A Cake, the Klan, a Senator’s Stand

I have two writerly “woohoos!” today! First, my piece about Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, her conscientious stand against 1950s hatred, and her yummy blueberry cake, appears in the lead position at The Redbud Post this month.



Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine appeared in Gallup’s Top 10 Most Admired Women for 19 years.


Then, I received a contract today from Anita Montague Johnson for a piece about my mother’s lessons in priority setting. It will appear in Alnita’s forthcoming anthology, Cherish Her!

Alnita Johnson.jpg

Alnita Montague Johnson teaches a “Phenomenal Woman” workshop and is publishing an anthology about the lessons we learn from our mothers.

These two portraits of admirable women land just as Maine is celebrating one of its own female phenomena, Sen. Susan Collins.

Last week, applause erupted in Bangor International Airport when Sen. Collins stepped out of the jetway. Collins, together with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had steadfastly resisted pressure from members of their own Republican party to repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacement. Both had heard loud and strong from their constituencies — rural, lower income, with challenges accessing needed care — and both chose to represent their people instead of bowing to their party. Sen. John McCain took a break in his medical treatment for cancer to provide the last vote needed to protect the ACA.

Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), together with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) held the line to protect health care for their rural, low-income constituents.


Collins and Murkowski acted in the same tradition that caused Sen. Smith to stand up to her Republican colleague, Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s. Smith lost a key committee seat in the process, but gained the admiration of a nation. Read about it at The Redbud Post. And get Smith’s blueberry cake recipe there, too. The first Maine wild blueberries are just ripe.



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Words from God and rejection slips: A writer’s collections

What do I collect as a writer? Three things:

  • Bible verses
  • Rejection slips
  • Various editorial corrections

The editorial corrections are constant and quick in the new world of electronic publishing. I write: you comment that I’m wrong. You write; I add a long and thoughtful comment from a different view; you “moderate” me out of the comment stream. It is, we all understand, the nature of online conversation. It has formed, and reformed, our real-world conversations as well. You think. I think differently. You “edit” me out of your life.

The rejection slips are entirely metaphorical. In the 21st century these come as electronic dismissals or vast electronic holes into which my work vanishes, unnoted. One large popular publisher alerts submitters that rejections are no longer sent, so the publisher may avoid propagating negativity.

The publisher apparently prefers to propagate uncertainty and anxiety. That’s their new thing.

The Bible verses? Well, I’ve gained editorial correction for that collection, so I should be hesitant even to mention it again. For as long as I’ve been a Christian, we have circulated “promise books” that describe what God will do for us. For nearly as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve wanted a “purpose book” that describes what God wants me to do. Not because I think my good works will save me. God is entirely clear about that. God is the one who rescues us from a dark world (Eph. 2:8).

But how can I let God remake me if I don’t know enough about what God’s work looks like to cooperate? And yes, I agree that Jesus is God in human form, and to be imitated. At the same time, the record we have of Jesus’ life in the Bible is much too short to help me know what to do many times. I have to suspect, without knowing (since my mind falls far short of the mind of God), that God left us the entire Bible for guidance knowing there would be times when the “red letters” fail to provide clarity.

And so I collect Bible verses. What does God say is right to do? How does God say we are to be? Which of the works before me look most like God and are therefore most likely to be included among the “good works which God prepared in advance” for me to do (Eph. 2:10)?

I fail at least as often as I succeed, and in failing gain regular rejection from the human community and the Body of Christ. But my Bible verses tell me that what God says is:

Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Dt. 31:6)

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Dt. 31:8)

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Josh. 1:5)

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

I must not be afraid. I must not be discouraged. These are my responsibilities. And God tells me they are possible because no matter how many abandon me, God does not.

As a writer, I collect rejection slips, rejections, and Bible verses. Blessed be the Author of all that is good, whose writings do not include rejection slips.

In response to the Five Minute Friday prompt “What do you Collect as a writer?”

