Wednesday, April 30, 2008

bump: gone fishin'

Apparently, all Oklahomans fish. It's not optional. Even new, gangly-legged transplants are expected to pole-up and do their part. Shortly after our move from my home state to his, my new step-father decided the seven-year old me needed an introduction. So he took our family to his favorite cabin up in the hills near a river guaranteed to yield fish. I wasn't a big fan of fish, unless it came battered, greasy, and sitting next to equally bad-for-you fries in a little paper bowl, but he didn't need to know that. I already loved my step-father and wanted him to smile. And I fell in love with his favorite cabin with very little effort. Hidden in a grove of tall pine trees and surrounded by a carpet of pungent needles from those trees, that spot of the world seemed made for remembering. And indeed, thirty-six years and two thousand miles later, I can still smell those pine needles.

At a hideous hour the second morning of our vacation, Daddy Roy roused me from my cot and nodded toward the door of our cabin. I pulled on my sweatshirt and jeans and crept across the creaky, uncarpeted floor to join him in the doorway.

"Here's your breakfast," he whispered, handing me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I couldn't recall ever before having peanut butter and jelly for breakfast. I suddenly loved him more.

With the balance of a child, I juggled my sandwich, pole, and kid-sized box of hooks and feathery wonders while poking my feet in my rubber boots. Clomping as quietly as I could across the porch boards and down the front steps, I joined him on the piney road, and we set off.

Our walk was short. After rounding a few bends in the road and traversing a slight hillside, we landed on a flat, grassy beach and unloaded our gear.

Daddy Roy pulled a white, lidded carton out of his fishing box, then peeled the top off. With my peanut butter sandwich gone, I wondered if he might be about to top off my perfect breakfast with a handful of milk duds, or chocolate-covered raisins, or some other carton-worthy delight--but no. Instead, he pulled out a fat worm, the sight of which sent my appetite skedaddling.

"I'll bait the first hook for you, and then you can do your own. So watch carefully."

My prayer life was birthed then and there. Oh, God ... help me to not throw up breakfast.

I wanted to obey--I really did--but at the last second, just as the tip of Daddy Roy's hook was about to pierce the side of that wiggling worm, I closed my eyes. There's not an hour of the day when I've been awake long enough to watch that sort of violence.

"See that?" he asked.

Nodding seemed less like fibbing than an outright answer, so I nodded.

I took my pole back and held it out as though it had hooked a bomb and not a worm. The last thing I wanted in life was for that worm to somehow swing his fat body toward me and graze my arm.

I plopped him in the water. What he did below surface, I don't know. About every thirteen seconds, I checked on him. That may have accounted for the fact that I went the whole morning without so much as a single fish nibble.

"Shanny, you've got to leave it in the water a bit longer," my patient step-father instructed. So I began leaving him in for fifteen seconds--but the added time did little to improve my results.

Midway through the experience, it occurred to me that I didn't really want a fish to bite my hook, because if that happened, I'd have to re-bait the thing. And that meant actually touching the worm. I wasn't a squirmish child, but I wasn't yet a tomboy. It would be another several months before I'd begin catching crawdads in the ditch with the neighbor kids and squishing lightning bugs on the palm of my hand to make myself glow. (To be honest, that happened only once. Or twice.) But on this morning, my bug interactions had been limited to sitting on a bee and accidentally filling my mouth with pincher bugs when I put my mouth over the outside faucet to get a drink of water. Neither had been on purpose.

From that point of realization on, I worried I might catch a fish. And the worrying paid off, because I didn't.

"We'll try again after lunch," my step-father said.

I pulled my hook out of the water, saw the still-snagged worm, and breathed a sigh of relief. I was already set for that after-lunch go-round.

"Don't you think you'll want a fresh worm on that hook later?" Daddy Roy asked.

"Nope," I answered. "I like this one."

