Going Too Far

Stained Glass
I hit send and sighed. This first draft of the first act of my new play didn’t come easily and I wasn’t happy with what I’d produced. I knew there was something wrong but couldn’t put my finger on what it was that left me wanting to drag the document into the trash. I thought about doing just that for the next few days as I watched my inbox with trepidation, believing my instructor’s comments would not make me happy. When her critique arrived I sighed again and hit open. 

As usual, the instructor was frank about her thoughts and didn’t hold back the criticism. But there were things she liked so I was encouraged. Then I got to the part that I knew wasn’t right. And I started to smile. My instructor didn’t mince words but they were words I wanted to hear – words that clarified why the lines weren’t working, words that made me want to jump right back in and get to work on it again. They were words that made me glad I hadn’t dragged the document into the trash. And I was thankful.

The problem? My instructor expressed it this way – “It’s your characters telling us what to make of that moment that begins to feel like the playwright “telling us” what to think and feel, instead of trusting the moment and the image to speak for themselves. I like to think that I am called to plant the image, the debate, the relationship and I let the Holy Spirit do the rest. People love to figure things out for themselves. I think this is why Jesus spoke in obscure parables and resisted explaining right away. It’s a holy practice – to ponder.”

Yes! That was it exactly. I had simply gone too far, said too much, given too many answers instead of leaving the questions to be pondered.

And I wondered, do I do this when I’m talking with people who don’t know my Jesus? Do I go too far in trying to lead them to Him? I thought about the time when I came to Christ, a tumultuous time in my life when I desperately needed answers but did not want to hear them. I thought about my brother, simply saying, “God bless,” every time he left my home. Those two words tolled like a bell. He didn’t have to preach at me. The Holy Spirit was quite capable of making those two words do their work in my heart and my life.

“A holy practice, to ponder.” Yes. And another holy practice – to write sparingly, allowing the Holy Spirit room there, too.

“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible.” (Elie Wiesel, author of Night)

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13).
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Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

 

 

 

Be Mine

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I ripped the cellophane wrapping off the small package with delight. The cards my mother had bought that morning were perfect. They were bright red with hearts all over them and short funny sayings appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I spent all that evening addressing the envelopes and signing my name to all the cards. All, that is, but one.

There was one card in the package that was larger than the rest. It said, “Be Mine,” and the verse inside was not funny. In fact, to me, it was so serious that my heart beat faster. This card was going to someone I thought was deserving of something so special. His name was Darryl. I was ten years old and I was “in love.”

I did not sign my name to the card addressed to Darryl because I was afraid. I did not want to admit my feelings for fear of being rejected. What if he just laughed? What if he threw the card in the trash and someone else saw that it was from me? What if he left it behind on an empty desk for anyone to see? No. I would not put my name on that card, but I would pray that Darryl would know who it was from.

Giving your love and affection to someone is a risk. You become vulnerable to being hurt, to rejection, perhaps even to ridicule. Jesus knew all about that when He agreed to be born as a tiny babe on earth. He knew that many would spurn His love. Many would scorn his affection. Many would just laugh. And then a mob would demand His death. No one would understand. None of it would look like a fairy-tale and the ending was anything but happy. It would look like defeat and it would stink of death.

But it was the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Christ gave up the glories of heaven, took on the physical limitations of a human body and then allowed that body to be tortured and killed. He did it all so that we would be able to live in the presence of His Father’s love eternally. He did it with an anguished cry of, “Be Mine!”

Jesus was neither afraid nor embarrassed to sign his name on the card that revealed His love for us. His card was a cross erected on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. He signed it with His own blood and when it was delivered to the world at the moment he died, all the barriers between us and God were torn down. Forgiveness was ours for the asking and hope became a reality.

It was therefore true when the apostle Paul said to the people in Rome – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

That is a Valentine worth cherishing.

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I Am Not a Writer

light-on-the-path
Light on the Path

For many years, indeed, for as long as I can remember, my identity has been totally and inextricably bound up in being a writer. It’s not just what I am, I told myself, it’s who I am. Sadly, over the years, that perception led me to a place that was filled with stress and burden. In fact, it became like a prison in a way, a prison of my own making.

Today I am declaring (with thanks to Ted Dekker), that no, indeed, I am not a writer. Every time those words enter my consciousness I feel the chains fall away. I don’t have to produce. I don’t have to publish. I don’t have to succeed. It is not who I am.

I am, in fact, a daughter of my Father in Heaven, the King of this universe who demands nothing of me but that I accept His forgiveness, return His love and let that love flow through me to others.

