Wednesday, December 28, 2005

life and all that...

Ernie’s dad has taken ill and so our holiday plans are veering sharply to the left. In case I don’t get around to these later, some holiday suggestions:

- read some excellent 'conversion' stories (fiction) here in the coming days.

- if you haven't yet, go see "The Chronicles of Narnia."

and a Happy New Year to all who read here!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

happy day-after-boxing-day!

We had our family Christmas yesterday, much jollity and food - plus presents galore. As we speak, I am playing a new CD (Rita Springer - my fav: "I Have to Believe"). I bought it to give to Sonia, but she already got it from someone else - that's what happens when you circulate the same wish list to various people! - so I might just have to take it off her hands :) and replace it with $$ for a different CD... somehow i'm not upset.

Anyway, we have the kids (Sonia and Matt) here for two more days. Ben and his girlfriend Georgi spent the evening with us yesterday too. You should see the present Ben made me. I collect apple ornaments in a haphazard kind of way. Well, he and Georgi took a class in pottery from Georgi's mom who is an art teacher. In that class he made an apple ornament for me - a very cool thing, two halves that fit together like a puzzle. Georgi gave me an apple-shaped cookie jar, made out of a painted gourd, a craft / art which her Dad's girlfriend made. What was especially touching was their anticipation of my reaction to these things.

Matt and Sonia showered us with more gifts - a CD (Hillsongs), a cozy chenille throw, and yummy books (Wild at Heart for E.by John Eldredge and Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge for me).

Of course there was the usual wealth from E. - a gift certificate from my current favorite clothes store, an Estée Lauder’s Perfume Treasures collection (my great weakness: scent) - and still more goodies from sis, mom, the neighbors and the office. We have too much!

If I were cooking this morning, I’d make Ziploc Omelets.

ziploc omelets

Have you ever heard of this?

(This works great!* Good for when all your family is together and no one has to wait for their special omelet)

Have guests write their name on a quart-size ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.

Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.

Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, tomato, hash browns, salsa, etc.

Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shakes it.

Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.

Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water.

Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed!

Nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake; everyone gets involved in the process and a great conversation piece.

ENJOY

*************
*Disclaimer - I personally cannot vouch for this as I have not made these, though they sound worth a try.

Hat-tip: Miss Jean

Sunday, December 25, 2005

two for your christmas stocking


Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m blogging Christmas morning -but I am! It turns out E. and I are alone this day with my sis and her kids having their turn with Mom, and our kids expected tomorrow. All we have on our agenda, then, is Church at 11:00 and other lovely lazy Sunday things like going for a walk (if it ever stops raining) and reading all afternoon.

So, I have time to post a couple of things to add to the Christmas stocking of anyone who has stopped by to read.

First, here’s a year’s worth of writer quotes and links, put together by Mel Boring (ICL* webmaster) and which he sent out in the weekly newsletters of 2005.

And second, a poem "Let the Stable Still Astonish," by Leslie Leyland Fields** (top of page 7 .pdf file***).

My Christmas wish for all who read here is, in the spirit of the poem, that the God of Heaven and Earth be born in the rooms of your heart today.

*******************
* Institute of Children's Literature.

** L. L. Fields is a new writer to me. I found the poem by her in a book, Patches of Godlight - Father Tim’s Favorite Quotes assembled by Jan Karon.

This is a curious book. It is as if the fictional Father Tim got himself a blank journal and filled it up – handwritten – with snippets from all the people he was frequently quoting and referring to. Besides the handwritten format, another curiosity is that there is no copyright notice.

Anyway, I googled Leslie Leyland Fields to make sure she was safely ancient and that I could quote her work with impunity. I discovered she is very much alive right now and thus her work is protected by copyright. I did find a copy of this poem, though, buried in the pdf file of The St. James Scroll, above, where I’m trusting it was printed with her permission.

*** Sorry, the December issue which had the poem was replaced with a January /06 issue so it's no longer there. I've posted a different link in comments.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

of shepherds and sheep



Of Shepherds and Sheep


Abel spilled their blood
in the first acceptable sacrifice.

Abraham’s flocks flourished
though in the end
his son Isaac knew the terror
of lambs, lying bound on altar wood.

Joseph was sold to Egypt from the pasture
and the children of Israel
were segregated in Goshen
because shepherds were ‘unclean.’

Moses ran from the palace
to the mountains of Midian
where forty years as an apprentice
led to shepherding a nation.

David’s kingly character
was formed with the sheep
on Bethlehem’s hills,
for the Lord was his shepherd.

Isaiah foresaw Messiah-Lamb
and described us all
as confused and willful
wandering sheep.

Jesus would call Himself shepherd
and sheep-pen.
Even now He’s seated in heaven
a Lamb upon the throne.

