Thursday, August 31, 2006

new fantasy fiction series

As if I didn't have enough on my plate...

I belong to a great group of girls known as the Wayside Inn Writer's Society (Google "Wayside Inn" and "Longfellow" if you're curious). We all write fiction of one stripe or another, many of us leaning toward fantasy, so recently we had this great idea...

Why don't we all write a series together? We conceived of a family: nine siblings, each sent off into the world to seek their own adventures. We've got nine authors, one for each sibling, which means nine different settings, plots, styles... in short, the potential for nine really cool books. They're linked because the siblings (against the orders of their evil guardian) write to each other while in exile.

We're calling the series "The Romany Epistles." After literally hundreds of planning emails, the writing has commenced, as each of us tackles the prologue--the banishment of the siblings, written from nine different perspectives.

Check it out at

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

incomparable hope

My grandfather, a gentle Mennonite man who leaves behind six children, twenty-seven grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren, passed away unexpectedly last Thursday. I wrote this reflection after his funeral yesterday.

The day before Opa died found me in Luke 9:59-60. Jesus called a young man to follow him. "But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." In this Jesus highlighted the present spiritual condition of the people (death) and their urgent need to enter the life Jesus offered them. Nothing was so important that it should stand in the way of that.

At Opa's funeral today I reflected on how much things have changed. We are no longer the dead burying their dead--we are the living, not so much burying the living as gathering on the shore to see them off, to say farewell, to finish up for them their last bit of business on Earth. It is true for whole families, whole communities of believers, and it has been true for millions since the resurrection of Jesus Christ brought the reality of eternal life into our world.

By the graveside we read Scripture and sang "Jesus Loves Me." How powerful is this truth--that when we die we continue to live, and are received into the bosom of One who loves us. How much hope is in that!

The minister took flowers from the bouquet that had been on the casket and gave them to family and friends, anyone who wanted one, so that we could toss them into the grave. And even this moved me to tears. Whereas in the past pagans would bury their dead with cold, lifeless things--money, armour, swords and shields, clothing, things to help them fight their way through the next world--we toss in living things: flowers, symbols of simple, beautiful, created life.

If Jesus had done nothing else for us, I think I would love Him for this: for giving so many generations so much hope, peace, and confidence when faced with death. Jesus alone allows us to cry for ourselves while feeling only gladness for the one who has gone to be with Him. Jesus alone turns the terror and darkness of the grave into something beautiful, though it still causes us to sorrow.

O Death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting? Gone... washed away by the blood of God's holy Lamb, He who is meek and lowly in heart, He who has gone to prepare a place for us, and promised to receive us to Himself.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Honk If You Love Protesters

Yesterday morning I was back on the sidewalk in front of Metropolitan Hospital here in Windsor, one of a line of abortion protesters that stretched all along the walk. The numbers have increased recently; it's really encouraging!

If you have a cause you believe in, and you drive past people who are out in public making it a public issue, please show your support. Honk, wave, be obvious. Let them know that you're behind them. In the past, I would have been too embarrassed to do such a thing, but now that I've been one of those people behind the signs, I know how heartening it is to feel support.

It amused me yesterday how many noncommital people there are in the world. I mean, I don't mind the ones who ignore us... it's the people who are opinionated but shy that make me laugh. If they drive past us frowning, does that mean they disagree with us? If they drive past us smiling really big, does that mean they're with us all the way? My favourite was the girl who flickered her finger at me... I couldn't tell if she was flipping me off or showing support.

People verbalize things sometimes. Last week a very commital person threatened one of our guys; told him he'd come back with a gun. Yesterday, a fellow pedaled past us on his bike, shaking his head and telling each of us, "We don't want you." But most moving to me was the car that slowed down as it passed, so the girl in the passenger's seat could lean out the window, point to one of our signs--the one that says "I Regret My Abortion"--and say, "Me too."

Our culture frowns on having convictions; much more on expressing them. But it's just possible that that girl wouldn't have had anything to say to us if someone had been a little more convicted in her life--not condemning, just honest and compassionate and convicted.

Some opinions deserve to be thought out until they become convictions; many convictions need to be acted upon. If you're sitting on a fence in your own heart somewhere, I encourage you to take the steps you need to take and leap off on one side or the other.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Review: Handy English Encoder Decoder

"I before E, except after C, and in words like 'neighbour' and 'weigh.'" How many of us have never been helped out of a grammatical pickle by that old and proven rule? Spelling rules, and their close cousins, phonics rules, can be a real help to those who struggle with spelling. Unfortunately, not every spelling rule is couched in a cute little rhyme, nor have they been easy to find... until now.

Harvey Bluedorn has put together a very helpful little book, the "Handy English Encoder Decoder," which collects spelling and phonics rules in one place, arranges them neatly and logically, and gives us all a hand up when it comes to spelling. The book also includes a couple of games, a long list of homophones (words that sound alike but look different), and that most invaluable of spelling lists: "Commonly Confused Spellings and Word Pairs."

