Recent Posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

All That Jesus Is

I am so completely cheating today by sharing something I have not written, but a friend e-mailed this to me and I just felt the need to pass it along.

Here are some beautiful thoughts about Jesus from an anonymous writer. Enjoy -

The First and The Last

He is the First and Last,
The Beginning and the End!
He is the keeper of Creation
and the Creator of all!
He is the Architect of the universe
and the Manager of all times.
He always was, He always is,
and He always will be...
Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated,
and never Undone!

He was bruised and brought healing!
He was pierced and eased pain!
He was persecuted and brought freedom!
He was dead and brought life!
He is risen and brings power!
He reigns and brings Peace!

The world can't understand him,
The armies can't defeat Him,
The schools can't explain Him,
and The leaders can't ignore Him.

Herod couldn't kill Him,
The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him,
and The people couldn't hold Him!

Nero couldn't crush Him,
Hitler couldn't silence Him,
The New Age can't replace Him,
and "Oprah" can't explain Him away!

He is light, love, longevity, and Lord.
He is goodness, Kindness, Gentleness, and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, mighty, powerful, and pure.

His ways are right,
His word is eternal,
His will is unchanging,
and His mind is on me.

He is my Savior,
He is my guide,
and He is my peace!
He is my Joy,
He is my comfort,
He is my Lord,
and He rules my life!

I serve Him because
His bond is love,
His burden is light,
and His goal for me is abundant life.

I follow Him because
He is the wisdom of the wise,
the power of the powerful,
the ancient of days,
the ruler of rulers,
the leader of leaders,
the overseer of the overcomers,
and is to come.

And if that seems impressive to you, try this for size.
His goal is a relationship with ME!
He will never leave me,
never forsake me,
never mislead me,
never forget me,
never overlook me,
and never cancel my appointment in His appointment book!

When I fall, He lifts me up!
When I fail, He forgives!
When I am weak, He is strong!
When I am lost, He is the way!
When I am afraid, He is my courage!
When I stumble, He steadies me!
When I am hurt, He heals me!
When I am broken, He mends me!
When I am blind, He leads me!
When I am hungry, He feeds me!
When I face trials, He is with me!
When I face persecution, He shields me!
When I face problems, He comforts me!
When I face loss, He provides for me!
When I face Death, He carries me Home!

He is everything for everybody everywhere, every time, and every way.
He is God, He is faithful.
I am His, and He is mine!
My Father in heaven can whip the father of this world.

So, if you're wondering why I feel so secure, understand this...

He said it and that settles it.
God is in control, I am on His side,
and that means all is well with my soul.
Every day is a blessing for GOD Is!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stellasue Lee Poetry Reading

The room at Rippavilla Plantation, in Spring Hill, Tennessee, was swollen with poetry lovers last Saturday night. If there was a poetry skeptic in the room, maybe dragged there by a persistent spouse, I am quite certain they left with a new fervor for the art.

The event was, Firecracker Red: This Ain't Your Grandmother's Poetry Reading. Pulitzer-nominated poet, Stellasue Lee, was the main attraction, and her apprentice, Ramon Presson, was the opening act.

Presson is a highly respected and successful Psychologist in the field of marriage counseling. He has authored ten books on the subject. On Saturday night, he took off his counselor shoes and shared his passion -- poetry -- with the audience. Under the mentorship of Stellasue Lee, he has refined and chiseled his gift of poetry into a precise soul-awakening tool.

I became quite distressed afterwards to find that Presson did not have a book of poetry. There were so many lines that moved me, and I wanted to remember them fully. There was the pregnant robin preparing to drop her luggage; the taste of Haagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream that lingered so vividly, I had to pick some up at the store the next day; the emotional scars of young Staci, looking out her car window at the grotesque wounds of a dead deer on the side of the road in the elitist Brentwood, Tennessee of all places; and the note to Pablo Neruda whose poetry gave Presson something, he just wasn't sure what. Presson instilled a bit of southern dialect into his writing giving us all a chuckle at times.

