May 28, 2008

A Little Black Dog

I was driving my daughter to school one morning when, just as we were about to turn a corner, a huge buck bounded out in front of us. We both caught our breath as I slammed on the brakes. Then a tiny little black and white dog came charging out after the buck. We both cracked up with laughter. That little dog looked so ridiculous, so confident that it was he that was in control, yipping at the heels of that magnificent creature.

Sometimes, as a writer, I think I’m like that little dog, chasing after something beautiful - the reality of Christ in my life, for instance - trying to capture it, foolishly thinking it is I who controls the process and what happens with the words I use to express it. I put them down carefully, striving to capture with clarity and power the incident or thought or image I am trying to use to convey something about Him.

Sometimes I’m quite proud of myself when I’m finished. Sometimes, when I’ve finished writing my devotional column, for instance, I’ll think, “Ah yes, this piece is well crafted and will accomplish good things. People will respond to this one.”

And my inbox is noticeably silent.

But other times, when I think, “Well, Lord, there’s really not much there, but this seems to be what you wanted, so I pray that you can use it in someone’s life today.” I hit the send button with that prayer on my lips.

And my inbox overflows with comments like – “you have no idea how much that meant to me,” or “This one is exactly what I needed today.”

Over the years I’ve learned that it is God who controls what happens with my words. He’s the one who knows the deep needs of my readers and the words that will draw them closer to Him. He’s the one who has the plan. All he requires of me is that I show up and type.

That’s good to remember when the realities of publishing hit me square in the face. When I realize that I may not ever make money writing fiction, it’s good to remember that it was God who led me to write it. When I realize that
Max Lucado has an audience of millions while mine is less than five thousand, it’s good to remember what God has done with my words, over and over again. Like the young woman who read my novel One Smooth Stone and called her mother to say, “I think I finally believe God does love me in spite of everything.” Or the one in Iraq who read my devotional and wrote to say “I have to deal with the bombs and fighting every day, but this was beautiful – it made me look outside the box I’m in and thank God for every blessing.” Or the woman in the Middle East whose husband won’t allow her to leave the house but allows her access to the internet. “I think I am loving this Jesus you talk about,” she says.

It doesn’t take a big audience or a big bank account to be part of what God intends to accomplish with our words. All it takes is obedience.

So I try to remember that little black and white dog. I try to be obedient and just show up and type.

May 26, 2008

Open House - Lynda Schultz

The Chinese name their years. This year is the Year of the Rat, last year was the Year of the Pig, and on it goes. In my calendar, this year has been the Year of the House Guest.

House guests come in all different sizes, shapes, and styles. There was the American journalist who spent five weeks using my home as her base of operations. She worked very hard not to be a problem. I morphed into a mother role with her. She was 28 and a married woman but looked 16 and terribly American. In the volatile and violent world I live in, I worried about her wandering around the country and gave her countless advice on how to conduct herself. She was wise beyond her years and managed to get her assignment done, be careful, and still go places I would never dream of going even after fifteen years of living here.

Then there was the colleague who spent a long weekend in my home during a particular stressful moment within the country. The thought was that “in case” something nasty happened, she would be safer in my part of town than she would be where she lived downtown. She brought her entire office with her and set it all up on the dining room table. After all if something happened she, as the keeper of all the valuable documents of her mission, had to protect what was vital to that mission. Fortunately, I had another table that we could use when we needed to eat.

Later, there were the conference speakers from Colombia who spent ten days with me. For them I gave up my bedroom. The guest room only had bunk beds that I didn’t think would be comfortable or appropriate. Besides, my office was in my bedroom and they needed a place to prepare for their various meeting and seminars. I moved into the guest room and set up my office on a small desk in there. I was working on a major writing project at the time, so it was a bit of a challenge to operate on a postage stamp. But hey, isn’t that what laptops are for?

A friend visited for a week. The hot water tap in her bathroom decided to leak so we had to shut it off. But she managed quite well. Since I only have Spanish television, I though it might be a bit boring for her. But she loves baseball, and though the commentators remarks might be important, you really can enjoy the game even if you don’t understand what anyone are saying.

Then came my brother. His was a slightly more challenging affair. When he arrived, I hadn’t had the use of the kitchen stove for more than two weeks and I had two leaks to deal with. But we managed to produce some very good meals using the Dutch Oven, the electric wok and the microwave. You really can produce a decent chocolate cake in the microwave. By the end of the visit, the gas was back on, the leak fixed both in his bathroom and under the kitchen sink, and lots of furniture had been moved in preparation for the next visitors.

