Foreword to Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life

Jean Fleming's Pursue the Intentional LifeBelow is the foreword I wrote for Jean Fleming’s new book, Pursue the Intentional Life. (More details below.)

***UPDATE*** Amazon.com now gives a “Look Inside” preview. The preview includes the foreword, chapter 1, and even part of chapter 2. Read it here!

It is early March in Colorado when I meet with Jean Fleming for the first time. We’re sitting at Backstreet Bagels near First and Townsend. She sketches a tree on a paper napkin, putting heart-shaped leaves on the branches and writing “CHRIST” down the trunk. I know this tree; it’s the one she wrote about in chapter 3 of Between Walden and the Whirlwind. This is our first face-to-face meeting, but I first met Jean through Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Creating Beauty in the Workplace: Lunchtime Sports

(For this week’s topic at The High Calling: Creating Beauty in the Workplace)

My husband and I married in late August, right after our summer undergraduate research jobs at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After just a few weeks with his coworkers, he had already established a reputation for dressing informally at work. (I still joke that, to him, “dressing up” means wearing black jeans instead of blue.) His boss and another colleague made a bet that summer: “I bet you Charles won’t wear a tux to his own wedding.” (Don’t worry, she lost the bet.)

So, when it comes to clothes, my husband isn’t fancy. A minimalist (not to mention an engineer), he likes everything plain and lives simply, a trait which extends to other areas besides his wardrobe. He prefers bland food, without even salt or pepper. He could live in a white-walled cinder block house with no decor. If I swapped out our dining table with a big cardboard box, he might not notice.

When Charles worked four miles away as an analog circuit designer, he commuted by bicycle. Some days, after biking to work, he didn’t bother changing out of his sweatpants. Colleagues posted family photos or their kids’ drawings on their cubicle walls, but Charles didn’t decorate his cube unless you counted the bike helmet and reflective safety vest sitting on his desk.

Was this a man who created beauty in his workplace?

Indeed, yes.

lunchtimesports-200wide

Look again at his cubicle. Under the desk, you’ll find a soccer ball and orange cones for marking goals and field boundaries. You’ll find a stash of hockey sticks, some duct-taped at the handles. At every place where my husband has worked, he initiated and organized lunchtime pick-up games, whether it was basketball, soccer, or street hockey. Halfway through their work day, a bunch of guys with stress and deadlines would leave their workstations or windowless labs to run hard in the sun and fresh air. In many cases, word spread to other nearby companies, so the group was not limited to just Charles’s workplace.

Beyond organizing the pick-up games, Charles also led well on the field. When players got arrogant or ugly, he would remind them of his two rules: play clean, and be kind. Everyone was welcome, regardless of skill level or experience in that sport. (They even allowed me on the soccer field.) One man invited his father, who was in his seventies. When schools were on vacation, another man would bring his thirteen-year-old son.

If beauty is something that brings pleasure to the senses and mind, then leaving a stressful morning to sprint on green grass, pass the ball to your teammate, and watch him score is beauty. Feeling your quadriceps and hamstrings tense and flex as you make a hard cut to lose a defender is beauty. Packing up the cones and riding back in your officemate’s truck to tackle the rest of the work day, renewed and energized, is beauty in the workplace.

Sweat and all.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

6 Comments

Filed under Community Writing Projects

FYI: Editing Page and Book Giveaway

Just a couple of things I wanted to share with you:

1. I have a new editing page.

Monica Sharman Editing

Unless you’ve read my Twitter or Google+ profiles, you may be unaware that I’m a freelance editor. Click over to Monica Sharman Editing to learn more. Tia Smith and David Rupert were kind enough to write recommendations.

2. I’m privileged to be a guest at Dolly Lee’s SoulStops.com today. She and I are hosting a book giveaway you won’t want to miss. Here’s what one reader said about the giveaway book and its author:

“She writes my heart thoughts, puts words to the deep wrestlings of my soul.”
–Becky

Come over and participate in the giveaway!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lava Rock

lavarock400wide

How can it be that magma heat
loses its liquid burn? How
can fiery froth turn cold,
molten bubbles no longer
bursting in a rolling boil?
Your zealous glow has cooled, aloof now
and indifferent, your white-hot hue
frozen into dull darkness, igneous and basaltic,
your dynamic flow turned
static, all the little holes
hardened into airy rock, not much
weight, negligible influence on
any scale. Burn again.
Burn.

