Did Someone Say Christmas?

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

Did Someone say Christmas?

Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I love all that Christmas is, and symbolizes. I love the tree with its tinsel and baubles; I love the presents tucked under it; I love the lights that decorate it, and I love the food – turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing and of course, home made pumpkin pie. I most especially love the fact that my family will gather to enjoy all these things with me.

All of these things are wonderful, yet they can be a distraction from the real message of Christmas and I wondered how I could connect them in my mind with the truths of the season.

The tree, for instance. Not all Christmas trees have needles. One of the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen was a spindly birch decorated with tiny white lights. That tree often reminds me that Christmas is not the same for all people – many have different traditions and ways of celebrating the birth of the Saviour, but the Christ came for all, no matter their nationality, language or ethnicity.

As I thought about the lights of Christmas, I remembered that Jesus called himself the Light of the world in John 8:12. Isaiah 60:1 tells us to “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” John calls Jesus the true light that gives light and Ephesians 5:8 tells us we ourselves are “now light in the Lord.”

And the Lord himself is our food, our nourishment. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…” (John 6:35). “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).

And what about the presents? We know Jesus was God’s gift to us, a gift that ‘keeps on giving’ because once we have sought his forgiveness and accepted the sacrifice he made for us, He lives in us.If you have not accepted Jesus as your brother, your friend, your saviour, you have left a priceless gift unopened. That gift is offered to us all at no cost. All you have to do is say yes. Christmas gives us all a new opportunity to celebrate the gift of God’s Son, the gift of the forgiveness He has offered to us.

The tree, the lights, the food, the presents. As I began to connect all the trappings of Christmas to the truths of Christmas, I realized that it’s just a matter of seeing what is really right in front of us at any given time, and connecting it to the mercy and love of Christ.

As writers “in Christ,” Christmas is an opportunity to help our readers see, understand, and perhaps for first time, truly believe in the Christ. As we tell His glorious story through our words, the power and majesty of that story comes alive again and again.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there he is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

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 shortlisted in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four 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.

 

Reserve Now

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

The signs are starting to pop up everywhere: ‘Book Now!’; ‘Reserve your table now!’. As we move into the Christmas season, a lot of the hotels and restaurants are pitching to companies and organizations of all kinds who will be looking for places to hold their Christmas parties and banquets.

Most of us have attended at least a few such gatherings in our life-time. Sometimes they are gala events with everyone dressed to ‘the nines’ or sometimes they’re small gatherings in a small venue where there are lots of opportunities to get to know one another. Ugly Christmas sweaters optional.

I saw one of these signs the other day and it made me think of the scriptures that talk about the banquet God has prepared for us. Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

And in Matthew 22:2,3 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”

The story goes on to tell how the servants were instructed, again, to issue the invitation, but still, the people did not respond, but “went off, one to his field, another to his business” (v. 5). Then the servants were told to go out into the streets and invite anyone they saw so the banquet hall would be filled. One of those guests did not bother to change his clothes before attending and things did not go well for him.

As someone who loves good food, it seems unlikely to me that anyone would refuse an invitation to a lavish banquet, yet, in a spiritual sense, many of us do just that. We are so caught up in the things of the world that we cannot see what God has laid out before us. We go to our ‘fields’ and ‘businesses’ and pay no attention to what God is offering. Or worse, we go to the banquet only for what we can get, not to bring honour to the Son.

This reminds me, too, of another scripture that says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Notice the focus in that verse. It is His kingdom and His righteousness, not our own.

Only when we strive for that perspective will we be ready to receive the gifts of the kingdom that God has prepared for us. Only then will we be able to enter into a relationship with the Son.Only then will we be prepared to do His work on this earth.

As writers, part of that work is to help others open their eyes not only to what is on that banquet table, but to the reason why it has been prepared. Through story and poetry, it is our task to make it so desirable that they are drawn to it, and drawn to the One who has prepared it.

May He find us ready. May he find us faithful.

 


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there he is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

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 shortlisted in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four 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.