What other audience was there, then,
for the angels that cold starry Judean night?

V. Nesdoly © 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

progressive christmas dinner -- blog style!

Remember those progressive dinners that used to happen at least once a year at Youth Group (or Young Couples’ Group, or Whatever Group)? Everyone would pile into cars and, with maps in hand, go house to house for the various courses – the appetizers at the Anderson’s, the salad at the Schmidt’s, the main course at the Miller’s and the desert at the Doerksen’s (not necessarily letter coordinated of course).

As a variation on that, I'm inviting you to a Progressive Christmas Dinner only going blog to blog. No maps necessary, of course – you will be whisked away at the touch of a mouse. Bon Appetit!

Appetizers
Lenten or Homemade Pretzels - from danielle bean
Antipasto -my very own taste-tested recipe, along with a tray of crackers, cheese, smoked oyesters, and cold cuts.
Our beverage is Hot Mulled Cider - from Elise at Simply Recipes

Salad
Mrs. Darling at Cooking with Mrs. Darling has, waiting for us, Black Bean Salad with Feta. And there's also a Broccoli Salad from Kalanna at Mere Recipes

Main Course
Elise at Simply Recipes has been cooking up a storm. She has Mom's Roast Turkey on the table stuffed with Mom's Turkey Stuffing, along with Cranberry Sauce (just like I make it), Creamed Turnips, and Spinach with Sesame and Garlic. Mrs. Darling brought the rolls.

Desert
Now to top off the feast, I hope you left room for Rebecca's legendary Cranberry Apple Pie (Ah Rebecca, I am forever in debt to you for this yummy treat!)


Wasnt' that delicious!? And I'll bet you still have room for more!

antipasto

This North American version of this classic Italian appetizer is always a hit at Christmas when everyone gets the munchies in the middle of watching those new DVDs or playing that new board game. Just haul out the crackers, cheese and antipasto and you’re good to go for another hour at least!

Antipasto (sans Seafood - I guess that would make it 'Vegetarian Antipasto'?)

250 ml. (1 cup) pickled onions, drained and halved
2 x 284 ml. (2 x 10 oz) canned mushroom pieces, drained and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
250 ml. (1 cup) green pimiento stuffed olives, chopped
250 ml (1 cup) ripe olives, chopped
250 ml. (1 cup) dill pickles, chopped
625 ml. (2½ cups) ketchup
60 ml. (¼ cup) white vinegar
60 ml. (¼ cup) Olive or cooking oil
398 ml. (14 oz.) canned green beans, drained
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat, stirring often, until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Cool. Fill freezer containers, leaving 2.5 cm. (1 inch) at the top to allow for expansion. Freeze. Makes 3.2 L. (13 cups) antipasto.

Adapted* from Company’s Coming for Christmas by Jean Paré 1996.

Serve as an appetizer with assorted nibblies - smoked oysters, cold cuts, cheeses and crackers.

****************

*The original recipe includes 2 x 184 gm (2 x 6½ oz.) tins of tuna, drained and flaked, and omits the garlic

Thursday, December 22, 2005

christmas thorns

blogged here today.


"The Massacre of the Innocents" by Daniele da Volterra

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

book review: Nature Never Stops Talking


Title: Nature Never Stops Talking
Author: Alibrando, Samuel J.
Genre: Science, Nature, Intelligent Design
ISBN: 0-9725486-4-5

Though by his own admission he is not a trained scientist, Samuel Alibrando has had a long interest in nature. He also possesses a curious inquiring mind. Nature Never Stops Talking is the result. In the over 100 short essays it contains, Alibrando probes the natural world from amoeba to zoology and celebrates the evidence for intelligence and design he finds wherever he looks in the natural world.

The book is divided into ten chapters or subject categories. These include “Earth and Space,” “Scientific Properties,” “Beginnings,” “Plants and Trees,” “Insects,” and “The Human Body.” Individual articles which fall into the various categories make up each section, with “The Human Body” given the most space. The book ends with an appendix and index.

The strength of the book is the author’s way of uncovering, just below the level of the obvious and taken for granted, little known facts and intriguing connections. (In “Fire,” for example, he states: “I was amazed as a volunteer firefighter to learn there were ten different chemical reactions involved in creating a ‘simple’ flame.” When delving into the mysteries of water, he discovers that it is the only liquid that becomes less dense in its frozen form. He spells out the implications of this for life on earth in the piece “Every Time You See Ice.”) The end result is a mountain of evidence, built from findings which span the scientific disciplines, that this world couldn’t have just happened.

One small criticism of the book regards its actual dishing out of information. It seemed uneven, in that some chapters are a lot richer in facts and information than others. The chapter “Healing Skin” in the Human Body section, for example, is more of a ‘Wow– how does that happen?’ piece than a delve into the physics of how our bodies are designed to self-heal. The chapter “Nothing As Lovely As a Tree” on the other hand, goes into a lot of specific and satsfying detail about what conditions are necessary for a tree to grow.

