Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday!

As of 10:22 p.m. tonight, I'll be the mother of a 30-year-old. For some reason, it just doesn't seem like Julia should be 30 -- time slips away so fast.

Here are a couple of pictures:
In the upper picture, Julia is the child at the top of the group. (And I wasn't nearly as overwhelmed as I look in that picture.)

And of course, she is the mother of the adorable little boy in the next picture. I think her sparkling personality shows in both pictures.

I remember that when she was born, I was very happy, and very unsure of myself. I was terrified of giving her a bath. The first morning, when the nurses brought her to me, I looked at her and realized I had no idea how to take care of a baby (and this was after reading every baby book I could get my hands on). But then I realized she had never been a baby before, so she didn't know what to expect. I found that to be a comforting thought -- I didn't have to live up to anyone else's expectations of perfection, I could just do my best and be Julia's mother. She seems to have survived.

Now she's a mom herself, and I'm enjoying this new phase of our relationship. And I'm very proud of her -- as a woman, a wife, a mom and a lawyer.

Happy Birthday Julia!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Support fair trade music: Vote for NoiseTrade

One of the best places to find music, NoiseTrade, is a finalist in the Mashable Open Web Awards. This is the second year that Mashable has recognized the 26 best web startups and services. They are competing with and Pandora in the Music category. This is huge and it's time to show your support for NoiseTrade and the idea of fair trade music.

You can vote here, and you can vote again with a different e-mail address -- once per category per address every 24 hours. I think I've posted about NoiseTrade before -- one of the people behind it is Derek Webb and the site includes a growing number of artists offering their music in an innovative setting. Very cool, so show your support until Dec. 14.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hands of Hope: Give the Gift of Life This Christmas

Here's a different kind of blog tour ... (and FYI -- 100% of the money collected from the card sale goes to cost of providing chickens, goats and building wells; no administrative costs are deducted.)

Hands of Hope, a charity of Women Helping Women A World Away, isannouncing that their Holiday Gift Cards are available for purchase. These cards provide food, income and water for impoverished women and children in Zambia, Uganda, and

Southern Sudan. They can be purchased on the Hands of Hope website for $15.00, $30.00 and $50.00. Purchasing these cards will provide goats, chickens or wells to help change lives. What could be a more meaningful gift for holiday giving for family, friends, and customer appreciation?

Hands of Hope helps mobilize communities to respond to the needs of women and children

around the world. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area, Hands of Hope

works to raise community awareness regarding poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa and its relevance globally. We are confident in the integrity of the channels we have established so that

contributions provide the highest possible impact for the most critical needs.

A Chicken Card will purchase a gift of twelve chicks and be given to an impoverished family in

Africa. As the flock multiplies, a struggling family will be given the hope to survive. Your gift will

help those in need for generations to come.

A Goat Card represents an actual goat being purchased for a needy family. Beyond providing

much needed milk, a few goats can quickly become a herd, providing sustenance and additional

income that can make the difference between whether a child goes to school or not.

A Well Card will go toward funding a well in the Western Province of Zambia. Statistics show that nearly half of all people in developing countries suffer from health related problems caused by unsafe water. In addition, African women and children spend several hours a day collecting water that is often miles away and may or may not be contaminated. This well will provide clean and safe drinking water and will go a long way to ease a heavy burden for hundreds of village people who struggle daily with basic physical needs.


The cards:

Purchase cards:

How HOH got their start:

Current Projects:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thoughts on faith and politics

I don't think I've ever felt more conflicted about a presidential election than I have about this one. The level of invective and hysteria from supporters (even Christian supporters) of both main candidates is astonishing. I want to make a wise decision, but I'm finding it hard to filter out what I need to know. And then there's the fact that I live in the reddest of states -- it hardly matters if I vote at all (except locally).

One of the things that has always puzzled me is how Christians who believe fundamentally the same things can come to completely opposite conclusions about an issue. You see this all the time in theology, in how we address cultural issues, and in politics. I know sincere Christians who will vote for John McCain. I also know sincere Christians who will vote for Barak Obama. They have all approached the election seriously and with prayer. They read their Bibles and study where the candidates stand on the issues they care about and make their choices. Is one set of believers right and the other wrong? I don't think so. I think Romans 14 applies here -- to avoid passing judgment on a brother or sister who disagrees with you, and to follow your conscience. And guess what -- on Nov. 5 God will still be God.

We live in trying times. Of course I want to make a wise decision about who I vote for, but I have to remember that God is in charge and is working out his plan for the world.

What I hope for is that, no matter who is elected, Christians will exhibit love and respect for those they have disagreed with about politics. More than ever, the church needs to be the church -- the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Peace. And vote.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random thoughts in no particular order

My iGoogle homepage now has the left-hand column. I like it (though not everyone does). It lets me interact with my mail or my reader without having to open a new window. (Click on an item in the left column and the main window is devoted to that application, without navigating away from the page.) I can now share items in my Reader without having to actually open Reader -- great time saver. I tend to browse through my google homepage, so this is actually useful to me. I can skim through e-mail and delete items quickly. Pretty nifty.

