Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"You mustn't listen to that ungodly racket," elderly Christians often admonished me when I was a teen. Those church members had absolutely no grounds for concern. My commitment to God was so strong that I often sang along with the radio, replacing the secular lyrics with praises to Jesus. Those elders never understood that rock music fed my soul in a way that Christian Contemporary Music utterly failed to do. In my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I tell how I found a record that provided me much-needed encouragement in the spring of 1978. Though the manuscript still needs extensive editing, here is how I discovered that the Devil didn't have all the good music after all.
To keep from sinking into the depths of despondency, I borrowed records from the Edmonton Public Library's downtown branch. After a hard day of visiting firms and filling in application forms, I made a point of stopping there on my way home. Among the secular records, I found an album called Bootleg by Larry Norman. I had heard of this Christian rock star while attending high school but I couldn't afford to see him in concert. When I put the first disk of the double LP on the turntable, I felt like the ugly duckling discovering he was a swan all along. Here was somebody actually playing serious rock music with lyrics about Jesus. Songs like I Think I Love You, Ha Ha World, What Goes Through Your Mind, Blue Shoes White, and Why Don't You Look Into Jesus? "fed" my soul. Larry's tunes had none of the condescending attitude of Sister E's "young people's" LP, or the corniness of Sister R's "spritely tunes." Though "home taping" is technically theft, I recorded the songs I liked best and listened over and over to them. Three decades later, I bought the album directly from Larry's Solid Rock label and asked the Lord for forgiveness.
Please visit the Larry Norman website to learn more about this remarkable Christian rock pioneer. Though he died on February 24, 2008, his music lives on. As for information about me and my books, Please visit my Inscribe writers group page.
Monday, April 26, 2010
We recently purchased a piece of land and true to form, my husband had printed out house plans for my input before our signatures were barely dry. After 36 years of marriage, with eight different houses, we were able to agree on an initial draft with little grief or personal compromise. A week later while digging for the required soil test, my on-site contractor husband phoned me. They'd hit bedrock two feet down. Unless we were okay with living in an elevator-like structure, our plan needed to be changed.
Monday, April 19th I couldn't resist watching the Boston Marathon. Recognizing landmarks of the final mile through Commonwealth Avenue and Boylston Street, I could imagine how runners felt, battling through fatigue to the finish line. Two years ago we were positioned on Heartbreak Hill cheering on a friend as he conquered that challenging course. Nine years ago I ran it myself, euphoric with relief and the reward of feeling totally spent. My heart and mind would love to repeat this accomplishment but the physical realities of age with niggling injuries will probably prevent that from happening. I've had to change my running game.
I'm Alberta-born and raised: my prairie soul is imprinted with dark loam, wide skies and vacations in the Rockies. Three years ago, we made a cross-country move to the Maritimes. Two kids and six grandchildren living in Ontario and Maine influenced that decision - shared by our desire for adventure and a sense of God's leading. Everything was new: community, jobs/careers, east coast culture, church. We felt God's direction for us to belong to a fellowship of a denomination different than the one we'd been members of for our entire lives. This is a wonderful, growing experience, learning and appreciating creeds and prayers and readings - a change in our previous ideas about faith as experienced by other believers.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Pretty smart robots.
April 22 celebrated Earth Day. The movement’s official website made this astonishingly frank statement: “Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever.” Uh-ha, what’s wrong with this picture? No improvements at all? Sadly, the robots were right; we are too flawed to be trusted with such responsibility. The problem is that God gave us the task to care for His creation.
Psalm 8 says: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens…When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…You make him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”
My commitment to taking better care of my environment lacks panache. I have good intentions, but my carry-through is not so wonderful. It appears I am not alone. That failure reminds me again that the crisis in creation is a living (or dying) example of the need for redemption and our incapacity to fix what we’ve broken. We don’t even have the will, let alone the might. Paul writes in Romans: “…the creation was subjected to frustration…has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our…redemption” (Romans 8:20, 22, 23 NIV).
