Archive for January, 2010

Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens?

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 29th, 2010family, writing6 Comments

I might have a story published in a book. It is a collection of stories about marriage, and mine is still in the running. (the story, not the marriage. I think the marriage will make the final cut.) Anyway, my story is about some pretty personal things in marriage, and I seriously considered using a pen name. Mostly because I don’t want to embarrass our children. Plus, I know from experience you can put some stuff out there for the world to see and then deeply regret it years later when your opinions, convictions, and life choices have completely changed.

Years ago I wrote for a magazine that was very strong on relational issues. Their stance on right relationships was so dogmatic they had  done a piece on why single mothers shouldn’t have to work outside the home. (a fine sentiment if the mother doesn’t want to work.) The writer felt so strongly about it he suggested single moms move in with strong families in the local church and let the husband support both families. Even a few months after it was published, the article sounded polygamous and, frankly, stupid to all of us. Including the editors and the writer. But, it is still out there. Somewhere on a dusty library shelf that issue waits to rise up and bite the writer in the part of his anatomy he glues to his chair each time he writes.

Anyway, such mishaps make me wonder about a pen name. The anonymity is enticing. But, good writing is about honesty. And transparency. And bravery, as a matter of fact. So, I sent the article in with my real name. I tried to write it in a way I don’t think I’ll regret. And, I told my children they never have to read it. If it actually gets published, and if I’m ever invited on a talk show to promote the book, I can always wear a disguise.

Or not.

What do you think?

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Winken, Blinken, and Nod

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 27th, 2010Uncategorized3 Comments

I got a ridiculous amount of sleep last night, and it was delicious. I’d tell you how many hours I visited dream land with Winken, Blinken, and Nod but those of you who are parents of small children or busy executives with breakfast meetings (or both) would just hate me. Suffice to say, it was more than I get in my normal life. Wendell and I are traveling today, and our only deadline is the check-out hour of Holiday Inn Express. Ahhhhhh.

When I woke up, though, I was thinking about how much faith it takes to sleep. Have you considered that? How do people who don’t believe in God surrender to so many hours of Not Knowing what is happening around them?

Seriously, if I didn’t trust God, I think I’d jar myself awake every hour. I would worry that I might stop breathing, or that the house might catch fire, or a bad guy might sneak through the window, or the Russians might have already dropped a surprise nuke. (okay, you had to grow up in the sixties to share that one.) But you get my point. Deep, peaceful, total lack of consciousness is a huge step of faith.

Next time you worry that you don’t love God enough (none of us do) just remember that you went to sleep last night.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
Psalm 127:2-3

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Not Exactly Oz

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 25th, 2010happy endings1 Comment

I heard this theoretical question last week: If you could go to Heaven and find everything beautiful, perfect, and peaceful… but Jesus wasn’t there… would you want to go? It is an interesting question meant to startle us into checking our motivations for worship and consecration.

So, I tried to imagine Heaven without Jesus. I suppose it would be something like Oz after the Wicked Witch was dead. A perfect world of color and light and discovery. The theory doesn’t hold up, though. We could never be perfect little munchkins on our own. We would fight for position in the Lollipop Guild and argue over the color of tutus in the Lullabye League. Somebody would rip up stones from the Yellow Brick Road and try to sell them on e-Bay.

Seriously, we can’t have Heaven without Jesus. To paraphrase Jo March, “We are all hopelessly flawed.”

And, no matter how much money we give to Haiti or how often we go to church, none of us will go to Heaven without Jesus. We can’t trust our own brains, our courage, or our good hearts to take us to some elusive Better Place after we die. We can’t tap our ruby slippers and go Home.

Fortunately, though, Heaven isn’t a dream. We won’t wake up in black and white one day and discover our beautiful world was the painful result of a knock on the head.

Heaven is real. And, Jesus will be there. Thank Goodness.

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Who’s it All About Then?

