September 30, 2009

Goals & Ambitions - Kimberley Payne

My writer’s group, the Writer’s Crucible, asked a simple question, “What are your goals and ambitions regarding writing?”

My goals seem very different now than they ever have been. My past ideas for books seem a distant memory. I wanted to become a famous author, writing at my beautiful retreat on the lake, travelling across the country with my family to attend booksignings and give presentations. I wanted to be well known with my name on the spine of many books.

But now, the honeymoon is over. The thought of building a platform, giving interviews, and writing to meet deadlines just leaves me with shivers. And not good ones.

I cringe when I think of the number of books an author like Jan Karon or Karen Kingsbury pumps out. I moan at the idea of travelling to unknown places with unknown people. I tire at the thought of pumping out weekly, biweekly and monthly articles. I shudder at the idea of maintaining a daily blog and website.

What started out as excitement, enthusiasm and energy to become what God called me to be has dropped to disappointment, despondency and drudgery.

But that is where the problem originated – in my thinking that God had called me to be a writer. He did not. In further reflection, I remember His call to me; “Write to bring others closer to me.”

He didn’t say, “Write to be famous.” He didn’t say, “Write to build a platform.” He didn’t say, “Write a blog, a website, articles, columns, books and novels.”

Although His call may have included those mediums, they themselves were not the ends. They would merely be a means to an end – His end.

So what are my goals and ambitions regarding writing?

I have written a novel about a mother faced with such crushing betrayal that her only hope for peace is to rely on the love of the One who first loved her. It was written to bring women closer to God through the example of the main character in this fiction. You can read it here.

I have written devotionals explaining God’s character and all I have learned along my journey as a new Christian. They were written to share my experiences with a loving God in every day life, with my family and with my health. They were written to bring new Christians and unchurched readers closer to God through the example of my own life. You can read excerpts here

I have written a fitness book that chronicles my experience of bringing God into the forefront of my health and fitness regime. It was written to show new believers and mature Christians that God can and should be part of our every day life – even in fitness. You can sign up to receive a free monthly newsletter. Follow this link to join today!

I believe that my original intentions to “write to bring other’s closer to God” started out with the right motive, but somewhere I changed it to “write to become a writer.” My focus moved onto me and away from God.

I am reminded to write letters. Oh, how exciting to put pen to paper, to fold a note into an envelope and seal the letter with a stamp.

I am reminded to write emails. Emails to encourage and enlighten.

I am reminded to write cards. Cards to celebrate, to congratulate and to console.

Yes, I write but that does not mean that I need to make a career of being a writer. I simply need to answer God’s call to write to bring others closer to Him – in any way He sees fit.

What are your goals and ambitions?

September 25, 2009

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Martha Anderson

When my elder brother, Julius, was in his teens and I was half his age, I noticed that whenever he was speaking to our father, he’d say, “Dad,” both at the beginning and end of every sentence.

“Dad, are we going to stook the oat sheaves today, Dad?”
“Dad, I’ve finished cleaning out the barn, Dad.”

One day the two of them had just left the house for morning chores, when I mentioned this habit of Julius’s to my mother.

“Yes, he doesn’t find it hard to say, Dad. I’m glad our sons have no problem with saying, Dad,” she replied. “They’re always saying Dad.” She spoke with such feeling that made me wonder why she felt so emotional about the matter. I had only found it amusing. After all, why would that be too hard for them to say. Dad was a simple enough word to pronounce, and after all, he was their Dad so why not call him that?

I learned in later many teenagers do have difficulty addressing their father in as respectful manner. To too many of them their dad is “the old man” or worse.

On one occasion I read through the Bible books that tell about the life of Jesus, I underlined every name that referred to Jesus. I noticed that the names by which Jesus was addressed always reflected the opinion of the speaker. His followers called Him Master. Those who sought him out for healing often addressed him as Son of David, Rabbbi, or Lord. Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of God, which I understand to be a contraction of The Son-of-God-become-Man.

To his enemies Jesus was an unnamed identity. They refused to give him the respect of even calling him by any name or title of dignity. Instead they spoke with distain of “this fellow,” which would be equivalent scoundrel.

When Jesus came close the end of his public ministry, he turned to his disciples to ask them, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked the same question of his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”

Then Simon Peter boldly declared what he had come to realize: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I am so glad that this truth about who Jesus was has been passed on to us. Because of who Jesus was He was able to take on himself the punishment for all our sin so that I can now be free to address God as our beloved Father.

Martha Anderson

September 24, 2009

Frozen Thoughts -- Brenda Leyland

When it comes to writing something that's been assigned or has a more formal tone, my thoughts start to freeze like icicles on a mid-winter day.

Yet, I can sit down and dash off a note to a friend, no problem. Letters to friends and my own blog posts have a personal, conversational style -- I feel free to write what comes up from my heart.

