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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Poems



A few years ago, I wrote a fun little poem about the last-minute purchase of my Christmas tree, and a long time ago, I wrote about how my brothers and I used to sneak out after Mom and Dad went to bed on Christmas Eve to lay on the floor by the tree, talking until we fell asleep.

I wrote another Christmas poem back in 2002,* when I was living in Germany as an exchange student my senior year of high school:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wonder


There's a book by Ravi Zacharias called Recapture the Wonder. It's been a few years since I read it, but I it's a good book, and one that I recommend. As I read it, one of the things that struck me was how much Zacharias quotes poetry. Being a poet myself, I was quite happy to see that, and I enjoyed the selected excerpts.

One day, I was sitting in a hotel bistro one day, eating lunch and reading the book. Tired out by my work in the Air Force, I had decided a weekend getaway was in order, so I drove to Atlanta for a couple days' rest. I had been writing quite a lot of poetry during that season, most of which ended up in my book, To Do This Right. True to form, I wrote three poems while in Atlanta. One of them was Wonder.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Isaiah 65 Poem


I really like the book of Isaiah, and certain chapters in particular. One of those chapters is number 65. Some of the word pictures are very striking, like those first few verses: "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people," (v 1-2a).* The descriptive language in this whole chapter is very effective in creating a sort of cinematic presentation of the broken relationship between God and his people, followed by its eventual repair.

There are also some wonderful repetitions. In verse 12 for example, God, speaking of his rebellious people, says: "when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen." This is juxtaposed beautifully (and doubly)** in the promise of the new heavens and new earth, as God says: "Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear" (v 24).

I encourage you to read Isaiah 65 for yourself; there's so much more to it than what I've briefly mentioned here. I like it so much, it inspired a poem:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Priorities


Kids think the darndest things.

When I was very small, my parents used to tuck me in every night with a prayer. When it was time to settle down and get into bed, they would say, "It's time to P - R - A - Y." I'm embarrassed to think how long it took after learning to spell, to realize that wasn't a word, but rather, the spelling out of another word I knew: "Pray."

When I wrote my poem about being nearsighted, the subject made me remember a long-forgotten childhood concern about my eyesight, years before I ever needed glasses. I jotted down a not very well-done poem about it, which I have now revised.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sound in Afghanistan


I decided to post a short script exercise (and a drawing!) focusing on sound, which I set in Afghanistan, and then I realized this Saturday is Veterans Day - how perfect!


I was deployed to Afghanistan from February 3 to September 10, 2012. I had a pretty cushy job, all things considered, but that doesn't mean certain aspects of life over there weren't an adventure.

This short piece of dramatic writing is based on real events. The loudspeaker dialogue is accurate according to my journal from that time - I heard it so often, I had it memorized, so I'm glad I thought to write it down - and for a while I had a neighbor who hit the snooze button on her alarm clock instead of turning it off, then left it in her bed and went to the showers. We were on different shifts, and this occurred basically in the middle of my sleep cycle.

Good times. :)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fishing in Sunriver


When I was six years old, we moved to Central Oregon. I know Disneyland claims to be "the happiest place on earth," but their marketing team has clearly never been to Sunriver. We lived there for about four years, maybe five. I have so many memories of being a kid there. What a place to grow up! Plenty of wilderness to explore, 33.5 miles of bike paths, and on and on. I remember standing on 5-foot high snow piles from the plows as we waited for the school bus in winter. I remember running through the woods in the summer. It was the kind of magical childhood you see in movies.

One place we used to go from time to time was the marina, a nice spot for a family of five to go fishing and swim a little. It seemed like a good subject for a poem:


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hashtag: Writing Goals


Five-and-a-half years ago, I was in Afghanistan. The base I was stationed at was divided into sections, and my unit was housed in a small rectangular yard. The space was enclosed with chain-link fencing, which was covered in fibrous green, tarp-like material. There was an opening near the street to allow access to the yard.

In the back of this rectangular, gravel-filled space we called home, the wall of green was interrupted by an incongruously wooded door.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Poetry Isn't Always So Serious

I was looking through my files today and I realized: I've written a lot of poetry! Much of that is serious stuff - about God, or about life. But there's a lot of lighter fare too; simple, fun poems that make me smile when I read them. The serious poems take me ages to write, and they don't come every day. Often, they don't turn out well. But for some reason, I can almost always write the fun stuff.