Imagine my excitement when I found his blog site with all of his great poems and many more. Click here to read his poems (click on each month in his side bar to read more). I found this great quote on his site that explains why his and Stellasue Lee's poetry is so intoxicating:

Folks, here's the bottom line....if a poem or a poet's body of work is so dumbed down that most of it would work in a Hallmark card, it's not great poetry. If a poem or a poet's body of work can only be understood by elitists or by readers on LSD, while it may even have some elements of genius in its lines, it is not ( in my opinion ) great poetry. In my opinion great contemporary poetry makes language dance to a tune that a skilled reader can follow. It is said that 'art is man's attempt to explain his humanness.' If the only one who comprehends the (published) poet's 'explanation' is the poet himself, he has pleasured himself rather than serving his reader. Thus great modern poetry is both artistically exceptional AND intellectually accessible. -Ramon Presson

Stellasue Lee took us on an emotional journey through pieces of her life. There were glimpses into the despondent life of her alcoholic, homeless father with a glass eye, who suffered from haunting demons of his military past. Lee's transparenecy induced tears in my eyes as she read of her daughter's death. We traveled back to Lee's childhood when she was the self-proclaimed "Queen of Jacks". Her husband was not immune to her poetic musings, and, to be fair, her battle with pizza was a crowd pleaser. There were also her wavings to the John Lund cross on I-65 because she felt it was important to make contacts on the other side.

We had the privilege of being the first to hear work from Lee's new book, Firecracker Red, due out later this year.

I was able to pick up Stellasue Lee's book, Crossing the Double Yellow Line, and she signed it. You can read some of her poetry here.

Both Stellasue Lee and Ramon Presson emphasized in their readings that poetry can be fictional. People always assume poetry is so personal that it has to be true. Stories can be made up and told through poetry. Both Lee and Presson use this technique. Much of their poetry is created through experience, but not all, making the poetry mysterious at times (leaving the audience to wonder, did that really happen?).

They both made poetry sound so easy. As if the words they used were just always meant to be together, and indeed that is poetry isn't it? The challenge is using the perfect combination of the perfect words to create the perfect poem. Lee and Presson appear to do it effortlessly, and I was thoroughly inspired.

If you have never been to a poetry reading, I encourage you to seek out a good one. I will be attending more in the future. In fact Stellasue Lee is planning another one this summer. I will keep you updated.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pigtails, Xanadu, God, Etc...

I'm in the mood for a little fun tonight. Jump in with me.

In my creative writing group, last week, we wrote letters to our 10-year-old selves. I have some thoughts to add before I send my letter to me.

Things that are not nearly as good at age 39 as they were at age 10:

1. A big, chilled glass of Tang (yuck, has that stuff changed? It used to be so good, didn't it?)
2. A PB&J sandwich (on white, not wheat and with the good old processed PB, not the natural or organic stuff)
3. Candy corn (wasn't that the best stuff when you were a kid -- have you tried it lately? It's like eating wax)
4. Spending summers in a swimsuit (at 10 I could just throw on any old suit and go -- now I have to work out for a few months beforehand, find just the right suit, shave -- there's just too much preparation involved)
5. Pigtails (I've tried them, not nearly as cute now)
6. Dressing up in my mom's clothes (ummm... kinda weird now, and her high heels are two sizes too small)
7. Swinging high enough to touch the sky (makes me a little dizzy now)
8. Riding my bike with no hands (I simply can't do this now -- I've tried -- I can't do wheelies or stand on my seat either, not that I ever could, but I have two boys now so I've tried)
9. Roller skating to "Another One Bites the Dust." Roller skating backwards. Roller skating limbo. Roller skating girl's choice. (okay, I know that's technically four, but it's in one topic)
10. Bubblegum music (click here to listen to some Bubblegum tunes), Shaun Cassidy (click here to listen to some Shaun Cassidy tunes), and my Xanadu soundtrack album (click here to listen to some Xanadu tunes). Okay, who am I kidding, this music is still super cool, even at age 39.

