The Journey of Blogging

Twitter background 3I had no idea when I started to blog my “Journey Thoughts” that anyone else, other than a few family and friends, would actually read my little blog. I was so busy trying to publish and market my book that my blog was all but forgotten. Once in a while I’d add a little anecdote, an update, or share a snippet of my life experiences while walking with the Father. It was only when I got an email from a teacher in South Carolina who said that my blog “moved her” emotionally and spiritually that I realized God had given me a ministry opportunity here.

One day I “Googled” my name and I discovered that someone had nominated my “little” blog for the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards in not one, not two but THREE categories! Imagine my surprise! Suddenly my “Journey Thoughts” had a much larger readership than just family and friends.  Since that first nomination, Journey Thoughts has been nominated every year since in the Canadian Weblog Awards.  It has won a Canadian Christian Writing Award and I have thousands of followers from around the world.

A father in Saudi Arabia said he had read a story I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul to his daughters and they now follow my blog regularly.  I thank my loyal readers, followers and those who share my blog with others on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google and more.

With popularity also comes much responsibility.  I take blogging seriously.  I have noticed in the blogosphere that there are millions of bloggers out there.  There are some blogs that I take time to read regularly.  They uplift and encourage me with their content.  There are others that I enjoy because they write about family, food and fun…I get some of my best “Grandma” ideas about crafts and kid-friendly recipes that I share with my grandbabies.  Still other bloggers talk about the craft of writing, being an author, publishing and marketing and I go to those blogs regularly for advice and inspiration.  There are also blogs that are more confrontational and political in content.  I notice that these blogs tend to have quite an audience and a stream of commenters, some who are very opinionated and occasionally offensive.  When I see that sort of thing I tend to avoid those “worldly” blogs that do not honour or glorify God.  That’s just me.

In a world that is struggling to find hope in what some see as a hopeless world, I have had readers say that my posting scripture or talking about the grace of God is “just what (they) need” at “just the right time”.  I find that interesting.  God leads people to my blog at just the right time.  I am humbled.

I belong to a group of Canadian writers who have been regularly praying for “Word Warriors”, a name someone coined to describe those of us who write from a Christian world view perspective.  I love that!

So I invite you to check out just a few of my favourite “Word Warrior” blogs and please pray for all of us who blog so that the name of Jesus will be lifted high.  Pray that we will glorify Him in all we do, say and WRITE!

InScribe Christian Writer’s Online

Connie Cavanaugh

Kathy Howard

Michael Blackaby

Matt Walsh

 

A Year After the Great Flood

It’s raining.  It’s been raining pretty steady for a few days now and although we’re told that June is the “wettest” month of the year for Albertans, we can’t help feeling a little worried.  It’s on the hearts and minds of so many…the flood of 2013!  In a way I wish the media would stop talking about it and as water levels rise, they seem to go into a frenzy speculating a repeat of 2013’s flood.  Some consider that the worst flood in over one hundred years.  One hundred years!  If it took one hundred years before, why is everyone sure it’s going to happen again this year??  Come on people, stop the fear-mongering already!

That said, the rain IS falling and as we plan outdoor activities, like camping and BBQ’s, the rain is a nuisance, a necessary nuisance to farmers and to my water-starved perennials, but a nuisance nevertheless.wedding-rings

My daughter and her husband celebrate their nine year anniversary today and I remember so well the day they were married, June 18, 2005.  On that day it rained…hard.  I mean it poured!  There was flooding that year too and we had to change wedding plans mid-stream (pardon-the-pun), as the rain prevented some guests from coming and the professional photos had to be taken indoors rather than outdoors.  Despite the rain, it was a lovely ceremony and a lovely celebration!  Of course my daughter would have loved the day to go as she had planned it, perfectly…including the weather, but the rain did not dampen our spirits one bit!

