December 31, 2012

Why Do We Write? - Donna Fawcett and Duke


We're pleased to welcome Donna Fawcett and Duke the Chihuahua today at InScribe Writers Online as our special Guest Bloggers.


Duke and I have had a very fulfilling year. He has quite an eye for editing although he wouldn't call himself an editor and I must admit that he thinks in an abstract way--something I value in order to stay on track. I asked Duke what we should share in this blog post and he immediately jumped to your suggested topic of  Closing Out the Year Right.

We conversed about it and this is what he had to say:
"Writing isn't just a career. No matter what a person--or dog--believes in, writing is an expression of that belief. We, as authors and writers, strive to convey our beliefs to the reader whether it is a conscious or unconscious effort. Knowing this, Donna and I always return to our main focus--why do we write?
We need to answer that question continually in order to fulfill our mission as writers. So why do we write? Do we write simply to be read? Or do we have a deep-seated desire to share truth with those around us? If so, what exactly is that truth? Donna and I look to the Bible to find our truth and once we've found it, we look for the most professional way of sharing that truth. We can't afford sloppy writing because it hints at sloppy subject matter and there is nothing sloppy about Biblical truth!

As you close out your year, ask yourself why you write. Ask yourself what you believe in and why you believe in it. Push the line and search your heart for the answer to the question 'why do I believe what I believe'. You need to know all of that. If you don't, your readers won't find that your writing carries the conviction needed to convince them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a rather delicious-looking bowl of kibble waiting for me."

While I agree with Duke's assessment of the purpose of writing, I must admit that he needs a bit of tweaking in the manners department. At any rate, it is very important for a writer to understand the 'why' behind writing. For myself, I know I have been put on this earth to glorify God. My writing is an extension of that glorification. Its purpose is to show Christ to readers in a way that will draw them--not preach at them. As Duke and I approach year's end, we remind each other to look to the reason not only for the season but for all that we do.

~ Donna Fawcett





Duke and Donna have recently published their fun, new book entitled Duke the Chihuahua Writes! A Tutorial for Beginning Writers.

It's available on smashwords.com and can be purchased for $.99 US.




Donna Fawcett is the former creative writing instructor for Fanshawe College. Donna has had the honour of receiving awards for her writing (Inscribe contest finalist, The Word Awards Best Contemporary Novel for Rescued and Vengeance, Best Song Lyrics for Heaven's Light, Polar Expressions finalist, top ninety in The Writer's Union contest, Canada Reads Pick of the Day.) Donna teamed up with Duke the Chihuahua after recognizing his incredible gift for finding the flaws in her writing. Donna suspects that Duke would love to find the flaws in many other areas of her life as well, but isn't willing to give him that opportunity.  You can find Donna at: www.donnafawcett.com.

Duke the Chihuahua is a canine turned writer/proof reader. In spite of his diminutive size and lack of chompers, Duke can tackle the scariest manuscript and take more than a bite out of the sloppy writing there. Duke and his side-kick, Bee (a juvenile German Shepherd) feel it is their mission in life to keep author, singer, songwriter Donna Fawcett on the literary straight and narrow. Here is their link: www.dukeandbeewrite.com.


 

December 30, 2012

Looking Forward - Susan Barclay

It's natural, as the year comes to an end, to look back and reflect on the events of the past twelve months, to consider how far (or not so far) one has come in that period of time, and to consider the year ahead.

Often it's a time when people create 'resolutions' or formulate goals. From my experience and from what I've heard from others, resolutions are usually broken within a couple of weeks. Instead of recommitting and moving forward, people tend to throw their hands up in despair and stop their self-improvement efforts.

Personally, I have moved from making resolutions to setting goals.While I admit that attempts to accomplish my 2012 goals using the Pick Four system failed, I still managed to complete two of the four on that list - finishing a Christmas short story (published in the anthology All Wrapped Up) and losing weight (17 pounds!).

Jan PlanAs I look toward 2013, I have jumped on the Jan Plan wagon, which I found out about on one of the blogs I follow. According to the original post, "The Jan Plan will involve committing to finish one project. One. However you define 'finish'. Just doing what you have to do to get one project out of your unfinished knitting basket." My one project will be the completion of a short story I started this fall. If I successfully "get 'er done", I imagine there will be a Feb Plan, Mar Plan, etc. Please think about joining me and signing up for the challenge!


In the last couple of days, I've also been thinking about how to grow my character this year to become a less critical person. Yes, I admit this is an area in which I struggle. I can be critical of others as well as myself, not even attempting to extend compassion, understanding, or grace - especially if I'm around other judgmental people, who are quick to see the sawdust in another's eye while ignoring the plank in their own (Matthew 7:3-5). From the thoughts and mutterings I was wrestling with yesterday, I know this isn't going to be easy, but I'm determined. It will require me to learn more of God's Word, lean into and depend on Him, and remember that through Christ I have all I need for godly living (2 Peter 1:3). If I come to your mind this year, won't you pray for me?

For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca





December 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Ruth L. Snyder

The phone's insistent ring interrupted my quiet Sunday morning. "Good morning. Is Kendall there? My furnace is beeping and it's only 15 degrees in my house." It was my mother-in-law.

I glanced at the thermometer. It was -31 Celsius outside. I passed the phone to my husband and then mentally reviewed my "to do" list:
  • Set the table for breakfast
  • Wake up our five children
  • Make cake for church coffee fellowship
  • Get dressed for church
  • Make sure all our children were dressed for church
  • Have breakfast
  • Clean up from breakfast
  • Drive to church
  • Shovel the snow off the walk at church
  • Make coffee, tea, and juice
Kendall layered up and went outside. I thought he had left to fix the furnace until he came back in the house, stomping the snow off his boots. "The alternator isn't working in the van. I'll have to drive it over to fix Mom's furnace. The other van has tools on the seats. You'll have to move them so the kids have a place to sit."

