Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reading progress

I decided this year to follow a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. It's had its ups and downs. Or rather, I should say I've had my ups and downs. I've read a lot of the Bible, but not systematically and so I really want to do this. (I've never spent much time in the OT, especially.) But I'm not very consistent. I tried getting up about 30 minutes earlier than I used to -- that was not a successful idea. I'm not a morning person and I already have to get up about 5:30 a.m. But I like the concept, at least, of starting the day out with the Word. I could read in the evening, but my evenings tend to fill up, too -- but I know that shouldn't be an excuse.

So what to do? I think I've found a solution. As I've mentioned before, I ride a van with a bunch of other people to work, and I'm on the van for almost an hour every morning. I can't read while I ride, so I listen to music on my iPod. I usually listen to some kind of Christian music to help me start the day with a better spirit. So I decided I should find a Bible podcast. I didn't want one with a lot of extra commentary, just the Bible, and I think I've found one that I like. The Daily Audio Bible podcast is presented each day by a Nashville producer and artist named Brian Hardin. He has a pleasant reading voice and he's following a one-year-Bible plan. My only complaint is that he doesn't stick to one version. He uses a different version each week. Last week, when I started, he was using The Message, which I consider more for devotional purposes than serious study. But if I want to dig deeper in the day's passages, I can always look them up in something else later. The main thing is, this is good way to spend some time with God's Word. To help with the alternating versions issue, I've subscribed to the RSS feed for the ESV One-Year Bible. So we'll see how this goes. I'll post my progress from time to time.

Monday, January 30, 2006

True Friendship

I've posted my February Notes from the Windowsill column on my writing blog. It's called True Friendship. In it, I refer to a certain chicken-cutting-up episode that for some reason has remained vivid in my mind, as well as my friend Rebecca's. Perhaps it was the fact that we had never actually cut up a chicken before. Rebecca's mother was giving piano lessons that afternoon, which is why we were given the task of cutting up the chicken in the first place. I'm pretty sure we interrupted her at several points because we couldn't figure out how to cut certain parts. We did that job, but I think we came out with one or two pieces never before seen in a cut-up chicken. At any rate, it was quite a hilarious experience all around.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What optimism is and isn't

Here's a thought: Optimism untempered by a realistic view of the world leads to disappointment, or even disaster.

Having said that, I'm generally an optimist, but one who has experienced some of the pitfalls inherent in that outlook. But I still try to have a positive approach to things and I'm pretty resilient, I think. But I had lunch with a friend a few days ago and it's got me thinking about the difference between being optimistic, being realistic and being negative.

My friend wanted to share an idea with me -- it's an idea for a project that we both have talked about in the past but never saw a way to do. But as she described her new approach to this idea, I found myself trying to inject a bit of realistic thinking into the discussion. I suggested things we might want to research, approaches we might consider. Mostly, I was thinking aloud. But my friend felt I was being negative -- apparently she had expected me to express whole-hearted enthusiasm for the idea and I wasn't fulfilling her expectations. I thought about it and apologized for coming across as negative, because that wasn't my intent. But if I'm going to be involved in something that will require a lot of time and possibly some money, I want to be sure it's done right. I will admit right here that I'm not much of a risk taker, so I'm sure that colors my outlook.

I know my friend pretty well and I know why this possible project means so much more to her. I also know her well enough to understand some of the life experiences that have shaped her way of thinking. She's more likely to see things as either-or, black-and-white, whereas I see more shades of gray, more in-between options. I've always been this way and sometimes I wish I wasn't. But I don't think it's being negative to disagree with someone or to suggest that more research is needed. I don't think it's crushing someone's dream to suggest some realistic thinking. In fact, the best way to make a dream come true is to have a plan. I'm not saying my friend doesn't have a plan, but I don't think it's very well thought out yet.

So what do you think? When someone brings you an idea that you know needs to be fleshed out in more detail, a dream that one will have to hurdle many obstacles to achieve, is it being negative to point those things out? I'm not talking about saying something like "Boy that will never work. What a stupid idea." That's obviously negative. What I mean is something more along the lines of "Maybe we ought to talk to some people who've done this sort of thing before." or "Other similar ventures have not been able to turn a profit. I'm just not sure it's realistic to expect much."

