I've moved to another two blogs, one on writing, and one on general stuff like this one. Please come visit! MY NEW BLOGS:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Poem: Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers

by: Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)

HE breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed;

And the heavy night hung dark,
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roared--
This was their welcome home.

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst the pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow, serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They have left unstained what there they found --
Freedom to worship God.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Cab Ride

This was sent to me by email. I thought it was a good story.

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! Did you make a list of all of the things you're thankful for?


The Cab Ride

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4, NASB)

During the early 1600s the Puritans (so named because they wanted to restore Christianity to its "ancient purity") relocated from England to Holland, before deciding they would sail to the New World to establish their own colony where they could worship in peace and without secular pressures and temptations.

They sailed from Holland back to England, and were joined by farmers and tradesmen. On September 16th, 1620, the small Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers seeking a new life in America. (The Mayflower originally had 90 passengers, but when a second ship the Speedwell couldn't sail, 12 of those passengers were added).

On November 19, 1620, the land of the new world was first sighted. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown Bay, Massachusetts, far north of the Virginia colonies for which they had been aiming.

Although the passengers debated going south, they finally decided to stay where they were for the winter. Before setting foot on the shore, on November 21st, 1620 (November 11th according to the Julian Calendar, 10 days behind the Gregorian Calendar), 41 of the Pilgrims and other colonists signed the Mayflower Compact that read:

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread* Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

*Note: The "dread sovereign" referred to in the document uses the archaic definition of "dread," meaning awe and reverence (for the King), not fear.

Scouting parties identified Plymouth as a place to settle, and on December 30th 1620 the pilgrims disembarked here. Governor William Bradford, describing the first landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth that December, writes:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.... What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. The season it was winter, sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?

The settlers built log huts. Weakened by the long journey, cold, lack of food, and disease, nearly half of the settlers died that first winter. They buried their dead at night so the Indians wouldn't observe their weakness.

In March of 1621, an Indian named Samoset who knew a few English words visited and then introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, an Indian who had lived in England. Squanto brought corn, and taught the pilgrims how to adapt to the new environment.

In the autumn of 1621 Governor William Bradford set aside a day for public Thanksgiving to God in gratitude for the blessings already received. Chief Massosoit was invited, and brought 60 braves, 5 dressed deer, a dozen wild turkeys and popcorn.

On this day, we are hopefully fortunate enough to sit in our warm homes surrounded by dear ones and enjoying a groaning table full of food. Let us not forget the great blessings and privileges we have and perhaps take as a matter of course. Make a list. Here are a few things I'm grateful for:

God, life, family and dear friends (both here and gone), and the opportunities to pursue dreams

As I read this over, I'm suddenly realizing the things I'm grateful for are the values set forth in the Constitution -- wow, what inspired geniuses they were who set up this country, starting from the Mayflower Compact on up.

I'd love comments to hear what you are grateful for, and how you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Divorce

A little irreverent, but pretty funny :-) If you're traveling, have a safe trip!


A man in Jacksonville calls his son in San Diego the day before Thanksgiving and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Denver and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"

She calls Jacksonville immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're both coming for Thanksgiving, and they're paying their own way."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Hero's Mirror

In writing your story, what is your protagonist most afraid of as he pursues the story goal? A useful technique to make his fear larger and more tangible to the reader or viewer is to use a mirror.

The mirror character often acts as an antagonist (not necessarily the primary antagonist) in the story to *block* the hero from reaching his goal, meaning that the hero has constant run-ins with the mirror. But who is this character?

The mirror character is, or used to be, very similar to the protagonist, and faced the same dilemma or moral choice or fear that the hero is facing now. The difference: the mirror made the WRONG choice, and therefore shows what life will be like to the hero if he isn't able to handle this problem correctly.