I nodded, but inside I was grumbling. One more thing to add to my list. The morning rush continued. No more complications. Everyone was dressed, we had eaten, and we were getting coats on. Our fifteen-year-old daughter had helped by moving most of the tools. Just as I was going out the door, Kendall came in. "I remembered that I had the key to the church. I'll trade vans with you. The furnace still isn't working, so I'm going back to finish the job."


We arrived at church. Several centimetres of fresh, fluffy snow blanketed the sidewalk. I unlocked the church, plugged in the coffee maker, and recruited a couple of my children to help shovel snow. By now my head was pounding. I was scheduled to have an abscessed tooth removed in a couple days, but in the meantime it was painful. Thankfully the snow was loose and easy to shovel.

Back inside, most of the children found books to read and I returned to the kitchen to make coffee and set out the supplies for our weekly fellowship time after church. The early coffee crew soon began to drift in. Then it was time for church to start.

My next task was to figure out how best to configure the seating arrangement to discourage fighting and fidgeting. I sat between my youngest son and one of my twins and held our four-year-old daughter on my lap. The twin that didn't get to sit beside me was upset and started acting up. The pre-service singing time became a balancing act of finding the appropriate hymn and sorting out grievances before they were resolved physically. I tried to focus on the words.

After the opening hymns and announcements our pastor called the children up to the front of the church. I opened my wallet and distributed offering money. Then I sighed in relief as all the children made their way to Sunday School. My mind was still going at warp speed when I joined the congregation singing the offertory. We sing the words every Sunday, but today they hit home in a new way.
"Father God, we today bring our gifts to the altar. All our prayers, work, and play, all our hope for tomorrow. All of our failures and our success in this day we're living. All we are, and hope to be, in Christ's sacrifice giving."
"Lord, forgive me for my grouchy attitude. Thank you for your many blessings in my life. Still my heart and my thoughts and help me to hear from You today. I bring You the gift of myself - all my failures and my successes. Amen"

At times we may feel like life is conspiring against us. I often remind my children that we cannot change what happens to us, but we can change our attitude. Obviously I need that reminder too. I'm thankful that God is patient with me and catches my attention. Hopefully I'll be able to avoid the Sunday blues in 2013 - not necessarily because circumstances are different, but because I choose a positive attitude.



www.trusteesnyder.blogspot.com
(Education information)
www.ruthlsnyder.com
(Ruth's writing and family life) 
www.earlyyearssuccess.com
(Information for caregivers of children ages 0-5)
Follow Ruth on Twitter:www.twitter.com/@wwjdr


December 28, 2012

Socking It To The Poor -- Bruce Atchison

How sad it is that the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has developed into a greed fest. Though people attend Christmas Eve services, their minds are filled with the excitement of getting and giving presents. Some folks contribute to The Salvation Army or a similar charity but the poor and disenfranchised are often an afterthought in the hectic schedule of the holiday season.

Though I had turned my back on God during the early nineties, I still felt that I should do something to help street people in need of some holiday cheer. At a discount stor, I bought as many woolen socks as I could afford. Then I took a shopping bag full of them down to the Salvation Army a few mornings before Christmas.

"I'd like to donate these to you folks to help the street people," I explained to a skeptical man at their distribution depot. "Since I don't celebrate Christmas anymore, I thought I'd help them out in a practical way."

The Salvation Army clerk opened the bag and stared in astonishment at all the brand new winter socks. "This is amazing," he exclaimed in wonder. "People usually come here to get something, not to give."

"Well, I figure that these people need something like this more than my well-off friends so I decided to buy these socks for them."

"Thanks for bringing these in to us," he said as he smiled and shook my hand. "Thats wonderful of you to do this."

I strolled out of the front door, finally feeling I'd done something noble for my fellow man.

Whoever said that Jesus was the only person who never gets presents on his birthday these days got it right in most cases. It all seems so pointless to give gifts to those who will just give you something back. Like Christ said about banquets, it's better to invite those who are too poor to invite you back again. Far too many folks are wound up in partying, visiting, and banqueting at this time of year. Why not invite somebody who has nobody to be with at this time of year to supper or lunch? Why not help out at a ministry to the street people? Remember too that there are people in need all year round, not just at this season.

December 24, 2012

Heaven's Delight! - Lynn Dove

My mother had a Danish expression for the feeling that surrounds us on Christmas Eve but for the life of me I couldn't remember how to spell the word, until my cousin from Denmark sent me the correct spelling.

"Hyggeaften"

I asked my mother once what the word meant but she just said, "English words can't describe it adequately."

 "Aften" means evening or night, but "Hygge" means: peaceful, calm, serene, homey, silent, glowing, harmonious, joyful, affable, warm, genial, sedate, placid, expectant, delightful, still, tranquil...well, I guess Mom was right...you can't pinpoint the words to adequately describe this danish word or the feelings "hygge" evokes.

Christmas Eve. "Hyggeaften"...the pictures from my childhood comfort me like a soft warm blanket. Picture a warm, crackling fire in the fire place. The soft glow of candlelight, the twinkling of lights on the Christmas tree. The warmth of a cup of cocoa. My cat, softly purring, curled up on my lap. Subdued sounds of Christmas carols playing in the background. My mother knitting beside me, my father smoking his pipe and silently watching the fire dance in the hearth. The feeling of safety and belonging and love. It's Christmas Eve.

It doesn't matter where I am in the world, Christmas Eve for me will always be "Hyggeaften". It's an emotion, more than a word. It is peace on earth, good will to all men and its origin began in Bethlehem when baby Jesus was born.

