Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not So Random Acts of Kindness

Random acts of kindness... I am reminded of an activity our youth group did many years ago when we were in full time ministry. The youth group decided to do several random acts of kindness around the small town where we lived. Stacking firewood and shovelling snow were among the typical activities. Fun and fellowship; outdoor exercise and fresh air... these were the payoffs beyond the good feelings that doing something for someone else brings.

End of story, right? Well, I need to caveat this next part with a little explanation about my husband. He is a 'go big or go home' kind of guy. Doing a few odd jobs for the elderly, although a nice gesture, just didn't seem like enough.
There was a certain man in our town who had a problem with hoarding. You actually could not see his house from the street because there was so much junk piled in his front yard. The town had served him with multiple fines over the years to no avail. The next step was to send in a clean up crew, which they threatened to do, and which he would have to pay for.

Hoarding is actually a serious form of mental illness. For those of us looking in, it seems ridiculous to form such an attachment to what looks like garbage. The gentleman in question had a brother who lived nearby our church, and he asked if my husband would go over and see his brother, who was by this time extremely distraught. I might mention that the man with the hoarding problem was also a bit of a recluse. He drove around in his van collecting bottles and spending lots of time at the dump, but didn't interact much with people.

Part of the irony of this story is that my husband is a clean freak. For instance, he won't take out the garbage without wearing gloves. Seriously. He likes a tidy house. (And yes, he helps keep it that way!) But he's also compassionate and loves Jesus, so he went over to talk.

The man with the hoarding problem actually didn't see anything wrong with his property. Not only was his yard FULL, but his house was the same. Even his van was packed with so much stuff, mostly salvaged from the dump, that only the driver's seat was free. There wasn't much my husband could do on his own. The town crew were coming the following week with a loader and a big dump truck. The homeowner was overwhelmed.

But then my husband had an idea. Here was a way to show the love of Jesus to a man who was, by most standards, unloveable. He assembled a crew of teens and just showed up after school one day and started sorting. With the homeowner's 'supervision', they managed to pile things up into groupings. (Old washing machines here, engine parts there, scrap metal, bottles and cans... ) They were even allowed to take several trips to the dump with some actual garbage.

Several evenings and an entire weekend later, the yard, while by no means a show piece, at least looked organized. It was enough to make the town officials postpone their clean up operation, and it made that man weep with gratitude.

In the end, his yard continued to pile up once again. I'm not sure whether the town came and did something about it after all, since we moved away. But the experience certainly had an impact on the youth that were involved. It was not glamorous or fun. It was a dirty and disgusting job. But sometimes the love of Jesus shines best in these kinds of circumstances.  

This blog post was originally published on February 27, 2015 on the Word Guild's blog 'Canadian Writers Who Are Christian'

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March Links

Feature and excerpt from LEGACY - RENATA'S STORY - COLONY ZERO SERIES 0.

Inscribe Writer's Online - March 15. My post is called 'An Artist Writes'. It chronicles the moment I 'knew' I was a writer through the backdoor of the visual arts.

The Word Guild - March 27. 'Satisfaction' - What brings you the most fulfillment? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Milleniel Post

It's official. This is post number 1000 since starting this blog five years ago. Thanks to those that subscribe, became followers, or who just lurk and read. You know who you are.

'Expression Express' has gone through a number of changes in this time. At first, I was at a loss for what to write about, so there was a lot more random ranting. (There still is on occasion.) I even had a separate category for 'Rants'. As for an overall theme, that was non-existent, although I did know I wanted to talk about all my creative pursuits. The name 'Expression Express' came to mind and I created a tagline: 'the creative process from a Christian perspective'.

I've tried various schedules over the years. I've tried a six day schedule where I blogged on a certain topic each day. Reads, Reviews and Interviews' were on Mondays; on Tuesdays I stuck to 'The Writing Life'; 'The Issue' - my take on the editorial with potentially controversial topics happened on Wednesday; Thursday was for 'Art and Inspiration'; Friday was my shameless 'Just Promoting' day; and Saturday I reserved for 'Weeks Links' - links to places I was featured on the web that week. I even went so far as to go through all my old posts and retag them with only these six categories.

After awhile that system became too constricting. What if I wanted to promote something on a different day? What if I was part of a blog hop for instance and the theme didn't fit my schedule? I've since tried various schedules - posting three times a week, posting only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, posting whenever I felt like it as long as I did it at least twice a week... I've changed my tagline a few times (and back again to the original, in case you noticed at the top), changed my colour scheme, my layout...  Changes, changes, changes!

The only thing that has really remained the same is - I'm still here! 

And I have no plans to stop. 

