When you don’t have a clue … #BibleJournaling

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Do you believe in prayer? Or a better question might be, do you believe that God acts in response to our prayers?

Prayer was the sermon topic at church on August 6th. Jason, one of our talented young pastors, began his talk by reading the story of Peter encountering the lame beggar on his way into church. The beggar asked for money. Peter replied, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you” – Acts 3:6. Then he brought the man healing in Jesus’ name.

Jason suggested this, I think profound, paradigm for Christ-followers: “When we’re out of our resources, we’re not at the end of our service.”

So true! We may not have a clue about what to do and may not have anything to give. But we can invite Someone into the situation who has more than a clue and can make every difference!

Jason’s talk was a challenge to bring Jesus into situations through prayer, not only during formal prayer times but for each other in unlikely places, during and about the ups and downs of life. Through prayer, we can invite God’s limitless resources and power into difficult, even impossible circumstances. (You can hear/watch all of Jason’s sermon “Intro to Prayer Ministry” HERE.)

I journaled Jason’s statement in my Bible so I wouldn’t forget.

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Bible Art Journaling – Acts 3:6-8 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Keeping Up With the Neighbours (review)

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Neighbours 2In Keeping Up with the Neighbours (Neighbours Series 2) author Tracy Krauss treats us to the adventures of colourful Newfoundland siblings who have left the Rock to find their fortunes in Alberta.

The characters (the Malloys—five young men and their sister) are earthy, relatable, often humorous, and interesting. We follow them as they find jobs in construction, the oil patch, the woods, the local bar, and a hair dressing salon, and socialize in the evenings with the locals at a neighbourhood watering hole.

These salty characters are not without their realistic problems and flaws, so be prepared for a little more edginess than you’d find in some Christian fiction. But Krauss incorporates faith as well in plot twists that feel plausible and inevitable.

Keeping up with the Neighbours (Neighbours 2) is a lot of fun as well as thought-provoking, dealing with subjects like loyalty, conflicts between immigrant parents and their adult children, alcoholism, religious faith and more. It’s a bit like reading a Calgary-based season of Cheers.

Fire Test #BibleJournaling

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You may have heard about the wildfires that are devastating the interior of B.C. Here in the southwest corner of the province we have been getting a daily reminder of those fires in hazy, smoke-filled skies. Though we’ve had a stretch of clear weather, the sky lights up late and darkens early under an other-worldly red sun.

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The sun Sunday, 8:00 p.m. (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

But I’m not complaining. Especially not when I think of the hundreds that have been evacuated from their homes and those who have lost them altogether to the flames.

The recent smoky skies have brought to mind a Bible woman who lost her home to fire. Lot’s wife reacted like I can see myself acting when strangers hurried her, her husband Lot, and their two daughters from their home in Sodom. She didn’t want to go. I think we can say that her look back showed how conflicted she was about leaving home (read the story in Genesis 19:15-26).

Last week I did a Bible art journal entry on Lot’s wife. I drew her frozen in time, looking back at her burning city.

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Then I added, as a tip-in page, a poem I wrote about her nine years ago. In it, I tried to imagine what was going through her mind as she was being pulled away from her home.

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Fire Test

Who are these strangers to command we leave?
Right now? You wear the embroidered robe
I’ll take the pouch. What about food
and drink, our girls’ betrothed?

Why are we rushing from all we’ve ever wanted?
My beautiful home, the market so handy,
your place at the gate, our hope of grandsons?

Wait! I’m hot and thirsty, out of breath,
Reminds me of those desert days—
the dusty road, the heat
my sweaty body, my sore feet.

Where are we going? I’ve had enough of traveling!
I refuse to take another step. Turn back
to everything I own, have ever wanted, loved.

What? Is that smoke on the horizon?
Are those flames? My house, my dreams
my things—all I’ve ever lived for!
My beloved Sod—

VN – 2008

The implied question I ask myself—and the reader—through the poem is, could it be that my life is also too bound up in earthly things—my possessions, position, lifestyle, home? It’s a question that occurs to me again as I see people forced to leave their homes in real life.

It also reminds me that God will someday pass our lives through a real fire test (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). If all we’ve put our faith and hope in is our physical life on earth with all its accessories (including our houses, things, lifestyle, position, career) they will burn up then, even if they last through this life.

Let’s be sure we invest our time and talents in things that are inflammable. What would you suggest those things might be?

