Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


By Lisa Lickel

I so killed it. I knew it when I hauled it out of the dirt to store for winter.
"It" is a several-year-old amaryllis bulb, but I could just as easily talk about my writing career.

Last year in late winter I carefully unpacked the amaryllis bulb from storage in the basement. It looked like a rock, but like the previous two years we'd planted it, the thing greened up and began to grow so fast you could watch it. I faithfully took pictures every day, planning to post many of them to my blog. Green spears grew…and…grew…and grew.

At the same time I worked on a story that I had begun a couple of months earlier. I had spent time after my third novel release thinking about which of my many projects to pursue. I finally settled on the third installment of my mystery series that was still selling. I kept pitching the second book and some other manuscripts. I branched out in marketing, trying new things, new blogs. The plant didn't bloom. I stopped taking pictures and put it outside.

My writing hit major doldrums that summer. I never have writer's block, but I do admit to writer's tantrums. None of the feelers I put out hit paydirt. The new blog I started was swirling in the bowl and none of my queries showed results. Did I still want to be a writer? Well, yeah. I sucked it up and took advantage of more volunteer opportunities for name recognition: I jumped into editing, book reviewing like crazy, working with a local writers group, revamping the blog, met a new writing buddy. Then I received several offers to write smaller things. I sold some short stories and was offered more opportunities.
Jan 27 2011

Dead of winter: I got that bulb out again last week; a little earlier than I usually do. I was sure it would never grow. I was wrong. It came back to life. I don't know if it will bloom, but it's alive and growing. Time will tell. Stay tuned for updates on all fronts.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Have Car—Will Travel?

 By Marie Tschopp

I have a peculiar problem. It takes me five whole minutes just to back my car out of the garage.  No matter how careful I am when I pull my vehicle inside, I cannot back it out straight.  I had no trouble exiting when I drove a compact car, but my width and depth perception vanished when I purchased an SUV.  I start backing out and realize I’m too far to the right and about to smash into the door jamb with the right side mirror. I pull up and try again.  This time I am too far to the left and in danger of disembodying the left side mirror, so I pull in once more.  To anyone watching, my car is performing the cha-cha.  And the dance continues for four minutes more.  

Finally, I make it out of the garage only to face the sloping driveway.  My SUV is much longer than my former hatchback, and I have trouble seeing the tilt of the driveway over the backseat.  I look over my shoulder and notice I’m about to back into the mailbox. I adjust the wheel and head straight for the culvert.  I adjust the wheel again.  If my neighbors judged my tire tracks, they’d say I have a drinking problem. 

Okay.  I am out of the garage, down the driveway and on the road, but all is not well.  I get lost easily.  “Directionally impaired” is the term I use, and  I’m thinking of petitioning Congress about this condition to request funding—God knows I need it with all the gas I burn.  When I bought my SUV, my husband noticed the compass on the dashboard. “Look!” he said. “You will never get lost again!”  Yeah, right.  Giving a directionally impaired person a compass is like giving a dyslexic a dictionary.  To us, the “N” means “Not this way.”  “S” is “So sorry.”  “E” stands for “Exactly where you don’t want to be.”  And the “W” is “Wrong again.”  

Directionally impaired people need directions with landmarks such as, “Turn left at the pink house with the plastic pig lawn ornaments.”  Without landmarks, people like me drive in circles until we run out of gasoline.  That is, of course, if we manage to make it out of the garage, down the driveway and onto the street. 

On and off the road, I’ve learned to rely heavily on GPS—God’s Protective Surveillance.  God knows where I am, where I’m going, the best route, and what time I’ll arrive.  All I need to do is look up, relax and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Go Undercover

By Lori Boruff

    Undercover Boss is a favorite Sunday night program. A recent show inspired this little blog adventure.

    Featured boss of BELFOR, the world's largest disaster restoration company, was emotionally moved by four employees during his week undercover. According to the story, boss Sheldon Yellen and his three brothers were raised by a mother on welfare. His father was in and out of the home. Mother was the glue keeping her boys together.

    Yellen rose from rags to riches becoming President and CEO of BELFOR. He trades in his Italian suit for a uniform and begins working with the common man.
    He encounters:

  • A contractor whose business suffered from tough economic times. He now works several jobs to recover his losses.
  • Brenda, who shares being raised with nothing while living in a railroad car. She struggles to advance in the company because she cannot read.
  • Another young man with his master’s degree in marketing cannot find work and takes this job to pay off student debt.
  • Jen, who also struggles to make ends meet even before BELFOR carried out a wage freeze.