I have lots of time to think while I'm riding on the van and here's a few thoughts:
• Small towns are good places to live, but so often get bogged down on quality-of-life issues that appear to cost too much money to deal with. Clay Center has one of the oldest Carnegie Library buildings in Kansas, a swimming pool that was built during the Depression, and an aging movie theater that has been partially restored. All of these things need attention, but we seem to lack the collective imagination to visualize a way to deal with them. The theater is in private hands, but run mostly by volunteers and is used by the community for concerts and events, as well as movies. But the library and the pool are public buildings and yet can't seem to find the funds needed for improvements or (in the case of the pool) rebuilding. I think part of the problem is that these facilities are not streets or water plants and so are assumed to be "optional." Believe me, if you want to keep families with children in your town, a pool and a library are not optional. And maybe neither is a functional theater.

• I've watched the debates this year. They haven't helped me make up my mind about who I'm going to vote for. I know which way I'm leaning, but I still feel conflicted. This is the ugliest election I can remember and I'll be glad when it's over.

• There are some Covenant bloggers I follow regularly, for example Randall Friesen, Brad Boydston and Scot McKnight. Now I've added Eugene Cho to that list. (Actually, I've read him for a while, but I finally got around to adding him to my google reader list.) He always has thoughtful, insightful comments about faith and living it out in this world.

Friday, September 26, 2008


A few things for a Friday:

Congratulations to my daughter Julia, who passed the Missouri bar and is being sworn in as an attorney today. She had a baby, finished law school, took her bar exam and passed all in the same year (and while she was still pregnant she received job offers from two law firms -- she works for one in KC now)!

New music from Andy Osenga: Letters to the Editor, II. Once again he took suggestions from fans and readers of his blog and wrote six great songs. You can download it for free or a for a donation. Great stuff.

I like Bono.

I also like Randall's pictures of Prince Albert (in Canada) in the fall -- wow! Be sure to follow the link to his Flickr set.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CFBA Tour: Merciless, by Robin Parrish

Here's a book I've been looking forward to for a long time. My take on it is below the author and book info.

Merciless by Robin Parrish

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


(Bethany House - July 1, 2008)


Robin Parrish


Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract.

More than ten years he spent writing for various websites, including,, and Infuze Magazine, which is a unique intersection between art and faith which he also conceived of and created.

One of his more "high concept" ideas for Infuze was to return to his love for storytelling and create a serialized tale that would play out every two weeks, telling a complete, compelling story over the course of nine months. That serialized story eventually came to the attention of several publishers, who saw it as a potential debut novel for Robin Parrish.

In 2005, Bethany House Publishers brought Robin full circle by contracting him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and this year, 2008. One massive tale -- of which that first, original story would form only the foundational first volume of the three -- spread across three books.

Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.


The world as we know it has ENDED.
DEATH and CHAOS creep across the globe and only the POWERLESS can RISE UP to stop it.

But can anything stop the onslaught of the DARKWORLD

From the earth's depths crawls a figure with skin like granite, flames for eyes, and the face of Grant Borrows.
Oblivion has arrived.

Every clock around the world has stopped. Time has frozen.

The Secretum have fulfilled the prophecy, unleashing on earth the most powerful being to walk the earth in thousands of years. His name is Oblivion and his touch is death.

He can't be slowed.
He can't be stopped.
And he can't be killed.

But as long as any live who trust in hope and love and freedom, the fight is not over.

They have only one chance before he brings forth the Darkworld.

Oblivion is: Merciless

If you would like to read the first chapter of Merciless, go HERE

Last year, when I finished Fearless, I really couldn't see where the story was headed. So, I started Merciless with a pretty open mind about what would happen next. And boy, I was not disappointed. What a ride. From the opening scenes, Robin Parrish takes the reader on a harrowing journey through darkness and chaos. At times, I wondered how he was going to resolve the story, but in the end, he did, and pretty satisfactorily, too. If you've ever wondered what the world would look like if evil was really let loose, Merciless offers a pretty convincing vision of the possibility. It's hard to talk too much about the plot without major spoilers, but I'll just say that though the story goes to some very dark places, hope and redemption awaits.

With his Dominion Trilogy, Robin Parrish has attempted something quite ambitious -- crafting a new mythology for a post-modern generation. I think he's succeeded. These are good stories, full of truth, but told in a way that is accessible to people from lots of different backgrounds, not only Christians.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Because any day is better with a picture of Kiernan

There's our boy smiling big. I went and helped a few weekends ago while Julia studied for her bar exam. I know, it was a tough job, but somebody has to do it. (the babysitting, I mean)

We had a good time, Julia got in some good studying and even a date with her husband. (And the bar exam is done and she is greatly relieved.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

A sign of the apocalypse?

Two quirks of my family:
1) We haven't watched the Olympics in years because the two stations we could get with the rabbit ears didn't carry them. But now we have cable and so that has changed.
2) Our three younger sons have no interest in televised sports.

So imagine my astonishment yesterday morning when I went into the living room and Joel was watching the U.S. men's soccer game.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What I'm reading ...

I have eclectic tastes in reading, and usually have multiple books going at once. I've been reading some good stuff lately, so I thought I'd share:

His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik. I saw a review of the newest book in the series and thought it sounded like something I would enjoy, so I started with the first one. I was right -- I really enjoyed it. The stories are set during the Napoleonic wars, and the twist is that all the countries have, besides armies and navies, dragons! It's very cool, sort of Master & Commander meets Pern, but different. Novik writes consistent with the style of the era, her characters' attitudes reflect that time, and her descriptions and characterizations are vivid. Now that I've finished the first one, I can't wait to get hold of the next book in the series and see what happens to Temeraire (the dragon) and Will Laurence, his aviator.

