Close Up – Change for Appearance Sake?

What is it?

I’ve shown this picture to several people. Some have said that it looks like muddy water. Maybe tar. Some say wood.

What is it?

We’ll get back to that.

For now, it is the opening image for a new blog series I’m calling “Close Up”. In each blog, we’ll take a look at a close-in view of a subject and see how it changes in light of the big picture.

Today we start with Change for Appearance Sake.

When I was a teenager, I hated haircuts. I don’t know if it was because of rebelliousness, laziness, or the fact that I hated strangers touching me. Maybe a little of each.

In college, I began to notice that people would make assumptions about me because of my hair. They expected that I would do drugs, party, or be less intelligent. I decided that I needed to update my look. I shaved the goatee and got my hair cut to a more average length.

Don’t get me wrong. I try to not judge people by their looks. But, let’s face it, appearances make a difference.

One thing I learned from Bible college is that I should dress to reach the people I want to influence.  If I show up at a senior center in cut-offs and t-shirt, most people there will tune me out.  Likewise, if I show up to a youth group in a suit and tie, I’ll be talking to a brick wall.

It’s a simple truth that appearances will affect how people view us.

So why the muddy water picture?

It’s not water but it was wet when I took the photo. And it illustrates another aspect of appearances.

 When I look at the staircase in our house I think, “It’s fine. The rails are sturdy and not super ugly. Sure, it might be dated it doesn’t matter.”

When I look at the bigger picture I see the difference this project will make when we go to sell the house when I retire. A few hundred dollars worth of new balusters and paint could add a couple thousand dollars in value. It also makes the house more pleasant to live in.

Appearance should never be the first factor in any major decision. But the big picture may bring into view the importance of appearance in a given situation.

Whether it’s for first impressions or a more pleasing, comfortable home, appearances do have worth.

Are there decisions in your life that involve appearance? I suggest that you don’t dismiss them just because appearances aren’t important. Rather, pray about it and make decisions based on all factors including appearance.

Oh yeah, that photo?

It’s a close up of the post at the top of our stairs, right after I painted it. It’s a work in progress but I think it’s looking good!

Don’t miss next week’s close up. We’ll have a little fun with story telling. I think you’ll enjoy it!

The Opposite of Love

I sat down today to edit and write some more on Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. My latest revisions weren’t there! I opened my iPad to see if the revisions were there. I watched in horror as the older version overwrote my revisions!

All that work from my last Wil Clarey writing session was gone! The iPad must have been offline and didn’t save them! Aaargh!

That put me in a bad frame of mind for editing and writing Wil Clarey. So, I decided to write a blog instead.

How do you write a blog in a series about love when you’re ticked at your computer?

You write about the opposite of love.

You would think that my anger would put me in the right frame of mind for that. Right?


As I started typing, I remembered that anger is not the opposite of love.

What is?

Let me tell you a story.

I’ve always been a nerdy kid. I would play by myself with my cars and my train, making up stories as I acted them out with my toys.

I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had my parents and my siblings.

Okay, my siblings didn’t want to hang out with their nerdy little brother. But my parents paid attention to me. Until…

When I was ten, my parents divorced. Mom worked hard to support us kids, so I didn’t get to see her as much. But I lived for those trips to Dad’s.

One day when I was twelve, I was so excited about my weekend with Dad that I sat out on the front steps waiting for him. I knew he had a long drive from Fresno to San Mateo to pick me up, so I tried to be patient.

The front porch of my home when I was 12

I waited.

And waited.

I began to worry that we would be getting in too late, but that was okay. We would still have Saturday and Sunday.

I waited.

And waited.

Then Mom came to the front door. “Your dad called.”

Was he just leaving now? Oh well I can wait more.

“He forgot it was his weekend, he’s not coming.”

I was devastated. I had never felt so lonely in my young life.

You see, anger and hatred are not the opposite of love, apathy is. I felt very unloved in that moment.

My dad did plenty to show his love for me over the years though it seemed to be difficult for him. Like all of us, he wrestled with his priorities, often coming down on the wrong side of that fight.

Like that day.

When he forgot.

Do you struggle with showing love? I have to admit that I can get pretty self-centered. In those times, it takes a conscious decision to show my love.

I have to remember to do things as simple as taking a break from writing to call my oldest daughter (which I just did). Other times, I have to remember to rearrange time or financial priorities to support a loved one. Either way, it takes an act of my will.

Do you feel like that lonely kid on the front steps, disappointed by the indifference of others? I wish I could say that time will heal, or you just need to move on. We both know that it isn’t that easy.

There is an easy step you can take towards healing.

It’s simple.

Show love to others.

Yep, that easy. When you make a conscious choice to do something to impact the lives of other people, it impacts your life just as much.

In this age when love is scarce and apathy abounds, impact your world through simple, conscious acts of loving and caring.

