Bloom Book Club Countdown, Reader Feedback, and Giveaway via (in)courage

I know I’ve already extended an invitation to read Jean Fleming‘s Pursue the Intentional Life with the fun, caring community at Bloom Book Club. Others, too, would make the same invitation. Here’s what some readers (and future readers in the Bloom Book Club) are saying about the book and the author:

“I encountered God on every page.”
– Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes (Tyndale, 2014)

“It’s like she is sitting on the couch across from me and speaking into my life.”
– Deanne Moore

“You’re going to LOVE Jean. You’re going to absolutely love her. . . . She’s aaaamazing.”
– Jessica Turner (Watch the video to hear the way she says (or sings) “amazing.”)

“Jean is my new favorite person—she’s an absolute jewel.”
– Robin Dance, Bloom Book Club Coordinator

“I knew God was getting ready to speak something powerful into my life—I just didn’t know how desperately I needed to hear it … Jean’s stewardship of these ideas culminated in this beautiful book that holds not only wisdom flowering from years of experience and walking with God, but the author’s lovely poetic voice as well.”
– Laura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grownup World (forthcoming in fall of 2014)

“I bought this book some time ago after Laura Boggess mentioned it. I hold Jean Fleming in high esteem. I read and was greatly encouraged by her book A Mother’s Heart over 25 years ago and bought many copies over the years to share with other mothers. I know that this study is going to be good.”
– Patricia Hunter

“. . . an author who has mentored me for years . . .”
– Ann Voskamp

Roger and Jean Fleming

Roger and Jean Fleming

Here’s a five-part giveaway and a clear recap of how to join and read along with us: A Great Giveaway for Pursue the Intentional Life! Video 1 (Author Introduction) will be up on Monday, June 3. Hope to see you then.

What You’ll Find in This Book Club

Ideas were plumping. . . .

I most often hear the word stewardship used in regards to money, talents, and time. My husband reminds me to be a good steward of the insights God gives as well.

– Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life (19, 22).

Ideas, insights—plumping
like grapes still on the vine,
unplucked, untasted.

Come to the grapevine—harvest, eat.
Press, prepare.


Today, (in)courage announced
Bloom Book Club’s summer pick: Pursue the Intentional Life, by Jean Fleming.

The term “book club” can mean so much. I anticipate lively interactions in a warm, caring community. I expect a wide breadth of insights from thoughtful people who will walk alongside and call me higher. I think friendships will begin—and grow.

One of the best parts of this book club: we don’t just read the book. Because of their video interviews, we also get to know the author. Read the book, interact with other readers who want to grow in intentional living, and meet the exuberant and winsome Jean Fleming of The Navigators.

I’m in. You?

Read the Bloom Book Club details at (in)courage.

Snowball-Fight Writing

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club (hosted by Lyla Lindquist) on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


I live with four family members, and all of them are male. I still don’t get why snowball fights are fun. Why do they love being pelted with icy globs? To me, it’s like being hunted.

snowball fight 1

But they have their great fun packing snowballs while I watch (from inside) and take pictures with the window between me and them. I heat water in the kettle and take out the marshmallows so that the hot cocoa will be ready when they come in, red-cheeked and happy.

That’s in winter. In the summer I work with my sons on the simple skills of catching and throwing a baseball. I tell them how to position the mitt. I remind them not to shut their eyes when the ball is coming at them. I show them that if they throw the ball with the right hand, they should step with the left foot (not the right, as they were doing).

Sometimes the progress seems slow. At the beginning of one summer, though, I went to the backyard for one of the first throwing and catching practices of the year. They were much better than I remembered; their skill level was even better than it was end of the previous summer!

Wondering what happened, I told my husband about it. “They got so much better at throwing all of a sudden! I haven’t even been working on it that long!”

Charles’s explanation came immediately. “It’s because of the snowball fights.”

Of course.

Several years ago I heard of a writing class but wrung my hands and agonized because I couldn’t afford it. Just think what I could learn! Writing instructors would give me exercises! They would critique my assignments, and I would gain so much knowledge from their red-pencil marks! Plus, they promise that by the end of the course, I will have a completed manuscript ready to send!

The class is still offered, and I still can’t afford it. But that’s okay. For now, I think I’ll just go out and have a snowball fight.

snowball fight 2

The Voice of Authority (and Spider Guts)

Our voice will be better developed if we spend time with our passions.