I look forward to referencing the Encoder Decoder in the upcoming school year. Recommended for homeschool teachers, students, and English geeks like me who just really like to know this stuff, and appreciate any reference book that's small enough to fit in your average purse.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

God loves emotional wrecks

I'm feeling a little emotional today. (Ok, fine, I'm perched up in the top of an emotional tree and every time I look down I lose it a little.) My best friend, who has been with me all week, took a train home this afternoon, and I really dislike goodbyes.

Being on the brink of tears makes me think of something my friend and I read together a few nights ago: the story in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who dared approach Jesus in the house of a Pharisee. What exactly she intended to do isn't clear... she probably meant to anoint his head, a sign of honour. Instead, she broke down. She "stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Luke 7:38).

There's a LOT in this story, but what stands out to me right now is the way Jesus reacted to the sight of this woman, a perfect stranger, losing all semblance of control over herself and falling passionately down at his feet. Imagine if the same thing happened to you! This was not any more normal in that culture than in this one. Strong emotion is a difficult thing to deal with, and few of us can handle it--even in those we know and love--with great grace.

Yet here is Jesus: forgiving her, honouring her, accepting her contrition, her tears, and her kisses. He isn't shaken to the core, because at his core is compassion, and that compassion flows out to her in quiet welcome. He doesn't write her approach off as dangerous overemotionalism. He answers the prayer she doesn't dare voice--"Your sins are forgiven you." And he releases her into a new life, a new identity. She is no longer a wreck of a woman, a sorry example of humanity destroyed within and without. She is one who loves much, for she has been forgiven much.

It comforts me to know that God has great patience and compassion toward us even when our emotions are raging out of control, when we're pushed beyond the point of acting "normally." I'm gladdened to know that this compassion is in Jesus, because I know that it will be extended to me, in hundreds of ways, throughout my life.

"And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

Friday, August 04, 2006

the truth about Hezbollah

Last night I was invited to attend a meeting at the Jewish Community Center here in Windsor. The purpose was to educate anyone who wanted to learn about what exactly is happening between Israel and Lebanon (or, to be far more accurate, Hezbollah), and how it is affecting Israelis, thousands of whom are displaced, living in bomb shelters (without air conditioning), separated from their children, etc.

It was an excellent evening and I wish I could have taken everyone with me. One thing particularly stuck out to me: in news reports, I have consistently seen the civilian death toll in Lebanon--highlighted, underlined, and shouted from the rooftops. What is not so stressed is the fact that Hezbollah deliberately operates out of civilian homes; that they choose not to wear uniforms so they are indistinguishable from civilians; in fact, that they deliberately put civilians in danger--that they are using human shields, which is a war crime. The fact is, Hezbollah does not care if Lebanese innocents die. Why? Because, as the speaker last night said, "Hezbollah knows that in order to terrorize Israel, Israeli civilians must die. But it also knows that in order to demonize Israel, Lebanese civilians must die."

Israel, on the other hand, has gone to great lengths to preserve human life, even sacrificing the essential military element of surprise in order to issue warnings, drop leaflets, and otherwise let the Lebanese know that they're coming.

I'm well aware that those are real people dying over there, on both sides of the border, and it's tragic. It's too easy to lose sight of that in the midst of political rhetoric and the heated taking of sides. Frankly, though, to side with Hezbollah and in fact aid them by condemning Israel is to show a horrifying disregard both for the truth, and for human life.

A Jewish friend of mine posted this this morning--a letter that she wrote to her family on what is happening in Israel, and a revealing article on the incredible media bias against Israel. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

heat wave

It is so hot and humid here that my entire bed thinks it's a hot water bottle.

I got about three and a half hours of sleep last night. The long awake hours I occupied by reading exalted Christian literature. The result? This morning, I am an exalted Christian grouch. Brings me back to the whole conundrum of being both flesh and spirit: someone who wants to live radiantly, but gets clouded and puddled by lack of sleep and too much heat. The ideal meets my bedroom, the sauna, and the results are not pretty.

Last night (before I succombed to trying to sleep) I watched The Hiding Place with some friends. One of the things that always struck me in the story was how awful the women could be to each other... here they were in this cruel, friendless place, and they were so wrapped up in their own needs that they couldn't reach out in friendship to one another. I've always felt sort of disappointed in them. I want to believe that adversity brings out the natural nobility in people. The truth is that more often it shows us what's really on the inside... and nobility isn't quite the right word.

I am not trying to compare our current Ontario heat wave with what those women went through, and so many others have suffered. But there's a principle that still remains the same: when times get tough, do we allow our emotions to run us, or do we lean on God? On the flip side, do we give ourselves the grace to be human, or beat ourselves up because we don't measure up to our ideals?

Adversity may not make shining lights out of most of us, but it does allow God to work in a special way if we'll let Him. Adversity really does help us to grow in the image of the Son: in patience, in temperance, in graciousness, in endurance. So today I thank Him for the heat wave, and ask Him to use it in my life.