A Writer’s Advice

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” (Sylvia PlathThe Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)

I don’t claim to be the best writer or blogger ever. I do know that I feel most alive when I’m writing and the words seem to flow out of me like they’re coming from somewhere else. Sometimes looking back, even the posts that I thought weren’t that great at the time seem to have improved with age.

I’ve been at this blog post business for going on 7 years and nearly 2,400 posts. That’s a lot of words. Not all of them have flowed out of me. Some days, I feel like Moses attempting to draw water from a rock.

If I have any advice for those who want to be writers, whether professionally or otherwise, it’s this– just write. Write a lot. Write every single day, even if what comes out feels like pure stupidity.

I’d also add one more thing. Find your own voice and be true to it. Don’t write or sing or paint or sculpt or film what you think will appeal to a mass audience. Do what speaks to you and what makes you happy and what makes you come alive. Create for an audience of one– yourself.

Ultimately, it’s not about numbers or popularity. It’s about expressing yourself and leaving a bit of yourself behind, whether on canvas or paper or vinyl or film. Success as I see it is staying true to your original vision.

Again, just write, write, write. That’s the only way to truly get better and to develop your own unique voice. The more you write, the better you will get at it.

Here endeth the lesson.

Farewell to Lorien (and to Another Golden Age Actress)

“Crying farewell, the Elves of Lórien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travellers sat still without moving or speaking. On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world” (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings).

Few are probably aware of it, but the world lost another star recently in the passing of Gloria DeHaven. She was another from the golden age of Hollywood who has slipped away from us.

I love watching Turner Classic Movies because I feel as though I’m stepping back into a simpler, less complicated world where it was easier to tell the good guys from the bad, where love was something worth fighting for, and where the cause of the just prevailed.

The world portrayed in these old movies is more and more a relic of the past with so many of the virtues and values seemingly going extinct in a world where more is better and where everything needs to happen NOW.

Seeing the old black-and-white does something good for my heart. The same goes for Technicolor. A lot of the newer movies may look and sound better, but they ain’t got the same soul (to appropriate a line from a Bob Seger song).

The old movies were about telling stories about real people who laughed and cried, loved and lost,  lived and died. There weren’t any CGI effects– just witty dialogue and fleshed-out characters.

I’ll have to look up one of Gloria’s movies and watch it in her memory. RIP to another from a golden age gone forever.

Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe


“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.


The Second Best Exotic Marigold Epiphany


“There’s no present like the time” (a great line from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

My life hasn’t gone the way I planned. In fact, for most of my life there really hasn’t been a plan. My first job when I moved to the Nashville area fell into my lap in a stroke of providence and blessing.

I can say that while I haven’t always gotten what I wanted, I find I always got what I needed just when I needed it.

Tonight, I saw the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to . . . you can probably figure out the title to the first movie. It was just as good and clever as the first.

I remember when I heard the line that I quoted, my brain wanted to reverse it and have it say, “There’s no time like the present.” That’s how I’ve always heard it and that’s what I hear when people are wanting you to act NOW and buy NOW and decide NOW.

But truly, there is no better present than the time you’re given. There’s no better present than the present. You only get one today and never a do-over on yesterday (unless you happen to live inside the movie Groundhog Day).

So take it all in. Be sure to pay attention. For me, it means noticing the beautiful cloud formations in the sky on the way to work and actually paying attention to the scenery on the drive. It means stopping for a moment to breathe a prayer along the lines of “Thank You, God, for this life, and forgive me if I don’t love it enough.”

I’m still learning never to take anything (or anyone) for granted. I hope I wake up tomorrow, but I can’t guarantee that I will because it’s not promised. The same goes for all my family and friends. Even my cat Lucy.

Savor your life while you live it. Don’t waste your time during the week pining away after the weekends and holidays and summer vacations. Each day is a gift that is good for only 24 hours and has a no-return policy. Open it.


Why Get Married?

