Friday, December 16, 2005

Landon Snow

Want a great read for a young reader? Here's one at Amazon

and check out the Landon Snow home page -

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Comes A Horseman

Robert Liparulo's "Comes A Horseman" is on tap for this week.
Here's the link to the book on Amazon

There are a couple of good reviews there.

and check out Bob's site at

Thoughts on Christmas Kitsch

I sat at the table for five hours watching people walk by. Every now and then someone would stop and pick up one of my books. I’d chat with them, telling them the book was a collection of devotionals. Sometimes I’d share how the Lord had used it to make a change in someone’s life. Usually they’d smile and move on. They’d move on to buy trinkets at other tables loaded with kitsch – painted plastic santas, crocheted snowflakes, angels made of dishtowels, and snowmen made of styrofoam.

As the day wore on I got a little discouraged. And, as discouragement often does, it started to move into bitterness tinged with anger. Why were these people so eager to grab things that had so little value and would last for such a short time? Why weren’t they more interested in buying something that could nourish their souls? It made me want to scream, but I kept quiet and tried to keep smiling when someone glanced my way.

As I drove home later that day I ruminated. I love that word – it means to turn over and over, as in a cow chewing her cud. And that’s what it felt like as I drove along – my stomach was churning; I was stewing over what had happened, and I wasn’t being very complimentary to those people who had not bought my books.

Then that still small voice whispered from somewhere beyond – “And what about you?”
Me, Lord? Um … What do you mean?

I didn’t really have to ask. I knew what He meant. I too make choices every day, choices that are just like those kitsch-hunters. I choose things that are of little value and momentary pleasure over the riches and everlasting joys of Christ. Every day. I was humbled there in my car, and had to do an attitude adjustment. I had to ask God to forgive me for my “holier than thou” thoughts. I had to thank Him for those who did buy my books and thank Him for what he was going to do in their lives through my mere words. And I had to ask Him to forgive me for all those times I’ve chosen the kitsch of the world over Him.

The verses in Deuteronomy filled my mind - “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…” (Deut.30:19-20).

There’s an awful lot of kitsch in this world, especially at this time of year. It’s tempting to allow ourselves to be distracted from the real story of Christmas. As the season unfolds, may we all avoid running after what cannot satisfy. May we all choose life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Writers' resources

Hi - I'm jumping into the Celebration of Christian Fiction a bit late - hope they'll still accept me! :)

One of the best books I've read on writing your own life story is by Bill Roorbach - called, uh - oh yeah, Writing Life Stories. Roorbach helps you go beyond the surface - he calls it cracking open the sentences. Each chapter has an exercise - I highly recommend this one.

Noah Lukeman's book, The First Five Pages is a good one too. You can almost use it as a check list once you've finished a story or novel. He details common mistakes and how to fix them.

For short block busters you can't beat Natalie Goldberg's Room to Write.

And as others have said, Bird By Bird is great - caution re: language though.

And if you want a great little devotional book I just happen to have released a new one! Shamelessly promoting going on here! :)

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Hi and welcome to those participating in the Christian Fiction Celebration. Here's the excerpt from my work in progress - a contemporary novel. Let me know what you think. :)M

Chapter One

Vancouver. 1988
The smell of mold filled the boy’s nostrils. He tried to back away from the dim stairway but the fist clutching the collar of his shirt held him above the hole. Dampness crept out and wrapped cold tendrils around his legs as the fist shoved him down. The voice above him cursed.
"Scum like you belongs down here."
A blow to the back of his head sent him sprawling to the concrete below. Grit scoured skin from his hands and elbows as heavy boots thudded behind him. One of them slammed into his side. The sound of a rib cracking made bile rise in his throat. He curled into a tight ball, knowing what was coming as he heard the familiar sound of the belt being pulled from its pant loops.
He tried not to cry out but it seemed like the blows would never stop. Already panting with pain, he howled when a hand grabbed his arm and wrenched him to his feet, jolting
the broken rib. The fist shoved him further into the cellar. He heard the scraping of the small door under the stairs. He started to plead.
"No. Please. Please, don't lock me in there. No. Please. Don’t. Please."
Another blow to his head knocked him to the floor again. The boot connected with his thigh as he tried to squirm away. There was nowhere to go but into the hole, into the darkness. The small door slammed and he heard the latch lock. His head and body throbbing, he pressed his face to the floor and tried to suck clean air through the crack at the bottom, tried to get away from the smell of whatever lay rotting in the darkness.

August 20th, 2003, twenty miles downstream from Dawson City, on the Yukon River.

