Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Room Rules

I was digging through some old files and found a copy of the room rules from my 5th grade class.

Yes, this is for real.

I've included the complete list on the right. My favorites are 8, 21, 24, 36, and the granddaddy of all, 27. All of the misspelled words, grammatical mistakes, and poorly constructed passive voice sentences appear in the original.

As I was reading through the rules I realized I don't even remember the name of my 5th grade teacher.

The Ethos of Typos

Yesterday I was working on a book proposal for a series of books I’m hoping to write for preteen boys. To give you the flavor for the series, here’s one of the titles: “The Valley of the Living Dead and Other Creepy Tales From the Bible.”

The idea is to retell Bible stories that boys would like (such as the title story about the vision of the valley of dry bones). Ok. So just before sending my proposal in, I found this typo as I explained that the goal of the series was to “ignite interest and lead kids back to the Bile for inspiration and guidance in life.”

Nothing like a nice dose of inspirational bile to keep you going for the day.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Strings of a Thousand Pearls

Loneliness is the heaviest stone of all to carry around in your heart. I heard about a Charlie Brown comic strip long ago that read, “Nothing echoes like an empty mailbox.” I guess I’d agree.

Wang Wei, and 8th century Chinese poet, captures this feeling so powerfully in his poems that it leaves me breathless. Here is one of my favorites:

Drafted while still of low rank, he was sent far away.
She grieves in her lonely chamber, feeling old and ugly.
Though bravely she puts on her finest silks to match
the spring-clad trees,
Her tears run silently together in strings of a
thousand pearls.


Sometimes Christians talk as if once someone trusts in Christ that person will never be lonely again. As if having a close relationship with God will fulfill us and complete us.

I disagree. I think of the story of Adam and Eve. Adam had a perfect relationship with God, but yet God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam had God but was still alone. Even if we have a close relationship with God, our tears may still run silently together in strings of a thousand pears.


God chose not to create us one at a time and place us on a perfect world because it is not good for us to be alone, even if we have him. Our hearts were made to be filled with both God and each other.

Building relationships with each other—our lovers, our family members, our friends, our enemies—is one of the ways we become more fully human. More fully alive.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


The other day a guy cut me off in traffic. Really close. And I had to crush my brake pedal to the floor, you know the routine, and still, I was barely able to stop in time.

I felt this huge rush of anger and I yelled at the guy who couldn’t hear me and I slammed the heel of my hand against the windshield.

And it cracked.

A spider web of anger, spreading across the glass.

Of course he didn’t see me or hear me, just raced on and I felt slightly stupid and, ok I admit it, slightly proud of myself for actually punching a crack in my windshield with my bare hand. Then I got to tell my wife and that was exciting too.

She took it a lot better than I expected.

And so, now it’s going cost me, not the guy who cut me off, to get the cracks fixed. Or the windshield replaced, we’ll have to see what happens.

I can blame him all I like, but the damage is the fault of my fierce anger, not his reckless driving.


My heart, glass as it is, fragile and unsuspecting, stands cracked in so many places where I’ve slammed my fist into it, again and again, pounding my rage against the world, splintering my life from the inside out while the world races past me. And never even notices or cares.

And all the while I am the one.

I’m the one responsible for all of this fractured glass, all of this brokenness, not the world.

Every time I form another fist and start swinging, I just hurt myself. And the world continues to rush past me on its way to wherever it is we’re all going, together.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Story of the Stars

I’m teaching at the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference this week so I’m thinking about story a lot. And every time I think about story, it teaches me more about God.

Here's what I mean. (I’ll try not to get too theoretical—yawn, yawn). At the heart of every story is a transformative event--either a transformation that we see occurring or one that we realize will occur. Typically, movies begin by showing a portrait of a character in normal life, then a crisis that turns everything upside down, then the person's struggle to return to normal, and finally a discovery and a changed life. Written stories follow this basic pattern as well, but usually include a gripping beginning to snag the reader's attention.


That's what we see in the Bible in the book of Ruth as Naomi moves from a full life to the emptiness of loss, into the struggle to find balance again, and then arrives at last, smack dab in the middle of a new kind of normal. It's what we see in the life of the prophet Samuel as he moves from normal life serving in the temple, (without knowing God), to a transformative encounter with God that leads to a new and different life (both knowing God and speaking for him). It's the story of Jesus's disciples, of St. Paul, of Moses, of Abraham, of Adam and Eve.

And of me.

Every day we live in the middle of another struggle or a discovery on our way toward terror or worship or retirement as we plod through life on our way to a new kind of normal. The sweep of the Bible takes us through God’s narrative of the transformation of a planet and it’s flesh-covered ghosts who are all the time searching for hope and truth and Cool Ranch Doritos.

I think that this universe is shaped from the material of a story. Tales woven through our genes. And, since I am one of its characters, the grand story of the stars is the intimate story of my heart.

Ok, forgive me for waxing eloquent there. I’m at a writer’s conference. What can I say.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Last week I saw one of the best movies I’ve ever seen—Speak.

You need to watch this movie. Especially if you have kids. Especially if you have daughters. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say that after I watched, the next night that I was home I watched it again with my wife and two oldest daughters, ages 11 and 13.

After you watch it once, watch it again and look for the imagery of hallways and pathways, trees, flowers, voice (for example, in the scene where Melinda is riding on the bus you’ll see a quick shot of her backpack, and on it is a drawing of a face with no mouth. Brilliant.) The subtle use of symbolism is everywhere in the film, in nearly every shot of this film, but brilliantly done and not distracting.

Everyone deserves a voice, everyone’s voice matters.

I don’t know how this movie slipped off my radar screen for three years.
If you have amazing movies to recommend, leave a comment. I’ve listed some of my favorite movies on the right of this page.