The nasty truth is that all our efforts (and we should make them) will be fruitless in the end. Redemption belongs to the Lord—redemption of the soul and redemption of the planet. The good news is that redemption is sure: “the creation will be liberated from it bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God…for in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:20, 24 NIV).
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Focusing was impossible for me. I wanted to try everything. I blog and write a family friendly column, but novel writing has always been my dream.
Do you think I could choose one genre? I flopped around trying several for the last seven years. I didn’t know what to focus on. Coming up with ideas on my own wasn’t working so well. I had written a juvenile novel, and wrote about a third of a thriller. I also plotted, researched and began writing biblical fiction. But I couldn’t seem to settle.
focus on God
I felt I needed to stop writing for a while, and seek God, so I began re-reading Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby. I was at a point of frustration where I thought, “If putting God first means no more writing, that’s okay.”
It didn’t take long, and a true story I heard a while ago, came to mind. I wondered if God was telling me to pursue it. I kept praying over a couple of months, and staying close to God, and the story grew. I finally envisioned how the story could be wrapped up in fiction, so I began the new novel.
Whenever anyone steps out to obey and serve God, especially in a public way, there will be opposition. Looking back I realize my struggles grew in intensity since my column writing and blog grew. The first evidence is confusion; not being able to focus on one project at a time. Also, temptation came knocking at my door in many different forms.
Your family, your marriage, any area of vulnerability will come under scrutiny and attack when you step out to serve God. This is not an occasion to fear, but to draw closer to God. Recognize that being a vessel for God requires refining, and God wants to purge any sin and strengthen any areas of weakness in our lives.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, all NKJV)
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Be holy, for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16b)
I began writing my new novel at the start of April, and with God’s grace, the first draft is a little more than half finished. I have a long way to go and I know I cannot do it alone.
When we say yes to God and are available to serve and help others, sometimes it’s lonely. We feel we have to present a perfect front to our watching public. That is not true. If you lack support, find a prayer group, and ask fellow InScribers for prayer for your struggles.
I have been asking more people for prayer support, and I am, in return, praying for others. Don’t be afraid to share your needs. Our service of writing cannot be effective without support.
Today I ask for your prayer support, and I in turn commit to pray for you. Together we can inscribe truth into needy hearts.
Have you faced opposition?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Among the crowd were experienced teachers of the law and elders, and leaders of the people. Suddenly, Jesus comes along preaching the good news of eternal life. Do you think that these leaders could have been threatened by His presence? Was Jesus convincing to them? Perhaps in their minds they could not deny God’s power of authority.
According to Matthew 7:28, the crowds were amazed at His teaching and they acknowledged Him. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching because He taught as one who had authority, and not as teachers of the law.” What was the difference then? It was this: Jesus responded to the challenge of the priests and teachers by asking if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. After some discussion, they could not answer. But the answer was clear; the authority came from heaven. Jesus said: “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too, am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his father doing because whatever the father does the Son does also.” (John 5:17 &18)
As believers, God gives us authority also. We probably have the concept of having the authority to drive out Satan or rebuke sin when we have to. That may be so, but the authority that God gives is the authority to build up the church. (2 Cor. 10:8) It is for building up not for tearing down. Using God’s gift of authority means availing of God’s power.
Jesus gave the disciples power and authority to cure diseases and drive out demons but also to preach the Kingdom of God. We can build the church fearlessly and with great confidence. We can build up the body of Christ and we can continue to preach Salvation. There is a profound verse that is worthy of mentioning: “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” (2 Cor. 13:8)
Remember the question, Jesus asked? Was John’s baptism from heaven or from man? If it were from man there would be little convincing or conviction. When work is ongoing to benefit the Kingdom of heaven, God will give us the authority to make His truth and purposes known. That’s what makes all the difference in all we do! Whatever we do, do as though working for the Lord! Go in the strength of the Lord. Amen!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it." ~ Michelangelo
Someone once asked the great artist/sculptor -- how did he know what to carve away from the block of stone he was working on? Michelangelo replied, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
I marvel to think that those of us who allow the hand of God to carve away what doesn't belong in our lives will eventually find that we, too, have been set free. Free to be our true selves -- sons and daughters sculpted into the beautiful image and likeness of Jesus.
