March 28, 2011

Why Pray Daily? - Bruce Atchison

When I gave my life to Christ in August of 1969, nobody mentored me in the faith. As a result, I drifted aimlessly through my first few years as a believer until a friend invited me to a cultic house church. Though they held many blasphemous doctrines, they also taught me some valuable truths.

From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here is an excerpt that relates how I began communing with the heavenly Father daily.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Though I petitioned and thanked God once in a while, as in the case of Mom finding me my new room, nobody taught me about the importance of having communion with him through prayer every day. That changed soon after I moved to Mr. Forcier's house. "Are you praying every day?" Terry asked me after church one Sunday as we ate lunch in Sister E's kitchen.

"No. Why should I? I don't need anything now."

"You really should do that, you know. Prayer is important because it's part of your relationship with Jesus Christ."

"Oh? I didn't know that."

"Well, it's true. You shouldn't pray just when you need something. The apostle Paul used to pray daily. He even said in his letter to the Ephesians that he prayed for his friends each day."

I considered this new concept as I ate and later as Sister E drove me home. "What if Felix or the Forciers overhear me praying?" I worried. "Jesus did say to go into your closet and pray so nobody else will hear? Will I lose my blessing or get in trouble with God if somebody overhears me?" As I pondered, I recalled that a science teacher once told me about white noise and the way its broad frequency spectrum drowned out speech. The sole source of that type of sound I had on hand was my radio.

Once I was alone in my room, I selected the F.M. band and tuned the dial between stations. Then I spoke in a low voice to Jesus. My first daily prayer only lasted a few minutes. Since nobody knocked at my door and demanded to know to whom I was speaking, as Mrs. R often did, I omitted the white noise from then on.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

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.


March 26, 2011

Spring Cleaning - Karen Toews

Mom was a housekeeper extraordinaire. Keeping a small farm house holding a family of seven clean and organized must have been no small feat - my sister and I contributed with our Saturday's chores but it was Mom's efficiency and energy that kept things on course. Included in this regime was a thorough going-over of the house in the spring and fall. I am very grateful for her example and work ethic, but have come to terms with my standard of what's acceptable for my house.

Spring arrived this week and unlike many other years, I was house-cleaning. Sort of. I was wiping down cupboards, dusting off furniture and unpacking boxes that have been stored in an old barn for nine months. Everything was in fine condition, other than some rub marks on the leather sofa and the evidence of hungry rodents' shredded newspaper bits and fluff balls of fabric. Nothing too bad, except I have some serious mending to do on a couple Teddy bears that happen to be the grandkids' favorites.

In spite of diligent purging when I packed up all those boxes, I still have stuff that does not merit a home in our new house. It's the paper goods that trip me up. Pictures, sheets torn out of magazines, articles, books - how can they all feel like such 'close friends' when I haven't looked at many of them for months, if not years. I'm trying to be: ruthless, to anticipate what I really will use and want in the future, and allow myself freedom to make decisions to toss or not that may bring regret later.

Pretty much everything is in its place, the house is (mostly) clean - there is certainly a satisfaction to this spring cleaning thing.

I've been thinking about my other living space - the inner one where God dwells. A place where thoughts, attitudes, doubts, fear, sin - and joys, victories, yearnings, hope - wiggle into nooks and crevices. I need to review the contents of my heart for cleaning out or for polishing - regularly, not just once or twice a year.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."I John 1:9 (KJV)

March 25, 2011

If only... Dorothy Bentley

I used to think, 'If only I could get one story published, I will quit everything else, and focus on writing.'


I thought having one story published would officially announce to the world that I am a writer and I could be steadily employed thereafter.


I have learned some very important lessons since my first article was published.


1. Writers must work very hard. This saying is true: writing is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.


2. A few writers have editors and publishers approach them, but most, even published novelists, have to submit queries and book proposals and jump through all the same hoops as first time novelists.


