I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Family Heritage

CNN.com is running a story about a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that was buried under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse fifty years ago. The car is going to be dug up on June 15 as part of the Oklahoma Centennial. It was placed in some type of crypt, but nobody knows for sure what to expect. Will it be just a bunch of rust or still intact (and worth a pile of money)?

As I thought about that story yesterday, I started thinking about time capsules. They used to be more popular than they are today—or maybe they are just taking a new shape. I did a little surfing and found a post on a blog about an electronic time capsule that Yahoo! put together last year after soliciting things like “personal photos, stories, thoughts, ideas, poems, prayers, home movies, music and art” from the general public. Yahoo! sealed the electronic time capsule and it will not be opened until March 2, 2020. Here’s a link to the site—it shows a countdown in progress.

The Internet has certainly changed the way we live and think. Websites like Future Me allow people to e-mail themselves as far as thirty years into the future. I like the concept, but I’m more intrigued by the idea of e-mailing other people far into the future. Some services even purport to offer to send e-mail after a person is deceased. According to this article, Microsoft is seeking a patent on “immortal computing”—or, in other words, e-mail from the grave.

Some websites, like MyLastEmail already seem to offer it though. Here’s a blurb from their website: “MyLasteMail.com is a unique service whereby you can record your last words, your last message or last wishes to be conveyed to any one you nominate after your death in order to leave your departing messages for your love ones. Your final message will be delivered to the one you wish. After departing, message from the grave can be a great relief to the ones you leave behind.”

I found another site, MyFamilyCapsule, that allows people to upload pictures and videos and it encourages family members to record their activities once a month for future generations to read.

Lots of great ideas—some of them are a little creepy, but I love hearing that people are thinking about the future and technology is certainly helping them. Can you imagine how you would feel if you could log on to a website and read the words of your grandparents and maybe even see videos of them? Well, our grandparents didn’t have much of an opportunity to do that—especially if they passed away more than five years ago, but we are slowly coming to a point when we are running out of excuses for capturing history for future generations.

I honestly don't see all of these websites surviving for the long haul though. Already, websites like Email the Future and Mail to the Future are defunct and websites like Last Wishes are down for maintenance until June 10th. And even if websites like these did indeed stay online, many people aren’t going to have the same e-mail address that far into the future, so many of these messages are never going to be received.

I’d rather download a program like FamilyTreeMaker to my own computer so I can make multiple electronic and paper copies. The final product has a better chance of surviving for a longer period of time in my opinion. What do you think? Are you doing anything to preserve your family’s heritage? If so, what?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Blogger

I made the switch to the new version of Blogger last week. I can't see any cosmetic difference, but if you do, please let me know. I've started using Blogger's labels at the end of each post. If you click on one of them, you'll be able to read other posts that I've written about those topics. I haven't gone back to label most of my old posts though. I'll work on that over time.

Pat Buchanan

Continuing with our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors:

#2: Pat Buchanan

If you aren’t interested in politics, then this post probably isn’t for you. But truthfully, this is about more than politics. It’s about a journey I took.

I became active in politics in 1992. I considered myself to be a conservative. I listened to talk radio—mostly conservative. I voted conservative. And it was a good time to be a conservative. The Republican Revolution took place in 1994 and the GOP took the House of Representatives—touting the Contract with America as their agenda. They promised to bring bills up for a vote that would balance the budget, make our streets safer, reform welfare, include tax incentives for families who adopt, cut taxes on the middle class, place no troops under U.N. command, repeal the 1993 tax increases on social security, cut the capital gains tax, reform liability laws, and a limit the terms of elected representatives. For the most part, these were and are conservative ideas. I’ll leave it to history to determine how successful the GOP was in implementing their plan, but in some form or fashion, they did bring all ten items up for a vote in the House.

Fast forward to 1999. Pat Buchanan’s book A Republic, Not an Empire was released. I was already growing weary of the conservative movement because of their support for trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT. And I was starting to become uneasy with America’s growing desire to become interventionists in conflicts all around the world. Buchanan’s A Republic, Not an Empire stunned me. He pointed out that America had agreed to defend fifty nations around the world by signing various agreements with NATO and other treaties. He made as strong a case against empire building as I’ve ever heard and that’s when I realized that the GOP wasn’t my political home any longer. The election of George W. Bush convinced me even further. Gone were the conservative ideas espoused in the Contract with America and in their place we saw skyrocketing budgets and increased empire building—especially after 911.

