Friday, October 29, 2010

Does God Love Me? - Meyer

Recently, a popular radio host (http://www.thedrewmarshallshow.ca/) challenged his audience with the questions: “Why do you believe in God?” and “Have you ever had a legitimate personal encounter with Him?”

Last time when I posted on this blog, I attempted to answer the question: “Is there a God?” http://twgauthors.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html
Now, it gets personal.

Have I had a legitimate personal encounter with God?
Yes.
Do I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God loves me?
Yes.
Can I prove it?
No.
And… I hesitate to try… because I open myself up to possible ridicule.
And… I desperately do want to try… on the off chance that someone who has never tasted of this sweet, precious love might be drawn a step closer to this dear wonderful friend of mine.
So here goes.

It hasn’t been one personal encounter. It has been many. Many little moments, small breathes of God’s love, that have slowly melted away the ice of doubt in my mind and in my heart.
And the best way that I can explain this love relationship with God is by comparing it to our human relationships. God himself does this in the Bible. In Galatians 4:6, we read: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
There are also many references to us as being God’s bride. In Isaiah 62:5, it says that “…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

I can’t prove to you – or even begin to explain – my husband’s love.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me.
Why am I so convinced?
Nothing I could explain in a few minutes… or a few years.
It’s been a thousand – perhaps a million – little things that have gradually melted away any doubt in my mind and in my heart.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I was very fearful because of my parents’ bad marriage. John said to me: “I can’t prove my love to you. You’ll just have to trust me.” Years later, walking out under the stars, I heard an echo of his words in my heart, God saying, “I can’t prove my love to you, Dorene. You’ll just have to trust me.”

And by its very definition, this is a personal encounter that we are talking about. What is meaningful to me will very likely not be meaningful to you. If I were to tell you that I feel loved and special because my husband shot an elastic band at me while I was deep in thought composing this post, you’d say I was crazy!! If I told you that he bought me a dozen roses, you might feel slightly more convinced. But some would still remain skeptical.

If I told you that God showed his love to me by splashing a rainbow across the sky, you might have all sorts of protests and legitimate questions. If I told that He quietly spoke into my heart – and that I answered back! – you might wish to declare me certifiably insane. Hearing voices, no less!

But it’s the only way I can begin to give you a glimpse of why I know that God loves me. Please just remember it’s only a glimpse and it’s God speaking to me. He won’t speak to you in the same voice, the same tone and quite possibly, not even the same language. See, this is the truly marvelous and miraculous part – God, through His Holy Spirit, doesn’t have to use a telephone or an email or write our names in the sand. He can speak to us even if we are in the dark, without Internet access, or out in the middle of the bush. He knows our language, our culture and all of those one-liners and inside jokes that only special friends know. He can speak directly into the innermost part of our being in a voice that doesn’t even need words. Yes, He doesn't even need words! Sometimes, when I’m trying to relate an experience I’ve had with God, I’ve struggled to put in words the message that I’ve received from Him. Without getting too sci-fi on you, I think the best way I could describe it is more of a thought transfer. It's his spirit speaking to my spirit and sometimes words are unnecessary.

Okay, here’s my example. It’s not my biggest or “bestest” – it’s just one little example – that meant the world to me.
I was really stressed out about my family this past summer. I don’t want to go into all the details. Suffice it to say, I was worried.
I saw a rainbow.
Uh-huh. Okay. Thank you, Lord; that’s a beautiful rainbow.
I know it is a sign of God’s promise. And to me personally, it is a reminder that God has everything under control, that He loves me. I believe in the words of Romans 8:28 that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I don’t remember the exact sequence of events but I do remember that we were traveling in different areas between provinces and in all types of weather from cloudy to clear blue skies. And it seemed, everywhere we went… oh, there’s another rainbow… oh, look, another rainbow! And not just those little half faded ones but full color bows touching down on the horizon and stretching across the whole sky.
And my response…
Okay, I get it (big sigh).
Yeah. Okay, I got it. I got it! (exasperation).
Alright already! (just a bit ticked off).
Okay, (smile). I really got it this time (let’s take a picture, kids).

Thank you, Lord. I know you love me. I know you love my kids and grandkids.
I know I can trust you.
I love you, too.

Dorene Meyer
http://www.dorenemeyer.com/

Author of The Little Ones and Jasmine
Now in book stores across Canada
Distributed by Word Alive Press http://www.wordalivepress.ca/.
Available online and as ebook on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/ (key in title of book and publisher: Word Alive Press).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: Attempting the good death without God - Denyse O'Leary

In "Christopher Hitchens: A humanist at heart" (Washington Post , October 15, 2010), Michael Gerson offers some thoughts on celebrated atheist author Christopher Hitchens's disdain for "deathbed conversions," despite his serious illness and recent bad news. Gerson comments,
... Christopher Hitchens is weaker on the personal and ethical challenge presented by atheism: Of course we can be good without God, but why the hell bother? If there are no moral lines except the ones we draw ourselves, why not draw and redraw them in places most favorable to our interests? Hitchens parries these concerns instead of answering them: Since all moral rules have exceptions and complications, he said, all moral choices are relative. Peter Hitchens responded, effectively, that any journey becomes difficult when a compass points differently at different times.

The best answer that Christopher Hitchens can offer to this ethical objection is himself. He is a sort of living refutation -- an atheist who is also a moralist. His politics are defined by a hatred of bullies, whether Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein or the mullahs in Iran. His affections are reserved for underdogs, from the Kurds to Salman Rushdie. The dreams of totalitarians are his nightmares -- what W.H. Auden described as: "A million eyes, a million boots in line/Without expression, waiting for a sign." Even Hitchens's opposition to God seems less a theological argument than a revolt against celestial tyranny.

All this fire and bleeding passion would seem to require a moral law, even a holy law. But Hitchens produces outrage, empathy and solidarity without it.
We constantly hear from atheists that one can be good without God. The problem is, the atheist has set the goal posts for being "good" himself. Anyone can score in that situation. Hitchen's passion is easily bested by the passion (for slaughtering millions) of fellow atheists like Josef Stalin. Maybe (well, definitely) I like Hitchens better than Stalin, but that establishes nothing. I also like sushi better than ice cream. So?

If God did nothing else for the moral law, the fact that he is something other and higher than ourselves privileges his view. One could say the same thing of the Eastern ideas of karma or the cosmic mind. In other words, the things you cannot escape just by rebelling or not happening to like them.