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Comfort: Listed and Lost

If I had to describe in 2 phrases how I find comfort, this is what I’d say:

  • I make lists
  • I get lost

When I make to-do lists, I establish exactly where I am and where I expect to go. My father, who would probably be diagnosed today with OCD instead of acknowledged as “eccentric”, kept lists of his music and video collections. In the late 20th century, that meant he typed, on an old manual typewriter, 3×5 index cards for each video title, each recorded song. By his death, these filled 10 card file drawers 18 inches deep.

My own “eccentric” list, in this age of “grace-filled” Christian living, is a catalog of what God expects from us. It starts with the 600-plus commands that Jewish people locate in the Pentateuch alone, then adds more than 2000 more from only about 2/3 of the books of the Bible.

The list would be much longer, of course, if I included not just direct orders (of the “Do this, not that” variety) but also the many ways that God tells us God will change our lives.

List-making actually comforts me. It creates a safe, well-ordered framework for whatever it is that I’m thinking about.

But when even adding to a list is more than I can manage, I get lost … usually in a book. So I found it entertaining when I discovered this one in a used book bin. And I promptly got lost in this light, and very funny book.


This post is part of this week’s Five Minute Friday blog linkup. This week’s prompt is “Comfort.” Check out what others have to say!

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Would the Buddha Eat a ‘Buddha Bowl’?

The “Buddha Bowl” is really popular right now. It’s an easy way to put all the evening’s nutrition in one convenient dish that is hard to spill and carries readily to the recliner for a night of TV viewing.

I’m guessing it gets its name from the “Laughing Buddha” that graces so many Asian restaurants — the image of the Buddha that suggests he has been eating too much dinner too many nights for a great many years.


What I wonder is: Do Buddhists find it offensive to have dinner named for the founder of their faith?

We don’t name food after our God. We don’t even name foods after religious leaders. Sure, there’s “Ezekiel Bread,” but that just references the Scripture passage where the “recipe” is found.


I know I wouldn’t be happy if the coffee team at church served me “Jesus Java” (“A boost for when your spiritual energy is flagging”) . Nor would I choose that blend at Starbucks.

I don’t follow Buddha. But I don’t think I’ll win a Buddhist’s respect — much less win a Buddhist to Christ — by casually using the Buddha’s name as the description of my dinner.

If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” Rom 14:15


What do you think? Do you find this name disrespectful or do you think I’m overreacting?

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‘Here for a good time’ — Ecclesiastes, Pt. 2

I don’t always play enough. Here are 4 ways I sometimes remember to play:

  1. I play with food to make pretty plates and party treats …

A Peep s’more, just before the microwave … Peep swimming in hot coffee.

2. I play with my camera to make pretty pictures …


Spare parts waiting assembly into whirligigs by the late Vollis Simpson of Lucame, NC, a mechanic whose intolerance of waste turned him into an acclaimed folk artist.

3. I play with plants to make pretty gardens, pretty decorations (and even some yummy fruit) …


A blue hydrangea shrub is the base for lots of summer bouquets.

4. I play with beads and wire to make pretty jewelry.


My own Wonder Woman “cuff of power,” stacks and stacks of bracelets I made.

I don’t often just get silly. At the same time, when I read the obituary for Maine schoolteacher Peter Brawn a couple weeks back, I remembered (again) that play can be the center of anything we do.

Brawn taught, fished, guided, and lobstered. One of his lessons about Alaskan native culture involved carving up an entire seal in his middle school’s gymnasium. His friends remembered as a favorite phrase: “You’re not here for a long time. You’re here for a  good time.”

'You're not here for a long time,you're herefor a good time.'

Robert Frost said it differently in one of my favorite poems about New England living, “Two Tramps in Mudtime.” The narrator is splitting wood when two tramps arrive and one wants to be paid for the job. The narrator is unwilling, not because he can’t pay the man, but because he wants to enjoy his own skill by splitting the wood himself:

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Or, as the author of Ecclesiastes tells us:

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor — it is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12-13)


Do good.

See good in and from my labor.

Have a good time.

And whether you’re cutting loose with abandon or cutting a silly joke at work, remember to play.

This post is part of today’s Five Minute Friday linkup, “Play”

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