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The Devil is in the details (Repost)

Hey folks! For those of you here expecting to read a guest from some wicked awesome writer I’ve stumbled upon, I’ve taken a brief break from guest posts on Wednesdays. I promise to resume them soon. For now, I’ve decided to re-run a series I posted last year on my old blog, “Hey Look a Chicken”. Look for some new (to you, hopefully) writing talent back here in the near future. In the meantime, here’s a repost from yours truly:

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 2)

Remember that the truth is in the details. No matter how you see the world or what style it imposes on your work as an artist, the truth is in the details. Of course, the devil’s in there, too – everyone says so – but maybe truth and the devil are words for the same thing. It could be, you know.

In the larger scheme – the big picture – Jesus is the truth. He is the Truth, the Light and the Way. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the God of all things. He created the universe and He created the smallest grain of sand on the most remote island in the South Pacific. He is not encumbered by what encumbers us: time, worry, doubt, pride, sin.

The more we allow God into our lives, the lighter our burdens become. But that doesn’t stop us from choosing to carry them ourselves. We fight God. We push Him away. “I’ve got this God. I’m good.”

When this attitude begins to slowly seep into the details of our lives, the devil prepares to set up long term residence. He loves being in the details. Once he’s got his foot in the door, it’s difficult to uninvite him. He is patient, especially when we are not.

When our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and fall back into our laps, the devil waits for us to invite him in by way of doubting God’s providence.

But here’s the thing – he has already been defeated. The only way he can get a foothold is if we give him an opportunity to do so.

To the Pharisees Jesus said:

“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:42-47)

Do not believe the father of lies. Remember to whom you belong.

Finding your Muse (repost)

I’ve been pretty busy this week. Lots of reading and working on my new website–but more on that later. I wanted to repost one of my favorite posts from a series I did based on Stephen King’s novel, Duma Key. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.


Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 5)

Don’t be afraid to experiment; find your muse and let her lead you. As her talent grew stronger, Elizabeth’s muse became Noveen, the marvelous talking doll. Or so she thought. And by the time she discovered here mistake — by the time Noveen’s voice changed — it was too late. But at first it must have been wonderful. Finding one’s muse always is.

Must your muse be a person? Well, it certainly can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Your muse can be the questions you need answered or pain you want to make sense of. It can be the parts of your life you’ve just glanced over but never really delved into. Your children’s future can be your muse; your own peace of mind.

In short, your muse is what inspires you to create when you’re not feeling particularly creative; to work when you’d rather sleep, to promote yourself when you’d rather just find a quiet place to hide away from the world.

So, what drives me to create? Different things in different circumstances. But if I’m being honest (and I usually am), what drives me is the something my dad told me over and over as a child. Before I get into this, I need to tell you that my dad and I have a very good relationship now, and I don’t hold any ill will towards him. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. But I digress…

His philosophy was anything worth doing is worth doing well. Which I believe is a true and noble directive. His paraphrasing of that expression is what has caused me to struggle with overcoming some obstacles, the biggest of which was self doubt. I still struggle with that. I think we all do to a certain extent. So, what were my dad’s exact words? These:

“If you going to do something half-ass, don’t do it at all!”

Adults often make the mistake of assuming children think the way they do. When I heard that statement, my first thought was, “Okay. I won’t do it at all.” So things that were difficult for me I simply avoided. I convinced myself that I wasn’t really good at anything. But God knew better. I suppose I’m a bit of a later bloomer. I didn’t really know what I was good at creatively until my thirties. I spent a whole lot of years simply existing, not living. But somewhere along the line a passion for art in many forms was ignited. It’s scary, and difficult at times, but living is so much more fulfilling than existing, don’t you think?

So…find your muse yet?

Marking the White (repost)

(Originally posted 6/11/09)
Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (I)

Start with a blank surface. It doesn’t have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember.

How do we remember to remember? That’s a question I’ve asked myself often since my time on Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have the mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that remakes the world is heroic, or so I’ve come to believe.

I have on occasion referred to myself as an artist. Reluctantly so if I’m being honest – and I usually am. (Honest, that is.) I am not an artist in the classic sense. I seldom create something from nothing. Rather I find myself reproducing something I’ve seen before and taking it one or two steps further, or subtracting something. The term I’m most comfortable with is painter. Simple, descriptive, accurate.

I have always been interested in pursuits I would later learn are in the field of Creative Arts. Music, literature, painting, creating things with my hands. Some might refer to the latter as Arts and Crafts. But I would not necessarily fit some of the things I have made into that category. (Perhaps I’ll share more of that on another post.)

What has caught me completely off guard is my desire to write.

