June 30, 2010

Gardens Then and Now - Lyn Kublick

My special interest is history and I love to consider how things have changed over the last 100 years, or so. My own blog has sat idle for the last month while my energy has been focused on the garden, so let's consider gardens then and now.

The young lady in this picture is my mother's sister Hazel Erma Reager, born July 16, 1891. During my early life I delved into collecting family treasures and learning about our roots. By some stroke of foresight I wrote to my aunt in 1961 asking her to tell me memories of her childhood. My request reached her when she was living in a retirement trailer park in Arizona and had time on her hands. she replied with a long and fascinating letter. One paragraph of which described the Reager family garden circa 1900.

"Dad had one of the finest orchards and gardens in the area. I suppose most of the trees were planted by Grandfather as they were in full bearing when I remember. There were all kinds of trees: apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, persimmons and also an orange and a pummelo. Mother canned and dried enough for the year's supply, besides making jams and jellies. Most of this was done in the washhouse so as not to interfere with the cook. Dad had a wonderful garden also, growing all sorts of vegetables and melons. I'll never forget the casabas. They were very large. He would store them in the cooler house and we'd enjoy them at Christmas. There was also a large rose garden grown in the old bed of Stony Creek."

I can't help but wonder how they obtained the great variety of fruit trees and various seeds in a era when transport was difficult. The family used real "horse power" to travel from place to place and do all of the farm work.

Times have certainly changed. However the Master Gardener remains the same. We can plant, but only God can put life into seeds and cause them to grow. Some seeds are so tiny they look like dust scattered on your hand, but He has placed a tiny plant inside each one. This is a beautiful picture of how He is able to renew us, placing new life in our hearts, when we seek Him.

June 28, 2010

A Bad Father Is Better Than None - Bruce Atchison

Father's Day can be a lonely time for children deprived of their dads through divorce or death. While their peers are happily making cards and buying presents, these unfortunate children feel unfairly excluded.

My dad was far from perfect but he occasionally demonstrated his fondness for me. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote of one sublime moment when I felt that rarely-experienced parental bond strongly. In the following vignette, I had just been flown home for the summer holidays after six months at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, B.C.


I felt glad when I met Dad at the airport but my joy turned to disgust when he insisted on stopping at a bar on the way home. He had left me many times before in the Volkswagen with nothing to do, occasionally for hours, while he had fun with his friends. Now Dad kept me waiting once more, delaying my arrival. As my father drove through Fort Saskatchewan, the Volkswagen stalled and refused to start. After he tried to revive the engine and only succeeded in wearing down the battery, he slammed his fist in disgust on the dashboard.

It was fortunate that the breakdown happened by Ray's Auto Body Shop, a place where I often played. The old cars were extremely entertaining to sit in. I spent many happy hours in the yard, driving to many wonderful places in my imaginary world, whenever the adults weren't watching.

"Well, I guess that's it for the car. Let's walk the rest of the way home," Dad suggested. "I'll phone the shop and they can fix it." I agreed and Dad unloaded my suitcases.

"Is that too heavy for you?" he asked as I picked up a case with each hand.

"It's alright, Dad. I'm a big boy now."

The walk home in the warm sunlight was one of those sublime moments in my life. I felt that father-son bond as we talked and strolled through the familiar streets of my home town. "I wish Dad was like this all the time," I thought. I heartily longed for a real dad and not an alcoholic who occasionally hit Mom.


Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, is available through the PayPal-equipped InScribe website.

June 26, 2010

What's The Priority? - Karen Toews

Priority on my agenda was to get camping gear and other related stuff like food and clothes packed into the car - plus there were some other must-do’s for the day. Certain that being ready to pull out of the driveway by suppertime would be quite manageable, I planned to link 'town' errands with a bike ride - a birthday gift to myself.

