Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Car Wash Message by Susan Harris

For the 999th time the metaphor blared in my ears as I cocooned in the auto wash: This is the Christian life. 

Without fail over the dozen years I’ve been using the auto-wash with its convenience of water jets, soapy suds, “feathery” brushes, and whooshing robotic arms, the message rises with the spray; deep in my heart and up into the cloistered space. Cocooned inside the car  while savouring a creamy mocha, I ponder on the stages of  spiritual growth:

We go our merry way until that moment in time when we are stopped…

Then as the lights on the sensor rotate the stages of wash upon my vehicle, I deliberate:

Cleaning – Only imperfect things needs to be cleaned. Imperfect people floundering in sin are THE candidates. For all have sinned... (Romans 3:23). 

Washing – The blood of Jesus, the Perfect One, washes our sin permanently (John 1:17).

Polishing – After we are cleansed, we are polished, made shiny to draw others to Christ (Isaiah 49:2).

Surface protectant – Deflect dirt and grime; the enemy. Those who are committed to Christ are protected in so many way…He covers them (Psalm 91). He provides armour (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Spot free rinse – We are a spotless bride to Christ  as the Spirit conforms us (Ephesians 5).

Air drying -  The invisible power of the air from the jets dissipates the water on the car’s surfaces in the final stage of the wash. The Holy Spirit is the invisible power in the Christian life. He does the finishing work as we are moulded to perfection (Acts 1:8, Acts 2, Galatians 5:22-23). 

My silver CRV Honda is once again sleek and attractive, a thing to be admired on the dirty, slushy roads. And it's an ever-present reminder that I, too, will one day be perfect. In Eternity.

If you haven’t invited Jesus to be Saviour and Lord, why not invite Him now through this simple prayer: 

"Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need your forgiveness. I invite you to be my Saviour and Lord, and ask You to help me to be the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin and for giving me eternal life. Amen."


Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Sort of Day it Was

It was a good day; it was a challenging day. It was a pleasant time; it was an emotional one too. Like Dicken's opening to one of his books, it was a mixed collection of emotions and actions.

Starting early, I had my books already set up at the St. Stephen's Craft and Cookie Sale so we could begin at 8:30 am. I met people at our new church, had conversations with people from the community who came for the event, and I sold books which is always rewarding for the time and energy spent.


What was more challenging is more difficult to put into words. From the church event, I travelled to the church where just two weeks, less a few days, we said our formal goodbye to Mom.
This day, we’d inter her ashes at the Trinity Lutheran cemetery beside Dad. I suppose it's the finality of that ceremony on a cold and windy day when the thermometer hovers around zero but feels much colder. The weather, a taste of the beginning of winter, and a final action that matches the scene. It was chilly out there. Had it been summer, we might have lingered there longer after the ceremony, but on such a day, not as long as one might otherwise stay. We'll need a new plant there come spring.
Picture this scene with snow on the ground

Our family went from the chill at the church cemetery to the warmth of my sister and brother-in-law's home for a meal together. Picture the fireplace already going, salads being prepared, and a giant lasagna warming in the oven. The children, all cousins, played and had fun together. A few of us took turns holding one of the youngest members of the family, just over a month old, as she lay in our arms sleeping.

We talked again about the funeral service, people’s positive reception to the eulogy and the memories evoked as well as amusing stories that involved our mother and some members of her family, as well as the endearing ones. And because we had several generations present, things we'd miss about our mother/grandmother.

Mom enjoying a family wedding

After thanking our hosts, we were on our homeward trek, with two stops along the way, then finally glad to be home. By that time it was getting late. I needed time to gather thoughts, to put away my books and unwind from a long day. Sleep came easily, thankfully, unlike an earlier day this week.