We collected our gear, climbed the hill, and set off walking toward the cabin. Halfway back, overcome by fatigue and relief, I closed my eyes and yawned ferociously--the kind of yawn that bends small trees and alters wind patterns. And just as I was getting ready to close my mouth again, at the tail end of that yawn, I opened my eyes--just in time to watch that hooked worm drift back out of my mouth. I'd had my pole slung over my shoulder, and apparently, the hook had swung out in front of me and then straight toward my face--and into my mouth. Had I timed that yawn for just a split second earlier, I would have garnered the catch of the day ... myself.
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If you're waiting for a point to my little story, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. This post is just the sharing of a memory ... and an announcement about the next few days. From now till Monday, I'll be gone fishin'. Not literally, although writing about this has given me a hankering for the river. Today, I'm getting ready for the arrival of two cyberfriends, both of whom I'm meeting for the first time and who will be staying with me through the weekend. I'm also finalizing my notes for two workshops I'm teaching at this weekend's writing conference. And Sunday, after dashing to the airport and dashing back in time for church, we're having a potluck. So I suppose I'll see you Monday.

Till then, don't let the worms bite you.



Monday, April 21, 2008

the heavens declare

Dave just sent me a link to this picture from the Hubble Site news center.

The accompanying blurb says, "NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Resolves a Dark "x" Across the Nucleus of M51."

An "x"? Really? Those scientists must be walking around with their heads tilted at an odd, abnormal, uncomfortable angle.

Because I see a cross.

God's glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

~ Psalm 19:1-4 (The Message)

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

sing with me

She sits close to me tonight. Closer than usual. Sometimes, on some Wednesday nights, I can tell her mind is elsewhere. Those times, she's not enclosed within the four walls of this church. She's running free.

But tonight she leans in close. It's not that she's snuggling--which she also does sometimes--it's more that she's just ... leaning. For a minute, I can't figure out why. But then I catch the faint sound of her voice imitating mine. She's leaning in to hear my harmony.

I don't say anything. I just lean into her right back. And I raise my voice a notch. My soprano-preferring daughter has accepted the fact that God gave her an alto voice--a pure, lovely, enviable alto voice. And tonight, apparently, she has set herself to learning.

We sing about God's fame, and then about His faithfulness. We remind ourselves that He's eternal, and good, and ready to save. And then we sing about the journey of life, and the fact that He saved us from a lot of pain and ugliness.

Travelin' Light

I was doubling over
The load on my shoulders
Was a weight I carried with me every day
Crossin' miles of frustrations and rivers a ragin'
Pickin' up stones I found along the way
I staggered and I stumbled down pathways of trouble
I was haulin' those souvenirs of misery
And with each step takin' my back was breakin'
Til I found the one who took it all from me.

Down by the riverside (Down by the riverside)
I laid my burdens down, now I'm travelin' light
My spirit lifted high (I found my freedom now)
I found my freedom now, and I'm travelin' light

Through the darkest alleys and loneliest valleys
I was draggin' those heavy chains of doubt and fear
Then with one word spoken the locks were broken
Now He's leading me to places where there are no tears

In all the right places, my daughter listens, learns, and then sings. And I'm aware that this half-hour of worship is a metaphor for an even bigger truth. When the music fades away and the teaching is over and we turn off the lights in this room, this girl will continue to watch, and listen, and imitate what she sees in me.

Father, help me fill her life with Your song.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

northwest christian writers renewal

Whenever I'm asked, "How do I get started writing?" my first response is always, "Attend a writers' conference." There's no substitute. Nothing else motivates you quite like these gatherings of writers, editors, publishers, and agents. A weekend in that kind of setting sends you home fluffed, nudged, and ready to scribble.

As it happens, there's a great (and affordable) conference on the near horizon. May 2-3 (for those of you in the Pacific Northwest or willing to travel here) the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal will be held in Bothell, Washington.

