Saturday, April 03, 2021

Impossible Sunrise


Happy Easter! 

This weekend, we’ve reached the grand finale of our Infinitely More 

We’re thrilled to share our Easter video! 
Featuring our very special guest preacher, Bishop Susan Bell of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara.

We’re also debuting a brand new song by Gerald called Impossible Sunrise.

Don’t you just love that title?

Impossible Sunrise…

Lenten Musical Calendar - Happy Easter!


We created this video in a swirl of emotions. 
Our parents have finally received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine! Spring flowers are bursting through the ground. It finally feels like there’s hope on the horizon.

But case numbers are on the rise here in Ontario. 
We’ve entered yet another lockdown. Medical authorities fear this may not be enough to quell the rise of the variants. We are all exhausted by the isolation, the uncertainty, and the constant stream of bad news.

For the second year in a row, we’re celebrating Easter - a story of new life - 
in a season marked by suffering, illness, and death.

How does any of this make sense?

And then, I remember that song title again: 
IMPOSSIBLE Sunrise.


The angel tells Mary, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”

Jesus says, “... with God all things are possible.”

God says, “I am the Lord... Is anything too hard for me?”

On Easter morning, the women arrived with spices in their hands.
They were ready to anoint a body. 
Instead, they came face-to-face with the God of the Impossible.


This is the God who gives knowledge to scientists and medical experts.
The God who can heal our communities of political and racial strife. 
The God who can revive our struggling arts communities and small businesses. 
The God who can strengthen weary essential workers. 
The God who can rebuild marriages breaking under close quarters, 
and relationships suffering from too much distance. 

This is the God who can bring gratitude grace, love, and joy 
into our tired, pandemic-weary hearts.

Take a deep breath.
Remember who God is.

And then remember: this is the God who loves YOU!

This Easter, more than ever, may we experience the God of the Impossible!


“And the world awakes to an Impossible Sunrise!
 Yes, we finally believe when we see the love in His eyes.
  Yes, the world awakes to an Impossible Sunrise!”


Impossible Sunrise
Written by Gerald Flemming
CCLI# 7173690

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


Today’s post is part of a blog-tour to celebrate the release of 
Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship's brand new anthology 

Featuring my own real-life story: 
Aunt Pauline and The Little Easter.

Lynn Simpson is also offering her own blogpost today. 

You can purchase your copy of Easter: Stories & More 
on our SITE.

HAPPY EASTER!



Friday, March 26, 2021

Book Review: The Moonlight School, by Suzanne Woods Fisher



Okay, I could pretend that I chose this book because it's historical fiction (which I love!) or because it's about a woman breaking the glass ceiling (you go, girl!) or because it's set in a time and place I haven't read about before (always fascinating!), 
but no.

This book description contained one line that got me 
hook, line, and sinker:

"Brother Wyatt, a singing school master..."

What??? A book about singing schools??? 

SIGN. ME. UP!!!


If you know my story, you know that attending a singing school changed my life
In all the books I've read, I've never encountered singing schools at all, so how could I resist?

And to clarify: this isn't a book about singing schools. 


Welcome to Rowan County, Kentucky, spring 1911. The world is moving from the straight-laced Victorian era into a new century. Cities are vibrant, modern centres, but in the rural mountain communities, tradition still maintains a stronghold. This is the world of The Moonlight School.

Our heroine, the fictional Lucy Wilson, desperately needs to experience a new chapter in life. She leaves the comforts of her affluent city life to work for her cousin in the school system of Rowan County.

Cora Wilson was a real-life trail blazer. In a time when women struggled for their place in society, she led the way in the field of education. She won her position of school superintendent in a landslide election, and her idea for "moonlight schools" literally transformed literacy in her state.

Without giving too much away, The Moonlight School is really Lucy's story. It's a story of facing your own preconceived notions, questioning the status quo, and finding your purpose in life. Lucy is a worthy protagonist, forcing us to challenge the prejudices we so often hold when it comes to entering new corners of the world.

If anything, the title of the book is a bit misleading. This isn't a book about Cora Wilson, and the concept of the moonlight schools doesn't enter the story until at least halfway through the book. That said, Woods Fisher has definitely done her research. I felt fully immersed in the Rowan County's politics, class divisions, and tactile details. I found myself genuinely craving mountain air and an all day church singing.