Yes, I believe He has given me the task of writing as a means to spread that love and a way to discover more and more about Him myself, but writing is what I do, not who I am. It’s all a matter of perspective. When my perspective is correct, I am free to be who I was meant to be and then to do what I was meant to do with joy and a sense of freedom. When my perspective is not correct, what I do becomes a chore – I worry about marketing and sales instead of praying for the hearts and minds of my readers; I fear not being able to produce the work I should (the blank page terrifies me); when someone points out a mistake in a published piece I feel humiliated; when my work is rejected I become depressed; when I don’t win a contest or award I become angry and cynical.

Yes, I admit, all of these things were happening to me. I knew these feelings were wrong, I struggled against them, but I couldn’t deny they were real. And all of it was beginning to crush my creativity. It became a struggle to produce. The joy was being bled away.

So, it may seem like a counter-productive thing to do, but I have decided to declare this statement to myself every morning when I sit down at my computer: I am not a writer. I am the daughter of my Father in Heaven who loves me. Nothing else matters. When those words have sunk deep into my soul, then, and only then, will I write.

So, will you join me?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22,23).

On The River

yukon-river

I stared at the small rubber raft and then peered at the mighty Yukon River. It was a perfect day for a float. My friends had left the raft for me to use to get to their cabin about fifty miles downriver. “You won’t have to paddle much,” Tim had said. “The current will take you.”

I tossed my pack into the small craft and launched. That’s when I noticed there was only one paddle. That concerned me, but I was already out into the current and heading north. For a while I tried to steer, but all I managed to do was go in circles. I knew it would take all day to reach the cabin I’d stay in that night, so I wasn’t too worried, though there are strong eddies in the Yukon River and with only one paddle it wasn’t easy to avoid them.

As the small raft carried me north, at a leisurely spin, the silty water hissed against the rubber of the small craft. I remembered Tim’s words. “The current will take you.” Yes, indeed it would, whether I wanted it to or not. My efforts to control where I was going were, at best, pitiful, so I sat back to enjoy the journey. The wilderness was beautiful, but vast and, at times, overwhelming. I felt tiny and rather helpless. Seeing the massive form of a grizzly lumbering through the bush on an island only a few strokes away didn’t help.

I made it to my destination safely that night, launched again the next morning and headed straight across the river. My friends’ cabin was on the other side. If I missed it there would be nothing between me and the Alaskan border. Once again, I had to let the current take me and do what I could with my small paddle.

I’ve heard it said that life is like a river. I believe that’s true and I believe there is One who controls the current. Like my journey on the Yukon, our efforts to control our lives are often futile. But when we realize we can trust the One in control, we can relax. Indeed, we can even take joy in the journey, though there will be strong eddies and perhaps even Grizzlies along the way.

In the book of John, chapter 21, verses 18 and 19, Jesus warns the apostle Peter: “you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

We can take great encouragement from those few words – “by which Peter would glorify God.” What happened to Peter was not in vain; it had a purpose. I believe the events of our lives all have purpose and are meant to bring glory to God.

It all unfolds as we follow Him and take joy in the journey.

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Interested in writing devotionals? Online course starts Feb. 6th. Email me for the details.

 

 

A New Course

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I was in tears yesterday. No, not tears of sorrow but the kind that spring from being touched deeply and profoundly. Interesting that it happened on January 6th, traditionally known as the day of Epiphany.

It happened as I began a writing course called The Creative Way by Ted Dekker.

A few months ago I almost emptied my writing bank account to buy this course. I’d seen it advertised a few times and kept thinking about it, looking at it, trying to gauge whether or not it was worth the money. I kept thinking about the exchange rate and how that bumped the product up to a cost I would not normally entertain. But I kept going back to it again and again. I felt there was something there that God wanted me to investigate. So I took the plunge.

The first module stirred me deeply, not because it was anything I hadn’t heard before but because it was all about something my heart reaches for – abiding in Christ. Mr. Dekker tells his own story and then gets to the bottom line – our identity does not lie in who we are as mothers or fathers or plumbers or dentists or yes, even as novelists. Our true identity lies in the fact that we are children of God. Our freedom and release spiritually and creatively lies in believing how deeply He loves us. The premise is that “transformative fiction” comes from a heart that is resting in that place because that heart is first and foremost seeking to go deeper into that identity. The process teaches us to love God, love ourselves and others as ourselves and our work becomes part of that process.

I knew that. I believed that. But until yesterday I was not whole-heartedly pursuing that path.

I remember chatting with a writer friend some time ago about the fact that I’m a two time cancer survivor. I mentioned that I did not once ask God, “why me?” My only question as I walked down that path, was, “Who are you, God? Who are you really?”

My friend smiled. “You’re ready,” she said.