It is silent night. People then had no idea what was about to happen on that silent night. The sound of a baby's first cry would be no more astonishing to hear than a cow lowing or the mewling of a lamb, but the angels in heaven certainly knew the significance of that baby's arrival because they immediately appeared in the night sky and sang, to the shock and wonderment of their shepherd audience, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

This special event had been planned from the beginning of time, and the angels were finally able to proclaim that the Christ Child was born! Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! Immanuel, God with us! Imagine the joy from heaven! At last, heaven's darling sent to dwell amongst us.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room...let heaven and nature sing! Heaven's excitement, our delight!

But on a hill far away, there is a cross silhouetted against the night sky. The angels know it's part of God's plan, but still they sing, not in spite of it but because of it.

Come to Bethlehem and see, Christ Whose birth the angels sing; Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King. Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

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

Lynn Dove calls herself a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order). She is the author of award winning books: The Wounded Trilogy.  Her blog, Journey Thoughts won a Canadian Christian Writing Award - 2011.  She has also had essays published in "Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul - Parenthood" (March 2013).  Readers may connect with Lynn on Facebook, Twitter and on her blogs: Journey Thoughts and Word Salt or on her website: www.shootthewounded.org



 

December 21, 2012

Joseph - The Overlooked Character in the Nativity Story - Sulo Moorthy

Mary, Baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, the Star and the manger mostly stole the spotlight in the Nativity scene while Joseph moved about as a shadowy figure in the picture. We haven't heard of any carol sung about him or a song equivalent to " Mary , do you know your Baby boy," that asked Joseph what he thought about bringing up the Christ Child as his own baby boy.

What a tremendous responsibility and high expectation were placed upon his shoulders,yet no one bothered to write a song pondering about Joseph's situations. I hadn't given much thought to him either until my pastor focused his entire sermon on Joseph on last Sunday.

Joseph was no ordinary man as we assume him to be. According to Gospel of Mathew 1:19, he was a righteous man, meaning he stood right with God. Because he stood right with God, he had the wisdom to do the right thing at the right time.

Any other man in his shoes would have dragged Mary to a public place to be stoned to death no sooner he heard about her pregnancy from Mary's own mouth. But Joseph chose not to do that. That showed how much he must have loved and trusted Mary enough to not to disgrace her publicly. He could have easily cleared his name and protected his reputation by condemning Mary with adultery.

If Joseph chose to marry the pregnant Mary, his community would definitely spit on his face for impregnating a virgin before marriage. No one would have bought Mary's story of angel appearing to her and she becoming pregnant by the power of Holy Spirit. Joseph was sure of facing the scorn of his parents as well as Mary's parents. His also faced the risk of losing his business customers and his livelihood for the sake of his support for Mary. From every angle Joseph must have foreseen the humiliation and rejection from his people.

Gone were the nights, which he spent on dreaming of the wonderful life he was going to have with Mary and the dream house he was planning to build. All those dreams must have got shattered when Mary broke the news of her pregnancy to him. Now, he had to come up with another plan to get out of the marriage without dragging Mary's reputation in the mud. So, he decided to divorce her quietly,

His new plan didn't work either, for an angel of the Lord interrupted his sleep in a dream and told him what he need to do next. It wasn't what Joseph planned to do. Yet, he was willing to change his plans and act according to God's plans. No wonder God chose no other man, but Joseph to bring up His only begotten Son down here on earth. Joseph was a righteous and obedient man of God, a perfect role model for Jesus to grow up under his roof.

The Bible also records that Joseph had no union with his wife Mary until she gave birth to God's Son Jesus. Yes, Joseph honored Mary's hallowed call on her life and let go of his husband right. He put Mary's purity and comfort before his need and pleasure. No husband would want to make that decision on his wedding day. Yet, Joseph did. By doing so, he stood taller than any other man in honor. No wonder, God chose no other man, but Joseph to be the earthly father to love and bring up baby Jesus to manhood.

When the call came to him in a dream to take his wife and baby to Egypt, Joseph raised no question. Later, when he was commanded to go back home, he acted at once. His trust in God must had been so strong and steadfast, he showed no hesitance whenever God asked him to do something. It's no surprise that the eyes of the Lord which are on the righteous chose Joseph to be the perfect father to bring up Jesus on earth.

Mary, the highly favored one was called the blessed one among women, and Joseph was called the righteous man. Both had a high calling in their lives to raise God's Son in a loving and healthy environment and both did their part well in raising boy Jesus to become what His heavenly Father intended Him to be.

What a great couple, what a strong marriage and what a holy family to remember during this Christmas season! Yes, no one wrote or sang a song, " Joseph, did you know that the Baby in the manger would one day raise the dead and make the blind see?" Yet, that doesn't diminish the important role Joseph played in the greatest story ever told on earth-the birth of Jesus.

(Published in Precious Moments on 12/23/2010)

December 20, 2012

Beyond Our Pain by Brenda J Wood


I never know what will bring on memories and tears. I start into church thinking today is a good day. Someone says hello and I dissolve into tears. A song plays on the car radio and I have to pull over because I can’t see to drive.

A part of me is gone. I am not who I was. I was a We for fifty years and now I am a Me. I’ve lost part of myself. I feel like a birch tree, bark slowly being peeled away, limbs being ripped off one by one. My better half is gone.

I feel off balance, abnormal even. Empty space surrounds me. It is the absence of my Beloved.

I slowly adjust. A large socket wrench twists at my being, turning me into a different person with excruciating slowness. And why not? Husbands and wives are one flesh. That is why recovery time is so long, so hard and so difficult. How would you feel if someone ripped off your arm or your leg, leaving a gaping hole where it once was attached?
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman', for she was taken out of man.” Genesis 2:23 - 24 NIV
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Much of our human comfort comes from those who have been through the same things. In my case it is other widows, simply because they too have had gaping, open wounds in their innermost selves.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  Luke 10:34 (NIV)
 
And our spiritual comfort comes from the Christ…..who also experienced wounds.
He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed."  1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

Prayer:  Lord God, give us courage to reach beyond our own pain to encourage another. Amen.