I have always loved to sing, but it was not until I was inspired by the company of talented vocalists and musicians that I considered creating music – specifically creating music for the express purpose of praising God – as an art form. What was once a very special friendship with music has now become a passion.

So, it seems, it is with writing. The first blog I ever read was my friend and pastor Jeff Hogan’s blog, Convergence. He has a gift for both the spoken and written word. He set the bar fairly high.

Next, there was Stuff Christians Like . After reading two posts, I was absolutely hooked. You had me at Rob Bell, Jon. You had me at Rob Bell. I think that’s when the writer in me began to stir.

I am in unfamiliar territory here, but because many of my readers and fellow bloggers are such incredibly talented writers and storytellers, they have given me the courage to get out of my comfort zone. Funny, irreverent, sarcastic, downright ridiculous – that’s my A-game. And while I have always tried to write from the heart, I want you to know that there will be times here when I will write from parts of my heart that you are not accustomed to seeing.

Hope that’s okay with you.

More Blogging about Writing


In case you missed it, I wrote my first and only guest post for What I Learned Today last week, On Writing and Blogging. Over the past seven months or so, I’ve learned much about the business of writing. Fascinating stuff.

More fascinating still is the craft of writing. I’ve never doubted that it is an art form, I just never understood the importance of the rules. Rules that are allowed to be broken, but only if you know what they are in the first place. Clearly, I break the rules without even knowing it. Sometimes I stumble upon writing a decent story, but I think it is exceedingly rare to find a writer with any staying power who is just winging it.

One of the cardinal rules of writing is that a writer must read. Even reading bad writing has its merits, because it reminds us of what not to do. Ah, but good writing? Good writing inspires us and nourishes our souls. It challenges us to be better writers. Or at the very least, a more appreciative audience.

If you are an aspiring writer (and seriously – who isn’t these days?) I would highly recommend On Writing by Stephen King. It is the best book about the craft of writing I’ve ever read. (Note: It is also the only book about the craft of writing I’ve ever read.) This is my blog, and I want to sound as if I know what I’m talking about. Please play along.

The best part of this book? It’s just plain honest. A trait I subscribe to all great writing. Here’s a brief excerpt:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind or heart. You can come to the act with your fist clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.

Which only reiterates the point of my guest post for Billy Coffey. I am a blogger who writes. Some day I may venture out into deeper waters, but for now I think I’ll just keep to the shallow end with only the occasional swim out to the deep. Stay tuned.

Going Deep


How to Draw a Picture (Part 10)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

“Be prepared to see it all. If you want to create–God help you if you do, God help you if you can–don’t you dare commit the immorality of stopping on the surface. Go deep and take your fair salvage.”

How deep are you willing to go?

Do you find yourself swimming in the shallow end of life? Safer there, no? Less of a risk. It’s where most of us seem to congregate isn’t it? We choose not to go deep, where the water is murky. Too many unknowns lurking…

“How are you?”

“Fine, thanks.” (My life is a mess.)

“Work going well?”

“Can’t complain.” (There’s rumors of layoffs and I fear I’m first on the chopping block.)

“What happened at school today?”

“Nothing much…” (I just don’t fit in. I don’t have any friends.)

“Is something wrong?”

“Just tired I guess…” (Yes. Everything’s wrong. I’m hanging on as best I can, but I need you to throw me a lifeline.)

Too many of us live life on the surface and are afraid to dunk our heads and drink deeply, because those waters are murky. But those waters are really the only thing worth tasting in this life.

That’s where we will find Living water.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7:17

No twitter post tomorrow…9/11

The picture inside the picture


How to Draw a Picture (Part 9)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

Look for the picture inside the picture. It’s not always easy to see, but it’s always there. And if you miss it, you can miss the world.

This is the ninth installment of my adventure into serious writing. It’s still not something that I’m completely comfortable with. As a matter of fact, I could never imagine it was anything I would even consider. But to quote one of my favorite lines from the book this series is based upon,

“God always punishes us for the things we can’t imagine.”

And while the biblical implications of that statement are at odds with what I believe to be the Truth, still – it makes me pause.

When I started this silly little blog in April of 2008, it never dawned on me that I would be so inspired by so many talented, amazing people. Among those near the top of that list would be Jeanne Damoff.

I described Jeanne a couple of weeks ago in the following tweet: “Follow @jeannedamoff. She’s like me, only classy.”

