Powerful Thinking – review

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Powerful Thinking by Joyce Meyer


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In Powerful Thinking, popular Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer challenges readers to take a deep look at twelve mindsets. Each mindset titles a chapter and is expressed as an affirmation (e.g. ”Mindset One: Because I Am in Christ I Can Do Everything I Need to Do in Life”). Meyer uses personal stories, scripture passages, and explanation of those passages to detail what each mindset involves and why it’s important. The chapters end with a “Think, Then Act” section made up of questions to use in journaling or group discussion to help the reader apply what they have read to life.

I did not find this book all that different from other books on the thought life that I have read by the same author. However, familiar truth is still truth and a good reminder. The chapter in Powerful Thinking that really struck me, judging by the number of highlights I saved, was the mindset “Because I Am in Christ I Am Difficult to Offend.” Notable quotes from that chapter:

“As human beings, we tend to be suspicious of others, and we get hurt due to our own imaginations… I encourage you to believe the best about others. Resist the temptation to question their motives or to think they hurt you deliberately. Believing the best about people will keep offense and bitterness out of your life and help you stay peaceful and joyful” – Kindle Location 397.

This compact volume is a great introduction to, or review of thought life hygiene for a Christian. It is inspiring, challenging, and a quick read. Powerful Thinking will be available for purchase on June 15, 2021.

I received Powerful Thinking as a gift from the publisher in return for writing a review.

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Pandemic Lifestyle – a poem

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When presented, by my writing group, with the challenge to write about my experience during the pandemic, my first thought was to do it in poem form (seeing as how it’s April and National Poetry Month). “Pandemic Lifestyle” is a snapshot of some of the things that have characterized the last months for me and my husband. (The last stanza makes reference to Psalm 91 that has been a mainstay for me and many others during this time.)

Pandemic Lifestyle

We keep our social distance
intentionally move out of the way
of anyone approaching us,
take to the sidewalk’s grassy margin
the street’s parking lane
to honour a fellow-walker’s
and our own
2-metre force field.
As we pass our eyes meet
momentarily
above masks,
smile humour (This feels ridiculous)
and apology (Sorry to be treating you
like a pariah
).

We live in a bubble
cloistered behind the membranes
of doors and windows
that become transparent
during Zoom meetings,
where we see each other at kitchen counters,
lounging against headboards,
seated in front of bookshelves (looking so well-read),
or posed before waving palms and surging surf,
mute testimony to where we have been
where we would love to be again
yet relieved to be here, now,
surrounded by the familiar and the safe.

We are sheltered under a wing
covered by divine feathers
as we experience sweet family life virtually
with children and grandchildren,
brothers and sisters,
in Bible studies, prayer meetings
and streamed church services.
Here we have been hidden
from the Covid-19 pestilence
that walks in darkness,
the prowling pandemic
that lays waste at noon.
We have not been numbered
in the daily 3 o’clock count
of thousands and ten thousands
that have fallen around us,
and we are incredibly grateful.

© 2021 by Violet Nesdoly

Resurrection!

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He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

This is how Christians around the world greet each other on the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, in western Christianity Easter Sunday.

One last duo from Laurel and me, for this special day. I sent her the painting, she wrote the haiku.

“Joy” – by Violet Nesdoly, (100% cotton, hot press watercolor paper, 7×7 inches)

Lily
 
A blossom so pure,
with a voice so full of Life
it speaks, He’s Risen!

Laurel Archer – © 2021, All rights reserved

One of our pastors quoted a Bible verse on our Good Friday service that perfectly goes with this duo:

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” – Hebrews 12:2 NKJV.

Wishing you a BLESSED EASTER!

A Lent Conversation – Week 6

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We are in the season of feasts—Passover and Easter. Isn’t it wonderful that God instituted landmark feasts—meals of special food filled with the ingredients, tastes, colours, and smells that bring spiritual realities to mind?

As we’ve been reading through the Gospels at our supper table, I was moved a few weeks ago when we came to Mark 14 where Jesus told his disciples to prepare the feast (the Passover) that we now call “The Last Supper.” It made me smile to think of this assorted crew doing kitchen duty. My thought was to create a sort of still life of the supplies for the Passover meal gathered on a counter after a shopping trip. That is the inspiration for “Prepare the Feast.”

