Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Purpose of Writing

Dave Dravecky was born to play baseball. He pursued that dream and played for the San Francisco Giants. Then cancer struck his left arm, his pitching arm. He had surgery to repair it and made a much publicized comeback only to break his arm in his second game following the surgery. Cancer had returned. Dave Dravecky had his pitching arm amputated.
It didn’t kill him. It didn’t spread to other parts of his body. It didn’t affect any major organs. Cancer merely separated Dave from his lifelong sense of identity and purpose. How do you begin to have a conversation with God about that? Sure, terrible things happen in life, but this time the devastation hit with dreadful precision.
Dave is now a Christian author and speaker who shares his faith story, like he did at our Ablaze Rally. He tells of finding his true worth not in his sports record, but in His value to God. (He also has some great fishing stories).
What a reality check. The purpose of serving God is not so I can find identity in writing (or insert your own talent/gift). The purpose of writing (or insert your own talent/gift) is to find identity in serving God.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Groups Ablaze!

I’m different. I’ve been told this in dozens of ways for dozens of reasons.
I have a disability. Spina bifida makes me walk funny. That’s hard for people to understand. (“She doesn’t use a wheelchair. It doesn’t look like cerebral palsy. No other problems that make it look like she was in an accident. I don’t get it.”)
I’m single. I’m not working terribly hard to change this fact. (“Now that’s just plain weird. Maybe there’s something wrong with her. Doesn’t she know she’s unhappy?”)
I work as a counselor with adults who have serious & persistent mental illness. I like my job. (“So is that with retarded kids? Doesn’t she know she could get paid lots more to do something else? Aren’t ‘those people’ violent?”) FYI, the answers to those are no, it’s not about the money, and no.
So I’m pretty used to being different. It’s become almost a trademark of mine.
Today at the
Ablaze Rally, we were instructed to turn to our neighbors and say “You are different.” Not that hard to do. Get into a room with 3,000 other people, and the differences stand out. Physical impairments, widows, various languages and ethnicities, and even character flaws. I questioned how we could accomplish our goal of winning others to the church. Did we as a group make an appealing argument for someone considering joining our ranks? Then I realized that it felt complimentary, even affirming to be called different in this context.
The answer to my earlier doubts was obvious. Everybody has something about them that makes them different. That’s the result of sin in our lives and our world. Who wouldn’t want to belong to a group of misfits who understand and accept each other’s differences, even the unpleasant ones? The flipside of being different is that as Christians it is precisely what we are called to be. We need to be intentional and bold about living differently.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Artist Unblocked

I should have known. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block tonight (and some tornados that kept me away from the computer). The gap between all the interests that I want to write about seems too large to bridge. While my main avocation is writing, I also want to share other hobbies and ministries that interest me.
One of those interests is book art, the art of making unique books by hand. I especially like how this activity blends with so many of my other passions. In addition to the literary and artistic self expression, there are many therapeutic uses for book art, including allowing the artist to address spiritual issues. I’m hoping to have some good links on this topic in the future.
There are two blogs I want to tell y’all about. My friend LeAnne Benfield Martin has begun a
blog on Christians in the arts. I’m so excited about this blog. LeAnne is an excellent writer and has some wonderful things to share about how Christians impact the world using art.
My friend
Karen Wingate is also a fantastic writer and expert on curriculum material. Her post from yesterday delightfully explores the purpose and process of art in the classroom.
I should have known I could count on these ladies to inspire me tonight.
Friday Factoid: I really have a taste for fresh spinach.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I’ve been trying to decide what to write in my blog today. Still wrestling with those questions of who I am and how I want to use this blog to present myself as a Christian, a writer, a counselor, and any other facets of my life that I may or may not want to disclose.
I kind of wanted to share about how frustrating it was to have 3 people compete for my attention at the bus stop the other day. But telling you how I feel when strangers find out I’m a counselor and race to tell me their problems louder & faster than everyone else (and before the bus comes), well, that might not sound very Christian. So I’d better not tell you that.
I was thinking of starting up one of those blog quizzes or polls or letting you in on what’s on my ipod. I’ve seen some interesting questions and such posed out there. But I’m still not sure that’s how I want to present myself on my blog. It might not be very writerly. Besides, I really don’t know enough bloggers yet to share it with & make it fun. So I’d better not do that.
Then I had this great idea based on some things that happened recently involving screwdrivers, lilacs, and radio morning shows. However, I’m thinking that might actually make a good article, so I should save the material for that. I know, I feel kind of bad withholding that from y’all. But a girl’s got to pay the bills. So I’d better not write about that either.
A random surf of blogs out there will easily show that not much is censored. But all this got me thinking about what we censor before we let it “out there.” I wish some people’s internal censors were in better working order. Mine goes on the fritz more than I like. When you communicate something, you can’t take it back. Sometimes it’s hard to consider the long term consequences of our words.
Other people censor themselves more generously. We get scared that others won’t like what we’ve expressed. So we leave “the good things we ought to have done, undone.” Being real involves risk. I can’t feed the person who doesn’t come to our food pantry because he won’t admit he’s hungry. God can’t sort out and heal my anger and impatience if I deny feeling any such unpleasantness. I can’t help but wonder about the depth and breadth of relationships that are overlooked because of censorship.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Writing & Time Management