Once again I gave up my bedroom, but thanks to my brother, my office was now in a separate room allowing me to operate with a little more efficiency. The male half of this twosome paces in the middle of the night—his mind is working overtime as they look for a place to live. He also has a cold, and the constant cough rattles the walls. He hasn’t slept much this past week—and neither have the rest of us. On the plus side, they are self-sufficient and I have been traveling around with them to look at apartments. That adventure is the subject of another post.

This Year of the House Guest will be rounded out in September with another couple who will stay with me for several months. This time I will not have to give up my room—they are leaving the country and I am buying some of their furniture. Imagine house guests coming with their own bed!

Then life will return to whatever “normal” is. In the meanwhile, I pray for a little bit more sleep and the God-given ability to adjust with grace. The guests are great, each contributing their own unique bits to my life. All that being said, I’m kind of looking forward to having the place to myself for a while.

Oh, did I tell that my brother is talking about coming back for Christmas?

May 23, 2008

God's Gift of Grace

What does grace mean to you and me? I guess to know and understand the full effects of grace is to know the Master. It is to know what He did for us and what He continues to do. How can God love mankind so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die?

Grace is free but it is the giver of grace who paid the price. Here is a question I’d like to explore found in Romans 3:27,28, “Can we boast then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith…”
“There is only one God and there is only one way of being accepted by Him. He makes people right with Himself only by faith...” Verse 30.

What is faith? It is believing even though we cannot see.
Grace is free because of God’s goodness and mercy. Sin is pardonable because of God’s grace! Salvation is God’s gift of grace.
We cannot boast about our Salvation. If we walked about boasting that God saved us because of our own deeds or acts of service, then what part does Jesus have in all of it? Why would Jesus choose to suffer and die if it doesn’t count for anything? Ephesians 2: 8-10 says: “God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is the gift of God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the things He planned for us long ago. “

1Corinthians 1:30b says: “He made us pure and holy, and He gave Himself to purchase our freedom.”

Do you know that because of God’s grace He doesn’t give up on us?

You see, we are worthy of far more than we think we are ourselves. You often hear about people running from God and make so many alternate plans and changes in their lives just to be preoccupied. They run from God, they play the game, and run from church and friends. In fact it may even be uttered that they do not even love God anymore. I guess we could say that people fall from grace. But in the stillness of the anguish, God whispers, “I know you don’t love me anymore but I still love you.” That’s when grace is experienced and realized!

Do you know that because of God’s grace, He understands our weaknesses?

As I was reflecting on Jonah’s story of running from God, I had to wonder if God was amused by it. Some roam the earth and some roam the sea to flee from God’s call. It must make God laugh as He leans back watching people trying to get away from Him. After all, how far can we go to escape His clutch of love? He knows that each of us would run out of steam sooner or later. God must understand that we, his people, are weak. He must know that we do not fully understand His power at work within us. Until, that is, we yield to Him.

Romans 8:28 says: “In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. “ That’s the difference in walking in the Grace of God and walking without Him. The Holy Spirit helps us and enables us to carry on through the many trials we face in life. Now, I’m not sure if He helps us run away from Him or not, but I know we have a free will.

Do you know that because of God’s Grace we do not have to be on the run from Him?

Psalm 139:7-10 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my beds in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
I think there are a lot of people who could relate to that Scripture. Not during the run, I’m afraid. But once obedience and surrender takes place, peace and grace follows, Amen?

Do you know that because of God’s Grace we don’t have to be afraid.

Do you believe that fear has a grip on people? Fear gripped the disciples when they were on the troubled sea, until Jesus calmed the storm.
We’ve learned that fear causes people to run from God. Jonah ran as far as he could; Peter, who betrayed Jesus, just ran around the corner and wept. Go figure!
Some have been thought brave because they were afraid to run away. The key to change is to let go of fear.
2Timothy1:7, says: “For God has not given us spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

So, whether it’s fear of following God‘s will or fear of the storms of life, grace intervenes when we let go of fear.
Here is a profound quote: Fear can keep us up all night but faith makes one fine pillow.

May each of us sleep well tonight!

