Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I've been blessed to be able to pursue a personal life goal for the past ten years, the last three of which I've spent working on a PhD. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I have received so much more than I had even hoped for in the process. But along the way, my singleminded pursuit has crowded out so many good, even necessary, things that I value but have just let fall to the wayside. My fault, I know. But still, it has happened.

Life events, however, have come together to inspire me. The theme of last week's Christian Scholars Conference was "The Power of Narrative," and Barbara Brown Taylor, one of the plenary speakers, made a statement that really resonated with me. She observed that so many of us choose narratives too small for our lives. We fritter away our time on non-essentials, drifting along, never daring to live a narrative big enough to fit our dreams and goals.

On top of coming face to face with that truth, while at this conference I met several people who are living their lives so intentionally, with such unifying focus. They have decided what is important to them, and they are purposefully making room for those things in their lives, getting rid of the habits that rob them of time or room for human connection and spiritual pursuit, and adding things that bring them contentment and real happiness. There was something about these people. They had a peaceful countenance (an old-fashioned term, I know, but it fits exactly) and a quiet joy I envied.

It's not like this is a new idea for me. I've always had an inner vision of the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to live, but that vision often gets trampled under the tyranny of the urgent. And it's not as if I think my pursuit of a PhD was a "frittering away of my life on non-essentials." It was, and is, a worthy goal and very important to me. But now, as I'm nearing the end of this years-long journey, I want to transfer my energies from this pursuit into creating a life that matters, one that honors my values and makes my outer reality match my inner vision. I want to live a life of Intention. During the next week or two, I want to write about different areas of Intention that I want to pursue. It may not be a daily theme because I'm still thinking this thing through. But I invite you along for the journey.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Travis!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Booking It--15 Children's Books

Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen children's books you've read/remember being read to you that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

Strawberry Girl
Winnie the Pooh
The Trixie Belden series
The Nancy Drew series
Charlotte's Web
Little House series
Any book by Beverly Cleary
Curious George
The Hundred Dresses
Aesop's Fables
Caddie Woodlawn
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Sarah, Plain and Tall
I don't know the name of it, but it was a Little Golden Book about a pig named George who ate so many doughnuts he exploded.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

100 Most Beautiful English Words

I'm not sure that these are the exact ones I'd have chosen, but according to Alphadictionary.com, here are the 100 most beautiful words in the English language. Of course, words like "erstwhile" and "quintessential" are beautiful. But "fluke"? I love the word, but I'd classify it as funny rather than beautiful.

Thanks to Ian for bringing this site to my attention.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christian Scholars Conference 2009

Lipscomb University is pleased to host the 29th annual Christian Scholars’ Conference, June 25-27, 2009, under the theme, “The Power of Narrative.” Plenary speakers Billy Collins (US Poet Laureate, 2001-2003), Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer Prize Winner, 2005), Hubert G. Locke, and Barbara Brown Taylor will stimulate dialogue on the intersection of faith, academics, and narrative's captivating quality. Paper and Panel sessions highlight the conference, bringing together fellow academics for collaboration and dialogue. We invite you to participate!

The multiple track conference features 71 paper and panel sessions, each of 90 minutes duration, with 245 scholarly presentations within six time slots. Sessions are composed as “Generative” or “Peer-Reviewed.”

Our conference’s mission is to: “To create and nurture an intellectual and Christian community that joins individuals and institutions to stimulate networks of scholarly dialogue and collaboration.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Hurrieder I Go, The Behinder I Get

This past week has been jam-packed with way too much to do. Necessary things. Things I simply cannot ignore. I'm leaving today for the CSC in Nashville, and this is all the stuff I had to get done in the last week:

1. Write the paper that I'm presenting at the CSC

2. Read Gilead because Marilynne Robinson will be a plenary speaker

3. Make minor corrections to my dissertation, proofread the Works Cited page (again), and get the finished version back to my director

4. Prepare to teach a class on "Images of Women in Literature," which I taught on Friday afternoon

5. Prepare for Honors Symposium.

6. Re-read Frankenstein before I teach it at Honors Symposium.

7. Shop for and prepare a nice Father's Day meal

8. Start teaching Honors Symposium on Monday

9. Download and fill out a bunch of graduation-related paperwork, drive to Ole Miss and run around campus, handing in one form here, picking something up there, taking it to another office on the other side of campus, paying fees, etc., and jumping through all necessary hoops prior to the defense, then driving home (same day)

10. Submit an essay for a critical edition of Mansfield Park

11. Pack for the CSC

That doesn't even count things like laundry. Boy, I'm tired.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just Compensation

Today, after I do Good Morning Honors Symposium with Dr. Garner, I'm headed to Ole Miss. I've got paperwork to turn in and fees to pay at various offices around campus. Then, I'll turn right around and drive back to get ready to go to Nashville on Wednesday.

