Thursday, April 12, 2018
Recently, I was asked to help a group of interested people begin a new writers’ group in our town. Many of those attending have dabbled in writing, one was involved in an on-line group where they shared their stories or poems, but all were eager to become more intentional with their writing.
The first evening, I took a few articles to set on the table around which we sat. I introduced them to the “Hot Pen” method, where you begin to write whatever comes to mind when you look at an article and just let it flow. Everyone was amazed at how many different themes could come from one article. They fell in love with that burning pen as they call it. We have continued this exercise—sometimes it’s from an article, sometimes it’s a given sentence, sometimes a hint of a theme, but always we are astounded all over again what different writing comes from the same cue.
One writer, no matter what the prompt, is inspired to write her musings in poetry, one always finds a way to give her reflection an odd twist with a sense of humour, one seems each time to find a life lesson and still another evokes tender memories from the past that moves all our hearts.
On reflection, I believe that is one big reason I like reading so much—to see things through others’ eyes; to get another point of view; in other words, to widen my horizons.
Similarly, I like to write to let others see what I see, to present how I understand the world around me, how I experience life. When my writing begins a conversation—either to identify with me or to challenge me, then I feel deep satisfaction.
In the writer’s group to which I’ve belonged for many years, critique has been a valuable support and growing opportunity for me. At first there were some who almost shook with fear when we began to critique each other’s work. It felt to them as though their work was being torn apart. I think we all would miss it now if we had no opportunity for that.
With the new group, it seems too early for critique. First they need to become comfortable with writing and sharing. It’s still all so new. They’re still discovering the beauty of putting their thoughts into words and sharing it with a small group of people with whom they feel safe.
It warms my heart to see these new writers opening up to bloom, one petal at a time.
Ruth Smith Meyer is a writer/inspirational speaker who enjoys life and all its challenges. Currently she is writing a history of her church.
She invites all to visit her at her website: www.ruthsmithmeyer.com
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
As long as we live, we really ought to keep on learning. The other option to that is being stagnant or dying. Tough words, but they’re true. Think of seniors who take up university studies. They now have the time to devote to it and they want to keep learning. Or people who do crossword puzzles to keep their minds active.
I teach seniors at a community centre. Now that they have more time on their hands, and perhaps a little extra cash, they often strive to learn new things and keep their gray matter (brains) working. In my class they’ve learned about writing. Two of my students have written their life story and had them published. Other classes I've taught include learning about setting up a blog and writing posts, as well as storytelling. Bucket list or continuing to learn doesn’t matter, but what does is their willingness to keep on being a student, regardless of their age.
Recently I watched a video of seniors in a dance lesson on a Facebook post. In the article and accompanying video, the writer quoted a study out of McGill University in Canada in which researchers and participants discovered that “learning the steps necessary to tango actually improved brainpower and balance.” The participants were seniors who had “experienced a fall within the last year and were scared of falling again.” Otherwise the seniors were healthy. It showed that when we learn something new, the brain develops new pathways and the mind becomes more alert.
Patricia McKinley’s current research program through McGill University investigates leisure-based physical activities that promote health and well-being in vulnerable populations, especially those that use dance as a rehabilitation tool. I’d like to see some of those studies take place in our fair cities and help people I know.
What I do know, that many mature citizens are also learning, is the balance between learning and continued enjoyment of life. I’m a bit younger than many of those I teach but I decided before Christmas that I wanted to learn to play guitar and was planning to take lessons. My youngest daughter had a guitar sitting around while she still lived at home, and I had played with it some, but there were just too many demands on my time and I let it go, but now… I’m taking lessons.
I took my daughter shopping with me and we found a guitar that had a good sound and was the right size for me. We also got a few necessary items, including new coated strings that would be easier for a beginner. And I, too, have joined others taking lessons as a mature learner—developing new neural paths that the art demands. Like rocking and rubbing your tummy at the same time. With the guitar, one hand is strumming (hmm, still working on that one), and the other hand playing the chords and notes and trying to coordinate the two. But I’m determined. Some of the chords that were hard at first are now easier, and my instructor says the strumming is coming along. He’s been playing for 60 years, so he knows strumming. Thus I have hopes that new neural paths are developing in my brain that will allow me to accomplish this task. I have a couple of tough chords yet to master.
So today, with a bit of cash, I’m going to gather a few extra accessories, ones that seem essential since I’ve begun this journey. No big stage plans, just something I’ve often wanted to learn. And now a buddy to play guitar with would be helpful, and I can play whatever tunes I want to learn. I’m happy that my teacher likes gospel songs, so they’ll be in my repertoire too.
As my teacher says, "The road to Carnegie Hall, is practice, practice, practice."
"I'm not planning on Carnegie," I joked with the recreation coordinator after the second lesson, "but I will practise." And I am doing just that. There's more than one way to worship.
"Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts." Psalm 105: 2a
Carolyn Wilker is an author, editor, avid gardener and a perpetual learner.
Monday, April 09, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
My wife Janice and I recently went to a great date movie “I Can Only Imagine”. Many in Hollywood are amazed at how popular this Lions Gate Studios release is proving to be: #3 already in the box office. Dennis Quaid, as the best-known actor in the movie, powerfully represented the violent, alcoholic, abusive father who rejected and drove everyone away, including Bart’s mom. The father Arthur's life motto was "Life hits me, I hit back harder." Bart’s father memorably said to his son “I'm gonna teach you something, Bart. Dreams don't pay the bills. Nothing good comes from it. All it does is keep you from knowing what's real." His father thought that crushing his son’s dreams was doing him a favour. Attempting to gain his father’s approval, Bart becomes a football player like him. Never good enough for his father, Bart ended up in the hospital and permanently out of football. In the midst of this huge setback, a high school teacher discovered Bart’s hidden musical gift. Music kept Bart alive when life was tearing him apart.
The “I Can Only Imagine” song is a triple Platinum song that has become well-known on both spiritual and mainstream radio stations. Andrew Erwin, co-director & co-editor commented, “God’s hand has been on this song and on this story from the beginning. We are delighted to see a story about forgiveness and redemption connect with so many people. We are humbled for the privilege of telling Bart’s story.” The movie explores how Bart Millard, the lead for the band MercyMe, wrote such a gripping song. It turns out that as Bart tapped into the deep wound around his relationship with his father, millions of people related to his trauma. Bart was told: “You didn’t write this song in 10 minutes. It took a lifetime.”
The movie explores how Bart’s childhood trauma left him in emotional chains until he finally processed his anger and bitterness towards his father. When Bart and the MercyMe band were rejected by top Nashville music producers, all the negativity from his dad’s earlier words began to poison him. Bart almost gave up on his dream. In one parable, Jesus compared unforgiveness to being trapped in a prison that we can’t get out of until we choose to forgive. The movie accurately described how painful it is to forgive people who have been violently abusive. Bart said to his father: “God has forgiven you, but I won’t.” Even though Bart’s father genuinely turned from his abusive ways, it was very difficult for Bart to accept that this change was genuine. Bart had become infected with his father’s negativity and stubbornness, similarly pushing people away. Eventually Bart was able to say of his father, "I saw God transform him from a man that I hated into the man I wanted to become."
Bart has had such healing that, as mentioned in the January 2018 Light Magazine, he is now investing in younger musicians at Trinity Western University in the Worship Arts Program. Bart’s life reminds us that nothing is wasted when put in the hands of God.
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, co-author with Janice Hird of the new book For Better, For Worse:discovering the keys to a lasting relationship.
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