Sunday, May 30, 2010
Georgiana Reager grew up in a family of six girls. She lived in small town California and was an excellent student. For that reason she was the one chosen to attend classes at the University of California in Berkeley.
Upon graduation, in 1925, she went to teach in a small town in Northern California where she met my father, Arthur Noble. Georgiana and Arthur began to date and plan for the future, but . . . .
The Great Depression struck in 1929, altering their plans and affecting their lives -- and mine. By that time her sisters were married, and she had 8 small neices and nephews. Her parents had sold their ranch and invested in Bank of Amreica stock. That stock disappeared in the crash leaving her parents with very little savings. Her brothers-in-law struggled to find work, along with many others, and life was grim for the Reager family.
One bright spot was Georgiana's teaching position. She was "well paid" for those times, and her salary was used to cover the greatest needs. Unfortunately, due to the many "family men" looking for jobs in education, married women could not be hired to teach.
If Georgiana and Arthur followed their hearts, her income would cease to exist, and she couldn't see her way clear to abandon her family. They waited through a long engagement and finally married in 1935. This says a lot about my mother's sense of responsibility, and her devotion to her family. It says even more of my father's love and understanding of his future wife.
I was born a number of years later -- an after thought in my generation, and destined to be an only child. My role at family reunions, attended by my first cousins and their little ones, was that of the built in baby sitter. This was in no way a hardship as I loved my little cousins and time spent entertaining them may have led to my own career in education.
Things have changed. We are said to be going through a depression, but it has had little effect on schools and teachers. There are some spending cuts, but no stringent rules about who can be hired to teach, based on marital status.
God's hand was on my mom and dad. He carried them through a difficult time. He continues to be faithful to us when things don't go as we wish. If we remember to turn to Him, we can rest in His perfect plan for each of our lives.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Attending church has always been a problem for millions of blind and visually-impaired folks. For us, the hymn books and Bibles are unreadable, the overhead projector is hard to see or invisable, and the bulletins may as well be blank sheets of paper.
In most congregations, this is an unintentional oversight. The Lutheran Blind Mission does produce braille and large print worship materials but the majority of churches are unprepared for blind congregants. Worse yet, some denominations either don't explain why God doesn't perform miracles today or they blame the poor disabled soul for not receiving healing after being prayed for by the elders. I've experienced both forms of cruelty.
In Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I wrote of the first sort when I was forced to attend an Anglican church. Though I now know the truth, here's how the lack of teaching on verses such as John 9:3 left my blind friends and me to conclude in May of 1968 that God didn't care about us.
Church began to seem futile and irrelevant to me around that time. I dreaded going and wished we could stay at the dorm on Sunday. All those stories concerning Christ and the Old Testament characters appeared to be as germane as fairy tails. After one service, we were sitting on our beds in the dorm when Peter said, "I wonder why God doesn't heal people anymore." "Yeah, I wonder about that too," Michael added. "I wish God would heal us. We could get out of this horrible place and be free," I added. "God sure doesn't care about us," Peter noted. "If he did, he'd heal us." Our theological discussion left us in deep thought. "I hate God," I concluded after a long pause. "He doesn't want to help us." In the stunned silence which followed my remark, I began to doubt that the Lord was even listening.
In my next memoir, entitled How I Was Razed, I describe how nobody from the Vacation Bible School taught me the basics of Christianity when I gave my life to Jesus in 1969. As a result, I was lead into a cult congregation and believed their hurtful lies for more than 15 years. After rejecting God for nearly a decade, I realized it wasn't his fault that phony Christians mislead me to think I could be healed by willing my sight to get better.
If all goes well, this book should be in print by the end of the year. Meanwhile, information about my previous titles is at the InScribe Writers Group page.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I’m on my flight home from the annual trip to my ‘homeland’, Alberta. In ten days it was impossible to catch up with a lifetime of family and friends (although my efforts to do so were heroic) but even if I’d had more days or had reconfigured my ‘flat-out’ schedule to include a few more get-togethers, my energy reserves for visiting and re-telling my last year are depleted.
It’s been great – delicious (and abundant) food, generous gifts of time shared with those not on vacation like myself, wishes granted to just ‘be’ with my Dad and to see many of my senior aunts and uncles.
A few thanksgivings from my visits with some of those of that generation who have helped shape and continue to influence my life.
