August 28, 2010

What Could Be Better Than Kool-Aid and Cookies? - Bruce Atchison

Bruce Atchison

In August of 1969, I received something far more important than the usual goodies at a Vacation Bible School. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here's how my life changed for all eternity.


Once we were settled down, Mrs. Blacklock began her lesson. "Did you know that you can have a personal relationship with Jesus?" she asked. As I had never heard that doctrine before, I listened all the more intently.

"The Bible says that we are all sinners and that nobody is good enough to go to heaven," she continued. "Going to church is nice but it won't save you on Judgment Day. Only believing in Jesus Christ will save you from going to hell."

I felt shocked. Could this honestly be true? No one told me about that before. I thought only wicked people went to hell.

"If you give your life to Jesus, he will come into you and live in your heart." This sounded impossible too. Jesus was up in heaven and God appeared uninvolved with his creation.

As she outlined how Christ died to pay for our sins and that we could be forgiven because he took our punishment, my heart stirred within me. Could this actually be true?

Then Mrs. Blacklock told the story of Nicodemus and how he was an outstanding religious teacher in Israel. Even with all his education and status, he had no understanding of what it meant to be born again. Suddenly, I realized the meaning of what Jesus said.

A few years previously, a Christian clown visited Jericho and performed magic tricks in the boys' Playroom. Along with the usual vanishing objects and interlocking hoops, this man told us how Nicodemus met Christ late one night. It was merely one of many Bible stories to me then. Now I realized that it applied to me as well.

On Friday, Mrs. Blacklock asked us a life-changing question. "Would you like to invite Christ into your heart and accept him as your saviour?" Though I could think of no serious sins of which I was guilty, except for stealing the glass lumps, I decided I had nothing to lose. I raised my hand and said yes. Our teacher led us in the sinner's prayer and then she welcomed us to the family of Christ. Though I felt nothing dramatic happen, joy and a sense that God was pleased with me filled my heart.

I ran all the way home, a distance of a few blocks, after the school ended. "I've been born again!" I exclaimed to the family as I rushed through the front door. They all stared at me, saying nothing. Doubtless, Mom and my sisters thought I had lost my mind. I felt let down because I thought they would understand this important life-transforming decision I had made. Either nobody told me or I failed to understand that not everybody would comprehend my spiritual transformation.


This memoir and When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) are available through the InScribe site. Click here to visit the page for more information about these paperbacks.

The Epistle of Dale - Bruce Atchison

Unlike spoken communication, writing allows a person to organize thoughts without distracting interjections. Though we have telephones, letters via the post and the Internet still provide time for contemplation.

During my rebellion against God, he used a most unusual man to introduce a key truth to me, one that eventually lead to my repentance. From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here is how the Lord used a radio program host thousands of miles away to point me in the right direction.

In January of 1994, I discovered Tempered Steel, a Christian death metal program, on an American shortwave station called WWCR. The aggressiveness of the music appealed to me and the lyrics that I could understand didn't sound preachy.

I entered a contest and won a compilation cassette of Vengeance, one of the bands featured on the show.

When I received the tape, I wrote Dale, the program host, a thank-you letter. As he seemed like a decent guy who would give me straight answers, I asked him about why Christ denied my many petitions for full sight.

Instead of a photocopied form letter, he sent a four-page hand-written epistle. I opened the letter after supper and read it all.

Dale wrote in part, "Bruce, I want ya to know that I truly sympathize on ya on your situation -- not sorry, just compassion. Well bro, based on the Word of God, I honestly believe ya are gettin' some very bad council. Let me try to explain. I believe very VERY strongly in the sovereignty of God. By that, I mean in God's control & direct influence on the events of our lives. I believe that our lives and the course it takes is determined by our Heavenly Father."

Dale then told me of his personal struggles and how he saw God work through them. "However, Bruce, I'm totally convinced that the Lord can deliver me from the 'bondage' in an instant!" But, guess what, it hasn't happened yet!"

Then he surprised me by writing: "Is it because of sin in our lives? Everyone is guilty of that." He referenced John 8:7 which says, "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.'" Dale then added, "Because our parents sinned?" and referenced John 9:1-3.

A light came on in my mind. I had never connected the blind man's plight in the story with my own situation. Could my poor sight really be something through which God could glorify himself?

"Lack of faith?" Dale added. "No bro, it is Jesus who does the healing."