But, when it comes time for me to write here on this writers' blog, every idea for a possible post seems to freeze. Nothing flows.

I asked myself some questions. Why do I feel this way? Why do wonderful encouragements flow so easily from my heart to my pen in letters and notes? Why is it easier to express myself on my blogs or in e-mails, but more difficult to craft a more formal article, e.g. an article for a writer's blog? Or an article in a magazine like FellowScript.

In my pondering, two reasons are uncovered....

One. I start to feel more tense when I think about writing something that's on assignment, whereas I feel relaxed when I write to friends either personally or on my blog. An article for a magazine or a writers' blog needs to be more structured, maybe a little more academic. Which I now recognize, makes me feel tense, a little nervous. Perhaps because I now feel there's some expectation for something I might not be able to deliver. That I 'should' write to purposely teach and encourage the reader or to write something with a more lofty and noble purpose. We all know what 'should' makes us do -- it cuts off the spontaneity and our creative right brain shuts down and goes into hiding.

Two. Childhood negative writing experiences still hold sway after all these years. As I write, I suddenly I see myself sitting in a school room filled with squirming classmates where we're told to get out a sheet of paper, we're going to write an essay. I intensely disliked writing essays.

First, they were boring, yes, don't forget b-o-r-i-n-g, because I was seldom interested in any of the topics available for discussion. There was the list... now choose something that I had little knowledge of and no heart for it. Blech!

Second, essay writing in school was always a nervous time for me. I could never figure out what I wanted to say; my classmates' pencils were scribbling across lined pages and there I would be still chewing my pencil eraser, panicking on the inside because time was running out and the teacher will call me up to read my piece and my page will still be blank. I felt stupid. And, on top of that, as I sat there with a blank slate in my head, I was well aware of the fact that there would be Mrs. Teacher grading this with her sharpened red pencil to tell me everything I did wrong.

No wonder my thoughts still freeze. I can feel the angst as I type. It would seem that my unconscious memories, and more importantly, old beliefs attached to those school writing experiences have me sitting here 'trembling'... what will Mr. or Miss Reader have to say about this little posting? Will it bring a good response? Or will there be a 'sniff' at the impertinence of said writer?

Well then... the bottom line of this little online pondering is that if we are to thaw frozen thoughts so we can begin writing with more ease and flow, we need to uncover what it is that is causing the flash-freezing in the first place.  For me, operating under the fears and beliefs of old school days has held me back. But, thankfully, we don't need to stay there.

I'm very grateful for today's blog assignment. Time for renewing the mind and moving forward.


Post rewritten February 2015



September 18, 2009

Salmah's Shame

One more battle. One more chance. Salmah stood atop a hill overlooking a broad green valley lavished with purple orchids, yellow lilies and wild onion blossoms covering the battlefield like the promise of victory. But the victory that Salmah prayed for was not to conquor King Og and his vast army but to conquor and lay to rest the burden of shame he’d carried all his life.

He plucked an arrow from his leather quiver and ran his hand down its length. Pointing it to the lush valley, he checked the alignment. Straight. It should be, it was his father's and never used. The shame sickened his stomach. He rubbed the bronze tip on the end, sharp and heavy. "Nahshon, son of Amminadab, of Judah," the engraving read. His father had been the commander of the tribe of Judah - the biggest and most powerful of the 12 tribes of Habiru. But when the Lord Shaddai set the land of Promise before them, his father advised against taking the land.

'Listen to the spies,' he had said. 'The giants are as tall as watchtowers. A thousand of our arrows would bounce off one shield. They’ll slay us and take our women and children captive.'

But it was his father and the entire army of the Habiru that died instead. The Lord sent them back to the desert to die in cowardice and fear. And Salmah's friends never let him forget.

Now that Salmah was twenty he was old enough to lead the tribe and the taunts had increased.

"Another day of heat and wind, thanks to your father, Salmah. We could be sitting under an oak tree in the land of promise if he hadn’t been such a coward."

Everyday after practice they raised their hands to him in mock salute. "Salmah,son of Nahshon the brave."

"Nahshon, commander of the greatest war never fought."

Every evening Salmah came in alone from practice, the last one to finish, and over their meal of manna the tirade continued. "It's your father's cowardice that forced us back to the desert and this tiresome manna day after day. If he faced the giants we’d be toasting you with wine!”

They raised their bowls of manna to each other and laughed, and then dipped their heads together against this young man who awaited his rightful position as captain of the tribe of Judah.

And everyday Salmah's spirit steeled a little more against the shards of shame they hurled at him. He turned his face like flint towards the threats of the Kinahu. He would not tremble in fear at the base of their fortified cities or turn and run from the giants, the Rephaim of the land, unlike his father, Nahshon.

