August 31, 2016

Coming Down from the Mountain by Connie Inglis
Well, the Olympics are over, and with it all the hype and attention surrounding individual athletes. Thus I thought it only fitting to consider what it’s like to come down from those mountaintop experiences both as writers and as Jesus-followers.

I must admit, I’m not an Olympian. The closest thing I ever came to athletic success was in college. I played on the women’s hockey team and in our final tournament of the year, I scored the overtime goal to win the trophy! I was suddenly trounced upon by a team of girls, screaming and shouting. I still call that goal one of my “claim to fame” moments. I guess it’s my “Olympic” moment. But then on Monday it was back to classes and exams and the daily routine.

For a true Olympian, the distance between the high of the Olympics and the quotidian days following can be extreme. Rick Madonick of The Toronto Star refers to it as, “Post Olympic Stress Disorder.”

There are some excellent thoughts in this article that can also pertain to us in our writing  journey and our faith journey.

If you’ve ever had anything published, I’m sure you remember that moment when you receive your first copy in the mail as a medal-winning moment. You touch the cover, you flip it around in your hands, you breathe in that smell of new paper, new print. You are ecstatic and your close friends and family are excited for you. That lasts for about a week, maybe more, but then you suddenly find yourself kicked over the edge of a high precipice to hit the hard ground below…and nothing. No more interest, no sales, no following. And your writing hits a slump. How do you keep going in the dark valley?

Our faith can be the same. We go to a Christian conference, a retreat, or we just experience an amazing morning of God’s presence on Sunday morning. We feel SO close to God, we hear His voice, we sense His guidance in our lives. Then Monday morning hits: you had a sleepless night because one of the kids vomited all night and now you’re yelling at all the kids, you go to start the car but it won’t turn over because someone forgot to plug it in and it’s 30 below, your computer has decided to crash while you were sleeping and you forgot to back it up, you get “the phone call” that someone close has unexpectedly passed away. Now what??!!! The mountain has been flattened by the mundane issues of life and God seems far away. 

Jesus, the ultimate medal winner, hears our "now what"s and understands. He understands because He Himself CHOSE to come down from Mount Zion to live in the valley of humanity. He chose to walk in the valley that He knew would lead to His death, FOR US! (Philippians 2) He became a servant, washing dirty, dusty feet as an example to us and then He told us to follow His example (John 13:15) of servanthood. 

There is another mountain story found in Matthew 17. Jesus takes three of his disciples up to a mountain for a mountaintop experience. They see Jesus shining brilliantly, a white light, and God proclaims Jesus' Sonship from heaven. The disciples are in awe. Peter wants to immediately build shelters but Jesus tells them to keep silent--and they quietly walk down from the mountain and into the valley of the enemy. Jesus is immediately confronted by a demon-possessed boy--He is back in the valley, healing, helping, serving. He heals the boy but not without confronting the disciples' lack of faith. And I don't think it coincidence that Jesus includes a mountain when referencing faith i.e. having enough faith to move a mountain from here to there (vs. 20). Jesus is telling us that even in the valley, we can move mountains.

But let me go back to the transfiguration. Jesus speaks two phrases to the disciples who are on their faces, frozen in fear--two phrases that we need to remember as we walk through life: "Get up." and "Don't be afraid." Jesus is encouraging us to keep moving and not give up. Psalm 37:24 says, "though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand." Jesus is also encouraging us to cast off fear. Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Mountaintop experiences matter. We need them to keep going through the humdrum like a memorial of strength. But God doesn’t call us to go from mountaintop to mountaintop. He calls us to persevere in the valley of the everyday, to walk with Him along the rocky, pot-holed road of life because that’s where true grace happens and that’s where medals are won or lost. And He sent His Son Jesus to be our true example of what that looks like. 

Olympians get very few minutes of glory compared to the days, months and years of training. So it is in our writing—God asks us to write faithfully and consistently, even if it’s just 100 words at a time. And so it is in our faith—God asks us to press on faithfully and consistently, even if it’s just a few steps at a time. 

What is truly beautiful and revitalizing in all of it, is that God is always with us. We can look up at the mountains from the valley and know God's splendor. But God's splendor is also with us in the valley in the form of His Spirit and through His Son Jesus. May we not forget that.  