3. No matter how wonderful writing is, there is still the nasty business part of the job. Why can't literary agents write book proposals, queries, and do record keeping? (I suppose successful writers employ assistants for a reason!)


4. The most important virtue for a writer is patience. Waiting to hear back from agents and editors may be the worse type of waiting, unless I keep busy writing something new.


5. No matter how little I earn as a writer, I will still write. I'm afraid my writing habits are sort of like a strange addiction, for which there is no cure.


(Sigh)


Thankfully, as a Christian writer, regardless of how much I earn, I am working for the Lord.


Leo Tolstoy said:


"It is within my power either to serve God or not to serve him. Serving him, I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good, which was in my power to create."


Now, I think...



If only the Lord will allow me to write something to touch someone's heart and life, I will be pleased.


March 24, 2011

The Perfect Companion — Lynda Schultz


A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” —Proverbs 18:22, NIV.

Try pushing him away. He may put a little distance between you and him because of your choices, but he’s always within reach and never out of sight. A whisper will reach him in a jiffy, a sigh will bring him running. He winces when you call him names and accuse him of not caring, but he never stops caring. You can try to replace him, but an army wouldn’t fit in the hole he has made in your life. Anyone else would be uncomfortable in his place—it’s not “one size fits all.”

When it rains on your life, he’s there with the umbrella and the galoshes. When it’s cold, he has the warmest mittens and the fuzziest wool socks. On sunny days, he brings flowers and cool lemonade and walks with you on the trail through the woods. He’ll walk beside you if you let him; if you’re angry at him, he’ll walk behind you. He’s already walked ahead to check for rough spots in the path even if you didn’t appreciate it. When the leaves begin to change colour and there is a sharpness in the air, he directs your attention to the flock of geese heading south and the harvest moon rising in solemn splendor.

You can ignore him, but he never ignores you. When you wrap yourself in his warmth and delight in his companionship, music takes on a sliver sound, colour reflects a different hue, pets seems more precious, and the sharp edges of people seem softer somehow. The world changes as your friendship with him deepens.

His touch is better than a band-aid on the scratches that life leaves on our soul. His voice brings comfort and counsel in ways that defy the brightest and most prepared minds. His smile lights up your world.

Other friends are good, but no one does friendship better than Jesus.

March 22, 2011

It's About Time - Brenda Leyland

I just read someone discussing how quickly the year is flying by (at about speed up x 3).

I know the feeling, and yet sometimes I wonder why we express such surprise about it. Why do we lament and think it's a bad thing? Is it? Would we prefer our days to crawl by at turtle pace? Would that be more acceptable?

Perhaps we focus on it flying by because something on the inside reminds us that our days are indeed numbered and we'd like to slow that journey a little. Perhaps we fret that our days are spilled out on things that matter not in the end. Perhaps we hope for the time we'll be better organized and ready to meet each day with the confidence we're finally doing it right.

In my own search for living life more beautifully, I've been thinking I'd like to hold my days more lightly and to quit fretting about how fast they seem to be passing. If they are, indeed, flying by at warp speed, it seems a pity to waste even a moment of it being anxious in any way, wouldn't you think?


 
Originally posted on It's A Beautiful Life



March 21, 2011

Creative As God is Creative - Tracy Krauss

This is the first day of spring and also my 'birthday' as a new creation. Twenty Nine Years ago today I gave my life to Christ. It's hard to believe it has been that long. God has brought about many changes in my life, but I also see that He did not take away the things that made me who I am. Being a 'new creation' doesn't mean you have to give up the things you were hard wired to do. After all, God created each and every one if us to be unique individuals with certain ingrained talents and giftings. Let me give you an example.

I love the arts. I am an artist, a theatre director, a musician, and of course, a writer. Sometimes it's hard for me to choose between all of these creative pursuits because I love each and every one. But there is one thing I do know - GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF CREATION! And in saying that, I believe that God, the divine and ultimate creative force, loves to see His children emulate Him in creative ways. The fact that many of the artistic disciplines have taken a less than godly turn does not mean that they are inherently evil! Oh contrare! It is up to those of us involved in the arts to take them back for God. For what better way is there to point to the divine than through the arts?

