most useful and powerful devices for the fiction writer is understatement. You tell the reader less so that the reader knows more. Instead of having everything spelt out, the reader is given, in a very careful way, just enough information for the imagination to go to work. From understatement the reader can derive great pleasure and satisfaction. https://janefriedman.com/understatement/
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5. Writing tip of the day: Christian market online newsletter here: (It’s a curious fact that many people who want to succeed in various fields do not read industry news Yet that IS the news that matters to their own proposed futures.)
http://cbaonline.org/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=18&wysijap=subscriptions&user_id=1940

6. Writing tip of the day: Everyone is familiar with Groaner Boy, the guy who is always coming out with puns on some typical statement someone made - a charmless way of drawing attention himself.

On the other hand, puns are used in serious literature and sometimes even in the Bible: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=755777

From Matt Willard at Indie Writers: Make Your Writing Funny – Using (And Not Abusing) Puns

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I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he's gone.

This pun has a double effect - not only does it play with an alternate meaning of the phrase "spot remover", but it can also create a mental image of this guy pouring something on his dog and making it disappear. Note that the alternate meaning of "spot remover" is imaginary. That's perfectly okay - the best jokes often break the rules of reality and logic. http://allindiewriters.com/make-your-writing-funny-using-and-not-abusing-puns/

--

The main question is, is the pun worth it?

Join the Word Guild: Discover the writer in you https://thewordguild.com/join/membership/

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Fanny Crosby's November Experience by Rose McCormick Brandon


Fanny Crosby recited her poetry before presidents. Her work was published in newspapers and books.  One biographer wrote, “As Johann Strauss reigned in Vienna as the Waltz King and John Phillip Sousa in Washington as the March King, so Fanny Crosby reigned in New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as the Hymn Queen.”

 In 1850, Methodist class meetings, with their lively singing and warm atmosphere attracted many New Yorkers who longed for more than religious formality. Mr. Camp, Fanny’s friend and a science teacher at the Institute for the Blind, invited her to attend special revival meetings at the Methodist Broadway Tabernacle on Thirtieth Street. Fanny declined. One night she had a vivid dream. “It seemed that the sky had been cloudy for a number of days and finally,someone came to me and said that Mr. Camp desired to see me at once. Then the clouds seemed to roll from my spirit and I awoke from the dream with a start.”

            Fanny attended the Methodist meetings with Camp every evening for several weeks. Services consisted of long emotional sermons, punctuated with loud amens and hallelujahs, tears of repentance and joyful outbursts, unlike anything Fanny had experienced in rural Connecticut where serious Calvinists worshipped in formal services.

            A feeling that a deeper life in God awaited her kept Fanny returning to the Methodist meetings. A few times she knelt with other God-seekers at the dirt-floor altar and prayed for hours but each time came away joyless and empty.

             Until November 20, 1850. “On that night it seemed to me light must come then or never.”

             At the invitation for prayer, Fanny walked to the altar and again knelt and prayed fervently for a spiritual breakthrough. When she was about to give up, the congregation sang Isaac Watts’ hymn “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed.” When Fanny heard the words of the final verse, dear Lord I give myself away ‘tis all that I can do, she stood and shouted, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" Of that night she wrote, “My very soul was flooded with celestial light. For the first time I realized I had been holding the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.”

            Bernard Ruffin, a biographer, wrote – “although there were no dramatic changes in her life and she soon realized it did not solve all her spiritual problems, her November experience, as she called it, marked the beginning of a deeper Christian life and a total dedication of her life to God.” 

            Fanny’s hymn portfolio increased to 9,000. Many, like At the Cross Where I First Saw the Light, allude to her November 1850 experience.  Her reputation as a happy, contented Christian lasted until she died at age 95. She didn’t seek pity for her blindness but often said, "When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!"

           Generations have grown up on Fanny’s hymns and congregations still sing Near the Cross, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, Praise Him Praise Him, I am Thine O Lord, Close to Thee and hundreds of others. Her gravestone in Bridgeport, Connecticut is inscribed with two lines from one of her best known hymn 

“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

Oh what a foretaste of glory Divine.”

            Personal revivals, like Fanny’s November experience, ignite a passion for Christ in our hearts that forever changes us.


Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including 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.


             

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