August 30, 2016

An 'A' for Effort by Susan Barclay

I have to admit, I’m not a big sports fan and the only Olympic sport that really interests me is figure skating, which is not part of the summer Olympics. This year, though, I will take an interest in the Paralympic swimming competition, since a young man who is part of our church family will be participating. Go, Alec, go!

One thing I know about Olympic-level athletes is that they train hard and train often. Every day they work at their sport for hours, trying to better themselves, better their time, building strength and endurance so that ultimately they might beat their competitors and win the prize. They don’t allow excuses to get in their way – they make time and manage it well, pushing themselves to do and be their best, trying to achieve the most that they can.

This is how I should be as a writer – spending hours daily honing my craft through practice; reading as much as I can the work of the best writers; learning from the pros; taking courses; never settling for my second best or mediocrity. If my goal is publication, and it is, I also need to learn the art of successful submitting; how to work with agents, editors and publishers; how to accept and avoid rejection; how to win the prize of a ‘yes.’

This is how I should also be as a woman of faith – spending hours in God’s Word and in prayer, drawing closer to Him and becoming more like Him every day. Not only should I be enjoying His grace and the gifts of His love and mercy, but I should be extending these to others and exalting His name so it might be made great in all the nations. In fact, my life as a writer and my life as a Christ-follower ought to be inextricably connected.

May I live as Paul exhorted in 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT): Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!  

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August 29, 2016

What's Next After The Olympics by Bob Jones

Eight days have passed since the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games. What happens to the athletes after they return home? What about those who didn’t win a medal or were injured or who now plan to retire? Is there life after the Olympics?

Steven Portenga, director of sport psychology services at the University of Denver says, "It's not uncommon for a lot of Olympic athletes to come back and go through depression for a little while, because they don't know what's next.”

My two sons competed in football – one for eighteen years and one for seventeen. I was their coach for much of their careers and their biggest fan at all of their games. When they played their final down of University football we faced our "what's next" moment.

I think I had a harder time after their final game than they did. Many of my August to November Saturdays, from 2001 to 2009, were pleasantly occupied with traveling to Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver to see them play. Was there life after football…for me?

I’ve missed coaching. It took a couple of years before I wouldn’t get the itch come August to go to a pre-season High School practice just to be around the athletes. One day I’ll put my coaches hat back on and enjoy the gridiron sidelines again.

Thinking about life after the Olympics or football brought me to the realization that there is no “life after writing.” Writing is a highly engaging, highly intense and highly rewarding activity that is seemingly endless. Writing is a marathon rather than a sprint.

Writers need never retire. As long as a writer can hold a pen or type on a keyboard or dictate their thoughts, they can stay “in the game” as long as they want.

That’s not to say that writers won’t experience a season in their life when they feel like giving up on writing.  Discouragement, dry spells, distractions or rejection letters from publishers can make the writing life a grind.

Ryan Hall, an American Olympic marathoner, went through a tough two-year period where he wasn't performing well on the track or in the classroom at Stanford. Depressed, he left for a quarter and went home, unsure that he would return. But his depression only worsened.

He went back to school and kept pushing through. Hall said that it's important for athletes to “give themselves time to work through” the hard times.

That’s good advice for Olympians and writers.

Push through! Write on!

Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

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August 28, 2016

Just Keep On Walking - Bruce Atchison

August's InScribe blog theme is one I can't relate to. This is because I have zero interest in competitive sports and those who play them. Neither do I care for games. Even so, I remember the first time I walked twenty-five miles and the exhilaration I felt while doing it.

In May of 1968, the federal government and OXFAM held an event called Miles for Millions in Vancouver, British Columbia. Having been exiled to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, I accepted the challenge of walking that distance to support the cause of feeding the poor. Not that I was that concerned about poverty but it was a good chance to get out of that disability prison camp for a while.

We had ideal  weather on that Saturday morning. The school bus dropped us off at the armory, where the walk began and ended, at eight-thirty. We each received a map, though I had no magnifying glass to read it, and a bag of raisins to munch on. Then we started out at nine.

I felt jubilant as I followed the throng. For the first time in Vancouver, I wasn't being watched. That freedom seemed similar to being allowed to visit my family for the holidays. No supervisor was there, telling me I couldn't do this or I must do that, either. The day was my own.

Heat and weariness overwhelmed me in the afternoon when I was half way through the walk. As I sat on the curb to recharge my muscles, the bus drove up. "Want a ride to the dorm?" the supervisor offered. I shook my head and insisted I'd go on to the finish line. There was no way that I'd quit and go back into captivity while I still had a few hours of freedom left.

