The Message of the Cross

 

Wishing you a blessed Easter weekend!

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Easter Corinthians

(Consider clicking on graphic to enlarge)

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“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

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Lessons from a Lenten Rose

 

HelleboreThe Royal Horticultural Society says, “Hellebores … are perennial garden plants with elegant flowers, perfect for brightening up shady areas during late winter and early spring. Some species are grown for their striking evergreen architectural foliage.”

When purchased sixteen years ago, these two plants were simply labelled “Helleborus Orientalis (Lenten Rose)” and I intended and expected they would be identical. Not so. One is a dark pink with red spots, and looks like it might be ‘Rosina Cross’, but the other is a lighter pink, almost white, with dark pink spots, much like a ‘Cherry Davis’. Since neither was named, however, I’m not sure what they are, except that they both have down-facing blossoms.

Hellebore 2Some nurseries insist there is no such thing as an up-facing Hellebore but others advertise them, suggesting the blooms face outward, rather than down. All I know is that mine are regularly battered and spattered by mud whenever it rains hard, as it did last week.

I wonder if I should be taking a lesson from them — something about keeping my head up through any storm if I want to come through the downpour unscathed.

It sounds reasonable until I think about facing the wind with head down, chin tucked into my scarf, the only way to stay warm as I walk.

Hellebore 3

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Maybe there isn’t a lesson at all. Maybe it is enough to remember that these beauties have survived here sixteen years; they’re sturdy and persistent, returning to try again every winter, always bringing me a smile when I discover them unfurling despite rain, mud and snow.

Then again, maybe there’s a lesson in that!

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“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

[Samuel Beckett]

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Helleborus Orientalis

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National Poetry Month, a Novel, and Now

Throughout the month of March many of us took part in a literary version of March Madness, daily working our way toward an assortment of writing-related goals. Now April has arrived, bringing with it National Poetry Month, and a new daily challenge — reading a poem a day.

Sunny Tree

The challenge was dished out to me by Sandra Heska King and her allies at TweekspeakPoetry.com. Who can deny having time to read just one poem each day? I already read a portion of scripture and the poetry of the Psalms. How hard could it be to fit in a few more verses? Of course, one could jump in with more of a commitment and write a poem a day, but that would stretch my poetry moments into poetry hours, and end up overshadowing the other writing I want to do. I know my limits.

Each day I spend a chunk of time working on the new novel I began last month, but my tortoise-like progress reminds me of how easy it is to let other activities obscure that priority. I have writer friends who hold down full-time jobs, homeschool their children, and still cope with the deadlines of multiple book contracts. I’m always in awe of Ruth Logan Herne who daycares a houseful of children, prepares material for and monitors two daily group blogs (in addition to her own website), has chickens, and dogs, and goodness knows what else, but is consistently up and writing by 5:00 a.m. every morning, getting her couple hours in before the rest of her household awakens and her ‘other’ workday begins. My days are mostly empty, but I get much less done. It’s all about priorities, having goals, and not letting them become lost behind other attention-grabbing pursuits. Oh, and knowing how to juggle a bit doesn’t hurt.

I watched a video yesterday and one statement in it really hit me: “It is always now.” Yesterday is an unchangeable memory. We may wait for tomorrow, hoping for our situation to get better, easier, or improve in some other way, but each moment we live is our NOW. We will never get this moment back to do over. What we want to accomplish tomorrow will only happen if we work towards it today… beginning right now.

Do you have any desires or goals that are being eclipsed by other things? What are you doing to try and achieve them?

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Keeping an eye on the goal

The last day of March! That means it’s also the last day of my month-long March Madness and Speedbo projects. All the other participants will likely be joining me in a last-minute dash to the finish line, hoping to reach or exceed the goals so publicly set out before the start of this endeavour.

