December 30, 2009

Why I Must Write - Payne

In order to feel “fulfilled” I know that I must write. Reading is great and I really do love it. But, it doesn’t offer the same release. Gardening and tending to the house, again feel good, and I like to check off things from my “to do” list, but they still leave me wanting more. Walking makes me feel good, but it doesn’t help me to empty myself so I can be filled again. Only writing.

Nothing purges my soul like writing. Nothing fills the well like writing. I can go about my day, finish a million tasks, have a sparkling house and tend to gardens, but the only thing that feeds me back is writing.

It’s theory until I write about it and only then does it become practice. The stuff I take in does not solidify until I regurgitate it back on paper. I think best when I write. All these thoughts that are swimming around in my mind are usable once put on paper. All my questions get cleared away and answered. I don’t feel like I can tackle the day until my thoughts are in order. And my thoughts are not put into order until I write.

I write much better than I talk. My ideas are clearer. I’m able to come up with solutions. What feels like questions, ideas and words floating freely in my mind are channelled and organized out of this free-flowing sphere to be built up, piece by piece.

My ideas are like puzzle pieces loosely scattered within a small box. When I write, I take one piece out at a time, examine it, touch it, look at it and find its place in the big picture. Once I write it down, it’s no longer free-floating but instead adding to a much more beautiful scene.

Once those loose pieces have found their place on paper, my mind conjures up new ideas, a new creation. This is how I learn. This is how I grow. This is why I must write.

Can you relate?

December 23, 2009

The Angels' Message for 2010 - Martha Toews Anderson

Night had settled on the Judean hillside outside the little town of Bethlehem. The sheep had bedded down together, each one facing toward the last rays of the setting sun as is customary with sheep. As the darkness deepened, the shepherds may have been relaxing, lying on the ground or leaning against a rock, yet always alert, lest a predator should sneak up.

Suddenly they were brought to full alertness by the appearance of an angel of the Lord enshrined in heavenly light. Fear gripped their hearts, but the angel spoke reassuringly.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

As suddenly as the first angel had appeared, a multitude of heavenly beings burst through the dark skies in a blaze of glory, praising and exulting God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 translated from the Greek)

This does not imply that God’s peace is given to those who have good will, but who are recipients of the good will or favor that He is offering to them. It was for this that the Savior had come to earth as the Prince of Peace. No tidings could have given more cause for jubilation to those who were anticipating the coming of the promised Redeemer than these words spoken by the angels.

When the angels had returned to heaven, darkness once more enveloped the Judean hillside. But greater yet was the darkness of sin that hung over the world, blinding the hearts and minds to the reality of greatest event of all time. The Savior of the world had come, but man failed to recognize Him.

Jesus was born into a world that had turned to worshipping false gods. In man’s mad race for wealth and power, human life had lost its value. The rulers cared little how many people lived or died. The populace lived in fear, hatred, and greed. To such a world as this, the angels brought the glorious message from God that the promised Rescuer had come. To a world that knew no peace, God sent the Prince of Peace.

Two thousand years later, the world is still entrenched in wars and destruction. The drive for power, wealth, and fame continues to rule human thinking. For half a century men have talked of world peace, but we are no closer to achieving it. Man has made tremendous strides in sciences, technology, and in developing every means of destruction imaginable, but despite endless negotiations and peace talks, he is not one iota closer to living in harmony the world over than the people were the night the angels broke through the skies with the glorious news of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

That should be enough to make us realize that it can’t be done. How did man get entrapped in a mess that he can’t undo? For the answer we have to go back to the beginning of Time. God prepared a beautiful world with vegetation and stocked with animals. When all was in readiness, He made man in His own likeness, possessing a soul and spirit, and the ability to communicate with his Creator. To this human pair God gave the responsibility of caring for the earth and all living things.

Man chose rather to take control in his own hands by doing the one thing God told them not to do, to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this act of rebellion man indicated his desire to be his own boss. Human nature has not changed. Man is still trying to abolish God and achieve a perfect world on his own.

As we enter the new year, why not take to heart the message of the angels, and give God the honor due Him by turning to Him in repentance and submission and experience the peace for which each human heart yearns. That is the reason Jesus came to earth so long ago.

December 20, 2009

A Christmas Family Tradition - Janice Keats

The cheerful shout echoed as dad was strutting his way upstairs, “Everybody up! Santa was just here!” All kids made record time getting up out of bed. There was no line up for the washroom, just a quick “get out of my way” as all 8 kids raced their way downstairs. What a wonderful sight to see a gathering of kids crowded in and around the Christmas tree half way under with just their bottoms sticking out grasping for their gifts. It was as if they were summoned to find that pot of gold under the tree; each child wanted to be the first to find it.

Soon a field of Christmas paper was strewn across the living room. No one cared about the mess, even if it was 2:30 in the morning. Not Dad, not Mom, not even Grandma who delightfully watched the excitement from her rocking chair with her feet obscured from the sea of paper. The air filled with excitement as the gifts were revealed. “I got a Barbie voyager!” Glenda shouted.
“I got my hockey skates!” Lorne added. Eleanor’s dream came true as her gift was being opened. She cried when she discovered that she had a brand new guitar. Filled with emotion she could barely speak. Mom and dad were so happy that everyone was satisfied with Santa’s choices. When all the unwrapping was completed, Dad got up and said, “I’m going to bed now. Make sure all the lights are turned off when you kids go back to bed.”