It is good to want justice, as Hitchens does, but it is God (or karma) that fill in the idea. One sometimes wonders if "new atheists" like Hitchens don't believe in life after death because they realize that no one can be his own judge.

Here, the celebrated atheist author talks to Sally Quinn (from On Faith) about how he copes with his diagnosis of esophageal cancer (a week long series). It begins, "It's a strange thing having a malady like this, because you feel that you must, at the same time, make preparations to die and to live."

Gerson cautiously comments,

At the Pew Forum, Hitchens was asked a mischievous question: What positive lesson have you learned from Christianity? He replied, with great earnestness: the transience and ephemeral nature of power and all things human. But some things may last longer than he imagines, including examples of courage, loyalty and moral conviction.

See also:

The New Atheists are really God's prophets?

All roads end, but usually at another road

Why we must make sure the Darwinists lose (a rather deplorable take on deathbed conversions)

The Paradox of the Passive Voice

Paradoxes intrigue me. As a writer I strive, with less than perfect success, to reduce or eliminate the passive voice from my work. I routinely do searches for key words: is, am, as, are, was, were, be, to be, and variations of them. Yet the passive voice saturates some of the most dynamic passages of Scripture. The great "I AM" statements of the Old Testament use the passive voice at their core: (emphases added)


Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The
God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?'
Then what shall I say to them?"
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the
Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:13-14

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to
them: 'Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
"Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my
Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God.
"Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the
LORD your God." Leviticus 19: 1-4

The New Testament also bathes many passages with the passive voice, yet they somehow remain so dynamic that language can scarcely grasp the fullness:



In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has
been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines
in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:
1-5


What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who
can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us
all---how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who
will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who
justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died---more than that, who
was raised to life---is at the right had of God and is also interceding for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or
persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long:
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved
us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of
God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who was, and who is,
and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelations 1:8

"I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold I
am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Revelations 1: 17b-18

The Bible claims to be inspired by God, or "God-breathed" as Paul puts it in his second letter to Timothy. I accept that claim, believe internal evidence supports it. But the repeated use of the passive voice still raises questions. The King James version of the Bible, first published in 1611, set a tone for English literature that has never been surpassed. Yet it, and every English translation since that I have examined makes repeated use of the passive voice in the same places. Does that mean God didn't know basic rules of writing? Greek and Hebrew, the original lanugages of the Bible, prove beyond my skills and knowledge. The saga of hardship and bloodshed before the earliest English translations became widely available reads with more drama than the best fiction thriller imaginable. The literary beauty of King James English in the 1611 and the 1769 editions still sets an incredibly high standard for writers to strive for, even if you dispute the possibility of God's involvement. Newer translations make it easier to understand, but the passive voice continues to show up in key Scripture portions. So the question remains: Did God not know basic rules of writing?

I will argue that those passages are still so dynamic that we can only grasp the smallest part of them. If you take God out of the picture, they remain literary treasures to stand beside anything in print. If you acknowledge even the possibility of God, they have a wealth and richness worth a lifetime to explore.

The paradox of the passive voice in Scripture continues to fascinate me. All the trade-marks of "weak writing" seem to try to bring key passages of the Bible down to something we can grasp. Yet those passages still rank among the most dynamic works in English literature, and doubtless, every other language. I'll risk believing Paul got it right in one more verse that uses the passive voice:



For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of
God is stronger than man's strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.



The Alpha and Omega


Four small words, so simple,

say so little,

reveal so much.


IN THE BEGINNING, GOD.


and after years numbered in thousands:


IN THE BEGINNING WAS. . .

AND WAS. . .

AND WAS. . .

Passive voice chosen,

writer's bane

to reveal truths

too deep for words,

too alive for mortal comprehension;

too active for minds to grasp.


AND GOD SAID. . .

AND GOD SAW. . .

AND IT WAS GOOD!


Profound truths

in oh so simple phrases.


For THE WORD WAS

AND IS

AND IS TO COME.


It is enough.

IN THE BEGINNING, GOD.

and in the end

God still.



Copyright Brian C. Austin

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hide and Seek - Ruth Smith Meyer


Have you ever watched very young children play hide-and-seek? The younger ones are apt to hide in corners, their faces against a wall or piece of furniture, so they can't see anything, but the rest of their bodies, or their backs are exposed to anyone else. The hider can't see, so they assume the seeker can't see what isn't readily visible to themselves.


It has been my observation that as adults, we are much the same. Our short-comings, our character flaws or areas where we have some lack, we try to hide from ourselves by not looking at them--closing our eyes to what we don't want others to see.


Many years ago, I was part of a women's group that began to meet for fellowship and Bible study. We had grown up in the same small church and we were all friends. We decided to begin by telling each other our faith journey and a bit of what we struggled with in our inner selves. Each evening we had several women share until we all had our turn. In spite of our familiarity with each other, it was an eye-opening experience.


Each woman's story often contained bits that felt to herself, like deep dark secrets she had been hiding for a long time. Those revelations often were things that to the group were quite well-known parts of that person. It was like that little child, hiding her eyes when the rest of us could see the whole body, the hiding place exposed for all to see. The only new aspect was how the sharer felt about it--shame, dislike or despair, even agony--and a real desire to change.


As the grop continued, it was obvious that in sharing those hidden parts, release and healing began. Not only were we still loved and accepted by each other, those levels went way up because now we were all acknowledging the facts. Where, formerly, there may have been some disapproval and criticism of those character traits in each other, we now understood them to be part of the area in which that person desired growth and change. We rallied around each other to support each other's growth. Growth and change did happen! It was an exciting time that we still remember with great warmth.


That experience has been of great value to me ever since. When I meet people with aggravating personality traits, I far more readily see them as growth areas. Sometimes I picture them with their face in a corner, eyes tightly shut so as not to acknowledge what they don't want to see. It gives me patience and compassion. Deepening our friendship and trust level with people like that can often help them open their eyes and lose their fear of taking a look at the reality of their postition.


Sometimes I become aware of doing the same with one of my character flaws. I then am thankful for those who look past the irritation, gently pry me from my corner and encourage me to open my eyes.


Last night, I met with my writers' group. Only a few of us were able to make it, so although we did share our writing, we also took time to share a bit more personally. That group has helped me in my growth as a writer and as a person. Critique has become a valuable part of our coming together. At first, some were intimidated by having others make all those suggestions for change, but now the veterans welcome the input and look foward to the positive changes to our writing that the group can make through the process.


