August 05, 2021

The Power of One Thing (Randy Carlson), A Review by Susan Barclay

 

Carlson, Randy. The Power of One Thing: How to Intentionally Change Your Life. Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.

In The Power of One Thing, author Randy Carlson’s goal is to help readers intentionally change their lives. With the academic credentials to go with over 25 years of counselling experience, Dr. Carlson is well-equipped to help people improve in the five essential areas of life: faith, family, health, finances, and work.  As President of Family Life Communications Incorporated, he oversees the ministries of Intentional Living and Family Life Radio, where he fields numerous calls from listeners dealing with problems in one or more of these spheres. 

Divided into two parts, the book’s primary arguments are that you’re only “one thing” away from a better life and that changing one thing at a time is the most sensible approach. Most of us have tried to ameliorate our lives by biting off more than we can chew in one mouthful (I know I have!). Carlson encourages us to see the power in doing just one thing differently. If, for example, the idea of writing a full-length novel has struck you with writers’ paralysis, why not keep your sights on the next 1,000 words and produce them daily?  If you’re spending too much time on social media and failing to accomplish more important work, why not limit social media time to an hour each night? Can you think of other ways to use this principle to improve your writing life?

Overall, Carlson covers nine things to consider changing, and you can start wherever you need to most. Do you need to change your thinking or attitude, how you deal with emotions, or the words that come into your mind and out of your mouth? There are chapters on each of these. Do you need to change your use of time, the state of your house, the friends you choose? How about the questions you ask yourself and the way you make decisions?

        Change is possible. Look to the power of one thing. 

_________________________ 

You can find out more about Susan Barclay's writing at www.susan-barclay.blogspot.com.

August 03, 2021

Labouring for God-Lynn J Simpson



Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV


Work. We all do it! Work is defined by more than what we do for wages. Work is also labour and efforts to achieve a desired result. From the daily tasks such as unloading our dishwasher to the longer term projects such as writing a novel, all is work really. Even in sleeping, we are working toward a rested body and mind. 


 Our labours while living on earth do not end. We are also to honour God in all that we do. The tension, though, between the pull of the world and being true to God in our work, including our writing, can weigh us down. Responsibilities to our families, our wage work, our volunteer work, our publisher, and others, can challenge us to the point of exhaustion. 


In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us to take His “yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Taking His yoke means to be attached to Jesus in all our labours. When I imagine this, I see Jesus upfront, where the load is the heaviest. How incredible is that! Jesus helping  ME! Suddenly my heavy responsibilities, my tasks, and my worries are lighter. I continue my labours with a lightened heart and refreshed soul even though the work has not changed. It’s my relationship with Jesus that changes my weariness to lightness. 


“A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual production and purpose.” Life Application Bible


So how can I labour for God and rest in Him? 


1. Prayerfully consider every day how God wants me to serve Him and spread His abundance. 


A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25


2. Work to show His abundant, beautiful creations in nature that evoke calm, peace, and a sense of gratitude. 


You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. Psalm 65:11


3. Ask God to reveal where I need to pay attention to better work for His purpose. 


Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3


4. Take to heart that God is my strength. 


I lift up my eyes to the mountains-

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2


How has Jesus changed your weariness to lightness? Have you taken Jesus’ yoke upon you?


July 31, 2021

How Do You Find Rest and Peace? By Sandi Somers

 

Image by Reddit.com

The story is told of a contest in which the artists were to paint “perfect peace”. Of the many paintings submitted, the judge liked only two. One picture was of a calm lake, perfectly mirroring peaceful towering mountains and a blue sky.

The other picture was of a dark angry sky filled with flashes of lightning. Down the side of the mountain gushed a foaming waterfall. Peering closely, the judge noticed behind the surging water a tiny bush. There a mother bird sat secure on her nest. The judge chose this picture. “Because,” he explained, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.” *

Don’t we long for peace and rest, free from heavy responsibilities and worries? Time to relax and renew our spirits? God does give us these needed times. Even Jesus told His disciples: “Let us go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31).

However, Scriptures focus more on resting amid storms and burdens. “Come to Me, all you who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said (Matthew 11:28).

