Saturday, August 20, 2011


In the midst of a conversation about unfulfilled dreams, my wise friend pointed out that one aspect of her life is nearly perfect. “I have such a great roommate,” she said. “And I admit God goes largely underthanked for that.”

Her cool, new word – underthanked – stuck in my head and didn’t let go. I, too, must admit God goes underthanked for many of my blessings.

I try to make a habit of saying, “I’m thankful.” Unfortunately, I usually follow it with a “BUT”.

As in, “I’m thankful I live in a large, world-class city... BUT commuting takes so much of my time!”

Or, “I’m thankful I’m healthy... BUT I wish I were slimmer.”

And, of course, “I’m thankful for my freedom as a single woman... BUT some things aren’t fun to do by myself.”’s the start of my new Thank-You-With-No-Buts list.

Thank You, God...
For giving me five terrific nieces and nephews, and for how they’ve changed my life.
For my solid family, and for my parents who’ve been married for 50 years.
For my friends who are so loving and loyal they dropped everything to take care of me when I needed it.
For all the educational opportunities I’ve had – and still have.
For the freedom and opportunity to travel – and safety when I do.
For giving me gifts and skills that I enjoy using – and for giving me enjoyable work.
For giving me very good health – and for allowing me to recover from illness.
For my own home, where I’m safe, warm and comfortable.
That I live in a country which has no war within its borders.
...where I, as a woman, have the same freedoms as men.
... where I can worship openly without fear of persecution.
... where I can trust the law to be mostly just.
... where I can vote... and make a difference.
... where I have excellent medical care available, at hardly any cost.
Thank You, God!

-- Reenie

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Plays Drums at Centre Street Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and teacher, is well-known for being executed by the Nazis for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. What is less well-known is that Dietrich was also a highly-skilled musician. In his large family, where everyone sang and played musical instruments, Dietrich’s siblings said he was the best pianist of them all.*

A young man who plays the drums at Centre Street Church, where I attend, resembles a young Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Like the Dietrich of 70 years ago, our drummer has a fair, round face and light-colored hair, and he wears round wire glasses. Whenever I see this young man on stage, I imagine for a moment Dietrich Bonhoeffer is playing drums in church today.

That makes me think of how church music has changed from 1930’s-40’s Germany to 21st century Canada. If Dietrich Bonhoeffer were expressing his worship through music in 2011, perhaps he’d be playing drums instead of the more traditional piano. Very likely, he’d be playing a much different musical style.
But some people, sincere Christ-followers, will be uncomfortable with that suggestion. The hymns used in the German church when Dietrich Bonhoeffer was alive, were worshipful and sacred, they feel. They have a hard time believing that the music sung in today’s Canadian churches is worshipful. After all, the music is so much faster and louder. The songs are less rhythmical, and many of them don’t even rhyme!

Let me assure you – I won’t claim that all of today’s church music is worshipful. But nor do I believe all traditional music is worshipful either.
Worshipfulness of music (if we can call it that) has nothing to do with volume, tempo, beat, or the era in which it was written. A song’s worship value depends solely on the truths contained in the lyrics.

To each generation, God has given a new way to worship Him through music. Thousands of years ago, the Psalmist said God had put a new song in his mouth. (Psalms 40:3). Today, God is still doing that for those He’s gifted to compose worship music.
Now we who are, well, older, or who have different musical preferences, don’t have to like the new music. We are, however, called to love the people who are making the music.

We are all members of the Body of Christ. At all ages, in many languages, and through the music of every generation, we worship Him together. And He is pleased.
*Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; by Eric Metazas; published by Thomas Nelson.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

A young friend of mine shared good and surprising news with me today. For a few months, she’s been heavy-hearted about a major rift between mutual friends, friends who were once close and loved each other dearly. The good news is that the friends are taking steps to reconcile.