On the way home, I wondered how one could form a critique group for our lives. Yes, it could be painful at first, but would we begin to value it as much in our everyday lives as in our writing, if we could let others be honest and straightforward in what changes would benefit our lives? It may be a welcome and stable factor in our growth if we got used to its benefit.


In fact, probably if I open my inner ears as I receive critique in my writing, I may be able to make parallels to my attitudes, my carelessness, my first inclinations and reactions, even as I am receiving the critiques on my writing. Hmm-mm!
Author of Not Easily Broken, Not Far from the Tree and Tysons Sad Bad Day

Monday, October 25, 2010

Be Faithful to do your Part - Brandon



One day while out for walk I passed several rows of well lived in townhouses. Dandelions had taken over the front yards, most lawns hadn’t seen a mower for some time. In the midst of this uncared-for complex, an elderly woman sat on a stool. From it, she reached into her stunning small flower bed. She mixed fertilizer and poured water from a pail. Each plant received a liberal drink. A little pile of recently pulled weeds filled another pail.

She smiled up at me from under her broad-brimmed hat. “Nice day.”

“You’re making it a lot nicer,” I said and stopped to compliment her bed of roses and perennials.

“Just doing my part,” she said and I walked on.

Many people live in plots on the planet that no one would choose, if choices existed. If everyone “did their part” to decorate their space, as this woman is, it would transform many ugly corners, places that tell the world by their neglect, that sad, uncaring, discouraged or slothful people live there.

It’s easy to sink into our surroundings and take the attitude that if no one else cares, why should I? This woman could’ve easily spent her days in resentment but she decided to plant a flower garden instead. She, and people like her, are my heroes. When I get discouraged, I think of them, diligently tilling the earth, or doing some other worthwhile project.

Through them I hear God speak to me – “Be faithful to do your part.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stepping Out in Faith - Boge


Hi All!

Last month I indicated that I was starting out on an adventure to host a film festival at our church. I asked God for a boatload of wisdom and the right people to help in this undertaking. In just one short month we have an incredible team that is gung-ho on marketing the festival and a team of 12 dedicated prayer warriors on our prayer team. And we have an incredible start to our festival entries with really great films already submitted.

These are things I did not know would happen before I started. It was new and all I had at that time was a still small voice from God saying “this is the way walk in it.” I heard it the first time at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and while there is an incredible amount of work ahead of us, we are off to a great start.

Why do I mention this? One of my favourite lines from the band Petra is “Waters never part until our feet get wet.” Maybe there is something God is calling you to do and you’re wondering what will happen and you’re unsure of what to do.

My Uncle’s high school year book quote was “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I challenge you to take that first step. Maybe it’s a business. Maybe it’s a film festival. Maybe it’s calling up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.

There is a certain peace that we only find when we are in the unknown with God.
I’ll keep you posted. And if you’re so inclined and lead, please pray for the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival to impact our community.

Blessings to you all,

Paul

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Do You Explain It? - Eleanor Shepherd

Three years after his accident, our son John was able to return to Harvard Business School to complete his studies for his MBA. Everything was falling into place. His accessible housing had been arranged. The move was organized. The only outstanding issue was his attendant care in Boston. Because of his quadriplegia, he has to have a caregiver come every morning to help with the personal care that is part of his morning routine.

We were on vacation in Maine and New York and most of the time I could be found with my cell phone at my ear. I was trying to find an agency that would be able to provide the necessary attendant care. We had been given lists of agencies of nurses and health care workers who provided that kind of service, but I was having no success at rounding up anyone who was able to take on the task.

I was given the number of a fellow named Pete. He was the one who apparently could find a caregiver when nobody else could. I tried Pete and although he gave me a few leads to try, success still eluded me. My hopes rose and fell. I would reach an agency and they would think that they might be able to help us. Then they would investigate further and call me back to apologize that they were not able to provide anyone. What was I going to do? As the days went on and no solution was in sight, I was becoming desperate. Unless he had an attendant, John would not be able to move to Boston.

It was now three days before his arrival in Boston. We were going directly to Boston from New York to help him move into his apartment and get him set up. Still there was no attendant booked. Would we have to call the whole thing off?

My husband, Glen had a call with his boss, Christine about some business issue. They resolved the question they were discussing and then as the call was concluding, Christine asked, “What’s wrong?”

She heard the anxiety in Glen’s voice and knew something was troubling him. He told her about the difficulty we were having trying to find a caregiver for John.

“Can I pray with you,” she asked. When Glen responded affirmatively, she prayed right there on the phone. Of course, we had been praying ourselves for some breakthrough, but thus far, nothing had happened. Nevertheless, the support of her prayer gave us reassurance that somehow things would work out.

Clutching my phone to dial one more agency, I tried to keep up with Glen as we headed off to the train station at Suffern at 8:30 on Thursday morning. We decided to go to downtown New York, for some sightseeing. Enroute, I reached the agency and received another negative response.

We had to change trains at Penn Station and just as I stepped out of the train at 9:15 my phone rang. On the line was a company I had been talking to the day before. They had not been able to help me. However, for some reason they had gone through their files again. This time they discovered that they had someone that could take on a client in Cambridge and they would be able to provide the care we needed. I wept with joy and relief.

The question this situation raises is why, after all of my frantic efforts, did we finally find someone who could provide attendant care? There are several possible explanations.

Perhaps it was my sheer persistence and the odds were that if I called enough people, eventually I would find someone. That is possible.

Another alternative is that initially when I spoke to the agency there just happened to be some kind of administrative mix-up. Really they did have someone all along. They had just not been able to discover it earlier, when I asked.

One possibility is that this was a direct answer to the prayer of Christine as well as others, who were aware of the situation and praying for us.

The answer depends on your perspective. All of these things may have been factors. As with so many situations in life we can choose whether or not we see God as part of the equation. He is there and He is not silent. We choose whether or not we acknowledge His presence and His activity.

Eleanor Shepherd

http://wipfandstock.com/store/More_Questions_than_Answers_Sharing_Faith_by_Listening

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heading West . . . Random, Automatic, and Intentional — Black

“I see two bears lying down beside each other.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty good. They really do resemble bears, don’t they?”
“Oh, look! That white one’s really unusual. Reminds me of a white, fluffy poodle standing up on its hind legs.”
“Hmm. Yeah. It certainly does . . . very unusual to see them in that vertical formation.”
Silence for a minute or two.
“Now that one is very much like a boy lying down, looking up into the sky, and smiling.”