I didn’t think this goal would be out of reach as the basics of tent, sleeping bags and cooking utensils were all pretty much heaped together. I was to discover, however, the mix of the unexpected and the fact we'd recently moved into a travel trailer parked on our new building site, would significantly affect how the day would actually play out. In real time:

- transport load of laundry to neighbour (Laurie) and hang out on my outdoor drying racks
- stow boxes currently stored on trailer upper bunk bed to storage area under our bed
- find bedding for empty bunk bed in anticipation of grandson’s upcoming visit (yahoo!)
- walk .25km to another neighbour (Malcolm) who is kindly housing our down-sized office and has internet connections (our phone-internet-cable provider will not have us connected anytime soon)
- Malcolm's not home, no access to paperwork needed before ride to town
- plant some Swiss chard seeds in pot sitting on the trailer deck
- walk by waiting bike and gear, still hoping...
-check again at Malcolm’s: great, he’s out in the yard – stop to chat and help him connect lengths of 4-inch PVC pipe for his house renovation project, which produces a bloodied, pinched finger on my part and regrets on his
- get necessary paperwork from the office and connect my PC which I had fetched the day earlier from Computer Patch repair shop… happy to see it now connects to Malcolm’s internet network
- after viewing emails, I realize fast-track phone calls (on Malcolm’s phone) with follow-up action is required
- drive car to my husband’s work (location out of cell phone coverage) to discuss necessary action; we drive together to Bridgewater for urgent business deadlines, also take care of other errands
- back home at the trailer – I scoop dry clothes off the rack, heap camping stuff into car, have short shower
- put bike gear away
- we pull out of the driveway; it’s 7:30, stop for supper at a familiar pub, overlooking the Mahone Bay marina

The day was totally unmanageable from the original plan but the necessary was accomplished and the only way to close its page was to remember:
“This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

June 24, 2010

Horse Sense 101 - Lynda Schultz

If you watch horse racing you may have observed that some of the horses wear blinkers or blinders. These leather screens are attached to the horse's bridle to prevent the animal from seeing sideways or behind. The idea is to keep a horse that is easily distracted from seeing what is going on around him and to prevent him from losing his primary focus—full steam straight ahead to the finish line.

"I will walk in my house with a blameless heart," writes David in Psalm 101 (NIV). We nod our heads knowingly; David was no saint at home. Remember Bathsheba? Then again, if I point a finger at someone else, there are always several pointing right back at me. What I do I do in the privacy of my own home that would disgrace me were it revealed in public, and bring shame on the name of the Lord?

Reading the psalm got me thinking about what I fill my idle spaces with when I am at home. David writes: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing" (verse 3). What do I read? What do I watch on television? What kinds of DVDs do I entertain myself with? What sites do I visit on the Internet?

The songwriter then determines not to "hang" with anyone in his home who is faithless, perverse, a slanderer, proud, deceitful, or a liar. He wants to keep company with those who are faithful and to be mentored by those who are what he wants to become—blameless. Clearly we can't disassociate ourselves from everyone who doesn't conform to Biblical standards. How would we witness to them or be of influence in their lives if we had nothing to do with those who most need to discover new life through faith in Christ Jesus? I think the psalmist is talking about those who are his closest friends. Who is within my intimate circle of relationships? They should be those who pull me up spiritually, not those who tempt me toward that downward spiral away from the Lord.

Just as blinders keep horses focused so that they can win the race, we need to consciously choose to keep our private spaces as free from evil as possible, and "hang" with those who build us up spiritually so that we can keep focused on being, in private and in public, the witnesses to truth to which God has called us.

June 22, 2010

Physical Cues to Write

I recently read somewhere that you can train yourself to react physically to cues, to help you want to write. Makes sense. Here’s how.

When you sit down to write, begin to work, then pause and play some pleasurable music, softly. Continue to work. Do this each time you sit to write. Eventually, when you hear that music, you will physically want to write.

I have found this principle works for me. Unfortunately, I think I’ve developed some bad habits.