The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester. Back about 1995, Winchester took a voyage of the Yangtzee and this book is his account. It's also a voyage through Chinese history and it's fascinating. This is one of his earlier books, but I picked up a recent reprint this summer and I'm enjoying it (I haven't finished it yet).

Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures, by Howard Wainer. I found this book about the development of information graphics when I was looking for a book by Edward Tufte in the K-State library. I suppose it's more of a textbook, but Wainer's style is engaging and the subject interests me. I deal with charts and graphs in my work and have always been interested in them. This book, along with Tufte's work (such as The Visual Display of Quantitative Information) are good explications of the subject.

Coming up is Merciless, by Robin Parrish, the final installment of his Dominion trilogy. I'm eager to get into this. I also just bought Water for Elephants, which everyone tells me is an excellent book, and The Jesus Creed, a book I've been meaning to read for a long time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Derek Webb is offering a new way to acquire music

Derek Webb has started a new initiative called NoiseTrade to distribute music in a new way. You can choose to download music after recommending it to three friends, or you can pay whatever you want for it. This is how the e-mail I got today puts it:

It was through the support and success you gave the Mockingbird experiment that inspired Derek, with the help of a few friends, to start NoiseTrade. Now any artist can freely distribute their music online, via NoiseTrade's remarkable and embeddable widget, offering fans the choice to tell 3 friends or to pay any amount in exchange for an immediate download.

Derek concludes, "If artists and fans realized how they could help each other and started making direct connections, without a middleman, the whole industry would change overnight. It would start a revolution."

Rather than over-charging for music, we want to let you choose your price or will give you the record for free in exchange for a little help. NoiseTrade believes it's time to stop applying the old rules to a new world. If we can work together, an environment is created for the long-term benefit of both fans and artists.

I think it's a good idea from a ground-breaking artist.

Sailing on a tall ship

When I was in Michigan I went with my group (the Ace Leadership Institute) on the tall ship Manitou in Traverse Bay. Very fun. Here's proof (video by Jeff Hino, of Oregon State):

Choose the high quality option (it didn't embed very well, so I'm linking). I'm the person who more or less introduces the ship.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Impressions: 'So Brave, Young and Handsome'

I read Leif Enger's new novel, So Brave, Young and Handsome, this week. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped to. That's probably not fair, but you see I loved Peace Like a River so much and was really looking forward to this novel. Of course, even a somewhat disappointing effort by Enger is still many times better than my best effort, so this is all relative. Still, here goes:

The narrator of the story, Monte Becket, is a writer in Minnesota in 1915. He's written one bestseller and has spent the five years since writing and discarding seven tries at another novel. He's getting pretty discouraged and it comes as no surprise when he agrees to accompany a vagabond named Glendon Hale on a quest to find Hale's long-lost love. The journey takes them through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico -- all the way to California. Along the way they encounter some colorful characters, including a former Pinkerton's agent who wants to arrest Hale for an old crime. Before the end, both Monte and Hale will change, and lots of things happen.

The journey is significant in the story's development, but it also suffers from the problem shared by a lot of road stories -- it becomes a little disjointed, a series of incidents in each successive location. This is hardly a fatal flaw, but at times I found myself peeking ahead, which is not usually a good sign with me. It means I'm getting a little bored.

I think the main problem for me, the reason I feel a bit disappointed, is that the narrator never quite engaged me. Monte is certainly involved in the story, but his voice comes across somewhat detached. I don't know how it could be fixed, but at the most exciting moments of crisis the narrator's tone seems to fall a little short. The result was a story that could be put down and taken up again another day. (When I'm really engaged in a story, I can't put it down.) I'm not sure I was completely pulled into the world of the story.

I don't want to be completely negative about this book because it is a well-written story. Enger has a wonderful vocabulary and he sets the scenes well. Monte sounds like a (fairly well educated) person of his era. Enger gives a good sense of a time when the old West was fading, but still visible in places. The plot takes some unexpected turns -- one good thing about a road story (anything can happen on the road). I liked the ending, which is more satisfying as I reflect on it than it felt when I was reading it.

Like I said, I enjoyed the book and I would recommend it, especially if you enjoy Enger's style of writing. It's an entertaining tale with some meat to it. It's just not Peace Like a River. But then, why should it be?

Listening to ...

Nine Lives by Steve Winwood. Excellent album. It's all good, in a kind of jazzy style, but the outstanding track is "Dirty City," featuring Eric Clapton on guitar. It sizzles. Winwood gets better with age.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Today is my son Sam's 22nd birthday. The picture was from a family gathering a few weeks ago -- he's actually smiling. (He doesn't usually like having his picture taken, but maybe Kiernan softened him up.)

So happy birthday, Sam.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Should travel really be this hard?

The "hard" part of the title does not refer to the picture. This is sunset over the West Bay of Grand Traverse Bay, from my hotel window in Traverse City, Mich. I think it turned out pretty good. Traverse City is a lovely town and has a great bookstore, Horizon Books. I was there last week for a conference and enjoyed it.

No, the hard part was getting there and getting home. We were supposed to fly out of Kansas City at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 8 (United Flight 682). We were to change planes in Chicago (O'Hare) and arrive in Traverse City around 3:30 that afternoon.