In 2002, Buchanan released his next book, The Death of the West. This one challenged me personally more than it did politically. He said that if the West doesn’t begin taking marriage and children serious again, then the West would die by 2050 due to collapsing birth rates. In one section of this book he said this, “As Christianity began to die in the West, something else occurred: Western peoples began to stop having children. For the correlation between religious faith and large families is absolute. The more devout a people, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, the higher its birthrate.” This message touched me deeply. I’ve wanted to be married for a long time, but as I thought about this message, I think my priorities fell into line for the first time regarding marriage. I finally wanted to be married because of what I could bring to a marriage instead of what I could receive from one. I wanted to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Singleness per se is not the problem, but remaining single for the purpose of doing whatever pleases a person is a problem. Cultures cannot survive once this type of thinking becomes the norm. Up until this point, I was one of those singles. After I finished this book, I was not one of those singles.

By 2004, I was sickened by what I saw in the GOP—arrogance, pride, support for a bloated bureaucracy, and a foreign policy that embraced the crazy notion of democratizing the Middle East. That same year, Buchanan released a book entitled Where the Right Went Wrong. He went after President Bush’s attempt at empire building hard and I agreed with most of his conclusions. And he pointed out that from 2002 to 2004, the national debt increased by $1.3 trillion under President Bush’s watch. And by 2004, the deficits were growing by leaps and bounds—55% of which were unrelated to defense spending and 911.

Most recently, in 2006, Buchanan released State of Emergency—a book that challenges Americans to rethink our current immigration policies.

I love Buchanan’s writing for many reasons. He’s not bound to a political party. He’s bound by his conscience. He’s one of the few remaining conservatives who haven’t crossed over the line to neoconservatism—which in my opinion, has nothing to do with conservatism. But beyond all that, I’m challenged to live my life differently after reading his books. He changed my motivation for wanting to get married. He’s helped me to appreciate history like I never have before. And the funny thing is, I don’t feel as angry about politics as I once did. I think he’s behind that too. My convictions haven’t changed, but my attitude toward people has. If you get a chance, watch Pat Buchanan on MSNBC as he interacts with people he disagrees with as debates the issues. He’s personable, jovial, and smiling—sometimes to the point of exuberant laughter. He’s also firm in his convictions. He seems to be the perfect example of a person who truly loves his political enemies.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Lake House

The first time I saw The Lake House, I recognized all the flaws that others seem to find in the movie. Like, why is the movie edited in such a fashion as to make it appear that Kate (played by Sandra Bullock) and Alex (played by Keanu Reeves) appear to be carrying on give-and-take real life conversations when in reality they were conversing through letters? Or, why didn’t Kate suggest sooner that they pick a date in the future and meet (she’s in 2006 and he’s in 2004)? Or why did Kate have to move from the lake house (presumably for her new job in the city) when she had all the time in the world to drive back to the lake house to use the magical mailbox to trade letters with Alex?

This is why I like to see movies over and over though. The second time through, I was much more focused on the actual correspondence between the two rather than trying to figure out the time differential. Early on in the movie, Kate writes a letter to Alex that includes these words:

“Every time I stop to take a break, I realize how isolated I’ve let myself become. Believe me. You can get a bit desperate. It’s not that I’m complaining—I love my work. And our tour through Chicago opened my eyes to its beauty. But my heart still misses the lake house. And its trees. I miss those trees so much.”

Kate realizes that she’s allowed herself to become isolated—much like she was when she lived at the lake house two years prior—but yet she wishes that she had her old trees because they would somehow bring her comfort. Seeking the familiar when life seems a bit out of sorts is a common thing to do, but in Kate’s case, the trees would have been a temporary fix. She was really missing love. She’s been waiting for the right guy for a long time, but he doesn’t seem to exist, so she threw herself into her work. But then Alex appeared—sort of.

By letting her guard down a little, I think she was subtly testing him. She wanted to see how he would react. Would he criticize her? Would he offer a magical fix? Would he back away from the possible relationship? Would he empathize? She didn’t have to wait long to find her answer. He reacted by planting a tree outside of her apartment complex, and since he did it in 2004, it suddenly appeared as a two year old tree in the middle of a rain storm in 2006—and it offered her shelter. If she was testing him, he passed.

It was a beautiful first step into a relationship. I don’t think that Alex “passed” just because he planted a tree. Instead, I think he passed because he accepted Kate for who she was, even in the midst of her vulnerable condition. As new relationships begin, everybody is afraid to show insecurities, but by doing so, we give the other person a small glimpse of who we are—hoping that it won’t scare him or her away. Finding somebody who reacts the way Alex did is difficult, but I think Kate thought it was worth the wait.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Random Thoughts

Here are a few random thoughts running through my head as we go into the weekend:

--I’m tired. I’ve spent way too many late nights/early mornings watching the Australian Open tennis tournament lately. Thankfully, the tournament is coming to a close this weekend and I can return to a normal schedule. Oh, I know I could return to a normal schedule now if I wanted to, but I enjoy watching the grand slams so much that I’ll gut it out for a couple more days. Sadly though, all the players I was pulling for have lost.

