Friday, December 28, 2012

Comfort and Confrontation for us Les Miserables Snobs

This is not the review I've been unable to write yet. It is simply thoughts from a selfish person. 

My initial reaction to news of the movie was horror and panic. None of the actors were right and I was sure none of them could possibly sing and everything would be ruined and destroyed. But as I continued to see more and more information on the movie, I started to become fearfully hopeful, or at least less fatally pessimistic.

It was the same for many hardcore Les Miserables fans--the movie was terrifying. So many things could go wrong. Some things would obviously have to be sacrificed and new things would be added. Also, it would be in the hands of the common man to critique, under-appreciate, misunderstand, or, worst of all, paste on fashion journals and Claire's jewelry. It was something we cherished and hoarded, something we wanted to share with a select few and could only be adored after careful study and loving care.

Eventually it was brought to my attention my attitude reeked and, after almost a week of butterflies and in trembling, almost hysteric anticipation, I went to the theater Christmas evening. I couldn't process it to begin with. I couldn't talk about what had just happened and I certainly couldn't discuss anything else. I went home and sat in the middle of my floor and stared at the wall. 

I'm still mostly speechless and haven't been able to formulate a true review even with many attempts. If it wasn't for my family, I might still be leaning my head against a theater chair and rocking back and forth with occasional groans and gasps. 

Les Miserables will be treated lightly by many, laughed at by others, and offensive to some, but I think most will emerge from the dark movie theater into the world, shaken up and a little uncomfortable, with a new sense of awe and wonder. Such is my case. 

The story is sure to be talked about, discussed, seen, appreciated, and yes, under-appreciated too. But the important thing is it's getting shared and spoken and screamed and played out in front of people's eyes and in people's souls. Perhaps our hesitation or inability to discuss or share it with one another is because it's akin to becoming stripped of everything we have and shown the true story of our own selves--hopeless, angry, alone, sinful, black. This is who we were, with rotten teeth or a pressed inspector uniform, and then something bigger--mercy, love, grace, light--the painful, tireless, devastating love of God. Yes. It means misery and death, but it also assures us that even the darkest night--the sin of our own souls--will end, crucified to a cross, and the Sun will rise. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15, 2012

What do we do in times like these?
What did we do yesterday and the day before?
We sat and talked of hope and lived in comfort,
Waiting for the Christ Child to be born.

Today tragedy woke us in gunfire.
We stare broken and confused,
And tomorrow, again, children will be swallowed in death,
Waiting for the Christ Child to be born.

We sit behind closed doors and chafe,
Or walk along the street and feebly cry hope.
We ask each other how all this could happen,
Waiting for the Christ Child to be born.

What do we do in times like these?
Nothing. Just like yesterday when we were free.
Hope has turned to talk and flight.
When will our Christ Child come?

Open our doors and hearts,
Bring us to our knees and tears.
Send us out to a foreign world,
Fill us with warrior love.

Comfort, comfort your people, Lord,
But only with the comfort that fights.
Give us hope reborn that lives
Declaring the Christ Child is born.

Give us faith that carries sickness, loneliness, and death.
Make us hear the singing host
And ring the bell of peace.
Joy will conquer every ill.

Our Christ Child is among us still.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Underlining - Word Love

The next chapter was my mountainous internal struggle with underlining. I am a purist and I also believe authors are frequently treated like dirt. Reading the end of the book is judging without a hearing. Singing music while you read is yelling while someone is trying to talk to you. And underlining is making something stand out the writer chose not to put in all caps, bold, or italic. Marring the pages with your own notes is distracting and doesn't allow you to hear the author's whole thought. You know, these sorts of convictions. So my reading system for several years was reading a book straight through then going back a second time to write out quotes and notes. If a book was worth reading once, it was worth reading twice.

My first leap of conscious occurred in desperation. I'm a painfully slow reader and had about seven books lined up for notes and several shelves full of books that hadn't been cracked yet. I started a book I needed to complete, start to finish, in a week. I should have, but I didn't have any respect for the particular author and so I closed my eyes and made the first incision. I began to underline with a big, bold pen. I realized it made me pay attention to word arrangement and train of thought in new ways. Taking notes became entirely different somehow and suddenly I was aware of the author's word choice and order, both in areas that were aggravating and thrilling.

There are still some books that should be committed to memory and untouched, others where post-it tabs are vital, but many books are best served and used with respectful, careful underlining. Sometimes I even write questions and notes in the margins.
I wonder how much more I would have learned if I'd given in sooner... Most of the time being a purest and perfectionist is an excuse not to learn or use something for its proper purpose.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Poetry - Word Love

I started a post a long time ago about words and how much I'd been learning about our mutual feelings for one another. Now I feel like the relationship has become far more serious. In fact, I think it will be a love affair that will take a lifetime, and even at the end (or will it be the beginning?), we might not really know each other.