Two very powerful mirrors are used by JRR Tolkien in his genius work The Lord of the Rings. As a very quick explanation in case you're not familiar with the series, the stories center around THE ONE RING as a representation of absolute power, forged by the ultimate evil called Sauron. A number of creatures, both good and bad, pursue the ring. The ring has fallen into the hands of a humble hobbit named Frodo who must carry it through dangerous lands to destroy it where it had been created, the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo is assisted by many including Samwise Gamgee and Strider.

Mirror #1: Aragorn and Isildur:

Aragorn (Strider) is the rightful heir of Gondor. He is afraid to claim the kingship because he is afraid to be corrupted by the power that it represents, and his fear is mirrored through his ancestor Isildur. Isildur was seduced by the One Ring before he could destroy it, and set into play a traumatic series of events that last many generations.

Mirror #2: Frodo and Smeagol (Gollum):

Frodo is the ringbearer until he can destroy it. He is afraid of the strong seductive power of the ring, seductive because it promises ultimate individual power to the bearer. His fear is mirrored through Smeagol (Gollum), a ruined hobbit once very similar to Frodo, who long ago found the ring and hoarded it inside the mountains. After losing the ring, Smeagol (Gollum) acts nothing so much as a drug addict trying to regain his prize, alternately helping and harming Frodo and Sam as they inexorably travel towards Mount Doom. He ultimately plots (and almost succeeds) to kill Frodo to regain the ring.

These mirrors work together in the story: Aragorn must regain the power although he is afraid, Frodo must relinquish the power although he is tempted.

While designing your story, consider whether you might be able to use a mirror. This powerful technique can add strong resonance and demonstrate your theme in a clear, tangible way.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Pie

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes or traditions? Here's one of ours that my 12 year old son proudly makes himself. I'm sure many of you already have this recipe, but it's so good and so easy that I figured what the heck? (I actually make this quite often, not just for Thanksgiving).

Top with whipped cream, Cool Whip or vanilla ice cream, and it makes a great dessert. I even let the kids eat this for breakfast when we have it; it's probably better for them than waffles or some of the cereals.

BTW I have never mastered the pie crust, although I can make one that's *OK* There's a secret to MY pies, though: Two words: GRAHAM CRACKERS.



In a 9" pie plate, combine about 1 to 1 1/4 cups crushed graham crackers (about 10 square or 5 double crackers), 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4-3/8 cup oil. Mix well and press along the bottom and walls of the plate. You can buy the graham crackers already crushed, or put them in a (sturdy) zippie bag and crush them with something -- my kids when they were little used to love this! It ruins the bag, though :-(


Preheat oven to 425F

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Mix these together until smooth. Add:

15 oz (1 can) pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix again until smooth. Pour into prepared pie plate.

Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then turn down heat in oven to 350F and bake 45 more minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean).

Cool, refrigerate, you're set!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Comforting Verse

I came upon this verse, Psalm 56:8.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Knife Lady

Not too long ago, in the afternoon while I was wiping down the kitchen counter before picking up the kids, my friend Leslie called.

"Amy," she said. "There's a girl here, Kathy, who's working her way through school by selling knives from XX company. Would you be willing for her to come over and show you her products? You don't have to buy anything."

I sighed, but since Leslie was a friend I said sure. Next week Kathy appeared at my door with a suitcase full of fancy knives, and a briefcase full of blank invoices just waiting to be filled out.

Let me just say that I didn't enjoy the experience. It took about two hours -- precious hours -- that I basically had to participate in an infomercial. First Kathy showed me a big photo album of pictures of her with her family, at school, and at the knife store in New York state where she'd visited. Then, she explained to me the anatomy of a knife (actually, of all the things this was moderately interesting to me; the length of the tongue in the handle, the types of metals and tempering used, types of serrations -- it's a real science!). Then we did some practical applications, and she proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my knives were completely inferior to hers.

I tried to engage her in conversation several times, but no, she always veered directly back to her spiel. The worst part, though, was at the end when she asked me to name three or four friends *who prepared meals.* I came up with names -- who doesn't need a knife in the kitchen SOMETIME, after all -- and she immediately said, "While I pack these supplies, why don't you call them and see if they might like to learn about these knives?" Based on the context there was a lot of pressure, and I actually found myself walking across the kitchen to the phone before a dreadful thought occurred to me.