He ended his letter by saying, "Bruce, I truly believe that everything happens for the primary purpose of bringing honour and glory to the Lord."

That sounded nice but it didn't help me deal with not being healed.

Leaders of the cult church that I was a member of for more than fifteen years kept insisting that I had unconfessed sin, a lack of faith, or ancestral sin blocking my healing. John 9:1-3 showed me that I wasn't lacking in faith or righteousness but God is glorified even through disabilities. My hope now is that I can encourage victims of name-it-and-claim-it preachers that we really do have a loving heavenly father who is glorified through our weakness.

Please visit my web page where my two memoirs and writing career information are presented. God willing, I hope to have How I Was Razed in print by the end of the year and a blurb about that book on the site.

August 27, 2010

Dependency - Karen Toews

My husband and I are full bore into a land-development, house-building project. From our travel-trailer-cum-temporary-home, I've watched walls going up, sheeting being nailed on, beams being delivered for next week's placement. To get to this stage, from a chunk of land, has taken fourteen weeks - the action and production is impressive, but this progress would not have happened without depending on others for physical help and supportive planning.

Like a lot of people, I like being independent. Needing to rely on a neighbour's washing machine rather than drive to a laundromat (or whack my socks on the river rocks!) and using another neighbour's internet network and phone isn't a position that sits well with me. I am honestly grateful for these sincerely generous people but it must be bothersome for them, and it's an adjustment for me to be dependent on others' schedules to perform simple tasks.

We've been blessed with two great kids, whose lives have infinitely enriched us. They live large, willing to follow God's leading, even if/when it's different from the status quo. They live in different countries and in different circumstances; recently life tossed both of them challenges where they needed to seek support and help beyond themselves. It can be humbling to be dependent, at any age.

To get much work done demands dependence on other people.
To preserve sanity in a small living space you need the kindness of others.
To survive life's side-swipes, you have to call for help.

I've been reading Psalms from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. Chapter 28:2: "I'm letting you know what I need, calling out for help and lifting my arms toward your inner sanctum," and "When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God's angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray....Blessed are you who run to him," chapter 34:6,7, 8b.

We have a God who desires our complete dependency: "I've thrown myself headlong into your arms - I'm celebrating your rescue. I'm singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers." chapter 13:5,6

I purpose to do it!

August 25, 2010

Letting Go of the Good—Lynda Schultz

I want to do it all.

When I took my present position on staff in my church I immediately saw a myriad of things that needed attending to. Some projects, like cleaning out the junk collected under the stairs leading to the fire escape, had been waiting to be done by someone for a long time. Somehow when we plan church building projects no one thinks of appropriate storage places. The task wasn't on my job description, but as a member of the church community (and having had some experience with frowning fire department inspectors) I was concerned. So I went to work.

There were other tasks that caught my eye and they got added to the list.

I also work at writing, both as a staff member with the communications department of my mission, and as a personal interest. Like the church position, the writing part of life also gets cluttered with good things that need doing.

And I really want to do it all.

However, even though the tasks are all good ones needing to be done, I simply can't do them all. I may be smart, but I'm not that smart. I may be fast, but I'm not that fast. When I do the good things, I often find I don't have time to do the best things and the day ends without having accomplished what really needed to be done.

It's a question of discovering priorities. I recently read Andy Stanley's The Principle of the Path. The basic premise is that the paths we choose, good as they may be, might not get us where we want to go, or where God has designed us to be most glorifying to him or where we can be the most fulfilled.  As much as I want to do it all, I also want to do all that is the God's best for me. I please him most when I am within the boundaries of his perfect will.

Perhaps each day needs to begin with a prayer about priorities: Lord, what's on your agenda for me today? Just as I ask you to deliver me from evil, deliver me from good things that aren't the best things. Keep my eyes on your path and off of the bunny trails that pop up each day. And when the good becomes the best help me to do even those tasks for your glory. Amen.

August 23, 2010

keeping right priorities

Dorothy Bentley

My baby girl is heading off to college soon. Okay... she's no longer a baby, but a woman.

Over the years, there were many hours that I spent tucking her in and praying with her through her girlhood, talking into the wee hours during her teen years, and dinners and discussions with her and her friends around the table as a young adult. There were many times when I wanted to work on a writing project, but I put things off to spend time with her.