A brief side note on shape notes:

Shape Notes are a way of teaching music literacy where the shape of the note corresponds to its pitch within the scale. It's not related to the rhythm, as implied in this book. I know most people won't read The Moonlight School for the shape notes, but this distinction is important to me. People who learn shape notes can literally sight-read any song written in shapes, and can easily work out harmony parts. 
If you love music, I highly recommend digging into this topic on your own! 
Shape notes!



The Moonlight School is a light, enjoyable read 
with engaging characters in a dynamic time and place. 

I recommend reading the book, 
and then digging into the fascinating real-life history, as seen in the photo below...


A real life Moonlight School.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Book Review: Always Know..., by Melinda Estabrooks

 Full warning: we are about to enter Book Review Season!!!

I had already signed up to review three - yes, three! - books for Nuts About Books, 
when I saw this tempting offer jump on my screen: 

Who wants to join the book launch team for Melinda Estabrooks's latest creation?
Oh, and several of your friends are contributors??

Easy YES!!!

So, for those keeping count, that's four reviews coming to you over the new two months. 

So. Much. YAY!!!


Let me tell you, I always love getting a free book in the mail, but if you really want me to love your book before I even open it, this is the way to send it: bright envelope, fancy magnet, pretty note, and yes, those shiny gold things are candy! *bliss* 

Always Know... is the book-child of See Hear Love, Melinda's inspiring talk show for women of faith. After hearing so many incredible stories on the show, Melinda asked 50 of her favourite guests to contribute to Always Know...

The writers range from pastors to artists to community leaders. Their topics cover such areas as worship, leadership, mental health, and racism. The challenge in a book like this is always going to be consistency, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every piece! Some spoke directly into my life and experiences. Those that didn't still provided so much inspiration and empathy.


The format of this book allows you to use it for personal reflection, or in a group setting. You can read it in a single sitting (testify!) or take it day-by-day as a devotional.

Each piece is followed by a "Reflection" and "Takeaway", encouraging you to dig deeper and apply the lessons of the story to your own life. The writer's bio is also on the same page, allowing you to have a bit of context for the author's perspective. I found myself looking up websites and signing up for mailing lists on my favourite pieces!

I highly recommend reading Always Know... with a pencil! I turned down pages, underlined passages, and took copious notes. I know I'll revisit certain chapters again and again.

This book was birthed in the pandemic. I couldn't help but wonder how many of the writers wondered if their pieces would still be relevant upon the book's release. And yet, here we are, still struggling through masks and distancing and far-too-many Zoom calls... 


Always Know... arrives just at the right time. 
It's a shot in the arm (groan for the vaccine-pun) of much needed hope and encouragement.

I fully recommend getting a copy for yourself, 
as well as stuffing them in a few Easter baskets!


To purchase you own copy or to learn more about Always Know... 

please visit SeeHearKnow.com



A copy of Always Know... was provided at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

One Year of "Empty" Church Worship

The sanctuary echoed around us. 
Four people in a space designed to hold 800. 
Wednesday nights are usually flush with the voices of worshippers, 
but that night, we were a humble quartet in an empty church. 

One year ago tonight, we held our first "empty" church service.

March 18, 2020 - our first night of "Empty" Church Worship


Lockdown had been mandated across Ontario. That day, a flurry of emails flew amongst our Advent Cafe staff. We made plans to set up our sound system in the large main sanctuary, to take advantage of the live stream set up. All the details started to fall into place. We adjusted leadership roles, arrived early, and lifted extra prayers. Everything seemed ready...


But for the first time ever, 
we would close our doors to our beloved congregation. 


That first night, we felt so alone in that cavernous space. But then, we looked into the camera and welcomed those worshiping from the safety of their socially distant homes. We imagined their beautiful faces and loving smiles. We started praying and singing. The praise was rising! 

Suddenly, the church didn’t feel empty.


We’ve all read the passage about “the great cloud of witnesses”, and it can feel metaphorical. But in that moment, it became real for us. We felt surrounded by the generations of worshippers who had filled those pews. We were connected to people across the country who had tuned in to worship with us. 


God was in our praises! 
Two or three had gathered together, and God was in our midst.


We've now been gathering this way for a full year. 

It's been a varied year for worship settings. Some churches remain physically closed, live streaming from their sanctuaries. Others have managed to have small gatherings within their walls. Others have gone completely online, with preachers and musicians offering leadership from their own homes. 

We know it's going to be like this for a while yet...


But here's what else we know: 

God is still in our midst.
God is in your songs and in your prayers.
God is in the way you love your neighbour.
God is always around us.