It’s probable that by now you have guessed . . . we—my wife and I—were talking about some very interesting cloud formations, which to our eye resembled animals and a boy.

We were heading west, travelling along the 401 freeway in Southwestern Ontario. As the driver, I had to be careful, but was able to look ahead of us and join in the fun. I commented that it is amazing how those forms develop randomly, and yet some of them clearly resemble people, animals, and other things.

Now, I’m no meteorologist, physicist, scientist, mathematician, or psychologist, and yet venture to postulate as a layperson on these phenomena. We understand that natural forces give rise to the development of clouds, and that they will of necessity take one form or another. Also, that natural forces of air currents, the sun, changing temperature, et cetera, bring about movement and changes in those formations.

However, there is, from the human point of view, the aspect of randomness in what form those clouds actually take. These things occur without any human planning or conscious choice to create them. Therefore, it is entirely accidental that a cloud looks like a bear, a dog, or a human being—or a car, boat, bus, whatever.

We neared our destination, and the sun grew large, presenting itself golden orange in its descent towards the horizon. Breathtaking vistas of cloud banks stretched before us. Pastel shades and solid colours—from light pinks and reds to fiery orange-yellow, from sky blue to indigo, grey, and taupe, and from mauve to purple-black—delighted us. Gorgeous skyscapes featuring soaring mountains and calm waters, laced with silver and gold, and with islands breaking their surface, set my imagination on fire.

We saw them all. Marvellous. These were all ours for free! The dipping sun and scenic skies couldn’t help it; they offered those delights out of what they were, and the physics of refraction and light inadvertently acted on them.

What is not random, though, is that as onlookers we saw and recognized those shapes. I’d suggest that our minds, drawing from previous knowledge and experience, via memory, processed what our eyes beheld. The result was that we recognized those semblances in the clouds, and distinguished them from what otherwise appeared to us as completely amorphous condensed water vapour, floating in the sky.

Language and writing can be rather like that. To explain: if you have been gracious enough to read these ramblings up to this point, you may have by now recognized that they are not entirely without forces giving them form; that they are not entirely random. I have been intentional, not random.

During the last five minutes you’ve had images in your own mind. You’ve seen clouds resembling bears, a dog, and a boy. You’ve witnessed the glories of nature as seen in an evening sky, while driving west towards the setting sun, and all without even having to leave your house or look out of your window; and you didn't really need the graphic pictures we've added, either.

And how? Because your mind was able—in some measure—to replicate the images described, your mental faculties drawing from your own experience. Deep calls to deep. Resonance and evocation are marvellous processes that enrich our lives as humans made in the image of God. That response in your mind was at least, to some extent, automatic.

Beyond all this talk of randomness, my heart sings, Then sings my soul, my Saviour, God, to Thee . . . How great Thou art!
Now that’s automatic—and it’s intentional too!

~~+~~

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer living in Southwestern Ontario.
He is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press),
and writes a weekly column in The Watford-Guide Advocate.





Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Arrange your Time - McLachlan


In my office I have a drawing of two dinosaurs sitting on a rock that
rises out of a vast expanse of water. They are staring at a retreating
ship - presumably Noah's arc - and one is saying to the other, "Oh shoot,
was that today?" Above the cartoon is the caption: the importance of time
management.

I find this cartoon irritatingly applicable to my life. By that I mean, I
relate to the dinosaurs rather than to the waving denizens of the merrily
floating arc. I can imagine the dinosaurs writing a note for themselves:
ARC. Perhaps they carved this reminder into a tree, which they then
misplaced among a forest of other trees. They likely got busy tidying up
the fronds in the swamp (by mouth) or cleaning house with a few well-aimed
swishes of the tail, or giving the kids a mud bath, or even doing good
works, such as rescuing a slow-moving herbivore from a pack of small,
hungry carnivores. Every night they went to bed thinking, 'gotta board
that arc tomorrow,' and every day there were just a few things that had to
be done first.

We are not talking procrastination here. Procrastination is when you
deliberately postpone and put off an unpleasant or tedious task you are
reluctant to do. Procrastination is putting wants before shoulds. But I
take from the cartoon that those dinosaurs WANTED to join that merry,
floating carnival called the arc; that it was like a holiday cruise
awaiting them as soon as they finished their chores. At the very least it
was preferable to the alternative, which is just the opposite of
procrastination, where any alternative is preferable to the waiting task.

So, if time management isn't about finding the will-power to overcome
procrastination, what is it about? Well, on my desk under that picture is
a large glass jar. Beside that jar there are 3-4 largish rocks, a dozen
smaller stones, a handful of gravel and a dish of sand. The idea is to
remind myself, before I begin my day, that everything there - the rocks,
the stones, the gravel, the sand--can be fitted into that jar. But only
if I go about it in the right way. If I try to put in the sand first,
then the gravel, then the stones - well, I might be left with enough room
for one or two of the rocks; certainly not all of them.

But if I put the rocks in first, with the stones scattered in the crevices
around them, and then pour in the gravel around them, and finally sift the
sand through all the air pockets-then, I can fit in everything quite
easily. That's time management.

At least that's the theory. But when I wake up in the morning, I see them
all at once: the 3-4 big, long-term projects that I really care about,
like writing my next book, the half-dozen smaller projects, the handful of
ongoing tasks and the full bowl of little daily chores. Some of them are
wants and some of them are shoulds and all of them have to fit somehow
into my waiting day, which sits transparent and hopeful before me. I am
often tempted to start with the small things and get them out of the way
quickly- stroke them off my list-before I tackle the bigger ones. But when
I do that, I'm left with insufficient space in my day, and depleted
energy, so that the big projects seem even bigger, and the day already
almost full, and at last I go to bed thinking, 'gotta board that arc
tomorrow.'

But some days, the good ones, I start my day by setting aside large blocks
of time when I am most energized, for the big things, the things that
really matter to me, like 3 hours of solid writing time. And around those
big chunks of time I add in smaller but still significant items, like
editing, or sewing that baby quilt, or volunteering or visiting a friend.
Then, around those, I fit in the ongoing tasks, like eating and cooking
and housework and exercising. Finally, I filter moments of time for
relaxing, for a cup of tea, for a quiet prayer, for reading. And when I go
to bed on those days, I feel so satisfied and buoyed up, I could swear I'm
floating into sleep on an arc.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Writing Life and the Spiritual Life – Part Two



(This, my second exploration on parallels between the writing life and the spiritual life, is also my final blog. I am grateful to the Writers’ Guild for this opportunity over the last months.)