For instance, earlier this year, I went to a coffee shop for the sole purpose of writing serious poetry. As I sat there thinking, I decided a warm-up poem might be in order. Now, I didn't end up writing anything profound that evening, but the warm-up poem turned out pretty fun! Here it is:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Interview With Ginny Owens - Part Three


This is the third and final installment of my interview with Ginny Owens on the intersection of art and faith. Click to read Part One or Part Two.



Most of your music is overtly Christian, but you’ve also released a few songs that are not. Do you write many of those?

I do. This past weekend I wrote a Country song with a couple other writers. I also have a song in a new movie about human trafficking. I'd even say that, while many of my songs are explicitly Christian if you are a Christian, listeners who don't share Christian beliefs might not hear them that way. In the future, I plan to release more of both.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Faithfulness



Well, Saturday was The Gray Havens concert. It was wonderful. Dave and Licia are really lovely, and of course the music was phenomenal. We got to chat a little here and there, and they wanted to know about my own writing. This, naturally, resulted in further thoughts about how I really don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going as a writer. So when I was trying to decide what to post today, I started looking through the poetry folders on my computer. This one caught my eye.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Misplaced Glory



Heresy

I am afflicted in my soul for the sins of the people.
I am disheartened in the house of the Lord –
in the very house of God they deny you
in affirmation of their own goodness
and justice and mercy and lovingkindness –
distorted mirrors, waving as they flex.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Gray Havens



                               This Saturday, we're hosting The Gray Havens at our church.
                                     It's free, so click the link to reserve a seat and join us!


Last year in September, Lake Bible Arts hosted its first ever special music concert. We brought Ginny Owens out, and she was fantastic, personally and professionally. It was a really wonderful evening, and everyone who went loved it. My pastor even motioned for me to come sit next to him midway through the concert and asked, “Are they leading worship tomorrow?” At my affirmative response he said “Good” rather emphatically. I knew then that the concert was a success.

A few months went by, and I decided I’d better start looking into setting up a concert for this year. There was no guarantee we would do another one, but I’d never dreamed we would do the first one, so I figured I’d poke around and see what happened. That’s how I found The Gray Havens.

Friday, October 13, 2017

My First Bible



There are lots of children’s Bibles out there. Some of them are basically large picture books of key Bible stories. Others are more complete, but in kid-friendly language. Then there are plain old ordinary Bibles, with some illustrations. I had the latter.




Long before I could read, I had my illustrated King James Bible. My brothers each had one, too, but theirs had built-in zippers to keep the book closed when not in use. I was very jealous. I still don’t know why theirs had zippers and mine didn’t. Maybe there were only two of the zippered Bibles at the store when my parents bought them. Maybe I was too little to use a zipper. No matter. I eventually decided mine was better because it was easier to flip the pages without that extra cloth in the way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Customer Service Micro-Play



A lot of the micro-plays I've written are a little abstract. That might not be the right word... I think non-realism might be more correct. At any rate, such is the case with the third in my series of seven plays in seven days.* (You can read my first effort here.) In class, I definitely felt more comfortable with non-realism, so imagine my surprise when the first full-length, 2-act, 90-minute play I wrote was pretty much realism!

Anyway, here's a non-realism micro-play for your enjoyment:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Nearsighted



I'm nearsighted enough that it's illegal for me to drive without my glasses. I can't make out the titles on my bookshelves from more than about a foot away.


At Christmas, though, I like to take the glasses off for a minute while looking at a decorated tree; the little light bulbs become indistinct rounds of fuzzy color, bleeding into the blurred mass of what used to be individual green needles. In a way, it’s far more beautiful than the crisp, clear image I see when I put my glasses back on; it has an air of magic. It’s the same with stars. With glasses, they appear to be the tiny pinpricks of light that they are, but if I take my glasses off, they appear bigger as each bit of light expands in blurriness.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Moot Point



This weekend a plurality of Christian artists are gathered together in Tennessee for an annual event known as “Hutchmoot.” Hosted by the folks at The Rabbit Room, with names inspired by Tolkien and Lewis, and the silhouette of a rabbit smoking a pipe for their logo, it all looks quite magical from the outside.

