December 30, 2011

He's Still Working on Me - Susan Barclay

Remember the little ditty, "He's still working on me?" If not - or if you'd just like to hear it again - here's the clip. (I tried to insert the video, but Blogger wasn't cooperating).

Anyway, it's true. He's still working on me. As this year ends, and I look back over the last 364 days, the basic message I've received from the Holy Spirit is this: "Girl, you've got too much clutter in your life, and it's getting in the way of all that I have for you. It's getting in the way of us.We need to deal with that." Deal with it we have, though I have a long way to go.

I'm one of those people who was raised by someone who grew up during the Great  Depression. Many such individuals have a mindset that says not only "Waste not, want not" (which can be at the essence of good stewardship), but "Never throw anything away; you don't know when you might need it" (which can be at the heart of hoarding). In addition to these proverbs, I heard sayings like, "A penny saved is a penny earned" and "Clean your plate - there are children in India who'd be happy to get that." The story of the naughty kittens who lost their mittens was a parental favourite whose meaning was all too clear - lose something and there's big trouble ahead!

My dear mother is also a very sentimental person who attaches meaning and significance to objects, even though the items may have little value otherwise. For example, if my husband is fixing something at her house and uses one of her father's hammers, heaven help him if he doesn't return it to its original location. She'll think he's lost it. Or if she gives us her parents' plastic measuring cups, we'd better not leave one of them too close to a hot burner or pot on the stove! We're "careless."

She means no harm, I know. She's a product of her upbringing and temperament. Is it any wonder, though, that today I have too much stuff - either on display or in storage - in my little bungalow? Is it any wonder that I struggle to divest myself of it? I've made some progress, giving away clothing and small household items through my church's "Sharing Days" program. I've offered a few things to a local "reuse" group. I've even sold a few things. But my biggest problem is paper clutter and books (which, of course, are not clutter to an avid reader, writer, and librarian!). My six filing cabinet drawers are filled to capacity, and there are piles of paper waiting to be filed. Every once in a while I go through and weed out papers I no longer need. And finding a paper I do need can be a nightmare!

There are books to help people like me. I've borrowed some. I bought one. As always, the best instruction in the world can only help those who apply the information. And there never seem to be enough hours in a day to tackle it all. I'm caught in a vicious cycle - leave the clutter and the writing will never get done, try to write and the clutter is a constant distraction. Help!

Well, you know the only help for someone like me comes from Scripture (Psalm 121:1-2). As I recognize the scope and source of my problem and understand what needs to be done, I look to God's Word for wisdom. There I find:
 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven... A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6, NLT)
 Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. (Proverbs 4:25, NLT)
And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:17, NLT)
These will be my 'life verses' for 2012. I will post them on my computer, my fridge, and my bathroom mirror. And they will keep me going in the right direction as God continues the good work He started in me this year.
May He continue working in you as well. Happy New Year, everyone!

[For more of my writing, check out my website and my writing/general interest blog.]

December 29, 2011

Jesus Understands - Ruth L. Snyder

For many years I have been conscious of people who are hurting at Christmas. This awareness was built in to me at a young age by parents who served as missionaries. Now that I have a family of my own, my husband and I often invite people over for Christmas dinner, donate money to the less fortunate, and spend time with the elderly.

In previous years, I heard about people who were grieving at Christmas. I tried to imagine what it would be like to celebrate Christmas knowing I would never see that special someone again. This Christmas I understand much better than I ever have before; this summer we said goodbye to my father-in-law who lost his battle with liver cancer. I am grateful for the many wonderful memories and godly influence of my father-in-law. I am still enjoying Christmas this year, but I'm focusing on different things.

Philippians 2:5-8 reminds us that although Jesus is God, he took on the form of man and became like us. Imagine! The King of the Universe humbled himself to be born in a dirty, stinky stable as a helpless baby. Hebrews 4:14,15 expresses similar thoughts. As the God-man Jesus was intimately acquainted with our weaknesses and temptations, our trials and hardships - yet without sin. He put on the clothes of humanity to demonstrate His love for us. Today Jesus is our High Priest, representing our needs to God.

