27 November 2012


The feeling that I have to do something to be someone is crippling. And it's a lie.

Truthfully, we were meant to rule, meant to sit upon the thrones of an unbroken Earth. In the mystery of that all but forgotten dream, men and women act together for the good of all things: soil, plant, ocean, animal, person, cosmos - all things.

Yet that is a dream, no, a nightmare. All of time pushes that memory on us. We know what we were made of and made for, at least if we mine deeply enough into ourselves, we know. But because we refuse to accept the Way back to real accomplishment - the kind that does good out of who we are, not for the sake of becoming good - we only seek to do great things in order to silence the nightmare that whispers we've failed.

And of course we have failed. Read one news article on the BBC, or any other news site about the state of the nations, and prove to me we haven't.

And of course I have failed. Shadow me for one day, or half a day, and note how I give in to bitterness and anger, and prove to me I haven't.

I have spurned the throne I was made to sit upon, and so have you.

The paradox is we attempt to rebuild that throne, though we use materials that melt in the noonday sun - really, by noon I'm too tired to hold up the mask of respectability I've constructed to wear in front of my students and my children; I wilt under the heat from heaven, and by the end of the day I'm sitting in the pool of my pseudo-throne.

Then, if I listen hard enough and submit to Christ, I stop doing for my own sake - I even stop doing anything at all. I'm still. The Voice I know reminds me of what He's making me, of who I already am in Him: His.

I see the throne I have broken; He's rebuilding it.

And on that day, the one when the dead will no longer be dead, He will finish His work so I can resume mine - and I will be fully equipped to do what He intended for me to do in the first place.

11 May 2012

An Outsider's Look at Poetry

Johnny Cade, the quiet greaser from S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, has made me take a fresh look at why poetry - and literature in general - is important. We're reading the novel in most of my classes, and reading a book four times a day has opened me up to things I would have missed otherwise.

This is what jumped out at me today:

"'You know," Johnny said slowly, 'I never noticed colors and clouds and stuff until you kept reminding me about them. It seems like they were never there before.'"

Colors, clouds, and stuff - they may as well have not been there. That is until the poetic Ponyboy observes and shares with his friend. I had a similar experience the first full year out of college; newly married and newly moved to Tennessee, it seemed I had never before seen the trees or flower blossoms, or heard the songs of birds, or the dancing of streams. I was jobless - and I was reading Dante. I'm not sure which actually opened my eyes to everything around me, but Dante sure did make me slow down and search for meaning.

07 May 2012

A-Z Reflection: A Sculpted April

The first time I read about the A-Z Challenge, I thought it was madness. Now that I can look back and see that I actually finished it, I know it's madness.

However, a crazy ride like April was a welcome break from normality. It was good to be mad for at least a month.

My first post was A is for Acrostic, a fitting start to a month of writing with a specific form in mind. All too often discipline and form get a bad name for their restrictive nature. However, I found that designing my posts around a theme (beautiful things) and a letter of the alphabet made my writing flow instead of sputter. That starting point, the direction, is often what I'm missing in my posts and in my other writing. I know I have a burden for writing, and I know the words will come if I can get started, but sometimes I need a kick in the pants. The A-Z Challenge was that kick.

I am so very thankful to everyone who stopped by and commented on my posts, and I have to confess - and beg forgiveness - that I'm not a good commenter (my blog isn't an exception) or even visitor. I am planning on plodding through the list of participants though, so stay with me!

04 May 2012

C.S. Lewis and Screwtape

Another good quote from Lewis*
Hang around long enough and you'll quickly learn that I won't go long periods of time without reading Lewis. His letters have been a great way to be in a state of perpetual immersion; I read a bit here and there, and I'm never really out to finish the three volume set, but only enjoy.

Lately, I've been reading The Screwtape Letters. It's my second time through, and I've surprised myself at how much of the book I've remembered. However, the more I think about why I remember so much, the more I realize it's because the book is so probing and accurate. It's a work every Christian has to read, and every non-Christian needs to try. Satirical, witty, and convicting, Lewis has me laughing one minute, and praying the next.