I used to think I loved writing and books. It was true, but in a quest to make myself fall in love with poetry, I realized I'd really enjoyed the stories and ideas. I hadn't actually been listening all that closely. Poetry was a discipline at first, but soon it became a rampant obsession. Perhaps the quickest way to become intimate with words is through analyzing, editing, and writing poetry. And so I took the leap. :-)

John Donne shoulders great responsibility for my quick spiral in the last four years...but he led to other discoveries. I'm not sure how interesting or helpful it will be, but for the next bit I hope to post some of what people have been patiently teaching me about words. Please feel free to contribute and comment on things you've learned or wisdom that comes to mind. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stories are Soul Food

This N.D. Wilson post has been around a few times, but I recently re-read it and have been thinking on it since.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Saturday night meditation...

Take me and remake me
do something new
in this darkness.

Give me love that is daring,
willing to be scorched
and open to nails.

Make my roots deep and grounded,
unsatisfied with this,
always thirsting for you.

Teach me to long for something bigger,
give me desire that will hurt,
a passion that will burn hot.

Thrust me in the refiner's fire,
only watch and shape me gently,
always beside me and with me.

Use me in this scene you are always weaving,
feed my lines and my cues patiently,
show me a glimpse of the story.

Just don't leave me to flat comfort or happiness,
never let me outlive my love for you,
forever fill me up and pour me out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New York

I've visited Pennsylvania many times and she is the very best in October (or so my mildly limited experience tells me). Oregon fall is beautiful because there are deciduous trees and evergreens setting each other off in amazing ways. Also, there is Portland. But Pennsylvania is stunning because it almost entirely sheds summer onto old, expectant graveyards, brick buildings, and long driveways. Yeah, we'll have to talk more about Pennsylvania another day...

This year, I met New York City. And then I came back for a visit and to see just how she looked in the fall.

I know it's horribly mainstream to fall in love with New York... But I could be happy in Brooklyn forever. (Of course, I could be happy almost anywhere I've visited, country or city  :-P, however, Brooklyn does thrill my soul. ;-)


-The death march of the abundant suitcases and treasure hunt for the subway elevator.

-People--in your way, under your feet, over your head, in your face.

-Phantom of the Opera. Hated the movie. Loved the musical. Once in the second row and once along the wall of the balcony. 

-Times Square at midnight. (And over a dozen other times.)

-Reading about someone walking down King's Highway in my Potok's words while the Subway pulled away from the King's Highway station.

-Reading John together in Trinity Church cemetery and Central Park.

-Seeing friends before and after their wedding. God did something mysterious and is doing something awesome with that grounded romance. J+J, you guys are real and beautiful!

-Worshiping and fellowshipping with newly met brothers and sisters and in a dozen different accents.

-Listening to a concert in a crowded park feeling very pale and uncharaismatic. 

-Watching Aisha spazz in the Lindt store. 

-The Cyclone. Both times with people who said they would never ride a rollercoaster. 

-Listening to Dylan's Tempest in the airplane, the train, the subway.

-Sushi in Little Italy. Yes, we went to Little Italy twice and ordered sushi. But don't worry, we experienced the Italy-ness as well. The best pizza I have ever tasted was down the street. I thought I was ordering a slice and they brought me a whole pie. I'm told their desserts were good too. Also, much energy and arm waving from Italian waiters. 

-Visiting Redeemer Church.

-Seeing Suzy go nuts with her camera all over the city. 

-Tasted gelato for the first time ever. Two scoops of it made out of fresh milk, chopped mint leaves, squeezed lime, and white rum. First ice creamy substance since October 2010. Not that I'd remember...

-Nearly getting run over by individuals jogging with strollers across the Brooklyn bridge...

-Lingering over Memling, Caravaggio, and hundreds of other gifted, amazing paintings. Like this one. Or this one. And so many others. Makes you think about things differently. Makes you see how important art is.

There were a thousand other things too, of course. My idea of seeing the world is going somewhere and really living there for awhile. Holding still and absorbing it. Writing in it. Reading in it. Talking in it. Listening to the violinists under the bridges and standing in the dirty ocean.
But since my Mumsie is an expert planner and efficient world traveler, this last time in New York we saw so much! It was pretty amazing. And I am thankful. :-)

We were there just a few days before Hurricane Sandy. Please keep all the people who's lives have been so changed in your prayers. It's going to be a mess for a long time, and there will be scars left over.

Please pray for King's Chapel, Pastor Troy, and all the saints there who are laboring to help those effected by the storm. They have been and will be continuing to proclaim the Gospel in a tough missionary field.

Thanks for reading,

Pictures from my amazing sister. She'll be posting much more about NYC sometime, I'm sure. 

Monday, November 12, 2012


As it may appear unto you, I am neglecting this blog very successfully. 
And I'm not going to say anything about being busy, because that is simply to say I live in this place. 

The last few months have included the following-

Flying back and forth across the country a few times, shady bus rides while whispering of deep things, some inauspicious writing, big talks across little coffee tables, unassuming sunsets, and many glorious sunrises. 

Wise words from wrinkled people, baby people, and middeling people. 

Many hours and slow going through new and old work. Fresh ideas and ancient projects. 

