Strength is Hidden in Weakness

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ah, Ever Mindful folks, this week I have neglected you. I'm getting ready to go to The Mount Hermon Writers' Conference, where I will be surrounded by dear friends. If you are among them, please say hello. You will make me happy.

When I get back, I will have an insightful, practical article for you by my Novel Matters co-host, Latayne Scott, about how to avoid identity theft.

But this week she and I (and all the other Novel Matters ladies) will be gone, Twittering occasionally, but generally unavailable to answer comments.

So I leave you with this little quote to remind that your true identity is made perfect in weakness. I find that comforting, and hope you do, too:

"Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: "Well, I don't have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one." Often we also treat people this way. We say: "Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business...we'd better not take the risk of working with them." When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

"We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak." ~ Henri Nouwen

Rejoice Anyway

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I've heard that quote attributed to Plato, to Marion Parker, and to Pliny the somebody. I wonder if anyone really knows who said it.

But I'll bet they all thought it. Daily I become more convinced that everyone fights for their lives, one way or another, every day. It's why Jesus had a soft spot for sinners and failures, why he preferred them to the arrogant and self-righteous. The failures had at least some grasp on reality.

It's why he commanded us to love, why he told Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Oh how far our faith is called to stretch. Who would have thought we'd be asked to accept ourselves, to hope despite our defects? To rejoice anyway.

Where I live, the sun is shining. If you're just a little brave, you can go outside without your coat.

Today I wish for you a tiny, if subtle bit of springtime. Enjoy the film.

Mortgage: $0; Utilities: $5

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oh - and 100 or so square feet of living space.

Could you do it?

Lets consider this an exercise in values clarification. What if, like the main character in my novel, The Feast of Saint Bertie, you decided to live small?

Imagine the decision is made. Your house is sold or your landlord notified. Your tiny house is built. It's time to move.

It's a cute little place. You can't tell by the picture, but it has wheels and a trailer hitch. You can set up housekeeping anywhere you want. (Hmmm... where would you put yours?)

Just two things left on your to do list:

1. Pack
2. Hold a yard sale

With so little space, packing should be easy, right? Bertie took a sleeping bag, a Bible plus a few other books, some basic items of clothing, a cup, a bowl, a plate, a knife, a fork, a spoon, a can opener, and some canned goods.

But your house will be nicer than Bertie's old gardener's shed. You'll have amenities like furniture, a kitchen and a bathroom.

You will, however, have to ask yourself what really matters to you. You're moving into a non-conformist living space, so I really mean, what matters to you? You don't have room to own things only because they are expected.

This actually wasn't so hard for me, at least not up to a point. I am a writer, and a reader. To be happy, I need:

My laptop. I know, you can write with pencil and paper, but... sigh! No. A laptop.

A comfortable chair.

A coffee maker and a mug.

My cat.

Books. This presents a problem, because I have too many books to fit in a tiny home. But perhaps I could get around this by donating most of them to the library. I could still check them out, right? I just hope my late fees wouldn't end up equaling the cost of a mortgage...

A uniform. With perhaps two feet of closet space, I'd have to decide what I'd be comfortable wearing, if I had to wear pretty much the same thing all the time. Jeans come to mind. A black pair and a blue pair (for variety). Two cotton shirts. A sweater. A pair of sneakers and a pair of sandals. A dress for church.

My friends and family. This presents another problem, because, for instance, twice a month I host a Ladies' Tea and Bible Study in my home. But if I didn't have a mortgage I could probably afford some creative solutions. Ms. Lynn's Tea is just down the road, and Ms. Lynn is a better cook than I am.

My husband. This is why I said "up to a point." Because he restores vintage race cars and builds flying model airplanes. So what does he need to be happy? A garage. A big garage. What a surprise to realize he needs more space than I do.

I do plan to keep my husband.

What would you keep? What do you need to be happy? What could you do without? What would be your uniform? Oh, and where would you put your house?

Photo by Jack Journey. Copyright Tumbleweed Tiny House Company 2008.

Your Pilgrim Souls

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When You are Old
by William Butler Yeats

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Happy Saint Patricks Day, my friends. I love your pilgrim souls.