This world causes us to groan and weep, but Jesus understands. And He not only understands, but He also walks with us, interceding for us before God the Father. This Christmas I am grieving, but not without hope. My father-in-law is celebrating his first Christmas in Heaven. Some day we will celebrate together again, and together we will worship Jesus. Until then, I will hold onto Jesus and rest in the fact He understands.

Ruth L. Snyder
Check out Ruth's blog on education matters at Follow Ruth on Twitter @wwjdr

December 27, 2011

Christmas Puzzling-Denise M. Ford

Each Christmas our family sets up the card table in our family room, eager to begin building the traditional Christmas puzzle. Usually I’ve found one that matches something in our family life at the present time. This year as our family has begun to interact with the families of our future daughter-in-laws, it seemed appropriate to select a puzzle featuring an attic filled with treasured items from varied people’s past. The picture on top of the puzzle box shows discarded dolls laying sleepily in one corner, a flying pirate’s flag draped from the rafters in another, a stuffed bear braced against the handle of a baby carriage, team photos leaning against the trophy of a favored team. Now a couple days after Christmas the puzzle sits undisturbed, with a few bare spots left to complete, the pieces waiting to be found, to be fitted, and to be formed into the perfect picture.

Over the years it became apparent to me that different people put puzzles together differently!! Puzzling over how to find pieces that will interlock quickly and slide into place never seemed so technical in my childhood! However, I marvel at the puzzle personalities that pop up during the process: the box cover hoverer who determines to match each piece to its exact location according to the prescribed illustration, the color coordinator who confiscates every piece that should fit together because it looks like they would, the frustrated fitter who tries eagerly at first but quickly fumes when the shapes refuse to finely form together, the sight selector who scans the selections for certain unique angles and rounded points, the swoop-and-seize who scans the puzzle board from afar and on a passing rendezvous snags a prize to push into place.

Ah Christmas fun… I always like the days after Christmas when I can reflect on the moments shared. This morning as I look across the family room to our puzzle table, I pause for a bit of prayer puzzling over my own life. I too have a few bare spots left to complete, I know there are pieces waiting to be found, to be fitted and to be formed into the perfect picture that God has painted on my cover box. I look forward to letting Him guide me through the many ways that I can help to put my puzzle together. Oh there may be a few pieces tumbling to the floor, but I trust that sooner or later they will be restored.

Ephesians 4:16

He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

December 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Wonderful Saviour!! - Hazel Johnson

A Merry and blessed Christmas to everyone; I hope your spirits are on fire with love, and that you have some of your family and friends with you this day!!

If you do not, remember we are still 'incredibly blessed' on this the most wonderful day in human history!!

I would just like to share with you some of my Christmas memories of the past, and also part of a song that I wrote (to the tune of "Amazing Grace").


Verse One
You came to earth through Mary mild,
Her strength, her fears relieved,
By God’s own choice for motherhood,
Your tiny Son was born!

Forever yours, your blood was shed,
For each and every one.
How precious was that gift from God,
The night that you were born!

Verse Two
Baptized by John in river Jordan,
Led by Spirit forty days.
When it was time, you heard His call,
Became our only Saviour.

Forever yours, your blood was shed,
For each and every one.
How precious was that gift from God,
The night that you were born!

When I was a teenager every month of December, there were hundreds of freshly cut Christmas trees in our backyard!

My parents were the original founders of a wonderful organization for young boys and girls in Southern Alberta called the Junior Forest Wardens. Our yard was transformed and filled to the brim with trees to sell for their organization.

It meant every supper meal was interrupted several times, when one of the four of us in my family very happily would get up from the table and go outside (usually 20 or 30 below), and sell a Xmas tree to an individual or a family. The very best part of it was seeing the smiles and delight on little faces!!

