Saturday, November 18, 2017

A "Very Good" World-by Heidi McLaughlin


 “OK my darlings – what’s it going to be,” I challenged, “shall we take the cable car or lace up our hiking boots?” Eyebrows went up and down as we stood in a circle staring at each other.  My husband Jack, my daughter Michelle, my son-in-law Tim, and my son Donovan were standing at the base of Mount Wengen, one of the most picturesque mountains in Switzerland. While this adventure had been researched for over a year, we didn’t expect this commanding, green giant to be so intimidating. Finally Michelle broke the silence, “You know what, I don’t think I feel up to the hike. Tim and I will take the cable car and meet you at the top.”  A decision was made. Tim and Michelle off to the train station while Jack, Donovan and I (Heidi) bent down to lace up their hiking boots.

The first half hour of our excursion revealed a backdrop of lush alpine meadows awash with a carpet of flowers that turned into beautiful panorama of rugged, majestic mountains.  Our conversation consisted of superlatives trying to fathom and express the vastness and magnificence of God’s creation.  Every hundred feet or so, we stopped to wipe the sweat from our faces and share another rich discovery.

Over there-see Staubach Falls cascading down the side of the mountain like a twirling corkscrew.”


It was magical! As we climbed higher and higher up the mountainside trail we saw the world from a different perspective. It all seemed clearer, slower, and calmer. 

Worries, deadlines and expectations evaporated.

By the time we saw the sign WENGEN VILLAGE our clothes were soaked with a salty, grimy perspiration. But we were elated, and deliciously exhausted.  Trying to squeeze one last drop out of our water bottles, we high fived and headed into the village, back to reality.

 We found Tim and Michelle in a colourful friendly cafĂ© leisurely sipping away on a rich, Swiss coffee. “Hey, how was your cogwheel railway climb?” We asked. “Fine”, they both echoed.”  Now they wanted to know, “How was your trek up the mountain?” “It was very good,” was all I could muster up, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” 

How do you explain a glimpse of heaven-a visit into an idyllic time warp that would lose its magic if we tried to put it into human words?

In the book of Genesis when God finished creating our magnificent world He said. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).

“Very Good?”

 My hike up Mount Wengen allowed me to capture a tiny, fleeting glimpse behind God’s words of “very good.” If God says that our creation is only very good, I can’t begin to comprehend what heaven will be like.

I’m glad I chose the long, hard hiking trail. How many times have I missed God best for my life simply because I was not willing to bend over and lace up my hiking boots?  God’s wants us to experience all of His “very good” in our lives. Why not stop today and take a moment to thank Him for creating something that is so very good. 

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca


Friday, November 17, 2017

How Big is Mustard Seed Faith? by SUSAN HARRIS

For years I’ve begged my husband to bring me mustard seeds, eager to lay eyes on the tiniest
Black mustard seeds grown in Canada
seeds a Palestinian farmer would have grown in his day. A week ago this precious gift became mine. He was helping a friend load his mustard crop and brought me a handful of tiny black seeds. I touched them with reverence, the parable of our Lord Jesus filling my spirit and swelling my heart.

There are different kinds of mustard seeds. The most common type in Canada is the  yellow seeds that produce the typical mustard found in fast food chains. But it’s the black mustard seeds that the people of my ancestral roots, India, love, and the kind our friend had grown for export. The black seeds are the most flavourful, sharp, the zestiest of all mustard seeds. From it mustard oil is extracted, a strong-tasting oil erring on the spicy side which I’ve purchased for pickled condiments. Black mustard seeds looks strikingly like Canola seeds until one chews them and discovers the tanginess. (Interestingly, Canola belongs to the mustard family.)

By using the miniscule mustard seed to illustrate His point, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about the unforeseen power of God that can be demonstrated in the lives of believers with true faith. The disciples had the authority, the head knowledge, but missed the heart knowledge that the miracle that Jesus performed could have been done through them. They lacked faith.