It's interesting to consider that Michelangelo became a physical expression of what God the Great Sculptor is doing in each of our lives. Just as Michelangelo saw the statue before he ever started to carve, God sees us, already shaped and perfect in attitude and action. Everything He does is the careful 'hewing away' of all that is not perfect, all that imprisons us in marble darkness.
To me, that is a most hopeful thought. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
@ It's A Beautiful Life
Monday, April 19, 2010
Have you ever thought about joining a writer’s group? How about starting
your own group? There are many different ways to do so; as varied as the
writers who'll join the group.
Let’s start with the basic questions; how often and where do you meet? Writers from Inscribe share with us:
Laurie says, “We meet the second Tuesday evening of each month except for December when we sometimes meet the first Tuesday if the second one is too close to Christmas. In previous years we have met for July and August but this year the concensus was to have a break. We meet in a room in Martha's apartment block as she has no means of transportation. Prior to her living there we moved from place to place. We start at 7 p.m. although we may wait a few minutes for stragglers. We finish about 9.30 depending on
how many are there.”
Val Coulman’s com group also meets in-person at someone's home but they rotate. She tells us, “We share the hosting responsibilities. It's usually Saturday morning once a month for a couple hours.”
Like Laurie, Ken Kilback’s group meets in the same place each month. He shares, “Our in-person critique group meets once per month in my home. Since this group meets under the SCBWI umbrella, it's best to keep it at the same location, especially for new people or occasional drop-ins. We typically meet on the second Saturday of each month (or third if there's a long weekend to avoid) from 1:30 to 4:00 pm.”
Is it a good idea to host the meeting at a different location other than writer’s home? Ken Kilback doesn’t think so. “A long time ago we used to meet in a restaurant, but in the end it was too noisy and difficult to critique manuscripts. We tried meeting in a private room in a library as well, but the problem with that was that we couldn't reserve the room more than a few weeks ahead of the time so it wasn't great for promoting the meetings far in advance.”
Janet Sketchley agrees that it’s nice to stay in the home but there are pros and cons to it. She says, “We meet in different homes, trying to spread it around so nobody has to always drive long distances. When our group started we met in a church meeting room and were almost structured to death. We had minutes, officers and everything. Yuck. But I will say that meeting around a table brought an air of professionalism and/or focus. I wish we could go back to that without the formality. Meeting in homes, we always seem to wait for the stragglers, then spend too much time chattering. When we do get down to focus we have a good meeting. It's just harder to do in soft armchairs. We meet once a month except December, and often take July and/or August off. This year we skipped July and are having an August barbecue.”
Thinking of starting your own writer’s group? Start with the basics: give thought to how often and where to meet.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
"Jesus loves me! This I know for the Bible tells me so," I sang heartily, but without comprehension, as I skipped around the yard. Gradually the simple words of the old children's hymn filtered into my conscious understanding.
Jesus loves me! Me! This song is about me! I am the one Jesus loves. That realization was so overwhelming that I stopped in my tracks and allowed the words of the song to replay slowly through my mind.
“Little ones to Him belong.” Yes, that’s me. I’m a little one. I belong to Jesus. “They are weak but He is strong.” I am little and can’t do very much, But He – That’s Jesus – He can help me. He is strong enough to look after me. A tremendous happiness came over me. I had to tell Mother. I swung around and dashed back into the house letting the screen door slam behind me. My mother was standing beside the kitchen table washing dishes.
“I know what this song means,” I gushed in childish exuberance. “It’s about me.” As I poured out to her my understanding of the song, she turned to look at me, her hands still submerged in the dishwater.
“That’s right,” she said, “That is what it means.” She repeated the words of the song. “That is very important. You must never forget that,” she emphasized. I walked out of the kitchen and through the back porch repeating her words to myself. “That is very important. I must never forget that.”