Most people can accept serene meadows or majestic mountains on canvas. Maybe they can even stretch themselves to include some abstract art if they can make some kind of emotional connection. The fact that art, as a form of communication, should and MUST encompass all aspects of the human condition seems to be lost on many well meaning folks, however. I’m talking about all artistic disciplines here – even the dramatic arts, which are often shunned unless it’s an Easter Passion Play, the nativity, or a short evangelistic skit. Unfortunately, it is often our own 'family' - fellow believers - that want to squelch our divinely given creative drive if it doesn't fit neatly into a church appropriate box. This has caught me off guard, even in today’s post-modern move away from playing church.

Being a Christian should not be a compartmentalized experience. We are to live out our faith in every aspect of our lives, from the time we wake until we lay our heads down again at night and this includes expressing ourselves artistically through whatever medium God has called us to. The world needs artists. We are to be the salt and the light to a dying generation and if we're cowering away in the bubbles of our own making, that is pretty hard to do. Christian artists - of all disciplines - must rise up to take their place in the body of Christ.

I am happy to say that I do see a shift. Many churches invite artists to ‘worship’ on canvas during the service, I’ve been delighted by a greater use of drama in the church beyond the usual object lesson, and I’ve even been in a couple of churches where dancers were part of the worship team. It’s a step in the right direction. When we look into God’s word, we see that he employed all the arts in the establishment of the tabernacle and later in the temple. God, as the ultimate creative force, has hardwired us ‘in His image’. It is up to us to encourage and foster our creative minds in ways that are glorifying to Him.  

March 20, 2011

Talking to Yourself - Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild discussion forum, Peter Black asked the question, “How many of us engage in the practice of talking out loud to ourselves? (I know I talk back to the radio and tv more than I ever did!) ~Is it something that comes naturally to us because we are accustomed (especially fiction writers, perhaps) to working out dialogue between characters? Perhaps inner conversations so easily become an outward thing with us (er, at least some of us). Hmm, could be dangerous!"

N. J. Lindquist answered, “Not only have I talked to myself pretty well all my life, but I've also discussed things with my dolls, stuffed toys, paper dolls, my children before they were born and when they were less than a year old, and my dogs. My family is used to hearing me talking and ignoring me - rather annoying when I'm actually talking to them. :-)”

Like N. J., Darlene Oakley talks to herself all the time. “I do this all the time. I talk to the radio too. Just don't start arguing with yourself. The good thing about talking to yourself is you're always right, you have a very attentive audience, and there's no chance of you being ignored! :-)”

Benjamin Collier shared, “I believe it was Tolkien's Gandalf who said of talking to one's self, "A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to." Of course, I've had that habit for a while now and I'm only in my 20s - but I do have A.D.D. I use it to defend both sides of an argument, if I'm expecting to have a deep spiritual conversation with someone in the near future. It's also good for brainstorming and problem solving. I don't know how "normal folk" get along without it. :)”

Do you talk out loud to yourself? Has it helped you in your writing? Has it caused any embarrassing situations? Do share!

March 19, 2011

Catastrophe After Catastrophe

By Ruth Sakstad

I've been watching the news over the last couple of months as catastrophe after catastrophe happens around the world - earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fires, wars.  The aid workers around the world can't keep up.

I believe that this is the time for Christians to step up to the plate as never before.  I haven't been able to get out of my mind the thousands of Japanese people who went to a Christless eternity last weekend.  Families were torn apart.  Parents have lost their children, children have lost their parents.  My heart aches for them.

I also realize that all of the things did not catch God by surprise and He can work things out for good even though we have no idea how.

All of these catastrophes have caused me to move my prayers from the simple "God bless me and my family" to something deeper and outside myself.

