Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts & The Place of Suffering

A few days ago I went to the Kalamazoo Public Library and picked up Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. (That's her photo above this post).  The subtitle reads "A dare to live fully right where you are."

I'm about half-way through this very well written and extremely thought provoking book.

Here's something she wrote on page 58: "Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all-things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world."

She goes on: "When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry open places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?"

This morning I was sitting on my little deck, admiring the evergreen tree that was transplanted near the herb garden. I found it one spring in the front yard flower bed. It had grown up from a pinecone seed, probably planted by a squirrel. For some reason I thought it was such a remarkable thing. A small miracle in the vast scheme of things, but a miracle nonetheless. I was so thankful to find it!

So a few years after finding the accidental evergreen, I transplanted it to a spot with more and even sunlight. Now, that same tree is as tall as I am (just an inch or two over five feet) and it's beautiful and full of life.

I've often looked out the dining room window at that evergreen and almost without exception, every time I do, a smile comes to my face. Because I LOVE that tree! I love how it came to be, secretly planted in a very inconvenient spot. Probably planted there by another participant in life (the squirrel). How I stumbled upon it. How I transplanted it when it was just over twelve inches high, and how it's grown every year since.

That tree, a gift of nature, continues to bring joy. And I'm still thankful for it.

I like how Ann Voscamp makes the connection between being thankful and joy.

For more about Ann Voscamp and One Thousand Gifts, and to link to her blog, check out the link below.

Ann Voscamp

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Purpose Driven Life Revisited

I've been re-reading the The Purpose Driven Life, which is one of the biggest selling non-fiction Christian books in history.

It's written by Rick Warren, whose photo is at the top of this post. Rick does a simply fantastic job of delving into the age-old question, why are we here? from a Christian perspective.

The first time I read the book (several years ago), I didn't do as Rick suggested, read only one chapter a day. I flew through it and, consequently, didn't gain as much insight as I am this time 'round.

For instance, in Chapter 31, Rick goes into detail regarding our unique personalities. He writes: "We don't realize how truly unique each of us is. DNA molecules can unite in an infinite number of ways. That number is 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power. The number is the likelihood that you'd find somebody just like you. If you were to write out that number with each zero being one inch wide, you'd need a strip of paper 37,000 miles long!"

WOW! That one fact regarding how special each of us is, just blows me away.

Enough to say that the scripture which reads: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," is quite true!
(Psalm 139:14).

So today, if you are feeling like you aren't someone special, please realize that simply isn't true. In fact you are special -- something like 10 to the 2,400,000,000th power!!!

Link to Purpose Driven Life

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In Praise of Rooted Together

Last week I was part of a Michigan Authors' Gathering at the Ransom District Library in Plainwell, MI.  There were over 25 authors there, which was impressive. During the event, I had a chance to chat with Jolene Witt, author of Rooted Together.

Jolene is a laid back person, but her writing ability is anything but. I bartered for a copy of her book and found it to be a very captivating telling of a mother-daughter trip she took with her oldest child. The destination (to climb and sleep in a tree that was over 250 feet tall) was remarkable. So was the journey that she chronicles with lots of humor, grace and wisdom. You really don't have to be mom to appreciate the special connection that Witt so artfully describes.

Rooted Together is available via I highly recommend it.

Link to Rooted Together

Friday, May 8, 2015

Too Good For Words

Every so often, a video gets posted that is too good for words. This is one of them. You need to be on Facebook to view it:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Going Public


Yesterday I watched, via You Tube, a question and answer session with Donald Miller, an author whom I happen to admire, concerning a blog post he had made over a year ago. (By the way, that's a picture of me up there at the top of this post, not Donald.)

He was talking about his own thought process behind a statement he made regarding organized religion in America.

To me, the whole point of the conversation wasn't even about what he felt on the subject. Rather, it was the hailstorm of criticism he received from it. He said he wished, in hindsight, that he had thought it through a little more before going public, to include additional background on how he came up with the content of his post. To put the post in context, so to speak.

I am no Donald Miller. I'm not famous by any means; but, having written a book that's gotten about 30 ratings and 20 reviews, I could still identify with Miller's dilemma concerning what it means to go public - to put your thoughts out there for others, (who probably don't know you), to see.

It can be a humbling experience. Until the invention of blogging in all its forms, this area of life wasn't a concern. If ten people outside of your own family knew your opinion on something, that was saying a lot. Nowadays, that's just the tip of things. Potentially hundreds of folks could know what you're thinking if you choose to post your thoughts.

