Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Place to Play


I remember when I was new to blogging, and I read one of the big blogging gurus. He described his blog as a living room.

Every living room is different. In some, you can put your feet up. Others have plastic on the furniture. I like to think of mine as a place to play. To share, if you will, the songs of our hearts...whether these be fiddle, oboe or folk guitar.

At the risk of stretching the metaphor or being too sappy, let's say I especially love it when we play together. How I love the music! And at the risk of causing someone to drop his pick, I'd also like to share a small request. (Does this group take requests?)

Here it is. And I've done this myself, both here and on other blogs. Quoting the blogger or other commenters, as a way to track my thoughts and provide context.

But now I'm asking... could we perhaps engage in the art of the paraphrase? I'm finding that when we "quote" one another or quote one another, it feels a little more like debate than play.

Someday, when my book is finally out there, I hope you'll feel free to quote my text at length. But here in the living room, I really just want to chat, or jam, or improv... you know, I hope that's okay.

P.S. If you like my living room, you might like my Sun Room too.


Craver's Gettin' aLAWNg

Charity's Welcome to the Kitchen

Maria's Why I Blog

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Farm Talk

squash plant

A while ago, I interviewed a local organic farmer for a live presentation. Then I blogged about some of my discoveries in a post called Apple Lies.

Now my friendly farmer, Randy Woodard, is going to be on TV, but we can see the clip today (don't be thrown by how it starts with a skyscraper). Cabbage Hill Farm. Just had to share that.

Squash photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Floating Free

In his controversial book No God but God, muslim Reza Aslan suggests that all great faiths are good stories.

Whatever truths religious myths "convey have little to do with historical fact. To ask whether Moses actually parted the Red Sea, or whether Jesus truly raised Lazarus from the dead, or whether the word of God indeed poured through the lips of Muhammad, is to ask totally irrelevant questions. The only question that matters with regard to a religion and its mythology is 'What do these stories mean?'"

On the one hand, I agree. Whatever the story of my faith means, it had better be good. It should have the allure and the passion and the power to transform my life.

Yet, on the other hand, I completely disagree with Aslan.

Indeed, I find the incredulous question of atheist Sam Harris apt in reply, "How is it that, in this one area of our lives [faith], we have convinced ourselves that our beliefs about the world can float entirely free of...evidence?"

For if I'm going to live a mature Christian life, saying no to temptations and yes to the work of justice and grace, there will be much at stake. And I have to admit that I wouldn't stake my life on any old story, even a really good one.

Otherworldly photo by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Mark Roberts' The Quantity and Quality of Textual Variants

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Love Poems

You're not buying a product. You're buying a story. This is the essential message of Al Hsu's 5th chapter in The Suburban Christian.

Story is powerful, as Christianne, Charity, and I have been musing. Is it any wonder, then, that product branding is about "storifying things"?

As Christians, we claim to be enamored of a particular story... a story of One who loves the unlovely and gives good gifts to both the "wicked and the righteous."

In light of this, I think it's good to do what Hsu suggests, and, when we buy branded material, to ask ourselves, "What story or narrative am I participating in?" (p.107) He also asks us to consider de-storying things.

I wonder if, in addition, we might want to re-story things that money can't buy... a rocking horse carved by a father's own hands, a garden planted and harvested by a mother's own hands, a fort made of sticks by our children's own hands.

Maybe if we become enchanted by our own stories and the story of God's restoration, we'll be less likely to fall for the superficial stories of Betty Crocker and the Marlboro man.

Love poem book photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Spaghetti's Restoring Community: Sharing Stories, part IIIb

Spaghetti's Restoring Community: Sharing Stories

Al's Branding and Identity

Lynet's Stories

Charity's Branded

L.L.'s Woodstory

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Little Bedside Reflection

Wisteria Cross

I have not been sick in a long time. Ah, well. Today finds me snuggled in bed on the Sabbath. A cup of homemade tea on my nightstand… raspberry, strawberry, violet and mint leaves with a dash of purple clover flowers, steeped to get-well perfection.