"Are you a friend of Leslie's?" I asked.

Kathy hemmed and hawed. "Not really. I met her during a presentation like this."

I sure didn't want to subject my friends to sitting through this also. After all, I'd done it as a favor to Leslie, which turned out not to be a favor after all (still have to talk to that girl...)

The most irritating thing to me after this experience was the realization that despite the *personal* approach of Kathy with her sales, to her I was simply meat.

Thinking back, I found it interesting to analyze Kathy's sales tactics. It was a close setting, and Kathy immediately tried to establish intimacy by showing pictures of her life. The knife lecture set the stage for the utter proof of NEED -- my knives don't work, I NEED new knives! Immediately the solution is provided -- Kathy has these beautiful knives, which ones do you NEED. I looked through, said this one was nice, and she immediately whipped out an invoice and started filling it out! No price mentioned -- but believe me, the price was steep. The pressure was crushing.

I kept telling her, No. I hadn't had trouble with my knives before now, as inferior as they might be. I didn't NEED new ones. And pennies are hard to come by.

Say it again. No. I don't NEED it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Outer and the Inner

How does one design a story, whether a novel or a screenplay? I like to think of each story as actually TWO stories, an outer and an inner. The outer story shows the actions that occur in the story, just as if a camera were following them: first the hero goes to this place, he talks with so-and-so, then he hops on his motorcycle, and so forth. The inner story, on the other hand, describes an emotional problem within the hero, and how this problem is solved.

Yes, it is possible to write a story with only an outer narrative, but no matter how flashy this story might be, it will melt away as soon as it's finished. Agatha Christie Books come to mind; so does the terribly expensive movie Cat in the Hat or (for the most part; it had a rudimentary inner story) Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull --> these stories evaporate as soon as they are finished.

I do some coaching with writers for creating and developing their stories. One way to develop a story is first to figure out the THEME you want to explore, and put it in one succinct sentence. Some examples might be:

Great love overcomes even death: Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Longing for something outside the self leads to the realization that the answer has been within the self all along: Baum's The Wizard of Oz

Willingness to relinquish absolute power leads to preservation: Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

Perpetration of a great wrong leads to a great revenge taken by the victim: Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo

The story then grows from this theme. Find a line of comparison that highlights the theme (such as rich/poor), and think of scenarios through which the theme might be played. Then, imagine characters who might act in these scenarios.

Designing a story is an enormously complex process, and there is no *A-->B-->C* type of rule book. However, the theme is in many ways the engine of your story. After all, movies and novels are today's myths, and people tell myths to relay truths about the human animal. It's great to have a *shock and awe* plot, but it will fall flat if you don't have an underlying change in the character, reflecting the theme!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The House of Glass

Have you ever heard of the Glass House, also called the Johnson House? This structure was designed, then built, in 1949 by Philip Johnson on his 47 acre estate in Connecticut. The only enclosed space is the bathroom, hidden inside a brick cylinder. Mr. Johnson lived, then died here in January 2005, and the house has since become a National Landmark as a tribute to modern architecture with its use of geometry, proportion, and especially the effects of transparency and reflection.

Sometimes I think about living in this house that Mr. Johnson built, and to say the thought makes me uncomfortable is a gross understatement. The exposure of it to me would be unbearable -- I'm the kid, after all, who hung a blanket over her window so I could feel alone and safe. (Fortunately for my family I've outgrown this practice, although I still feel more comfortable if the curtains are drawn at night :-)

This house draws a metaphor for me, though, about a way this present life might be viewed. First, imagine you suddenly materialize in that glass house at night with no vision at all of what is outside -- if anything -- imagine you do not even know if something IS outside this small world. If all of the lights inside the house are blazing, you will see nothing of the outdoors because the windows will reflect the light, and you will see only reflections of the room. However, if you turn the lights down, and turn your sight to the walls and not the distractions inside the room, you will begin to see the moon, the dark shapes of trees, even stars reflecting on water outside the window. It won't be clear, of course, but you can definitely say that an adjacent environment exists, and a little about what it looks like.