~ Brenda J Wood


December 19, 2012

Go Tell it on the Mountain - Linda Aleta Tame

Christmas, in my past, was problematic.  I was raised in an exclusive religious group that didn't believe in Christmas.  My dad was also raised with the same belief system, but he left it behind when he was a young man.  My mom embraced the system's tenets when she met my dad, so our home was a divided home.  We sometimes had a Christmas tree, but along with my five siblings, I knew it was wrong.  There were a few reasons it was wrong to celebrate Christmas:  a passage of scripture in Jeremiah 10 ( it condemns idol worship, but the idol seems a lot like a Christmas tree), no one knows the exact day of Jesus birth, and the pagan origin.

For a few years, after I left the sect, I did celebrate Christmas.  It was still difficult, because I didn't really know how to get "in the Spirit."  I was not a believer then.  I was trying to embrace the secular side of Christmas.  Some of it was lovely, the family gatherings, the lights, the gifts, but I still had anxiety.   When I studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, a group that resembles the one from my childhood, I felt more at home again, because they don't participate in Christmas either.

Eventually, I learned of the saving grace of Jesus, the same Jesus who was born in a manger.  My whole world changed when I fell in love with the mighty Saviour.  He filled my life with love, joy and purpose, but in some respects, peace was still elusive.  Christmas continued to be a stressful time for me.  The first Christmas after my new birth in Christ, I saw a Christmas tree in the church foyer.  I ran from the church in a tearful outrage.  I was angry, hurt and literally sick to my stomach.  Gradually, I became more tolerant, but my understanding was limited.

That happened thirty-three years ago.  Today, I love and enjoy Christmas in freedom!  Many of my questions were answered through a little booklet entitled, "Christmas Reconsidered" by Ralph Woodrow.  Christmas Reconsidered  It addresses questions like, "Is it an ancient pagan festival?" and  "Did Jeremiah condemn Christmas trees?"  Most of you have likely never had to deal with such conflicts associated with Christmas, but for those of you who have, I recommend Woodrow's booklet.


My true liberty, however, did not come from Ralph Woodrow.  It came from an awesome and living God, the One who came from the glory of heaven to be born in a stable.  He came to live among us, to love us, heal us and to offer us abundant life here and in His Kingdom.  I am amazed at His beauty, His compassion, His perfect peace.  As a child and as a Jehovah's Witness, I was not allowed to sing, "Away in a Manger,"  or "Oh Holy Night," or any other carols about Him.  Now, I sing with all my heart, "Go Tell it on the Mountain!"

December 17, 2012

The Fathers and Mothers of Bethlehem - Bryan Norford

As I reflect on the events of the past week, my heart is drawn to the parents of Bethlehem, who are such a tragic part of the Christmas story.

Herod adopted Pharaoh’s tactic, killing boys in a ruthless bid to maintain his status. Fearing Jesus might be a contender to his throne, Herod ordered the slaying of all boys two and younger in Bethlehem, hoping to ensure the end of Jesus the Messiah.

Al Assad of Syria has killed forty thousand of his own people in a similar bid to retain power. Thousands of them were children. We can also recall Congo, Sudan, Serbia, and places of other atrocities; part of the continued slaughter of children.

Nor have the girls escaped. Across India and China, millions of girls are killed simply because the parents want boys to support them in old age. In addition, two million children worldwide now live and die in squalid conditions of sexual trafficking.

The west, that trumpets it compassion for the world, is not innocent either. Canada slaughters a hundred thousand living children in the womb every year, mostly for convenience. Proportionately, the United States kills a million a year of its population; that’s still a fraction of the world’s total.

The tragic events of Newtown CN are a symptom of the insatiable search for personal recognition. When legitimate means fail, killing is the ultimate assertion of power; whether by kings or the young killer of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Matthew describes the aftermath of Herod’s rampage: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more,” Matthew 2:18. But it’s also the lament of many millions; before and since—and now.

But Matthew’s quote is from Jeremiah 31, a great chapter of God’s final reign of peace and justice. Then, He says, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33.

The children will be safe. “The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Isaiah 11:8–9

And as Jesus called the little ones to Him, so he gathers the children who have gone before. They have not ceased to exist. Bethlehem’s mothers and fathers are already reunited with their children. The joy of Christmas is the glorious hope that those we have lost here, children or adults, will be waiting for us.


~ Bryan Norford


December 16, 2012

Starry Night ~ by Marcia Janson






It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas, but not in the traditional sense of the term. Carols about Jesus, nativity scenes and “Merry Christmas” greetings have been edged out of town hall and marketplace in favour of Santa and “Happy Holidays”. Since this has been a gradual process that mirrors the secularization of our culture, most people have adapted to the changes without too much protest. A segment of the Christian Church has bucked the trend, meeting with modest success in retaining a nativity scene here and there, but my sense is that the eventual outcome of this struggle has been decided.

It is understandable that Christians might be disappointed that this is happening. How will people know or care about Jesus if mangers and crosses aren’t there to remind them? Regardless of whether or not we think it is realistic to expect a largely secularized culture to embrace Christian observances, I don’t think we need to be anxious about this. It may be true that increasingly more people either cannot or will not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world, but I don’t know if hearing Christ-honouring carols in Starbucks is going to turn that tide.

The traditions and practices of the Church are a great encouragement to those of us who know God, so we continue to sing “O Holy Night” and place manger scenes on our mantelpieces. We remind each other of the great truths of our faith. We honour and glorify the Lord by celebrating what he’s doing for us and for the world. However, it is not outward religious observance that leads unbelievers to discover their need for Christ. Ultimately, the Father draws them to the Son, who in turn resides in and amongst those who believe in him.