I know that it certainly made my Christmases very happy, and I was grateful to God.

The funny part of it was that despite all those trees outside in our backyard, every year my Mom would instead go into the forest nearby (and with the forest warden’s permission), we would cut down our family tree for that Christmas. She always picked the ugliest, barest, scrawniest, saddest-looking tree that she could find!!

I think this spoke volumes about her loving character!! And even when I grew up, left home, and then got married – every Christmas Eve that CHARLIE BROWN Xmas tree looked absolutely radiant!!!!

Adorned with antique ornaments, and those old-fashioned icicle lights, and underneath its trunk were always a dozen or more little inexpensive gifts to me from: “the dirty dish-rag owner”, the “milk man”, the “tooth fairy”, “Santa’s elf #2”, “Rudolph”, etc., etc.!

God bless everyone this day, and every day in 2012!

December 24, 2011

A WALK WITH DAD — Lynda Schultz

Traditionally, Christmas Eve in my hometown was C.O.L.D. The first breath taken once I was out the front door just about produced lung-sicles. It was painful. The snow crunched underfoot and almost always there were a few flakes of the white stuff gently falling. My dad and I always walked the four and a half blocks between our place and the church together. He put his car up on blocks in the garage during the winter, which probably explains why a second-hand ’54 Ford lasted twenty years! But I digress.

My father wasn’t a talkative man so the walk to the Christmas Eve service was a quiet one. But that was part of its charm. The snow crunched underfoot. The air was cold and crisp. The snow was gentle and sparkled under the streetlights. Cars passed almost silently. In those days the city didn’t spread a lot of sand and salt around and turn the snow in noisy, messy slush. Then the streets were packed snow that created a great noise buffer. A lot of people put up lights on their houses and an equal number had wood stoves and I could smell the scent of wood burning and see the smoke hanging in the cold air—something I love to this day. Chimes ringing out Christmas music could be heard coming from several churches. And Dad and I would crunch along in companionable silence. I loved to walk to church with him on Christmas Eve.

I spent a lot of Christmases away from my family while I was overseas, a lot of green and hot Christmases. It probably wouldn’t have mattered if Dad and I had been crunching along snowy streets listening to church bells and smelling wood smoke, or if we had been shuffling through sand on a beach listening to waves rushing in and smelling night-blooming flowers. I have a feeling that with or without the winter wonderland, the walk to church with Dad would have always been special. There’s nothing like the quiet companionship of the father you love, and who loves you, whatever the circumstances.

There are lots of Biblical characters about whom we know very little. One of those is a man named Enoch. We know he lived a long time and had lots of kids. But those circumstances aren’t what made Enoch significant in God’s story as recorded for us in the Bible. Genesis 5:24 (NIV) says: “Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.

Enoch walked with God.

Can you picture it? God is Spirit but His presence to Enoch was so palpable that it seemed as though they were companions together as Enoch walked through life. The idea of walking with God in quiet companionship is not so improbable. Now that I am living in my hometown again, and despite the fact that my father has gone on to glory, I can still feel him crunching along beside me on the way to church on Christmas Eve.

I have a prayer for 2012. I pray that I will be more conscious of the quiet companionship of God walking beside me in this coming year than I have ever been before. Someday, someone might say of me: “Lynda walked with God, then she was no more, because God took her away.”

Now wouldn’t that be a great epitaph? And isn’t that a great aspiration?

December 23, 2011

It's all about Him - Dorothy Bentley

This is going to sound strange, but I have been focusing so much on Jesus lately that I don't have time to be caught up in Christmas.

In my last post, I told you about this crazy journey God initiated in my life. He's taken away my column writing and my involvement in youth. I wasn't sure where God would lead, but some wonderful things have happened.

To begin with, I was allowed to start a church newsletter which quickly developed into a magazine with the help of young, talented contributors. At first I was a little scornful of going back to newsletter production, since that's where I began as a fledgling writer. However, I discovered that the exercise isn't for me, but for all the other writers and creative people at my church to have an outlet.

