Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Gifts

As a reader and writer, my guests receive books for Christmas.  Here are my picks:

First, the children.  Children always receive a game with the book.  Life is more than reading and I never want to give the impression that reading does not accompany fun.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
—so well-written even adults can enjoy this. 


Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story


For adults, always a Christmas book or DVD:

The Voice Revealed: The True Story of the Last Eyewitness: The Gospel of John

The Voice Revealed is a fresh look at the Gospel of John.

The Promise : A Christmas Tale


Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

Writings from some great writers.


The Nativity Story - A Novel
Angela Hunt is one of my favorite authors of historical and modern fiction.

The Nativity Story DVD

A Christmas Carol DVD (This is the one with Alastair Sim as Scrooge and is the best production I have ever seen.)

Books for Writers:

I have read all or part of these and they are listed in no particular order:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth

My favorite book on how short stories and novels convey truth.


The Writing Life

A book on the process of creative writing by a creative writer.



On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

The first half is a memoir; the second a how to. 



The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

An excellent classic handbook for all fiction writers.


Letters to a Young Novelist

Mario Vargas Llosa, a recent winner of the Nobel Price in Literature, pens letters to an aspiring novelist elucidating the principals of a successful novel.

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor's Advice to Writers

The first half covers what editors wish writers would learn; the second, publishing. 


The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life
Wright discusses creativity in the life of a Christian, and Christianity in the life of a creative person.  An excellent background on creativity and living as a creative person.


Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

An excellent book for any fiction writer at any stage of the writing process.  The best book to read before you submit your work to an agent or publisher.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Dinner

Every year in the past I have roasted turkey for Christmas, serving a “traditional” Christmas dinner to our international guests.  Perhaps traditional American or traditional European would be more accurate.  Most of my guests have been from India or East Asia and turkey and the fixings are not at all traditional there. 
This year, I decided to forget tradition and go for celebration.   (I cannot cook a Christmas dinner without European foods, I simply won’t cook the traditional ones.) That’s right, for celebration, I’ll concentrate on color and taste,  Red and green and other celebratory colors, and spices and chocolate. 
Instead of turkey, we’ll have turkey/spinach/carrot/mushroom lasagna with an Alfredo sauce.  I will cook the boneless turkey breast in my slow cooker with onion and sage and shred it for the lasagna. 
And how about an Asian inspired vegetarian dish?  Fried red curry tofu will provide protein and color. 
These main dishes will be accompanied by bright green peas, roasted red carrots on a bed of yellow squash, and other vegetables, either roasted or otherwise prepared to make the best use of their color. 
To finish, everyone likes chocolate, so Molten Chocolate cakes are in order, along with a more healthful (and French) Apple Tart-Tatin.

What will you have for Christmas?  Would you like to make some of the dishes I am making?  I’m happy to share my recipes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reviewing Ancient Words In Context

A wise teacher once told me, “All meaning is context dependent.”  That concise 5-word sentence made all the difference in my future understanding of all things printed. 

What is context?  Literally, con means with.  Context is what runs with the words, envelopes the phrases, elongates the sentences.  Context fills the political, social, economic, and historical background of the temporal structure.  Context may describe the author’s background, thoughts, prejudices, or intent.  

When I know the context, the text has meaning I might not derive from my own time, culture, and thoughts.  This is especially true for foreign cultures and ancient times.   And this is where authors can get into trouble.

Of the common types of literature, historical fiction, non-fiction, and speculative fiction all take advantage of context.  The good historical fiction novel recreates the original background of the time.  The speculative fiction novel creates a new world context.  The non-fiction work must validate its theories with facts that provide a true context.

What happens if you remove the context?  For non-fiction, words can then mean whatever you want them to or whatever the reader understands them to mean, which may be two or more completely different meanings. Watch the first section of this the second part of the Oscar winning short film Why Man Creates and you will understand how the viewer or reader perceives the artistic creation or the written word. With little or no context, the viewer brings their own meaning to the artist’s work.

I found myself confronted with mixed contexts as I read a new translation/paraphrase of the Bible, specifically the New Testament.  The Voice New Testament is a thought by thought translation of the New Testament with additions.  What is added makes it different from many other translations. 

First, and most useful is boxed text which provides context.  These context boxes explain the culture or background behind the text.  Whether explaining a custom, a tradition, a practice, or describing the geographic or historic significance, or even asking questions of the reader, these text boxes add much to the reading.  In only a few cases do they leave behind context for judgments that should have been omitted.  Look for the words, “apparently,” “probably,” or “it is clear” and you will be able to stop reading at that point.   

Next, and least useful are italicized words and phrases within the text that have been added for readability, clarification, or whim.  I use the last term because some of these added words seen to be an attempt to add alliteration or other contemporary literary devices.  While a new reader of the Bible might find the style engaging, as a long-time Bible reader I frequently found these italicized words and phrases intrusive and distracting from the original text. 

Maybe, this Bible wasn’t meant for me or other long-time readers.  Although not quite a paraphrase, a paraphrase might better fit the purpose of this The Voice New Testament.  Here is a good quote from The Voice New Testament followed by the same quote from the New International Version, then from The Message, a paraphrase by Eugene Peterson. 