Pushing myself to the limit, I shuffled into the armory at nine that evening. I proudly presented my map with all the checkpoints validated to the walk organizers. I had made it!

Our Christian walk is much like the one I participated in. The victory isn't won by one person but by all who go the distance. But unlike the Miles for Millions walk, we will be home with the Lord and the family of Christ when it's done. Like Paul said in Acts 20:24, I eagerly await crossing heaven's finish line.

August 27, 2016

Fall Conference Just Around the Corner

Are you excited? I hope so! Inscribe's annual fall conference is the highlight of the year for many of our members - as well it should be. It is a fantastic time of fellowship, networking, and growing - not to mention it's a lot of fun!

There is still plenty of time to register, easily done on our brand new revamped website. 

Another great opportunity this year is the special VIP Day being held the day before the conference. Here's more:


Are you interested in attending the InScribe Fall Conference this year, but…? Maybe you’ve been hit hard due to circumstances related to Canada’s current economic climate? Maybe you don’t have the time to attend for the full weekend? Maybe any other gazillion reasons why a busy writer might need an alternative to a full two-day conference.

We’ve thought of that. We’ve considered there are many things that may prevent you from attending the 2016 Fall Conference, so we came up with an option that we hope will suit your needs!

Introducing… VIP Day! This is a stand-alone pre-conference event that is sure to provide great value for aspiring writers! Do you want to gain more confidence as a writer? Add more tools to your professional development toolbox? Move to the next level? VIP Day is for you!
The goal of this event is to help authors put together pieces for their platform: head shots, one sheets, news releases, elevator pitches, etc. Plus, you will get to hear from keynote speaker, Caroyne Aarsen, on moving from Backwoods Writer to a Contract with a New York Publisher!

This event is an excellent add-on to your full conference experience, however, if time and/or money is an object for you, consider registering for the VIP day session only. You will benefit greatly from the experience.

VIP Day registration deadline is September 1, 2016. Seats are limited to the first 20 participants, so don’t wait! Register today:   

Sharing My Back Story - Gloria Guest

During the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics I particularly enjoyed watching the Gymnastics and the Swimming. I followed our own Canadian athletes and of course some of the favorites to win medals with fascination such as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and U.S. gymnast Simone Biles. As a writer one of the things I always enjoy is listening to the commentators and hearing the background stories of these athletes. This is where we get to find out what drives these competitors to victory; what makes them tick; who and what is behind them, supporting them. Although they are the ones standing on the podium nobody makes it there alone.

In the case of Phelps; “the most decorated Olympian of all time” with 28 medals, including 23 Gold * the commentators talked of Phelps comeback after a particularly low time in his life involving alcohol and drug use after the 2012 Olympics. Eventually he found himself alone and suicidal when he credits NFL star Ray Lewis with giving him the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren* and convincing him to go into Rehab. This led Phelps on a personal inner journey of healing, a reconciliation with his estranged father and his eventual comeback at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Commentators also spoke numerous times of the background of Simone Biles; 2016 individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist* who was born to drug addicted parents and spent her formative years in and out of foster care until she was adopted by her grand-parents, who raised and supported her in her gymnastics career.

Both Phelps and Biles wowed audiences, made their countries, families and friends proud and stood numerous times on the coveted top pier of the podium to receive their gold medals. It makes for a glorious snap shot of victory but it is far from the whole story, far from what makes them the person that they are and who they will be when they step down from the limelight. Their back story is what makes them real and just like the rest of us; someone who never stops growing and never stops needing inner healing and the support of others along the way to help make them the best that they can be.

I too have a back story; one that goes all the way back to my formative childhood days as the second of four daughters in an ongoing abusive home. One that involves buried memories that only re-surfaced as an adult in an amazing God-moment, occurring just a few weeks before a sister came forth with her own memories, confirming mine. It’s a back story that involves hours upon hours, years upon years, of sitting in a counsellor’s chair, peeling back the layers of hurt and trauma so that I could heal and become not the depressed, wounded person that I was but who I was meant to be.  My quest in all of this is not a gold medal but perhaps someday a memoir that I can share with others to help bring some healing into their own life, but even without that, it is to simply become who I am and was always meant to be on the inside; who I am even without being published in any way, shape or form, just me, as God made me. It’s the most freeing feeling in the world and what I aim for. To be myself. And yet to never forget that it has been with the love and support of others too who have helped to bring me this far.