Even though I have a lovely little office space with a desk, I like to write with my laptop in the living room, when everyone else is in bed, and have HGTV playing on the television. There’s something soothing about people finding the perfect home for their family, or renovating a room so it shines. Makes me want to renovate my writing so it shines.

Another thing I have taken to doing, is buying some luscious dark chocolate at the grocery store, and tucking it away in a secret spot for late night writing dates. Just a couple of squares, slowly savoured is enough to tempt me back for another rendezvous.

My third bad habit, is chewing gum while I write. I stock up on bubblegum and chomp until my chops are sore. I blow bubbles without restraint, and snap my gum with glee, knowing there is no one watching. Even a lady can chew like a trucker when she’s writing prose alone.

I wonder if there is a way to train myself to write while I exercise?

Do you have any habits, good or bad, which provide physical cues to get you writing?

Dorothy Bentley

June 19, 2010

Write or Type? by Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild discussion forum a question was posed about whether, as writers, we preferred to type or handwrite our first drafts. I prefer to write on lined paper in a three-ring binder, then transcribe onto computer and edit as I type.

Carolyn Wilker agrees, “I still often write an early draft by hand, for poetry and prose, as thoughts come to me. Sometimes my typing fingers just cannot keep up with the words that come. Then I go to the computer to finish writing and revising.”

However, Benjamin Collier prefers typing over handwriting. “Ever since I discovered my gift of writing I've been doing it all on computer. The development of my stories takes a lot of editing, organizing and rearranging that would just turn into a big mess of scribbles on paper. I even had to start journaling on the computer instead of writing my journal by hand, not because of organizing but because my knuckles started to ache whenever I spent too much time handwriting.”

Darlene Oakley does not share this same problem. “I find I still have that attachment to paper. My ideas feel more real when I've written them down. I may add to them later, on-screen, but I need the physicality of writing them down.”

Like me, Audrey Dorsch can type faster than she can write by longhand. “For me, it's easier to get my thoughts out by keyboarding them right into the computer. Also, I hate doing things twice, and transcribing my written work seems like duplication of effort.”

Aimee Reid shared, “I find writing and editing to be somewhat different processes. When I am gathering ideas and organizing my thoughts I tend to jot notes down longhand. My creative juices flow better. When I'm in front of a computer screen my brain can too easily switch into editing mode. Like Audrey, though, I don't like to duplicate my efforts. I only write longhand to prime my pump. Then I go to the computer to draft. And I revise as I go. Of course, then I let the writing cool and come back to it again . . . and again . . . and still again as many times as I need to. I've learned when I need to move away from the keyboard and then back to it. “

Kathie Chiu prefers typing over hand-writing, but she misses the process of writing in longhand. She wrote, “There's something much more creative about pencil/pen and paper. I imagine some of the greatest classics of all time... written longhand. I cannot imagine how Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice on sheets of paper using a quill and ink! We take our conveniences for granted.”

There is certainly nothing right or wrong about longhand versus keyboarding. So, tell us, what is your preference?

June 18, 2010

PRAIRIE ROSE – Martha Toews Anderson

Harvesting was in full swing so I drove to the field where my husband was at work to take pictures of the combines in operation. As I walked through the freshly-cut grain field I spotted two red roses like gems hidden in the golden stubble. Though this was late in the season, the tall wheat stocks had shielded the blooms from direct sun that would otherwise have faded their deep-rose colour. Their proximity to the ground had protected them from getting chewed up by the teeth of the combine.

As I paused to admire them and reserve their beauty on film, I contemplated the purpose for which the Creator caused this tiny bush to blossom where until a few minutes ago it was hidden from view by the crop. Certainly it is the Creator’s purpose for a plant to bloom and produce seed after its kind. But why in a spot where no one would have delighted in their beauty if I had not happened along? Did God tuck these little flowers here just for me to discover and enjoy?