My husband and I were married in June as well, and it rained the morning of our wedding thirty-five years ago!  Again, it was a lovely day, despite starting off a little wet.  In fact, in both my case and my daughter’s case, the sun did peek out for our receptions and we have wonderful memories of our wedding days.

So, I look out the window, see the rain falling and my thoughts are not on the falling rain, but on making more summer memories.  Yes, I know after last year’s flooding and the aftermath of that, people seem to be in crisis mode.  I get that.  For the good citizens in Bragg Creek, High River, Exshaw, Calgary, Black Diamond and more…high water levels can cause concern but my prayer is that it will be another one hundred years or more before we see anything like we saw last year with regards to floods.

I’m praying for beautiful, sunny weather for all the summer weddings coming up in June through August.  I’m praying that all the couples who marry this summer will build their married lives securely anchored to the Rock.  That they will build their homes on solid spiritual foundations that will weather any storm that life may throw at them.

“”Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

 

 

 

Stumbles

This weekend we have the pleasure to have our two grandbabies over for “sleep-overs” when their parents go to a conference out of town.  It will be the first time I have BOTH my “babies” overnight and I’m a little excited!  That said, I also know it will be an exhausting weekend.  I’m just not as young as I used to be…I can admit that!

Last week, my grandson was over for a few hours and his three year old giggles and grins just melted my heart.  My husband thought it would be fun to throw a big float toy into our pool and tow Jaxon around so he could pretend he was a pirate on a boat.  “Again!  Again!” he yelled at my husband as my husband pulled the rope to tow him around the pool.  Jaxon would have played that game for hours but my husband petered out.  He’s not as young as he used to be, but he won’t admit that🙂

Our house has always been a place of giggles and splashes!  We have an indoor pool that served for a time as our church’s baptistery before our church had its own building.  I often remark that the water is “Holy” water.  We’ve hosted birthday parties and youth pool parties, grad parties and my son even got tossed in the pool by his buddies at his engagement party!  It’s not really a party until someone gets tossed in the pool I guess.

Several years ago my youngest daughter, Carmen and two of her friends were doing an assignment for school that required a video camera, a pair of “magic” flip flops, and a willingness to fall into the pool.  The premise for the project was to do a commercial for a product not yet invented.  The three fourteen year old girls had at first decided to invent an “Invisi Boy”…an invisible…and so perfect…boyfriend.  They decided against the idea when they realized he was too hard to invision!  Hahahaha!

I gave a suggestion to them, knowing how my youngest child Carmen had (still has) a propensity to trip over anything and everything, that they should “invent” a pair of shoes that when they wear them they immediately become “graceful”.  That seemed to go over extremely well, especially when they started to think about how funny filming the pratfalls would be.  Of course it was my Carmen who thought about using the pool as a greatest pratfall prop.  She immediately volunteered herself to be filmed “accidentally” falling into the pool because of her extreme clumsiness.  I think they had to do at least fifty takes to get the action just right.  Poor, poor water-logged Carmen!

They chose a pair of flip flops to be the miraculous transforming shoes to give them grace whenever they put them on.  Again, their first choice was a pair of high heels but Carmen vetoed that idea immediately realizing the chances of her appearing “graceful” in heels was slim.  She stood more of a chance in flip flops!

And so for the next two hours all I heard was splashing and giggles and on occasion uproarious laughter from the three girls.  Kaylee, the videographer capturing the wild antics of Carmen and Breeana as they “acted” in the commercial.  I never did see the final edit, but no doubt it was hilarious!

I actually tripped over a pair of Carmen’s flip flops this morning in the front entranceway and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud remembering how ones like these were supposed to be the “magically transforming graceful shoes” from yesteryear.  As I picked them up and put them safely back in the front closet I was reminded of the many stumbles I have taken in life.

How many times have I tripped up?  How often have I tried to go my own way, trying to balance precariously on shaky footing only to trip and do what I call an “epic fail”?  My epic fails may not be seen on YouTube, but I am very aware that I have an audience and at times that causes me great shame.  God watches me and He sees me when I fall, mess up, and face-plant in the dirt.   Yet He does not leave me in the dust.  He kindly rebukes me for trying to walk the path of life on my own and then His Love transforms me!

