Word Pavers

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A recent article in the Faith & Values column of our local newspaper prompted me to write a note of appreciation to the author.  She had written about the longing for connection, friendship and community that resides within our human hearts.  I was surprised when she replied that she thought she was the only one thinking about these things.

Upon reflection, I’m not really as surprised as I thought at first.  Our culture has morphed into an artificial “selfie” turf where our primary focus is ourselves, our keyboards, our Instagrams–a craving to carve some small slice of significance upon the landscape of globalization’s impersonal massiveness.  We seem in a mad rush to digitalize everything.  It may be that we’re losing touch with each other at the soul level in the process.

As a writer I strive to connect with this culture.  At the same time I resist its whirlpool magnetism…

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Word Pavers

1-IMG_3423

A recent article in the Faith & Values column of our local newspaper prompted me to write a note of appreciation to the author.  She had written about the longing for connection, friendship and community that resides within our human hearts.  I was surprised when she replied that she thought she was the only one thinking about these things.

Upon reflection, I’m not really as surprised as I thought at first.  Our culture has morphed into an artificial “selfie” turf where our primary focus is ourselves, our keyboards, our Instagrams–a craving to carve some small slice of significance upon the landscape of globalization’s impersonal massiveness.  We seem in a mad rush to digitalize everything.  It may be that we’re losing touch with each other at the soul level in the process.

As a writer I strive to connect with this culture.  At the same time I resist its whirlpool magnetism that seems bent on swallowing “me.”  I read somewhere recently that what we writers have most to offer is not a “new” message, but a new voice forged from the fires of our unique encounter with life’s realities.

I think of my blogs as WORD PAVERS.  Picture a patio floor made from bricks linked together in unique patterns or designs.  The pieces are all bricks.  Their uniqueness is forged “in community” through their connectedness.  Another image might be a Scrabble board where 100 letter tiles can be arranged within a 225-space grid to form an exponential number of words.

Oh, yes!  Don’t forget the enabling power behind the whole process.  Behind the patio pavers stands someone with vision and the power to transform it into reality.  Behind the words on a Scrabble board stand people who see word possibilities who have the tenacity to fit them into the grid.  Behind each of us stands a Creator with a vision for our goodness and the power to inspire and equip us.

In this imagery we are ALL word pavers.   We can link together creatively to form community.  Each of us has our uniqueness, our strengths, our personal imprint upon society.  Our greatest strength, however, is through community with God and others.  Standing alone…disconnected, isolated, centered only in ourselves…our inner essence is diminished.

I believe positive, creative, healthy community begins in the soul between each person and God, and then expands in human cohesiveness.  In this unity lies the heart of individual completeness.  Like word pavers on a Scrabble board, we need God and each other in order to make sense out of life.

Responding to my note, the author above wrote, “My hope is that each one might reach one.”  Well said.  Together our positive possibilities are exponential.

 

 

 

I Paint with Words!

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Writing is an art form.  Really!  I found that out when I began seriously pursuing it four years ago.  Now three novels and a nonfiction book (written with my wife) later, I am ready to make this proclamation:  WRITING IS AN ART FORM!

Think about it.  Writing requires talent, interest, commitment, training, and TIME!!!  An idea thrashes around in your brain, all the time, no matter what you’re doing.  You dream about it, wake up with it hammering verbiage at you.  It’s relentless until you express it physically, digitally, so that it comes alive for others.

Take my Dinkel Island Series.  People ask, “Where is this place?”

At one level it’s in my spirit–in my mind–in my daily life.  People ask me if it’s a real place.  Yes!  It’s real within me, and once I share it in print, it can become real to you.’

“Okay, but is it…

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I Paint with Words!

1-IMG_3312

Writing is an art form.  Really!  I found that out when I began seriously pursuing it four years ago.  Now three novels and a nonfiction book (written with my wife) later, I am ready to make this proclamation:  WRITING IS AN ART FORM!

Think about it.  Writing requires talent, interest, commitment, training, and TIME!!!  An idea thrashes around in your brain, all the time, no matter what you’re doing.  You dream about it, wake up with it hammering verbiage at you.  It’s relentless until you express it physically, digitally, so that it comes alive for others.

Take my Dinkel Island Series.  People ask, “Where is this place?”

