Saturday, April 28, 2007

Inch By Inch

The garden is planted. Sigh. All those seeds tucked nice and warm in their little garden beds wait for the right moment to wake up.

Inch by Inch
Row by Row
Oh to make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
and a piece of fertile ground.

Inch by inch
Row by Row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
While the rain comes tumbling down.

The Garden Song by David Mallett, as sung by Pete Seeger

As I planted and dug and hoed, I found myself humming the song above (as I do every year when I plant or weed). Pete Seeger's music is planted in me nearly as deeply as "Jesus Loves Me."

We had a Pete Seeger record-- yes, I said a record-- that was probably played more than any other 33 in history. Even now, strains of "This Land is Your Land" and "Skip to My Lou" make me tear up with nostalgia.

But my favorite Pete Seeger song, then and now, says "Mother be Quick, I'm Gonna be Sick and Lay Me Down to Die."

What's your favorite song from childhood?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Systems Failure aka Spring Fever

Life has its own rhythm.

I wake up with the sun (late in the winter, early in the summer) and stay awake all day. I expect to experience a little down time after lunch as the blood rushes from my brain to my stomach.

I write in the mornings, teach in the day, clean in the afternoon and flop down in my recliner at 8 o'clock.

And my mind goes on vacation in the middle of April.

I think public school programmed me for spring fever. Even now, 20 years after graduation, I find myself looking forward to the break. But now that I'm the one in charge, I'm responsible for keeping up momentum until the end of the school year. But I just want to go outside and play.

It's not just school-- it's blogging and writing and planning and meeting. I'm done. My mind has checked out. I'm tempted to turn off the lights and come back in June when I'm awake, but the responsible side of me insists on taking care of the list each day.

Dentist appointment? check.
Math? check.
Feed the dog? check.
Feed the kids? check.

There are some things in life that just have to get done no matter how much I want a 3 month vacation in the tropics. So excuse me while I muddle through the next 4 weeks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I took a walk this morning in a small town in Central Oregon. The town was still sleeping, but I shared the field with a couple coveys of quail. As I skirted the middle school baseball field, I saw a bird perched atop the cage behind home plate. From a distance, I could tell it was a large bird, the size of a vulture or perhaps an eagle. When I got close enough to make out its shape, it decided to give me a better look.

With wingspan as grand as a bald eagle's, the giant black and white osprey soared right past and landed on its nest at the peak of a light pole.

I've never kept a life list, but I might be tempted to start.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The More Things Change

Of the many hours of my childhood spent on the school bus, two memories keep returning to me this week.

First is the time we were bustled onto the bus early because a student with a gun was in the Principal's office threatening suicide. I can still feel my visceral reaction when I heard the kid's name, a friend whom I'd recently brushed off.

Second- and this dates me- I've been thinking about the words to a song, "Little Good News" by Anne Murray. It played on the radio as we rode home from school and I wondered about all the bad news she told about.

Wouldn't it be great, I thought, if all the bad news went away.

But the news Anne Murray sang about in 1983 is the same news we're hearing today - fighting the Middle East, the economy, arson, robbery, hostage situations, assassinations, problems in the Third World.

In light of the Virginia Tech Massacre I guess I'm disheartened, but not surprised. The world is fallen and it cannot redeem itself. My prayers are with the families of those killed, the family of the shooter, and with the many young people whose lives will be forever changed by this event.

I heard a song yesterday that recognizes hopelessness, yet ends on a note of hope. A modern companion to "Little Good News", it is "Will's Lullaby" by Josh Radin.

the rain in new orleans
forgot to end
but the mouths of the people are dry
and we watch and wait
and do nothing but sigh
and hope everything is gonna turn out right
but i don't know if it'll be alright

In the last verse of this song, Josh looks down on his sleeping son in his crib and realizes that hope lies not in the past, but in the future.

Still, misplaced hope and promises will surely leave us empty in the end, asking the same questions in another 20 years and another 20 years after that.

for lyrics to these two songs, visit Lyrics Depot and Josh Radin's site.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Little Seeds of Faith

I love it when a plan falls together. Especially when there's no human way to pull it off. But this weekend, God took bits and pieces of talent and dedication and mixed it together with a little Holy Spirit to form a wonderful weekend centered on the places our church is working around the world.

As I sampled finger foods from every continent, prepared with care by people whose hearts are planted in different cultures, I marvelled that such diversity could blend together. As I listened to Andrew (Uganda) tell how he and Ben (Brazil) had prayed for God to lead them somewhere in the world, I wondered at these young men's ability to embrace each other as members of one team, not as competitors out to secure as much funding for their own special projects as possible.

Sermons and talks, videos and songs, flags and food. It was all great.

But I think the best parts of the weekend happened behind the scenes.

One of our outstanding teenagers was invited to spend a summer in Uganda. A woman who was moving the next day expressed her appreciation for the reminder that she will be God's messenger no matter where she goes. My five-year old came home and strapped a baby doll on her back and asked a hundred times when we could go to Africa.

Little seeds were planted. Giant trees will grow.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Prayers Needed

Many of you who check this blog are pray-ers. Please join me in prayer for these two women:

Pat just had surgery to correct a problem, but the surgery was not successful. She's in ICU.

Jane had a lump removed from her breast, but the pathology came back showing that there is still cancer present. She'll be going in for another surgery soon.

I know that both of these women would agree with these words from Job:

"God gives. God takes.
God's name be ever blessed."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mountain Top

My week at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference was, first of all, a spiritual experience. Between the hike to the top of the mountain on Palm Sunday, the beautiful times of song and prayer, and my short hike down into a valley of redwoods, I found my spirit refreshed and my soul revived.

Beyond the warm sunshine and lovely flowers, I also had opportunity to sit at the feet of some of the most gifted teachers in the industry. More surprising than the skill of successful authors, though, was the level of craft and dedication among those trying to break in. If the people I met are any indication, Christian publishing will only improve.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I took away from Mount Hermon was the realization that I sat amongst 500 writers who write in different genres, with different styles and different voices. Yet all wrote for the same goal. When I write a novel with redemptive value, I can spread good news to people who read fiction. Another author may write non-fiction and touch someone else's life. Others may write poetry or biography or devotionals. But we all write to the glory of the same God.