Monday, June 29, 2009
Do you remember that catchy little song from the old Disney movie, Snow White? Even those cute characters had figured out that a happy tune makes the time seem to fly, as well as make any workload feel lighter and easier to bear.
Lady Bird Johnson once gave the sage advice that we should work on projects that make our hearts sing. To me, her words ring true, for I do not believe that life is meant to be a drudgery. Rather, we are meant to live beautifully... abundantly.... joyfully. Oh sure, we go through hard experiences and wildernesses, but we don't stay there.
The projects we choose to get involved with, either voluntarily or as a career, should not dampen our spirits, but rather they should provide a venue for contentment, abiding joy, and a sense of adventuring with God. They should energize and fuel us, not drizzle on us till there's only a damp smoldering where passion once burned bright.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where the song in our heart has been slowly dying. We don't feel like whistling or singing anymore. A few years ago, my own song almost died, because I was afraid to move out from a workplace that I had outgrown mentally and emotionally. To me, a signpost of whether or not a person is still doing what he or she should be doing, is whether the song is still in there.
If your heart no longer sings while you work, maybe it's time to think about what will make the music start again. I took great comfort and encouragement from the Psalmist when he declared that if I walk in God's ways, I would eat the fruit of the labor of my hands, and I would be happy, blessed, fortunate, even enviable -- and that it would be well with me.
I'm happy to report that I sing a lot these days. I've found new joy in work that makes my heart sing, writing being just one of those joys.
It's never too late in God's world to start finding those projects -- those works He has uniquely prepared for you, those works that will make your heart sing with joy and praise.
Now, I ask you, do you sing?
Friday, June 26, 2009
In Ephesians 4:1 – The Apostle Paul writes- “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” On the one hand this makes me smile and want to step forward with my head held high. On the other hand, it makes me cringe.
As Christians we have received a primary calling, to be like Jesus and to glorify Him in all things. That calling is irrevocable. And I am painfully aware that I fail to be worthy of it every day. I continually fall into sinful attitudes and thoughts. It makes me think of Paul’s cry in Romans – “oh wretched man that I am!” He too knew himself to be weak and unworthy, in his flesh, yet he also says – “Although I am less that the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ …” (Eph 3:8).
And in that I am encouraged, because the calling on my life does not depend on my worthiness. It depends only on God’s grace and that will be sufficient for the task, not so that I will succeed, not so that others will praise me, but so that the name of Christ will be exalted.
How amazing that God chooses to use us, chooses to give us a calling and the grace with which to accomplish it! Such awareness causes me to strive to do what Paul admonished the Ephesians to do – live a life worthy - worthy of the name God has bestowed on us. How amazing that even though we fail God continues to extend that calling and that grace, just as a coach continues to encourage his protégés even though they fall short of the mark.
The encouragement is in itself sustaining, because just knowing that He doesn’t give up on us keeps us going, keeps us striving, keeps us longing to live a life worthy - worthy of Him.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
When the question was posed on The Word Guild discussion forum, I discovered that just as all writers are different, their writing places are as unique.
N.J. Lindquist likes to sit on her back deck, inside a tent with the netting closed. Her dog sits on the loveseat beside her. Stephanie Tombari taps away on her laptop late in the evening sitting on her bed with her husband out cold beside her. Patricia Paddey loves the freedom of her laptop. “It lets me write anywhere. And I do.”
Janice Dick uses a little white Mac laptop at her desk in the balcony overlooking her living room. Andi Harris is content to sit on her living room futon (curved out just so from her constant use), laptop in front, side table with fruit juice or water, and a couple of clip boards.
Belinda Burston sits “in a dappled place beside a sturdy clump of silver birch--so lovely that I had to capture it with the eye of my camera. A canopy of leaf laden branches, danced above my head, while a breeze passed through them with a sigh. The electronic drone of an air conditioner added to the symphony of tweets, twitters, chirrups and soft coo-ing. Over my arms, warmed by the sun, the cool, silken veil of breeze flowed. I was ready to listen in the cool of this morning.”
Carolyn Wilker writes most often in her home office using pen or pencil and paper, which she takes with her whenever she goes away from home. Linda Hall writes “with pen and paper –actually medium point gel pens, the ultra-fine Sharpies are good, on back sides of paper (unlined), and I like to write with various colored sharpies - like orange or red. I write in half shorthand (which I used way back in the dark ages when they taught shorthand to journalism students). And I usually work in Starbucks.” Heather Kendall also writes “the old-fashioned way with pen and paper”. She needs to have a rough outline down on paper before she dares put it in the computer.