Because you have this faith, I now remind you to stir up that inner fire which God gave you.

– 2 Timothy 1:6 (Phillips)

(for this poetry prompt at tweetspeakpoetry.com)

2 Comments

Filed under faith, Fruitfulness, PhotoPlay, Random Acts of Poetry

Community Post at The High Calling: When Your “Yes” Holds You Back in Your Work

Today I have an essay at The High Calling, where this week’s topic is:

What holds you back in your work?

I invite you to read my thoughts and then share your own in the comments. We’d love to have you join the conversation!

See you there.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

Leave a comment

Filed under Calm Intensity

Walking in Red

We were backpacking in September, so I should have expected it. Everything was dead or dying. Branches wilted and drooped. It was fall.

browning grass

drooping branch

dead flower

dead queen anne's lace

“Can you imagine what this place looked like a month or two ago?” I asked, taking uphill steps in my hiking boots with a pack on my back weighing fifteen percent of my weight.

“Yeah, full of wildflowers,” Charles said. I pictured what the scene must have been in mid-summer — the whole field vibrant with wildflower glory. But now, in September, only withering and wilting sorrow. Because of the fall, everything was dying.

We hiked for three and a half hours — plenty of time for my mind to do its destructive kind of wandering. I wondered, as I do now and then, if I was really being useful to God on this earth. I remembered when I asked a dumb question at work (over a decade ago!) and the other two engineers looked at each other, silent and smirking and obviously thinking, “She doesn’t even know that?” I dwelt on that friendship I had lost, and the other one. I replayed scenes at home with the children, remembering the graceless, yelling voice I had used with them. I thought of all the lacks and failures I exhibited as a wife and mother. I thought of the cruelty I had shown to a friend.

Then, in the midst of remembering sin and its effects, I remembered where I was: the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Sangre de Cristo — the Blood of Christ. God in His love had spoken to me. Child, you are walking in the blood of Christ.

I was walking in the blood of Christ, the blood that still flows over wounds to heal them, over sins to cleanse them.

When I remembered where I was, I saw that everything was red, or reddening. Creation bleeds before it dies, like Christ the Creator who also bled and died.

reddening leaf

red leaves

red buds

red branch

red leaf

red lichen

red rocks at upper lake

The wilderness itself, the mountains on which I trod, the leaves and branches and rocks, reminded me: I am forgiven. Jesus died for me. I am cleansed. I am walking in the blood of Christ — estoy caminando en el Sangre de Cristo.

I saw the shocking beauty around me — September beauty. The dying things were beautiful, too, there in the blood of Christ.

I spent no more time during that three-day backpack dwelling on sins, on failures, on pains inflicted and received. I saw the red everywhere, and I walked in redeemed joy.

And on top of that, the fishing was great.

Charles fishing at Goodwin Lakes

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What to Pack for Evacuation

(With last month’s new fires in our city and state, last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire is on my mind. The article below was originally posted July 10, 2012.)

_________________________

With short notice and the fire a mile away, what should we pack for evacuation, assuming we may never return?

evacuating fire 5

evacuating fire 6

evacuating fire 7

evacuating fire 8

We tell our sons to bring only what is irreplaceable. I choose two out-of-print Bibles (one of which wears the Bible cover my husband leathercrafted for me) and a book full of handwritten notes for a writing project. I also pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries.

The fire gets close, and I think our house will surely burn down. It doesn’t. After about a week, officials lift our mandatory evacuation status, and we return home.

The day after, I check my Bible reading plan to see what to read next. Exodus 15–17. God had just parted the Red Sea so Moses and his people could cross on dry land. Then God closed the waters over the pursuing Egyptian army hot on their tails. The first thing Moses and the people do (how chapter 15 opens) is praise God. Miriam takes her timbrel, she dances, she sings. Seeing this, the other women likewise get their timbrels, sing the song, and shake a timbrel rhythm.