And share with the rest of us what that does for you and others!

A Writer’s Passion

What’s this all about?

Why has it taken me over two months to post another blog?

What do I really want to say to you?

My last few blogs have been about love. Today I want to go into the word “passion” in terms of what I “love” spending my time doing. What are my passions?

You may have heard it said that to see what a person values, look at their bank statements (Apparently I value eating!). I would add to that, look at their calendar. You value what you spend time on.

I value my God, my wife, my family, my church, and my writing. That’s where my passions are directed. That’s where my time has been going.

Writing is a passion of mine that has been playing second fiddle to my other passions lately. My attention has been going to making good things happen for my family and for the kids I teach. There’s some exciting stuff coming up! I’ll share more later, both here and on the Wandering Pen You-Tube channel. In some ways we are in for a wild ride!

But right now, I’ll concentrate on my passion for writing.

Reymons is progressing! The limited time I’ve spent writing it has been fun. My characters keep throwing surprises at me. That nice, neat outline I have of the story keeps being blown apart! Sometimes literally! I’m curious to see what will happen in the end. Will my planned ending pan out? Stay tuned.

I am also signed up to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I am approaching it a little differently this year. Instead of intense planning and sweating over my elevator pitches and synopses, I am going there to learn and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have copies of Wil Clarey and will meet with editors and agents. But I am taking a more relaxed attitude with me this year. I don’t have much time to prepare so I will soak in as much as I can and, if I can get someone interested in publishing Wil Clarey’s stories, great!

I won’t promise another blog before the conference. If something smacks me in the head, I’ll write it down and share it here.

If not, see you in June!

A Father’s Love

I once owned a diesel VW Rabbit. It was slow, but I could drive a thousand miles on a single fill-up.

Until that one day.

It started overheating. I added water. It kept overheating. I made it home, spewing white smoke behind me. Then I made it to the mechanic. The bill was staggering. You mechanics know why.

First, I added water when I should have added coolant. Worse, I added it when it was hot. I ignored the owner’s manual and the advice of experts and it cost me a new engine head instead of just a gasket. Lesson learned.

The designer of that engine knew what I needed to do.

How many times do I ignore the instructions of the Designer of my life?

Yes, I believe that Someone designed me.

I know that many reject that idea.

Some see God as a strict judge with a bunch of rules designed to control us. I can understand since that image has been perpetuated by religious people for centuries. If that was an accurate picture of God, I would probably reject that too.

But God is a Dad!

I have four kids. I’m far from perfect but my love for each of them is deep.

I’m not a very strict dad, but what rules I enforce, I do for their good. When my kids try to do things their own way, I feel for them. I know that they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes I have to intervene with some tough love. If I were to catch them intentionally hurting others, I would probably be angry at them.

How do you think God, who created the universe, would raise his children?

Wouldn’t He give His kids rules designed to help them grow into healthy adults that fit into this world?

When His kids wander away, don’t you think God’s heart breaks?

How would you feel if your kids denied that you even existed?

Jesus referred to God the Father as “Abba”. That means “Daddy”. That’s the kind of God I believe in. He loves us enough to provide commands designed for our good. He is fiercely protective of His kids. Try to harm them and you might experience the fierce side of His love.

No one obeys His commands perfectly. When you mess up, God made a way for you to be restored.

If you reject Him, He allows it. But that breaks His Daddy heart.

How do you see God?

Do you believe He exists?

Is He a strict judge?

Is He an egomaniac?

Or, like me, do you see a loving Daddy who wants the best for His kids?

If that’s true, how do we respond to that? Let’s talk about it.

A Little Romance

The room lit up with the glow of her blonde hair.

“Everyone, please welcome Anne.She just moved here from Oregon.” Mrs. Simms pointed to a desk. “Go ahead and have a seat there.”

She walked down the row – to the desk next to mine! The sun shone! Birds sang! Butterflies fluttered, in my stomach!

For the first time in my life, I was smitten! Second grade would never be the same!

I would say that was overdramatized, but, you know what it’s like. My innocent little world was turned upside down. Maybe girls didn’t have cooties!

Anne (not her real name) and I became friends. We played together after school at her house. I was too afraid to tell my parents and siblings that I had a friend who was a girl.

Then the impossible happened. She changed schools – some private school nearby.

I still rode my bike past her house often. I was too chicken to knock, but maybe she would come out.

A couple of years later she did. I panicked. I didn’t know what to say or do. I fled. She chased me for half a block before giving up. I rode faster than her. It was the worst thing I had done in my young life.

Life goes on. I’ve fallen in and out of love along the way. I am now deeply in love with my wife. Over the years I’ve discovered that love is not what I thought it was as a child.

Like most people, I thought love was an emotional rush. An attraction so deep that I never wanted to leave the object of my love. I had it exactly backwards.