Something I found disorienting concerns the book’s layout and the way the unrelated pieces in each section follow closely after one another, broken up only by one line of white space. To be sure, the title of the next piece appears below that space in bold font. But this minimal spacing together with the type of headings usually used to break up an essay about one subject, doesn’t seem sufficient to signal to the reader that they are now starting a new and entirely different article.

These minor things aside, this book is fun to read and would be a valuable addition to the library of anyone who is interested in the natural world. The book would also be great add-on material to a home school science curriculum. I can see how any one of the chapters could be a jumping off point to stimulate further study for readers of every age.

*********
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: The book Nature Never Stops Talking was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Monday, December 19, 2005

no, they aren't made of chocolate



People’s favorite tree ornaments are decorating blogs all over the place and other blogs are collecting them.

Now if I had a digital camera, I could wow you with all manner of wonderful ornaments from my tree. I don’t. However in the past few years I have come to a happy compromise with my old Canon by, in addition to getting rolls of film developed into prints, having them copied to a disk (a way better solution than having a digital camera I console myself – think of all the hard-drive space I’m saving – Yeah, right! Think again about long it takes me to fill up the whole roll of film to finally see those pictures – oh well. But I digress... ) So, because of the technical reality above, I have a picture of exactly one decoration – and it would hardly fit on my tree. It’s the creche.

We got this hand-carved nativity at a Global Village kiosk during an MCC weekend in Abbotsford one August when the kids were little (I’m not sure where it was carved but in some developing country.) A few years later my husband cobbled together a wooden stable to house the display, which I then lined with moss. Every year I wrap this stable in a string of twinkle lights which makes it look as if it’s floating in stars.

Over the years I’ve added an angel display to it and some woolly sheep made by my crafty sister.

*************************

(For a delve into some of the dusty corners of this theme in Christmas decorating, view the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities.

Hat tip: Dulciana at Divertimenti)

snow in lotusland

After a stretch of clear, crisp weather, the prediction for today is for warming and precipitation. I’m guessing the confluence of these two weather systems will result in at least a few hours of snowfall before that turns to rain.

Snow here on the wet coast is not a non-event like it is on the prairies where I grew up. It actually has the ability to wreak major disruption on life, tying up traffic, cancelling school and generally giving anyone who has the need to be out and about a major headache. This is at least in part because this is Lotusland, where the expectation is that sandals on our feet and summer tires on our cars is what we’re owed for being clever enough to have moved here and away from the winter the rest of Canada dishes out.

This email, passed on from sis-in-law in Thunder Bay, captures the prevailing attitude pretty well:

Vancouver Blizzard 2005 - Revenge of the Commuters

Chilled Vancouver commuters faced their second day of winter hell today, as an additional one-quarter centimeter of the peculiar white stuff fell, bringing the Lower Mainland to its knees and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the marijuana crops. Scientists suspect that the substance is some form of frozen water particles and experts from Manitoba are being flown in. With temperatures dipping to the almost but not quite near zero mark,

Vancouverites were warned to double insulate their lattes before venturing out.

Vancouver police recommended that people stay inside except for emergencies, such as running out of espresso or biscotti to see them through Vancouver's most terrible storm to date. The local Canadian Tire head office reported that they had completely sold out of fur-lined sandals.

Drivers were cautioned to put their convertible tops up, and several have been shocked to learn that their SUVs actually have four wheel drive, although most have no idea how to use it.

Weary commuters faced soggy sushi, and the threat of frozen breast
implants. Although Dr. John Blatherwick, of the Coastal Health Authority, reassured everyone that most breast implants were perfectly safe to 25 below, down-filled bras are flying off the shelves at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

"The government has to do something," snarled an angry Trevor Warburton. "I didn't pay $540,000 for my one bedroom condo so I could sit around and be treated like someone from Toronto."


Anyway, we need to be driving into Vancouver tonight, right about the time this white stuff is supposed to be falling. Oh joy!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

christmas with a twist

A week ago we were in the middle of the "Christmas With a Twist" production. It was billed as "a gift to our community" and was an entertaining blend of concert and production. Here are a few memorable moments in pictures snatched from our church's e-bulletin.


Some of the most beautiful gifts of this performance were the dance numbers. Young ballerina Natalie H. (center) choreographed this dance and trained these young dancers.


We got a visit from the Grinch. He learned that he could exchange his grumpiness at being woken up by the kids' choir, for being able to sing along with that choir himself and, as part of the deal, was promised as many Christmas lollipops as he wanted!