Salmah gazed westward into the land of the Kinahu. The river Yarden glowed in the rising sun like a golden sword protecting its fertile nation. Its lush green valley shamelessly tempted conquorers and invited their courage only to be humiliated by its city walls that grazed the heavens. Its olives and grapes had been crushed and sampled by every known nation in the world.

And soon it would be his turn. He would conquor it. Today he would prove that he was ready. He must.

A shadow fell across the view and Salmah knew without turning around that Barak, captain of the tribe of Judah towered over him. He trembled under the vibration of his massive chest as it rose and fell, and he felt Barak’s hot breath on the top of his head.

Salmah prepared for the usual insult. Barak always had a sneer in his voice that never failed to pierce the steel of Salmah's spirit.

"Salmah, we’ve been talking.”

They were always talking, Barak and his boys. Barak was the one who taught them how to aim their arrows and sink their barbs into Salmah's tender soul.

He brought his fist down on Salmah’s shoulder and shook him, as if to test his balance.

“You’ve fought all winter and your courage hasn’t failed. By this time next year we’ll be burning those filthy goats of the Kinahu” He jerked his black beard to the west and spit.

“We’ll need a captain to take us in there.” He jiggled Salmah’s quiver on his back and pushed him towards the waiting army. “You’ll fight with me today.”

Salmah did not respond, but waited, sure that Barak was preparing choice words to shame him again. But Barak was silent. Salmah shoved his sword back into the bronze sheath around his waist, and let its clang echo through the valley like a victory shout.

He turned around and faced the chest of Barak, captain of the tribe of Judah. In the glint of his chain mail, Salmah caught his own reflection. His long brown hair blew in the breeze, and his mother’s blue eyes appeared na├»ve and over anxious. He dropped the smile.

"Yes my lord. I will fight beside you today," said Salmah, bowing his head before his captain. "I will not retreat from your side nor from the enemy at the front."

"And tonight, you’ll clean your sword beside me at the fire," said Barak.

Salmah raised his eyes to meet Barak's and nodded at the rare complement. Although Barak smiled under his beard, his eyes remained hard.

"May the Almighty be our shield," said Salmah, searching Barak's eyes and sensing the flick of a viper under the commander's tongue.

by Pam Mytroen

September 16, 2009

Exposed - Nesdoly


Exposed


Through the summer night and day
Spider spins her life away,
Weaving gossamer entrapments
For her unsuspecting prey.
Threads from clothes upon the line,
Between my beans upon the vine
And when I go through my front door,
I break more threads ticklish and fine.

Until one frosty day in fall
From tiny shrubs to pine tree tall
Each lacy trap in white is sketched.
The frost has come, exposing all!

© 2002 by V. Nesdoly 
*****************
This poem came true again a few days ago - only it wasn't frost that exposed the spider webs this time, but dew. Luckily I was there with camera in hand to record the event.

Other kinds of hidden things are also revealed when conditions are right. Yesterday was the memorial service of my good friend and neighbor of 24 years. During an open mic session, a young woman came to the podium and began, "I was Pam's cashier at Costco..." She went on to say that on their weekly trip to Costco, my friend and her husband always chose to come to her cash register no matter how long the line. She told how much she appreciated their friendship and especially their kindness in the middle of what could be a thankless day.

That little memory made me wonder, could anyone tell a story like that about me at my funeral? What about you? Let's weave webs of kindness, thoughtfulness and other good stuff into our lives, so that on the day that all is exposed, the revelations will be good! 

*************************

Web: http://violetnesdoly.com
Blog: promptings
Poetry portfolio: Violet Nesdoly / poems
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

September 14, 2009

Questions from Simone

Last week Simone asked me if she could interview me about my faith. Simone is taking a class in world religion this semester in high school. As part of her assignment she was required to find someone who would not be afraid to talk about her faith. The information would then be shared with a small group and, of course, her teacher.


I stepped up to the plate when she asked me. Any opportunity to talk about my faith - especially from someone who wants to listen, makes me giddy. This would be easy. I know where I stand and what I believe. Give me a mountain top and I will shout from it. So I told Simone to bring on the questions.

To my initial surprise, and as technology deems, she didn't want to do a face to face interview. Simone sent an e-mail my way complete with ten different questions. As a writer, one would think that I would love the opportunity to share in words, my thoughts. Actually I did. But I didn't expect the questions to overpower me and challenge me in my everyday. It's not that the questions were difficult. They were actually straightforward and thought-provoking. But let me tell you, when I had to actually put my thoughts into words, I realized the importance of really thinking about my faith and what it means to me personally. How do I present myself as a Christian? What is it about God that is undeniably real? Why do I hold fast to a faith that cannot be fathomed by others? These weren't the questions Simone sent my way. But these were the questions that surfaced in my mind as I responded to the e-mail. And I am glad they did.