 It was a good day, a challenging day. A day with laughter and tears, and a day of remembering — I suspect that will go on for months.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Sixteen Keys to More Effective Book Writing and Marketing

Presented at the 2018 West Coast Writers Weekend
Sponsored by the White Rock/South Surrey Chapter
Rev Dr Ed Hird

1.    A key to going from good to great in writing is following your heart and your gut where it leads you.  If your writing doesn’t grip you, it will not grip anyone else.  One of my and Janice’s passions is for strengthening marriages.  My 500+ newspaper articles found on (with 760,000 readers) emerged out of my passion for history and biography.  Many of these articles have later become chapters in my books like RestoringHealth: body, mind and spirit.  I am currently doing a biography series for the Light/City Light Magazine covering BC and southern Alberta. Lean into your passions.  What wakes you up in the morning? What really matters to you? What are you willing to sacrifice for?
2.       Nonfiction has more to do with facts and history.  Many readers are women who are looking for a break from the stress of life.  A high percentage of books are purchased by women as Christmas presents.  How might your nonfiction book give people a break from the stress of life? 
3.       Another key to greatness in writing is the willingness to initially write badly.  Turning off the inner critic for a time.   Anything on the page is better than brilliance in your head.  Fight your clever ways that you procrastinate.
4.       Learn to respect your creative rhythms, your waves of inspiration.  If you are a morning person, be a morning writer, or vice versa.  Surf (write) when the creative waves hit.  You can prepare for the wave, but you can’t control it.  Our co-presenter the Rev. Jim Wilson, by the way, cut his teeth on surfing. This inspired his recent amazing novel Generation which tells a compelling story about California surfers in the 1960s.
5.       Most ‘good’ books stay good rather than great, because of inadequate editing and inadequate marketing.  Are you willing to sacrifice your time, talent and treasure in order to go for greatness? Writing is an act of Kingdom stewardship. I have been privileged to serve twice on the faculty for the TWG Write! Canada conference, teaching on marketing books.  Rob Eager’s material is an excellent resource in the marketing area. 

6.       Marketing cannot just be added after the book is written.  It needs to be built into the very DNA of the book.  The back cover must not be boring or self-centered.  Good marketing gives the potential reader a reason to care.  Readers in the internet age are suffering from information overload.  Communicate clearly about how your book will benefit your readers’ lives. 
7.       What is your marketing ‘elevator speech’?  Every book needs a hook.  What is your hook?  Build the hook into the text of your book, as well as your back cover.  Try completing this ‘hook’ sentence about your book:  What if I told you that….?
8.       Learn how to maximize Amazon which is where most people buy books nowadays. Offer both eBooks and paperback.  Experiment with targeted Amazon paid ads, focusing on age, education, geography, interests.  Rob Eager says that Amazon ads are more effective than Facebook ads. Experiment with both.  To increase Amazon visibility, aim to have at least thirty people write brief book reviews.  You cannot pay them, but you can ask them.  Sometimes they are more likely to do a book review for you, if you have already done one for them.  Think of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do for you.” I have 36 Amazon book reviews of my Restoring Health book. Later usually means never in terms of book sales.  Strengthen the closing of your sale (pulling in the net) by offering on amazon and other contexts a time-limited $3.00 savings.
9.       A key to great editing is developing a thick skin so that you can hear editing suggestions.  Defensiveness and stonewalling keep your book in the childish stage rather than childlike excellence.  CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, and JRR Tolkien had a wonderful childlikeness in their writing.  1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Mark 10:14-15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  How childlike and playful are you in your books?  As they say in Family Systems Theory, when everything is serious, urgent and important, something is out of whack.
10.   Paying for a professional editor is worth every dollar.  The Word Guild can help you connect with a good editor.  On the recommendation of the Word Guild co-founder NJ Lindquist, we used Audrey Dorsch.  If you can’t afford a paid editor, draw on the wisdom of other authors.
11.   Canadian writers who are Christians face many challenges in the current market a) the dominance of the American market with most publishers being in the USA b) the collapse of many book stores in the internet age  c) finding your tribe  d) building your platform.  Your tribe are those who share your passions and interests particularly in your book themes.  Search for where they hang out on the internet and other face to face settings.  Your platform consists of those who you have regular access to through social and traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV.  To connect with your tribe and build your platform, offer a free eBook to those who sign up to your blog email.  I have 27,000+ social media followers.
12.   Being part of a writer’s organization, like the Word Guild, helps keep you motivated.  When I won a Word Guild award for the book Battlefor the Soul of Canada, it helped opened many doors for newspaper, radio and TV articles and interviews.  It is very easy when isolated to give in to writers’ discouragement.  Sometimes we become too close to our writing and need to walk away until we can become a more objective reader of our own writing.
13.   Establishing your credibility in the eyes of the potential reader is key.  Rev. Jim Wilson our copresenter is an example of how to do this.  I encourage you to watch Jim’s ‘Writing Weekend’ videos which are posted online on Facebook and Youtube. What has Jim communicated in the videos that lead you to believe that he knows what he is talking about?  What might you ‘humbly’ and ‘confidently’ say about yourself?
14.   The book cover, the book title, and the back page are essential for motivating people to try out your book.  How have you developed some of your book covers and book titles?  Bill Glasgow of Wm. Glasgow Design in Abbotsford has done the book cover and layout for my last three books. Many book stores told me that the professionalism of the book cover and layout was why they accepted my book on consignment.  Most back covers do not grab you with a compelling hook.
15.   Conference speaking where you can promote your books from the podium is a major key to selling your books, directing people to a book table at the back that you and/or friends man.  Bring a bowl and put a number of five-dollar bills in the bowl to help with change.  Make up an attractive mini-poster with your book prices to put in a picture frame. Offering to personally sign your book can help improve sales.  If you struggle with public speaking (the greatest fear on earth), consider attending Toastmasters and reading library books on public speaking. 
16.   Pray and soaking in God’s Word is key in writing books in Jesus’ name.  Amen.
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Millennials are dumping religion for witchcraft, not science - Denyse O'Leary