Now, imagine that our present life is like living in that house at night. We can be easily distracted by things of this world, by the blazing lights inside, that reflect the room and shield any knowledge of the next world. But as the lights are dimmed through hardship and negative circumstances, it becomes possible for the next world to become more apparent.

My dear friends, don't be too distracted by the reflections of the windows. Instead, when the lights are turned down, welcome their dimming if you can, but if you can or no, always, always, strive to look beyond the glass walls.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Never Too Late

In yesterday's entry, I forgot to include this point with the thief on the cross:

It's never too late to change your path to do something good.

'Nuff said. Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Do You Love to Do?

I like to imagine that every person has a special mission, one or more accomplishments that are set apart for only him or her. Even if someone is profoundly handicapped, his or her presence and reactions and special personality somehow can work on others to potentially influence them for good.

What we do may seem inconsequential at the time, but have long-reaching repercussions. I always like to think of the two thieves each on a cross, crucified next to Jesus. One redeemed himself, one didn't. Here is the passage from Luke 23: 39-43:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (ESV)

This thief who chided the other had lived his life in such a reprobate manner that he was crucified, the most horrific and extreme form of capital punishment in the Roman Empire. The thief was dying, and yet through this one small last action the record of his existence is preserved so that we talk about him (and learn from him) 2000 years later. The thief's statement to Jesus, also and more importantly, led to his redemption if you believe in Jesus as the Son of God --> and there are good reasons to believe this. (If you don't believe this you are always welcome to email me for questions or comments; I only insist on courtesy and respect in any discussion).

So, what might your special mission or calling be? I found these questions from Dr. MaryAnn Diorio's blog. Dr. Diorio is a Christian lifecoach who helps people find direction in life. Think of something you're not sure if you should be working on or not. Then, answer these questions:

1) Does this activity give me great joy in the doing?

2) Do others consistently give me feedback that my doing this activity blesses them?

3) Would my life feel empty without this activity?

Hopefully, your answers will help to point you in a direction that will fulfill you as well as others.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Neat Opportunity for Bloggers!

Just wanted to let you know about a new offer from Thomas Nelson:


You get free books in exchange for writing for each a short review on your blog and on a commercial website like amazon.

I've posted the write-up from their website below. To sign up, go to their website at

OK, just thought this was cool. Have a great Sunday!


Become a Book Review Blogger

Benefits of being a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger:
Free review copies, link to your review on

Requirements of being a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger:
Read the whole book, post a review on your blog, post a review on any consumer retail website

Program Details

Any blogger can receive FREE copies of select Thomas Nelson products. In exchange, you must agree to read the book and post a 200-word review on your blog and on any consumer retail website.

• Sign up using the online registration form at the bottom of this page.

• You must include ALL the requested contact and mailing information. If your contact information changes at any time during your participation, you will need to sign in at and update your profile.

• Once your application is approved, Thomas Nelson will send you a confirmation email to confirm your registration as a Book Review Blogger.

• Visit and sign up for a Thomas Nelson product that you are interested in reviewing.

• Please note that not all products are available for review and that some titles will only be available in limited quantities.

• After you have requested a review copy, you will receive via email a PDF of the first two chapters and via US Mail a physical copy of the book.

• Read the book and craft a 200-word review. The review can be positive or negative, it just needs to be based on the entire book.

• Post your review on your blog and any consumer retail website (,,,,,,,,, and all have a section on each book’s product page dedicated to customer reviews).

• Visit and update your account so we can link to your review. This will allow you to sign up for another title to review.

• Thomas Nelson will contact you by email from time to time to inform you about different products available for review or sale, to check on the progress of your reviews, and to keep you abreast of Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger news.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Time Doth Fly

Rameses II, or Rameses the Great, is often considered Egypt's most powerful pharaoh, leading expeditions that are commemorated in inscriptions on ancient buildings. He built a city, Pi-Ramesses, and other monuments, temples, and cities.