Tea With Me, And Other Updates

Monday, March 16, 2009

A few updates on my authorish doings:

If you live anywhere near Siskiyou County, California, I hope you'll join me for tea at Ms. Lynn's Tea on Friday, April 17, at 1:00. Ms. Lynn's was kind enough to host me for their Tea With The Author event after the publication of To Dance in the Desert. We all had a wonderful time, in the graciously appointed tea room. Now they're hosting me again, to celebrate the publication of The Feast of Saint Bertie. The cost will be $10. You can contact Ms. Lynn's Tea at:

Telephone: (530) 459-3439
Postal address: P.O. Box 567, Montague, CA 96064
Street address: 120 N. Eleventh Street, Montague, CA 96064
Electronic mail:

This month I was honored to be interviewed by Angela Wilson of Pop Syndicate. You can read the resulting article here.

I hope you've become a regular at Novel Matters, my group blog about the reading and writing of sumptuous fiction. Why?
  1. The ladies I have teamed up with are brilliant: funny, interesting, smart, and full of great information for both readers and writers.
  2. We have initiated a tradition of monthly promotions for wonderful prizes. This month, you get a chance at a whole library of Patti Hill novels. All you have to do is comment on one of our posts. We love comments, and you will love the conversations that take place at Novel Matters.
  3. Next month we plan to announce a huge contest with an amazing prize, of special interest to writers.

If you'd like to be updated on these sorts of things via email, I hope you'll sign up for my newsletter.

Pay more. Buy less.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Do you ever wonder if the world would be a better place, if we paid higher prices for the things we buy?

No, I never did either. Not the way I grew up. A mother who raised two kids by herself. Grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. In my family, it's always been a matter of moral obligation to get the best price for everything we buy.

But now I'm starting to wonder whether, in the context of a global marketplace, my quest for the lowest price hasn't turned shamefully immoral when I wasn't looking.

Are you way ahead of me on this, or do you wonder what I'm talking about? It took a long time for my head to turn this direction, so just in case, I'll back up a bit and fill you in on where this started for me.

Last month, offered the audio download of Not For Sale, David Batstone's book on human trafficking, for free. I'd thought of buying the book before, and now - best price, remember? - I had to take ChristianAudio up on their offer.

It's a dangerous book. It presented me with moral choices in places where I'd never seen them before. It made me want to know more, to understand better how I contributed to the problem of - lets not call it trafficking. Human beings - often children - are being stolen from their homes or lured by deception, forced to work for no pay, intimidated by apalling abuse, unable to go home, unable to escape. It's slavery, and I wanted to know where I stood in the chain of cause and effect.

I read articles and watched videos. I learned the term "fair trade" which translates, "slave-free." I found out how the problem presents itself, for instance, in the chocolate trade.

I know. Chocolate hits way too close to home. But the fact is that around 70 percent of the world’s cacao is harvested using slave labor. Even farmers who don't use slaves are forced to take their children out of school and put them to work. It's hard, dangerous work, for which they are paid very little. Most farm families live on less than $100 a year. In one video I saw,Tim Costello of World Vision held up a candy bar, and said most chocolate companies would pay less for a large bag of cocoa than we would pay for that bar of milk chocolate.

So there's where I stand in the chain of events: I get the best price for chocolate, while the farmer suffers in ways I can't even imagine. Or else he uses slaves.

In a world where price is all that matters, the slave-holder wins every time.

So I look for the words "fair trade" on the package when I buy chocolate. I pay more money. As a consequence, I buy less. But why shouldn't chocolate be an occasional luxury? Doesn't it taste like one?

I wonder what the world would look like, if all were set right. If slavery did not exist (and it does; there are more slaves in the world today than there were back before we "abolished" slavery), if all farmers and workers were paid enough to support their families in dignity, wouldn't we pay more for the things we buy? Wouldn't we then buy less?

Would that be okay?

PS: Here's an excellent post by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, that I think is related, titled Steps Towards a More Sustainable Life of Less.

PSS: Welcome to my new follower, Tanja! I hope you will drop in often, and speak up in the comments!

(Thanks to H. Koppdelaney for the image.)

Keep Calm and Carry On

Friday, March 6, 2009

When I started this blog, I saw it, loosely, as a way of recording my thoughts about anything and everything except reading and writing, since that was the topic of my group blog, Novel Matters. I titled this one Ever Mindful, because, while it makes me sound more serene than I actually am, it does represent a way of thinking and seeing things that I try for in my approach to living. I want to pay attention. I want to see beyond and beneath the obvious. I never, ever want to get to the end of my life and realize that I let the whole thing pass by without notice.

I started Ever Mindful before the economic troubles began in earnest. Just before.

