July 31, 2019

Paint by Numbers by Katie Gerke

   Find Comfort Here


Black is not a color. As an artist it’s only a pigment of my imagination. As a person with obvious physical limitations, black signifies darkness which can overwhelm me at any time. By God’s grace, I have brilliant lights of joy, peace and hope within me that can, with all intents and purposes, extinguish it. 
Katie Gerke

My craft of choice was a 1980’s craze called “Papier Tole”. This involved cutting tiny pieces of paper out of identical printed designs and then layering these pieces on top of each other using silicone glue to create a three-dimensional effect of the original design.

In 2000, I was going to ambitiously make a picture for my new nephew, but was unable to keep a firm grip on the craft knife because my hand became too weak due to my multiple sclerosis. I was devastated beyond compare and my creativity went into purgatory for eighteen years until I settled into a long-term care facility.

 I soon discovered that an art class was being offered by recreation therapy. It was once a week, for two hours, had ten residents and an over-fraught teacher. This palette of many colors did not mix well and I removed myself from the class, purchased my own painting supplies, researched a sturdier stand for my palette, and invested in a well-made easel to hold my canvases.

I felt giddy at the insurgence of the endless amount of “blank slates” of creative possibilities afforded to me decades later. With each artistic endeavor, be it through painting, writing or advocating, I was able to refresh and clear my mind and focus on the fullness of the experience.

Transition


While immersed in such ventures, I would recognize paradoxical emotions of failure to determination and success; constraint and obsession to freedom and abundance. The emotion of the day would be translated through the wooden paintbrush, securely placed between my lips, digested by every stroke, and integrated into my happy medium of acrylic paint.

When I was painting a new project, I would either sit in the sunroom with the fireplace or outside the front doors of the facility.  Strangers take pictures, families and new clients are encouraged, and first responders take the time to reflect.

During one such occasion, the fire alarm went off, fire trucks arrived, and I was so engrossed in my painting I did not smell anything or watch the drama. When the "false alarm" was extinguished, a firefighter took the time to stop and congratulate me on my demonstration of inspiration.

In the next season, while experimenting with some techniques, I took the leftover paint on my palate and haphazardly painted a dark winter sky, a mauve Christmas tree sitting beside a snow-covered fence, and the Christmas star in the upper right-hand corner. I named the piece “Midnight Clear” and made Christmas cards.


Midnight Clear

The card's popularity prompted me to paint three more holiday-themed Christmas cards, note cards and magnets, that I sold in the subsequent years after launching my business, Oralart, into cyberspace.

As a result of my artistic endeavors, I became more well-known in the community and was presented with new opportunities to continue my advocacy with renewed vigor and optimism in the areas of accessible and affordable transportation and housing, among others.

I was commissioned to paint, “Midmorning Train” by a group who wanted to give a thank you gift to the Calgary City Council for approving the Low Income Bus Pass Program.  This picture seems to make an emotional impact on people, because it evokes fond memories, past and present, of riding the C- train when they were young or new to Calgary.

Midmorning Train



Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I can’t paint my pictures in broad strokes due to a kink in my neck, but I can keep my head still and concentrate on the smallest of details on a tree, a wheel of an old truck, a rock, or an eye of a wolf.

God never painted our lives in broad strokes, but has focused on the most finite details of our lives.  Even the very hairs of our head are all numbered (Matthew 10:30).   He is constantly arranging details to produce a bigger picture so that we may see His will, plans, and purpose for our lives.  


July 30, 2019

The Gift of Beautiful Words in Troubled Times by Brenda Leyland



"In every heart there is a secret nerve that
answers to the vibrations of beauty."
CHRISTOPHER MORLEY


I have come to see, like Mr. Morley, that people everywhere, young or old, are born to recognize and appreciate beauty in the world around them. I shall never forget the day when, as a six-year-old on the school playground, I stood in mouth-gaping wonder to watch the season's first snowflakes tumble from a grey November sky. From that day, as I grew and the years passed, my love for all things beautiful only increased … whether it was found in a rainbow forming after a summer storm, watching a beloved face relax in sleep or hearing George Beverly Shea's voice singing I'd Rather Have Jesus. I also found pleasure in pretty dishes, teacups, lace curtains billowing on a summer day, robins warbling from tree tops, Monet's Water Lilies, and reading exquisitely written books with well-turned phrases and surprise endings that satisfied every nerve ending in my body.

And then, like Vincent Van Gogh, I began yearning for ways to share the beauty I experienced with those around me, and while the artist took up his brush to express what he saw, I took up my pen. I was happiest when I could write about living a beautiful life, describing the wondrous joys I discovered in God's world around me.

