August 31, 2009

My Writing Testimony - Payne

In the year 2000, God called my husband and me to Orillia, Ontario. I sold my home and my business and Bob left his job and sold his cottage. We bought a home in a town where we had no family and no friends and started a new life.

This was the first time that I ever stayed home with my children full-time. I worked when they were young and then started my own business when my oldest child started school. But in Orillia, I was home all day, everyday.

Being a social person, I sought out other women and ended up attending a Women’s CARE Group at the Christian Reformed Church. It was there that I gave my heart to Jesus and began my personal relationship with the Lord.

At home, I took to reading and studying Christian books. I enjoyed such classics as Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Josh McDowell’s More than a Carpenter, Catherine Marshall’s Something More and The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

By following the advice of Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, I began to journal a minimum of three pages each morning. They were called, quite appropriately, Morning Pages. Through this process, I wrote about my fears, anxieties, observations and lessons learned as a new Christian. At first, my writing was between God and me. He revealed things to me that I never would have been open to receiving any other way. I remember the day when I was having a “discussion” with God about what my call in life was and He responded, “to write”. He told me to write to bring people closer to Him.

Since that day I try very hard not to miss a morning without writing my morning pages. I share my walk of faith with others through my weekly column, Today’s Faith, in the Millbrook Times. God has done so much for me in my life, writing a book – Fit for Faith, and writing regular Christian articles are just some ways I can be obedient to His call in my life and bring others closer to Him.

What's your writing testimony?

August 28, 2009

Comments On This Blog

The comments on this blog are moderated. If someone posts an inappropriate comment, it will be deleted. Lately, several comments have been posted in what appears to be Chinese. If these are appropriate comments, please post in English so the moderator knows what you are saying. Otherwise, they will be deleted.

August 27, 2009

It's Harvest Time

I recently heard a story about a woman who went into a store and found God behind the counter. He asked her what she wanted, and she said “I want to buy a little joy and prosperity and a lot of peace -- not just for myself -- but for everyone.” God replied, “We don’t sell the fruit here…we just sell the seeds. Once you get the seeds, you have the power and authority to produce the fruits yourself.”

Have you looked out your back door and scanned the fields lately?
Did you become curious enough to want to know if your planted seeds were rising up to life? Or have you planted any seeds at all? Jesus spoke figuratively about sowing and reaping but His purpose was to explain the meaning of reaching out to others with the Gospel message. Why?
What is the work that is required from the believers? “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent.” (John 6:29) Jesus said, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

So if we are to believe, what beliefs are expected of us? Do we believe that God came down from heaven? Do we believe that he gives life to the whole world? Do we believe that in order for the Gospel to be preached we have a part to play? Is it enough to believe that Jesus exists? Even the devil exists. We have the duty of taking the good news as we travel the narrow road. We have the duty of spreading the good seed on the fertile ground along our journey to heaven. Think about it…didn’t someone plant your seed? Were you encouraged in the faith? Did someone remember you in prayer?

“Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…” (John 6:40) Isn’t that our earnings? Our wages? If we invest in a little sowing and reaping don’t you think the principle of getting a return on our investment will come about? An investment for eternity; more wayward souls brought home to glory. Or do we even believe the importance of pointing the way of Salvation?
What did Jesus do? Let’s pause by John chapter 4 for a moment. When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman, she realized her need for God. As a result of her newfound joy, she ran back to her village to tell everyone she saw about this man who knew all about her and they all came running to see him. The seeds were scattered all over the village. It was fertile ground! The people needed to hear the good news about the Christ.

Seeds continued to germinate throughout Jesus’ journey. The Bible says that crowds followed him and were amazed. Seeds were scattered all over the mountain as Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand. Didn’t they witness a miracle before their eyes? Didn’t they learn about Jesus as Lord at that moment? Seeds were planted in the jailer’s heart when Paul was miraculously freed from prison. His entire family became believers. Seeds were gathered in the hearts of the Centurion’s home when his servant was healed. Yes, these families became believers, believers in Jesus, the one who came down from heaven to give life to the world.