It’s a miracle, really, that the light of Christ shines through his followers - a God thing that defies rational understanding. As I contemplate this, a picture comes to mind. I see the world, awash with movement and activity, yet shrouded in darkness. People rush to and fro, bumping into each other, full of confusion. Dotted here and there are light beacons, similar to those that guide airplanes toward the airport at night. To me, that is a picture of spiritual reality. God, in his unsearchable wisdom, has chosen to place the glory of Jesus in the cradle of the Church. We aren’t perfect, but we reflect the light of Christ, like beacons guiding people home to the Father.

So, as the brightness of sacred carols and manger scenes in town squares and marketplaces dims, perhaps something even greater will come into focus. I might compare it to what happens at night, if we leave behind the artificial brightness of city lights and head out into the dark countryside. Oh my – see how many stars there are and how they twinkle so brightly without the competition of human-made illumination! Let it be so with God’s people, as we grow in the love and knowledge of Christ. May he reveal his presence among us to those who are walking in darkness.





Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life (Phil. 2: 14-15).




My name is Marcia Janson and I live in central Alberta with my husband. Two grown young 'uns have flown the coop, landing quite happily on the west coast of B.C., where we try to visit as often as possible. I have been writing since childhood, but have now discovered the joy and freedom of blogging. The wonderful variety of writers sharing insight and information here at Inscribe is a blessing indeed. Thanks for letting me join you!


http://marcia-rolling.blogspot.ca/
http://thinkingcatcato.wordpress.com/



___________________________________
Photo credits: Manger scene: Creative commons - http://www.flickr.com/photos/rt48state/6728334139/
Starry seascape: Creative Commons - http://www.flickr.com/photos/chanc/5170319001

December 15, 2012

Count down to Jesus... Tracy Krauss

Just ten more days until Christmas; nine more 'shopping days'; five more days of school; sixteen until we welcome in the New Year... I seems as though we mark our lives by the passage of time, always 'counting down the days', rather than enjoying each day as it comes. I'm as guilty as anyone. (Note the 'five days of school' listed above... I'm worse than the kids!)

In scripture, the people of Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. For them, there was no specific date, just a sense of anticipation that lasted for centuries. How fortunate we are today that we can know the Messiah on a personal level. We are not longer wondering when He will come. Instead we can look back and see how perfectly He fulfilled every prophecy.

Take the time this season to reflect on the wonder of the nativity. God became flesh. He dwelt among us. Two thousand years later, humanity is still in awe of the babe in the manger. What a wonderful time to share the joy and assurance of one's faith when people everywhere are open to listen.

May God bless and keep each one of you this holiday season and into the coming year.

December 14, 2012

Hope in Darkness


Though we tend to paint a golden halo around everyone in the Christmas story, I’m glad they were normal human beings who messed things up on a regular basis. John the Baptist was one of those of guys, though he had a radical job description. He would prepare the world for the King of their hearts, as found in his very own cousin, Jesus.

Later in life when John was in jail, he began to have doubts about his value and purpose. He sends his followers to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3 NIV).

John is basically asking, “I was born to prepare the way for the Savior of Israel. Did I get it all wrong? Did I peg the wrong guy? Was my life a waste?”

Why would John ask this? He was so sure that Jesus was the Lamb of God when he baptized Him and yet now he’s second-guessing Jesus’ identity. I can’t blame him. Here’s John at the end of an exciting career in a deep dark pit awaiting his death.

When I go through times of darkness I question too. I land in a pit of depression occasionally and begin to doubt as well. I push Jesus away and try to manage depression on my own.   

But John did the right thing. He asked questions like, “Are you really who you said you were? Are you really our Savior?”

That’s a lesson for me. Jesus never turns us away when we ask. He wants us to seek Him out, to question who He is, and to struggle through the mystery of His identity.

If I would go to Jesus with my doubts and pester him with my second-guessing, I would receive this same answer from Him as He gave to John:

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:5).

Jesus did not rescue John. He was still be-headed in prison, but as the shadows of death fell on him he was reassured that his life had value, and that he had not wasted it.  

John had spent his entire life preparing for the right Person; he had poured all his energy into affirming the deity of Christ and it turns out that Jesus really was God our Savior.  

My life has value too and it’s all wrapped up in Jesus’ identity. He is faithful. He is still the Man of Miracles. He rose up out of that dark tomb and because of that, I can rise too.

Affirming Jesus’ identity gives me strength when I feel weak, and pours light into my cistern.  

I’m thankful that John the Baptist had the courage to doubt, along with enough foolishness to question. His example encourages me to do the same when I’m in a dark place.   

Pamela Mytroen

December 10, 2012

Advent Reality by Sharon Espseth


“Prepare the way. A Saviour is coming. Prepare the way . . .”

I sing as I clean and decorate the house and do my Christmas shopping. The words are the opening lines of a carol our choir will sing for Christmas Eve Mass.

December for most of us becomes a bustle of busyness. Frustrated, I realize my plans once more exceed the time I have to pull my bright ideas, plus traditional expectations, together. The lighting of another candle on the Advent wreath becomes a further reminder that Jesus and Christmas are coming.” Ready or not, here they come.

I practice another tune singing in melody with a little memorized alto thrown in. For another choir number, we chant in soft but urgent voices, “Jesus is coming.” The song swells to a crescendo as Christmas and the end of the song draw near. “Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming,” becomes louder and more insistent. The last notes of the arrangement are staccato and forte. “Prepare!” we almost shout in four-part harmony.

During the first two weeks of Advent, Scripture readings remind us of the prophecy of end times and the second coming of Christ. His coming again is the second meaning of the words, “Jesus is coming.” For that great event also, we need to get ready.

