Father’s Joy

Throughout the years I’ve written poetry, I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different forms. I came across a little book my younger daughter had given me for Christmas one year. The blank book isn’t really a good size for a journal but is just the perfect size for short, one-page poems!2014-09-15 21.03.15

Sure enough! I opened the small book and therein were several short poems I’d written (and forgotten about). They were all written using the same form. When the poems were originally written, this form was unfamiliar to me, but I made a notation in my Rhyming Dictionary/Poet’s Craft Book where I keep a record of forms not mentioned within the text. The information in my note is sadly incomplete. It says simply:  Jaleen (6,4,4,6 … 6,4,4,6) two stanzas, rhyme scheme abbc, addc, iambic.

No information about who originated the form, nor even a hint about the unusual name. So I decided to do a Google search today to see if additional information was available. There wasn’t much … Continue reading “Father’s Joy”

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Penitent Sister

Hill-coverAfter yesterday’s post, I laughed and laughed because that was a fun post to write! I told my Beloved, I don’t care if anybody else enjoys the post, I had fun writing it!

But suddenly, in the midst of my laughter, it occurred to me the joke actually might end up being on me! There’s sort of an unwritten rule about lampooning … if the object one uses hasn’t earned iconic status, the joke almost always falls flat.

In my case, I got to thinking about the news reports I’ve been reading that indicate Hillary Clinton’s recent book release isn’t getting the numbers (in sales) that everyone hoped. Uh-oh!

One headline reads:  No one is reading “Hard Choices,” either. The article beneath the headline notes people may purchase but fail to complete the tome. Using a metric that gauges how far into a book readers progress before setting the book aside, Amazon rates Hard Choices as averaging a dismal 2.04%. That’s about 33 pages through this volume of 657 pages!

Another headline says:  Execs on notice after Hillary’s book sales tank. Let me quickly point out that “tank” is a relative term. It would probably be kinder to say the book has not performed as publishers and booksellers had hoped, but its fourth-place standing on the Nielsen book-scan list is hardly the tank.

However, as I began to think about whether or not the book (cover art shown above) has yet to earn “iconic status” – as in immediately recognizable by almost everyone who sees it – I’m not comfortable believing the book has yet reached that pinnacle. Hence, my need to admit the joke’s probably on me, because few may have understood my silly effort was meant to lampoon! Silly me!

Egg on my face, yep. But did that stop me? What do you think? Continue reading “Penitent Sister”

Dream A Little Dream

As a writer, I’m subject to the same inclinations as almost every other writer throughout time:  the unquenchable desire to have my words appear in print. I have had the privilege of selling poetry, prose and fiction, but to date, there isn’t a book on the shelf that declares me as its author.im-writing-a-book

Of course, I’ve compiled a book for you to write (another link here), but I consider that a completely different product. This particular book does have my name in it … but not on the cover because you must tell your story as you complete the book and only you can tell that story (not me).

When I was a younger woman, I often dreamed about the books I wanted to write … someday. I also used to dream about an agent (or a publishing house) calling me out of the blue to solicit my upcoming bestseller! (I told you it was a dream!) I had this delusional notion that my brilliance was so obvious, these publishing entities should jump at the chance to snag me into their stable, though I’d never even produced a book-length manuscript!! [I have now but it’s non-fiction.] Continue reading “Dream A Little Dream”

Jesus Is Awesome!

A new book out this month caught my eye. The title, Why Nobody Goes To Church Anymore, probably invites a thousand different responses, many of which could be thoughtful while a roughly equal number of others might be scornful and acid-tinged. I’m guessing few people seeing that title will be neutral about it.church2

It’s a book I could have written; not necessarily the way the authors (Thom and Joani Schultz) wrote it, but their title/question is definitely a query I’m able to answer. I’m unfamiliar with the Schultzes but the couple has several other books including Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything At Church.)

Though I didn’t find much biographical info about this couple, Amazon‘s introductory sample pages provide details of their association with Group Magazine and also, that they share a passion for seeing lives transformed through the power of Jesus Christ. An interview with the couple on the Group Magazine website reflects their heart for youth ministry.

Since I haven’t yet read the book, a critique would be unfair. However, the table of contents leads me to conclude I’d agree with much of what they say. I’m especially interested in the four acts of love they propose as transformative for the church:  loving with (1) radical hospitality, (2) fearless conversation, (3) genuine humility and (4) divine anticipation. I’d likely share their primary thesis, but books presently on my night table take precedence. I’ll reserve further comment until I’ve read the book.