I never have forgotten. That truth has remained impressed on my mind ever since. Although I had not consciously thought of that momentous moment over the years, it surfaced again in my memory with great clarity when I started recording my childhood memories.
The words of that song first appeared in a novel entitled “Say and Seal,” written by two sisters, Susan and Anna Warner in 1860. In the story, a friend carries a feverish boy around the room. The child asks him to sing. Instead of using a familiar song, Anna wrote the words for a new hymn with special application for the deathly sick boy. The next year William Bradbury, a composer of children’s music, wrote the tune and added the chorus.
Recently I came across a new version of that song, written by Peter Dyck of Warman, Sask. The song begins: Jesus loves me, this I know, Tho’ my hair is white as snow. Tho’ my eyes are growing dim, He still bids me follow Him.”
God has promised, I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior (Isaiah 46:4 LB).
How precious to know that the same Jesus who loved me and protected me as a child loves me now and will continue to be with me, loving me, protecting me, and leading me to ever-higher heights with Him in my senior years.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
How’s this one for saying it straight to the heart:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians 6:4,5 The Message).
The following passage is a blend of different translations from 1 Timothy 4:14, 15, 16
14 “Do not neglect your gift (NIV).
15 Put these abilities to work; throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone may notice your improvement and progress (Living Bible).
16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; (NASB).
16b Persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (NASB).
Isn’t that exciting that people will be saved because of what we write!
Sometimes I feel guilty for taking time to write because I enjoy it so much. Do you ever struggle with that? In the following passage God reminds me that I’ve been given freedom by God, not guilt. But this freedom comes with a responsibility to serve others:
“You have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love others as you love yourself.
25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13 and 14 and 25).
How much weight do our words carry? God says they are sacred:
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, (writes) he should do it as one speaking (writing) the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:10, 11a NIV).
And one more. In those reflective moments before sleep, I wonder if I am running ahead of God instead of letting Him lead the way. This scripture is my prayer:
“Search me, Oh God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting”
(Psalm 139:23,24 NIV).
When I feel discouraged or lazy about writing, these scriptures keep me on task. I’m sure there are many more. What scriptures has God used to guide you in your writing life?
~ Pam Mytroen
Monday, April 12, 2010
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know when you will die? In the poem below, I try to imagine Hezekiah's thoughts when the 15 extra years he was promised by Isaiah are nearly up.
“I will add fifteen years to your life. . .” 2 Kings 20:6
And what exactly did Isaiah say
those fourteen and three quarter years ago?
My brain was fevered on that deathbed day,
perhaps fifty not fifteen was the toll.
I need more time; fifteen is not enough
to do exploits, to sire, conquer, groom
Manasseh for the throne, his callow stuff
Hephzibah’s spells mold to a cursed doom.
Men long to know the number of their years.
How foolish and short-sighted such a thought.
Each beast and man I meet now raises fears. . .
Is this the one? Is he hatching a plot?
That sound! Those footsteps! Is there someone there?
Will this night sneak death angel up the stair?
© 2010 by Violet Nesdoly
Personal blog promptings (come visit during April for more poetry fun!)
Writerly blog Line upon line
Kids' daily devotions Bible Drive-Thru
A poem portfolio
NEW IN 2010: Other Food: daily devo's
Sunday, April 11, 2010
How the iPad Could Make Books Go Viral | addybaddy | Fast Company
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wise Guy Son and I were driving a remote highway in rural New Brunswick (Canada) last month, and we kept seeing “deer crossing” signs – and “moose crossing”.
Deer grazing on the green slopes near the road are cute. Bounding across the road a safe distance in front of you, they’re still cute.
Deer crossing the asphalt right in front of your vehicle are not.
Apparently wise New Bruswick drivers avoid country driving after dark, at least certain times of year. We saw chain-link fences paralleling sections of the highway where the moose and deer were most active.
As it got closer to dusk (prime feeding time for deer) and I kept seeing the signs, I watched even closer for any sign of off-road movement. Sometimes the highway was elevated enough that a grazing deer would be out of sight until it decided to climb up and cross the road.