I'm interested in what other people think about this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Despite the pig, I have good taste

OK, one more quiz and then I promise, I'll quit for today. But this is a really, really cool car!

I'm a Mercedes SLK!

You appreciate the finer things in life. You have a split personality - wild or conservative, depending on your mood. Wherever you go, you like to travel first class. Luxury, style, and fun - who could ask for more?

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

This is fun. (link via Jordon)

I don't think Pachelbel would mind

A friend sent me this link to an awesome guitar rendition of the Canon in D. I wish the video was a better quality, but the sound is great.

Who I am, porcinely speaking

So, I've discovered that how you draw a pig says something about your personality. Don't believe me? Check this out. I am not an artist, I know. But apparently my pig is a fairly accurate representation of how I see the world. Interesting. (Thanks, Michelle, for the link.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A good book and some randomness

First, let me point you to a book that's released today: Building the Christian Family You Never Had, by Mary E. DeMuth. Mary is one of the Master's Artists and lives in France, where she and her husband are missionaries. I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family, but that's not true for many people. So how can you break the patterns of the past and be the start of a Christian heritage for your children? That's what this book addresses. I haven't read it yet, but it looks good. I know from reading Mary's blog that she writes with a wonderful honesty. You can find out more about Mary and her writing and her family at her blog.

Next, the randomness.

Know what this day is? The day the first Apple Macintosh went on sale! I'm certainly glad about that.

Foxtrot is having some fun this week with the whole Million Little Pieces fiction/memoir concept. Bill Amend has addressed some timely topics lately -- very funny stuff.

A few encouraging words

As one who struggles with self-doubt and angst over her writing, I found this post from Storytellers Unplugged most heartening. While I want to aim for excellence, I need to quit dithering and just write, write and write some more. If you're the same way (and admit it, you are), you might find encouragement in Richard Steinberg's words, too and find, as I did, some good practical advice, as well.

What I've been up to

I've had a busy few days, so here's a little catch-up:

Friday evening and Saturday we had a worship seminar at church led by Jonathan Dow of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. We had folks from several area churches and it was an excellent weekend. (Aldersgate is affiliated with the United Methodist church, by the way.) He led us in a lot of worship and modeled the things he was teaching. He got into some of the nuts and bolts of worship leading, but a lot of the weekend was devoted to the foundation and heart of worship -- the Biblical underpinnings and having your heart right with God before you ever get up in front of the congregation. It was excellent.

I spent some time with my husband. (Always a good thing.) We went out to eat for our anniversary Saturday night, then to his company Christmas party Sunday evening (yes, I know it's a month late, but it was a free dinner, so I won't complain). And we watched the Steelers trounce the Broncos Sunday afternoon. Very good game, though maybe a little less exciting than the Steelers/Colts game the week before. But the two teams I wanted are in the Super Bowl. Now I have to decide who I'm going to cheer for. This is a bit of a dilemma, you see. Because I like the Steelers, but Mike Holmgren (coach of the Seahawks) is a Covenanter. I think I'll have to give this some thought.

Yesterday, the President (yes, that President), spoke here for a Landon Lecture and I attended. Let's just say I have mixed feelings about some of this administration's policies, but I'm not going to pass up the chance to hear a President speak -- it's history. So I went and it was interesting. It's always interesting to watch the people at something like this, and it was even more so yesterday because of all the media and the state and local officials who were there. The speech was OK, though he didn't say anything especially new or unexpected. I will express one thought I've had about the speech, and then I'm done -- when politicians make repeated use of a word, the purpose often seems to be to divert one's attention from a condition that is just the opposite. We heard the word "liberty" a lot yesterday. Just something to think about.

Monday, January 23, 2006


May I direct you to a beautiful picture here? The photographer gives you the option of changing backgrounds -- try it, it's like looking through a window into a winter-clad forest.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mom, I love that shirt!