What can we do? We can share the good news. We can wait upon God to water the ground. We can till the ground and keep it maintained. In other words, we can share the good news of salvation and eternal life to others and maintain a friendship with them and introduce them to God’s greatness. And all the while we are in the planting mode, God gives us the power and authority to speak and sow in his name. It’s not about a sowing a new plantation for the believers. It’s about reaping what has been sown, row-by-row, and person-by-person. God came to offer life; therefore God will bring the increase!

Jan Keats

August 26, 2009

I’m Thinking About Presents - Martha Toews Anderson

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eilif and I celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary by traveling to Calgary to witness the marriage ceremony of our granddaughter, Judith, to Shawn Roberts. What especially thrilled my heart was the confidence in their actions and voices as they spoke their marriage vows, expressing their commitment to each other before God. I pondered the fact that in marriage the couple is literally giving themselves to each other. I am thankful that after over half a century of married life, the giving becomes even more meaningful.

Coincidentally, the message we heard at church the next morning was on the subject of Giving. When it comes to giving gifts or donations to someone we are also giving something of ourselves, in a smaller scale. We are making an investment in the recipient. If given with the right motive, a gift increases our interest in that individual or cause.

My husband’s eightieth birthday followed only a month later. As the family was organizing a celebration in his honour, they wanted to come up with a gift that would have special significance for him. Knowing his passion to help the Leprosy Mission buy the much needed medicine that cures lepers and gives them another chance at life. They set out a basket for contributions, collecting $80.00. Eilif called it, “A very thoughtful way to honour me.” A gift is special to the recipient because of the thoughtfulness and love it represents.

God, likewise, has given individual gifts to us. He invests something of Himself in each life at conception. Each person, created in God's image, is endowed with a sense of creativity and a specific combination of talents. God reveals His interest in us personally by giving us what I like to call birthday presents. These abilities, unique to each one, are entrusted to us for the benefit of others. For example, Eilif enjoys working with metal and has come up with various inventions. What he considers his greatest contribution is the Grain Guard aeration grain drier, making it possible to dry grain in the bins, thereby saving much grain.

When we are born again, our Creator again gives us birthday presents. Along with the new life in Christ, He distributes to each new member specific abilities for ministry. The Scriptures refer to them as gifts of the Spirit, differing from our natural talents. For example, an individual may have an unusual ability to write with clarity on various subjects. When it comes to spiritual truths, however, natural talent is not enough. To be able to expound the Word of God requires spiritual understanding. As we share in the fellowship of God's people, our special abilities in certain areas will become evident, either to the individual or to others. The Bible explains it best.

“Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving (11 Corinthians 12:4,5 LB). Paul, under the inspiration of God, enumerates some of these: ability to give wise advice, studying and teaching, faith in prayer, healing, preaching, and discernment to determine the truth of what others claim.

Sadly, these gifts, like our natural abilities, are often unrecognized. That is why it is important for us to let our fellow members know in what way we are blessed through them and to encourage them in that ministry. God has not made us to live independently. We are members one of another. We all need each other. That’s why Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship serves such a great purpose.

August 24, 2009

Writer's Group On Tour - Payne

Looking for a fun way to gain exposure for your writer’s group and see more exposure and support for Christian writers? Why not take your group on tour!

My writer’s group, The Writer’s Crucible, marked its first tour with a visit to Millbrook, Ontario. More than 100 people attended the first event at the Millbrook Christian Assembly, with Pastor Jamie Nelder speaking on spiritual gifts.

This was the first stop on a planned tour of various churches in the next year. The majority of attendees came from Millbrook, but others arrived from Buckhorn and as far away as Haliburton. The day started with a service by Pastor Nelder who addressed the topic, “Spiritual Gifts.” The praise and worship team of MCA joined him. After worship, Sharon Cavers and Jan Cox presented their testimony – specific to their gift of writing – to the congregation. Other members of the group were in attendance at the service. The service was followed by a pot-blessing luncheon where the congregation was invited to enjoy a spread of sandwiches and desserts while mingling with the writer’s group members.