Twenty years ago, the local library sponsored a writers’ group with an acclaimed Canadian writer-in-residence. I hesitated. I was not sure I was as “real” a writer as the others surely would be. And I felt shy about letting anyone read my work-in-progress.

I took the plunge anyway and was glad that I did. We were a mixed group. One young woman was writing poetry; something I’d never read. A young fellow was doing a “graphic novel,” the first time I heard that term. A middle-aged woman was writing a romance. Another writer was penning inspirational pieces for children. And I was attempting a mystery. We liked each other and had lots of fun. The romance novelist wanted me to put sex into my mystery and I wanted more mystery in her book.

I appreciated the give-and-take, support, and criticism of peers. Their perspectives helped improve my work. And accountability was useful. On a regular basis I had to provide a chapter for others to read. When I had trouble motivating myself to write some weeks, I felt the compelling priority of producing something for colleagues.

The greatest benefit was psychological. Writing is solitary work, sometimes devastatingly so. Often I sit in front of a blank computer screen or blank page and wonder: “Why? Why am I doing this? Why do I bother? Everything worth saying or writing has been said or written before and more eloquently or elegantly than I ever could. What’s the point?”

Because of the writers’ group, however, even though I was still alone in my study, I no longer felt isolated. I thought about Sarah and Brent, Ann and Mary. I knew that they faced similar monumental challenges. And they cared about my work and about me too. That encouraged me to plug away and keep going.

It’s no coincidence that within a year or two, I finished a book. (Not the mystery; that has still not seen the light of day.)

A similar dynamic happened in my spiritual life. I have tried since I was a child to be prayerful. A lot of efforts were hit-and-miss. It’s easier to pray when there’s a lively sense of God’s presence, when scriptures “sing,” when prayers are answered sooner rather than later. It is not so easy when God seems absent, scriptures are dry, or the only prayer that rings true is “How long, O Lord, how long?” Alone in my prayer corner, I do not always know how to persist.

Over a decade ago, I became an oblate at a Benedictine abbey. I had been regularly going on retreat there for years. Eventually, I felt a call to firm up my commitment. I took a vow to live out Benedictine values and priorities as best I could in daily life, work, family, and ministry. I am accountable to my brother monks for how I do.

The monks serve for my spiritual life in ways parallel to that writers’ group. Now when I try to pray, I no longer feel so isolated. The monks uphold me with prayers. They want me to persist in my spiritual life. Unlikely cheerleaders, they nevertheless hearten and cheer me on.

Someone once said that those who pray with the support of others are mountain climbers roped together for their tasks. But those who pray alone are solitary pioneers who learn mostly by trial and error, without the helps, supports, and guidance of others who have gone ahead.

Praying or writing, we are still solo. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, said: “Anything we fully do is an alone journey. No matter how happy your friends may be for you, how much they support you, you can’t expect anyone to match the intensity of your emotions or to completely understand what you went through.”

I’m an introvert. I get that. But even solitude and solitary pursuits – prayer and writing – benefit from support along the way.

Arthur Boers is the author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (InterVarsity) and holds the RJ Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hard to Hug in a Hard Hat - MANN

As I begin my blog today, my heart is warmed as I watch the Chilean Mine Rescue and see the men step out of the capsule and walk into the waiting arms of their families. As much as I enjoy observing the families unite, I am amused as people embrace wearing their hard hats. It’s hard to hug in a hard hat, but it’s more important to get the hug than hang on to the hat. The warmth and security of relationship is sufficient.

Into this world-awakening event, a family member announces her plan to travel to Poland for MS Liberation Surgery and again, I see courage and the importance of stepping out of one position into a new one, to do what might seem to some as impossible. Yet, strong support and personal faith is enough.

And as Ruth Coghill interviews me for her radio show about the importance of finding a secure footing in the journey of grief, we focus on the importance of applying God’s word in practical ways, as we step from brokenness to recovery. Again the warming of the heart in relationship is apparent.

“What is the center of warmth in your home?” is a question we often ask in Small Group ministries as we begin conversation. Responses such as 'my favourite chair with my knitting', or 'sitting at the kitchen table looking over the garden'. Sometimes it’s 'in the still of the night, while reciting the 23rd Psalm'. When life is in turmoil, it can be difficult to find the peace sufficient to experience necessary warmth, yet we attempt to discover a way.

My cat, Stormy, strives to find a place of warmth and comfort in a changing world of frosty mornings and her favourite frog pond now covered with leaves. So, she seeks out the top of the fireplace warmed by a very small pilot-light to provide the warmth she needs for her little body. In the chilling winds of loss, uncertainty, doubt or fear, I like the thought of being lifted above earthly activity to observe from a position of comfort. I may not be able to find a place as Stormy does, but I enjoy thinking about possibilities. Belonging and relationship often provide the buffer to rise over that which might consume and gives the opportunity to find solace and a sense of warmth wherever we are.

“Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139 1-3

May all of you who read this blog, find a special place of warmth and belonging today.
Blessings
Donna Mann
http://www.donnamann.org
Aggie's Dream launched September 30th (sequel to Aggie's Storms).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Unforgettable Henry Luce, Publisher



By Rev Ed Hird

Since becoming a professional writer in 2007 with The Word Guild, it has been fascinating to learn more about how the world of publishing actually works. Alan Brinkley produced an intriguing book The Publisher which explores the life of Henry Luce. As the founder of TIME, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated magazines, Luce, says Brinkley, is ‘arguably the most important publisher’ of the last hundred years. I remember ‘cutting my teeth’ as a child on TIME and Life magazines to which my parents subscribed.

Luce’s parents sacrificially devoted their lives as missionaries in China. Being sent to boarding school robbed Luce of a healthy family upbringing, leaving him feeling alone and driven to impress others. Luce described his boarding school experience as a ‘hanging torture’, commenting: “I well sympathize with prisoners wishing to commit suicide.” Many missionaries, in hindsight, have regretted sending their children to boarding schools. The high valuing of academic education has sometimes caused well-meaning parents and their children to lose those vital family connections.

