Easter – Joy upon Joy

Easter Stories and More marks the eighteenth anthology in which my work has been published. It’s always such a joy to be part of a group effort, especially when you respect the work of the other authors in the collection. It’s always such an honour to be counted with them in a collection that you know will inspire and strengthen faith.

This one is especially dear to my heart because Easter is dear to my heart. What could be more exhilarating than celebrating the triumph of good over evil, the restoration of mankind to its God and, on a more personal level, the joy of resting in the assurance of one’s own salvation?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the two monologues written in first person: The End of a Pilgrimage, which was written for Inscribe’s blog and Torn, written in response to the call for submissions for this anthology. Putting yourself in the place of a Biblical character brings the story of the life of Christ into a sharp perspective and causes you to dig deeper into the scriptures to discover more of the truths lying buried there.

The poem I submitted to Easter Stories and More, Easter Walk, was inspired by a stone I picked up as I was walking one spring day a few years ago. The stone was scored with two dark lines – one vertical, one horizontal. I wondered what had made the marks and as I walked my thumb traced the lines, my mind pondering again the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord and all that it meant to me.

It left me with a renewed sense of peace and thankfulness for His sacrifice and for the sacrifice His father made, in sending His only son to rescue such a ‘motley crew’ of humanity. It also left me rejoicing that Easter is my victory too, because He included me in it, called me into His family and secured my life with His death.

I hope you too are able to rejoice in that victory.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, NASB).

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March 24 – Ruth L. Snyder https://ruthlsnyder.com/blog/

March 25 – Sally Meadows https://sallymeadows.com/blog

March 26 – Eunice Matchett https://albertastoryteller.com/

March 27 – Lynn Dove https://lynndove.com/

March 28 – Pat Gerbrandt https://patgwriter.wordpress.com/

March 29 – Denise Ford https://walkingwithdustyanddee.com/

March 30 – Marcia Laycock https://marcialeelaycock.com/thespur/

March 31 – Bob Jones revwords.com https://revwords.com/

April 1 – Valerie Ronald https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com

April 2 – Kimberley Payne https://www.kimberleypayne.com/blog/

April 3 – Marnie Pohlmann https://marniewriter.com/blog/

April 4 – Allison Lynn https://allisonlynn.blogspot.com

Lynn Simpson https://lynnjsimpson.com/ 

Clinging to the Rock

Dwarf Fireweed. photo by Marcia Lee Laycock

The far north is a place where things are pared down, taken to the lowest common denominators of life. Rock, water, sun, insects and wind. And of course, in the winter, snow and ice. It is a place where the word survival is never far from one’s thoughts.

It was a marvel to me how the tiny delicate flowers of Baffin Island could survive. There is very little soil there, yet they spring up and cling to solid rock. Vibrant dwarf fireweed, saxifrage, anemones and the ever-present Arctic cotton. As my friends and I walked across it, the tundra seemed to be in motion as the tiny ones swayed in the constant wind, lifting their heads toward a far-away sun. We stepped around them, our heads bent in homage, our camera shutters clicking.

As I moved across that barren landscape I couldn’t help but think of the barren landscape of cancer I had been wandering in. The similarities were stark. After the diagnosis, there wasn’t much to hang onto at times. The winds of fear and loss seemed always in my face and the sun seemed oh so far away. But as I thought about beginning the first round of chemotherapy, I stared at a bright yellow anemone and took heart. If this little one can survive in this, her desolate place, then so shall I in mine, I reasoned, by doing what she does season after season. Cling to the rock.

My Rock was more solid and everlasting than those slowly disintegrating across the tundra. My Rock spoke and comforted and held my hand. My Rock carried me when my knees buckled and cradled my head when I just needed to cry. My Rock hid me in its cleft and set my feet on a firm foundation.

And when I “lift up my eyes to the hills,” and ask, “Where does my help come from?” He answers – “My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber … The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. 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 121:1-8, NIV).