So I stumbled upon this scripture this morning: “See I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Romans 9:33

Now if I can just prevent one of the grandbabies this weekend from pushing me into the pool!

The Author of Life

Once upon a timeMy house is slowly but surely crumbling into disarray.  I see dust bunnies scurrying with wild abandon under my coffee table only to gather in little “burrows” in every corner of my room.  My foster pup, Samson, hasn’t been put out in hours…his little feet are pitter pattering on the floor…he’s trying to get my attention.  Does he want to play or is he desperate to relieve himself?  I haven’t put on my makeup, brushed my hair…gasp…I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet!  I haven’t washed the dishes in the sink, or thought about what to make for supper and I haven’t set foot outside in days.  Was this the life I pictured when I decided to write books?

I am buried in the plot created in my own mind.  I can’t let it go.  When I sleep I think about it, when I am awake I think about it.  I have created a world of characters that have become real to me…I’ve even thought I should see if they have profiles on Facebook.  That’s how real they seem.  I have seen the inside of their homes, I have met their parents, I know their thoughts and I know what they are feeling.  I feel like I know them better than my own children at times because I know what they will say or do before they say it or do it, and if I don’t like it I can change their actions by a simple use of a delete or backspace key.

It is the oddest feeling of supernatural power being a fiction writer.  I can make the characters be good, evil, mute, emotional, dull, irresponsible or responsible.  I have ultimate power over their actions….mwhuuuuhahaha….I feel almost…divine!!

It’s a scary thing this power!

I am so happy that I am limited to enact this “divine power” in the somewhat safety confines of the pages of a book.     What would the world be like if I had this kind of influence, if I had this kind of absolute power over real people I came into contact with every day?  If I made a mistake that destroyed their character I couldn’t just delete the words or backspace for a do over.

Today I rediscovered Psalm 139, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways….I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I may consider myself to be a writer but He is the Author of Life!  He leads us, He directs our steps, He loves us and He weeps for us when we go our own way.  He also never makes mistakes!  (Psalm 145:17)  God does not use delete on us, (even if sometimes our actions may deserve it), instead He picks up the storyline, exactly where we may have left it and helps us rewrite the plot, not so we get the glory but so that He does!

So while I continue to fumble for the correct words and phrases to use as I write Heal the Wounded, the sequel to Shoot the Wounded, and erase and backspace to my heart’s content until the characters and plot line are just right, I am thankful that the Lord perfected MY LIFE STORY from the beginning of time.  “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

(This post was originally published on March 9, 2010 and won a Canadian Christian Writing Award that year.)

Since that posting, I not only finished the sequel Heal the Wounded to my debut novel Shoot the Wounded, but wrote and published the final book in the Wounded Trilogy, Love the Wounded

Even though I walk through the valley…

Comox ValleyOne of the most beautiful places to visit is the Comox Valley in B.C.  My husband grew up there and we return year after year to spend time with his family.  Comox means “Place of Plenty” and the description is an apt one.  One of the most picturesque sites is overlooking the valley from the Back Road.  The view is spectacular with the mountains and glacier as the backdrop, the ocean to the left, and the green, fertile farmland below.  Certainly we Alberta landlubbers are drawn to the ocean, and we appreciate the mountains, but the valley is the heartbeat of Comox.  Locals shop in the “valley”, farm in the “valley”, go to school and work in the “valley”.  The people may look to the hills and to the ocean, but they tend to do the majority of their living in the “valley”.

Driving around Comox, there are sights and sounds in the valley that overwhelm the senses.  From the cacophonic honks of Trumpeter Swans nesting in the lowlands to the shrill peal of Eagles circling overhead, not to mention the routine drone of air force planes taking off and landing at the Comox air base, it is a thrilling natural and unnatural orchestra of sound that emanates in and around the valley.  The gardens are plush, the farmland is fruitful.  Truly it is a peaceful place, if one only takes time to appreciate it.