But it’s all moot (see what I did there?) if the ultimate aim isn’t to glorify God – to be a group of people of whom it can be said, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name” (Malachi 3:16, ESV)

I discovered The Rabbit Room not that long ago, and I’ve never been to a Hutchmoot – I am a newbie and still an outsider. What I know of the artists involved encourages me to hope that this is exactly the kind of thing happening at this gathering. Regretably, I have been to events where this was not the case.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Micro-Play #1



During the 2015-2016 school year, I took a series of dramatic writing classes. One of our exercises was to write seven plays in seven days, in the spirit of Suzan-Lori Parks' 365 Days / 365 Plays.

I accepted the challenge, and wrote what I call a 'micro-play' every day for a week. This is the first:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Interview with Ginny Owens - Part Two



Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Ginny Owens on the intersection of faith and art. Did you miss Part One? Read it here.



What is your songwriting process like?

Usually, there’s some phrase of a lyric that will come with a melody. It helps to have a lyric with which to create your melody and you just put a lot of silly words in it, and then later you go back and spend hours, days, years reshaping the lyric to make it say what you want it to say, and sometimes that means there needs to be a little melody change. I usually start with a little bit of melody and a lyric, and when I write them down in my little idea book, they’re usually a concept, not an actual lyric.




Obviously, your faith informs your work. What are some of your daily habits with God?

In the morning I have about 45 minutes (it’s supposed to be 25 minutes, but once I get my coffee I start thinking about my day and get so unfocused; I have to kind of hang out with God until I can focus my brain). I try to do guided prayer time; I’ll write down things I want to thank God for, or things I want to praise Him for. I love Puritan prayers – I’ll pray through liturgical stuff just to get some new words.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lovingkindness



I've always liked saying the word "lovingkindness."

It feels very King James; it rolls off the tongue with a hint of the exotic flavor of archaic language. Written as one word, it's quite memorable, and as a word person, I rather enjoy it.

I also have some nostalgic attachments to the word. I remember my mom teaching me to sing Pslam 63:3 - "Thy lovingkindness is better than life / Thy lovingkindness is better than life / my lips shall praise thee / thus will I bless thee / I will lift up my hands unto thy name."

But it wasn't until about a year ago that the word really started to mean something to me beyond the quaint combination of descriptor and noun. I started to see why it was written as a single word.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Interview with Ginny Owens - Part One



I am an unlikely Ginny Owens fan.

Mine was a classical music family; I didn’t know the difference between R&B and jazz, but I was certain I didn’t like them. So when I first heard Ginny perform back in 2005, two things immediately came to mind: 1) this sounds kind of jazzy, and 2) I kind of like it.

It was a bewildering experience.

I love good lyrics, and Ginny Owens’ are among the best. They drew me in and sustained me while my ears acclimated to her musical style.

Traditionally characterized by soul, jazz, and R&B influences, Ginny has always been versatile. With her newest album, she crosses into pop music, bringing those thoughtful lyrics with her.




Ginny crafts her words with great care, and it shows. In addition to writing songs, Ginny blogs on her website, co-wrote a book with Andrew Greer about the relevance of the Old Testament to our faith and lives, and recently released a 14-day devotional. In each case, her writing is not just good, but insightful.

Anyone who takes such pains in her craft is someone I wanted to speak with about my favorite subject: the intersection of faith and the arts. So I did! Here’s Part One of what she had to say:



For folks who don’t know, how did you get into songwriting?

I started songwriting at age seven or eight – probably because God knew it would take me a long, long time to become decent at it. But I was fervent at first in not pursuing music. I liked writing songs, but I bristled at the stereotype that all blind people have to be musicians.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Postus Interactivus! (Survey Time!)

Howdy, folks!

I've been on a bit of a sabbatical from blogging, but the hecticness is finally over!*

Since I combined my two blogs, I thought it might be a good idea to see what you guys** are actually interested in reading about. Please complete this (very short) survey and let me know! For your convenience, I've included a short description of each option below.

Thanks!!