When you think about it, the whole business of writing is done privately for the most part. No one was with me when I wrote 20 Short Ones. It was a ton of fun, but it was a solitary activity. It also involved a lot of thought and decision-making, especially in regards to how much of my own life do I put down on the page?

After the editing process was completed and the book was published, I began to realize just how public this private work had become. The book had taken me across a very scary bridge - from private thought to public consumption of it. So far it's been very, very rewarding. But Donald Miller's experience has shown me, no matter how hard you try, there is always the potential for misinterpretation.

I commend him for handling the situation with grace. In the end, whether we share our thoughts publicly or not, isn't that what we all need?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Road Trip to Vassar

The day before Easter I spontaneously got in my car and drove about 3 hours to Vassar, MI.

The motivation came from the fact that the Vassar Theatre was the only movie house left in the U.S. that was showing the film, Old Fashioned. I'd seen the film before, and it's a great one. So that, mixed with the fact that I love supporting indie, faith-based films, and it was a perfect spring day combined to get my travel bug going.

So, off I went.

The film follows the relationship of Clay and Amber. Two very different people, and how faith causes their friendship with each other and with God to grow. It's also about redemption and chivalry and mercy and grace told in the context of honest friendships.

Along the way there, I was listening to a bunch of CDs. Among them Sarah Masen's "The Dreamlife of Angels." One song, in particular spoke to me. It's called Girl on Fire:

I think we're coming to a standstill
I think you're magic, with your strong will
But this is love and not justice

He's hurting everything he touches
You cannot carry what he clutches
He needs a mother and confession
And he does not tell you - you are precious

Well how about some peace and honesty
Some hard-core love and charity
A sense that you are family
You are a precious girl on fire

I think we're coming to a standstill
I think you're magic with your strong will
But this is love and not justice

He's hurting everything he touches
You cannot carry what he clutches
He needs a father and some healing

And he forgets his own words

Well how about some love and charity
A sense that you are family
I'd like to help but you're on fire

How about respect and dignity
Some hard-core hope and clarity
You are a precious girl on fire

And there is so much in forgiveness
But he is sticking to his business

How about some love and charity
A sense that you are family
You are a precious girl on fire

You are a careful mystery
Not someone's sweet commodity
You are a precious girl on fire

The part of this song that spoke to me the most was its call for love, charity, dignity, family and forgiveness.

Towards the end of Old Fashioned, there's a scene where Clay is with his Aunt Zella (a very wise senior citizen). He's there because he needs a shoulder  to cry on (because he's having a hard time accepting the fact that he's good enough for Amber). Basically, Aunt Zella doesn't offer her shoulder. In fact she chides Clay and tells him to quit being so self-righteous. She tells him, "There is no virtue without forgiveness."  (You should also know that she encourages him, very strongly, to go after Amber).

It all sounds so easy, doesn't it? But how many of us, myself included, go around thinking less of ourselves that God does? And we think it's somehow holy. But it isn't. The simple truth is, none of us is worthy, or without blemish (sin), but the astounding fact is, God loves us anyway, because in God's eyes, we are precious.

Girl on Fire

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sunshine on a Friday

When I started this blog last year, I came up with the name Lifesomethings.

The whole idea was to celebrate, on purpose, some of the "little" things in life. Along the way I've stepped off that path a few times, but mainly, that's the intent.

For instance, right at this moment, as I'm writing these words, the sun is shining brilliantly across a late March sky in Michigan. Beautiful!

Earlier this week I noticed that the robins are back from their winter stay down south. Other warblers have returned as well. It's so pleasant listening to them while going on a daily walk. It makes the few miles go by much quicker, and makes it infinitely more interesting to be outside. Beautiful.

Over the past two months or so, I've done some sprucing up painting in almost every room of my house. I can't believe how far a little coat of paint goes in polishing up the appearance of my home. Beautiful.

Earlier this week I had lunch with a dear friend I've known for years through my former employer. We sat and chatted in a small Mexican restaurant, both having rice, beans and a side of guacamole. We were able to enjoy each other's company without the pressure (on my part) of having to get back to work. Beautiful.

Speaking of former employers, I've been officially retired since December but stayed on for another month to help with the transition of me leaving. Since that time two Social Security checks have come my way. It's so refreshing to get up each morning not with the idea of getting to work to rouse me but a sense of what adventure the day will bring. Beautiful.