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open BibleI love reading the Old Testament. Probably because I love history, and the O.T. is the history of Israel with all its glory and disgrace mixed together. But how can I apply these stories to my life? Can they make a difference in me?

I’ve reached the book of Nehemiah. If you’d asked me a few days ago what my takeaway from this little book could be, I might have suggested Nehemiah’s commitment to prayer, his organizational skills, his gift of delegating. All good things.

What I found in this morning’s reading exceeded my expectations. In chapter nine I discovered (not for the first time, since the margins of my Bible are filled with notes) an extensive catalogue of the characteristics of God.

I’ll give you some examples. God is:

– eternal (v. 5)

– glorious (v. 5)

– creator (v. 6)

– faithful (v. 8)

– righteous (v.8)

– merciful (v. 9)

– just (v. 27)

– patient (v. 30)

I’ve only listed a few of the characteristics I found, but even these are enough to remind me of the greatness of the God I follow, and how essential Bible reading and study is to my faith. Nothing is wasted. Every one of the sixty-six books is important and beneficial.

As writers, we read all the time. I suggest that our most important reading each day should be from the Word of the One who has called us to be his pen in this time and place.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”

II Timothy 3:16.

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Let’s begin our interview with Marcia’s photo and bio:

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I was raised on an island off the north shore of Lake Huron, ran away to Alaska and then the Yukon, had a “road to Mayo” conversion in 1982, leaped by faith into Briercrest Bible College with my husband in 1985 and landed in the “promised land” of central Alberta in 1988.

I’ve also had the privilege of living a few miles south of the Arctic Circle (Dawson City Yukon) and a couple of degrees south of the equator (Papua New Guinea).

I suppose that’s why my writing is steeped in the imagery of winter with the odd palm tree thrown in.

For the past thirty some years, I’ve been a pastor’s wife, mother of three girls, caretaker of two dogs, two cats and sundry fish, and oh, yes, a freelance writer.

The writing began in the attic of my parent’s house where I wrote stories for my dolls. None of them complained, so I kept it up. The Lord has abundantly blessed, challenged, rebuked, healed and restored me through the process of writing and being involved with writers. I now have two award-winning novels in print as well as three devotional books. My ebooks are available on www.smashwords.com and some on Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc.

I am honored to have served on the executive of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, been a long-time member of The Word Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers, and been privileged to teach for some of these groups.

I am also a sought-after speaker for women’s retreats and one day events. I have spoken widely for Stonecroft Ministries.

Janice: Hi Marcia. Welcome to my blog. Glad you could stop by today. Marcia (pronounced Mar-SEE-ah), you are a multi-genre writer, as well as being very involved in Christian ministry. Tell us a little about your various involvements and how they came to be.

MARCIA: Well, it seems that the Lord often just drops things into my lap. I began writing for publication when we first moved to Alberta. My husband took over as the senior pastor of a good-sized church and one of the things he was told he had to do was write a faith column for the local newspaper. He was already overwhelmed with everything else on his “to do” list so asked if I would do it. I put together a short piece and took it to the editor. He was happy with it and that was the beginning of writing for local and provincial papers for more than 20 years. About that same time I sent off my first short story to a magazine and received a cheque in the mail. Then began writing short stories for Sunday school publications and my hobby became a career.

I have always been very involved in women’s ministries since becoming a believer at the age of 32, so when I heard about Stonecroft’s Christian Women’s Clubs it seemed a good fit. I took their speaker training and began travelling around Alberta and Saskatchewan, speaking to women. That has led to invitations to speak at retreats and other events. I’ve since had further training under Carol Kent. I love speaking and teaching and God has blessed me abundantly with this ministry.

Janice: How do you balance your writing and personal life?

MARCIA: It’s not always easy. When my kids were young I spent mornings doing housework etc and most afternoons at my keyboard at a small desk in our living room, until the girls came home from school. As they grew that time increased and now that they are grown I am able to spend as much time as I like writing. My husband has become very supportive over the years. I’m blessed to have family who understand and support my ministry. I am quite active in our small church as well, so there are days when there aren’t enough hours, but I love being busy. My challenge sometimes is learning when to say no, when to take time to just be with the Lord. In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next two years in treatment and recovery, a time that was a blessing in many ways as the Lord taught me to draw close to Him. That time changed my perspective on many things and helped me to see the importance of being still and focusing on Jesus.