Sharing my back story has quite frankly been a serious challenge for me; one that I have been working on for quite some time, pushing my vulnerable boundaries here and there to see if I can handle sharing this bit or that. So there may or may not be an actual memoir someday, with my entire story all in one place. That’s okay. Maybe bits and pieces are all I will ever share. But I will still strive for more; strive for my own personal gold, silver or bronze or perhaps just cross the finish line, whatever that will look like for me, and be content that I competed, back story and all.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-17 (NIV)




August 26, 2016

Bigger than the Olympics by Marnie Pohlmann

The 2016 Olympics were on the television hanging in a corner of the waiting room outside the Intensive Care Unit. My son and his family had gone in to see my husband, Wally, so my daughter and I sat silently watching life go on in the outside world.

I don’t remember what Olympic event pieces we caught over those long days at the hospital, but I do remember snapshots of faces. Athletes straining and concentrating. Teams exhausted yet jubilant in victory. Competitors dejected but determined to finish.

One camera shot, in particular, caught my attention. The focus was on the winning runner, but in the background came a solitary participant, the last to cross the finish line. His dreams may have been big, but he seemed content just to have been in the race and to have finished. In his own country he was the best, so he had earned his spot in the Olympic games. He was not upset; he may have raced not expecting to win, but he still wanted to do his best and he was satisfied.

 “Someone has to lose,” my Mom would say when teaching children to be gracious winners and even more gracious losers. As hard as I may try, or practice, or wish for an outcome that would be in my favour, that does not always happen. If there is to be a winner, then there must also be a loser.

Competition seems to be part of our human nature. Young children will play together, but their play will include competition, whether wrestling over a toy or finding out who can scream loudest. Try as we might to convince children to cooperate rather than compete, the winners and losers still appear.

When my son was in elementary school, those in the seat of wisdom decided sporting events would no longer have 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place awards, but everyone would receive ribbons of participation. My son came home from track with his ribbon, and promptly told me who was faster than him, and who he was faster than. Ribbons or not, the competition was clear, and the comparison was natural. Someone won and someone lost.

As Christian writers, we like to think we are perhaps more gracious to one another. We celebrate with those who are rewarded for their hard work with publication. We encourage one another when a rejection letter comes. Maybe we are not in direct competition, but sometimes the discouragement of not being published or of not winning a contest makes us feel like losers. We know we are precious in God’s sight no matter our success, but it would be nice to realize the writing dream that others are living, wouldn’t it? And that is when I hear Mom’s voice again.

“Someone has to lose.”

This is not a voice of accepting failure. This is the voice of contentment, because eternal success does not look the way society tells us earthly success looks. Losing does not make a loser, but it does make one who tries, and that in itself is success.

As a writer, I may never publish a book. I may never have a readership of more than my friends and family. It may seem that every other writer I know is winning, and I am losing. Yet, I am participating. I am writing. I am striving to improve my craft, to write my best for each opportunity. I am sharing my writing in small ways now. So I am successful, a winner.

We certainly felt like winners the day Wally was released from hospital. Many families who gathered in the waiting room, blankly watching the Olympics, did not take their loved one home. We left with a diagnosis of cancer, but we had an answer to Wally’s health issues over the previous months, and we had a treatment plan for the future.

While our life may look like we are straggling in last, we celebrate our blessings. We have the hope of Christ which brings God’s peace and His strength each day to run our race. We see others with more faith than us, and we see others who struggle more than us, and we are satisfied in our place at this time. In life and in Christ.

The Olympics and cancer are huge to the world, but God is bigger! Even when it looks or feels like we are losing, we are winning, because if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

August 25, 2016

A Dedicated Fan By Vickie Stam

"I won't be here for the Olympics...." A look of sadness swept across my mother's face. An eerie silence filled the room. All eyes were on her. No one knew quite what to say. The reality that God was calling her home had settled in.

My mother was well aware that in less than two months she would no longer be with us. The doctor's had confirmed the cancer would take her in six to eight weeks. Such a short time. She had run the race that God had set before her. She was prepared to receive her great reward in heaven.

But who knew that on that warm sunny day in August of 2009 my mother would be grieving over something such as sports. Between needles that helped mask her pain she was thinking about the Olympics. They seemed to muddy the atmosphere. I watched as she shifted her frail body in a bed that swallowed her up each time she got in. Getting comfortable wasn't easy. Even the bed creaked and moaned as if it felt the weight of her agony.