I just completed what may have been the 3 busiest years of my life thus far. I went to graduate school fulltime (including 2 internships) while working fulltime. It’s quite an interesting feeling to get used to free time again. Suddenly, rather than having every moment of my schedule micro-organized simply because I always had deadlines and appointments looming, I have choices. This is a dangerous thing.
I learned a lot about myself in school. For example, if I could get through the last 3 years, I can do anything. Still, there are bad weeks, like the one I had a couple of weeks ago. It left me incapable of anything but vegging in front of the TV and daydreaming for the whole weekend. So I wonder how I could possibly have coped with the bad weeks I had when I was in school, without the luxury of a 48 hour time out for recovery. I really need to know the answer to this question. Nobody will tell me.
I also know a little more about time management. As they say, if you want something done, ask a busy person. Mind you, I don’t really want to be that busy again. Ever. Still, I thrive on deadlines & structure. At the end of the day, I like knowing I’ve been productive.
Blogging has helped me ease back into the writing world. It’s helped form the BIC habit. It’s a marketing and creativity tool. Still, it takes an investment of time, especially in the beginning, to get ahead of the learning curve. That’s where the dangerous choices come in. Do I need to write a query letter, or do I need to tweak the fonts and formats on my blog? This useful tool can easily become an instrument of procrastination. I can either let the force pull me to the dark side, or I can use it for good.
This week I’m going to choose to use it for good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Logo

Ok, I think the logo is finally here, blending about as close as possible into the background. In the end, all the professionals I consulted were at a loss. It was a 16 year old techie who helped me figure it out. Naturally.
Now I just need to get it up as the main photo. But not tonight.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm a Blog of the Day!

Many thanks to the folks at for making my blog a blog of the day. You can either use the link in this post or the icon in the sidebar to visit their site.


