Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Get Rid of the Sog in your Brain

From My Backyard Bowl
            Spring brings sog to my backyard bog. You see, I live in a cedar swamp where there’s perpetual water. White patches of mold. Shifting earth. I look forward to the sun’s higher power that is beginning to burn off the mold, replacing it with lush grass.
            Lately my brain had been feeling soggy, too. I found myself shaking my head and feeling it slosh with the perpetual water of indecision regarding prioritizing my writing and marketing.
            I wondered, should I write another Flash Fiction story for possible publication? Or should I try to rewrite the beginning of my memoir, Summer Heat? How about my other memoir, which I keep avoiding? Or another contest for Wisconsin Writers Association? I really must finish the Study Guide for my first book, and start on one for its soon-to-be-published sequel. Oh, me! What should I focus on today?
            And then there’s the marketing. I must organize my files so I can return to calling libraries about my book. Soon craft fairs will start, and I must choose the ones at which to vend. I’m already waaaay behind on my blog posts, and have nearly blown Facebook entries out of the water.
            What about guest blogs? And … and …. Got the soggy picture?
            Hope springs eternal, they say, and for me it has come, in part, through Robert W. Bly’s book, Make Every Second Count. His tips on successfully managing time are worth trying. Some of them are already working for me, helping in my productivity. Here are a few you might try, too:
  • Keep a to-do list. Keep several. Keep it up. Though I’ve been a list keeper for years, I’ve gone a step farther. I’m breaking each item into daily time segments. And I’m prioritizing.
  • Plan tomorrow’s day tonight. Wow, this gets me working immediately on my new to-do list. No hesitations, no soggy thoughts about procrastinating. No feelings of angst about writing.
  • Keep my list visible. Change it around when necessary. Check off each item as I finish. That one is a real morale booster.
  • At the end of the day, record my completed activities in my journal or log. I use a Day-Timer notebook, which offers on each daily page a diary/work record. It’s encouraging to look back and see what I’ve actually accomplished.
These simple tips have removed some of the sog from my brain, so I intend to keep
implementing them in my workday of writing and marketing. Why don’t you give them a try, too? And let me know the outcome.
            That’s today’s news from the Backyard Bowl.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Wow, change can be hard. What happened to my beginning-of-the-year resolve to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day? A quarter of 2012 is nearly spent, and I’m still struggling to develop that habit. Like spiritual disciplines, physical ones take practice. Perhaps I need to practice what I preach and include the water-drinking habit on my daily To Do list. Change can be hard, but not impossible. What’s your choice of habit to practice?


Physical and Spiritual Fitness

Habits, both good and bad, sometimes take a lifetime to develop. We learn to brush our teeth during early childhood. We develop our eating habits early on, too. And though we learn bad habits, it’s never too late to undo them and replace them with the good. Some bad habits become addictions and require more than willpower to undo. However, most can be changed, even when it seems to take another lifetime. Whether trying to undo the bad or add the good, it’s rarely easy and always requires effort.

The first step is to earnestly desire the change. Next, it’s good to list our bad habits and the good ones we’d like to learn. From that list we can regularly evaluate our successes and failures. When I do this, I learn that I succeed in one or two and fail in the rest. Guess I haven’t learned to try for one at a time. Perhaps that’s the most important step.

A church parish nurse once suggested some habits to focus on. At the bottom of her list, she wrote, “Pick just one of the things listed and begin to incorporate it into your daily health habits. After you have incorporated that one thing, move on to another and you will be surprised at how much better you will feel.”

Here’s her list of physical habits we can develop or drop:

Get more exercise. Eat less junk food. Drink more water. Reduce alcohol consumption. Don’t smoke. Be safe. Get eight hours of sleep each night.

Here’s the list of spiritual habits she suggests:

Read your Bible daily. Pray every day. Forgive others. 

Her last suggestion, melding the physical with the spiritual, is to respect your body. It is the temple of God.

Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Paul also wrote about keeping in good shape, like a soldier, so we can better accomplish God’s will in our lives. If we strive to take good care of both body and spirit, we will be better equipped to serve God and will glorify Him in the process.

Thank You, Lord, for promising to help us develop good physical and spiritual habits and to overcome the bad ones that have hindered our relationship with You. We place ourselves in Your loving, capable hands for success. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


My backyard is shaped like a bowl and is surrounded by oaks, maples, birch, cedars, and a variety of other trees, vines, and shrubs. Once leafed out, the little forest becomes nearly impenetrable—like a wall. In winter, its “wall” has decayed and it becomes light enough to view resident and meandering critters. Much to my delight, even a bobcat strolled through the other day. How cool is that?




I live by a road that is bordered by both fields and forest. Along the fields, the road remains clear most of the time, open to the sun’s drying power. Where the forests encroach right up to the road like fortresses, however, the constant shade causes the road to be perpetually wet. The forests are like walls.

Walls serve two purposes: to keep enemies out and to keep families safe inside. Eventually, walls crumble with age and misuse or fall to the effects of flood, earthquake, or fire. Even the interior walls in our homes sometimes fall victim to someone’s rough play or anger.

