June 29, 2019

Fall Contest! Start now!

Time to start writing those Fall Contest entries, folks! Here are the categories:

Children’s Fiction – Maximum 1000 words. No pictures.

Drama Script – Maximum 1500 words plus stage directions.

Non-Fiction to Conference Theme “Come to the Well” (John 4:14b) – Maximum 1500 words

Song Writing – 1-2 pages of lyrics with chord symbols, plus an MP3 vocal recording. Instruments optional. Voice quality is not judged.

Poetry – Maximum 40 lines, any style. Please state the style on your submission (eg: free verse, rhymed, sonnet, etc.)

Devotional – Maximum 300 words. Scripture must be included.

As you probably know, the Fall Contest is a 'PERK' of membership so if you are not a member or have let your membership lapse, now is the time to fix that! For more info about the Fall Contest go to our website:

June 28, 2019

Believe Not Every Spirit - Bruce Atchison

Whenever I hear Christians claiming that God spoke to them, I get nervous. The cultic house church I once belonged to took 1 John 4:1 light years out of its context by claiming we can hear from departed saints. That's NOT what the verse means.

First John 4:1 (BBE) reads, "My loved ones, do not put your faith in every spirit, but put them to the test, to see if they are from God: because a great number of false prophets have gone out into the world."

We see in subsequent verses that John had living people in mind when he spoke of those false prophets. It's those demons who are speaking into the mental ears of lying preachers who are responsible for the spread of false doctrines. The men and women involved are mere extension speakers for demons.

The only reliable message from the Lord is the Bible. As Hebrews 1:1 and 2 (BBE) state, "In times past the word of God came to our fathers through the prophets, in different parts and in different ways; But now, at the end of these days, it has come to us through his Son, to whom he has given all things for a heritage, and through whom he made the order of the generations;"

It's obvious that the author of Hebrews is referencing the established doctrines preached by the prophets and Christ. The letters from the apostles are also "god breathed" because they NEVER contradict what the Holy Spirit has taught.

I don't doubt that we can hear from God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself said in John 16:12 and 13 (BBE), "I have still much to say to you, but you are not strong enough for it now. However, when he, the Spirit of true knowledge, has come, he will be your guide into all true knowledge: for his words will not come from himself, but whatever has come to his hearing, that he will say: and he will make clear to you the things to come."

And as the Bible says in 1 John 4:6 (BBE), "We are of God: he who has the knowledge of God gives ear to us; he who is not of God does not give ear to us. By this we may see which is the true spirit, and which is the spirit of error."

So we see that aural communication and the Word of God are what we must use to test the spirits. Scripture prohibits speaking with the dead. It also warns that Satan can make himself seem to be an angel of light to those tricked by him. This is why we MUST stick with the Bible and test all aural speech against what it says.

June 26, 2019

How God Speaks (to Marnie Pohlmann)

God has spoken to me since I was a child. From the time He sat with me at a bonfire at Bible Camp to the times I felt His arms around me when evil came to call in the dark night, I have known His presence.

Perhaps it is the untainted trust of childhood or the smallness of a child’s world that makes believing in God and hearing Him so much easier than it is as an adult. Adults are surrounded by such differing ideas, various values, and a multitude of morals. The doubts and questions that must be answered to be firm in one’s own beliefs are not at all like the simple faith of a child.

As much as I continue to know God’s presence in my life, I’m not as good at simply enjoying His company and conversing with Him, as I once was. Yet God does still speak to me about faith, life, and, maybe, especially about writing.

I have continued to learn how God speaks to me, as well as others, in today’s noise-infused world in which we must “adult” whether we want to or not. I am not always paying attention or listening, though. And sometimes I have “selective hearing” where I choose what parts of God’s message I want to hear and what parts I will ignore. Trust me, though, when I tell you that selective hearing never bodes well for me.

So how does God speak to me?

First and foremost, God speaks to me through His Word. Reading Scripture makes God’s voice audible. And yet the words on the surface of the page don’t always mean what we might think they mean. Studying Scripture and the meaning behind the words is what truly makes God’s voice loud and clear. Unmistakable. Compelling.

For example, when questioning whether I could write, whether I should write, and even more so, what I could/should write, God spoke to me through Psalm 26, specifically verse 7.

6 I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord:
7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
8 Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.” (KJV)

Secondly, I hear God’s voice when being taught, whether by reading or listening to wise Christians expound on God’s Word, God’s character, and God’s actions.

One such time was when I was asked to help a leader with a skit at a women’s meeting. If I remember correctly, the skit was about how God prompted a lady to consider another’s needs and she said, “I will pray for that need.” Now, we all know prayer is important, but sometimes God wants us to do more than pray, perhaps do something more practical and earthly. In time the lady dies and meets God in Heaven, where He hands her a crown decorated with jewels which He explains were set in place as a reward for her actions on earth. The lady is pleased, but when noticing more jewels on a table, she asks God, “What are those jewels for?” He answers, “Oh, those were for your crown, too, but you did not take advantage of the opportunities when I prompted you.”

