July 20, 2019

How She Loved – Denise M. Ford

While contemplating this month’s topic, creating beauty with words, it occurred to me that writing a eulogy presents a time to write beautiful images of a loved one. I recalled my recent conversation with my 88-year-old mother. She had described the memorial service for my Aunt Dolly. Both of them widows following decades of marriage, they had been daily confidantes sharing emotional heartaches and happy celebrations.

Mother lamented that no one spoke of Dolly’s genuine compassion, or constant devotion to every member of her family, immediate and extended.

“Everyone who spoke gave anecdotes of comical moments about how she joked and laughed with people,” my mother said. 

“What did you want to hear?” I asked.

“How she loved,” she simply replied.

My mother lives in Pennsylvania, while I reside in the foothills outside of Calgary, Alberta. We spend a few weeks together throughout each year via cross-country journeys, but mostly we visit daily through our phone calls. Often, I jot down questions or prompts I will use to steer our chats into more meaningful conversations.  While she reminisces, I scribble notes so I can capture her memories. 

I have been applauding myself for wisely using these phone calls to help record our family history.  Now I realize I have been merely collecting anecdotes.
While I still want to write down the details in her stories, what if I also focused on her and how she loved?

What if I told her now, while she still lives, how I would write of her after she passes?

Certainly, I have sent cards and letters to her over the years expressing my gratitude, my respect and my appreciation of her as my mother. But would she want to understand more fully how I perceive her love, how I understand how deeply she loved? I don’t want you to think that I have had an ideal upbringing.  All of us, especially daughters, have a multi-layered, multi-winding, emotional relationship with our mothers. Even so, can I begin to express to her while she is still here with me, that I know… how she loved.

Can I write those beautiful words for her now as a living tribute?

Because my mother has tried to live her life by the fruit of the Spirit, I will follow Galatians 5:22-23 as my outline for describing how she loved.  One of my pastors pointed out that perhaps this scripture denotes the fruit of the Spirit, as love. Everything that follows basically describes what love is or what it can be.

It will become my challenge to speak of my mother’s love within this fruit of the Spirit outline.  At the same time, I will inquire of myself, “How do I love? What do others see today: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?”  Because I will be outlining my life with these attributes will others perceive how I love? Will I reflect what my mother has shown me?

I will tell her, and I will write of her. This is how you have loved, Mother. This is how you still love.  I hope my words of beauty offered for her will provide a confirmation that when I will memorialize her, I won’t only remember anecdotes but how she loved.

As I drove towards home the other day, I witnessed a spectacular sunset.  It seemed that God had traced each cloud’s edge using a brush dipped in gold glitter.  The sparkling outline shimmered with a beauty so radiant and so searing, I felt compelled to break forth with words of praise and awe. 

Hmm…I pray that I will be inspired as I use the fruit of the Spirit outline to create beautiful images that reflect back to my mother. Like that sunset, as it portrayed its light with brilliance and intensity. I pray that she will hear by those words, that I have traced her years of genuine compassion and constant devotion with a living tribute that glowingly states,

This, this is how she loved.

July 17, 2019

A Festival of Words - Gloria Guest

This week I have the opportunity to take in some of the Festival of Words, which is an annual author and writers gathering that happens every year in Moose Jaw. I love the word festival that was chosen. It conjures up the image of words dancing across the page in a party like atmosphere similar to music notes. Truly you have to be a writer to see words in such a way.
I have always seen the beauty in words and in the placing of words in the perfect sentence.  A well placed and thought out sentence is a beautiful thing.
Proverbs 25:11  says that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (KJV) Other versions refer to a word fitly spoken as ‘a design of gold’ (GNT); settings of silver; (NET) and as being ‘inscribed in silver.’ Although most versions refer to it as an oral word, the Good News Translation says, ‘An idea well-expressed is like a design of gold, set in silver.’ So I see it as applying to any form of expressing that idea, whether oral or written or another creative way. When it is done well and with expertise it becomes a valuable work of art; true beauty. Our written words truly do matter and have the potential to have much value in their ability to affect others.
When I listen to a reading at the festival I will listen for the cadence of the words, their meanings and how the author perfectly positions them in the sentence to make that sentence come alive. If that one sentence then joins other such sentences it is a true work of art. I will leave feeling the life of those words, stirred to create such beauty of my own.
Finally I cannot leave out the most beautiful, valuable words ever written, which is the Word of God. God used the spoken word to bring the world into existence and then He used the written word to tell His Story to us all. His words dance across the page; sometimes in  sad and heartbreaking steps and other times in joyous jubilation, but all joined in the telling of the beautiful, festive story of His love for us. There is nothing more beautiful than that.