But, surprising at it may seem, I'm looking forward to the trip for two reasons. One is that I'll get to have one of my favorite Mediterranean Pizzas from Newk's for a late lunch. I can't tell you how much I've missed those. I'm seriously thinking of taking a cooler, buying several to bring home, and freezing them for future consumption.

And the other reason is that I'll get to listen to a book on tape during the trip. A totally escapist crime fiction novel with no redeeming literary value at all. One of the best things about the two years of driving back and forth from Searcy to Oxford was all the books on tape I enjoyed while driving.

It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Booking It--What Now?

What book are you reading right now? And, even though you don't know the end, would you recommend it?

Right now, I'm reading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. I've had it for a while and just never gotten around to it, but since Robinson's one of the keynote speakers at the CSC this week, I thought it'd be a good thing to have read it before I go. Now, I'm sorry I hadn't gotten to it sooner. It's simply beautiful. I have a feeling this novel will have a place near the top of my all-time-favorites list.

If you’re a grown man when you read this – it is my intention for this letter that you will read it then – I’ll have been gone a long time. I’ll know most of what there is to know about being dead, but I’ll probably keep it to myself. That seems to be the way of things.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

GH Short Story Contest

To celebrate it's 125th anniversary, Good Housekeeping is having its first ever short story contest.

You must be 21 or older to enter. Submissions should be original, 3,500 words or less, and focus on the lives of women today. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 15.

The winner will receive $3,000.00 and publication of her story in GH (no small thing as the magazine has featured work by Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Rona Jaffe, Nicholas Sparks, Maeve Binchy, Jennifer Weiner, Elinor Lipman and Picoult).

Stories will be judged by Jodi Picoult, author of such books as My Sister's Keeper and Handle With Care.

For more information, go to Good Housekeeping's website.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can You See Me Smiling?

I found out yesterday that my dissertation advisor has approved my revised dissertation. Now, it goes to the rest of my committee, but I don't foresee any problems there. We're shooting for a mid-July defense.

If I'm this happy now, just imagine how ecstatic I'll be after the defense.

The long-awaited Ceremonial Note-Card Burning is drawing closer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life, Interrupted

Friday, I finished revising my dissertation and hit the magic "Send" button. I knew I needed to start on my paper for the CSC, but I figured I'd wait 'til Monday and give myself the weekend off. Perfect time to head to Oxford for the weekend!! See some friends, hang out on the Square, eat a pizza from Newk's, go to a concert in the Grove.

No such luck. Friday afternoon about four o'clock the storm hit and our electricity went out. "It'll come back on soon," I thought. Wrong. Saturday morning, I called the electric company and they had no idea when they'd get to us. So, instead of heading to Mississippi, we hooked up the generator to our freezer and suffered through the heat and the dark. The power finally came on Sunday morning about 9:30, but of course we'd headed to church and left the windows wide open. So, when we got home the air conditioner was running full blast, trying to cool the whole world.

Alas, no trip to Oxford anytime soon. I've got a paper to write.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Booking It--Niches

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)But then there are books that only YOU read.

Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easysteps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring yourhouse without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

They're right. Novels have always made up the bulk of my reading. But I've always read up on subjects I'm interested in, too. Right now, my "niche" reading falls into these main categories: Health/Exercise, Women's Spirituality, and Feminist Literary Theory.

And you?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fragmenting the Narrative World: Losing the Effectiveness of Story

Here's my paper proposal for the CSC:

Before the Enlightenment, the worldview of western civilization was fairly consistent, yet after the Age of Reason, it split into a Christian worldview and a naturalistic one, which further fragmented into existentialism, postmodernism, multiculturalism, and so on. This fracturing is amply evident in the literature produced from the 18th century onward. Most narratives are an attempt to tell the truth, or at least to explore some facet of it, but if western culture has removed God and ultimate truth as a unifying force, how else can one approach “story” but from fragmented identities—race, gender, ethnicity, or some other type of self-defined category? There must be some kind of drive, unifying force, or “truth” behind the narrative: Women are oppressed; African-Americans are oppressed; British imperialists commandeered our culture; God is dead.

Of course, not everyone abandoned a Christian worldview, and some only compromised. Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer calls this compromise the top story/bottom story dichotomy. Compromisers buy into a naturalistic worldview based on logic and reason for everyday life (the bottom story), and take a “leap” into the upper story when they want to practice their “faith.” Many believers are so conditioned by society that they are not even aware of the fragmentation, and non-believers are not threatened as long as believers leave faith in the upper story and don’t try to incorporate it into “real life.”