A person doesn't have to live long on this planet to recognize we live in an upside down world where beauty is often forgotten, hidden behind misery and meanness, tragedy and trauma. Some people say, well that's life, that's the reality. I used to ponder why that should carry more weight in being 'real' than beauty and kindness. Which is why I have probably never forgotten the line I read eons ago in one of the Emily novels by L.M. Montgomery. Mr. Carpenter, Emily's schoolteacher, entreated her not to heed her critics but to press forward and continue to write from that place of beauty she saw in her own mind. He told her, "Don't be led away by those howls of realism. Remember -- pine woods are just as real as pigsties and a darn sight pleasanter to be in."

The essence of these words became a guiding star for my writing. I decided then and there, since pine woods (and roses and kindness) were as real as pigpens, and much nicer, I would not let the ugly, mean stuff have the stronger voice in my own life. When I started writing, I kept Mr. Carpenter's advice in mind as I thought about what would become my themes and possible topics for exploring. I was delighted to learn that his sentiment also fit perfectly with those gracious words in Philippians: whatever is lovely and of good report, think (write) on these things.

After much soul searching, I came to recognize that, as writers, we each must find our own place from which to write. I began to see more and more that my heart pulsed with the desire to write about life's beautiful moments as a way to combat the hard, dark ones. We are told heaven is a beautiful place, and so I aspired to give readers their own glimpses of heaven's hope, joy and beauty for the times when life's issues press in and overwhelm. For goodness and kindness still prevails, and people still take joy in small moments like sharing cups of tea with friends and watching roses bloom and reading poetry. It helps balance things.

August marks the eleventh anniversary since I published my first post on It's A Beautiful Life. When I started the blog, I knew its theme and focus would be about encouraging readers to find ways to live life more beautifully, but over the past decade our world has changed a lot. Because of changes in technology, we now have the world's woes at our fingertips. I have asked myself on many occasions, especially recently, do I need to change the way I write? Should my writing begin to reflect the societal and cultural concerns many of us share, and should I write to address these troubling issues instead?

Recently I received a comment from a quiet reader of my blog posts. She wrote, "Since deleting my own blog last year and trying to spend less time online, I haven't been by as much as I have in the past, but today, I was just longing for a glimpse of a beautiful blog, and yours immediately came to mind. … Truly, your little home on the internet adds beauty and joy to my days."

And that, my friends, puts the thumb on the pulse of my reason for writing about beautiful things. Sometimes readers just need a moment of respite, something that feels normal in an abnormal time, something that buoys the spirits and provides a hint of beauty so that, heartened, they can return to the fray and carry on, at least for the moment.

I believe the words John O'Donohue, author of Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, wrote when he said, "To participate in beauty is to come into the presence of the Holy." Every time I search my heart and ask the Lord about it, I get the same settled peace to stay the course and continue writing beautiful life pieces. Because, in terrifying times we need beauty and beautiful words to keep us from giving up in despair. So I keep watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. I keep delighting in the simple life pleasures God gives us every single day. And, I keep writing about them as little gifts for others.



A long-time InScribe member, Brenda Leyland writes from her home in Alberta, Canada. She has been a columnist and contributor in the FellowScript magazine. Inspired by beauty, Brenda takes great joy in blogging at It's A Beautiful Life and posting on Facebook. She also sees herself as a curator of memories and works away at various memoir projects.


July 29, 2019

Fall Conference OPEN SPACE!

This year's Fall Conference is fast approaching and we are SO excited about the new format that we are trying this year. OPEN SPACE is coming to Fall Conference, and yes, it is a bit scary but very exciting, too!

What is OPEN SPACE?

In this model we do not have any workshops pre-planned, but will be utilizing the ideas of those who come to conference.

It will be structured but in an 'unstructured' kind of way. There will be an initial gathering where the concept will be explained and people will have a chance to share their ideas of what they would like to focus on/learn about. Then we will break into groups based on interest.

Colleen McCubbin has hosted more than one of these events so she will be our 'lead', but based on feedback from her events (not just from her but from other people who've attended them), it actually is a very satisfying experience. People learn what they want to learn - not arbitrary topics that might not really apply to them. Also, because of the interactive nature of the whole event, there are a lot more 'aha' moments. As a teacher, let me give you an analogy from the classroom: think of it as the difference between students listening to a lecture or collaboratively working together on a project. Learning takes place in both cases, and sometimes the second option might appear to be somewhat 'chaotic', but in the end, students tend to remember the second scenario more and feel as if they actually ingested and used the info rather than just 'in one ear and out the other'.