Books are beautiful (as are cats ;) 
Gloria writes from Caron Sk. gloria.guest@wordpress.com

Beauty from Ashes by Lynn Dove

If you have been following my blog posts on Journey Thoughts in recent weeks, you will read that I am once again battling cancer.  Uterine cancer to be specific, and I had my first round of chemo on June 25th, with five more cycles to go to be administered every 21 days.  There may be follow-up radiation as well, so I am in the throes of the battle once again.  I battled breast cancer in 2001 so I know all about what I am facing and the toll it will take on my body. 

First to go will be my hair.  1 Corinthians 11:15 talks about a women’s long hair being her crowning glory, her pride and joy, and her hair given to her for a covering.  Proverbs 16:31 calls gray hair a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.  I remember losing my hair in 2001.  For many women going through chemotherapy, myself included, it was devastating to lose what was considered crucial to my self-esteem, my femininity and outward beauty.  I covered my bald head with a wig and head coverings but it wasn’t the same as my natural “crown of splendor”.  I have ordered new head coverings and my daughters picked out a sassy new wig for me but I must be a lot less vain than I was nineteen years ago, because I’m not nearly as stressed out about losing my hair this time around.  In fact, I’ve learned that all women who battle cancer should wear their crowns boldly and fearlessly, and learn to embrace our beautiful bald heads that are after all well-earned battle scars that will eventually heal in time. 

The verse I have embraced with regards to my hair loss is Luke 12:7, “Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  God is with me regardless of whether or not I have a full head of hair.  He looks at the heart, and the true beauty that is found there.

Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on the body.  It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced chemo.  It’s a weird feeling having chemicals purposefully pumped into your body that can cause a host of unpleasant side effects.  Chemo is also known to have long term and sometimes detrimental consequences to your health for years after.  Yet, it is the crucial part of the arsenal for this battle, and with every treatment I just pray cancer cells are sought out and destroyed.  I will gladly go through this season, in order to once again declare myself to be cancer-free!

As I look at myself in the mirror over these next few months, I may find myself despairing over my appearance, but I need to constantly remind myself to look at myself through God’s eyes and not my own.  I am valuable, God breathed into me the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).  I am created in His image (Genesis 1:27).  I was knit together in my mother’s womb and I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139: 13-14).  I am a brand new creation for I have died to sin and all my unrighteousness has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 1:7,9).   I am saved by grace (Ephesians2:8).  I am being transformed into the image of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).  I have a glorious future (Romans 8:18).  (From desiring God – What God Thinks About You by John Rinehart)

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at lynndove.com  

July 16, 2019

Creating Beautiful Literary Art by Nina Faye Morey

We are made in the image of God, our Creator. So it’s part of human nature to want to create beautiful works, whether through art, architecture, music, or literature. As a Christian writer, I long to follow in my Creator’s footsteps. I yearn not only to create something beautiful for the delight of others, but also as a means to awaken their spirits to the goodness and glory of God and His creation.

Give to the LORD the glory due to his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
~ Psalm 29:2 AKJV

Our Lord is described as “the Word”: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus told stories (parables) to illustrate His teachings, and several biblical writers created beautiful poetic books, such as the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Therefore, as a follower of the Lord, I feel a desire to serve Him by learning how to artfully employ words in order to proclaim the gospel.

I believe my desire to write is a divine calling from God. I view works of literary art not just as human creations, but God creating through their authors. The Holy Spirit and the beauty of God’s Word inspire me in my creative endeavours to express God’s love for the world. I wish to use my creative gift to praise God, and I hope others will experience and praise Him through my creations. I want to dramatically change readers’ hearts and transform them into worshippers of God, either by awakening a desire in their heart to get to know Him or reawakening their long-lost faith.