The earth groans but God is still in control.  For that I am very grateful.

Ruth Sakstad

March 17, 2011

Japan: Suffering Front and Centre - Bryan Norford

The devastation in Japan again prompts the question, “Does God really care about suffering?” It is an understandable response to adversity that appears random and pointless. After all, common wisdom suggests that tragedies like Japan are evidence that God does not care, or even exist.

On his pilgrimage towards Christianity, C. S. Lewis wondered why, in the presence of so much suffering, this belief in a God of love persisted. For him, this became part of the evidence for a God of love. In fact, the Bible helps us understand that this contradiction between God’s love and our suffering is only “skin deep.”

This doesn’t mean that Christians have all the answers to suffering. Unfortunately, the pain of our suffering often hinders us from understanding that God is involved in the pain with us. At the same time, we cannot always grasp the incapacitating nature of another’s pain from the outside.

It is only when we can feel or fully empathize with another’s pain that we can have meaningful discussion on it. Bridging this gap is difficult: it is too easy to give wrong or pat answers. Yet an objective understanding of scriptural truth about suffering is necessary if we are to find significance to our pain.

Hardship will often blunt our perception and the fog of pain obscure reality, but there will be occasions for clear thinking. For instance, will we consider James’ use of “joy” and “trials” in the same sentence (James 1:2) too bizarre for consideration, or recognize his intention to bring meaning to our distress?

James’ uses this tactic of surprise to entice us to consider the benefit gained from life’s tragedies; they are not insignificant or unproductive. James’ notes the primary gain for all who undergo trials—the strengthening of our faith.

The original Greek word for “trial” is used for both words test and temptation in English Bible translations. The New Testament authors understood that all trials—“trials of many kinds” as James declares—are a test, a temptation to disbelieve.

This is not to glorify suffering, often wrongly embraced as means to spiritual rewards. Jesus always sought to alleviate suffering and for most of us it is unwanted and temporary, however interminable it may seem at the time.

But when it is unavoidable, it is a tool for deepening our faith and our lives. As a ship’s captain matures in his understanding of his trade by weathering the storms at sea, so by persevering in our faith during the storms of life we may become “mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”

Bruce Waltke, a translator of the Old Testament, tells the story of his young son facing a painful vaccination. His father took him towards the source of his fear—the needle. Despite the boy’s fear, he clung more tightly to him! The son’s simple faith in his father’s overall care was greater than his fear of the pain.

During times of despair and temptation to run from God, let our trust in His overarching care drive us to cling more tightly to Him and his word. Then we’re prepared with comfort for the suffering and weary.


Some further thoughts on the Japanese tragedy can be found at www.norfords.blogpsot.com/ 






March 15, 2011

Lydia - Her Opportunities are Great!


Janice Keats

Scripture: Acts 16: 11-15

I picture Lydia as a happy and content woman. It showed in her hospitality when she persuaded her Christian friends to stay at her house when they came to town. Lydia and her guests were worshippers of God. What do you suppose sustained their happiness in worshipping God? I believe they supported each other and shared progress in ministry. Sharing good news among friends generates pure joy in the Lord. It motivates and encourages and builds faith, resulting in being filled with abundant blessings!

There is so much opportunity in the Christian life. There is the opportunity to fellowship, and to experience God’s love and joy in serving Him. Lydia was a servant of God and her community. Perhaps she partnered with others as she ran her business of selling purple cloth. Her joy was from the Lord! God has given each of us gifts and abilities and the opportunity to avail of them. Have we availed of our opportunities and accepted God’s courage to do His Will? His Will has been perfected and chosen for each person. So we can release all that hinders our walk with Him, because He has given His best to us.

We each have the opportunity to share in the peace, the fulfillment and a prosperous life. Much like Lydia’s life. We have been given different gifts but there is one thing that God has given that is the same for everyone. We all have been given the same promises from God! You may wonder what they are. He will give us strength to do His Will. He will give us courage to reach out to others. He promises forgiveness when we go astray, and He promises to be near to the brokenhearted, just to name a few.