Each writer and her writing space is unique. Today, I plan to sit in my tent-trailer and open all the windows to let in the air without the bugs. It’ll provide the shade I need so I’m not roasting in the sun. It also offers a clear view of the blue sky with a smattering of puffy clouds in the distance. Now that I’ve picked my place to write, I actually need to do so. What to write, what to write?
Monday, June 22, 2009
For those of us who are aspiring writers, it’s a depressing picture. We stare at our own messy prose and wonder why we think we can call ourselves “writers.” We see the rejection letters that pile up in our inboxes—if we manage to muster the courage to submit our stumbling prose to an editor’s harsh eye—and think that we’re utter failures who should really just give up, because we won’t ever be like ______ (insert your favourite author’s name).
But then we hear stories of writers who received rejection letters, took the suggestions to heart, kept working and learning and polishing, and finally, became published, best-selling authors. Authors who were clearly made, not born. And we think that maybe there’s hope for us too.
One author who inspires me in such a way is Lisa Samson. I’ve read only her first book and her most recent book. And the difference between those two is astounding. She’s clearly a writer who has worked hard at her craft. One who proves that you can learn how to write. She’ll admit that words don’t come easily to her, that she’d rather do almost anything else than write—and yet, she writes. She does the hard work to produce books that reach her readers.
So on the days you don’t want to write because you think your work will never be like _____’s, or the days when your writing seems to drag, think of that story you’ve heard about the writer (and I know you’ve heard the stories like I have) who got hundreds of rejections or the author who kept learning and improving. Maybe you have a few to share with us here, to inspire us to keep writing as you keep writing.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
How can we serve Christ and serve people in need at the same time? According to the Scriptures, we are Gods hand extended, “I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) If we are to be like Christ we ought to carry out his teachings.
If we know of anyone who is hungry we are to feed him. If we know of anyone who is thirsty we are to give him a drink. If anyone needs clothes to wear we are to clothe them. If anyone is sick we are to be caregivers, all in the name of Jesus. Do unto others, as we would have them do unto you. Jesus referred to those with the various needs, brothers. One would think that a brother would help another brother in need without even hesitating, regardless of his faith.
Let’s take a brief look at Paul. Paul had various needs during his missions. He stated in Philippians chapter four that he was in great need but he learned to be content in all situations. He knew the hardships in life as well as the abundance. Paul expressed something else of great importance, the secret of his contentment. Whether Paul was well fed or hungry or living in plenty or in need, he knew where to draw his strength. Paul was a servant of Christ whom he depended on daily. Paul’s needs were met by God according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
We servants can put our brotherhood and sisterhood into practice by reaching out to those with any need. For when we serve those in need we are serving Christ. Paul followed Christ’s example of servant hood. Peace and contentment comes when we reach out in love to everyone whom God places in our path. As Christians, we ought to share Paul’s secret in being content in all that we do and depend upon the Lord and be imitators of his life and actions.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)
We can live in peace!
© Jan Keats
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
(Here is Trenton's and my favourite cookie recipe!)
2 cups of brown sugar
1 cup of shortening
2 eggs ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. of vanilla 2 cups of flour
1 tsp. soda ½ tsp. salt
1 pkg. of chocolate chips 2 cups of oatmeal
Method: Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Mix all dry ingredients together in order except chocolate chips and oatmeal. Mix the dry ingredients with the creamed batter. Add the chocolate chips and the oatmeal. Roll in balls and flatten with a fork. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. I always slightly under bake these.
“Thank you. I will have a piece of cheesecake.”
The first time I heard it was when I was twelve. My friend and I were skipping history and walking in the park. We were having such a great time. She “borrowed” a pack of Export A’s from her mother’s purse and we smoked a few. I felt so grown up and free.
“Yes, thank you. Don’t mind if I do. Do you have a light?”
Another thing my friend and I used to do was spend our lunch money on magazines like Playgirl and some others. We figured why should the boys have all the fun. We had a place where we stashed them and would go there and giggle like fools over the pictures. I used to imagine being with some of those hunks just before I drifted off to sleep at night. That made me feel like a grown-up too. My folks wouldn’t let me date until I was old. It was like being in prison.
