Friday, April 25, 2008

The Painted Dresses Road Tour

It’s that time of year again when Patty goes on the Road speaking and sharing on life and faith and dropping in to share at a few writing workshops. However, this year, with the release of my July book, Painted Dresses, comes a personal story not shared by me or my hubby before, and that’s of the big mess we made of our lives the first decade we were married. And then of the redemptive intervention of God to rescue us from disaster. It’s the story behind my stories. At times it’s a story stranger than fiction.

The Painted Dresses Road Tour will begin in May and continue throughout 2008. If you feel like you’re running out of gas, or feel squeezed by life’s gas crunch, drop in and set a spell and let God give you a tune up and an overhaul. For booking info, just drop me a line.

Part of my story is set to release in an upcoming Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a story of redemption just as my books carry that eternally hopeful theme—God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.

Watch for book and speaking tour info this coming Monday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Into the Wild

Last year I read an article in Outside magazine about a student named Chris McCandless who literally abandoned everyone he knew, all his possessions, and walked away from his life. His wealthy parents had given him everything in life including a chance at an Ivy league school. But he took all of his identification cards and cut them up. He pried off his license tag, hid it, and abandoned his car on the side of the road. He burned what cash he had. Then he worked his way north until he reached the wilderness of Alaska. In his journal was later found the entry: Today I walk into the wild.

Chris’s story became the film, Into the Wild, produced by Sean Penn. At the outset we are left to wonder why Chris walked away from his privileged life. But being privy to his internal thoughts as expressed in a journal, we begin to see what seems to be a young Thoreau emerging. But one of his entries is very telling. He refers back to when he had some cash and was able to buy the necessities of life comparing it to life in the wild where he is dependent on killing wild game to survive. He says that he is so much more alive when he has to depend on his own abilities to live.

I can’t imagine the numbness he must have been fighting to get to that desperate point. He was so desperate to feel something that was wholly his, he gave up everything to feel it. There is a tendency among today’s youths to explore more, to leave behind the comforts of their parents’ home and explore the world like vagabonds. Is what we parents have worked so hard to provide for our children really helping them or is it leaving them feeling as if they are missing out on the striving and struggle to survive?

In the end, Chris does not survive. In spite of asking a few people how to do things like skin an animal, he doesn’t know enough about the Alaskan wilderness to overcome starvation and then accidentally ingests a poisonous plant. The film left me yearning to help my son enough to make him feel secure in his abilities, but to leave him the wiggle room to make mistakes and taste of disappointment. It’s a rite of passage to fail and then problem solve your way to success.
He has a right to feel and own those experiences and live his own life.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Catfish in the Tank

There’s a story about a fishing company that deep sea fished for restaurant owners off the east coast. Before the ship would return home, the live fish caught and dropped into a holding tank were going to the bottom of the tank and dying. But one day a sea catfish accidentally got in the tank. Those are trash fish, not good for anything. But the captain noticed that with that catfish in the tank, when the other fish would grow lethargic, the catfish, seeing them as easy dinner, would nibble on them. Not wanting to be eaten alive, the fish would swim away. When they docked, the catch that day was fully alive. The catfish was what was causing the fish to stay alive. So the captain started capturing catfish and placing one in the tank so that his fish would arrive to shore alive.

Last fall I had what some might call a mountaintop experience. I had immersed myself in Bible study, digging more deeply than I’ve ever dug. I’ve had other seasons where my Bible study reaped high results. But following that season I felt closer to God than I’ve ever felt. Never had my path felt more sure. I could see what was ahead, what I was supposed to do next. I understood some things about God that rang so true, I thought I was getting at least a taste of what it was like to be a spiritual giant. I also knew that while I couldn’t live on the “mountain” forever, that what I would take back down would have lasting benefit that would translate into a transformative experience. It was like cycling to the top of a hill and then finally enjoying the ride coasting all the way down.

Then I ascended back into what Paul calls “this body of death.” I had to return to life as a mortal. It wasn’t long until life changes as well as disappointments became a weight on top of me.

When we ascend into a valley, we can question our faith. We start to wonder if the mountaintop was real because the reality of the valley is so heavy. But there is a lot going on besides what you’re feeling at the time. The weights you’re carrying, that seemingly have been thrown on your shoulders without your permission, are helping you build endurance. Perhaps you’ve been complacent in your decisions, believing that whether you choose A or B, neither is a bad choice. But in the valley, you see clearly the truth behind your decisions as well as your indifference—you weren’t made for mediocrity. Just lifting your feet and allowing life to carry you along can take you over a cliff. So these wake up calls alert you to the fact that the choices you make are a privilege and a responsibility. This “body of death” carries within it the capacity to make us into beings that can accomplish much more than daily life implies we might accomplish.

The catfish in our tank is a reminder that we can’t just go to the bottom of life and die. God wants us to arrive home having lived life on earth fully alive.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

We're Not So Different

Ever want to lie down and die? Hide under the bed? Think you’re the only person in the world who has your problems? That everyone hates you and that you don’t have one real friend left in the world? So did Elijah.

Ever think your dad's not telling you everything? That your sibling hates you? That other men are after your wife? That your kids fight and behave worse than everyone else’s kids? Meet Isaac.

Ever think that your dreams will never come true? That there’s a conspiracy against you? That lies are being spread about you? Daniel knew events before they happened, yet he spent most of his coming-of-age years enslaved.

Ever think that your past is worse than everyone else’s past? That men will never stop using you? That you’ll never get a break or find acceptance in anyone of importance’s eyes? So did a woman who stopped for bottled water. She found approval in the eyes of the Master of the Universe disguised in carpenter’s clothes.

Ever think that your way is right, that your religion will trump all others until you’re dumbstruck one day to realize you were wrong all along? That you missed God by miles because you didn’t know him as well as you thought? Paul, a man of high religious pedigree, called himself “the chief of sinners.”

Because we go through so many difficulties and make choices that turn out horribly wrong we think that our struggles are what keep us from attaining any sort of great purpose in life. We start to believe that it’s our problems that keep us from reaching into life and pulling out the wondrous plum of happiness that will finally make us realize why we’re here. But it’s in the middle of problems and crisis that all of these people came to realize their dependence on God. Just when each person thought his or her days as a major player was over, God stepped in and showed that His playing field had a different playbook. Are you going through a season of sorrow? Does it seem like you can’t depend on friends to support you when you need them most? Do family members disappoint you? The questions swirling around your wonderful mind have been circulating since ancient times. We haven’t evolved at all. We’re just as dependent on our Creator as the first family that introduced dysfunction into humankind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

North Carolina Mountains

Jared wanted to go to the mountains for spring break. So we loaded up him and some friends and headed for Boone. They wormed their way into an Annuals concert and then the next morning we all went our own ways, shopping and eating our way up to Blowing Rock.

If I could live in two places, the second place would be Blowing Rock. If you haven't been there, it's a mountain village with all sorts of small shops and some decent eateries. Lots of local art, especially now that a new shop has opened up called ArtWalk.

Visiting Blowing Rock is like going back to the 50's where you sense that everyone in town knows one another's names. It's also time for trout fishing, so time to pull out my weighters and lures.