Blooming Out Of Season

Two months after the rest of my shasta daisies had ceased blooming, almost overnight a lone daisy poked up its cheerful head. What led it to bloom as the days got colder and shorter? The blooming season for flowers in this part of Southern Ontario is ending. The hostas are wilting. Even the petunias look the worse for wear. The fall mums have lost their sunny sparkle. We’ve had a frost and a week of rain without much sun. And still my solitary daisy blooms!

This single daisy reminds me of people who bloom in difficult circumstances.??????????????????????????????? Most of us can rise to our potential when we have a good job, reasonable health, supportive friends, and regular sleep. When everything is sunshine and roses we can smile and whistle a happy tune. But that’s not so easy when cancer strikes, or gossip destroys our reputation, or the Taliban besiege our town, or we face an impossible task.

There’s the cheerful woman in her late 90’s who still comes to prayer meeting, cracks jokes and loves to spread a ray of sunshine around her retirement home.

There’s Diana, beaten, molested and told she was stupid and worthless who after kicking her addiction to drugs cajoled government to help her develop successful businesses for ex-psychiatric patients.

I’m reminded of Thomas Edison who kept on experimenting through hundreds of failures until he perfected a light bulb.

I think of children who remain hopeful even while going through chemo-therapy and worse.

Consider the survivors of the Muslim attack on the Northern Nigerian town of Yelwa that killed 75 in their burning church building. Despite threats the surviving Christians boldly rebuild their church.

What about the young woman fighting against the tide of despair to rescue Ebola orphans in West Africa?

Then there is Malala, shot and almost killed by a Taliban a sympathizer just because she stood up for the right of girls to be educated. Undeterred she continues to agitate world-wide for universal education. A worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I think of the retired pastor who earns enough during the year to travel half-way around the world so he can encourage persecuted Christians and train pastors.

What of the scores of Chinese, Ethiopians, Koreans, and westerners who ignoring warnings about Muslim terrorism go to spend and be spent in dangerous parts of the world. Against all rational odds, SIM has more missionaries from more countries now in the challenging mission field of Pakistan than it did when things were much easier.

Second Timothy 4:2 exhorts preachers and teachers to, “Prea???????????????????????????????ch the Word; be prepared in season and out of season.” Clearly, we need teaching about God’s grace in Christ when things are going well lest we become complacent; and when we plunge into difficulties lest we be discouraged.

Whether we are preachers or not, we should all aspire to bloom in every season by displaying the godly characteristics of love, patience, kindness, joy, peace, gentleness, faith, and goodness. Indeed, Lord, help me to bloom like that daisy even during dark and cold days.

Color My World Autumn

Sumac

Sumac

Many in our northern latitudes find autumn their favorite season. For a couple of months the countryside exchanges a large part of its green wardrobe for gowns displaying a profusion of colours. The countryside is a giant canvas. The Divine Artist gradually fills in the mural with subtle shades here and splashes of color there. As the weeks pass, the canvas becomes more and more vibrant. By the way, it’s not Jack Frost at work or Mother Nature but the Creator Himself. Even plants like the sumac, which some consider a nuisance, get in on the act. As if afraid to be overshadowed by the scarlet frocks that towering maples don laterin the season, the sumac heralds its place in this drama by dyeing the fringes of the roads and fields with crimson.

White Ash

White Ash

Next come the stalwart ash, first displaying subtle shades of beige and rust before donning brilliant gowns of plum and wine.

The leaves of beech and oak, which often cling to their branches throughout the winter, paint their trees with hues of fawn and brown and taupe that gradually turn to gold.

Trembling Aspen

Trembling Aspen

Part way through this seasonal drama, the Divine Tailor stitches up a gown for the aspens and poplars composed of a dozen shades of yellow–flaxen, lemon, saffron, amber. All in preparation for their autumn dance.

Meanwhile the Artist on High has been tinting the maples, most dramatic of the trees, with every colour in His palate from lemon yellow to bright orange and scarlet.

Throughout the fall, pine, cedar and spruce maintain a background of rich green to set off the multi-hued pigments of autumn that wash the fields and woodlands with bright color.

Sugar Maple

Sugar Maple

As the season develops, commentators keep us abreast of where and when to visit our woodlands to catch a glimpse of this yearly display. And so, throughout Eastern North America, city dwellers abandon their grey city haunts to tour the lakes and forests of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ontario, and Quebec.

The wind blows and the leaves begin to fall OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAleaving windrows of fading colour all along the verges of field and roadway. No human artist can hope to best the skill of the Creator. And this yearly exhibition is free for any to enjoy. No wonder many view autumn as their favorite time of the year.

Where Have All the Butterflies Gone?