Perhaps as a result, my writing career isn't as far along as it could be. Do I have any regrets? Absolutely not. It is with hesitancy that I say I am pleased with how she's turned out. I know it hasn't been because of me, but because of God working in her heart. And I know she isn't finished yet-- none of us are until we meet the Lord. Yet a mentoring relationship is so important; a parent pouring out one's life into the heart of a child.

I never want to sacrifice relationship with my children, or husband for personal gain. Living a life with priorities in the right place, I trust God will grant me wonderful productivity and success with the work He desires.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NIV)

August 19, 2010

Time to Write by Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild discussion forum, writer Benjamin Collier asked, “I find that unless I know I have four straight hours of writing time ahead of me I feel like I can't get into the right "mode". But then I have made some good progress in two hours or less. It's the anxiety that gets me. And I liked your plan of breaking it up into smaller projects. If anyone else out there has similar issues, do you guys have any additional advice for dealing with this?”

Sandra Reimer of Reimer Reason Communications offered this advice:

1. Free yourself to write garbage in order to get going. Tell yourself you must write something in a given time period. It doesn't have to be good. This sets me free from creativity-killing anxiety. Writing garbage is like making small talk. In the same way that small talk leads to deep, intimate conversation, writing mediocre material often leads to something worthwhile-or at least something that can be distilled into usefulness in the editing process.

2. If after trying to write for awhile you are still feeling jammed and unconfident-take a break. I get a snack, take a nap, go for a bike ride etc.

3. I find being able to write well or to be creative is deeply tied to feeling confident. For me, reviewing past successes or achieving success in a small area kick starts my confidence and can free me to write.

4. If you are breaking a large writing project into smaller chunks, I find it immensely helpful to keep a "working journal." I jot down where I am in a project and what still needs to be done. I review this before I get going in the next session. I finished a screenplay in 1 to 2 hour chunks with a few longer sessions over about a year. My working journal helped be more productive in those short sessions.

Darlene Oakley commented, “Great idea, Sandra! This would be such a great thing considering I have the affliction of not-being-able-to-finish-because-of-life-itis. I've started work on many of my stories only to have life interrupt and I not being able to get back to them. When I start working on them again, I often have to read and review what I have already done and try to re-establish my thought processes and where I wanted to go and where I still need to go. I will have to do this - since I love notebooks!”

Have you got 101 ideas for articles or books but a schedule that’s too full to allow time for you to write? Do you have any other suggestions?

August 17, 2010

WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN - By Martha Toews Anderson

I have recently been reading up on the World Trade Center and reflecting on the lessons that can be learned from that.

The World Trade Center was designed to bring together in one spot anyone and anything connected with world trade. Yamasaki, the architect, was given explicit instruction: twelve million square feet of floor area on 16 acres with a budget of under $500 million. Yamasaki decided on a two main tower development, 1,368 high with 110 stories, providing about 10 million square feet of rentable space, to be occupied by about 50,000 people. The technology involved in constructing a building strong enough to carry its own weight and withstand any wind storms is mind boggling.

“World trade means world peace and consequently the World Trade Center buildings in New York have a bigger purpose than just to provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace,” Yamasaki is quoted as saying, “ Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."

The official opening of the Trade Centre took place on April 4, 1973 although occupancy began two years earlier.

Just 28 years after the ribbon cutting, the towers and all smaller buildings connected to the complex were destroyed at the cost of 2,800 human lives. What was considered man’s greatest achievement toward establishing world peace had been reduced to ashes.
Thus it has always been with man’s self efforts, whether for personal glory and acclaim or on a world scale. We need only to look at world history, from the pharaohs of Egypt right down to Hitler and Stalin in more recent times to recognize that truth.

“What is man’s greatest achievement?” CNN personnel asked this question of people passing on the streets in various cities. Answers covered everything from fire, planes, and computers to cup noodles. One man said, “Peace, I'd say peace. That would be the greatest achievement for all."

Yes, that it would be, if it were possible. History has proven, however, that it can’t be done by man’s effort. Ever since Adam and Eve decided to go contrary to their Creator, mankind has tried to establish himself, but without success.

God knew that. That is why He sent Jesus to pay the price for our waywardness by His death and resurrection. If we acknowledge our need of His forgiveness and hand over Leadership of our lives to Him, our purpose shifts from our own interests to His purposes for us. Unity of the human race can be achieved only if we follow the same Leader, the God who made us and knows what is best for us. Jesus is the only way to world peace.