Unfortunately, June 8 was the day that Chicago was pummeled with severe thunderstorms and we weren't even allowed to take off. I was fine with that. After a short while, our plane pulled back up to a gate and we were allowed to get on and off. It became considerably more tiresome, though, as hours passed and we still weren't able to leave Kansas City. The gate areas at KCI have sandwich kiosks and restrooms, so it's not like we were stuck on a plane with no food or drink or clean restrooms. But by mid-afternoon, the sandwich kiosk was getting pretty empty. Our pilot gave us updates as he had information, but it wasn't much. Finally, a little after 4 p.m. they said we could take off and our plane taxied out to the runway and we were first in line. And then our pilot came on again and said "You won't believe this, but an indicator light just came on." He said it was something that needed to be fixed and we headed back to the gate. And then, after probably another 20 or 30 minutes, we were told the crew had worked as long as they were able to legally do so and they couldn't find another crew and we were all getting off the plane. That's when the fun really began.

Let me be clear -- I don't want to fly into a thunderstorm on a plane with a dicey engine. I can understand weather and mechanical delays. Up to this point, I think most of us on the plane recognized this and knew it was beyond our control and mostly beyond the airline's control. There were families with small children and even a little dog and nobody was going ballistic or crying.

But when we got off the plane, the communication from airline folks mostly stopped. There seemed to be poor communication between the crew on the plane and the employees at the ticket counter. We got our luggage back and got in line to find out what was going to happen next. And we stood in that line, barely moving for long stretches, for 2 1/2 hours. At first we were told that it was a weather-related delay and we were on our own. Then they said that since we were told it was mechanical the airline would provide hotel vouchers and we would be automatically booked on the earliest flight out in the morning. We got this information pretty quickly, but then all communication stopped and we just stood there in the really long, non-moving line and wondered why on earth it was taking so long to issue hotel vouchers. Some of the slowness was people trying to change arrangements because the morning flight wouldn't work. Some of it was short-staffing. (Sunday in KCI is not a day with full staffing, believe me.) Of course they had to take care of passengers for other flights that evening. But I was not impressed with the quality of United's customer service.

I have a lot of sympathy for people with thankless jobs, but a few things could have helped, such as:
Asking us to wait in a separate area.
Opening up another line or two as soon as possible (some people did go to other lines eventually, which forced the ticket agents to take care of them).
Maybe dividing us up into our boarding groups to deal with the situation.
They could have asked the people who needed to make different arrangements to get in a different line so they could handle them separately, instead of slowing everyone's progress.

Keeping 200 people standing in line for 2 1/2 hours is not good public relations.

Eventually, we did get our hotel vouchers (it was after 7:30 when I got mine) -- a lot of us ended up at the Howard Johnson's. Our van driver told us all about his hangover and how he wasn't supposed to be at work that day but he got called in. Some of us ate in the little restaurant, which had one surly waitress. Then we got up at 3 a.m. to take the hotel van (at 4) back to the airport. The ticket counter doesn't open until 4:45, and it couldn't have been plainer that the morning crew had no idea what was waiting for them. Again, I think it could have been handled in a more organized fashion. It's a wonder we all made the 5:45 a.m. flight because it was getting kind of chaotic at the counter. United has check-in kiosks, but they're right beside the counters and the lines get all mixed up and traffic does not flow smoothly at all.

Once we got through the check-in, though, the trip got better. We made it to Chicago in time, they let the Traverse City passengers off first since we had about 30 minutes to change planes, we made it to our next flight and made it to Traverse City just fine. My luggage all arrived with me, but quite a few people didn't get theirs until the next day.

Lots of people at the conference had travel troubles because of the Chicago weather. But even when the weather in Chicago is fine, O'Hare is prone to delays, as I discovered on my way home last Sunday. Once again, United didn't distinguish itself in the customer service department. The Traverse City airport is small and the airlines don't have a large staff there. Earlier in the afternon, some flights had been canceled and the ticket agents spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with the problems while the line backed up. I stood in line for an hour because of that. (I think one more staff person, or a better division of staff efforts, could have helped.) But I did get through and got on my 6 p.m. flight fine. But when I got to Chicago, my 9 p.m. flight was delayed until 11 p.m. so I didn't get back to Kansas City until 12:45 a.m. It made for a very long day.

Maybe I've just been really lucky, or maybe I don't fly that much, but this is the first time I've had anything like this happen to me. But the whole situation makes me wonder if it's really worth it to fly. I'll think twice before I fly with United again, and probably think three times before I get a flight that routes through O'Hare.

Maybe travel isn't supposed to be easy; maybe we were spoiled during that brief era when air travel was comfortable and easy. If it's uncomfortable and expensive and unreliable, maybe we won't fly so much. For most of history, travel was dangerous and left to adventurers. Now, at least in most developed nations, we think of easy travel as a right and get upset when it's hard. But I wonder if at some point the inconveniences of air travel will outweigh the benefits. I don't know -- I'm just thinking on the page. What I do know is that later this year I have to take a couple of trips -- one to Colorado and one to Atlanta -- and I'm thinking about driving instead of flying.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A season of change

I've been a sporadic blogger for several months (or longer) and I don't see that changing soon, though if my planned technology upgrade at home goes through I'll be able to do this a little easier.

