Archives for September 2013

A Lewis & Clark poem

LEWIS & CLARK, 1805-1806

 

From the border of Idaho and Montana

no one heard from them.

 

They disappeared

into wildness only Indians knew.

 

Just in case

the expedition failed

 

Lewis & Clark sent back

a keelboat

 

filled with letters, reports to President Jefferson

and treasures:

 

four magpies and a prairie dog.

Safe in the hands of their least capable co-

 

workers, the craft traveled all the long way

down the Missouri River

 

while the duo journeyed on to the Pacific.

When they reached St. Louis a year later

 

the crowds gasped. They were not dead,

only forgotten. Jefferson welcomed them home —

 

“the length of time without hearing of you

had begun to be felt awfully.”

“Broadchurch” finale (or How Could You Not Know?)

*spoiler alert*

The question, “How could you not know?” is asked point-blank more than once in “Broadchurch,” the BBC series that ended its American run last night. That question haunts the show. Because it’s not just about who killed Danny Latimer, it’s about all the other secrets that the people in the scenic tourist town harbor.

I live in a scenic tourist town. It has about the same number of people as the fictional Broadchurch. We have retirees, people hoping to start a new life, people who have lived here going back four generations, like Broadchurch. We have plumbers and newspaper reporters. We have shop and hotel owners. No vicars (no Anglicans), but plenty of pastors and one priest. We have parents who care deeply for their children. We are a town that takes pride in its investment in its youth. Like Broadchurch.

So how could all those good people not know?

Well, even good people are flawed. They have secrets. Some are truly terrible; most are just lapses or mistakes in the past or simply things that are hard to explain.

I’ve had the accusation — how could you not know? — thrown at me. I stood there, just like Ellie stood there when Beth accused her. Ellie knew, as I know, that there is no answer when you are just plain ignorant.

Ellie isn’t the only parent who did not know. Mark and Beth did not know as much about their son Danny as they thought. There’s the big one, not knowing he had a secret relationship with Joe, who killed him. But there are smaller secrets, too. They didn’t know that Nige and Dean took Danny on hunting trips, and Nige is Mark’s “best mate.” They didn’t know Danny and his best friend Tom had a falling out.

Mark and Beth aren’t absent parents. They even have a grandmum who checks in every day. It wasn’t enough.

Technology plays a role in this mystery. At the beginning, it allows people to hide. Susan thinks she can escape her old life and start a new one. Same with Jack. Tom thinks he can hide his feelings of hatred toward Danny by deleting all of Danny’s text messages and the thousands of emails on his laptop. Oh, but in the end, technology gives us away. Newspapers have computers that can uncover old articles. Phone records can be seized from the provider during a murder investigation. Emails can be recovered from a server.

There is more ability to keep some things secret — for a time — and more ability to keep nothing secret — ultimately. We are more exposed than ever.

And with or without technology, eventually, character comes out. People reveal themselves to be who they are.

These days, we can’t know everything our kids are doing. The truth is, we have never known. Don’t all of us have at least one story that our parents never knew, and we prayed they never would?

One reviewer of Broadchurch on IMDB wrote, “I think about my own children, my own family, and it left me with a strange feeling of uncertainty and doubt. It will take me a long time to shake that.” If you have ever found yourself betrayed by the last person you ever thought would betray you, you know that feeling. From then on your radar picks up a setting you didn’t know existed.

During one of the early scenes in the first episode, Mark walks through the town and says hello to everyone. It’s a friendly, yet chilling moment, because you suspect that no one is exactly as they appear. Not even Mark.

And truthfully, not even you.

P.S. I want to say how pleasantly surprised I was with the character of the vicar, Paul Coates. I was afraid this was going to be a British version of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, and it wasn’t. Paul has a secret, but he’s a good, lonely man who takes up his mantle as the pastor to his grieving community, even to those who do not share his faith, like Alec. In the final scene when he spreads the word to all the other towns so they can join Broadchurch in lighting memorial fires for Danny, you realize this man is capable of great love.

Riding With Cows

Riding With Cows

 

Cattle take no sabbath

neither do I.

We both take the same one-lane road early Sunday morning.

We make room for each other although

a black Angus could crush me if it cared.

It does not care.

