January 27, 2010

PEACE – Martha Anderson

Every year spins by faster than the one before and every year I get slower. In the year we have just begun I pray for the strength to be able to complete the writing projects God has impressed on my heart to do. Right now I’m collecting devotionals I have written over the years to reserve for the benefit of those that come after. I’m sharing one of these, based on the story of Jesus calming the storm recorded in Mark 4:35-41.

Slowly the sun sank behind the Galilean hills. The lingering rays of sunlight painted the sky in vivid blends of reds and pinks that reflected in the tranquil waters of the lake below. Since early morning crowds had flocked to the seashore to see and hear Jesus. So overwhelming was the pressure that Jesus had taken refuge in a fishing vessel. From the bow he had continued to teach as the mob pressed close to the water’s edge. Now as darkness descended He needed rest. Wearily He turned to His disciples. “Let us cross over to the other side,” He said. As the boat slipped away from its mooring, Jesus retreated to the stern and was soon asleep.

As is common in the Galilean valley, the weather changed abruptly. Mountains flanking both sides of this deep gorge form a tunnel through which the winds can sweep with a velocity of up to two hundred miles an hour, creating a hurricane that frightened even these experienced fishermen and rugged, outdoors men. Acquainted with the tempestuous waters, they gave up all hope of reaching their destination. In the midst of their peril they did not react well to the seeming indifference of their Leader. “Master, don’t You care that we are sinking?” they asked as they woke Him from deep sleep.

Jesus arose and with arms outstretched, spoke to the angry elements. “Peace be still,” That was all He said. Instantly the wind subsided and the waves dropped into a tranquil sea. The disciples knew that even when the wind ceases, the water will continue to churn and rage for hours. They were amazed that with a few words their Master had performed a double miracle and they trembled with fear at this display of power.

Had they not recently acknowledged Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Had Jesus not told them that they were going to the other side?
This was the first time He showed them that He was also Lord of the Elements and cannot be thwarted in His purpose.

In this world of unfulfilled dreams, broken plans, and tangled lives, this same perplexing question plagues many minds: God, don’t You care?” How often on life’s sea, when the actual tragedy is over, the consequences of that painful experience continue. The wind of disaster has ceased to blow, but the waves of emotional, mental, and physical turmoil rage on. The beatings, verbal abuse, or whatever caused the storm, may be over, but the victim may continue to struggle with the effects.

Jesus was the Only One who could still both the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee, and He is the Only One who can speak peace in the recesses of the hearts of His suffering children. He can calm the anxieties crowding the mind. He can ease the tensions gnawing at the soul and sapping our strength. Not strained relationships, financial setbacks, health problems, or anything else, can sink the ship of our lives if we put our trust in the Lord of our lives. Looming clouds may sometimes be the very means through which God can work His miracles to reveal His love and compassion for us. We can rest in His assurance “that all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28 nkjv). He has promised to take us safely to the other side and He always keeps His promise.

January 25, 2010

Don't Give up, You're on the Brink of a Miracle

On Christmas Eve, a lady whom I will call Sandra, came to our ministry in dire need. She had fallen it seemed, into the bottomless pit of despair after she decided to make a career change. She was a teacher and was becoming weary of her profession so she decided to study another vocation. Shortly after changing course she was involved in a car accident, which left her partially crippled, needing a wheelchair at home and she depended on crutches outside the home.

As a result of opting out of teaching she no longer had a medical plan. That’s when her life began to spiral out of control. The mortgage payments could no longer be met. The bills began to pile up, she could no longer work and there was no money coming in. Eventually, she lost her home so her 3 children had to be moved out to separate homes and she had nowhere to go. Even her wheelchair was confiscated. Her car became her new home. Finally, her friend reached out on her behalf and got her the help she so desperately needed.

Where was her hope? How far does a person have to sink before the burden is lifted? When does a miracle occur? When there’s hope of course. It is hope that we must cling to. There is something that each of us can share regardless of the storms of life, and the blessings of happiness and that is hope!! How can we say that we have hope while we live in this world as we know it? Keep in mind that Jesus came to earth to be among us to fulfill the Father’s will. He came to offer hope and life but He suffered and died on a cross so that each one of us may have the opportunity of eternal life. That is our hope!

