A Paleo-Innocence Project

Wrongfully accused … even for young children, this is an easily-understood expression. The concept of fairness seems inborn and children learn at an early age the power of a complaint “It’s not fair!” Job wasn’t a child, but he understood how it felt to be wrongfully accused.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

In studying The Book of Job, I’ve begun to understand how awful it is to be perceived as a wrongdoer … when you’re not! Every time Job proclaimed his innocence, his friends shook their heads and presumed Job was guilty and deserving of judgment. The “circumstantial evidence” confirmed their hasty judgment. Case closed! Continue reading “A Paleo-Innocence Project”

How Long the Hunt for Words?

For a writer, reading the following words may strike right between the eyes:  “How long will you hunt for words?” Maybe it was more of a two-by-four upside the head, but I definitely reacted to this question from Job 18:2. It’s Bildad speaking, responding to Job’s monologue from chapters 16 and 17, and Bildad comes out swinging. He’s anxious for Job to suspend what he considers a monumental (and verbose) pity-party.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The way I read the chapter, it reminds me of the scene from Moonstruck where Cher slaps Nicholas Cage and tells him “Snap out of it!” Bildad’s attempting to do the same thing:  Snap out of it, Job! You’re letting this suffering thing affect your ability to listen and learn from your friends!
Continue reading “How Long the Hunt for Words?”


One of the trending hashtags on Twitter today was #ADVICEFORYOUNGJOURNALISTS. I’m guessing this hashtag was, at least in part, a result of the recent shake-up at NBCNews due to the “misremembering” antics of Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.Screenshot 2015-02-10 20.02.57Back in the dark ages (I called them the 60s), my intention upon high school graduation was to enroll at the University of Missouri to major in journalism. I had earned a scholarship to Mizzou, it was located only a couple hours from my home, and at that time at least, it was considered one of the best J-schools in the country. According to Wikipedia (see subheading in above image), it “may be the oldest formal journalism school in the world.Continue reading “#AdviceForYoungJournalists”

Disperse! Ye Shades of Night

Variously characterized as an “English writer and philanthropist,” “a British playwright, abolitionist and philanthropist,” “an Evangelical philanthropist,” “an educator, writer and social reformer,” poet Hannah More’s name is one with which I was unfamiliar. A contemporary of John Newton and William Wilberforce (among others) and a woman who mingled with many of London’s literary elite, More lived from 1745 to 1833.

FierceConvictionsWith a recently released biography, author Karen Swallow Prior provides a portrait of Hannah More, a cultural figure who engaged her times and challenged the conventional norms of her time, including prevailing attitudes on slavery. The book is Fierce Convictions with the subtitle The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More:  Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Continue reading “Disperse! Ye Shades of Night”

A Full Life and Long

When I first heard of P.D. James (many long years ago), I initially thought she was a he. I mean, how many women prefer to be known by their initials rather than their actual names? When I heard yesterday that Baroness James had died at the age of 94, I can’t deny I thought with regret about how her most illustrious character and protagonist of fourteen James novels, Adam Dalgliesh, would fare. Yes, James did (more or less) retire Dalgliesh when the last mystery novel (The Private Patient) in which he was featured debuted in 2008. But for readers of the fourteen books, his persona is so familiar, so real! (Did I mention he’s a poet?)

Photo by Sage Goodwin http://www.cherwell.org/culture/interviews/2013/10/19/profile-pd-james
Photo by Sage Goodwin

When I began to be more serious about my writing in adulthood, several others in the writing world – who knew about publishing – told me mystery-writing was an easier avenue for achieving publication success. I read some mystery/detective whodunnits and a ton of Ellery Queen before I acknowledged these weren’t my cup of tea.

In something of a surprise, I stumbled across P.D. James who (I discovered) had begun writing detective stories as a self-taught “apprenticeship” she hoped would assist her development into a “serious” novelist. My aspirations mirrored hers. Before I’d read one book through, I was hooked. Her cautionary comment became a watchword for me:  “a detective story is very easy to write badly but difficult to write well.Continue reading “A Full Life and Long”

Prep Work? Done!

My daddy dropped out of school before completing the eighth grade. This would have been sometime in the mid to late 1930s. In his teens, he (along with his brothers, two older and one younger) was anxious to go and do and be. Remaining in school was an impediment to the lure of pleasures that beckoned beyond the school yard.

Norman with 3 eldest children, about 1952

I know he regretted having made this choice. Ten (or so) years later, he’d learned quite a few lessons about life outside the school yard. He’d served in the European theater during World War II (including being part of the D-Day Invasion), he’d gotten married on his return to the States, and his family was expanding. (In the above picture, taken about 1952 there were three children. Three more would follow.) All of a sudden, driving a furniture store delivery truck seemed like a crude way to earn a decent living.