The book takes the form of a senior demon, Screwtape, writing letters to his "nephew" Wormwood. Each letter contains advice on how to tempt Wormwood's patient away from the Enemy, that is, God.

02 May 2012

IWSG: Rest vs. Work

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the IWSG! It's good to get back on track after taking a break in April - well, not so much break...

April was a whirlwind. The A-Z Blogging Challenge was fun, and I appreciate a discipline like that (especially the form - it gave me a starting point, which is something I don't always have), but I need a breather.

Writing almost every day was something I hadn't done in quite a while. The pressure to post 26 times last month was evidently what I needed to get into a regular grove. However, it's clear that May will include much more rest.

There are a few things I want to accomplish, yet I want to maintain a balance this month - a balance that will continue to challenge me while I seek downtime. It's the same at school; I need to help my students finish strong, but I also want them to enjoy their last few weeks as 7th graders (when I say enjoy I mean read, they hear work or boring).

30 April 2012

Z is for Z

is for Z.

There is a beginning - we are fresh, excited, and willing.

There is an end - we are worn out, empty, and dragging.

There was an A. Words flowed. Now Z. ...

We don't like to talk much about endings, do we? Trying to end a book well is not only difficult as a writer, but it's sad too. The experience with characters as they develop is one we want to continue. As a reader, a good book, one that traps me in its pages whether I'm holding it or not, is emotional to finish - I want to know what happens to Frodo and Sam, but I'd also like to keep reading perpetually. It's as though they die when the book is over!

Saying goodbye to people, especially due to a move or a death, is painful too. So much so it can seem unnatural. For the longest time after my grandpa died, especially after our first child was born, I would have thoughts like, "Oh, I've got to tell grandpa!" And for a moment he was still alive.

28 April 2012

Y is for Yes

is for Yes.

Yesterday I was fighting fatigue, and I found myself telling my boys no, or not yet, or maybe (just putting them off until I said no later). It's still bugging me.

In I is for Imagination I described a time when I came home and was immersed in play; it's not always like that. There are times, like yesterday, that I say no to something my boys want to do and I don't know why. I might have plans of my own, but even if I don't, it slips out. When I reflect on the fact that I've told them no to a game of baseball, or a trip to the park, I regret it.

Don't get me wrong, my boys need to get used to hearing, and heeding, a no from their parents - but there are different kinds, aren't there? Saying no to slapping a face is not the same as a no to a book because there's a game on TV, or because I'm tired.

27 April 2012

X is for Xylem

is for Xylem.

I am fascinated by the structure of a tree - and this may be cheating to talk about trees again, but I can't help it.

Xylem is basically wood, however, it's the part of the tree (or plant) that does the heavy lifting. Through the xylem, and the phloem, water is carried to branches and leaves.

Without this part of the tree, well, there is no tree. The xylem is why it seems trees can defy gravity by pulling water up from the ground. I remember doing science experiments when I was first learning about plants; we used dye and a young translucent plant so we could watch the water travel in what seemed like an impossible way.

26 April 2012

W is for Wind

is for Wind.

The obvious nature of this post won't be so obvious to everyone. My family and I live on the plains, and to go a day without wind is unusual.

My mind ends up personifying the wind, whether breeze or gale, and yesterday the boys and I played under a large cottonwood tree - the wind blowing hard. A few times I looked up and listened to the shaking leaves, it sounded like clapping hands. I'm looking forward to when that same tree lets its cottonseed go; if the wind is in attendance, it will seem like snow.

Not only does the wind seem to make human the things around us, it should also remind us of what gave us life in the beginning.

25 April 2012

V is for Vapor

is for Vapor.

Every once in a while I'll catch it on my way to work: the vapor rising over the green wheat. I want to stop and walk through it, but I'm usually late. I suppose it's one of those moments, a Robert Frost moment, "...The woods are lovely, dark, and deep/But I have promises to keep..."