Now I think I have found the focus for what I am doing here. My family and I have been affected by the recent turn of events. Not as badly as some, but affected, nonetheless, and I am going to have to work through, over the coming years, what we will do about it. I'll look for practical steps to make things better, and if I find any that aren't obvious, and that might help others, I'll share them here. More than that, though, I will use this space to think through how to live the life I have today with faith, with wisdom and grace.

A few things I have seen and read and thought about lately that all tie together. I think. I'm sure they tie together.

1. Last night I read this in Andy Crouch's book, Culture Making:Recovering the Creative Calling: "'Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.' (Gen. 2:9) - notice the emphasis, as in a well-tended garden, on the combination of the beautiful and the useful."

I've always found it inspiring that when Franklin D. Roosevelt set about lifting our country out of The Great Depression, he put people to work creating not only roads and
bridges but also wall murals and music (ever hear of Woodie Guthrie?). Take a tour of Hoover Dam sometime, and you'll see how even a utilitarian project became a magnificent work of architectural art. My point is, we can find ways to be creative in the way we live through this time of our history.

2. This morning I watched a TedTalk by ceramics designer Eva Zeisel, a woman who has lived a long, creative life through the worst of times. I looked from this woman to the things her hands have made, and marveled at the beauty. Listen especially to what she says at the end: "I actually did survive."

3. The poster at the top of my sidebar was put out in 1939 by the United Kingdom Ministry of Information. Picture the Londoners during the blitzkrieg, dodging bombs, brushing rubble from their shoulders, turning to the poster for a little boost while they straightened their tweed coats and neatened their hair. I once found it oh, so charmingly British. Now I just find it ennobling. (This one comes compliments of A.J. Cann.)

Happy Friday, dear readers. Keep Calm. Carry On.

March Forth

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March Fourth. Get it?

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I was tired, you see, walking home after a day that turned out very different from the one I had planned. Trudging through the snow, I remembered that one of the items on my to-do list was to write a blog post for Every Mindful.

The little excuse-maker gremlin in my head set right to work. Too late, it said. You should post in the morning or at the latest in the early afternoon. (Don't ask me where it got that rule; the gremlin speaks with such a tone of authority, you seldom think to argue.)

My day veered off course when I called my mother this morning, to ask if she felt like taking our daily walk, since it had begun to snow and was very cold.

"I've started a little project," she said.

Oh? What's that?

Turned out she was lifting the area rug from the living room, because she hates the way it looks there, and moving it into her office. It's a large rug, and in her office, it becomes no longer an area rug, but wall-to-wall carpeting.

My mother has not one, but two large desks in the little room, one of them oak and massive, the other one mahogany and merely large. She also has several bookcases, a bullet-proof filing cabinet, and lots and lots of books, baskets, boxes, stuff and stuff.

Let me go back to the oak desk. It's larger than the doorway. It's larger than the window. I don't know how she got it in there in the first place. My son says it was always there. It was an oak tree, and they carved it into a desk and built the house around it.

This was most certainly not a little project. All the small things had to come out (they filled the whole house!), and all of the big things had to be lifted while someone scroonched the carpet under.

I should mention, she was not alone. My great nephew was there, fourteen years old, and strong. But I love him, and my mother, and a little mercy seemed in order.

Before the day was out, two other men, my son and my nephew (great nephew's dad) were crowded into the office, figuring out logistics, lifting, grunting, making jokes about the "little project." There was also another nephew, three years old, who behaved very well. For a three-year-old.

We had fun. Really.

I felt pretty pleased about it, walking home in the snow, listening to the excuse-gremlin in my head.

Then it came to me that today was March Fourth, surely the bravest, the chirpiest sounding date on the calendar. It seemed to call for an acknowledgment, one which would fall flat if posted on March fifth.

So here I am, looking back on my day, on the way my family marched forth to get the job done, the way we enjoyed each other's company, and the challenge of a new, unexpected, and slightly ridiculous project.

Tomorrow perhaps I will march forth on that walk, snow or no snow.

Tonight I will figuratively march forth and post this entry. While it is still, just barely, March fourth.

Live in the Moment

Monday, March 2, 2009

Introduction: I'm proud to introduce my dear friend and fellow Novel Matters author, Sharon K. Souza as my first guest blogger here on Ever Mindful. Sharon has faced shattering tragedy with courage and faith, and today she will share some of that with you.

I was blessed to be witness to the gestation and birth of her two novels. She is a luminous author, who writes stories full of humor, wisdom and grace. I know you'll want to read them, so I've provided links at the end of this post.