But it's not just the blogging. I haven't written anything substantive in months. I have been thinking and I've done some planning on a rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago. It would be a major rewrite, though, and I haven't figured it all out yet.

But there's more. Today a story I submitted to the next issue of Coach's Midnight Diner was rejected. If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit I'm not surprised. It's just not good enough and it was lacking in other ways.

I'm not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, or vowing to never write again. That's just silly. But what I do need to do is figure out how I'm going to do this writing thing and develop some discipline about it. There are other disciplines I need to work on -- spiritual disciplines -- and I think that has something to do with the creative drought.

Add in that our youngest will be off to college in a couple of months and another one of our boys is probably moving out (and to another state) before then, and it means I'm not going to be blogging much this summer.

I hope that by fall I'll have a plan in place to do some regular writing and can better focus the direction of this blog. Till then, have a great summer. Oh, here's a couple of pictures of Kiernan because I think any blog post is better with a picture of Kiernan.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In honor of the season ...

You Are a Hot Fudge Sundae

Classic, simple, and divine.

Why mess with perfection?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This is a big weekend for our family. We have two graduations: our oldest from law school and our youngest from high school. (How's that for timing.)

Here's the two graduates a couple of weeks ago: Julia (holding Kiernan) and Joel.

We're so proud of both of them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How well do you know Prince Caspian?

In honor of the new Prince Caspian movie opening this week, they've got a quiz online to see how well you know the story. I did very well -- I'm a Centaur.


[Glenstorm] was a prophet and a star-gazer, and he knew what they had come about. ‘I watch the skies, Badger, for it is mine to watch, as it is yours to remember.”

Like Glenstorm, you are strong in character and knowledge. You are truly an authority on Prince Caspian! Congratulations, your vast understanding of the tale has earned you the highest of honors.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Birthday!

The smiley guy holding Kiernan is Tim, who is 20 today. He was a happy baby and he's grown up to be a happy young man. He has a knack for making friends and looks out for them, which is a lot of why we have so many extra "kids." Tim invites them into our home and into our family and our lives are richer because of it. So happy birthday Tim!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

This is a special Mother's Day for us, as this picture attests. That's 4 generations: my mother, my daughter and her son, and me. (the picture was taken at Easter)

It was just before Mother's Day a year ago that Julia told us they were expecting and we're so glad that Kiernan is here and healthy. Julia and Mike are wonderful parents. And my mom and I are thrilled to be grandma and great-grandma.

And I want to send a big congratulations out to my brother Jim, who received his master's in worship ministry yesterday -- and he graduated with honors. I'm so proud of him -- this is a big accomplishment.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Quote of the day

Here's a great quote:
Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
- Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Music and books and U2, oh my!

A few weeks ago wooed me back with 75 free songs, so I have joyfully added to my collection:
• A bunch of stuff by Andrew Osenga, including Photographs, Souvenirs & Postcards, and The Morning. It's all good. The more I listen to him, the better I like his music. His story songs remind me of John Mellencamp or Springsteen (more Mellencamp than Springsteen, though). A lot of his newest is more acoustic and I really like that. His music is informed by his faith, but it's not all "worship" music (but Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates is an awesome song to worship to, though I can't quite picture us singing it in church ...). Anyway, it's great.
• I don't know what it is about guys named Andrew (or Andy) -- I also got a couple of albums by a Topeka guitarist named Andy McKee. Again, this is great stuff. He has some incredible videos on YouTube. It's good instrumental music to listen to in the evening. (The albums I got were Dreamcatcher and Gates of Gnomeria.)
• Music by another Andrew -- Bird, that is. I got Armchair Apocrypha. Andrew Bird is more of an acquired taste, but this is a good album.
• Thanks to the Rabbit Room guys, I discovered a new group (to me) and got some of their songs -- The Weepies. I got part of Say I am You (I was running out of picks for this month or I would have gotten the whole album). I like it. I think I would like more of their music.
I've also downloaded some other stuff -- individual songs from a few different artists, but the above listed albums are the highlights.

I have become a fan of Nada Surf -- I already had a song or two of theirs and have recently added The Weight is a Gift to my collection. Their kind of poppy modern rock is fun to listen to and you don't have to be 20 to enjoy it.

I will also recommend the soundtrack of Once -- great movie, great music. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote the music and starred in the movie and it's a perfect marriage of artistry, if you ask me.

I think I mentioned books in the title -- I just got Rethinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand. I've just started it, and there's a lot to absorb. I like Mark's approach to the subject, though, and I think I'll learn a lot as I read it.

Finally, U2. In my blog reading this morning, Jeffrey Overstreet pointed his readers to this post about U2's Elevation tour and I discovered the incredible, goose-bump inducing video contained therein.
Here it is -- Enjoy:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CFBA Tour: Winter Haven

I'm back to blogging today with a plug for a book I really enjoyed: Winter Haven, by Athol Dickson. Here are the links, along with a bit about the author and the cover blurb. After that I'll give my take on the book.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Winter Haven

(Bethany House April 1, 2008)


Athol Dickson


Athol Dickson's university-level training in painting, sculpture, and architecture was followed by a long career as an architect then his decision several years ago to devote full time to writing.

Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, and FlanneryO’Connor (The New York Times).

His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and a finalist for Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006.

He and his wife, Sue, live in Southern California. Visit for more information.