Born in Penglai City in China, Luce first came to North America at age 15. Everything was strange and different to him. Luce had an insatiable curiosity to understand unfamiliar settings. The novelist John Hersey who worked for Luce said that “the most attractive thing about Luce was that he was relentlessly curious about absolutely everything; he was delighted to learn any fact that he had not known before.” This curiosity was at the heart of the inventiveness of the four magazines that he birthed.

Luce inherited his parent’s missionary zeal to connect with a foreign culture and make a helpful difference. North America for Luce was always a foreign culture that he strove to understand. He always felt like an outsider. No matter how hard he strived, he never really felt like he fit in. Brinkley describes Luce as a “fundamentally shy, lonely and somewhat awkward man with few true friends… (yet he) had the ability to connect publicly with millions of strangers”. In many ways, Luce was an emotional orphan. He once said that he did not have a high regard for ‘feelings’, that they were ‘secondary’ to thought. One colleague described Luce as ‘the loneliest man I’ve ever known.’

While at Yale, Luce worked endlessly seeking to be accepted by the other students. As a missionary’s child, he lacked the money and position of other Yale students. Instead he gained acceptance through his keen inquisitive mind, and his involvement in helping produce the Yale Daily News. In partnership with fellow Yale Editor Britton Hadden, Luce birthed an unlikely newsmagazine in 1923 called TIME. Seventy percent of TIME subscribers were younger business executives under age 46. Brinkley says that Luce’s magazines contributed to ‘the birth of a national mass culture to serve a new and rapidly expanding middle class.’

Sadly Luce’s career success was often at the cost of his family life. Divorcing his first wife, he turned to the glamorous Clare Boothe, having what Brinkley described as a marriage made in hell. Philip Seib said that they were ‘both intensely self-centered and exceptionally ambitious…a perfect formula for making each other miserable.”

Luce always believed that his magazines could make a positive difference and shape a better world. The image of the Good Samaritan was a strong motivator in Luce’s thinking. In 1954, Luce put Billy Graham on the front cover of TIME magazine, and invited Billy Graham and six other leaders to write essays in Life magazine on the theme of National Purpose. Billy Graham said in Life: “We must recapture our moral strength and our faith in God.” Luce re-explored his faith and became a regular attender at Madison Presbyterian Church. TIME became an active supporter of civil rights and desegregation, with TIME reporters occasionally being beaten and injured.

As Alan Brinkley put it, “Henry Luce –for all his many flaws and sometimes noxious biases – was an innovator, a visionary and a man of vast and daunting self-confidence.” In this time of great technological and cultural change, we can all learn from the relentless curiosity, inventiveness and missionary zeal of Publisher Henry Luce.



Rev Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
http://stsimonschurch.ca/
- previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com/

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Musings

by Glynis M. Belec


As I watch my grandsons I wonder.



What will life toss their way? What joys and challenges will they encounter as they swim the choppy waters of life?


They both have curious minds and gentle hearts. As a grandmom I want to protect and preserve their innocence. But life will happen and I will heed my Saviour's instruction to pray without ceasing. Hopefully curiosity will play itself out as intelligence and superior problem solving skills. And their gentle hearts will remain and combine compassion with an ability to be champions for God. Will they be leaders who stand up for the innocent and the defenseless? Will they serve God in a way I never imagined? Will they use their gifts to make this world a better place and through that will God receive His due glory?


As I chitter-chatter with my beautiful grandsons about Franklin the Turtle and Nemo and Lightning McQueen, I realize that our conversations won't be as simple when my precious grand-boys grow up. But I hope and pray that the communication will be there. That each will trust and know Grandma. That both will still love and respect me even though my wrinkles cast me into the category of 'old.' That our relationship will have blossomed into something particularly beautiful and blessed.


I'm hoping that a praying Grandma can doeth good for her grandboys and that they will both know that they have a special place in her heart.

Pie, Pie, Pie, Try Again—den Boer

There wasn’t a dish I wouldn’t attempt at least once as a young ambitious newlywed in my first kitchen. My motto: if it’s in a cookbook, I can make it. On my more generous days, I even accepted suggestions from my spouse.

“Honey, you should make lemon meringue pie.”

Marty’s mom made delicious lemon meringue pie from scratch, except the crust which she bought, frozen. My mom rolled out her own perfected crust, but used a pudding and pie filling mix.

By combining their perfections, I could outdo them both.

This was less simple than anticipated. “Not as good as mom’s,” Marty pronounced as he crunched into or spooned out each of my first 29 attempts.

Finally, one lucky day—like drawing a perfect hand in cards—I made a pie with a tender flaky crust, a sweet, tangy filling of exactly the right texture topped with a mountainous meringue.

“This is better than mom’s,” Marty raved.

Goal accomplished.

Barring luck, I knew within my soul, I wouldn’t be able to repeat my success. So, for the next 17 years my kitchen turned out apple pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, peach pie, a few meat pies and even a green tomato pie (yuck), but not another lemon meringue.

I was well into my 40’s when I renounced luck and revisited the lemon meringue pie. Why should I deny my husband his favourite pie just because I feared pie imperfection?

How childish. Once more my kitchen began turning out variations of lemon meringue pie—paltry pies—until I stumbled across a flawless recipe. It worked every time. Well, almost every time. Talking on the phone, answering the door or writing down story ideas while baking, jeopardized the results.

This Thanksgiving, I gave lemon meringue pie-making my full attention. I didn’t answer the phone, the door or even my daughter’s question. Crust, filling, and meringue all appeared superior when I tucked the pie into a Tupperware container Saturday evening.

Sunday afternoon I opened the container to behold shrunken meringue and a separated filling. Family members—the ones who appreciate lemon meringue pie—were completely understanding. They drank it without a complaint.

I’ve decided to blame the no-name lemon juice which lists water as the main ingredient. And, I should have remembered meringue doesn’t do well in closed containers.

Next time…

Marian den Boer
http://mariandenboer.blogspot.com/
author of Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress

Monday, October 11, 2010

GRATEFUL FOR THE MYSTERY-Gibson


It’s midnight in the Kootenays. As I write this, I sit in our son’s above-garage apartment, perched high above Windermere Lake. Thinking.

A train whistles slow beneath me and the moon rests cozy on the sky, like a silver coin on dark velvet. Across the water, mountain shapes loom black, and the small lights of Windermere fringe the shore.

Unlike earlier today, stillness surrounds the apartment. This afternoon whitecaps dotted the lake. Yesterday I noticed a sailboat and windsurfer below. No sails challenged today’s wind—it rushed through like the CP train on the tracks below—loud, determined, and powerful. Neighbouring pines swayed a good deal south, and an aloe plant on the sill of the open kitchen window toppled into the sink.