I recently spoke at a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) gathering. After introducing myself and sharing a bit about my novels, I got to the heart of the matter, Finding Contentment.

My daughter and son-in-law found contentment on Valentine’s Day, when they left their 2-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter with Grandpa and Grandma – namely my husband and me – while they went to Sacramento for shopping and dinner. Rick and I found contentment when they finally picked up the kids 7 hours later! The baby was a breeze, but I’d forgotten what it was like to keep up with a two-year-old. I fell into bed exhausted that night.

But to get serious . . . I’m sure most of us are familiar with the passage from Philippians 4:12, where Paul writes, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." Wow. I confess, there are some verses in the Bible I wish weren’t there, and that’s one of them. Because I haven’t accomplished that one yet. Not even close. I try. I want to be able to say along with Paul, "content . . . in any situation." But there have been plenty of times in my life when I was far from content.

In my writing, for example. It took 20 years for my first novel to be published. Believe me, there were plenty of times in those TWO DECADES I wasn’t content; when I wondered what on earth God was doing with me; wondered why he’d given me a passion to do something for him, only to be hemmed in by a brick wall I couldn’t get over or around, with no door in sight.

And I have to admit, I was that way in my parenting too. Impatient. Not content. I found myself always thinking, I can’t wait until . . . my babies, are walking, or talking, or going to school. Always eager for that next stage, rather than enjoying every single minute of every single day. Of just living in the moment. Because we’re not guaranteed that there will be a next moment.

On March 11, we will arrive at the second anniversary of the death of our son Brian, who died at 34. I could fill the universe with all the things I’d give up for one more moment with him, to see that dimpled smile one more time. I’m thankful for the promise that I’ll see him again, but that doesn’t dry my tears today.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Joni Mitchell’s "Circle Game," a song about a boy who grows from childhood to adulthood. The chorus says, "And the seasons, they go round and round; and the painted ponies go up and down; we’re captive on a carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in the circle game."

The verse that means the most to me says, "Sixteen springs and 16 summers gone now; cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town; and they tell him, take your time, it won’t be long now, till you drag your feet to slow the circle down."

How true is that. I find myself dragging my foot more and more, wanting to make the most of my time here. I wish I’d been content with every day when my children were young. Wish I’d listened with both ears, instead of just one so much of the time. Wish I’d played more and worried less about a tidy house. Wish I’d lived in the moment, for every one is precious; not one can be gotten back. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

And yet, God redeems all things, our regrets and mistakes most of all. It's never too late to ride that pony, so ride it for all you're worth.

Fleeing the Muchness and Manyness

Monday, February 23, 2009

"... the courage to face the inner monsters takes a faith and trust in God that many of us do not possess (or don't want to possess), and so we busy ourselves with muchness and manyness and undertake our colossal enterprises to avoid looking inside." ~ Richard Foster, in the Introduction to The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

I do so understand the muchness and manyness. I struggle all the time with clutter - you know, the cool stuff I find at thrift stores that they just don't make anymore. The useful, or might-be-useful-one-day stuff. The books. Oooh, the books.

And as a consequence of the books, the thoughts piled on other thoughts. The ideas and plans.

Wonderful, all of it, but also heavy, at times.

I've come to love the idea of the Sabbath, a time to stop the noise for one blessed day. Sometimes I think I could do away with all of it, and move into a tiny home. Something like this:

Or even something like this - I have a fondness for old trailers:

Bertie Denys, the main character in my second novel, moves into an old gardener's shed in the mountains, in order to pursue a devout life after the manner of Saint Francis of Assisi. About the time I wrote this novel, I read a book by Henri Nouwen, in which he told a brief early history of the monastic movement, which began when the Roman Emperor Constantine became, at least on the surface, a Christian. Before this happened, Christians were persecuted in horrible ways, but now it was actually cool to be a Christian. Before, if you were a believer, your motives were clear because you sure weren't following Christ for security or power or position. Now the best way to get any of these things was to convert - at least on the surface. It changed everything.

So some Christians literally fled to caves in the desert, to avoid falling into the "worldly" mindset that valued security, power, and position above all else. How could they not, while they were immersed in a culture that dressed the church in the purple robes of political authority?

Having once been deprived of these riches, they had found others too precious to lose.

I can't help thinking they have something to teach me now.

How about you? How much would you fear the loss of muchness and manyness? Could you live in a Tiny House? Or just a (lowercase) tiny house?