It’s not a new story. At Uncommon Descent, we’ve covered it here, here, and here within the last year or so. People don't seem to be ditching traditional religion for science as much as for witchcraft:
Interest in spirituality has been booming in recent years while interest in religion plummets, especially among millennials. The majority of Americans now believe it is not necessary to believe in God to have good morals, a study from Pew Research Center found. The percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who “never doubt existence of God” fell from 81% in 2007 to 67% in 2012. Meanwhile, more than half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. compared to less than 8% of the Chinese public. The psychic services industry — which includes astrology, aura reading, mediumship, tarot-card reading and palmistry, among other metaphysical services — grew 2% between 2011 and 2016. It is now worth $2 billion annually, according to industry analysis firm IBIS World. Kari Paul, "Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology" at MarketWatch
It’s curious how this trend and the current war on math and science in education garner so little attention among pop science commentators. Both trends will have devastating effects on the ability of members of the public to judge propositions in science, effects they would certainly not have derived from reading, say, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, or G. K. Chesterton.

But what we won’t recognize, we must live through anyhow, just without the means of dealing with it effectively.
Hat tip: Heather Zeiger

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See also: John Gray: New Atheists don’t acknowledge their myths and beliefs


Why do we think technological progress is inevitable? Historically, plateaus and declines in technological development have been quite common. There is no “must” about it. And the role of religion is varied.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The Promise of Home by Rose McCormick Brandon

