Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eternal Beauty

I snapped this shot shortly after daybreak this morning while biking along a little used beach access on St. Simons Island. The beauty of the morning glory wreathed dune surprised me and sent me digging for my cell phone camera. Had I wheeled along this path just a couple of hours later, I’d have missed the flowers which would’ve already rolled up their petals like awnings on a cloudy day.

Tonight as I sit at my desk back home I’ve been thinking about this morning’s experience and the fleeting quality of most of this world’s beauty.

Sunrises, sunsets--only a few moments and they’re gone. The glory of each season lasts a few months before becoming only a memory. Even our songs have both beginning and end. In our physical bodies, youth fades as time and gravity leave their mark, often in a most ungracious manner. I’ve found that after a certain age, the maintenance procedures increase markedly.

So, what beauty really lasts? From Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” The beauty of God’s word transcends the temporal and stretches into eternity. It moves beyond sunsets, seasons, and songs with two verses and prepares us for a place where God himself will be our light as we worship Him in unending song.

I treasure the beauty God has given us to enjoy on this earth, but I believe we get only fleeting glimpses of the astounding beauty he’s prepared for believers.

That bike ride this morning really gave me a lot to think about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Garden

I dreamed about a garden again a couple of nights ago. I’ve been surprised by the size of the vegetables and fruit in each of my recent garden dreamscapes. It seems that in the dreams I’d originally been looking for much smaller specimens, but then discovered State Fair winners in my harvest. A reading by J.H. Jowett in Streams in the Desert on July 27th reads, “I have asked for a cupful, and the ocean remains! I have asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides! My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father’s giving: it is beyond that we can ask!”

I suppose the only conclusion I can draw from these dreams is God wants me to reach beyond what I’m asking for or think I can accomplish. I’ve been looking for something I can manage, and God wants to do something only He can manage. God alone accomplishes a God sized harvest.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work with us.” Ephesians 3:20

So, I’m daring to change my aspirations and ask for a super sized harvest and a super sized wheelbarrow to carry it in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Facts

At a recent writer’s group meeting with Harriette Austin, she offered some advice that really resonated with me. A member of the group was bemoaning the difficulties in the market now with the economy taking a toll on book sales. She wondered if she should even go to the trouble to send out query letters to agents. Harriette acknowledged the difficulties but quoted actress Ruth Gordon, who was a classmate of Harriette’s at Yale. The quote went, “Ignore the facts.” Ruth often listed all the reasons she shouldn’t have been a successful actress, but she didn’t pay attention to all the reasons she couldn’t be an actress. She persevered and ultimately did have a wonderful career in film. Harriette pointed out the same thing applies to this volatile market. If we’re writers, we have to keep writing.

Later after the writers’ group meeting, I picked up the Daily Guideposts which I usually read right before I go to bed. In that day’s devotion, John Sherrill shared about his experiences in the Second World War. Placed in a staging area in North Africa, he used to lie in his bed and listen to Berlin’s Axis Sally on the radio. Her grasp of the details of American troop movements was disarming, and her declarations they’d all be killed made him fearful. If she had the facts right about the troop movements, was she right about them being killed as well? But John, now eighty-eight, said, “You have to ignore the facts” and trust God.

Ignore the facts. How strange it was for me to get that advice two times in less than a couple of hours. I suppose, I too, have been studying some less than encouraging facts--facts that would steer me away from writing because of the seeming impossibility of ever getting a book published. Then there are the facts that might discourage me from continuing to hope for a friend’s healing, or a family member who’s struggling. Facts seem so final.

But the real finality lies in the truth of God. Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s not the facts that set us free, but God’s truth. The truth is that if it’s God’s purpose for me to have a book published, nothing can stop Him. The truth is God is the great physician in my friend’s life. And for the family member who’s struggling, nothing is impossible with God.

Remember, God’s truth trumps the facts any day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thousand Words, Part Two

I’ve had some questions about my “Thousand Words” post from on July 7, so I thought I’d add some clarification.

A thousand words can be a metaphor for whatever creative endeavor you’re into, whether it’s writing, scrapbooking, belt tooling—whatever. The thousand words for you could be two hundred words or three thousand words, or one scrapbook page, or three inches of belt tooling. You set the goal, and only you know whether you’ve met it or not. I write five, maybe six days a week. You might write three, and only an hour a day. All of us have different availability. Each one of us sets our own goals. Remember even small bits add up to something significant over time.