Tags & Codes & Pages

Oh my. I’m feeling inept with this blogging thing. I have my “100 things” and “100 favorites” I’d like to share with y’all. I just can’t figure out how to make a separate page within my blog. And despite my best efforts and those of the graphics artist who designed my logo, I can’t get it to post with a transparent background, which is fine for now because I originally wanted it to be the main photo on the front page. However, I can’t get it to upload to that part of the page even after I post it in a message & go from there. Don’t even get me started on tags & Technorati. It feels like high school all over again. All the cool kids have cool stuff on their blogs. Am I going to succumb to letting this be a popularity contest?
Writing is about felt needs. Whose felt needs does this blog address? Lee Warren has some great things to say about having a voice & using it to tell your story
here. So even though writing for public consumption isn’t about cheap therapy, it does meet a need in the author.
What about the reader? There’s value in having unique slants and fresh angles to the stuff we write about. Admittedly, that kind of newness is hard to come by in the blogosphere.
So, what could you possibly have to gain by reading my complaints about technology angst? Hopefully, a grin of recognition that we’ve all “been there.” But maybe adding my voice to the masses will contribute to someone’s sense of community. If I can express empathy for a shared experience that diminishes the “aloneness” that often accompanies life’s challenges, perhaps that’s enough. If I can inspire someone else to use their voice, even better.
The lady at the phone company reminded me of this today. Through a series of phone company errors, I didn’t get a phone bill, didn’t get previous charges applied until they were past due, and ended up with a huge, late, bill. Being the good Lutheran girl that I am, I would never do such a thing by my own error. I’m just not that kind of girl. Through a series of phone calls regarding the series of errors, I got a reduction in my bill to compensate for my troubles. I expressed my relief at the final resolution to the phone lady. She reassured me that this was no problem because I was an outstanding customer with an excellent payment history.
She didn’t need to say that, but I needed to hear it. More than applying a credit to my account, she met my felt need. I’m not a lazy, awful, immature idiot who can’t figure out a phone bill. I’m outstanding.
People who meet felt needs are outstanding.
You are outstanding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hide & Seek

Why is it that when I make observations regarding goals, any progress I made is scared back into hiding?
I lost 7 pounds. You might hate me for this, but I wasn’t trying that hard. But don’t hate me too much because I’m sure to find them again. I don’t mind finding my keys, or last year’s mittens, but those pounds don’t seem to understand that I’d be perfectly happy if they stayed lost. Now that I’ve noticed my progress, they are sure to find their way back to me.
Same thing happens with writing. I’ve been hiatus for a while & I’m working on getting back into the flow. The initial burst of energy thrilled me. Now that I’ve observed how much I can accomplish in just a couple weeks, my initiative has practically vanished. Just getting a query letter out has become a multi-round prize fight. The email address is no good, the printer runs out of ink, the stamps go into hiding (maybe they’ve seen my goals somewhere).
So I find what I want to lose & I lose what I want to find. Sometimes it seems like progress is just an elusive kid playing hide & seek. Other times, progress runs for dear life, grabbing initiative and goals & taking them into a mysterious cave to escape the evil one who would dare notice anything resembling growth or improvement.
Despite this backwards state of affairs, the only strategy I’ve come up with is to employ further observation. Maybe if I can scare it into hiding, I can scare it back out again.
Perhaps I should just take solace in knowing that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


How do I begin writing about 9-11? I know the blogging world is writing about this topic from just about every angle possible. I hesitate not because I fear I have nothing new to say on the subject, but because I fear I will be misunderstood.
I find myself beginning again with the power of words. It’s painful to keep referring to “the attacks.” It takes longer to say the “terrorist attacks on 9-11-01.” There is no simple, neat & clean way to refer to the tragedy of that day. But we’ve done our best, knowing that when we say 9-11 we mean one infamous day one particular September that we will never forget.
For me, 9-11 means something entirely different than it does to most of the rest of the world. On September 11th, an undisclosed number of years ago, my brother was born. Yet on the day September 11th became terribly important to the rest of the world, he quietly decided it was just another day.
Is it possible that by reducing the horrible events of that day to a number we diminish the loss, the violation, and the anguish of what happened? At the same time, we increase the power the terrorists’ actions with our sanitary shorthand. The terrorist attacks of 9-11-01 caused immeasurable suffering to those who lost loved ones, as well as our whole country. Should we let it take away the meaning of the everyday events, the birthdays, the anniversaries, and celebrations of our lives? It just doesn’t seem right to let the terrorists take anything more from us.

Current Read: The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey
Current Music: Lifesong, Casting Crowns

Friday, September 08, 2006

What's Your Name?