How can we find that rest?

I can sometimes get tied in knots with worry. Several years ago I was pressured with too many duties and worried about how I would accomplish everything. My devotional reading one morning mentioned a woman who felt the same way—pressured, worried, and exhausted. The Lord whispered to her, “It's not all the work that’s wearing you down, it’s your worries.” (I don’t remember the wisdom or advice God gave her.)

I went on my prayer walk, knowing full well that God didn’t need to remind me of my worries. But what would He say? Hardly had I gone two blocks when He quietly outlined the next steps to break down my projects into manageable pieces. I walked home refreshed and began tackling the next things. I discovered that when we bring our worries to God, He gives us His word: a promise or direction or how to restfully handle our dilemmas. And then we can go on.

Several InScribe bloggers last year also gave us an insight into their agitated spirits and how they found rest and peace.

Sharon Espeseth shared what God was teaching as she cared for her husband. “We may not have all the answers about Hank’s ill health, but we are thankful for what we have.” And then Sharon listed eleven points for praise and thanks—(a “must-read”)! She knew then that giving thanks clears our minds from debilitating fear of the unknown and gives us patience and a rested heart.

 When Alan Anderson chose “Rest” for his word of 2020, he posed the question: “What is the answer to all this weariness, this reality of being ‘heavy laden?’ Is there an answer?”

 Later in the year he wrote that he was tired, tired, tired. Admitting his weariness, the Lord’s gentle words reminded him of his deep need for Jesus’ promised rest. “This is not an elusive emotional longing, but a stated result of an honest heart after God,” he added. As a writer, Alan found emotional healing and rest when he wrote, giving hope to others in their own grief and hardship. Alan illustrated the principle that doing something engaging and interesting releases our minds and bodies from weariness and tensions. Endorphins pour into our bodies and bring about euphoria and well-being. They help us relax, release energy and productivity. And then we can move forward, fulfilling part of God’s purposes for us.

Pam Mytroen shared: “The stress from my job and family situations had been building like black angry clouds, and swirling into tornadoes of anxiety. After much prayer, the Lord showed me that I was trying to meet everyone's expectations, which was impossible. He showed me that I needed a new mind-set.”

She began to stop thinking about the “what ifs” of job difficulties, to let go of unrealistic expectations, to accept that she can't be perfect and please everyone, to stop worrying about her family, and to be thankful instead. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), Paul said. Brain science is now catching up to what God told us those millennia ago—developing new patterns of thinking regrooves the brain and nervous system with new patterns. But it takes time. Pam added,“Switching one set of thoughts for another takes self-discipline. I am amazed at the freedom and the space in my mind that was once taken up by stress and anxiety.” 

My prayer for you is that you’ll discover Jesus’ rest from worries, tiredness, and people’s expectations. Rest to a new mindset, thankfulness, and new steps in God’s purposes for you.

 What is it for you?

How has the Lord come to you when you’ve been burdened? What has he taught that you can pass on to others who are careworn?

Or perhaps now you’re struggling with an issue and the Lord is challenging you to enter into rest (Hebrews 4:11). What are you learning?

How do God’s promises in Matthew 11:28-30 (or other scriptures/insights) give you peace and rest in what you have faced and/or are facing?

Tell us your story.

 

(*Note: This story of a mother bird on her nest in a storm is only one of a number of variations I’ve read.)  

July 29, 2021

Fall Conference - Don't Miss It!

Registration for InScribe's Fall Conference is open! We are very excited that this year's event will be back at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton and will be in person! However, for those who can't travel or who live far away, there is also a virtual option. Check the website for details: https://inscribe.org/events/fall-conference


There is also still time to submit your entry to the Fall Contest, including a 'published' category: https://inscribe.org/contests/fall-contest



July 28, 2021

The Guess Who: "The Key" - Bruce Atchison

Summer reading? Who has time? I find that the only book I read with regularity is the Bible.

Holy Scripture is one wonderful place for inspiration. Canadian Group The Guess Who certainly felt inspired enough to sing about various characters in the Bible, as you can hear on this song.

In my personal life, I admire Gideon. He wasn't from any popular or mighty family and tribe. He was just a person chosen by God to liberate Israel during the time of the judges.