And on my lap (‘til I traded it for the laptop) has been John H. Walton’s Genesis Commentary, compliments of Zondervan.

What better way to spend a sniffly Sabbath? Good tea and good commentary.

In the midst of it all, I had this irresistible urge to write to you. (Pardon me if I sneeze along the way. It might be the symptoms of my illness, or it might be a nervous reaction when broaching a topic of some controversy.)

L.L., you say, “What topic of controversy?” I whisper back, “Election. Not like in who I think will be elected for president… Obama, or Giuliani, or Clinton, but like in election for salvation.”

I suppose this is not a suitable topic for a sick person to approach. Indeed, the healthy and good-natured Craver hosted a lively and friendly discussion on Calvinism last week, which brought up the issue of election.

At the time, as part of one comment, I said…

Abraham was chosen so his people could bring blessing to all people. Eventually, the Israelites lost sight of why they were "chosen." 

I wonder if we too are "elected", not as a club invitation but as chosen ones to go out and bring blessing to the rest of the world... "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation..." (2 Cor 5:18)

Imagine my surprise when I fell upon this, then, today in Walton…

But the larger question concerns the purpose of the covenant. God could make promises without a covenant. The covenant included election, so we must ask, election to what (if not salvation)?

…the structure of Genesis directs our attention to the issue of
revelation. Since the knowledge of God had been lost and the concept of God distorted [see Gen. 1-11], God determined to embark on a program of revelation. Abram and his family were elected as instruments of that revelatory program…[Gen 12]” (p.52)

I can hear you now. “Egads, L.L.! Take a nap! Don’t start in with something like this!”

So let me reassure you. I’m not trying to start another discussion on Calvinism. And I’m not in any condition for heated debate. I want, instead, to focus on a practical matter.

See, I find it interesting that Paul structures Romans 1-11 similarly to Genesis 1-12, in the sense that he first sets up the premise that knowledge of God has been lost and distorted. Then he launches into this very confusing (I think) discussion of what we call election.

So, here’s the rub. If Paul is potentially saying that we are elected, not unto salvation, but for the purposes of revelation, how would this affect us on a practical level? I’m going to suggest that the answer begins in Romans Chapter 12.

And, I ask that you have mercy on me, a sick person, and just play along regardless of your theological bent. In other words, I am looking for refreshment, in a discussion that compares the PRACTICAL differences that issue from one view or the other… election unto salvation versus election unto the task of revelation. (It is true that you may have to read Romans 12 in order to play along.)

Okay, and now I see I misled you. This was not a little bedside reflection. It was, indeed, one of the longest posts I’ve ever done. Oh…. pardon me… aaaaaacccchhhoooo!!!

Wisteria Cross photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Rock Garden

Sometimes I actually get paid to write things, like...

this article...

over at, that features a discussion of a beautiful stone wall at Storm King Art Center.

I figure if I put the proceeds of my unpaid writing together with my paid writing, and divide by some ungodly number of hours, I make about one tenth of a cent an hour.

Life would be pretty rocky if I had to live on that. So, I'm consoling myself with thoughts about the fringe benefits.


Can you make a living as a freelance writer? Read L.L.'s Riess, Winner, Crouch and Crosby Just Say No

Mark's Free Writing (which is to say he's not getting paid to offer this wonderful set of poems. Just see if you can find the story in them.)


Monday, June 11, 2007

Blog Me a Story

Red Riding Hood

Do you want to engage your blog readers, even help them change their lives? Consider telling stories.

Stories are, after all, "sticky." So say the authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. (Thanks for the book recommendation, Al.)

In other words, you are more likely to remember this post and follow its advice if I tell you a story. Of course, the story would have to be related. I couldn't just tell the story of Red Riding Hood somewhere in the middle of all this and hope to make my point stick. Unless, of course I told it like this...