Okay, so maybe she’s not so much like me. She holds degrees in social work, sociology, English, and secondary education. Wife to George, mother to Jacob, Grace and Luke. From her bio: “Jeanne is a published writer, a professional choreographer, a musician, and a speaker. She loves to laugh and gives points to anyone who makes her laugh out loud. These points are very valuable. Everyone should strive to earn them, starting now.” (Apparently, I have earned a few points along the road, because she has graciously agreed to guest post for me very soon.) As impressed as I was with her writing thus far, I was completely unprepared for the book she sent me.

When I read the quote from Duma Key that inspires these posts, I knew I had to share a bit of her story. So many of us often miss the picture inside the picture, but if we look for it, there is astounding beauty to be found. Jacob Damoff is a shining example of such beauty. Again, here’s Jeanne in her own words:

In May 1996, the world ended. We traded “Happily Ever After” for brokenness and sorrow. My book, Parting the Waters: Finding Beauty in Brokenness , tells the story of Jacob’s drowning accident and our family’s subsequent journey through a valley of lost dreams and into a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty. As our eyes adjusted to the shadows, the beauty of God’s plan came into focus. A pebble is dropped into a pond. Ripples are set in motion. Ever widening, they accomplish eternal purposes visible to those who choose to see.

I literally have a stack of books four feet high that are waiting patiently to be read. But once I picked up Jeanne’s book, I could not put it down. If you’ve ever struggled to understand why bad things happen to good people and can’t seem to find the silver lining in the clouds of life, I would highly recommend this book.

And you know I know a good book when I read one, right?

Be Brave

A very big, heartfelt THANK YOU for all the birthday wishes via twitter, facebook, emails and wonderful blog posts yesterday. I was truly humbled – No small feat, to be sure. So, thanks again. Y’all are wicked awesome!

How to Draw a Picture (Part 8)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

Be brave. Don’t be afraid to draw the secret things. No one said art was always a zephyr; sometimes it’s a hurricane. Even then you must not hesitate or change course. Because if you tell yourself the great lie of bad art–that you are in charge–your chance at the truth will be lost. The truth isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it’s a big boy….

The bravery is in the doing, not in the showing. The truth can be hidden away again, if it’s too terrible for the world to look at. And it happens. I’m sure it happens all the time.

When an idea comes to mind, an artist will often be consumed until he or she can breath life into it. But what about writer’s block? Or the feeling of being overwhelmed by a white canvas staring back at you? Or the chord progression that just isn’t quite cutting it? Why do you suppose that happens? How do you get past it?

I have a theory.

Would you consider the possibility that there are moments, emotions and feelings you dare not share? Things dark, sinister or shameful? So incapacitating that if you could hide them from God you would?

I’m fairly open here in my writing, but there are some things I simply cannot share; or maybe just refuse to share. I know, I know…confession is good for the soul, but some things are between God and me.

One thing in particular. A story that’s been locked away for too many years. So, I’m going to heed the words of the great sage Stephen King: “The bravery is in the doing, not in the showing.” I’m going to sit down and write a story that will never be told, because “the truth can be hidden away again, if it’s too terrible for the world to look at.”

So, how about you? Do you have a story that will never be told? That you’ve hidden well?

It seeps out, you know.

Through the cracks in your heart.

Believing is Also Feeling

UPDATE: I’m not feeling particularly wordy today, but since I’ve had two “I don’t get it” comments since I first posted this, I feel the need to explain just a bit about what was going through my jumbled little mind when doing this post. Art is so much more than the ability to paint, write or sculpt from a technical standpoint. Ten artists might see the same tree and paint it ten different ways, because so much of the creative process comes from the heart, not the head or hands. So, there you go…

How to Draw a Picture (Part 7)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

Remember that “seeing is believing” puts the cart before the horse. Art is the concrete artifact of faith and expectation, the realization of a world that would otherwise be a veil of pointless consciousness stretched over a gulf of mystery. And besides — if you don’t believe what you see, who will believe your art?

Believing is also feeling.
Any artist will tell you so.

“Art is the concrete artifact of faith and expectation, the realization of a world that would otherwise be a veil of pointless consciousness stretched over a gulf of mystery.”

Yes.

Keep your Focus


How to Draw a Picture (Part 6)
(Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King)

Keep your focus. It’s the difference between a good picture and one more image cluttering up a world filled with them…
It is a bit of a misconception that the ADD afflicted cannot focus. As a matter of fact, I have found myself so focused on a particular project that everything else simply goes undone. My struggle is not to stay focused, but to un-focus long enough at the task at hand to attend to all the other things that demand my attention.

Some questions I have never answered to my satisfaction, but I have drawn my own pictures and I know that when it comes to art, it’s perfectly okay to paraphrase Nietzsche: if you keep your focus, eventually your focus will keep you.

Sometimes without parole.