Sometimes I write a thousand words everyday for a week, spend the next week editing, and delete 4999 out of the 5000 I wrote the week before. The point is I wound up with one word that contributed to forward motion in my creative endeavors. I also worked on my craft, and that in itself is invaluable. Those 4999 words might be put into a file that’s labeled “words I haven’t used yet.” They might appear in some other work, so they really don’t get lost.

Reading books about writing is great, but no one learns to write except by writing. At a recent writing conference luncheon, I asked the man next to me what he’d written. He replied nothing. He just went to conferences to get better so he could write. I was stunned. This man is never going to learn to write until he puts his pen on the paper or his fingers on the keyboard and actually writes.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) last November by writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days, I had to let go of my firmly held practice of editing as I go. Nanowrimo is about getting the story down in all of its unedited, poorly written glory. All words count, even the bad ones. The words don’t have to be publishable, saleable or otherwise fit for anyone else to see. That comes later. I learned the truth of Anne Lamott’s words about getting out the first draft. The nonfiction book I’m working on now was first written in 2003. I’m not even cutting and pasting from the original document as my writing style has changed so much. I’m just starting all over. But the first draft is still important. It gives me bones to work with, and some details that I might have forgotten had I not gotten it down.

I set goals at the beginning of every year as to what I believe God would have me accomplish. I keep a log on my desk, and try to post my work every day. What if I don’t get my thousand words? I don’t worry about it, because another day I might get two thousand. I also allow for the times during the year I know it’s going to be impossible to accomplish a thousand words like Christmas and some weeks in the summer. I’m a Mom, and Madeleine L’engle says when you’re a writing Mom, you still have to stop and cook dinner. And I do. My friend Cheryl says, “People are more important than projects.” That means we have to allow for the unexpected to come in. We can’t make gods out of our creative endeavors. There may be some days God calls us to let go of our creative goals in order to serve or minister in some other way.

After all, the thousand words are all about him not us. I close with fifty-eight words from Hebrews as a reminder that even a few words can have long lasting influence.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20

Monday, July 19, 2010

Erica Lane

I just received an email from my friend Erica Lane announcing her forthcoming CD, “Transcend.” I knew the album would be fabulous, but when I clicked on the link to her website, the sample pieces she’d posted stunned me with their beauty. Erica is beyond gorgeous, and is one of the most talented women I’ve ever known. I believe this is her breakthrough album.

I had a long talk with Erica at the recent Gideon conference. What amazes me is her continued ability to stay balanced in such a rocky pursuit. In fact, the ups and downs of pursuing her dream gave birth to her reality TV show, “Inspired Ambition.” God has placed this dream in her heart, and she continues with relentless passion for all that God has for her.

I read again this morning a verse from Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe this verse means God plants his desires in our heart when we delight in Him. His desires become our desires. We want what he wants. I certainly see that in Erica’s life.

Click on the link to her website and listen to the beauty that is God’s gift in Erica Lane.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Miss Beulah

Family responsibilities this week have overwhelmed me leaving little writing time. Some weeks in the summer can be like that, so I'm posting a piece I wrote some time back.

I first met Miss Beulah years ago when my mother was admitted to a local rehab center after she suffered a fall. Miss Beulah occupied the other bed in the room she and my mother would share. “Met” is probably not the word I should use to describe my first encounter with Miss Beulah. She could not speak, but simply moved her mouth in a sort of imitation speech. She had no knowledge of my name or why I would be in her room. I learned later that she’d suffered a stroke, which accounted for her lack of speech and confinement to bed.

As I made visits to my mother, I’d also visit with Miss Beulah, who sometimes opened her eyes and gave me one of the sweetest smiles. It’s a peculiar thing to come to know someone in the waning days of his or her life. I had such a strong desire to know Miss Beulah more fully--what and who she loved--what defined her life. She seemed to be a woman used to presiding over something, because she reigned over her space with a sort of benevolent queenly air. My feeling was she had been a school teacher. Sure enough she had, for thirty-nine years.