What then? Do we heave a sigh of relief that it’s over, and walk away? I don’t think so. I think you’ll find those who have persevered through the month will still be working on their projects tomorrow, or moving on to new ones. I know I will be. When one goal is reached, there’s usually another waiting in the distance. Keeping an Eye Out I think one of the main differences between those who succeed and those who don’t is the determination to push on… to keep eyes focused on a long-term goal despite failures or successes, challenges or disappointments along the way.

March is just one month out of twelve. April will return me to my Monday and Friday posting schedule, but in between I’ll continue to write the story that has kept me occupied this month. I didn’t get the first draft finished and I’m anxious to see how it ends.

What about you? Besides Easter, what’s on your horizon that’s enticing you forward into April?

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Chickadee Black-capped

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Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

[Martin Luther]

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March Madness 5: Believing in Yourself

Anyone who’s visited my place would understand when I say my garden beds are a little on the wild side. Not in a nice, English country garden style of wildness, but more of a weed-filled, woodsy mess. Even in the middle of gardening season they tend to get neglected and the ferns and salal that pop up in places where they don’t belong, get ignored.

Woods 1

 

Ferns 1

(Animals that show up where they don’t belong are harder to ignore but I have a ‘live and let live’ philosophy about them, too.)

Bear 1

I’d like the gardens to be more civilized, but I’ve come to accept that moss and weeds are more energetic than I am. More persistent, too.

Years ago a friend gave me a wonderful gift… a set of Celtic-themed garden stones that look exactly right in my au natural space. I have them tucked into special spots around the yard where their messages bring a moment of of reflection each time they’re encountered. Despite a bit of moss, one in particular seems very appropriate for us writers as we move into these last few days of our March Madness — Believe.

Believe2

  • Writing is more fulfilling when you believe you are an authentic writer.
  • Reaching a goal is more likely if you believe you can.
  • Persisting in the face of discouragement and rejection is easier if you believe in the value of what you’re doing.

Insecurity and uncertainty hound all of us at times. I’ve been writing for many years, but I think I first began really believing in myself as a writer after hearing Robert Dugoni’s keynote speech at the closing of the 2010 Surrey International Writers’ Conference. It was a re-visioning of Aragorn’s rally call, ending with a rousing, “This day we write!” and it resulted in a standing ovation from all 600 attendees. If you need an extra dose of inspiration, consider taking the time to listen to it:  http://www.booksontheradio.ca/podcasts/Bob_Dugoni_SiWC.mp3

And then head into these last couple days believing you are a writer and you can reach significant goals on this journey if you will keep trying.

Do you believe?

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Now… I’d like to give away yet another March Madness prize from our prize arsenal. Today’s winner is…

Girl Parker!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Then e-mail Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still lots of great prizes to be won, so keep checking in each day. It’s not over until it’s truly over!

Our second-to-last check-in is tomorrow at Angelina Hansen’s blog.

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March Madness #4: Writing as Magic or Ministry

We’re different, you and I. As readers, you may love to lose yourself in a richly told romance, while today I might prefer a faith-filled inspirational story, and tomorrow a mystery.

As writers, we choose our genres based on a particular level of comfort… telling stories that may be close to our hearts or based on our knowledge and experience, or our desire to master a challenge. How we get those stories out of our heads and onto the page is a unique process for each person. Why we do it and what we accomplish may be equally unique. For many there is an element of creative magic that is intoxicating.

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life
as any other creative art.”

[Stephen King]
 

Bud

Those of us who are Christian writers sometimes question the validity of our calling to write if we’re drawn to produce secular instead of Christian fiction. We may think it’s frivolous to write something that doesn’t intend to convey an inspirational message, or at least a message of significance.

It’s an attitude that can spill over into other daily activities and even our careers. However, I truly believe that any task done with passion that attempts to bring beauty, help or healing, is a calling… a legitimate form of ministry. At first glance some writing may appear only to entertain but will still have a purpose — providing a brief escape from the mundane, or showing how characters overcome difficulties and solve life problems.

It’s not so much what we do but the attitude we have towards doing it, that determines whether our work is self-indulgent or a ministry/calling.