Wherever you find yourself in this pandemic season, raise your voice in praise.
God is singing over you. Worshippers past and present join your song. 

When you worship, wherever you worship, you are never alone. 



Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: Spur of the Moment, by Marcia Lee Laycock

Last year, I took a new step in my writing journey when I joined Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship. This collective is doing fantastic things to connect, equip, and encourage Christian writers across Canada. I'm just started to get involved, and I love getting to know the writers and their creations.



Through our Facebook group, I heard about Marcia Lee Laycock and her beautiful devotional, Spur of the Moment. I was thrilled when she sent me a copy for review!

Marcia is a prolific writer, writing in a variety of styles, but I feel like devotionals might be her speciality. According to her website, Spur of the Moment is Marcia's most popular devotional, already in its "expanded third edition" and was honoured with an award from The Word Guild. I have a paperback copy, but you can also get an e-book for your Kindle. 

Spur of the Moment is a collection of over a hundred devotionals, each inspired by a verse of Scripture. The pieces aren't presented in any particular order, so you can read and digest them at your own pace. They're well suited to both your first-cup-of-coffee inspiration or your final read before bed. 


Marcia is a beautiful writer, teasing out the details of any scene to make you feel like you're really there. Her devotions are placed in a variety of locations, allowing you to spend time by the edge of the Lake Superior, at the foot Mt. McKinley, at the start of an Olympic running race, and at a breakfast table in Papua New Guinea. In each story, Marcia finds a perfect moment that ties directly into Scripture, and gives us a new way to discover God in the everyday.

And truly, I think that's the great gift of Marcia's writing. I've never met her in person, but I feel like Marcia could write a devotional about anything! She has a way of finding God in every moment of living. Her devotionals don't just share her stories - they encourage us to find God on every page of our own stories.

I definitely recommend you get your own copy of Spur of the Moment,
and enjoy seeing God move in every part of your day.

You can find out more about Marcia and her beautiful writing at 

https://marcialeelaycock.com/ 


A copy of Spur of the Moment was provided at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, February 05, 2021

What's Saving My Life Right Now...


What is saving my life right now?


What a loaded question!
We’re now entering Year Two of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Although the vaccine is bringing lots of hope, so much of 2021 is still unknown. For those of us in the arts community, we’re already facing a year of closed theatres and cancelled festivals. There’s no sign of when live performing will make a comeback, and many in our industry are facing challenging questions about their future viability.

And we know we’re not alone.
Second year of pandemic, middle of winter, and back in lockdown.
Is this really anyone’s favourite moment?

And that’s why the question struck me so profoundly:


What’s saving your life right now?



I’m a superfan of the talented Anne Bogel - author, blogger, book lover, and all around lovely person to follow. She recently wrote her annual “What’s Saving My Life Right Now” blogpost.
As stated by Anne, the tradition was inspired by this:


“The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. In it, Taylor tells the story of when she was invited to speak at a gathering, and her host assigned the topic:
'Tell us what is saving your life right now.'"


In a time when we can so easily focus on what’s wrong,
this simple question asks us to focus on what’s right.


What are the small but profound things carrying you through this season?

What’s bringing you joy and peace in this moment?



Here are seven things saving my life right now:


#1. My Home

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m IN love with my home. I’m not kidding. I swoon over the stained glass gracing our front window. I sigh every time I realize my 108-year-old kitchen cupboards have fed generations. Even hidden under the snow, my colourful and fanciful garden fills me with unmitigated bliss. The whole house is a palette for all kinds of joy and creativity. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be in lockdown.


#2. Books

So. Many. Books! Last year, I almost doubled my reading goal. I’m incredibly grateful for the talents of imaginative storytellers, and this generous amount of time to devour their creations. I've created a whole new set of reading goals this year and my To Be Read List is looooong…..


#3. Walks

Not hikes. Just walks. Sometimes in different locations, but mostly around the neighbourhood. Stretching my legs. Breathing fresh air. Smiling at strangers (even through our masks!) Admiring gardens and other front yard artistry. My day is lost without a good walk.


#4. Our Puppies

Unconditional love. Unlimited cuddles. Adorable beyond comprehension. And the way they dance every time it snows. How is anyone getting through this pandemic without pets???


#5. My Techno Parents

My parents are seniors who embrace technology. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, live streaming, video recording - nothing is keeping them from staying social and connected. I can’t even tell you how incredibly grateful I am for this!


