February 28, 2011
I described how this peculiar ritual was performed several times in my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir. In this excerpt from my manuscript, I relate how the cult leader himself dedicated my furnished room.
Sister R, Brother H, and Sister E participated in the ceremony one evening a few weeks later. As Brother H waddled around my twelve-by-fifteen-foot room, reaching out his hands to detect demons, he pronounced blessings and rebuked foul spirits. Then he dabbed anointing oil on the corridor and balcony doorposts as well as the window frame.
After having gone over the whole room, including the closet, he hesitated. "I feel that there is still an evil presence in this room. Do you have anything here which is wicked, Bruce?"
"Well, I have some war memoirs by Spike Milligan. They do have some vulgar language in them I suppose."
"That's it then. You must get rid of those books. They're attracting demonic spirits."
My heart sank. I loved Spike's hilarious war memoirs. They contained some obscene humour, but that was how secular soldiers coped in battle. I also bought his comic novel, Puckoon, a fictional story of an Irish village divided by the Boundary Commission when the country was partitioned in 1924. As that book also contained some bawdy humour, I sighed as I dropped it and the other brand-new paperbacks in the garbage.
How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.
My previous books are now available for purchase online by clicking here. You may click here to e-mail me directly as well.
February 26, 2011
February 24, 2011
One large finger reaches
Five tiny ones grasp
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is born.
A solid thump
Tears fall, wailing starts
Some comfort sought
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is strengthened.
Oh lonely walk
Strangers at each turn
Seek kindred souls
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is started.
Cross my heart
And hope to die
The pledge is given
Friendship forever sealed
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is cemented.
This sweet love
The first to be
With every intention
Of lasting past forever
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is expanded.
Long black robes
And sweaty palms
Fine speeches made as
Superior becomes equal
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is spanned.
Nine to five
Joyous terror struck
Until new minion is
Equal to old master
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is possible.
A coffee shop
Double sugar, double cream
Eyes meet, hearts unite
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is completed.
Some angry words
Second thoughts, wisdom prevails
One face turns to another
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is repaired.
Two, then one
House empty, heart full
One thing forever sure
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is gone.
In stillness now
The bonds released
Peace fully and forever known
A nail-scarred welcome
Hand reaches out for hand.
A bridge is crossed.
February 23, 2011
I woke up early the day before Valentines Day, and the house was empty, which almost never happens.
I wandered around, looking in all the rooms, inspecting the coat closet to see which boots were gone.
Did they all ditch me and go to church without me?
I texted my older son, who has a habit of going to the early service at church on Sundays, with his friends, to leave time for doing other things during the afternoons. He had no idea where his dad and younger brother were.
I decided to relax and have a cup of herbal tea while I had some peace and quiet.
Without know where they were, though, my imagination went wild.
What if they went to the store and got into an accident and that is why they are gone so long.
Or maybe they did ditch me and go to church and were sitting at the back and my older son didn't know there were even there. Why wouldn't they have woken me? I love going to church!
On and on went my imagination.
A little while later, my husband and young son came home with gifts.
My son had bought several different types of chocolates, including a bag of Hershey's Kisses, given to me with his hugs and real kisses.
my husband brought me a dozen velvety red roses.
I felt so spoiled and blessed!
Why had I panicked? Why had I doubted their love?
When I look at the roses, a little wilted but still alive after more than week, the thought crosses my mind that each rose stands for one month that my husband loved me and was faithful to me, just in the last year. (There were plenty of years before that one!).
I am so thankful for his love,
yet it is just a shadow, a mirror of the love my Heavenly Father has for me.
He is faithful always,
Help me not to panic, Lord, when I am going through a time of uncertainty.
Rather, help me to remember my dozen roses, the twelve months of my husband's love and faithfulness, which in turn will remind me of You.
February 20, 2011
Violet Nesdoly has been blogging for over five years and offered Lisa these five tips:
1. Focus your blog - which you've done. You know you're going to be writing about the grandparent/parent experience.
2. Decide on frequency and blog regularly so your readers aren't disappointed when they come for their expected read.
3. Do a variety of posts - always with the reader in mind. We blog readers are a selfish lot. If we don't find something of value to us (like humor, advice, news, anything relevant to us) we'll probably soon check out. In this vein, in addition to your personal experience pieces, I'd suggest things like:
- interviews of other grandparent-parents to illustrate how they cope.
- links to articles and resources designed to help the grandparent/parent.
- links to news stories that relate to your topic + your reaction to them (it's a blog, after all).
- links to web sites that offer help and resources to people in your community (to across Canada - if there are such organizations).
- reviews of books relevant to your topic.
- practical things you do to make your life as a grandparent/parent easier.