I didn’t understand what she meant then, but I do now. I’m ready to let go of me – as a mother, pastor’s wife, church leader and yes, even as a writer. I’m ready to get to know who I really am. I have a feeling this course is going to do what Ted promised in his introduction. It is going to change my life and my work.

I’ll be blogging about it here as I go. I’d be happy if you would like to follow along and comment from time to time.

 

 

Too Much Christmas

too-much-christmas
Too Much Christmas

“I baked a bit.” My mother-in-law smiled as my husband piled the tins of cookies, Christmas cakes, chocolates and tarts on the counter.

“I should say you did!” He said and we all chuckled.

Then Christmas day came and the turkey and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. We ate the left overs for weeks. I think I gained at least five pounds through that season and I think it’s still sitting on my hips. By the time my mother-in-law left we were all feeling like we’d had a little too much Christmas. One of my daughter’s commented that maybe it would be a good idea to scale things down a notch the next year.

In our prosperous North American society, it’s easy to take things to an excess that is neither of spiritual benefit nor physically healthy. All the gift giving and trappings of Christmas are good to a point, but when things go overboard the true significance of the season can easily be buried under all the celebration. We get excited about the decorating and baking and gift buying and forget that our Saviour was born in a rough stable with no glitz, no glitter and most likely the most basic of food and drink. Those who knew His true identity came in secret to pay homage. Even the angels were restricted in their announcement, appearing to the most humble of that society, shepherds tending their flocks. That first Christmas day was the most significant time in history, yet it was wrapped, not in loud fanfare and celebration, but in a quiet awe and reverence.

We are a little like the apostle Peter after he witnessed one of the most astounding events of Christ’s time on the earth – His transfiguration. Seeing Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus, Peter exclaims – “I will put up three shelters…” (Matthew 17:4). His first inclination was to celebrate but he had no idea what he was saying, no idea that he was in fact bringing Jesus down to the same level as the two prophets of old. God the Father does not waste any time correcting him. “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).

The father dismissed Peter’s plan to surround the event with “trappings” and made it clear what they should do instead. It was a rather straight-forward command – “Listen to him!”

Perhaps we should remember that moment as we celebrate Christmas this year, remember to look beyond all the trappings of the season and acknowledge the One who was born to give His life for us. Perhaps we should all scale things down a notch. Instead of too much “Christmas” perhaps we should focus on listening for the voice of the Christ.

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My newest release:

Christmas – short stories to stir the Christmas Spirit. From the far reaches of the Galaxy to the streets of an inner city and the cold landscape of the far north, Christmas miracles can still happen.

Available now on  Amazon.ca – http://amzn.to/2fHVYMF  Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/2eKRzUw

 

Until that Day

operating-roomI’ve had cancer. Twice. These are a couple of things I learned:

1. Someday Jesus and I will be face to face; He is here, with me, right now.

2. All the ambitions I have, and all the fears I harbour, are insignificant in view of those two facts.

I learned those lessons as I lay on a cruciform table in an operating room, reflecting as the anesthesia took hold. I could wake up in heaven, I thought. The idea excited me, but it also made me realize I didn’t want to die. There were things I still wanted to do and see, people I wanted to continue to love and some things I needed to set right. But I knew the possibility of dying that day, or in the not too distant future, was very real. The fact that it would happen, some day, was undeniably clear.

That made my writer’s heart beat a little faster. There were articles and books I still wanted to write, plays I wanted to see on the stage. The idea of dying in the middle of it all made me squirm a bit on that cold table.

So I prayed and that wonderful peace that passes all understanding flooded through me. I realized if I was about to meet Jesus none of my fears and suddenly rather silly ambitions would matter. If He was about to take me home, that meant the purpose for my life, and my work, had been accomplished. If He chose to allow me to continue on this earth, I could trust that he would be there beside me, guiding me all the way. It was a “win, win” situation.

Then I woke up in an ICU on a respirator with my hands tied down. My first thought was, Well, I don’t think this is heaven. As my brain struggled to register the words the nurse was saying, telling me I had had an allergic reaction to the blue dye they had injected into my body, I tried not to panic. What did that mean, exactly? I was relieved when she told me they were going to remove the tube down my throat and untie my hands. Yes, I thought, that would be very nice.

Then I saw my husband’s face. Then I had a moment. It was brief, but quite powerful. What if it had been the face of Jesus? I thought of Isaiah’s reaction when he saw the Lord and cried out, “Woe to me, for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). Understatement of the century, in relation to myself, I knew. But then there is the rest of the story, in which the angel tells the prophet he has been cleansed and The Lord presents him with his life’s purpose.

I too have been cleansed and presented with mine. So I will continue to write, to live my life,  remembering those two things I learned on that operating table. Until He takes me home.