Boys who never age, giants lost in time, mist that never rises, questions never asked...on the most remote of islands off the coast of Maine, history haunts the present and Vera Gamble wrestles with a past that will not yield. Will she find refuge there, or will her ghosts prevail on...Winter Haven

Eleven years ago, Vera Gamble's brother left their house never to be seen again. Until the day Vera gets a phone call that his body has been found...washed ashore in the tiny island town of Winter Haven, Maine. His only surviving kin, Vera travels north to claim the body...and finds herself tumbling into a tangled mystery. Her brother hasn't aged a day since last she saw him.

Determined to uncover what happened in those lost years, Vera soon discovers there are other secrets lurking in this isolated town. But Winter Haven's murky past now seems bound to come to light as one woman seeks the undeniable and flooding light of truth.

What I thought: I've been a fan of Athol Dickson's writing since I read River Rising a couple of years ago. The man has a gift for setting the scene and approaching a story from unexpected directions. While I'm not sure that Winter Haven is quite the same quality as River Rising, it's still a very good book. Dickson turns his attention to a remote island off the coast of Maine and the secrets it holds. It's a place where nothing is what it seems to be and the reader, along with Vera Gamble, must discern what is true and what is false. A lot of the suspense hangs on perspective and it works well. I thought the resolution came a little too easily, but it was still satisfying.

I found that Winter Haven stayed with me after I read it, and I suspect it will stay with you, too. Along with a good suspense story (with a healthy helping of romance), Dickson explores themes of truth, trust, and dealing with the past. It's a page-turner (I read it in one sitting) with some meat to it. That's a rare accomplishment for a writer and part of what makes Athol Dickson one of the best writers of fiction (of any genre) around.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday links

Scot McKnight (and his readers) celebrate three years of the Jesus Creed blog.

There is a glimmer of hope for the Kansas City Royals.

Go 'Hawks!

A very good book: Winter Haven by Athol Dickson (more about it later this month).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I want to call your attention to some good posts that deal with Christian response to art. It's an issue I've thought about a lot, maybe because I often see God's fingerprints in the oddest places (Buffy, anyone?). Most recently, I loved the movie Once, but I find myself recommending it to fellow believers with cautionary words about the language. Others have written better words about this, so check these entries out:
Once, at Decompose
He said a wordy dird, at The Rabbit Room
Sin in movies -- see the heart of art, also at The Rabbit Room
Both of The Rabbit Room posts call attention to "heart" issues and the need for individual discernment. I appreciate the emphasis on recognizing the beauty in the world, wherever we find it.

I really think that our response to the world's art should be more than a list of words and actions to avoid. Too often, though, that's what Christian movie and music reviews revolve around. At the same time, we need to be aware that people are responding to art from different places in their own faith journeys. So I suppose we do need to mention things that might be stumbling blocks for some. I just hope that isn't the only criteria we use for evaluating art.

One more link, in a different but somewhat related vein: A Market for Science Fiction/Fantasy, at Forensics & Faith. Brandilyn Collins posts the comments of another author about the obstacles to publishing this genre by Christian publishing houses. It kind of comes back to the same issue -- science fiction and fantasy crosses some lines for some Christians and publishers seem to find that an obstacle. The market is changing, and there are some good comments on the post about that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A little googley April 1 fun

There's a certain geeky charm to Google's April 1 offerings (and evidence of people with way too much time on their hands):
Custom time
Google wake up kit (if only it were so for certain hard to rouse children)
Virgle -- Virgin and Google combine for a Mars mission. Criteria include "inadequate Google and Virgin personal performance reviews."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Some Friday stuff

Julia and I took Kiernan to meet his great-grandparents (my parents) last week and we had a good trip. He's very cute and he loved both his great-grandparents, but especially great-grandpa.

I've watched some good movies recently. This week it was Dan in Real Life, with Steve Carell -- a sweet movie and I enjoyed it. It's a little uneven but overall a good movie.
I also recently rented the final cut version of Blade Runner -- it's very good and visually stunning. It had been a very long time since I had seen the original version, so it was really like seeing it for the first time. Harrison Ford is, of course, excellent, but I was really impressed by Rutger Hauer's performance. Yes, it's dark and violent and weird, but it's also brilliant.
Another good movie -- a documentary -- is Helvetica. I have a fondness for typography, but even if you aren't interested in typography itself you might like this. The film uses the history of the font to also illustrate the developments in graphic design during the last 50 years. I thought it was really interesting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

10 things about me

Megan tagged me, so now I need to tell 10 things about myself:

1 I am fairly well addicted to American Idol and college basketball.

2 I really, really wish I could see Kiernan more often.

3 I love being a grandma.

4 I’m in love with my husband, especially when he makes me laugh.

5 I feel really victorious when I accomplish a writing goal (which I haven't done much of lately).

6 I would read and listen to music and write 24 hours a day if I could.

7 I surf the Web way too many times a day.

8 I’ve been trying to lose 20 more pounds (and I have a long way to go).

9 Aside from the goals I’ve already reached in my life, I want to know Jesus better.

10 I really love the library.

Oh goodness, who to tag. How about: Chris.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

There's no place like home ...

My hometown/county has a new Web site. If you hit refresh, you'll see different pictures of people and places and the little chair in the upper left corner will change. Farther down the page, under Featured News is a link to a 30-second television spot. I think the project (Web site and tv spot) was handled by the chamber of commerce or economic development organization. They did a pretty good job with this. At the very least, it makes a nice first impression.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday music and more

I've had a cold again and not blogged for a while, but here's some links to catch up with.