How do you view your work, whether it’s writing or any other regular pursuit during these thirty days of March Madness? Is it a calling, a satisfying hobby, or simply something you do because you’ve become caught up in the routine of doing it?

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We’re on the brink of our last week of March Madness.  Are you ready to push ahead and make the best use of these final days?

As a bit of encouragement I’d like to give away another prize from our huge prize arsenal today! Today’s winner is…

Nicole Luiken!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still LOTS of great prizes to be won. Winners are chosen from participants who comment at the daily check-in blog locations, so keep checking in each day. Tomorrow’s check-in is at Angelina Hansen‘s blog at  http://yascribe.blogspot.com

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Hanging in there on a Monday

It’s Monday again… and I imagine many of you went into it already counting down to Friday. I happen to like Mondays, but I’m probably an oddity. (Stop nodding your head and laughing!)  Living through the week while being focused on something else is a little like what our resident squirrel does.

Squirrel 1

He took all winter to figure out how to work his way over the squirrel-proof bird feeder and reach the one beyond it that contains his favourite black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

Squirrel 2The problem is, he’s so enamoured by his discovery of the food, he sometimes forgets where he is.

Squirrel 3Squirrel 4He throws caution to the wind (along with a lot of millet) and neglects the important aspect of hanging on, occasionally slipping right off.

The fall to our deck is about seven feet, but if he misses that — and he often does — he falls fifteen feet to the gravel path.

Lack of focus may not be his problem so much as ineffective multitasking.

Squirrel 5

“Didn’t your momma tell you it isn’t polite to laugh at others?”

So, about this yearning for Friday business…. maybe wishing the days away isn’t as wise as putting all you’ve got into the present, even when you’re planning ahead for the weekend.

I’m sure there must be a writing analogy in this, but I don’t know what it is. I’ll leave it to your imagination. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to burying myself in my March Madness and Speedbo writing. :)

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March Madness 2: Making a Noise

The brown and grey Song Sparrow isn’t very big. The Cornell University’s Ornithology site describes song sparrows as medium-sized but bulky, and says they are one of the most familiar sparrows in North America. If I sit quietly down by our marsh on a summer day, I’ll sometimes hear their chip-and-trill song from somewhere in the bushes, but I never get to see them.

Song Sparrow, Pacific Northwest form (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow, Pacific Northwest form (Melospiza melodia)

This little guy is the only one that ever comes out of hiding, and he reappears every year during late winter, travelling with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos. He’s a ground forager but visits our deck to snack on seeds spilled from the feeder by other more messy eaters. I’m assuming it’s the same one every year, since I’m told they can live ten years or more, but of course I can’t know for sure.

I’m not a great birdwatcher, but I’m learning to identify the birds that frequent our property, most by sight but some by their song. Each species emits a specific sound. You can hear the Song Sparrow’s here, if you desire.

SongSparrow2It’s surprising what you can learn from birds. Today I’m reminded of how important it is to have a distinctive voice. For this Song Sparrow, hearing him and knowing he’s around means I’ll be sure to toss out a few handfuls of his favourite seeds.

For those of us who are writers, our voice, according to Wikipedia, is “a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).” A lot of words, but what exactly does it mean for us?

Donald Maass, in his book, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL (if you haven’t read it, you should), says:
“What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.”

So, fellow Wipsters (or March Madnessers… I kinda like that term of Shari‘s), as we launch into this second week of pursuing our goals, I’d like to suggest we give some thought to what makes our work stand out. Whether blogging, writing stories or illustrating, have you put any effort into developing a unique voice? Do you think it’s important, or just a literary accoutrement? And if you’re a reader, do you prefer certain books because of the author’s voice, or are you more attracted to the theme or story?

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Before  moving on, I’d like to give away another prize from our huge prize arsenal! Today’s winner is…

Trudi Trueit!

Congratulations, Trudi! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Then email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still LOTS of great prizes to be won, so keep checking in each day. Tomorrow’s check-in location is at Angelina Hanson’s blog: http://yascribe.blogspot.ca/

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