- my Dad - for his faith, his contentment and adjustment to the changes in his home: who can still make me feel like his little girl when he slips me a bill for my lunch
- an uncle, less self-absorbed with his aches and pains than most of us many years younger - me included
- an aunt, who celebrated her 89th birthday, ready to try Greek food specialties for the first time
- a classy aunt with manicured nails and a dignified walk – more intent on embroidering tablecloths than focusing on the aches of arthritis
- an aunt, whose marriage commitment is approaching 60 years and can honestly express that, ‘through sickness and in health’ can be tough
- an uncle whose humour remains as consistent as his conscientious church-custodian duties
There were five of us kids in our family, yet my parents’ hospitality ensured our small farmhouse regularly bulged with extended family – for birthdays, holiday celebrations, football games, skating parties. These get-togethers were sometimes spontaneous, always involved copious amounts of food, and though I don’t remember hearing my parents discuss and analyze these ‘quality’ relationships, I grew up with a sure sense that they were important – these were the people you knew that loved and supported you.
This recent connecting with relatives, senior and otherwise, was especially poignant as I thought of the mobility of today’s population – including my own children. The landscape of their extended relationships looks much different than mine. I accept this for the way it is, however I am very grateful for the memory-gifts of my big family picture and for their personal godly example and encouragement.
Life (and perhaps death) will bring change for all of us between now and my next planned visit. But in this moment, I'm enriched for time spent together..."There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
Monday, May 24, 2010
Two young people I know are getting married this coming weekend. There are so many things I desire for them but the greatest is a foundation that goes beyond even the strongest bond of love.
The church, despite every effort to make it attractive to a lost world, limps along, often so "relevant" that its adherents are starving to death, apathetic and weak.
We work so hard to build something good: an empire, a marriage, a church, only to discover the truth of Psalm 127:1 (NIV): "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain."
Saturday, May 22, 2010
I have heard of Christian speaker training, but where I live, the only training available that I am aware of is Toastmasters. Several years ago, I sensed God’s prompting to join.
Members volunteer for meeting roles, such as Timekeeper, Ah Counter (counting members’ use of crutch words), speech evaluators, Table Topics Master, General Evaluator, and others. Usually, members sign up for duties one to several weeks beforehand, but often need to be ready to fill in for those absent.
Table topics is the easiest, most fun way for a newcomer to jump into speaking. It is the part of the meeting when impromptu speaking is practiced. The Table Topics Master leads by asking members questions which they need to answer within an allotted time frame, usually one to two minutes, using a brief introduction (or re-stating the question), the main body or answer, and finally a brief summarizing conclusion. The ‘off-the-cuff’ flavour of Table Topics means speakers are often humorous.
Besides impromptu speaking, each meeting has a time for members to perform prepared speeches. Newcomers start out simply by gathering up the courage to start with an Icebreaker speech, speaking about themselves. Gradually, speeches add skills increase in difficulty.
Toastmasters uses two workbooks concurrently. The first book in the speaker series has ten speeches to perform, with specific criteria. Another member volunteers to evaluate the speech. Evaluations could contain comments about rate of speech, crutch words, use of props, pronunciation, mannerisms, quality of information, use of humour, and a whole lot more.
The other series is for developing leadership skills. The books teach about meeting roles, giving effective evaluations, and holding office in the Toastmasters club.
Clubs vary, but all are open to anyone. The fees are inexpensive, and significant improvement is sure, provided the member invests time and energy to completing the program within a reasonable amount of time. One to two years is good progress. I did see a young adult complete ten speeches in ten weeks, but I don’t think he had time to practice new skills sufficiently to absorb them.
After attending Toastmasters for just over a year, I was able to speak for over five minutes to my church congregation about my drama ministry using an interactive activity; gave a short speech about myself to my Craftsman classmates and mentors including John Perrodin, Jerry B. Jenkins, and James Scott Bell; spoke several times to groups of women; spoke many times at Toastmasters meetings and performed many roles in my club, including VP of Public Relations; spoke as a local writer at a public library; and landed a contract teaching position in workplace development at a college since one of the hiring managers had completed Toastmasters and recognized the value of the program in producing speaking able to think on their feet (which was in the job description).
Doing what God asks, when He asks, leads His people to grow and be useful. I believe this programme created opportunities for me, and prepared me to speak in ways I otherwise could not have.
Dorothy Bentley, The Random Life of a Dreamer.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As an author, you may be asked to speak. I’ve been doing presentations for over 15 years and have learned many tips that I can share with you today. Let’s start with a tip I feel is very important:
Tip: Cater to learning styles
You are most likely to succeed as a presenter if you are aware of your audience’s different learning styles.