Survey:

Create your survey with SurveyMonkey


Descriptions:*^

Arts & Faith: My thoughts about the intersection of these two topics. This will manifest itself in mini-essays, personal reflections, and perhaps the occasional interview or guest blog.

Wednesday Review: Typically, I've reviewed books, movies and music on Wednesdays. Learn what's out there that's good! (I only review things I liked.)

From the Vaults: These posts feature old work of mine (from childhood, school days, college, etc). Basically good fun.

Off the Shelf: I've traveled a lot, and in my travels, I've collected some great souvenirs. Off the Shelf posts tell the stories behind the stuff.

Memory Lane: Here, I basically recount a story of my life and travels, either from memory or from my journal. If you're wondering, "that sounds boring," I have lived in six states and three countries, and have visited several more. I also spent six years in the Air Force. So... it can't be that boring.

Creative Writing: If you're interested, I'm happy to share some of the things I create.

Q&A: Submit your questions about faith, writing, or adventure in the comments section of the most recent post, and I'll answer some of them.

Other: Daily life stuff, or you can make a request for specific content.



*It might return at some point, but when it does, I'll be ready!
**Assuming you're still here after my months-long absence...
*^For examples, see previous posts.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Work-Life Imbalance

Originally posted on the Ooligan Blog.




School, work, and life: The graduate school trifecta. It can be demanding, especially around finals week. Thankfully, the only thing at stake is our futures, a fact we’re so much more aware of than we were as undergraduates. So no pressure.

Everyone’s work-life situation is unique to them; the only thing I have in common with my fellow students at Ooligan Press is that we’re all studying book publishing at Portland State University. The rest is up for grabs. We work, we have families, we’re looking for jobs in the industry—we’re trying to get enough sleep. It’s impossible, and that’s why we keep blogging about it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Update - Anna Lynn

Big update for my first ever "Weekend Update:" I have a new niece! Her name is Anna Lynn and she is now seven days old. She's a petite little thing; even though she was only about two weeks early and not premature, she was born 5 lbs 11 oz, and fits well in the little preemie outfits I brought her yesterday.

Me holding Anna, 6 days old.

Mom came out on the train, so I picked her up and we drove to my brother and sister-in-law's together, sniping at each other when we got confused about which roads to turn on, and laughing immediately afterwards because this is how we roadtrip. We're having fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Review: Whatever the Cost


Hello everyone! Today I’m reviewing the book Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich.





Introduction: Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow is a collection of sermons translated by editor Dean G. Stroud, which were given between 1933 and 1944 in Germany. As the subtitle indicates, all of the sermons are, in one way or another, examples of resistance to the Nazi worldview, and in some cases to specific actions taken by the Nazi state. After a preface and acknowledgements, the book opens with a long editor’s introduction. Normally, I skip introductions. You do not want to skip this one.

The introduction provides much-needed* context for the sermons that are to follow, building a picture of life in Nazi Germany. Much has been said in recent years about the failure of the church in Germany to take a strong enough stand against Hitler, especially with regards to the Holocaust. This book provides a look at those in church leadership who did oppose Hitler, and how they did it through their preaching.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What We Have to Offer

So there I was, pacing the floor in the middle of the night, having a rather intense conversation with God.

You see, I was experiencing a bit of frustration. Surely, I thought, God would not have called me to write, and certainly not to leave my job to do so, unless he meant for me to actually write– to do something with it. Yet, despite my best efforts to figure out a way forward, and my not-quite-best efforts to “do the work,” progress was nonexistent.

I went to a conference once where the keynote speaker talked about failure, and how the only way we fail is if we don’t show up – our job is to write; the results are up to God. So what had happened? I’d shown up; I’d left my job, moved back to Oregon, self-published my poetry book, and attended writers’ conferences. I was doing my job, trying to write, but almost all of it was drivel, and not in a “you’re your own worst critic” sense. I know drivel when I read it.

It was drivel.

The day before the pacing incident, I’d made a solid attempt at two poems. They were horrible. But the next evening, I’d felt inspired. I was listening to Ginny Owens’ new album,** and I’d just gotten to the end of “The Fire.” I paused the music, picked up my pencil, and flipped open my notebook. I took a moment. I bent over the page. I began to write.