The surprising news, my friend said, is that God is using her to bring about the reconciliation. Her own family, she added softly, always called her “The Problem”. Whenever there was a family conflict, they said it was her fault, no matter what anyone else had done. With tears in her eyes, she said, “They call me the problem. But I’m actually the solution.”

At some point, all of us need to learn what my young friend is learning: not to believe everything we’re told about ourselves.

Most of us don’t have to think hard to remember a negative label someone -- parent, teacher, coach, friend -- has given us.
Lazy. Dumb. Procrastinator. Selfish. Uncooperative. Class Clown. Troublemaker. Rebellious. Delinquent. Unwanted. Loner. Loser. Nervous. Shy.
Any of us have probably acted in all of these ways at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean we will be that way forever. If someone else has been so ungracious as to call us that, we mustn't let their words define the way we choose to act now.

Some of us have also been given “positive” labels.
Smart. Pretty. Outgoing. Athlete. Good Worker. Artist. Funny. Energetic.
These labels seem nicer than the ones in the first list, but they can put unwanted pressure on us. They leave some of us feeling we must always be smart, outgoing, pretty or athletic, in order to be worthy of the title... or worthy at all.

The truth is, each of us is an assortment of desirable and not-so-desirable traits. None of us behaves in any particular way all of the time. When we accept that, we give ourselves – and others – room to grow, and we can become the unique and diverse people God planned for us to be.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart."
--  From God to the Prophet Jeremiah.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Impact of Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship

In the summer of 2000, I received the Fall Conference brochure from Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. I looked longingly at it, for I’d been receiving it for several years, but had never been able to go. That summer, I felt the Lord was not only saying, "You may go," but "You must go.”

Phil Callaway, Linda Hall, and Janette Oke were the speakers that year. They were inspiring and challenging, and, 11 years later, I still remember much of what they said. But the weekend's greatest impact came after the conference, when I went for a walk with fellow conference-attenders, Jessie and Janet. They knew each other well, but I’d met them both that weekend.

As we walked, I chattered on about my life, and Jessie and Janet were polite listeners. I told them I’d been teaching Kindergarten in public school and writing Sunday School curriculum for my church. The church writing job was over, and I felt the Lord was directing me to do more writing, but I didn’t know what.
As I talked, it seemed Jessie gave Janet a “significant look”, but I thought she could just have turned her face to the side to catch her breath in that afternoon’s ferocious wind.

Then Jessie started talking. She’d written Sunday School curriculum several years before, she said, and had recently been asked by the same company to write on a new curriculum project. She’d told them “yes”, with two conditions: 1) she wanted to write for the Kindergarten to Grade One level. 2) she wanted to work with and mentor a younger writer.
Ah. It wasn’t my imagination that Jessie had been giving her friend significant looks. I’d taught the age level she wanted to write for. I had experience writing Sunday School curriculum. And I was looking for writing opportunities. Her prayers were being answered right before her eyes.

Jessie immediately invited me to join her in writing a sample try-out unit. She was excited, and I was pleased, but I was determined not to get my hopes up. I told myself, “Nothing will come of it.”
I’m very thankful I was wrong. Jessie and I wrote the sample unit and were hired to write for the project, with one small twist: Jessie decided I could write on my own. (A few years later, as we told someone else our story, she said, “It was a God-thing. Laureen didn’t need a mentor.” It seemed God had orchestrated it all just to bring me into the project.)

Over the next six years, I wrote eleven units of curriculum for that company. It was satisfying and challenging, frustrating and joy-giving. It taught me a lot, and, of course, made me a published author. And it all started by attending Inscribe’s Fall Conference.
This fall, I’ll attend the Fall Conference for the 12th year in a row. Not every experience has been as dramatic as the first one, but each conference has provided just the impact I needed at the time: A kick-in-the-pants to make time to write when I was letting the rest of life crowd it out. Encouragement to persevere when I felt discouraged and wanted to give up. Instruction, information, and direction from those who were further along the path. And, always, the fellowship of other writers who are working hard to use their gifts for God’s glory...just as I am.