022.TO5083My own experience with churches is lifelong. My dad’s family were organizers of the first German Baptist church (founded in 1849) in St. Louis. My mom’s family was similarly involved in founding at least one church in Pennsylvania. I don’t know whether those churches faced attendance problems, but I remember an attendance board like the one at left was almost always a prominent fixture of churches I knew.

As a teenager, I attended a Plymouth Brethren (PB) church. Having come from a Baptist church, we were outsiders. They were delighted to have us as members, but our unfamiliarity with PB traditions set us apart. I well remember thinking the core members tended to be older, and families with children (like mine) were the exception rather than the rule.

My long history with churches is peripheral. Let’s turn a corner. During my daily exercise (on an elliptical), I usually watch television. It distracts me from the seemingly endless (really, only 30 minutes) one-foot-in-front-of-the-other monotony. Often, I tune into a TCM movie (no commercials) or find something tolerable on Netflix or Hulu.

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This week, I decided to try a British series Hulu had advertised. Didn’t know if I’d like it but figured it had an agreeable premise. It’s called Rev. and features an Anglican vicar named Adam who serves an inner-city London parish. Adam struggles to build the dwindling church membership while ministering to a diverse flock. Having only watched the first two episodes, I’m still reserving judgment, but the show is appealing (though imperfect). It resonates with a refreshing authenticity.

The second episode struck a strong chord. A charismatic vicar named Darren meets with Adam to request permission to use Adam’s parish hall (for Sunday services) while Darren’s parish hall is being remodeled. Darren’s a photogenic man, head and shoulders taller than Adam. He wears civilian garb rather than the typical vicar collar and robe. His speech is generously sprinkled with words like “cool” and “awesome.” Of course, Darren enthusiastically proclaims, “Jesus is awesome!”

Adam consents to the temporary merging of congregations, but by Sunday, the stately worship hall has been jarringly transformed − pews pushed back, luxurious couches, flat-screen televisions and blaring sound system installed. The coffeepot once located on a back corner table has been replaced by a fruit smoothie bar. Darren’s congregants are mostly an under-30 crowd, hip and animated. Taking a cue from Jay Leno of The Tonight Show, Darren waltzes in from offstage to rousing cheers and applause.

The most memorable scene (for me) occurs when Darren introduces a rapper to perform special music. The rapper makes a sign of the Cross and then delivers a peppy number with this refrain:

Love me, take me, Jesus.
Make me feel brand new!
Love me, take me, Jesus,
Our resurrected Jew.

Of course, the show is meant to be provocative. Several commenters condemn Rev. as blasphemous and sacrilegious. In part, I agree (and there is salty language).

But I like Adam’s character. He prays (in voice-over). He loves his wife and she genuinely loves him. The tension Adam feels comparing his shrinking congregation to Darren’s youthful growing congregation resembles a bonafide tension many churches encounter.

The question Thom and Joani Schultz pose with their book must be asked:  Why would anyone go to church anymore, especially if it compares to Adam’s dying parish? But the opposite question also begs an answer:  What is it about Darren’s parish that draws the young folks? How many pastors have asked themselves those questions in the last year?

Once I’ve watched a few more episodes, I’ll have a better sense of Rev. For now, it seems as though they’re seeking to entertain, but as a side benefit, they’re asking good, incisive questions … and if they continue, that’s what will keep me watching.

Besides, Jesus is awesome!

When Happiness Is The Goal

Growing up in the 60s, I remember the rhetoric of the so-called Feminist Movement. It was clear to me these second-wave feminists indulged bitter grievances and disdain against what they perceived to be a monolithic, obdurate patriarchy (Public Enemy #1).

When Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, released in 1963, it showed up on the New York Times bestseller list (less than six weeks). I was still in junior high at the time, so Happiness Is a Warm Puppy by Charles M. Schulz (32 weeks on the NYT bestseller list) and Morris L. West’s The Shoes of the Fisherman (44 weeks on the NYT bestseller list) held greater interest for me — and likely for most of the people in my mid-western community.

By the late 60s, Friedan’s book had gained some traction in the Bible-belt mid-west and south. That’s not to say we bought the premise. (I thought it would have been more appropriately titled The FeMENine Mystique. In fact, I’d always intended to write that book, until I realized the title said it all:  discontented women blaming their unhappiness on men, while attempting to supplant and become the men they detest.) Continue reading “When Happiness Is The Goal”