One spring day in 1976 I walked out of my dorm and stopped to talk to a guy sitting on a picnic table. It was a nice Sunday afternoon and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. I think that evening we went with a bunch of friends to our favorite pizza place downtown. (It was not a date, we just had mutual friends.) And everytime I turned around during the next couple of weeks, there was that guy. No, he wasn't stalking me. I just think God was doing his little thing and making sure we had chances to get to know each other better. So we did. And by the time I went home for the summer, I knew I was going to miss this guy. I still think my father was a little alarmed when I introduced him to Bob, who was 25 the day I left for the summer. I was still 18. But how could my parents object? He was a seminary student!

By Christmas we were engaged, and on Jan. 21, 1978, we were married in my parents' church, with my Dad and Uncle Tom sharing the officiating duties. It was a very fun wedding — not elaborate or expensive, but we were surrounded by our friends and family and a good time was had by all. Our pianist drove with us back to Lincoln; we left her at her dorm and we honeymooned in our apartment. We went to church the next day and people were a little surprised to see us, but it seemed like a good way to start out. And after church we went to the grocery store. And more friends were surprised to see us there, but we needed groceries and we had wedding money.

Much of our married life has been like that -- a mix of practicality and whimsy. We lived in an apartment where we named the rooms after places in The Lord of the Rings. The bathroom was called Mordor, just so we could say "I'm going to Mordor."

Here's a picture from 1979 -- it's at my parents' house and I suppose Julia was a baby, but she's not in the picture. (Our first child was born 11 months and 1 day after we got married.)

And now we come to the title of this post: My sister-in-law found this picture at my parents' and gave it to me at the 50th anniversary party. My immediate response was "Oh, I loved that shirt!" When I showed it to Julia and later to Megan, they both said the same thing, "Mom, I love that shirt. Do you still have it?" Sorry, no. But it was a great shirt, wasn't it?

Tomorrow Bob and I will celebrate 28 years together. Those thin young people in the picture didn't know what was coming, but they were committed to one another and to God, whatever the future held. It hasn't been perfect, but it's been a joy and we're closer now than ever. So happy anniversary to us.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Story snippet: "Take me out"

I've been writing another Adam Caldwell story (the main character from In Transit) and I thought I'd post a scene. Adam is working on a story about Darren Rucker, a minor league baseball player accused of killing his girlfriend. In this scene, Adam encounters O'Malley and Robinson, a couple of cops who are generally bad news:

(Later on Sunday afternoon, when Adam comes back from Rev. Wilson's:)

I reached the third floor of my building and stopped short. The door to my apartment was slightly ajar and I heard voices. I approached the door carefully and realized the TV was on. I knew I hadn't left the TV on and I never leave my door unlocked.

I shoved the door open with my hand and stared into my living room: O'Malley and Robinson were sitting on my couch, drinking my beer and watching a ball game on my TV.

"Good afternoon, officers. Why don't you come right in and make yourselves at home?" I said. The cops weren't alarmed or apologetic.

"Don't mind if we do. Huh, huh." Robinson said, with a sort of gorilla chuckle. The man's enough to make you believe in evolution.

"You got some new stuff, didn't ya?" Robinson pointed at the TV and patted the couch.

O'Malley smacked Robinson's shoulder, "Shut up!"

I didn't comment on it, but I made a mental note -- this confirmed my suspicion that the two had been responsible for the trashing of my apartment a few months ago, when I was covering the immigrant smuggling story.

"I don't suppose you're here to admire my d├ęcor. What do you want? And how did you get in here, anyway?"

"The super let us in," O'Malley said.

"Just like that."

"Yeah, just like that. He has a healthy respect for the law, unlike someone else in this room."

"You shouldn't let him talk about you like that, Robinson."

Robinson was paying more attention to the ball game, though. "Huh? Hey, look, Sammy Sosa's comin' up to bat."

"Shut it off you doofus. We've got business to attend to here," O'Malley said, standing up. "We hear you talked to our boy last night."

I knew who O'Malley meant, but I made him tell me.