When the angel of the Lord came to Gideon, he felt inadequate for the task he was called to do. As Judges 6:15 (Bible in Basic English) says, "And he said to him, 'O Lord, how may I be the saviour of Israel? See, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.'"

But instead of chiding Gideon, the Angel said in verse sixteen, "Then the Lord said to him, Truly, I will be with you, and you will overcome the Midianites as if they were one man."

I relate to other misunderstood and underestimated people in Scripture too. Christians down through the ages called one Disciple "Doubting Thomas." But we read his declaration of Christ's divinity in John 20:27 and 28 (BBE). "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put out your finger, and see my hands; and put your hand here into my side: and be no longer in doubt but have belief.' And Thomas said in answer, 'My Lord and my God!'"

And having read the accounts of these faithful saints, I rejoice in the knowledge that we'll meet them in heaven. Revelation 19:9 (BBE) tells us, "And he (the angel) said to me, 'Put in the book, Happy are the guests at the bride-feast of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.'" What a wonderful day that will be!


July 27, 2021

Influence and Ideas by Lorilee Guenter

 

Charlotte's Web, Winnie-The-Pooh, Anne of Green Gables. Louisa may Alcott, J. R. R. Tolkien, Janette Oke. Mystery, biography, science fiction. The list of books, authors and genres I have and do read is immense. My summertime reading list grows each day. I do not read horror and I usually shy away from romance because I do not like the explicit scenes but otherwise it is probably fair game. Reading opens new words and introduces ideas. it has since I sounded out my first words. I learned words have the power to captivate, to inform and to transform. They have power to report and transport, to encourage or discourage. Words have power and why should this surprise any of us since The Word created the world and has enabled writer's to create worlds of imagination.


I did not and do not hesitate to call myself a reader. Books, essays, magazines, they surround me as my to be read pile and my have finished reading lists vie for first place in size and scope (but can the to be read pile ever be depleted?). I have and do hesitate to call myself a writer even though my to type and to edit piles grow. To be a writer requires I acknowledge that my words when put together as essays, stories and poems have the power to build up or tear down. A misplaced word can change the context and cause a reader to stumble and tumble away from The Truth or to reach and to cling to The One who informs and infuses our words when we let Him. It is a huge responsibility. Thankfully it is not ours alone. Each time I pick up a new book to read I immerse myself in the words and worlds of another writer's imagination and influences. 


If the Holy Spirit is prompting and empowering, do I not stumble along in rebellion if I refuse? Do I let fear overwhelm faith when I put down my pen and pick up distraction? I wonder how many books could have been but aren't because other writer's have done as I do and questioned the need to, and their ability to share their words. So with hesitation and interruption I continue to return to this label. I am a writer. Through my words the Holy Spirit, with The Word can teach or challenge as I encourage or entertain those who read them. As the knights in stories I've read do, I pick up mu ink filled sword to slay the dragon of fear in hopes others will follow my lead and pick up their swords (in whatever form they have been given them). 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give you a spirit of fear (timidity), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

After a bit of editing, I will pick up that next book on my pile to read because I am not alone and I still like to get lost in the imagination of others. I am thankful for the many authors who I have reading and am reading. Their influences are many. Their numbers (including the ones just this summer) are numerous.


July 24, 2021

Revisiting Old Friends ~ Valerie Ronald



 Relaxing outside in a lawn chair, I watch a bumble bee buzz its way from colorful flower to flower in the nearby garden. It visits various blooms, lingering on some longer than others, gathering bright yellow dots of pollen on its legs as it goes. The way it meanders leisurely and randomly among the flowers reminds me of how I read my way through the summer. Dipping into this book, then that book ˗˗ reading all the way to the end of some, and just skimming through others, collecting treasures as I go. If my books could talk, they would say they are fine with my casual approach, because we are, after all, old friends.

Summer is my time for revisiting old book friends, those that are almost as dear to me as my human friends. Between their worn, familiar covers is a treasury of beloved stories, characters and wisdom I love to visit again and again. I’ve heard it said that readers can be divided into two camps: those who read a book just once and those who re-read a book, sometimes multiple times. My criteria for a book I will return to again is that it must engage my imagination, delight my love of language and teach me something about life, either through story or prose.