One of my goals is to tell God’s glorious message in a way that won’t make my writing sound preachy. That tone turns off readers, turns their hearts away from God, and it definitely doesn’t create beautiful literary art. I strive to create images or word pictures that will convey the truth of God’s Word without making it seem incomprehensible or objectionable to the uninitiated. John the Baptist, King David, Jesus, and many other great messengers of God used word pictures to preach the truth of the gospel. God generously gives me the freedom to use my creative skills to pass along the knowledge I’ve received for the benefit of others (Exodus 35:34-35).

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power
and divine nature, have been clearly perceived,
ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
~ Romans 1:20 ESV

Just as I catch glimpses of God in the beauty of the natural world He created, I also can see His grandeur in the beautiful works of art created by the human hand. Such artistry inspires me to use figurative language, like metaphors, to create beautiful literary art that conveys the meaning and truth of the gospel message. Orson Scott Card, an American novelist whose faith influences his writing, has taught several creative writing courses and written two books on this topic. He says, “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”¹

The great theologian, author, and hymnodist, Martin Luther, understood well the value of creating beautiful literary art to reveal the Word of God: “Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, as I see that by these studies as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily”²

Words have the power to transform hearts and minds (Romans 12:2). The world needs more beautiful writing—poetry and prose, drama and songs—that reveals the truth.

Whose writing do you consider beautiful? How will you create beautiful literary art?

¹Orson Scott Card Quotes. BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc, 2019. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/orson_scott_card_108637, accessed July 5, 2019.

²Martin Luther, Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523. Werke, Weimer edition, Luthers Briefwechsel, 111, 50. Cited in Donald T. Williams, “Christian Poetics, Past and Present,” in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing ed. Leland Ryken, Shaw Books, 2002, p. 8.

July 15, 2019

Truth in Beauty and the Beauty of Truth - Tracy Krauss

 I love the arts: music, drama, dance, sculpture, painting and other visual forms, and of course, literature and poetry. Every one of these showcases the creative instinct within humankind, which in turn is a mere reflection of our Great Creator God.

Historically, the marriage of ART and the church is a long one. Unfortunately, Satan has tried to sever this sacred bond, twisting various artistic forms for his own purposes. But he is a mimick whose best attempts fall flat of the true artistry that is fueled by God's Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important for artists - including writers - to seek God in all their endeavours, both 'religious' and secular.

Yes, I believe God can and is using His people in ways that do not fit into the typical 'ministry' box. This is especially true in a post-Christian world whose Millenial and Z generations are feeling more and more disenchanted and disengaged with 'church'. It is why all writers - and artists - must be in prayer and stay close to God's word, even if they are not producing work that is innately Christian or whose purpose is a secular market. Good art can still have the imprint of God upon it. It can - and should - be infused with His life and breath.

Does this mean all art must be 'pretty'? I don't think so. The Bible itself is our best example. Not every passage is sunshine and roses. In fact, some books are quite harsh and even disturbing, but the truth of God's character still comes through. The truth - and therefore the beauty - of the message remains the same whether the scene is pleasant or not. Not all art is beautiful, but art that gets the message across is very powerful. It's why we must be discerning about what we see and hear and experience. Sometimes 'beauty' is deceptive, while less pleasant imagery, if done for the right purposes, brings a sense of clarity and even revelation about the world and our place in it.

Perhaps beauty, then, is a misnomer. I think it can be best equated with truth - even when using metaphors. Fantasy stories like C.S. Lewis's Narnia Series are not true, but they do hold truth, and that is what sets such work apart. Is truth elevated, despite danger, human flaws, and even violence? That for me is the marker. I suppose it's why I enjoy many dystopian movies and books - often a rather dark genre. In the end, if truth triumphs, beauty comes from the ashes. The same goes for music. I genuinely enjoy bands like 'Demon Hunter' and 'Thousand Foot Krutch', which are not your typical granny bands. Similarly, some of the most powerful art I've seen is not pretty, but still, it has affected me long after I've left the gallery.

Not everyone will agree and that's okay. I don't expect everyone to have the same taste in music, art, or movies. God created each one of us with unique talents and insights. His infinite variety extends to each one of us. The fact remains, that He is the author of creativity, and as such, we would do well to focus on His attributes when making and viewing art. For therein lies the beauty - and the truth.

Tracy Krauss has been a member of InScribe since 2010 and is serving as ICWF's current president. She pursues all of her creative interests, including writing, from her home in northeastern BC. Visit her website: tracykrauss.com  -fiction on the edge without crossing the line -