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 22nd, 2010work7 Comments

Last week, I forgot the first rule of our office. “We are Here to Serve.” I had been sick (which is no excuse) and my backlog of work was screaming (which I should have expected) and the patient was demanding. (which happens sometimes)

I responded badly, though. I was really without excuse. I was the mature adult in the room. The one who was supposed to have the Fruits of the Holy Spirit tumbling out of my basket as a cornucopia of kindness. Instead of soothing the patient’s troubled soul, though, I rather snarled at him.

Wendell is a much better Christian than I am. He reminded me we don’t refuse to treat people just because they are acting like jerks. I apologized. And was forgiven. And then Wendell fixed the poor fellow all up.

Just the day before, our son had written about an exchange with his four year old daughter. Following some unaceptable behavior on her part, he had said, “Hey, it’s not all about you.”

I can only imagine the serious look in her eyes when she replied, “Well, who is it all about then?”

I plan to keep that in mind this week.

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Setting My Stone

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 20th, 2010mercy, The Bible3 Comments

The need in Haiti seems huge and overwhelming and far beyond my capacity to do anything to help. I think the people of Israel must have felt that same way when they came back from seventy years of exile to find their beloved Holy City in ruins. The first group who came back must have stared at the rubble in dismay. Jeremiah wrote a whole book about the devastation right after the Romans burned Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. His Lamentations record his sorrow, but also his hope. The book of despair also holds this great statement of hope: God’s mercies are new every morning.

That promise must have echoed somehow in the broken city gates of Jerusalem. It must have drifted through the valleys and mounted up on the hilltop. Somehow, the people got the strength to rebuild. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the decades of progress as first the wall is rebuilt and then the altar.

One of the most amazing things to me is how they orchestrated the whole thing. It was a massive undertaking. But they did it one stone at a time. Every family working on their little section of the wall. Every man setting his stone in place until the city had been restored.

So, I have sent my small donation to Haiti. It is not a sizable stone, but it was my part to play in the rebuilding. It was my assigned section on the wall.

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Something Worth Dying For

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 18th, 2010UncategorizedNo Comments

Our granddaughter, Elena, attends kindergarten in a school dedicated to building character. The entryway is a small rotunda with words like faithfulness, honesty, and integrity circling the dome. It is impressive. She came home from school last week explaining this about Martin Luther King:

“He was a superhero, that changed the world, then he got shot and died.”

That pretty much sums it up, I think. Great men and women have been willing to die to change the world for centuries. Some died for their faith (and many still do). Others died for a dream — of a better nation, an equal chance, a brighter tomorrow. When I think about these people, I’m reminded of a great movie line. (of course) At the end of The Wind and the Lion, when Mrs. Perdicaris and her children have been rescued, Teddy Roosevelt has persevered, and the Great Raisuli’s civil war has failed, the faithful armor bearer says to his leader, “Oh, Great Raisuli, we have lost everything.”

“Ah, yes,” says the Great Razuli in the voice of Sean Connery, “but isn’t it wonderful to have something worth losing everything for?”

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The Happy Dance

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 15th, 2010Uncategorized6 Comments

These are not my feet. But, if I could dance like my daughter-in-law Rochelle (the real owner of these elegant feet) I’d have done a few pirouettes and twirls yesterday. Instead, I did a reasonable facsimile of an end-zone happy dance, minus the spiking of the game ball. The catalyst for this strange display was a telephone call from an editor.

It was a busy moment in our medical office, but I promptly dropped the insurance claim in my hand, waved at someone else to cover the front desk, and hustled to a private office with my cell phone. You may expect the next paragraph of this post to detail the six-figure advance I was offered for my latest novel. But, it was nothing like that.

The editor’s message was simple. Another magazine had “passed” on a story I sent, but they forwarded it to him thinking it might be a good fit for his publication. He agreed.