God’s Word is full of promises that can never be broken. Psalm 46: 1, 2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Another promise He provides is, “He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9). We can taste and see that God is good. It requires simple trusting faith, and then we will discover that God is indeed God, and He always come through on His promises. Just ask anyone who has had his or her prayers answered.

Janice Keats

March 14, 2011

Second Chance


What about the greedy one? We’ve all heard the story of the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch. But have you heard about the guy who held his lunch tightly?

He had swiped a handful of flatbreads, warm from his mama's clay oven, and smeared honey over them while his friends tugged at his sleeve. “You always need to eat Yacob! And now he's getting away. The Rabbi is leaving!”

Yacob ran to catch his friends following the Rabbi through the marketplace and into the hills. This Man would do something amazing, like touch people’s ears and they would hear again, but it was the stories Yeshua told that Yacob wanted to hear.

And after he’d sat spellbound all afternoon and the sun stretched its golden fingers across the lake of Galilee, his stomach growled, reminding him of the lunch tucked in the belt at his waist. Others thought the same thing apparently. A brawl broke out between two men beside him, one wanting the food the other had brought.

When a roman whip whizzed by his face, Yacob skittered sideways and clutched his robe closer to himself. Better to not show his food than to end up with a bloody nose. But he was so hungry.

Yacob wound his way through the murmuring crowd to the edge where he could nibble at his bread without having to share. That’s when he noticed that Yeshua, the man from God, had also separated himself from the crowd and was sitting on a rock overlooking the valley.

His eyes held a knowing smile. Yacob dropped his hand from the belt, his fingers burning with guilt. Of course. He stepped forward, wanting to give it to the One who knew all secrets, but Yacob thought about the fresh bread and his mouth watered. What good would his little bit of food do? It would only cause another fight to break out. Yacob turned away, and disappointment sickened his stomach.

What happened next turned the honey sour in his mouth. If only he had trusted Yeshua, the all-knowing One.

Yacob walked home behind his friends, hiding his hands with dust clinging to his honey-coated fingers. How many times did they need to re-tell the story? Of how they stuffed themselves on the never-ending barley loaves. And how fish had never tasted so good! It could have been his lunch that Yeshua held to the sky. He could be the one they were holding on their shoulders now. Instead...

Yacob stopped in the road and glanced back at the hills. That hand on his shoulder as the men were gathering all the leftovers. It felt warm like a spring rain washing his soul.

Yeshua had spoken to him then. What was it he’d said? “Yacob.” He knew his name. “Is there something you wanted to give me?”

Yacob had ducked his head, felt the heat of shame sear his cheeks. “I ate it.” He had choked on the words.

“I didn’t need your food, Yacob. Just you." Yeshua lifted Yacob’s chin and smiled. "You're all I ever wanted."

And then he was gone, with a wink as he turned.

Someday he’d see Yeshua again. And next time he’d hold nothing back.
by Pamela Mytroen

March 12, 2011

InScribers Review: Neruda's Memoirs - Review by Violet Nesdoly

I have, in the last few weeks, stumbled across another community of poets. I found them through paying attention to a blog network (The High Calling.org) on which, some months ago, I listed a devotional blog I write.

Last week on the blog of L. L. Barkat (HighCalling.org's editor and an accomplished poet in her own right) I saw the book trailer of Neruda's Memoirs. It was irresistible bait for a debut collection of poems by Maureen Doallas (whose name I had started noticing in comments on various HC blogs).

I bought the book — in a Kindle version.

The book is divided into four sections: Enter, Listen, Exit and Remember. Doallas introduces each section with a short essay. Here's a little of what she says to preface the "Listen" poems:

"I could acknowledge that I was a writer. I made my living by my writing and my editorial skills. I relinquished the notion that I could be a poet.