Things that are much better at age 39 than they were at age 10:

1. God (I didn't know Him when I was 10)
2. Summers (now I get to watch my kids live in their swimsuits)
3. Beets and spinach (self explanatory)
4. Gardening (I can honestly say I never had a conversation with a friend about my struggles with beetles on my basil when I was 10 -- now I anxiously post it on Facebook)
5. Tom and Jerry (seriously, I think I laugh harder now than I did at age 10)
6. Books (I wish I'd enjoyed them and read them as a kid)
7. Easter (now I know it's not about the bunny)
8. I can see the top of the chest of drawers (this was a huge goal when I was too short to see it)
9. Getting my teeth cleaned (because I know if I don't do it regularly, at my age I may end up needing a root canal)
10. My purpose (now it's raising my kids and serving God -- then it was catching frogs and climbing trees)

What was better for you at age 10, and what is better for you now?

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Scent"sational Memories

There is nothing that shows me the obviousness of God more than nature. The first thing I do each day is step outside and inhale because the scent of nature sticks with me like nothing else does. It's like my own little God-manufactured scratch-n-sniff right outside my back door. Whatever He's working on out there, morning is the best time to get a whiff of it. Lilacs in the spring. Petunias and basil in the summer. The spicy decay, of all that was green, in the fall. Crisp frost in the winter.

This morning, and for the past few, I had a difficult time inhaling. It's very difficult to take a strong, deep breath when you're in a steam furnace. We've been clocking high temps in the mid 90s for about a week now. The humidity is so thick I could probably wash my hair in it. Right now, for example, it's 10:15 p.m. and it's 72 degrees -- sounds nice, right -- but it's 94% humidity. So it feels like it's about 180 degrees out there. You can only imagine what it feels like when it's midday and 95 degrees. That sticky, muggy, stagnant air causes a traffic jam when it hits the bottle neck at my nostrils, and I smell nothing. Every time we walk outside my son says, "I can't breathe out here."

So I can't put words to the smell outside right now, and I'm disturbed by that. I like to have words for my sensations. There's an uneasiness in me that refuses to pass until this weather breaks.

A very fast-moving storm just passed through. I want to know if it smells different -- we haven't had rain for a few days. Hold on...

Oh yes, the rain brought some fresh, dry air. I could smell petunias and clean earth when I stepped out onto my deck, and a soft, silent breeze is blowing. WSMV needs to update it's weather page because it is definitely not 94% humidity now.

All of this makes me think about writing. About three months ago I had a lesson on sensations in my Christian Writer's Guild program. One question said, "How might descriptions highlighting one of the five senses enhance a reader's experience?" Here was my answer:

"I know that using a variety of senses in writing can really bring a setting to life in a reader’s mind. When I write, I don’t want someone to simply read about it, I want them to experience it.
The one thing that always pulls me back to or into a setting is that smell. I can smell something I haven’t smelled in twenty years and suddenly I am transported back to a moment in time when I came across that smell before. The smell of fresh ginger root growing somewhere, for example, instantly takes me back to my childhood camp on the riverside, the mountains behind it thick with fresh ginger root growing wild, the scent absorbed by the forest surrounding it. To me, capturing the details of scent can bring writing to life like nothing else can. If written well, a reader can actually smell a description of eucalyptus mint; mountain oxygen; mist rising off of a river; a damp, muddy cave; fresh vanilla mingling with wild mountain fern; the smell of a dog after he’s rolled around on a rotting wild animal carcass; and the difference between the smell in the air of a snow storm headed for the lush mountains of West Virginia and a snow storm headed for the dense, urban metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia."

And it's those descriptions of scent -- the kind that a writer can describe so well it puts a taste in your mouth -- that make a book or story memorable. You may not remember a man giving his dog a bath, but if the man's eyes are watering and he's gagging as he douses the skunk-sprayed dog in tomato juice, the scent of that scene gets branded onto your brain making it difficult to forget. And many times, that's all you need to take you back to a story.

