Blue Mind: Reading a New Book and Making a Change


Is there anything better than sitting by the ocean, watching the sun go down? I’m reading Blue Mind: The Surprising Science that Shows How Being Near, In, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, by Wallace J. Nichols.

Outside Magazine calls the author a “visionary,” and a reviewer with Library Journal calls his sense of wonder and love for his subject inspiring.

I can’t argue with his passion for the sea–or a river, creek, or lake, for that matter.  Water mesmerizes as it shimmers, ebbs, flows, froths, foams, gurgles, splashes or puddles. When I watch the waves surge over the shore, I can feel my stress melting away.

Found this quote today, which seems relevant as I consider a big decision: “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do, you will sink and drown. Instead you relax and float.” – Alan Watts

It all comes down to faith when you contemplate a change. Either you believe it will make your life better, and you move forward with confidence and hope, or you can’t summon up enough faith, and you’re hamstrung by fear. You stay where you are. You get stuck and never know what might have been on the other side.

Today I’m choosing faith.

Acceptable Words: Prayers For Writers


Talk about timely–I opened my mailbox today to find a review copy of Acceptable Words: Prayers For Writers, by editors Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney. (I’m a member of LibraryThing, and they drew my name at random for this just-released book.)

What makes the book so well-timed is that I’m giving a workshop tomorrow for the Georgia Writers Association, and my topic is inspirational writing. (There’s still time to join us. The workshop is on Saturday, 9/8, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the KSU building at 3333 Busbee Parkway in Kennesaw, GA).

Part of the workshop will address the nuts and bolts of getting published: how to write a query letter; find a publisher who accepts unagented manuscripts; write a non-fiction book proposal; and so on. The other part will cover where to find inspiration.

I’ve got a handout for the class, listing places they might find inspiration to spark the creative fires. The last item on my list–but hardly the least important–was the single word, “pray.”

Prayer matters. It’s how we stay connected to our Source, who loves us, provides for us, and cares about our daily lives. Prayer also, I believe, helps us discover who we truly are, and that leads directly to writing the kind of things we should be writing.

Recently a GWA member asked me for an interview (I was glad to do it, and grateful for her interest). One of her questions was, “Do you write for the reader, or for yourself?” I answered that I try to keep the reader in mind. After all, I want to engage them with intriguing copy, so they’ll keep reading. But primarily I write for myself, trying to put down in ink the things that feel most true and right and good to me.

But I think now, after flipping through the book that just arrived, I should have added that I also write for God–that is, to be pleasing and acceptable in His sight. Isn’t that what the Psalmist desired, too, when he wrote, “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

I haven’t had time yet to sit and read through all of Acceptable Prayers, but I’m inclined, from what I’ve seen so far, to share it with the group tomorrow. We do need inspiration, not just for our writing, but for living our daily lives, which are usually a lot harder than penning a few words on paper, if you think about.

Here’s to writing, and reading, and finding inspiration, and praying. I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s workshop holds!


(and, of course, Miss Paws and Molly)


Dallas and the Spitfire – a book review and a “new model for men’s ministry”


Image courtesy of Bethany House

Friends, I promised to tell you more about seed catalogs for your spring garden, but I just read a really good book, and I can’t resist sharing a review with you. Here goes:

Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, An Ex-Con, and An Unlikely Friendship, by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke. Bethany House. On-sale in April 2012.

(You can find this review, and other reviews I’ve written, online at

Men–at least the ones I know–don’t share their feelings easily. That’s why freelance writer and author Ted Kluck says he didn’t know where to start, when his pastor asked him to hang out with a new believer, a young, “tattooed, goateed kid” at church.

The kid, Dallas Jahncke, had a troubled past as an ex-con who’d used and sold drugs. He had no parents, and while their initial meetings were awkward and uncomfortable, Kluck admits, “I guess I felt like he needed us (Kluck and his family).” Besides, Kluck adds, he needed help with a broken down convertible, and Dallas proved to have many talents, including the ability to rebuilt carburetors and dismantle gearshifts.

Klout’s real hope, of course, was that he’d be able to share his faith in God and help Dallas stay clean. This book is the story of the journey they made together, to grow toward a real friendship and into an enduring love for Jesus.