There are emotional walls that can cause damage, too. For example, someone disappointed in love may avoid being hurt again by hardening their heart. Rejection of any kind can cause us to hide behind our self-made walls of resistance, avoidance, or blame. Self-pity, anger, and deceit are other walls we build around our fragile egos to keep out further emotional damage. The worst damage comes when we decide we can trust no one but ourselves.

The problem with building emotional walls is that it brings spiritual damage as well. How many Christians have left the church and perhaps even their faith because of something said or done that offends the ego? Sadly, such hurts can cause us to blame the church and God, Himself.

The sooner we realize that no one is perfect—not even ourselves—the sooner our destructive walls will fall. Only then can we see beyond the forests into the warm, healing sunlight of God’s perfect love and protection.

Nehemiah, governor of Israel’s remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem from captivity, first led them in repairing the temple. They followed that by rebuilding the broken walls around their city. As Christians, we are God’s temple. We’re told in the Bible to keep it in good spiritual condition, for it is God’s dwelling place. Once that’s in good order, He will help us knock down our emotional walls and then build necessary walls of the enemy’s resistance around us.

King David said, “You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake … pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength.” (Psalm 31:3-4) “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’” (Psalm 91:2)

Lord, we trust You to be our wall, our fortress, and willingly give up any emotional walls we’ve built that are hindering our walk with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012



My eyes give me fits when the allergens kick in. Sometimes I place a hot, moist cloth on them when I don’t get enough relief by rubbing them. Some people use eyewash to overcome the itching and burning sensations. At any rate, putting up with itchy eyes is better than being afflicted with spiritual eye problems such as specks and planks. May your eye problems be merely physical.


Specks and Planks

Something small blew in my eye while I drove down the highway. I had to close the offended eye and drive one-eyed for a while. That’s tricky business. I found myself making constant compensations so I wouldn’t run into things or misjudge curbs and other obstacles.

Difficult as it is, we can live with a speck in our eye. The trouble begins, however, when the speck becomes a plank. Imagine the pain of having such a big thing in your eye—ouch! Can you even think about anything else while hurting so badly?

Such a comparison may sound silly and unrealistic. But Jesus uses that exact comparison to tell us not to judge others. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

When it comes to spiritual specks and planks, we may not be aware of what’s in the eyes of our heart. Do we criticize others for saying or doing things that offend us or that differ from our own thinking? Do we complain about the way someone keeps house or raises their kids or acts in church? Do we find it hard to show love and affection, to offer approval and gratitude for the good someone’s done? Do we lash out like a wounded bear for no apparent reason?

We all have specks in our eyes—minor irritations that cause us to grumble. But when they grow to plank size, our vision becomes clouded. Our mind plays tricks on us so we see nothing but planks in the eyes of others. That’s why it’s important to ask God’s Holy Spirit to reveal our own faults. We need to humbly ask for their removal, vow to turn away from them, and allow Him to replace them with His gracious attributes.

There’s tremendous freedom in replacing the planks in our eyes with His love. Our vision clears so we can see everyone else in a different light—in the light of Christ’s own love. Then God can bring His miracle of changed lives—ours and those who offend us.

Lord, show us the planks in our spiritual eyes. Give us the compulsion to ask for their removal, their replacement with Your love-light. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Aha Moments

We all have them—flashes of intellect or inspiration that bring excitement to our heart. God’s Word often causes Aha moments when our minds and hearts are ready to receive. The Lord is waiting. Are you ready to receive His Aha message?


The Joy of the Lord

Have you ever read something a second time, or a third, and received a new revelation about the message? One day while reading in the Bible about joy, I realized that not only are we joyful in our relationship with the Lord, He is joyful over us. The revelation became an Aha moment for me.

God has emotions. The fact that we were created in His image clinches that truth. At different times He was—and is—disappointed, angry, sad, kind, patient, and loving toward His people. He wears His heart on His proverbial sleeve. What would we be like without emotions? Robots, perhaps.

The prophet Zephaniah told the Israelites a bad news/good news message. If they didn’t turn back to God, they’d face consequences. His good news was a message of hope about the Lord removing His judgment on them if they returned to Him.

Zephaniah’s message still stands. “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) What better message of hope is there? What better picture of God than that of His happiness with us?

Jesus, too, expressed joy while He lived on earth. He attended weddings. He showed love to children. He shared happy moments with His disciples as they walked the countryside. During His final days, He spoke about love and joy as one entity. “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:11-14)

Jesus’ command is to love one another, and joy is a by-product of love. Joy fills our hearts because of our love-relationship with the Lord. Joy fills God’s heart when we offer a cup of cold water to someone thirsting or when we forgive someone for an offensive remark. When we pray for someone—anyone—He sings for joy because our prayers rise as a sweet fragrance to Him.

In other words, we are a joy to the Lord. Is He your joy?

Lord, thank You for Your joy in us and for filling us with joy so we can share it with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.