That emotional rush never lasts. The attraction ebbs and flows. But that’s not love.

True romance is a commitment so deep that it generates those feelings all by itself. When you are committed to bring love, security, happiness, and peace to your partner, you do things that make you and them feel that emotional love.

I love my wife not because she’s beautiful (she is), talented (she is), or loving (she is). I love her because I am committed to her. My love is as imperfect as I am, but it’s true. True romance springs out of that.

If you are struggling with love this Valentine’s weekend, go back to the basics. Commit yourself to your spouse. Do those things that spark the feelings, even if it’s hard to dredge them up. I strongly recommend the movie (and/or book) “Fireproof” for ways to do that.

For those of you who are single (thanks for reading this far) I encourage you to shift your focus away from attraction and romance and towards being the kind of person you would want to love you back. Don’t settle for false romance based on feelings of attraction. Wait for the one who will commit to you for life.

In the meantime, we should all focus on the one who loves us so much that he laid down his life for us. God loves us more than words can express. He welcomes us with open arms. What better love could we hope to find?

Love in the Middle of the Hard Knocks

Excerpt from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks (rough draft)

In the midst of the attack, my mind retreated. I curled into a ball and isolated my mind from anything outside of that ball. The kicks and punches kept coming. I felt severe pain. And I felt something I had never felt before – rage!

Outside of my protective ball, I heard tires squealing, a horn honking, and a man yelling.

The attack stopped.

A distant voice asked, “Are you okay?”

There was a touch on my shoulder, painful though half numb.

Sirens and voices tried to penetrate my shield.

Someone tried to pull me out of my ball, so I rolled tighter.

“Wil,” Mrs. Brewer’s voice penetrated my shell. “It’s okay. These people are here to help you.”

I went slack and unconscious.

I came to as I was being loaded into an ambulance.

On the ride to hospital, I imagined the police holding Todd while I hit him.  I imagined him in jail.  Anger fueled the darker side of my imagination.  My face and ribs burned with pain and my gut burned with hatred.

Mom arrived at the hospital just after I did. She tried to comfort me. When she spoke to an officer, I could see the fury in her face.

Doctors and nurses poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned me all day. 

Through each procedure, the pain fueled my hatred toward Todd and his friends.

Late that evening, they finally decided I could go home. I had a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of bruises, but nothing too serious. I think I could have won a costume contest for most zombie-like face. 

They insisted I leave in a wheelchair.  Mom pushed me to the open door of the room and stopped. There were two cops bringing in a badly beaten boy. The boy was Todd.

Mom tried to pull me back.

“No!” I grabbed the door frame. I had to see this.

Tears streaked Todd’s face.

Shame filled mine.

Not shame for being his victim. Shame for having the same kind of hatred that filled his face.

Mom rushed me toward the waiting room.

We passed one of the cops talking to a nurse. “His dad beat him for getting caught.”

“Mom, stop!”

I touched the officer’s arm. “Is he gonna be okay?”

He looked me over and said, “Probably about the same as you, except he won’t be going home. He has a spot waiting for him at Juvie.”

“Can I talk to him?”

Mom tried to move me on. “No, Wil, that’s not a good idea.”

“I just want to say one thing. I don’t have to be close.”

The cop smiled. “Sure kid.” He turned to Mom. “I’ll take him, for his safety.”

I wonder if the officer thought I was going to yell at Todd. I wondered what I was going to say myself.

I was stopped at the threshold. A nurse was swabbing his face.

“Todd.” I started.

The nurse turned.

Todd’s face turned to pain and hate when he saw me.

“I, I just wanted to say that I forgive you.”

I turned to the officer. “That’s all.”

I glanced one more time in Todd’s direction. The nurse was dabbing her eyes. Todd’s expression was blank.


I have struggled over the past week with what I could write to illustrate the idea of loving God and loving people. I looked in Vine’s and Strong’s and the Bible and racked my brain for good stories and kept coming up blank.

I sat down today and this scene from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks came to mind. I argued with myself because the book deals with forgiveness, not love.

Then it hit me. Forgiveness is one of the purest forms of love.

Too often we think of love in terms of affection. We love because we have an attachment to someone, or we share a common family or origin.

When Jesus illustrated who we should love, he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Through that he showed that we should extend our love beyond our definitions to those we would otherwise hate.

In the Wil Clarey story, no one would blame Wil for hating Todd. I left out the most brutal parts of the attack. Wil had every right to be angry. And he was!

When Wil saw Todd in the same condition as himself, full of pain and rage, it opened his eyes. He realized that, if he continued down the path of hate, he would become that which he hated. He decided that it needed to stop with him.

Right now, we live in a country divided. Each group sees the other as so irreconcilably different that they are not worthy of our attention, much less our love.

How often do we look at those who are different and want to avoid them? Do we look at those who cause pain in our lives and want to cause pain back?