Our evening was hosted by Jerome*, Daisy and Jerome, three hillbillies who kept reappearing throughout the performance. Their hijinks gave us a lot of laughs and their conclusion at the end of this gift-focused production:


Daisy: But I don't haeve a gift to give.

Jerome 1: You have your laife.

Jerome 2: And isn't thaat what it's all abaout?

sent us home with a lot to think about.

* I think it was Jerome. It was a J. name anyway and both guys had the same name.

Friday, December 16, 2005

how to get into freelance writing


One of the things I enjoy most each morning is checking my hotmail spam box where emails from all unrecognized addresses end up. A few days ago there was a note from R. (who found me, I’m guessing, via my website). She said: "I am a Christian author looking to get into freelance writing. If you could forward any helpful information I would really appreciate it."

So for R. and anyone else interested, here is a bit about getting into freelance writing.

First, what is freelance writing? Well, it is simply being a self-employed writer. It means that you find your own writing jobs. Writing is your home-based business and what you write is your product. The business of freelance writing entails both creating the product (writing), then seeking and finding buyers or consumers for that product (marketing).

Here is how I got started in this business.

1. I began by enrolling in a course. This was to help me with both aspects of freelance writing – coming up with pieces of salable writing and learning how to market them. This is obviously not necessary for everyone, but it was helpful for me. The course I took promised that by the end of it, I would have at least one manuscript ready for publication. The course also promised to take me through the entire process from idea to submission. I knew that because submitting a manuscript would be an assignment, I would actually be required to do this thing that I would probably never have had the courage to do on my own.

2. I got a market guide. The course I took included their own market guide as part of the materials. The standard Christian market guide is the Sally E. Stuart Christian Writers’ Market Guide - 2005 (it’s updated yearly).

A market guide lists possible markets. The Sally Stuart one contains book and magazine publishers. It also lists periodicals and ezines (in categories such as: Adult / General Markets, Children’s Markets, Daily Devotional Markets, Pastor/Leadership Markets, Women’s Markets etc. ). Each listing gives information like the publication’s web site url, email and surface mail addresses, what they buy as to subject matter and length, if and how much they pay, how to obtain sample copies of the publication, their theme lists and writer’s guidelines, and how to submit.

3. Using my market guide, I ordered samples of children’s periodicals (the market I chose) that interested me. I also kept my eyes open for possible markets when I went to the Christian bookstore and when visiting friends. That’s how I happened on a copy of Keys for Kids - a periodical of children’s devotions produced by The Children’s Bible Hour. I read a few and thought - I bet I could write those.

4. When I got home, I checked out the Keys for Kids listing in my market guide and wrote to them requesting their submission guidelines and a sample copy. (When you do this, include a self-addressed stamped envelope [SASE] with enough postage for returning what you are requesting. Most market guides will tell you how much postage is needed – 1 stamp, 2 stamps etc. Of course these days, you can usually find article/story samples and writer’s submission guidelines online so you can skip this step – although I find it is still eye-opening to see actual hard copies of the publication.)

5. If the publication requires that you query before submitting, write a query letter pitching your idea, and then wait for the go-ahead before writing it. Keys for Kids didn’t require a query; they wanted to see the completed manuscript. (Many children’s publications don’t require queries though a few do. Queries are more common for adult periodicals).

6. Write the piece. Then send it in, formatted in manuscript style and in the way the publication prefers paying close attention to the guidelines. If they accept submissions only by surface mail, send them by surface mail. In that case include an SASE for return of the manuscript and the editor’s reply (rejection?! – most editors will return an acceptance on their own dime, although a few do use your SASE).

7. Keep a record of what you’ve sent out and by when you can expect a reply (this varies from a few weeks to months and the information is usually included in the market guide listing). If you don’t hear back within the stated amount of time, give the editor a week or two of grace, and then follow up with a note (by email or surface mail) as to the status of your submission.

8. If your piece is accepted by a market that ‘pays on acceptance,’ you’ll usually receive the good news with a cheque included in the envelope. If the market ‘pays on publication,’ you’ll have to wait until it actually comes into print before you see the cash. Paying internet markets may pay using some cash-transfer mechanism like PayPal. (I got a reply from the Keys for Kids editor about a month after I submitted the manuscript – with an acceptance note and a cheque.)

9. If your piece is rejected, look for another market for it, tweak the manuscript for that publication (may need to be shortened or lengthened, focus changed – that sort of thing) and send it out again.

10. Keep good records as to which manuscripts are out and where.

(I have designed my own manuscript tracking sheet on which I note the history of where each particular manuscript has been. I keep this in the manuscript’s file folder along with hard copies of the various versions of the piece – unless it is out to someone, in which case I clip the tracking sheet to the current version of the manuscript and that is put in a "Manuscripts-Out" folder till I hear its fate. That way I don’t mistakenly send it out to the same publication twice.)