When we think of valleys in life though, we do not associate them with beauty but with heartache.  Valleys are places to be avoided, or to walk through quickly.  Our sights are always set on the mountaintop experiences, never on the valleys.  Valleys are associated with suffering and grief.  “Vale of tears” is a phrase that refers to Earthly sorrows that are left behind when one enters heaven.  “Vale” means a valley or a dale.  The expression hearkens to the 23rd Psalm with reference to the “valley of the shadow of death”.  When we grieve, we are in a “dark valley”, when we rejoice we are “on top of the world”.

So let’s contrast the “top of the world” with the “valley” for a moment.  I have observed that when I am in the Comox Valley my eye is constantly drawn to Mount Washington.  I have been told that the skiing there is fantastic, and it is supposedly the second busiest winter recreation destination in B.C. just behind the Whistler/Blackcomb resort.    The thing is, despite having visited Comox for over thirty years, I have yet to visit Mount Washington.  I have been told that the view of the Comox Valley from Mount Washington is absolutely spectacular, which leads me to deduce that those who have been up to that mountain top spend a lot of time looking down at the valley.  So I can’t help getting a little philosophical here.  When we’re in the valley we look up, and when we’re on the mountain we look down.  Am I right?

As a Christian I have done that repeatedly.  In the valley I looked Up and when on the mountain I looked down.  How many times have I cried out to the Lord, “Help!  Get me out of this deep valley!  Rescue me!”  I don’t want to stay in the valley; I want to be on the mountain.  I have often mistaken the mountaintop experience as being closer to God somehow.  And yet some of the most beautiful encounters I’ve had with God have happened right there in the valley.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  I look up to God and I discover that He is right there in the valley with me and I am comforted.   I have also noticed that the times I am “on top of the world” a kind of self-sufficiency comes over me and I forget Who it was that guided me over all those rocky places as I climbed out of the valley.  The “rod and staff” are not as necessary at the top of the mountain and rather than feel closer to God I have a tendency to look longingly down because it was there in the valley that I feel the closest to Him.

It is not by accident that the Psalmist paints a word picture of the Good Shepherd leading His flock of sheep through a valley.  It was common practice then as it is now for a shepherd to guide his flock to prime grazing grounds.  The shepherd allowed the sheep to feed and quench their thirst in the streams there for a while and then would guide them up the slopes and over the rocky terrain to the next pasture ensuring that there was always an abundance of food for the herd.  But traveling from valley pasture to the next meant negotiating through narrow ravines or wadis, or journeying over rocky and dangerous terrain.  It required the sheep to not run ahead of the shepherd.  The shepherd was the guide, he determined the path and direction, to stray from the path could prove destructive for the sheep.  Likewise it was the shepherd who determined how long the sheep would stay in the valley.  Once he felt they had been sufficiently nourished, he would guide them on to the next pasture.  He would help the sheep traverse the slopes out of the valley but he would not linger long on the mountaintops because of the scarcity of food there for his sheep.  Although the sheep may have enjoyed the view from the mountain and preferred not to have to negotiate the rough terrain leading down to the next valley, the shepherd knew that it was in the valleys that he would be able to adequately feed and prepare his flock for the next journey ahead of them.

It is also interesting to note that the Psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the valley…”  It does not say, run, skip, jump or rush.  The journey from valley to valley for the sheep is not a time of running quickly through one just to get to the next pasture.  Time is spent being nourished and cared for by the shepherd at each destination for as long as the shepherd decides before moving on to the next pasture.  It is also not a place to stop and set up camp indefinitely.  Walk “through” the valley, means just that.  It is something to be experienced and then move on when the shepherd signals to move on.