A light bulb rated at 60 watts means that it draw 60 watts from a generator to produce the light. Likewise, a 100-watt bulb will draw 100 watts to produce the light. The intensity of light produced is directly related to the number of watts. Just as it is impossible to activate electric light without plugging it into a source so it is impossible to please God with faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith, like electricity, is intangible power.
  
Jesus was in the habit of using everyday items to explain the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven, so His object lesson on faith was one that his listeners were familiar with – a mustard seed.

In Matthew 17:20 he said to His disciples, “… for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (NASB).

 So what is mustard seed faith? We can see a 60 watt bulb and the light it gives but how does one assess mustard seed faith? How big is such a faith and will it really send the Rockies into the Pacific?

Jesus is speaking symbolically when He refers to moving mountains. Rather than uprooting trees and stone, He is emphasizing the nature of faith, that a tiny amount of faith will produce great results. That little is much when it comes to God.

The Canadian Grain Commission measures the diameter of the mustard seed as 2mm or less. So, how does 2 mm-sized faith, mustard seed-sized faith play out in our lives? 

When I sit on a chair at my dining table I exercise 100% faith that it will bear my weight and I’ll remain stable. On the other hand, when I tiptoe on my icy steps, I have much less faith that I would remain stable.  



Below are a few examples of mustard seed faith in my life:

  •  I’ve turned to the TWG prayer group for prayer. I turn to them because I have faith that when they agree with me it shall be done. That’s my mustard seed faith. 100% faith in God.
  •  I call on Jesus – my mustard seed faith. If I did not believe I would not call. 100% faith in Him.
  •  I read the Word and pray its promises. Mustard seed faith. 100% faith in God.
  •  I’ve been healed, I’ve seen answers to my prayer – mustard seed faith. 100% faith.
  • I keep lifting some needs over and over to God – mustard seed faith. 100% faith that He will do as He wills.
  •  When things don’t unfold as I expect, I trust God has the best for me and in due time I will be rewarded even if that due time is in the next life – mustard seed faith. 100% faith in God.

 My tiny seed faith, my 2mm pinpoint of faith will ripple in my life, influencing others and drawing many to the Lord, becoming bigger and bigger and closer to the symbolic mountain size. And even if my seed faith never grows any larger, I know I have pleased God. And I believe the same is true of you.


SUSAN HARRIS is a speaker and the author of 12 books. She exercises simple faith, mustard seed faith in God. www.susanharris.ca

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thankfulness Checklist by Steph Beth Nickel



We've been encouraged in recent years to keep a gratitude journal. Ann Voskamp encourages readers to make a list of 1,000 things they're thankful for. (Not to worry; this list will be much shorter than that.)

As writers, our list will include items most others wouldn't even think to add. Below are five of the things I'm thankful for and examples of each.

Total Strangers

When someone you've never met connects with you and tells you they appreciate your programs on HopeStreamRadio, it's humbling and encouraging.

Total strangers don't stay strangers long when you connect over a common pursuit such as writing. I met Ron Hughes at Write Canada a number of years ago. So when he called to see if I knew anyone who would be interested in joining the HopeStreamRadio team, I was eager to get on board.

Online Communities

Yes, there are downsides to the Internet. We can spend hours commenting on status updates, tweeting, and pinning that would be better spent writing, reading, or doing housework. We can dive down one rabbit hole after the next after the next.

On the other hand, we can connect with amazing people we're never likely to meet in person who will encourage, challenge, and enlighten us. Such is the case with communities such as the Create If Writing group on Facebook. I've linked to the public group, but there are several advantages to joining the paid community as well. 

And I have to tell you the online communities that I've connected with are made up of some of the most generous people you'll ever meet.

Podcasts

I could list podcast after podcast after podcast where I like to hang out. While I enjoy reading, I've found that a familiar voice soon becomes a trusted voice, especially when the information they're sharing is practical and up-to-date.

Among the podcasts I follow are Kirsten Oliphant's Create If Writing, Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn, and Tara Hunt's Truly Social.