As well, perhaps even more importantly, the magazine will serve (at least partly) as catalyst for communication among members and unity of purpose. It's exciting to see it take shape. Our first issue is due out at the beginning of January.

Besides the magazine, God has been speaking to me more, in a way I can understand. I have prayed for years to hear His leading more clearly. The main method I've discovered, through my study of leaders in the Bible, is fasting along with prayer.

Through denying self and seeking God, I was able to ask Him a specific question and actually get a response.

Our God is a Living God!

He is interactive through His Holy Spirit!

This Christmas season, as I focus intently on worshipping the King of kings, I won't let the things of this world absorb my attention. Rather, the tree, the food, the gifts are mere adornments and reminders of the Holy and Alive Person of Christ who is vitally interested in us, the objects of His affection.

Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2011

The Good News of Great Joy, the Angel Brought...-Sulo Moorthy

" haven't done your Christmas shopping yet?" my co-worker asked rolling her eyes heavenward. Fearing she might gasp to death, I didn't dare to tell her that I hadn't even put the Christmas tree up or done any kind baking for the season.

Usually by this time, a week before Christmas, a fir tree donned with twinkling lights and dangling ornaments would stand elegantly at the corner of our living room with beautifully wrapped up packages skirting its base. I would have also baked the traditional Sri Lankan Christmas cake-the moist black fruit cake a month ahead, cut into pieces and wrapped them up in silvery paper and stored away somewhere in the cupboard. This time somehow, I had put off all things till the last minute, including the blog I needed to post four days prior to Christmas on Inscribe Writers online.

So, when I went home that day, I hurried to my computer to complete the blog which needed to be posted on the 21st. Since I've already given a title and written half-way through,I thought I could finish it in no time. But to my annoyance, words refused to come down my brain and I was in no mood to sit and glare at the screen. Neither was I in a mind to decorate the tree or bake cookies. So, I did what I always did when I'm upset or bored. I turned on the television and scanned the movies on NetFlix to find something new and interesting to watch.

A documentary titled Mama Heidi soon caught my attention. It's the story of Heidi Baker who went with her husband Rolland to Mozambique in 1995 to take care of a horribly dilapidated orphanage with eighty children,when the country was ravaged by civil war and famine. Heidi,lovingly called Mama by the orphans looked fearless and angelic in her mid forties. She walks down dusty streets to rescue dirt crusted unloved and unloveable children from starvation, prostitution and diseases like cholera, malaria, tuberculosis and scabies. She even takes five to six kids from the orphanage to her house every week to give them shower, food and bed and made them feel at home.

"If God doesn't show up, we are dead." said Heidi in one of her interviews. The government tried to close down their center, refused to give the licence to operate the medical clinic,banned them from singing and praying, God showed up in a big way to provide, protect and lead. Bakers' house was robbed and shot at many times. Heidi says, whenever she felt overwhelmed with what she was doing, she heard God saying to her. "Just love the one in front of you, " and He would do the rest.

So,after soaking in God's presence for long hours, Heidi gets back on her feet to seek and minister to the poor, sick and unloveable. Sometimes, the road leads her to the dumpsites where the children live and work amidst swarming flies, smoldering garbage and indescrbable stench.

In such an area, where no foreigner dare to tread, Mama Heidi stands like one of them, singing, preaching and praying in the children's native language. "God has done wonders at the dump,"she says as she lovingly hugs a young man who had once threatened to kill her. Heidi has become the Good News to those abandoned children and unloveable teenagers in Mozambique. They see, touch and experience Christ through her. This is truly the Good News of great joy the angel declared to the shepherds two thousand years ago.

By 1999,the number of orphanaged children has grown from eighty to thousands and Bakers had built two hundred bush churches and trained local pastors.