#6. #ShopLocal

One of the things I miss most about touring is stumbling over that amazing little cafe, tasting local delicacies, and coming home with a great story about a hidden treasure. This passion is well satisfied close to home these days. Long drives along the Niagara Parkway, followed by curbside pick-up or delivery are creating fun afternoons of exploration and discovery. We get the delight of new tastes and experiences, while also supporting our local creators and entrepreneurs.  


#7. Writing

I listed this as #7, but truthfully, it’s probably #1. Writing is a life source for me this year. It’s become a powerful creative focus, a place to channel so much of my passion for storytelling, planning, and dream-building. I’ve been keeping most of it private, but I’m hoping to share more with you in the coming months. Stay tuned… 


What are the things saving your life right now? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments below...




Thursday, January 21, 2021

Goal Setting in the Unknown

Each year, I dedicate a full month to dreaming and crafting my goals for the year. 

Last January was no exception. I put my imagination in full swing,
and planned out a year of touring, music-making, healthy habits, and celebrations. 

Each month looked so full of promise and creativity!

But then, Covid…

Spring 2020 hit like a maelstrom.
Goals, plans, imaginings - all wiped off the table and smashed to the ground.

I know you experienced it, too.
The cancelled plans. The deferred dreams. The now unattainable aspirations.

We pushed through, revised our plans, reimagined our dreams. 
Somehow, we made it through the year.


Now, we come to January 2021. Our inner clocks tell us it’s time to reset and restart.

But unlike 2020, when the change of fortune was dramatic and obvious,
2021 brings a new challenge:

We know we’re not back to “Normal" yet, so what, exactly, is 2021?
How do you plan for a year when you literally have no idea what will come next?


If 2020 was a tidal wave, 2021 is a desert.

Unknown sameness for as far as the eye can see...


All month, I’ve struggled to write my annual list of goals. 
It’s not business as usual, but it’s not 2020 either. 
None of us have any idea what could come up next week or next month.

How do we plan for the great unknown?

After weeks of struggling, I took a deep breath, 
and created a few strategies on how to create goals for 2021.

I hope these are helpful for you!


#1. Remember Your Intentions

Goal setting is a means to an end. It’s not about working out every day - it’s about getting healthy. It’s not about vocalizing every day - it’s about becoming a better singer. Keep your intentions first and foremost in your mind and in your heart.


#2. Hold Numbers Loosely

Timelines. Number of pages written. How many steps on your Fitbit.
Despite your best intentions, something unpredictable is going to come up - another lockdown, a change of employment, or even, God forbid, illness. In these moments, give yourself some grace. You’re not going to keep perfect numbers this year. None of us are. And that's okay. Missing one timeline or threshold won’t destroy your goal. Take a breath, take a break, and pick it up again tomorrow.


#3. Prioritize

Which are the very most important goals on your list? Is it to record that new song? Read the Bible in a year? Walk your dog every day? If you can do everything, fantastic! But if life changes or gets stressful, it’s good to know which goal is your most critical. Focus on the most important, until you have the energy to reengage with the less important.


#4. Incorporate Gentleness

Last year, when things really went haywire, I dug deeply into Hygge - the Danish concept of coziness. Since then, I’ve been prioritizing comfort and gentleness in our home. I don’t over schedule a day or a week. I plan an end time for my workday. I limit my social media. I make sure we have lots of options for hot beverages and warm lap blankets. Candles and mini-lights are now standard in all rooms. We’re all dealing with unprecedented levels of emotional stress. We need to consciously and gently care for ourselves and the ones we love.


#5. Plan to Revisit and Revamp

We have no idea what 2021 will bring to our world or to each of our lives. There’s no way a list of goals created in January will be viable throughout this year. So, I’ve planned days to Revisit and Revamp my goals. These are different from my usual first-of-the-month planning. I’ve chosen three days, one approximately every quarter, and have already booked them into my calendar. On these days, I’ll pull out my list of 2021 goals. I’ll check off and celebrate any goals I’ve already accomplished. I’ll remove any that no longer work. I’ll revamp any that can still be accomplished, but in a different way. And I’ll ask the question, “Are there new goals or dreams that have surfaced in this season?” If the answer is “yes,” I’ll find a way to work them into the plan. 


2021 is a mystery, but with flexibility and compassion, we can still do great things!
More than ever, our world needs great things… 

What are your dreams and goals for 2021?
What challenges do you anticipate this year?
Please feel free to share in the comments below…