At the luncheon, we set up a table displaying a sampling of books, Christian magazines and newspapers, and a collection of our own writing samples including books and specialty gifts. Jan Cox offered fridge magnets with acronyms to help others remember God’s Word. One magnet featured a smiling face with the acronym S.M.I.L.E. – See More In Life Everyday (Romans 12:12).

On a bulletin board, we posted member one-sheets, with an alphabetical list of all the group members and our area of expertise. One member, Len Colp, was listed as the author of Barefoot Days and Winner of the Mississippi Valley Writer’s Award of Merit Achievement in both the Fiction Category and Non Fiction Category.

A sign was posted explaining the history and mandate of the Writer’s Crucible with a sign-up sheet for anyone in the congregation interested in joining our group.

"If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be here in Millbrook speaking to a church congregation and not only that but speaking about Christian writing, I would have said they were dreaming," said Jan Cox, member of the Writer’s Crucible.

“I came to show my support for the group,” commented Cathy Jeffrey, a storyteller from Buckhorn. “I was pleasantly surprised to hear the speeches by Sharon and Jan that supplemented Pastor Jamie’s service.”

As we are an interdenominational group, we plan to rotate to each member’s church over the course of a year in a variety of cities including Peterborough, Millbrook and Cobourg.

Each host is responsible for picking a day and making arrangements with their home church. They also may pick whichever forum best suits them and their church. For example, one writer may decide to offer a workshop to the congregation. Another may want to organize a poetry reading or a story-telling time.

One member plans to offer a display in the church during the weeks that they offer the “Network --Understanding God’s Design for you in the Church” program. Members are encouraged to be creative. The goal is to expose the church family to Christians who write.

Cavers commented, “It is our desire to use the Writer’s Crucible to bring glory to God’s name as we endeavor to share the Good News of the Gospel in our writing.”

“…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

August 21, 2009

Circle of Friendship by Brenda Leyland

Sometimes we wait for someone else to invite us out for coffee, to notice we're having a down day, or to remember it's our birthday. At a party or conference or at the back of church on Sunday, we stand around hoping someone will come over and say hi to us. Because we feel too shy.

I used to do that, and I realized that, ofttimes, my supposed 'shyness' had a lot to do with my fear of rejection. I used to worry about being snubbed, so I was reluctant to risk going over and introducing myself.

As I say, that's how I used to be, until I started paying attention to the wise words that perfect love casts out fear. I began to overcome my own fear when I chose to forget about myself and focus on the needs of someone else.

I am convinced that one mustn't wait for people to reach out -- we must reach in. ~ Jan Karon

I like what Miss Jan Karon said. If you want to be a part of the group, then why not look for someone else who looks as nervous as you feel. Why not focus on making her feel more comfortable? No doubt, you'll find yourself forgetting about your own discomfort.

You could open the conversation by expressing something complimentary you've noticed about her or what she's wearing. Watch it change the atmosphere. The fear leaves, the rejection leaves, you begin to relax as you both experience that beautiful sense of belonging.

We'll never be on the outside looking in when we are the ones opening the circle to welcome someone new into our lives. A circle that does not exclude, but is ever widening to enfold a new colleague, neighbour, co-worker, or fellow conference attender.

When I started taking the initiative to reach out, I was amazed at how many new friends were gathering around me. I loved it. Talk about it changing my life for the better....and the more beautiful.
Here's to ever widening circles of friends!

Originally posted at Perfectly Pink!

Brenda lives in Alberta with her husband and their sweet tortoiseshell cat, Miss Kitty. When Brenda's not watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places, she's probably writing about them on her blog It's A Beautiful Life.

August 17, 2009

The Voice

The order assaulted her senses as she tore at the damp sheets. The girl tossed her heavy head to the side trying to quiet the demon-like voices that poked and prodded.

"Five-thousand, six hundred and seventy two, five thousand, six hundred and seventy three, five thousand six hundred and seventy four..."