Janice: When did you first take an interest in writing and what sparked that interest?

MARCIA: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I was always scribbling something or other, leading my mom to say she thought I was born with a pencil in my hand. But at the age of eleven an aunt gave me a copy of Emily of New Moon, by Lucy Maude Montgomery. As I read it I was thrilled to discover that you could actually call yourself a writer and determined at that time that’s what I would be. I was blessed to have some wonderful teachers who encouraged me in that pursuit. When I became a believer it was another blessing to realize that I could write for the kingdom of God.

Janice: What prompted you to branch out from non-fiction to fiction?

MARCIA: I had always written fiction – mostly short stories and poetry when I was young, but I knew you couldn’t make a living doing that, especially in Canada, so I decided to go to Carleton University to study journalism. I discovered fairly quickly that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I received some good training there that has come in handy over the years. I did a fair bit of journalistic writing for local newspapers when we first came out to Alberta, while still writing fiction on the side – mostly children’s short stories. Fiction really was my “first love” as far as writing was concerned, so it was a dream come true when I won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award and One Smooth Stone was published.

Janice: You’ve had interesting experiences with regard to publication. What have you learned on the journey?

MARCIA: A great deal! Some of the highlights:

1 – the industry is always changing and you have to try to keep up by following blogs and staying in touch with other writers, editors and publishers.

2 – when you view publication as a ministry as well as a business, you begin to realize that it’s not all about selling books. It’s about relationships. I’ve been blessed to have developed some wonderful relationships that have made the journey a joy.

3 – you never know when a door may open so you need to be ready and willing to jump through it. For instance, when the Sunday devotional columnist at Novel Rocket.com had to quit, I emailed the woman who owned the blog and offered my services (with fear and trembling I might add!). I’ve been writing for them for several years now and that has opened doors for me with people in the industry. The blog has been on Writers’ Digest’s list of best 100 blogs for writers for some time.

4 – never “despise the day of small things.”(Zech. 4:10). A small thing in God’s hand is a mighty sword.

Janice: What social media do you use and which do you find most effective?

MARCIA: I love Facebook and have made some good connections there. I use twitter a bit, but probably not as much as I should and am now investigating Google + and Goodreads. I think as far as marketing goes it has really helped to do a lot of guest posts on other blogs besides my own. It’s been a thrill to see some of my posts picked up by people in the industry who have huge followings. I try to keep in touch with members of writers’ groups, comment in forums etc.

Janice: When you begin a novel project, what comes first: characters, theme, plot?

MARCIA: Usually the characters and often one or two single scenes will spark a project. The theme emerges as I write, as does the plot.

Janice: What prompted you to write One Smooth Stone and A Tumbled Stone? One Smooth Stone A Tumbled Stone

MARCIA: A woman from a local crisis pregnancy centre was speaking at our church. I chatted with her afterwards and she said something that stuck in my mind: “Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to discover his mother had tried to abort him?” I did imagine, and the character of Alex Donnelly in One Smooth Stone emerged.  When I came to the end of that book I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters so talked with my publisher about a second book and wrote an epilogue that led into it. The character of Andrea, Alex’s sister, formed quite quickly. A Tumbled Stone had a rather drawn out journey to publication and there were many times when I thought it would not happen, but the Lord had a plan and it was an exciting day when that book arrived on my doorstep.

Janice: I have to tell you, I loved your Christmas short story, An Unexpected Glory. It’s such a “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” kind of tale. How did you come up with the idea?

MARCIA: I’ve always had a soft spot for Christmas pageants (you can read a bit about that here) and I like playing with the idea that God’s “economy” is so very different from ours, so when Kathi Macias asked me to write the novella, I jumped at the chance, even though I had a few other things on the burner at the time. That story seemed to almost download itself into my brain. I had a lot of fun writing it and have been really thrilled that so many people have referred to it as a “Christmas classic.” Many have mentioned the Best Christmas Pageant Ever when they refer to An Unexpected Glory and I’m kind of ashamed to say I’ve never read that story – but I plan to! 🙂

Janice: What kinds of books do you most enjoy reading? What format do you read in most?

MARCIA: I love a good story, no matter the genre and I tend to read quite widely across genres. I tend to like books that are more ‘literary’ in style, with strong characterization and setting. If I had to pick, I might say the mystery and fantasy genres are my favourites.