    After a life-changing week undercover and through humble tears, Yellen offers those dedicated employees promotions, vacations and financial rewards to ease their hardships. I cried through most of the program.

    But what really moved those workers to tears? They knew someone noticed. They felt significant.

    "That never happened before," expressed a grateful employee.

   Who in your world needs to be noticed? Who has never felt significant in their life? Who needs to know someone cares?

    Will you let God go undercover through you? Will you see the worn out waitress, cashier, delivery person or overwhelmed mom who longs to be noticed?

    By a simple act of kindness, conversation, time or finances – who will come to know that God Sees?

But from heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
from His dwelling place He watches all mankind.
 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him,
on those whose hope is in His unfailing love.
 Psalm 33:13-14, 18-19 (NRSV)

It's how you treat a stranger that draws God's notice and his blessing.

Be Blessed,
Lori Boruff

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

By Kathryn Lang

The New Year sparked a strong desire to get order out in front and secure the defeat of procrastination for life. I invested in a new wall calendar for the family and a new refill calendar for my day runner. My plan included a rock solid schedule for my family that would make room for expanding my writing career.

My goal has been to nail the schedule for just 21 days. I know that if that can be accomplished then the schedule will become a habit. It took a lot of pushing and clawing to get through the first week, but we made it – and my writing was taking shape.

No matter how hard you try, the sheer mention of a winter snow storm in North Alabama brings every good intention to a screaming halt. Instead of focusing the weekend on my writing, it was spent preparing for what was to come. And it did come. Six and half inches of snow and sleet coated the world and in response the world (in our little corner) came to a standstill.

Frozen in, and watching the kids have a blast in the snow, I was determined more than ever to get my focus back on track. I had a deadline and knew that writing was a requirement and not an option. The project was due and I would NOT ask for an extension.

During a break in my marathon, I flipped over to the communications I had been having with the client. That is when I saw the magic words – due on the 15th.

My plans of organization really had worked. Here it was, a full five days before the project was due, and I was on the verge of getting it done. Even through snow, football, and the evil tauntings of procrastination, I had made the choice to do what I knew to do and that was providing the desired results.

The reprieve does nothing to slow my determination, but it does give me a chance to enjoy this rare opportunity in the South.

How I Defeated Procrastination

1.    I changed my words. It was normal for me to admit that I procrastinated and I had even crowned myself queen. I now refuse that label. I am organized. I am ahead. I am prepared.

2.    I changed my actions. I use to look at what others were doing to determine what I would do. Now I am just looking at my to-do list and making that my guide. It turns out that the more I do then the more that gets done.

3.    I changed my deadlines. Getting to an appointment on schedule often requires leaving with enough time to allow for traffic problems or other issues. I have started doing the same thing with my writing. Setting my deadlines several days ahead allows for those unexpected events (like a snow storm in North Alabama) and still gets me to the destination on time.

Looking at that due date exited me. I enjoy the feeling of being ahead and no amount of procrastination calls will get me to turn around!

Thanks to for permission to use his great cartoon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


By Michael Elmore 
While working for a healthcare institution as a chaplain, I had a serious difference of opinion with management over their point of view regarding spirituality. They held to the idea that “there are many pathways to God”.  This viewpoint is extremely popular today and reflects a majority opinion in healthcare at this present time.

The idea that “there are many pathways to God” was birthed out of the necessity to meet the spiritual needs of a plurality of patients who held views outside the scope of traditional Christianity. It is true that our country is becoming more diverse in its religious views. It is equally true that healthcare facilities have been confronted with this problem. However, their response has been to innovate by promoting religious tolerance.

This presents a problem. In order to meet this need, healthcare facilities have had to radically differentiate between religion and spirituality. Under this new definition, religion is seen as beliefs based on a set of sacred writings which offer a moral code that necessitates a change in behavior.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is that which gives meaning, hope and comfort to the patient outside the confines of traditional religious practices. Spirituality is primarily a response to a person’s felt needs and offers cognitive and emotional help to those in pain. The focus of spirituality can center on the comfort found in family life, relationships with friends and acquaintances, and may include reflecting upon hobbies as well as favorite pets. Spirituality is sometimes based on the transcendence found in nature, or personal theological views held outside accepted organized religion. These ideas are often very personal and have little rational basis.