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Put my yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves.  Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  (The Voice)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.  (The Message.)

As you can see, The Voice New Testament is more readable than the NIV, a straight translation, but not as readable as The Message which puts the entire passage in contemporary language, making it easier for the person who has never read a Bible.  I believe The Voice New Testament could be confusing.  I found myself wondering whether the writers had changed the meaning with their added words.  I consulted two other translations and was satisfied that the translation of The Voice New Testament was reasonably accurate.  However, with the added words it falls between a strict translation and a paraphrase.  I recommend using a strict translation (NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJB, etc.) for study, and The Message paraphrase for easy reading.  If you have already read The Message, by all means read The Voice New Testament for another easy read.

Finally, all direct dialogue in The Voice New Testament is presented in screenplay format, with the speaker’s name on the left and their words on the right.  This manner of separating dialogue from the narrative helps emphasize the dialogue.  I often find myself losing the spoken word in the narrative and I greatly appreciate this format.  I would like all translations to use this method of differentiating narrative from dialogue.

To summarize, this is not a Bible for someone who wants a new translation; this is for the person who wants to casually sit and read the Bible.  If you are opposed to reading a paraphrase like The Message, this is both readable and accurate enough for Bible Study; but like me, long time Bible scholars are going to set The Voice New Testament aside for a good study Bible or a straight translation.



I received The Voice New Testament free from the publisher for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Time

I wrote this poem about a year ago.  I was walking and observing the Christmas decorations and listening to the music.  I considered how we celebrate Christmas.  As if in a time warp, we confine ourselves to “yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild.”  History intruded on that pretty scene.  Jesus’ family became refugees in Egypt, Herod murdered  the children of Bethlehem (where mother’s sons continue to die), and the once virgin mother’s heart broke at the death of her own son on the Roman cross.  What about the angels?*   What about us?  How will we celebrate Christmas?  Can we truly celebrate the birth without remembering the death?



Papier-mâché lamb so sweet

cuddles with cow and beast and boar.

A child’s hand with warm regard

places the lamb in excelsior


While angels slice through glassy haze

trailing shadowed threads of gloom,

hurling barbs of soot and ash,

bearing neither light nor tune

to suffering children.


And the weak

who— seeming strong—

take up the task of tuneless song;

Those weak who visioned gentler times

leave all comfort, sweetness, light,

for those to come; who now are here.


Whose eyes are blind to angels’ flight;

who listen not for angels’ tread;

nor hear the words that might inspire,

nor dream the dreams that push ahead.


The curtain shreds in silent scream

A mother’s heart is rent asunder.

Jingle, jingle, all the way

Let’s celebrate this Christmas wonder.



*ANGEL SLICES  (My favorite Christmas sweet)

1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. sifted plain flour
1/8 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour and salt. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts to butter mixture. Pat in 9 x 12 inch pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

2 eggs
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix and spread on crust. Bake about 25 minutes. Let cool.  Ice with 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar mixed with lemon juice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dug Down Deep—A Review

As you might notice from the title, this book has no illusions of literary style.  In fact, I found the author’s style sloppy.  However, I had agreed to read the book, so I plowed ahead.  The author of Dug Down Deep is Joshua Harris who also authored the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  Joshua Harris describes Dug Down Deep as follows:

These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that lead to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity.

I would characterize Dug Deep Down as an overview of theology that is designed to awaken the reader to the basic theological beliefs and understandings one must have in order to be called, “Christian.”  But primarily, it stood out to me as a self-indulgent memoir structured around precepts of theology. 

The language is of the sort a youth pastor might use to identify with teenagers.  When I was a teenager, there was no youth pastor.  Instead I sat under a man who had more knowledge of scripture than I may ever possess.  Although difficult for a teenager to understand, his high level explications probably impacted me in ways I do not fully comprehend and helped shape a life of inquiry.

On the other hand, Dug Deep Down assumes that the reader is unwilling to dig and will be satisfied with a superficial explanation of doctrine. The author both underestimates and proves a disservice to all true followers of Jesus.  

This book is at its best when it quotes or references other authors such as J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Sally Lloyd-Jones, C.S. Lewis, John Frame, Mark Dever,  Timothy Keller, and the Bible.  In fact, this could have been two smaller books:  the memoir and a summary of the books listed below. 

Unless you are enamored with Joshua Harris, skip Dug Deep Down and begin reading any one of the books below.  In fact, my advice is to bury Dug Deep Down and read everything written by the authors below.  You will soon be challenged to develop a theology that molds you and makes you into a follower of Christ who will be able to withstand the ravages of time, culture, and self. 

   J.I. Packer

God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible


Wayne Grudem

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
Bible Doctrine

John Piper

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

Sally Lloyd-Jones

Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition

C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)

John Frame

Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology

J.I Packer and Mark Dever

In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of Atonement

Timothy Keller

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism


I received this book free from the publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Novel Background


I am hoping to have my novel (ELI’S SCROLLS) published soon.  If you want more background, here are some books (in addition to various translations of the Bible), in no particular order, that were helpful in my study of Elijah the Prophet, and the times in which he lived.  Keep watching for a prequel!


The Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan, 1687)

The Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come, delivered under the similitude of a dream, by John Bunyan


Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (Donne, 1624)

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum (Masters, 2004)

Heritage of Evidence

Hammond Atlas of the Bible Lands (Hammond, 2007)

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture (McHugh, 2009)

The Message of the Prophets (Von Rad, 1972)

The Message of the Prophets

Secrets in the Dark (Buechner, 2006)

Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons

Archaeology and the Old Testament (Hoerth, 2009)

Archaeology and the Old Testament

The Pursuit of God (Tozer, 1948)

The Pursuit of God

The Knowledge of the Holy (Tozer, 1961)

The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life

On The Reliability of the Old Testament (Kitchen, 2006)

On the Reliability of the Old Testament

The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Rainey, 2006)

The Sacred Bridge: Carta's Atlas of the Biblical World

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (2009)

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set: Old Testament

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


(This was sent to my clients in 2004.  Some things bear repeating.)


In 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln announced a day of Thanksgiving with these words:

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

So, today, I thank God for our country and our blessings, but also want to thank you for paying me to do what I find so enjoyable, for always be gracious in the midst of computer problems, for allowing me to take as long as I need to fix what needs to be fixed, for putting up with me on those days when the words don't come out clearly, for all that you do that makes my job so much fun:  Thank YOU!!!

And when your computer causes you problems, before I get there, consider this:  Reverend Billy Graham writes of theologian Matthew Henry who at an old age was mugged on the street corner. That night, Henry wrote in his diary, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” (Billy Graham, Unto the Hills (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 411.) In the same spirit, when things go wrong with your computer or the way you use it, be thankful that you have a computer, thankful that this thing does not happen frequently, thankful that a computer is really such a small part of life (it really is!), and thankful that you are not the one who has to fix the problem! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time Outside of Time—The White Space of Life


On my recent morning walk, with my IPod cranked to drown out the traffic sounds, I heard greetings in the musical pauses.  Some were planned pauses when I pushed “pause” as someone approached.  Others were pauses in musical phrasing or between songs.  What did I hear?  Nothing of substance.  A “good morning” or “hello” or “hi.” But after the second one, my mind leaped (when I’m caffeinated it roams in leaps and bounds) to a correlation between musical phrasing, marginal white space, and kairos. 

Are you confused yet?  That’s the beauty of a disorganized mind.  Utter confusion.  So I’ll define by example.  What do you hear/see/feel between the notes?  This morning before my walk I had almost finished reading Revelation.  During my walk I listened to this song (here are the words if you don’t want to listen) and it took me to that time and place described in that chapter of Revelation, even though it was not directly related, and suddenly, in the pauses, I was there with the saints and angels around the throne.  Now, that isn’t usually what happens.  Usually, it’s more mundane.  Today was special.

When you read, what do you hear/see/feel between the lines?  I judge books on how well they are written and how well they move between the lines.  I recently read a book which taught me something I didn’t know before.  But what was between the lines?  Nada, nothing.  A book that moves between the lines, strikes you at the heart level.  It makes you sit up and pay attention.  It plants something in your mind that will not leave you.  I rarely read poetry, but the title of this poem and the words that followed struck me in this way:  between the lines.  Every Riven Thing.  Why did it affect me this way.  I think it’s because the poet put so much between the lines.  This poem is not at the beginning of the book with the same name, but in the middle, just as it was an experience of the poet’s in the middle of suffering.  I’m not suffering, but it affected me between the lines.


Every Riven Thing: Poems

What is in this white space of life where we live between the lines and the notes?  That’s where kairos and chronos come in.  These are two Greek words which help us define time.  Chronos is clock time.  Tick-tock, second by second, it passes through our lives.  Kairos is that time outside of clock time where a minute may seem like an hour or an hour may seem like a minute.  It is the aha! moment, the light in the darkness, the explosions of grace and beauty which interrupt our lives.  How do you get it?  You can’t.  It comes unbidden, unexplained, and unexpected.  Your only participation is to be aware of it and to grasp it.  Not a grasp that you would use to catch a grackle, but a tender grasp that shows your awareness of the moment and your willingness to follow.

I thought about titling this “Between the Lines” but that was too visual. I thought about “In the Pauses” but that was too aural.  I thought about “The Kairos and the Chronos” but that was too esoteric.  Time Outside of Time more clearly defines what happens in the musical pauses or the white area of writing where our lives change just a little.  It also describes Kairos, our life spaces where we become most human and most aware as we experience time outside of time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Today’s Guest Blog: AfterTim

AfterTim is a poet and my guest blogger from Malaysia.  My previous experience with Malaysian guests was a time of learning.  A couple of years ago, I invited  some Malaysian students to celebrate Christmas with us.  I thought I should make them a Malaysian meal, so I spent hours scouring the internet for Malaysian foods that I could make.  I finally settled on one dish.  When they arrived for dinner, I discovered that every one of them was of Chinese ethnicity and they all preferred Chinese food to Malay.   Chinese food is easy for me; I have cooked it for years.  I learned my lesson that day.  Most free counties contain various ethnicities, and I should ask about food preferences before trying something new.

 Winking smileFor sale:  one gently used Sayur Lodeh recipe which I will never cook again.