There was no sleep left in anyone’s eyes except Dad’s. As he exited the living room and slowly made his way upstairs to bed, the mountain of paper was moved out of the way as each one took possession of their new toys.

Janice Keats

December 18, 2009

A Puzzling Tradition by Brenda Leyland

I like to put together Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles during the month of December. 

One puzzle I really like working on is "A Peanuts Christmas" by Springbok. It's funny how it's become a favourite; as a child I never really warmed to the Christmas special on TV. We'd watch it every year, and I'd always feel sad about Charlie Brown and his poor little tree.

But then years later, I saw the TV special again, and I realized that I'd forgotten the story does not end with Charlie staying sad and alone. Do you remember when he wails, Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? And, Linus, so sweetly and confidently, takes center stage and begins to recite those beautiful, poignant words taken from the old King James version of Luke 2:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and they were sore afraid. And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord...."
This year, I brought this puzzle out again. It's become a favourite. During the weeks of Advent, the pieces sit on a table in the family room opposite the fireplace. As I go about my day, I'll often stop and puzzle a few pieces into place; usually by Christmas Eve, it's done.

Many things may change through the years, but the true meaning of Christmas remains the same. All the traditions of decorating, baking, card sending, singing, present wrapping, eating, and visiting are part of the joyous celebration of honouring the Child Emmanuel... God with Us.

Thanks, Linus, for the sweet reminder! Happy Christmas, and God bless us everyone!

December 16, 2009

Good Things Come in Small Packages - Pam Mytroen

My Grade Four Teacher, much to the delight of my parents, wrote on my report card that good things come in small packages. Though I was the smallest of my peers that year, weighing in at a scrawny 47 pounds, I was at the top of my class in spelling.

A girl in Mexico city received a shoe-box four years ago. She felt that the world had forgotten her. But when she opened her box and found simple gifts tucked inside, it sparked an undying hope in her. She is now preparing to become a doctor. She wants to give back to others. Operation Christmas Child began because one man in England prepared a few shoe-box gifts for child victims of war in Bosnia. Since then it has grown to over eight million shoe-boxes annually. Good things come in small packages!

In 1843 Charles Dickens, needing money for their soon to be born child, wrote a simple story originally called “Carol”, paid to have it published, and in under six days the publishers Chapman and Hall of London dispensed 6000 copies. Though it was only a short story it has endured for two centuries through print and theatre. His little ‘package’ impacted English culture. The next Christmas, December 1844 began a tradition that has continued for decades. All factories and businesses in England and North America closed their doors Christmas Eve and didn’t re-open until Boxing Day so that Tiny Tim and others like him could celebrate Christ’s birth. Good things come in small packages!

In 1940 a man sat in his hotel room waiting. He had a few minutes of spare time. He scrawled out the words and melody to a Christmas tune. It’s become the most popular Christmas song ever recorded. We’ve all sung it, hummed it, or enjoyed it at some time during the season: “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin. Good things come in small packages!

This Christmas we have the opportunity to impact our culture around us. We may choose to give a small gift, say a few short words, or help out in some small way at a charity. But those tiny gifts of our time, like a spark, can become a blazing lamp of hope in the darkness.

One of the smallest, most un-noticed gifts came on a cold winter night in a humble shelter when Jesus, a small package, was delivered to earth. The Word, the complete and final statement of God, arrived as a whisper. Today he continues to speak in a still small voice, yet his voice has the power to calm the storm and raise the dead. God knows that the very best things come in small packages!

Though your words be few and your gifts be simple, know that they have the power to last forever.

~ Pam Mytroen

December 14, 2009

Christmas Cake - Nesdoly

November or early December is the time
to start on this year’s Christmas cake
Pour several cups of sweet anticipation into a large bowl
    - the first snowfall when we hauled out the Christmas records
    - all the dolls in the Sear's catalogue
    - paint smells from the basement
cut in a pound of cold reality
    - the year I worked nights and slept through
    - the first Christmas without Daddy
    - the one I broke my wrist
and cream these two ingredients
When blended and smooth 
stir in – 1 cup at a time
the plans, ideas, long wish lists, 
credit cards and shopping trips, 
decorating, light's a'blinking, 
CDs spinning, here we come a-caroling -- 
keep on stirring
Fold in the surprises next
    - a perfect tiny poinsettia for the coffee table
    - a leisurely lunch on the Starlight Dinner Train
    - room on a standby flight Christmas Eve
Finally toss in 
    - a teaspoon of worry (surely I've forgotten something)
    - and a pinch of pride (the house glows by candlelight 
while we sip our eggnog Christmas Eve)
Give it the final flourish 
– signed! the last (late) card of the season
and bake in a turkey-fragrant oven.
You know it’s done 
when the last chocolate is eaten
all the tinsel is vacuumed
and the house is New Year tidy once more.
(Guaranteed to never turn out the same)
© 2004 - Violet Nesdoly

Blog: promptings
Poetry portfolio: Violet Nesdoly / poems
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

December 09, 2009

My Friends are Getting Published - Janet Sketchley

As well as being a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, I also belong to The Word Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers (yes, I'm Canadian!). And I’m privileged to be part of an amazing online critique and encouragement group as well as one that's face-to-face. It’s a fine way to meet fellow writers, keep up with news, and stay encouraged.