Do you have those moments? Something of beauty calls you into it, yet heeding the call is all but impossible - or it seems that way. When the vapor rises from the ground, I've seen it in the early evening lately too, I want to melt into it.

24 April 2012

U is for Underdog

is for Underdog.

The underrated, the unlikely, the unable - why do we want them all to prove themselves? And it doesn't matter the event or the contenders, be it sport for team or country, or success in academics, or oppression thrown off in war - those who should not win, should not succeed, or couldn't possibly be free, give us the most pleasure when they do the unthinkable.

Perhaps there are so many underdogs among us, ourselves included, that we need to see the unbelievable. Perhaps it feels a bit like justice, like oppression lifted - even in athletics.

In sports there is no better example than the Dodgers of 1988 - at least, they are why I will always love to see the Dodgers win, and I will always remember their title run.

23 April 2012

T is for Trees

is for Trees.

This morning I'm struck by the fact that the T looks like a tree, especially the way it hangs over the r above. I can imagine the r as a shade loving plant, or a nap-taker rocking in a hammock.

I'm struggling to write this post because I know it will be inadequate; there are too many things to say about trees, and not a day passes that I don't admire them no matter the season.

Even though I can't get enough shade, and the warm months are easier for me, I am learning the raw beauty of bare branches. And when those branches begin to warm in the spring air and sap runs to their tips, the color change is in motion before flowers have a chance to win my imagination - that is good for the eyes.

21 April 2012

S is for Student

is for Student.

I teach the 7th grade - I'll just let that settle in for a moment.

Plenty of my students refuse to carry out their basic function: to learn. However, there are others who have the hunger, the curiosity, and the work ethic it takes to be a good student.

What I go for is to make lifelong students - those funky kind of people who never stop investigating, never stop asking questions. These are the truly beautiful students, these are the readers and the conversationalists. And with the technology we have these days, it's difficult to make a child a reader.

20 April 2012

R is for Reflection

is for Reflection.

One of the reasons I began this blog was to give myself a platform for thinking. Writing is a passion that I see as a way to digest the world as it comes at me; it takes a lot of reflection to digest well.

Our world may be a better place if more of us took time to sit and think, yet we rarely see value in think-time. If I sit at my desk and stare out the window and a student or another teacher comes in, I will most likely feel embarrassed that I was caught doing nothing.

And I'm guilty of accusing my students of wasting time during an assignment if they're sitting idle, sometimes they're thinking, sometimes they're not. Why is it so hard for me to let them think through a question?

Well, reflection takes time.

19 April 2012

Q is for Questions

is for Questions.

(The first thing that went through my mind was, how do I start this post? Great question.)

My children have taught me, or retaught me, that questions are innate; the past two years have been filled with the question why.

About everything.

"It's time for dinner, please come to the table."
"Because it's time to eat."
"Because we're hungry."
"Because our bodies need calories to live."
"Because that's the way God made us."

The last phrase is used at the end of many "why" sessions. However, I do believe it's important to answer as fully as possible any question my children ask. Why? Because they really do want to know the answer, and they're learning language every time they hear their mom and I talk.

18 April 2012

P is for Poetry

is for Poetry - you knew that was coming, didn't you?

At school I'm in the middle of teaching a unit on poetry, and let me tell you my students jumped up and down when I first told them we were going to spend at least two weeks on it!

No really, they threw their books on the floor and jumped on them repeatedly.

And so I had to begin with this statement: everyone likes poetry. The cries of agreement were never stronger. Then I asked them, "How many of you like music?" Only the students who like to disagree with everything said they didn't. Then I said, "You just proved me right - everyone likes poetry because the majority of the world likes music."

That goes for you too - you know you like music, at least some kind of it, therefore you like poetry because music is poetry!

17 April 2012

O is for Ocean

is for Ocean.

Most of our planet is ocean, and we have explored very little of it. The other day I heard a story on the radio about James Cameron's adventure to the deepest part of the Pacific. He dove seven miles and filmed what I can only imagine to be incredible footage - I can't wait to see what is actually produced from it.