11. Keep track of your income and expenses for tax purposes.

12. When your piece is published, you’ll probably get a contributor’s copy – a copy of the publication where your writing appears. Keep that on file and begin collecting writing clips – published samples of your work to include with your resume and in your writer’s portfolio.

13. Of course once you’ve sent out your first piece, you’ll be working on and sending out your second and third and fourth and fifth etc. pieces. Because in order to make freelance writing a successful business, you have to continue to work on both aspects (creating the product and marketing it) simultaneously.

To get a daily dose of information and inspiration about Christian writing – freelance and other – visit Terry Whalin’s blog, The Writing Life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

elder care

Yesterday hubby returned after a five-day jaunt to Kelowna, where he and his siblings moved his parents. Here is the adventure, told in his own words ( from an email he wrote to the kids - and used with his permission):

We got Grandma and Grandpa moved on Saturday. I picked them up in the morning and took them to Uncle Roy and Aunt Sally’s for the day. Then I went back to their old place to join the rest of the moving crew: Arnold and Daphne, Marilyn, Calvin, Alex, Devon, and Orrin.

Cal arrived with the boys and the "Ryder" truck. We also used Arn & Daph's personal vehicles plus another of Arn's company vans - seeing as we were only moving to Westbank, we did not pack like movers would.

To make a long story short, by 7:30 PM we had their new one-bedroom suite at L-Manor all furnished like they lived there for a long time; pictures on walls; Grandpa’s desk in the den/pantry with university degrees and other plaques on the wall. Two pies were baked and we had a "housewarming" with pie and ice cream and coffee - Uncle Roy and Aunt Sally and Katya joined the rest of us - 13 in
all.

Grandma and Grandpa were somewhat confused as usual - I stayed the night, the first night on the couch - that's another story which I'll not go into.
So now these dear ones are in the care of nurses and aides who will dispense their pills, call them to meals and generally make sure they’re okay. Hopefully they’ll adjust quickly and realize that now this is home.

My mom is doing well after her move November 1st. On Friday afternoon she invited me to be part of the Christmas party, where we sat around eating pastries, drinking coffee and listening to Christmas music played by a jazz duo - piano and bass. Santa even came to call. She has been participating in the activities offered in her complex, going on tours, last week to see a creche display, a couple of nights ago to see the Christmas lights, and tomorrow to some deal in Cloverdale. This morning she even went to the exercise class!

how is someone persuaded that God exists?

In a thoughful little blog post on December 9th, Rebecca tackled Virginia’s request: "I wish someone would just give me a good argument to share with non-believers about why the Bible is true."

Cutting to the chase, Rebecca replied in effect, you can’t argue for the authority of scripture until you’ve established the existence of a God. Then she threw out the challenge for readers to suggest books for Virginia to read on this topic.

The wheels in my head started turning immediately on reading this little ‘interchange’ last night (yes, I’m hopelessly behind in keeping up with my favorite blogs), and I considered adding a comment. However, it was the end of the day and I commonly suffer from evening fried-brain syndrome, so I didn’t. Instead I’ve mulled over this challenge in the intervening hours and have come up with a few thoughts on how people come to the conviction that there actually is a God - and that this God is the God of the Bible.

(And I will be using Bible verses to buttress my points, because I believe that it is only through the lens of the Bible that we see the world, life, and people as they are in reality).

1. Instinct. People are born with a sense that something greater than themselves exists (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:18-21). So from the outset we are, in a way, flowing with the current as we attempt to prove the existence of God.

2. Intellectual reason and argument. There is a place for attempting to persuade people of the existence of God and the truth of the Gospel by intellectual means. Paul used this method repeatedly and sometimes successfully (e.g. Acts 17:16-34; Acts 24:25). We are told to do the same (1 Peter 3:15). (Some entry points: Intelligent design; the nation of Israel; the Bible - its history, its progressive revelation yet consistent message, its fulfilled prophecies).

3. Lifestyle and testimony. Sometimes people are convinced about God’s existence by watching the lives and hearing the testimonies of Christians (Acts 4:32-35).

4. Prayer. I think we – at least I – often forget the spiritual dimension of what is involved here. We think that if we can only win the argument and prove that our position is superior intellectually, the battle will be over. Wrong! Because there is much at stake here. The lifestyle implications of a person truly accepting the existence of God and the claims of the Gospel are huge and our whole culture mitigates against it. We set ourselves up for disappointment when we try to do this convincing with our own cleverness. Because understanding and accepting spiritual truth involves not only the intellect but also the spirit.

It involves and needs an opening of spiritual sight (Acts 26:17,18; 2 Corinthians 4:6). And so like Paul we need to pray that the spiritual eyesight of our friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers etc. will be opened (Ephesians 1:15-23).

