February 22, 2008

Canadian Rivers

Headwaters drip from snowy melt of mountain glaciers
gurgle down glistening rock faces in nameless rivulets.
Fed by rain and sibling trickles they become sinuous streams
adolescent-eager in descent, unafraid to dash against boulders
froth into canyons, course over rock beds till they reach the flat.

Mature and strong they gouge valleys, meander through meadows
nurture forests, bears and eagles, rejuvenate farms and hamlets
flow regal yet restless through villages and cities
under bridges and over tunnels
ever pressing on to an ocean destination.

The watermark of veins, arteries and capillaries on our maps
they carve their initials, scrawl their signatures
all over Canada: Snake, MacKenzie, Coppermine
Exploits, Hillsborough, Saint John, Margaree, Moisie
St. Lawrence, Red, Qu’Appelle, Athabasca, Cowichan…

Named by Indians and explorers for Indians and explorers
they inscribe the plot lines of our history
hide the gold and call the salmon
propel the ferries, carry the logs, barges and ships
pave thoroughfares for tugboats, speedboats, kayaks, canoes.

We settle beside them for their sustenance and beauty
feel betrayed when, with spring-fevered earthlust
their swift-flowing waters bite off chunks of our land.
Then we fear them, dredge them, soil them,
treat them, drink them, dam them.

I have toe-squished the mud of the South
Saskatchewan, pulled Jackfish from the North
been awed by the Hell’s Gate fierceness of the Fraser
spied loons and cormorants gulping fish on the Nicomekl
otters cavorting in the Serpentine

driven miles beside the Thompson
as it winked at me through clearings
admired the canyons carved by the Bulkley
dreamed the legends of the Kispiox
listened from a tent to the night secrets of the Skeena …

Oh for more lifetimesto make them all mine.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly


Photo: I took this aerial shot on a flight between Calgary and Lethbridge last week. But I don't know the name of the river. Can anyone help me out?

The poem was my entry in the recent Canadian Landscape poetry contest run at Utmost Christian Writers Canadian site.

If you're a Canadian Christian poet and haven't checked out the Canadian Utmost site, you should. They run regular contests. For a list of upcoming ones with links to rules and entry forms, check here.

February 18, 2008

Got Milk?

“Yes, you must drink five to six glasses of milk every day,” said the doctor. His bushy eyebrows rolled together as he scribbled his signature on my file.


“If you don’t drink enough, your baby will draw calcium from your own bones and you’ll end up with a broken bone,” he said without looking up once.

“But I can’t stomach it.” I gagged and covered my mouth.

The doctor slapped my file closed. “See you in two weeks.” He swiveled around in his chair.

Fourteen days. Surely I would make peace with my childhood repulsion in that amount of time. A dry heave shook my head back and forth in a sloshy "No!"

The next morning I poured a half cup from the orange and white carton . Content cows grazed on the side. "Think happy thoughts" I reminded myself. "And you can fly". I did fly. Straight to the bathroom.

Next day I woke up determined to try again. After all, the baby, the size of a peanut, needed the white stuff. I had a new strategy. "If I plug my nose, maybe I won’t taste it." But my elbow got in the way and milk dribbled down my chin and onto my sweater.

Spilled milk stinks. I found out I could still fly. But only as far as the sink this time.

Day number three I became more wiley. I closed my eyes while drinking it from a dark to-go mug. If I can’t see it, I won’t realize what I’m drinking. But with my eyes closed the milk tasted all the stronger. Sour! I thought. And the way it coated the roof of my mouth! I sealed my mouth shut like an insolent child and tried to force it down. But it did no good. The milk rolled around in my throat like the tilt-a-whirl at the fair. This was one ride I got off early.

By the next morning I raised a white flag. White. Anything but white. I rolled off the bed holding my stomach. Okay, I surrender. I decided I could just bake with the stuff. You know, milk chocolate fudge, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies, with milk in the icing, of course.But the fudge stuck in my throat, just thinking about that secret milk lurking in there.

The days curdled by coated with guilt. How much milk did a baby pecan need anyways? Surely it could wait another month or two, I reasoned as I drove to the doctor's office. Perhaps he would agree to calcium pills.

The doctor pressed the cold stethoscope onto my flat tummy. “What’s he doing?” I wondered. “Listening for milk bubbles gurgling?”

“Sounds good.” he announced.


Now how to ask him about calcium pills.