--I’m thankful for friends who really know me. One such friend sent me a YouTube video of cats doing some of the funnies things—some of which included mock fights with their owners—just like I do with my cat. Here’s the video if you’re interested in a giggle or maybe even a laugh:

--Nearly everybody I know seems to be watching a television series on DVD. Whoever came up with this idea was a genius, and I’m guessing that he or she is quite rich. I’ve worked my way through season three of ALF. The Greatest American Hero, Season One, is in my Netflix queue, so I’ll be starting on that soon.

--I left one my moleskine notebooks at a friend’s house the other night. I remembered it though as soon as I got into my car to head home. After I retrieved it, I got to thinking how funny it would have been if I had left it there. My to-do list would look insane to most people. Laundry has been at the top of my list since I started the notebook. I’m never caught up (I usually just wash enough clothes to get by for a day or two at a time), so it just gets carried over day after day after day.

--I haven’t watched a good chick-flick in weeks. I’m sort of going through withdrawal. I think I need to pop Lake House into my DVD player this weekend.

--I’m so excited about the 2007 NASCAR season that I’ve already entered three fantasy NASCAR leagues and we’re still three weeks away from the first race.

--I’m still haven’t finished reading The Journals of Jim Elliot. It’s taking me forever to get through it. Not because it’s a difficult read. But it’s not a light read either. I so need to read a novel after I’m done with this book.

--Last night I stopped at my mom’s house. As I mentioned in this post, yesterday was mom’s cat’s birthday and I thought mom could use a little pick me up. So, as suggested by Peach, I not only bought the cat a birthday card, but I also gave her a big packet of catnip. It was definitely a hit, as you can see from this photo (if you look closely you can see the card I got for her that said something about not drinking too much on her birthday):

--I just found out yesterday that I’ll be teaching again at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference in October in Glorieta, New Mexico. I’ll be teaching three classes: “Manuscript 101,” “Article Writing 101,” and “Let’s Talk Blogging.” If you are a writer, no matter what stage of your career you are at, I’d encourage you to attend this, or some other writers’ conference. You’ll learn a ton, you’ll make great contacts within the industry, and you’ll make new writer friends.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


One of the major news networks ran an advertisement a couple of days ago for an upcoming segment called “Unplugged.” It featured a woman who unplugged most of her technology by choice because it was making her life too hectic. She said something along these lines of this: “Some people like to be interrupted and available all the time. I just got to the point where I didn’t.” The entire segment was going to be about people just like her who have chosen to disconnect.

Part of me understands what she, and others like her, was saying. I have three phone numbers and three e-mail addresses and I’m accessible nearly every minute of every day—especially since I purchased a Blackberry a couple of months ago. From a work standpoint, that is a wonderful thing because as a full-time writer, I’m self-employed and always on the lookout for the next paying gig. If I stay accessible to editors, I get more work. That’s a good thing.

But beyond work, I’ve never been crazy about being totally accessible. To be honest, I never feel the absolute necessity of picking up a ringing phone if it’s not work related or somebody I’m close to. I don’t know why some people feel pressure to answer every ringing phone within hearing distance, but thankfully I don’t. And I certainly don’t feel guilty. I have all of this technology to make my life run smoother, not to take it over.

And besides, if I unplugged, I’d miss out on opportunities like I had yesterday when I was away from my office. A good friend of mine moved away from Omaha recently, but we still keep in touch several times a week. He called me yesterday from the road. I knew he had planned to take a several hour trip to visit a former co-worker who is in bad health. I was glad to hear that he’d arrived safely and that his former co-worker received a little good news about her health. I don’t think she’s anywhere close to being out of the woods yet, but it was still nice to hear a positive update. And it was nice to hear my friend’s voice. Unfortunately, he was driving through a bit of snow at the time. I told him to be careful and we hung up.

If I had been unplugged, I would have missed that call. My friend would probably have just left a message or he might not have, but I would have missed an opportunity to hear from someone I really wanted to talk to. And I know how lonely the road can be—especially after you’ve just experienced something you want to talk about. You can feel so isolated as the miles roll by. Modern technology gives us the chance to virtually erase those miles with the push of a few buttons.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rocky Balboa, Part 2

I had a feeling a couple of weeks ago when I wrote a post about Rocky Balboa that it might develop into at least a two-parter. I’ve seen and experienced a few things lately that make me want to return to the subject. So, off I go…

People often ask me why I like to see movies—particularly from the Rocky series—so many times. I usually tell them I do it because I like to pick up little things I missed the other times I saw the movie. And my focus is different each time. The first time I see a movie, I notice the characters and what they are experiencing—but I don’t notice their individual reactions so much as their collective actions. The next time or two I see a movie, I tend to notice room conditions, weather, books lying around, backdrops, music, and much more. After I’ve grasped those subtleties for all they are worth, I begin to notice things in individual characters I never noticed before—glances, facial expressions, sighs, body language, and if an actor or actress is really good, I feel like he or she draws me in and gives me a peek at humanity that most of us don’t show each other in real life—the tears, the disappointing stares, the fist-pumping triumphs after opening a piece of mail that bears good news. It makes me feel more human because I can relate to what the characters are experiencing.