At one level it’s in my spirit–in my mind–in my daily life.  People ask me if it’s a real place.  Yes!  It’s real within me, and once I share it in print, it can become real to you.’

“Okay, but is it based on a real-life location?  Real life people?”

“Yes, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking.  It’s based on a lot of places where I have lived, or exhibited paintings, or fished, or preached, or otherwise shared life with friends, relatives and others.”

In my novels I paint stories.  I invent names like Dinkel Island, Potomac City, Nor’easter County, Regal Palace Suites, Lighthouse Point, Crabber’s Creek, Tranquility Bay.  I cook them up to embody the flavor of people and places that mean a lot to me.  Ed Heygood is a pastor whose life I share from his early ministry through his retirement and beyond.  Stan Grayson embodies the visual artist alter ego within me.  Mary Grace Love is the abused young woman whose life is shattered, then rebuilt through the faith of strangers who give her a future.

Doc Patcher and the Old Geezers gather at the drugstore for coffee…and speculation about everything.  Sarah Jones makes sure the town’s grapevine doesn’t wither and die.  Joe Truvine keeps The Island Sentinel supplied with news stories.  Fanny surprises everyone with her homespun intelligence, sensitivity, wisdom and energy.  James Brown finds his way out of racial stereotyping into wholeness and equality that challenges the status-quo.

These are people I know.  They live within me.  They talk to me.  They tell me their stories.  There are many more of them:  Lillie Plume, Brandon Peppersmith, CJ Crumbold, Ben Wartman, Lucy Mac, Palmer Swift, Rex Bloomquest, Ryan Mulligan, Pastor Kate Sheppard, and Polly Allmond in her peppermint-striped ice cream shop.  They are people of various sorts…sometimes virtuous…sometimes deceptive…sometimes holy…sometimes struggling…sometimes lost…sometimes dangerous…sometimes penitent.  They are sprinkled around Dinkel Island and its happenings at different times and places, sometimes transcending the boundaries between books in the series.

My words paint portraits of these people, and landscapes of their surroundings.  My brush strokes are key taps on my computer.  My paints are the vibrant shades of Dinkel Islander’s lives and experiences layered onto my keypad canvas.  To me, writing and painting are two expressions of my artistic spirit that complement each other.  Once I even switched venues to paint an image of the retreat center the Grayson’s want to build at Lighthouse Point.  They call it God’s Lampstand.  Will this be my last visual image to complement word images?  Who knows?

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I have painted stories I believe you’ll enjoy.  I invite you to my Dinkel Island gallery.  You can travel there by paperback or e-book transport.  Tickets are available through Tate Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Cokesbury.com, Book People, Buford Road Pharmacy, Westbury Pharmacy, Walmart, Target…and even from the trunk of my car!

 

 

A Conversational Door

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I’ve had a lot of fun at book store signings asking people as they walk by, “What are you reading these days?”  As you can imagine, I get a lot of different answers.

Some will stop with an expression that lights up their face. They’ll mention a book title or an author.  Usually that’s enough to strike up a conversation that is mutually satisfying.

When I asked one man what he was reading, he looked at me as though with x-ray eyes, searching for my thoughts behind my words.  He countered my question without looking at the books or display.

“What are you writing?”

“Christian fiction.”

His brow clouded.  “What does that mean?”

“It means my faith is central to how I understand life, people, things that happen.  I build a story around that, offering it to folks for entertainment, and maybe more.  Maybe someone will find encouragement or hope through my faith perspective.”

“Ah, that’s not for me.  I’m an agnostic.”  He waved his hand as he started turning away.

I shrugged.  “That’s your faith perspective.”

He turned back toward me.  “No, I don’t have a faith.  I don’t believe in a god or any of that.  I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work for me.”

“Then your faith perspective is that life is hopelessly confusing and without purpose.  It’s all pure chance, or maybe unknowable.  I don’t believe that, so I write from a different perspective.”

He picked up a copy of A Change of Heart and thumbed through it.  “Nah, that’s not for me.”  He put it back on the table.

I reached to shake his hand.  “Maybe not.  Maybe it will be later.  Have a blessed day.”

As he walked away he said over his shoulder, “You, too.”

That was a surprise, perhaps to both of us.  It’s one of the fascinating conversations when I asked “What are you reading these days?”  There have been responses quite the opposite.  Some people have answered very quickly, without even pausing, “The Bible!  That’s all I need!”