Following is a brief introduction to some of my old friends who have given me hours of summer reading pleasure. Perhaps some of them are already your friends too, or this may be your first encounter. I hope you will enjoy getting to know them.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge 

This book was my first introduction to the author, who lived and wrote in rural England during the early 20th century. The novel’s quaint richness of language, fully rounded characters and picturesque settings delight my love of all things old and British. However, I am most entranced by the beautifully interwoven story lines with their themes of courage, history and love. I have read Gentian Hill often, finding new wisdom in old legends retold and authenticity in how the lives in each narrative ultimately grow together to make a stronger whole.

I wrote about Elizabeth Goudge in a previous InScribe blog post, linked below.

https://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com/2020/09/learning-in-shadow-of-two-elizabeths_23.html
 

A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner 

This novelist’s writing is an acquired taste, with its “stream of consciousness” style jumping from thought to thought within the main character’s mind. Admittedly it took me a while to engage with the story, then I couldn’t put it down. The introspective journey of the main character as she experiences the breakdown of her marriage, resonates with me on many levels. As a writer I am intrigued by how the story moves along in incremental detail while still maintaining suspense and interest. I also appreciate how the main character’s process of coming to faith in Christ is handled in a believable way without being heavy-handed, and has much to do with the satisfying conclusion. I return to this book occasionally because it evokes an empathetic response I need to revisit, for my own heart’s sake.
 

Roots & Sky: a Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy

Reading this book is like coming home to a comfortable old chair by the fire after rambling in the wilderness. In evocative, poetic prose, Purifoy describes how the old house of her dreams becomes home for her heart as well as her family. Through each of the four seasons, she chronicles the first year of loving Maplehurst back to life. While restoring its Victorian farmhouse and overgrown gardens, she undergoes a personal interior restoration. God glows warm in the lowering sun creating rainbows through rippled old glass and in the age-old rituals of planting, weeding and harvesting. She finds a simple rhythm in the pared-down days of caring for her newborn daughter and watching her three older children bloom as she gently introduces them to the liturgy of unstructured play and imagination.

Since I discovered this book several years ago, I have read it through every autumn, the season where the book begins. It reminds me to look for God in the sacred of the ordinary and mark each moment on the pages of my spirit so I will always remember.

Enjoying the Presence of God by Jan Johnson

I confess I am not a fan of “how-to” books, although I will reference them when needed. Jan Johnson has the gift of instructing by coming alongside, saying “this is what I learned in my journey so I share it with you, hoping you will find it helpful.” Returning to her book is a regular habit in my spiritual life now, as it reminds me that being in God’s presence isn’t about duty but about enjoyment. She gives examples of thanksgiving being the atmosphere of our days, of talking to Him in “breath prayers” throughout routine activities, of discovering what His voice sounds like when He speaks to our spirit, and how obeying Him frees us from disappointingly trying to manage our own lives.

The book is Johnson’s own story of finding enjoyment in the presence of God after a long spiritual drought. Her insights, sprinkled with pertinent quotes and examples from other Christian authors, ring true and practical without sounding lofty. I come away from reading it, not overwhelmed by shoulds and musts but encouraged by how simple an enjoyable life with God can be.


These are only a few of my old book friends I love to revisit. There are many more on my bookshelves, waiting for me to peruse their familiar passages and discover new treasures. Like all genuine friendships, they only improve with age. 

 

Valerie Ronald lives in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. She is a graduate of Vancouver's Langara College journalism program, and has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, public speaker and bookstore employee. She writes devotionals for her home church bulletins and her online blog. Her current book project chronicles how God's faithfulness saw her through the dark valleys of divorce and cancer. Along with her husband, Valerie enjoys spending time with their blended family and six grandchildren. She is a nature photographer, water colorist, cat lover and Scrabble addict.
More of her devotionals can be read on her blog   https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com

July 23, 2021

Some Books to Spark Your Interest by Joylene M Bailey




~~~~~


"There's nothing like a good murder mystery to settle my stress."

Those words came out of my mouth recently, in the midst of post-pandemic plans and preparation for Babe's wedding. (At this writing, it is two weeks away!)

It's true, I love a cozy murder mystery to calm my nerves. Maybe because, despite the tension in the moment, I know there will be a solid explainable resolution in the last pages. Rhys Bowen, Frances Brody, Louise Penny, Caroline Graham are some of my favourite authors in this genre.

I usually have several books on the go, in different genres, including children's books. Some make me think. Some make me laugh. My favourites are the ones that suspend me in time with their beautiful words. 