Vigilance is important, but I found myself getting tense. Each yellow warning sign felt more menacing than the last.
A person could really start to fear these creatures! Instead of gentle, liquid-gazed deer faces, my imagination caricaturized them as grim-faced, wild-eyed creatures surging up the slopes in a suicidal guerrilla raid to stop the traffic.
A good laugh restored my perspective and got me thinking about danger and about sin, how as important as it is to be vigilant, we need to be careful not to blow what we’re watching for out of proportion. That’s where unhealthy fear comes from.
Deer on the highway: something to see and avoid. Menacing, mutant killer-deer that stalk our nightmares: something fear can use to paralyse us if we let it.
To paraphrase the words of Jr. Asparagus from VeggieTales: We don’t need to fear what’s out there, because God is the biggest.
Click here to watch Junior to sing it in his own inimitable style.
© Janet Sketchley, 2010
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
have not only lost their own children to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, but they face the rest of their lives wondering how to provide the basic necessities as they raise their grandchildren.
Grandmother’s Necklace, a collection of inspiring stories, is the outcome of Elford’s brainchild. This remarkable anthology includes writings by 61 authors from across Canada, the United States and Ireland. The book also contains narratives from five African grandmothers.
My prayer is that God will be present and stir the hearts into realizing how blessed we are here and how if every one does something small, it can lead into something much bigger for those dear souls in sub-Saharan Africa. I cannot imagine the struggles these grandmothers face. But, being a grandmother myself, I sure can understand the motivation. If we each do our part, what a wonderful world it could be!~
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Usually on the Easter weekend, we have our family here to help celebrate but because of surgery last Wednesday, I thought it best to not offer an Easter dinner. So, today was rather quiet. For lunch we had a BBQ. That is a first for Easter Sunday, but then, I didn’t have to cook.
I spent the afternoon watching an old favourite, “Joseph”. It is one story that brings tears to my eyes, when Joseph and his brothers are reunited. What an example of God’s grace and forgiveness; what Joseph’s brothers meant for harm, God meant for good.
Are things much different for us today? When things don’t go our way or we are greeted with pain and sorrow, do we ask God what we can learn from this situation or do we grumble about the injustice, the unfairness? I hope we are like Joseph. He is one of my favourite bible characters. No matter what situation he found himself in, he kept his faith and was true to his heavenly father.
I trust I can join David’s heartfelt praise in Psalm 34, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”
Friday, April 2, 2010
Then I got home to find an email from an editor saying he was rejecting a manuscript I’d sent him a few months ago. I was kind of numb as I read it. The words took a while to sink in.
I was expecting my dog to die. She was old a long time ago. I was pretty sure that manuscript would be rejected by that editor. It isn’t ready to be published.
But it was still a bad day. A day when things die always is.
But now that the day is over and I look back on it, I see there were some good things in that space of twenty-four hours. I was able to put my hand over my dog’s beating heart one more time and cry a little before having to go on with a day full of things that needed to be done. I was able to be thankful for the fifteen years that little ball of fur and bone was underfoot. I was able to be thankful for friends that make you feel better just by sitting across a table sipping tea; for days full of mundane things that are so beautiful in their rhythm that you hardly notice. And for that word, ‘hardly,’ because I did notice, just a bit; for the hope that gives me. And for editors whose rejections leave you still believing in the dreams you have for words strung across a page.
There are always things to be thankful for, even on a day when death becomes a reality. There is always hope for a new day, hope that the darkness won’t always seem impenetrable.
There is always hope because our Redeemer lives. It was a dark day when He died -literally, according to the scriptures - but Jesus didn’t stay wrapped in death. He rose and walked among his friends again, spoke to them, encouraged them, ate with them. He not only gave them hope for a new day, he gave them life forever after, life lived in the presence of God.
The Apostle John wrote that “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30,31).
We no longer live within the day on which death seemed victorious. We live in the day that came three days after. We call it Easter.
And Jesus said – “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29b).
Marcia's devotionals have won awards and been published internationally. See more of her work at www.vinemarc.com