Watching Mama Heidi made me not to fret any more about Christmas shopping, baking and wrapping done on time. Instead, it shifted my focus to change the title of my posting for Inscribe Writers online and write something different. After all, Christmas is never about me or mine. It's more about Him and His.

December 19, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night - Karen Toews

Every December members from our church go carolling to seniors: "shut-ins" who either live in their own homes or in assisted living facilities. The carollers meet at the church where they divide into groups, are given a list of 4 or 5 stops, then fan out into the community.

Most years I join in and I had this year's date marked in my daytimer well in advance.

But on that particular Wednesday, the afternoon's agenda went off the rails. My Christmas baking project took much longer than anticipated, I couldn't get into the flow for a work proposal, and a couple necessary phone calls all disrupted my rhythm and production.

Maybe you should forget about carolling tonight and get caught up on your work.

I tossed the thought to and fro; decided I needed those hours at home and emailed one of the organizers to express my regrets.

You can't give a small gift of your time to share the music of this share Me?

The pointed question pricked me through. What was I thinking, beyond my own selfishness? I needed to go.

Our group was a Mom and her 9-year-old son, our driver and her friend, and myself. Our hosts were delighted and generous with their thanks and their sweet treats. Two of the ladies, pretty much house-bound with health issues, sang along with their carol request: Silent Night. I think (older) women, especially, have an intrinsic affinity for this simple sacred melody of the first Christmas night. It was my Mom's favourite too. Now, six years since her last Christmas, I couldn't stop the tears from welling up, so aware of the gulf between us and our perspectives of "Son of God, love's pure light."

Almost all of the people we sang for were senior women. They were sitting waiting for us to come and they were sitting when they left. Those in senior homes didn't have baking or decorating or cleaning yet to do that night - with a full agenda planned for the next day too. It's safe to guess that at one point in their life that was so - and that they'd now say, "where did the years go?"

All the carollers met up back at the church for cocoa and cookies and this particular caroller went home to a kitchen spilling over with dirty dishes. No elves or fairies had showed up to sweep through the house with their magic. But a miracle of sorts had materialized.

My sense of peace in spite of a list with too few tasks ticked off. Surprise for how much I'd received in exchange for my small effort. The contentment knowing the priority projects would get done.

Christmas has come, we have celebrated "Christ the Saviour is born." And because of this "....dawn of redeeming grace", I can experience "all is calm, all is bright."

December 17, 2011


She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7.

People of every age make life’s biggest mistake by imagining God in every guise but His reality. Really, the stable is ridiculous; the Ruler of the entire universe would come in power to a palace and take up His rightful place as King of the earth. In fact, God’s people of that time fully expected their Messiah to come as a liberating hero and kick the occupying Romans out.

Both convenience and fear dictate our caricatures of God. Our Father-God should want everyone to have a good time; He must be a grandfatherly figure, who pats us all on the head. A God of love has no choice but to provide a haven where He overlooks our sin, so we’ll all enjoy a heaven of our own making—some heaven!

We may imagine Him as an erratic father who needs to be appeased at every turn; perhaps a stern and disinterested judge who brings adversity to punish us for our sins. He probably waits to pounce on every deviance from his will like a tyrannical dictator.

Alternatively, He simply wound up the universe like a clock, and, with no further interest in it, left us to our own devices. Just as likely, He doesn’t even exist, so we’re accountable to no-one!

But, the stable, a significant symbol of Christianity, destroys all our foolish imaginings. Seeing God in a cattle trough can only attest to one overriding characteristic: humility. When God gave Moses the Law in Exodus 34:6–7, he described Himself by characteristics we possess and recognize: compassion, graciousness, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness—all components of humility; above all, expressing the values by which He would administer the law.

However, that doesn’t ignore His omnipotence. In the same passage He also described Himself as just. When His humble approach to humankind reaps no response, He will take the only course left, that of judgment. He was constrained to the manger by His love, not weakness. Don’t let us mistake “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” for a weak, ineffectual Ruler who will never bring justice to the world.