5. Signs and wonders. The Bible is full of instances where the supernatural broke through and the result was people convicted that not only did God exist but that He was also interested in them personally (Acts 5:12-16). Though some say these things don’t happen any more, I believe they do. I have heard many stories of people, especially Muslim people – even here in Canada – whose dreams and visions of Jesus convinced them that He is real and as a result they have come to believe the Gospel as explained in the Bible. And stories of God breaking through in a variety of miraculous ways abound in cultures around the world. (Listen to this talk about what is happening right now in Ethiopia.)

6. The Bible itself. Though quoting Bible words about the existence of God to prove the existence of God will not carry much weight with the casual inquirer, I believe the Bible itself is such a miraculous book that an honest and thorough study of it will convince the student of the existence of the God behind it. I have heard of people who started out studying the Bible with a view to proving it false and instead coming to faith. God himself has promised that His word will accomplish what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:10,11; Jeremiah 23:29). And for those of us discouraged by the apparent lack of results, I remind myself that the person who scatters seeds needs to be patient to see the harvest.

Finally, I would submit that God is never boxed in to using one of these methods alone (and there are doubtless others I’ve not thought of). He uses a combination to convince people of His existence and the truth of the Gospel. I guess for me the challenge is to work in cooperation with Him. I need to be ready to reason and give an answer, to live in a way that pleases Him and to testify, to pray for those in my world who are unconvinced, even to the extent that God will break through to them supernaturally, and to sharpen my sword skills (Hebrews 4:12).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the king of christmas wood



The King of Christmas Wood

A subtle twist has turned a stone tonight in Christmas Wood.
Though icicles pressed shards against the warmth
and frozen soil gripped steely fist
the tiny marvelous emerged beneath a stone
    a sacred writhe
        cocoon of God
in holy metamorphosis igniting love to flesh

    So then great glory angel sky plays strains
    with ancient melody of dark and stars
    and God is bending in and on Himself
    to flood a void and fill the vacant souls

The firestorm of Spirit joins praise to every tongue
tonight in Christmas wood the King emerges
Brittle snow and icy stone are merely fuel
for love's consuming blaze
to roll the stone aweay and raise
    the King of Christmas Wood.

-- Nathan Harms © 2005 - Used with permission

Sunday, December 11, 2005

new friends

Yesterday felt like a bit like a marathon. The first concert went well. Then the choir and everyone involved in the production had lunch in the gym after which we had an hour and a half to fill before the second performance. We sat around and chatted, went for mini-walks around the building – that sort of thing.

I am getting to know and like the Romanian women, D1 and D2. They are very bright and sharp.

D1 has a management position with a company that makes the little packets of condiments used by KFC and other fast food chains. As well she is a wife and mom of three and is taking classes in management!

She is lovely with fair, clear skin and soft brown hair that curls around her face. I love the way she speaks, with just a touch of hesitancy as she searches for the right English word. Yesterday she wore a black suit that had glittering threads woven into the fabric, with a shimmering jacquard top. Her clothes and manner speak of quiet quality.

She is also warm and generous. After her phone call home between concerts. she reported that there was a din in the background with her house full of people - mostly family. I’ve seen her greet her little nephew with a big hug.

She told us she loved to cook. She worked in product development at her last job and came up with a whole slew of cappuccino flavors for them. Her dream is to run a little coffee shop that serves specialty coffees and European pastries.

D2 is a slim, blond optical engineer – single. She wears gypsy skirts, sometimes with a velvet top and always elegant shoes. Her blonde hair is casual, a modern layered cut with a straggly long bit of bang that she keeps brushing out of her eyes.

I love the ironic bite of her outlook.“What would one do with psychology studies?” she asked. A discussion ensued around the fact that studies in psychology and other subjects like political science, English and history would surely not be an end in themselves. In her observation, North American young people seemed to choose ‘soft subjects’. It didn’t make sense to her; why would they not choose something that ends up with an actual job?

When I asked her what her dream was, she said, “You mean business dream?”

“You’d like to get married?” I asked. She just grinned.

F. is a little flight attendant with a French Canadian accent. She is feisty and funny. She told about how she’s inevitably called in to work extra shifts in difficult situations. Like the time their airline was asked to transport a prisoner from Mexico to Canada. She kept that burly prisoner in line, though.

“No alcohol. You hear? No alcohol! You know how expensive it is if we have to land in the States.”

Later, when the drinks were being passed around and he was asked what he wanted to drink: “I’ll have a Coke,” and, then looking to F., “Is that okay?”