What I learned through that skit was when God is prompting me to write something, whether or not I think it is of any value or will make it out of my journal for others to read, I need to write. I am called to write. I am responsible to act, and God will use my writing as He pleases. Just thinking about it is not enough when God prompts me to write. (Yes, dear hubby and friends, I hear what your facial expressions are saying!)

Linked to that experience was a the time I was teaching a Sunday School class of teenagers about gifts and talents. One question a musically talented girl asked was, “If I don’t use the talent that God gifted me with, or if I don’t use it in the way God asks me to, will I lose it?” The ‘use it or lose it’ fear
that we guilt ourselves with made me stop and consider. At the time I had decided I would write anything but Christian content, and certainly not share anything of my own life. The girl’s question made me realize that while I didn’t think God would stop me from writing, not using His gift to me in the way He asked would lessen jewels set aside for my crown. Scripture says we will lay our crowns at Christ’s feet, and I would like my gift to Him to be worthy of Him, not crafted by my own feeble works.

Perhaps the way God speaks to me most often is through my own writing. As I write in my journal or prepare an article to share, I hear God teaching me, helping me to make sense of my thoughts and solidify my beliefs. Even as I go back to read some of my own blog posts of the past couple years, I am often amazed at words I wrote and realize a new depth of God’s character or recognize how He has again proven another truth in recent days.

God has also used family and friends, dreams, and circumstances to talk to me. And like the Bereans of Bible times, I must be careful to discern these messages in the light of Scripture to determine whether I am truly hearing God’s voice and not simply my own wants and desires. I continue to learn to recognize my Shepherd’s voice. I continue to listen to His message, and ultimately to respond with action.

Does God speak to you in these ways as well?
     What does God speak to you about?
          How well do you listen to God’s message or prompting?               What is your response when you hear God's voice?

*photos courtesy of www.Pixabay.com CCO license

Marnie Pohlmann strives to listen and act on God's writing prompts while working and ministering in northern BC. Read more about God's presence in Marnie's life at her blog, Phosphorescent.

June 24, 2019

God Speaks - Shirley S. Tye

When God calls, do you hem and haw, and wonder who spoke?  “Was that God?  Nah! He wouldn’t pick me for a job like that. I can’t do that - don’t have the education or experience.”  We can come up with a number of excuses not to heed God’s calling just as Moses and Jonah.  

Moses had several excuses.  Some of his excuses were; I’m not good enough (“Who am I … Exodus 3:11); I don’t know what to say (“What shall I say to them?” Exodus 3:13); I’m not an eloquent speaker (“I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Exodus 4:10).  When God called Jonah; “Arise, go to Nineveh.” (Jonah 1:1).  Jonah did arise and go - but in the opposite direction. He outright refused God’s calling. After some persuasion, Jonah relented and did as God had requested. 

We may not have what it takes to carry out some of the missions which God wants us to fulfil when we first set out but He will “…equip us with everything good for doing His will…” (Hebrews  13:21) just as He did with Moses. “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) And I suppose, when God wants us to do something He’ll keep knocking at our door until we answer Him and “arise and go”. He’ll do whatever it takes to catch our attention just as He did with Jonah.

As we carry out God’s calling for us, we might not be aware of the impact we make on others - or shall I say, how God is reaching others through us.  As writers, it may not always be our best work that carries a meaningful message to someone. 

When I had a story ministry a few years ago, I was excited by the invitations I received from churches, ladies’ groups, nursing homes, and a mentally challenged group of adults.  Sometimes story ideas came from God.  When that happened, the story flowed easily onto the paper and it was a joy to tell it.  But when I forced an idea, squeezing words from my mind and juggling them around until they appeared to make a reasonable story, it sounded like gibberish to me when I told it.  Afterwards, in my embarrassment, thoughts rolled about in my head; that was a terrible story; not my best work; and it was too long.  Despite that, there was always someone who came to me to let me know the story had touched them, or reminded them of something, or made them aware of something they had done or should have done.  It didn’t matter whether the story idea came from God or from my own imagination. There was no stopping God’s word from going out to whomever He especially wanted to reach at the time.  I was doing what God had called me to do; to encourage others. He blessed the listener and me.  

June 22, 2019

God Speaks Through Special Needs

“Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans.” (Hebrews 1:1, TLB)

The prompt for our June post is a timely one for me. I am going to go as far as to say through this prompt God has spoken to me. A few days ago I was reviewing my blog, Scarred Joy, and decided to refocus it. The only thing is, I wasn’t sure what this refocus would be. I knew whatever direction the blog was to take it would retain my tagline of “touched by grief, held by hope.” The blog would still not shy away from the painful side of life.