"I talk to lots of people, all the time. You got someone specific in mind?"

"You always have to be cute, don't you. I'm talkin' about Rucker and you know it."

"Well, yeah, I interviewed him after the ball game. So?"

"So I want your notes."

"No. You can't have them."

I braced myself for what I was sure would come next. I never get away with saying "no" to those two without some painful physical consequences.

But I think my abrupt answer surprised O'Malley because he just stared at me.

"And why not? You know we'll get them sooner or later."

"Not without a subpoena, and maybe not even then. A reporter's notes are protected under Nebraska's shield law."

Maybe O'Malley knew more about the law than I thought, or maybe he had another plan for getting my notes. He motioned to Robinson, who hadn't turned the game off.

"Come on, let's go." Then he pointed his thick finger at me. "I'll get those notes, one way or another. And you can do this" he made a rude gesture "with your subpoena."

"Hey, Sammy just hit a home run!" Robinson sat up and waved his can of beer around, sloshing some out on my coffee table. O'Malley grabbed his partner under the armpit and heaved him up off the couch.

"I told you to turn that off. Let's go! You can watch the game somewhere else."

They left, Robinson grumbling all the way out the door.

I got a rag to wipe up the spilled beer and then sat on the couch, staring at the TV but not really seeing the game. There wasn't anything incriminating in my notes -- all Darren and I talked about was baseball -- but I wasn't going to tell the cops that, at least not when they think they can just park themselves in my apartment and demand my notes. It was a matter of principal. The problems was, it's those matters of principal that keep getting my apartment trashed. I decided to lock my notes and computer up at The Observer office, just to be safe.

Feel free to leave impressions or whatever in the comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Things I realized this weekend

I didn't do much exciting this weekend, but here's a few observations:

The song "We Win" from the David Crowder* Band's new album (A Collision) is best listened to at a very loud volume while you're driving down the highway at 65 mph. And you should definitely sing along. The song makes me want to jump up and down, but obviously that would not be a good thing to do while I'm behind the wheel of a car going 65 mph. Anyway, excellent song on an excellent album.

If you want to convince your children of your insanity, ask them to help you out by enacting a scene from your work in progress. Last night I was writing a scene with a bit of action and I wondered if that would actually work. So I went downstairs and asked Tim and Joel to help me out. They were a bit skeptical at first, and Joel wasn't real thrilled being asked to portray the doofus cop part, but they helped me and it worked. (They successfully demonstrated that one guy could heave a larger guy off a couch, if you're interested.)

Grown-up children are still your children and the urge to smooth things out for them never really goes away. But it's probably better if you don't.

And to think I wanted to be an archeologist ..

You scored as English. You should be an English major! Your passion lies in writing and expressing yourself creatively, and you hate it when you are inhibited from doing so. Pursue that interest of yours!





























What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with QuizFarm.com

(Thanks to Randall for the link.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday musings

It's Friday and my mind is jumping from one thing to another, none of which have anything to do with what I'm supposed to be doing. But if you want to enlighten yourself, here's some links:

I heard a good piece on NPR this morning about the whole "Million Little Pieces" issue. I happen to think that creative nonfiction should be truthful, by the way. Once you start being less than honest, it's hard to know where to stop. There's some good discussion of this issue at Faith in Fiction (message board), too.

Mick Silva has an excellent post up about cultural relevance. And Mark takes up the subject here, too. I'm still sorting out my thoughts, but as I commented on Mark's post, too many people who want to tranform the culture seem to think there's some perfect formula for doing so. But Rom. 12:1-2 tells us that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (in Christ). Transformation comes from the inside, through the work of the Holy Spirit. We can't impose transformation on others.

Infuze's Best of 2005 is now available. Alas, my story isn't in it, but you'll find lots of even better stories. Your fingers should run, not walk, to the Infuze store to order your copy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reality check

For those of us who aspire to publication, today's Non Sequitur is required reading.

The Master's Men

When I turned on my computer this morning, this picture was in the little picture frame widget I have.