This paper will explore the effects of a dichotomized worldview on narrative—both how it shapes the narrative we choose to tell and how effectively we are able to tell it. Does a fragmented worldview cause us to move from a comprehensive approach to narrative to a fragmentary one? Does the existence of “Christian Fiction” as a genre mean that some have bought into this dichotomy as it applies to literature? Is there a bottom story—Fiction, and a top story—Christian Fiction? Does a synthesized worldview, whether consciously or unconsciously held, lead to writing Christian Fiction to compete in the multicultural marketplace of Chick Lit, African American Lit, Post-colonial Lit, Gay and Lesbian Lit, ad infinitum? Instead of “all truth being God’s truth,” a belief resulting in stories of real people grappling with real issues in a real world, do some Christians today feel they have to tell “Christian stories,” which are often sanitized and unrealistic? If we truly have a Christian worldview, will we choose to tell stories that incorporate all of life—spiritual and physical, good and evil, victory and defeat—in realistic ways?

And how does this fragmenting of narrative affect the role of literature as an exploration of truth, a pathway to God? Many authors of “Christian Fiction” look at their work as a form of personal evangelism, but is choosing to tell stories from this platform really effective? Is it not just preaching to the choir and reinforcing the idea of faith as separate from real life?

Now, all I have to do is write the thing! Any ideas to contribute? Suggestions will be duly considered, and if used, full credit will be given. :-D

Friday, June 12, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

Way back in December, my good friend Julie told me about a conference she was helping with that I absolutely must submit a proposal for. I checked out the Call for Papers, and was intrigued:


Choosing a story to tell often shapes the messages we send about faith, history, literature and our world view. How should a scholar balance a comprehensive perspective with the voices of race, class, and gender? To be considered for this peer reviewed session, please submit proposals on topics relating either to how we effectively communicate a narrative – whether in the classroom, pulpit, through media, or in the public sector– or how and why we choose a narrative to communicate.

Then, I found out that Billy Collins (former poet laureate) and Marilynn Robinson (author of Gilead and Home) were the keynote speakers. I was hooked. In the euphoria engendered by the exciting topic and the wonderful speakers, I thought, sure, I can work on my dissertation and write a paper for a conference, too. I'll have plenty of time.

What in the world was I thinking?

The conference begins on the 26th, and I don't have my paper written yet. Just what I needed. More stress.

I'll tell you what my paper's supposed to be about tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Big Summer Read

Every summer, I choose one big book from my "to read" list, one so long it's hard to find time to read during the school year. This year, it's Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. What's on your list?

About this novel:
Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna tries to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook. Much to its author's chagrin, The Golden Notebook instantly became a staple of the feminist movement when it was published in 1962.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Say What?

Wondering what to read this summer? I can't vouch for the content, but these titles will sure get your attention:

1. How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer
2. Scouts in Bondage by Michael Bell
3. Be Bold with Bananas by Crescent Books
4. Fancy Coffins to Make Yourself by Dale L. Power
5. The Flat-Footed Flies of Europe by Peter J. Chandler
6. 101 Uses for an Old Farm Tractor by Michael Dregni
7. Across Europe by Kangaroo by Joseph R. Barry
8. 101 Super Uses for Tampon Applicators by Lori Katz and
Barbara Meyer
9. Suture Self by Mary Daheim
10. The Making of a Moron by Niall Brennan
11. How to Make Love While Conscious by Guy Kettelhack
12. Underwater Acoustics Handbook by Vernon Martin Albers
13. Superfluous Hair and Its Removal by A. F. Niemoeller
14. Lightweight Sandwich Construction by J. M. Davies
15. The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes by Michel Pastoureaut
16. How to Be a Pope: What to Do and Where to Go Once You're in the Vatican by Piers Marchant
17. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

And, yes, these are all real books.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coveting the Metaphor

I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and one of the many things that impressed me about this author is the way she sees symbol and metaphor so readily in her life. In everyday occurrences, chance encounters, and commonplace objects she sees a deeper level of meaning, and this way of seeing translates into more beautiful and profound life experiences. It certainly enriches her writing.

I want this connection to symbol and metaphor in my own life.

Additionally, she says that "we need forms and images" to relate to the Divine. "Symbol and image," she explains, "create a universal spiritual language. It's the language that the soul understands." However, she warns that we should be careful about the type of images we use to represent the Divine. Why? Because the images we use to relate to God influence not only how we see God but also how we perceive ourselves and how we choose to live our lives: "These symbols or images shape our worldview, our ethical system, and our social practice--how we live and how we relate to each other."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Booking It--Sticky

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Poisonwood Bible
The Count of Monte Cristo
Lonesome Dove
Native Son
The Grapes of Wrath
A Tale of Two Cities
Lord of the Flies
Jude the Obscure
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Handmaid's Tale
Charlotte's Web
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
The Weight of Water

I know I'll want to change this list later, but I followed the 15 minute rule.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Another Great T-Shirt

I ran across another great t-shirt slogan the other day. It went like this:

"What if the military had to have bake sales to raise money and the PTA got the Pentagon budget?"