AfterTim shares his poetry with some old English words no longer in our vocabulary.  Poetry is always best read aloud, so hear his voice speak through his sounds and pictures below. 

IMG_6088 (2)

(Picture taken in Kalimantan, Indonesia)

As I type this short post, I am reminded of my past ventures to various rural areas around the world to share of His Love, places of which the internet—or the intangible world without boundaries—is no more than a wishful wonderment. I stagger at how we share one earth with those people, yet remain worlds apart. A wealthy man I am not; yet, in the light of them who struggle even for basic necessities, my little seems an inexhaustible abundance. For this I am eternally humbled for the abundance I have been bestowed from Above, and also for this privilege to be sharing my heart with all of you here on Diana's page. May God bless you, as you continue to bless others with all that you have been blessed with.


Too much of this world's wealth

Lay in my hands

So curse be upon me

Were I to linger and not amend.


Meek morning, bring thy wake!

Errant evening, my guilt you shan't take!


Lest I be found wanting in my despair,

Lest I be denied at the Gates of Fair.

Imagine....I shan't dare.

AfterTim—an engineer by profession—finds himself constantly expressing his thoughts on life through poetry and creative writings. He believes that anyone who is able to read these words is wealthy beyond measure, and it is our divine responsibility to do everything within our means to share this abundance with those who are far less fortunate. Journey with him at http://after-tim.blogspot.com, where he expresses his thoughts uninhibitedly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011



Johnson & Company Builders

They spotted the sign at the entrance to a subdivision of houses under construction, across from the ice cream store where they had strolled. They were young and in love and she ordered rocky road and he, the mint chocolate chip, and then they crossed the street, laughing and talking as lovers do, their tongues franticly flicking like snakes’ to catch the drops of sugary sweetness sliding down their cones. A light rain began to fall and, clutching hands, they ran across the street between cars and set off jogging down the muddy subdivision road flanked by shells of houses. “Let’s go in,” he said. “Can we?” “Why not? No one’s around.” And so they ran toward a plank where one day concrete steps would stand, balanced themselves like high-wire walkers, and emerged into a skeleton home where they traced paths on the dusty subfloor and tried to imagine the layout of rooms from the skeleton bones. Afterward, they walked back to her apartment. That night, she dreamed of the house she would have someday with just those rooms, and furniture as she liked it, and her man beside her.


Open House

They noticed the sign low along the road as they drove near the place where she had grown up. “Look! Can we stop?” She said. They did and it was love at first sight. Not for him; the garage was too small. But for her, it had an abundance of trees and spring bulbs and shrubs and a stream in the back, everything she had ever wanted. Yes, the kitchen and bathrooms were small but she saw no need to waste space on those little-used rooms. The many windows radiated light and brought color to the hardwood floors and grass cloth wallpaper and striped wallpaper she wouldn’t have chosen on her own, but there it was already hung for her and it was more tasteful than she believed she could ever be. She abandoned him at the apartment that day and returned with a tape measure to make sure it was all she thought it was. A week later they were in contract.



The sign meant the house was theirs. Theirs, not hers, she realized as they dragged their mattress down the hall on that hot August afternoon. “This way to the master bedroom,” he said as he pulled to the left. “No, that’s on the street side,” she said as she pulled to the right. “No, this is the master bedroom,” he said. “No, this one is away from the street and looks over the treetops,” she insisted. “No, this one has the attached bath; It must be the master,” he shouted. “No!” She screamed, —and by this time they were both holding the same end of the mattress, staunchly defending their inviolable choice in that stifling narrow hallway with the mattress sandwiched between them, heaving shouts like cannonballs across the river Styx as its stream flowed down their burning faces and stung their eyes so they could no longer see on that sultry afternoon—“we must use the room with the trees; It has two closets.” “No, the other one’s bigger.” “No, this one is.” They still don’t know who decided to end it, but they did love each other after all, and she conceded that love was more important than bedroom location. They took time out for sandwiches and drinks and she agonized over the shrieking display they had presented to their new neighbors.


For Sale

No, not their house. Never their house. They saw the sign appear across the street and they wondered who would move in. Theirs was a short street and the house had only one previous owner: an older reclusive couple. Not too much later, Bob Gresham moved in and filled the neighborhood with laughter. He was their age, attractive and affable, with two school-age daughters, Christy and Katie, who came to stay on weekends, and a full-time Boxer breed of dog, named Sassy, whom he loved. They watched Bob play Frisbee with Katie and Christy, throw the stick for Sassy, mow his lawn, and wash his shiny blue Mustang convertible. Sassy made friends with the other dogs in the neighborhood and Katie and Christy played with the other children and Bob was everyone’s best friend. On a bright summer’s day, they would see Bob and his girls laughing in his gleaming Mustang convertible with the top down, and Sassy sitting tall and proud in the back. But the girls became teenagers and stopped coming for weekend visits. The company Bob worked for was sold and he was suddenly jobless.



There may have been no sign on Bob’s door (they heard the news from other neighbors and neither of them wanted to risk knowing the truth.) Bob no longer mowed his lawn regularly, and he was rarely seen outside with Sassy; but they did see him, from time to time, driving down the street in his Mustang with the top down and Sassy by his side. If they stopped him along the road as he returned, a glance into the car revealed a liquor-store bag and a fast food bag on the floor with a heap of trash; his clothes stunk of cigarettes and bourbon.