In honor of the Facebook quiz, "Which crazy writer are you most like," I picked up The Road by Cormack McCarthy. I was most like Cormack McCarthy. :) In the book, a man and his young son are two of the very few people left on a post-apocalyptic earth. They are starving and McCarthy's writing is so vivid and pure that I was starving for them. I was so enmeshed in the lives of the two and so worried about their fate that I couldn't put the book down -- I read it in three sittings. After five days without food, they wander upon a field and find some dried apples. By the time they get there, I am so hungry for them that I can smell and taste the apples as if I were there. All McCarthy had to write was that they found some dry apples. I will never forget the smell and taste of those apples, and he never had to describe it. He just built the scent through anticipation. He uses this technique flawlessly throughout the book.

How does scent capture you? Do simple scents conjure up distant memories? Are there books or stories vivid in your mind because of a scent the author described?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Almost Heaven" Bound

I'm quickly coming out of my funk. I'm sorry you all had to follow it through my most recent blog. A few weeks ago, a close friend said, "If God leads you to write something, never compromise -- no matter what it is. Always listen to Him first." So even in my dark ramblings, I know God has a message to share.

The truth is my excitement has fizzled my funk. I am preparing for a long weekend at a great river cabin in West Virginia. River tubing, biking and running on the Greenbrier River Trail, cookouts, dips in the swimming hole, and a variety of other great adventures beckon, and I want to leave right this minute. But, I have to wait one more day. Look at these awesome cabins:

Greenbrier River Cabins

Our cabin has a front view of the beautiful river, and the back yard is the Greenbrier River Trail, a popular 79 mile rails-to-trails path that runs along a good chunk of Eastern West Virginia. The boys and I won't be traveling the entire trail since they are only 4 and 6, but someday...

Oh yes, look at those pictures. West Virginia, just like its motto and welcome sign says, truly is "almost heaven". It is my absolute favorite place to be. I can't wait to send you all some great pictures next week.

As always, when I get some extended time in nature, I come home overflowing with writing ideas. I am so excited to see what God fills me with this time. The only problem is, when I expect something -- like fresh ideas -- I tend to not get it. It's only when I least expect it that it comes.

So, I enter into this blissful weekend with no agenda, no expectations, no calendar, no WiFi access (gasp, I know -- I will be off line for 5 days straight), and no cell phone (yes, we're going old fashioned, I believe -- a land line).

I plan to spend my time lounging in an Adirondack chair, skipping my cell phone in the crystal clear water, and sipping on a Corona with the lime. Uh... wait... I mean sitting on a dusty fishing log, skipping my cell phone in a muddy river, and guzzling an ice-cold can of Budweiser (okay, I don't imbibe -- at least not openly -- I'm Baptist :), but you get the picture).

Oh, and just in case God tells me to write, I will have my ruby red, Dell Core 2 Duo laptop. Come on! You can't expect me to resort to pen and paper now can you?

Off topic: I coordinate a fun creative writing group in my town, and I stumbled upon this great creative writing ideas web site. If any of my fellow writer friends ever experience writers block, or if you just need some prompts to help you generate some new ideas, here's a great web site:

Creative Writing Prompts

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Your Memory, The Monster

"Your memory is a monster; you forget -- it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you -- and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!"
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

I saw this John Irving quote in the front pages of a new book called Return Policy by Michael Snyder. I could write an autobiographical book of lamentations on the musings shared in this one short quote.

Why does that monster (our memory) jump out at us when we least expect it? I am in a memory abyss right now which is why this quote struck a tender nerve tonight. When Irving referred to our memory as a monster, I don't think he was addressing our good memories. Although I have some good memories, that isn't what's consuming me currently.

It's the callous stuff -- the bitter stuff -- the dark, brooding, regretful stuff -- the stuff that ensnares the heart and attacks the spirit. Yes! That's where my thoughts live today -- dwelling on the ugly actions in my past. The thoughts aren't there every day, but they are today and were yesterday and the day before. And unfortunately they come and go in my life. God always pulls me through it, but many times I kick and scream the whole way out.