In his introduction, Klout says he wanted to craft a Christian book that guys wouldn’t be embarrassed to read. I’m not a guy, but I think I can say that he’s exceeded his goal. This is an honest, deeply-felt book that has just enough grease and gunk around the edges to make even the biggest macho-man consider coming alongside a fellow believer in need–and realize how that brother could fill his own life with grace and friendship.

This book is tagged, “a new model for men’s ministry,” and I highly recommend it.

Finding an old road

Author Julia Cameron has a quote in her best-selling book, The Artist’s Date Book, that I like very much:  “Through morning pages, we see what obstacles impede us, what roads are open to us.”

The “morning pages” she refers to are three handwritten pages that she says you should write every morning, before you do anything else. It doesn’t matter what you write, according to Julia, who teaches creativity classes for all kinds of artists. The only thing that matters is to write.  The idea is to get past that critical internal editor that most of us have, the ones that whispers, you can’t do this. You’re no good. No one will ever care about what you write, draw, paint, think, do or say……

That voice is powerful. But there is another Voice you can learn to hear, too, one that says, I am for you. You are enough, and you are loved.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~ Jer. 6:16, NIV

(with thanks to Lucy Mercer,, for a lovely walk in her woods, which are pictured in this image)

Even Miracles

miracles sign

I almost bought this little wooden sign at a gift shop the other day–and then I thought, wait–I don’t need to spend $15 to be reminded of this!

I do believe in the kind of miracles that can happen in the wink of an eye, but I also believe those are rare indeed nowadays. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen. It just means that God usually works through ordinary ways, and ordinary people, to accomplish what we need and ask for.

While we might like to have our heart’s desires in a –well, in a heartbeat–there’s much to be said for learning patience and practicing grace. Hmmm…maybe that’s part of the miracle…

Romans 5:4, NIV: “…endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Sign of the times

I’ve got to admit:  when I first thought about posting this sign on my blog, I wondered what kind of reaction it would get.

Would come across as ironic? I mean, the world’s a mess these days.

Even on a small scale, most of us deal with all kinds of problems, like broken washing machines, surly teenagers, sickness, more debts than our paychecks can cover–you name it.

I thought people might see this and say, “Oh, sure. It’s a day in paradise somewhere. But not here ”

But then I remembered the royal wedding, and how happy Kate and William looked. They celebrated their marriage in lavish style, expecting most people to share in their joy. And you know what? I think most of us really did, even those of us whose homes don’t cost as much as that fabulous ring.

In the end, I don’t think paradise is about “stuff” at all, or even Jimmy Buffet-type beaches and ocean views and sailboats.

Look around. There are butterflies floating around, even over the weeds. If you get up early in the morning, you can hear a free concert, performed by your local songbirds.  The sun is warm, and right this minute, it’s coaxing little seeds to burst through the soil and grow into ripe tomatoes and hot peppers and crunchy lettuce. All for you. All for me.

Miracles. Everywhere.

Yeah. I’m okay with that sign. Are you?


Lulu’s Fountain for Youth

I snapped a photo of this little boy last night at Lulu’s, a restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Turns out Lulu is owned and operated by Jimmy Buffet’s sister, which explains the beach-fun atmosphere and live music. I love that Lulu’s offers lots of things for kids to do and play with while their parents wait to be called to a table.

Love this New World translation of Matthew 18:3, too: “…Truly I say to you, Unless You turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.”

Isn’t it sad that when we grow up, we start feeling guilty about taking any time to play? We can worship God in our play as well as in our work, as long as we honor His creation and love each other.

Hope you will do something fun for yourself today, and revel in the joy that comes from remembering how to play!

Brave Seeds

We had a fierce storm last night–I mean, fierce. The winds were so strong, they blew rain right through the window screens, into the house and all over the floor, which made me hop up out of bed, when I realized what was happening, and grab a mob.

But before I rescued our floors, I ran out to the porch, where I’d left a couple of trays of seedlings. I knew that our gutters were packed with the last of autumn’s leaves, and soon rain would be pouring onto the railings where the seed trays sat. I saved them in time, although they took a bit of a beating from all that water.

When I got up this morning, I made the picture you see above. Not very impressive, is it? Just a plastic tray with a few tiny green shoots coming up. Or maybe that’s all you see at first glance. Squint a little, please, and use your imagination, and maybe you’ll see more.

