Wishing you a Strong and Courageous 2023

Here are some of my joyful moments during this holiday season of 2022.

I hope these photos and video will bring you a smile!

“Doggone Christmas” Contest

…and I hope smiling will remind you of your own joyful times in 2022.

Jonesborough Christmas parade

May you be filled with gratitude!

These times take courage and inner strength to find peace within your heart and soul.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Jonesborough Christmas Church tour: music, cookies, hot chocolate, and man’s best friends!

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid.

God is with you wherever you go!

And I am sending you a big ……

/

…And the soul felt its worth

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

from “O Holy Night”, words by poet Placide Cappeau, music by Adolphe Adam

It’s true! I can attest to it. I feel my own worth as a human being from praying to the Savior, listening and knowing him through reading the Bible.

Think about it…

If someone is willing to die for you, you must realize that you are of great worth to them.

If someone lives for you, you have to believe that you are extremely valuable to them.

That someone is Jesus.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He is able to save forever those who come to God through him, because he always lives to plead on their behalf.

Jesus is always pleading our case before the Father, like a defense lawyer on our behalf. Jesus is interceding for us while Satan (whose name means “accuser”) is pointing out our sins and frailties before God.

Talk to him. What better time than right now?

(If you’re not interested in that, but would like to chat about it, send me a short message using the form, it will not appear publicly.)

Wishing you ALL a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Photo credits

Nithi Anand, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nithiclicks/15821941673 “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul”

TriviaKing at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons “Closeup of a hug”

My photo of our Christmas tree and candle

Pixabay christmas-card-566305_960_720.jpg

Rest in Peace, dear Queen

I feel sad to realize that for the first time in my life, this gracious, dignified, warm woman is not on this earth with us. I have so respected her, and felt comforted by her leadership, constancy and dignified reign.

I am thankful for the memorials I’ve witnessed recently, from a British flag at half-mast in my neighborhood, to a beautiful commemorative ceremony held in my province on the grounds of the Alberta legislature in Edmonton to honor her life and legacy. The verses from the Poet Laureate are lovely. One prayer included the words “unwearied devotion to duty,” what a perfect description. Through these I feel I have joined others who mourn her all around the world.

Thank you dear Lord for giving her such a long life, and 70 years’ reign as a gift to the world. Please bless the King of England with great wisdom, power and guidance which are so very necessary to that nation, and to all nations which it touches. Be merciful to all the nations, Lord, we need You so much at this time. Let your truth and peace permeate all peoples on the earth through Jesus your Son. Amen.

The Nativity Scene – a Reminder

Whenever you see a nativity scene, be reminded that

God wants to be closer to you.

According to tradition, the first nativity scene was built by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 to encourage the villagers to worship Christ. It was life-sized with live animals in a cave in Grecio, Italy, a small mountainside village.

Now nativity scenes are everywhere around the world, and even include live performances. What a powerful way to visualize the love of God, and his mission of reconciliation!

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
A section of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”

Jesus is called by many powerful names…

…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

The Bible

The name most meaningful to me is Emmanuel, “God with us.” It tells me that–just like the original plan–God’s plan and desire is still to walk through life with us, providing all we need and working out all of our experiences for good.

Let’s use the simple, childlike images in a nativity scene to have some quiet moments with God.

Inspired by this beautiful article, I hope you’ll join me in contemplating the love offered in that first nativity.

Below is a collection of my own nativity scenes, with “reminders”.

Feel free to use these (and share!).

I wish for you the love, comfort and hope found

in the first Christmas, every Christmas!

Beauty for Ashes

I revelled in the summer heat
When others fried
And sighed,
Goodbye,
And went inside.

Trusting, I smiled 
When hot became warm,
The return of summer's norm,
Simply a mild forewarn
Of climate's transform.

Too soon it seemed
Leaves turned to gold.
Yet still no cold!
Larch and aspen--behold!
Facing autumn serene and bold.

Fun while it lasted,
No keeping frost at bay,
Friendly warmth gives way,
How I shiver today.
Lord help! I pray.