I answered Simone's questions then I did a little more thinking about my walk with Jesus. It was then I decided that it is good for me to once in a while refresh myself in this way. So thanks, Simone for making me take stock and truly think through my faith. I feel renewed, refreshed and ready to take that next step with Jesus in the lead!

Marriage as Art -- Janet Sketchley

“Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.” Mark 10:9, MSG*

Jesus is talking here about marriage and divorce, reminding the Pharisees of God’s original intention and saying Moses only permitted divorce “as a concession to your hardhearted ways.” (Mark 10:5, MSG)

What catches my attention is Eugene Peterson’s use of words like organic union and art. Do we consider marriage as one of the many intricate and perhaps delicate pieces of creation?

Couples speak of guarding our marriages, but do we think of them as God’s art? It’s not just about us. Could it be a sacred trust?

Divorce may be the sad evidence of art damaged beyond repair, but what about the art that’s still in one piece?

Marriage is hard work. Two separate, imperfect wills are becoming an “organic union”. How often do couples struggle at this in our own strength? The Master Artist’s hands are poised to create something beautiful. Let’s remember to ask for His touch every day.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
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For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

September 02, 2009

A New Toy for Grammy - Storyteller


For the past few days I visited my daughter and her family. I had no reason to justify taking the time away from other tasks that needed completing, but I just wanted to go.

The first evening, Joshie, my 12 year old grandson sat beside me, his big blue eyes reading my face. “Grammy, have you ever ridden a Quad?”


Flashes of newscasts on the dangers of such toys swept through my mind. My face must have registered my fear and that I knew exactly where this question was going, because he instantly started to laugh.


“Grammy, there is rules. When you follow them nothing happens.”


Hesitantly, I rose from the soft comfy couch and forced a smile. “Let’s go.”


My sixty year old leg had a wee bit of difficulty swinging over the passenger seat to reach the footrest on the other side, but after a few wiggles and pushes I got to where I belonged.


Joshie climbed in front of me, squeezed the hand throttles until they roared, then turned back to me. “Don’t you just love that sound.”


“Of course,” I lied. “It has an excited tone to it.”


“Good. Are we ready?”


My fingers closed around the handles on either side of me and I nodded with all the gumption I could muster up, which wasn’t very much at all.


Joshie turned his attention back to the controls.


The quad jerked, then moved forward, slowly picking up speed.


My stomach lurched, much the way it used to do when I was brave enough to ride the tilt-a-whirl at the local fair. I gripped the handles tighter, wondering how I got myself into such a mess.


Then, in the midst of my dilemma, I felt the wind blowing through my hair, and smelled freshly baled hay as we flew across the empty field. My stomach found a safe spot and settled down. I leaned against the back of my seat. Wow. This was more fun than I’d had in years! And because of preconceived fears, I nearly missed a wonderful experience with a very special young man.

My Writing Testimony - M. Laycock

I'm following Kimberley's lead. Thanks, Kim! :)

I began writing when quite young, and kept it up under the tutelage and encouragement of several teachers through grade school, high school and on into University. Then my life took a rather wild detour, taking me north to the Yukon. I wrote sporadically while there, finishing a fantasy novel and pages of poetry since lost into the dust of oblivion (some of it litearlly eaten by mice!).

Then God intervened. Our lives were turned upside down by the suicide of two friends, the disappearance of a neighbour's baby and the drowning of a friend's husband. Suddenly we began asking the "big questions," and God slowly and graciously led us to Himself, the true and only answer.

Two years after telling our pastor we had decided to "give Jesus a try," we found ourselves at Briercrest Bible College where my husband enrolled in pastoral studies. Caring for two little girls and taking classes when I could left little time for writing, but in my last year there a friend invited me to go with her to a seminar called Speak Up with Confidence, led by Carol Kent.

I wasn't too keen on going - after all, I'd never be a public speaker! ;) But I went along to keep my friend company.

As she taught about speaking Carol talked a lot about writing. The match was struck and the fire became a passion to write once again.

Shortly after we arrived in small town Alberta to begin pastoring our first church. My husband met with the previous pastor who had been a proverbial "one man show." Spence was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with all the responsibilities when the pastor said, "Oh, and I almost forgot - you have to write a weekly column in the newspaper and it's due tomorrow."

Spence came home and asked if I would put something together. That was the beginning of a twenty year run of my devotional column, The Spur. Then came my first devotional book, The Spur of the Moment, then another, Focused Reflections, then my novel One Smooth Stone won me the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award.
Now the second edition of The Spur of the Moment is going to press and a sequel to One Smooth Stone is in process. In between there have been articles and poems, short stories and full length novels, radio and video scripts, newsletters and even a play or two.

Through it all God has taught me much about myself, others and most importantly, about Him.

I'm excited to see what's around the corner, knowing He is going to bless me and others through the words He gives me to write.

The journey hasn't always been easy but it has always been joyful.