November prompt – remember

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Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007

Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007 (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

We’ve entered November–the month in which we set aside a special day to remember our country’s soldiers. In Canada we call it Remembrance Day.

We commemorate by wearing flocked red poppies in the weeks leading up to November 11th and on the day, gathering at cenotaphs throughout the country to lay wreaths, pray prayers, and honor our veterans with songs, readings, flypasts, bugle calls, bagpipes, and salutes.

But this is only one way people throughout generations remember.

In Bible times people’s memories were jogged by feasts (Leviticus 23). During the Feast of Passover, for example, the Israelites remembered their dramatic release from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:14). During the Feast of Tabernacles (also called Booths or Shelters) they remembered their wilderness wanderings when for forty years they lived in tents and God provided for their needs (Leviticus 23:42,43).

In the New Testament Jesus began a new memory tradition with the Last Supper. On that night His sharing of the bread and wine became the memorial feast for His death and resurrection that we call Communion. (Mark 14:22-25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Remembering is complex. Memories are triggered by many things: photographs, the reminiscences of others, looking through the attic, smells, songs, celebrations, food …

Memories come colored by a range of emotions from pleasure to anguish, joy to embarrassment. They may leave us with a spectrum of feelings from laughter to tears, thanksgiving to guilt.

This month I invite you to write about something you remember.

  • Possibly a memory related to the special day we celebrate on November 11th will inspire a short story or essay.
  • Maybe the season, with its colors, tastes and smells will trigger memories perfect for a poem.
  • Perhaps you’ll write about an object or celebration that helps you remember.

Whatever you write about and in whatever form, make sure your piece is full of detail and specifics. What senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) were part of your trigger experience? Do your best to transport your reader to the time and place of your memory.

Happy writing as you remember this November!

August prompt: rain

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Rain on roses in June

Raindrops on roses – in June

Here in the Lower Mainland of B.C. we haven’t had a drop of rain for all of July. This is a record for the first calendar month ever without any rain recorded at the Vancouver weather station!

By now lawns that aren’t watered are looking brown and thirsty. Forest fires are a very real threat due to the tinder-dry conditions. Still most local weather forecasters echo the bias of sun-lovers saying, when predicting showers, “Our luck has run out,” or “Not a great forecast,” even after such a long dry spell! That’s testimony, I guess, to how rain is no novelty   around here.

The Bible’s first mention of rain is not a happy one. The forty-day rain that  flooded the earth resulted in mass destruction of land and people. Only Noah and his family survived that flood – Genesis 7 & 8.

Noah's Ark - artist unknown

Noah’s Ark – Artist unknown

Most of the time, though, Bible writers view rain as a blessing. No doubt their views were influenced by rain’s scarcity in the Middle East. And so its coming is usually reason for celebration.

God is generally credited with sending rain (Job 5:10; Psalm 65:10; Amos 5:8). And He sends it indiscriminately on good and bad alike (Matthew 5:45).

Moses, when talking about Canaan describes it as “…a land … which drinks water from the rain of heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11) and calls rain one of God’s “good treasures” (Deuteronomy 28:12).

Rain is also used as a symbol in the Bible.

  • Isaiah describes the way the rain and snow fall from heaven and water the earth as a picture of the way God’s word goes across the world accomplishing spiritual purposes (Isaiah 55:10,11).
House of Sand - Gutenberg project

House Built On Sand – Gutenberg project

  • The prophet Joel equates the predictability of the rainy season with how faithful God will be to restore His people from waywardness and spiritual drought when they repent and return to Him (Joel 2:23).
  • In one of Jesus’ stories rain serves as a test to show the foundational integrity of two houses—one built on sand, the other on rock. It’s a parable that pictures how important it is to build our lives on truth (Matthew 7:24-28).

What does the mention of rain conjure in your mind? Perhaps you experienced the spring floods in western Canada this year and rain has become a symbol of terror and destruction. Or maybe your experience is of a dry climate where rain is welcomed with dancing and celebration.

This month, I invite you to write about rain.

You might want to create a fictional piece where where rain plays a haunting part in the setting (like W. Somerset Maugham did in the short story “Rain”).

Maybe you’ll write about your feelings for or against rain, or what rain symbolizes to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually in a poem.

Or you might want to write about a true life experience when rain saved—or wrecked—the day.

pit, pit, pit, pat, pat, pit, pat…

No, that’s not rain. It’s the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, dancing up some literary rain!

May prompt: tree

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Zaccheus in the sycamore tree by James Tissot

Zaccheus in the sycamore tree – By James Tissot

The landscape is changing with the coming of spring. A big part of this change is brought about by the blossoming and leafing of trees. Almost overnight a row of dull brown twigs becomes a lively green canopy that gives shade, privacy, and beauty. You can’t help but notice trees in the spring.

There are at least two dozen varieties of trees mentioned in the Bible, many of which are familiar to us: almond (Ecclesiastes 12:5), apple (Song of Solomon 2:3), palm (Exodus 15:27), cedar, pine and cypress (Isaiah 41:19) and willow (Isaiah 44:4).

Trees played a part in many Bible events:

  • A tree held the tempting fruit that tripped up Eve (Genesis 3:1-7).
  • God met with Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre (Genesis 18:1).
  • Absalom’s thick hair got caught in the branches of a great terebinth tree. The Bible describes him hanging between heaven and earth and in that helpless state he was easy prey for David’s general Joab (2 Samuel 18:9,14).
  • Jesus died on a cross, made of wood from a tree.

The Bible refers to trees not only in literal ways but in symbolic ones too.

  • I’ve always been haunted by the picture of the silent harps of the grieving Babylonian exiles, hanging in the willows (Psalm 137:1-3).
  • John’s vision in Revelation makes references to several trees in mostly symbolic or picturesque ways:

– There is a tree of life – Revelation 2:7
– Two prophetic messengers are referred to as olive trees – Revelation 11:3-6.
– There is a healing tree with leaves that heal nations and a different fruit each month – Revelation 22:2,14.

Here is your TREE writing challenge for April:

For writers of fiction:

You might make a tree a key part of your setting like author Julie Chantrell gives her main character Millie “Honey,” a sweet gum tree that operates almost like another character in her novel Into the Free (review here).

Or tell a children’s story from the tree’s point of view, like Kimberley Payne does in Trees of the Book (review here).

For writers of non-fiction:

Research a specific tree to write an informational piece, or tell a personal experience with a tree and use it as an illustration in a devotional or motif in a personal essay.

For poets:

Dig deep into your connection with trees to come up with some truth about life using tree imagery. Psalm 1:-1-3 is a great example of this.