I grieved, pleaded, implored:
Perfumed rose, spotted fawn,
Warbler song, emerald lawn,
All gone, all gone!
But...was that a trumpeter swan?

I'd missed the mist, 
The glitter of snow,
The hush, and the slow,
The late sunrise glow--
All my friend Winter will bestow.
The Bow River, Mallard Point, Fish Creek Park, Calgary October 31, 2021

I have to admit, I am probably the biggest baby in the world when it comes to winter, inwardly grieving, mourning, whining and complaining. But this scene today reminded me of its blessings, because without the cold, the mist wouldn’t rise up in the first rays of sunlight!

And the frosting on the cake, a few minutes after snapping this photo with frozen hands, was watching a flock of Trumpeter Swans fly overhead as they return to Calgary for the winter.

This also reminds me of one of my favorite Biblical poems:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord…
sent…to bind up the brokenhearted…
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve…
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
[from Isaiah 61:1-3]

Wishing blessings on you for every season!

Relax, there will be an Answer

Have you ever had a dilemma and suddenly–without any effort from you–the answer became clear? That’s what happened to me last week.

The dilemma was one of those fuzzy impressions, hard to put my finger on, a nagging weight on my mind, frustration. It seemed to be related to my many writing projects and interests, and the competition we writers face as we attempt to find readers and run our business.

When the dust cleared, the issue, in all honesty, was that I was become more aware of my limitations, and feeling more and more inept as I tried to compete with much more talented and experienced writers. Aargh.

George Pope Morris -from Wikipedia

The first “Answer”

While studying what were said to be good examples of short stories, I read “The Little Frenchman and His Water Lots” by George Pope Morris, a 19th century American editor, poet, and songwriter. It’s interesting how he starts out by telling us the theme of his story.

How much real comfort every one might enjoy if he would be contented with the lot in which heaven has cast him, and how much trouble would be avoided if people would only “let well alone.” A moderate independence, quietly and honestly procured, is certainly every way preferable even to immense possessions achieved by the wear and tear of mind and body so necessary to procure them.

George Pope Morris

He introduces us to Monsieur Poopoo, living a simple, satisfying life keeping a small toy-store…

“You must recollect him, of course… When a juvenile, you have bought tops and marbles of him a thousand times… There he was as happy as a lark-and there, in all human probability, he would have been to this very day…had he been willing ‘let well alone.'”

When I read those three words, I instantly knew that was the answer to my own dilemma. Instead of focusing on the writing skills and experience I already have, and building on them, I have been frustrated over the new ones I am straining toward. Ah, me.

[By the way, if you prefer to listen to the George Pope Morris story, you can do so here!]

Paul McCartney – from his Twitter

The second “Answer”

As if to underscore Mr. Morris’s point, a few days later I ran across a video of Paul McCartney driving around with a talk show host in the locations featured in many of McCartney’s songs. At the beginning of the video (5:00, but keep watching until 7:45, priceless!), the mega-star recalls that the Beatles assumed their music might have maybe ten years of popularity and relevance. In the 1960s his mother, who had passed away, came to him in a dream, and reassured him by saying, “It’s going to be okay, just let it be”. He’d never really heard that, but he believed her, and was relieved. The next morning, he pondered again what she’d said. Let it be. He let those three little words sink in, and become music. Life-changing–maybe career changing–advice!

By the way, it is a funny video for the most part, but much of it, especially near the end, is also quite thought provoking and heartwarming.

…Which reminded me

Put another way, as my friend Pat recommended about thirty years ago when I confided to her about a problem I was struggling with, “Stop trying so hard.” Simple yet effective. I immediately took her advice and it did wonders for the current situation. I have returned to it many times since then, and passed it on to other friends. Mr. Morris and Mr. McCartney reminded me of Pat’s advice.

A Biblical passage puts it this way, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10. I also love what bloggers Brett and Chuck Swindoll said about this verse in their posts.