Monarch butterflyEvery summer we look forward to monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower. But we’re now well into September and have seen only one or two. Days go by with no sightings. What has happened? It can’t be the lack of a food source near where we live. There’s lots of milkweed upon which the monarchs lay their eggs.

Not only monarchs, but other butterflies along with bees seem much diminished. And bees fulfill a crucial role as food pollinators. Why this decline?

Part of the answer is found in extreme weather; some recent winters have been unusually cold while some summers have been dry throughout much of the Texas and the mid-West of the US. These extremes have proven to be life-threatening for the fragile monarch.

However, the largest culprit remains our careless approach to the environmentHoney bee on fall mums. Certainly, the slow decimation of the monarchs’ preferred wintering ground in Mexico has contributed. But here in the rest of North America agricultural practice must also be considered. Farm fields used to be separated by fence rows where wild flowers and small animals thrived. Recently, most fence rows have been bulldozed into oblivion creating enormous fields with little space for natural species to flourish. Hence, throughout the plains, monarchs find less and less wild flower nectar for themselves and less milkweed upon which to lay their eggs.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Scientists tell us natural habitats face a perfect storm of environmental problems. The existence of so-called weeds, such as milkweed, suffer from the widespread use of herbicides which eradicate weeds that hinder the growth of genetically modified seeds. Pressure to produce high yields almost compels farmers get onboard this biotech nightmare.

Added to this threat to plant diversity is the widespread use on engineered insecticides. These new generation pesticides effectively control sucking insects, some chewing insects, soil insects, and are also used to control fleas on domestic animals. They increase profit but decrease biodiversity and threaten to destroy not only butterflies but bees as well. In a sense farmers are in a bind, under enormous pressure to use whatever means is available to compete world-wide.

Surely there ought to be national and international regulations about protecting ???????????????????????????????biodiversity. Neither monarch butterflies nor bumblebees nor chickadees nor sparrows seem very significant. They do not obviously contribute to GDP. But surely life is more than GDP? What about EDP, esthetic domestic product? After all wasn’t it Jesus who taught us about God’s care of the birds and delight in lilies and grass? (See Matthew 6:26-30) If He cares for them; shouldn’t we?

Sadly, most of us feel more devotion to the Almighty Dollar than we do to the Creator. But the Creator has made it clear, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. We hold land in trust, as His stewards. That means caring for the earth not thoughtlessly exploiting it.

The Rocky Road to Book Promotion

My hair is turning grey. Why? Because I not only write books, but have to concentrate on publicity. Publicity? Yeah, I know, it’s a bad word—but a necessary one. Maybe there are those in book-land who love book promotion. Let it be known up front that I’m not one of them. But, BUT, it is necessary! So Riptide_h11210_300as my latest novel, Riptide came out, I bit the bullet and formulated a plan.

Anyway, here is what I’ve done which I present with the thought that it might help other reluctant authors-promoters.

First I appealed for some reviewers and encouraged them to put reviews up on my publisher’s site (Pelican Book Group), on Amazon, Indigo, and Barnes and Noble. The results were not only encouraging, but astounding. People actually liked, even loved my book!

Of course, I’d already updated my web site and talked about the book on Facebook and twitter.

I wrote a persuasive one page description of the book which included facts, cost, availability, reviews, etc. Along with a picture of the cover, I sent this to my email list encouraging previous readers of my fiction to order the book. Orders began to trickle in.

Captives cover 150dpi (388 x 600) - CopySince my home church has been supportive, I approached the pastor about making the book available on a Sunday. Some churches are sensitive about selling on Sunday. But since our church allows the sale of missionary books and music videos from visiting presenters, the pastor was positive. With a notice in the bulletin for a couple of weeks, the sales on the Sunday in question were good.

Next I wrote a one page News Release and presented this in person to the offices of local papers. Ours is a rural county with several small towns and a very active arts and writers’ community. The papers readily accept news releases and often use them almost verbatim. In my case, one of the widest disseminated free papers printed a very positive article. I was astonished when three different people contacted me directly as a result of the Country Win, front onlyarticle. This doesn’t often happen. I’m still waiting for two other papers to follow suit—especially when I approach them with specific dates for book readings, launches, and events.

Once one news article had circulated, it was time to approach local bookstores with whom I have maintained a relationship over the years. Fortunately, this personal approach paid dividends. All of the local bookstores have ordered copies from the distributor. Now I can direct inquiries to these stores. Even Indigo, Canada’s answer to Barnes & Noble, agreed to list it on their sites due to my relationship with some of their store managers. It is also available on Kindle, Kobo, and other e-readers.
The article also generated interest from libraries. So I took the time to personally approach the CEO of each of our local libraries with the suggestion they purchase copies. Most of them eagerly did so, purchasing copies directly from me. In each case, I offered to either run or participate in a literary evening of Lightning File Cover1readings and discussion. So far, our nearest library has reciprocated and scheduled an evening centred on reading from my three novels and discussion of the role of setting in fiction.

