September 17, 2014

OLDER AND WISER? by Bryan Norford

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The older I get the more likely the old saying, “There’s no fool like an old fool,” will apply to me. It’s too easy for a lifetime of learning, training, and experience to accumulate a formidable array of answers to the problems of life. We all develop a general idea of what life should be, a sort of matrix to lay over every life situation, but which rarely produces satisfying answers.

Although every life problem exhibits a stereotype of common symptoms, each one is unique. That’s why it’s always easier to solve other people’s problems—at least in theory—than fix our own. In fact, the older I get, it seems I have less answers to life. While I may accrue ideal guidelines for life events, the devil, as they say, is in the intractable details.

Ann and I face a particular irony. As we publish a second edition of our marriage devotional, Happy Together, some family marriages are falling apart. All our knowledge and advice is unlikely to save them. Here Paul’s words reveal some moderating counsel, “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know,” 1 Corinthians 8:1–2

I’ve always maintained that the man who thinks he knows everything just doesn’t know what he doesn’t know; a sobering thought to an aging, arrogant mind. In fact, the more knowledge we accumulate, the greater the amount we realize we don’t know. This not only instils a deep humility, but our knowledge becomes increasingly deficient. So how can we respond to life?

This infinite unknown is true of life generally, but greatest when it comes to a growing awareness of God’s immensity. We know this instinctively, but it becomes real as we endeavour to learn about Him. The vastness of God himself, together with His attributes of love, mercy and grace, leaves us falling at his feet in speechless wonder and inadequacy.

Paul’s answer to our dilemma is love, on a number of levels. First, as most counsellors agree, we need to listen, not provide answers, even if we think we have them. In this sense a burden shared is halved, whether answers are apparent or not. Second, as long as we are all fallen creatures, we are always one with the other—whether their problems are of their own making or not.

Then we become spiritual comforters to the hurting and spiritual guardians alongside the fallen, not pharisaic advisors above them. The Bible heartily endorses the gaining of knowledge, but abuse of knowledge generates self-righteousness and superiority. Love provides the wisdom for its use.

I want to see “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10. Nothing in this life has meaning unless it contributes to this final destiny. So it’s important at any age for me to keep learning, but not just increasing knowledge. Love must be my teacher.


September 16, 2014

Back to School - by Loretta Bouillon

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I love the summer. It can be busy—or should I say just a different kind of busy? With our family vacation, all three kids working at the pool, aquafit, friends visiting, school prep and trying to chip away slowly (very slowly!) at various writing projects - the summer has just flown by. Physical, mental and emotional energy has been poured into preparing our oldest son for leaving for university, along with several of his friends who make up our youth group. Many changes, exciting for those leaving, but harder for those left behind.

Our family has recently taken Maxx, our 18 year old son, to University of Northern British Columbia at the end of August. I know that it is inevitable that all my children will leave, but the day has arrived where the first is actually leaving the nest. As hard as it is, these are a few of the things I am certain of:

1) I will miss Maxx terribly. The sound of his guitar through the walls, his steadfast quiet spirit, his voice of reason when I feel a little bit crazy, and his willingness to pray for me when I need it.

2) He will be okay. He is a capable, responsible, amazing young man who loves God and will seek his guidance continually. He is on the meal plan in residence. He will eat.

3) I will be okay. I will go into withdrawal at first, maybe cry in his room for a bit, but then come to appreciate his room as MY extra space where I can retreat to do my writing, reading or watch a movie that no one else wants to watch. He also has a pretty awesome ensuite powder room off his room which will also become MINE!

4) We will adjust. God will see us through the changes. We will all miss Maxx terribly; dinner for four instead of five just does not sound right, however we will look forward to when he comes home: Thanksgiving, Christmas and reading week.

Life will go on! I am still homeschooling two other wonderful kids that bring me great joy. Back-to-school has begun and I am hoping to fall into a schedule for my writing as the kids do their studies. In October, I am looking forward to attending the Surrey International Writer’s conference with my seventeen year old daughter (who I believe is a better writer than I am!). It will be our first writer’s conference and a mother/daughter get-a-way. I signed up for this conference before I found the InScribe group so unfortunately, as much as I would LOVE to do both conferences, it is not possible. However, the Inscribe conference is on the agenda for next year!

I am new to the writing industry. It has been less than a year where I have actually called myself a writer (although I have always written). My work in progress includes a couple of children’s picture books, magazine articles, devotions and the hope to write a series of devotions and a parenting book for parents with teens.

In this season, I am passionate about writing about my life with my teens and hope to encourage other parents in this stage of the parenting journey. Over the years, when people ask me about my children, they sometimes seem perplexed as to how my kids can appear happy and accomplished, yet they do not party or date (casually). They also actually enjoy being with their family. This has inspired me to write a book about parenting teens. I ask God that the message would be humble and bring Him glory as not to portray myself as some super-mom. My journey has been completely reliant on Him.