Ramesses the Great ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC, and is traditionally believed to be the Pharaoh that Moses dealt with in the book of Exodus, when Pharaoh was forced to let the Israeli slaves go.

Although I've never been to Egypt myself, I know that going to see the pyramids and monuments in the Valley of the Kings and other ancient parts is a great attraction. These monuments look old and crumbling now; no one would do anything other than study them, admire them, and then go back to their own lives.

Ozymandias is the Greek name for Rameses the Great. I have always pondered Percy Shelley's poem as a cautionary tale of trying to be too important in this world.



I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NANOMANIA and Update

Just a short entry today.

I have a bunch of writer friends who are doing NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), where the writer attempts to write 50,000 words in a month. I've been interested to see how quickly my email inbox has emptied!

I'm not brave enough to go the full boat myself, although in honor of all of this effort I've been aiming to write 750-1000 words per day (5000-6000 words per week), and believe me the pages pile up. It's fun to get back to writing full time, since I've spent the last many moons getting Lever ready to roll.

I'm working on the prequel now, Nest Among the Stars, about Sara's space station disaster. I have about 50-60,000 words on it so far, with a *shock and awe* outer story. I'm buffing the inner story.

I just wanted to mention an awesome book I'm working through as I do this. This book sits by my computer, and asks insightful questions as I develop plot ideas and character entanglements. I'm freewriting lots of answers; this book has triggered some interesting ideas. Here it is:

John Truby's Anatomy of Story

OK, there's my tip for the day. Now go forth and write!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Secret Sacrifices

I boiled a pot of water yesterday, and then realized I didn't need it after all for cooking. What a waste. I sighed as I let it cool on the stove.

Doesn't it seem like life is like that pot of water? You try to do something good, and no one notices that you've done it -- or worse, there's a negative consequence! One of my favorite sayings is *No good deed goes unpunished.* :-) It's discouraging, and you may wonder why you bother when it won't make a difference.

And yet...

As I finished preparing dinner, I started thinking about that pot of water. Once it had cooled, the water looked just the same in the pot as before it had boiled, but it was now sterile -- in a mysterious and invisible way, that water was now *superior* to unboiled water.

Similarly I believe that those secret sacrifices we make may make more of a difference than we realize. Those sacrifices honor God, if nothing else, and may even be seen by Paul's *great cloud of witnesses* (Hebrews 12:1-2). I believe that everything we do for right motives, no matter how insignificant or seemingly without result, is accepted -- no effort is ever wasted. Those secret scars of the heart, that no one sees, that bleed without ceasing -- they are all observed and counted.

I was reminded of the line *they also serve who only stand and wait,* and looked this up on google. This line comes from John Milton's poem "On Blindness," and seems fitting for this discussion. We serve God, not because God needs to be served, but because He is worthy, and we take pleasure in acknowledging this.

On His Blindness

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

John Milton (1608–1674)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The 11th Day of the 11th Month

Veterans Day falls on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I -- the 11th hour of the 1th day of the 11th month in 1918. It is a day to remember the sacrifices of those in the armed services have made to defend our country.

I have heard war stories, and can't imagine the horrific circumstances that so many have had to fight through. Can you? The green clouds of gas coming for you in the trenches during World War I. The blinding artillery as you disembark from a gunship in Normandy, or the torturous Bataan death march during World War II. The hard-fought and ultimately successful battle of Inchon in Korea, or the frustration and horror of Ia Drang in Vietnam. The horror of a barracks bombing in Beirut. The exhilaration of Desert Storm, the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the capture of Sadaam Hussein.

Our American forces stand strong, fighting to defend our country and liberate others. Individual soldiers can pay a terrible price for our freedom: loss of limbs, loss of peace of mind, loss of friends, loss of family through divorce, loss of life.