I grew up within driving distance to the Pacific, and I have vivid memories of exploring the beach and the water. The power of the waves is still with me; wiping out on my boogie-board was sometimes painful, but after a while I figured out it's best just to let the tide take over. Being rolled by the waves in this way is actually a fond memory, like wrestling with your dad - he may throw you around a bit, but that's what you wanted anyway! I love diving under water too, so I didn't mind if a couple waves held me down.

16 April 2012

N is for Names

is for Names.

Well, what's in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Perhaps.

Yet there's a phenomenon when something is named, especially in people - they tend to become what they're called, they grow into that name. It could be the name they received at birth, it could be the name their friends give them at school or in play, or worse, it could be the name a bully has crafted for them.

There are exceptions to be sure, but we will become what we're called if we believe those who are naming us. It helps, too, to know what your name means before you believe it.

14 April 2012

M is for Marriage

is for Marriage.

In the world of relationships, marriage is the most beautiful.

I could write about stability for children, the family unit, or even the benefits society gleans from marriage. And maybe, in a roundabout way, I will.

However, what I want to say is simpler than those and more vital: marriage was designed to first eliminate the extremes of solitude. Love and baby making are good offshoots, but lonely people are not whole people.

God's words were something like, "It is not good for man to be alone."

13 April 2012

L is for Lilacs

is for Lilacs.

This spring we've been the glad recipients of blooming lilac bushes. My wife and I were trying to decide whether it's been four or five years since we first planted our lilacs, but either way it's exciting to finally have flowers.

We dug a few plants from my in-law's garden, drove them to our place, and planted them immediately. Of course we wanted them to bloom right away, but we knew it may be at least the next spring before that happened. It was a bummer that next year when all we got was more green and no purple.

Yet we continued to care for them each year, and last fall I cut them back pretty hard.

12 April 2012

K is for Kite

is for Kite.

I have some wonderful memories involving windy days and handmade kites - you know, the ones with knotted rags for a tail. It was the best when we could make it to the beach and fly them over the water.

What a thrill it is for a child to finally see their kite off the ground, especially if they've had to do lots of running to get it done. I remember wanting to fly my kites on days without wind; I would run and run, trying to find the least bit of a gust - and it would lift off the ground for a moment, only to fall when I stopped sprinting.

Those days made the windy ones even better. A kite that flies almost immediately, as though it has a mind of its own and it wants just as badly to be soaring over your head, is thrilling to watch.

11 April 2012

J is for Jesus

is for Jesus.

(If you haven't read H is for Home, you may want to start there - this post will function as a part two.)

I suspect there will be many posts today about Jesus, and rightfully so. There are a million things to say about him, but I'll try and stick to one: this Man-God is what we ache for.

Throughout our lives we will try to fill that certain hole with whatever we can cram into it, and many of us even choose valuable things - like family and the idea of home. That idea is basically peace. We want to be at peace through belonging, security, and happiness. Yet even if we attain a wonderful house-full of family - loving family - that house is still only a house.

If we can't gain a home, a true home, why do we want one?

10 April 2012

I is for Imagination

is for Imagination.

As I stepped into our living room the other day, I didn't realize I was actually walking into Never Never Land; I was then attacked by Jake and Cubbie because, as I was informed, I was not only in Never Never Land, I was also Captain Hook.

But only for about 3 minutes.

Soon we were transported from Never Never Land to a baseball field where the pitcher is now called a catcher, the batter runs whether he hits the ball or not, and no matter how many pitches the catcher throws it's always strike two.

09 April 2012

H is for Home

is for Home.

Not house - home.

We've all made the mistake though, haven't we - mistaking houses for homes? My family and I are in the middle of remaking our house so we can move back into it in a couple months. It's easy to believe our happiness will be complete when certain improvements are done.

In fact, everything will be easier - parenting, work, marriage - all those things that are so complex right now will be simplified once we're back in our house. These thoughts clear up when I remember it's only a house we're going back to - and it will not satisfy the ache.

