February 28, 2015


I think God overdid it with bunnies. He gave them far too much sweetness. He also gave them incredibly clever and mischievous minds. Sadly, rabbits are the most under-appreciated and abused pets in North America. This is why I'm a strong advocate of proper house rabbit care.

Many folks don't know that, unlike dogs or cats, bunnies fear being picked up. This is why they instinctively struggle when uneducated people bend down and grab them. It's like being caught by a predator.

Additionally, rabbits play differently than carnivorous pets. Instead of chasing and catching things, they enjoy tossing noise-making objects. Since their teeth keep growing, they need to chew on things to wear their teeth down. This is why they enjoy chewing on cardboard boxes and ripping up papers. When two doors are cut in an empty box and an old phone book is placed inside, rabbits spend hours joyfully ripping and chewing.

Contrary to the Bugs Bunny cartoons, rabbits can die from eating sugary foods like carrots. They need plenty of hay to keep their digestion going and to wear down their teeth. Pure canned pumpkin is also a good treat as it is rich in fibre. A proper diet can help bunnies live to be more than ten years old.
Many people don't realize that house rabbits can be litter-trained. It's in there nature not to soil their burrows. Even those poor bunnies imprisoned in cages end up using only one corner for their toilet. Some folks have used wood pellets for litter but, being a cheapskate, I use junk mail scrounged from the local post office. My long-eared fur friends never minded that.

Also, bunnies need to be spayed and neutered so that they will be friendlier and cleaner pets. Once their drive to reproduce is gone, they become more affectionate to their humans. Neither do they spray and hump everything in sight. Additionally, female rabbits develop uterine cancer after five years when they're not spayed.

The reason I love rabbits is that it's a special blessing to earn their trust. Neither are they clingy like dogs or aloof like cats. To me, they're friends who like to hang around me, yet they don't mind if I leave for the post office. I also love the way they get all worked up and excited when they know a treat is coming. My current rabbit, Deborah, has a white tail which flashes like a beacon when she hops. Just seeing her excitement and flashing tail at feeding time puts a smile on my face.

I've written so much more about the wonderful facts I've learned, and the fun I've had, with bunnies in a book called When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living With Bunnies. You can read more about this memoir of my life with these misunderstood creatures at my Bruce Atchison's books page.

February 27, 2015

My First Artist's Date by Melanie Fischer

This term "Artist's date" is new to me. It has never crossed my mind to set aside time to become artistically rejuvenated. Apparently it is important though, because the Lord has been relentlessly pursuing me with obvious intentions of lassoing my overactive mind.

Exactly one week ago today I predictably perched myself in front of my computer screen. I nestled into the carved out corner of my basement and blankly gawked at my computer. My hands could not bring themselves to type, yet they were obedient to the call of my coffee addiction as they raised an oversized cup of lukewarm java to my lips over and over again.

Still...there was nothing.

Life circumstances had sucked up every morsel of inspiration and motivation. My mind and heart were left emptier than my mug.

How could I just sit here and come up with nothing?

The phone then rudely interrupted my self-scolding session. An overly hyper voice caught me off guard. My good friend explained at mock-speed that she was on the other line with her travel agent booking us a trip to a hot destination. Funny how moments ago I had not a drop of imagination inside of me yet I could conjure up the most colourfully creative reasons why I could not take a holiday. Her refusal to accept "no" as an answer landed me on a Mexican beach four days later.

From a perfectly positioned cafe table in an all-inclusive resort I overlook a sandy beach into a distant mountainous backdrop as I chuckle at this month’s blog topic. The heat of the sun, song of an unknown bird, laughter of children on the beach and rushing of waves against the shore has managed to restore my soul.

I had no idea how empty I was until I became full again.

I am quite certain that this will not be a typical artist’s date, but at least now I understand the importance of having them.

Thank you Lord for clearing my busy calendar (and my busy mind) in order to gift me with my first of many artist dates.

February 26, 2015

Recharging My Writing by Marnie Pohlmann

I am not a bunny with endless energy as seen in television commercials. I used to believe the busier I was the more organized I was, but time has shown me that more likely I was simply choosing what area of life suffered to allow another task to be completed.  I no longer have the energy I once had, or the desire to be that busy.