There are three main styles of learning: visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. Try to use a style to suit every member of your audience.
Visual learners need to see the presenter. They learn through seeing.
· Write down instructions, use pictures, and time lines
· Give handouts and allow time for them to take notes
· Use visual displays such as posters, diagrams, overhead transparencies, videos, and flipcharts
Auditory learners need to hear the presenter. They learn through listening.
· Offer verbal lectures and repeat words and concepts
· Organize small-group discussions, brainstorming, and debates
· Keep background noise and distractions at a minimum
Kinesthetic learners need to move and touch. They learn through doing.
· Offer hands-on activities and games
· Take frequent breaks to allow movement and not sit for long periods
· Work in groups and use role-play
By using a variety of teaching methods from each of these categories, you can accommodate different learning styles, and help your audience to remember more of what they learn.
Put down your pen and pick up your microphone to give the best presentation ever!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Marriage is the closest example of Christ’s relationship with His church. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife" (Genesis 2:24 KJV)
With Mother’s Day not long past and Father’s Day just ahead, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of these occasions. My thoughts traveled back a few years to the time when Eilif had just been discharged from the hospital. I was surprised a few days later that he was going to the library for a video. He hadn’t been steady on his feet since his illness so I offered to walk with him.
“No, I’ll take the quadicycle. I have to go the bank first anyway. I owe $9.75 in late fees and I have no cash.”
“Then I’ll go with you to help you pedal,” I said, thinking he’d be glad for my offer. Even when he made the blank statement that he didn’t need me, I insisted. Then I remembered I had enough change on hand to cover his late fees, making the trip to the bank unnecessary. We walked to the library together. Only later did I realize that he’d tried to shake me off so he could buy a Mother’s Day present without my knowledge.
On Sunday afternoon our daughter Barbara and her family arrived with the most practical of gifts – a garbage can. For weeks Barbara had insisted that I needed to replace the old yellow can that had inhaled our garbage for years. I didn’t see it as a problem, so she decided to do something about it.
After I’d unpacked the can, she set it up in the kitchen and and her son, Kris, took out the old can with the trash in it. After they left, I said to Eilif, “I thought of putting the old can in the storage room to hold the recycle bag. I think I’ll still go get it.”
“That’s ridiculous!” was Eilif’s response. “Barb would be embarrassed when she sees again.” At this point our buzzer sounded for more company and I forgot about the can until we were getting ready for bed.
“Oh I forgot about the trash can,” I moaned, “Now I’ll have to go out in the dark.”
Although Eilif had not changed his mind about the absurdity of my idea, he offered to get it for me. He put his shoes back on and trudged out to the trash bin. As I thought of him in his weakened state, having to dig through layers of gift wrappings and dinner scraps that would have accumulated by this time, I began to feel foolish about even having mentioned that old can.
When he came through the door with it, I thought how silly I’d really been. That Barb would see the can sooner or later was inevitable. What struck me most was the fact that despite Eilif’s health problems, he went out of his way to accommodate my wishes.
“You did this because you thought this was important to me even though you thought the idea foolish,” I said. “I appreciate that more than the getting the can back.”
He smiled. “Then I am thankful I was able to give you a Mother’s Day present after all.”
Friday, May 14, 2010
The first restaurant we saw was called “Heaven’s Gates” and since we were all still shivering, this sounded like a warm place to spend the next hour.
As we descended a landscaped slope, anxious to be enveloped in “Heaven’s”’ warmth, I realized that this was not the proper pathway into the restaurant. A waiter stood outside the restaurant, attired in a black tuxedo, with a white linen towel draped over his arm. He cocked one eyebrow at my children tip-toeing around perennials and petunias. By the time we reached the courtyard, we’d carved a new trail to Heaven and the kids had the mud to prove it.
We slinked past the tuxedo guard and into a lobby that gleamed with a golden brass counter. A receptionist inspected us as we stepped in. I did feel warm but it was from embarrassment as I studied my children. Their hair dripped and their muddy toes slipped in their sandals. However, they were already marching through the pearly gates and into the dining room. The receptionist turned pale. I nodded, bowed my head, and entered Heaven. Don’t we always sing, “Just as I am”? Well. Here we are, Lord. Fresh from the River.
I expected a fireplace and warm cozy booths but I was greeted instead with an air-conditioned gust that stung my damp skin. The kids were already snuggled together at the nearest table, clinking the crystal goblets.