My family and I are walking through one of those “valleys” right now.  Notice I say we’re “walking through“, we’re not rushing through it, nor are we going to camp here indefinitely.  We’re walking through, taking our time, being comforted by the Good Shepherd, and we’ll move on when He says move on.  Until such time, we will take nourishment from Him here in the valley, and though our eyes may stray to the mountain from time to time, we will find rest and comfort here for now.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

 

(Originally posted on February 9, 2010 – “Even though I walk through the valley” was the winner of a Canadian Christian Writing Award that year.)

 

Married for Life

Song of Solomon 2 16There is a tendency amongst young people today to try out relationships.  What I mean by that is rather than pray to the Lord to direct them to the right person to share their life with for life, they have a “hit and miss” attitude, going from relationship to relationship until somehow they stumble upon a “match” and may or may not make a less than “life-long” commitment then.

According to Statistics Canada:

“During the 50-year period from 1961 to 2011 which corresponded with the censuses of population, considerable social and economic changes occurred in Canada that influenced evolving family dynamics.

The early 1960s was near the end of the baby-boom period (1946 to 1965), when many people married at a fairly young age and had relatively large families. By the end of the 1960s, events such as the legalization of the birth control pill, the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, as well as the growing participation of women in higher education and in the paid labour force may have contributed to delayed family formation, smaller family size and an increased diversity of family structures.”

The alarming stats are that in 1961, married couples accounted for 91.6% of census families but by 2011, this proportion had declined to 67.0%. This decrease was mostly a result of the growth of common-law couples.  While the number of married couples rose 19.7% over the 30-year period between 1981 and 2011, the number of common-law couples more than quadrupled (+345.2%).  In 2011, lone-parent families represented 16.3% of all census families. This was almost double the share of 8.4% in 1961 when relatively more childbearing took place within marriage and divorce rates were lower.

“The predominant census family structure in 2011 was married couples, although they continued to decrease as a share of all families. In the 10-year period from 2001 to 2011, married couples dropped from 70.5% to 67.0% of all census families. In contrast, the proportion of census families that were common-law increased from 13.8% to 16.7% during the same period. For the first time in 2011, the number of common-law couples (1,567,910) surpassed the number of lone-parent families (1,527,840).” (Stats Canada)

“After a change to the Divorce Act in 1986 that allowed divorces after only one year of separation (instead of three years before), the total divorce rate in 1987 reached a high of 506 divorces per 1,000 marriages. This means that of marriages which took place in 1987, 50.6% were projected to end in divorce before their thirtieth anniversary.

Since the end of the 1980’s, the percentage has fluctuated between 35% and 42%. In 2008, 40.7% of marriages in Canada were projected to end in divorce before the thirtieth wedding anniversary.”

I’m not a statistician but just looking at the numbers would indicate that in Canada at least, marriage is fast becoming a failing institution.  There is no longer a mind-set amongst people to marry for life if at all.  They would rather live together rather than say “I do” and there is a walk-away mindset when a relationship does not work out.  Common-law “marriages” are on the rise, as are single-parent families, divorce rates (even amongst Christian couples) shows that nearly 50% of all marriages in Canada end in divorce before the thirtieth wedding anniversary.  That is staggering and so very, very sad!

According to the stats, my husband and I have bucked the trend.  Today marks our 35th wedding anniversary and I am praying to the Lord that we have another thirty-five years together (or more)!

Someone asked what our “secret” was.  How do we stayed married for life?  Not sure it’s a secret at all, but I’ll share what I know:

1.  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9  (That has been our life verse.  In everything, in every decision, every conversation, family activity, …EVERYTHING…God is in control.  HE directs our steps.  We are submissive to His leading.)

2.  There is a mutual respect and concern for one another.  It’s not a YOU – ME attitude, it’s WE together.  I don’t make a decision without sharing with my husband and vice versa.  We’re a team.  He respects my opinions and I respect his authority as the Spiritual leader of our home.  We compromise when we need to.  I’m his greatest fan, and he is my greatest fan.  We can always count on each other!