Until one late November afternoon in 2007, when my brother, just two years older than I, called to tell me he had cancer and was given a timeline of weeks. I was a thousand miles away. I wanted to make matter what I wanted to say, and I wanted to hear what he had never said before" - Kindle Location 598.

And so she began writing — and it came out in poetry. As she puts it:

"...poem after poem I shared with an online cancer support group...Sharing the words that illuminated my experience became the group's experience too. The words came to be more than good enough. I learned how my voice could speak for more than me alone..." - KL 605

I understand the connection between death and needing to write. I experienced that in 2006 when, within a matter of three months, both my mother-in-law and my mom died.

The brother thing resonated too. Just this July we were told my brother with cancer had weeks to live. He proved the doctors wrong, for he had months. But his January 25, 2011 death still feels raw.

And so it is not surprising that Doallas's poems like "Nothing is Ever the Same" speak for me. They feel like my own words:

"...Nothing is ever the same
or could be the same

After you left

After you left
dust on your collections
hats, books, scraps,
of half-thought dreams unbound —

Piled on

As time piled on
to keep me busy unforgetting

The nothing that is never the same
when your name no longer gets called."
(KL: 1625)

Let me close with some more lines from the book that strike a chord:

"Neruda said the closest thing to poetry
is a loaf of bread
or a ceramic dish
or a piece of wood lovingly carved."
(KL: 1489)
© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly



This post was first published on February 18, 2011 at Line Upon Line.

March 11, 2011

Ancient questions - Stephen Berg

After many hours of silence and dead air, news of safety from a son in a land far away hit by an earthquake and tsunami, is like getting permission to breath again. An occasion of joy. A moment to celebrate.

But of those who have lost everything, lost family, friends, livelihood, in effect, life, the suffocation of disbelief, of shock, and the finality of absence will stretch on as though terminally.

How to comfort? How to live with the guilt of survival? How to live? How to mourn? What path again to acceptance, life, joy? Such ancient questions.

To approach these questions with words of humility, with reverence for the present, with clarity of occasion, and in the understanding of "otherhood," is this not a primary task of Christian writing? As well, the task of being human.

I had planned another post but this will suffice.

March 08, 2011

Empowered -- Janet Sketchley


“I can’t do this without You, LORD.”

Many of us pray this way regularly, about hard tasks or scary appointments, or just about hauling our exhausted selves out of bed to face another day.

It’s a fine prayer, and it’s scriptural. Jesus warned us, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

The key is where we put the emphasis. If we focus on the difficulty “I can’t do this” it weighs us down. If we focus on Jesus, our hope and strength “I can’t do this without You” it reminds us where our confidence lies.

Acknowledging our weakness keeps us from getting into messes. Focusing there could keep us from doing anything at all. Let our weaknesses remind us that Jesus offers His strength. Our confidence is in Him, and He is enough.

© Janet Sketchley. (Reprinted from the archives of God with Us: Finding Joy, April 2008)
--------
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

March 02, 2011

New Notebook - Marcia Laycock

I wrote the poem below as I was hitting a major milestone – I turned 50. As I scanned it today I was encouraged by my own words, now that I’m facing another milestone, a decade later. Yes, I’ll soon celebrate my 60th birthday. My husband preceded me in this life event and breezed through it with hardly a comment. I was in serious denial on his behalf, probably because I knew my turn was around the bend. But I am encouraged, now, as I look ahead. As the poem says, I am tingling just a little as I think of what might be coming down the road, both in this world and in the next. I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to, because “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:26). Hope you enjoy the poem.

New Notebook (On Turning 50)
by Marcia Laycock

It's time to change
pull this one out, free
of its binder

pages of poetry
scraps of prose
notes names quotations numbers
scattered meaning
disjointed wisdom on
ordered pages
ruled, margined words

my life put away
pages
come to an end

I think about the next
choices - what color on the cover
divided pages or run-together
thick or thin
spiral or bound
ruled or blank

I tingle
something new
about to begin.