I was channel surfing on a night when there wasn’t much that caught my eye. I came across Shall We Dance,  the American remake of a Japanese movie, neither of which I’ve seen all the way through. But I did see one scene that caught my attention.

In it, the character played by Susan Sarandon is offering her own reason why people get married. You’d expect her to say for reasons of romance or passion or out of desperate need. In fact, that’s what most people would say. But her answer floored me.

I’d never thought about marriage in this context before, but it makes sense. At least to me. Here’s what she said:


It makes me want to watch both versions of the movie all the way through. I hope it will change the way you view marriage, whether you’re already married, engaged to be married, or just one of those hopeful romantics who haven’t met the right person yet.


A Beautiful Day in January


“This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to work backwards … was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the love of money was called that. But money itself—perhaps one valued it chiefly as a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again, a means of arresting the unrolling of the film” (C. S. Lewis, Perelandra).

Today was perfect. I served as a greeter at the church’s back door this morning and was pleasantly surprised at how warm and spring-like the weather was. The sun was shining, there was a faint breeze, and I felt really good.

Sometimes, I wish I could bottle weather on days like this. That way I could pull it out on those cold, rainy days where it’s easy to feel discouraged and disheartened and instantly be transported back to this morning. Even if it were only 5 minutes, that would be enough to tide me over until the next sunny day.

Unfortunately, that sort of technology doesn’t yet exist. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe instead of pining for better weather, I could train my eye to see the good, even during those nasty, cold, and rainy days that always seem to come in bunches.

You can’t repeat a memory, no matter how good it was. You can never go back and re-create it. After all, all those variables that worked out just perfectly for you to have that moment have changed, as have you. And besides, all the time spent longing for past glories only takes away from your ability to be fully present where you are right now.

So I’ll be content to think about how I got a sneak preview of spring on January 18, 2015 and just as equally content when the weather goes back to normal cold January weather.





Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)

I thought of a movie I hadn’t thought about in a while. The movie in question was Dead Poets Society and the part of the movie was where Robin Williams’ character tells his students to seize the day.

Then there’s the line from the movie Braveheart that goes something like this: every man dies but not every man truly lives.

That’s all good and great, but what does that look like? I mean, how can I tell if I’m truly living or just existing?

I think it has something to do with being in the moment. That means not looking back with regret or looking forward with anticipation while forgetting to see what’s around you now. That sounds vague and shadowy, but it’s true.

Too many times in the past, I’ve wasted a week looking to Friday and the weekends that never lived up to my expectations. Too many times, I didn’t really see my surroundings because I was waiting to get to the next place. Too often, I missed out on one part of my life because I was so eager to get to the next part.

True wisdom comes from being fully present to where God has you and cultivating the habit of gratitude, learning how to see the blessings around you instead of always seeing what’s wrong with the picture.

I can’t say that I’m always very good at this. Mostly, I suck. But I’m better than I used to be.

I also read something that stuck with me: always celebrate those who are always making forward progress, no matter how slow. I like that, because usually, that’s me– Mister Slow and Steady.

So yay for all of us slow and steady folks out there because we’re the ones who truly win the race.

Expensive Mistakes, Shame, and other Random Tuesday Night Thoughts


Have you ever made an expensive mistake?

Immediately, I think of the movie Elizabethtown and the character Drew Baylor. He created a shoe which ended up costing the company he worked for close to $1 billion. It was, in his words, a fiasco.

There’s a great line from the movie:

“As somebody once said, there’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the non-present of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folktale told to others, that makes other people feel more… alive. Because it didn’t happen to them.”

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe your mistake wasn’t worth $1 billion. Maybe it was worth $10,000. Or maybe it just ruined a relationship. Or a reputation.

Maybe you feel the familiar nagging sensation of shame, never overpowering but always there, lurking nearby.

