Monday, September 26, 2016

But That's Another Story

The thing about reading is that we only ever see the finished product; therefore, it seems to us that the stories we know and love are the way they are because they were meant to be that way.

But consider this fact: your favorites authors could have taken their stories in vastly different directions. With just a slip of the pen, they could easily have turned comedy to tragedy, tragedy to melodrama, melodrama to horror, or horror to farce.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a knife.
"You're a lizard, Harry."  
"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're the only pope."  
"Beware the brides of March!"  
It was a bright cold day in April, and all the hawks were striking Eugene. 
"Slay it, Sam." 
All children, except one, blow up. 
"I come to marry Caesar, not to praise him." 
"We'll always have parrots." 
"All we have to decide is what to do with the slime that is given to us."
"May divorce be with you." 
"Stay old, Ponyboy."

See? A tiny alteration can work a big change. All the more reason to ensure that when we write, we put exactly the right word in exactly the right place. 

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Photo Attribution:
By User Gflores on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 19, 2016

In Which an Empty Ketchup Bottle Leads to a Spiritual Epiphany

This weekend as I brunched at a favorite local restaurant, I wasn't expecting a spiritual epiphany. 

When our food arrived, I was in the full throes of storytelling (because when am I not). Still rambling, I picked up the plastic ketchup bottle and gave a squeeze. With a woosh and a splurt, it belched a fine spray of pink mist. I shook it. Empty. 

I absently set the bottle aside with my left hand while, still mid-story, I flung my right hand dramatically outward, palm up. At which point an observant member of the staff walked by and thwacked a fresh bottle directly into my outstretched palm. Still talking, I shook the ketchup and flipped open the lid before the reality of what had just happened struck me and I started to laugh.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect if the entire scene had been scripted. 

Still awash in the pleasant glow of food and fellowship when the meal ended, I left the restaurant without my Styrofoam box of leftovers. Not only was I unaware that I had forgotten it, but I was actually a bit alarmed when our server chased me down in the parking lot to hand-deliver it to me. 

As I drove off the lot, I couldn't help but think that apart from confirming everyone's suspicions of my general dippiness, the entire brunch debacle also could serve as an object lesson on prayer.

Scriptures assure us that our Father knows our needs before we ask. In many cases before we've even reached for the empty ketchup bottle, he's already sent a replacement, perfectly timed to thwack into our outstretched palm before we even process the need. 

He also meets needs that we would pray for if we knew they were coming, but don't. I didn't know I would forget my leftovers and therefore didn't ask my server to be sure I took the box home. Nobody asked her to chase me down in the parking lot. Nobody had to. It was an act of grace based on her character and her understanding of my needs. 

All this indicates why we shouldn't consider prayer as simply a time to dictate possible solutions to God. First, we often don't know what we need soon enough to pray for it. Second, even when we are aware of our needs, our "solutions" are often self-serving and short-sighted. We are not, after all, omnipotent.

And yet we're allowed to pray. Despite our shortcomings and our lack of foresight, our Heavenly Father encourages us to communicate with him. 

It's clear that prayer is pivotal to spiritual development, but not because prayer allows us to manipulate outcomes. Prayer is pivotal to spiritual development because through it, we have fellowship with our Creator. As we grow to know and love him, we learn to match our will to his, especially when we conclude each petition as Jesus did in Gethsemane: by honestly expressing our feelings before acknowledging our utter dependence on his sovereign will. As Tim Keller expressed it, we pray with the understanding that God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.

What a wonderful assurance! Because let's face it: we don't always know when the ketchup will be empty, nor do we foresee every time we will leave our leftovers cooling on the table while we skip blithely out to the parking lot.

But he does.

And he will take care of us.

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Photo Credit:

By Suzette - from Arnhem, Netherlands (Christmas day - Brunch) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 12, 2016

10 Ways to Make Mornings Easier

10. Get enough sleep.
9. Invest in a programmable auto-brew coffee maker; rise only when the brew cycle's done.
8. Find an outfit that works and buy five identical sets; roll out of bed with your eyes closed; zombie-walk to the closet; get dressed in the dark.
7. Contract a short-order cook to arrive every morning and serve up hot meals.
6. Establish family rules for acceptable morning communication (volume, content, frequency); severely punish infractions.
5. Locate your car keys the night before. Ditto your wallet, cell phone, umbrella, water bottle, etc.
4. Drink enough water
3. Eat enough fiber.
2. Glue your kids' shoes to their feet.
1. Get up at noon.

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A Little News

Life is busy just now -- in the best way possible. First, I'm coming down to the wire with deadlines on upcoming releases (Over the weekend, I saw the galley for Collapsible: A Novel of Friendship, Broken Bones, Coffee, Shenanigans, and the Occasional Murder. I'm not going to lie - seeing the ISBN number totally made me tear up.) In addition to those deadlines, my freelance schedule has really taken off, and I'm blessed with almost more work than I can handle. I'm heavily involved with my church family, and I'm training for a half marathon. Then there's the small matter  of friends, my day job, and this business we call life.

You may already have noticed that my blog posts have begun to shrink. While I'll still be posting here every Monday, the length and substance of the posts may be truncated between now and the holidays, at which point my life should settle into more of a groove. At that time, I'll have more time to devote to the full-length essays that make up the majority of the posts on this site.  Until then, I beg your patience with short blurbs and list posts. 

I'm sure you understand. 

Thank you for being such faithful and thoughtful readers. Slowly but surely, your numbers are increasing, and I'm thankful for every addition. 

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Monday, September 5, 2016

If Writers Were Board Games

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Adam Smith / Monopoly
Agatha Christie / Guess Who?
Douglas Adams / Scattergories 
Terry Pratchett / Balderdash
Dorothy L. Sayers / Clue
Ayn Rand / Cards Against Humanity
Truman Capote / Taboo
Chuck Palahniuk / Fluxx
Lewis Carroll / Apples to Apples
Emily Dickinson / Connect 4
Jon Krakauer / Chutes and Ladders
Thor Heyerdahl / Settlers of Catan
Charles Dickens / Life
George Bernard Shaw / Trivial Pursuit
Malcolm Gladwell / Stratego 
Dr. Seuss / Hink Pinks
Jack Kerouac / Ticket to Ride
Edgar Allen Poe / Hangman
Jane Austen / Bridge
Harold Bloom / Cranium
Ben Carson / Operation
Tom Clancy / Battleship
Dan Brown / Liar's Dice
Harper Lee / Rook
Flannery O'Connor / Poker
Nicholas Sparks / Candy Land
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle / Ouiji
Edna St. Vincent Millay / The Dating Game
Victor Hugo / Carcassonne
Walt Whitman / Solitaire
Leo Tolstoy - War
William Shakespeare - Scrabble
Rudyard Kipling - Jumanji 
Stephenie Meyer - Sorry!
Stephen King / Risk

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