As my life revolves around the school year, so does my writing. My prayer is that that I will find the balance between teaching, parenting, supporting my husband and writing. When God calls us to particular ministries, He will equip us. That is my prayer for all of you, my fellow writers, that you will be carried by our wonderful God as you pursue all God has called you to be in the months ahead.


September 15, 2014

I've Been Inscribed - Tracy Krauss

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Inscribe's Fall Conference is just around the corner and I can hardly wait! Here is a little account of how I came to know about this wonderful organization, originally posted on my blog 'Expression Express'.

I came across Inscribe back in the summer of 2010 as I was searching the internet for ways to connect with other authors. Although I had been a 'closet' writer for many years, I was newly among the ranks of 'the published' and unfortunately, really didn't have a clue about building a platform, social networking, or book promotion in general. I suppose you could say, I came upon the marketing side of things through the back door. One of the suggestions I read somewhere was to set up 'google alerts' for topics that interested me, and that is how I found Inscribe.

You can't imagine my excitement when I discovered that there was a Canadian organization for Christian writers fairly near where I lived. (An eight hour drive... What's that in the grand scheme of things?) I was also thrilled to find out that they were hosting a conference that fall in Edmonton. I signed up!

That first conference was an eye opener for me. Rudy Wiebe was the guest speaker on Friday night and Sigmund Brouwer was the keynote speaker the next day. I was encouraged, challenged and inspired. I made my first, live connections with other authors who loved writing in the same way that I did. (As opposed to just online relationships.) I also found out there was a local writing group two hours from my home in BC, and I was introduced to the Inscribe Writer's blog and decided to become a contributing author.

After attending my second conference in 2012, I felt 'nudged' by the Holy Spirit to get more involved. I offered to help with moderating the website and was put in charge of the bookstore and membership pages. We now have a full time webmaster looking after the entire website - totally revamped and updated, I might add - so I no longer do that. However, I did offer my services as the BC rep and it is my honour to now serve on the executive as the 'Local Writing Groups' coordinator. In 2013 I also had the privilege of facilitating a workshop on blogging.

One of the things that I love about this organization is the humility and genuineness of its members, including the executive. There is no snobbery here. Published, unpublished, newbies, old timers ... everyone is welcomed and valued. People are willing to share their knowledge and  truly care about each and every member. Inscribe feels like 'home'. I'm so glad I found you!

Tracy Krauss lives and writes in Tumbler Ridge, BC. Visit her website for more about her many published books and plays. tracykrauss.com

September 13, 2014

House Moving by T. L. Wiens

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This might sound an odd title for a post on writing. However, having spent days moving a house, I see a lot of similarities between writing a novel and moving and renovating a house. (And when I say moving a house, I mean my husband, myself, our children and a family friend moved the house—no professional movers involved.)

    1. Mapping out the plot
      • Moving a house requires a lot of planning. There are many factors to consider, some that just aren’t run of the mill every day things. Every tree, power line, the width of the road, the material used to build the house, the competency of the builder comes under scrutiny. The list is endless.
         
      • A novel requires very much the same amount of planning. You have to keep characters realistic, situations plausible. There are many obstacles to the author as they manoeuvre their way from start to finish.

      2. Be ready for adjustments
      • No matter how well you lay out a plan, it doesn’t take much to thwart the efforts. With house moving, there are things like weather, surprises when you lift the house like joists not running where they should. A power line may be lower than thought or the house higher once loaded on the beams.
      • Plots are very similar. As the author, you may feel you have the right to manipulate events but sometimes, characters just won’t co-operate. or as you write, the flow takes on a life of its own.

      3. This is a marathon, not a dash
      • You don’t want to rush a house move. That’s when bad things happen.
      • Novels take time. You need to get to know the characters intimately and no relationship is built overnight.

      4. End result lies in your attention to detail from foundation to decoration
      • There is no step in taking a house from one location and making it a home in another that can be ignored. If you don’t take the time to prepare a proper foundation, the house will collapse. If you take no thought into the way you’ll be using rooms and what you’ll need where, it won’t be a pleasant home.
      • A story is the same way. You have to do the legwork to start with a strong foundation. Setting, characters, conflict—they need to be carefully considered. But that isn’t enough. You’ll have to decorate your story with details that paint the picture for the audience.

      In the end, I’ve enjoyed the process involved with moving a house. It’s been a good reminder of the steps I need to take to produce good writing. And an even better reminder that hard work pays off in the end whether it’s a book or a home you get to enjoy in the end.