Over the past few years my family has undergone life changing and significant experiences. This includes the death of my parents and my wife’s mother, the passing of five grandbabies due to pregnancy loss and the birth of six more grandchildren including two labeled by society as “special needs.”

My daughter and her husband have three children and the two children termed, “special needs” are part of their family. The lives of “special needs” families have a soft spot in my heart. Families with children who are perhaps not considered “typical,” face lifestyles that also are not typical. They are those who walk through life often misunderstood and not always welcomed by the typical world.

As grandparents my wife and I are part of the special needs world of our daughter and son in law. We have set ourselves apart, so to speak, from the typical world of grandparents. We have our times of grief and tears, yet the joy our “special needs” grandchildren hug us with is a gift beyond words. Such gifts remind us of God’s love. He sees beyond our “special needs” and loves us still.


The world special needs families live in is an emotional and multi-faceted one. The emotions are raw at times. This is the rawness the typical world of families is most often unaware. Day to day living for many special needs families may unexpectedly change. Plans may have to be altered as caring for a child takes precedence due to some unforeseen emergency.

As I write this blog post, my plan for my Scarred Joy blog is to include stories etc. of families and individuals who live with “special needs.” We may often think of “special needs” as primarily referring to children and other people living with such challenges as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, etc. A family having experienced the death of a child may also be considered as having special needs.

In using the term “special needs” I am cognizant it applies to people at any age or circumstance. A woman, who is now a widow or a man grieving the death of his wife, may have special needs. I also think of such things as people with acquired injuries or a terminal cancer resigning them to live with a special need.

Since becoming a grandfather a number of years ago I have taken on a greater love and view of life.  Far from being perfect and whole, life is fragile and in a sense enigmatic. As I look through my grandfather filter I see not all of life is black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Life just is and it includes mystery!

I especially dedicate the Scarred Joy blog to grandparents who may be all too familiar with special needs. I believe grandparents have a unique bond and role to live out if they are part of family where special needs are “normal.”

June 21, 2019

Give Yourself an A ... by Jocelyn Faire

Aging has a way of turning conversations philosophical. Over coffee and amazing orange buns (a Mennonite specialty), girl-friends and I pondered ongoing concerns that too often we still measured our personal value by appearance and by accomplishments; and we're all retired. I referred to a book I'm reading by Rosamund Stone Zander and her husband Benjamin Zander—The Art of Possibility—which introduced me to the practice of giving myself an A. In summary, the author talked about a graduate level performance Arts course he taught. Over the years he felt students were so focused on comparisons with one another and with test results, that they failed to give themselves the freedom to explore their own creativity. He and his wife developed a unique approach: at the start of the semester he informed his students that they would receive an A for the class ... the only requirement was they needed to write him a future-based letter, dated the following May to say why they had earned their A. He was particularly interested in their development as people ... Then Sharon asked me “So, what did you say in your letter to earn your A?” I was stumped. I had been pondering the question, and that afternoon, I came up with my response. I know I'm not alone as a writer dubious of the words she puts to paper. In my letter, I did not need to say I would be published. As the author says: This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.(Matt 11:28-30 The MSG)
The second A came from my daughter-on-the-planet. For the first time in nearly a decade, she and I were together for Mothers Day. Sipping coffee on a riverside bench she handed me the best card possible.(pictured here) The last line in small print says, Thank-you for being that woman. We laughed and laughed. She does send those frantic texts, ranging from kid needs to meeting with outreach contacts, to mission related concerns. and I pray these requests. The last line says: Thank you for being that woman. This A is for all the times we send encouraging words and prayers at just the right time, in response to a quiet nudge. 
Sometimes it's the things we say that encourage people, but it can be the things we don't say that are just as important. Here's an A for silence ...
Early June, my husband and I were on a birthday(his) road trip around Lake Superior. While driving the south shore, his phone rang. No, it was not a Happy Birthday call; it was the auto insurance company saying that they had checked the car his son was driving and deemed it a write-off. Well, this was news to us, as Kyle had not even let us know about an accident. When did this happen? we asked. Four days ago. Clearly, Kyle was ok. Clearly, Harold was annoyed. He had loved that 1999 Honda and driven it carefully from the day he bought it. And now it was being written off, five months after his later-in-life-adopted son took ownership. This isn't the first car he's ruined, he bemoaned. I wondered if I needed to gently remind my husband of two and a half years, that only four days earlier he had backed into a tree with our camper unit. The unit was fine, but both bicycles in the rack were rendered quite undriveable. That happened the first day of our trip, and that was my fairly new best bike ever that I'd spent a reasonable sum of money on. Hmm, I note with interest it was the same day as the autopac claim. I would hold that information for now. Harold is a careful driver, admittedly driving like a Grandpa at times, and Kyle is not as careful, driving more like the 23-year-old he is ... I had remained quiet about the bike incident, as I knew he was upset with himself for having done it ... Where did that tree come from? It was in my blind spot ... [Yes, but the tree didn't back into you, you backed into it. Fortunately, these thoughts remained in my head.] Kyle had sent us one text in the meantime on a totally unrelated issue, but failed to mention he totalled his dad's car? It was surprising and disappointing. (But, so was my bike) As I reflect on Grace and my own unmerited favour, it becomes easier to extend it to others. I gave myself an A for keeping my words to myself. 
Try making your own list of why you deserve the A, and counter the voices that continue to give D's only. All too often we are quick to criticize ourselves, and then I remind myself that in Ephesians 2:8/9 it says we are saved by gifted Grace, not by our works. It's like God gives us an A in advance!!