“Wanna listen?” he asked, reaching for an antiseptic wipe.

"Suuuure, "I said, not relishing the idea of hearing sloshing noises. But I wondered what it was he had pronounced so good.

What I heard when he handed me one ear bud was ‘th-thump, th-thump, th-thump’.

“Can’t be.” I pressed it to my ear again. "That little nut has a heart beat already?”

“Strong and steady,” says the Doctor re-adjusting his scope.

I sat up and straightened the white paper on the examining table. White. Hmmm, its beautiful. White puffy clouds rolled by outside, against a baby-blue sky. White dollops of whipped-cream snowbanks graced the courtyard of the doctor's office. I smoothed the wrinkles out of my sweater and a ray of sun-shine warmed my hands.

“And how is your problem we discussed two weeks ago?” asked the Doctor, flipping through my chart on his desk.

I faced the window and squinted at the beautiful sunny day.

“Problem? Where did you ever get that idea?" I waited till he turned and looked at me. "I'm craving a tall glass of the white stuff right now. Got any milk?”

Pam Mytroen

February 13, 2008

A Little Pink Phone

Yesterday I received a cell phone advertisement in the mail, displaying a little pink blackberry. I had not seen a phone this pretty before and instantly, my heart beat faster. What could it entail to exchange my plain silver job for something far more attractive?
Advertisement in hand, I hurried into our local dealership. A young lady with a pleasant expression sat behind a desk and I made my way to her, still clutching my paper. "I’d like this phone," I said setting the ad down in front of her.
For the next five minutes questions assaulted me. "What is your present number? What type of phone do you have? Oh, this account isn’t in your name. It’s in your husband’s name. He must cancel it before I can transfer it to your name or give you a different account."
I hung my head. Same old explanation. "My husband passed away. He cannot cancel this account. My name is on the account as well. Doesn’t that automatically make it mine?”
“No. He must cancel it.”
“I can’t see that being possible.”
Finally, after several phone calls, a pile of instructions I had to write down so I wouldn’t forget, she informed me I could purchase the pretty pink phone, then left to get one. Several minutes later, she returns wearing a downcast expression. “I’m sorry madam, we just sold our last one. You’ll have to wait five days until our next shipment."
Leaning back in my chair, I considered my options. I could smile, thank her for her help, then drive to Edmonton. A pleasant thought except Edmonton is two hours away and if anything went wrong with the phone, I would have to return it to the dealership I bought it from to get it replaced or repaired. Not a good option if it went catawampus during a blizzard. I sat up straight in my chair, ran my hand across my perspiring brow, then wrote down my phone number and handed it to her. “Would you phone me when your shipment arrives? I will come back.”
All the way home I fumed at the 'shop locally' promotions hanging in business windows. That would be a lot easier to do if such a thing were possible. A suggestion of guilt crept in, and tightened my chest. Even if nobody else saw my ill-tempered attitude, God did. And I wasn’t being very charitable. Romans 5:3 came to mind. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations, also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience. I forced my thick throat into action and swallowed. "Forgive me Father. I totally messed up an opportunity for You to work Your will in my life."
At home, I went to work. Half of me remained sad because I had allowed my emotions to rule my heart. The other half rejoiced because my spirit had been sensitive enough to hear that still small voice.
The phone rang. Without thinking I answered it.
“Hello, Mrs. Matchett.”
I recognized the voice of the girl in the communications store. “We just received our new shipment and we have a phone for you.”
I lowered my red face. If I had of voiced my thoughts— no, I wouldn’t go there. But God had showed me, once again, His goodness. Regardless of my bad attitude.

February 08, 2008

Road Trip -- Janet Sketchley

The week before Christmas, work sent me on a couple of road trips. I like to drive, listen to my worship CDs and watch the scenery. Getting paid to do it is a treat.

As soon as I got out of the city in the mornings, the roadside sights refreshed my spirit: glistening snow on the fields, crows stark against a pale blue sky, sun silvering icy branches.

Nearing the end of each journey, though, I found myself tired of the driver’s seat, eyes alternating between the road ahead and the speedometer, tuning out the music. How much farther?

I wasn’t reaching my destination any faster, just missing the things God gave to sweeten the trip. It took repeated, conscious thought to refocus on more than the task at hand.

The road trips behind me, I’m working to apply what I learned. Standing in line at the grocery store, driving my sons around, even cleaning the house… I’m making a conscious effort to notice and appreciate the refreshment God has sprinkled around me. I think that’s what “joy in the journey” is all about.