One white teenaged bull races

me, running alongside my 21-speed,

looking over its shoulder directly into my sunglassed eyes.

I pass it.

I do not look back.

An interview with Dena Dyer, co-author of “Wounded Women of the Bible”

HI 89 / LO 56, mainly clear skies

Why I Don’t Usually Read Bible Study Books (but I did read Dena’s)

There was a period in my life — mostly middle and high school — where a good chunk of my babysitting money was spent at the Christian bookstore. After I became an adult, I found that most of those books didn’t have anything to say to me. Occasionally, I try again. I look for a good cover, flip through a table of contents, then quietly put the book back on the shelf and sigh, Not for me.

I am ashamed to admit that if I didn’t know Dena Dyer, if we hadn’t walked miles together when we lived in the same neighborhood, I still might not have picked up “Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts” (even though it has a lovely cover). When I flipped to the table of contents, it shocked me — in a good way. The two women in Solomon’s court? Really? Ichabod’s mother? Really? And a chapter titled “Wounded Relationships: From Passion to Pain.”

Dena (and co-author, Tina Samples), you just broke one of the rules in Christian publishing. You ended on a bad note, on pain. Oops, you did it again in the chapter titled “Jephthah’s Daughter: From Healthy to Hurt.” Didn’t your publicist tell you that you just can’t do that?

Apparently not.

Dena said she had two completely opposite thoughts when Tina first approached her about writing the book.

“I said, ‘Of course, I’ll do it with you.’ My second thought was, ‘Oh, no!’” she said. The “of course” was because she’d always wanted to work with her friend, Tina. The “oh, no” was because she knew they would get into some gritty territory: abuse, betrayal, infertility, depression, grief.

In addition to the Bible story, each chapter contains stories from other real-life women and stories from Dena’s and Tina’s own lives. The book includes a study and discussion guide, which can be used in a group setting. I read the book alone, but I did two of the sets of questions. Not only was it an enormously helpful exercise, but the prayers in this section are, well, they’re just comforting. They go down easy.

I spoke with Dena by phone last week and did the interview as if she was going to be a Q&A feature in the magazine, so it’s longer than what I usually post here. Dena’s traveling this week, promoting the book, so she may not be able to answer all comments. I could pretend to be her, but I can’t imitate her sweet Panhandle accent.

“Wounded Women of the Bible” is available online and at many Christian bookstores.

Who did you write this book for?

It’s funny. The first person I wrote the book for was me because I needed to hear what I was writing about. God always works that way. I was going through a difficult time in our marriage and our family. I just studied and wrote about the things I needed to hear. But I also think every women is hurting, every woman has a wound, but my wounds aren’t the same as other people’s “Everyone’s got their own bag of rocks that they’re carrying,” [my husband] Carey says.

How did you go about choosing women from the Bible to feature?

We actually started with a list of about 22 women in the Bible that were wounded in some way and then we honed down, depending on what we felt were the more relatable issues or the ones that hadn’t been written about all the time. I didn’t want it to be just another book about Mary and Martha and Hannah and Ruth, although we include some of those in the book.

It was double-sided — relatable to today’s women, but also which ones were the most current or the most on our hearts. We wanted it to be wide-ranging, to minister to the most wide range of women.

I love that you chose to feature some women in Scripture that I’d never heard of, like Ichabod’s mother.

Tina brought the list to me first, and I’d never heard of her. I’d heard of the daughter of Jephthath. I’d never really looked at that story very much. You never hear sermons from the pulpit on that. We made a lot of interesting discoveries and just wild things that we learned about these women and God.

It was definitely a transforming experience, more than any other book I’ve written.

Was it always the plan for you and Tina to include your own personal stories? I know that was a difficult part of the process, probably part of that ‘transforming experience’ you mentioned.

Definitely. It was so hard at some points to write the book, but there was nothing I could to but lean on God and cry out for his wisdom, his endurance, his creativity. There were times I didn’t think I could finish it. It was hard to look at some of the places that were wounded in my own heart. But he wanted to write the book through us, and I feel like he did. But it’s that death to self that Scripture talks about.

Kind of a similar question, did you always want to include stories from other women?

That was from the beginning something that we wanted.