June 20, 2019

Taking the Pitch from Jesus – Denise M. Ford

On days when I wonder if this writing avocation aligns with God’s will for me, I recall a specific time when I received an affirming vision.

It happened at a Holy Spirit conference that my husband and I attended. The event encompassed a weekend that included various ways to help us listen and hear how God might be speaking to us. Participants divided into small groups to discuss the context and meaning of scripture, and to share our responses and images from visualization exercises. In one guided session we reviewed specific scriptures before pausing to become introspective about a serious situation or condition in our personal life.

At the time I needed discernment on whether or not I should attend a large writing conference. It would include an opportunity to meet with a publisher for a book proposal review. My husband sought input as he considered setting up his own company as a way to regain purposeful employment.

Just prior to this break-out session an emotionally charged worship period primed our hearts and minds for the prospect of receiving the Holy Spirit’s insight. We had raised our voices in songs of praise to express our adoration and gratitude, and in prayers of forgiveness to admit our weaknesses and fears. We now approached this contemplative activity with hopeful anticipation for what might unfold for us.

The instructor directed us to put forward our concerns and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

My husband described the picture he received as his participation in a game of chess. He felt calmed and relieved to know that a guiding hand prompted his every action. He explained that he could see precise and specific pathways each time he pondered his next move. He knew which piece to play because the way was prepared for him. Anxiety and apprehension left him so that he didn’t wonder what might happen after his completed turn. He accepted this image as a reassurance that God would provide him with the wisdom to establish a business venture and the knowledge to access a client base.

Surprisingly I found myself in a vision where I was lined up at home plate in an old-fashioned game of kickball. This felt shocking to me because when I had played this game as a child, I would often display my lack of coordination to the amusement of others!  I would run up to the plate as the pitcher rolled the ball towards me. I would swing my leg backwards readying my foot to take the brunt of the pitch, trying to connect in a fluid motion to that barreling ball. I wanted to lift it up like a rocket for a clear take-off towards the outfield. In reality my foot would graze the flying sphere and I would usually slip while losing my balance in a weaving, wobbling motion. Sometimes I managed to sideswipe the ball as it zoomed into my vicinity, but then I would have to race to first base before a fielder threw the ball into my back. Ugh, I definitely disliked kickball. Instead of being fun, it made me feel beaten down and defeated.

But there I was in this vision, lined up and ready to attempt a kick. When I looked up to stare down the pitcher, I saw Jesus spinning the ball in his hands, tossing it up in the air; catching it and giving it a powerful whirl down the center line. That ball flew at me with an intensity that made me want to jump out of its path. Except that didn’t happen. This time I ran towards the plate and enacted a simultaneous burst of kicking power as the ball entered the plate zone. I swung my foot with precision and a finesse I didn’t know I could achieve. That ball hit my foot and my foot hit that ball. It went soaring in a beautiful upward curve that arced high above the opposing team players and travelled into the far corners of the outfield.

As I reviewed this vision, God’s answer seemed to depict that Jesus would inspire my ideas and empower my words if I brought myself to the writing desk. My doubts about whether or not I can write would be overtaken by a cataclysmic explosion of creative power. The Holy Spirit would provide the enthusiasm for me to enjoy and play a part in this writing world. If I show up to the plate, He will pitch the ideas to me!

For me this translates to the concept that the Holy Spirit illuminates my thoughts. My imagination becomes powered by His illumination. I try to prepare my heart and mind as often as I can, so I am primed for my turn at the plate. I eagerly put myself into the line-up, at my writing desk, so that I am ready to take the pitch from Jesus!

I offer this vision to you, fellow writers, for we belong to a team of scribes, who hope to illuminate and share our faith to others. May this kickball scene bless you and encourage you!

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash
Matthew 5:14-16   The Message

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.