In the meantime I tried to push her comment to the back of my mind. I was grieving the days ahead of me...the ones that would leave me without her. I'd grown up in house where sports didn't make the family go round. It seemed a bit odd to me that she felt the way she did. 

She had already reflected on her life. She'd put things into perspective really. "I've lived a good life. I've watched my children grow up and have children of their own. I know where I'm going," she declared a few days before. I guess it only made sense that she would be thinking about other things. And now the Olympics seemed very important to her; important enough that she felt compelled to share her sorrow.

Skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding and skating had crept into her mind leaving little room that day for the joy of a different prize; one we all knew she believed was waiting for her. It's true, none of us truly knows what we might be thinking about when we're facing the end of our journey on earth, leaving behind all that we know and love.

But winter was so far away. Nowhere on the horizon. Invisible to me. And in the days leading up to our good-bye's I never once considered -- her love for watching the Olympic games.

I was absorbed in my own thoughts. A continuous display of pictures click-clacked in my mind capturing many wonderful moments of her life. I could see her wearing a fifties style dress on the day of her wedding. A nearby lamp photo bombed her. It appeared as if she were wearing the lampshade on her head as a part of her outfit. I laughed inside. Another click and she was holding my children in her arms reaping the rewards of a grandmother. The array of memories stopped with a simple candy dish. A dish that rested on her coffee table. Nestled inside were her favourite candies in an assortment of colours. Red, green, yellow, orange and of course her favourite -- black . Those jube jubes always beckoned me. I just wasn't ready to let her go. Not at all. 

When the winter games made their way to television. I knew my mother would have been thrilled to witness two hundred and six Canadian athletes compete in 2010 taking home fourteen gold, seven silver, and five bronze medals. 

As I write this, Canadian athletes are participating in the Summer Olympics being hosted in Rio. Once again, I can hear my mother's voice, "I won't be here for the Olympics." 

It's true, she isn't one of the billions of people glued to their television these days.  Even so, I feel her presence with me in a special way. A way that makes me smile.

Next month marks the 7th anniversary of her death and I think about her everyday.

"Grief never ends....But it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith....It is the price for love."
                                Author unknown

A dedicated fan of the Olympics to the very end. 

August 24, 2016

Winning and Losing by Tandy Balson

“I never thought watching a bicycle road race would be interesting,” I said to my husband.  The 136.9 km race was well underway when I sat down to watch this Olympic event.

After a steep climb two riders were clearly in the lead. When they started the descent, one pulled away.  As her lead increased the commentators said she would be hard to beat. With 10.7 km to go, Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands crashed.  She went down hard and didn’t move for quite some time.  I can’t imagine how difficult it was for her competitors to ride past as medics tended to her.

Maria Abbott of the USA moved into first place.  We watched her maintain her lead until the final few kilometers.  A group of three behind slowly decreased the distance between them and passed her in the final meters before the finish line.  She gave it all she had but finished out of the medals by mere seconds.

It wasn’t the front runners who won the medals, but the ones who paced themselves. They held back slightly during the race so they’d have the energy to finish strong. They were also the ones who stayed together and shared emotional support during this grueling exercise.

I realized there was a lesson here for me.  Many times I’ve had a strong start and then faltered before I reached the finish line.  Sometimes I’ve plodded slowly up a steep learning curve. Once I have the required knowledge and am on the descent I try to make up for lost time.  As I speed to the finish line I encounter an unexpected bump and down I go. It may be a stumble that I recover from easily.  Or, it may be a spectacular crash. 

The more time I spend on the ground assessing my disappointment and injured pride, the greater the chance I will admit defeat.  Instead of getting back into the race I question why I ever entered it in the first place.  In effect, I beat myself.

My objective should not be to set goals that I reach in my own strength.  I want to run with endurance the race God has set before me.  Instead of trying to speed ahead, I need to follow the pace he dictates. Sometimes that includes slowing down. Part of my preparation must be quiet time spent with God. That’s where the true training comes from.  I’ve learned he will guide me and place me with others for mutual support. Together we will advance into the writers he wants us to be. This is how I can hope to achieve the prize of bringing glory to him.

I heard a sports commentator say that in order to be winners, athletes have to believe they belong with the best.  That goes for me as well. As a child of God I am already a member of the winning team.