Even though he lacked formal education, my daddy continued to educate himself. During the period when the above picture was taken, he had enrolled in Brookes Bible Institute in St. Louis. I remember many nights when he sat at the kitchen table or in a living room chair, surrounded by books and resource materials as he applied himself to being the very best student he could be … day job, family responsibilities and age notwithstanding. He was determined not to let a decision he’d made in his teens wreck the course of his life. Continue reading “Prep Work? Done!”

Purposeful Suffering

In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis points out:  “… the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator.” In Job Chapter 3, this act of surrender is part of Job’s challenge. I think it’s safe to say Job was no different than me (or you?) in that he didn’t particularly enjoy suffering. However, because we’re the creatures, surrendering ourselves to the Creator’s intent may be a proper good, the right thing to do, the means through which creative objects derive their meaning … but this surrender isn’t always an easy thing for us!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

There’s an interesting dynamic in the Book of Job. Reading the text today provides us with the exact situation … the back-story (if you will) to which Job himself wasn’t privy. We know from Chapters 1 and 2 that Job’s suffering transpires because of a heavenly conversation between Almighty God and Satan. Satan has requested permission from God to torment and cruelly sift Job in order to demonstrate that Job’s faith is worthless under heavy pressure. Satan thinks he can prove Job’s a man of fair-weather faith.

Job doesn’t know any of this. All he knows is his life has suddenly gone terribly wrong. He’s suffered huge material losses, the annihilation of his family and finally, the destruction of his physical health. Summing up his life, all Job really knows is:  Life sucks! Continue reading “Purposeful Suffering”

I Cried A Tear . . .

As a respite from today’s overdose of election talk, let’s take a distracting turn down Memory Lane. Thirty-six years ago today, a catchy and upbeat song by songstress Anne Murray hit Billboard’s Hot 100 list. The Canadian-born Murray had already succeeded with a 1970 top-10 international hit “Snowbird” as well as her 1974 country number one hit, “He Thinks I Still Care.” But when she released “You Needed Me” in the fall of 1978, the song quickly topped the Hot 100 and remained on the list for 26 weeks. Murray would go on to win a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance with her song.AnneMurrayThe world has undergone remarkable changes since 1978! Even when Murray originally sang this song, her sweet-sounding ballads were being challenged with songs by artists like Donna Summer and the Bee Gees. Country music was still dominated by musicians including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Beyond the music world, it was in 1978 the first baby born via in vitro fertilization was announced. Pope John Paul I headed the Roman Catholic Church for barely a month before he died. Nine hundred eighteen people died in Jonestown (Guyana) in a mass suicide.

What do you remember about that time? A mix of good and bad, happy times and sad, a time of tragedies and celebrations? Kind of like today, huh? Continue reading “I Cried A Tear . . .”

Book of Job / 2

Last Sunday, I launched a series of posts related to the Book of Job. The initial post is here. As a bit of review, this historical character lived in the “land of Uz,” a stretch of land that lies east of Egypt, south of current day Israel and Jordan, and is roughly bisected by the Jordan River as that river flows south into the Gulf of Aqaba. The book named for Job makes this statement in chapter 1, verse 3:  … that man was the greatest of all men of the east.” Indeed, Job’s wealth alone was impressive, but he had character to boot. He was … blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from Evil.

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

But in the blink of an eye, Job’s circumstances changed! His livestock, his servants, dead and gone, his children dead, and it seemed as though every time the door opened, he received another round of bad news. (I’m reminded of that line from the Hee Haw song Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me that says “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” That’s the kind of week Job was having.)

So here’s Job having the equivalent of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day … but what he’s not aware of is the dialogue occurring in God’s dwelling place and how that dialogue will result in Job’s slide even farther down the tunnel of misery. Continue reading “Book of Job / 2”

Vote For Pedro

There’s a mid-term election on Tuesday! I know this likely comes as a surprise to most everyone … especially people in highly competitive states including Alaska, Arkansas (my state), Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina where US Senate races will be decided. I’ll just bet there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in political ads where you live, right?! Okay, so you’ve noticed a slight uptick in the televised ads … but no phone calls, right? And your unsolicited mail? What’s that been like? A few extra slick postcards and political handouts, but not so much you were annoyed by it, huh?readytovote

Okay, maybe I’m overstating that a bit. Thankfully, the end is in sight! Notwithstanding the potential for run-offs, we’ll be free of the intense mania for another couple of years … although I’ve already heard the prediction from a couple sources saying “The 2016 campaign will kick off on Wednesday, November 5th.” Seriously, couldn’t they just wait until after the holidays? Continue reading “Vote For Pedro”