So this Christmas season, we rejoice that God reached out to us in a way we can comprehend—by becoming like us, feeling our pain, showing us how to live, dying to redeem us back to Himself, and finally rising from the grave to confirm his authority, power and truth. But, the fulfilment of the promise of His first coming is the guarantee of His return with power and justice.

December 15, 2011

Tracy Krauss - God's Time Line

I wrote my first post here at 'Inscribe Writers Online' fourteen months ago in October of 2010. My how time flies! I am grateful to be part of such a vibrant and varied group of writers, not just here at this blog, but also as part of the Inscribe organization. It amazes me how, in such a short time, I have come to feel like 'part of the family'. Thanks to Brenda Leyland, our blog-land leader, and all those who regularly contribute. I'm getting to know each voice and look forward to hearing from you each month.

Like most of you, this has been a very productive, although sometimes hectic, year for me, especially in terms of my writing activities. My third novel PLAY IT AGAIN released, I signed a contract with a publisher for a second stage play, and I found an agent who is busy pitching my fourth book. Yet, sometimes, I feel as if my writing goals aren't moving forward fast enough, or as if my aspirations aren't really being realized. This is when I need to stop and take stock; when I need to remember who is supposed to be driving this ship anyway, and let go of the wheel.

It is easy to give lip service to God and say, "He's in charge of my life, including my writing," but it is another thing altogether to actually allow Him to BE in charge. As I look back over the last few years since crossing that line into the world of 'the published', I clearly see God's sovereign hand and I am amazed at how far I've come. I also know that if this had happened any sooner in my life, I might not have been able to handle it. It's easy to feel just an eeny-weeny bit jealous of those younger writers who seem to be making it early when I feel as if it's been a long time coming. Then again, I am grateful for the time I had to focus on family and other ministry opportunities and know that this would not have been possible had I been focused on my writing. 

God knows each and every one of us. He knows what is the best timeline for our lives. It is up to us to accept that and allow Him to do the work in and through us that He desires to do. With this thought in mind, I would like to wish each and every one of you a most joyous Christmas season and a blessed New year.

December 13, 2011

Christmas Song by T. L. Wiens

Christmas has become a difficult time for many. Even within Christian circles, the debate rages of whether or not we should celebrate.
I know all the reasons against December 25th but I also know the world stops and considers a little baby born in a manger every year on this day. It would be sad for Christians to be the ones to stop that from happening.
Every year, I take this time to reflect in song about what Jesus Christ's birth means to me. I hope you enjoy this years.
A Long Long Road
T. L. Wiens
Verse 1
Looking down from the glory of heaven above
He looked at the people with love
Father, I know, I know your will for me
Seeing Mary's innocent face
Knowing her future fate
She would be part of the Father's will for me
And it's a long , long road
Coming down from the glory of heaven
Giving of Himself from wisdom to innocence
Trapped in the frailties of human weakness
Knowing the end before the beginning
And it's a long, long road
Verse 2
Joseph will be my father
He'll need strength to stand beside her
Husband of Mary in the Father's will for me
Shepherds will worship and bow
Wise men will come from afar
Declaring to the world the Father's will for me
And it's a long, long road
Verse 3
People will yell and say
Crucify Jesus today
Carry my cross in the Father's will for me
I must suffer and die
Bring the new covenant life
Salvation through Christ is the Father's will for me
And it's a long, long road
Coming down from the glory of heaven
Giving of Himself from wisdom to innocence
Trapped in the frailties of human weakness
Knowing the end before the beginning
And it's a long, long road
And Jesus walked that road for you and I

December 12, 2011

Guided - Nesdoly


When confluence in the heavens
shone brighter than any illuminated text
they high-fived, then headed
to the mall for myrrh and frankincense
stopped by the bank for gold.

Whenever, on that dusty trek
needles of sand attacked
camels were crabby
thighs chafed, tailbones ached
eyes rose again to blue-white beam
that drew them like a magnet.