Laurel responded to my art prompt by taking it home, literally, with her poem “Do This” about the wonderful meals of remembrance that we’ve all experienced—weighty with spiritual and emotional significance. Because of pandemic restrictions, we’ll miss eating an Easter meal with our loved ones this year. It has made us appreciate such memorable occasions all the more.

A Lent Conversation – Week 5

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Is God involved in the tiniest details of our lives? I think so.

It was Laurel’s turn to start the conversation this week with a poem. When I hadn’t heard from her by last Tuesday, I emailed and asked if she had a poem for the week. It turned out she thought she had sent it, and promptly did.

When I read “Still Life,” I thought immediately that something simple, like a pencil sketch, would suit Laurel’s humble expression of faith. The thing was, I had done a couple of pencil sketches the very night before. The clincher that my sketches were the right response to her poem—she speaks of light in her poem, and one of the things I happened to sketch was a light bulb!  

I challenge you—be on the lookout to notice how God is making His presence known to you in the details of your day!

“Still Life” – poem by Laurel Archer © 2021

Light bulb, staple remover and a jar of shells and floats – sketches by Violet Nesdoly (in 5×8 inch Artist’s Loft Sketchbook) – © 2021

A Lent Conversation – Week 4

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I can hardly believe we’re already into week four of our Lent project. This week I sent Laurel the prompt–a painting I did, inspired by a photo I took on a summer holiday trip we made to Salt Spring Island some years ago.

I love her psalm-like prayer poem in response.

My painting and the Laurel’s poem are below.

Painting: “The Lookout” – Violet Nesdoly – Watercolor on 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, 9×12 inches © 2021.

Poem: “Open-Air Prayer” – Laurel Archer © 2021

A Lent Conversation – Week 2

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This is the second instalment of a Lenten conversation between Laurel Archer, my poet friend, and me providing some art. This week I sent Laurel a painting as a prompt. She responded with a poem.

The Hellebore plant was new to me when I moved to the coast (we didn’t have it in Saskatchewan, at least not when I lived there). This beautiful perennial blooms here in early to late spring with blooms that customarily face downward. It’s a plant that, even in bloom, looks penitent. Perhaps that’s why it was given its common name “Lenten Rose.”

I’m delighted with Laurel’s poetic response that reflects her experience with this lovely spring flower and takes us deeper.

Painting: “Lenten Rose” – © 2021 by Violet Nesdoly, Watercolour on 140 lb. cold press watercolour paper, 9×12 inches

Poem: “Promises” – © 2021 by Laurel Archer

A Lent Conversation

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Do you keep Lent? Lent is a church season—a time of sober introspection in preparation for Easter—that my faith tradition mentioned only in passing. But I do love the idea of a faith calendar where one remembers and honours each season of faith at a set time each year.

In the spirit of discovering, appreciating, and “keeping” the season of Lent, a friend and I have begun a conversation about Lent in poetry and art. She began it last Tuesday with a poem that she sent to me. I responded during the week with a piece of art inspired by her poem. This is our call-and-response for Week One of Lent.

Laurel’s Poem: “Lent is Here”
My painting: “Step Aside” – Watercolour and Gouache on 140 lb. Cold Press Watercolour Paper, 9×6 Inches.

This week it’s my turn to prompt Laurel with a piece of art. I’ll let you in on the next bit of our conversation sometime early next week.

I’d be interested to know, how do you keep Lent?

The Third Grace – review

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It’s always a joy to celebrate the coming out of a new book by a fellow Canadian writer. Today is the day we fete Deb Elkink and the re-release of her prize-winning debut novel The Third Grace (originally published in 2011). It comes out with a new cover, but the same rich interior. Here is my review of The Third Grace (review first published in 2011).

The Third Gracesumptuous as a period costume

Aglaia Klassen’s jaunt to Paris has been a long time in coming. But now it’s three days away—a business trip for which the main character in Deb Elkink’s debut novel The Third Grace, has significant plans of her own. On the evening we make her acquaintance she is trying to inveigle from her worldly friend Lou, how one would go about finding someone in that vast city.

When her country bumpkin mother Tina bursts upon their little soirée with the embarrassing request that Aglaia take the Bible that Francois left at the farm fifteen years ago and return it, Aglaia is beyond humiliated. But the Bible does find its way into her luggage and becomes a magnet once she discovers the notes this French exchange student scribbled in the margins all those years ago.