Odds are I won’t be any more productive, but I hope my spirit will be sweeter.

The LORD bless us as we continue in 2008, and may He open our eyes and hearts to the treasures He’s so lavishly strewn in our paths.

© Janet Sketchley, 2008
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

February 06, 2008

Freedom to Live Abundantly -- Lorrie Orr

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5: 1a (NIV)

I recently had the opportunity to rock climb on an indoor climbing wall. This was a new experience and I was apprehensive. Heights make me uncomfortable.

I put on the safety harness, and the belayer, who controlled the safety rope, fastened me to the rope with a solid knot. I turned to the wall and began climbing. At times I grasped rocks with both hands while one foot sought a new support. At other times my feet stood secure while I groped for a new, higher hand hold. Although I worked hard, I realized I was free from the fear of falling. Why? Because I trusted the safety rope, the harness, and most of all, the young man who held the rope. I was free to climb, to explore and finally, to touch the ceiling.

In the same way, when I totally entrust my life to Christ, when He “holds the rope,” I am free to live the way He wants me to. I can say “yes” to whatever He asks me to do, to be open and vulnerable with fellow believers, to show love and compassion to the people I meet each day. I am free to move out in confidence because He will catch me when I fall.

Thought for the day: The more I entrust my life to Christ, the more freedom I have to live an exciting, abundant life.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that You are completely trustworthy. I know that because I trust You with my life and all of its results, I can do the things You ask me to do.

This was first published in the Upper Room a couple of years ago. More and more I realize how much I need to let go of the fears that hold me back and to keep entrusting myself more and more to my loving God.

February 04, 2008

Times of Change - Bonnie Way

Shortly after I started my current job a year and a half ago, the monthly staff meeting featured a workshop on change. Apparently the branch had just undergone some restructuring and some employees had shifted positions. I found the workshop rather ironic, because I was in the middle of several changes in my life. When the workshop leader asked us to think of a change that had happened in the last few months, I wondered, “Which one?”

Now, as I finish this job, I find myself thinking back to those first few days. Again, I’m in a time of transition. I’m finishing one job to start a new job as a stay-at-home mom. I’m hoping to get more active in my writing career. Sometime in the next six months, I’ll be moving again – maybe more than once. My husband is finishing his second degree and looking for work. We’ll hear back on my grad school application in the next few weeks and then know for sure whether I’ll be starting another degree.

We’re both a little stressed over all the changes. It’s easy to worry about whether he’ll find a job and how we’ll pay the bills. I wonder if we’ll have a colicky or a quiet baby and if I’ll be a good mom. We talk about where we should move and where he should apply for jobs, but so much of that is still an unknown. Waiting is hard. We want to know the answers now.

There’s a little picture on my desk reminding me: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s comforting to know that while I may not know what the next few months will bring, God does. He’s leading us to where He wants us to be. And so I’ll pray that I can sit back, trust Him and enjoy the adventures that He brings our way.

February 01, 2008


"Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring to you today … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:13, 14)

Modern warfare requires subterfuge and aggression. But here, in the encounter at the edge of the Red Sea, the Lord commanded His people not to be afraid, to simply stand still, exposed before the Egyptian cavalry, with the sea at their backs. Even with a pillar of cloud separating them from their enemies, the Israelites were terrified. God promised to fight for them, to show His glory through a demonstration of His power. That must have conjured up some interesting pictures: God, with a band of angels at His back, sword drawn and on the attack being one of them. The Israelites probably never imagined death by drowning.

Despite the reassurances, they lost their faith the moment the Egyptian chariots hit the horizon. The natural reaction would have been to run; except there was no place to go. Instead they had to watch and see how God was going to rescue them—something they would never have seen while running for their lives, or with their faces in the dirt begging for mercy from their enemies. They were to stand and watch.

When the Egyptians were finally defeated, Moses stood before the people and sang a song of gratitude to the Lord: "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble … by the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, O Lord." (Exodus 15:13-16)

When we face a humanly insurmountable problem, we often practice modern warfare: dodge, dart, evade, avoid, run, hide, surrender, hit the ground, head for a foxhole, kill, or be killed. God tells us to not be afraid, to stand still and watch Him do His thing. And, unlike modern warfare, there isn't even a button to push. Just stand still.

Remember: It's not who has the biggest guns that counts, but who has the best commander in the field.