The vile taste in her mouth made her nauseated but she didn't have the strength to move, to get a drink, to go to the bathroom. She couldn't even recall where the bathroom was. Where was she? Why do the voices torture her so?

"I can't! I can't!" she cried as the pressure for her to continue played havoc with her mind. Perspiration covered her face like drizzle. Her hair was matted and unkempt. But the girl's outward appearance was the least of her worries.

"Five-thousand, six hundred and seventy five, five thousand, six hundred and seventy six, five thousand six hundred and seventy seven..."

"No more! Stop...please."

The girl's frantic voice sounded threadbare and weak.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven...all good children go to heaven. When they die, put them in a pie. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven!"


Stillness. Black.

As the girl lay motionless, a wet cloth placed on her forehead took on the appearance of a veil. A shroud. Enveloping. Shielding. Preparing. A grave cloth?

"Count! Death child. Count!"

Like a timid fawn the girl tucked in her limbs and feigned sleep. As the girl drifted into oblivion, the voices started again.

"Awaken and hearken to my instruction!" The demon voice bellowed. "Heed not to sleep wretch!"

"Five-thousand, six hundred and seventy eight, five thousand, six hundred and seventy nine, five thousand six hundred and eighty..."

Like a beating wind, the dreaded voices came faster and urged the girl to count more; longer; louder; higher. The girl could not keep track. She did not know where to begin. She had no sense that her counting would...could ever end. Her voice faltered. Her mind - obfuscated.

"Take me, Jesus. Grace, mercy. Take me," the girl uttered. She no longer wanted to fight. She would give up to the merciless voices and succumb to their incessant battering. They would win.

Then, barely an audible whisper, she heard it. The Voice. It was different. Balm for the soul. Divine balm.

"Count with me my precious child..." came the sweet, loving words.

She reached up her tired arm in the direction of the tender voice. "Where do I begin?" she asked as she opened her eyes and felt a peace like she had not experienced for a very long time.

Start at the beginning - Alpha. Fullness of life. Journey with Me. It is finished - Omega.

The girl's fever had broken.

Heat Wave - Nesdoly

Yesterday’s fever
broke in the evening
This morning
cool soothing air
bathes face arms legs
the neighborhood refreshed
as if it slept
deep and exhausted
after sickness

But sun’s warm hand upon my back
warns temperature is rising
and burning heat will soon
again blister the brown grass
make bright-eyed impatiens
and roadside chicory
droop in the dazzling delirium

We will lie in darkened rooms
splayed under whirring fans
flushed, fighting off sweats
ice-tinkling drinks within arm’s reach
till evening
when the fever breaks again.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly

The weather man says we're in for another few hot days here - days which, if the heat goes too high, feel surreal to me. (You may have guessed that we don't have AC.) How do you feel about the heat?


Blog: promptings
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

August 12, 2009

What Does Jesus Want to Do? -- Janet Sketchley

“Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19, NIV*

Mark Buchanan raises this issue in Hidden in Plain Sight, and I find it one step more immediate than “What Would Jesus Do?” (In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon).

After all, Jesus isn’t me, isn’t in my shoes, so I can only guess at what He’d do. The Holy Spirit is right here with me, so I can ask. But I need to ask, and to obey.

For me, this brings it from the theoretical to the practical. “What would the Father/Son/Spirit do here?” is something I can acknowledge and then go my own way.

“Father/Son/Spirit, what do You want to do through me?” will have an answer I need to obey.

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

August 07, 2009

Maturity is being Childlike

by Elsie Montgomery

Pete was green with one black and white wing. His coloring was odd for a canary, but so was his voice and pluck. He sang like nothing I’ve ever heard and was my constant delight.

As a child, I also had a stamp collection. When it was laid out, Pete would fly into it, scattering stamps everywhere and taking one in his beak to sample. If I pointed my finger at him, he considered that an attack and came at me, his beak open. As soon as I backed off, he began to sing. In no time, to get him to sing all I had to do was point at him.