“Oh, do you see that fellow over by the fountain. Isn’t he something? I’d like to meet him. You know him? Could you introduce me? Oh, wait until Freddy leaves . . . he doesn’t need to know who I know. He has never known my other friends.”
Finally, I was allowed to date, but not until I was nearly sixteen. It was about the same time that I landed a boyfriend when the noise became more frequent. At first, he and I used to take long walks in the park too, just like my girl friend and I did, but we wound up spending more and more time in the back of his car. I wound up pregnant, but no big deal. I heard that noise all day long for weeks before and after, maybe because I was so scared, but it went away. I wasn’t ready to be a parent and I didn’t want to be tied down. It was a wise decision.
“No, I don’t have children. Freddy and I are trying to adopt but the waiting list is something like seven years.”
The next time the noise bothered me, and I say “bothered” but it wasn’t really a bother, just one of those things, you know, was in college. In my first semester, I had a couple of tough courses and was really afraid I would fail. One of my friends helped me through. He managed to find some old exam copies, and you wouldn’t believe it, but the right answers were filled in. We studied together and both of us passed. I was so grateful. College was a drag, you know. I felt like I was in prison for most of it.
“Income tax gone up, you say? I wouldn’t know. We never pay it. We found a way to declare my parents as dependents. Works like a charm.”
Sometimes the clanking and rattling keep me awake at night. Last week, I had one really rough day at work. My boss hauled me in and told me I didn’t spend enough time on the projects he gives me. Most of them are really intense. People at the office crash all the time because they work overtime and get burned out, overdoing it you know. That’s not going to happen to me. I pace myself, go slow. It’s better in the long run. I’m not going to be a slave to my job. In fact, I’m not going to be a slave to anything.
“Another piece of cake? Well, it IS good . . . sure, why not!”
Friday, June 12, 2009
I've been thinking for the last little while about getting old, about writing and aging, about aging writers and writers aging...
My thoughts along this line were focused by an interesting piece on the Novel Matters blog called "Have You Been Gray Listed?" That day I also read Deborah Gyapong's musings along similar lines.
Though growing old as a writer isn't talked about much, it's probably a bigger concern to many of us than our silence would indicate. There are certainly enough of us, judging by all the gray heads in photos of most writing conferences and events.
At the end of this month is the third anniversary of my mom's death. Shortly after she died I felt the need to find out all I could about death - the natural end of aging. I found Sherwin B. Nuland's How We Die both interesting and thought-provoking. Here, for another little take on aging, are some thoughts spurred by a passage from the book.
On reading How We Die
“...whether it is the anarchy of disturbed biochemistry or the direct result of its opposite – a carefully orchestrated genetic ride to death – we die of old age because we have been worn and torn and programmed to cave in.” Sherwin B. Nuland in How We Die
Suddenly the pain in my toe
and the intermittent twinge
from my sciatic nerve
are more sinister than a mere
squeak in the brakes.
Sputter of forgotten
while I search
for the right word,
sentence may indicate
there really is a problem with my computer,
though my burgeoning girth would say
gas mileage is improving
which, they tell me
is not untypical for us vintage models.
We are not unattractive
with our custom-painted exteriors
mag-wheel stilettos and Gucci lamps,
though the gray rust
keeps coming through
no matter how often we L’Oreal it away
and the age spots and dents
even though we change
the Oil of Olay.
My odometer remains hopeful,
though I have heard of models my age
going up in a blue cloud of cancer
or grinding to a halt mid-trip
with a seized-up heart.
© 2006 by Violet Nesdoly
Aging, specifically as it relates to writers, is the theme I'm tackling this month at promptings. Come and visit. But hang with me for the duration. Though there's a lot of depressing stuff about growing old, it does have a silver lining!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
“He had to return to Europe,” explained his friend to me at supper the next week, “but when he gets back he wants to see you.”
I stopped chewing. “Why?” I had a hard time pinning a face to his body. All I remembered was that he was short, blonde, and every time I looked up that evening he had been staring at me. “Didn’t I go a good job?”
His friend suppressed a smile. “He thinks you were fantastic.”
Weird, I thought. All I did was set up chairs. I was glad he never mentioned it again and I forgot all about it.
A couple months later I received a phone call from my home town. “He's been watching you and thinks you would make a good wife. He says he's going to marry you,” said my friends with whom he had visited.