I clicked on a New York Times article the other day and discovered Eisa Davis -- a singer, songwriter, actor and playwright -- when her songs started playing when the article opened. I liked her music so much I decided I needed it, so I'm listening to her debut album "Something Else" right now. She has a beautiful warm voice and her music has been described as "stripped down soul with flecks of Joni Mitchell." Her songs feature her own piano-playing, with some drums and guitar in the background -- it's a wonderful sound.

This is an older article from the Times, but it's an interesting look at the demographic landscape as reflected in the most common surnames.

If you are as annoyed by misplaced quotation marks as I am, you'll want to check this out. (found via jen's blog)

Here's a wonderful tribute to Gary Gygax complete with a flow chart of geekdom.

And, finally, the peace symbol is 50! The article gives a succinct history of the design.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Larry Norman -- the Christian rock pioneer paved the way for a lot of the music I loved when I first discovered Christian rock (and I sang "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" many many times at camp). I was sorry to hear last week that he had died, but he left a legacy and witness that will live long after his time on this earth. His joy in Jesus always came through, no matter what his circumstances.

Jeff Healey
-- If all you know of Jeff Healey was his hit "Angel Eyes" then you need to do yourself a favor and find some of his other work. He was an incredibly talented blues guitarist and died too soon (last weekend) at age 41. His album "Cover to Cover" is surprisingly good, considering it's covers of other material. But then, a lot of his covers are better than the originals (for example "Stuck in the Middle with You"). And I have a live set from Montreaux in 1999 that includes an absolutely blistering version of "My Guitar Gently Weeps."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Because Kiernan makes me smile ...

Kiernan and Grandpa

Kiernan and mommy

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kiernan smiles

Kiernan smiles now. This isn't a real big grin, but he seemed pretty happy to see his grandpa. We got to spend a little time with him Saturday and it's so fun to see how he's grown. (By the way, Kiernan was six weeks old Saturday.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

More random goodness

Here's a couple of easy ways to do something good:
The Oxfam America Collegiate Click Drive. Find your college in the list, or sign up your college in the list, or pick one of the colleges on the list. Then click twice a day to generate donations to fight poverty.
Another hunger fighting site is Free Rice. Sponsors donate rice through the UN World Food Program when you get vocabulary words right. This is addictive.

Did you know that, very likely in your own county, is a repository of useful information? I'm not talking about the library (though that's also a handy resource), I'm talking about your Extension office. And now there's a national portal to Extension: eXtension. It's a growing resource for research-based information on a wide range of topics. And you can type in your zip code to locate the Extension office nearest you. (I don't usually mix work with this blog, but I think the eXtension project is neat and K-State Research and Extension has had a good bit of involvement in it. I even helped edit a few articles.)

National Grammar Day is March 4. Word geeks rejoice.

In related news, a New York City public servant has been recognized for his correct use of a semicolon. (And be sure to read the appended correction.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

CFBA Tour: My Name is Russell Fink

This is one of the books I've been looking forward to this year, so I'm really ashamed to admit I haven't read it yet. But I will (and when I do I'll write more about it). I've read other stories of Mike's and I love his voice. I don't expect to be disappointed and I'll bet you won't be either. In the meantime, here's the basic info:

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

My Name is Russell Fink

Zondervan (March 1, 2008)


Michael Snyder


Michael Snyder has spent the bulk of his professional career in sales, has fallen in love, and continues to struggle with the balance between art and vocation. He's never investigated a murder, much less that of an allegedly clairvoyant dog.


Russell Fink is twenty-six years old and determined to salvage a job he hates so he can finally move out of his parents house for good. He's convinced he gave his twin sister cancer when they were nine years old. And his crazy fiancée refuses to accept the fact that their engagement really is over.

Then Sonny, his allegedly clairvoyant basset hound, is found murdered.

The ensuing amateur investigation forces Russell to confront several things at once-the enormity of his family's dysfunction, the guy stalking his family, and his long-buried feelings for a most peculiar love interest.

At its heart, My Name is Russell Fink is a comedy, with sharp dialogue, characters steeped in authenticity, romance, suspense, and fresh humor. With a postmodern style similar to Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, the author explores reconciliation, forgiveness, and faith in the midst of tragedy. No amount of neurosis or dysfunction can derail God's redemptive purposes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Enger fans rejoice

Leif Enger's new book So Brave, Young and Handsome comes out in May. Mick Silva posted a bit about it and you can find it on Amazon. I loved Peace Like a River so I'm looking forward to this one.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday randomness

Proof Kansas is not flat: Kansas Geological Survey photos
Absurd British humor: Bunny
Another good blog by a pastor (with cartoons): nakedpastor
The cutest baby ever

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random thoughts on a snowy day

A couple of updates: I've posted my January and February newsletter columns on my writing site. I like them. If you've never visited my other blog, is mostly an archive of various things I've written, including all the columns I've written for my church newsletter. I've thought at different times that it might be interesting to gather them into some sort of collection, but then maybe they wouldn't be that interesting to other people.