Faith, Life, and Leadership (review)

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Faith, Life and Leadership: 8 Canadian Women Tell Their StoriesFaith, Life and Leadership: 8 Canadian Women Tell Their Stories by Georgialee Lang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I discovered that there was a book out with stories of Canadian women leaders, I knew I had to get it. Faith Life and Leadership: 8 Canadian Women Tell Their Stories didn’t disappoint.

In it eight prominent Canadian women tell, in first person, their stories of coming to leadership—stories as unique and different from each other as the positions they hold or held.

We hear from Lorna Dueck (broadcaster); Georgialee Lang (who served a prison term before she became a family law lawyer); Carolyn Arends (singer-songwriter, author, teacher); Deborah Grey (politician); M. Christine MacMillan (mover and shaker in the area of social justice working from within the Salvation Army); Janet Epp Buckingham (human rights lawyer); Joy Smith (politician, who helped draft legislation against human trafficking); and Margaret Gibb (inspirer and leader of Christian women across denominations in Canada and abroad).

Each account contains, as well principles of leadership that the writer experienced and now shares with us. In some of the stories the writers scatter those principles within the telling, so they’re not as easy to isolate. In others they are listed at the end.

I found the book fascinating. The women were strikingly varied. One was a confessed extrovert while another so shy she had trouble making friends all through school. Some came from good, supportive homes, others were forced to fend for themselves early. In each story, though, the path to leadership was long, beset by failures and crowned with successes, full of life learning, personal challenge, and stretching.

I loved the leadership principles each gave. Her are a few passages I highlighted:

“Character is at the core of how we lead. Character comes from our identity … and our identity shaped by Christ is a spiritual discipline helped much by loving friendships and our personal devotion to the Bible” – Lorna Dueck (Kindle Location 328).

“Faithful leaders are only as effective as they are dependent on God” – Carolyn Arends (KL 1247).

“Every leader I know has been influenced by someone who modeled the core aspects of leadership: character, integrity, and a strong work ethic” – Janet Epp Buckingham (KL 1906).

“Working in your giftings, calling and abilities always gives you energy” – Janet Epp Buckingham (KL 1933).

“God is mighty and God is near, working over and above what we desire for our lives and pulling us, like a magnet, to align with His plan” – Joy Smith (KL 2178).

“There are no shortcuts or 10 easy steps in leadership. All seasons, stages, and tests work together to ultimately achieve God’s plan and purposes” – Margaret Gibb (KL 2827).

I highly recommend Faith, Life, and Leadership to Christian women in Canada, indeed, Christian women anywhere. These inspiring stories show how God is never limited by our lacks, be those a good family, inborn leadership traits, money, talents and natural strengths, doors that seem to be closed, even opposition to the leadership of women from within the church. This book would make a wonderful resource for Christian women preparing for leadership and for women’s Bible study and reading groups.

This book is part of my own Kindle collection.

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In a Foreign Land (review)

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In a Foreign Land (In Search of Freedom Book 2)In a Foreign Land by Janice L. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daniel and Luise Martens have built up a successful farm in northern China. The year is 1945 and fifteen years have passed since the Mennonite villagers from Slavgorod Colony of Western Siberia have escaped their Russian oppressors (story told in The Other Side of the River: Search for Freedom Book 1 – reviewed here).

Alarm bells ring from the opening pages when we discover Daniel’s Russian nemesis, Leonid Dubrowsky, is still alive and hot on Daniel’s heels for revenge.

The political unrest in Russia and China after WWII makes for a time of unrest in northern China. Daniel and other Russians who fled the Soviet Union are soon arrested and returned there as traitors. This leaves Luise and her 15-year-old bright but hot-tempered son Danny in charge of the farm.

The story takes us through the six years that follow. The fractured Martens family and their white neighbours, the Giesingers, become persona non grata in the now racially charged climate of Communist China. Danny’s temper gets him into trouble more than once. And then there’s the ever-looming shadow of Dubrowsky, who nurses the dream of wreaking vengeance on Daniel by destroying Danny and having his way with Luise.

The interesting historical plot is enhanced by the strong Christian faith of Luise and Rachel (Danny’s special childhood friend). It anchors the two families, while Danny’s questions and inability to believe that God even exists in all this turmoil adds realism to the faith aspect of the story.

I found this tale captivating from beginning to end. Dick tells the story through various viewpoints but chapters are titled with location and date so we’re always clear about when and where the incident takes place. Characters are realistic and complex. The plot is full of tension and suspense.