Challenges

I have joined the thousands of other writers who are participating in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I'm on track to hit the 25K mark today. The challenge, if you're not familiar with it, is to write 50K words in the month of November. Obviously, the idea is to write the first draft of a novel. However, there are those who use the energy and camaraderie to write short stories, academic papers, etc. I love it and am learning a lot. As was said, there are no NaNo police.

Lifetime Access

If any of you have attended a free online summit, you'll know the allure of purchasing lifetime access. You can listen to the interviews whenever you want to, whenever you have the time. You have the luxury of going back and listening over and over to those you found particularly helpful.

I have purchased lifetime access to many summits and have signed up for the paid courses after watching brief series of free lessons on writing and writing-related topics.

These are all well and good, but I have to go back and start digging into the wealth of material I have access to. It does me know good tucked away in cyber space.

What's on your Thankfulness Checklist? 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Writers Hearing from God? by David Kitz

Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to hearing from God. As Christian writers do we hear from God? Does He whisper in your ear and tell you what to write? Is the Holy Spirit our "Christian muse" who prompts us when we sit down to compose an article or story? Where does our inspiration come from?

This sentence from the Psalms has captured my imagination: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you (Psalm 32:8).

This is the LORD's promise for His people. It's a promise you can hang your hat on. If you have your ears open to hear the LORD, you can be sure that He will speak into your life to provide guidance. And remember, our God is a God of infinite variety. He can speak to us in numerous ways. Listed below are some of them.

            God can speak to you, and He can direct you—
            – through the Holy Scriptures
            – through the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit
            – through his anointed servant leaders
            – through events and circumstances
            – through open doors and closed doors
            – through dreams and visions
            – and through prophetic words.
            – He can even speak to you through the words of the ungodly.

And please bear in mind that this is only intended as an illustrative list, not an exhaustive list. If you have come to Christ, the Good Shepherd, you can rest assured that He will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I believe that includes when you sit down to write using your computer or tablet. 

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that if God is guiding our writing we are somehow infallible or inerrant. The truth is human vessels make mistakes. I still need spell-check and an editor even if God is providing some inspiration. 

We can over spiritualize the writing experience, but there is also a danger that we deny God's involvement in it. The LORD is well able to direct our thoughts as we write. When we invite Him into the writing process with our spiritual ears open to His prompting, wonderful thingstruly unexpected things can happen. 

May those wonderful things–those Holy Spirit prompted thoughts happen to you.





Some of the thoughts for today's post were drawn from Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth.

David Kitz lives in Ottawa with his wife Karen. His most recent book is published by Kregel and entitled The Soldier Who Killed a King 





Sunday, November 12, 2017

Friendship by Ruth Smith Meyer





My grandfather wrote in my autograph book, 

“Make new friends, keep the old, one is silver, the other gold.” 

Of all the autograph verses I collected, I think that is the one I most often remember.

In the past three months, I have been reminded once more of that little saying.  Those weeks have given my many opportunities to visit and spend time with friends, old and new. 

One friend who has been through a difficult year is home after a ten-month hospital stay recuperating from Gille Barre syndrome.  She still can’t be left alone, so I am staying with her one morning a week until her PSW worker comes so her husband can go to work. Those times have been rich in friend-fellowship.

Several times a year, three of us who worked together in the ‘90s get together for lunch.  It’s always a fun time with lots of laughter and memories. That happened again in October.  As usual, I came home with my heart lifted.

There have been several days spent with writer friends as we promoted our books at signings and sales events.  Much more than sales happen there—a lot of sharing and support comes in those moments and hours.

Several times in the past three months, I’ve shared breakfast with new friends, getting to know them better and finding ways we can enjoy each other.

Twice I met with former friends and colleagues at meetings.  In such cases there’s never time enough to do more than whet the appetite for spending more quality time with those you see after extended absence from one another.


Probably the most memorable friendship renewing time happened in October when three of us got together for lunch and a wonderful afternoon.  As teenagers, we had formed a trio and sang together in various places.  Although I have seen both of them since, the three of us haven’t been together in one place for probably almost 60 years. 