3.  We think of each other’s needs and well-being above our own.

4.  We both are well aware that our first love is God.  He is #1 in our hearts and in our home.  Yes, we love each other and love our children but God is first.  We do not usurp authority over God.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

5.  We laugh…a lot.

6.  We share common goals, passions. likes and dislikes, but we also embrace one another’s differences.  He’s into cars, I’m into writing and books.  He retreats to his shop and muscle cars on stress-filled days and I’m okay with that.  I’ve learned more about cars and car parts than I ever thought I’d learn in thirty-five years, and he’s read maybe three books.  That’s okay…at least one of those books was mine🙂

7.  We take the covenant of marriage seriously.  God brought us together.  It’s a “death ’till us part” commitment.  “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.”

8.  I married my best friend.  He is my confident, my partner, my love, my future.

Happy Anniversary, Charles!  Looking forward to the next thirty-five years (or more) together!

 

 

Becoming Legendary for Christ

Martyrdom of StephenWhat does it mean to be “Legendary for Christ”?

There is a big difference between what the world views as “legendary”, and what it means to be “legendary for Christ”.  Think about Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies.  I suppose if you make a movie and a city erects a statue of you after the fact, you have the right to claim “legendary” status.  Academy Award winning actors and actresses, sports superstars, political figures, Nobel Prize winners could also be considered legendary in the world’s eyes.  We look up to these people, at times we may even idolize some of them.  But the question remains: “What does it take to be legendary for Christ?”

Let’s look at Stephen (Acts 7: 1-60) as his example of a person who truly became legendary.

Stephen is described in Acts as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) “full of God’s grace and power (and) did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8).  When he spoke he had “wisdom” given to him by the Spirit (Acts 6:10).  The religious leaders (the Sanhedrin) were threatened by Stephen and so had him arrested and false charges were brought against him.  While the charges were being read they noticed that Stephen had “the face of an angel”. (Acts 6: 15)  Now, it’s interesting to note here that after the charges were read, the Sanhedrin ask this simple question of Stephen: “Are these charges true?”

Now, I don’t think the Sanhedrin had any idea when they asked this of Stephen that he would answer them the way he did.  Instead of trying to plead for his life (as was expected), Stephen launches into a sermon.  In one online commentary I read, describes the scene as, “One man full of the Holy Spirit faces a gallery of men full of hate.”  They had already decided what to do with Stephen.  Stephen knew that he was going to face a death sentence but he wasn’t interested in defending himself.  He simply wanted to proclaim the truth about Jesus in a way people would understand.  He knew this would be his last opportunity to do this.  So Stephen gives a panorama of Old Testament history.  He certainly did not  instruct the Sanhedrin on points of Jewish history they were ignorant of.  Instead, Stephen wanted to emphasize some things revealed in Jewish history they may not have considered: that God has never confined Himself to one place (like the temple), and that the Jewish people have a habit of rejecting those whom God sends to them!

The greatness of Stephen’s sermon is not only in its content, but in its courage. “He takes the sharp knife of the Word and rips up the sins of the people, laying open the inward parts of their hearts, and the secrets of their souls . . . He could not have delivered that searching address with greater fearlessness had he been assured that they would thank him for the operation; the fact that his death was certain had no other effect upon him than to make him yet more zealous.” (Spurgeon)

“Like a herd of stampeding animals (compare Lk 8:33), yet intent on one purpose, they rush together against Stephen, drag him out of the city and begin to stone him. Throwing him down from a high place, they gather and heave paving stones on top of him until death comes.”  (BibleGateway Commentary)  But take note of Stephen’s final words before he “falls asleep”: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  (Acts. 7: 60)

It is impossible not to compare Stephen’s dying words with that of Christ’s words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Stephen wasn’t a superman, but he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit.  He became legendary for Christ.  He became legendary not in his dying but in his living for Christ.  Consider how greatly you too can be used of God as you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.