Blogging has become an integral part of my life. It is so much more than a platform to promote myself, although that is an obvious perk. As the saying goes, writers write, and blogging is a way to express my feelings on any given topic, reflect on what's happening in my life, and celebrate my successes. Sometimes I wish I could change the name of the blog from 'Expression Express' (it sounds slightly juvenile) but it actually still encapsulates what this blog is all about. I am an artist, a writer, a playwright, a director; I love music and theatre and try to use these gifts to the best of my ability in my job as a teacher and in my role as a worship leader. I am a person of faith who believes that God, the ultimate Creative Being, has modelled us after Himself to be creative beings.

This is what I write about. This is EXPRESSION EXPRESS - hopefully comin' at ya for another 1000.     

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Contribution - Uplifting Devotionals

Over the last several weeks, I've had the pleasure of interviewing the authors of UPLIFTING DEVOTIONALS III. All six authors are from Canada, so it was a fun project for a group of 'Canucks' to work together. I also enjoyed getting to know each person a bit better over the course of these interviews. The book is published by Helping Hands Press, and is available in both ebook and paperback.

One of the things I love about the book (and yes, I did read everyone else's contribution) is the variety in point of view and subject matter. All six authors have a unique voice and this really comes through. My section is comprised of excerpts from my devotional book LIFE IS A HIGHWAY. I would characterize my offerings as crisp and to the point, laced with insight, humour, and written in a conversational style.

The wonderful contrast between what I wrote and what the others have written keeps the book fresh and interesting. (At least in my opinion.)

Check out the interviews if you haven't already done so. if you are intrigued, pick up a copy. You won't be sorry.

Other interviews in this series:
Murray Pura
Marcia Lee Laycock
Ruth L. Snyder
Janice Dick
Tony Hilling 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Writing and Renos

Spring break... Ah! Time for some rest and relaxation!

A reading break
NOT! We are doing some renos on a rental property that we own and it looks like my break will be spent amidst the drywall dust and paint fumes. It isn't really how I want to be spending my time off from teaching, but it's necessary and hopefully the payoff will be worth it.

It reminds me of the writing process. Writing isn't always fun. Research, revisions and rewrites take time and effort. The finished product, although polished, really doesn't speak to the hours of work behind the scenes. In the end, it's worth it though.

One week in and I'm starting to look forward to going back to work!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Juried Art Show Coming to TR!

Veil of Tears
Each year I participate in the 'Peace Liard Regional Juried Art Exhibition'. It is the premier event for artists living in Northern BC and showcases artists' work from all over the region. This year, the show is being hosted right here in Tumbler Ridge. As part of the executive of the local art's council, I have been busy along with the rest of the planning committee getting everything ready for the big event.

In the midst of the busyness, I've been inspired to paint a new piece for submission to the exhibition. I call it 'Veil of Tears' and I rather like the way it turned out.

I will be posting more about the show when it actually takes place. It opens for adjudication on May 1 and will be up for public viewing for the entire month of May.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tony Hilling is My Guest

I've been doing a series of interview with the contributors of UPLIFTING DEVOTIONALS III. six Canadian authors came together, thanks to Helping Hands Press, to put this unique and inspiring book together. Today I am super excited to have Tony Hilling on the blog.

As you will see, Tony is a really interesting fellow. Former Catholic priest, lawyer, and balladeer, Tony has a really unique point of view. I think you will be blessed by what he has to say in the book. His reflections on Mary's 'Canticles' are fresh and inspiring.

Here is my interview with Tony.

Where do you currently live? If this is different from where you grew up, tell us a little bit about where you are from.

I currently live in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. I grew up in the UK, born in Glasgow, Scotland, went to school in England, and university in Northern Ireland. I’ve been in Canada since April 1976. 

Is writing your primary vocation? If not, what else do you do?
Since moving to Canada, I’ve worked for a trust company, practised law, and after going to seminary became a pastor, which would be my primary vocation. I also love to sing and play the guitar and have enjoyed writing songs and performing.  Right now, I still pastor but moonlight as a school bus driver and write, when I make time. 

How did you become involved in the Uplifting Devotionals project and what is the primary theme of your section of the book?
When I joined up with the Helping Hands community, I was encouraged to do some devotionals. I chose the canticles of Luke’s Gospel, thinking that they would lead me into some sort of Christmas theme last fall. However, the devotionals seemed to become more prophetic as I moved into them, challenging the beliefs of this age, so I called them, “Critiquing Canticles”.

What do you hope readers take away from your writing in general? 
The major theme in my fiction is repentance. For the last fifteen years I’ve been passionate about calling people back to the God of the Bible. My strategy has been to use fantasy to capture the imagination of folks, so portraying the Gospel in new light. The message has always been the same, but I love to find new ways of presenting it.

Author bio:
Tony Hilling worked in a trust company and later as a barrister & solicitor before entering seminary. He was ordained as an R.C priest in 1987 but left the priesthood in 1994 and went back to law practice for several years until 2000, when he took up the pastorate of a non-denominational church in Cochrane, AB. In 2005, he and his wife were called to Red Deer where they still pastor. 

Other interviews in this series:

Murray Pura
Marcia Laycock
Ruth L. Snyder
Janice Dick