One would think after such a long time, it would have been hard to know what to talk about.  But that’s the surprising thing about old friends—you seem to be able to start again where you left off.  Oh we did a lot of catching up, but there was something so solid and comfortable about being together again.  My heart sang most of the way home.

H. Jackson Brown Jr. said we should remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends, but I think I will go with Thomas Aquinas who said, 

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized that true friendship.” 

Or as Oliver Wendall Holmes put it, 

“There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.”

I wished I could find pictures of all those friends, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t even find one photograph of the three of us together.  But there are many in my mind and in my heart, and that’s what matters most.

      True friends are always together in spirit.  
                                                                                      
                                                                                      (Anne Shirley)   L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables



Ruth Smith Meyer enjoys life in Ailsa Craig, Ontario. She feels very honoured to have been part of the writing of  three books this past year.  "Good Grief People,"   "Christmas with Hot Apple Cider" and "Christmas Stories and More."  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Dinner will be served


good conversation at the dinner table





around our dinner table Friday evening




Jocelyne Vezina received the Toastmaster of the Year award for District 86





At the end of Day One of the District 86 Toastmasters Fall conference, some attendees were still on the dance floor. From my hotel room I could hear the beat of the drums. I like to dance but the strobe lights that rotate as the music plays are not kind to my senses and eyes. They can cause a migraine and that’s not what I need in the middle of a jam-packed conference. And so I retired for the night, but not to go to sleep right away. I had a blog post to write for Saturday the 11th.



Albert at the Toastmasters table


We’d eaten a good meal, served by the hotel staff, watched the banner parade directed by  Area 61 Director, Chris O’Brien, in a lively and engaging style. We’d also celebrated ‘Of the Year’ awards as well as visiting with other Toastmasters. Three members from our club, the Energetics Toastmasters were to receive their medal for the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, and I wanted to be there to help them celebrate that achievement.

 
Chris, Doris and Cliff have earned their Distinguished Toastmasters designation after plenty of speeches and leadership roles





Of the Year award recipients


Toastmasters, for those who don’t know the name, is the title of an organization founded by American Ralph Smedley in 1924 in Santa Ana, California. With hundreds of clubs world wide, it’s a program for adults 18 years and older to learn speaking skills and work on leadership as well. Practising in a safe club environment, members take roles in weekly meetings and accept opportunities outside the club to learn and grow. The skills transfer to work experiences and life outside of Toastmasters. It’s hard to say who benefits more, the member or the people who work with the Toastmasters in work and social situations. 

Me in Author's Corner with my books

Friday we got to hear the contestants who came through club, area and division contests for the  Table Topics Contest (impromptu) and today (Saturday) we had the Humorous Speech contest. We hear some amazing speeches at this level and were treated also to a Humorous Speech workshop.

Members gain competence in a variety of ways, depending on the path they choose. With the new program, Pathways, they stand to learn even more in a wider selection of learning paths whose content is delivered online. Manuals will be available and are being translated into more languages.
At a district conference such as this, people connect with members within the division and district and it’s good to attend and learn, participate in contests.

Each conference hosts at least one keynote speaker who often travels a distance to bring their message or different insights. This year it was Forrest Willett, speaker and author, who inspired us with stories about how he overcame incredible obstacles to be where he is today. And Vera Johnson, DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster), International Director of Toastmasters International told us of her 9/11 experience. Both Willett and Johnson challenged us to lead well, even in the midst of challenging situations.

Forrest with his books










 
Vera Johnson, International Director of Toastmasters International

Conference co-chairs, Shawn Salokannel and Kelley McIntyre, and their team of volunteers worked hard to put this conference together. By now, I hope they’ll be sitting back and relaxing some while assessing how things went and resting weary feet after all their hard work. And district leadership teams will also be ready to put their feet up as well.

 If you speak as part of ministry or in your professional work life, I recommend Toastmasters as a place to learn and grow. And to move beyond your comfort zone. Ask for prayer, by all means, when you need to travel and speak, but also consider Toastmasters to help you hone your skills and look as professional as you can be.


Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, author, Toastmaster and storyteller
www.carolynwilker.ca



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