07 April 2012

G is for George

is for George.

More specifically, St. George, the patron saint of England.

And I suppose it's more his story, his myth that is beautiful - more so than his name (but have you looked in a dictionary lately under George? Depending on your version, there are at least half a page of Georges! And no Foremans either. A couple of my other favorite Georges are W. Carver and MacDonald, poke around a bit and you're sure to find something about them too).

The popular story about St. George portrays him as a dragon-slayer, the more historical account describes him as a martyr of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Both stories are good in their own right, but I'm a sucker for dragons.

06 April 2012

F is for Flame

is for flame.

Fire is a basic element, so basic we forget how vital it is. A fire draws people to it for warmth and light, it burns away filth, it cooks.

A few months ago the boys and I were in the backyard, they were playing ball or in the dirt, and I was supposed to be grilling. Instead, I was building a fire in the fire pit. The boys stayed around for a while because I told them they could help, but when the first few attempts to light it failed, they moved on to more active things.

The truth was I just wanted to sit and stare at the burning wood. Fire, especially the solitary flame, is mesmerizing; when the wood burns down, begins to fall apart, the embers are still glowing, still emitting small flames that you can only see if you stare hard.

05 April 2012

E is for Earth

Flipping the image didn't seem right...
is for earth, that is, the dirt we all came from.

Even now we're shaking off the chill of winter. The gardens are still softening. Rain brings a new smell to things, a smell I've come to equate with a promise of color.

I still can't quite believe what happens when a seed is planted: a dead, dried up plant fragment receives water, light, and warmth, and produces another plant. No matter how many times I see it, the process is thrilling.

The earth embraces what is lifeless and releases what is reborn; it allows the fragile stems of pines and roses to poke their heads through its surface, then supports and grows them as long as they live.

In many ways, the earth is rightfully called mother.

The other day I was driving home and I drove through some dust; it was a huge cloud, and as I was in it, I wondered at our ability to trivialize the amazing - mostly because of our familiarity with it. Within that earth-cloud, I remembered - again - what I was crafted from.

04 April 2012

D is for Double-Play

is for double-play.

I was shocked when I realized I haven't written about baseball on this blog yet. This is far from a sports blog, but the great American game was a large part of my history, so I will remedy its absence today.

If you're not a baseball fan, first of all I'm sorry, second I think you can still appreciate the double-play. During my years as a ballplayer, I played middle infield - that is, either shortstop or second base - and the majority of that time at second. Any baseball fan will tell you that a team is as good as its middle: catcher, pitcher, short, second, center.

This game of ours, the American pastime, is beautiful in so many ways, but the play that is most like poetry in motion is the double-play - especially if Vin Scully calls it (D could just as well have been for Dodgers). If you don't watch or listen to any baseball this year, at least listen to Vin one time; he's been with the Dodgers since the Brooklyn days, and is a great storyteller.

But back to the double-play.

03 April 2012

C is for Coffee

We couldn't find the C.
is for coffee.


Some mornings I need it, others I crave it. I try and try to keep the "need" to a minimum, because the latter is a much better experience.

I know several people who love the smell of the chopped bean and the swirling steam, but the bitter taste keeps them away. Some have a sweet tooth, some like sour foods, but I gravitate toward the earthy - and coffee is the main attraction.

Our small town has two cafes and a shop that serves coffee; I have to drive 30 minutes to the nearest Starbucks. I'm never really impressed with restaurant coffee anywhere (the cafes, all cafes as far as I can tell, serve thin, watery stuff; I tell myself it's so the farmers can chat and drink five or six cups, but I know it's not cheap to make the strong stuff), and the result is: I like my brew best.

02 April 2012

B is for Boys

is for boys.

My plan was to write about books today, but those two rascals I hear sleeping in the other room just wouldn't let it be. They love reading enough to at least make a connection between boys and books, and reading is one of the few activities that will get them to sit still. Books are valuable, boys are more so.