Soundtrack of Donne, Herbert, and Auden. Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, and Lewis. Wright, Goff, and Leithart. Potok, Bradbury, and Wilson. 

Also, lots of fragments...

I fully intend to post on Wednesdays from this day forward. Perhaps I shall talk about New York City in one whole blog post cliche. That will be fun. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

God Moves in a Mysterious Way - William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

 Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

 His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trinity Institute

Exciting times! Please pray for this work and for the men and their families involved.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


how selfish you are
holding it all to yourself
give me some

you've left me alone
while I cannot penetrate
rusted doors

who am I, fainting?
with yearning to carry what
I cannot

my pain is empty
how black it is around you
homeless ache

what is this anger?
when all I do is expound
empty things

unreachable fire
its one consuming demands

I can only lift
faint shadows when we address
Someone else.

Friday, August 31, 2012

August, fare-thee-well. You are, and always will be, beautiful in every way.
Tomorrow I shall move on and climb a mountain...

really, we're climbing Mt. St. Helen's...hopefully early enough to catch the first September sunrise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

C. S. Lewis penetrates another thick skull

Have you ever read through a book where you've had to set it down and just pant for a bit, perhaps roll your eyes and holler at a family member about some recent tidbit that finally penetrated your brain? They might nod their head and smile condescendingly, probably because it's the same concept they've been trying to explain to you for six weeks. The instant I finished G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy I simply had to run wild in the backyard, jumping on the trampoline, picking roses (bloody fingers to show for it), and swinging into the overgrown cherry trees. It was serious.

I listened to a lecture recently where the speaker was saying how we couldn't get away from language or words. But not because we're chained to the ABCs and semicolons. Spoken words and black scribbles are our wings to fly.
So, should feel like a lunatic feather dancing around your backyard after you finish a good book. ;-)

I reread Mere Christianity this summer and I as I was tearing through I could barely believe I'd heard this stuff before...even though I know more people than just C. S. Lewis have been trying to smash it into my concrete noggin. I recently got over my moral qualms about writing in books, which means this tome is crowded with underlines, exclamation marks, smiley faces, lopsided stars, scribbled margin notes and questions for C. S. Lewis whenever we should meet.

One of the biggest points in Mere Christianity that really whacked me over the head this time, was an extremely obvious concept that shapes all of Christian life—becoming like Jesus.
Don't judge. You know how you can read something once and then another time and swear it was worded differently the first time? Really we are the reordered words.
One of the passages in the Bible that tries to tell us about all this, is Ephesians 4. The Apostle Paul talks about what we were, unbelievers walking in all sorts of sin. We can't live that way anymore (v 17), so God is doing something new in us, remaking us in the stature and fullness of Christ (v 13). This is what's happening now and what we will be like in the future. 

Being a Christian is following Jesus, continually putting away the old self that doesn't belong to us anymore, reshaping our thought processes and the eyes through which we see the world, and aggressively putting on the new self—holiness and righteousness—the likeness of God. (v 22-24)

Much of C. S. Lewis genius is encased in his ability to write out an illustration of a familiar or maybe difficult concept in a manner that brings it home in an entirely unique way. And that's what he does here. From cover to cover, Mere Christianity sketches out and puts some flesh on our calling—the Spirit recreating us to be like Jesus. Not simple adherence to a set of rules, but instead a life that is more like a painting of a portrait. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Discipleship that we are not to be ruled by our conscience, but by the will of Jesus. As days and times of sanding and remolding go by, the character and shape of our Savior becomes more and more evident in us.

If this is the goal—if this is the single purpose of new life—than we must pray for, seek, and encourage this “infection.” Every thought, word, and action should be a reflection of Jesus, the true, real New Man. This is about doing what we know as right even when we don’t feel like it and it is about totally recreating our impulses. 
What we do when someone demands our time, accuses us, cuts in front of us on the highway. How we act to unbelievers, to children, to our friends. It not only changes our actions, but turns our thought patterns upside down (or right side up, as the case may be).

Jesus is our Savior, and also our teacher, our model, our entire curriculum and key to understanding that world.

You may say (especially if you are in an English frame of mind)--this all sounds very cheeky, pretending we're Jesus. It is. We're hopelessly confused and messed up and all gritty with sin. But this is exactly what God commands—Be like Jesus. Don't worry, I planted the virus and I'm going to make sure it takes over. Keep your eyes on Me.

"God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you into one. I daresay this idea of divine make-believe sounds rather strange at first. But, is it so strange really? Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were 'almost human': that is why they really become 'almost human' in the end."
-C. S. Lewis

He can and will make us into brilliant mirrors reflecting Christ's character and light when our eyes are focused in the right place. This isn’t “mere” Christianity. This is radical. 

Most of us have Mere Christianity sitting on our shelves. I recommend you pick it up an read through all those bite sized chapters.Most everything in this post is stolen from Lewis' chapters Faith, Toy Soldiers, and Let's Pretend, and he says it all so much better.
...thus rambles my slow brain. Grateful for great men and a mind capable of growing.
God is good.
The Gospel is endless
and beautiful.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blotter for You

There was a NaNoWriMo flop in 2010. The aftermath was a long-winded short story and after a year and a half of marinating and sporadic, brutal edits, In the Mourning is now seeing the light of day. This gangly short story has now been published in The Blotter along with two wonderful poems by fellow writers.