I thought of the myriads of flowers that bloom on forest floors or tucked away in crevices where no human eye ever sees them. For whom is their beauty displayed? As I ponder the reason, the words of Sir Isaac Watts came to mind. “There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glory known.” True, God delights in His creation and He placed them there to bloom for His glory. He derives pleasure out of the beauty He has made as He did when He created the world and proclaimed it good. His angels see it and praise Him. The devil’s troops observe God’s handiwork and realize that despite all their efforts to thwart God’s purposes, the splendour of His creation continues. Nothing good is ever lost. Standing there in the sun-soaked field, I prayed that God would keep me faithful in whatever purpose He has for me.

All this came back to me much later while flipping through a pile of old and faded clippings that had been passed on it me. I came across a poem by an unknown author that brought back the memory of my prayer that day when I stood in the stubble admiring the roses.

“Father, where shall I work today
And my love flowed warm and free
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
“Why, no one would ever see
No matter how well my work was done,
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern
He answered me tenderly,
“Ah, little one, search that heart of yours,
Are you working for them or me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Calvary.”

June 16, 2010

Do We Know When God Disciplines Us?

Scripture: Hebrews 12: 1-13

Since we can become so entangled in sin, the Bible tells us to throw off all that hinders us. God knows what those things are, and we ought to be aware of any sin that may be a hindrance to our walk with God. If we become all wrapped up in sin, we become entangled. When we become entangled, where are our thoughts? In the web or heart of sin of course.

God says to throw it off and make a run for it. Throw off the sin and persevere or chase the plan that God has marked for us. When our focus is on Jesus we don’t have to become entangled. Jesus disentangled the web of sin on the cross. With the joy set before Him, “He endured the cross scorning its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2b)

This is the same joy and hope we can now possess and are running toward. Consider how our Savior endured opposition from sinful men. Let us not forget that like Jesus, we too face temptation and scorn. Do you hear him saying, don’t lose heart, I will encourage you until you finish the race?

How do we stand the test of faith when we are persecuted or struggling with sin? Paul endured hardship to the point of being chained like a criminal. Hebrews 12:4 says, “Have you not resisted to the point of shedding your blood?” Have you not let go and dealt with your sins? Jesus, the sinless One submitted His will.

Can we surrender our all and be like Jesus? Why do we sometimes resist and continue to struggle with sin? Have we forgotten God’s promises of encouragement and truth? We must allow God to discipline us lovingly. He disciplines us for our own good, that way we may share in His Holiness. What a delight!

As God disciplines His dearly loved children as true sons and daughters, He picks us up by the collar and offers reassurance that He is in charge and corrects us when we do wrong. Hebrews 12:8b says, “If we are not disciplined we are illegitimate, we are not true sons.” God disciplines out of love. We ought to allow God to lead us aright. We cannot live a holy life in a web of sin. We must throw off all that hinders us and get right with God so that we can know His holiness, righteousness and peace. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.


-Gods Word tells us to be aware of the devils schemes. Are you aware of any type of tricks that the devil may have attempted with you?
- Are you open and honest with God with your shortcomings or perhaps unconfessed sin?
-Are you trusting God to help you with your brokenness? How?
-Can you witness to the harvest of righteousness that came out of a personal trial?

June 15, 2010

Mother Knows Nothing

I know nothing. My daughter lets me know this whenever we are at that photo computer in Walmart and I begin pushing buttons to develop my pictures. “Mom,” she says, turning around to see if anybody is watching. “Don’t you know anything?”

My son also reminds me of my lack of competence whenever we are driving. “Didn’t you forget to do something, Mom?” he asks. “You really should drive with both hands on the wheel.” I do hope they remember their own advice when they take the wheel.

“Don’t say anything, Mom. Please,” begs my older daughter when her boyfriend comes to pick her up. Apparently I’m from the Middle Ages and he wouldn’t understand my language.

Funny, though. My daughter burst in the door at noon hour the other day and said “I have a project due right after lunch, Help!”