As she reads them, she is transported back to that summer of young love when she was seventeen and sure that Francois’ heart was all hers. She recalls the Greek myths of which the Bible stories they read in youth group reminded him, and finds tucked inside a photo postcard of the Three Graces. The Third Grace, Aglaia, is what Francois called her. That’s why she has not been Mary Grace—the name her parents gave her—for many years.

Much has happened since that crossroads summer at the farm in Nebraska. She has made an impression on the cultural scene in Denver where she works as an up-and-coming costume designer. As far as she’s concerned, her Mennonite past is history despite the longing in her parents’ eyes and their thinly disguised pleas for her help with the farm. Aglaia’s friend Lou has her own agenda and their paths get crazily entangled in this story that explores young love, faith, identity, and loyalty to family and friends.

The well-realized characters make this book a delight. Lou is a devious college prof who we don’t trust from the minute we meet her—though Aglaia wants to and tries to, to our dismay. Eb, Aglaia’s boss at the costume shop, is an eccentric, wise, father-figure and my personal favorite. Francois, the charming, lascivious student from the past plays a large role through Aglaia’s memories. Aglaia’s Mennonite parents ring true, with their homespun sensibilities, their ethnic cuisine, and their Plautdietsch-inflected pronunciations: “trock,”  and “tanse” for “truck” and “tense,” and germanisms like “Na jo,” En betje.”  Finally there’s Aglaia herself—talented and ambitious, yet idealistic, wistful, and tortured in the way she continues to carry the torch for her teenage sweetheart.

Elkink’s writing is a tailored garment of sensuous description, trimmed with just the right words to signal deeper meanings. Note this bit from the opening scene where Aglaia is entertaining Lou in her apartment:

“Aglaia angled her glass and looked into its blood-red interior. Wine was a symbol of communion, she thought, and she was using it with carnal deliberation to seal this relationship that had so much to offer her.”

The Third Grace, page 12.

Or this snippet describing Aglaia’s relationship with her craft:

“From the time she was a child…she’d hankered to sew. She learned the smell of the flax beneath the linen, savored the variance between silk and wool. She had a habit still of chewing a strand  each time she laid out a length of yard goods ready for the shears. She made a sacrament of touching and sniffing and tasting—a sensual adulation.”  

The Third Grace, p. 42.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Eklink is herself a seamstress and has designed costumes.

I enjoyed this tale for its literary forays as much as its finely crafted characters. Elkink seems as comfortable recounting Aglaia’s fall from faith and attraction to the occult world of Greek myth as she is describing a scene of teenage seduction, a Paris bistro, or a child-squirmy kitchen. Through Eb she shares wisdom from Christian luminaries like Saint Augustine, Dante, and the Bible.

For a reading experience as layered and sumptuous as Aglaia’s period costumes, The Third Grace by Deb Elkink won’t disappoint.

Want more? Find out about Deb and her writing on her website DebElkink.com. Her second full-length novel, The Red Journal, came out in 2019 and is also available for purchase.

Fresh Joy – review

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Fresh Joy: Finding Joy in the Midst of Loss, Hardship and Suffering by Heidi McLaughlin


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When the sudden and unexpected death of a partner hit Heidi McLaughlin for the second time, it would not have been surprising if she’d have become bitter and joyless. But she was determined not to end up that way. Fresh Joy is her story—the first-person account of a woman who goes from a trauma-shattered state of shock to an expansive place of joy.

Along the way she takes us past milestones of unanswered prayers, regrets and “if onlys,” accepting a season of loneliness, appreciating God’s refining process, and more. McLaughlin skillfully weaves details from her story with the spiritual principles she teaches. Each chapter also contains many practical ways to deepen joy.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on hearing from God. McLaughlin writes,

“I never before thought to ask God a question and then, with pen poised, wait for his answers. This discipline of listening for God’s voice and writing down his answers opened up a whole new God dimension for me” (Chapter 12).

McLaughlin goes on to suggest several doable ways we can nurture our relationship with God by listening and so enhance our joy.

McLaughlin’s style is an easy mix of storytelling, teaching, and challenging her readers. The topical nature of each chapter, along with the concluding sum-up neatly contained in the acronym STOP would make this book great for study and discussion groups. This book would be especially helpful for those who are newly grieving the loss of loved ones—and the rest of us, who have no idea what challenges to joy lie ahead.

I received a copy of Fresh Joy as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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