Alex heard the boat but couldn’t see it. He took his binoculars down from a nail on the wall, walked to the bank and scanned upriver. He caught the long outboard, skimming with the current about a mile down. Adjusting the focus, he peered at the two people crouched in the back. He knew the one with his hand on the motor - the son of the mechanic in town. Alex couldn’t remember his name. Probably hired himself out to the man in the suit.
The suit was hunched into himself, a large briefcase clutched in his arms, his knees drawn up, head down. His tie escaped now and then, flapping into the wind with sudden
urgency until he caught it and tucked it in again. The sight of a man in a suit on the
river was so out of context, Alex kept watching until the boat veered and headed directly toward him. He lowered the binoculars and squinted as it beached just below his cabin. Within seconds the men were out of sight but he knew they were scrambling up the embankment. They’d missed the trail. He considered slipping into the bush and pretending not to be there, but his curiosity got the better of him. He went back into the cabin and waited.
As the two men breached the top of the slope, Alex's dogs erupted. The suit hesitated, peered around and, seeing the animals were chained, approached the cabin. Alex stepped back from the window and waited for the knock. When he opened the door, he took in several things at once: the man looked young, no older than Alex himself. He was wiping his face with a handkerchief, but wasn't breathing hard from the climb. His hair was the color of sand and short, spiked at the front, reminding Alex of a small porcupine he'd seen that week. The man's eyes weren't visible behind dark sunglasses but Alex had the feeling he was being sized up in return.
"Mr. Donnelly? Alexander Donnelly?"
Alex kept one hand on the door latch, shoved one hand into his jeans pocket and frowned. "Who's asking?"
The man yelled over the barking. "I'm George Bronsky, of Adams, Ferrington, Lithgow and Bolt, attorneys at law, Seattle."
When Alex did not respond, the lawyer slipped his sunglasses off. "You're a hard man to track down, Mr. Donnelly."
The dogs continued their cacophony. Alex just stared. George Bronsky stared back. Alex blinked first. He stepped out, turned his head and hollered, "Lay down!" When the barking subsided, he turned back to the lawyer. "State your business, Mr. Bronsky."
"I have some good news for you." He glanced past Alex to the interior of the cabin and took a step. "If you'll allow me..."
Alex didn't move. "I said state your business."
Bronsky shifted the brief case and slipped the glasses into his pocket. His head turned slightly to the boy standing behind him. "I suggest we speak in private."
Alex tilted his head toward the mechanic’s son. "Mind waiting in the boat? This won't take long."
The boy shrugged and turned away.
The lawyer cleared his throat again and lifted his chin. "I’m pleased to inform you that you are the recipient of an inheritance, Mr. Donnelly. Quite a substantial inheritance, in fact, and my law firm would very much like to..."
"You've got the wrong guy." Alex turned his back on the man and stepped into the cabin.
The lawyer stepped forward. "You just turned twenty-one, isn't that right?"
Alex glanced back. “So?”
"So, this sum has been held in trust until your twenty-first birthday, which ...”
“My parents died when I was a baby.”
The lawyer nodded. “I know.” Digging a sheet out of the briefcase, he kept his eyes on Alex. “You were born in Seattle. Your birthday was three weeks ago." He glanced at the paper. “July thirtieth, wasn't it?”
Alex hesitated for another moment, then turned and pushed the door wide. "That much I know," he said. "Watch your head."
Bronsky ducked under the doorframe and entered the dim room. Alex watched him take it in: the rough wood table, one chair and the small bed in the back corner; the large worn chair by the barrel stove in the other corner; the wall lined with shelves holding his few items of clothing and a number of books. Alex was suddenly aware of the smell – wood smoke with a strong overlay of tobacco, sweat and animal musk.
The lawyer placed the briefcase on the table, flipped it open and began removing papers. "I'll need to see a birth certificate, then we'll need your signature to certify that you've been notified. You'll have to come into our offices to sign the rest of the papers and be sure to bring a bank account number where the funds can be deposited." Alex felt his neck stiffen when Bronsky lifted his head and looked at him. "Uh... you do have a bank account?"
"Yeah, I have a bank account." He took a step toward the table. "This inheritance –where’d it come from?"
Bronsky blinked. “Your parents …”
Alex shook his head. “If my parents left me money, why didn’t I know about it before now? You sure you’ve got the right guy?”
"Well," Bronsky read from the paper in his hand, "are you Alexander Gabriel Donnelly, born Alexander Gabriel Perrin, six forty-five a.m., July thirtieth, 1982 at Virginia Mason Hospital, Seattle, Washington? Is that you?"
Alex cocked his head. "I know I was born in Seattle, but..."
"Mother's name, Janis Marie Perrin, father's name Thomas Allan Perrin?"
"I never knew their names." Alex's voice was so low, the lawyer leaned toward him, holding out the sheet of paper.
Alex took it, stared at it, scratched the dark stubble on his chin. "This can't be me." He laid the page on the table.
Bronsky sighed. "Do you have a birth certificate here?"
Alex stared at him for a moment, then shook his head. “Never needed one.”
The lawyer raised his eyebrows. "You were adopted by Christopher and Anna Donnelly in 1985?”
"Yeah, when I was three. They died when I was five."
"That fits. Do you have any documents from the adoption?"
Bronsky pursed his lips. "Child welfare in Vancouver must still have them. We'll have to verify everything, of course, but..." George smiled. "Congratulations, Mr. Donnelly. I think it's safe to say you're about to inherit one million U.S. dollars."
Alex's head jerked up. "What?"
Bronsky chuckled. "I thought that might get your attention. It appears your biological parents were rather wealthy. I believe the original amount was considerably less, but some good investments were made and interest does accumulate over twenty-one years."
Alex shook his head. A hank of black hair fell into his eyes. He pushed it away. "But that's... that doesn't make any sense."
"No, it doesn't." Bronsky chuckled again, and reached into his briefcase. "It makes dollars. Lots of them." He handed Alex a stapled sheaf of papers, then pointed to a dotted line on the top sheet. "Now, if you'll sign here, please, I'd like to get back to Dawson as soon as possible."
Alex stared at the paper. He took the pen the lawyer held out, but did not move to sign it.
Bronsky straightened. “Go ahead and read it for yourself. All it says is that you’ve been informed.”
Alex picked it up and moved toward the window. He read it twice, then signed.
Bronsky handed him a business card. "Here's our office address, our phone number and my extension. Call if you need anything. We'll be glad to help." The lawyer flopped the flap of his briefcase closed. "Uh, it would be expedient if you could arrange to come to Seattle as soon as possible, Mr. Donnelly. We've been looking for you for over six months and we'd really like to close this file."
Alex stared at the card.
"Mr. Donnelly?"
He lifted his head, and frowned. "I've never been to Seattle. Been back, I mean."
"We'd be happy to make all the arrangements. How soon can you be ready to leave?"
“I don't know.” Alex looked down at the paper again. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Alex shrugged off the surprise in the lawyer’s voice. "Maybe."
"Oh. Well, fine, that would be fine. I'll see if I can make the arrangements this afternoon, then. I guess that means we could travel together, at least to Whitehorse, if there's a seat on the plane. It leaves at 1:15, so we should meet somewhere, say at eleven o'clock? I'm staying at the Downtown Hotel."
"I'll have to arrange something for my dogs. If I can go, I'll be at the Downtown at eleven."
"Good. I'll see you then."

Alex heard the boat motor roar as it pulled away from the shore, fighting the current upstream. He looked around him. For a moment nothing seemed familiar, nothing seemed real. He picked up the papers the lawyer had left, scanned them, then tried to read more carefully. The legalese got in the way. Tossing them down, he ran a hand through his tangle of black hair and sighed. The last thing he wanted was to go anywhere near a city, but... He pulled the papers toward him again and slid a callused finger over the smooth words. Janis Marie Perrin. Thomas Allan Perrin.
Slumped in the chair, Alex let his mind search into corners he had closed off long ago. He was a small boy sitting on a bench, his thin fingers outlining initials carved into the wooden arm. Swinging his legs over the edge, he made sure they didn't bump and make noise as he listened to the voices of strangers coming through the half open door.
"This one must have a black cloud. Twice in five years! Who'd wanna be number three?" The man's voice sounded tired.
"He's a cute little guy, though.” The woman's softer voice was hopeful. “Maybe they'll find somebody willing to take him."
"A five year old? Not very likely." The man sighed. "Well, he's off to Clareshome for now. They can hold him and deal with the paperwork while he goes into the system. I'm swamped. There's some legal stuff here, from his biological parents. Perkins. That's the name, right?"
"Something like that. His legal name is Donnelly now. Wonder how many more times it'll change before he grows up?"
Alex saw himself, a small boy being led down a long hallway by the clutching hand of a stranger.
He stood, hunched his shoulders against the memories that slipped like slivers of ice through his veins, and turned away from the table. He took a long-handled axe down from beside the door and went outside. The cold bite of late August air hit him like a slap but he breathed it in and deliberately turned his thoughts toward preparations for winter. His wood supply was getting low. There wasn't much left to split, but he fell into it with an easy, familiar rhythm. It was the kind of work he loved - physical and mindless.
But now his mind would not stop. Questions swirled one upon another like small whirlwinds stirring up everything in their path. And in the midst of them, two names glowed like red-hot brands. Two names he had always wondered about.
He stopped, pulled his T-shirt off and used it to wipe the sweat from his face and the back of his neck. His hand brushed the scar that ran down diagonally from the base of his right ear. He dropped the hand quickly.
Resting the axe against the chopping block, he left the wood where it lay and went back into the cabin. He stared again at the legal papers. He was tempted to toss them into the stove. He didn't need this. He didn't want it. It was too dangerous to go back. But what if ...
"Janis Perrin." He said the name aloud and picked up the documents. It was then he realized he had started to shake.


Hi - can anyone tell me how to get the sidebar at the bottom up to where it should be, beside these posts? In "dummie" language please! :)Marci

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New Book

Hi everyone. Here's a look at my new book. Order form below too! :)Marci

With an emphasis on those special occasions when an apt word needs to be spoken, Focused Reflections provides inspirational thoughts that can be read over and over. Many have requested this addition to Marcia Laycock’s first devotional book, The Spur of The Moment.

Order yours today! – A great gift idea

1 copy $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping (5.00 in US)
2 copies 30.00 plus $6.00 shipping (8.00 in US)
3 copies 40.00 plus $6.00 shipping (8.00 in US)
4 copies 50.00 plus $8.00 shipping (10.00 in US)

Send cheque or money order to:

VineMarc Literary Services, 5007 42A Street, Ponoka, Alberta Canada T4J 1M3

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why Write?

This was recently posted to a listserve I belong to -

"As part of my job, I wrote for a paycheque - but I had a hard time justifying the time used to write Christian fiction. To write for God, but not publish...I could not figure out nor justify that writing time as working in God's service."