He knows the problems that come our way. There is nothing that any one of us can go through that He hasn’t endured himself. In fact, He already suffered more than we could ever fathom. His resurrection, however, was victorious and triumphant. Hebrews 4:14 says: “Therefore since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”

God sympathizes us in our weaknesses. Our sinless Father to whom we cry out and have our hope is our compassionate Father. He asks us to place our hope and confidence in Him. Verse 16 says: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. In our prayers we can say with confidence: “Lord you know my need, you know what I’m going through. I am seeking your grace and mercy to help me. I believe you will Lord because you understand!"

But wait, the story gets worse. Sandra had planned to commit suicide, but at the moment of contemplation she had her youngest child in the car with her and wouldn’t go through with it. You see, she began to give us more information. In a three-month period, her sister died, her sister’s husband committed suicide and her father died of a heart attack. That was the breaking point. She came to us like a broken vessel. We consoled her and took care of her. We packed toys for her children, we gave her warm clothing, and we made referrals to seek the help she needed.

How could we possibly understand her situation? We could only offer hope. Surprisingly when I walked her to her car, she felt a little better. I assured her that it would get better. “See, there is a glimmer of hope, isn’t there?” I said. She gave me a smile. I will continue to pray for Sandra and her children. She must be on the road to recovery by now. After all, God’s love and hope is for everyone. May we each take hold of the hope that is ours! Why must we cling to the old rugged cross? Because no one is exempt from despair. We must not give up believing that God’s power and grace carries us through life just as He promised he would.

Jan Keats

January 20, 2010

I am Story

When I look back at the pattern of my life, I see the Hand of God writing a story on the scroll of my skin. If nothing else, when the dust settles on my desk, at least one story will have been written and finished. The book will close, and knowing the greatest Scribe, it will be a tale worth telling.

As stories go, characters are at the mercy of a pencil and eraser. However, in God's adventures, He seems to allow characters to inform the plot. It’s like he breathes life into his characters and they become three dimensional, more like actors and actresses on a stage than flat thoughts on a page.

His characters are all unique, no photocopied portraits in his parables. They all have their own dreams and needs; their own paradox of cheap chastity. The ink in his quill becomes blood, his heart begins to beat in theirs and he lets them go.

I believe God's character arc in my life-story is for me to become like Him: to be set apart, and pure, with the exclusive purpose of service. But my goals have often betrayed His. He lets me wander, developing my own plot, at times raising a wary eye to see what he thinks and at others, kneeling in surrender to the mystery of Story.

And I wonder, are the troubles in my path designed by his pen, or by my own foolishness? Like any good story teller, God surely knows that a plot without pain is irrelevant. Somehow I feel that most of my plot problems are my own doing, yet He uses crisis to advance the story from Act I to Act II.

God the story-teller has a perspective that I, as lead character, don't. His pen may follow the drama of my life, but He alone writes the ending. And He will see to it that when the last page is turned, my objectives - the desires of my heart - will have been realized and my conflicts resolved.

The mystery will be solved and I will look back and question how I missed the clues. He knew all along. I will be amazed at the plan that permeated the story. I’ll be surprised I didn’t see it sooner.

And is it really any surprise? After all, God is the original Story Teller and He wrote the Best-Seller. His objective was relationship and the conflict was our own blindness. His solution was tangible – He wrapped Himself in skin and sorrow. The characters are real and flawed, and at the last moment, God the Narrator throws a twist into the plot. When we thought God won, He died.

His body, though diseased by our sin, shattered the chains of death. The sequel is life and freedom forever.

“Thank you Lord that you are penning a story on my heart. May it be an allegory of amazing Grace, and a tale that is testimony to the triumph of its Author."