The Blotter is the quarterly publication of the Inkblot Society, an aspiring hodgepodge of writers bent on glorifying God through all sorts of shapes and sizes of writing.

There are many glaring errors encased in In the Mourning, but I am grateful to be forced to declare something  "finished" and have other people reading it. The two poems by other Inkblotters are quite good. You will enjoy. :-)

If you would like a copy of this publication of The Blotter, email or comment to let me know. I would be thrilled to send you one.

Following issues will be donation based to keep the Inkblot Society on top of printing costs, but this one is free to you from me. :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scattered summer scenes.

  • Late night circles around campfires. 
  • New Bible with plenty of room to write all over the margins and magical pens.
  • Long work days. 
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Discipleship" sacked out under a tree with the smell of fresh cut grass, ripe blackberries, and exclamation marks dancing around in my head.
  • Dark drives homes with all the windows rolled down and fresh cut hay everywhere.
  • Days so busy I don't even have time to check my email. Oh horrors.
  • George Herbert. Oh yes.
  • Revisiting Latin.
  • Vacuuming the dust out of my room. Always. My life obsession.
  • Summer colds.
  • Laying on the floor past midnight writing retarded poetry.
  • Reading Chaim Potok write to my soul while my nieces giggle in the pool.
  • Stars. Everywhere. Almost every night. Swoon.
  • Cool sunrises and hot sunsets.
  • Exhaustion. 
  • Roadtrips with wheat fields.
  • Matt Chandler.
  • Shakespeare plays with chocolate, wine, and Havarti.
  • Struggles with an imperfect world and very messed up personage (namely, me).
  • Good talks with my people. Never quite enough time.
  • Serious baptism feasting (I mean really serious partying) all because of my new, handsome, perfect nephew. Seeing him and my bro as a dad for the first time = weep fest.  
  • Missing all of the Olympics. :-P Oh well.
  • Flickering hope to write and blog more regularly. And eat more blackberries.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life, Words, and Other Things

Greetings from the land of the dead and/or the land of summer awesomeness.

After a wonderful time with Rachel, a outstanding family camp, two wonderful and hurried weeks in PA and New York City, a weekend at the beach, and something almost every night since, I am ready to sit down for awhile, read, write, and work a normal week. Phew. I feel like three summers have happened already...and I'm ready for more. :-)

Here's a post I did elsewhere. Hoping to get back to blogging. ;-)
Not sure if I should just pick up on present life and thoughts...bore you with the AMAZING adventures I feel like I've had and the ten books waiting to be reviewed.

Hope all of you are having wonderful summers!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Giveaway Winner

According to, the Wordsmithy Giveaway winner is-

Josiah over at Biblical Beginnings

I apologies for the long delay! It's been crazy here. Thank you for all who entered. If you didn't win and know me, you are welcome to borrow it. Otherwise, I strongly suggest getting your own copy of this little book. :-)

Thanks again! (And thank you for being patient.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

~Wordsmithy Giveaway~

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson
Canon Press 2011

Mandatory Entry 

1. Leave a comment describing why you write and/or think writing is important. 

Additional Entries 

2. Follow the Erratic Muse.
3. Share the news on Facebook or your blog with a link back to The Erratic Muse. 
4. Share the single most important thing you've learned while writing.
5. Share the title of your favorite book on writing. 

Be sure to leave a comment for each individual entry!

This giveaway will end on May 29th.
My rough draft deadline of my current writing struggle.

This is a writing book for anyone who uses words and language. :-)

Moscow, Idaho

A lecture from Doug Wilson
from the 2011 Wordsmithy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Scraps from the mind.... we know it, it is a wild, changing beast with attitude issues. In a good way. And so, The Erratic Muse spends months out there, all by its lonesome.

The first Friday in May, I had my last day of teaching duties for the semester and then we all galavanted to the beach. It was glorious. No rain, no internet, no alarm clocks. And all for a whole week. I got to see my family for seven days in a row! :-)

Anyone who says they are too busy for vacation, is very mistaken. Sleep, recharging, and a heap of reading are just what you need when you've been too busy too long. Salt water, gritty sand, and breezy sunshine are additional blessings to the fortunate. 

So...that's my life. 
Teaching is over (at least until I decide whether I'm going to commit to more or not). 
I've been able to begin books that have been sitting for months. And I have been able to study simply for fun/my own education. Latin at the beach. I think yes.

I sold my last livestock and rabbits. All that I have to my name is Freddy, the goose. And then of course, there are the dogs and cats. Henry, whom I have missed.

Oregon went from spring to winter to summer in an odd progression of moods. Heat, red clover, and frappuccinos are everywhere. 