I have struggled with this issue too much over the years, as I've looked at the stack of paper sitting on my shelf that may never see a publisher's stamp of approval. I used to just remind myself that I'm still apprenticing, but that often didn't help much. But then I started coming across some quotes - like this one by Henri Nouwen -

"Writing is a process in which we discover what lives within us. The writing, itself, reveals what is alive! The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know."

That rang so true for me. And then there' s this one by Diane Ackerman -
"Writing, which is my form of celebration and prayer, is also my way of inquiry."

God has taught me so much about Himself as I've written. It's kind of like the day I had to go and teach a class in Religious Ed. to a bunch of grade five kids, when I hadn't slept at all the night before because I'd discovered that my daughter had put herself in a life-threatening situation. I was angry at God and told him so all the way to the school. I'd tried to cancel the class, but God wouldn't let me, which perversely made me even more angry. Then, when I got there, the kids fired questions at me from the minute I stepped in the door. They were basic questions - Does God see us? Does He care? Does He really help us? And as I answered, as my lips formed the words that my mind knew were true, my heart was awakened to that reality again and I left there rejoicing at His mercy and grace and goodness.

Writing does the same thing for me, whether I'm writing a short devotional or a novel - it reveals to my heart what I know to be true but too often forget. It's kind of like this quote from George Bowering in The Brick Reader -

"I guess I want to trick reality into revealing itself."

I also like this one by Madeleine L'Engle - "Why do we make art? It is not that what is, is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place." That one is especially true in terms of the novel I'm working on, whose main character has suffered through his first 21 years of life. Some of what I've put down on the page echoes my own experience and it has helped me to understand it all in a new light, a wider light.

I firmly believe this one - "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write." --William Makepeace Thackeray. And God wants to teach us as we are faithful to the gift He's given us - we may never be published, but we are obeying him as we write and discover those things in ourselves that are part of Him.

Joyce Carol Oates said - (the writer) "creates himself, imagines himself, sometimes renames himself as one might name a fictitious character in a work of art. And the impulse can rise to the level of a sacred obligation ."

So, I write because I believe it's His way of dealing with me, changing me, drawing me into His presence and reforming me into His image. It's life to me for that reason.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


This is a portrait my daughter did of me when she was about 8 years old. She's now 20 and has just designed the cover for my next devotional book. Look for that in days to come.
Now it's late and I must to bed. :) M


Seems like I've been signing my life away lately. We just signed a reef of mortgage papers and then the contract for my next devotional book arrived. I just signed it and will mail it off tomorrow. It's a self-publishing deal, so I'll be sending money with it. Maybe some day I'll be signing a contract that will mean money coming back. Or maybe not. Money isn't the issue. I know I'll make back what I put into this book in much more than coin and paper.
My daughter designed the cover, and that's been a thrill. Knowing God intends to use the contents is even more so.
All to His glory.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Celebration Post

"... under the imaginary table that separates me from my readers, don't we secretly clasp each other's hands?" ~ Bruno Schulz

Interesting quote. I like the give and take imagery - that a reader is reaching out to me as I reach out to him/her. As a reader I can see myself doing that - hoping the writer will succeed in giving me a worthwhile read. I know he/she has succeeded when I forget there is a writer.

As a writer I want to do that - strive to do it - to connect to such an extent that the reader enters in and forgets about me while he/she engages in the story. If the reader has grasped my hand, at that point she'd forget she's hanging on.

I've read books in which the author was too intrusive - sometimes the language is just a bit too literary, or the voice of a character suddenly takes on a tone that isn't true. Those things throw me off and I'm likely to put the book down. But then there are other times when the authenticity is gripping and the story draws me along like the hexing flow of a fast-moving river.
I'd like to acheive that balance of fast pace and 'literary' writing - a fine edge to walk.

Some books I think acheived it -
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; The Weeping Chamber by Sigmund Brouwer; Gilead by Marilyn Robinson; Bad Ground by Dale Cramer

A Bride Most Begrudging

Deeanne Gist's new romance A Bride Most Begrudging is Number 1 on theCBD Bestseller's List (Christian Book Distributors) list and number 15 on the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) Bestseller's List. It has already gone to second printing and may be on its way to a third. Find out more about the book at Deeanne's site - or on her blog -
You can purchase the book at Amazon -

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Forgiving Solomon Long

Hello folks. Just want to point you to a book that's receiving good reviews. Go to this link
And check out the author's web site
If you like thrills mixed with a message, you'll love Forgiving Solomon Long.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Wrench on the Work

I had a humbling experience this morning. I went to our local Curves for my morning workout. Yes, that is humbling in itself, but there was more! :)
One of the staff had a tool box and several wrenches laid out on the floor as she serviced one of the machines. I watched her as I made my way around the circuit. I was breathing hard by the time I reached her and my eyes dropped to the tools. She had laid out a sheet of newspaper under them, and there, peaking out from under a screwdriver and a smudge of grease was my photograph. The first paragraph of my weekly column lay under the handle of a wrench. I was tempted to ask if she'd noticed, if she'd read the column before spreading her tools out over it. I chuckled to myself. So much for the power of the word, I thought.

But then I remembered the woman who wrote a while ago to say how much my column means to her. She's housebound with a debilitating disease and can't even get to church most Sundays. There was also a note from a woman in a country where there are very few believers. She called my column a life-line.

It's letters like those that keep me going. I know not even a wrench on the work can interfere with what God wants to do with it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fighting the dragon

I've been fighting the dragon of discouragement lately, trying to convince myself that 'even this shall pass,' that in a couple of months I'll be able to revert to my routine and get some writing done. But I feel the panic, the tension mounting as the weeks go by and little writing happens. I find myself marking time by the events that will take me closer to some free time. Stampede is over - a busy time in lots of ways - so maybe now ...

I did manage to get my column done last week - though it was late. Maybe this week I'll get something done on my WsIP.

Hoping. M

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

writing in my head

I've been immersed in job training lately. Learning new skills, interacting with new people. It's been hard to find the time to get to my keyboard, but I find that doesn't stop my mind from following its well worn paths toward creating fictional scenes and characters. I started playing "what-if" about one of my colleagues the other day and had to give my head a shake to bring myself back to reality. I've already used one incident to write my column and I'm sure there will be many more in that workplace. It's a going concern and leaves lots of room for fodder for my writer's mill.
Someone once told me that our activities actually make paths in our brains that become like ruts. They will always follow the same route and are very hard to veer away from. I wondered about that as I watched my daughter writing the other day. Yes, she's taking after me - has already filled several scrap books. I wondered how she got started doing it. Was it genetics? Was it the desire to be like me? Or is there a well worn path in her brain along which story-telling thoughts just naturally go?
Maybe that's where they get the word pathological? Oh dear!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fiction Celebration

Hello and Welcome to the June 2005 edition of the Celebration of Christian Fiction.
We were asked to write to the quote by E.B.White – “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” But some have posted other thoughts as well.
Here are the URLs for this month’s posts: Enjoy!

Scales and Hanons for Writers
Author Violet Nesdoly writes - A great operatic voice doesn't just 'happen.' Neither does great writing.

Blog: promptings
Blog URL:

Paula Moldenhauer writes in Writing as an Act of Faith - Writing for the public often makes me feel totally inadequate. Here are a few examples.
My post is about trend-setting in the CBA and how trends are pretty happenstance. The true grit of a writer comes in their connectedness to God, not their ear to the trend-setting ground.

Mary DeMuth writes at - My post is about trend-setting in the CBA and how trends are pretty happenstance. The true grit of a writer comes in their connectedness to God, not their ear to the trend-setting ground.
Read her post - Blue Like Copying

Over at his blog "Learning Curve," Chris Well shares the first half of a two part Q&A with editor, critic, speaker and writer Davidae "Dee" Stewart about Third Thursdays, held during the summer months in Atlanta. As described by Dee, house readings are "gathering places for slam poets, spoken word artists, creative non-fiction essayists, flash fiction writers, novelists, and playwrights to gather and share their work with their community, eat, drink and network. And to hear an occasional psalmist / musician / singer / holy hip hopper in the house."

follow the link to Chris’s post -

And Dee herself has a post on her blog, christianfiction, in which she gives us something to do before we work on our WIP.Post: Is Father There?Link:

Writing is an act of faith, but sending it out into the world requires even more faith for Linda Gilmore. But she's learning to take that step.
Read her thoughts at blogspot -

Are you a tad obsessed with getting published?
Mick Silva ( recommends Dave Long's comments on
"The Will to Publish." (
“Dave speaks for many frustrated industry professionals in this post, so just in case anyone missed it, if you're serious about challenging these assumptions in yourself, it will save you a lot of time and hassle when it comes time to submit your writing for publication.”

Jeanne Damoff writes - I'm not exactly sure what E.B. White meant by, "Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar." I like to think of faith and imagination as sisters. Imagination ignites faith and gives it form. Sometimes that form is words.
Click the link to read more of “Anniversary Gifts”

Writing your passion is an act of faith that isn't always comfortable or easy.
So says Pat Loomis. Read “Writing from a Place of Faith” at Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

Kathleen Popa writes – “The world is changed by people with faith enough to find their own message, to struggle with the angels in their souls.” She also completed the quote by E.B. White and it’s worth checking out.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.All sorts of things occur to help that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance which no man or woman would have dreamed could have come his way.Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.Boldness has genius, power, and magic to it.Begin it now."Goethe

“…that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” Goethe

Let’s play what if. What if Abram didn’t pull up the tent pegs and set off from Ur. What if Noah didn’t pick up the hammer? What if Moses didn’t pick up the staff? What if Gideon didn’t climb out of the winepress and break down the altar to Baal? What if Joshua didn’t march around Jericho? What if Ruth didn’t go with Naomi? What if David didn’t take the provisions to his brothers on the front lines? What if Solomon didn’t build the temple? What if Shaphan the secretary didn’t read the book of the Law to Josiah? What if Josiah didn’t tear his robes? What if Esther stayed home? What if Daniel didn’t pay attention to his dreams? What if Matthew didn’t walk away from the tax collectors booth? What if Peter didn’t put down his nets?

What if you don’t take up your pen?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Bold and Courageous

This is my second address from Inscribe's WorDshop 2005 – Abiding Writers. A CD of this session will soon be available from Inscribe's web site or from my web site.

As abiding writers we must be willing to let our hearts be broken and molded. We must be willing to crack our sentences open and peel away the outer skin of our paragraphs. We must bear the responsibility of the gift.
Earlier I talked about the necessity of holding on to Jesus and to his Word. We must let the word of God sink into our hearts and minds, and, more importantly, we must let it change us. Sometimes we have to let it draw blood. We have to let it work in our lives and in our writing, to the point where we are willing to face the ugliness in ourselves and in the world around us. We have to let it work to the point where we are willing to struggle with that ugliness as we portray it in our work, as we experience it in our lives.

I think perhaps as Christian writers we tend to shy away from this. We want to write only about what is pleasant and wholesome. Our novels have to have a conversion experience by the end of the story and our poetry has to depict only the beauty of God’s creation. There is nothing wrong with writing about those things, but there is much more to the reality of life. I think perhaps we stop too soon. We picture the strong healthy tree but we don’t go where the roots are, sunk deep into layers of things that have died. We stay too much on the surface.

In his wonderful book, Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorback talks about cracking open sentences and bits of writing where we have remained on the surface of things, where we have slipped into a kind of voice over and distanced ourselves from the truth in the story. He challenges his students to go deeper.

We all resist doing this because it might mean we’ll bleed. There seems to be an underlying belief that facing what is painful and ugly in life is somehow denying the goodnes of God. But that is not what the Bible teaches. Listen to Psalm 12:6 (KJV) says – “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. “Tried in a furnace of earth.” That doesn’t sound pleasant to me. “Purified seven times.” That sounds like struggle and anguish and pain that has been forged into what is pure and wholesome. That sounds like process, not instantaneous perfection.

I was a pottery student many years ago. When I decided I wanted to do pottery, I thought it would be fairly easy. All you do is play around with the clay, right? I discovered there are many skills to be learned to become a potter, some of them quite difficult to master. It takes time to acquire those skills and there is a lot of knowledge to be gained – I discovered a potter has to be a geologist, an electrician and a chemist. And then there is the sort of mystical side of it all – the mystery of what makes a piece of work turn out beautiful, and even, in a way, inspirational.

As I began to learn all these things, I found out that you can’t use just any old clay to make pottery. It has to be the right consistency, the right combination of elements. Some clay is too fine. When it’s thrown on a wheel it won’t stand up, won’t keep its shape, won’t survive the heat of the kiln, so a substance called grog is added. Grog is clay that has been previously fired in the kiln, then ground into fine particles. Grog sometimes hurts. As you throw a pot on the wheel you can feel it scraping your hands. Sometimes it even makes them bleed.

Our writing needs grog. We must put the stuff of real life into it, or it won’t hold up. We must struggle through the pain to find the redemption, and own the truth we say we believe. Writing coach Natalie Goldberg has said -"A writer must be willing to sit at the bottom of the pit, commit herself to stay there, and let all the wild animals approach, even call them up, then face them, write them down, and not run away."

We can so easily wrap ourselves in a very comfortable theology and not do what God wants us to do. We like to stay safe in our comfortable lives and we like to stay safe in our writing. As a Christian, I wrapped myself in a lot of theology, things I said I believed. Over time, they became comfortable, familiar, and made me feel quite safe. Until I met a woman named Teri.

The first time Teri walked through the doors of our church, she extended her hand to my husband, the pastor, and said, “I want you to know I’m infected. I have AIDS.” Perhaps it was the shock of her bluntness, but I immediately felt something give way inside me, as though the parameters of our safety had been breached. Panic rose to replace my sense of comfort.

My husband and I had visited a friend who had died of AIDS not long before. The mental picture of his emaciated face was still very real, but that had been far away, in another city. Facing an AIDS victim in the doorway of our own little church was much different. It abruptly threatened my cocoon-like world. It shattered the illusion of well being and forced me to look in the face of pain and struggle.

As Teri stood in the doorway that day, I felt the parameters of my theology also begin to crumble. “Love one another,” my theology said, “Do unto others; Give a cup of cold water.” On and on, the theology rang in my ears while I observed others in the congregation care for Teri and her daughter. The carpeted foyer of our church seemed to echo with Jesus’ words. Words like, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matt. 25:45). I began to question what I really believed. Did I trust God? Did I trust Him enough to involve myself in this woman’s life, when that involvement could be dangerous and undoubtedly painful? What was I trying to protect so desperately? I began to ponder, with new perspective, what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil.1:21).

I pondered more as my husband and I began picking Teri’s daughter Brittany up for Sunday school – a little six year old girl also dying of AIDS. She was the same age as my own daughter, Meagan. Watching Meagan take her hand and lead her to the Sunday School class tore at the fear and callousness that was keeping me at a distance – keeping me on the surface - and it began to bridge the gap between my theology and my life.

Teri and Brittany were living in that precious, precarious state known as the brink of immortality. As we spent time ministering to her, she ministered to us. She entered into our lives, asked the probing questions that unraveled our pain, showing us the barriers of fear and mistrust that were keeping us from loving as we should.

Two days before she died, Teri sat in her wheel chair in the hospital lounge and we talked about going for a drive to see the fall colors. It didn’t take long to go from that superficial diversion of my world, into hers. She gave me one of her probing looks and then we talked about purpose: “I think I’ve been here to teach you,” she said. Aware of the irony of her words, there was a glint of mischief in her eyes when she spoke. Teri had never been a mature Christian nor a Godly role model, yet she was teaching me what faith meant, what trust looked like, what deep healing was really all about. She simply presented herself, flawed, diseased, and without speaking a word she said, “Here I am. What will you do with me?”

That short span of time when I struggled with what to with Teri was the grog in the clay of my theology. It’s what made it stand up – it’s what made it able to withstand the fire and be shaped into something useful, something beautiful and even something inspirational.

Writer Marianne Jones has said - “Creating is God’s gift to us, God’s way of taking the wreckage and broken pieces of our lives and recycling them into something more extraordinary than the original.”

Bill Roorbach’s book is full of exercises, some of them dealing with life mapping. It’s a fun process and there are different ways of doing it – one of the exercizes in R’s book is to map your childhood neighbourhood. As I did that exercise, all kinds of things came to the surface – people and places, incidents and even snatches of conversations. It was a writer’s dream! There was one memory that seemed particularly vivid, of a day when I was sitting on the front step of our house. My mother was there and I was crying. I wanted to go to the nearby store for ice cream. Then my father appeared in the memory. I remembered he gave me some money and sent me off to the store by myself, an unheard of thing until that day.

As I began to write that story, putting down all the details, the surface things, I realized there was something more there, something deeper, something disturbing. At first I tried to ignore those feelings. I just wanted to write a simple little story. But the more I wrote the more I could feel the tension in the story and in myself. So I asked my mother if she had any memory about that day. She was amazed that I remembered it. That was the day my father had closed his business and came home to tell her they would have to sell the house. That was the day the tension that had been in our home erupted and came close to destroying our family. I haven’t finished that short story yet, I’m still trying to crack open the sentences and the paragraphs. Those cracks have led to some things that I haven’t wanted to face about my childhood. It’s not an easy process but I know in the end it will be a far deeper and more useful story than I originally intended. Perhaps it might even be something beautiful, something inspirational.

Many of us have a lot of skill as writers. We’ve paid our dues, we’ve reached a level of comfort with our craft. Perhaps it’s time to go deeper, to put a little grog into our work – the stuff that will make us bleed, the stuff of truth.

I remember hearing the story about the Nobel prize winning author Eli Wiessel. As a young journalist in Paris he was assigned to interview a well-known Christian man and when that man began to talk about Jesus, Wiessel became angry. He said, don’t talk to me about your Jesus. Only a short distance from here unspeakable things happened. And we can’t express them. Don’t you understand? We can’t say the words.” That Christian man, with tears in his eyes, encouraged the young journalist to try, to try and find the words to say what was inexpressible because of its horror. I can’t imagine the pain it must have caused Eli Wiessel to write that story but he did open that vein and the result is the Nobel prize-winning book, Night, and a body of work that is powerful, noble, beautiful and inspirational.

Madeleine L’Engle has said - “The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.”

This is our responsibility – to struggle toward that wholeness in our lives and in our work. To take our work deeper, to make sure it has enough grog in it to ensure that it will stand, to put it through the kiln and ensure that it will be something useful, something beautiful, something inspirational. And all to the Glory of God because it’s His plan for us, His plan for our work.

This essay is part of the Celebration of Christian Fiction. Read more great essays etc at the Celebration -

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More Celebration

The Celebration of Christian Fiction is up. Check out these great posts at:

The Primary Word

The following is the address I gave at WorDshop 2005, the Spring event sponsored by Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship

Plenary Friday Night – The Primary Word –writing as children of God
You can’t get blood from a stone. In order for us to pour out our life’s blood on the page, we must be solidly connected to His word and yielded to the Holy Spirit.
My husband and I have three daughters – the oldest, Katie, is 22 and just moved up to Edmonton to continue her journey toward a Masters in Speech Pathology. Our youngest, Meagan just turned 16 yesterday and has one of the leading roles in a high school musical production. I hope you don’t mind me bragging just a little.

Our middle daughter, Laura, turned 20 in January, and is, in more ways than one right now, in between. She finished a course at Grant MacEwan two years ago and has been working in the city since then, but not entirely satisfied with where she is and what she’s doing. She felt the Lord had something more for her. So she has taken a leap of faith and has applied to SIM to go and do mission work in Bangladesh.

As she launched herself onto this path she has had to make some decisions and that’s never been easy for Laura. She’s one of those people who has a perpetually positive outlook so she can see good in every decision and has a hard time deciding which is best. She sent me an email a while ago, saying she was having a hard time deciding if she should stay in the city, paying high rent, having to drive across the city to work, etc. or if she should come home. She’d be able to save more money at home and get her student loan paid off more quickly but … she has a good group of friends in Edm., a good church in which she’s very involved. So she just couldn’t decide.

As a mom, my first instinct was to tell her what to do. And I think you can guess what I wanted to tell her. But I restrained myself and told her to keep praying. The next morning I was reading some scripture and came across Psalm 84. After reading it, I emailed Laura and typed out vs. 3 – “Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young – a place near your altar, oh Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” I told my daughter, “nest yourself near The Lord,” and it won’t matter where you fly.

Over and over again, God calls us to do this – to nest near him. “Abide in me,” He says, “Hide in me. Let me gather you under my wing, stay close.” I think God repeats it so much in His word because he knows how prone we are to not doing it. We so easily fall away, separate ourselves from the source of nourishment and protection. And He knows how dangerous that is. He knows there are a lot of dark corners in this world.

When I was in university, an eon or so ago, I had the opportunity to go to Europe with a girl friend. We found ourselves in Lisbon Portugal one day, looking at a map and trying to figure out how to get to the castle of Sao Jorge, or St. George, which is built on the top of one of the hills that the city is made up of. As I was sitting there a young man came along and asked what we were looking for. He told us his name was Guiermo (sp?), and quickly pointed out where we could catch a bus to get to the castle, but then he offered to take us there himself. He said, “I’ll take you where no tourist would go.”

Being adventurous and more than a little naive, we said yes. Guiermo took us through a portion of the city called Alfama – the oldest section of Lisbon. I had never been in any kind of slum before, so entering that place was a shock. The streets were extremely narrow. The sun could not penetrate there so it was cold and very dark. Guiermo stopped just as we were entering Alfama. “Stay close,” he said. There were men lingering in doorways, smoking and staring at us as we passed; women cooking on open braziers, stood upright and stared. There were lots of very dirty children and what seemed like hundreds of chickens in that crowded, dark place.

I began to realize we had done a very stupid thing. We were in a potentially dangerous place with a complete stranger. The street sloped slowly upwards and eventually became a long series of worn stone stairs. As we began to climb I grabbed hold of Guiermo’s shirt and stared at the hole of light above us where the street ended and opened out onto a wide sunny boulevard. I held onto his shirt until we stepped out onto that street.

Stay close, Jesus says, because you live in a dangerous place. You will walk through dark places and I am the only one who can lead you through safely. I’m sure many of us here know the truth of those words. We’ve been through dark places in our lives – perhaps some of us are there now - and holding on to Jesus is the only way to get through them.

But how does this relate to us as writers? Well, we are a peculiar lot, aren’t we? We sit for hours in front of a computer, working and re-working our stories, our poetry, our articles.

Some of what we write is what I call “just do it” work – the kind that you can ream off fairly quickly. You put your mind into it, you use the skills you’ve developed and you get the job done, but only a small part of ‘you’ goes onto the page.

But then there are those other pieces, the writing you pour your mind, heart and soul into. A man called Walter Wellesley Smith has said – “Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down at a keyboard and open a vein.” When we write those kinds of pieces, the kind that are in a sense, written in our own blood, they are more than just words on a page to us. They are part of our heart, part of soul. They are precious to us and it takes a lot of courage to send them off to someone who may not recognize the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into them. And then they come back with not so much as a line of encouragement, but just a form letter saying the ms. doesn’t meet the publisher’s needs. Or the pages are slashed with red marks and maybe even nasty comments.

That puts a writer into a dark place. Many of us have been there. It’s easy to take the criticism personally. After all, it’s our life’s blood we’ve spilled onto that page. We can easily believe that our words are unworthy, and we are too. Despair comes creeping in, or arrives like a knife in the gut.

Or perhaps you’ve had some success. You’ve managed to be published and received a level of appreciation, even acclaim. Then one day you sit down at the computer and nothing happens. Your mind seems to have gone into some kind of neutral zone where inspiration is unheard of and creativity just isn’t there. That can be a very dark place for a writer, especially if it lasts for some time.

When we as writers walk into those dark places, we need to be holding on to someone’s shirt. We need to know that there is someone who cares about us, someone guiding us, someone who will keep us moving forward. When we are clinging to the shirt of Christ, we are able to keep going, even though we’ve been rejected, even though we feel dried out and incapable of writing another common word, let alone anything inspirational. We need to know who loves us.

What is it that will make us reach for Him? Let me go back to the other metaphor - we need to have nested close to the Lord. Think about that picture for a moment. What would that bird see – that one nesting at the temple of God? She would see the priests going in and out, the believers singing songs of praise and offering sacrifice. She would hear the Word of God being read and she would sense the presence of God dwelling there.

When we nest close to the Lord we get to know Him, through his word and his people - the two main sources of guidance, encouragement, protection. And as we engage in the reality of these things, we get to know God’s character, His heart, the depth of His love for us. And then nothing else matters, then the idea that we may never be published in the top Christian magazines doesn’t matter. The idea that we might never be as famous as Max Lucado doesn’t even cause a blip on our radar. The fact that our novel has been rejected fifteen times doesn’t stop us. We reach for Jesus and keep going.

But what about all our dreams as writers, you ask? Shouldn’t we be striving for the top magazines and the skill of Max Lucado? Absolutely. But we should not be obsessed with those dreams. Neither should we be obsessed with the work we are doing. We should be obsessed with only one thing and that is to know Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God. Anything less is “Rubbish” – manure, as Paul called it in Philippians 3:8. Yes, all the knowledge you have, all the skill as a writer that you’ve acquired, it’s all rubbish compared to “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

The good news is that when we arrive at that place we are, like Paul, freed to do the work He has planned for us to do. It’s a paradox, that once we have released our death grip on our gift, we are freed to function within it.

This is what God intends – He is the Primary Word and He demands first place in our lives and in our work. The good news is, He has it all planned out.

I love Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I used to think of that verse in terms of helping people – the practical stuff like delivering meals to the elderly, visiting the sick, teaching Sunday School. And of course that’s all included. But have you ever thought of your writing as the good work God has prepared for you to do?
Philip Yancy tells a story about feeling out of the loop as many of us can –His wife was out there doing “good works,” ministering to the poor, and when she came home and asked how his day went he answered, “Well, I found a great adverb today!” It can feel like we aren’t serving God the way we should, sometimes. And that can turn into a dark place. We need to realize our work is our service to God and to God’s people, and determine to function at the highest level in that role. It is of high value to God.

I began to realize this was true after publishing my devotional book The Spur of the Moment. I realized it as I received e-mails telling me about life-changing events in people’s lives. LIFE CHANGING! How could this be? The book is so small – it has such a poor cover - the stories are just anecdotes put into a spiritual context. How could something so small be life changing? It is so because God makes it so. That work was planned before I was born and the Son of God – Jesus himself prayed for those who would read it!

In John 17, verses 17 &18 – “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Jesus was speaking about his disciples but he doesn’t stop there. He continues with the wonderful verse that comes after it – v. 20 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”

“Through their message.” Interesting that He didn’t say, through my message. In a recent edition of Image Magazine the editor wrote about writers like Graham Greene and Flannery O'Connor who "re-imagined the Christian faith for a secular age." In other words, they wrote old stories within a new context. They made the message their own, let it seep into their hearts, minds and souls and then let it pour out. The were inspired and their work was inspirational. Inspired – breathed into. Inspirational – that breath flowing back out into the world.

As writers who are Christian, that is what we must attempt to do. Write from our own world experience, your world view of life, of faith. Tell all the old stories – for there is nothing new under the sun - but tell them from the uniqueness of your perspective. Because someone out there needs the words you will write. Somewhere out there is perhaps just one person whom God has prepared to read your words at the right time and place. Or perhaps it will be thousands or even millions. The numbers don’t matter. What matters is that we do our best with what God gives us and let Him do the rest.

So how do we maintain that perspective? How to we live in that reality? You all know the answer to that question. Nest close to the Lord. Engage in and cherish the fellowship of believers. Read your Bible. Oh what a cliché that has become! But we need it so desperately. We need to study the Word – The Primary Word - and get to know the one who wrote it. It’s there we’ll discover all the encouragement we need, in those times of rejection we’ll find all the words that will help us to cling onto God’s shirt and follow him until that moment when we will step out into the glorious sunshine and be face to face with Him.

So hear this, His primary word – Abide in Me!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Old Story. New Context

In her wonderful book, The Ordering of Love, Madeleine L’Engle wrote a poem called Child of Abraham. She’s on a train, comfortable in a warm compartment, watching the people outside blow cold like smoke. Then a conductor comes and tells her she has to get off that comfortable train. He takes her to a battered, cold train and doesn’t answer when she asks where they are going.
Old story. New context.
In Image Magazine (#38) the editor wrote about writers like Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor who "re-imagined the Christian faith for a secular age." In other words, they wrote old stories within a new context.
As a writer who is Christian, that is what I attempt to do. I write from my world experience, my worldview of life, of faith. I tell old stories – for there is nothing new under the sun – but the context is new, unique in the world as I am unique in the world.
The trick is to be true to that, to keep from falling into the trap of imitation and illusion, instead of stepping into the light of imagination and authenticity.
I just finished Bad Ground by Dale Cramer. Old story. New context. It works so well.
I pray as I attempt it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Forgiven By Reason of Good Intention

In this short interview, writer Gloria Sawai talks about writing about concepts of grace and redemption rather than religion. I think this is perhaps where some of us, myself included, fail. In our zeal to communicate the message of the gospel, we try too hard. We give the answers before the reader has time to ask the questions. It is a failing that can be forgiven, if only by reason of good intention, but it makes for weak writing.

This makes me think of Sawai's moving story, A Song for Nettie Johnson, in the book by the same name. The story made me ache for Nettie and her husband, yet there is a thread of grace, of redemption, of even joy in it, that rings so true. Perhaps that's what made me ache.

Perhaps as writers we try too hard to rid our readers of the ache, the longing for wholeness that we all feel. We want to fix them, to draw them into the relationship with Jesus that we know will do that. But we forget that it is the longing, the aching, the painful process that accomplishes what Jesus needs to do in our lives. Perhaps it's not the end we should be trying to depict, but the getting there, the universal epic journey of a soul trying to find its place.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Perspective is Everything

There was a time when I perceived my life to be out of joint. I'd only been married a short while and my husband had chosen to take a job that kept him away from home for weeks at a time. I was not happy. I told him I didn't get married to live life as a single woman. He told me he had a five year plan. I brooded and almost told him that if he intended to live that five year plan he could live it with someone else.