Sheila O’Malley has written a couple of stunning posts recently about the original Rocky movie. She rented it and has been devouring it scene by scene. Watching it over and over. Here’s one snippet from a post that nails what I referred to in the above paragraph:

Then I spent a glorious amount of time cherry-picking scenes I wanted to see again and again and again. Moments. Flashes of a look across Stallone's face. Tiny moments. The reality of the behavior. How real the fight looks. And it's all choreographed. Incredible. (Choreographed by Stallone, of course). Amazing. But the whole movie has that feel of reality. Things seem to be really happening as opposed to being staged ... or planned out. The movie is a little bit messy. In a good way. Like life is sometimes messy. Like the first kiss. It's ... Who can describe the SYMPHONY of experience that is a first kiss? Watch her. Watch her side of things. Then watch his side. He will not let her get away because he knows she wants it. But he can't move too quickly or too insistently because it will freak her out.

That’s exactly the eye for detail that I’m talking about! A person can’t possibly catch all of that by simply watching a movie once or twice—which, in my opinion, is the reason for watching a movie. If I simply wanted to be entertained for a couple of hours, I’d find something else to do. If I want to feel more alive while I’m being entertained, I’ll watch a movie over and over until I can pick out details like Sheila did. Here’s another link to a lengthier post that Sheila wrote about the movie. Take your time with this post. It’s rich with detail.

One of the scenes that really moves me in the latest installment of the series is when Rocky tells Paulie: “I think there’s still some stuff in the basement.” I love that line! It says so much about who Rocky is—a mild-mannered, loveable character who, from the naked eye, seems like he’s figured out a way to be content with his restaurant and the way life seems to be going even though he’s obviously still in mourning over the loss of his wife and he’s isn’t crazy about the way his son seems to be forgetting what is important. But that one little line about “the basement” gives us a glimpse into what is really going on in his mind and it stirs your soul because you just know that he isn’t going to be content until he pulls everything out of the basement and battles it.

In a Newsweek article that appears on the MSNBC website, Stallone said this about his own life: “It nags me that I took the easy way instead of the high road. But everyone makes mistakes. I look around at people my age, and I can see it in their eyes—a kind of bittersweet reflection: ‘I didn’t live the life that I wanted, and now I’ve got all this stuff I want to say, but nobody wants to hear it.’ I was feeling that, and if you don’t get it out, it can become a beast that tears you apart.”

I have no idea what he means when he says that he took the “easy way,” but I know exactly what he means about the beast inside that tears you apart. Who among us doesn’t have such a beast who constantly reminds us that we haven’t said all there is to say to people or done all there is to do with our lives? And I love the way Stallone harnessed that feeling he had and allowed us to see it in Rocky Balboa—who, during that same “basement” speech with Paulie, says that he has a beast inside that’s dying to get out.

Stallone has taken his own demons and put them inside a character that most Americans adore and we cheer every time we see Rocky standing toe to toe with his fears and doubts. Sometimes he loses and sometimes he wins. Sounds like a perfect reflection of life.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jan Karon

Continuing with our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors:

#3: Jan Karon

I might be the only man on the planet to admit this, but I love Jan Karon's Mitford Series. An author friend turned me on to the series in 1998 and I've since read all nine books. The series opens with At Home in Mitford. Here's an overview of the book from Amazon.com:

Father Tim, a cherished small-town rector, is the steadfast soldier in this beloved slice of life story set in an American village where the grass is still green, the pickets are still white, and the air still smells sweet. The rector's forthright secretary, Emma Garret, worries about her employer, as she sees past his Christian cheerfulness into his aching loneliness. Slowly but surely, the empty places in Father Tim's heart do get filled. First with a gangly stray dog, later with a seemingly stray boy, and finally with the realization that he is stumbling into love with his independent and Christian-wise next-door neighbor. Much more than a gentle love story, this is a homespun tale about a town of endearing characters-- including a mysterious jewel thief--who are as quirky and popular as those of Mayberry, R.F.D.

The other books in the series include: A Light in the Window, These High Green Hills, Out to Canaan, A New Song, A Common Life, Shepherds Abiding, In This Mountain, and Light from Heaven. They continue the heartwarming tales of Father Tim as he seeks to live out his faith in very practical ways.