There are ways to ensure enough energy is still available to do what God calls me to do, like write. In considering the theme of “artist dates”, I see how I plug in to recharge for writing. Perhaps some of these will work for you, too.

Plug in to God.
In Acts 3:6 Peter said “I do not have silver or gold, but what I have I will give to you.” I cannot give out what I have not taken in, so feeding on God’s Word ensures a steady source of fuel.  God’s Word is meant to be useful in all areas of life (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), including writing.  Plugging into relationship with God provides me with direction in life, and the energy to do what he asks as I lean into him.

Plug into Others.
Read what others write.  Listen to what others write.  Talk about what others write.   Join a book club. Attend a writers’ group where there is conversation and creativity with others who love the medium of words. In our Peace Region Christian Writers group, we share what we are writing, sometimes just to hear the words play on each other and sometimes for the value of critique.  Sometimes we write a fun exercise to practice something new. Those meetings inspire and make me want to write more.

Plug into solitude.  
This is a favourite of introverts, but extroverts also need time away from “daily life” where they have uninterrupted time to focus on writing. Find a place where the surroundings inspire – a cabin in the woods, or a bench in your own garden.

Another way to plug into solitude is to be alone in a crowd.  Go to the grocery store not to buy milk, but to people-watch.  Or take one of your fictional characters along with you to stand in line at the bank, to see how they react to the wait.  Try sitting alone amidst the smells and conversations of a busy coffee shop.  Inspiration will flow in surprising ways.

Plug into Creativity.
Take time away from writing but not from creativity.  Find another method of expression.  Drawing, music, photography, wood carving, or card-making - anything creative feeds your soul and helps you see from a different perspective, which will also enhance your writing.  I am often surprised at the photos my camera captures as I look for the “macro” and the detailed “micro” of life around me.

Plug into freedom.
Give yourself permission not to write, not to create - not to be productive while still feeding your soul. The television will not do this for you. I do this by climbing onto the passenger seat of my husband’s motorcycle.  It is impossible to hold a pen and paper with the wind whipping around you, yet I use all my senses, which energizes creativity. I see the landscape differently than ever before. I hear the roar of the engine. I feel the road surface and the lean of the corners.  I smell wildflowers and skunk.  I taste the bugs… all right, maybe not the bugs - I taste the cool water from a roadside stream when we stop for a break.  I experience the freedom of not being in control.

There are many ways to plug in to recharge your writing.  Find what energizes your creativity, and indulge yourself.

Photo credits:
Rabbit – http://www.pexels.com - public domain
All others –Marnie Pohlmann

February 25, 2015

Home Inspires Me by Vickie Stam

"Home is where your story begins." --Anne Danielson 

In a land covered with white snow I find it somewhat difficult to imagine myself planning an 'artist's date.' I don't really leave home to write. To be honest, I'm not a winter person. These days I'm much more content indoors. Finding places to recharge comes easier to me during the warmer months.

Looking out my front window at a blanket that covers the vast expanse of farmland only has me wishing I could put the shovel away, leave the hat and scarf in the closet and say goodbye to a land of ice and snow. I've had my fill of the white stuff. If I were to go someplace to stimulate my creativity, I would fly south where it's warm. I would embrace the sun and the enthusiasm it sparks in me each time it rises and falls. I would enjoy eating dinner with my husband beside the waters edge. It all sounds very enticing but for now, I'm right here..... smack dab in the middle of Canada's winter wonderland.     

It's not as if I don't get away but the majority of my winter is still spent here on the farm in Ontario. And when my husband and I do travel, I have to admit that I don't get much writing in. A week goes by rather quickly.  

At this point I'm not inspired by the great outdoors. I don't really find pleasure in temperatures that tend to dip below zero for far too long. I feel sorry for my husband every time he treks outside to fire up the tractor and blow snow out of our long laneway. I don't take part in any of the winter games that some people enjoy. I don't ski or snowboard, neither do we own a snowmobile. If there's anything about winter I like, it's that first snowfall especially the way the snow shimmers like diamonds when the sun strikes it. Magnificent to say the least but eventually its beauty wears thin with me.      

Stimulating my senses or refilling my artistic well doesn't come from looking out my back window either. Their are more naked trees than I could possibly count. Trees that look more attractive with their clothes on.   