It's funny because before I became a Christian, dark memories didn't consume me. In fact dark thoughts rarely intruded my thinking. I guess it was because I never did anything wrong, I was always right, and I led my wicked life by my own self-created instruction manual (the one that said, "in life, only do what benefits Karen").

I found out that following my manual led me to some horrid and stupid decisions in my life. If I had lived my life according to God's manual, I would have made better decisions. Therein lies the problem. It's a classic case of dark versus light.

But here's the hard thing about becoming a Christian later in life: you've had all those years of dark living, not knowing, or not believing, that there is a light to compare it to. So, it was simply living -- not good, not bad, just living and doing what people in the world do -- mainly becoming numb to the constant promotion of extremes and jumping off the bridge with everyone else.

No harm in that... UNTIL you become a Christian.

A couple of years ago, I read a C. S. Lewis book called, The Problem of Pain. Many people think that once they become a Christian this solves the problem of pain in their lives. Lewis, who was an atheist before becoming a Christian, took the opposite stand saying that Christianity "creates rather than solves the problem of pain." Christianity brings to light all of the preexisting darkness in our lives. It's at that point of light that we look back at our lives before Him and plead, "God, what have I done, and can it be fixed?"

It's all of that unfixed stuff that hurts like hell, drives the evil memory monster, and leaves us brooding in moments, hours, days, or weeks of consumption.

That unfixed stuff is our guilt over all of those painful memories of our past: the people we harmed, the addictions that ruled our actions, the hurting people we ignored, the regrets, the mistakes, the stupidity... . God can and will remove our guilt if we release it to Him.

So why does our flesh hold on to it so stubbornly? I haven't figured that out yet which is why every six months or so memories of the dark consume me. If you have some insight here, I welcome it.

You may wonder, if you are not a believer, if you should even bother with this Christianty stuff if it opens your life to more intense painful realizations. The answer: YES! YES! YES! The reason why: because in the end, God will eliminate your memories of all that ugly stuff and instill you with a complete and perfect happiness. But, only if you choose Jesus, and you must choose Him now because you never know when that end is coming.


I've added a new Crapsey cinquain to my side bar that relates to my blog above. I know you are all avid readers of my side bar (yeah right), but I'll post it here anyway.

My Chains

amid distant
recollections, dense scars
shield a black, ragged heart while guilt

I've also updated my Christian Writer's Guild lesson summary in my side bar, if you are interested. It's a summary of my ponderings on an interview article about the stage adaptation of the C. S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters, which I desperately want to see.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Have You Sought Atonement?

Atonement is that unity between God and man provided to us by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have to ask Jesus to cleanse us by washing away our sins. What happens to us when we do not seek atonement for our sins for which Jesus died? That atonement must be pursued in the flesh or it's too late. If we physically die with our sins still on us, our access to Heaven is blocked. Nothing I could write could share it more powerfully than this old Bruce Springsteen song.

(Bruce Springsteen)
click here to listen

Last night I dreamed that I was a child
Out where the pines grow wild and tall
I was trying to make it home through the forest
before the darkness falls

I heard the wind rustling through the trees
and ghostly voices rose from the fields
I ran with my heart pounding down that broken path
with The Devil snappin' at my heels

I broke through the trees and there in the night
My father's house stood shining hard and bright
The branches and brambles tore my clothes and scratched my arms
but I ran till I fell, shaking in his arms

I awoke and I imagined the hard things that pulled us apart
will never again, sir, tear us from each other's hearts
I got dressed and to that house I did ride
From out on the road, I could see it's windows shining in light

I walked up the steps and stood on the porch
A woman I didn't recognize came and spoke to me through a chained door
I told her my story and who I'd come for
She said "I'm sorry, son, but no one by that name lives here anymore"

My father's house shines hard and bright
It stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling, so cold and alone
Shining `cross this dark highway where our sins lie unatoned

If you have not sought atonement and would like to, you can do so through the salvation prayer in my sidebar (scroll way down). Leave me a note if you pray this prayer or if you'd like for me to contact you and pray with you.