That is what I need to do—prepare my head and my heart for what Christmas is all about. When I do that, I am operating with peace, love, joy, and hope in my heart and mind. Plans of perfection must be put aside. A few jobs that are unrealistic or too demanding need to be tabled for another year. Priorities, as well as the dinner table, need to be set.

Even if my house is far from perfect, Christmas will still come. All of our family will be home and we will enjoy being together. We will read the Christmas story and share love and gifts and interaction. At St. Anne’s on Christmas Eve, I will sing the customary Christmas carols and the new compositions I also love. We will offer a prayer of thanksgiving and we will know we are loved and blessed by God who sent His Son.

As I re-set the agenda, God’s grace is slowly spreading in my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to others for whom Christmas may not seem that simple or blessed. I pray that my actions will reflect God’s love for others. If the second coming of Jesus happened tomorrow, what would be most important in my getting-ready-for-Christmas list? How shall I prepare?



God’s Grace Begun by Sharon Espeseth

Like Martha, I wanted things perfect
so I rushed from one thing to the next.
Getting nothing accomplished,
I became increasingly vexed.

I stopped in my tracks and I offered
my frustration up to the Lord.M
He said, “Child, you know that I love you.
You don’t need to achieve an award.”

With gentle words, my Lord spoke to me
about quietness, peace, joy, and love.
I needed to slow down and worship
the One given with love from above.

The decorating, cards, and shopping
will in due time and fashion get done.
Advent isn’t a contest or race,
but a season of God’s grace begun.


The above poem was previously published in Purpose Magazine
In December 2010. The devotional was published in Western 

Catholic Reporter in November 2011.

December 09, 2012

The Winter Season - Shirley S. Tye

There are good and bad aspects to winter.

On the good side; the blanket of snow makes everything look clean, fresh, and pure; sounds are muffled by snow creating a peaceful atmosphere in many neighbourhoods; the pine trees are beautifully dressed in gowns of white; sun rays glisten on the snow making the days brighter; roads are smoother because potholes are packed with snow; mosquitoes and flies aren’t biting; weeds are asleep; and outdoor sports can be enjoyed without sweat dripping down one’s face.

On the bad side; driving and walking are treacherous activities because of icy streets and sidewalks; the cold takes away one’s breath; snow shoveling is a back breaking chore; the few birds that bravely stay to wait out the winter sing little – perhaps their notes are frozen in the air; road salt eats vehicles – I think I can hear the salt pellets chewing on what’s remaining of the metal on my old car; muddy salty puddles mark floors where boots have stepped; and getting boots on and off is a grunting exercise and when the task is complete that’s when the bathroom calls one more time.

Each season brings a change in surroundings, temperature, activities, and thinking. For some, winter is a time to slow down and perhaps crawl into bed a little earlier; a time of waiting for warmer weather and adventure; a time to work indoors; and a time to plan for the next season. Others march on at the same pace quickly switching their activities and thinking; hardly noticing a change in their surroundings.

Winter can be good or winter can be bad. It just depends on the view one takes and the adjustments one is willing to make.

~ Shirley S. Tye

December 08, 2012

From the End of Winter - Lorrie Orr

Thank you, Lorrie, for joining InScribe Writers Online on Guest Post Day.


Winter arrived on a sunny May morning when my husband walked into the house at 11:00 am saying, “The unthinkable has happened. I’ve been fired.”

He worked as an executive in a Christian company and his firing was without cause, and utterly unexpected. At that moment, a chill began to settle around my heart which deepened as months of unemployment lengthened. Other events contributed to bewilderment that swirled like a blizzard around me: marriage problems within our extended family, a daughter’s infertility, a move when my husband found work after 10 months of looking, and a nephew’s fight with cancer that ended with his death at the age of 29.

All is not bleak in winter. Beauty comes, and joy –– the delight of welcoming a new son-in-law and our first grandchild. There is laughter and friendship. But in the quiet, when alone, winter settles deep into my bones with frigid intent.

What does a winter of the soul look like?

It is not depression. It is knowing, from years of faith, that God is present, yet feeling only his absence. Prayer seems futile, yet I pour out my heart in words, in tears, in writing, to a God whom I believe still cares for me although I no longer feel his love.

It is cynicism and judgment, an inability and unwillingness to trust others. It is a heart that aches for warmth, yet shuts itself behind doors of ice. It is hurt.

It is not lack of faith, or sin. It is a barren, windswept landscape of disorientation in which I long for direction. It is plodding, step by step, head down into the wind, without knowing my destination. It is clinging to promises of hope, and reading over and over God’s promise of never leaving me, all the while wondering how long this winter season will last.

It is bafflement. It is asking questions for which no answers come. It is an unfulfilled longing to trust God and to rest in his goodness. It is waiting.

It is an oddly comfortable cohabitation of faith and doubt in which I realize that God welcomes my questions and wants only me. What he will do with me, I do not know.

I write now from the end of winter. This long winter, over three years in duration, is losing its chilling grip. There is lightness in my being, and a warmth melting the clod of ice in my chest. I write now before winter ends because I do not want to forget. I want to mark this season and winter’s lessons. Compassion. Understanding. A gentling of my spirit. A hatred of lack of integrity and false living. A realization that hope is one of my most precious gifts from God. Knowing that one day winter will end and new life will emerge. My soul feels the unmistakeable warmth of God’s Spirit once again and I melt in gratitude.

© Lorrie Orr

Lorrie Orr writes to make sense of the constant stream of thoughts running rampant in her mind. Married to Tim, mother of 3 plus 3, Nana to two darling little girls. Blogs at Fabric Paper Thread.




December 07, 2012

Revisiting Your 2012 Calendar – Ramona Heikel


A few weeks ago I decided to sit down and take a close look at what I’d written during 2012, and how I’ve used my time. I was in for some pleasant surprises! If you’re in need of some visual, factual encouragement, you might try what I did.