The person responsible for the suggestion during the initial gathering may act as the facilitator, but does not necessarily have to be 'in charge'. This means if you have a topic that you are passionate about you can come prepared to talk about it, (remembering that whether the topic of discussion actual ‘flies’ is totally dependent on attendee interest.) Conversely, if there is something you really want to learn more about but have no clue where to begin, you can suggest that as well and those that are also interested or have some knowledge will gather to share what they know.

Several people, such as exec who are comfortable doing so or others that Colleen may contact, will come prepared as 'back up' facilitators in case attendees are too shy/confused/intimidated to put topics up on the board. (In other words, we may have a few ‘plants’ to make sure it runs smoothly or to make sure one person doesn’t monopolize any particular group or turn it into a lecture.)

The 'laws' of open space will be clearly set out beforehand - example: 'the law of two feet' which means people can get up and leave any session and join another at any time. This means that the previous scenario probably won't happen because only those who want to be there will stay.

It's a lot to take in and will be a huge change, but I am excited about seeing it in action. Colleen did give us some links for more information in her article in FellowScript which may also help to explain it better.

Hope this helps to de-mystify the concept somewhat. I am super stoked about the event and can hardly wait to see how it will all work.




July 28, 2019

The Words I admire - Bruce Atchison

I know that envy is a sin but there are times when I wish I could write with more exactness. When I read Holy Scripture, I marvel at the turns of phrase which each of its authors use.

The shortest verse in the Bible is, in my view, the most powerful. John 11:35 (KJV) says, "Jesus wept." The power of that statement shows just how our Lord grieved, even though he knew he'd raise Lazarus from the dead  in the next moment.

I notice that answering a question with a question can be more powerful than a straight answer. Paul convicted one congregation with a question in 1 Corinthians 6:15 (BBE). "Do you not see that your bodies are part of the body of Christ? how then may I take what is a part of the body of Christ and make it a part of the body of a loose woman? such a thing may not be."

Nathan, the prophet, sure slammed David's conscience into the dirt with four little words. He didn't dodge and weave but said in 2 Samuel 12:7 (BBE), "And Nathan said to David, 'You are that man. The Lord God of Israel says, "I made you king over Israel, putting holy oil on you, and I kept you safe from the hands of Saul;"'"

The Psalms are filled with beautiful and evocative imagery. As David wrote in Psalms 42:1 (BBE) regarding his devotion to the Lord, " Like the desire of the roe for the water-streams, so is my soul's desire for you, O God."

Jesus' words of commendation for faithful saints are beautiful enough to make us weep for joy. As he said in Matthew 25:21 (BBE),regarding the parable of the returning master whose servants received talents, "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and true servant: you have been true in a small thing, I will give you control over great things: take your part in the joy of your lord.'"

And we all feel the yearning in the words of the second-last verse of the Bible. Revelation 22:20 (BBE) expresses all of our longings. "He who gives witness to these things says, 'Truly, I come quickly.' Even so come, Lord Jesus."

My hope is that my puny contribution to the work of our glorious Master will be greatly used by him to bring and keep people from error.

July 27, 2019

Finding Home Is Beautiful by Sharon Espeseth

Finding Home

Hank and Sharon Married in 1975


"What is home?” Fr. Ron Rolheiser asks in a recent column in The Catholic Register, June 2, 2019, “Looking for home in all the right places." He speaks about looking for "the marriage bed,” a term he picked up from one of his college students. She discovered, through Rolheiser's teaching and a book he’d assigned for reading, that she had been looking for love and home in all the wrong places.

Father Rolheiser saw this 30-year-old student's term,”the marriage bed," as "a great image for what the heart calls home,” which "is where you are comfortable, physically, psychologically and morally. Home is where you feel safe . . . where your heart doesn’t feel out of place, compromised, violated . . .”

Here is my (our) story. More than forty years ago, upon hitting the big Three-O, I wondered if I would ever meet the right man for me. i.e. a man I could be at home with--physically, psychologically and morally. After four years teaching in Fort McMurray, a boom town in those days, I felt I needed to return to Edmonton.

Shortly after my return, I met Hank, and I knew this would be a different and special relationship. Being with him felt like being home. I didn’t want, or need, to pretend I was anyone other than myself. I gather he felt the same. Hank did indeed sweep me off my high heels, but our connection was more than infatuation. Being with him felt wonderful and comfortable and I realize now that being with him did, and still does, feel like being home.