Looming ahead are these events-

-Book deadline of doom for my nonfiction project. 5/29 Rough draft!
-Church camp.
-Rachel visiting from Alaska (much happiness).
-Trip to PA and NYC with Aisha (also much happiness).
-Wordsmithy Conference (speaks for itself).
-Decisions about fall work.
-Summer awesomeness--Swinging sessions with good books. Walking up Saddleback with sister and friends. Running wild on the beach. Downtown Portland. Work. Camping. Family. More family (nephew(s) and or niece on the way). Music. Sunburns. Late nights around the fire. The list is magnificently endless!
-And, to include all the above plus the unexpected and the unmentioned--tough and beautiful life.

Here are a few things I want to remember-

-Work hard.
-Don't give up. On the mini and the massive.
-The whys of it all. The point.
-Just where exactly I'm going.
-And just Who exactly it's all about.

It's not all pretty, but it is all beautiful...sometimes I just have to back up to see it a bit better. Maybe take my grabby hands off it so I can see the actual masterpiece Someone else is creating.

I am so thankful to God and His many blessings this past year. He is persistently faithful. And He paints the big and the little pictures. The shadows and the sunny spots.

May this be true of us all-
To live is Christ. To live in every minute of every day. It's all for Christ and about Christ.
And to die is gain. To die daily. To die to our own needs. To live for Christ. And eventually to die on earth. To live with Christ. To live with Christ on earth.
Sounds wonderfully strange? It is.

The end.

Happy summer.
However premature it may seem to those who live in Alaska. ;-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Zondervan 2011

Rating: 7
Readability: 5-9
Impact: 8

Read it Again: I think I underlined most of I will definitely go back and read those portions, at least. :-)
Recommend It? Yes

What to Expect

Not a a topical study on thankfulness. That's what I thought I was starting. Instead think memoir meets freestyle poetry, theology, and ramble all generally focused on living a life of daily thanksgiving.

Ann Voskamp's prose is sometimes riveting, lyrical, soaring, but generally painful as she goes over difficult events in her life. Sometimes there is a sentence that could stand as a poem, but that becomes less frequent as the book progresses. Her constant adjectives and adverbs trailing as after thoughts in her sentences became distracting and lurching.

One Thousand Gifts is challenging, truly a dare to repent of anger, bitterness, discontent, questioning, and depression without trivializing their reality and the pain they create. Even if her flowery descriptions and personality aren't your style, we all need to hear this stuff. Ideas must take on skin and turn into vibrant action. Faith is, after all, living a life full of thankfulness. And many of us are living as practical atheists. At least I don't think I'm standing alone...

My Squib

I needed this book. So I am thankful for it. :-)

Chapter 8 was particularly convicting for me starting from the first sentence... "God and I, we've got trust issues." Trust is work. Intentional and focused. Anything else is the notion that God's love ends. Constant gratitude builds up the muscles of trust.

There were portions I wanted to take and revel in for hours while others I had to trudge through. Particularly the last chapter. I think she gets a little off with her Communion analogies near the end. I think the book would have been stronger if she'd left most of the last chapter out except for a few paragraphs. It took me almost as long to read it as the rest of the book put together.

She uses a beautiful scattering of quotes from St. Augustine, G. K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis, among many other more obscure writers. It gives fresh perspectives and an eager, and humble flavor. While the quotes she uses are powerful, a few of the writers are much more well known for their heretical statements.

I think because of its memoir nature she does not build on ideas as strongly as she could. Although she points out very good and different aspects, I felt like much of the book was hammering her first thoughts over and over again. Her thoughts were good enough that it worked, and I needed to hear them over and over again, but sometimes I'd set it down wanting something more.

This is one person's journey on how she came to see the need and depth and joy of thanksgiving in all of life. It is not the same for everyone. It will look different. And this story won't appeal to some. But I think we can all learn a lot from it.

I have definitely been blessed by this book.

From the Book

"...I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.
That that which tears open our souls, those holes that platter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty of beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave." 

I believe this book has been a little controversial, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. :-)

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Struggle, Joy, Hope

These thoughts from a friend were very convicting. Very timely.

Dear Miwaza has been a wonderful blessing to me. Praise God for what He is doing in her and with her life as a witness and encouragement to others.

Check out Miwaza's website. :-)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

This is a very unpolished and imperfect recording...and I don't know these people. :-) But if you haven't heard the song, this is a suitable introduction. I am currently obsessed with copying out several phrases and pasting them everywhere. :-)