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them,

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

(Exodus 15:20-21)

Something in verse 20 jars and startles me. I go back to read it again.

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.

The women had timbrels.

The realization strikes (would I have noticed it if I had not just had an evacuation of my own?): these women had just permanently left their homes in Egypt, and they had their timbrels with them. They counted their timbrels among their most important possessions.

When these women packed for evacuation, they made sure to bring their instruments of praise.

During the Waldo Canyon fire, officials advise evacuees to bring “the P’s”:

People
Pets
Prescriptions
Papers (financial records, etc.)
Photos

…but, following Miriam and the women’s example, I would add another P:

Praise.

Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

(Psalm 108:2-5)

(Photos taken from our car as we drove away from home to evacuate.)

2 Comments

Filed under Praise, Trials, What Fire Can Do

A Better Anger Management

Once, at a ski-town cabin, I chopped wood.
I put the log over a wide tree stump and swung
an axe for the first time. That was before
I had read any Annie Dillard, so I didn’t know
I should aim for the stump, should swing past
the log I wanted to split. But I liked that it was hard
work, I liked the transfer of energy from arms

to axe to wood, and then I was too tired even to be
angry. It’s like when I was a girl and my
big sister’s boyfriend took us to the batting cages.
When I swung hard but missed I felt heavy
like a storm cloud that couldn’t let down
its thunderload of rain. But when I heard
the crack of the bat and felt that same energy
transfer from my arms to the flying baseball,
I understood why they called it a sweet spot.

Sometimes when I am angry
I want to go to the batting cages
or the chopping block at that cabin,
but never
when I am the baseball
or the log to be split.

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
(Luke 6:31)

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
(Ephesians 4:26)

Short-tempered people do foolish things.
(Proverbs 14:17)

4 Comments

Filed under Anger, Random Acts of Poetry

On Mirrors and Reflection

Geometrical optics is just a rough
approximation. The angle of incidence
is supposed to be the same as the angle

of reflection. Well,
when wavelengths are small enough
to disregard the character of

the wave, this method might work.
But ray tracing requires straight lines
with arrowheads showing they’re sure

of their direction, requires
no distortions, and you have to ignore
the photon’s character as well

as its energy levels. Not to mention,
the angles have to be measured
from the normal. It’s so hard to

sketch a mirror image. Who can find
a line of symmetry when everything
is off-center?

————–

(For the “Mirror, Mirror” poetry prompt by Seth Haines. Read the prompt and join in with your own poem!)

2 Comments

Filed under Random Acts of Poetry

When the Sherlock Holmes Precept Doesn’t Work

For The High Calling book club on
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This week, Laura Boggess leads our discussion on the introduction through chapter four. Join us!

—————————–

My son has read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and told me this quote: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

Holmes was talking about sleuthing—figuring out events that have already happened. If you eliminate all the impossible scenarios, you can narrow it down to just one possible solution. If it was impossible for the guy to come in through the window or the door, he must have come in through the chimney. Mystery solved.

Sure, this worked for the famous fictional sleuthhound figuring out what happened at a crime scene yesterday. But our dear detective assumes (1) we are capable of considering all the possibilities and (2) we know what “possible” contains.

I’ve erred in applying the Sherlock Holmes Precept to the future, or to current circumstances. I consider a difficult situation and count the possible outcomes on my fingers: either A or B will happen. When I get really creative, I can turn up a few more fingers for possibilities C, D, and E. But then, that’s it. All scenarios are bad, and I conclude that I’m in a hopeless situation. There’s no way out.

I think of Martha who said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I think of the community of Israel saying in the wilderness, “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt … But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” It’s a hopeless situation. There’s no way out. My brother is dead. We’re going to starve in this desert.

My wise friend David Brown of The Navigators said, “If you’re choosing between Crummy Option Number One and Crummy Option Number Two … well, God can count to three.”

I count the possible scenarios on my fingers. But God won’t be limited by my Sherlock-Holmes thinking.

It’s elementary: God is more than I know.

7 Comments

Filed under Book Clubs, faith, High Calling Book Club