One of the attendees in Miss Beulah’s Court was a devoted niece, Helen, who came every day, sometimes several times. Her son, Bill, traveled a long distance to spend days sitting by her bedside waiting for her to simply open her eyes and give him one of those wonderful smiles. I learned Miss Beulah had always loved well. In addition to her teaching, for more than fifty years, she’d also cared for a daughter with a disability.

Miss Beulah’s name had special meaning for me. I’d been a church musician for many years, but I still remembered the first song I played on the piano at ten years old in our little church back home—“Dwelling in Beulah Land,” number ninety-five in the Cokesbury hymnal. “Beulah” means to live with God as in a marriage from Isaiah 62:4. I love that. What a wonderful name to have.

As the days went on, Miss Beulah began to slip away. In the evenings when I visited my mother, I would sing the old hymns of the church to Miss Beulah and pray for her. One night as I entered her room, her breathing was shallow. I visited with my mom awhile then excused myself to pray for Miss Beulah. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to her and told her God had a beautiful place prepared for her. As I removed my hand from her shoulder I sensed I would not see her again on this earth. Within the hour she died.

It’s been many years now since I spent time with Miss Beulah, but I’ll never forget her. Though she never said one word to me, we somehow communicated in our spirits, and I’ve been made richer even though I only knew her in those last precious days of her life. It confirms to me the truth that our lives continue to have value and purpose even when age and sickeness encroach.

The best of all is I have a peace in my heart Miss Beulah is now living the meaning of her name with God for all eternity.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Eagle

My husband, Jerry and I recently returned from a few days on one of our favorite barrier islands. I don’t know what it is about the narrow strip of rivers and marsh which separates the main land from the mound of earth called St. Simons. All I know is the moment I hit the Torres causeway leading to the island, troubles start to slide right off me.

We attended a touching wedding while there and as always loved the opportunity to be part of such a special day. We brought our bikes and on our last day after breakfast, we took the long way back to the hotel. We passed a bird watching type standing by his bicycle at the edge of the marsh. When I saw him, I scanned the trees for a painted bunting, the bird I thought at the top of my “most want to see” list. Maybe this man had sighted the brilliant elusive fowl. But as we continued along the marsh, I realized he had been looking up, so I stopped my bicycle and turned my eyes skyward.

There silhouetted against the cloud dotted heavens, I saw him—my first Eagle.

Oh, I’ve seen Eagles before—rescued Eagles in zoos standing on wooden perches unable to fly, eyeing their onlookers with justifiable suspicion. But, I’d never seen one like this--majestic, swooping, wheeling, surveying a vast kingdom over which he was the undeniable feathered head. The seven to eight foot spread, white head and tail made for an unquestionable spotting.

I did a little research and found east of the Rockies, the bald Eagle only inhabits the Great Lakes Region, northern Maine, the water’s edge of the Eastern Seaboard, and Florida. My lifelong habitation in the foothills of the Blue Ridge accounts for my never having seen one in the wild. My sighting made me think of a John Denver song. To avoid any copyright infringement, I’ll paraphrase. The line I’m thinking about refers to a person being impoverished if they’ve never seen one of these majestic birds on the wing. Now, I understand more fully what Denver meant. I still want to see a painted bunting, but no bird could compare with the Eagle.

I also have a deeper understanding of Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’ve quoted that verse so many times, but now I have a real picture to go with it. If we put our trust and hope in the Lord, we’ll be the ones swooping and soaring as well as running and walking with strength and endurance.

I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture, but I was so awestruck, all I could do was gape. But the mighty Eagle will continue to fly in my memory, and when I find myself growing weary—I’ll remember those few moments we had at the marsh.

This is just one more reason I love that island.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thousand Words

Several years ago, I heard author, actor, artist McNair Wilson say “Put something into the world everyday that wasn’t there before.”

That simple piece of advice has made a difference in my life by helping me make sure I put aside time to be creative. Some days can be one long string of doing endless repetitive things like loading the dishwasher or folding towels, and even the time I spend at the computer, which should be creative time, can turn into checking email and balancing the checkbook. I set a goal to write a thousand words a day—a thousand words that weren’t in the world yesterday—a thousand words that can add up over time to be a screenplay or a novel. So, in the last five years, I’ve written three novels, four screenplays, several songs and I don’t know how many articles and devotions all by remembering McNair’s advice. He even helped me find I could be a watercolorist again.