1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee
 And hope in Him through all thy ways,
 He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
 And bear thee through the evil days.
 Who trusts in God's unchanging love
 Builds on the Rock that naught can move.
 2. What can these anxious cares avail thee,
 These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
 What can it help if thou bewail thee
 O'er each dark moment as it flies?
 Our cross and trials do but press
 The heavier for our bitterness.
 3. Be patient and await His leisure
 In cheerful hope, with heart content
 To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
 And His discerning love hath sent,
 Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
 To Him who chose us for His own.
 4. God knows full well when times of gladness
 Shall be the needful thing for thee.
 When He has tried thy soul with sadness
 And from all guile has found thee free,
 He comes to thee all unaware
 And makes thee own His loving care.
 5. Nor think amid the fiery trial
 That God hath cast thee off unheard,
 That he whose hopes meet no denial
 Must surely be of God preferred.
 Time passes and much change doth bring
 And sets a bound to everything.
 6. All are alike before the Highest;
 'Tis easy to our God, we know,
 To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
 To make the rich man poor and low.
 True wonders still by Him are wrought
 Who setteth up and brings to naught.
 7. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
 Perform thy duties faithfully,
 And trust His Word, though undeserving,
 Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
 God never yet forsook in need
 The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Notes: Hymn #518 from _The Lutheran Hymnal_ Text: Ps. 55:22 Author: Georg Neumark, 1640 Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt. Titled: "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten" Composer: Georg Neumark, 1640 Tune: "Wer nur den lieben Gott"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pessimistic Prayer?

If this post seems to ramble into smoggy introspection, stop and imagine me hitting my head against a crumbling brick wall. Perhaps you may hit your head against your desk a few times to get in the spirit... Here goes.

I am a naturally gifted pessimist.
I'm beginning to think that writing is an outlet for my imagination which dutifully produces horrifying calamities. It could also play into the majority of my characters dying...

The last couple years I've been convicted about prayer. It's still a battleground I am trying to indulge in night and day. I have to say that sometimes it sounds like the least appealing thing to do, but like most things God commands, it is also a unfathomable blessing...and rather addicting. God is merciful to make our erratic, painful, stutters morph into joyous habits.

Recently I have woken up to a disturbing personal trend. I am properly horrified. I continue to be shocked at my shock at God's direct answers to prayers. Right then, right there. He'll even rub my face in it when I trudge along staring at the mud. 

God's answers to prayers are often rather roundabout (thankfully there not what I might call down). Sometimes the answer simply is “no” and often “patience”, but sometimes God really does delight to answer them right there...right in my face.

At the beginning of the year I like to take a few days to obsess over generally unrealistic goals and plans. This year my Mumsie handed me a newly discovered sheet of paper with a host of open-ended questions. I attacked it with pleasure, compiling lists of things to do, skills to cultivate, and relationships to work on. I neatly skipped the first question, but since then I've come back several times. I am puzzled over my inability to answer a simple question.

What is the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year? 

It remains unanswered. A large white space...seemingly raising its eyebrow and staring critically into my soul. ;-)
Why do I have such a hard time with this question? I mean, there's plenty of things I want God to do that are impossible. That's not the the issue... Or is it? Maybe we should define “
impossible.And maybe I should ponder what kind of relationship such a word has with my all powerful God...

When the rather slow moving side of my head wakes up and says “Maybe I should be praying about this instead of waving my arms and shouting”, I should, can, and do stop and pray. But with twisted, cynical satisfaction, I continue to plan for the worst possible circumstances. I do not look for God's answer. What's with this? Don't I believe my Father overflows with steadfast love? Don't I believe my Savior conquered “impossible”? Don't I realize I have been given the the already inconceivable gift of prayer to bring thanksgiving and struggles to Him?

What kind of prayer am I praying?
It certainly doesn't seem to be the kind watching with bated breath for the moment God will move Mount Fuji. It might just take a volcano to get my attention.

This might just play into my pigheaded inability to "dream big".
It's scary to think the impossible is possible. 

It's considerably easier to plan for mud when it's raining. But it doesn't mean there's a year of mudfest ahead. It might mean tomorrow is spring. If you insist on tromping about in rubber boots, you're going to miss free bare toes in the grass, the dirt, the gravel. If you carry an umbrella to protect you from the rain in your head, you're going to miss the sun altogether.

But I digress...

Maybe I should stop and pray about this...
To my God who is beyond my understanding. Who has had every moment planned out for me...not done in for me. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wordsmithy - Doug Wilson

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

Canon Press 2011

Rating: 9
Readability: 9
Impact: We shall see!
Recommend it: Yes. Even if you only write for necessity.

What to Expect

Doug Wilson attacks the craft head addressing the craftsman. Wordsmithy discusses how to be a person with your head on right--how to be a good writer not just good at writing.

The book is divided into seven tips with seven sub-tips, "a veritable Russian doll," as he puts it. From living to reading, from mechanics to language, from lousiness to skill, from sketching to stretching, Wilson moves with light-hearted seriousness from topic to topic while demonstrating his own subject matter.

Each portion has a bolded take-away-point and various recommended books (which I can't wait to attack). It spares no words, but at the same time feels slightly rollicking. Between the style and organization, the book is good for taking notes or glancing to refresh or re-inspire. Be careful if you're reading in a quiet library. You will laugh at some point or other.

My Squib

I started through for the third time to take notes and found myself writing down something out of almost every paragraph. This review has been in progress since the first week of January... My blog life is in ruins. ;-) But I'm glad I'm finishing now after reading it a few more times...

When I started Wordsmithy I was trying to make some heavy decisions about teaching, life, and all that. I think I could rightly blame chapter one for the mess of algebra and Latin I'm in. Wilson gives a strong argument for living like a human and tackling the difficult, and not just the difficult directly related to writing.