I'd love to hear from you.

Movies on Friday: The Snowman

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you remember this one? While it's still winter, let's indulge in a bit of wonder. If you want, you can watch the entire film by following this link.

This Place Right Here, This Moment Right Now

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do you have books on your shelf that you pick up again and again? One of my perennial favorites is a small volume of 103 pages: The Sacrament of the Present Moment. The book was written by an eighteenth century French Jesuit priest named Jean-Pierre deCaussade to explore a very twenty-first century question: How do we narrow our focus to this place right here, this moment right now?

And by the way, should Christians even attempt such a pop-spirituality puruit as mindfulness, or... better question yet: are we even capable?

In the introduction, Richard Foster writes, "It is sad to say that much of modern Christianity is captivated by the religion of the 'big deal.' ... Big churches, big budgets, big names - certainly this is the sign of things important."

Now, I should note that Foster wrote this sometime around 1981, and it seems to me that we are less accepting of the corporate/celebrity church culture than we were then. At least we try to be. A couple of years ago, my son attended a Christian youth function where he heard a speaker rail against the cult of the big deal, the brand name. For a time after that, in our house labels disappeared from computers, from clothing, from mp3 players. But it seems to me that the event where he got this advice, Acquire the Fire, had built itself a pretty big brand of its own.

(Am I getting myself in trouble here? I'm not putting down AtF. I'm only pointing out, however awkwardly, that we can't seem to help building big brands even as we rebel against them.)

Foster continues: "To such idolatry deCaussade speaks with devastating precision. For him, the focus of God's activity is not center stage but backstage, in the insignificant moments we often cast aside."

Is it possible that we can find God best in this moment, with the water dripping from the eaves outside, with the bathtub that needs cleaning and the taxes that need filing?

Or put another way: Can we find him anyplace else?

More on this to come.

What I Learned When Times Were Bad

Monday, February 16, 2009

Several years ago, my family went through a bad time. Actually, it was a terrible time, so terrible in fact, I think of it as my "Job experience:" a string of events so relentless they seemed (sorry if this sounds paranoid) like God was out to get me.

We are all fine now. We got through, and I have no desire to spill the details. But this seems a pretty good time to share with you the lessons I learned:

1. I had nothing to fear - well, very little to fear - but fear itself. It wasn't so much what happened; it was what I thought might happen that frayed my nerves, wrought havoc on my stomach and disposition, and kept me awake at night. It was fear, mostly, that made a difficult time into a nightmare.

2. I'm not a fortune teller. I thought I could project whole chains of events from a single cause. If this happened, then this would result, and the result of that would be... Nope. Not so. Things I prayed wouldn't happen... well, they did happen, but the result turned out to be quite different from what I expected. One or two of the things I feared most actually came to pass, but the rest did not. And we all survived the worst a lot better than I expected.

3. Things come to pass. They get better. Even when it seems they won't.

4. You put one foot in front of the other. It helped to make plans and take them step by step. Even when my plans seemed inadequate (because they were), motion was better than paralysis. When my steps faltered, it helped to forgive myself.Walks helped. Bubble baths helped. Flowers helped. (Weeds can look very nice in a vase, and they are free.)

5. God is good. Deeply good. I can't explain this, but the bad times changed me in ways that I actually like. Since that time I find it easier to let go of unimportant things. Easier to forgive. Easier to be happy. Easier to pray, and feel that I am not alone.

I don't mean to serve up platitudes here. I have friends who have suffered real tragedies. But I have watched these friends, hovered and wept over them. And observed that #5 seems to be so for them as well. They are deeper, better people, surrendered to the mystery of a God who loves them in their pain. It's like Job said: "Before, I heard about you by word of mouth. But now I see you face to face" (Job 42:5)

What have you learned from bad times? I'd love to hear your wisdom.

*The scripture verse is my paraphrase. I read it like that in some Bible someplace, but can't find the exact version now. If you know it, please help me out.

Weekend Joyfulness

Friday, January 30, 2009

See all the serenity I've spread all over this blog? See how I've kept it to pretty pictures and not too much clutter?

Oh well. Sometimes you just gotta get down. You know?

For your weekend pleasure I'm giving you some media candy that made me happy this week. Here's something from a man who thinks the Christian message should be more like Christ's message to the world. God love him.

And here's something that's just lovely, just joyful. Can we all just dance now?

