Playdates with Scripture

I’m in a group online that talks a lot about making “things.” Members of the group crochet and knit, paint, create delicate paper sculptures, do performance art, draw cartoons, play the kazoo, make beautiful postcards and send them out to strangers, create astonishing costumes for themselves … All kinds of things. It’s wonderful to see the imagination alive. I like to make things, too. I’ve had a macrame phase (years and years ago), needlework, a make-a-meditation-fountain period, a long obsession with strawbale and cob houses that never got built. My fiction-writing comes out of this drive to “make a thing.” These […]


TSA Security Checkpoint

Education: Business or Pleasure?

Every educational venture is a journey. There are, of course, different kinds of journeys. When the woman at Passport Control asks us, “Business or Pleasure?” what shall we say? Getting from here to there, when you’re here and need to be there, is one kind of journey. In that event, almost anything that we encounter between here and there is something of an obstacle. A necessary obstacle, perhaps, but an obstacle nonetheless. We want or need to be there. But we are here. Our need drives us to overcome the obstacles: buying a plane ticket, packing a bag, driving to […]

For Freedom! 5

For Freedom On May 22, 2015, I was the preacher for the Baccalaureate Service for the 2015 graduates of New Brunswick Theological Seminary…an honor bestowed on me by the students. The purpose of education, I asserted, was For Freedom, and I asked the graduates, “So are you freer today than you were when you started down this road?” The story of the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace demonstrates not just gumption but true freedom: “We will not bow down!” they said. I wandered from the three boys to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Shakespeare’s Othello and the villainous “friend,” Iago; […]

The Three Hebrew Children

“Judy Blume” — It’s Why I Write 2

It’s a question writers often ask, especially when we’re struggling to become a writer, when we don’t know if we are a “real” writer, when we’re trying to figure out all alone with ourselves (which is how writing pretty much always happens) what kind of writer we want to be. You know those books you buy, about writing? Those encouraging, freeing, lift-you-up kind of books for all those embryonic writers out there — they often start with the question: Why do you want to write? Fame? Fortune? Any realist tosses those two off the table pretty fast. Besides, it’s not […]

Odd Ducks & the North Pole 2

At the beginning of every residency during my MFA at Spalding University, the Director of the program, Sena Jeter Naslund, would welcome us home and remind us that “we are all odd ducks here.” To me, Sena’s greeting always felt like the perfect “Welcome Home” speech. We weren’t un-odd, or de-oddified, there at the residency. I can attest that we were each and every one odd. We didn’t become in-liers rather than outliers, nor did we fit in with one another like a magic puzzle. We were odd ducks, together. A brace of odd ducks. Those of us who are “unconventional” […]

Happy Problems

Kim Stafford tells the story of how whenever he or his siblings complained to their father about something, his father would say, “Well, that’s a happy problem!” He narrates this story in his book, The Muses among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft—a collection of short essays that present perspectives on life that everyone should hear. We are trained early on to think problems are bad things and to be fearful of making mistakes. Each one of us can tell our own sob-stories—and some of those stories are nigh unto horror stories—about how we learned to […]