As a result, separating religion and spirituality has nullified traditional religious practices in medicine. Now there exists a bias in favor of spirituality which has eliminated traditional religious practice. First of all, spirituality fails to recognize that Christianity is not about religion but is about relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Second, healthcare institutions continue to hire Christian ministers, by and large, and then prohibits them from practicing that which they have been trained for – presenting help through Christian values. I found that this attacked my integrity as a chaplain and left me in a quagmire of my commitment to Christ and prostituting myself to the facility which provided my paycheck. This is a difficulty quandary to be left in.
One answer is don’t hire Christian chaplains if they are prohibited from sharing their faith. Instead, hire social workers who are far better equipped to meet emotional needs.

One of the most visible examples of the idea of “there are many pathways that lead to God” was articulated by a national leader while appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He said that “getting to God is like climbing a mountain – there are many pathways to God”. I like the response made to this statement by Christian broadcaster Cal Thomas. Cal said that getting to God is more like what an airline pilot must do every day. The pilot must land straight on the runway to avoid a crash and burn. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of this is death.” Proverbs 16:25. Let us be aware then that while healthcare institutions promote a “spiritual viewpoint” it is not necessarily Christian.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Search for Serenity

Posted by Jeannette Doran

         Fear seems to surround us at every turn.  In print and on air, the message is fear. How can one be  free from fear and anxiety?  Recently, the news brought a glimmer of hope as the world rejoiced in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners. In the simplicity of their lives their faith and prayer to God was their strength and confidence that God was able to perform this miracle and hope that God would. We watched as they prayed and offered thanksgiving to the God who saved them. Their faith and trust in God awed most. Perhaps their example of faith and hope shows us a way to find a serenity that will lead to freedom from fear.      

        In my search I have come to realize that our confidence in God's love expands as one experiences God's touch and our faith becomes more tangible. Spiritual growth and knowledge envelop one in peace and stave off fear. As we grow in understanding that God is truly our refuge and strength fear will not take hold of us. For fear and anxiety cannot exist in a heart that sees God’s touch on our daily lives.  I find God’s presence in scripture as well as the golden fields and the yellow orange sunsets of autumn. All these nurture my confidence and faith in God and expand God in my life.

       St Therese truly experienced that God “is occupied with each soul as though there were no others like it.” In Scripture we are urged not to fear, to trust always and “to pour out our hearts before God” Who is our refuge. (Psalm 62v8). We read of God’s tenderness and love telling us that we will never be forgotten, that God draws and leads us “with human cords, with bands of love like someone lifting an infant to their cheek.”  (Hosea 11v4) God delights in us and when we fail remembers us and deeply yearns for our return. In Jeremiah we read: “I am filled with tenderness towards [you].” (31v.20 NEB)  

       As we grow in intimacy with our beloved, God’s life flows into our being, we lose our fear and anxiety and we find God's loving Presence in every detail of our lives. We do at last find a lasting serenity.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


By Marvin Ferguson

Jerry loved to take long walks in the park. Surrounded by darkness with only the glow from the Paul Revere lamps along the street, he reflected. Tonight, he thought about being the best pitcher on the "Morning Star" baseball team.

One hundred feet away from a twelve-inch square on the garage wall, he practiced until his tennis ball landed inside the square every time. But that wasn't good enough.

With a good friend, on a corner lot, Jerry continued practicing with a hard ball covered with stitches until it was perfect.

But what is perfect? Perfection was allowing the ball to rocket over the edge of home plate and roll off either the right or left side. Later, most batters struck out and the fans loved it.

Smiling, back in the park, jerry thought about another goal of perfection: reading the Bible assured jerry's security in Jesus Christ. "I can't miss," he thought.

The average walk for jerry was an hour. With pleasant thoughts flowing through his brain he could stay in the park all night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Letter to the 20-something Me*

Dear 20-something Gail,  

Good news!  Today I started to write a list of things my newly turned 60 year-old wanted to do in the next five years and discovered I could only think of 3 things that I would really like to do that I haven’t done yet.  So that’s good news for you at the age of twenty-something. You get to do so many of the things you dream of doing and you're not the total loser you sometimes feel you are.