And even if you don't have children, you know some boy who makes you smile - or grind your teeth. The dirt, the wrestling, the sprinting, the yelling, the questions ("Why dad?")! The phrase, "Boys will be boys" may anger me, but I know why it exists. If our boys don't get outside every day - I can't explain how thankful I am for spring - they're different creatures. B may be for boys, but boys are for the outdoors.

01 April 2012

A is for Acrostic

is for acrostic.

Let me start with a bit of a bellyache: the world of poetry has died, and we have killed it. The poet has lost the trust of readers everywhere - I blame free verse. Wait, I mean free prose...

The acrostic may not be the most popular form of poetry, but it is compelling when done well. And, to be honest, I haven't seen any English acrostics that are worth reading. I'm not counting Psalm 119 because it's not an English poem.

Psalm 119 is striking, and when you consider the form and the theme, it becomes more so: an acrostic made up of 22 stanzas, 8 verses each, with every verse beginning with that stanza's letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the theme is God's Law. Wait, God's Law?

31 March 2012

Beautiful Things (The A-Z Blogging Challenge)

Last year I posted some music by Gungor from their album titled Beautiful Things. Listen to the title track here, or go to their site: Gungor.

I was blessed with that very CD at Christmas. During that time, I was pondering the A-Z Challenge and what I could possibly post about every day. The music, the idea behind it all, and the overall theme for my blog helped me come up with this: an A-Z list of beautiful things. I'll be reflecting on what I see as worth thinking about and what is worth our attention.

Through Solzhenitsyn I was given this quote from Dostoyevsky, "Beauty will save the world." I believe it. What is beautiful points us toward God, toward wholeness.

And so April will be dedicated to this challenge; the challenge to post every day, and the challenge to see beauty in what is all around us. It's there, let's look together!

20 March 2012

Quick Update

I'm not gone,
I'm not upset;
I haven't forgotten,
I haven't let go.

I'll write again - I promise.
The fact is, I am writing,
Just come back in April...

07 March 2012

IWSG: What You Have to Write

Once again, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the IWSG! This event came just at the right time for me - I need some support, and I hope you find encouragement in my words.

Forgive me if I've said this before - no, don't (I was told never to apologize for what I write or how I write it. After all, if I think it's worth it, someone's bound to agree). And maybe it's important enough to hear over and over again; it's this: listen to that burning inside your heart before you write.

Don't you remember? The whole reason you started writing in the first place? Right now I'm at a point where I haven't done much writing, even on this blog, for quite a while. I think July of last year was the last time I worked on my MS, or even looked at a proposal and query letter. That's wearing me out.

05 March 2012

Rumors of Spring

Out of death comes life. Sleeping birds awake
And hunker down no more, of the sunlight,
Of the warm air they chatter, believing
Winter gone. With them all creation lifts
Its voice; new light too summons new green, new
Life. Yet we wait for color in earnest,
For the threat of ice to go; even so:
The earth tilts its ear, the sun whispers "Spring!"

29 February 2012

Words are Few

My mind is tired. I'll let the pictures talk today (er, this week). 

27 February 2012

A Sunday Drive

Last night I found out I'm not as adventurous as I thought; I am no Huck Finn, nor am I Ishmael or even close to a Charles Wallace. My family is out of town, so I decided to take a drive into the countryside with my camera. I intended to get out of the car - I didn't, that is, until I came back into town.

I was looking for water (so I told myself); I was looking for a path off the road; I don't know what I was looking for, really. I may have found it if I had stopped and walked - I didn't. But the park was nice. Sorry. The pictures aren't great, but it's what I got over the course of an hour or so tonight. It was fun even if I didn't walk the country.

Oh, and the deer were much more curious than the cows.

22 February 2012

Quality or Quantity?

Last weekend was one for the record books. With the exception of June and July, I can't remember a recent weekend that was better for our family. We didn't do anything special, in fact there were times when we didn't do anything but sit on the floor and laugh at the silly antics of our boys.

The height of our rest together came Sunday night when we played hide-and-seek before bath time. It's the best when our two year old counts with his eyes open and runs to your hiding place with as much joy as if he didn't know where to look; or even better, he is so excited about his new ability to count to ten that he counts along while he's hiding nearby.