The end

August 15, 2010

Sacrifices of Praise! - Janice Keats

What is the sacrifice of praise? We can begin to understand by analyzing this Scripture.

“But the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To Him you shall bow down and to Him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” (2 Kings 17:36-39)

1. To Him you shall bow down. When we bow, God has our attention; we are reverent.

2. Be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, laws and commands. God has His purposes for us to follow and obey. Be careful that we keep in line with God, be careful that we are obedient to His commands. Remember to keep them, they were written for us to follow.

3. Do not worship other gods. Why not? Other gods are misleading, other gods takes your mind off the true and living God. Remember, God is a jealous God.

4. Rather, worship the Lord your God. Why? He will deliver you from the enemy. His arm is outstretched with power. The Lord your God is in control.

To Him you shall bow down and offer sacrifices….
To Him belongs the praise and glory!

5. Do not forget the covenant I made with you.
And yet the people served Him and idols too. What sacrifice is there in serving two masters? Or, many idols? What do we sacrifice? Our time, talents, reverence, worship at home, and in God’s house. Taking time out for God is a sacrifice of praise and worship. We choose not to focus on self but Him!

Evidently, the Israelites didn’t listen to these commands. They honored the Lord and they worshiped idols at the same time. Hezekiah did what was right and the Lord ordered him to destroy the places where other gods were worshiped. Did you know that the Scriptures speak well of God’s righteous people? 2Kings 18:7 says: “And the Lord was with Hezekiah and had success in everything he did.”

When we follow God's ways in life He gives us peace. Psalm 85:8 says: “I will listen to God the Lord. He has ordered peace for those who worship him….”

May you be drawn closer to Him today!

Janice Keats

August 13, 2010

Wounds Heal All Time - Pam Mytroen

It’s backwards but more true than the original idiom, don't you think? I am thankful that I have not suffered extreme loss, yet for my past hurts, time is merely a thin skin that covers each one.

When I was seven years old I had a cold sore on my lip. It finally began to heal and scab over. But I couldn’t leave it alone. I would pick at it until the fresh warm blood oozed out. Then it would sting all over again and the healing process would resume.

It seems that our afflictions are like that cold sore. All it takes is a memory or a touch and those old wounds start to bleed again. The gash is still there, just under the surface.

If only we could erase the pains we’ve endured and the ugly scars that remind us. Wouldn’t life be so much easier? We’d have no regrets, no flush of shame, and no painful stab at the recall of such memories.

We could wake up each day and carry on as if nothing ever happened, as if we’d never been abused or betrayed.

Ted Dekker has some wise advice that he shares through one of his characters in his novel “Kiss”.

He says, “...your history is no less important to your survival than your ability to breathe. In the end, you can only determine whether to saturate your memories with pain or with perspective.

Forgetting is not an option. I tell you the truth now; Pain was not God’s plan for this life. It is a reality, but it is not part of the plan.

“Pain or perspective. ...That’s all that’s within your control.”

It’s a difficult pill to swallow. Fresh bruises blind us. Time gives us distance from them and some perspective, yet it does not heal.

There are hurts in my life that I still do not understand. Why did God allow me to go through that awful scrape? I ask. I never did feel his presence in certain valleys. Yet that does not change God. He was there.

Someday He will guide me back through those memories with sagacity and I will become a stronger person because of the perspective He gives me.

God does not take away our memories. He does not wipe our minds clean of loss. In fact He asks us to purposely revisit those aches. He says, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,” (Deuteronomy 5:15). He wants us to recall the snap of the whip on our bleeding backs? God doesn't stop there. He finishes, "and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty Hand...”

The Lord wants us to remember the things of the past. He instructs the children of Israel again just before they enter the land of promise: “Remember the days of long ago.”

However, we are to focus not on the darkness, but on our Deliverer. Not on the hurt, but on the Healer.

The words of Jeremiah may resonate as he was honest in his recall of suffering. “I can never forget these awful years; ...Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends...Great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:20-23).

“That’s the point of holding onto memory,” continues Dekker, “delivery, not darkness.”

Pam Mytroen

August 11, 2010

Wise words from a writing mentor - Violet Nesdoly

I recently received a rare gift — the book The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe. I took a course from Ms. Wiebe many years ago, when a writing life for myself was only a daydream. Thus I read this book about and by her with great interest.