I must miss both childhood and Pete. I dreamed last night that I still had him, as well as Vicki, the female that we bought to keep him company. (He stopped singing at that point, but when Vicki died, he sang all day!) The dream was so vivid that when I woke I had to keep shaking my head to fight a sense of disorientation.

Today’s devotional verse is about being like a child. My childhood included this plucky canary and the enjoyment he gave me, but this is not what Jesus was talking about.
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
The comments that go with this verse say that a person needs to come to Jesus like a child to be saved, but a careful reading shows that this is not what Jesus says. He describes how a person must first be converted, then become like a child.

Conversion is the work of God in a human heart. He gives new life and faith in Jesus Christ at the same time. From that point forward, His goal is to transform the convert into the image of His Son. In a spiritual sense, a newly converted person is immediately in the kingdom of heaven, but entrance to it in a physical sense comes later. The conditions for getting in are conversion — and the proof of that conversion is childlike humility.

Jesus had to be thinking of very young children who still have a dependent attitude and outlook. Only little children are simple in thought, helpless and trusting, unaffected by the jaded world around them, without pretension and ambition. They are still sinners but naive in many ways, totally dependent on others, and free from selfish claims to greatness. They submit themselves to the care of their parents, and in having their needs met they are not demanding or obnoxious.

We cannot do anything to earn or deserve eternal life. We cannot become like a little child, then get saved and enter the kingdom. The order is like this: we are first saved, then become like children. That is what the Spirit of Jesus Christ does in a human heart. He brings a humble and dependent attitude that is unlike anything we can do ourselves.

I might have started life like this little child He speaks of, but because of my sin nature (which is part of every human being), my self-focus soon showed up. Actually, even as a baby, I wanted what I wanted NOW. In just a few months, like any other child I knew how to make my parents come running. I knew how to make people think I was cute and I knew how to manipulate my brother. This is not the type of childlikeness that Jesus was talking about.

Pete the canary died more than forty years ago, but I woke up this morning missing him. As I read the Bible and thought about what it means to be like a child, I should be longing for far more than my childhood pet. While Pete amused me and kept me company, the greater value is the trust and innocence, the simple joy and delighted contentment, of being a child of God.

August 03, 2009

The Storm - The Storyteller

Saturday afternoon I lay on my lounge chair in the backyard, basking in warm sunbeams. My cats stretched out purring in the shade beneath my chair, letting me know they kept me company. A perfect summer day.
Then a shadow swept across my closed eyes and I opened them. The sun had slid behind a cloud. Just a big white ice cream cloud. I rolled off my chair. Enough tanning for one day. Might as well put everything away.

I showered away my suntan lotion and headed back outside, but stopped in my tracks in the doorway. All around me angry, churning, black clouds rolled into the sky from two directions. After calling the cats inside, I watched from my dining room window. Lightening flashed and thunder shook my house. The sky turned green.

Thoughts of how to protect myself in a tornado ran jumbled through my mind. Basement. Bathroom. Do I face the storm so the house blows away from me or do I just curl up in the bathtub? No, I can’t do that. There is only a shower downstairs.

Before my mind could sort out the jumble, a powerful wind struck the house, shaking it. Curtains flew out from the windows. A picture fell from the wall. My mouth dropped open but not a sound followed. But I ran. Closed all the windows.

Outside rain fell so hard I couldn’t see the houses across the street. Trees bent, their upper branches almost touching the ground. Another sheet of wind and rain swept past, ripping smaller branches off trees, sending them sailing down the street in a torrent of water.

For several minutes life was a vacuum. Nothing felt real. Then it was over. The angry clouds rolled away. The sun broke through. I slipped on my runners and headed down the walking trail.
All around me, debris clung to the edges of the streets and walks. I came upon a huge poplar branch laying on a lawn. As I stared at it some pretty serious thoughts poked their heads into my mind. Like a few minutes ago, this tree was whole. Now it’s deformed or maybe even worse. It may have to be cut down. I marvelled at how fragile our life really is. Realized that tomorrow may not always be just another day. And it made me thankful. Thankful that the storm passed without more damage, but more so, thankful that God had protected us from the full blast of the storm.