I can hardly wait to spot that first bud in the Spring. It's only a matter of time before each tiny nugget transforms itself into lush green leaves, making them come alive. The sweet sound of birds singing, the smell that lingers in the air after a gentle rain and the summer furniture returning to its rightful place under the pergola. Everything feels new, fresh and meaningful.

 I love hearing the brushing sound the corn stalks make when they sway back and forth in the wind. I enjoy long walks on the beach or a picnic in the park.          

Having said all of that, I can't ignore the winter. It's all around me. For now, I stay indoors,  watch a movie, or curl up under a blanket with a good book. Fellowship with friends. And I'm currently enrolled in a LifeScapes writing class. I'm truly content to be in the confines of my living room, out of the cold, basking in the luxury of flicking the button on the fireplace and watching the orange flames dance behind a sheet of glass. 

Home is truly where my story begins......

Psalm 121:1-2  "I lift my eyes to the hills---where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."



February 24, 2015

He Walks With Me – by Tandy Balson

I read somewhere that writer’s block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you!  That may be true for those who write fiction but as a non-fiction writer that's not an excuse I can use.

The worst thing I can do when I am stuck for words is to sit alone at the keyboard and try to force the words to flow through my fingertips.   A change of scenery can be the very thing needed to inspire my creativity.

Most often that means spending time in nature.  God has surrounded me with beauty and wants me to take the time to enjoy it.  When I walk and let my mind roam free I allow him to speak to me. 

 I have just come back from a vacation where I was blessed to be able to go for long walks along the beach most mornings.  As I walked I often had the strains of the song In The Garden going through my mind. Although I was at a beach and not a garden, the words were still appropriate: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known..”

The joy I receive as I choose to walk with him is an experience that is able to refresh and energize at the same time.

Last summer I found inspiration at a lake I frequented.  Sometimes it was a walk through the trees that lined the shore.  Other times a bench beside the lake became my quiet spot for reflection.  Watching the sun set with no buildings to impede the view would make my heart sing.  There is something about the beauty and peacefulness of nature that restores my soul.  

I had never thought of these times as artist’s dates but that is exactly what they were.  The greatest artist of all, the one who paints the sky with muted shades at sunset and the trees and flowers with a vast array of vivid colours wants to spend time with me.  When I stop my striving and bask in the beauty he has surrounded me with, I can’t help but be inspired.

February 23, 2015

One Thousand Mississippi's - Lynn J Simpson

I open my eyes. Darkness still envelopes my room. I close them again, in the hopes that maybe this middle of night awakening is just a moment that will pass as fast as a blink. But behind my closed lids, images and words begin flashing. Images of tasks that I have yet to accomplish, or plans that I wonder if ever shall transpire into reality. And after a thousand Mississippi counts later, I finally just open my eyes and give in to the awakening in the darkness of this mid-night.

Sometimes it is at these times that I turn my bedside light on and reach into my dresser drawer where my latest spiral notebook lay. Since I was pre-teen, I have randomly kept diaries and journals. Many I no longer have, torn in pieces before emptying into a recycle bin so no one can ever know the contents of those pages. Yet, though the words are gone, the healing of writing those words is everlasting.

I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way many years ago.  Cameron taught me how to just let go, and journal through the activity she calls The Morning Pages. An activity of writing three pages every morning upon first waking that is without any worrisome thoughts of form, grammar, and spelling. Just write. It was through this letting go, this purging of old wounds, doubts, and negativity that opened me up to the artist within. And then I began the next step of Cameron’s Artist journey by taking myself on weekly Artist Dates.

In those days I would scan the pages of the local entertainment magazine to find events in my area.
I went to book readings, photography exhibitions, debates in coffee shops, independent movies, and science exhibitions. I would take drives to parks I had never been and walk the trails. I would shop in tucked away boutiques in neighbourhoods I had never ventured before.  Two hours on a weekend I let myself be awake in the new and sometimes uncomfortable.

And I slept peacefully.

An Artist Date may not only stretch me to experience something new I can write about, but also possibly eliminate a mid-night count of a 1,000 Mississippi's. Maybe it is time to for the new and uncomfortable again! What would an Artist Date, the new and uncomfortable, be for you?

February 22, 2015

A Date With the Artist by Susan Barclay

I have to admit, I was a bit stumped by this month’s theme, the “Artist’s Date.” I don’t have any regular weekly activity that intentionally feeds my writer’s soul. 