I used to be an avid scrapbooker. The maternal instinct kicked in and I felt compelled to document every major and minor moment of my first born’s life. This just so happened to coincide with an invitation to a Scrapbooking home party invite given to me by a friend from church. I had never heard of such a thing, but once I saw it, I was hooked.

I had to stop scrapbooking. It consumed me. While everyone else was putting together entire scrapbooks in record time, I became so obsessed with creating the perfect page for a particular picture or set of pictures that I would literally stay up all night until I got it just right. While my friends simply found a few stickers and/or coordinating papers and called it a day, that just wasn’t enough for me. Mine had to be a perfect representation of my emotional connection to the moment in which the picture was taken.

I am mostly ADD with some shining OCD moments. Allow me to give you a couple of examples:



Those are just three examples. On almost every page, I painstakingly recreated one or more elements in the picture. At the rate I was going, I would have my son’s baby pictures finished by the time he graduated high school. I just got overwhelmed by it. I still take pictures of my kids. My daughter wants to do her own scrapbooks. At almost 8 years old, she has given me every indication that her creative prowess puts her mother to shame. So, I’m all for that.

Fast forward to May 2008. I didn’t even know what a blog was until I read my friend and pastor Jeff’s blog. What a difference a year and a couple of months can make. What started as an outlet for my outright silliness and occasional prosperity gospel rants has turned into something so much more. It is a community. Some blogs are strictly informational. Mine could hardly be called that on my best day. My husband told me his favorite part of my blog is reading the comments. I tend to agree. I know I have many readers who rarely or never leave comments. I have some readers who only stop by on Mondays, and that’s okay, too.

So what’s my focus right now? Writing. My own and the writing of people who actually know what they’re doing. Because it’s not enough to be good or even great. You need exposure. And while this blog is not exactly breaking records for traffic, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

That’s why I have two guest posts a week.

Monday will be reserved for Billy Coffey until such time as he simply gets too busy to post here. Thank you, Billy. What a privilege it is to feature your work here every week, and what a pleasure it is to know you, my friend. I won’t even say something silly like, “Don’t forget me when you’re a famous author”, because I know you better than that. You’re a real class act and I’m thrilled that the rest of the world is about to be blessed by your words just as your regular readers have been over this past year.

Each Wednesday I will feature another new guest blogger. I have been really overwhelmed at the response to this. I thought I would be scrambling to find someone willing to write for this blog, but people have been so gracious, and the result has been some excellent posts and hopefully some new readers for my guest bloggers.

I know I joke around about shamelessly self promoting myself on twitter, but I’d much rather promote someone more worthy of attention than myself. It’s the least I can do. Because it’s not about me anyway…

Be sure to be sure to catch Part One of Billy’s interview with Lynn Rush about the call that every writer dreams about.

Finding your Muse


Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 5)

Don’t be afraid to experiment; find your muse and let her lead you. As her talent grew stronger, Elizabeth’s muse became Noveen, the marvelous talking doll. Or so she thought. And by the time she discovered here mistake — by the time Noveen’s voice changed — it was too late. But at first it must have been wonderful. Finding one’s muse always is.

Must your muse be a person? Well, it certainly can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Your muse can be the questions you need answered or pain you want to make sense of. It can be the parts of your life you’ve just glanced over but never really delved into. Your children’s future can be your muse; your own peace of mind.

In short, your muse is what inspires you to create when you’re not feeling particularly creative; to work when you’d rather sleep, to promote yourself when you’d rather just find a quiet place to hide away from the world.

So, what drives me to create? Different things in different circumstances. But if I’m being honest (and I usually am), what drives me is the something my dad told me over and over as a child. Before I get into this, I need to tell you that my dad and I have a very good relationship now, and I don’t hold any ill will towards him. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. But I digress…

His philosophy was anything worth doing is worth doing well. Which I believe is a true and noble directive. His paraphrasing of that expression is what has caused me to struggle with overcoming some obstacles, the biggest of which was self doubt. I still struggle with that. I think we all do to a certain extent. So, what were my dad’s exact words? These:

“If you going to do something half-ass, don’t do it at all!”

Adults often make the mistake of assuming children think the way they do. When I heard that statement, my first thought was, “Okay. I won’t do it at all.” So things that were difficult for me I simply avoided. I convinced myself that I wasn’t really good at anything. But God knew better. I suppose I’m a bit of a later bloomer. I didn’t really know what I was good at creatively until my thirties. I spent a whole lot of years simply existing, not living. But somewhere along the line a passion for art in many forms was ignited. It’s scary, and difficult at times, but living is so much more fulfilling than existing, don’t you think?

So…find your muse yet?

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