I laughed all the way back down the hall to my friend’s room. She still reminds me of that time. “You squeaked, you laughed so hard,” she often says. Well, it was funny. After all, this guy I never spoke with had suddenly received an order from God to marry me. I didn’t even know him! My, he was brave.
But once again I forgot about Dave.
Next time he showed up, I had graduated and was working at home.
There was a knock on the door. My Dad answered it.
A short blonde guy stepped in. “I’ve been all over Europe and the States and I finally tracked down your daughter,” he told my Dad.
My Father raised his eyebrows. “You’ve been looking for Pam?”
“Yes, and I’m going to marry her.”
My Dad looked at him sideways.
“I need a good wife to travel with. I want her to be my partner smuggling bibles throughout Eastern Europe.”
“That’s too bad,” said my Dad, straight faced.
“Why?” Now it was Dave’s turn to be confused.
“She’s engaged,” said my Dad. “To a really tall guy.”
Poor Dave. For two years he followed me in the shadows. After I graduated from College he never lost sight of his goal. Apparently at every port he looked for me, hoping by some chance that I would realize my good fortune and come chasing after him. He continued to make wedding plans through all his international travels. At last he made the arduous trip to Saskatchewan to announce his nuptials to my Father.
I do give him credit for being so persistent and focused.
God reminded me of this event recently because he’s teaching me about being single-minded. He’s showing me the necessity of having a goal and sticking to it. If I can’t focus on a priority then I’m all over the place. This causes me to be frustrated because I never see any progress. As God helps me become more ‘narrow-minded’ I am finding I have more peace and more motivation to do well.
I don’t know what became of Dave. With a determined spirit like he has though, I’m sure he’s married. I just hope he consulted the girl first.
Monday, June 8, 2009
‘Twas a warm sunny day in the Vale of Naught;
Birds, bugs, and beasties resting were caught,
As a breeze from the west arose to uncover
A plot to disturb a nest of young plover.
“Oh my goodness, my gosh, what a terrible lapse
To awake them from sleep, to unsettle their naps!
Such a breach of good taste, of etiquette true,
To wake up the birds, oh what will I do?”
No harm and no foul; except those that had wings,
For the babies stayed settled, such somnolent things.
The zephyr of air planning malevolent deed,
Convinced all the fauna to follow their lead.
While all were in slumber, not a witness in sight,
The breeze went to hunting that horrible blight
That sought to reverse his nasty design
To keep everything quiet, lazy, benign.
He ruffled the hedgerows and lifted the leaves,
Tossed up the moss and bent down the sheaves;
All the while cursing under whispery breath,
He was doing exactly what he hated to death.
“Someone will pay,” he muttered, distraught,
“For disturbing my peace, for stirring the pot.
It’s better to rest, to sleep, to stretch out,
To be at your ease, neither murmur nor shout.”
No reason to cool, refresh or revive
If the world was asleep, right down to each hive.
The breeze wouldn’t work unless there was need;
To serve the Creation wasn’t part of his creed.
Around the old Oak, the breeze took a tour
For the leaves by the nest held the secret for sure.
From under the mulch at the foot of the tree
A flick of a leaf and — “I’ve got them!” What glee!
A family of ants; cousins and brothers,
Uncles and nieces, sisters and mothers
Were carrying food to their winter retreat
In spite of the sun, the hour and the heat.
They worked with a will, in lines tidy and true,
Collecting supplies to see winter right through.
They looked not to the right, nor gazed to the left
But kept right on moving, focused and deft.
There was plenty to eat now that summer was here.
But winter they knew would lack in good cheer
If they didn’t ensure there’d be plenty of fodder
To keep them in clover, green leaves and water.
The wind drew his breath, all set to let fly
The blast of his lungs that would cause them to die,
Or blow them to somewhere so far away
That they couldn’t return to cause disarray.
To this very day rumours course through the dell;
Whatever the ants heard, they never did tell.
Who stole the bluster from the lips of the breeze
And caused him to cower and fall to his knees?
No one was present, no one was there
To witness the end of that scene of despair.
They all were asleep, so none could explain
Why the sky turned to clouds and it started to rain.
How the wind got the message direct from the Chief
To remind him of Who might come to the relief
Of a million poor ants working hard to survive
At the command of the Master of all things alive.
I’m told from that moment the wind was unswerving
In doing his best to be constantly serving.
His example was such that all nature, convinced
Worked like the ants from that time ever since.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Proverbs 6:6 NIV