With respect to the act of writing, my practice is to work in as silent an environment as possible, usually in the mornings before other things crop up to interrupt the flow.


Here are some things that I occasionally use to stimulate ideas and creativity:
  1. Asking ‘what if…?’ in response to overheard conversations or visual scenes
  2. Reading books on the subject of writing
  3. Writing prompts, either from book or online sources
  4. Trying something new, like writing a poem. Recently, I joined a local songwriting group that works collaboratively. Very cool.
  5. Reading blog posts from different viewpoints or on topics I know little about
  6. Culling from my own and others’ life experiences
  7. Getting feedback on my work, with suggestions for new directions or ideas
  8. Getting out in nature, enjoying the beauty and quiet, letting it speak to me. For example, this is where, God willing, I will be a few months from now:
The Grand Canyon - Inspiring, don't you think?
This is a short post because there’s really nothing else to say. Also, I have an important date I must keep – a date with the great Artist Himself.  “It is through him that we are able to live, to do what we do, and to be who we are” (Acts 17:28, ERV). Through Him I am able to write and call myself a writer.

February 21, 2015

Chasing the Light ... by Jocelyn Faire

What do you do to re-energize yourself for writing?

Live creatively, friends...
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself, Don't compare yourself with others. **Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.** Galatians 6:1, 4,5  The Message

Last summer I shadowed my photographer nephew on a job, as he chased the light in search of the best image. Energy flowed as I spent time with him.
The morning skies tinged with pink ...
The golden glow of the lowering sun
The play of shadows and light
Angles, shutter speeds, aperture and focus
It was a vivid picture for me as we focused on capturing the best light. Just as Joel pursued the right light for his work, I realize I seek beauty, which is also light, to energize my creativity.

Perhaps at the root cause of our reluctance to take the artist date, is a failure to see God as the creator of beauty, as the one who wants to be my date to fill up the (ink)well. I come from a strong work ethic, where productivity was valued over creativity. Creativity and its pursuit would be what happened after all the work was done, and where work was never done, it seemed artistic pursuit time was almost non-existent. At the heart of the matter, though, I still fall for the line that doing is more important than being. In a Martha world, the Mary artistic endeavours are easily ignored, or relegated to time when everything else has been done. Too often I feel I should not read a book, write poetry, craft, or saunter unless I have put in a certain amount of “work.” But if we do not understand the importance of nurturing the soul, we allow atrophy to happen.

I list myself as a seeker of beauty. A journal in hand, a mug of hot tea or coffee on a bench alongside the river, is where I am often found, in all seasons. Sunrises, sunsets are one of my ways of chasing the light. This past week, over dinner with two soul sisters, we oohed and aahed as pinks and oranges blazed across the snowy mountain tops for a full 50 minutes, as the artist played with the clouds.

Sunrise, sunset, subdued or bright,
The light that shines in the dark,
light that brings beauty to myself
and then flows out to those I meet.
If I do not take time to come apart
I will come apart.
As I chase the light in order to write
Spending time in the word, nature and music
The ultimate light to be chased is God.

Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light
Matt 6:22 The Message

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking out of My Head?  - grief as an out of body experience
She blogs at:  http://whoistalking.wordpress.com

February 20, 2015

Looking into Sky by Joylene M. Bailey

I have never heard the term Artist’s Dates before.  I don’t have a “regular system” for becoming recharged for writing.  I think I need to get a regular system for writing before I get a regular system for becoming recharged for writing.

But I do know what recharges me and sparks my creativity. 

We moved to the big city almost 8 years ago.  Before that we lived in the country.  All I had to do was look out any window to be recharged.  A short walk to the burning barrel refreshed me because I was outside, listening to the trees whisper and the horses run home.  Deep breaths came easy then.

More than anything, what refreshes me is the sky.  Wide blue sea or swollen clouds, heavy grey snow sky, wind whipped mare’s tails, or starry expanse, the ever changing sky is my inspiration.  Always.

In the country I could see the sky from any window in my house.  Then we moved to the city where I had to walk to the middle of my cul-de-sac to see the sky.  But one day, when we were in the midst of a 3-year-long family crisis and my writing had taken a back seat, I did that. 