Last but not least, may I direct you to a bucket-full of fabulous indie music to get you through to Monday? Enjoy some Whole Wheat Radio from Alaska.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Hope is Walking Forward... and Praying

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!"
~ Langston Hughes, 1938

"Say it plain, that many have died for this day."
~Elizabeth Alexander, 2009.

And then she said...

"What if the mightiest word is love..."

And then...

"In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light."

Amen. Amen.

Praying, praying, praying...

Winter Consolations

Friday, January 9, 2009

When I walk around the lake these days, I understand why Spring comes as such an extravagance of joy. Winter is beautiful - cold, but beautiful - when everything is covered with snow, mounds of white, crystals of frost sprouting on twigs like glass flowers.

But let the snow melt, and mostly what I see is a world like wilted lettuce. Grasses lying limp and dispirited. Ruined blackberry vines matted over brown puddles in the mud.

And days, long days without sunlight.

I go to my lake, and visit my geese, but to tell the truth, the place looks like it's seen better days. And it will again. Sometime around March, maybe.

Still, there are consolations. A grey heron that I've seen once, and then only briefly, has now taken up residence on the icy shore. I love herons. There are places where they are plentiful, but at my lake, there's only the one. These days, he's been posing for my camera.

Not only that, but two days ago, someone pointed to the top of a tree, where a bald eagle perched, proud as the whole US of A. I'd never seen one before.

The more I walk in this place, the more it seems the right thing to do. How did I ever spend whole years without getting out to see what the world looked like? Never knowing how the geese were, where the heron was, what a bald eagle looked like, staring down at me from his exalted height? (I did wish for a telephoto lens at that moment.)

If I have a resolution this year, it's to extend what I've learned at the lake into the rest of my life. To pay attention. To take time. To learn the kind of rest that isn't about doing nothing, but about doing just one thing at a time, in faith and great love.

Somehow it all prompts me to pull a favorite book from the shelf. I open it up and browse through the many passages I've highlighted. And find this:

Then run, faithful souls, happy and tireless, keep up with your beloved who marches with giant strides from one end of heaven to the other. Nothing is hidden from his eyes. He walks alike over the smallest blade of grass, the tallest cedars, grains of sand or rocky mountains. Wherever you go he has gone before. Only follow him and you will find him everywhere.

~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in The Sacrament of the Present Moment

P.S. Today I also posted for the first time on Novel Matters, the new blog about the reading and writing of sumptuous fiction. This time I talk about the writer's calling to wrestle with angels. Care to take a look?

Novel Matters and Between the Lines

Monday, January 5, 2009

I am so thrilled about this. May I humbly (or not so humbly) suggest that on this day your reading and writing adventure just got a tad more exciting.

The group blog I've been telling you about, Novel Matters, is finally live. This is the place where I will discuss the reading and writing of sumptuous fiction with six amazing authors, Bonnie Grove, Patti Hill, Latayne Scott, Sharon K. Souza, Debbie Fuller Thomas, and Jennifer Valent.

If you love to read great novels, I hope you'll check in with us for some ideas, and give us your thoughts as well. What makes a story irresistable to you?

If you're a writer, I hope you'll jump in, and help us explore ways of making the kind of fiction readers will return to again and again.

We plan to have fun with this, and we've got some great promotions planned, with amazing prizes. But first we're breaking the ice with a group interview, a series of questions we asked each other so we can all know what kind of minds are behind Novel Matters. It could get scary, though. Did you know Bonnie Grove gets her best ideas when she's soaking wet? Not to mention... well, you read all about it in her innaugeral post.

There's more. Novel Matters isn't the only great blog that has launched today. My fabulous agent, Janet Kobobel Grant, and her colleagues at the Books & Such Literary Agency, have started one of their own, titled Between the Lines. This blog promises to be the place every writer will turn to for wisdom and encouragement. Check out the first post, where Janet coins a new term that I love: newfangledness.

New Years Day 2009: A Quote from George MacDonald

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"You will yet know the dignity of your high calling, and the love of God that passeth knowledge. He is not afraid of your presumptuous approach to him. It is you who are afraid to come near him. He is not watching over his dignity. It is you who fear to be sent away as the disciples would have sent away the little children. It is you who think so much about your souls and are so afraid of losing your life, that you dare not draw near to the Life of life, lest it should consume you.

"Our God, we will trust thee. Shall we not find thee equal to our faith? One day, we shall laugh ourselves to scorn that we looked for so little from thee; for thy giving will not be limited by our hoping."

~George MacDonald
"The Higher Faith"
Unspoken Sermons,