Veterans, today is your day, when we honor you especially. In schools throughout the country, veterans visit to talk about the war, and the sacrifice, and the important ideals that they defend in the line of duty. Thank you, Veterans, of war and peacetime, for your service to our counry.

Monday, November 10, 2008

There's a Mouse in the House

'Tis that time of year, and there are mice in the kitchen again.

I open the drawer to find the evidence: the corner of a new bag of brown sugar gnawed through, little black specks, you know. It's always a pain to deal with this. I pull out all of the silverware, the knives and all of the cooking utensils, the waffle iron, the coffee maker, the air popper for popcorn. Then I change my clothes into whites and bleach everything, wiping off the shelves and the counters and the walls so that the fumes are thick and acrid. Everything that tolerates it goes into the dishwasher. We live with a silverware tray on the counter for a week, and it drives me crazy because the kitchen is torn up and hard to work in.

There are at least three general kinds of non-feline mouse-elimination devices: poison, glue traps, and snap traps. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. I don't do poison because it takes awhile -- the poison is coumadin, I think, and this causes uncontrolled bleeding. If the mouse dies in the walls you're stuck with a bad smell (ever pragmatic am I). So I'm left with traps.

Traps need a dab of peanut butter to entice the mouse to approach. The glue traps are definitely easier to set: you simply put them down. However, I've been less than happy with the results. The peanut butter is usually licked clean, but that's about it. Sometimes the glue trap has been pulled into the area behind the drawer (where the heating pipes run -- don't ask). I can't remember ever actually catching a mouse, but imagine if the trap does, it's pretty unpleasant for the mouse -- he will die through a long, painful process of dehydration.

The snap traps, on the other hand, are quite intimidating to set. I just have one hint for these: DON'T PUT YOUR FINGERS ANYWHERE NEAR WHERE THE TRAP WILL SPRING. Trust me on this one. To set the trap, you pull a strong spring back and secure it with a bar that purposely barely holds -- when anything touches the trap, the bar comes loose. The spring often snaps as you're setting it, and it's startling and scary.

These traps are like life, aren't they? Often we face at least two solutions to a problem: one solution will be easier to do, the other is intimidating in its radical nature. However, the gentler solution may not work, and if it does, it may take a long and painful process to actually complete its job. The intimidating solution, on the other hand, while tricky to implement, sure works when it IS set correctly. I always use the snap traps, despite their scariness. The mouse is dead quickly without suffering. Overall, the radical solution seems to be the best choice.

Think about these mousetraps the next time you must figure out how best to solve a problem. This analogy doesn't work for every situation, obviously, but maybe it fits for more situations than we might have courage to implement.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

How to Get Your Manuscript Done

I just read an interesting article that said people who write down a goal double or more the chance of accomplishing it. Wow. We've all heard to write things down, of course, but maybe it's a chestnut that needs to be revitalized. It reminded me of a very simple trick I use to finish long writing projects. When I use it, it's magic. When I don't use it, nothing gets done. Are you ready?

Two steps:

1. determine a daily or weekly writing quota of WORDS PER DAY. (not hours per day --> you want results!)

2. make a chart, and put it on your refrigerator where you always see it. Every day, write down what you've done.

Doing these two steps is amazing, I promise.

I'm keeping this entry short because you shouldn't be on the internet anyway! Get back to work!

~missing dear friends~

Friday, November 7, 2008

More Quick Chocolate for Dear Friends

The 5 minute wonder cake left me longing for this. Normally I don't make lots of desserts out of the blue, but this is definitely a chocolate weekend. Enjoy, my dear friends.

Chocolate Pudding

1 cup sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
1/2 tsp salt
dash of cinnamon
3 cups milk, or 1 cup dried milk plus 3 cups water

In a saucepan combine dry ingredients, then stir in liquid. Over medium-high heat bring to boil, stirring constantly. This takes about 10 minutes, and the mixture will thicken with slow bubbles. Boil for about a minute, then remove from heat. Stir and let sit for about five minutes to cool a bit, then stir again and pour into small dishes or a bowl. You can serve warm or cold. This is best with some Cool Whip or vanilla ice cream on top :-)

I feel like I'm contributing to the delinquency of sweet tooths all over, but oh well.