I won a Kindle a few years ago and got to really like it, especially for travelling. I now own an ipad mini so use it for reading at times, using a Kindle app, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands and do most of my reading in a comfortable corner of our living room.

Janice: What hobbies or special interests do you have and how do they affect (or not affect) your writing?

MARCIA: I’m intrigued by technology and science, but that doesn’t seem to have affected what I write – though I love sci-fi and may write a novel in that genre someday. I also love horses but have never written much about them, other than a few children’s short stories for Scripture Press that were set in cowboy country. My main hobby is reading and I do enjoy watching some TV, which I think has made my writing more visual and fast-paced.

Janice: How important are writing conferences, in your opinion? Writers’ groups?

MARCIA: Essential. If you are serious about a writing career I think it’s vital to join a writers’ group, connect with other writers and attend conferences whenever you can to meet editors and publishers. I have been an active member in InScribe for many years and have gotten to know many writers across Canada through The Word Guild as well. I attend both of their conferences each year.

Janice: From your perspective, what is the most difficult aspect of writing? And the best?

MARCIA: The most difficult for me has been the isolation and facing the lack of understanding from some Christians in our churches who don’t realize that writing is my ministry. I have faced a frustrating lack of support from some churches who seem to look on a writing career as something frivolous that has no value.

The best part is hearing from people whose lives have been changed in some way by what I’ve written. I’ve had some amazing emails, letters and phone calls from all over the world that tell me that God has a purpose for what I write and He often uses it in powerful ways. That keeps me going.

Janice: How do you write? Are you an outline person? Do you work better alone or in a busy place?

MARCIA: I’m in the ‘seat-of-the-pants’ category – I jump right in and then outline a bit as I go. At some point I’ll stop and do a bit of a time-line but that’s about it.

I know writers who do their best work in Starbucks, but I need a quiet place with little distraction. That’s been a challenge since we planted the church we are in now, because my husband and I share an office in our home. We are literally back to back so it can be interesting. 🙂

Janice: How do you research your books? What is the importance of research, in your opinion?

MARCIA: My two novels did not take a lot of research since they were set in places and dealt with things with which I was very familiar. But I do try to be careful to get the details right. I think it’s vital to the credibility of a story. For instance, when I was writing One Smooth Stone I woke in the middle of the night in a panic because I realized I had to check some details about the use of radio phones and cell phones in the Yukon. We had used a radio phone a lot when we lived there but I had to find out if they were still used and if it were possible to connect from that to a cell phone. I had no idea where to find that information so I simply called a telephone operator and asked to be connected to a Yukon operator. She was very helpful and gave me all the information I needed to know. I’ve read stories where those kinds of details are wrong and they really throw me off the story. I edited a romance once that was set in the north. The writer had the heroine walking along a sandy beach in the Yukon, staring at the stars with her romantic interest. The problem was that there are very few, if any, sandy beaches in the Yukon and it’s impossible to see the stars in the middle of the summer due to the twenty-four hour daylight. Those kinds of mistakes are deadly. Research is important.

Janice: If you were to give three writing tips, what would they be?

MARCIA:

1. Write every day, even if it’s just for a few moments squeezed into a busy schedule.

2. Read widely and read good writing.

3. Never quit, even in the face of discouragement. God has a purpose for your work.

Janice: Thanks so much, Marcia. I enjoyed visiting with you today, and I’m sure my readers will also. All the best in your future writing career.

MARCIA: Thanks for having me, Jan. It was fun. 🙂

Connect with Marcia at the following links:

Website & Blog – www.marcialeelaycock.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/marcialeelaycock

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/MarciaLeeLaycock

Blog for Reviews – www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca

Twitter – @marcialaycock

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Fresh rabbit tracks led in every direction around the camp, clearly visible in the clean snow. I snowshoed westward on the road leading to the lake, then veered off to follow one of the dozens of paw-pocked paths through the water poplar bluffs. The trail had to lead somewhere, and this day I chose “the road less travelled” and it indeed made a difference for me.file0001542848424 Morguefile/Rabbit Trails

I soon realized that rabbits could travel where people cannot, at least not without scraped face and torn clothing. I eventually happened upon a barbed wire fence a short distance below the horse corrals. I was not lost, but disoriented. I could see the sun peeking over the highest hill in the camp, and even I know the sun comes up in the east.