Bears—black and grizzly—frequent the nearby woods. Earlier this year, our son had an encounter with a black one. It had hopped up onto the box of his truck to fetch his garbage, which he’d placed there only moments before. He chased it a good deal up the driveway before his landlord shouted from the house below that he’d left its mother and sibling behind.

I often walk in the woods, surrounding the various homes our boy has lived in near here. But no, I won’t go down to the woods today. Or tomorrow. Or anytime this season. The bears have picnics in the fall, that’s why. They raid gardens, fattening up for coming winter. Trail travel is not recommended for the likes of city me. I have plenty of fat they could have, mind you. I’d gladly offer them that—it’s the getting-it-out-of-me part I find troubling.

Deep thoughts come easy here in the Kootenays. High ponderings. The size of God. And how vast his love must be if it’s truly higher than these mountains, deeper than this lake, and wider than this sky.

I began reading the book of Job this morning. The first verse is one of the most disturbing in all of scripture, I told my husband later. Job feared God and shunned evil. Did everything right, it seems. And yet...and yet...God allowed devastation to slice his life. For what? To prove a point?

Doesn’t seem fair to me. But then, the desire for life to be fair vanished with my pimples, decades ago. It’s also not fair that despite my numerous sins, inadequacies, and failings, I’m here. To enjoy the moon spilling a milky way over dark water. To listen to the rhythmic breaths of my husband on the bed beside me. To rejoice in the company of a dear son, spared many times from disasters that have killed others. To anticipate, with breathtaking audacity, something more, greater, better, than the best of moments here. Heaven. Because of Christ.

I ponder, but will never understand, God. I sit in the dark and am. Still. Grateful for the mystery.

Grateful, period.
********
Kathleen Gibson, faith and life columnist,
author of Practice by Practice, The Art of Everyday Faith



Friday, October 08, 2010

Kicking & Screaming - Atchison

The other weekend, I was reading about upcoming events in the newspaper looking for things my husband and I could do. I read about a fundraiser at a local area church. The cause was against Human Trafficking, which I thought was a pretty good cause to support.

The fundraiser was a golf tournament. While I don’t golf, and the price was too steep for me to enter, I noticed that one member of the church's youth group was arranging a concert at 5:30 pm on the Saturday, with local area bands and the entry fee was $5.00 (although I knew one would be able to donate more at the door). I got really excited and suggested that we go to this concert.

My husband, Michael, looked at me skeptically and said, “Sure, I guess if you want to.”

We left it at that, but a little while later when I was making supper, Michael looked at me oddly. “You’re sure you really want to go to this youth concert?” he asked.

“Sure.” I replied, “Why not, it will be fun and it supports a good cause.”

He looked at me with a wry grin, “Think about it. The youth group is organizing it. There is a very small cover charge, and it starts at 5:30 pm.”

“Yeah. So,” I said.

“It’s a youth concert for the kids put on by the kids. Don’t you think we will look a little out of place?” Michael pointed out.

I laughed and agreed, I guess we would look like party crashers, especially as we are closer to the senior discount card than the fake ID card.

I knew we would be welcomed, but at the same time a part of me was sad, as I knew we wouldn’t fit in, especially without any kids to take to the event, as our child is grown and moved away from home.

Then I questioned: how is it I had suddenly reached the age that I am at? Is this what those joking cards mean when they say “Over the Hill”? I am still climbing the hill (however hard it may be), but not quite over it.

I think I am going to have to go kicking and screaming into the next decade of birthdays. You notice I haven’t said the ‘old’ word, but it is definitely zooming around in my head.

ClichĂ©’s like “young at heart”, “looks great for her age”, “fifty (something) and fabulous”, are phrases that interrupt my thoughts frequently. I am not ready for this. The last time I felt a great difference in the age of people was when I was in my late thirties and noticed how far apart from me 25-year-old’s seemed. Now that age group seems really young – just babies – practically. How can they even be productive members of society? They don’t even know about life yet!

My friend commented one time that when women reach a certain age it is like we become invisible. I know my “Miss” definitely became a “Ma’am” years ago.

So where does that leave me. How do I age gracefully but still keep that youthful heart? How do I enjoy the benefits of exercise without taking that class intended for those youth in their twenties that can “give’er” and not get hurt?

Contemplating these thoughts and sharing them with Michael, he suggested, “Let it go. Why can’t you just age gracefully? Whatever happens happens.”

We decided to go to a movie that weekend. Although I was really interested in seeing a general audience 3D kid’s movie, we opted for the restricted one.

When getting ready for the movie, Michael asked what I was doing in the bathroom as I was taking so long.

“Nothing!” I yelled and quickly shoved the small mirror, razor, wax kit and tweezers into the drawer. You won’t be finding a hair on my “chiny-chin-chin”!

Patricia L. Atchison
Website: www.patriciaatchison.ca
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Literary Pilgrimage to London — Martin

There is probably no city on earth that has a greater wealth of literary history than London. It’s the home of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the city where William Blake and Charles Dickens expressed their distress at the plight of the poor. It’s the home of Westminster Abbey where many great poets are buried including: Chaucer, Spenser, Tennyson, and Kipling. And it’s the home for many famous fictional characters: Sherlock Holmes, Adam Dalgliesh, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Hercule Poirot — just to mention a few of the most famous sleuths from mystery fiction.

When my wife and I visited London this summer, it was inspiring to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral where John Donne’s statue stands — the same effigy that stood in an earlier St. Paul’s, and still shows the scorch marks from the great fire of London in 1666.

Although the scene has changed immensely, I wanted to stand on Westminster Bridge, and reflect upon the words of William Wordsworth from his famous sonnet:
-----------Earth has not anything to show more fair:
-----------Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
-----------A sight so touching in its majesty...

or to imagine with Francis Thompson:
-----------Christ walking on the water,
-----------Not of Genesareth, but Thames!


Clearly one visit is not enough, so I’ll have to return to take in more of the literary history of London.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Three Words Will Do – M. Laycock

I saw a stunning painting a while ago. It was done by James Christensen, a man whose work reflects a lot of religious themes, but I think this is one of his best. It is a portrayal of one of the encounters with Jesus told in the book of Luke, chapter 17. Ten lepers had cried out to the master for healing and he did not disappoint them. But they disappointed him. The painting shows the group, all dressed in rags, but turning away, renewed. All except one. That one is turning back, his hands outstretched, the look on his face a picture of ecstasy.