Tonight’s guest speaker at Kairos spoke of how two different people in the Bible dealt with shame in radically different ways:

Judas betrayed Jesus and ended up hanging himself, while Peter denied knowing Jesus and ended up hanging around. Not only that, the shame turned into an opportunity for God to use him in ways he probably never would have thought possible.

The speaker said something that I’ll never forget. He said something to the effect that Judas hung himself by his shame because he didn’t know that Jesus hung on the cross for his shame.

The cross means that shame has no more power over your (or my) life ever again. Shame has lost the power to speak into our lives because Jesus took those failures, those fiascos, those worst moments upon Himself on the cross. He took them to the grave, but when He arose on Easter morning, He left them behind, utterly defeated and powerless.

You are not defined by your fiascos or those moments of shame any longer. You are defined by what Jesus did for you and by who you are now in the power of His resurrection. You are defined as beloved child of God in whom He is well pleased.

Shame is all about your past. Jesus wants you to go forward and live in the future He has for you, not in that past any longer.


Old Movies and Theology


I just watched an old movie. Surprise.

I saw Boys Town, a 1938 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. It was definitely a feel-good movie, though it didn’t start out that way. I believe it was based on the true story of the founding of Boys Town.

The point of the movie is that Father Flanagan was trying to help boys who didn’t have mothers or fathers to look after them, who would otherwise end up on the streets and involved in crime. He wanted them to learn how to live as decent citizens and decent human beings.

I think we sometimes are quick to judge those who act differently than we do. Or maybe whose sins are different than ours. It’s very easy to condemn someone who struggles with an addiction or issue that we don’t struggle with.

But maybe what people need isn’t to hear how they’ve messed up and are headed down the wrong path. They probably figured that one out already. Maybe what people need is to know that someone out there knows and cares about them. That maybe, just maybe, they can change.

That’s what the Gospel really is. We like to harp on the sin part sometimes and maybe get a little too much satisfaction from telling people how bad they are, how they’re sinners headed straight to hell. Maybe we need to emphasize that it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we need to point out that God loved the world so much that He gave Jesus so that it wouldn’t have to be  that way.

Jesus didn’t come to tell good people how good they were. He didn’t come to make healthy people feel good about their health. He came for the bad, the messed up, the sick, the broken. Which by the way means all of us.

Before you write off someone else, remember who you used to be. Who you might still have been but for the grace of God. That just might make all the difference in the world. In that person’s world.


What I’m Watching These Days

As a public service to you all (and as a result of having nothing better to write about), I’m letting you in on what I’ve been watching these days. Note: I very rarely watch current television and tend to stay away from all reality TV like the plague.


I’ve just started watching the AMC original drama Breaking Bad, which ended its 5-season run last year. So far, it’s intriguing and has kept me guessing about how the different plot twists will turn out. I’m definitely not about to start a meth lab, but the story and the characters are compelling and believable, if not always quite likeable.


I also revisted a classic adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. It almost made me wish for a time machine, so I could travel back to 1800’s England and breathe in the fresher air and take a break from the current overhyped and oversaturated culture that’s obsesses with all things media and electronic. There’s a reason why this is the standard version of Pride and Prejudice, even if it is a bit long at nearly 5 1/2 hours.


I also saw an old Cary Grant movie. This one won’t go down in history as one of my favorites of his, but it was entertaining, insightful, and amusing. It’s hard not to watch this movie without thinking of the Red Scare in Hollywood, Joseph McCarthy and all those blacklists of actor and directors who supposedly had Communist ties. The movie sometimes feels a bit dates, but you can never go far wrong with either Cary Grant or Jeanne Crain. And it ends happily enough.


I’m also making my way through all the episodes of Arrested Development, which is probably my favorite sitcom of all time. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it appeals to my offbeat nature and decidedly weird sense of humor. I recommend it if you’re looking for something funny AND smart AND sophisticated.

That’s my report for April. Check back for my report in May (depending if I hit another creative dry-spell). And as always, I look forward to hearing from you on what you’re currently watching, whether new or old.