~~~~~

In no particular order, here are a few books I'm reading/have read this year that might spark your interest:


If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it? 

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, third in her series following the life of Thomas Cromwell, was quite an undertaking at just under 900 pages. It begins in May 1536 at Anne Boleyn's demise and ends with Cromwell's own death. I am in awe of this author, who manages to take the reader back in time to the tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of 16th century England. 





~~~~~




God may choose places for us, but he invites us to participate in the making of them, and this participation requires the kind of faith and courage that can look a great deal like foolishness. 

Placemaker by Christie Purifoy

Beautiful, encouraging words on every page. This book is in my top ten of all time favourites.





~~~~~


In Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, Ira and Maggie are on a road trip to the funeral of an old friend. The entire book takes place in one day, and their conversations are typical of people who have known each other for a long time. It made me laugh out loud so many times. In this excerpt, Maggie's trying to convince Ira to stop at the small town of Cartwheel on the way to the funeral so they can drop in on their ex-daughter-in-law and see their granddaughter. This particular chapter is from Ira's point of view, and he's in the middle of daydreaming about how he always wanted to be a doctor: 

At one point he had figured he might be an orthopedist, because bonesetting was so immediate. Like furniture repair, he had thought. He had imagined that the bone would make a clicking sound as it returned to its rightful place, and the patient's pain would vanish utterly in that very instant.

"Hoosegow," Maggie said.

"Pardon?"

She scooped up her belongings and poured them back in her purse. She set the purse on the floor at her feet.


"The cutoff to Cartwheel," she told him. "Wasn't it something like Hoosegow?"

"I wouldn't have the faintest idea."

"Moose Cow. Moose Lump."

"I'm not going there, whatever it's called," Ira told her.

"Goose Bump."

"I would just like to remind you," he said, "about those other visits. Remember how they turned out?" 


~~~~~




"What is the bravest thing you've ever said?" asked the boy.

"Help," said the horse.  

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

The timeless illustrations draw you in, and the beautiful words will bring you back again and again.



~~~~~



To believe the truth that beauty tells: this is our great
struggle from the depths of our grief. 

To trust the hope it teaches us to hunger toward: this is our fierce battle. 

To craft the world it helps us to imagine: this is our creative, death-defying work. 

Beauty and brokenness told me two different stories about the world. 

I believe Beauty told true. 

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson



~~~~~




A Diary of Private Prayer
 by John Baillie is a classic I'd never heard of until this year. First published in 1936, the prayers are organized by morning and evening for thirty days, with special prayers for Sundays. This updated and revised edition by Susanna Wright is composed in a more contemporary style. I'm finding it a beautiful reflective way to begin and end my days.

First Day, Morning: 

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of you, let my first impulse be to worship you, let my first word be your Name, let my first action be to kneel before you in prayer. 


~~~~~



Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.

This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry

These poems date from 1979 to 2012, and include the poems Wendell Berry wrote on Sundays. In the preface he writes, These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors. A reader will like them best, I think, who reads them in similar circumstances-at least in a quiet room.



~~~~~



Well, there's a rather eclectic mix for you. I have enjoyed all of them and I hope one or two have made you curious to read. 



But right now I think I'll take a break from wedding day table-centres, seating plans, and time charts, and find out who locked Kate Shackleton in the basement. Was it because she's on to the murderer? Could this be the time when the butler actually did it?  





~~~~~



Joy reads and writes and plans weddings from her home in Alberta, where she is living with her husband, aka The Cowboy, very-soon-to-be-married Babe, and 
a dining table full of wedding decor. 
Find more of her words at Scraps of Joy.