Pam Mytroen

January 18, 2010

InScribers Review: The Best of Wilfred Grenfell - Review by Violet Nesdoly

Title: The Best of Wilfred Grenfell
Author: Wilfred Grenfell, edited by William Pope
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing, May 2006, Paperback, 179 pages 
ISBN-10: 1551095815 
ISBN-13: 978-1551095813

“’To believe is to do,’ Wilfred Grenfell said, and his 40 years as a medical missionary along the rugged Labrador coast amply illustrated his words. He was a prolific writer, fundraiser and traveler but it was his faith that empowered his life and gave it meaning; it enabled him to accomplish great tasks to the amazement of others and made him a legend even during his lifetime.”
This is how editor William Pope sums up the life of Sir Wilfred Grenfell. It opens the introduction to The Best of Wilfred Grenfell, a collection of eleven short pieces by this British medical doctor and missionary to Labrador and Newfoundland from 1892 to 1934.

Grenfell was born in Parkgate England in 1865. Though his father was a clergyman, Grenfell had no religious leanings until one evening when he was 20. Returning from a sick call (he was already training to be a doctor) he happened upon a large tent where Dwight Moody was holding meetings. He sat down to listen and as a result of the message that night he decided to commit himself to Christ. That decision changed the course of his life. He eventually became involved in the North Sea Mission to Fishermen but when he heard of the need for medical services along the Labrador coast, he volunteered to work there.

Along the rugged coastlines of Newfoundland and Labrador he traveled by boat, kayak, canoe or dog sled to wherever he was needed. He loved Labrador’s majestic beauty and considered the cold, primitive conditions, and rugged landscape a challenge and adventure. During his 40+ years of work he attended to the medical needs the people by traveling to them and building village hospitals. His efforts soon branched into other areas such as establishing schools, orphanages, and doing whatever he could to improve the life of the people.  

From the hundreds of articles and 33 books he wrote, the eleven pieces collected here give us a taste of his range. The stories, authored from 1909 to 1932, are not in date order. The collection begins with adventure stories like Grenfell’s horrendous experience of drifting out to sea with his dogs on an ice pan. Other incidents involving Grenfell and local characters include tales of storms at sea, a starving trapper and a fisherman guilty of insurance fraud. Reflective essays on marriage, the importance of stewarding one’s body and his manifesto of faith “What Christ Means To Me” conclude the book.

Grenfell is a wonderful storyteller. He writes with a natural sense of timing and incredible detail and specificity, speaking of oilskins, komatiks, pan, sish and slob ice with the ease and familiarity we talk of jackets, cars, and road conditions. In many places he writes conversations in dialect, giving the tales extra color and realism. Though his English in some pieces may seem complex, his archaic style reminds us that these writings are up to 100 years old. Even the bits of clay prose are worth the slog, however, for Grenfell was a remarkable man with important things to say. 

He downplays his own role in many of these incidents but the way the people respond to him show that he was loved and trusted as a leader and example in the community. Grenfell comes across as an idealist, but one who believed in working, not just dreaming. He articulates his moral and spiritual ideals especially clearly in the essays about marriage, the human body and what Christ means to him. Note these quotables from that last selection:

“Christ has become to me to mean more and more doing something, anything well.” p. 156

“God’s challenge to us is only to do whatever we can. Christ’s religion is as natural as the flowers in spring, and relates to the everyday things around us.” p. 156

“A lesson much needed and one which true loved calls for, is always to be optimistic. Never again will I be pessimistic because I cannot see the Christ bringing in His Kingdom in my way. If my boy promises me that he will not smoke, and I find a used pipe in his coat pocket, I do not say anything, I just trust him.” p. 158

Black and white photo reproductions showing Grenfell in his various roles are sprinkled throughout the text. There is a map of the area where he worked and a list of his publications at the back of the book.

This collection is a treasure for many reasons. It accounts rare early 1900s stories of life on the Labrador and Newfoundland coasts.  It provides history from one of Canada’s little-known mission fields. But most of all, it introduces us to a pioneer hero whose example in character and lived-out faith are needed as much today as ever.

The book is for sale from the Wilfred Grenfell Centre's online store here.

© 2009 by Violet Nesdoly. This review was first published at promptings in October of 2009.