In Jerusalem when no one knew
about an infant king
heaven’s eye winked seeming to say
“Carry on boys.
There is a reason you’ve come all this way.”

The single-file Bethlehem street
led to a crescent of modest bungalows
but even here
their confidence never wavered
for their star hovered
over one.

And so they double-parked
jumped off those dusty camels
rummaged through sandy saddle bags for gifts
knocked on that humble door
with trembling anticipation.
Despite the unkingliness
of the whole business
faith never faltered
for God’s spotlight
had guided every step.

© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly

December 11, 2011

Advent-ageous – Stephen T Berg

YoursTruly@MonasticGardensStJohnsIt's early and dark. In the south-east there is a place were the sun will come up, should it choose. Indications are good. So I wait for the first signs of brightening behind the city-scape. I wait.

Winter waits. The soil of summer-fallow waits, bulbs wait, bamboo is excellent at waiting, geese wait until the time is right. Beavers don't abide waiting, but orb weavers don't seem to mind. They spin and wait as long as it takes. The earth spins too, waiting its equinox.

But light bulbs, street lights, clocks, little chips in computers, never wait and will never care to wait. And we use them and anything else we can think of to train the waiting out of our lives.
The world of industry is bringing waiting to an end. Industry and commerce keep company with the future. Corporations race each other to see how far they can project themselves into the future, or how much of it they can drag into the present, which destroys both.

There is madness here that we've normalized. Because life, our second womb, is about waiting. Waiting, not like Estrogon and Vladimir (remember?), but waiting without excessive effort in acceptance of a serial now. Impatience has nothing to do with waiting.

Advent is the season of specific expectation. It’s a rendezvous and tea with a knowing midwife. A time for rekindled waiting—should we see to turn this to our soul’s advancement.
And in Advent, we wait in a commemorative way, for the birth of Jesus. As people of the paschal mystery we are always anticipating some kind of birth and some kind of resurrection, in the knowledge that there was a birth and that the son has risen. We wait as one waits for dawn.

I can't see it yet but soon east will grow orange. Behind the berm of buildings across the North Saskatchewan high on the bank, the trees will turn skeletal as light strengthens behind them.

December 10, 2011

Ponder Your Stories - Bonnie Way

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short story about the weekend I spent in Canberra during my summer in Australia.  It was an interesting weekend involving a new traveling companion, meeting a guy who promptly fell head over heels in love with me, and almost getting stranded downtown at midnight before a bus driver offered to give us a ride back to the hostel at the end of his regular route.  Canberra stands out among my memories of Australia, but when my workshop group read my submission, they asked, "What's the story?"

All the events that I mentioned are interesting and even amusing, but they aren't enough for a story in themselves.  I realized that just relating those events aren't enough.  I also had to think deeply about what those events meant to me—why exactly those memories stand out in my mind, even six years after the event.  And then, when I could put into words those abstract feelings about the weekend, I had to somehow convey them to my reader and show exactly how that weekend changed me.

As I thought about that experience, a verse from Luke's version of the Christmas story popped into my head.  After everything that happens to Mary and Joseph—the trip to Bethlehem, the birth in a stable, the shepherd's arrival, the wise men's gifts—Luke tells us, "Mary committed these to memory and considered them carefully" (Luke 2:19 CEB).  At the time they happened, they were probably exciting and interesting events.  But she'd have to wait until Jesus grew up and had completed his ministry and work here on earth to really understand all the significance.