I don’t know exactly how it happened but, as I stood there smack dab in the centre of the cul-de-sac, breathing deeply and looking up into the sky, inspiration came.  She just showed up, like a child approaching with a smile.  I welcomed her and she started to tell me her story, and then I went into the house and wrote it down - the first chapter of my novel.

The sky does that for me, and it never disappoints. 

February 18, 2015

A Walk with my Shepherd - by Gloria Guest

I love how in Genesis it states that God came down and walked with Adam & Eve in the cool of the day [Genesis 3:8]. It is as if God could hardly wait each day to spend time with those He loved.
While pondering this month’s blog topic about going on an artist’s date to replenish the writer within, I felt pursued by God to take a walk with Him. Together we walked through one of the most loved and familiar chapters of the Bible; Psalm 23.
 “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.”
 A Shepherd keeps a careful and loving watch over his sheep, always looking out for their best interest. The concept of God loving me in such an intimate way has often seemed foreign and uncomfortable. Yet the way the Psalmist describes it, through the love of a shepherd for a little lamb; that is something I feel drawn to and feel free to accept and explore.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
I envision the lush, green, rolling pasture where I can find a shady spot to rest. I picture the perfectly still, quiet waters; a peaceful place where I let go of my fears and worries and enjoy the refreshing stream. The Shepherd alone leads me to these pastures and waters; He alone knows what I need. I feel a sense of trust creeping into my soul.
“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
By following Him and not my own way, I will be lead on paths that are right and good for me. I feel the taught knots of confusion and desperation slide from my shoulders.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
I’ve walked through the shadows of the death of loved ones. Yet God was always there, shepherding me through, at times even carrying me on His strong shoulders. Now, in writing a memoir of my life, I find that there are different shadows to walk through.  Can God shepherd me through this fear of vulnerability that has gripped me like a vice? Will I ever come out on the other side of this valley? His answer is evident. God is ‘with me’ in each trial, each hour of need, each stroke of the pen. He is for me and not against me. I feel his presence with each small step I take.
 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”
As I learn from the Shepherd I believe that He will bring these blessings to fruition in my life. I long for my cup to run over onto the written page; to have His goodness in everything I do for the rest of my life. I feel anticipation for all He is going to do.
Finally there is the ultimate promise that someday I will join my Shepherd in a heavenly home, free of earth’s bondages and trials. I feel my spirit yearn for a better place. But how amazing it is to realize that God can hardly wait each day, to walk with me.

*All scripture taken from New King James Bible

February 17, 2015

Valentines Day: Love or . . .

A serious decline in the meaning of love is making Valentine’s a day to be forgotten rather than remembered. In concert with the decline in the Christmas message, love has become a hollow shell that cannot withstand the stresses laid upon it. Just as many lonely people wish they could sleep from December the first until the New Year, too may women would gladly skip Valentine’s Day and the memories it evokes.

Time magazine reports that to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a San Francisco zoo is letting people adopt a cockroach or scorpion in the name of their ex. My guess is more women than men will try it. My experience is that, as a general rule, women give more to a marriage than men—thanks to a compelling nurturing nature. Someone has said that there are no frigid women, only inattentive men.

As long as love and marriage is seen as a place to be served instead of a place to serve, where men need to give their lives daily for their wives, true love will be replaced with a veneer that, husbands hope, gives sufficient incentive to get what they want. Valentine’s Day, like Mother’s Day, easily becomes a substitute for three hundred other days of neglect.

Well, now I’ve let the dogs out, how do I really feel about my Valentine? Inadequate is the first word that surfaces. Why did I take so long to understand what a husband’s love really is? That’s as much an upward learning curve for Christians as its decline is for an unbelieving culture. 

For me, even sixty years of marriage is insufficient. Although I sense it, I doubt I’ll ever show my full appreciation for her years of selfless service. Not a lack of desire, but lack of ability and the distraction of other things, however necessary. That has something to do with my fallen nature—not an excuse, any more than a fallen nature is an excuse for sin. 

But I hope recognition of my inadequacy will at least explain my failure. All parents in later years regret those ways they failed their children. Can I ever shake off a similar regret of failing my wife? That leads me to seek forgiveness from my Valentine—a broken expression of my love. 

Come to think of it, perhaps that—forgiveness—is the real meaning of Valentine’s Day.