4. Publicize your blog in places where people of your age group and interest gather. By publicize I mean read and comment on other blogs that speak of similar things. Join blog carnivals, and networks, and generally do some hanging out where the grannies with kiddoes are found. Become one of them. Because blogging is as much about community as it is about getting people to read your posts.
5. There's lots of advice out there about blogging. One of the best blogs on blogging is written by Darren Rowse from Australia - Problogger. He talks a lot about making money with a blog - but also about getting and keeping readers, blog etiquette and a whole slew of things.
Janet Sketchley agreed with all the tips Violet provided and added this tip, “If you register your blog with Facebook's NetworkedBlogs application, then each time you make a new post it will show up on your FB profile. The setup instructions are simple.”
Karen Toews offered some more thoughts on blogging, “As writers we strive for literary excellence with our work - but sometimes the only way a blog gets done is to just write it and get it out there. This two-edged sword can be a deterrent for consistent blogging (speaking to myself) but on the other hand, I've seen other bloggers' writing improve by that very exercise. Blogs often include photographs - one of you sitting cross-legged on the floor, or doing your workout would add some real punch to your post!”
Do you have any other suggestions on how to make a blog a grand success?
February 17, 2011
February 15, 2011
At the risk of sounding cynical, I have to bite my tongue when it comes to yet another cover featuring a woman in a bonnet, laces blowing in the breeze. At least that's better than a swooning damsel clinging breathlessly to a half naked swashbuckler. You see, I've almost prided myself on the fact that I am not typically 'sentimental'. To me, sentimental is synonymous with another 'S' word - 'sappy'. This has been a continuing source of frustration for my oh-so-romantic husband. Don't get me wrong. I like flowers and I like chocolates and I enjoy a romantic comedy on occasion - but I'd much prefer a good Sci-Fi/ Action/ Thriller with a crazy twist at the end.
So how is it that I've come to write 'Romantic Suspense'? (I much prefer to call my writing style 'edgy inspirational with a twist of romance' but somehow that doesn't come off so well in a category listing!) Perhaps I'm not such a cynic when it comes to romance after all. You see, I have come to notice that even Sci-Fi/ Action/ Thrillers usually have a romantic element woven in there somewhere, and I'm sure without it, I would feel like there was something missing. There is something inside of us that craves LOVE, perhaps because we were created that way by a loving Father. God is, after all, the author of love, and He made us in His own likeness. Now there's a thought! Created in the image of a God who is LOVE embodied - so much so that He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to demonstrate that love, in that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
LOVE is a powerful force. In its human form it has been driving mankind for millenia. How many wars have been fought for the sake of love? How many epic poems written or materpieces of music composed? And even more powerful, in its Godly form, love changed the course of all human history.
So, back to my original question: How many times can the same plot line be reworked? Let's see . . . I guess as many times as there are human beings on this earth and as many times as there is a loving God who watches over us.
Thanks for the aopportunity to share my ramblings here at 'Inscribe Writers Online'. P.S. I hope you all realize that I'm really not as cynical as I pretend to be when it comes to love. I have been known to sneak a romance novel into the bathroom and even snuggle on the couch with my husband while crying my eyes out over a stupid 'sappy' movie. :)
Posted by Tracy Krauss
February 14, 2011
by Pam Mytroen
Having resigned from my position as director of a children’s ministry in our church, I had the most uncomfortable task of opening my resume and taking a hard look at it.
Re-entering the work-force is about as comfortable as re-entering the atmosphere after being in another world for so long. I’m out of touch with reality, according to my credentials, and I just might burn and fizzle up to nothing as I realize the gravity of the situation.
I played with the variety of experiences I’ve had over the years. Let’s see, what should I put at the top of my resume? That I raised four children? No, the initials M.O.M. behind your name aren’t valued like they used to be. Scrap that. Sorry, kids.
How about my job as a night operator at the Canadian Pacific Railway? Hmmm. I used a telegraph and a computer the size of a refrigerator. The first thing the employer would do is take my pulse and ask if I’m carrying nitroglycerin. Scratch that off my resume too.
I did counsel at camp way back when. I have training in piano and voice – I could play you Amazing Grace in several different keys. Or I could teach a spellbinding flannelgraph story...
Should I list my Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies? They might be afraid that I’d wonk them over the head with the family bible, or worse – that I might be ‘intolerant’. I highlight and delete that most wonderful time of my life, the foundation of who I am, and pretend it never existed.
Hmmmm, that leaves nothing on my list. Once I take away everything I did, that only leaves my character values. I’ve got “honest, responsible, and reliable.” Will they believe that with no initials behind my name, and no ‘experience’ to back it up?
Guess I’ll work as a waitress if they’ll let me. Or go back to school and get a ‘real’ bachelor’s degree. One that will get me a ‘real’ job.
It’s left me feeling rather deflated and worthless, like a balloon that squeals and takes off once the air is released. I’m a piece of colorful rubber that’s no good to anybody.