Bank Owned. No Trespassing

That was the red-lettered decal in the window of the south-facing front door that they could view from the street, and as they later learned, was on the north side door into the garage, as well. The day before Bob was under order to leave the house, they helped him move most of his belongings into a storage facility. No one knew where he was going to go; some things he kept secret. The day of the final move, just after dawn, she rang the doorbell and then called her husband when there was no response. He walked to the north side garage door, heard the car’s putter, and tried to look through the window, but it was too dark inside the garage. He tore off his blue-plaid shirt, wrapped it around his hand, and rammed his plaid-covered fist through the sign: “Bank Owned. No Trespassing.” The car rumbled and the glass plinked as his hand broke through. The spikey shards tattooed his arm in jagged crimson sliding onto the gray concrete. He pushed the door open, smearing a ruby swath across the doorway, and jabbed the overhead door button. Sunlight slipped through the door’s enlarging gap, as the murky haze drifted away. The blue Mustang convertible, its top down, sputtered on as Bob lounged on the back seat, Sassy next to him, her head on his lap. Bob’s left hand hung down; his fingertips barely brushed an empty bottle of Scotch. His right hand rested on Sassy. Bob’s skin looked hard like a doll’s and had a bluish pallor; the dog’s lips oozed white froth.

He ran out of the garage and grabbed his wife. Over her shoulder the morning’s toast, eggs, and juice flowered the lawn. She called 911 and wrapped his sacred arm in hers, holding it close. They leaned into each other as they waited, tense and guilt-shrouded, gasping together like fish in search of water, as waves of grief, pain, and terror surrounded them. They stumbled toward the curb carried by the current of approaching sirens and sat on the unyielding surface. Uncomprehending, speechless, and scared, they agreed to pay attention to signs, signals, and symbols, always and forever, amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Working In Rocky Soil

My cabin has rocky soil.  I did not know the meaning of rocky soil until I tried to plant a tree.  My home soil is a mixture of loamy clay with a stone here or there.  I thought of it as rocky clay soil, but almost everything grew well.

The cabin is a different story.  I decided to transplant a maple tree that had sprung up from seed in a flower bed.  I wanted the maple near the fire pit to provide shade from the hot summer sun. 

My digging tool of choice is a flat blade garden space handed down from my parents’ days of digging. Its blade slices through soil and drills straight down to make deep, straight-sided holes.  Or so it did, previously.

My first push into the soil; the spade went maybe 1/2 inch.  A rock, I thought, so I moved slightly and tried again.  Again it was stopped.  I crouched on my hands and knees and started digging with a trowel to uncover that rock.  I dug around it and under it and behind it and finally, freed it from the soil and tossed it aside.

I pushed my trowel in the hole to see if there were any other rocks.  I dug rock upon rock from that tiny hole for that tiny seedling.  At the end, I had two piles:  a small pile of clay soil and a large pile of rocks.  I had enough rocks to build a small column or to begin a rock wall. 


Did you know that Ohio has a state soil?  No, it’s not rocky clay.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a site which will tell you about soil.  That is where I found out that my rocky clay soil is recommended only for growing trees or pasturing animals.  If you are interested in learning about your soil, your county auditor’s map may show soil type; when you know that designation you can find more information on the ODNR site.

This morning I was reminded of the rocky soil (clay) when I was reading Jesus’ parable about the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13).  He compared the growth of the Kingdom to seed planted on different soils; and yes, He mentioned the rocky type.  The rocky soil receives the seed and it sprouts fine in the top 1/2 inch.  But the roots never grow properly, so the plant is stunted and eventually dies. 

Removing rocks from my cabin property is more trouble than it’s worth, because I don’t intend to farm there.  But if you intend to have a relationship with the living God, and cultivate that relationship, the rocks that keep you from living true have to go.  In the old days, people tilled land with oxen or horses yoked together.  Jesus told us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light;” or as The Voice New Testament puts it, “My yoke fits your curves.” In history and practice, yokes have been used both to train and to enslave.  Jesus’ yoke is the training kind; He trains us to live like the people we were created to be, to live true. 

If we want to live the lives we were created to live, we must do so intentionally.  If I had merely kept shoving my shovel into the soil, depending on how much force I applied, I would have succeed only in either breaking the shovel or making numerous small dents in the soil.  But that was not my intention.  I intended to plant that tree, whatever it took.

It’s the same way with life, we must “systematically and progressively” arrange our lives to obtain the desired result.  Whether it’s planting a tree in rocky soil, or becoming a friend and disciple of God, the principle is the same.  Take on the yoke, study the Bible, associate with other Christians, and chart a path to your objective.  You won’t be disappointed.



This is one of the older trees on the cabin property and what my tree will look like in years to come, after growing true and strong.





Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Started

Someone asked me how to start writing.  Here are some tips:

  • Make the time.  Every day, if you can.  If you can’t manage some spare time every day, take time whenever you can.
  • Use your preferred writing medium:  computer or paper and start writing whatever is in your mind or heart. 
  • Write anything.  Write everything.  Don’t stop until you’re ready. 
  • Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation; you can take care of that later when you edit.
  • When an idea strikes, wherever you are, jot it down so you can use it later.
  • A good book to get you started might be Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  Easy to read with some good suggestions.