Another passage says, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything.” Philippians 4:6. And my favorite…

In quietness and confident trust is your strength

Isaiah 30:15 , The Bible

Well, there you have it, the same general message conveyed in different words and images. I know I find it easy to forget that I don’t have to stress out over things, and am always relieved to be reminded. I hope some of these words will pop into your mind and “be the answer” some day when you most need them!

Update – the Calgary READS Big Book Sale has been cancelled

With the wellbeing of our community in mind, the Big Book Sale has been cancelled… Take special care & take comfort in books and reading aloud!

From all of us at Calgary READS

Thanks for giving it your best shot, Calgary READS! You are awesome and it will happen in the future!

By the way, anyone who wants to make a donation can do so here. And definitely check out their fun video!

It’s a stressful time. I wish you all peace, patience, health, hope and connection with our Father in heaven. Here is one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard, at 20 Schemes. I discovered it a few weeks ago, and it just keeps going round and round in my head, bringing calm and sweetness to my days. I hope it does the same for you, my friend. {{{Hugs!}}}

Nature Break

Hi everybody, since it’s the middle of the winter,

and the world is STILL not back to normal,

here is a little “nature break” video for you – with chill music!

It’s a collection of pictures and videos I took in the neighborhood park, most in 2020.

I hope it gives you that “Ahhhh” feeling.

And especially for you, my fellow Albertans, enjoy some colors (besides white!) …and remember that those “Extreme Cold Warning” emergency alerts on our phones will one day be a thing of the past!

Here’s the link again: https://youtu.be/zKykIjbUrkY

Sit back, take a few deep breaths, relax and enjoy the gorgeous music, “Teth”, courtesy of

Angelo God’s Minstrel

on Shazam,
on Jamendo,
and YouTube.

A HUGE thank you for your generosity!

A Spiritual Rest during the Holidays

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world hath suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring:

O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.”

from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Edmund Sears

Woes, sin, suffering, years of wrongdoing, war, strife… it seems like I’ve been hearing more of those words than usual these past few years.

So here we are in the end of the year “holiday”. But is it possible to find rest with our spirit so weary from life around us?

Many of the original holidays were holy-days, a time to focus on the spiritual health of individuals, a community or nation. They were intended as an opportunity to put the day-to-day work on hold, in order to have time to intentionally celebrate or remember significant spiritual principles or events.

What about now? Are spiritual matters that important these days?

DCF 1.0

I think so. I believe that we live eternally as a spirit, we have a soul, and we dwell in a body.

It’s easy and natural to focus on the physical and mental parts of our lives. I think that’s because they are, for the most part, visible and tangible. The spiritual side is intangible, however. And intangible may mean hard it’s hard to grasp its significance.

It might be that our spirit just doesn’t make as much noise, so we need some inner quiet to hear it.

What brought this to my attention was really listening to the lyrics of some classic Christmas songs. In them I heard a longing for relief from the powers of evil, from guilt, and from the tendency to sin, to go astray from what is right. And I also heard words of joy and peace coming to hearts of those who had found spiritual hope or rest.

Here are a few examples:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til he appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices…” (from “O Holy Night”)

“Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought” (from “The First Noel”)

“Fear not then”, said the Angel, “Let nothing you affright… this day is born a savior… To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might…Oh tidings of comfort and joy!” (from “God rest ye Merry Gentlemen”)

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love!” (from “Joy to the World”)

We need those things: goodness, light, a savior, mercy, a feeling of worth, reconciliation, fearlessness, deliverance, blessings, truth, grace, love. And when we can’t depend on our physical or mental powers, or mankind, scientists or governments to give them to us, we need to look at the spiritual, the divine.

I know it helps me immensely to focus my mind on spiritual good news. My spiritual beliefs center on Jesus, who created this beautiful world and everything in it, is the highest authority and power, paid the sin-debt I owed, and walks with me through life. What a relief for my conscience, and peace for each day. Now that is tidings of comfort and joy!

This holiday, especially after the strain of 2020, I hope you will find a quiet time to attend to your spirit, get out in nature, talk to God, hear his voice, and respond to Him.

And I wish you a healthy and happy New Year in 2021!