Tina and I met almost 20 years ago, and we’ve been prayer partners and kindred spirits almost since the first minute we met. We’ve both walked each other through some incredibly hard things and also walking other women through in ministry. We wanted to be real because we relate to people who are real. We didn’t want it to just be theories. [We wanted it to be] this is how I’m working through this, and this is what God is doing in me. Because that’s so powerful. It’s not theory; it’s living it out, and it’s practical.

I have a passion for telling other people’s stories. I love to work with other writers, and it just rounded out the experiences in the book. It gave even more reliability to readers. God brought some incredibly gifted writers and women in our path. It was hard. We got a lot more than we could use. I love being able to point at other people and say, ‘Isn’t God awesome!’ That’s where we get our strength as believers is from the community. Cheering each other on, giving our testimonies of what God has done.

I was so glad you shared Shaela Manross’s story, which I had first seen on your blog. It seems that Christians don’t talk about mass shootings (maybe because it always ends up being a discussion about guns). But these tragedies have been among us for a long time — the shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church was in 1998 — and there are a lot of survivors out there.

That came about through a relationship that God put into place when I was in college. She was a young girl at a church I was a youth minister at for the summer. We didn’t have contact until I moved back to Amarillo a few years ago. She was an ESL instructor, and I recognized her right away, and she recognized me right away.

She has the sweetest heart and is a godly woman, and she told me about her story and going through all that and how God ultimately brought her healing. She wants to be a missionary. She’s got a heart for Thailand. She shared with my kids’ school in chapel, and I just wanted her to be a part of the book because it’s so powerful the way she’s walking through even now other things that are really hard, but she’s not turning her back on God. She’s working through the questions and doubts. She’s not afraid to be honest with God. She’s real, but she’s hopeful because she knows that she doesn’t have to be hopeless with the Lord. I saw her walking it out daily, and that was powerful to me.

You’re right, [mass shootings] haven’t gone away. It hasn’t been talked about enough. It’s a hard issue because there’s all the questions about God’s sovereignty. You hear about it for a couple of days in the news, and then it goes away. What about all those people that were traumatized? That doesn’t go away.

You have written devotionals for The High Calling, the Daily Reflections, on occasion, but am I correct that this is your first time to write a Bible study book?

It is. I probably wouldn’t have done this without Tina because she’s an incredibly gifted Bible student and has led Bible studies with women for years with good theology, good study habits, all those things you have to have. It was really eye-opening to me some of the things that she drew out. It was definitely the Holy Spirit giving her inspiration. She’s such a woman of prayer.

Now I might could do it on my own, but it was a neat transition. It showed me how you can do it in a fresh way. That’s what’s hard is we didn’t want to say the same thing everyone else had said.

Who are some women in the Bible that you left out?

We didn’t do anything with Mary Magdalene. She’s been written about a lot. We didn’t end up using Hannah. Those had been covered a lot in Christian literature and unless we had something brand new, we just didn’t feel they were as necessary. We actually saved back enough that we could do a second volume, which we’re praying about. I think we could do just a sequel with different issues.

Would it still be around the theme of wounded women?

Definitely.

I appreciated that not all of the stories ended on a happy note. You feature Biblical women whose stories end in pain or hurt.

There’s a segment of Christianity that sometimes misleads believers into thinking that if God’s in it, he’s gonna work it all out and you’ll end up better than you were before. And those things are true, but sometimes those things don’t happen until heaven. Sometimes our healing doesn’t happen until we reach eternity. So, I didn’t want to give people false hope or false teaching about, ‘Do these three things, and you’ll have peace.’ Or, ‘This is five steps to victory.’ I get so turned off by that.

God works differently in every person. His ways are so mysterious sometimes that to box it up and package it up to me is just doing him a disservice and doing the reader a disservice. You’re not giving them truth.

I also liked that some of the Biblical women made their own bad choices and had to live with them.

I love that about the Bible.

My 9-year-old asked if he could read it, and I said, ‘Sure,’ and then I said, ‘Wait a minute. I need to read it with you and talk about it because there are some adult themes in the Bible and adult situations that people get into, sometimes by their choices, sometimes not.’ But we wanted to show that these people are all too human. Let’s not put them on a pedestal because the Scriptures don’t do that. I think sometimes we want to do that — they all had halos and walked around in a pool of light. They were human!