Back to serious topics tomorrow. I just needed a break today.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Natural Evolution of a Democracy

Here's another blog subject I've *lifted* from Miralee Ferrell with her permission. I don't normally hijack other blogs, but this entry was such a good reminder for me -- I've heard this description before, but forgot about it :-)

This quote is attributed to Alexander Tyler (1747-1813), a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh. He is describing democracies based in part on his observations of the Athenian Republic some 2000 years earlier.

According to the eminently reliable (ahem) source Wikipedia, an original author cannot be reliably determined for this piece. Be that as it may, the thoughts expressed are sobering and worthy of contemplation. For what it's worth, here 'tis:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

• From bondage to spiritual faith;

• From spiritual faith to great courage;

• From courage to liberty;

• From liberty to abundance;

• From abundance to complacency;

• From complacency to apathy;

• From apathy to dependence;

• From dependence back into bondage

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amazing 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake for Election Day

No matter what you hear, GO VOTE! Ignore the polls. Go vote. Don't believe anything you hear until after you've cast your ballot.

Ready now? This is a special treat for a tough day, whether you feel hopeful or afraid. (Almost) instant gratification -- what could be better? Enjoy.

The most dangerous recipe in the world: Night or day, you are only five minutes away from warm, delicious chocolate cake! Use this recipe with caution.

1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour (plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
Small splash of vanilla

Quick Chocolate Frosting

4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon baking cocoa
a few teaspoons of milk


Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla; mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little and then tip out onto a plate, if desired.

While the cake is baking, mix the chocolate frosting -- add the milk a little at a time until frosting is a pasty consistency. Spread over the cake.

For a complete dining experience, you can also top with vanilla ice cream, instead of or in addition to the chocolate frosting.

EAT! This cake can serve two if you want to share.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Message from Huntley Brown

Normally I do my writing first thing before I turn on the internet, but today I just wanted to "check" my email and you know how that goes! Anyway, I found this blog entry on Miralee Ferrell's blog and was so moved that I decided to post this letter as well.

Huntley Brown is "a Christian concert pianist whose versatile repertoire includes classical, jazz, gospel, reggae and many other styles." In part of his confirmation letter to snopes he writes, "To be honest I can't wait to vote for the first black President but it has to be a person who shares the values I read in the Bible."

Huntley Brown is an African American who was born in Jamaica and now is a US citizen. He wrote this letter privately, but it was picked up and forwarded on email. He writes in his confirmation letter to snopes that "I am not a politician. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I am a Christian independent who just loves the Lord...The sad part is I have been getting hate mail and family is being harassed."

There were some parts of this letter that he wished had not been shared, and I've cut those places out of respect for his wishes.


Why I Can't Vote For Obama
By Huntley Brown

Dear Friends, A few months ago I was asked for my perspective on Obama, I sent out an email with a few points. With the election just around the corner I decided to complete my perspective. Those of you on my e-list have seen some of this before but it's worth repeating...

First I must say whoever wins the election will have my prayer support. Obama needs to be commended for his accomplishments but I need to explain why I will not be voting for him.

Many of my friends process their identity through their blackness. I process my identity through Christ. Being a Christian (a Christ follower) means He leads I follow. I can't dictate the terms He does because He is the leader.

I can't vote black because I am black; I have to vote Christian because that's who I am. Christian first, black second. Neither should anyone from the other ethnic groups vote because of ethnicity. 200 years from now I won't be asked if I was black or white. I will be asked if I knew Jesus and accepted Him as Lord and Savior.

In an election there are many issues to consider but when a society gets abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning to name a few, wrong economic concerns will soon not matter.

We need to follow Martin Luther King's words, don't judge someone by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I don't know Obama so all I can go off is his voting record. His voting record earned him the title of the most liberal senator in the US Senate in 2007.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Obama: Most Liberal Senator in 2007 (01/31/2008)

To beat Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton as the most liberal senator, takes some doing. Obama accomplished this feat in 2 short years. I wonder what would happen to America if he had four years to work with.