First, ignore the voice that says you’re wasting precious time. This activity takes at least an hour or more, during which some sneering thoughts inside may say, “Look at you, you should be plotting, submitting, or at the very least, marketing. Now get back to that story!” Don’t listen.

Review any writing goals you set at the beginning of the year, and pat yourself on the back
. You set goals! Well done! That all by itself is a huge accomplishment. Setting goals for what we want to write is sometimes much more important than the writing. It’s a key time for us to sit quietly and be inspired, to get a sense of what our priorities are, and understand the Lord’s will. And this review of the year’s writing is actually a component of goal-setting.

Look through your files, piles, binders, emails or lists to see what you’ve accomplished. In addition to the above, I also have a separate sheet where I list each project I plan to submit for publication, and then scribble dates and details as I go. This sheet is good for reviewing my project goals, and I see that I sent about 60% of the pieces I’d hoped to send.

Add accomplishments to a calendar chronologically. I usually use my monthly planner book to keep track of my tutoring sessions and to schedule activities on the days I’m off work, but for now I need an easy way to record my writing activities chronologically, so I’ll use it for this, too. I want to see things daily, weekly and monthly so I’ll know just how much of my free time I actually spend on my writing, because in my mind I never spend enough.

One great benefit of this is if I worked on the same piece over and over, and submitted and re-submitted it several times, it shows up on the calendar every time I worked on it (woo-hoo!), instead of just once on the list of projects. This is a more realistic account of my writing activities. Wow, the calendar is filling up!

Add ALL accomplishments, even the ones that “don’t count”. After you add the obvious ones, think about what else you’ve written that doesn’t seem like a big deal (perhaps because it isn’t reviewed by an editor for acceptability?). For me this includes blog posts, giving critiques, writing exercises, posting book reviews at online booksellers, comments on blogs, and even letters or emails to family and friends needing encouragement, because that is ultimately what I want my writing to do: comfort and encourage.

Look what you’ve accomplished this year! Now I can see how much I’ve accomplished in 2012 during the time I’ve had available. I did more than I realized, and I can also see how much I’ve written that can potentially help other people. The results of all my hard work are up to God, but I see I’ve been faithful to write. That makes me feel goooood.


Posted by Ramona
www.happilywriting.com







December 05, 2012

Christmas is Coming by Glynis M. Belec


Christmas is coming 
The geese are getting fat. 
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny then a ha'penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha'penny then God Bless You.


When I was a child I recited poetry and ditties unabashedly. We played skip and tossed balls against the wall to the beat of school yard chants. Sometimes I didn't fully understand what I was saying, but I knew it was appropriate for the game.

 This Christmas ditty that I remember well always troubled me a little. I am not completely sure why it bothered me so much but I think it had something to do with the fat goose and the poor man.

Now that I am all grown up and half a dozen steps over the half century mark I think I have it figured out. Well, maybe not all figured out. But perhaps my life experiences coupled with the state of the world gives me a better understanding of how to treat our fellow man.

As I have quietly observed lately, the advertising frenzy of this Christmas season only serves to multiply the greed. Subliminally, we are convinced that we need any or all of the latest technological wizardry, the finest wine or spirits; the brand name labels for everything from clothing to vehicle and more. And if we don't get it we are counted in the with the deprived and underprivileged. The focus is on getting rather than giving. When I think like this I don't particularly look forward to Christmas.

How far that is from the way Jesus intended it to be.

I suppose I have two choices - I can join in or I can step back. Because I step back, it doesn't mean I am setting myself apart as something special, though. But rather it means I am taking the time to savour the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That beautiful Babe swaddled tightly. That feels so much more real than giving into the demands of the tyranny of consumerism.  

Did Jesus smell like a baby - or was the aroma that of heaven? Did Jesus cry - or was He the perfect child? Did Jesus ever get an ear infection? A tummy ache? Did He sleep through the night? Did he get cranky when His teeth came in? Oh how I love to wonder.

How mesmerizing it is to consider the birth and young life of Jesus. I sometimes find myself getting wrapped up in the busyness of the season - which sort of goes with the territory in busy families and today's society. But how wonderful and much more hopeful I feel during this blessed season once I manage to get beyond the tinsel and the pretty lights and shift my focus to the Reason.


I've decided to challenge myself to take a moment each day leading up to Christmas to celebrate and anticipate the hope that Jesus still offers today. And when I have the opportunity, I will give up a ha'penny or two and toss it in the 'old man's hat' so to speak. I will do this not out of obligation, but out of sheer joy and gratitude to the King of Kings. When I think like this I look forward to Christmas. I suppose that could be because of the peace that passes some of my understanding.


 For unto us a Child is born. A Saviour has come. Joy unbridled.


Christmas is coming
May God Bless you!

~ Glynis M. Belec

      

InScribers Review: So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore

Authors: Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman
Publisher: Windblown Media, Moorpark, CA, 2008
ISBN-10: 0964729229
ISBN-13:978-0964729223
No. of pages: 191
Amazon.com 


Reviewed by: Bryan Norford


The book claims it is almost impossible to find authentic life in Jesus in the organized Church. Written in the first person, Jake meets up with a mysterious John—Jake wonders if he is a reincarnated apostle John! The meetings are always spontaneous, John arriving unannounced at opportune and inopportune times in Jake’s life to teach him a “better” way.

John teaches Jake that his pastorate at a large local church is unsatisfying because it is self-serving. It serves Jake’s need for an income, and the church serves the needs of the members for acceptance and fellowship—a “mutual accommodation of self-need.” The process is mostly performance oriented for both the leaders and the led, and dedicated to maintaining the church’s existence. John considers the institutional Church provides “love with a hook”: acceptance if one conforms to the local church’s standards—a system of “shame-management,” with all the shoulds and oughts keeping adherents in line.