The summer is a great time to participate in fairs, arts and craft shows, and farmers’ markets. Most years I set up a table every Saturday at whatever event is taking place. Each of these cost money necessitating the pondering of whether or not sales will cover the cost of a booth. This year, due to some health problems, I’ve not been able to do this as often as I would like.

These same challenges have made it difficult to schedule a book launch evening at a local coffee shop, but this is being planned. A book launch where coffee and pastries are available is a great place to invite friends and writing colleagues. Usually, a couple of local authors get together to launch their books, give readings, and answer questions.
The period leading up to Christmas is an especially fruitful time to set up a book table at local fairs and Christmas craft shows. People come to these looking for gifts and what better gift could they buy than a book?

I’ve also found large bookstores welcome me as a local author offering to sign Down-a-country-road (1)books during periods that lead up to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas. These stores, however, need to know far in advance as their schedules are often full and they need to order books from a distributer.

Finally, service clubs and churches provide one of the most fulfilling venues to speak at as a writer. This is especially true if you have a book of local interest or can gear your talk to something that intrigues or educates an audience. Writers of non-fiction, particularly, have a ready-made topic on which they can speak. My book, Through A Country Window, describes the joys of country life in a general way but also focuses on fascinating facts about our area of the country. Concerning my book, Church–No Spectator Sport, I often speak about the discovery and development of spiritual gifts. From my book, Revolutionary Forgiveness, I can address many questions about how to deal with bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. I find that people are also fascinated by the whole idea of writing a book of fiction. How did you become a writer? Where do you get your ideas from? How do you get published? What advice do you have for new writers?

While we who are authors may not be ideal promoters, any effort we can expend will be yield sales and make our books known. With thousands upon thousands of titles entering the book business every year, we must do whatever we can to promote our book, unless we want it to sink into oblivion. (http://www.countrywindow.ca)

Lesson From A Misshapen Tomato

The tomato was misshapen so I passed it by. It was fat and red, but had a wart-like protrusion from one side. But later, when I picked it, carved off the protrusion, and cut two slices for a sandwich I wasn’t prepared for the taste. Wow! What an explosion of flavor.

Our supermarkets have trained us to expect uniform shapes in our tomatoes, cucumbers, apples and so on. As a result, we’re unprepared to discover flavor in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAveggies or fruit that isn’t a standard shape to fit packaging. The distance most of this produce is shipped dictates that things be picked when they are still unripe and hard enough to bear some rough handling. And so the taste is bland, unlike the French fruits and vegetables we hear about that are grown on smaller farms nearer their market. But that’s another story.

Many of us carry this propensity to evaluate produce by its appearance into all our value-judgments. Although we admit that judging a book by its cover is not fair to the writer, we do it anyway. We classify people by the colour and cut of their hair, the shape of their face, and the tint of their skin. Their ethnicity or origin. Their height and weight. Their accent or facility with our language. The car they drive. The house they live in. The clothes they wear. Their religion. Their marital status.

And yet none of these markers reveal the person behind the externals—the heart and soul and experience and passion of the person. Appearances deceive. I’ve been amazed again and again by how my perceptions of people change when I get to know them. When I listen to them. When I hear their story. That includes ???????????????????????????????Pakistanis among whom we spent sixteen years.

God warns us about this tendency. In choosing a king to succeed Saul, God instructed Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”(1 Sam. 16:7).

Jesus repeatedly broke cultural taboos by associating with tax collectors like Matthew, short people like Zachaeus, women in a male dominated society, Samaritans and other foreigners. He entrusted his revolutionary gospel not to those we would normally pick as leaders but to fishermen and misfits.

The apostle Paul warns about taking “pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart”(2 Cor. 5:12). He exhorts his readers not to look on “the surface of things”(2 Cor. 10:7).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to keep telling myself not to make superficial judgments about people. Don’t you? Like: all Jamaicans are…; all Americans are… ; all Chinese are… ; all Blacks are…; all Muslims are… all Canadians are… No they are not all the same. They are people like us; men and women, boys and girls, young and old, with hopes and dreams and problems. Their cultures may be different but God says; “Judge not that you be not judged.” “Don’t show favoritism.”

This is especially crucial in these days of racial and religious profiling.

Happy Coincidence or Providential Care?

An angel came by the other day to keep us from having a dangerous highway accident. An angel you ask, well not exactly—a very observant and thoughtful person.

