Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not the trail to Pisgah

After two hours of driving winding mountain roads, we stood there, stared at the sign posted in front of the two-track dirt path, then doubled over in laughter.

Not to say I told you so, I did remind the others how odd I thought it was that there were no tourist signs marking the turnoffs that got smaller and more rugged by the mile. But we had trustingly followed the GPS directions that had led us to this point.

And it was not the trail to Mt. Pisgah. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coming at it slant: lessons from the llama, the 97-year-old man, and the writers conference

When I took my dog to the vet at Pet Smart for a vaccination booster, I fully expected to encounter the usual sort of household pets—other pups, cats or the occasional guinea pig. But I never anticipated walking in the door with a llama.

A llama that calmly donned hats and glasses for all the photo ops that promptly ensued. Customers, groomers, sales people, vets and assistants abandoned their posts and gathered round to pet (only the neck, please, his owner warned) and pose.

My dog took full advantage of the chaos to try to escape, entangling herself around the end display and me. After we were finally settled in our assigned room, I reflected on how special it was to find myself in just the right place at just the right moment for an encounter with the unexpected.

That’s often the way it is—even for the most diligent of planners among us—the best things sometimes come at us slant, not head-on. As they did at the writers conference I recently attended.

Not having any work in progress to pitch to my agent or an editor, I went expecting to learn about forms I don’t usually do, like poetry and flash fiction. Craft techniques.
And although I did indeed learn much about writing in those workshops, it was the unexpected tidbits about life, delivered from hallways, classrooms, and podiums that ended up latching onto me.

I applied them to the stuck place of my writing, but I suspect they fit anywhere. I leave you with these bits of wisdom. Let me know what you think:

1.     Alton Gansky on not daring to try, or overcoming the fear of rejection: “No one ever hit a homerun from the dugout.” #Stepuptotheplate.

2.     Michelle Medlock Adams on too much self-editing: “Let God define who you are.”

3.     John W., 97 years old: On living life to the fullest: “Don’t act like you are dead until God says you are.”

In the joy of the Lord,


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Standing with her who is standing firm

I have friends who say they don’t watch the news because it fills them with anger and despair. I have to agree. My reactions to many of the stories surfacing—especially those outrages aimed at Christians—frustrate me no end and recall to mind some of the psalmist’s pleas to God to deal with his enemies: “Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it grows up,” (a more mild example).

Too aware of my own shortcomings, I usually leave the eye-plucking to God and pray for the evil sent out to return on the one who sent it. But as far as despairing and losing hope, I don’t.

The one weapon I have that is more powerful than uranium in a madman’s hands is prayer. Prayer to THE Living God. THE all-powerful, almighty one. THE one with whom nothing is impossible. Nothing.

But I am sitting here in my warm, lovely home with a refrigerator full of food and a closet of clean clothes. My children are well and none lacks. It’s easy for me to keep confidence.  

I am acutely aware that despair and faltering hope prey on suffering, suffering that involves not only one’s self, but that of having to watch loved ones. These are the ones who need me and you to stand in faith when theirs weakens; when rats run over their child having to share a filthy jail cell and the hangman’s noose swings outside the cell in anticipation of their neck as soon as the child in their womb is born.

I am thinking today of Meriam Ibrahim, jailed for apostasy  (being a Christian married to a Christian man). According to new reports, her 20-month old son is with her in jail because the courts won’t recognize her husband.

Meriam has stood firm for her faith. Please stand with me in prayer for her. For her young son. For the child in her womb. And for the husband and father who has lost his family.

Evil surrounds and may at times seem to walk off victorious, but we appeal to you Lord. We pray for strength, for grace, for your very presence to fill that cell room, to protect this woman and children, to cause your face to shine upon her and hold her pain and suffering.

Prison cells are nothing for you. Jesus, we lift her to you.

 Really wanted to leave on a cheery note, as I go off to Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference this week, but I have had a heavy heart for Meriam, as well as for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. And so, I ask you to wield that weapon of faith and power with me as you go about your day and I mine.

Until next time--


Monday, May 5, 2014

My Alice Doesn't Have Lice

Her daughter’s name was Alice. Alice was a grade-school classmate, who, as I recall, had long, mousey blonde hair that camouflaged the withdrawn demeanor that marks one wounded or weak. One easily made fun of.

Maybe Alice was just shy. Or maybe she had had the fight smothered out of her, but one thing was certain—her mom sure hadn’t.

No, even though she lived in a run-down affair off what we called the Dump Road, and was married to a man who went to jail (I suspected it was for doing things we didn’t talk much about back then, like exposing himself to my sister as she walked home from school one day) Alice’s mom had pride. And she had fight.

And if there was one thing she’d fight for, it was her daughter.

Back then (I don’t know if schools still do this) the nurse would come around periodically and do a lice check by running a pencil through our heads. After one such inspection, for some mean reason, I whispered it around that Alice had lice.

At home, later that day, my mom told me someone wanted to see me. I didn’t see a car in the driveway, but when I stepped outside, there, standing in the hot afternoon sunlight were Alice and her mom. Apparently they had trudged the miles down Dump Road, along Falls Road, and up our road, stopping at my front door.

“Come here,” Alice’s mom commanded in a voice reserved for mothers and generals. One that left no room for argument and melted the cockiness right out of me. She lifted a hunk of Alice’s blonde stringy hair and waited until I edged near. “Look. Look. Alice says you’re saying she has lice. Do you see any lice?”

Properly mortified, I peered at Alice’s pink scalp. No, no I didn’t see any lice. No, no I hadn’t seen the nurse find any either. Yes, yes I had spread those rumors. Yes, yes I was sorry (I hope I truly was, and not just trying to get out of my own uncomfortable mess.)

Satisfied her daughter’s reputation was vindicated, Alice’s mom straightened her shoulders, took her daughter’s arm and marched backed down the driveway.

My mom taught me much about faith, and perseverance, and love of learning, which I’ve shared before, but today, in thinking about moms and daughters—all these decades later, I see Alice’s mom standing there in my driveway, defying a punk kid to mock her daughter.

I salute you Alice’s mom. And Alice, I truly am sorry.