I've already written at length about why I love this series so much. You can read these posts if you'd like to know more:

I can so identify with Father Tim. No, I'm not in my 60's. I'm not Episcopalian. I'm certainly not a priest, but yet I identify with him. Early in the series, he's a busy guy, content with his work, his dog, his books, his naps, and the single life that he's grown so accustomed to. He never ruled out marriage, but it didn't seem to be in his future, so he just lived his life. That's me.

And I love Mitford (the little town that Karon created). It's full of characters who are different in so many delightful ways. They are quirky, funny, peculiar, nosey, and yes, even sometimes selfish. But they are also reminiscent of so many other small towns. They look out for one another. They pray for one another. They take the time to talk to one another. Life is slower in Mitford. Slower in a good way.

If this series interests you, Amazon.com has the first six books in the series in a box-set (trade paperbacks) for $46.03 right now and you get free shipping. Pick it up and savor every page. I plan to reread the series at some point. In fact, just writing this post makes me want to do it sooner rather than later.

Monday, January 22, 2007


At the beginning of each week, I usually look at the calendar on my Blackberry to see if any friends are celebrating birthdays in the coming days. If so, I try to make sure to send out e-cards, or if I get a chance, to pick up a birthday card at the store. Yesterday, I glanced at my calendar for this coming week and saw that an old friend, whom I haven't seen in many years, is celebrating a birthday this week. And I also saw that my mom's cat is celebrating a birthday on Thursday.

Sounds pretty trivial I know. But my mom is super close to her cat (she's had her 17 years) and she's brought her many moments of joy. I've never done this before, but I think I'm going to send the cat a birthday card. (Mom isn't online so I haven't ruined the surprise.) My mom is experiencing a bit of a rough patch lately and I'm sure it would bring a brief smile to her face.

Changing someone's mood is difficult, but doing something small that makes a person smile is easy if you really know the person. And you never know when that small thing might just turn out to be a lifeline.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Content Moment

After lunch yesterday, I grabbed the book I'm currently reading and I kicked my feet up in my favorite recliner. It's one of my favorite activities each day and I always look forward to it. Just as I settled in to read a while, I glanced out the window and snow was flying everywhere. I have no idea why I love to see snow falling, but it's peaceful for some reason.

I returned my attention to my book and found a perfect quote to include in an article I was working on. And a few minutes later, Midnight (my beloved cat), made her way from the bedroom to my lap. She curled up there, as is her custom when I read, and she remained there for a long time. Finally, when I was done reading, just as I was about to reach for my bookmark, she sensed that I was done, so she stood up on my lap and stretched out. Then jumped down and headed for her food dish in the kitchen.

The combination of the weather, the reading material, and the actions of Midnight brought me such a deep sense of contentment that it's hard to describe. My life has been stressful lately, so this was a welcome change. And I felt refreshed and ready to return to work afterward. Some of the smallest, most mundane routines can turn an entire day around when viewed in the proper perspective.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Australian Open

I both love and hate this time of year. January is the start of the professional tennis season and if you are a tennis fan, then you know that one of the first tournaments of the year is the Australian Open. Considering that Melbourne is 17 hours ahead of central standard time, Melbourne time doesn't exactly agree with my body. But I can't help but watch the matches--even if they are on at 2:30 am.

I sort of drift off to sleep in my recliner as I watch tennis and at night as I wake up throughout the night, I watch whatever match is on. I'm having a more difficult time watching men's matches this year since Andre Agassi is retired. I'm pulling for Andy Roddick, but his constant badgering and insulting the umpires isn't exactly thrilling me. Yeah, I'm know I'm inconsistent. I loved John McEnroe. What can I say?

I'm also pulling for Fabrice Santoro (who surprisingly won his first round match) for all the reasons I listed in this post. On the women's side, I'm rooting for Martina Hingis for all of the reasons I listed in this post. For those who aren't tennis fans, I promise not to bore you to death with tons of tennis posts over the next couple of weeks. But if a good story develops, I may hit you with one more.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Change is Good ... Sometimes

If you've learned anything about me since I started this blog started more than a year ago, you know that I'm a tad bit sentimental. Okay, not just a tad bit. I'm sentimental. But that doesn't mean that a guy can't be happy about a change once in a while.

Yesterday, I read an article in my local newspaper about the high school I attended and graduated from in 1984. A nonprofit group has begun the process of raising funds to build a new football and soccer stadium in a place that generations of students have referred to as "the hole" -- which consists of a practice football field with a track surrounding it, set down in what truly appears to be a big hole.

I never played high school football, but the tennis courts are located on the edge of the hole and I spent many afternoons on those courts practicing and playing for my high school. And while the hole has an unmistakable charm, I'm happy to know that the land is about to be converted to a complete stadium. For as long as I can remember, home football games have been held at a local junior high school that's located at least five miles away.