***************

As I’m getting to know and enjoy these new friends, God is saying to me: Violet, that is how I want you to look at everyone - with kind eyes and an open heart. Because that is how I look at you and at every person on earth. I find each of you endlessly fascinating with your foibles and idiosyncracies and dreams. You are all so special to Me and I want you, my child, to appreciate all your human brothers and sisters in the same way.

I also am ‘collecting’ these women. Who knows, some day bits of them may be reflected in my stories.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas prep


We are in the thick of the Christmas production. It has come a long way from the lurching performance of Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal.

After the evening yesterday, I had the guests who we had invited, here for coffee (which sure made me appreciate entertaining as a duo; with my go-fer out of town, my whole day was pretty much taken up with getting ready). Today we do two more programs, one at 3:30 and another at 7:30. Then tomorrow night there’s a final evening performance in Maple Ridge.

I haven’t been in Christmas programs for the last few years and had forgotten all the downs and ups of these things and what they add to the celebration. There’s the feeling that this big time commitment will monopolize too much of your life at this busy season of year, followed by the realization that it really isn’t that big at all and will be over before you know it. There’s the whole nervous apprehension thing before each performance, followed by the feeling of euphoria when things go okay. There’s the fear that you’ll never have all that music memorized cold, followed by the sense of accomplishment when you do it – and as a bonus, now have wonderful lyrics like:

"Who is this King of glory?

Emanuel, God with us

Who is this King of glory?

He’s mighty to save us

Who is this king of glory?

He’s our Wonderful Counselor

Who is this King of Glory

He’s our Warrior, Deliverer"


safely tucked in your head and heart to sing and mull over in the days to come.


What a great way to get prepared for the season!

Friday, December 09, 2005

the three faces of Eve

I’ve been feeling restless about the blog lately, as if change is in the wind. Waterfall (blogger-no-more ...sigh) expressed some of these feelings in A Sort of Notebook when she wrote:

This is my last post. Already I feel this wonderful sort of relief, not to be wondering about daily hits, not to be concerned with whether I'm a rodent or an amphibian in the TTLB Ecosystem. No, I actually haven't even looked at my own blog but once in the last four days.

I have to admit - I know the feeling of being on a short leash to the blog. In fact, blogging for the past year has taught me more about my insecurities than I ever wished to know! And though I’m not sure what I’m about to do will ease my mind in that department, instinct tells me it’s the right move – for now anyway.

The instinct I’m talking about has developed as I’ve surfed around in the blog world over the past 1+ year and come to realize that I like to know (at least a little bit) what to expect when I surf to a site. At the same time, I’ve often felt fractured as I blogged, wondering which me is talking today – the outspoken Christian me, or the writer me or the everyday life me? Not that we can ever completely tease apart any of these personas – I know that! Anyway, I’ve decided to try blogging in a more focused way.

A long time ago I started another blog, Other Food, where I posted for a while about what I was learning in my quiet time and from Christian speakers and books etc. I have lately reactivated that blog and will be posting there about my spiritual pilgrimage. (You’re welcome to read. I’m posting a link to that blog in the sidebar.)

To accommodate another of my passions, I will shortly be opening a poetry / writing blog, where I can post my silly verses and unabashedly write about all things poetic and writerly. I’ll post a link to that blog when it’s up in case anyone is interested.

Of course I’ll still be posting, here at promptings, about all the minutiae of my life, and the little goodies I find on the web and memes and book reviews and political rants and family stuff and recipes... So nothing much will change, though I’m sure you won’t be surprised if I post here less often, which is no doubt a good thing because, for crying out loud, there’s plenty to read online as it is!

(I’ll also put up a link here to whichever blog I’ve written in on any particular day – for anyone wanting to keep up with all three types of posts.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

chick blog awards-announced

Sallie at Two Talent Living has, in the past few weeks, undertaken a mammoth project. She (with her hubby's help) devised the "2005 Blogs of Beauty Award" for women bloggers in 14 categories complete with a handsome graphic for the winners to display on their blogs.

The finalists (along with all nominations) are up here. Anyone (not only women) can vote. Voting ends 8:00 p.m. EST Tuesday December 6th.

**********************************

UPDATED:

So, if you're following this, the awards are up here (and I'm grinning, because three of the winners, Rebecca Writes, Wind Scraps and Windows to My Soul are blogs I read regularly, plus I voted for another winner as well. Am I in tune or what? (Or what. There were 14 categories so I scored 29% on that test.)

Anyway, now I have lots of great new blogs to check out

Congratulations to all the winners! Great job Sallie!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

christmas style -- trees on the runway

I guess I’m a real stuck-in-the-mud when it comes to decorating the tree – the same tree, the same ornaments, the same color scheme year after year. My boring predictability adherence to sweet tradition shows up when I read of some of the new trends in Christmas tree decorating.