Tina had some amazing insights that I’ve never heard anywhere before.

It came out of her personal time with God. Falling on her face and praying and crying out. That’s her reality. Through all of her suffering, she turns to God, and he blesses her with incredible wisdom. She’s very inspiring to me.

You always share a lot in your writing, but this book had more of a memoir-ish feel to it. Has writing this made you more or less inclined to look at writing memoir again?

Probably more. I think that a lot of my writing has been personal, but this was a new level for me. And while it was difficult it was also very rewarding because when you write, you can see the patterns and the things God has done. It was really encouraging to me to see, Wow, look at this. God had planned this all along. Or God used this in my life to bring me to this point.

Another important part of this puzzle is that my dad and I talked pretty openly after I turned in the book but before it was [printed]. I told him there were some new things I was sharing that might hurt him, but I needed to share them. I could not, not share them. (Double negative there.) I had to show how far I’ve come and how good God is. So, my dad gave me permission: ‘Dena, you have to tell it. It’s gonna help people.’ That was worth the whole book.

Because there are some things I’ve never shared, and I’ve been waiting, and I’ve been afraid. I don’t want to not honor my parents because they’re sweet, godly people. But there are things I want to share sometime. Whether I do it right away or not, I know I’ll tell those stories, and I’ll be at peace because my dad knows why I have to tell them. Not to get back at them. To show the depths of mercy and what God can do. We’re totally different people than we were, our whole family. It could’ve gone the other way, could’ve ended with all of us bitter and separated and hurt and angry and non-communicative.

How has the response been to the book so far?

The response we’re getting is so amazing. Women are saying, ‘Oh, this ministered to me in this way.’ They get it. They get why we did this. They get how we did this. They buy three more to give to their hurting sister-in-law or their mom. Sort of like the loaves and fishes, God multiplies it.

If It’s Me Reading the Signs

HI 82 / LO 51

 

Anyone who has seen the movie “Silver Linings Playbook” knows exactly what that phrase means. It’s the moment Tiffany reveals herself, even though she doesn’t realize it. She had written those words in a letter to Pat, pretending the letter was from his ex-wife. But later, in an argument with Pat, she throws that exact same phrase at him: “If it’s me reading the signs!” And he fires back, “If it’s you reading the signs!”

What gave Tiffany away? A little thing called voice.

When writers are starting out, they struggle to find their voice. Sometimes they try on the voices of other writers they admire, and there’s nothing wrong with that being part of the process. But basically, you have to write your way into voice. You know it when you see it.

I work for a magazine, I can usually tell within one paragraph who’s written a particular piece, if it’s coming from one of our regular writers. Because everyone sounds different than everyone else. Everyone has their particular quirks, their particular style, maybe even a particular phrase. It’s what sets a professional writer apart from a newbie. Too often, newbies sound alike. I suspect it’s because so much writing in school these days is centered around learning to write well for a standardized test. What scores well on the SAT would never be featured on HuffPo. Or even your local daily newspaper.

I bring up voice because one of my friends has a distinctive writing voice. And recently, she gave herself away, just like Tiffany in Silver Linings.

My friend is behind what I call The Great Card Conspiracy, in which she organized a bunch of friends to send me cards, each with the exact same positive, you-go-girl (in Christ) kind of message. I didn’t know who was behind this conspiracy, until this friend used the exact same phrase in a FB message the other day.

(In case you’re wondering, my dear, it was “you have God in your veins, pulsing” vs. “you have the Lord Most High pulsing through your veins.”)

So, veins, pulsing, love of God—that’s the voice of Amanda, to whom I wish much joy, especially today.

What Happens When You Take A Poetry Dare

I’m stirring up trouble at Tweetspeak. Interested in getting your Tuesday off to a snarky start? It’s all part of the ongoing Poetry Dare.

Mint

For Tweetspeak’s prompt under Bottled & Canned. Which was August’s prompt. I’m a little off.

 

Mint

 

I put my secret in a tin of tea

because who would look for a secret

in something so everyday?

I buried it at the bottom, so deep that even I forgot

until the day my silver spoon

scooped out the last bite

of mint green leaves

my secret

safe in its “cool and dry place”

just like the label said

still zero calories