Remember, it’s not how well you start; it’s how well you finish.  So start in whatever way works for you and then work at it until you finish.  I tend to write fairly complete first drafts, but my novel may be in it’s 20th rewrite! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Christmas Creeps into October


Christmas music crept onto my IPod this month.  No stealthy invasion this;  first, the IPod error sound then suddenly I am listening to O Holy Night.  A curse that commercializes or a blessing?  I can walk into Lowes or Kmart and see Christmas decorations and shudder at the rampant commercialism, each store trying to beat the others in Christmas sales.  And it jars me because I am not yet ready to think about Christmas when leaves still decorate the autumn trees.


But somehow, this October, the words of O Holy Night do not strike me as commercial, or out of place, or jarring.  In fact, for two days O Holy Night was all I listened to during my morning dog walk (prayer time).  Let me tell you why.

A young woman is gunned down on the sidewalk, meth labs are raided by police, my neighbor clear cut virtually all of his trees, the United States is bankrupt, bills are piling up, and sometimes it's all too much for me to bear.  I don’t even know how to pray. 

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Now I have the words to offer my heartache to God.  There is someone greater than the sin and error in our world.  “Jesus, let them look to you to relieve them of sin and error.  Heal your land.  Let us see you in your holiness.  Let us know you; Only you give worth to our souls.  When we truly know our worth, we won’t harm, we won’t kill, we won’t destroy.  And then a new and glorious morn will break and we will fall on our knees and hear the angel voices.  Come Lord Jesus, come; we need you.”  And then,

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

But, there’s more:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
and in His Name all oppression shall cease.

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother.  In an instant, I am standing with the victims of crime, with the police as they confront drug dealers, with nature as it stands against the abuse.  All who don’t know Jesus’ worth (and therefore, their own) are slaves: slaves to sin, slaves to greed. And such are you and I without Jesus.  The slave is indeed my brother, for only Jesus frees us both and brings us into his family.  “Break the chains, break the oppression,” I ask him.  “Come and make yourself known.”   

I remember that great moment in the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Faun Tumnus stood frozen in the frozen land; frozen and cold, bound in frost, unmoving, unthinking.  Aslan appears and breathes upon his most loved friend.  As Aslan breathes, the ice melts and Tumnus is free.

That is the picture of Jesus.  In his kindness and mercy, he breathes new life into us and frees us.  In his name, by his power, all oppression will cease.  Truly he taught us to love one another.  His law is love and his gospel is peace.  It can’t be any clearer than that.

All at once, this out-of-time Christmas carol has breathed new life into me as I pray for Jesus to bring his kingdom and breathe new life into this world.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!



Celebrate Christmas this October and tell me how you did it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oops! The Ones that Got Away

When I posted about the books and journals I am reading I forgot two of them.  Why?  I’m reading them on my Kindle and forgot about them.  The others were lying around waiting to be spotted.  Kindle books are all neatly organized and hidden.

Riverteeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative:  Not only is this compelling reading, but it’s published by Ashland University in Ohio, so it is the only local journal I read.

Mercury Falls

Mercury Falls—a funny irreverent tale of the Apocalypse.  I ‘m only halfway through and I don’t usually read humor, but this is one cheap impulse buy I’m not regretting.

Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last—I have a review copy of this I am reading.  I’m starting the 4th Chapter and would categorize this as an easy-to-read guide to theology. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reading Now


New Letters: A Magazine of Writing and Art—Essays, Memoirs, Articles, Poetry, Fiction , Reviews and Commentaries, and Artwork.

Books and Culture—I rely on this for many of the books I read. . . especially the fiction.  It has taken me into genres I had never considered.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print—Covers POV, dialogue, mechanics, interior monologue with exercises at the end of each chapter.  Good for individuals or a group.
The Voice New Testament: Revised & Updated

An interesting concept.  Writers have added words (in italics) to make the reading clearer.  Text boxes add commentary and all dialogue is present in script format.  Meant for reading silently or aloud, I’m finding this refreshing and insightful
Letters to a Young Novelist—this is a month by month reading for our creative writing workshop.  

T.S. Eliot

I used part of this (IV) in my novel.  It had little meaning until I heard it read.  You can click on the link below to listen, or read it yourself then see how to read it with meaning.

(No. 4 of 'Four Quartets')

T.S. Eliot


Midwinter spring is its own season

Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,

Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.

When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,

The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,

In windless cold that is the heart's heat,

Reflecting in a watery mirror

A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.

And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,

Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire

In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing

The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell

Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time

But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow

Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom

Of snow, a bloom more sudden

Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,

Not in the scheme of generation.

Where is the summer, the unimaginable

Zero summer?

              If you came this way,

Taking the route you would be likely to take

From the place you would be likely to come from,

If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges

White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.

It would be the same at the end of the journey,

If you came at night like a broken king,

If you came by day not knowing what you came for,

It would be the same, when you leave the rough road

And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade

And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for

Is only a shell, a husk of meaning

From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled

If at all. Either you had no purpose

Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured

And is altered in fulfillment. There are other places

Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,

Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—

But this is the nearest, in place and time,

Now and in England.