The article describes the new facilities this way: "The group has proposed a 4,000-5,000-seat stadium at Collin Field. It would have an artificial turf field for football and soccer, surrounded by a refurbished track. Lights, grandstands, locker rooms, concessions and other facilities would be erected. The grounds would be beautified."

I love the thought of future generations of students attending games at the new stadium on brisk fall nights and enjoying themselves. And maybe, just maybe, someone will be sentimental enough to remind them of the way things used to be.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

C. S. Lewis

Continuing with our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors:

#4: C. S. Lewis

In 2003, I read all seven books in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. What a delight they were to read. The symbolism is powerful. The stories transport the reader to the land of Narnia. And even though they were written for children, I enjoyed them as an adult. Lewis is a marvelous story teller. If you'd like to read the entire series, you can find them all in one hardback volume for just over $20.00. Here's a link.

I read The Screwtape Letters in 2004 and even though it was fiction, I felt like it gave me a better idea about what goes on in the heavenlies as good battles evil. I'd highly recommend this book to people who are struggling to feel like their actions right now don't count for anything.

I've read Lewis' A Grief Observed a couple of times. I wrote a post about it here. I really appreciated Lewis' willingness to not gloss over the pain of losing his wife. He went through a crisis of faith, and he took the time to journal about it. He could have just left such pain in his journals, but he decided later that others might benefit from his journey so he allowed those journals to be published. An excellent book for anybody in the midst of pain.

Lewis wrote in all sorts of different genres and I have enjoyed books in most of the genres he attempted--from fiction, to practical non-fiction, to theological. His theological book, Mere Christianity, is considered a classic. In fact, any time an author is still being read forty or fifty years after he died, you know that most of what he said stands the test of time.

Several years ago, I had an appointment at my doctor's office. I always bring a book with me so I can read while I'm waiting. After I was called into his office, I set my stuff down, and my doctor saw that I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia. It led to a conversation about how he used to be into Lewis during his college years and that he should take the time to go back and reread some of Lewis' stuff. Naturally, I agreed with him.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rocky Balboa

Over the weekend, I went to see Rocky Balboa for the third time. I've always been drawn to the Rocky series--going way back to when I was 10 years old and my mom took my sister and I to see the original. Knowing that this is the final chapter in the series is bittersweet for me.

The second time I saw the movie, a man and presumably his young son were seated behind us. He was filling the boy in on the details of the series whenever necessary as the movie progressed. At one point, he said, "I can't believe this stuff I'm telling you happened thirty years ago." Boy did I relate to that statement.

But Sylvester Stallone was counting on that nostalgia to carry the movie. He knew that the series carried that kind of power. I may write more about the movie later, but I for now I want to discuss the few things that really moved me:

Adrian's death: We don't really know how well Rocky dealt with her death early on because the movie begins several years after her death. But I loved the fact that he did an annual tour of the places that meant so much to them. Seeing the pet store again and the place where the ice rink used to be was moving. The tour was a wonderful way to honor his wife.

The beast inside: While discussing Adrian's death with Paulie, Rocky said that he felt like he had a beast inside. That's one of the reasons he wanted to climb back into the ring. He felt like he was losing everything--his wife was already gone and his son who was trying to distance himself from Rocky to make a life of his own--and the only way he knew to find himself was to see if he still had what it took to stand toe to toe in the ring with a great fighter. I loved hearing him tell Paulie after the fight that the beast was gone.

Rocky's son: He told Rocky that he casts a big shadow and it was hard for him to find his own identity. Somewhere along the line, he seemed to have stop trying. He was more content blaming Rocky for not going after what he wanted than he was with facing the possibility of failure. Rocky told him that cowards to do that and he wasn't a coward. It was one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.

Little Marie: I loved her character. She didn't want or expect anything from Rocky--even though he wanted to try to help her and her son. She laughed at all the right times, supported Rocky exactly when he needed it, and she didn't try to force the issue of a relationship with him--knowing that Rocky was still not completely over Adrian. A classy lady.

Rocky's passion: Rocky knew that he was slower than he used to be. He knew that he was older than most people are when they fight. But he was driven by his passion to step back into the ring and that's all that mattered. He didn't have to win the fight to appease the passion. He only had to show up in the best physical condition possible and give it everything he had. He more than accomplished that.

Rocky's wisdom: Rocky never had the best vocabulary, but that doesn't mean he wasn't wise. The way he handled his son was brilliant. The way he allowed Paulie to say stupid things so that he could get to what really matters to Paulie, was impressive. The way he showed respect to Mason Dixon after the press conference when they spoke one-on-one was beautiful. The way he pointed out Dixon's lack of fear to his son as being a weakness was, well...wise.

Rocky's compassion: I loved the way Rocky changed the burned out light-bulb outside of Little Marie's apartment. And how he befriended her son and gave him a job. And how he accepted Paulie for who he is. And for the way he allowed Spider Rico to eat for free in his restaurant on a regular basis.