But there is One who values the inner life. One who takes the world’s idea of shriveled waste and sees far past its outer shell.
God says, “Tear your heart in half...and come back to me” (Joel 2:12, 13).
Well that shouldn’t be too difficult. I’m feeling somewhat broken already.
There was a time after the Hebrews conquered the land of Canaan when they fell away from the God they trusted. Once they were settled and began enjoying the olives and figs and the well-watered valleys they no longer needed to depend on God for courage to enter the land of the giants.
The Hebrews continued to practice their own religious rituals. They would sit in the dust and tear their clothes to show sorrow before God. But God saw their hearts and He knew that they were not sorry for their sins. In fact, they kept right on indulging in prostitution and idol-worship. The tearing of their robes was only a showy ritual.
So God invites them to rend, or tear, their hearts instead of their clothing. He valued their inner brokenness far more than their outer decorum.
We can do all kinds of valuable and good things, and have meaningful letters behind our name, but what God really wants is for us to ‘be’ somebody more than for us to ‘do’ something.
Whatever stream of education I enter, and whatever career I take up, what God longs to see is the laying down of my heart, more than the taking up of my hands.
My resume is in God’s hands – the best place it can be – and He is my ultimate employer. He puts a high price on what really matters.
My first day of classes will start soon. Now where did I leave my zippered briefcase and type-writer ribbon?
February 12, 2011
"When I was a high school junior, our English teacher assigned us to write a term paper on the theme of blindness in Oedipus Rex and King Lear. We were supposed to go through the two tragedies and circle every reference to eyes, light, darkness, and vision, then draw some conclusion on which we would base our final essay.Did you catch that: "...I felt as if I were engaged in some intimate communication with the writer..." Aha! isn't that exactly what happens when we read the Bible and begin to see the patterns, crack the code, understand the schemes of God — how all that ceremony and sacrificing in the Old Testaments culminates in Jesus, how themes like blood and water, bread and sheep, yeast and fire are woven through the Bible in a sort of "wink, wink - get it?" message?
It all seemed so dull, so mechanical. We felt we were way beyond it. Without this tedious time-consuming exercise, all of us knew that blindness played a starring role in both dramas.
Still, we liked our English teacher, we wanted to please him. And searching for every relevant word turned out to have an enjoyable treasure hunt aspect, a Where's Waldo detective thrill. Once we started looking for eyes, we found them everywhere, glinting at us, winking from every page.
[...] It was fun to trace those patterns and to make those connections. It was like cracking a code that the playwright had embedded in the text, a riddle that existed just for me to decipher. I felt as if I were engaged in some intimate communication with the writer, as if the ghosts of Sophocles and Shakespeare had been waiting patiently all those centuries for a bookish sixteen-year-old to come along and find them" - p. 4-5.
The wonderful thing is that unlike the reading of dead playwrights, when we read the Bible we have the Writer beside us, in us, "opening our eyes" as we read. It's interesting to note Bible passages that describe moments of sight.
- In the case of Elisha's servant, it came after Elisha's prayer for God to open the servant's eyes to the angelic army that surrounded them - 2 Kings 6:17.
- From his pit of suffering Job declares, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You" Job 42:5.
- Jesus pronounces the blessing of the sight of God to the pure in heart - Matthew 5:8.
- His words "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more but you will see Me," show that such sight is the possession of believers: faith is necessary - John 14:19.
- Jesus further taught His disciples that sight and insight would come to them through the Holy Spirit - John 16:5-15.
© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly
(A version of this post was first published January 8, 2011 on otherfood-devos.com.)
February 11, 2011
It was only after my friend and mentor died that I became aware of the mountain of influence this solitary monk had on the minds and hearts of so many. In one of those remarkable human paradoxes, James Gray’s hermitage became, over the years, the secret refuge of hundreds. His solitary life was lived for others. His generosity of spirit is now planted in hearts across the country.
For my part, I'm thrilled and honoured to be included in this collection of essays in memory of Father James Gray OSB—Benedictine monk, professor of literature, hermit, spiritual father and advisor…Canada’s own Thomas Merton; but above all, my friend.
In this book there are stories about Fr. James from authors and poets such as Trevor Herriot, Jane Munro, and Jan Zwicky, as well as from artists, academics, teachers, journalists, monastics, social activists and gardeners.
Here is a short excerpt from my essay:
His life came rising and shining into this world, and when it set, a corner of the world was found a better place. To those of us privileged to know him, he was a model, mentor and friend. In his loving fraternity we discovered that friendship has to do with finding refuge in each others hearts. As mentor, we found through his counsel, a clearer sense of our own calling, our own giftedness and our own possibilities. As model, we grew alongside Father James’ own deep longing for peace—St. Benedict’s watchword. And in our better moments we were able to leave the domain of fear and be angry at injustice, and pray and in our own way work for peace. He used to say that humanity is still in swaddling clothes. But because of James Gray, some maturing has occurred—because he followed his own calling with single-minded determination and charity.