John makes a valid point. Many are disillusioned with church difficulties, and have dropped out. The church does not produce life, life creates the church. While he admits that not everyone is swallowed by the system, John generally considers the organised church is geared to security and personal comforts incompatible with following Christ. Authentic relationship with Christ is only found with others seeking an intimate Christ-relationship.

How John plans to achieve this without some organization is not clear; at best, it occurs at informal gatherings, not structured services. When or how it happens, or even if it happens, is at Christ’s leading. John seems to believe in freewheeling groups, which may or may not meet at any particular time; in which people come or go on a whim, and has a capricious consensus from hit or miss indeterminate groups of seeking individuals.

Thus, uncertainty runs like a river through the book. John is always sure that the organized Church will not provide authentic Christian living, but he rarely suggests how to obtain it. “You’ll know it when you see it” seems to be his determining value. John’s instruction on what Jesus requires is never backed up by actual scriptural quotes. In the whole book, only one paragraph lists five verses at random on God’s provision for the believer.

John elevates the mystical and denigrates the practical in the Church. Seeking the individual walk with Christ at the expense of infrastructure impoverishes the Church and the world. Much Christian work, missions, social relief, clinics and hospitals to name a few, require organizations large or small. John’s rejection of organized Church leaves much of Christ’s mission incomplete and the world an infinitely poorer place.

December 03, 2012

Are You Waiting for Christmas? The Coming of Christ? -- Janis Cox

A Commissioned Painting from Red Mountain Women's Dinner

It is December 1st.  And I am writing this post. Tomorrow is Advent - the first week of awaiting the coming of Christ.

As I sat to speak to God this morning I picked up a devotional for Advent by Margaret Feinberg. The first week said: Waiting.

As I read the devotional and answered the questions I thought yes – we are waiting, waiting for the Christ. What a wonderful time of year to be filled with excitement to see the coming of Christ once again.

Then I read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. And today it said: Wait.

So I waited to hear from God. And as usual He did not disappoint. He spoke to me about this time of year. 

To remember to SLOW down.


Not to rush or get into the hectic activity that can come with this season.

About 10 years ago we decided as a family to come together the weekend before Christmas. That would be our time together.

We also decided to choose to be less “secular” and instead of gifts for all the members we would only focus on the kids – and not go overboard. Just one gift per family per child – that is enough. The rest of the time is fun and fellowship. Laughter, stories, and just “hangin’ out” as my granddaughter says. We try to keep food simple with all the families helping out. Each year we get simpler and each year we have an even more joyous time.

What we don’t spend on gifts for ourselves we give to others. The little ones are learning the freedom of giving – an excellent example at an early age. A couple of the grandkids decided to forgo the gifts on their birthdays and ask for donations to other causes. Good for them.

Christmas is about the coming of Christ. Gifts were meant to be a gift of love but became a “what am I going to get?” instead. We have decided to give the gift of love instead of the gift of stuff.

How are you keeping your Christmas simple in order to enjoy the coming of Christ?

Waiting for the Coming of Christ - Christmas!



Janis, a former school teacher and small business owner, found a new passion in writing in her retirement. She has published a couple of devotionals and a number of articles.

As owner of Under the Cover of Prayer she writes often.

Her children's book, Tadeo Turtle, is now available. An accompanying curriculum can be obtained as well.

Email her at Janis or visit her at www. janiscox.com.


December 02, 2012

Just the Right Gift by Marcia Lee Laycock


My family starts thinking about Christmas at Thanksgiving because that's when we are usually all together and can "pick names," selecting the person we will buy for that year. We started using the wish list method a few years ago, to make the buying easier. Everyone sends their lists to me and I send them out to the rest of the family.

I always enjoy reading the lists - it's quite interesting how everyone's personality comes out in the things they ask for. For instance, one of my sons-in-law is usually quite specific about his requests - it's not just a pair of socks, it's a pair of black socks made of a certain blend of material and patterned in a certain way. This year item number one was a series of baseball trading cards. I shook my head when I read it. Where on earth would we ever find such a thing?

About two weeks after receiving his list I participated in a fund-raiser for a local group. They had a silent auction as well as a number of booths set up with all kinds of Christmas gift ideas. I sighed as I wandered among them, wishing I could get some of my shopping done, but not too hopeful about finding what was on those lists. Then I saw it - a small sign - "Baseball Trading Cards." I blinked and stepped closer.

There were a few packs of cards along with a book. Not knowing anything about baseball, I hesitated. What if these weren't the cards he wanted? What if I had to make a high bid and it was a disappointment to him? Then I felt that little nudge in my spirit. "This is a gift. Just accept it." I took a step closer. I wrote down my name and put a dollar amount beside it. When I won the item, I sighed again. Even if the dates on the cards were wrong, at least my son-in-law would know I tried to get him what he wanted.

When I got home later that day I immediately went to my computer and looked at the Christmas lists. I sat back in stunned wonder when I read that number one item my son-in-law had listed. The dates on the cards I had won were exactly the dates he wanted! Then I smiled. I couldn't stop thinking about the look on his face when he opens that present. I knew he would be "over-the-moon" happy.

Then I thought about that nudge when I hesitated to put a bid on the auction sheet. "This is a gift. Just accept it."

That's what God the Father says to the world every year at Christmas time. He presents His Son, the one who died for the sins of this sad weary world, and says, this is my gift to you, accept Him. All we have to do is admit we need the sacrifice that happened over 2000 years ago, because we all have sinned and continue to "fall short" as Romans 3:23 says. Because Jesus gives us the wondrous gift of His righteousness we are able to sign our names into the book of life and accept what He offers - eternal life with Him. It's why we celebrate His birth - the birth of Jesus who was sent to die for us all.

This is a gift. Just accept it.
****
Visit Marcia's website to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry.