Thursday, March 30, 2006

Racism and the Words We Use

I've been editing a short work on racism for a black pastor this week; very interesting experience. I think what I've learned most from it is how much history has influenced the present, and continues to influence the future. He's managed to draw a very clear and convincing line between hundreds of years of slavery and "inferiority training" and the challenges many of my black friends face within themselves today.

In researching a certain point yesterday I came across this article, which highlights some of what I'm talking about, while pointing out how important the battle for vocabulary is in any great fight. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

fallen flower

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away: But the word of the LORD endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

I Peter 1:24-25

A friend of mine passed away two days ago. Her name was Holly. It's been years since I saw or talked to her last, but I have always thought of her as family. We worked with the same ministry for years, and she carried the presence of Jesus around with her, with her sparkling blue eyes and funny laugh, her ready smile and her unwavering commitment. She taught me how to run the industrial dishwasher (and how NOT to spray 180 degree water all over the kitchen... this she taught me by example, and I still laugh when I remember it). I prayed with her. I danced with her. I loved the Lord with her.

Holly was a young woman, and she leaves behind a husband and four children. Pray for them, if you will. In the past few years I've had many opportunities to face the fragility of life, to say goodbye... but I can't imagine what they're going through. In this physical life, which Scripture says is like the flowers in the grass, we first learn to love and to cherish. And because of the nature of this life, and because we love so much, we also learn what it means to lose something of inestimable worth. In joining our hearts with something or someone beyond ourselves, we ensure that one day we will know what it means to live with a broken heart.

Lest this post become too depressing...

Mortality is not my favourite subject, nor is it likely yours, but God doesn't shy away from the topic one little bit. Scripture constantly reminds us how fragile life is. How fleeting. And how vain... if we do not enter into a higher form of life during our time here. We are born of the flesh; that is, we enter this world in physical bodies by physical means. Jesus told Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh"... and then He said, "and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."

We who long for permanence and lasting significance will find ourselves betrayed by our own bodies, because physically every one of us is already dying. Our bodies are corrupt; our lives are short. We are indeed much like the grass of the field, and the glories of our lives, small and great, are like the flowers which fade away.

But we are not without hope. One came into this world who seemed as fragile as the grass, but within Him was the everlasting, ever-living Spirit of God. He faced the end of man with a serenity that shouted to all who would listen, "This is the Son of God!" He died, but "God raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."

In His triumph we are offered triumph. He links His destiny with ours, if we will have Him. Through His word of forgiveness and regeneration we are literally offered a new birth:

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever... The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the LORD endureth for ever."

The life born within us is a life of the Spirit, as Jesus promised. It is in incorruptible. It will last. When these bodies of grass wither, we will live on. When this world comes to an end, we will still praise Him. And we shall find that all that we cherished, all that we loved, all that we treasured most, is still ours. The life He gives is life abundant, and every broken heart will be healed.

The grass has withered; the flower thereof has fallen away. But my friend Holly has gone into the everlasting world of which we are only a shadow. She lives.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

* * *

Quotes from John chapter 3, and 1 Peter chapter 1.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

One More Link in a Very Long Chain

A 41-year-old man is on trial in Afghanistan for the crime of converting to Christianity. Radical Islamic leaders are calling for the death penalty, and much of the world is taking notice. The media buzz is unusual, and I'm grateful for it. Maybe the routine persecution of Christians all over the world is so routine that the media doesn't consider it worth their attention most of the time.

Paul's words to the persecuted church in Philippi ring down through the centuries:

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you [KJV -- "in nothing terrified by your adversaries"]. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him."

Philippians 1:27-29

I'm praying for Abdul Rahman, and for the family all over the earth. Let us, in prayer, and in every practical way we can, contend as one man, with one heart and one mind, for the faith of the gospel.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


It's a funny thing... when you spend your entire day buried in computer manuscripts, critiquing, marking, editing, reading reading reading, answering emails, trying to research marketing opportunities... well, eventually you hit a point when your brain lolls to one side, convulses a few times, and insists that it's not going to work anymore.

Mine is doing that about now. This blog post is my way of very temporarily diverting myself. It's not working over well, but then, I don't expect anything to work over well until work is, well, over.

(That sentence was me amusing myself... just so you know.)

On the bright side, a client I really wanted to work with hired me today on the strength of my blog posts. Praise the Lord for that.

Signing off.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I just published a book, after a whopping three days of hard work. Ah, the wonders of modern technology... and oh, the innocence of us. I mean, who says "Sure, we can have that manuscript that hasn't been touched in years published and ready to order by next week"? I do.

I'm sorta pleased with it... I wrote this book when I was very young (even younger than I am now) so it has a soft spot in my soul. In fact, it was my very first novel. I really wasn't planning to publish it this year, but a strange thing happened. You see, some time ago my family was going to start a publishing company called Paper Birch Books. We built a Web site for it and everything. And one of the books we planned to release was Theodore Pharris Saves the Universe--the stellar piece of literature in question. Well, the publishing company never actually happened, but the Web site never came down. (We don't take old Web sites down... we leave them to litter the cyberpaths of yore in hopes that someone may shed a tear for us, or trip on them, or something.)

Last week a woman was delving into the internet's hidden secrets and she came across our Web page. Apparently she has a father who shares his name with my main character. The father is turning eighty or so and she wants a copy for his birthday. At the end of the week. So of course I said "Yes, we can do that." What else should I say?

I formatted the book and put front matter together while my talented sister Deborah worked feverishly to create original artwork for the cover. We uploaded the whole thing to and bang whizz presto, there it is. Admittedly, it's not very officially published. It still lacks an ISBN and a few critical go-overs. But it's readable, it's pretty, and it's available for purchase. That's what counts, right?

Theodore watched as the green thing plummeted to the ground. It bounced up and landed in the grass with a gentle thump. He raced for the landing site.

"Now where did it go?" he mumbled as he searched. His hands parted the grass in front of him and the thing was suddenly in plain view. His eyes got even wider, seeming to swell with wonder.

It was a spaceship.

Nice, eh?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Power of Stillness

"There is no spectacle in all the Bible so sublime as the silent Savior answering not a word to the men who were maligning Him, and whom He could have laid prostrate at His feet by one look of Divine power, or one word of fiery rebuke. But He let them say and do their worst, and He stood in the power of stillness--God's holy silent Lamb.

"There is a stillness that lets God work for us, and holds our peace; the stillness that ceases from its contriving and its self-vindication, and its expedients of wisdom and forethought, and lets God provide and answer the cruel blow, in His own unfailing, faithful love.

"How often we lose God's interposition by taking up our own cause, and striking for our defense. God give to us this silent power, this conquered spirit! And after the heat and strife of earth are over, men will remember us as we remember the morning dew, the gentle light and sunshine, the evening breeze, the Lamb of Calvary, and the gentle, holy heavenly Dove."

- A.B. Simpson

Saturday, March 18, 2006


For the past five years I've been writing an ezine called "Letters to a Samuel Generation," with the intent of encouraging fellow believers to love and follow our Lord whole-heartedly. Alas, with everything else happening these days, I'm no longer able to write and send "Letters" every month, so I've decided to retire it.

However, I obviously haven't stopped writing. I'm starting a new ezine, "Letters to a Peculiar People," which will be made up primarily of the best spiritual gleanings from this blog. It should go out once or twice a month.

If you're interested in subscribing, I put a link on the sidebar.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sidewalk Battles of the Ages (or, Someone Else Is As Crazy As We Are!)

Every Wednesday morning since November, my friend Alexis and I have grabbed up our "I Am a Child, Not a Choice" picket signs and gone a-trudging. Yes, we live in Canada; yes, it's freezing and often snowy and icy out there; and yes, we go so early that it's still dark when we get out there. But every time we do it, we're blessed.

I did an image search on "abortion" this morning; not a pleasant experience unless you enjoy gruesome. But I found this. Makes it all worth it, eh?

This morning when we were about halfway through our lonely march, we saw a woman coming toward us holding a handmade sign. Our hearts didn't exactly leap, but they fluttered. We squinted into the wind, trying to make out the words. Did it say "Yard Sale"? Or could it really be... it was! It said "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart." We had a compatriot. She had seen us out marching the week before and decided to join us.

We were joking about it later. When we couldn't read her sign initially, we wondered if perhaps we had a counter-protester. Can't you just see it? The two of us walking one direction, this woman walking the other; passing in the middle; probably praying that each other's signs will burst into flame. In a way, though, that's what we're doing every time we get out there. We're speaking out in the battle for our culture. Every person who drives past us sees our message. It may confirm or contradict their own beliefs, or perhaps it just gives pause to the undecided.