What would happen if we flipped that around and repaid hurt with forgiveness, apathy with caring, pain with love?

I won’t spoil the Wil Clarey story with what happened next. I will say that it was a much better path for Wil to take.

How can you and I start down that path today?

The Word is Love

The Word is Love

Last year our church encouraged us to pick one word to focus on for the year. My word was “rest.” With COVID, that word came true for me. I didn’t do nearly as much work for the church since we didn’t have in person services most of the year. My brain got a rest from my normal job as I was reassigned to a job that required little hard thinking. Lower finances meant fewer projects around the house. Yeah, I got a little more rest.

Then there was that guy whose word was “gather.”


That didn’t work out so well with COVID.

This year I made no plans to pick a word. I could have chosen “discipline” as I have been getting pretty good at exercising every day. I could have chosen “organize” as I’ve made my man-cave/writing corner much less cluttered. Maybe “budget” would be good as we are going to need to get diligent about that this year.

I chose not to choose.

Until today.

I went for a good walk at lunchtime. My earbuds blasted some good music while I power walked down a paved path next to a frozen wetland area and stark winter trees.

I prayed as I walked, lifting several people up in prayer. For one person, I asked the Lord what I should do. The answer was immediate. “Love them.”

If someone was watching me, they probably would have been amused at my expression. It said something between “Duh!” and “Huh?”

I marched on and discussed with the Lord what that means. I knew it should apply to everyone and not just that one person. What does it mean to truly love people?

The question haunted me the rest of the day. How do I show love to that person who just cut me off in traffic? Am I supposed to show love to my customers? What does that look like?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40 kept invading my thoughts. He said that the greatest commandment was to love God. The second greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself. In Luke 10, he defines “neighbor” through the parable of the Good Samaritan. He cast a very broad net with that story. Basically, everyone who comes across your path.

This thought process has ignited a desire to explore what it means to truly love. Plans are forming in my mind to explore that word – in the Bible, in practical actions, in the words I write.

Feel free to join me in this process. Add your thoughts. Direct my studies with your questions. Share your own studies and stories.

So, maybe I do have a word for the year.  The word is LOVE!

P.S. – Look for another blog here in a week (or two) as I begin to share what I find. Feel free to bug me if I take too long.

Short Story Mayhem

Last year I wrote a short story for Christmas. It was fun to write. But it was so bad that editing would not have saved it. In the trash it went.

This year I had no plans to try again. Then it popped into my head. The very first thought of it was almost complete. I had to write it.

My free time in the last few weeks has been spent gushing the words of the story out. Sure, it needed some minor tweaks, and a bunch of typo fixes, but it is complete today, 5 full days before Christmas!

This story is different from any other I have written.

I started to explain why but I think it’s best if you just read it. You can find it at Christmas Stories.

Let me know what you think. If you like it, feel free to share it by sharing the link.


Road Trip!

I’ve spent the last two days on the road. Tomorrow I arrive at Ridgecrest! I have been vlogging my trip. The video for day one is complete and uploaded. Lots of driving across the plains and my random musings.

Day two is in the works. If all goes well, I hope to upload it tomorrow night! It was a shorter drive today so I took the time to stop by a museum. Check back after it is uploaded to see which one!

Check it out at The Wandering Pen!

Old Dog, New Tricks

Due to COVID, I currently work in a hospital print shop. I have for the last 7 months. With the help of my coworkers, I’ve acquired several new skills.

Newly acquired skill, painting with glue.

We often have people from other locations help us out as we are the busiest print shop in our company in this area. One day, a guy I’ll call George (not his name) was helping us. He was at the workstation next to mine and was applying a second coat of glue to a project that I was taught only needed one coat.

I was curious. Did I miss something? I asked, “Hey George, didn’t you glue that already?”

Maybe I phrased that wrong because his reply was almost violent. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, don’t tell me how to do my job!”

I was stunned silent. I thought about explaining that I was just curious but he shoved his earbuds back in and went about his redundant work.

I had to wonder, “Do I get that way?” When someone criticizes my writing, do I get defensive, or do I try to learn.

I have to admit, I sometimes get defensive. When someone points out an issue, I’ll try to explain it away. My reaction should be to learn from that criticism. Even if the critic has no writing experience, they have reading experience and can tell when something doesn’t sound right.

This old dog can learn new tricks. I was over 50 when I started getting serious about writing. I have learned a ton last few years. I still have a lot to learn.

In just a few days I take off on a road trip bound for the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. I hope to refine my writing more and make some great connections.

I will be vlogging my road trip and time at the conference on The Wandering Pen, my YouTube writing channel. I can’t guarantee that I will be posting every day as I will be busy but I will do my best to make it fun and informative. See you there!

Oh, and if you criticize my videos, I’ll try to appreciate it and learn how to do them better.