We haven't laughed like that as a family for months. It was quality time.

I'm wondering though, do our boys care whether we're laughing and having a grand time, or would they simply prefer the presence and attention of their parents?

20 February 2012

Write a Letter

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis is one of those books (or volume of books) I plod through; I read several things at a time, but this work is one I put down for long periods, pick up now and then, and read slowly.

Several weeks ago I came across this:
It is the immemorial privilege of letter-writers to commit to paper things they would not say: to write in a more grandiose manner than that in which they speak: and to enlarge upon feelings which would be passed by unnoticed in conversation.
Lewis was a teenager when he wrote that. A genius for sure.

I am often convicted when I read his work, but this time Lewis shines a light on something rather simple: letter writing. The volumes mentioned above total over 3,000 pages, I doubt I've even written 20. Times have changed, but time has not; I can't help but think the writers of long ago, and not so long ago, used their time more wisely.

15 February 2012

Ordinary, Common, or Familiar?

Monday I mentioned that I'm reading Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle. She is challenging me to think about my faith, and the reality of things, in a new way; she's presenting me, again, with childlike faith. It's been great to read this reflection on art and creativity right after reading Wind in the Door, which has in it some of the same ideas - however, in this nonfiction book she makes clear that ideas she presented in her fictional work are to her "probable impossibles."

Like time travel for instance, she presents it as a skill mankind has lost.

This line of thinking about what's real pushed me to think on the concept of ordinary things. We all have an idea of what is holy, what is acceptable to God, and what is common, those things we use for our own good each day. And what is it that makes us sort out the holy from the common? What is it about the lofty ceilings of a church that are so much more acceptable to God than a loft in a barn?

Well, nothing.

13 February 2012

Origin of Man O' Clay

Today I'm participating in the Origins blogfest brought on by: DL Hammons, Katie Mills, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and Matthew MacNish. Thanks to all of them for hosting!

Hop around a little from any of the links above and read how this same dream of writing got started in so many different ways.

As I mulled over my dreams of writing, I realized I can't quite place where, or when, mine began. Somewhere between my home school days when my mom made me write every day in that stupid journal, and those late nights during college when I sat in my empty room with a passion to write and nothing to write about, I just knew.

I knew I had to tell stories.

And I guess I've come a decent way from what my mom got out of me; "I just want you to write whatever you feel like writing." Many feverish minutes later she read, "I hate this journal, I hate this journal, I hate this journal..." Sorry mom - and thanks, too.

10 February 2012

Book Trends: Attracting the Distracted

I mentioned recently that I was reading James Patterson's Maximum Ride, which I enjoyed. The day I finished it I immediately picked up another book, one I was very excited to read: A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle. This is the second book in L'Engle's Time Quintet, coming after A Wrinkle in Time. (Now that I've finished that as well, I'm reading Walking on Water, by L'Engle, which is a must-read).

These two books were published three decades apart, the latter first, and I can't help but note the difference in layout for reasons I'll try and explain. The experience of Maximum Ride was a somewhat new one, mostly because it is the definition of a page turner. Each chapter is hardly two pages, sometimes barely one, and I flew through it. I didn't notice the effect this had on me until I opened A Wind in the Door; I found my eyes darting over the full pages of L'Engle's work, and my fingers itched to move. I felt like I had been driving 90mph and then had to slow down to 30 - you know that feeling? It's as though you're crawling.

The thing is these books probably had about the same word count, and I'm guessing they were both written for the 12 and up crowd (though L'Engle might have said something like, "Emphasis on the up"). However, A Wind in the Door is 211 pages, Maximum Ride is 413. The result: I read much slower, especially because the older book was thick not only in appearance, but also in content.

08 February 2012

Refuse to be Random

I've not totally figured out why so many people are attached to the idea that being random is somehow beneficial. In high school several teachers had posters that read, "Practice random acts of kindness." At the time I thought that was cool, it made me think about doing things for others. Now I see the folly in it.