Web: http://violetnesdoly.com
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January 15, 2010

Old Writings Made New - Bonnie Way

In Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery tells the story of a budding young writer. Emily writes poetry, stories, and letters to her father on scraps of paper, learning when it’s okay to write (not during school!) and what it’s okay to write about (not your aunt’s bad temper!). Each year, as she grows and matures and improves in her writing, she looks back at some of her earlier pieces and is disappointed to find that they aren’t quite as good as she thought they were when she wrote them.

Every writer has faced such a situation; at first, each thing that we write seems brilliant. But as we write more and more, we learn more and more about writing and our earliest pieces of writing seem like very bad pieces of writing. Are they worthy only of the garbage can? A few writers answer this question in their interviews on Whohub (follow the links for complete interviews):

My own suggestion was to “Look at them again. ... like Emily, review your work. Some of it will be good—worth saving. Some of it will have gems in it that you can use, with a bit of editing and reworking. And some of it should just be thrown away—or used as examples of how your writing has improved over the years.” I posted one of my first stories on my blog to remind me how long I've had this crazy writing dream and how much I've learned since I started.

Marcia Laycock says, “Nothing is ever wasted. It has all been part of learning the craft. You might want to use a snippet from something you wrote years ago in a short story or a novel you'll work on next year. Or a short story that is still sitting on your computer may become a novel. You never know. Don't throw anything away.”

Jenny Roche adds, “Dig them out and you might find they're better than you think. Rewrite to bring up to date and add a little bit of the polish you've gained from additional experience. Then submit as usual. Otherwise, wait until you're famous (if you're not already) and flog them on ebay or at auction. Everybody understands nobody's writing is great to start with and they'll be worth a fortune!”

And finally, Terrence Mix suggests, “Never be afraid to show your writing to someone whose opinion you would trust. Experiencing rejection is part of the process, and I doubt that there is one major writer, both today and in the past, who has not been rejected. It is the only way you can learn and grow as an author.”

So if nothing new is coming to you in your writing these days, maybe it’s time to look at some old pieces and see if they can be dusted off and updated!

~ Bonnie Way

January 13, 2010

Working Out … My Faith - Janet Sketchley

I’ve finally found a daily personal workout routine that suits me. Friends told me about its benefits, but I didn’t really believe them until I proved it for myself.

Sure, I knew it would be good for me, but it seemed like such an effort. And how long would I manage to stick with it? I’d tried before.

Still, I decided to work at it for six weeks. After that, the experiment would be over, and there’d be no shame in quitting.

The first thing that changed was my attitude. Once I started looking at this as something to anticipate, I stopped procrastinating. It’s not a boring ritual, but a way to renew my energy and purge my stress.

Putting some time into it every day is far more effective than my hit-and-miss efforts in the past. I’m starting to see results.

This time, I’m committed to the process. That means no more filtering the instructions through my own understanding, or treating them as suggestions that I can choose to ignore. If I’m going to give this a real chance, I have to do it right.

And I can’t be critical of others who follow the same regimen. If they look too good to be true, perhaps they’ve been practicing longer – or more faithfully. If they seem weak, maybe they need some encouragement. Ideally, these workouts have a group component to complement the daily personal one.

I’ve found it helpful to have someone to act as coach at times. A friendly observer can point out where my form needs improvement. And an extra set of eyes reading the Manual can keep me from getting off-base in my interpretation.

Plus, there’s the accountability factor. I don’t want to have to admit it when I slack off!

My trial period is over now. I’m more energized and focused, and my whole outlook on life is better. The results convinced me this is a worthwhile activity. I’m still tempted to be lazy, but I don’t give in very often. I want to keep growing stronger.

It amazes me that daily quiet times with the Lord can make this much of a difference. These special times when I savour God’s presence in prayer and in the Bible have become my soul’s anchor in my busy days. My spiritual muscles are getting stronger.

Maybe I should try some push ups ….