We pray every week that God will change the hearts in this nation. I want my generation to learn to value life again. It really is a battle. Join us if you can... our culture needs you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Review: Secrets of Successful Homeschooling

Secrets of Successful Homeschooling: You Have What It Takes to Homeschool
Compilation, Edited by Paul and Gena Suarez

Secrets of Successful Homeschooling is an easy-to-read ebook aimed at prospective homeschool parents (mothers in particular). It covers many of the questions newcomers are likely to ask: what curriculum should I use? How do I handle math? How will I ever get my laundry done when all my time is spent teaching my children? The authors, all of them homeschool mothers, handle these questions practically and expertly, leaving readers with a sense that homeschooling is not only fun and worthwhile, it's also eminently doable. The book also includes chapters on the unusual challenges some parents face, such as homeschooling as a single parent or homeschooling a special needs child.

A few of the chapters seemed to veer off of the "you can homeschool!" subject a little, such as the chapter on running a home business or the one on homeschooling in the U.K... but I found both of these chapters fun to read and very informative. Overall, Secrets is a great read for anyone who's thinking about taking the plunge, but is still unsure about the particulars. The book's content is a solid body for its refrain: "YES, you can."

-- Rachel Thomson


Monday, March 13, 2006

it's going to be a full day

I just made my to-do list for today, and yup, I'm going to be busy. A sample edit to do, an article to polish, a book to work on, lessons to prepare, research to research... wish me well :).

Last night I spent a while talking to the Lord about the state of my heart. My epiphany at New Song the other night has got me thinking... where else am I missing fellowship with Him because I fail to recognize and serve Him in every mundane thing I do? "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord." I mean, really do it for the Lord! What if I loved Jesus in every interaction, in every word I type and edit and read and speak, in every sink I clean, in every prayer I pray? What if I could find His presence everywhere and pour my love out on Him?

Alas, my heart's such a lump of coal, when I want it to be a diamond. Even as I prayed over those things last night, I knew that halfway through my workday they wouldn't seem so important anymore. In the distractions of life it would be enough for me that Jesus delivered me once long ago, and I would lose the hunger to walk with Him NOW... for a while.

I'm awed by His determination. His dogged perseverance. He came to Earth and lived every day, through the muck and muddle of life, without losing sight of His goal. He loved us to the end. He poured out His love for us in every minute of His life. And now, even as I sorrow over this cold heart of mine, He is keeping me by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The salvation of being like Him. The salvation of loving as He loves.

"I am broken," she said. "My feet... my soul. I have nothing to give you now."
He smiled and held out his hand. His fingers were closed around something in his palm. "But I have something for you," he said.
"My heart?" she asked, managing a smile through her tears.
Slowly, he opened his fingers. A dazzling brightness escaped from between them, and when his hand was open Little One found herself looking into a light brighter and deeper and purer than any that belongs to the stars. In the very center she thought she could see something like a small gem: the diamond that her coal-like heart had become.
"The path and its treacheries have served my purposes well," he told her. "Come, and receive your inheritance."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

beautiful stranger

My friend Alexis and I poured milk for about a hundred people last night, at a dinner down on Drouillard... and if you know Windsor, you know that's not exactly high society. New Song Church serves dinner for anyone who will come on Friday nights, so we're talking homeless people and a lot of folks on welfare; anyone who needs it.

I didn't want to go, and I didn't especially enjoy it. I'm an introvert, and I'm going through one of my particularly introverted phrases, so the idea of going out and interacting with people I don't know wasn't too appealing. And I'll be honest with you: it isn't comfortable to cross class lines like that, to look a lot of people in their worn and weary faces and know that your life and theirs exist on what feels like two different sides of a chasm. I mean, most of these people look like life has been trampling them down from day one.

But I went, because I knew I should, and I served milk, cringing inwardly because I REALLY didn't feel like being around people (some of you know what I'm talking about), and I did it with the best attitude I could drum up... feeling guilty for not loving these people like Jesus does, because I know He does, and I know that chasm doesn't present any problem for Him.

Toward the end of the evening I really started asking the Lord how I could connect with Him in a place like this, and I heard that still small voice... saying that I didn't need to be out there serving those people with a good attitude, I just needed to be out there serving HIM in love. "Whatsoever you've done to the least of these, you've done to me." It's not about drumming up love for a lot of strangers, it's about loving the Lord my God, my Jesus who gave His all for me and daily awes me with His holiness and love, with all my heart. I wish I'd gotten that earlier.

It reminds me of a song Rebecca St. James wrote recently called "Beautiful Stranger." The chorus goes:

Won’t You tell me now when did I see
You in need of water?
Oh, and tell me now, when did I see You
Hungry on the street?
God, I hear You calling out to me
In the voices of the least of these
Calling me to reach beyond my world
To the beautiful stranger
Beautiful Stranger

Looking for Him,

* * *

I wrote a book. I'd be much obliged if you'd check it out... there's a preview chapter available; just click on the link.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Review: The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

I was asked to review The Old Schoolhouse Magazine recently, and had a lot of fun doing so.