I thought the first sentence of this letter would be “What are you thinking?!”  That would be in reference to being such a perfectionist and also insisting things be done YOUR way all the time.  It takes courage, but letting go of the idea you must never be wrong will free you from the fear of failure and release you from the prison of perfectionism.

But it also has to do with your spiritual condition.  Instead of spending so much time trying to “do” things for God, try spending more time alone with the Father.  If Jesus found it necessary to spend time alone with His Father every day, do you really think you can manage without it?  The day you put into practice the words of Ron Dunn “Decide now that you will never again go to bed without reading God’s word” will be major, a life-changing, spiritual renewal.  Get serious about a daily quiet time.  Your life and your walk with God will be transformed into something beautiful that will sustain you in life.

Ladies Bible Study Fellowship will change your life, challenging you and growing you into a woman who LOVES God’s word and studying the Bible becomes a way of life for you.  Keep on going.

Guess what?  Even though in college you didn’t have the courage to pursue music as a career, by sheer persistence and availability you do manage to have a life filled with music, singing, leading choirs in churches, high school and community musicals, and even become a partner in a private studio.  So hang in there doing what you love.  God has provides opportunities you could never imagine.

Don’t worry so much about money.  God takes care of His children and you are His daughter.  God brings amazing opportunities to always work with friends.

More good news—that sweet guy you married because he was so nice and so hard to argue with is still the same sweet guy today.  Although you did manage to find ways to argue and the even the whole “peace at any price” thing did get annoying, you are both so stubborn that divorce is never really an option. 

Show your love for Rick more in words of support (his “love language”), respect and admiration for how he does his job instead of trying to tell him how to do it.  Brag about him.  Keep up your fierce defense of him always.

Forget about the disappointments, the hurts and mistakes. Hold on to the joy and fun. Keep on laughing together and being silly. Your marriage, at 40 years and counting, will be stronger and happier than ever.

20-SomethingGail, please realize that people show their love in many different ways.  The criticism you feel from your in-laws is just them treating you like a well-loved member of the family.  It's really a compliment.  BTW, things get MUCH better after the first grandchild.

Good for you for waiting to have children until you were ready.   Your children are the light of your life, but you will never regret that you waited.

Be easy to please as a mom, a friend, a teacher and a wife.  It’s a hard job, but God will move you next door to a wonderful friend who will model great parenting and become a permanent part of your life, blessing you with her wisdom and friendship.

About being a mom:
Be a thermostat, setting the climate in your home, not a ther-MOM-meter, acting hot and cold to everything around you.  The day you realize it’s up to YOU to set the attitude each moment, you and all the kids have a lot more fun!  You can act happy even when you don’t feel like it.  Believe me, the benefits are great.

There is some bad news—the hard parts of life really are necessary.  Once you are through them, you’ll be a stronger, better and more compassionate woman.  Sometimes your heart will break. Turn to Jesus and trust in God.  God loves the broken-hearted.  He is near the crushed in spirit. He will hold you and carry you through.

Start a journal.  Sorry to say it but your long-term memory stinks and time goes flying by.  A journal will help you remember the good and sort out the difficult.

Get over having your birthday in December.  You’re going to spend Dec 16 at so many rehearsals, work parties and performances you may as well accept it now. Whining is not becoming.  However, it IS okay to insist that birthday presents be wrapped in birthday paper.

Never sit on the washing machine and stretch your arm over your head trying to change a light bulb.  Just trust me on this one.

So 20-somethingGail, the best advice I can give you is to look for and embrace the love that surrounds you from your God, your husband, family and friends.  Let your life be ruled by that love and not by all the “what if” worries and fears that you struggle with.  The many things you're afraid of will never happen, so let go of fear and hold on to love.

You have the love of a good man, amazing, life-long friends, a dysfunctional, but intensely loving family, and most of all, an awesome God and Savior.

Remember “Write your sorrows in sand and your joys in stone.” 

“The days are long, but the years are short”.  So just be sure to show up each day ready to enjoy God’s gift of life.

See you in 40 years or so.

posted by 60-something Gail Smith

*My thanks to Cassie Boorn for sharing her great blog and ideas with the world.  Check out her blog for more letters from women to their 20-something selves.