First of all the idea doesn't quite work. If you set out to do something random, it is no longer random. The thing you thought was random is now something you've set your mind to. And I guess that's the point: our random acts should instead be intentional.

Then there's the trickle of randomness into relationships - especially romance. If a couple is no longer spontaneous, their love must be dead. And the danger to most marriages is that people go into them thinking the romance will remain random, spontaneous, and "alive."

My marriage is alive, yet I don't think I've been spontaneous in loving my wife in years. And the truth is I can't afford to be.

01 February 2012

Do You Like My Blog?

Teralyn Pilgrim over at A Writer's Journey is putting on a blogfest today called Critique My Blog. Click on the link to see her blog or the launch page.

So, do you like my blog? I'd love to know what you think.

Here are some of the things Teralyn posted as far as doing your critique:
  1. Appearance: Does it appeal to you? Is it too busy, or too plain?
  2. Layout: Is it difficult to navigate? Is it cluttered, or sparse?
  3. Frequency: Does the blogger post too often? Not often enough?
  4. Content: Are the posts interesting? Unique? Are they focused, or all over the place?
  5. Quality: Are the individual posts too long, too short, too sloppy, or too generic?

Jump in! Whether you are participating in the blog hop or not, I'd appreciate your thoughts. Take a look and leave a comment on this post. Thanks!

IWSG: When You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say

Once again, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the IWSG! Check out the launch page at the link above and join the fun!

I don't know how many times I've heard it, and that little saying might be cliche, but it's a worthy saying. I've said it in my classroom countless times - and I don't even have to finish it, I just say, "Hey, if you don't have anything nice to say," and the student usually says, "Don't say anything."

The same is true of writing. And although nice isn't quite the right word - maybe worthwhile fits better - the idea is the same.

30 January 2012

A Little Help from Alan Jacobs and James Patterson

Every now and then I'll find good words that rekindle my teaching. Because my curriculum is founded on independent reading, I don't do a lot of projects or many other formal assessments besides weekly vocabulary quizzes. It's difficult to quantify student growth this way, and I find myself questioning my method every so often. It's then that I need a reminder that even though I can't always see the benefit, reading itself is worth the investment.

Last week one of my students threw a book on my desk and said, "You need to read this. It's over 400 pages, but it's a quick read." I looked at the title and cringed. Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment. I'm still trying to get used to the Young Adult scene, and I usually avoid popular fiction when I can. Yet, when a student gives me a book to read, I like to oblige - and I need to bite the bullet and do much more YA reading anyway.

So, I'm halfway through the book; my initial reaction is once I got used to the perspective (14 year old Max is the narrator - although it jumps at places and is a bit confusing), it's enjoyable - Patterson is a good storyteller.

What's more, at the back of the book there was an advertisement for Patterson's website, ReadKiddoRead.com. The site is great, and I'll put it to use to find books for my students. However, there was also a link to an article Patterson wrote last September for CNN: How to get your kid to be a fanatic reader.

There are some great resources for parents and teachers, including reading lists. But the encouragement for me came in something simple: Patterson said, in order to get children to read, they have to read. Yes, I've known it, but it's great to hear it again and again. Find books youngsters will enjoy and they will read. Then repeat.

25 January 2012

Hide Yourself

There's no doubt in my mind that I'm unable to love; the simple and most important commandment is given to those who can't carry it out. At least not the way we are on our own.

Lately it's been hard to love anyone, my students, my boys, my wife; there was a haze settled all around me that I couldn't see through. The worst of it was that I couldn't even diagnose the problem. Usually you can at least attribute your lacking to something. This time it took me awhile.

Over the weekend my older son woke up from his nap and wanted to sit with me. "Will you rock me while I watch the letter movie?" He's all about learning his letters. So we rocked and watched a whole movie. What surprised me was that he sat through the entire show; he was still, and didn't ask questions. Only when the T.V. was off did he slide down and play.

It took awhile - again - to make any sort of connection, but it came.

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