This was at my parent's 5oth anniversary and the men in the picture are my brothers, cousins and uncle. Tim and Jim, my brothers, are the guys on either end. In between are Tom, Kerry and their dad, my Uncle Tom. When we were all in college in the mid-70s, early 80s, Uncle Tom was a music professor at the small Christian college we attended and he directed a men's chorus called ... The Master's Men. I think maybe Tim (the oldest) and Kerry (the youngest) weren't in it at the same time, but they were all in Master's Men at some point. So they sang a song at the anniversary party and it was just beautiful.

So I just thought I'd put this up for fun, and to honor some guys who truly are the Master's men, in every way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This does not surprise me

what decade does your personality live in?

quiz brought to you by lady interference, ltd

Listen, I was a just a little young to be a flower child, but I wished I wasn't. (I turned 12 in 1969, do the math.)
(found the link at Lisa Samson's Author Intrusion)

Rich and complex and loud

So part of my Christmas present from Megan was an iTunes gift card and last week I got the new Switchfoot album, "Nothing is Sound." This is one awesome album -- I can see why many critics ranked it among the best of the year. And as I've been listening to it, I'm reminded of U2. Not so much the sound, but in the depth of the lyrics and the musical complexity. These are great songs.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A couple more good links

Gordon Atkinson (Real Live Preacher) weighs in on The Book of Daniel (the TV show, not the OT book) at Salon. What he has to say about some Christians' reaction to the show is more interesting than the show.

And the waiter has a good story today about a marriage -- Treasure. (Note: The language, as usual, is PG-13 or so.)

The perfect antidote for a gray winter day

Randall Friesen is posting 9 days of summer at his photoblog, drycold. He's up to number 5 now of absolutely gorgeous pictures of flowers. Go feast your eyes. (To see the ones he's already posted, just click on the Before link.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Good words

Here's a little item for you grammar geeks out there: John McIntyre, assistant managing editor fo the copy desk at the Baltimore Sun, has a blog, You Don't Say. It's pretty good.

And for a few more good words, visit The Master's Artist for Mark Bertrand's weekly post. He has some good things to say about understanding yourself as a writer and starting from where you're at.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

One more book I'm looking forward to

Actually, there are lots of books I want to read, but here's the final installment about books that are coming out this year that I know I want to read.

The first novel by Robin Parrish, editor of Infuze, is coming out this summer from Bethany House. Though I haven't seen any of the story yet, his editor is pretty impressed.

I love Infuze and I love suspense, so Relentless is going on my list, too.

By the way, Robin blogs about his novel here. It's a nice peek into the process.

Thank God for poets

The words of David Crowder, a psalmist for the 21st Century:
I need words, as wide as sky
I need a language large as this longing inside.
And I need a voice, bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing you, that I've got to find
I need you ...
To be here now ...
To hear me now ...

I'm never exactly on the cutting edge of things, so I've only just discovered the David Crowder Band (thanks, Megan, for leaving cd's at home). So I started listening to Can You Hear Us a couple of days ago and was simply blown away. I've been preparing for a Bible study in the Psalms and am coming to understand the role this book can play in our lives. (I'll be using Praying the Psalms, a study by Eugene Peterson) They help us express emotions and responses to God in ways that prose simply can't do. That's what the songs on this cd do for me, too. This is music that's not easy to categorize. It's worship music, but not like any other worship music. I like it.

I was thinking about this cd and about the conversion stories Dave's been posting, which are also hard to categorize, and I'm reminded that our God is vast and complex and hard to categorize. So why should we think that our offerings to him should be simplistic and formulaic. This is not to say that there's something wrong with a simply-told story -- look at the parables. But it's important to remember that God is not of our creation -- we are his creation and we're pretty complex ourselves. The most satisfying stories somehow express that complexity.