The image endures. And with it, memories like migratory cycles glide back to me fresh as spring and I thank God for the life of Father James—still somehow alive in me—and alive in the lives of so many more.
February 10, 2011
She passed away a few years ago after a battle with cancer. Some of her poems appeared in Inscribed and I still have one of the novels she wrote and self-published. She was also a talented artist. Recently, as I was going through one of my writer's binders and trying to organize, I found some of the letters that she wrote me. I thought I would share her advice on "Believable Characters" here.
"A manuscript that lacks realistic characters is no more than a bunch of words."
That is a direct quote from Colleen L. Reece, who has published more than 20 novels and numerous short stories and is an instructor for the Writer's Digest School Short Story course.
Characters are the magic formula, yet they are often overlooked. If readers can't love, hate, or despair with the people who walk the pages of your novel, or short story, or for that matter newspaper article—all of the fancy writing will go for naught.
Characters must become real to you, the writer, or they cannot possibly become real to your reader. Can you allow them to become so real that they occupy your space—take on such a dimension that you can feel, see, smell, and think like they do?
You no longer have to ask yourself how they might react to a particular situation—you know. Writing becomes consistent, and much easier. You are no longer having to manipulate your characters, hoping each character is reacting correctly to the personality you have given them.
In a novel or short story your characters can become more appealing, more despicable, more understanding or understandable.
The best way I can suggest digging into each character—at least those that matter to you—is to set up a character chart for each one. Now don't panic—it will take a few days, or maybe longer to fill in all the gaps. You may ask why do all the details. "Who cares about all this stuff. I'm not going to use it in my story."—Is that your reaction? Why should you care?
No, you won't use all the "stuff" in your manuscript but you can't get to know your character if you don't know his/her history—what makes him what he is, and how he reacts to certain things. Ask yourself "why."
It is a lot easier to answer "what if" when you are writing if you know "why."
February 08, 2011
My best mornings begin with a special time alone with God. These days it’s once the kids are in school. When they were small, desperation had me setting my alarm early enough to fortify my spirit before getting into the breakfast chaos.
In the shelter of my bed (sitting up to keep awake) I’d enjoy a quiet time of prayer and Scripture. It was like a spiritual snuggle with my Divine Parent before I faced my own parenting role.
The Bible has so many images of the parental aspects of God’s heart. One particular morning, I was musing on the description of Him as “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5)
I’d been raised by wonderful parents, who were still an integral part of my wellbeing. But I was in my mid-thirties, with a husband and children of my own. I had grown up.
Still, part of me often felt like an orphaned child, cowering alone. I ached for God to be that Father – and Mother – to me now.
I poured out my fears and loneliness to Him in prayer, longing to rest in His love – the same way I had rested in my parents’ love as a child. Abba… Papa… help me to stay in the shelter of Your care. Grow me under Your watchful eye.
After a while, I felt in my heart that it was time to get up. Lord, I sense our time together is over now….
I meant it as clarification – am I really supposed to get up? I’d neither read His Word nor listened for His leading. I’d done all the talking – again.
A gentle reassurance interrupted me: Oh, no… we’ve just begun.
Could I really have heard His message, inaudible but understood? It resonated in my soul, a wonderful, warm, loving promise.
What followed was the mental equivalent of that little scoot that a parent gives a toddler to send her out to play after a hug. With a smile for the future, I scooted.
© Janet Sketchley, 2011
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.
February 05, 2011
God sent me a message of hope this morning. The fleece that I had begged Him for was hopping daintily amid the rotting apples at the base of the ancient tree. I saw a robin. A downy, red-breasted creature, with feathers fluffed, pecking in earnest at the decaying fruit. It was a brilliant contrast to the milky, white snow.
The storm had passed. For two days, the buses were halted. Roads were closed and virtually all modes of transportation had been postponed.
Today the sun-kissed snow banks cover any hint that spring will soon be making her obligatory debut. It is February. Spring does not usually happen here for another two months.
I gaze upon my lovely-feathered friend as it samples the fallen fruit. I think about my visit with God. Divine appointments, I have discovered, rely not on my own schedule but solely on God’s timing.
Earlier this morning I felt that old familiar 3am nudge. I fought at first for the night was chilly and I did not want to forfeit the warmth of my cozy bedclothes.
Another prod from God startled me into consciousness. I immediately knew that I had to pay attention. I had been struggling with some issues on trust and spiritual surrender. I was experiencing a despair that seemed insurmountable.
I managed to maneuver my way in the darkness and avoided the pile of newspapers that had slid haphazardly from my bed. My husband’s rhythmical, inspiratory wheezing indicated that I was not interrupting his slumber.