Interesting question, you gotta admit.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

FBI (Nigeria Division) Needs Editor

I received this email yesterday. I'm really glad the FBI is looking out for me, but they really need to hire an editor. Don't you think?

Companies Name: SPEEDPOST DIPLOMATIC COURIER COMPANY. Email: speedpostdiplomaticcourier11@live.com


Telephone Number: +234-7090420785

ATTENTION: BENEFICIARY So, we, the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) Washington Dc, inconjunction with the United Nations (UN) financial department haveinvestigated through our monitoring network noting that your transaction withthe Central Bank of Nigeria legal. You have the legitimate right to completeyour transaction to claim your fund US$8,000,000.00 (Eight million united states dollars) Because of so much scam going on in Nigeria.We the federal bureau ofinvestigation dicided to contact the Express Courier Service Company inNigeria for them to give us their proceedures on how to sent this money to you without any futher complain or delay. We just got an information from the Central Bank of Nigeria and they have loaded your US$8,000,000.00 in ATM CARD and submit to the express courier service company for immediate delivery to your doorstep. You are required to choose one option, which you will be able to pay and also convenient for you, for quick delivery of your parcel containing your ATM CARD and other two original back up documents.

Service Type | Delivery Duration | Charges/Fees:

Premium Express (24hrs Delivery) Mailing $200.00 00.00

Insurance $150.00 .00 Vat $100.00 00.00 TOTAL $450.00 $450(Four Hundred and fifty US Dollars Only).

Special Express (2 Days) Mailing $180.00 00.00

Insurance $50.00 00.00 Vat $150.00 00.00 TOTAL $380.00 00.00 $380(Three Hundred and Eighty US Dollars Only).

Economy Express (3Days) Mailing $100.00 00.00 Insurance$?150.00 00.00 Vat (5%) $50.00 00.00 TOTAL $300.00 00.00 $300(Three Hundred US Dollars Only).

You are hereby required to advice us, on your parcel delivery option by filling in the required form stated above. Please note that the deadline for claiming your fund is exactly one week after the receipt of this email. After this period, your fund will be return back to the ordering costumer. That is the instruction given to us .So take note. We request that you reconfirm your mailing address to ensure conformity with our record for immediate dispatch of your parcel to you. Only valid residential/ Office address and postal address are certified ok.


Receiver's Name :.............................................. Address:............................................................... Tel/:......................................................................

We are here to protect you from any problem till you receive your package.You can as well get intouch with the guardian express delivery company assigned to deliver this financial package to your doorstep. Below is the delivery companies contact information: Companies Name: SPEEDPOST DIPLOMATIC COURIER COMPANY. Email: speedpostdiplomaticcourier11@live.com Directors Name: MR. JAMES WHETSTINE Telephone Number: +234-7090420785



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wish I'd Said That

"The hardest thing about writing is telling the truth. Maybe it's the hardest thing about being a woman, too." ---Sue Monk Kidd

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Conversation overheard while we were out having lunch last Sunday:

Little Girl: " . . . and my stomach was hurting really bad, and it felt like I was gonna throw up, and I did throw up. Right on Mama's dress . . . "

Older Lady: What did Mama say?

Little Girl: "She didn't like it very much . . ."

I can sympathize. My youngest child threw up right on top of my head in the checkout line at Sam's, once. I didn't like it very much either.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Booking It--Literary Amnesia

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?

I can only think of one book that I've ever read that I've had that kind of reaction to: Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher. I had to read it as an undergrad in a German Lit class, and it bothered me deeply. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before--shocking, degrading, and dark. I would never have finished it if it hadn't been assigned, and quite a few others in the class were also disturbed by it. If this tells you anything about the violence of my reaction, it's the only book I've ever studied in a literature class that I got rid of as soon as the class was over. I might very well have a radically different reaction to the novel now, but I remember at the time really wishing I hadn't been exposed to it.

Here's what Google Book Search says about the novel:

The Piano Teacher, the most famous novel of Elfriede Jelinek, who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a shocking, searing, aching portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires.

Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life appears to be a seamless tissue of boredom, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night to watch live sex shows and sadomasochistic films. Meanwhile, a handsome, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old student has become enamored with Erika and sets out to seduce her. She resists him at first, but then the dark passions roiling under the piano teacher's subdued exterior explode in a release of sexual perversity, suppressed violence, and human degradation.

Celebrated throughout Europe for the intensity and frankness of her writings and awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize for her outstanding contribution to German letters, Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most original and controversial writers in the world today. The Piano Teacher was made into a film, released in the United States in 2001, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.