I had to explain enough chuckles that I ended up reading large portions out-loud. Also wonderful.

In short, Wordsmithy makes me want every soul to be a writer so I can force this book into their hands and head. But perhaps the rest of you already know all this stuff and don't need the encouragement and fun. :-)

Even so... there will be a giveaway of this slight tome happening here abouts. Watch carefully.

From the Book

These are all from the first chapter. You'll have to discover the rest for yourself. :-)

"Real life duties should be preferred over real life tourism. You are learning about the world and the people in it, about whom you will write, and you are learning how to do your job in the service of others, which is what you need to continue to do as you undertake the writing life. Knowledge of how to do your duty in one area transfers readily to another area."

"Live Ovid said, it is an art to conceal art, and I would add that it is art to half conceal the deep message. True artists know how to do this deftly, and message-mongers do not. But doing it deftly and with wisdom should never be confused with not doing it at all."

This quote is particularly good for me-
"If you enjoy living, you will enjoy writing about it. And if you enjoy writing about it, the chances are greatly increased that the readers will enjoying reading it."

"Love what you observe, love what you write, and love those who wrote it."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Anonymous Antagonist: Giveaway and other Fun Stuff

If you have not discovered The Anonymous Antagonist, the time has come.

Daniel is currently doing a series of interviews with young people interested in the arts. There are some very thought provoking questions.
Thinking through the answers is a good exercise...and trying to make the answers intelligible is an even better one. :-) I'm realizing more and more, that this is the best thing about blogging for me. Actually thinking through something enough to write it out in an understandable manner.

Consider my post for last week this interview.  Thank you, Daniel, for including me in this!

The Anonymous Antagonist is also having a very exciting giveaway which includes such awesomeness as Amazon giftcards, artwork, and books. Check it out. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Various Notions about 2012

A whole new year. least most of one. Can it possibly be February?

I guess there are many unknowns to every year...well, every moment. So this post is simple ideas from someone who has no idea what song will pop up next on Pandora, let alone what her 2012 is going to be written like.

Last year I would not have dreamed of crawling into nine different airplanes and spending one weekend at home all summer. I'm not sure I would have ever planned such a thing, but I'm glad for every day of travel and busyness that made up 2011.

Once upon a time I believed I'd rather die than tutor...this year I started teaching and shocked myself for enjoying that too.

You get the idea... Life is strange.

This year should be tamer in one respect. You can't afford to traverse the earth every year. :-)

Anyways... This post has been in the works for weeks. The real point point is to talk about writing. Here are my writing goals for the year-

1. Finish my nonfiction book for our business. Like FINISH. And PUBLISH.

2. Complete the rough draft of Where Loyalties Lie.

3. Write a 100 page screenplay.

4. Submit at least 12 articles or pieces of poetry. Get published once.. :-)

5. Attend another multiple day writers' conference.

6. Write 24 poems.

7. Read a book a week.

8. Write letters.

9. Post on this here blog once a week.

10. Clean up a novel or short story enough to submit somewhere.

And all that, combined with the rest of this life, should keep me busy!
And, my #1 goal this year... Be willing to change my plans for the better ones God shows me through His faithfulness. Not clutch my ideas when He's got better ones. Learning this... learning this...

Now... on to regular posts again.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dr. Seuss Haunts Me

Listening to Bob Dylan and wallowing in curriculum seem to be persistent themes for me these days. A new tutoring job involving less savory subjects than creative writing has added some running about, study time, and many, many books to my life.

That is my excuse for snubbing the arrival of 2012. My next post will endeavor to give it due thought... And try to rescue this blog from its current sentimental tendencies.

First, but means of house keeping...

I thought the world should know that my most visited post is still One Fish which is now well over 10,000 views.

Recent comments, especially on Dear Last Year have been very encouraging. Thank you, people!

In celebration of my new job, I received a Dr. Seuss journal. It is very bright and beautiful betwixt all my Eiffel Tower notebooks, journals, and stationary.

While downtown, I bought an extraordinary mechanical pencil of extreme awesomeness. It is so fancy I just recently found the eraser. I used to be addicted to mechanical pencils. They seem to hold the key to algebra and geometry. But after a few peaceful years without such horrors, I'd forgotten how vital they were. I guess I had become solely dependent on my Waterman, but mechanical pencils make reviewing and teaching algebra so much better. This distinguished fellow needs a name and title.

The Erratic Muse was on my "possible let go list" for 2012 while I was trying to organize, prioritize, and balance life. It did, however, make it through my ruthless refocus and organization. My plan is to post once or twice a week... hopefully something a little more thought provoking and interesting than this poor thing.

Thanks for reading. :-)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Joy of Books

So many pages. Be still, my heart. :-)

Created by Type Bookstore in Toranto.
Discovered on Exodus Books Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dear Last Year, I'll Miss You.

Life, you are so busy, wonderful, and complicated
my God is good. Always.
So ends 2011.