There is a reason Planned Parenthood gives him a 100 % rating. There is a reason the homosexual community supports him. There is a reason Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, Hamas etc. love him. There is a reason he said he would nominate liberal judges to the Supreme Court. There is a reason he voted against the infanticide bill. There is a reason he voted No on the constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. There is a reason he voted No on banning partial birth abortion. There is a reason he voted No on confirming Justices Roberts and Alito. These two judges are conservatives and they have since overturned partial birth abortion. The same practice Obama wanted to continue.

Think about this: You can't give a kid an aspirin without parental notification but that same kid can have an abortion without parental notification. This is insane.

There is a reason he went to Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years.

Obama tells us he has good judgment but he sat under Jeremiah Wright teaching for 20 years. Now he is condemning Wright's sermons. I wonder why now?

Obama said Jeremiah Wright led him to the Lord and discipled him. A disciple is one in training. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19 - 20 'Go and make disciples of all nations.' This means reproduce yourself. Teach people to think like you, walk like you; talk like you believe what you believe etc. The question I have is what did Jeremiah Wright teach him?

Would you support a White President who went to a church which has tenets that said they have a ...

1. Commitment to the White Community
2. Commitment to the White Family
3. Adherence to the White Work Ethic
4. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the White Community.
5. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting White Institutions
6. Pledge allegiance to all White leadership who espouse and embrace the White Value System
7. Personal commitment to embracement of the White Value System.

Would you support a President who went to a church like that?

Just change the word from white to black and you have the tenets of Obama's former church. If President Bush was a member of a church like this, he would be called a racist. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton would have been marching outside.

This kind of church is a racist church. Obama did not wake up after 20 years and just discover he went to a racist church. The church can't be about race. Jesus did not come for any particular race. He came for the whole world.

A church can't have a value system based on race. The churches value system has to be based on biblical mandate. It does not matter if it is a white church or a black church it's still wrong. Anyone from either race that attends a church like this would never get my vote.

Obama's former Pastor Jeremiah Wright is a disciple of liberal theologian James Cone, author of the 1970 book A Black Theology of Liberation. Cone once wrote: 'Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him.

Cone is the man Obama's mentor looks up to. Does Obama believe this?

So what does all this mean for the nation?

In the past when the Lord brought someone with the beliefs of Obama to lead a nation it meant one thing - judgment.

Read 1 Samuel 8 when Israel asked for a king. First God says in 1 Samuel 1:9 'Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.'

Then God says

1 Samuel 1:18 ' When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.' 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. 'No!' they said. 'We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.' 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, 'Listen to them and give them a king.'

Here is what we know for sure.

God is not schizophrenic

He would not tell one person to vote for Obama and one to vote for McCain. As the scripture says, a city divided against itself cannot stand, so obviously many people are not hearing from God.

Maybe I am the one not hearing but I know God does not change and Obama contradicts many things I read in scripture so I doubt it.

For all my friends who are voting for Obama can you really look God in the face and say; Father based on your word, I am voting for Obama even though I know he will continue the genocidal practice of partial birth abortion. He might have to nominate three or four Supreme Court justices, and I am sure he will be nominating liberal judges who will be making laws that are against you. I know I can look the other way because of the economy.

I could not see Jesus agreeing with many of Obama's positions. Finally I have two questions for all my liberal friends.

Since we know someone's value system has to be placed on the nation,

1. Whose value system should be placed on the nation.

2. Who should determine that this is the right value system for the nation?

Blessings, Huntley Brown


In his letter to Snopes, Mr. Brown also states that "if Senator Obama wins he can count on my prayer support ever day." Mr. Brown emphatically declares he is NOT "against gay people or against people who have had abortions... We are all sinners saved by grace but we need to have some absolute laws to govern society or else we will self destruct."

This articulate letter touched me deeply, and I hope it does for you too.