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Now in Paperback format on Amazon

An Appropriate Quote

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.com

By Marcia Lee Laycock

I read the email with a bit of anticipation and a bit of dread. It was an invitation to another Christmas party. In those pre-Covid days, that meant another pot-luck item to prepare, another Chinese auction gift to bring. It was almost enough to make me want to shout, “Bah Humbug!” But the instructions in this email were intriguing and piqued my interest. For the gift exchange, we were to bring a favourite quote, done up in some kind of creative way. The favourite quote part would be easy, I thought. I have a huge file of quotes on my computer. With the state of my health, I knew the creative part might be a bit more difficult, but I decided to try and rise to the challenge.

I clicked into my quotes file and began to read, and read, and read. Nothing seemed exactly right. I was thinking Christmas but couldn’t find anything seasonal. I thought inspirational, but nothing seemed to hit the mark. I thought humorous but couldn’t find anything that made me laugh out loud. So I gave up, swallowed some more cough medicine and went to bed. The next day I opened the file again. A quote seemed to beam its way to me immediately. It was short but thought provoking, and when I thought about it, the words, from poet Anne Sexton, were very appropriate for the Christmas season. She said: “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

I realized back then, that in the midst of the rush to shop, to bake, to decorate and make it to all those Christmas parties, God was calling us to do just that. I wonder if His call is perhaps even more urgent in these days when there isn’t such an urgency to bake because we’re not allowed to have people in our homes. The need to decorate seems equally pointless, and Christmas parties? Well, it may be some time before we’ll be able to attend one again.

Perhaps God wants us to stop and hear His voice in the tumult. It is a still small voice, but one that echoes with everything we need. It is the voice of a child crying from a manger, the voices of angels proclaiming and shepherds jabbering about a baby born to be King. It is a voice weeping for those in pain and sickness. It is a voice mourning for those who refuse to hear Him. It is a voice shouting victory over the forces of evil and death. And it is a voice calling us to know Him, to know His love for us, love that grants us one more day of life, filled with all its challenges and blessings.

Listen for Him. He has promised that anyone “who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev.3:20, NIV) Not only that, but He has also promised to stay with you forever, to guide and protect you, and to give you peace.

So, “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” You might just hear the true voice of Christmas.

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Christmas Books Available

To order contact me at vinemarc@telus.net or go to my Amazon page

Gifts of Good Words: Christmas Books !

Christmas is for reading right? And don’t we all love to get a little book stuffed into our stocking? That’s why I created these two little books:

Christmas, a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the edge of the Arctic Circle and the streets of the inner city. The miracle of Christmas is transported from one unusual setting to another and into your heart as you read.

And …

Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals. Love is always in the room with us at Christmas time. These short but timely reflections will stir your heart with a new, clear perspective on the perfect Saviour who came as a babe so long ago. From the child-like delight of a Christmas flash mob to avoiding “too much” Christmas, award-winning author and speaker, Marcia Lee Laycock gives fresh insight into our most beloved season.

Both books can be purchased directly
from me for $15.00 including postage, by emailing vinemarc@telus.net

or from Amazon –

Love in the Room ; Christmas

What readers have said:

About Christmas:

“If you’re looking for a collection of stories to inspire and understand the Christmas spirit, look no further. The author skillfully presents characters in a wide range of circumstances, so that you feel you’re right there with them. You feel their anxiety, their pain and their joyful answer to a burning question. If there’s anything I might have wanted, it would be more of her stories.”

Each story is a delightful read. The characters are believable and the story lines engaging. A refreshing read that does “stir the Christmas spirit.”

About Love in the Room:

“I love Marcia’s winsome style. Her carefully woven stories are proof that great truth is taught in simple ways.”

“The spirit of Christmas is indeed alive in these devotionals. Savour each one in the days leading up to the 25th. Or give it as a gift to be enjoyed in the days after and at any time of the year.”

Virtual Book Fair Blog Hop Schedule – Please follow along for the next 14 days and check out all of these great selections.