              If you came this way,

Taking any route, starting from anywhere,

At any time or at any season,

It would always be the same: you would have to put off

Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,

They can tell you, being dead: the communication

Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment

Is England and nowhere. Never and always.


Ash on and old man's sleeve

Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.

Dust in the air suspended

Marks the place where a story ended.

Dust inbreathed was a house—

The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,

The death of hope and despair,

       This is the death of air.

There are flood and drought

Over the eyes and in the mouth,

Dead water and dead sand

Contending for the upper hand.

The parched eviscerate soil

Gapes at the vanity of toil,

Laughs without mirth.

       This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed

The town, the pasture and the weed.

Water and fire deride

The sacrifice that we denied.

Water and fire shall rot

The marred foundations we forgot,

Of sanctuary and choir.

       This is the death of water and fire.

In the uncertain hour before the morning

     Near the ending of interminable night

     At the recurrent end of the unending

After the dark dove with the flickering tongue

     Had passed below the horizon of his homing

     While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin

Over the asphalt where no other sound was

     Between three districts whence the smoke arose

     I met one walking, loitering and hurried

As if blown towards me like the metal leaves

     Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.

     And as I fixed upon the down-turned face

That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge

     The first-met stranger in the waning dusk

     I caught the sudden look of some dead master

Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled

     Both one and many; in the brown baked features

     The eyes of a familiar compound ghost

Both intimate and unidentifiable.

     So I assumed a double part, and cried

     And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'

Although we were not. I was still the same,

     Knowing myself yet being someone other—

     And he a face still forming; yet the words sufficed

To compel the recognition they preceded.

     And so, compliant to the common wind,

     Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,

In concord at this intersection time

     Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,

     We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.

I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,

     Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:

     I may not comprehend, may not remember.'

And he: 'I am not eager to rehearse

     My thoughts and theory which you have forgotten.

     These things have served their purpose: let them be.

So with your own, and pray they be forgiven

     By others, as I pray you to forgive

     Both bad and good. Last season's fruit is eaten

And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.

     For last year's words belong to last year's language

     And next year's words await another voice.

But, as the passage now presents no hindrance

     To the spirit unappeased and peregrine

     Between two worlds become much like each other,

So I find words I never thought to speak

     In streets I never thought I should revisit

     When I left my body on a distant shore.

Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us

     To purify the dialect of the tribe

     And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,

Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age

     To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.

     First, the cold friction of expiring sense

Without enchantment, offering no promise

     But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit

     As body and soul begin to fall asunder.

Second, the conscious impotence of rage

     At human folly, and the laceration

     Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment

     Of all that you have done, and been; the shame

     Of motives late revealed, and the awareness

Of things ill done and done to others' harm

     Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

     Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit

     Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire

     Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.'

The day was breaking. In the disfigured street

     He left me, with a kind of valediction,

     And faded on the blowing of the horn.


There are three conditions which often look alike

Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:

Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment

From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference

Which resembles the others as death resembles life,

Being between two lives—unflowering, between

The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:

For liberation—not less of love but expanding

Of love beyond desire, and so liberation

From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country

Begins as attachment to our own field of action

And comes to find that action of little importance

Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,

History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,

The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,

To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Sin is Behovely, but

All shall be well, and

All manner of thing shall be well.

If I think, again, of this place,

And of people, not wholly commendable,

Of no immediate kin or kindness,

But of some peculiar genius,

All touched by a common genius,

United in the strife which divided them;

If I think of a king at nightfall,

Of three men, and more, on the scaffold

And a few who died forgotten

In other places, here and abroad,

And of one who died blind and quiet

Why should we celebrate

These dead men more than the dying?

It is not to ring the bell backward

Nor is it an incantation

To summon the spectre of a Rose.

We cannot revive old factions

We cannot restore old policies

Or follow an antique drum.

These men, and those who opposed them

And those whom they opposed

Accept the constitution of silence

And are folded in a single party.

Whatever we inherit from the fortunate

We have taken from the defeated

What they had to leave us—a symbol:

A symbol perfected in death.

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

By the purification of the motive

In the ground of our beseeching.


The dove descending breaks the air

With flame of incandescent terror

Of which the tongues declare

The one discharge from sin and error.

The only hope, or else despair

     Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—

     To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.

Love is the unfamiliar Name

Behind the hands that wove

The intolerable shirt of flame

Which human power cannot remove.

     We only live, only suspire

     Consumed by either fire or fire.


What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from. And every phrase

And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,

Taking its place to support the others,

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pedantic,

The complete consort dancing together)

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,

Every poem an epitaph. And any action

Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat

Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

We die with the dying:

See, they depart, and we go with them.

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

Are of equal duration. A people without history

Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern

Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails

On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel

History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this


We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard, in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always—

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

Electronic Note Taking

When you visit any website, Amazon, a blog, a journal, any website, you might want to take notes on what you find there.  I take notes on information relating to my novels and short stories, my business, recipes, and other matters.  In the past I have recommended Microsoft One Note and have used it extensively.  The time has come to make a new recommendation.