Then I did something very stupid. I borrowed a friend's one-man rubber raft and launched out, alone, onto the Yukon River. I figured it would take me three days to get to my friend's cabin and by the end of that three days I had to make up my mind about my marriage.

I wasn't far from the spot where I'd launched myself onto the river, when I realized I was totally committed to doing what I'd said I'd do. I couldn't go back - the fast Yukon current only flows one way - and it was obvious I'd put myself in an extremely vulnerable position. It only takes two minutes to die in the silty waters of the Yukon River. I was alone, in a rubber raft barely big enough to hold me, and I wasn't even exactly sure where I was going. The raft was also missing a paddle, which meant every time I took a stroke I went in circles, so it took a long time to get from one side of the river to the other.

But after drifting for several hours I began to relax into a sense that there was something huge around me - something much bigger, much more significant than my problems or my vulnerability. The Yukon winds through some beautiful country and as my little craft swirled slowly toward Alaska, I began to feel the immensity of it. I watched rain sweep down through valleys and rifts in the hillsides, clouds scudding so low they seemed like messengers, and rainbows shifting within the mist like flags of promise. I smelled the sweetness of a slope of poplar trees and the earthiness of fresh bear dung. I saw salmon flipped from the water by fish wheels driven by the momentum of the current and bald eagles perched on the swaying tops of spruce trees, waiting.

And by the time I reached my destination I had gained perspective. My problems seemed not quite so momentous, not quite so life-shaking. I decided my marriage was something I had committed to, with all the resident possibilities of failure and danger, and all the vulnerability, just like that river trip.

Writing is a lot like that too. It's a commitment that opens your mind to accept not only your vulnerabilities, but also a widened perspective on your work. You sense there is something much bigger happening than just the mere words printed on a page. You begin to see the beauty and vastness of the country around you. You realize you may be the tiniest part of it, but that there is purpose there. It is your country, this river you have launched yourself onto, and there is no going back. You begin to realize there is much you are to learn from the journey.

There have been times when I've wanted to give up, wanted to tell God he could rope someone else into this "write" plan. But then I launch out, in my little rubber raft called a poem or a short story or a novel, and my perspective changes. I glimpse the bigness. I relax. I engage in the joy.

I'm still committed to my marriage and I hope I'll remain committed to the gift of words God has given me. It's a very small raft but it keeps me afloat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Day for Dying

My dog died today. She's been under my feet for about 14 years - always acted like she was a puppy the minute I came in the door, even tho' she was old many years ago. I just had to go back and change that sentence to past tense.

Then I got an email from the acquisitions editor that was considering my ms. It wasn't good news.

I'd been expecting my dog to die. She was old. I was expecting the ms. to be rejected. It has some major flaws.

But it was still a bad day.

Except for two hours when I went to lunch with my friend Linda. God knew I'd need her today. She's a poet with the soul of a saint and we talked about being real in our work, about writing what we know instead of what we think someone else wants to read. We talked about the importance of authenticity. Interesting word, that.

We talked about my friend Doug, who's dying and the way he's being real about that. The way we need to live and work as though we're dying too. Because we are.

Then I realized I'd been able to lay my hand on my dog's heart one last time and cry a bit before having to go on with a day that was full of doing what needed to be done. And I'm thankful. For the 14 years that little bit of fur and bone was underfoot and for friends who can make you feel better just by sipping a cup of tea on the other side of a table, and for a day full of mundane things that are so beautiful in their rhythm you hardly notice. And for that word 'hardly,' for the fact that I did notice; for the hope that gives me, that maybe I will be a little more authentic because my dog died, my friend is on his way, and so am I.

And for an editor that said no in a way that made me believe I could still achieve the dreams I have about words strung together on a page.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Writerly Fear

Sir Walter Scott has been quoted as saying – "In literature, as in love, courage is half the battle." Courage is defined in the Oxford dictionary as the ability to disregard fear. Why would this quality be important to writers? What fears are there to be overcome?

The answer is perhaps as varied as the writers themselves, but there are common denominators. There's fear of making mistakes, which keeps us from making the phone call for that interview; fear of public scrutiny, which keeps us from writing that column in the local paper; fear of failure, which keeps our manuscripts in hidden files on our computer; fear of success, which allows cynicism to convince us we are better off staying small fish in small ponds.
Courage is as essential a tool to a writer as the paper and pen, or keyboard, used to write. Without courage, the devil wins.
So how do we conquer our writerly fears? They are conquered with the knowledge that God has called us to write, conquered with a confidence that He will open the doors and show us how to walk through them.
With each step taken in that knowledge, our confidence will grow as we see evidence that God is with us, leading us on a journey that will lead to His best for us. The fears are conquered with the joy of knowing in our minds and hearts that we are at the centre of God’s will when we write. And above all, with love, the one force flowing through us, to Him and from Him, which conquers fear completely and forever.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Vertical Calling, Horizontal Purpose

I was in good company – the writers at the table were Christians and our discussion was evidence of the fact. We were trying to decide what a panel of writers would discuss at the end of a one-day workshop. Someone suggested the question, "Are you a Christian Writer or a Christian who writes?" As he made the suggestion, Ron added, "Maybe that one has been done too much. Maybe we should come up with something else."

The discussion that ensued helped us realize this was a topic that would always spark worthwhile comments.
One of the instructors at the table made a statement that I feel encapsulated the core of the discussion. She said she believed her calling was to a relationship with God. Her purpose was to fulfill that calling, by writing.
It’s a vertical calling, a horizontal purpose. We are all to follow Jesus. He is the Prime Mentor, His example one of pure integrity and singleness of purpose. He lived to do His Father’s will. His every breath came from and went to His Father.

As our Prime Mentor, Jesus shows us not only how to live, but how to write. His speech was always full of grace. When He was angry, He did not sin. When He wanted to teach, He took the time and effort necessary. When He told stories, He made them come alive. He knew His audience and used what was familiar to them. Nothing He said was empty. Jesus used no superfluous words. All of them pointed to His Father.

It has taken me many years to sort through the question we tossed out at that workshop. Am I a Christian writer or a Christian who writes? I have concluded that if I am a Christian, in relationship with Jesus, I will write, fulfilling my purpose in this time and place. It is the way and means to be in relationship with Him, personally and corporately. It is the method He has given me to help others to grow in that relationship. Vertical calling. Horizontal Purpose.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Whining in Alberta

You speak with thunder and lightning
Your voice shakes the mountains
And all I can offer is this fragile breath
And with each one I'll praise You - Todd Agnew

"All I can offer is this fragile breath"

I'm feeling like my breath is pretty fragile these days - in fact, it seems downright wimpy.
I've just been reading over some of my WIP and it's depressing. I feel as though I should give up. But I know I won't. I'll go on putting sentences and paragraphs on a page, rewriting and then rewriting again. Who ever said it was supposed to be easy? I'm trying to talk myself into something here, like quit whining and get back to work. But I don't want to read those paragraphs over again. I want to chuck the whole thing and start over. Maybe that's what I'll do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Field of Words

There is an old hymn called O Sacred Head Now Wounded, the fourth verse of which reads - “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?”
What language shall I borrow? I think the author of those words was overwhelmed with the task of communicating something so astounding and so beautiful, he had no words for it, no words that could come close to expressing what was in his heart. There are times when we, as writers, have no words, when things overwhelm, either for good or bad, and we cannot write them.