I swear this has been the longest political season ever. But we are finally in the actual election year itself. I've never been comfortable with the mixing of religion and politics, but I live in a part of the country where it is almost assumed that if you're a Christian you're a conservative Republican. So I regularly get those forwarded e-mails from nice well-meaning people all about the horrors our country would face if some particular candidate (inevitably a Democrat) were to be elected. (A few minutes with would probably save you a lot of time, folks.) But my point isn't to rebut every nasty political rumor. Like I said, look it up yourself. No, a thought occured to me the other day : Politics is not the Gospel. No political candidate can usher in the Kingdom of God. Even more important, no political candidate can stop the Kingdom of God.

Think about it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where I've been ...

I got to spend some time with my grandson (and daughter and son-in-law) last week and took pictures of Kiernan. I do think he's beautiful. Even when he hides. (He was asleep like that, but maybe he'd had enough pictures, too.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

30 years and counting ...

Thirty years ago today, Bob and I said "I do," in the presence of a fair number of family and friends. It was not an elaborate or expensive wedding, but it was very fun. I don't have a wedding picture handy, but this is pretty much what we looked like back then. We have changed a bit. But we still make each other laugh and we are still thankful that God brought us together. Through his grace we've weathered some storms and our bond is stronger.

Here's to the adventure of the next 30 years!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Classic rock at its best

Back in the mid-1970s my friend Rebecca introduced me to the music of Joe Walsh. By far our favorite album was a solo effort from 1972: Barnstorm. I wore out the vinyl long ago. For some unfathomable reason, it has not been available on CD until now. When I happened upon it on Amazon last week, I called my husband and asked if it was OK to order it. Being a wise man, he said yes.

It came Wednesday and I have to say, it has held up well. It's definitely an album to listen to as an album. Each song flows to the next one and the cumulative effect is wonderful -- and it's layered with musical texture. (It's a great album to listen to on headphones.) It's a hard album to classify -- yes, it rocks out (this is Joe Walsh, after all), but you'll find some jazzy elements (Joe Vitale's flute solos, for example), prog rock in the classic ARP synthesizers, and hints of country. It has it's soft, melodic side, but also a bit of Walsh's biting irony.

Sometimes an album from one's high school and college days doesn't live up to one's memories of it. I'm glad that's not my experience with Barnstorm. If anything, I appreciate the musicianship even more. If all you know of Joe Walsh is Rocky Mountain Way or his work with the Eagles, give this album a listen. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

CFBA Tour: Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008

If you're at all interested in writing for Christian magazines or looking for a potential publisher for the novel sitting on your hard drive, then this is an essential resource. Sally Stuart has been putting together this guide for more than 20 years, so she knows what she's talking about. And her guide includes new things every year -- this year's edition even features a section on blogging. So check out The Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008 or visit Sally's new marketing blog.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome Kiernan!

We were so excited and happy to be able to welcome Kiernan David Gaughan, born Saturday Jan. 12, 2008, at 6:48 a.m. He weighed 6 lbs., 5 oz. and is 19.5 inches long. He is absolutely beautiful. Julia and Mike are the proud parents and, as you can see, Bob and I are pretty proud grandparents.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weekly update ...

No baby. After getting us all excited on New Year's Day, he's decided he wants to think about this whole birth thing. But if he doesn't arrive this weekend, he has a date with destiny on Monday.

Meanwhile, I watched a really good movie this week: Once. It's a little independent film -- a musical -- set in Ireland. It stars Glen Hansard, of the Irish band the Frames, as a street musician/vacuum cleaner repairman, and Marketa Irglova as a girl who sells flowers. They meet and make beautiful music together, though with a bittersweet ending. What I loved about this movie, besides the great music, was how real it seemed. I felt very much like I was there with the characters. It's a quiet movie, in a lot of ways, with the most intense emotion being expressed in the music. Hansard and Irglova are real musicians and wrote the music for the movie. The songs tell a lot of the story and flow naturally from what's happening -- music is their language and part of the fabric of their lives. I like that the characters aren't rich, either. In one scene, the girl raids her daughter's piggy bank to get batteries for a cd player so she can listen to the rest of the guy's songs. She whispers to her sleeping daughter "I'll pay you back." Then she goes out to get the batteries and you see her walking back home, in her robe and fuzzy slippers, singing along with the music. It's sublime.

If you're not good with accents, you might want to watch with the subtitles on, since the sound is often rather quiet and they are all Irish or Czech. The movie is rated R because of the frequent dropping of the F-bomb, especially early on. But that's the only reason. It's a lovely, sweet movie and I recommend it. (It's one of Jeffrey Overstreet's 25 favorite films of 2007, too. Here's his review.)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Still waiting

Yes, we're still waiting on that grandson.
In the meantime, here's a link to some pictures I took with our new camera (we finally went digital so we can take pictures of the grandson once he actually arrives). I'm not a great photograph, but I think these turned out pretty good. (We got an HP Photosmart M632 -- a very inexpensive camera, but very easy to use and it takes pretty good pictures.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part ...

Tom Petty says it so well. Because that's what we're doing right now and it's hard -- our daughter has been having contractions since Tuesday afternoon, but doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. She went to the hospital for a while that night, but then they sent her home. So our grandson is on the way, but not in a big hurry to get here.

Or course, I'm sure my impatience is nothing compared to Julia's (or maybe even Megan's, who is so very eager to be an aunt).

(The picture is from October, when we went to a family baby shower in Illinois. That's Julia's little cousin Isaiah talking to her tummy.)