Cec Murphy, writer or co-author of over 100 books, including 90 Minutes in Heaven, will be our keynote speaker. I'll be teaching two workshops myself, one on "The Four Roles of a Writer" (in which we'll talk about right brain/left brain battles and how to make them work to your advantage); the other is "How To Get Personal Without Revealing Too Much."

I hope to meet some of you there!



Monday, April 07, 2008

just thinking

I'm as busy as I've ever been, writing-wise. I wake up, make a pot of coffee, find a quiet corner of the house (and that changes on a regular basis), and start reading, transcribing, and scribbling notes. This research (on the Counterculture Movement of the 60s, the Jesus Movement that followed, and how that movement merged with a small fellowship called Calvary Chapel and exploded into a globe-spanning revival) is so fascinating, so thought-consuming, that I've been waking up three or four nights a week around 2:00 a.m. with a head full of questions. On those nights, I start the coffee earlier than usual and work through dawn.

All that to say, I've begun to fall out of love with the internet. I still need it for research, and I still prefer email to trying to scrounge up an envelope and stamp, but I've also never been more aware of what a time killer it is. I've got three email accounts, a MySpace, a Facebook, MyChurch, a knitting group on Ravelry, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Plaxo, our women's ministry blog, my own blog, my author site, a column for Christian Women Online, a Sparks People page, and two yahoo groups (out of 18) that I read regularly. I just know I'm forgetting another something or two. And that doesn't even take into consideration the fact that most of you have MySpace, Facebook, MyChurch, Ravelry, Goodreads, LindIn, blog, blog, blog pages that I should be reading and keeping up with.

How does a person keep up with all that? Here's a more thought-provoking question: Should a person keep up with all that? Because I have to tell you, the last two days I've almost completely ignored the internet--and it's been pure bliss. Instead of checking in 17 times a day, I checked in once. Period. Yesterday I didn't get online until 8:00 p.m., which is a first for me. And yes, it means I have dozens of emails to get through. It means I haven't posted anything new on any of my blogs or groups. But I've loved the disconnect. Loved, loved, loved it. I felt like I'd chewed through the chain around my ankle and was finally relearning the joy of dancing.

I don't know what I'm going to do with all these thoughts swirling about my head. Do I burn my Mac dial-up connector and disappear from cyber space all together? Do I go back to being a woman who got all her stimulation and information from books, conversations, and the library? Or do I dare try to limit myself to just a short, harmless spurt every day? Is that even possible--or is the internet a drug? Can you have just a tiny bite and walk away any time you want?

It's odd, because I didn't mean to let all that out. What I meant to do--in one short paragraph--was say, "I haven't been online much and haven't had time to post, but here's a fun test you can take." Instead, I flopped down on a cyber couch and had a little session, right in front of all y'all.

Well, I'm getting up now and getting back to my real job. Here's the fun test. Come back and tell me how fast you type.

And if you have any words of wisdom about all the other stuff, I'll take that too.

100 words

Speed test



Tuesday, April 01, 2008

blog tour: do hard things

Do Hard Things - Amazon Book BombWhen the invitation came to do another book review, my immediate thought was, No time. But then I read the book's title: Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.

I have teenagers. I hate low expectations. So I accepted the invitation and waited for my book. When it came, I was interested to discover that the authors, Alex and Brett Harris, are the twin sons of Gregg and Sono Harris, homeschooling pioneers I've heard in person, and the brothers of Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Good-bye. Somehow, being familiar with their family made me feel I already knew the boys. I assumed they'd tackle their chosen topic with the same passion their brother and parents had always shown, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll be honest and tell you that I'm only half-way through the book. But this is a book I'll not only finish, I'll pass along. My daughter has already informed me she's the first in line. I'm grateful.


With over 10 million hits to their website TheRebelution.com, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

With over 10 million hits to their website TheRebelution.com, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Alex and Brett Harris founded TheRebelution.com in August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway, The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Alex and Brett live near Portland, Oregon.

Want to win a copy of Do Hard Things? Leave a comment on this post and you'll be included in the drawing later this week.