I translated words from English into French for her so quickly that I forgot how dumb I was. My daughter must not have noticed either. And then there’s the case of that butterscotch square I baked for her and her friends. Awesome, she called it. Again, a momentary lapse on her part. I may have to take her to a counselor. She's showing signs of schizophrenia. One moment I’m the simpleton mother that is only good for driving her gym clothes and lunch to the school on the days she forgets and the next moment I’m amazing. She may need to be medicated to straighten her out. After all I find it confusing. Some days I actually have thoughts of grandeur. Perhaps it’s me that needs the drugs.

No, come to think of it, I’m sure it’s my daughter that needs the doctor. Today when I attended Track and Field day to watch her compete, she couldn’t hear me calling her name, though she was only a few feet away. The other girls turned and looked but she seemed totally unaware that I existed. Poor hearing does run in our family, it seems. I finally caught her by the arm as she was running by. “Did you apply sunscreen?” I asked, facing her directly so she could read my lips if necessary.
She rolled her eyes up into her head. I immediately took her temperature. Sun-stroke, I was sure of it.

“Where’s your water bottle?” I asked, hoping that a drink of cool water would revive her from the heat.

“You were supposed to bring it. Where is it?” she asked.

Oh dear. She believes I actually know something. She’s accrediting me with knowledge. She really must be going into shock.

I was tempted to retrieve the water bottle for her that she’d left on the grass by the 100 metre run. After all, she needed cool water. But I didn’t want to embarrass her by saying that I actually knew where it was. Besides, I was getting confused at that point. Did I actually know something? Couldn’t be. She must be tricking me. She’s hallucinating, I’m sure.

“Is it possible that you left your water bottle back there on the grass?” I asked with my head down, ashamed to one-up her.

At this point her hearing seemed to return, her eyes focused on me and she even managed a weak smile.

“That’s my girl!” I said, reaching out for a hug. I leaned in and she leaned away, as if I had forgotten to use hand-disinfectant. At that point she mentioned the fact that she needed more money. “To buy a hot dog,” she said.

“I thought I gave you enough money this morning.”

Her jaw clenched and she fixed her blue eyes on mine. “Mom.” She spoke slowly so I could understand. “I want to buy a frozen yogurt too. Do you want me to eat nutritiously or not?”

Hmmm, I thought as I watched her long jumping from a distance. She had pointed out the bench to me half a mile from the long-jump pit. She’s learning something – she’s eating yogurt, staying away from germs, and she’s discovered my name. Not bad for a day’s work.

That night as I rubbed aloe-vera lotion onto the back of her sun-burned legs, she pointed out that I missed a spot. It felt so good to settle back into the familiar security, that once again, I know nothing.

Pam Mytroen

June 12, 2010

Reading the new way - Violet Nesdoly

It's only been about four months since I downloaded the (free) Kindle app onto my iPod touch. In that time reading on this handy little device has found a very secure place in my reading habits. Here are some reasons I love this new way of reading:

1. Adjustable font size
Whenever I tell people I read on this 2 1/2  x 4 1/2 inch gadget with its 2 x 3 inch display, they ask: Isn't it hard to see? My answer: Not at all.

Unlike when you read other materials on the iPod and need to adjust the tiny font size with a finger motion on the touch screen, the Kindle program comes with five pre-set font sizes. You can choose the size that's comfortable and never worry about it after that.

2. Backlit
I can read in bed - and with the lights out! However, it is hard to read  on a backlit display in bright sunlight.

3. Highlightable and Notable
I stumbled across the highlight and notation function quite by accident. During the reading of my first Kindle book, I noticed once in a while as I was "turning a page" (done by sweeping a finger across the screen to the left to go forward, to the right to go backward), a symbol. Under my swooping finger appeared what looked like a magnifying glass. When I lifted my finger from the screen the word from under the glass remained selected with dots - handles - attached. I discovered I could then touch those handles, stretching the selection to cover many words and choose to "Note" or "Highlight".