© Janet Sketchley, 2004, 2009 (This one's from the archives, but it's a fit for January and the season of New Year's resolutions)
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

January 10, 2010

Addy McCleod - Glynis Belec

Today, as I read another blog, memories flooded back. The blog writer talked about a negative experience she had with a teacher many years ago. She spoke of how the incident affected her life and how we can be influenced by such an experience. I agreed wholeheartedly about the kind of impact a person in a position of authority can have on a child. That influence can be positive or negative and it can have great bearing as he or she grows.

Then I thought about Mrs. Addy McCleod, my sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Mcleod was the first teacher I had when I came to Canada. Everyone said she was firm and mean. I found out that her heart was golden and she had the patience and compassion of a saint.
It was 1967. The boys in my new school were terribly cruel to me for a multitude of reasons. First, I had a funny English/Scottish accent. My mother made me wear the same gray school uniform that I wore to school in Scotland. They called me stale because it seemed as if that was all I had to wear. Many tearful afternoons were filled with questions for my mother.
"Why are the boys so cruel to me? Why do I have to wear this silly uniform? Why did we come to Canada, anyway? "
Soon Mom bought us more clothing and relented about us having to wear our school uniforms each day. But the boys still found reasons to pick on me.

Mrs. McLeod would sometimes catch those mean boys teasing me and she would give them the dickens. I remember many times spent with her in the classroom. She protected me from the nasty verbal blows. She intervened when I was most vulnerable. She encouraged me to be the best I could be and she showed me how to seize learning opportunities. She had not one iota of meanness in her even though she ran a tight ship in her classroom and even the mean boys knew better than to challenge her or misbehave.

As I work with children each day this week, I am going to think about Mrs. McLeod and the profound influence she had in my early years. I will remember how important it is to stick up for the weak, the forgotten, the insecure, the timid, the new kid on the block...

Come to think of it, Addy McLeod showed a lot of Jesus. I am thinking that maybe...just maybe...she opened up a door for me. She has passed the torch. My turn.

January 04, 2010

Future Tense - Marcia Lee Laycock

2010. It seems like future time. Wasn’t it just yesterday that 1984 was so far away we thought we’d never get there? Then came 2000, a new millennium. And on we go. The years race after one another as though they are competing in the Indy 500. And I can’t keep up. Maybe I’m feeling my age. The big 60 is looming and I just can’t wrap my head around the idea. I’m also conscious of wanting to “do something” with my life, wanting to make my life count with the remaining time I have left. I want to write the best novel I can and see it widely read. I want to speak to as many audiences as I can reach. I want to fulfill what God’s will is for me in the coming year. It makes the future seem a little tense.

But then I read a verse like “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” John 3:36, and John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And I am encouraged. It’s all so simple, really. Just believe. Suddenly the pressure to perform, the pressure to “do something” fades. God has a plan and it’s a good one. He knows what books I’ll write and what He’ll do with them. He knows what audience’s I’ll speak to and how he’ll direct my words to their hearts and minds and accomplish His purposes.

And I know he has a greater future planned for me – eternal life.

Eternal life. I can’t wrap my mind around that concept, either, but I know it’s a promise I can count on, because my God is faithful and merciful beyond knowing.
And I know it’s not going to be a boring life. It’s going to be so full we’ll have to be glorified to contain it. Wow. Now that’s a concept! Glorified, as he was - like Jesus. Able to stand before God almighty. Able to talk with angels. Perhaps able to write words that will flow directly from his heart to mine. The mind boggles.

There are a lot of dark clouds looming in the future, according to almost any forward looking “seer” you might choose to listen to. But the concepts mentioned above blow them all out of the water. There is no need to stress over what to do with our lives when we know He is in control. There is no reason to fear a future in which our bodies will be transformed, able to walk on water and slide through solid walls, as Jesus did. There is no need to shudder at a future where God’s Spirit, His unconditional love, grace and mercy will be poured out on his people in ways that will astonish even the most sceptical. There is no logic in trembling at a future in which God’s own Son will invite us to join him in ruling a new earth and a new heaven.

Sound fantastic? Sound too good to be true? I agree. But I have chosen to listen and believe what God has declared – “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

2010. Hallelujah, here we come!

January 01, 2010

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