Instead of removing snowshoes and climbing over barbed wire, I decided to backtrack, winding along myriad tiny trails and pausing under hoarfrost-heavy branches. Not long after, I came upon a more established path where the trees and scrub brush had been cleared. According to the signs—paw prints and droppings—a coyote had passed that way. I followed and arrived again at the road that led back to camp.

Sometimes we can become as diverted in our spiritual lives as I was by the rabbit tracks on my morning trek. It may not be fatal, perhaps only a slight detour. It may not seriously affect us, but we stop moving forward for the moment. Other times we may come out with spiritual scars and bruises.

We need to get our bearings, perhaps retrace our steps until we see the way that has been established for us. Just as the rising sun gave me confidence and direction, so we need to keep Christ as the focus of our lives, allowing His Word to reveal Him to us daily.file0001150364158

We never know when a rabbit trail will draw us off course, but our Lord is a beacon in a confusing world. If we follow Him, we will find the right path.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ ” (Jeremiah 6:16).

 

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As our women’s Sunday School class broke into small groups and bowed our heads to pray, I studied our shoes. Oh, I know I should have closed my eyes, but at that pre-prayer moment, the shoes caught my attention:  one pair of solid, practical, well-used running shoes worn with white socks; one pair of comfy suede flats, neatly brushed to disguise signs of wear on the toes; a pair of fashionable, black, open-toe pumps on stockinged feet; and a set of lime green flip-flops with large, pink, plastic flowers on top.

photo credit: Michelle Gow via photopin cc

photo credit: Michelle Gow via photopin cc

I closed my eyes then, but even as we shared in prayer, my mind danced with the  differences in our shoes, our personalities, our roles.

SuAnn of the sturdy tennis shoes takes care of her elderly husband who is now confined to a wheel chair as the result of an accident. She must be practical, but she is also kind and compassionate.

The comfy suedes belong to me. I’m at the age where style and comfort wage war with every pair of shoes I purchase. The suedes fit both categories and they’re not expensive.

Danielle paints houses for a contractor. She’s as meticulous with her painting as she is with her appearance, and her pumps demonstrate the fact.

Callie is a teenager who seems to be able to wear whatever she wants and still look great. Her flip-flops reflect her youthful spirit, which in her case is connected firmly to her joyful commitment to the Lord.

Variety, diversity—the spice of life. God has created us as diverse as the shoes we choose. I’m convinced He delights in the potpourri of personalities He observes in His creatures.

Why then do we judge and criticize our brothers and sisters in the Lord? Why do we raise our eyebrows at SuAnn’s lack of style, or frown at Callie’s free spirit? When we judge others, are we not indirectly disapproving of God’s creativity?

Paul recognized our God-given diversity when he wrote, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (I Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV).

He continues in verse 11:  “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

God has, in His ultimate wisdom, created us unique from one another. Let us look at the differences as complementary, as parts of a whole, respecting and encouraging one another in our varied roles.

Prayer:  Lord, may I learn to walk comfortably in the shoes you have designed for me. May I also have the confidence, from you, to encourage my brothers and sisters on their respective journeys, no matter how different their shoes may be from mine. Amen.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/michie/4064495568/”>Michelle Gow</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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Reflections on John 6:7-8stk19948boj

Often, in this world of vast wisdom and knowledge, I feel that my contribution is insignificant. Really, what can I offer that would make a difference to anyone? According to John 6, this is not an acceptable conclusion for a Christian to draw. Check out the situation:

Five thousand hungry people and no McDonald’s in sight. It’s the disciples’ responsibility, apparently, to think of a way to feed the crowds. We focus first on Phillip. His response is practical. “There is no way we an possibly feed this crowd, not even if we had some cash on us, which we don’t.”AA026250

Another disciple makes his way quietly to Jesus. We almost miss him. He has something in his hands. “Umm, I know it’s not much, Master, but I’ve found some bread and a coupla fish.” Without further comment, he hands them to Jesus and steps back expectantly. He’s just contributed to a miracle.

The difference between the two men? Faith. They’ve both been with Jesus, but Andrew has been learning, growing. He gathers up what is in significant to anyone else and offers it to the Lord. Jesus uses his offering, and Andrew’s faith is catapulted to the next level. He guesses that the Master is not limited as he himself is, and thousands are blessed.

Lord, let me not neglect to offer my meager lunch to you. Perhaps you will choose to make a banquet of it.AA042190

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