– L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, p.56

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club hosted by the “thoughtful and amusing” Lyla Lindquist on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


Jesus would have been a great novelist. He taught the way writers should write.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
(Matthew 7:28-29)

Jesus’ teaching was different than that of other teachers—so different that the people who heard both were amazed! The difference was the “real authority,” but what gave Jesus’ teaching that real authority? Was it content, or what?

Many chapters later, I got a clue.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.”
(Matthew 23:1-3)

So, it wasn’t necessarily the content that gave Jesus’ teaching more authority than the other teachers. (He said to do what they say, so their content was good.) What gives authority to teaching is a life that backs it up.

Teaching with authority comes from practicing what you preach, yes, but it’s more than just the “doing.” I’m guessing it has to do with passion.

Jesus’ teachings were inside of him; the Pharisees’ teachings were outside of them. For Jesus, it wasn’t external sayings or traditions passed down, but living words that kept him alive and excited.

He taught truths that were already inside, and they overflowed out. He did not teach what was external to himself. I believe this how Jesus taught with authority—with author-ity.

It has to come from inside—a passion. It has to be true. Authenticity is part of authority. It’s what makes the teaching real.

It’s what can make my writing real.

The fake characters we read about will evaporate like the morning dew, but the real ones, the true ones, will haunt us for the rest of our days.

– Katherine Paterson, in her essay “Yes, But Is It True?” in A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (p.69)

I don’t know about “voice” in writing. I don’t think I will ever be able to define or explain it. But maybe it will simply happen if, with self-acceptance and unselfconsciousness, I simply write like Jesus taught—”with authority,” from the inside, from my passions, from what is true and real.

But this scares me. To write the real stuff means to dig out and expose the raw, ugly parts. That would be quite a descent. Am I willing?

Unlike our Lord, we have not been able or willing to descend into hell. So our words of grace seep out bland and bloodless. Perhaps this is why the tax collectors and harlots are closer to the kingdom of heaven than we…

When we read fiction that is true, we do not say, “There but for the grace of God go I”—rather, “Here I am.” For in such writing we recognize our naked selves with a shudder or a laugh; sometimes, quite wonderfully, with both.

– Paterson, pp.69-70

Paterson gives another insight via the spider:

[T]he two creatures most to be pitied were the spider and the novelist—their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts. But in some ways I think writers of fiction are the creatures most to be envied, because who else besides the spider is allowed to take that fragile thread and weave it into a pattern?

– Paterson, pp.70-71

What is my writing voice?

I don’t know. But let me take up my cross, follow Christ, and write from stuff spun from my own guts, the real and true inside stuff that keeps me up at night (either shuddering or laughing—or both). Then, hanging by a fragile thread, I’ll wait and listen for the sound of my own voice.

Good Thing I Can’t Do Everything

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club hosted by the “thoughtful and amusing” Lyla Lindquist on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


At a friend’s recommendation I read Ex Libris and wanted to write like Anne Fadiman. I heard Mr. Longo at the drums and wanted to play like Mr. Longo. I wanted to turn out cakes like Marcel Desaulniers, sing like Christy Nockels, break-dance like my nephew James, and write songs like Steve and Vikki Cook.

But I didn’t have the goods. Not like they did.

I have the mental understanding that this may not be the healthiest attitude, but the knowing often doesn’t translate to the really knowing—the living, the being, the feeling. For this, I need all the help I can get.

So I’m glad I read Rumors of Water.

Turns out, it’s okay—maybe even beneficial—that I can’t do everything.

As a writer, I have learned when a job needs to get done, there is little use fussing about the lack of necessary ingredients.… This is the secret of the prolific writer. To agree to use small beans and the ingredients at hand.
(L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, p. 34)

I first picked up this book because I have read Stone Crossings, and I will certainly read a book on writing if it’s written by the author of Stone Crossings! I wanted to read Rumors of Water because I wanted to grow as a writer.

Yet from the beginning, I recognized that from this book I could learn not only about writing, but about life. This is true of every section, cover to cover.

I didn’t foresee that a book on writing would help me in my faultiest thoughts and perspectives.

Barkat’s “secret of the prolific writer”—using the “ingredients at hand”—is also the secret of an effective, gifted member of the Body of Christ. God did not intend that I have the ability to do everything as well as everyone else. On the contrary, by God’s design and intent, it is good for me to have a lack. Many lacks. “Deficiency” is beneficial.

My refrigerator and kitchen cupboards do not contain everything from acai to zevengetijdeklaver, just as my vocal cords don’t vibrate like those of Christy Nockels. But I will do what I can, with what God has given me.

With that I will not only be content, I will be … prolific!