It is rather pathetic, really, how little it takes to move me from the depths of despair to the heights of glory as a writer. I’ve been struggling all week to complete an article that just doesn’t seem to be working. I doubt my ability to write another novel (or publish the two I’ve finished.) Even my Facebook updates seem boring and blah.

Then, along comes a kind editor who calls me in real-time and asks to publish something that was previously rejected! Fast-forward to the mountain top and me doing the happy dance in our front office.

I started another novel this morning.

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A Mercy Moment

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 13th, 2010family, happy endings4 Comments

I love this photo because it captures one of those perfect moments in life. It happened almost exactly four years ago, and I’ve been remiss in not marking it until today. Every birth is a miracle, but Jake’s carried a special poignancy. Those of you who know our clan remember the agony of watching Serenity walk through pregnancy and cancer at the same time. You wept with us, waited with us, and prayed with us that Jake would grow and the cancer would not.

So, here is a belated Happy Birthday to Jake. And a Happy Second Chance at Life to his gorgeous, glowing, healthy mom.

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Hushai the Arkite

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 10th, 2010Friendship, The Bible7 Comments

Occasionally, I wonder if what I’m doing in life is too small to matter. Next year I will qualify for the senior citizen’s discount at my favorite eatery, and this makes me consider what I’ve done with my fifty-some years. Such inventories can be discouraging.

Instead of dwelling on my failures, though, I’m determined to take courage from the beautiful passage in the Bible about Husahi the Arkite.We really don’t see much of him. He shows up late in King David’s reign and plays a role during one of David’s intrigues with a son who wants to steal the throne.

But the most significant mention of Hushai comes in a listing of officials in First Chronicles, Chapter 27. The scribes recorded all the men who made up King David’s cabinet and what important roles they played. Tucked in among the counselors, commanders, and keepers-of-the flocks is this statement:  Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.

To be a friend may seem a small thing, but destinies have been forged and nations influenced by such things. One of the most influential men I know is Tass Saada, a former PLO sniper who now leads a ministry of reconciliation to both Jews and Muslims. His conversion is a dramatic story that started with a kind word and a smile from one man. The friend in that story is my pastor. His kindness launched a twenty-year friendship and altered the course of one who was Once An Arafat Man.

Check it out. And then smile at someone today.

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Eagles on the Lake

By Kathy NickersonJanuary 8th, 2010Uncategorized6 Comments

We have four eagles visiting the lake outside our office window nearly every day right now. The first sighting pulled us away from our desks and brought great oooohs and ahhhhs of appreciation. People were stopping on the roadway to stare. By the second or third week, we were saying to patients, “Oh, yes. Those eagles drop by most days to fish for a while.” Ho hum.

But, it isn’t ho hum at all. Every time I see one of the great birds with the white head, I think of Holy Hill.

I suppose it was nearly fifteen years ago we first saw the painting. It was a double-spired church in the snowy, winter dusk with a bald eagle soaring overhead. Wendell and I were both drawn to the painting titled Holy Hill. We ordered it and spent an entire grocery budget getting it framed. For years it hung over our sofa and evoked all kinds of emotions when we studied it. Majesty. Tranquility. Freedom. Glory.

Fast-forward a dozen years or so. I have driven nine hours to visit Wendell in a recovery center for impaired physicians. He is there to deal with a prescription drug addiction and all the issues that brought it on.

“Let’s take a drive today,” he says. “I want to show you Holy Hill.”

Evidently, our painting was not the figment of someone’s imagination. It was the beautiful rendering of a famous Catholic church in Wisconsin. We stood in the courtyard that afternoon and looked out over the hills captured so perfectly in our picture. It was like stepping into a storybook for me. And, while we stood holding hands, an eagle flew overhead.

I think that moment settled things for me. It was as if God were reminding me that He had seen this journey long before we took it. In fact, He had prepared the way.

Today, our life is far from perfect. But it is much closer to that scene of tranquility than it has ever been before. And, because fo that, the eagles on our lake still thrill me.IMG_0246

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