It's not hard to see why The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is one of the most popular homeschooling magazines in the country. It's thick, and it's not full of fluff. Articles range from the practical to the humorous to the challenging to the downright inspirational. They keep readers informed on what's happening in the wide world of homeschooling (conventions, must-read books, trends, legal info), provide practical helps, teaching tips, and curriculum reviews, and tell the stories of homeschool parents, students, graduates, and others on this joyous (and tumultuous) journey. The tone of the magazine is highly relational: these writers aren't distant experts dispensing wisdom from the towers of knowledge, they're homeschoolers just like you and me. TOS connects families across the U.S. and all over the world and joins them in one exciting conversation.

Perhaps that's TOS's greatest strength. They're doing more than publishing a magazine: they're actively creating a community. Most author bylines include email addresses, Web sites, and blog URLs (many of which send the reader to, a huge blog community created by TOS), which allow the reader to interact, follow up, and link hands with their compatriots around the world.

- Rachel Thomson


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Life is mostly predictable, but now and then something BIG happens.

Reading Matthew 28 last night, I was struck by the angel. Throughout Scripture "the angel of the LORD" sometimes visits men, intervening in wars and upheaval, battling demonic powers, bringing messages from the throne of almighty God. And now he comes again: "And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men."

This awesome being comes from another world and paralyses the Roman soldiers with fear. His skin is bright as lightning; his clothing shines. He bypasses the soldiers entirely and speaks only to those toward whom God is looking: women.

The thing is, the soldiers all saw him. Their world was literally shaken, invaded by the supernatural, touched by the eternal. Yet they allowed themselves to be bought off by the religious leaders. Both the soldiers and the religious leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the greatest event in history, because they had a life to live and they were going to live it their way.

Astounding ignorance, yes. Unbelievable stubborness. We, two thousand years later, who only remember these men for the lie they spread, can hardly believe how short-sighted they were.

But the tomb is still empty. The supernatural has invaded your life, too, because it has touched this entire world in a way that will never be overshadowed.

What are you doing with it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's Tuesday!

It has been Tuesday for exactly... one hour and twenty-five minutes.

Insomnia is not precisely the joy and delight of my life. It lends itself to odd reminiscences, sometimes to bouts of extreme penitence, and even, on occasion, to blogging.

I am happy to announce that tonight's insomnia is the odd reminiscence kind, so I shouldn't have anything to undo in the morning (like extremely penitent blog posts... "I raised my eyebrow at the cat this morning! How could I have been so HEARTLESS?").

I think to myself that there must be some simple method of duplicating blog posts that does not involve a great deal of cutting-and-pasting. Perhaps some kind soul will share it with me one day, before one of my three blogs folds under the pressure.

Monday, March 06, 2006

the song is sweet

"In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

If you're familiar with Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, you know what that verse is all about. It was an ancient prophecy, fulfilled when Herod ordered that all children under two years old in the Bethlehem region be slaughtered. It was his desperate bid to stop God from deposing him.

Satan in his craftiness and humans in their selfishness can cause enormous amounts of pain and darkness in our lives. Events seem to come from out of nowhere and knock the legs out from under us, and we don't know where to turn. As a mother in Bethlehem I'm sure I wouldn't have understood; I couldn't have seen past my own pain.

But God was working.

"The people that wal
ked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

In the darkness of Bethlehem, under the shadow of murder and hatred, Light and Love took shape in the body of a child and entered the world. The mothers who lost their children had another Son born to them. One who would offer them hope and an eternal future.

I think that it still works this way today. God is quietly working "under the shadow of death," and we will see His handiwork soon enough if we will wait and trust Him. Trust Him with our pain. Trust Him with our tears. Trust Him with our loss. Trust Him to be more than we can imagine.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a poem that, to me, expresses this other-world perspective on darkness. It's called "Perplexed Music."

  EXPERIENCE, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand,
Whence harmonies, we cannot understand,
Of God; will in his worlds, the strain unfolds
In sad-perplexed minors: deathly colds
Fall on us while we hear, and countermand
Our sanguine heart back from the fancyland
With nightingales in visionary wolds.
We murmur ' Where is any certain tune
Or measured music in such notes as these ? '
But angels, leaning from the golden seat,
Are not so minded their fine ear hath won
The issue of completed cadences,
And, smiling down the stars, they whisper--

Trust today. His light is coming soon.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

This is a test of the Emergency Rachel System.
Here goes nothing...