We were enjoying a day trip to a wonderful farmers’ market in the Amish country of Southern Ontario. As we left, I noted a factory outlet mall where we stopped to shop. Mary Helen took some of our purchases to the car and spent a few minutes relaxing. At that very moment a couple walking by our car stopped, he tapped on the window, and asked Mary Helen if she would mind them pointing out something.

The man showed her a tiny bulge on our left rear tire and warned her about the Tiredanger of a blowout while driving on the highway. Wow! She thanked them profusely and when I returned she showed me the bulge.

Among all the scuffs and marks on the wall of the tire, I would have never noticed it. We drove home very carefully avoiding the main highway by using smaller roads through wonderful farmland. The next day I took the car to a service station where the mechanic examined the tire and pronounced it unrepairable. Although he didn’t have a replacement in stock, he was providentially able to secure one quickly from the warehouse even though it was a holiday weekend.

We are so thankful for the thoughtful man who pointed out the problem. Was it just a coincidence that he and his wife were walking by our car—at that moment? Was it a coincidence that we parked where we did? Was it a coincidence that Mary Helen took purchase back to the car at that specific time? Was it a coincidence that a man who could recognize a dangerous tire condition would see what to me looked like an insignificant mark on the tire? Was it a coincidence that the special tire needed was found on a holiday weekend?

RainbowNo, this whole episode is one more example of God’s providential care. “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.…He who watches over you will not slumber;…The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”(Psalm 121:2,3,7,8).

Throughout our lives there have been hundreds, even thousands upon thousands of so-called coincidences that were really evidences of God’s providential care. Many of them we have not recognized.

Of course, events don’t always turn out in ways that seem good to us. Bad things happen too. And recently we have been somewhat overwhelmed by health challenges. This incident reminds us that God cares for us and watches over us and will overrule all apparently difficult things for our good and His glory. He does this to all who become his children through putting their faith in Jesus, his son.

Romans 8:28, as we were reminded recently by a wonderful sermon, doesn’t mean that nothing difficult or bad will ever happen to us. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose”(Rom. 8:28). In some inscrutable way all the things that happen to us, good or bad, God will work into his plan for us so we become conformed into the likeness of his son [vs 29]. That process will ultimately both glorify God and bless us.

We’ve got a long way to go to become like Christ. How God overrules everythingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA for our good and his glory is beyond our understanding and responsibility. But as he reminded us in this incident, he loves us and he will take care of us.

What should we do then? “Cast all your anxiety [cares] on him because he cares for you”(1 Peter5:7).

[For descriptions of books by Eric E Wright, including Down a Country Road, a book of inspirational readings through the year, visit: http://www.countrywindow.ca )

Strolling Through God’s Garden and Mine

Our gardenOur garden often beckons me to come see. Fortunately, I’m at a time of life where it’s possible to heed its siren song, to take a leisurely stroll with much stopping to check out how things are growing. You know what I mean; what new flower is in bloom, which ones need dead-heading, where do the beds need weeding? I’ll take a minute or two to nod at the cheerful shasta daisies and smile at the vivacious fiesta flowers.

I don’t neglect the vegetable garden in my meanderings. Do the cucumber leaves hide any baby cukes? Any ripe tomatoes? Any bugs on the potatoes? Has the Swiss chard grown enough to yield another cutting?

On summer evenings, warm and fine,
when work is done and time is mine,
when sun glows rich on leaf and vine,
I wander round my garden. (Margaret Ingall)

After my jaunt, I return inside refreshed for the tasks I’ve left behind. My garden yields much more than bouquets of blooms and tasty veggies. It refreshes, revives, and recharges my spirit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery day the garden changes just a little. And that is as it should be, for it is full of growing things. Which reminds me that we also need to grow a little every day as we meander through God’s garden of verses—the Bible. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(2 Peter3:18). There may be “respectable” sins we have not yet uncovered. Or, one or more of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control—may be stunted or missing from our life.

We may need to take a leisurely stroll through the Psalms, sit still and imbibe the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount, or ponder the parables. And as we stroll through God’s garden, we can pick thoughts to adorn our lives, truths to restore passion to our flagging spirits, promises to lift us from despair or doubt, Delphiniumguidance on how to be more fruitful.

Many have suggested the importance of systematically reading through the whole Bible, in a year or two. We would be very wise to have such a plan; perhaps daily reading a chapter or two from each Testament. I recently re-read Genesis in combination with Revelation and was astonished again at the stories of creation and covenant on the one hand and prophecies of the future, on the other. They brought me back to basics.

LupinscloseSometimes, however, we need to be more relaxed in our reading. To linger longer over a few verses or a single psalm; letting the Holy Spirit open a passage more deeply to our soul. The main thing we should keep in mind is that like Adam and Eve walking with God in the cool of the day, we need to daily walk hand in hand with the Holy Spirit through His Garden of Revelation.