No Answers

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada. She is the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. A sequel will be released soon. Visit her website – www.vinemarc.com

I’ve just finished reading this letter from a woman who was in Haiti when the earthquake hit and like many of the stories and images coming out of that country, it has left me stunned, weeping and asking questions.

Paramount among those crowding my mind is one thought – Why does God spare some and not others? Why did one man suddenly decided to leave his hotel for a “breath of fresh air” and stand on the other side of the street as the building collapsed, killing almost everyone inside? Why was that bus load of Canadians held back in the airport so that they were not in the Hotel Montana when the earthquake hit?

Why was an eighteen year old girl and another man killed on a busy Canadian highway when her car suddenly flew across a median and hit another head-on, five minutes after my husband had been at that very spot?

There are no answers to those questions, nor are there answers to the many others that plague us when disasters hit, when some are slain and others saved. The lack of answers might lead some to say, “There is no God,” or “God has abandoned us all.”

But there are other voices to be heard and heeded – like the voice of the woman who was dragged from the rubble of a building singing. Singing! And telling her rescuers there is no need to fear death because God is there. God is there. And then there are the voices of the people who gathered outside the crushed ruins of their church and prayed and sang and praised. The power of such faith is mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. They silence the voices of doubt and despair. They make all the unanswerable questions moot. God is there. Faith sustains. Yet we, as communicators of the Gospel, need to puzzle over all the unanswerable questions, we need to wrestle with them, not so that we may arrive at any wisdom from within us, but so that our wrestling might bring us to moments of faith that echo and resonate with those we are seeing on our television screens.

Tragedies like the earthquake in Haiti open doors of opportunity for those of us who have been gifted with words or music or art, because it is at these times that people look for meaning, for purpose and for beauty in the midst of the chaos. They look to us and, as the scripture says, we must be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). We must be able to point them to Jesus, in spite of the pain.

So as we weep, as we mourn and struggle and wrestle with God, let us dig deep into the foundations of our faith and cry out, through our art, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

A Few Good Questions

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from Alberta Canada, where she lives with her husband, two golden retrievers and a six-toed cat. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel will be released soon. Visit her at www.vinemarc.com

A writer/editor I greatly respect wrote: “We need to keep our own fallibility very much in mind, adopting a humble posture towards the readers we serve and God, whom we seek to honour.” Doug Koop, editor, Christian Week Newspaper

Mr. Koop says there are some questions we need to ask ourselves, as writers – “Do they (our words) encourage better attitudes? Do they inspire better activity? Do they edify? Do they entertain? Do they strengthen the right muscles? Do they inform truthfully and graciously? Do they honour Jesus Christ and the Church He loves? Those kinds of questions matter …”

As I read his column this week, it gave me pause. Can I put a check mark beside each of those questions when I consider my work? I would hope so. I think Mr. Koop has encapsulated what it means to be a writer who is Christian, both in terms of motivation and practise.

It is a high calling, one not to be taken lightly, one not to be used to grow our own egos but to act as the conduit for God’s purposes. He has purposes for our words – purposes that involve people we may never meet – a young woman who needs emotional healing, a young man who needs to deal with his anger, an elderly woman who needs to forgive, an elderly man who just needs a good laugh. Our words, used to God’s purposes, can affect change in the lives of our readers. All we have to do is choose them wisely, put them together and then get out of the way.

All we have to do is respect our readers enough to work hard at finding the right words, praying they will understand and act upon the words we write, and honour God enough to acknowledge His sovereignty as He does with them what he will.

For “of this gospel I was appointed a herald” (2 Timothy 1:11)

Half Way There

Marcia Laycock is the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel One Smooth Stone. The sequel will be released soon. Her devotionals have won praise from Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway, Janette Oke and others. Visit her at www.vinemarc.com

The room settled into a low hum as the group of women took their seats. I could hear the fire in a large stone hearth crackling behind me. The worship team had just taken us into the presence of God and I listened as the MC of the women’s retreat introduced me. It was testimony time. Again. I’ve done it so many times I don’t need my notes anymore, and every time I do it I realize how thankful I am for the grace and mercy of God. Looking back has its benefits.

But as I told my story that night I realized it isn’t a good idea to stay there. That story happened almost 30 years ago. The Lord has done a lot in my life since then. I’ve overcome obstacles and ploughed through rough ground, all with His help. Each milestone seemed like a stopping point. I would think, okay, now I’ve got it. I’ve arrived at that point called Christian maturity. But then something would happen and I’d realize, well, maybe I have a bit more to learn. Maybe I’m only half way up the mountain after all.

I loved rock climbing when I was young. My brother and I did it often, on the cliffs on the north shore of Lake Superior. That was so long ago that no-one bothered with things like ropes and harnesses and crampons. You just picked a spot and started to climb. The views from the top were amazing. But there was usually a point, about half way up, when we’d hesitate. The climb ahead looked formidable. Should we stop, should we go back? Author Billy Coffey talks about this same moment in his post on Rachel Gardner’s blog. I guess anyone who has climbed knows how that moment feels.

And anyone who has written knows it too. Coffey writes – “… maybe the climb never really ends for a writer. Maybe we are perpetually stuck in the middle, daily facing the choice of whether to stay where we are or chance a few more steps ahead.” I’ve known that moment too, of being “stuck in the middle.” When I signed my first contract and saw my first novel, One Smooth Stone, on a bookstore shelf, I thought, wow, I did it. I’m an author.

But, as Coffey states, it wasn’t long before I realized it wasn’t a stopping point. I was sitting on a comfortable ledge admiring the view but then realized I was only half way up the mountain. I wanted to bask in the glow of getting there and keep looking back, but I knew I had to take a deep breath and keep climbing. There was more that God had for me to do, more to teach me.

The Apostle Paul wrote – “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b)

It thrills me to know He has taken hold of me. That knowledge gives me the courage to “press on,” as Paul says. There is a wider view awaiting, perhaps a wider audience, or perhaps just an audience of one, waiting for me to write the words that will change his or her life.

As writers we all reach that half way point. It’s not the moment to stop and be content with what we’ve accomplished.

It’s the moment to ask, “Lord, what’s next?”