Ten sought and received healing but only one returned to say thank you.

The stories of how Jesus healed are powerful. I believe they touch a place of longing in us, because we all need healing in some way. Some of us need it physically, for our bodies are vulnerable to the diseases of this earth. All of us need it spiritually, for our spirits are vulnerable to the distractions and sin of this world. Most of us have experienced healing in our lives in one way or another but sometimes we fail to recognize it. We pass it off as normal, something accomplished by the skill of a doctor or the effectiveness of drugs, something that slips by within the passage of time and almost goes unnoticed.

My mother-in-law was in a car accident some time ago and suffered a serious back injury. When she went for her first physiotherapy appointment, she stared at a short sloping ramp leading to the area where she would be treated and thought to herself, ‘how on earth am I going to get up there?’ Even with the aid of a walker, she found movement difficult. It took many weeks, but she remembers the day she walked into that office without the use of any support and walked easily up that small ramp. She stopped and took time to be thankful.

Perhaps we should all stop and give thanks, not just on days like Thanksgiving, which we will soon celebrate here in Canada, but on each and every day. Each and every day we are healed – healed of the anger that burns too hot, the fear that almost overwhelms, the anxiety that seems to be a part of modern life. Each and every day we are healed of the small scratches that don’t develop into infections, the aches and pains that don’t become chronic, the headaches that fade away on their own. Small mercies perhaps, but healings nonetheless.

In the book of James, the writer tells us – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights …” (James 1:17). Perhaps it’s time we said a small prayer – three words will do. Thank You, Father.

Read more of Marcia's work at www.vinemarc.com

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Here's what I think: writing about contemporary culture - Nesdoly

I don't often write about controversial contemporary issues. There are a couple of reasons why. One is that in order to form a valid opinion on something, you have to have some knowledge about it.  On some topics I just don't feel well enough informed. Another is that when you express opinions that are not mainstream (and increasingly, those shaped by a Christian worldview aren't) you open yourself up to attack. It's not a position I put myself in without counting the cost.

However it's increasingly important that we as Christians learn to think for ourselves and relate to contemporary culture (both church and secular) on the basis of convictions. It's also a valuable skill to be able to articulate and defend those convictions.

I love reading well-thought-out articles on contemporary culture written from a Christian perspective.  One writer I've discovered recently who isn't afraid to take up that gauntlet is Dr. R. Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). In fact his mission as expressed on the "About" page of his website (www.albertmohler.com) is " to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview." He has recently written articles on:
  • An open letter to Professor Karl Giberson responding to an article in the Huffington Post in which Professor Giberson attacked Mohler personally in  Giberson's defense of evolutionary creationism ("On Darwin and Darwinism: A Letter to Professor Giberson). I've just named three; there are many others.

Reading him is challenging me to try my hand at this kind of writing, if for no other reason than to clarify my own thinking on contemporary culture issues and their relationship to my faith.  Perhaps you're interested in joining me. Here's how the process could work:

1. Read articles from the daily news and bookmark those that arouse your  interest.

2. Choose one.

3. Free-write your reactions to get an understanding of why it caught your attention and why you agree or disagree with the position of the writer.

4. Refine your thoughts until you have articulated a position of your own,  to the extent of thinking of and answering objections to your ideas. (I can imagine this step might involve some research.)

5.(Optional) When you're satisfied with what you've said, post your piece on your blog (making sure to publish a link to the original article if it's online) or  send it to the publication that ran the catalyst article (perhaps as a letter to the editor). 

I'd love to know who your favourite contemporary culture commentators are. If you'd like, share names and links in the comments.

-- Violet Nesdoly

Website: www.violetnesdoly.com

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Morning Prayers - Arends

A friend confessed the other day:  "I'm not a Christian before 10am."  As a fellow night owl (read: anti-morning person), I had to laugh.  But her teasing confirmed in me something I have been suspecting for some time now:  If there is a "secret" to being an intentional disciple of Jesus, it's talking to him in the morning--even before the first dose of caffeine.  A day that is begun in conversation with God (before feet hit the floor) unfolds entirely differently than a day that is not.  Maybe that's obvious to most people, but it's taken me a very long time to learn, and it seems to be taking me even longer to consistently put it in practice.

There is this from C.S. Lewis:

"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." (Mere Christianity)

And this from the Psalmist:

 1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
       consider my sighing.
 2 Listen to my cry for help,
       my King and my God,
       for to you I pray.
 3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
       in the morning I lay my requests before you
       and wait in expectation.
(Psalm 5:1-3)

Grumpy and groggy, I am learning to pray in the morning.  It's amazing how, when I do, a day I am merely trying to survive transforms into a day that the Lord has made.  Now and then, I've even found myself rejoicing and being glad.  Prayer (and then, caffeine) ... breakfast of champions!

www.carolynarends.com



Friday, October 01, 2010

Flowering Begonia - Lawrence



About two years ago, a friend gave me a plant. She said it was a flowering begonia though it had never bloomed while she owned it and the person who gave her the slips from the parent plant had never seen a bloom on hers either.

It seemed, to all concerned, that this plant had been named incorrectly. After all, indoor plant books said that some begonias did not produce flowers.

However, whenever we spoke of this plant, we continued to call it a flowering begonia. Before I transported the plant to my own home, my friend took some slips from it and rooted them. They grew well but still no flowers came.

It was a beautiful plant that had shiny green leaves with pink undersides. It grew in height and was strong and healthy. No need to be sorry that it had no flowers. This was just not to be and it gave me great pleasure as it was.

Then, one day in July of this year, I walked past the plant and, from the corner of my eye I saw flowers. I doubled back to take a second look. Sure enough, there was a spike of pretty pink flowers growing out from between two leaves.

“It is a flowering begonia,” I said, out loud to myself. “We didn’t name it incorrectly after all.”

Sometimes, we just have to have faith in life. Even though we don’t see flowers on the flowering begonia doesn’t mean it isn’t a flowering begonia, it just hasn’t come to its full maturity yet.

Even though we don’t see all the fruit of the spirit in ourselves or in others yet, doesn’t mean that we or they aren’t spiritual beings, we just haven’t come to full maturity of the spirit yet. We have to keep faith in life and in the spirit that we are moving toward that end with Jesus beside us and within us.

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