Back Story

I had been baptized in Christ and raised in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Family life, Bible camp, confirmation and Bible college had grounded me in the Christian faith. Hank had grown up with little instruction in Christianity, but as an adult he became a Christian and joined the Roman Catholic Church. While dating, we’d attend his church one weekend and mine the next. Several months later, I took instruction, or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, in the Catholic Church. Hank attended classes with me.

Married Life

In 1975, Hank and I were married in St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Barrhead, which is still our place of worship. Together we raised our three children in the faith. Since then, there has been lots of water under the bridge. Not all our waters involved smooth sailing.

Serious about marriage, we took a marriage preparation course, and later, one or two weekends away for Marriage Encounter, which was a start to our part of the bargain. Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church. The exact definition of a sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” You can read more about this at www.beginningcatholic.com/sacraments.

 Sometimes, when we least expected it, God’s grace was at work in our “marriage bed." For example, we--each of us with our own set of imperfections--are still happily married.

Outward Signs of Grace--Examples

One of our earliest graces, I believe, even before our marriage, was the miracle that we found each other.

Another grace was the way our family grew, which is a story all its own, but here’s a brief synopsis. We decided to adopt children, and in the space of 19 months after application, God placed in our care three small children. We will always be thankful to our Lord for entrusting Michael, Christie and Jenny to us. We are also indebted to the three separate women, who accepted the responsibility of nurturing these children in the womb and giving them life. Then, each young woman made the tough decision of surrendering her child to parents she hoped would be better positioned to raise her birth child.

Michael, Christie and Jenny soon after Jenny’s arrival


Our Family with Three Teens

A third grace, I believe is the fact that we’ve grown as individuals, as a couple and as a family. I once said to Christie, “Dad and I are on the same page . . .” on a particular issue. “No, you’re not,” she said laughing. “You may be in the same book, but you’ll never be on the same page.

Now, I’m chuckling, because I think Hank and I are at least in the same chapter.

We have grown in our love toward God and our love for each other. We’ve also grown in loving our neighbours. We have become taller trees, but still there is room for growth and pruning, as God’s time allows.

What Remains?

None of us can deny the passage of time. Hank is a few years older than I and the past few years have been unkind to his body. Yesterday Hank was discharged from his second stay in hospital in the past six weeks.

I spend time with Hank especially when he’s in hospital. I try to brighten his day. I make appointments, ask questions, advocate  and, mostly, pray. We remind each other of the many good aspects of our lives, like faith, family and friends. While I pour his hot home-brewed coffee from the thermos, I thank God that we are still in “the marriage bed" together.

Our 40th Anniversary


I find beauty and satisfaction in knowing that we are both “home” and that our family continues to grow.



     

July 26, 2019

God Makes Everything Beautiful - Marnie Pohlmann


In the beginning God created. God spoke words and created what pleased Him.  I feel closest to God when I am creating with words. 

But am I creating beauty?

Writing for me has always been a cleansing process. The ink I pour onto the pages is black with pain and yes, with sin. So how can it be that my smudged black words could be anything but ugly, not offering words of beauty?

This mystery is one of those God miracles, like stifling pressure makes diamonds or sculptures change from wet clay to art in the heart of a fire. The very things that seem like they must destroy, like pressure, fire, and pain are actually used to create unique, special, beauty.

Changing pain to beauty does not always happen, and never happens easily, but this transformation is possible. God transforms my struggles to provide a new me and send me on new adventures. Like a frog stretches out legs until he can venture onto dry land, or a caterpillar sheds her creepy-crawly past to grow delicate wings for flight. So, too, God transforms my dark moments, my mistakes and failures, my defiant rebellion, into beauty. It is not something I can do. That kind of transformation is a miracle. A miracle of God. 

Do my words matter? 

In an age when definitions of words are changed by political agenda and words are not trusted to be true, what difference can be made by sharing my words? 

Writing words to sort through my sinfulness and circumstances provides clarity to me, and hopefully, when shared, encouragement to others as they read of the transformation in me.


As I settled in to write about this month’s theme of what creating beauty means to me and to my writing, I am grateful for the time we recently had travelling and camping, seeing God's words of beauty in nature. Exodus 35 says God gifted two people with many talents and they taught others to use make beauty for God's glory.  I am grateful to the Bezalels and Oholiabs in my life, most of whom are Inscribe writers, who are teaching me the art of creating beauty with words. 

I am not multi-talented like Bezalel or Oholiab. I am one of the others. I may always be one of the nameless artisans who create beautiful words, yet my few words can make a difference in God’s Temple. And if not to people who read them, the words make a difference in my own life.

God who is pleased by my act creating with words.
God is pleased that I am willing to learn to create for His glory.
I may not create beauty, but God makes all things beautiful. 