Some stories need time to grow before we can really see their effects.  As writers, we need to not only remember and retell stories from our lives, but to also consider them carefully to ensure that we're really capturing the meaning of the story for our readers.  That might mean waiting to tell a story until the right time—until we can truly understand it ourselves.  That might mean multiple rewrites as we dig deeper into our memories and what they mean.  As Christian writers, we can ask God for guidance as we write, that he will help us to resurrect these memories and to share them with those who need to hear them.
"I pray that God will allow me to speak knowledgeably and to ponder well what God has taught me. God himself is the guide even of Wisdom, and God keeps those who already possess wisdom on the right course." (Wisdom 7:15 CEB)

~ © Bonnie Way (

December 09, 2011

Jockeying for Position - Shirley S. Tye

And they're off! Yes, it's Christmas and drivers are jockeying for parking spots. Right there in front of the coffee shop. It was like watching two rams lock horns. Okay, they weren't rams but a 4X4 truck - a mean looking thing at that - and a mini van.

The 4X4 driver raced to a spot next to the building just outside the window where I was sitting; a spot where later he'd have to back out into busy plaza traffic. Now with his bird's eye view from his high cab you'd think he'd have noticed the two convenient drive-through parking spots just a few yards over. It would have been easy to drive the truck straight into the spot and later drive straight out; no backing up required; one simple move.

The driver had just gotten the truck nose turned and aimed at the spot when he realized a mini van was already backing into the same spot. Obviously he saw the spot but not the back-up lights of the van. The irritated truck driver leaned hard on the horn. The van driver was oblivious to the sound and continued backing. I could almost hear him singing 'Da dump, da dump, da, da, da, da, dump' or did I hear him singing that silly little Christmas song 'Grandma Got Run Over by the Reindeer'. Now there's a song to capture the Christmas spirit. Soon they came to logger heads - okay, more precisely nose to butt. Gross, you say? Exactly! Peace and goodwill were non-existent. Crazy, you say? Well, maybe just narrow visioned; the 'me syndrome' showed up again.

Oh, you want to know who won the coveted spot? Funny thing, the aggressive 4X4 driver lost because the van driver was persistent or perhaps just blind to the fact that there are others in the world.

Someday there will be peace on earth but not today.

May peace reign at least in your corner of the world.

Merry Christmas!

December 07, 2011

Non-Shop Stopping – Ramona Heikel

It is not natural for me to focus. I tend to have a divergent personality, which can be both a positive and a negative trait. However, something has been frustrating me for years.

One cause of my divergent tendencies is boredom: boredom with seeing the same old four walls, with eating the same old foods, with routines and ruts. This boredom leads me to go “out” more, and by that I don’t mean out to the theatre, out to dinner or out for a weekend in Banff, because those all have significant costs. My practice of going-out-more consists of browsing around book stores, thrift stores, grocery stores and health food stores, in which I find many new, colorful, interesting (and often inexpensive) items that I want.

This kind of shopping shouldn’t be a problem, should it? The products are usually necessities, or the prices are too low to show up on my guilt-radar. It’s not as if I’m impulsively buying five more pairs of shoes, expensive jewelry or a whole new set of living room furniture.

However, it is a problem. First, I really don’t need most of what I see, yet many items jump into my cart anyway. Worse than that, though, it uses up valuable time, which I never seem to have enough of.

At the end of a shopping day, I am usually frustrated that I haven’t read more of the books on my shelves or the ones from the library (ah, the library—another bad “browsing” habit). By then, it’s too late to connect with my loved ones in a phone call, email, snail mail, or Facebook. Pray? Sometimes I only have time for a short, rushed prayer before I sleep.

Throughout this year, I have been trying to simplify my life and my focus. I believe that this is something that God has not only been urging me to do, but also something in which he is training me, step by step. In fact, I think the frustration with myself is the first part of the training. Now I am finding that when I can direct my attention, a sense of peace fills my day.

I am trying to resist the number of trips I make browsing aimlessly at the library and the stores, and remind myself of other enjoyments I have at home. I have a park to walk in, an elliptical machine set up to watch videos while exercising (which was supposed to be enticing), books galore, word puzzles, and my cat who is always happy to see me. And for the first time in ages, I’m making some Christmas gifts.

To paraphrase the saying about contemplating in our last days how we’ve spent our lives, I don’t think I’ve ever looked back and wished I’d spent more time in the store.

Posted by Ramona