Before I go to sleep at night, I think about what I’ve put into the world that day. It may not have been much. I might think my work less than the best, and no one but God and me may have known what I even attempted. But I used the gifts and talents God has given me. I remember the words of Paul from Colossian 3, “Whatsoever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” So, before I let my thousand words go, I make sure I put them in God’s hands. Who knows the thousand ways he might possibly use them?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finishing Well

I recently had a class with Jerry Jenkins, keynote speaker at a conference I was attending and prolific author of the Left Behind Series. He also owns the Christian Writer’s Guild and has helped many writers achieve their dreams.

Jenkins has also authored an autobiography for Billy Graham entitled Just As I Am, and shared a story at the conference I’ll never forget.

 In his interviews with Graham, with whom he still maintains a close relationship, he asked Graham how he maintained his spiritual disciplines.

Graham responded he did as the Bible instructed--he prayed and searched the scriptures. He told Jenkins he prayed even as he spoke with him. Graham also said when he arose in the morning,he read the Bible for a time, and then would leave the open Bible somewhere he could see it. Then throughout the day, he would return to it and read. Jenkins said, sure enough, he looked over and there on the desk was the open Bible.

As I heard this story, verses floated into my mind:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Be joyful always; pray continually…”I Thessalonians 5:17

 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” Collosians 3:17

 “…Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.

I loved the wisdom Jenkins shared from Graham’s experience—powerful words from a man who is finishing his life well.

"Pray and search the scriptures..."

Sometimes we try to complicate the Christian life, to add to it our own set of demands. But if we can begin and end each day by praying and searching the scriptures, we may find sustenance for a lifetime.

These are powerful words tfrom Graham that could help us all finish well.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Favorite Fourth

The picture above comes from one of my favorite Fourth of July’s—a week spent almost at the tree line in Montana. In the summer of 2001, our family traveled over 7000 miles across the country from Montana to Massachusetts and saw many of our country’s historical sites. I’m currently editing a narrative entitled Dream Summer I wrote about that summer and am reliving many of our adventures. Every Fourth I think about those days and how blessed I felt to have had the privilege of seeing our country in that way, especially in light of the impending national tragedy which unfolded just days after return. Here’s an excerpt from the last chapter of Dream Summer:

Wherever we’ve been, her (America’s) people have blessed us. I hope my children have some understanding of what it means to be an American citizen and how many have laid down their lives so that we might have ours. For the heroes who include the man who helped begin our country’s freedom trail one dark night in April of 1775 to twenty-first century firefighters in a cataclysmic disaster, we give thanks. They have made our “Dream Summer” and the telling of it possible. For the heroes that are yet to be, we pray a firm resolve and the scripture from Ecclesiastes 9, that God would grant them a “Wisdom which is better than weapons of war.” And from the mountains of Montana, to the prairies of South Dakota, to the rocky shoreline of Massachusetts, to our own sweet home in the South, we pray indeed that God would bless America.

Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Serendipitous Meeting

My husband and I attended one of the massive University of Georgia freshmen orientation sessions this week in preparation for our son’s entering the school this fall. As we crammed onto a UGA bus with dozens of other parents, my husband nodded toward a gentlemen directly in front of us. Sure enough, it was Darrell Huckaby and his lovely wife, Lisa. He pens a syndicated newspaper column and has become one of my favorite writers. At our house, his pieces often are separated from the rest of the paper for rereading.

Huckaby has authored many books including one he wrote along with Blake Giles about local legend, Coburn Kelly. After a miraculous deliverance from an almost certain death during WWII, Kelly committed himself to God for the singular vision of developing character in young men. Forgoing a more lucrative career, he spent his entire adult life teaching and coaching at the YMCA. Many men here and around the country boast of having been one of “Kelly’s boys.”

Through the more than ten years we spent at the Y for basketball, soccer, and football, I passed by the portrait of Kelly many times. But, I’d never heard his inspiring story until I read Huckaby’s book. It’s a story worth telling, and retelling, and I’m grateful to Darrell Huckaby and Blake Giles for sharing it.

The author Debbie Macomber recommends making a list of people you’d like to meet. She said she did this years ago, and has had the privilege of meeting many of the people on her list. Darrell Huckaby was definitely one of my “want to meet” people, and I’m thankful I had the privilege. Who would have guessed at freshmen orientation?

To read more about Darrell Huckaby, visit his website at
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