Wednesday November 4—Ruth L. Snyder https://ruthlsnyder.com/2020/11/04/gifts-of-good-words-blog-hop/

Thursday November 5—Eunice Matchett https://albertastoryteller.com/

Friday November 6—Grace Wulff https://gracewulff.com/

Saturday November 7—Tandy Balson https://www.timewithtandy.com/

Sunday November 8—LD Stauth https://www.ldstauth-author.com/

Monday November 9—Sally Meadows https://sallymeadows.com/

Tuesday November 10—Janet Sketchley https://janetsketchley.ca/

Thursday November 12—Marcia Laycock https://marcialeelaycock.com/

Friday November 13—Ruth Meyer (on Facebook)

Saturday November 14—Laurie Haughton http://lensofmotherhood.blogspot.com/

Sunday November 15—Carolyn Wilker https://www.carolynwilker.ca/

Monday November 16—Janis Cox https://www.janiscox.com/

Tuesday November 17—Lynn Collier https://lynnecollier.com

Wednesday November 18—Barrie Doyle https://barriedoyle.com/

Finding Your Way Home

Image by dave canning from Pixabay

I was returning to Canada, on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when I had the first dream. As most dreams are, it was confusing, full of images and scraps of sound that, though vivid and realistic were disjointed and without logical sequence. I had another similar dream on the bus taking me to my hometown back in Canada, then another on the train north, taking me to the isolated fishing lodge where I was to work for the summer. The dreams were full of foreign scenes – orange-tiled roofs and dark-skinned children from Spain, cheese shops and narrow streets from France, soaring mountains and towering cathedrals from Switzerland.       

The trip from Lisbon to my destination in northern Ontario took about 36 hours. By the time I arrived I was disoriented, but had no time to think about it. I went to work immediately and didn’t have a chance to relax until later that day when I went for a swim. Floating on a small raft, I soon was dozing in the warm sun. Again, dreams filled my mind with disorienting images and sounds. Then my foot slipped off the raft into the icy water. I woke with a start, staring at a landscape that shocked me. There were no red-tiled roofs or foreign languages, no Gothic cathedrals or cobblestone streets. My eyes opened to rugged cliffs and swaying pines. I knew I was not in Spain, but where was I? Then I realized, “Oh. Canada. I’m home.” Home – the place where I was safe, where everything was familiar – the landscape, the culture, the language.

We all need that place called home. We need to know we are safe and surrounded by what is familiar. But sometimes we can feel as though we are living in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers speaking words we can’t understand. Sometimes we feel so out of place that every day is a struggle, a battle to believe we belong. The battle is real because the truth is we don’t belong. We weren’t made to live in this world of corruption and chaos. We were made to live in a climate of joy and praise, in the presence of God. Anything less will make us feel disjointed, out of place. Anything less will leave us with a longing for home.

Our home is not a place, not a city nor a country field, not a valley nor a mountaintop. Our home is with God.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1,2,NIV).

Peace with God brings us home, no matter where we are, no matter what our circumstances. Jesus brings us to that place. Follow Him and He’ll lead you home.

All of Us are Hungry

bread

All of Us Are Hungry by Marcia Lee Laycock

I grinned as the commercial advertisement began. I’d seen variations of it many times on TV. They always involve well-known celebrities, and the scenario is the same. I especially liked the one in which actor Robin Williams appears in the middle of a football huddle and tells the players to “get out there and make balloon animals” and “kill them with kindness.” Then someone hands him a Snickers™ chocolate bar. When he takes a bite he turns back into the real football coach. I also like the one in which Mr. Bean lands in trouble with a bunch of Ninja Warriors until he eats the chocolate bar and becomes one of them again. The tag line is always the same: ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry.’

The first time I saw one of these commercials I thought of a time during my first pregnancy. I hadn’t had much for breakfast one Sunday morning and by the time our church service was over, all I could think about was the fact that I needed to put something in my stomach. My husband and I went to a local restaurant and ordered quickly. Then he began talking about our finances. I tried in vain to follow the conversation, to no avail. Finally, I said, “I can’t wrap my brain around anything, especially our finances, until I’ve had something to eat!” There have been occasions since that time when my husband has jokingly said, “I think you need a Snickers™ bar.”

When you get right down to it, we are all hungry for the same things – love, acceptance, fulfillment. None of us will feel that we are able to live up to our true potential until we feel that those longings have been satisfied.

This has application in our spiritual lives as well. In one of his recent sermons my husband put it like this: “You can’t know yourself until you know Jesus.” It is only by getting to know Jesus that we begin to understand who we truly are as His dearly loved children. None of us can be our true selves until we are filled with the Spirit of Christ. Then and only then are we free to become our true selves, a being created in His image. Like the various characters in that TV commercial, it is by taking in, ‘eating’ His word that we grow in that understanding. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Wandering around in a state of constant hunger is neither good for our physical nor spiritual selves. We need to be fed. We have been provided with a bountiful banquet of spiritual food that will sustain us. All we have to do is open a Bible and read.