It is a collection of essays on Wiebe's contribution (to especially the Mennonite Brethren denomination) as a writer, teacher, and person. Pieces by writing and teaching colleagues, Mennonite historians as well as one of her children give us a multi-faceted picture of this woman, teacher, writer, and thinker. Between the essays of others are her own writings, picked from the multitude of articles she wrote over her 30 years as a columnist for Christian Leader and Mennonite Brethren Herald.

The book gave me valuable insights on what it meant to be a writer when that career choice was one rarely made, especially by Mennonite women.  But not that much has changed. For many of the issues Wiebe struggled with in the 60s, 70s and 80s are still ones we grapple with today -- even though the medium of delivery is changing. As I read her columns I think what a great blogger she would have made. Here from the book are a few snippets of her writerly wisdom:

"...writing is often an exercise in self-revelation...the more personal the writing, the more universal." p. 10

"Writing is a form of giving oneself away, of standing in the public square without clothes." p. 70

"As I clarified an issue for myself, I helped the fog to lift in others. That column became a journal of my life and concerns. In it I can trace my interests, ups and downs, periods of growth and stagnation. Grappling with a problem in my own life by putting it into words helped me find myself. I am grateful I had the opportunity to write this column for thirty years. It taught me the discipline of the deadline, the joy of creating with words, and especially the stewardship of ideas and words." p. 124

"Write, keep on writing, write about what you know. Write and the inspiration will come." p. 185

Title: The Voice of a Writer: Honoring the Life of Katie Funk Wiebe
Author: Doug Heidebrecht and Valerie G. Rempel, Editors
Publisher: Kindred Productions, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-894791-22-9


by Violet Nesdoly

August 10, 2010

Entering Writing Contests - Bonnie Way

Since I started blogging, I’ve discovered a huge community of Christian women writers online. I have enjoyed reading their blogs and getting ideas and inspiration for my own blog as well as gathering writing-related information. A few years ago, Janet was posting about an online writing competition she had entered. I really liked reading her entries, but I also got interested in the contest myself. I joined FaithWriters and starting surfing around the site.

The topic for the weekly competition was Reading. I thought about it, trying to decide what I could write about. It was a broad topic, something I could write pages about. But finally I hashed out a story that I entered in the contest. It was a small sense of accomplishment for me, because I had:

-written something on a topic provided
-written it within the deadline and word count
-actually done something with my writing, rather than just leaving it sitting on my computer to be submitted “someday.”

It’s a short simple story, and I’ve already thought of ways to revise it. The point, however, was to write and enter the contest.  And there are tons of contests around, from small free ones like FaithWriters to ICWF's Fall Contest to bigger ones with more expensive entry fees.  Contests offer writers the chance to get feedback on their writing and, if they are among the winners, pay and even publication.  Both Marcia Laycock and CJ Darlington had their first novels published by winning a contest.
You can find out about these contests by watching other writers' blogs or following writers' newsletters such as FundsForWriters.  And as I said above, even if you don't win anything in the contest, just entering should come with a sense of accomplishment.  You wrote something that you judged was good enough for this contest and you entered it.  Good work!  Keep going!

August 07, 2010

Bumper-Sticker Sermon: Janet Sketchley

Jesus loves you.
Everyone else thinks you’re a jerk.
So proclaimed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. (And I’ve edited the fine print.)

The “Jesus loves you” part was in large print, luring the eye to the punch line.

The implication was that Jesus, perhaps like your mother, has to love you. It’s in the job description. And perhaps He and Mom aren’t very bright or objective.

Still, it got me thinking.

He does love me, I know that. (So does my mom.)

Then, so what if everyone else (some days me included) thinks poorly of me?

Whose opinion matters most?

Jesus loves me, this I know. And in that knowledge will I rest.

© Janet Sketchley, 2010
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

August 06, 2010

The Power of Persistence

(by Glynis M. Belec)

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Rebecca is sixteen years old and she has Down Syndrome. I have been working with Rebecca for two years trying to teach her to add. Recently she learned how to add zero, one and two to a number.
It was a long road but Rebecca never gave up. She worked hard. Rebecca realized and reached her goal. We both rejoice at her accomplishments.