Bang!

Gone!

If given a chance I might mention that each of my books is built around a Bible passage.  Sometimes in conversation I reveal that I’m a retired pastor and an artist.  I write from the worlds I know from my own experience.

I believe a book is always a form of conversation.  I write fiction because it gives me the freedom to structure interaction with people around situations, personalities, circumstances, and often decisions that are deeply personal.  All my life I have found in fiction a pathway for validation of my own experiences and reflections in life.  I hope I can help that happen for others.

“What are you reading these days?”  I think I’ll keep asking the question.  There’s nothing like sharing a good read to open a conversational door.  Oh, and often the conversation sells a book or two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Unstained Spirit

dinkelislandsmalltalk

DSCF6857Years ago my mother gave us a spray bottle containing a formula that has proven stronger than many a stubborn carpet stain.  At the time we had light grey carpeting throughout our house.  No commercial stain remover (short of steam cleaning) came close to hers in maintaining that carpet.

I have thought about that during this holiday season.  Christmas is a stain remover!  It’s a time when we can dare to lift our spirits toward the highest and best, rather than being submerged in fear and despair.

There are so many things happening every day–big things that affect communities and nations–and small things that are private, seemingly invisible.  It’s easy to become stained by fear. Faith frees; fear stifles!  The problem is, you can’t have both at the same time.

Christmas tells us that what really matters is being connected to God’s love, because it overpowers fear.  It defines us…

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Starting on the Right Note!

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For over thirty years Sharon and I have started every year tuned to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Years Concert.  This year it was fantastic, as always.  We see it as starting the year on the right note.

Music has always been an exciting part of my life.  Two years ago I joined the Chancel Choir at Providence United Methodist Church.  Our crowning achievement came last month when we sang Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” That meant ending the year on the right note.

I often exercise to classical music in the morning.  Frequently I tune it in while driving.  My appreciation goes back to my boyhood years in Cincinnati.  I had a friend, Butch, who lived on the next street over from mine.  His parents were both professional musicians.  They had twin grand pianos in their living room.  I was enthralled hearing them play duets on occasion.

It…

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Starting on the Right Note!

1-IMG_3243

For over thirty years Sharon and I have started every year tuned to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Years Concert.  This year it was fantastic, as always.  We see it as starting the year on the right note.

Music has always been an exciting part of my life.  Two years ago I joined the Chancel Choir at Providence United Methodist Church.  Our crowning achievement came last month when we sang Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” That meant ending the year on the right note.

I often exercise to classical music in the morning.  Frequently I tune it in while driving.  My appreciation goes back to my boyhood years in Cincinnati.  I had a friend, Butch, who lived on the next street over from mine.  His parents were both professional musicians.  They had twin grand pianos in their living room.  I was enthralled hearing them play duets on occasion.

It isn’t just classical music that moves my spirit.  As a kid I went to sleep every night listening to the WCKY Jamboree, which was western music.  I’ve always loved popular music.

I had an uncle who could play just about any instrument by ear, but he couldn’t read a note.  He inspired me, so I took violin lessons.  The trouble was, practice was boring–and I really wanted to be out playing baseball with the other guys.  I was pretty bad with the violin, so that didn’t last.

Next I tried the piano.  My biggest problem was reading music.  I have good hand-eye coordination for artistic work, but somehow it didn’t cross over to music.  I had trouble coordinating the notes on the page with the keys on the piano.  That didn’t last either.

Then came singing.  After our family moved to a small town in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Nelson Miller, the organist in our small church, felt I had talent.  She taught me all she could about singing.  I sang at church, sang in the high school glee club, sang in the chapel choir overseas in the army, and sang with the Wesley Seminary Singers.

During my years of pastoral ministry I often sang solos, or duets, but seldom actually sang with the choir.  That’s why singing in the choir now is so refreshing in my life.  At Providence Church I’ve gained some skills in reading music and singing expressively.  I’m especially grateful to our director, Margaret Taylor, for her skill and professionalism.  Only she could have gotten me through the “Gloria!”

One song Mrs. Miller taught me to sing was titled, “Without a Song.”  I learned it and loved it.  “Without a song the day would never end, without a song the road would never bend….”  

There’s no better way to start a year, or a day, than with a song and a prayer.  Music tunes my spirit, and God touches me through it.  It always gets me started on the right note!