In some ways, we are all Rocky Balboa. We all have our demons we are battling. We all have memories we are hanging on to. We all have doubters. We all have doubts. We all have longings. We all have passions. Unfortunately, we don't always try to conquer our demons or preserve our memories or face our doubters or pursue our passions. But we ought to.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Paying for Ambiance

Some people are all about the price. Some are all about the experience. I'm somewhere in between--although admittedly, I'm much closer to the experience side than my budget appreciates. So I find ways to compromise. One of my favorite places that fits the bill perfectly is Panera Bread. (No, this isn't a PayPerPost. I don't do those.)

I sneak away from my office a couple of times a month to spend the afternoon writing at Panera. I went there on Wednesday for lunch and was reminded yet again about why I'm willing to pay a little extra for ambiance. I ordered my food, filled my cup with the beverage of my choice, and then found a table seated right next to the fireplace. How cool is that?

The tables are big enough for me to spread out my things so I can work. The seats are cushioned. Soft jazz was playing over the speaker system. The wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread wound its way through the entire restaurant. I fired up my laptop computer while I waited for my food (they have free Wi-Fi) and I checked my e-mail. When my food did come (I always get the Asiago Roast Beef sandwich and chips), it hit the spot big time. Refills are free. And they even have a message that pops up when you open a web browser that invites you to stay as long as you want to as long as customers aren't waiting for tables.

I spent $8.22 for that experience, compared to the $6.00 I would have spent at some fast food place where service is usually lacking, the "dinning room" is often littered with trash from the last four rushes, the ketchup machine is out of the only ingredient for which it exists, and rather than hearing soft jazz playing in the background, the sound of sizzling fried food fills the air--along with a thick coating of grease. And Wi-Fi? Even if they had it, writing in such an environment wouldn't be the same.

Give me good ambiance and a relatively cheap price and I'm a happy man.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Magical Moments

Once in a great while, you get a glimpse into a magical moment in life and your soul smiles. That's what happened to me the other day when I opened an envelope my sister sent to me from St. Louis. Here's what I found inside:

The cute little two-year old in the picture is my niece. The man holding my niece is my brother. Do you see the DVD my niece is holding? I made and sent it to my family for a Christmas gift. It includes photos and videos of my dad. He died in 2000 and I've been wanting to do something for quite a while to preserve his memory for the next generation.
My niece was born four years after my dad died, so she never got to experience his laughter. She never got to see him doing the things he loved to do--play golf, work on computers, and, ironically, take photographs. But the DVD will give her a small piece of him. And seeing her hold the DVD was perfectly symbolic of what I was hoping for when I made it. Generations who will never know each other personally were connected for one brief moment.
Obviously, my niece is way too young to comprehend all of this and she might very well have been picking up the DVD to stick in her mouth for a good chewing session. But that doesn't change the fact that I'll always have this one moment captured on film.

Monday, January 08, 2007


I need to handle a couple of situations that require my immediate attention. I'll be back on Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday, January 05, 2007


This week, I've been reading The Journals of Jim Elliot. For those who aren't familiar with him, he was a missionary in the 1950's who was killed (along with four other missionaries) by the people he was trying to reach in Ecuador. Here's how he started his journal during his junior year in college (1948):

"What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths."

Elliot was a wise man, especially for as young as he was when he penned those words. I find myself in the same struggle when writing in my devotional journal or in my regular journal. But the longer I write in both journals, the more I want to be honest with myself--even though somebody else might eventually read it.

Having a place to record thoughts and emotions; struggles and frustrations; and various other tidbits of information is a good thing, even if it doesn't paint the author in the best light. Like Elliot, I know my journal won't be a perfect reflection of who I am, but when I do record my faults, it makes them seem more real, and it makes me want to do something about them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I've been going through a bit of a rough spot in my life lately. We've all been there. But a little over a year ago, I started an "encouragement" file for times like these and it pays off big time. Whenever somebody sends me a thank you card or an encouraging e-mail, I drop it into this file. I flipped through it yesterday and found it to be a rich treasure.

One woman sent me a postcard that had the words of Amazing Grace printed on one side and on the other she wrote, "Pulling for you and praying for you as you work on various projects. Prayed verse four (of the song) for you. Warm wishes." Another woman sent me a thank you card that said, "I wrote on my evaluation that you were the faculty that helped me the most." Another woman sent me an e-mail and told me that my book, Single Servings, changed her life.

Not only do such words have immediate impact upon receiving them, but they continue to carry immense power long afterward if they are preserved. If you haven't started an encouragement file yet, today would be a good time to start. And if you haven't sent a thank you card for a while, send one today. I'm going to drop a couple of them in the mail this morning. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

David Broder on Errors

I don't read David Broder's column in the newspaper very often. His topics generally don't interest me. I did stop to read his most recent column though that my local newspaper called "A Look Back at My Notable Goofs." Here's a link to the same story (titled "Every Story Has Two Sides") in a different newspaper.