There is one more installment in the In Search of Freedom series. Book 3, Far Side of the Sea, is due to be released in the fall / winter of 2017.

This is a series not to be missed for historical fiction lovers, especially those with Mennonite roots.

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Self-portrait #BibleJournaling

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A self-portrait in a Bible? Really!?

That was Rebekah R. Jones’ Week 17 Original Bible Art Journaling Challenge. In response to Genesis 1:27 (“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”), she created a lovely portrait of herself holding a container of art supplies. She transferred the image from a photograph and coloured it with ink tense pencils (devotional and video HERE).

Rebekah’s challenge was “Choose to create something that expresses you best. What God created and loves about you. He puts desires in our heart and loves to see us enjoy life.”

After watching the video I wondered, can I even do this? I’m so bad at drawing people!  What would I make? Do I have a picture that represents me in such an iconic way?

As I mulled over these things I remembered a photo hubby took of me some years ago. We were hiking on Salt Spring Island and in the background were trees, the rocky bluffs, and the ocean. I’ve always loved and felt a special kinship with the natural world so I decided to try and create a self-portrait using that photo.

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I printed the photo in black and white and traced over it, transferring it to my Bible page using graphite paper. Then I darkened the outline with pigma micron pens and the colour with pencil crayons and a little watercolour.

As I was working on my portrait, an incident came to mind. It happened on a January day in 2016. It had rained all day and I felt cooped up in the house. Late afternoon the rain stopped and I went for a short walk.

The glint of white and the shape of a duck-tail head caught my attention as I passed a local stream. Could it be the pair of ducks I’d seen there very occasionally?

I slowed, stopped, and sure enough. It was a couple of Hooded Mergansers. I watched as this showy pair swam, dived, and swam some more in front of me and my camera.

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A pair of Hooded Mergansers, one of the photos I snapped that January day (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I was full of happiness as I walked home a few minutes later, overjoyed to have chanced on these lovely birds. “Thank You, Lord,” I prayed silently.

And then I sensed God saying to me, “Violet, I know you. I know you love such things. It was not by chance that you spotted and enjoyed those birds on your walk today. I was in it–not just for you but also for Me.

“I know you enjoy making things. So do I. And I love it when you appreciate and enjoy the things I have made, just like you love it when people appreciate and enjoy what you make.” {goosebumps much?}

On that day, then, I grasped in a deeper way than ever before, what it means that I am created in the image of God. And so I added a stream to my picture and drew a couple of mergansers swimming in it.

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How would you illustrate Rebekah’s challenge of what expresses you best, of how you are created in God’s image? Maybe you should do it!

 

I will remember #BibleJournaling

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In her video series on Bible Journaling, Rebekah R. Jones remembers the story of her miracle healing in a Bible art journal project connected to Psalm 77:11:

“I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

She demonstrates, on the video, how to make a striking rainbow page out of vellum, colored with gelatos and the word “REMEMBER” at the bottom. (You can watch it below.)

She challenges her reader, in the accompanying blog devotional:

“Will you take time to think back to a time in your own life when God reached out and poured His goodness on You? Will you thank Him again for it … Create something this week that helps you remember God’s wondrous works.”

Thinking back over my life, I can’t say I have a story of a miraculous healing or provision. But I am thankful for a quiet miracle of sorts.

Just over 20 years ago, when my kids were finally both in school and my home-based medical transcription business was established, I revisited a teenage dream—to be a writer.

All my life I’ve been a reader and for years had promised myself someday I’d be a writer—a published writer. Approaching a milestone birthday back then, I decided to do something about my dream.

I enrolled in a correspondence writing course and lo-and-behold, less than two years later, in March of 1997, I sold my first piece—a devotional to Keys for Kids. (Believe it or not, they’re still around!)

All these years later, I’m still writing. No, I’m not famous, but I do have three binders of clips to show that God has helped me realize a teenage dream.

My art journal drawing is an old-fashioned feather quill pen and a few books, including the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest (a fav devotional).

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The verse I chose to put on the scroll (Psalm 102:18) expresses what reading and writing have meant and still mean to me. I have been impacted spiritually far more by especially memoirs and biographies than any lecture or Bible study class. What a supernatural thing God does with words, quickening them within the reader to spiritual life though they may have been written decades earlier and continents away!

The dove with a leaf in its mouth, signifying the life-giving Holy Spirit, is what I desire for the devotions, articles, poems, blog posts, and books that I write.

What life memories does Psalm 77:11 evoke in you?