Lots of writing friends—this is great. We understand and support one another like non-writers can’t. We’ve cheered one another on, we know how hard the journey is, and when one of them gets published, I think it’s almost as exciting as if it were my manuscript being accepted.

I can honestly say my first response is happiness for the new contract. I cheer and punch the air, and send a sincerely gleeful congratulatory email—364 days of the year.

The other 24 hours tend to spread out in small increments across the year. I’m still glad for whoever’s book will now be published and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them, but will it ever be my turn? Why is it happening for everyone else instead?

I had one of “those” hours not long ago and the Lord reminded me of Jesus telling Peter in effect, “If I want John to stay alive until I come back, that’s My business. You tend to yours.

I had to choose to accept it, and to repeat it to myself regularly for the next while, but the message was clear: He has a plan for each writer, and the only plan that concerns me is mine. If he wants others to be published and not me, that’s His call. He’s the Shepherd, the chief Author.

And I can rest in the knowledge that if He’s preparing me for a publishing contract, it will happen—in His way and time. All I have to do is keep working so I’ll be ready. In the mean time He’s given me lots of friends to enjoy—both real and imaginary :-)

PS I do have a Christmas short story online this month in this month's Christian Fiction Online magazine in Dee Stewart's Multicultural Fiction column. It’s called “Too Much to Ask?” and is written under the pen name of Joanna Mallory.

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

December 07, 2009

Shopping for Trouble - Glynis Belec

(A chapter from my book: Help I Need a New Fig Leaf!)

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

The long awaited weekend finally arrived. Shopping in the city with my delightful children promised to be filled with fun, frivolity and pleasurable purchases. I had two children, two hands, a full tank of gas and money to spend; all was well with the world.

The half hour drive to the city gave me an opportunity to proffer wisdom and reminders about honoring and obeying. I was certain God was pleased with my approach. Both little darlings nodded in agreement at my instruction and vowed to get along and listen.
Our shopping expedition was underway. As we strolled near a ladies’ wear store, a rack of marvelous sale merchandise beckoned me to take a peek. I took the bait and began fumbling through the fine array of fashionable styles.

There had to be more inside, I deduced. We entered the trendy store and I whispered clear directives to my tagalong twosome about staying close and keeping hands off the merchandise. I headed to a rack of shimmering dresses. “Mommy…I need to go to the bathroom badly!’ a little voice soon called out.

Sharply dressed sales clerks stared at me, no doubt wondering what I would do. The old bathroom excuse was my son’s finest tactic for getting me to hurry up, but it wasn’t going to work this time. I needed a few more minutes to look around. “You’ll have to wait…” I whispered and resumed my browsing.
Moments later I saw my smiling son come strolling out of an employees only door. “See. There is a restroom, Mommy.” I reiterated my earlier command to join his sister on the bench outside the fitting rooms.

A sales clerk with a pasted on smile handed me a number and, clutching two stunning outfits, I entered a fitting room close to the bench where my fidgeting pair sat.

I had barely struggled to get out of my clothes when the flimsy door burst open. “I wanna’ see, too!” My son’s voice bounced off the walls of the posh store. I inadvertently let out a scream. There I stood, red-faced in my underwear. All heads turned my way. I hauled the culprit into the now cramped change room and with gritted teeth strongly advised him to NEVER do that again.

After a difficult struggle in the tiny cubicle (complete with son) I managed to try on one of the outfits. I stepped outside the room to see if the mirror did me any justice. “They look like pajamas!” my daughter laughed. “Ssshhh!” I hissed noticing eyes upon me again. I nipped back into the room with son in tow.

It was my daughter’s turn to get restless. She had spotted a circular revolving rack heavily laden with ‘just in’ designer clothing. I walked out of the fitting room in time to see the entire rack whiz around and fall to the floor. Fancy apparel flew in every direction. I could have screamed. My daughter did.

A thousand apologies later and short of placing sin offerings at the feet of the fuming sales clerks, I left - without frock or finery. I now had the undivided attention of the partners in crime and they could tell momma bear was not happy. “D’we hafta’ go home now?” a sheepish voice sensed the impending doom.

As I contemplated the purchase of two collars and one short leash, my heart softened. How many times had I gone to God with a sheepish voice and how many times had He forgiven me? Too often, I have embarrassed God with thoughtless words and foolish choices. Yet, He still loves me despite my imperfections and foibles.

In Psalm 127:3 we are reminded that children are a heritage from the Lord and are to be counted as blessings not burdens.

So I counted my blessings for the rest of the shopping trip. Relief was written on the faces of my dynamic duo and I was especially happy when we read the sign in the next window - CHILDREN WELCOME. I’m sure they’ll have that same sign on the gates of heaven!