If I chose "Note" the keyboard appeared and I could type and save some text to identify the spot. If I chose "Highlight" the selected text turned yellow as if I had used a highlighter on it.

 You can later find the spots marked this way in 'bookmarks' (appears as a book icon in a toolbar when you touch the bottom of the screen). 

4. Easy to save my spot
Dog-ear the page by touching the right upper corner of the screen. (Un-dog-ear it by touching it again.) The program also 'remembers' the farthest place you have read or paged to in the book.

5. Many books with me all the time
I love never being without a book. I can tuck this virtual library into a tiny pocket of my smallest handbag. My little iPod book collection has helped me pass the time while waiting in restaurants, at the doctor's office, whenever I have a minute to read. It includes writings by Andrew Murray, George Muller, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Spurgeon, and ten classic children's novels.

No, my little reading device doesn't smell like a book, or feel like a book. But I have grown quite fond of it anyway.

- By Violet Nesdoly

Website: www.violetnesdoly.com


June 09, 2010

A Rugby Wife - Bonnie Way

“You’re not allowed to throw the ball forward, so they always toss it to someone slightly behind them...”

I smile as I listen and cast a sideways glance towards the voice. It’s an older man explaining rugby to a younger woman, perhaps his granddaughter. It reminds me of when I watched my first rugby game, and a fellow who’d lent me his umbrella talked about rucks and scrums and other things that I was clueless about. I alternated between watching the ball and watching my husband (then “just” a friend from university) and at the end of the game had to ask him who’d won.

I bend over Lilibet, tucking her blanket closer around her, and glance at Sunshine, who’s crawling across the bleachers under the legs of the lady sitting next to us. Out on the field, I try to find my husband, until Lilibet wails under her blanket. I shift her to my shoulder, adjusting my shirt and hoping everyone is focused on the game and not paying attention to a mom trying to nurse her three-week old on the sidelines.

“Potty,” Sunshine says, tugging at my jacket. I sigh, looking at Lilibet and the diaper bag and the long walk across the lawn, up the stairs, and through the clubhouse.

“You really have to go?” I ask her, but of course, she insists. I’m fairly certain that as soon as we get in there, she won’t do anything. But I pack Lilibet into her carseat, heave it up, and decide that my diaper bag (and wallet) will be safe on the bleachers.

We weave through the crowd in the clubhouse, find the washrooms, and both use them. Back outside, Lilibet stays sleeping in her carseat and I’m able to focus on the game. It’s my hubby’s first game in about fifteen months; there was no team up north, so he hasn’t played since we left the city. He’s not running as fast as I’ve seen him run in other games, but then, several of his team mates also seem really out of practice. I groan at a bad catch that results in the other team getting the ball.

Sunshine is back beside me, trying to rock Lilibet. She wants a juice. Then she doesn’t want it. She climbs up the bleachers, back down again, under the lady’s legs. When Lilibet begins to wail, Sunshine seizes the blanket that I’d tucked over the carseat. I try nursing Lilibet again, with the wind blowing the nursing cover around and Sunshine dragging the blanket around the bleachers. Then Sunshine wants to go potty again. I tell her no.

By the time the game is done, I’m exhausted. I pack the girls up and head back to our Jeep, hoping that my husband will know where to find us. In the warmth of the vehicle, I unbundle Lilibet and myself and nurse her without worrying about covering up. Sunshine plays with the steering wheel. When my husband appears, he takes Sunshine back to watch the last half of the game with him. Lilibet falls asleep and I crack open my book, breathing a sigh of relief at the chance to relax.

His next game is Saturday. I’m trying to figure out a game plan for watching rugby with a baby and a toddler. Who knew it could be so much work?