Do you know, for example, that naked trees are in, that tone on tone makes for a "rich, well-dressed tree," and that you can produce a stunning effect with an artificial white tree? Find out how here.

Or maybe you’d like something really different. Apparently this year upside down fake trees are all the rage, so much so, Hammacher Schlemmer sold out of them weeks ago.

If you’re just wanting a richer traditional tree experience, check out these themed trees.


And for the geeks among us who’d like nothing better than to spend Christmas at the computer, a colorful number you plug into your USB port.

O Christmas Tree!

Monday, December 05, 2005

up on my soapbox

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a federal election campaign happening in Canada. We’re in the thick of it - with each night’s news headlined by what the respective leaders did this day.

One of this weekend’s big stories was what Conservative leader Steven Harper said to Peter Warren on his talk show Saturday morning. He actually admitted that if his wife was in pain needing a knee or hip replacement, he would (drum roll) "do whatever it takes" - even to the extent of paying for private services to get her help in a timely manner (GASP!).

Jack Layton - NDP leader - when asked the same question said that he and partner Olivia Chow have discussed the matter and they would (in my words) let each other suffer in order not to go outside Canada’s publically funded healthcare system.

In the hours since his politically incorrect admission, Harper has been asked repeatedly to clarify his position. Predictably, even the reporters color how he’s responded, preambling their video clips with language like "He tried to defend his position in Victoria...blah, blah, blah..." making it sound as if this has him on the ropes.

As usual I’m shaking my head in disbelief. Since when is it a scandal to admit that you’d "do whatever it takes" to provide for the health and well-being of your family. Only in the socialist Canada of 2005 where it’s a crime to drop your own hard-earned coin for needed medical procedures provided privately, because it means you jump the que and we all have to be equal and prop up this limping system by limping ourselves! Only in socialist Canada – a country where the ideological atmosphere is so pink, even a little common sense turns the air purple!

I like how Winston Churchill summed it up: Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.

Whew, now I feel better!!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

twisted christmas?

The pace quickens. This is the week of "Christmas With a Twist" – our church’s annual Christmas production. Our choir sings four songs as well as leads in the carol singing. That means dress rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday, and five performances - Thursday to Sunday. Ernie and I have been as excited as little kids about this. Then yesterday he got word that what we feared is about to happen.

His 85-year-old parents live in a city four hours’ drive away, near his brother. The health of both his mom and dad has been deteriorating for a while now. But lately things have come to a head. The long and short of it is, they will be moved from their townhouse to an assisted living place (though they don’t know it yet - they’re very resistant to the idea) this coming Saturday. And so instead of being part of the Christmas concert, hubby will spend the weekend with his family.

I’m a bit bummed out. I was so looking forward to us doing this together. But I know he needs to be there with his mom, dad, brother and sis at this traumatic time. If you think of it, pray that his parents will be able to handle the news that they are moving (on short notice - I think they’re to be told Thursday), and that the move will go smoothly.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I blogged here today.

Friday, December 02, 2005

how the natal star was born

The Son vanishes just after I am sent
to the Galilean virgin
and heaven isn’t the same.
Gone the laughter, mischief, hijinks.
Music replaced by silence
all monochromatic, sober
like the life of the party has left
and we don’t have the will
to keep partying or to go home.

The Almighty’s been moody since then
broods like never before
over calendars and seasons,
looks down a lot, mostly toward Nazareth
at this blossoming virgin-still
and her earthmate.

The day this couple sets off down the road
He starts pacing... pacing... pacing...
When they get to Bethlehem
it’s pacepacepace.
Then He pauses
"Hush!"

All the hosts of heaven stop their chatter,
crowd behind Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David
peer over the balcony
focus on a dark building
near a sign that blinks "Sorry - No Vacancy"
It’s so quiet you can hear the stars hum.

Then, cutting the night
tiny and tremulous
"A-wah, a-wah, a-wah, a-wah."

The Almighty laughs His magnificence
tosses His glory, flings His radiance
and then starts handing out
cig–, no trumpets
to every angel within arm’s reach.
"Go tell somebody, anybody!"

After they’ve left He asks for the bubbly
shakes it up
pops the cork
sprays it all over heaven.

--V. Nesdoly c. 2004

**************************

In mid-September I submitted this poem to the first "Christmas Presence Writing Competition" put on by Pacific Theatre in Vancouver ("...Pacific Theatre is seeking poetry, short stories, sketches, and personal essays -- either serious or comic original pieces reflecting on Christmas").

Yesterday I got an email. The poem above tied for first place with another piece! The prize: Hubby and I get to attend one Christmas Presence presentation (we've picked Dec. 19th) and will hear Ron Reed, Pacific Theatre's artistic director, read the above. AND, we also win "Everything Passes" to the remaining productions of Pacific Theatre's season. HOW SWEET IS THAT !?

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