Still, sometimes our language seems to fall short (at least mine does). And that brings me back to David Crowder (and many other poets). I'm not a poet, myself, but I'm thankful for them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Books I'm looking forward two, part 2

First a little update on yesterday's post: I got an e-mail from Gina this morning that said I'm one of the lucky winners of an autographed copy of Forgiving Solomon Long. Whoo-hoo! I hardly ever win anything, so this is cool. (My son Tim is the one who wins stuff in our family -- he has actually won two, yes two, TVs. And he's still in high school. Long story, lucky kid.)

Now on to today's subject, which happens to be Waking Lazarus, by first-time novelist T.L. Hines. Tony is letting his (future) readers in on the book publishing process with his innovative Web site, The Other Side. You can sign up and participate in forums, contests and walk with Tony along the road to publication. He calls it an "open source approach." I call it cool. When I signed up, I got a preview of the opening chapters and I was really impressed. Tony is a good writer -- what I read was suspenseful and a little spooky, but not too spooky (I have a low heebie-jeebie threshold, believe me).

So what's it about? Here's the synopsis from Tony's site:

Jude Allman has died three times. Jude Allman has returned to life three times. His three Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) have made him a cult celebrity: he has a bestselling autobiography, talk show appearances, even a TV Movie of the Week.

But the bright spotlight of fame has also made him increasingly paranoid--paranoid enough to change his identity and hide in Montana. Six years after his disappearance, a stranger shows up on Jude’s doorstep with a startling claim. She tells him he is a prophet of God, a modern Moses.

But Jude doesn't feel like a prophet. He feels his own paranoia deepening, and he's having blackouts while children around him become an abductor’s prey. Yet he soon discovers he has the key to stopping the kidnapper--hidden inside the past he's tried so hard to forget.

Can he unravel the mysteries of his own deaths and find the missing children?

Think it sounds intriguing? So do I. So I'm looking forward to this book, which will come out this summer.

Here's some good stories

Later today, I'll post the next book I'm looking forward to, but in the meantime, I want to remind you that Dave Long has been posting some of the conversion stories (from the contest last fall) at Faith in Fiction. He started last week and he's continuing this week. Some of the stories are finalists, but he's thrown in a few extras for good measure, and they're all excellent -- well-written, engaging and highly original. I find myself thinking "I am not worthy," when I consider my own feeble effort. Mike Snyder's story "All Healed Up" is the most recent addition to the list and it's one of my favorites. So go catch up on your reading.

Added later: Robin Parrish has posted a look at what was learned in 2005, at least in regard to faith and creativity. It's great. And when I read it in light of the stories Dave's been posting, I can't help but feel optimistic about the prospects for truly innovative, original, ground-breaking storytelling that shines God's light in a most excellent way.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Books I'm looking forward to

One of the neat things about this blogging thing is that my reading horizons have broadened. Not only do I hear about new books pretty regularly, I even hear about some books before they're published. And there are some books that are coming out this year that I know I want to read. Here's the first one on my list.

I loved Forgiving Solomon Long, Chris Well's debut novel. It was fresh, fast-paced and funny. So I'm really looking forward to Deliver us from Evelyn. Like Solomon Long, it's set in Kansas City and some of the same characters are back. Here's how the publisher (Harvest House) describes the story:
... Chris Well’s second nail–biter revolves around Evelyn Blake, heartless media/publishing mogul. The inconvenience she suffers when her billionaire husband mysteriously disappears is multiplied when nearly everybody starts inquiring, “Where is Blake?”...

Detectives Tom Griggs and Charlie Pasch are feeling the heat from on high to get this thing solved.

Revenge–focused mobster Viktor Zhukov has figured out Blake was tied in with a rival gang’s ambush.

Rev. Damascus Rhodes (his current alias) figures a man of the cloth can properly console the grieving Mrs. Blake.

By the end of this high–speed thriller, some characters find unexpected redemption...and more than a few are begging, Deliver us from Evelyn..

If you want to know more about Chris, he has an excellent blog, and this week he's being interviewed by Gina Holmes at Novel Journey. You might even win an autographed copy of Forgiving Solomon Long and get a sneak peak at Deliver us from Evelyn if you leave a comment.

Tomorrow and Thursday I'll highlight two more novels I'm looking forward to, both by first-time novelists.