Copyright Jan Keats

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May 21, 2008



Dancing eyes she
sways in rhythm
waltzes with her words
too many
jitterbugs with her thoughts
too few
Light as dust and bothersome she
swirls again, one-two-three
incessant, interrupting
whirling, spiraling to her tempo
maddening yet

with her eyes
I find myself waltzing

© Elsie Montgomery

Hi Gang. I changed it again. I know this template is a tad commercial looking, but I really didn't like the other template. I'd like to replace this big 565 number thing, but need first to learn how. Anyone out there have a tutorial for me? Elsie

May 15, 2008

Writer's Block - Donna Fawcett

By Donna Fawcett
For the first time in my life I experienced that dreaded ailment. It is an illness that causes one to break out in a cold sweat. The heart pounds and the brain echoes that sentiment with a dull aching reply. Writer’s block.

Every writer experiences that freeze in the neuron department. It can last for days—weeks—minutes. And it’s terrifying if you have a deadline to meet. So what is writer’s block and how can we ease past it? By definition, writer’s block (according to the Donna Fawcett abridged dictionary) is the inability to string two thoughts together in a coherent sentence and successfully put it on paper for the purpose of completing an article or book.

I was prepared for this nasty virus—armed with well-documented advice from other writers. The dictionary (no not my imaginary one) is an excellent tool to jump start the brain. Just imagine what can come from flipping open to a page containing the word Nilotic. If this doesn’t work, gather your pen and note pad and head to the local coffee shop. Eavesdrop. In this one instant it is completely polite and necessary. Just don’t make comments on the specifics (ie: names) of what you are hearing. Read articles by other writers. You may have a different approach to the same thing. Hit the Google button with your subject of choice as a search topic.

For me, the solution came in the form of the problem. Yes, I was experiencing writer’s block when trying to prepare for this blog post. Yes, I tried the coffee break, a scan of other writings—and even a trip to the dentist’s chair for a brutal preparation for a crown replacement. It wasn’t until I returned to my computer, acknowledged the fact that I was experiencing writer’s block and focused on the problem itself that I moved on.

The next time you feel bogged down try some of these suggestions (perhaps with the exception of the dentist’s chair). You never know what neurological bunny trail you will find yourself on.

May 09, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

Lately the old mothers
have been slipping from their places
falling, dying
vacating strategic positions
leaving gaps
in the front line

A new generation
of matriarchs is needed
to organize the family dinners
the baby showers and the anniversaries
and send the birthday cheques

There's a call for fresh recruits
a newly commissioned troop
of kneeling warriors
arms raised in petition and praise,
blessing the infants and the in-laws
interceding for the prodigals
alert watch-women
guarding the walls of the family

- c. 2007 by Violet Nesdoly


The photo above is my beautiful mum at sixteen. She died at 92 years in June of 2006. The photo below was taken May 19, 2006, the last time we took her on a fun outing -- to the beach at White Rock.

May 02, 2008

Being is More Important than Doing -- Janet Sketchley

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13, NIV

Sometimes we read this verse and guilt ourselves into thinking we should be busy 24/7, but the Apostle Paul meant he could do everything God led him to do. Not everything he personally thought he ought to do.

I was talking with a friend recently about the drive to fill every waking hour with “productivity.” Those of us who are task oriented fall into this easier than others, perhaps. It feels good to check things off our lists and see what we’ve accomplished.

God does give us tasks, be they performing heart transplants or cleaning toilets. He also gives us relationships: with others and with Himself. If we’re constantly in motion, it’s hard to be in relationship.

In January I identified different aspects of life I felt He wanted me to highlight, to find better balance in my days. May…my birthday month…time to revisit the list and get back on track. Your list will be different, but maybe this will spark some thoughts. On my paper, it’s laid out in a circle to symbolize wholeness, but I’m not that talented with blog layouts so here’s a straight list:

Relationships: God, husband, children, family and friends

Home: managing, tidying, cooking, errands, banking etc

Personal: fitness, prayer, journaling, music, cross-stitch, reading etc

Church/ministry: Bible study group, prayer team, blog

Writing: novel manuscript revisions, courses, FellowScript acquisitions, attend Write! Canada, etc

I find it freeing to look at planning my day and see where the different things fit into my “balance plan.” And including areas like relationships and prayer reminds me not to get caught in the “doing” trap. These things are perhaps more important, but they involve “being” rather than doing. They remind me to go beyond my to-do list, but they also remind me I need to intentionally leave space in my day to include them.

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