Been There, Done That, Burnt the Tshirt

The Cross

My daughter’s eyes glistened with tears that were about to spill over. “I just feel like I’m never good enough for you!” She blurted.

My husband had just been chastising her for her messy room, but those words stung him to the heart. He gathered Katie in his arms and assured her that he still loved her, would always love her, no matter what. Then he helped her clean up her room.

Many of us feel that we aren’t good enough. The thought may come when we fail in some way, or when we see “friends” go off together, leaving us alone, or when we are passed over for a promotion at work or an award we felt we deserved. There are many circumstances in life that make our heads drop and our shoulders slump as our self esteem sinks to new depths. These feelings can lead to frustration, anger and even depression. The pressure to be perfect is self-defeating. You know you can’t do it. You know you never will. So what’s the point in even trying?

But, the good news is, as a famous theologian once said, God knows us best yet loves us most. He knows all our failings and weaknesses, all our bad motivations and self-serving decisions, yet He still, as my husband did with our daughter that day, wraps us in His arms and tells us he loves us, no matter what.

He can do that because, when we acknowledge Him as our Saviour and Lord we are able to receive His forgiveness. Then He wipes away all that is flawed and ugly in our lives. He took all of it away the day he was nailed to a cross in a faraway place called Palestine, over 2,000 years ago. In the moment we accept the forgiveness He offers us through that ultimate sacrifice, He clothes us in His righteousness. We become holy, not because of what we do, but because of what He has done. That’s why he was able to tell that thief on the cross beside Him that He would see Him in Paradise that day. The man was forgiven because of his faith in the One whose sacrifice tore the curtain in the temple and made the very ground tremble.

Once we grasp that concept, the self-deprecating feelings of never being good enough fade away. When we understand the depth of His love none of our failings can defeat us. When we know we are loved and accepted we are able to lift our heads and straighten our shoulders. We are good enough for God. Nothing else matters.

Jesus didn’t die for those who were already perfect and righteous. He died for the ungodly. He died for you and me.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

 

What’s Holding You Back?

City on Fire

I glanced at my cell phone, pleased to see it was our youngest daughter. “I need some advice,” she said.   My heart fluttered just a bit as I put the phone on speaker so my husband could listen too. My fears were quickly dispelled when she said she’d been offered another job, in another city. We listened as she explained the situation, giving us the pros and cons to leaving or staying in her current position.

“It’s a good opportunity,” she said.

“But?” My husband responded.

“But I like where I am now, like the people, like my church, like my friends.”

Those were all good and valid reasons to keep her there. “But what do you sense God saying?” he asked.

My daughter was quiet for a moment. “I think He wants me to stay,” she said. “So I guess it’s a no brainer. I’m staying put.”

There’s a story in the Bible, in Genesis 18, about a family that had to decide weather to leave or stay.  It’s a well known story about the destruction of a city and the warning God gave to that family. He sent three angels to tell them to leave. Some of them refused to go. Lot and his wife and two daughters left only when the angels took them by the hand and led them out of the city.

It made me wonder why they hesitated. It’s hard to know what was in their minds, but I’m thinking their prosperity in that place was probably a big factor. Lot and his family had become comfortable where they were, in spite of the fact that the city was so full of evil God wanted to destroy it.  

That begs another question. How could a “righteous man” be comfortable in such a place? No doubt Lot’s life was full of testing and compromise. You can’t live in the midst of evil and not be affected by it. Yet he was reluctant to leave. Was it fear of the unknown? Was it doubt that God would really destroy the city? Or doubt that He would really take care of them if they left? Or was it simply that he liked where he was too much to leave.

It’s a frightening thing to think that we would like living in a place of sin but sadly, we all do. We like our “momentary pleasures.” We like our secret fantasies and those things that taste sweet in our mouths. We like our sin too much to leave it.

But God is faithful. He will lead us out of it, if we let Him. Staying where we are will lead to death – the death of spiritual life. Moving forward in obedience, in repentance, is the only thing that will lead to life.

What’s holding you back?