To Every Book, A Season

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

We’ve had a lovely fall season this year. For a time, the trees were resplendent in their golds and rusty reds.The sky remained a deep blue and the sun continued to shine. But lately the sky has darkened, and we’ve had some strong winds, winds that have stripped the trees of their colour and left them looking grey and forlorn. Of course, we know that winter is coming, and that spring will follow, dressing the trees once again in their verdant robes. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

I know that includes this space of time I have been given now, to write. It is precious to me, especially as I get older, and I try to use it wisely but sometimes there are interruptions and barriers to overcome. All, of course are opportunities to learn, to grow, to seek God’s will in my life, to decide to trust Him.

Knowing that all things go the way of falling leaves also makes me realize that my life’s work, indeed, my life itself, is, as James 4:14 says, but “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” I try, therefore, to hold it lightly, to realize that it has purpose in God’s plan for a time and to value it as such, but then know it will eventually be gone. If I hold too tightly to it, treasure it too much, I will, in the end, be left with nothing.

Most writers have had the experience of finding their book on a remainder pile or on the shelf of a second-hand store. Even best-selling novels have a short life expectancy in this modern age. “The blockbuster novel is heading the way of the mayfly,” says Bob Young, CEO of Lulu.com, referring to the famously short-lived insect.

My first novel, One Smooth Stone, has recently been given a bit of a “new lease on life” with a new cover, so I’m hopeful that its life expectancy will be extended for a while, but still I know the end is in sight. It makes me a little sad, but when I look back on what I learned about the writing process, about myself and about God through it all, I realize it was a precious gift and I am thankful.

Besides, there are more books to be written, more words to put into articles and poems that may cause someone to pause and ponder the things of eternity. There is more to be learned about writing, about myself and about my God.

And the good news is that we can trust the One who has laid out the pattern of it because He “knows us best and loves us most,”(John Piper); He is the One who “rejoices over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

As there is sadness in this season of falling leaves, there is sadness in knowing that our writing has a rather short shelf life. But another spring is on its way.


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

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 four 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.

 

Crushed

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

“I’m sorry,” the store owner said, “I can’t put these books on the shelf. There are too many mistakes in them. Not the quality I’ve been used to seeing in your work.”

I stared at the books on the counter, small pink strips sticking out of the pages. I stammered a bit and thanked her, telling her I appreciated that she had taken the time to do this. Red-faced, I gathered the books and left the shop as quickly as I could.

All the way home I wondered how there could be so many mistakes. The books had been read by a few people and I thought the editing was done. How could I have let this happen? By the time I got home I was under a crushing weight of self doubt that approached despair.

I went through each of the three manuscripts on my computer, checking all the mistakes that store owner had marked. Almost all of them had already been corrected. It was with a sigh of relief that I realized what had happened. I had uploaded the wrong files to the printer.

Yes, I was relieved and also grateful for that woman’s courage and honesty, even though it was dispiriting, perhaps more than it should have been.

I thought about that recently as I listened to a speaker at a Christian School Teacher’s convention talk about where we put our value and significance. Once again, I was reminded that my value to my heavenly father does not depend on my writing, how eloquent or free of typos it may or may not be. My significance and value is dependant only on His opinion me. And my father loves me. No matter what.

I went to that convention holding my breath. The cost to be there, with my six-foot table piled with books, was a bit high. I’d ordered extra books, “just in case.” I hoped it was worth it. I hoped the sales justified the cost. I felt God had led me there and I’d prayed, so I hoped God would come through for me.

And once again, through the speaker’s messages, I was reminded that my focus was off. Yes, the Lord got me to that conference but I know now He was not so concerned about my book sales as the state of my relationship with Him. I’d fallen into the trap of looking to God for what He could do for me rather than just looking to God, listening to God, longing for God. As Skye Jathani said, the specific calling on my life (to be a writer) does not matter because of the work, but because of the One who has called me to it.

It wasn’t a bad thing that I was embarrassed about the mistakes in those books. It’s a good thing to strive for excellence. But it was a bad thing that my soul was crushed, that I began listening to the voices that said I should just give up, quit writing, find something else to do.

Ironically, I did need to do something else – I needed to run to the only One who can satisfy my soul, ask Him to forgive my foolishness and submit my life and my work to Him, once again.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1).


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

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 four 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.