~ © Bonnie Way (http://thekoalabearwriter.blogspot.com/)

June 08, 2010

A Writer's Brain, by Janet Sketchley

Matthew, aged 5, presented me with a fantastic, multi-coloured scrawl. “It’s a ship, Mom.” He began to elaborate: for water, as opposed to space; don’t get stuck in that part, because it’s the engine. On impulse, I suggested he write a story about it. He agreed -- after all, he was supposed to be getting ready for bed.

Speaking raw material
His imagination was still primed from drawing the picture, and he started telling the story as soon as I was ready. I wrote as fast as I could, often stopping him to let my pencil catch up. He was so focused that he could pick up where he left off as if he’d never paused -- perhaps playing video games has taught him something after all.

Occasionally he would come and check my work, but for the most part he just kept narrating. Even in the flow, he was precise with his wording, but he never backtracked or tried to edit himself. The important thing was to get the story out in one piece.

I kept quiet when he repeated words or concepts, and resisted the urge to correct his tenses as I transcribed. I watched him on the edge of my vision. He was so involved with his story that he had to keep moving.

What a scene we must have made -- the little boy orbiting the coffee table as he spun his tale, and the adult parked on the couch, biting her tongue.

Itching to organize
If we were a writer’s brain, he would be the creative process: lost in the wonder of discovering the story. I’d be the editor portion, straining against my muzzle. He was speaking my raw material. If I intruded too soon, I might damage it.

When he finally wound down, he had a nice little story. Later, if invited, I could work his “first draft” into a much shorter story. Perhaps he would add some fresh bits, and we would have something “publishable.”

Why do I find it so hard to follow his example?

Both sides doing what they do best
Today, when I sit in front of the computer, I’m going to try to apply his lesson. When I get a picture of where my story is going, I’ll let my fingers dance on the keyboard for the joy of following the muse. I hereby give myself permission to write a sloppy first draft as I explore.

My internal editor can go out for coffee. She’ll come back in a better frame of mind when I need her, and feel validated and supremely important when she sees the mess my creative frenzy has made along the trail. Once both parts of my brain have had their fun doing what they do best, my story will be as publishable as I can make it.

Will somebody hand me a market guide?

© Janet Sketchley, 2003, 2010. Originally published in Exchange, January 2003.
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

June 05, 2010

The Mark of Magi

© Glynis M. Belec 2010

Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.
Matthew 1:1-3

Magi’s chocolate-brown eyes opened wide. The baa’s and the moo’s and the cock-a-doodle-do’s were music to his long ears.

He took a deep breath and stepped out of his familiar pen.

"Be careful,” his mother warned.

“I will,” Magi smiled.

“Be polite,” she instructed.

"Always,” he said.

Magi spotted two lambs playing in the golden straw.

“Do you want to play with me?” Magi asked. They looked at Magi.

“No, we do not want to play with you. Your ears are funny and we can baa-rely stop laughing at you,” giggled the lambs. “Why does the master call you Magi? Magi means king. You are not a king. One day our wool will be spun into fine clothing. You are not like us. Go away and don’t come baaa-ck anymore.”
Magi turned away. He still wanted to find a playmate. The cow pen was just around the corner.

He pressed his nose against the rickety wooden door. It slowly creaked open.

“Do you want to play with me?” Magi asked the brown and white calf.

“No,” the calf laughed. “That strange stripe on your back is ugly. You are not like me. When I get older my rich milk will be served to royalty. Now mooo-ve away from my gate,” said the calf. “I am not in the mooo-d to play with a useless donkey like you.”

Magi’s big ears drooped. His barn world was not as he expected.
Magi walked to the back of the barn. He heard a wonderful sound.

“Cock-a-doodle-do…you mind?” said a scratchy voice. Magi looked up.

“Oh, Aw-EE, Aw-EE, excuse me,” Magi said staring at the fine, young rooster on the rafter. “Do you want to play with me?” asked Magi

“Humph! No, I do not want to play with you,” squawked the rooster. “You are just a useless donkey with an odd voice. You are not like me. I am beautiful. I am special. When I get old enough I will be the reason the master wakes up in the morning. Go away. I have to practice.”