Apparently, he has a year-end column where he admits his errors (factual and poor predictions) and that's what this particular column was. I won't go into his errors. You can read the column if you are really interested in the specifics. Instead I want to talk about the spirit behind such an annual column.

How many pundits do such a thing? I wrote a post a while back about how I've come to dislike the shrill exchange from both sides of the political aisle in America. I'm talking about politicians and political junkies. They both make bold, brash predictions about the doom and gloom of the other side's policies.

When they are right, they make sure to footnote every instance in which they were indeed on target. But what about when they are wrong? The other side is always digging for such instances, and when they do find them, they proudly proclaim their opponents errors.

I rarely hear political leaders or political pundits say they are wrong about anything. How refreshing would it be for one of them to simply admit such a thing? It would make me more willing to listen to what he or she has to say in the future.

And how many of us are willing to admit that we were wrong about anything--even when we know it? Maybe we should all write a year end column each year confessing our wrongs. I'm sure it would be medicine for our souls.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Joshua Harris

Continuing with our Top Ten Series featuring my favorite authors:

#5: Joshua Harris

People in the Christian singles community have debated long and hard about the principles put forth by Joshua Harris in his two books: I Kissed Dating Good-bye (which advocates a return to courtship rather than casual dating) and Boy Meets Girl (which chronicles his own courtship with his eventual wife, Shannon). I don't want to have that debate here. Instead, I want to talk about why I am so attracted to his writing.

These two particular books put the needs and emotions of others first and I love that. And I love his message to single men. He told us that we need to be mindful to not take advantage of a woman's emotions by expressing interest in her (either verbally or nonverbally) if we aren't truly interested in knowing more about her. I took that challenge to heart and it changed the way I approached possible relationships.

Harris's third book, called not even a hint, is a call for singles to guard their hearts against lust. And his fourth book, Stop Dating the Church encourages people to find a church and to get involved there--even if it has flaws.

No matter what subject Harris is addressing, I always feel like he's a fellow struggler who is just coming along side me to join me in my struggle. He certainly has strong opinions (many of which I agree with) and he's not afraid to share them, but his books are clothed in a spirit of love and I highly appreciate that.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Reflections

Last year I did a post about my 2005 reflections and when I reviewed it recently I was surprised by how many things have changed in just one year. I think I'll continue doing a post like this to sum up each year. Hopefully you can relate to both my struggles and growth.

--My second and third books were published. In September, Barbour Publishing released The Experience of Christmas. This was a project that I didn't even have a contract for until 2006 started, so it was a fast turn around. Sales were decent and I've heard from many who used it to enrich their Christmas season. My third book was released in late October. It was done as a work-for-hire, so my name isn't on the cover.

--My first book remained in print. You never know when a book is going to go out of print, so I'm pleased to see that Revell has kept Single Servings: 90 Devotions to Feed Your Soul in print. I haven't been as active as I'd like on my Single Servings blog, but I do have several recent posts over there if you are interested in reading more about the single life from a Christian perspective.

--I failed again in my attempt at NaNoWriMo. Given that I spend most of the day writing or editing, I have very little energy left to write a novel at night time--especially in one month. This is the second year in a row in which I've failed at NaNoWriMo. Doesn't mean I won't try it again in the future though.

--Had 73 articles published. I just barely beat out 2005 (when I had 70 articles published).

--Kept this blog up to date. In the past, I've had a hard time keeping my primary blog up to date. I missed very few days this past year (I usually post five days a week) and I'm hoping for more of the same in 2007. I was thrilled when this blog was chosen as a finalist in one of the categories for the 2006 Weblog Awards.

--Read 22 books. My goal was 24, so I wasn't too far short. I read about 5,500 pages, which is similar to what I read in 2004 and 2005. I'd really like to read a lot more than I do, but deadlines often prevent me from doing so.

--Delved into the arts a little deeper. I read a number of poems, a play, and a couple of classic literature books that I wouldn't normally read. And for the first time ever, I spent some time at Borders last week in their poetry section reading poems by Walt Whitman's and T.S. Eliot.

--Spent some time journaling. I've been using a moleskine to jot down my thoughts--especially when I'm struggling with something. I had plenty of those moments in 2006. And I'm finding my journal to be beneficial for several reasons. Something about writing my struggles down helps me to admit that they are real. Journaling also seems to quiet my brain. Once everything is down on paper, my brain says, "Okay, you can relax now."

--Spent some time thinking about the future. I anticipate big changes in my life in the next year or two and while I'm not over-anxious about the possibilities, it's impossible not to think about them.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...