Once upon a time, a little blogger named Red Riding Hood went out into the big cyberwoods, a place filled with html thorns and drooling Blogspot wolves.

All day, Red skipped through the forest, hoping to gather readers and impact their lives. She picked abstract thoughts and put them in her blogger basket. She preached morals to the woodland flowers. She left crumbs of lifeless philosophy along the path. [Oops, that's a different story, about two naughty children who get lost in cyberspace and almost get eaten! Why does everybody almost get eaten in these innocent little stories?]

Anyway, as the cybersun was setting, Red arrived at a lovely cottage only to discover the terrible truth... Her sage, grandmotherly advice had been gobbled up, because she forgot to lock it in her readers' heads with a solid story bolt. "My," she said to the cyberwolves, "what big teeth you have!"

I've told better stories in my day. But even a half-baked story will make a bigger impression than an overdone helping of abstract prose.

Say Heath & Heath, "A story is powerful because it provides the context missing from abstract prose....[Stories put] knowledge into a framework that is more lifelike, more true to our day-to-day existence. More like a flight simulator. Being the audience for a story isn't so passive...Inside, we're getting ready to act." (p.214)

So, blog me a story. And maybe you'll change my life.

Red Hat in the Ivy photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Charity's Hollywood Endings

L.L's poem Even. Tell me, do you think this has any elements of story? What is the minimum requirement in a "text", for it to qualify as story?

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Friday, June 08, 2007


If you know how to flirt, maybe you've got what it takes to be a good writer. At least that's what the authors of Made to Stick imply, in a chapter called "Unexpected"...

There is value in sequencing information— not dumping a stack of information on someone at once, but dropping a clue, then another clue, then another. This method of communication resembles flirting more than lecturing.

I never thought I'd want to cultivate flirtation in my personality, but maybe, just maybe this qualifies as a point of exception. (Side note here: what is biblical predictive prophecy, after all, but a form of purposeful, redemptive flirtation, direct from the Word himself?)

This reminds me of a discussion in The Soul Tells a Story. Wright warns artists of all kinds that, to be powerful in our crafts, we must maintain openness. We must fall in love, so to speak. This, of course, puts us in the danger zone, as we may find ourselves falling in love with all kinds of people (not always the "allowable" kind of falling in love either).

Her advice? Just understand that this comes with the territory, and that you are not "going to rearrange your life" for temporary feelings. You're not going to break up a family or compromise yourself. Apt advice for writers who want to cultivate flirtation, don't you think?

(Oh, and speaking of flirting, you might like this talk I did called Of Sex and Shepherds, or this little love reflection by Scot McKnight.)

Photo by Sonia.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


Andrea's Flirtatious

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


twin tulip

In a post called Tension, Charity explores the secret of balance in the writing life, but concludes that it cannot be achieved. A more apt term, she asserts, is tension.

Last week, I commented on her post, saying that I had experienced "tension" that very day, by giving up a precious writing night to respond to an unexpected crisis with a relative. Yet I had SO needed that writing night to work on a big talk for this week. I ended by saying, "Another aspect of the tension is sometimes having to give less than I could have to an audience, because other concerns press in hard."

This incident has emphasized something for me. Yes, I am a writer and a speaker. I work with words. In fact, the very talk I prepared during this crisis was on the topic of words— blessing others with words. But words need to go beyond the page. Like Jesus, the Word who became flesh, my words need to become flesh.

In this case, it meant giving up a writing night. Indeed, giving up the whole week to come. I admit that this birth of my "I Love You" words into flesh is not coming easily, just as a real birth is fraught with both joy and pain.

Yet the experience reminds me of something else too. It is God who gives me my words. And when life splits my attentions, and I have been as faithful as I can to both circumstances and my writing tasks, God's Spirit surprises me with the words I need... perhaps even giving me words I hadn't planned to say, to touch some heart invisible to me.

Twin Tulips on One Stem, photo by L.L. Barkat.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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