A tear dripped down Magi’s soft fur. His barn world was not a happy place after all.
Magi went back to his pen. He was surprised to see the master standing beside his mother.

“Hurry, Magi,” she whispered “we are leaving.”

Magi followed his mother and the master through the barn. It did not bother the other animals to see Magi leave the barn.
“We won’t miss his ears,” said the lambs.

“I won’t miss his ugly brown stripe,” said the calf.

“I won’t miss the awful noise he makes,” said the rooster.
Magi thought how he might miss the barn. It was his home. Magi followed his mother and the master. He thought about his big, long ears, the ugly brown stripe on his back and the funny sound his voice made. He was sad and wondered why he could not give fancy wool or rich milk or make beautiful sounds like the other creatures.

“No wonder they don’t like me,” he sniffed. “I am not special.”
They reached a dark, quiet building on the other side of town. The master took the lead rope and tied Magi’s mother to a big metal ring on the door. The master reached out and gently stroked Magi. Magi felt warm inside for a minute but, as he watched the master walk away, he sighed.

A group of men soon approached the two donkeys.

“Ahh…these must be the animals of which the Teacher speaks,” said one.

Magi hid behind his mother. What were these men talking about? Who was…the Teacher?

Magi’s mother willingly went with the men who untied her rope.

“Come along, Magi,” she said. “The time has come.” Magi did not know what she meant but he could tell she was not afraid. So he followed her.

Back at the barn, the sheep had stopped playing. The calf was looking out the window and the rooster was not practicing. They heard strange sounds coming from the village. The voices got louder and nearer.

A blast of air filled the barn as the door burst open. The master ran in, laughing and dancing. The rooster ruffled his feathers and flew up to the rafters. The lambs stuck their heads in the golden straw. The calf hid behind the rickety, wooden door.

“He has come! Jesus has come as they said He would, and He rides upon the back of my very own little donkey! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” the master shouted. He grabbed his cloak from a wooden peg and disappeared into the crowd.

Hours later, the excitement died down in the village. The barn was quiet. The rooster was still perched on the rafter. The calf was still in his pen and the lambs hid in the golden straw.

Crunch…crunch…The footsteps got closer and closer. The door creaked open. The master led Magi and his mother through the door. Magi pranced in. His ears stood straight up. His fur glistened and shimmered in the sunlight.

The master untied the rope and gently stroked the stripe on Magi’s back. Then he smiled at Magi’s mother. Just before the master left he quietly bowed, as if before a king.

“Look!” said the rooster.

The sheep and the calf looked at Magi’s back. They had not noticed the other stripes on Magi’s shoulders. It looked like a cross.

"What could it mean?” worried one of the lambs.

“Did you see the master bow to Magi?” said the calf. “It must mean that Magi - is a king after all.”
Magi looked at his mother and smiled. Then he looked at the animals.

“No, I am not a king.” Magi turned to the animals.

“But I was chosen by a King.”

Interesting donkey fact: Most donkeys, regardless of coat color, have a dorsal stripe and a shoulder cross often described as a ‘donkey cross’.

June 01, 2010

The Day I Faced My Failure - M. Laycock

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at gardening. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously but so did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “Tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on. When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times - a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp fall air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of tubers into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have another.

I cultivate words, tilling until there are no weeds, pruning away the excess so the fruit can shine through. God’s gift to me has blessed others as, like my friend with the potato patch, I’ve administered the grace and passed it on to readers all over the world. I no longer feel guilty about my black thumb, or about the many things I can’t do that others can. I feel blessed by what I’ve been given and how God has used it to bless others.


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from Central Alberta Canada. Her devotionals have been endorsed by Mark Buchanan and Phil Callaway. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Visit her website - www.vinemarc.com