In his autobiography, Eli Weisel tells of meeting with the French writer, Jean Paul Mauriac. Weisel becomes enraged as Mauriac keeps speaking about Jesus. He explodes with fury, telling him that not far from where they were sitting at that moment, thousands of Jews suffered unspeakable things, and yet, Weisel says, “We never speak about them. Can you understand that? We never speak about them!” Mauriac, moved to tears, encouraged the young Jewish journalist to find the words to tell that story. The result was the Nobel Prize winning book, Night.

We must consider that those very things we find unspeakable may be the “field” God has given us. As Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:13, is sure of the field “God has assigned to us,” we must move boldly into the fields of words He has for us. The words are there, if we but search for them, allowing the Spirit of God to guide us. We must work for them, honing our craft and never settling for 'good enough.' We must honour them by allowing them to be read, finding the markets that are right and persevering through rejection. We must, above all, learn from them, for God is teaching us through the words we write.

What language can we borrow? The language God has given, the words we struggle to find, the expressions that sing in our hearts, the bits of poetry we commit to memory, the lines from fiction and non-fiction that resonate deep with us. We borrow them all, as they become a part of us and a part of our own voice.

Step boldly into your field of words, though they may seem inadequate to express the wonder or pain in your heart. God has prepared them for you and they will speak, to you and to others.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Hi folks - check out this link -
Pat Loomis is hosting a bunch of blogs on writing. Some good stuff there! :)Marci

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Prayer and the Practice of our Trade

I heard an interesting quote recently, from the Jewish Talmud – “their prayer is in the practice of their trade.” The man quoting it was talking about working with wood, but I believe it can be just as well applied to working in words.

As we work at our trade, our writing, it becomes prayer when it is offered to God. It becomes a communication, first and foremost, One to another. Even when we have that third party, our audience, in mind, our writing can and perhaps should be primarily our connection to God. How many of you have written a piece that taught you more than it ever will the reader? How many of you have been convicted more by your own words than those who read them? How many of you have sensed the presence of God as the words spilled onto the page or screen in front of you?

No, I’m not talking about Divine inspiration. I’m talking about Divine communication. If our words do not teach us, convict us, inspire us, they will be dead words to those who read them after us. If we do not allow ourselves to be taught, convicted, inspired, we will not communicate well to our audience. It is when our writing has been communication to and from God that it throbs with passion and touches the reader. This communication, this prayer, is done at the deepest level of our hearts, our souls, and our minds. It may not happen every time we take up the tools of our craft, but it will happen if we are faithful to it and to the One who wants to use it.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Dropping Rose Petals

"Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo." (Don Marquis)

This quote makes me think of a cartoon I saw once and wish I had copied. It’s of a writer sitting at a desk surrounded by thousands of volumes in a library. An eager fan holds out a copy of his book for him to sign. The caption reads, “Being a writer must make you feel so…so significant!” The puzzled looked on the writer’s face made me laugh out loud. I know how he feels, and I’m sure you do to. In the face of the plethora of written work we often wonder why on earth we are driven to write. Hasn’t it all been said? Haven’t better writers already captured our thoughts on the page?

The answer is, ‘no.’ Your thoughts, said in your voice, have not been heard and yes, they are significant. They are significant not just because you have done your apprenticeship and reached a level of skill and expertise, but because you are you. You are a child of God, unique in the universe. The expression of that uniqueness, when done with pure motive, is honoring to your Creator. Therefore it is not only fitting that you do it, it is commanded. 1 Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” Do you see what you write as a form of God’s grace to be extended to others?

Don Marquis’ quote could leave us with a sense of futility unless we know there is an echo, even the infinitely small sound of a rose petal falling in the Grand Canyon. The smallest of echoes has meaning when it is an echo of our Creator’s purpose. So toss your rose petals to the winds, scatter them with prayer and thanksgiving!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More than We Imagine?

Quote - "But how to get our voice out there. Amidst the cacophony of competition our frail voice is drowned by the wind? Where is the Maiden of Lorraine? Where is Joan of Arc?"

Maybe I'm just feeling contrary today, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing the same drum and have been wondering if we should be looking at it from a different angle. Add to the above, Where is Jesus? Where was he when he was on this earth? Obscure, unknown, rejected and despised. His voice was certainly drowned, by the screams of those who killed Him. He has told us that if we belong to Him we should expect the same.

But look what His Father did with His obedience.

Sometimes I wonder if we underestimate the effect the believers of the world have, including those who write exclusively within and for the CBA, those who remain in "the ghetto." (I hate that expression)

Don't get me wrong, I think there is a crying need for Christians to engage the culture on all fronts, but is the Christian community not a part of that? I think so. And perhaps a much more vital part than is apparent. We don’t know what’s going on in the heavenly realms every time a CBA book is read. Is there a battle? Is there a victory won? What effect does that have on our “twirling blue marble?” I think we might be surprised.

Sometimes I wonder if what we do, especially that which is done in obedience, has a much more profound and powerful effect than we imagine.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Redeeming Words

Some time ago a friend bought me a copy of a wonderful antique book, Trench’s Study of Words. It’s a series of lectures delivered by Richard Trench, Archbishop of Dublin, in the early 1800’s. Dr. Trench talks about the fact that words not only are an invention of God, but that they reflect both the most base of human nature and the most divine of God’s. It depends on how they are used. Take, for example, the name of God. Spoken as a curse it is a word that roars with anger, frustration, the pain of this world. Spoken as praise, it is a word that sings with joy, peace, the longing and promise of being fully united with Him.

Not only do words reflect the heart and mind of the writer, they reflect his soul. In his essay titled, On the Morality of Words, Dr. Trench says – “the influence of a Divine faith working in the world ... has ... elevated, purified and ennobled a multitude of words ... until these, which once expressed only an earthly good, express now a heavenly.” Jesus raised the bar on every level. When he redeemed man, he opened the door for man to bring all within his influence into the joy of that redemption.

Words, whether they are wrapped between the covers of a novel, in a tome on counseling methods, or formed into an article or poem in a magazine, can and will direct the course of life, of a culture, of history itself. When those words come from the heart of a believer, when they are wrapped in the covering of the Holy Spirit, they can achieve more than we as writers could imagine.

An amazing story was told at the Festival of Faith and writing in Grand Rapids a few years ago. When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was released from prison some of his friends organized a gathering to celebrate. He was asked to read some of his poetry. These were words written in prison and smuggled out - words that brought courage and hope to those who lived under oppression. He began to recite those words, but, overcome by emotion, he could not go on. When he stopped, the entire audience continued, whispering the words of his poem back to him. There can be no doubt that those words directed the course of the lives of those who read them. We can assume they affected their culture. We can dare to believe they even changed the course of their history.

I believe that is the high calling of every Christian writer, to direct the language he/she uses to that level, to that higher usage. We may not reach the stature of such great writers as Solzhenitsyn, but we can reach the stature God intends for us. There is a way to ensure we reach that goal. That way can be stated in a few simple words, but is perhaps the hardest journey a human being can take. The way to accomplish such greatness is to stay close to Christ. Make sure your relationship with your creator is on solid ground. Keep that channel open and the words will flow from a healthy soul. They will be words of life, words of influence, though they be simple words.

In his essay, Dr. Trench goes on to say – “The Gospel of Christ, as it is the redemption of man, so is it in a multitude of instances the redemption of his word, freeing it from the bondage of corruption, that it should no longer be subject to vanity, nor stand any more in the service of sin or of the world, but in the service of God and of his truth.” (p.81)

The Apostle Paul tells us God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation... And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2Corinthians 5: 18,19) Let us reconcile our plain words, free them from the bondage of corruption, as Trench says, redeem them as Christ has redeemed us. Let all of what we write be in the service of God and of his truth. And let us be that “influence of a Divine faith working in the world.”