First, let me explain why I have moved away from Microsoft One Note. Microsoft has put One Note in the place where Apple computers once lived:  in the land of non-compatibility.  In the past, if you wanted to play a certain game or use a certain app on a Mac, you couldn’t.   But Apple has gained wisdom while Microsoft’s petty attitude of superiority is costing it a loyal customer.  Simply consider one Apple app:  ITunes.  You can use it on a Mac or on a PC or on your smartphone.  Now consider the equivalent Microsoft app:  Windows Media Player.  You can use it on a PC or on your smartphone, but only if it is a Windows smartphone.  Get the picture?

The same thing holds true for One Note.  You can use it on a PC or on a Windows smartphone or an IPhone, but not on an Android phone, and certainly not Blackberry or Palm.  What if you want to use a PC, an Android phone, and an Ipad?  Say goodbye to One Note and hello to EvernoteEvernote works on almost every smartphone, tablet, and with Mac, PC, Android, Blackberry, and Palm. 

What are the functional differences between One Note and Evernote?  I set up Evernote on my Windows 7 PC and imported my notes from One Note.  All my notes from all my folders imported into a single notebook in Evernote.  However they were tagged with the name of their folder (Recipes, Cabin, Journal, etc.) so it was a simple matter to set up Evernote notebooks with those names and move the notes to the appropriate notebook. 

I used One Note mainly for saving web clippings.  I copied an article of interest to me and pasted it into Evernote.  It worked as seamlessly as One Note and looked better.  Like Amazon’s Kindle, Evernote give you an email address to let you send notes directly to Evernote.  I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like a good idea.  I can then forward an interesting email to that email address and have it saved in Evernote.  Cool.  Evernote stores your notes online, so you can access them from any computer.  Finally, Evernote is free for a basic account, which is all I and most people need.  If you want the Premium Account it only costs $5 month or $45/year. 

What else can you do with Evernote?  You can share your note by emailing it or posting it on Twitter or Facebook.  I emailed one to myself to test it and I received the body of the note in the body of the email.  I haven’t yet tried posting to Twitter or Facebook, but I expect it will work as seamlessly.

Is there any reason to continue using One Note?  I haven’t found one.  If you have, please let me know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Whisper of Peace: A Review

A Whisper of Peace is a novel which takes place predominately in the 19th century Alaskan wilderness.  Of all the new novels by Christian authors I have read this year, this one was the most well-crafted and well-written.
A Whisper of Peace is the story of three people who are searching for peace in their lives.  Clay, the son of a pastor ministering to Paiutes, has left his home in the Oklahoma Territory.  Armed with high expectations of following in his father’s footsteps, he tries, with little success, to start a successful church among the Athabascan natives of Alaska.  His half-sister, Vivian, joins him to get a fresh start from the secret which haunts her past.  The first Athabascan Clay and Vivian  meet is Lizzie.  Deserted by her Caucasian father and an outcast from her tribe, she seeks peace through reconciliation with her grandparents and finding her father in San Francisco. Clay and Vivian try to heal a generational rift between Lizzie, and her grandparents, an action which puts Clay and Vivian at odds with the very people they want to help and creates a dilemma between helping the one and helping the many. 
These three characters find their lives taking turns that they had not expected.  Vivian finds that her secret is not as she had believed.  She changes her life to reflect her new perspective.  Lizzie discovers her life objective changed; She changes, too.  Clay realizes that church is not what he thinks it is--a brief note from his father and he immediately feels better.  Predictably Clay and Lizzie fall in love.  You will have to read the book for yourself to find out what happens.
I enjoyed the author’s depictions of wilderness life:  canoeing, hunting, snaring, and fishing, and her description of tribal culture. (You can learn more about the Athabascan people here.) I also enjoyed the two child characters that were links between Lizzie and the missionaries and her Athabascan people.  I found most characters’ physical descriptions believable. 
I have only two complaints about the book.  First, I couldn’t generate any particular like or dislike for any of the characters.  Clay and Lizzie both have clear-cut goals and a strong determination to achieve their goals.  Vivian doesn’t know what she wants.  I wanted to find some point of identification with the characters, but their problems seemed so easily handled.  Indeed, some major problems arise, then without further comment, they disappear.  One example is a head injury which debilitates Clay until all at once it is no longer an issue.  The heavy internal issues that the characters wrestle with don’t seem to consume them as they would a real person.  At the end, the novel skips ahead two years and shows all the characters perfectly happy. 
My other complaint, and it may be related to the first one, is that the book seems old.  Not old in the sense of a timeless classic, but old in the sense that it tries to communicate to someone living in another time period, I’m just not sure where.  I recently reviewed a novel that contained a “chaste kiss;”  For a love story, this novel has no kiss at all and little passion.
Sure, Clay shows great passion for what he wants to do for God, but little passion for anyone or anything else.  Indeed, his passion for Lizzie, the woman he loves, comes only in fits and spurts and he shows very little care for his step-sister Vivian. I want an author to make me feel what the characters feel and these characters feel very little. 
That being said, this is the most well-written new Christian novel I have read this year.  There were no glaring spelling or grammar errors.  If you want to read a book purely for entertainment and to get a small glimpse of 19th century frontier life, pick this up.  But if you want to enter the world of people who lead deep lives that resonate into the 21st century, find another novel. 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.