Great confusion awaited the disciples. They were soon to encounter the chaos of the cross. They wouldn’t understand it. They expected Jesus to set up His kingdom and to rule with Him in a world dominated by His peace. They will someday, but they couldn’t see the vast river of time separating the cross and resurrection from the established Kingdom of God. 
                They, and we, are still waiting in the river. Jesus' message to them is His message to us today: 
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 NLT
                Sin and madness appear to rule. Events take place that cause our agendas to explode. Anarchy shrieks and lawlessness threatens. Scoffers deride Jesus’ message. They heap scorn on us who wait for His coming. 
               Don’t be discouraged by mockery. Jesus always keeps His promises. When the time is right – when our home in Heaven is ready, when the last soul kneels at the cross, when the Almighty gathers all the threads of history and ties them together – then, He’ll come and take us HOME.
                How the heart warms at the thought of home. A sanctuary. A place of relaxation. We can go shoeless, shirtless, pyjama-clad, hair undone, and feel no guilt. Because we’re home. 
               A much greater life than one of security and ease awaits us. Our true and eternal home. We may not have identified it as a longing for God’s house, but it’s been there, always, niggling at the soul, a nameless pining. A yearning for HOME. 
                 When the drapes open to let in today’s light ask, “Is it today, Jesus, that everything will be ready?” Perhaps not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day, oh my, the curtain between heaven and earth will rend and a blast of heavenly light will release all His followers from the dust and carry us home. 
                Today, my Lord, let me ponder the heavenly home you’re preparing for me. It’s beyond my imagination, still, I can dream of it as I wait for You. 
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including Promises of Home – Stories of Canada's British Home Children, plus dozens of personal experience pieces, devotionals, short stories and essays. Rose’s work has won awards in the personal experience and short essay categories. A member of The Word Guild and The Manitoulin Writers Circle, Rose and husband, Doug, summer on Manitoulin Island where her pioneer ancestors settled and the home of his favourite fishing holes. The rest of the year, they live in Caledonia, Ontario, near their three children and three grandchildren. 

Friday, November 02, 2018

"Silver-Haloed Clouds and a Golden Orb" by Peter A. Black

Publ Domain Photography
The air was cool and the sun bright, although beginning its descent of early evening, during my drive home one day. And the sky, reaching ahead of me towards the horizon in the West, displayed a colourful array of cloud clusters, from deep purplish black to grey, to violet, pink and blue. Many of them were bathed in striking, shimmering silver haloes. 

It was a sight that seemed just right for the crispness of the now cooler weather of fall. And yet, within twenty minutes, before the sun settled below the silhouetted landscape, it had taken on the appearance and visual warmth of a huge golden orb, characteristic of gorgeous Canadian sunsets. 

GoogleFree Italian Holiday
Had the sun really changed its colour? No. Had the clouds changed substance appreciably? Probably not. However, the position of the earth and the clouds had changed in relation to the sun. In practical terms, the earth did the moving, as it does in its daily revolutions and annually in its circuit around the sun, and so, things appeared different. This, of course, makes for the contrast between night and day.

Is that not how it sometimes is between us and THE Sun (God’s Son) of Righteousness?  Sometimes God and Christ may seem cold and distant to us, while at other times we view matters of faith more warmly, sensing that God is closer and Jesus is with us, and that life has a golden touch. 

In our seasons of life, as well as from day to day, may we be kept by the grace of God in proper relation to our Lord and recognize the silver lining of His mercy, when the cool of life’s evening begins to draw near.

On my journey towards home that day I was careful to keep my eyes on the road ahead, even while viewing the glories of the sky above. May we keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus who is the Way – that is, our path – to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God to us. Let us keep our gaze on Him, until we can view our lives and those around us in a kinder, warmer light – bathed in the gold of His grace.  

And, just as I reached home safely that night, may we each arrive safe at the eternal home prepared for us in the heavens (John 14:1-3). God grant us to be included among His faithful ones: “. . . for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). The “sun of righteousness” is personified in Jesus, our Lord.

A Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Thank You for the glories of your handiwork written in nature and the skies, and for the parallels to our spiritual lives of which they serve to remind us. Amen. 

Peter A. Black is a retired pastor – well, sort of retired – and lives in Southwestern Ontario. He writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, P-Pep! and is author of Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart, and Parables from the Pond – a children's / family book. ~~+~~
The above post was adapted from one of Peter's column articles published in October 2018.  The sunset pictures are courtesy of free online sources.

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