 Marnie Pohlmann works, writes, and ministers in northern British Columbia. She is learning to write words and see God make them beautiful as they are shared.










July 24, 2019

Beauty - Shirley S. Tye

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”  This sentence from the poem Desiderata, written by Max Ehrmann (1872 - 1945), an American poet and lawyer, sums up the condition of the world as it was when this poem was penned in 1920 and as it is even today.  

After God had formed all of creation, He looked at it and was pleased.  Genesis 1:31 (NKJV) tells us; “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.  So, the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”  

When we travel, whether in our own country or another, we see much beauty.  There are amazing country scenes to awe us, unique buildings, and many people with wonderful talents to meet.  Indeed, it is very good.  Unfortunately, we also see much ugliness; slums, abandoned buildings, ruined properties from wars, fires, and floods, garbage lying about in streets, and scrawny animals along with people searching through trash to find nourishment.  And if we look closely at some people’s faces particularly their eyes, we’ll see sadness, despair, fear, and anger.  The world to them is a terrifying and ugly place. Indeed, it is very bad.

So how can we, as writers, create beauty in a fallen world?  One word comes to mind; encouragement.  And Isaiah 1:17 & 18 also comes to mind; “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”  And then the Lord says; “Come now, let us reason together.” (NIV) Imagine!  God, who many people see as an angry, revengeful deity, who is blamed for all the chaos in the world, actually wants to speak to us; about many matters but especially about our lives and our relationship with Him. There is hope for all through Jesus Christ. To convey this message in a gentle way that will draw people to the Lord, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is always an excellent starting point before writing or typing any words.  

There are many Bible verses which speak about encouragement.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) “Encourage one another and build each other up…”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Yes, as writers, we can create beauty with encouraging words of hope and love.  With the Holy Spirit’s help, lovely words will flow, and they will be good. Indeed, it will be very good.


July 22, 2019

Altogether Beautiful by Alan Anderson



“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”—Song of Solomon 4:7

To know we can create beauty is altogether beautiful. In my writing, I often portray beauty in a poignant way. Stories people have shared with me over the years show this. Beauty is watching an elderly lady invaded by Alzheimer’s disease smiling while holding a doll close to her chest like a baby. Beauty can be captured in the final moments a couple shares with each other. Beauty is seen in the face of a woman kissing the forehead of her husband a few seconds after he died.


At times beauty can be marred and disfigured. For instance, I find social media can be a wasteland of negativity, mindless clamouring, and scarce beauty. I often restrain myself from being sucked in to its sullied vortex. A couple of years ago I became sickened of the ugliness. I tried to encourage people to perhaps change things. I suggested people begin to highlight “the beautiful.” The beautiful includes anything that might lend a hand to social media to become more civilized. I am still disciplining myself to share beauty in this context.


One the other hand, beauty can indeed be seen on social media in our daily InScribe blog posts. We feel beauty when we engage with the writing of others. They are those who love contributing words of life for readers to enjoy.


Our posts are never wasted in sending them out into the world. Social media cannot censor the hearts called by God to speak into the encroaching madness. Our posts are light shining into the darkness of sin-enslaved lives. Our words are beauty causing ugliness to flee screaming into the night.


There are particular times in life where I need to see beauty. At times life seems a bit dark to me. The mountains around me on a clear and cloudless day; the beauty of the smiles of my grandchildren; Beauty in the hugs of my wife; the tail wags of our poodle Charlie; these are all experiences with beauty keeping me grounded and in love with life.



In the area of British Columbia where I live beauty is seen all around. No matter what season it may be beautiful scenes are abundant. Many times throughout the year I walk around with my camera to capture beauty. When I’m satisfied with a photo I will often use it in my writing such as on a blog post. I love creating such beauty. I only use photos I’ve taken or my daughter has taken for my blog posts. She and I see beauty in similar contexts so we share photos with each other.



Beauty is best defined when contrasted to ugliness or suffering in life. To me, the purpose of suffering, grief, or pain, is to enable us to appreciate the great glory there is in beauty. I think of Christ’s suffering for us on the Cross. In this tremendous sacrifice, the absolute beauty of our salvation shines through.



When challenges or struggles in life threaten to overtake us we can rest in beauty. The beauty God sees in us. The beauty originating in Him, the great Creator. God looks at us and says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Oh, that we can grasp God’s depth of love for us.


This writing prompt evoked deep feelings within me. I believe this is because I am thankful God gave us the gift of beauty. Our feelings, our emotions, our tears, our laughter, all capture the beauty God placed within us. Oh my soul, bless and praise God for beauty!