My husband leaned over the linen table and gathered all the crystal to one end. Maybe we should leave, I thought, but then again, this might be a golden opportunity to teach our children some manners. And surely, it will warm up in here.
Bach’s Concerto in D minor interrupted our discussion. I turned, hoping to see an ensemble of violinists but all I got was another blast from the air conditioner.
“What do you have on the menu for children?” I asked. They didn’t serve fries or hamburgers. However, they did create a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that should cover the cost of their heating bill for a year, I thought, blinking at the price. Once our hair freeze-dried and our blue fingers turned numb we enjoyed our meals.
At Heaven’s portal we paid for our dinner, wishing we had invested in Heaven long ago now that we had bought large shares in it. We breezed past the saintly guard and up the proper way to our vehicle this time.
We laughed all the way back to our camper and even had an opportunity to teach our children some lessons from this encounter: There is only one Way to Heaven. Don’t try to sneak through the flower garden! And maybe ‘gathering at the river’ isn't such a great idea before entering heaven.
We discovered he’s only there because he’s trying to get warmed up.
“I am the Way – yes and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me” (John 14:6).
Saturday, May 8, 2010
“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10, NIV
The names of God in Scripture reveal His character. Knowing Him lets us walk in confidence in Him.
Some names of God that mean the most to me:
Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5)
Redeemer (Psalm 19; Job 19:25)
Ancient of Days (Daniel 7)
King of the Nations (Jeremiah 10:7)
God of my life (Psalm 42:8)
God of hope (Romans 15:13)
Shepherd (Psalm 23)
Fortress, Deliverer, Shield (Psalm 18)
What would you add to the list?
Why not take a few minutes to let Robin Mark's song, Be Unto Your Name, bless your spirit?
© Janet Sketchley, 2010
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
[PHOTO: Dad's Cactus in bloom for one day!]
The other day I was looking at some photographs and I came across this cactus flower image I captured a while ago.
My Dad had three cacti arrangements that he faithfully carried in and out of the house as the seasons changed. The lush green and sparkling spikes had grown tenfold over the years and were delightful to look at but I always thought them a bit of a menace should a child or pet come into contact.
I recall Mom getting fed up with the big pots on the verandah tables and sometimes she would urge Dad to get rid of them. He never did.
After about ten or so years of faithful nurturing and occasional watering, something incredible happened. On one of the chubby cactus plants strange appendages began to sprout. Suddenly flowers appeared; the most gorgeous pink and white blossoms. Their magnificent appearance was fleeting, however, for the blossoms lasted a mere day. But that sudden beauty was thrilling and exhilarating and most rewarding for my dad who had patiently cared for his little portable cactus gardens.
I thought about the cactus flower again this morning and remembered Dad's patience. He did not realize that there would be such a reward one day. He did not know that for a moment in time he would actually see the fruits of his labour. When the flowers did appear he rejoiced and called us all in to see and witness this seeming miracle.
So it is with the faith and toil of a Christian. Why am I doing this? Does prayer matter? Did my life make a difference to anyone?
Some days may seem like thorny spikes pressing at me as I endeavour to live for Christ. But I cling to the hope and the promises of God as He assures me that the blossoms will appear, the reward is real and the angels will rejoice!
Now back to nurturing and the occasional watering - one day at a time!
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Sunday, May 2, 2010
There have been times when I have feared that I’ll die before writing what I really want to write – that great novel, the perfect devotional, that poem that sings and that article that changes a life. After all, death is the final interruption. It always comes at an unexpected time and often in the middle of something.
I hope my death doesn’t come for a very long time, but I know it could be sooner than I want. It could be today. That’s why I love what Timothy says in his second epistle. When I read that verse this morning it reminded me again who I work for.
He’s the kind of boss everyone wants. He’s organized and efficient, He knows all my weaknesses and strengths and exactly what direction I need to go to develop my skills. He provides ample opportunity for me to learn those skills and learn about him in the process. He knows the beginning and the end of my life and my career. He has it all mapped out so that it will give me everything I need, bless others and bring him glory.
I have committed my life and my work to Jesus Christ. I can rest in the assurance that I won’t die until He has accomplished all that he intended through me. I don’t have to fear an “untimely death.” Neither do I have to fear that death is the end of it all. To the contrary, scripture tells us it is just the beginning. We will have all of eternity to accomplish what God intends – singing his praises, glorifying him forever.
After all, death is only an interruption. The novel might be half finished, the poem only begun, but the words will continue to flow in that new reality. I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able.
Read more of Marcia's work at www.vinemarc.com