To me, these are brave little seedlings. They’re still small and fragile. One hungry bird could take them out in a quick peck, or they could collapse from a fungal disease, since this spring has been cool and wet. But they haven’t.  At least, not yet. They’re still standing, just growing their tiny hearts out.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I love that. Isn’t that what we are called to do, everyday? Sometimes we get pounded by the storms, and they can hit in our darker hours, when we’re feeling weak and defenseless. But you know something? We’re stronger than we guess, because we have have a living Spirit in us, just as these little plants have a life-spirit in them.

My seedlings made it through a bad-weather night, and now I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and bear fruit (tomatoes and peppers, in case you’re wondering). So, too, the Father waits for us to grow and bear fruit, and we can do this, because we know that the storms are not bigger or stronger than His love.

“…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last….This is my command: love one another.” John 15:1-6-17, NIV

grace and peace,



You’ve seen those “unplugged” concerts on TV, right? That’s when a musician–let’s say a guitarist–unplugs his instrument and amplifiers. He drags a tall stool onto the middle of the stage and climbs up on it. A cone of light shines down on him, spilling over his shoulders. While you watch and wait, he tunes his guitar; maybe he strums a few practice chords and props one foot on a rung.

You can’t see into the darkness that surrounds him.  There’s just the musician on the stage, the guitar across his lap, and a golden pool of light.

Then he plays, and you really hear him. Not the amplification, not a back-up group or a band. Just the singer’s raw voice. Just the guitar’s pure music.

I thought about what it means to be unplugged the other day, when I came across an interview with the writer Anne Lamott. Lamott is wildly popular for her  books on faith, which recount her journey from druggie and alcoholic to a deep and abiding faith. Lamott is a Sunday School teacher now, and a church-goer, but you’d never mistake her for some blue-haired grandmotherly type with a Bible under her arm. Her language can be profane, and pretty much everything about her life is  unorthodox and unconventional. She has, I think, described herself as “Jesus-y,” not in the sense that she is “kind-of” committed to her faith (she is very committed), but because she’s not typical.

I’ve attended one of her talks, and the effect she has on people is amazing. The crowd that turns out to see her isn’t your usual church group. Instead, it’s likely to be made up of addicts and recovering addicts; gays; aging hippies; people who’ll stand up with tears in their eyes and say that they haven’t been to church for years and years because (fill in the blanks–there are so many reasons to fall away or run away), but now they’ve read her words and they feel God’s love again, and they’re so glad, because they’d felt lost and now they are found…and oh, yes. There are folks there that look and sound just like the regular Sunday morning worship group.

Lamott draws a crowd, I believe–she draws this crowd–because she writes about a Jesus whose love is so deep, so high, so limitless and sweet, that it reaches everyone. Everyone. No one has to feel left out or unwanted, because the Jesus she knows loves us all.

So. I came across the interview she gave the other day. And I read about how she has decided to unplug.

Lamott “unplugs” by not having a Facebook page. She doesn’t tweet or post on a blog. I don’t think she even has a website, other than a couple of fan sites people have created about her–but she’s not affiliated with those. Her agent has a site, so people can reach her there to book an appearance or request an interview.

But Lamott says that time is precious, and she has chosen not to engage in all this social networking stuff so she can be present for her family and friends and write.  That’s it. She simply writes.

Most of us who are trying to build a writing career are told that we don’t have that luxury. We’re supposed to build a community, a following, by reaching out through every avenue available to us. We should have thousands of followers on each social platform. That’s what editors and agents want to see, if we’re asking them to publish our work. They want to know that we bring not only our best writing to the table, but also many potential readers. It’s all about the business of writing.

What would happen, I wonder, if we unplugged? If we didn’t worry about the platforms and the blog posts and we just wrote? Would readers find us, if our content was good enough? Or is the world so cluttered and noisy now, that nobody hears that single, raw voice?

Is the meditation of one heart enough anymore?

Gives another dimension of meaning, doesn’t it, to that line we hear on the commercials all the time: Can you hear me now?

Can you?

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14, KJV

Springtime in the Smoky Mountains

Just a few pictures today from my trip last spring to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Makes me want to go back soon, to see the mountains coming back to life after the long winter.

“Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and all that move in them…” Psa. 69:34