To give this year a full review would be beyond human capabilities. It was, after all, just another year, but a full, blessed, previously unimaginable one. I want to write it all out and keep it forever...but that isn't feasible or probably helpful, so here are merely a few mildly random snapshots-

-Roadtrips with people I down, music blaring, insane laughter until we howled in pain.

-Sitting on a dead redwood writing anything and everything on anything and everything.

-Scribbling clumsy poetry while knee deep in ocean waves.

-Powell's. Portland. I have no more words.

-Writting my main character's last words in St. James cemetery.

-Starting the thirteenth beginning of Where Loyalties Lie, aided by the epicness of Joe Hisaishi.

-Falling head over-heels in love with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Not in a creepy way, I assure you.

-Climbing hundreds of steps to see Gdansk from St. Mary's tower.

-Huddling in a circle on the floor while plenty of couches sat abandoned, staring at a candle while everything around us was dark in the rain and wind, laughing and talking with my sisters until.... an undisclosed hour.

-Walking down the beach with both of my sisters and realizing that we did, in fact, grow up.
At least so it appears.

-Watching dear friends fall in love, get engaged, get married, show the world that love isn't what it thinks it is... it's something bigger, more terrifying, more wonderful, harder, more rewarding.

-Singing Psalm 34 with my two year old niece. One of the cutest most beautiful things ever.

-Staring at the stars from an Idaho golf course. Perfect moment chiastically flanked by sprinkler attacks.

-Being wildly proud of my little sister who graduated with flying colors. Then sniffing (aka sobbing) over Chipotle guacamole all the way home for no apparent reason. My poor mother.

-Sitting on the hard floor in our dark room clad in a sweater big enough for you, your laptop, and your pillow pet and writing pathetic prose until you think you can finally sleep...or the sunlight creeps through the blinds and tells you the moment you'd been madly chasing is gone.

-Singing everywhere possible in Poland.
Spending two weeks with an fantastic group of people. Learning to talk and walk outside my comfort zone. Gaudete will never be the same, you most wonderful, lovable, memorable, beautiful hymn!

Most goose-bumpy vivid moment of the year (possibly ever)- singing We all Believe in Malbrock Castle. No way to explain it.

-Walking through silent Gdanks trying to remember all of Hamlet and wishing it could last forever. Then staying up all night with Rachel the magnificent...trying to make it last forever.

-Seeing Les Miserables live. Burst into tears after the first chords. Screamed until I was hoarse at the end.

-Driving the car with leather gloves. Yes, this was on my bucket list.

-Watching my brother marry the woman of his dreams. Miss my brother, glad he has the rest of him now. :-)

-Rereading Chesterton's Orthodoxy...three times. Rocked my world, smacked me on the head, and then had me running around the back yard with my best banshee impressions, picking roses with bare hands, and jumping on the trampoline with a retarded grin.

-Many, many late night conversations when the only options are honesty and insanity.

-Seeing people and doing things I didn't think were possible.
So thankful for friends and for family and for family that are friends and friends that are truly family.

Lessons learned and learning...

-You go places. You meet people. You leave. You miss people.
It hurts.

-Relationships take work. Hard work. Sweat, tears, and lots of laughter.

-Never take myself too seriously and never take what I'm about too lightly.

-Faith isn't a band-aid.
It's more like an intensifier.
Sorrow hurts like hell.
Joy can turn you into a wild lunatic...or make you want to sit completely still in a corner and wonder until your head explodes.
It can also make you sick. And want to be sick forever.

-Real, tangible Hope that you can touch, feel, and taste gives you the highest high of all.

-Light shines whether we have the sense to look for it or not.

Welcome 2012.
What adventures and craziness can you possibly hold that will outshine last year? I'm pretty sure I'm unprepared, but I'm ready. :-)

Praise to a God beyond our imagination for the plans He has had for us since the beginning of this wonderful, swirling, terrifying, exhilarating world.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

By Kindly Powers Surrounded - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Written to send home to his fiance, family, and friends in a Gestapo cellar prison four months before his execution. 

By kindly powers surrounded, peaceful and true,
wonderfully protected with consolation dear,
safely, I dwell with you this whole day through,
and surely into another year.

Though from the old our hearts are still in pain,
while evil days oppress with burdens still,
Lord, give to our frightened souls again,
salvation and thy promises fulfill.

And shouldst thou offer us the bitter cup, resembling
sorrow, filled to the brim and overflowing,
we will receive it thankfully, without trembling,
from thy hand, so good and ever-loving.

But if it be thy will again to give
joy of this world and bright sunshine,
then in our minds we will past times relive
and all our days be wholly thine.

Let candles burn, both warm and bright,
which to our darkness thou has brought,
and, if that can be, bring us together in the light,
thy light shines in the night unsought.

When we are wrapped in silence most profound,
may we hear that song most fully raised
from all the unseen world that lies around
and thou art by all thy children praised.

By kindly powers protected wonderfully,
confident, we wait for come what may.
Night and morning, God is by us, faithfully
and surely at each new born day.