One heavenly day all believers will rejoice, too. But this rejoicing will not stem from any earthly achievement. When we press on and persevere in our faith and make our motivation, trust in Christ Jesus, we win! The Prize is ours.

But what does it mean to press on in the faith? It means to pray and to read the Bible; it means to discover God’s voice and heed God’s direction; it means to put our trust and hope in Christ alone. Think about what helps you honor the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? Never give up.

By perseverance the snail reached the ark…Charles Spurgeon

August 04, 2010

Inside Out - Gwen Mathieu

Monday was a holiday, so after doing some extra cleaning, I decided to set up our tent-like canopy gazebo; you know the kind, with numerous poles and netting. It was a hand-me down from my sister; her yard had outgrown it.

I set it up a few times before but it was always in the way of cutting the lawn. While mowing earlier in the day, I spotted a neat corner of the yard, among the pine trees, where the grass grows sparingly. That will be a perfect spot. I had to saw a few dead branches off a pine tree, to make room, but that was no problem.

I spread out the canopy, dumped the metal poles on the ground and set to work. Having put most of the poles through the loops, I was convinced it was upside down so I pulled out some pegs and turned it over. I spread it out, again, pounded the pegs in, again. Lawn chairs had to be put in the middle in order to get under the structure to put the poles in place. This was not an easy task on a hot day, wearing a hoodie to keep mosquitoes away.

Finally, I had the contraption constructed, zippered the flap shut and sat in a mosquito free canopy. What pleasure! Looking up at the top cover, I wondered why the ends of the tent were sagging. Are some of the ties missing for the poles? I studied it for sometime before I realized the canopy was inside out. The top poles were to be inside, holding up the edges and the inner poles were to be outside. After changing it twice, I decided it could stay that way for a few days. And as I sat in the canopy tent, I was staring at a crop of raspberries needing to be picked. So much for enjoying my mosquito free venture.

Some days go like that! I had no instructions for assembling and guessed at every turn; even ended up with an extra pole from somewhere. In my Christian walk, if I don’t use the pattern set out in God’s word, my life will take an upside down, inside out course.
It is two days later and my canopy is still inside out. I haven’t even taken time to sit in it. Oh, well! Maybe tomorrow.

August 01, 2010

Touring a Cathedral - M.Laycock

You could not stand before the building without looking up. It was one of those massive European cathedrals, built in the age of religious fervor, whose architects seemed to have one message - look up, look way up. Every line of the structure flowed toward heaven.

As I melted into the stream of people entering the church, I could imagine the throngs who, centuries ago, crowded into this cathedral to hear God’s word. It did not take long for that illusion to disappear. A tour guide with a voice like a megaphone began his litany of historical facts: how long it took to build the structure; where the stone was quarried and how many men it took to finish the job; who commissioned and who designed the works of art.

As we entered the sanctuary, the atmosphere changed as the building opened into the massive open area supported by pillars and framed in stained glass. For a moment I had the sense of history again, a sense of understanding the purpose for this edifice. The tour guide’s voice again broke through as he began to lead us toward the altar.

It was at that point that I frowned. From the back of the large group, I watched the guide lead the people up a short flight of stairs onto the platform, where a priest was in the midst of celebrating the mass. The megaphone voice was lowered slightly as the group passed behind the altar. I noticed some of the other tourists at least had the courtesy to look sheepish. Caught in the flow, I continued with the crowd, feeling as though we were all participating in a crime. When I think back on that moment, I realize we were.

When I think of it now, I realize at times we still are. In the presence of our God, we remain aloof. We stand back and gawk, yet remain indifferent and unmoved, failing to rejoice, failing to call others to see and be amazed.

Some time ago a cartoon appeared in the pages of many Canadian newspapers. To Canadian baby boomers, it had immediate significance. One of our childhood television heroes, The Friendly Giant, had died. “Friendly” always began his program with the words “Look up, look way up,” as the camera moved up from the toe of his large boot to his smiling face. The newspaper cartoon echoed those words and showed a large hand reaching down toward him.

But it is not only in death that God tells us to look up. Like the architects of old, He designed our world to make us turn to Him. He put a yearning in our hearts to worship and made us into His church. He put a yearning in the hearts of writers to record and express the experiences of life and to proclaim His glory. All the lines of life say, “look up, look way up.” As writers of faith we must often ask ourselves, are we just touring the cathedral? Or are we striving to look up and reach for the glory of God in every word we write?

“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20