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

Love Transforms, Love Demands

heartredwhite

Do you remember your first love?

Picture a sixteen-year-old girl. She’s walking home from school, her shoulders hunched, her eyes on the ground. She’s wearing dark, somber clothing. Her hair often goes unwashed. She rarely makes eye contact with anyone and doesn’t smile much. She doesn’t have many friends.

Fast forward four years. That same girl is wearing a flowing floral dress. Her head is high and her eyes sparkle. Her hair flows out behind her, gleaming in the sun as she runs across her neighbour’s lawn. He hardly recognizes her. “You’re in love,” he says. She laughs and admits that it’s true. And it has made all the difference.

Love does that. It transforms us, it makes us believe that life is good and worth living. It makes us believe we are worthy of being loved. Yes, the discovery of love, especially God’s love, transforms us.

And the Demands of Love work to continue that transformation. Love is never easy. People tend to be complicated and their lives are often messy. Loving well inevitably leads to the need for sacrifice and a selflessness that most of us resist. But we are called to love unconditionally, as Christ loved us. We are called to give much, because much has been given to us. Luke chapter 7: 36 to 47 teaches us this truth. Jesus was invited to have dinner with a Pharisee. A woman who, the Bible tells us, had “lived a sinful life,” arrived with a jar of perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet and washed them, wiping them with her hair.

When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus tells the Pharisee a story about two people who owed money to a moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both.

“Now which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked. Of course, the Pharisee said the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.

Then Jesus said to him, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 43-47).

Have you been forgiven a little or a lot? I think we can all agree that it is the latter. Yes, we have been forgiven much, we have been given much, and we are expected to forgive, to love well, and give much in return.

Love transforms but love also demands.

 

Lessons in an Art Gallery

Untitled- Emily Carr
Untitled by Emily Carr

There was a hush on the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery as we entered, almost a reverence, I thought. People meandered quietly through the halls and rooms, taking time to study the paintings on the walls and read the commentaries and quotes from the artist’s journals. As I joined them I was aware of my own sense of awe. Emily Carr was an artist I had admired since I was a child. Her work always made me pause, drew me in, made me aware of something beyond myself.

The quotes on the walls captured my attention as well. This woman, who is famous in my own country and beyond for her depiction of the west coast region of Canada, was a woman of faith, struggling to comprehend the greatest mystery there is – the deep, deep love of an all-encompassing God.

Emily Carr’s work depicts that struggle, that striving to faith, that longing to comprehend that which is unknown yet deeply sensed. The first quote visitors to the Vancouver Art Gallery saw as they entered the exhibit was “Art is Worship.” Ms. Carr worshipped with every stroke of her brush, the swirling movement in her work drawing the eye up toward the heavens. A painting labelled Untitled, one of my favourites, is especially strong. The artist’s love of creation and its creator shouts from the canvass.

Emily Carr saw the divine in the deep dark forests of British Columbia and in the work of others, especially some members of the Group of Seven who welcomed her as one of their own. She was dumbfounded, while at an exhibit of their work, to see one of Lawren Harris’s paintings, Mountain Forms, ignored even by a priest. “Surely he would understand,” Ms. Carr wrote in her journal, “Wouldn’t the spirituality of the thing appeal to one whose life was supposed to be given up to these things? He passed right by …”

I understand Ms. Carr’s frustration. So much that is redemptive in this world goes unnoticed at best, scorned and ridiculed, at worst. Yet those things that draw us all closer to our creator are enduring. Mountain Forms was recently auctioned for just over eleven million dollars.

As I wandered in that gallery that day I was not only stirred by how Emily Carr drew us to the Divine through her work but by the recognition that we can all do the same, whatever our field of endeavour. We have all been created to express praise and adoration through everything we do, whether we work in oils or with words, whether we sweep floors or design buildings, whether our work is recognized or ridiculed. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23,24).

I was also struck by the reality that Ms. Carr caused me to praise and worship without saying a word. There was no banner declaring “Jesus saves” scrawled across her paintings yet we are able to stand in the midst of those deep dark forests and worship with her. It made me wonder, does my art cause people to worship? Does it cause them to ponder the depth of God’s greatness and goodness? Does it glorify Him? Walking among Emily Carr’s paintings made me pray it may be so.