The news around town is all about Marshall Fields changing its name over to Macy’s. Opponents believe Frango mints from Macy’s just aren’t going to be the same. Marshall Fields is a part of Chicago history as they say. The names of ballparks, stadiums, & events are being named after their corporate sponsors. Chicago’s Comisky Park becoming US Cellular Field is just another local example. Yet, changing a name is more than a superficial, cosmetic alteration.
Yesterday I heard a conversation that gave me further pause to consider our carelessness regarding names:
"Thanks, Billy.”
“It’s William.”
“OK, whatever."

Whatever? When did a person’s name stop mattering? I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that we are so flippant about people’s names. After all, we can change criteria for identifying a planet. Deciding to un-name something as big as a planet is, um, big.
Names were so important in the Bible that God often intentionally renamed people at significant times of change in their lives. God didn’t decide that “Paul” would roll off the tongue easier than “Saul” or perform market research on Abram vs. Abraham. One’s name had to match one’s identity. The change in their lives happened first. Many other cultures today continue the tradition of naming or renaming individuals as a rite of passage. Your name describes who you are. Not exactly something to be taken lightly.
One of my favorite passages in The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien explains it well,
“Real names tell you the story of the thing they belong to in my language... it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

In her book “Walking On Water,” Madeline L’Engle talks about naming as a process. Every experience that touches us, art we view, songs we hear, what we read, it all contributes to the process of understanding our true identity. We are named, truly named in our hearts, by the things that resonate with our souls, the things that call us home.
In our arrogance, we humans have the power to change the name of someone or something. But it seems the names themselves might have more power.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Ethical Blogger

I’m slowly figuring out how to add things to my blog. I can’t get my logo to load properly. So that will have to wait.
I’m hoping that my 1st official imbedded link to my friend
Crystal’s blog works. If you haven’t checked hers out, you really should. I still need to add a link list of notable blogs. Any suggestions?
About the links I do have listed. These are just a few of my favorite things, so far. I guess if you click on them, you’ll see what they are about, so they don’t require too much information. Mostly they are things that I find make life and the writing life in particular, easier and more enjoyable. All the software listed has trial or full versions as donateware.
I’m realizing that the decisions of what to add to the blog are more complicated than I thought. I came across this software that allows you to add music to your blog. This has triggered a serious ethical dilemma.
On the one hand, I think it would be lovely to feature personalized music on the blog. It could tie into the theme nicely & contribute to the reader’s sensory experience.
However, as I am writing this, I am listening to my own music. I am aware that you are probably listening to your own music as well. Occasionally other music intrudes on my own music of choice. Often, it’s from a car driving by, whose owner is “sharing” his music with everyone in a 5 block radius. Sometimes, a neighbor lets the parties get a little out of control. It could even be the owner of an MP3 player who is singing along at full tilt because they forgot that the point of headphones is so that you hear your music and we don’t. Forced musical invasion of my space has become a pet peeve of mine.
Can I ethically ask my readers to listen to my music when, although I’m sure you have extraordinary taste, I don’t necessarily prefer to listen to yours?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Exploring The Path Home

As a writer, my job is to discover new portions of the landscape of life and add them to my map. I came up with the tagline “Exploring the Path Home” to identify the theme that weaves through my freelance writing. Actually, the phrase now serves as a focal point for my whole life.
You see, my real home is a place I haven’t been to yet. I look forward to getting there, but truthfully, I hope it doesn’t happen for some time. As a Christian, life is something like one of those labyrinths made out of hedges. You know you are trying to get to the castle in the center, but the stuff that’s between the beginning and the end is pretty much a mystery. (I know quite a few writers whose writing process is similar. They know where they are starting & where they want the piece to end- getting there is a series of discoveries).
So that’s what I hope this blog will be about. Whether offering a signpost for direction, an anchor of support & encouragement, or just wandering around for the fun of it, I’m Exploring the Path Home. Sure does give me a lot of freedom in what to write, doesn’t it?