Bob Ross, J.R.R. Tolkien, and a Theodicy and Me

I just wrote a little review of FAITH IN THE SHADOW OF A PANDEMIC for my church newsletter. (The Reader’s Digest version is that this is an excellent and useful book.)

Pondering that cluster of 14 devotions reminded me of many conversations I’ve had since I was 12. I’m not talking (this time) about the folks in shopping malls who insist on telling me that “if I was REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY a Christian” that God would have healed me by now.

I’m talking about people who are struggling with issues (illness, grief, racism, cruelty, hurricanes, etc.) that bother them, and they want to discuss them with someone who believes in God in spite of it all. There’s a word for that: theodicy.

Most of the time, I have learned that this is the time for me to close my mouth and open my ears. People need the freedom to wrestle with and grieve these sore places in their lives. We don’t live in some sort of cross between Utopia and Candyland. (Well… Maybe it is a little bit like Thomas More’s Utopia, which is actually kind of dark. Come to think of it, most utopian novels are rather bleak, so NEVERMIND!)

While our universe certainly has loveliness, it is also broken. We are broken and corrupted by sin. (That’s a whole different discussion, even when it leaks into what I’m saying here.)

One of my friends told me that they found great consolation in the number of times that Bob Ross (of “Joy of Painting” fame) said, “Every highlight needs its own shadow. Without it, this world we’re painting is flat and lifeless.”

I don’t know that it’s exactly SCRIPTURAL, but it feels useful to me. It also reminds me of one of my favorite J.R.R. Tolkien quotes:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


My pastor and his oldest son had a thorough discussion about that quote. Apparently, it was rather far-ranging. I would’ve loved to eavesdrop!

I forgot where I was going with all of this.

Lisa Reads: Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors

by Sarah Stodola
The “Reader’s Digest version” of this book review is that I like it. I spent a couple of weeks listening to it as I went to sleep. (Did you know that Amazon Echo can read Kindle books aloud? It can’t read EVERYTHING, and sometimes the pronunciation is a little bit strange, but it is most definitely understandable.)
Anyhow, Sarah Stodola wrote mini-biographies of about 20 writers. The list included:
Franz Kafka
Toni Morrison
David Foster Wallace
Richard Price
Edith Wharton
George Orwell
Virginia Woolf
Vladimir Nabakov
Salman Rushdie
Joan Didion
Jack Kerouac
Ernest Hemingway
James Joyce
Junot Diaz
F Scott Fitzgerald
Philip Roth
Margaret Atwood
and Zadie Smith
Some of these authors I thoroughly enjoy. It was a treat to learn about them and relearn what I forgot. Some of the authors were the kind that made me promise myself to never read again, but learning about their process made me think that I should possibly, maybe consider rethinking that.
The most important tidbits were in the sections detailing the processes that each author took to create a book. Some approaches were detailed and analytical. Some were chaotic and very much “off-the-cuff.” Some produced massive amounts of words in spurts, while James Joyce is reported to have said that he accomplished writing seven words, but wasn’t certain what order to put them in.
After listening to this book I realized that the process isn’t the point. I just need to get the words WRITTEN. I am a writer, not just a talker-abouter or ponderer. Once the words are written, I can figure out how to manage the rest: editing, rewriting, handing it to beta-readers, etc.


Lisa Reads: The Gift and the Defender

The Gift and the Defender (Lumen Legends Book 1) by Tyrel Bramwell
Book cover for The Gift and the Defender (Lumen Legends Book 1) by Tyrel Bramwell

It has been a while since I have done this. I’ve been reading. This is the year of the coronavirus, many people made dents in their “to-read” pile. Granted, sometimes it was for work or school, but not in my case.

This is plain old JUST FOR FUN reading. I have finally gotten to one of the books that was toward the bottom of the pile. I have been intending to read it for quite a while, I just hadn’t.

This book, The Gift and the Defender is by Pastor Tyrell Bramwell. Some of the other reviewers have commented on the deep allegory hidden within the parallel stories. Maybe I need to reread it, but I didn’t see that. I saw 1 story taking place in roughly modern-times New York City. There is also a story set in a fantasy kingdom, with an obvious battle between good and evil.

I thought I was reading a novel that is sort of a bidirectional novel like Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. I was wrong. The stories do eventually link together, and the tie between them surprised me. It was well done, in spite of my original impression that this was “too simplistic” to be any good. I should’ve noticed some of the links to Latin and other elements.


Possible Impending Website Problems

One of the benefits of maintaining your own website is the fact that you can pretty much try what you want when you want. Granted, it takes away from “writing time.” Still, it can be very satisfying. I find that I can sometimes set the back of my head to work at untying a knot in my fiction while using the front of my head to work on my website.

Yes, it is just plain fun for me.

The downside is sometimes upgrades are more problems than they are worth. I’m dreading having to go to the next version of PHP. Apparently, it causes all sorts of problems for WordPress users.

If you’re interested, you can read all about my fears here. Otherwise, please enjoy a wonderful day!

Lisa Writes: Timeless Treasures

Book Cover for Timeless Treasures
I don’t know whether to call this “my first book” or “my first lesson in publishing”

Yes, I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old. I remember Mother stitching paper together to create books that were about 3 inches tall by about 2 inches wide. I would fill them with stories, jokes, and pictures.

I guess that means that this ISN’T my first book.

I’ve been writing, but I haven’t been finishing stories. I certainly haven’t faced the daunting prospects of getting published.

This year, I decided that it was time to face these fears. I wrote And Finished AND EDITED a short story. I added introductions to four public domain texts. Putting these things into a package and uploading them to Amazon is an education, but it’s kind of fun.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

If you want something that you can send as a greeting card, feel free to send this. Nothing inside should offend anyone. I’ve found errors that I’m going to fix but if you find more, feel free to let me know.

It Was a Good Experiment. It Has Ended.

Sometimes things don’t work out as intended. I wanted an easy and fun way to share information that others might enjoy. When I learned about a WordPress plug-in, I was delighted.

Well, that experiment has ended. No permanent and irretrievable damage will remain.

Feel free to continue with your joyful day.


This was one of those busy weeks. In preparation for taking Spinraza, I had to rearrange my medications. No blood thinner when I’m getting punctured in the spine. Even though I have been through this several times, I always feel a small amount of stress. Things CAN go wrong even in the best of settings. For the most part, though, I was fairly confident that things would get done quickly. Granted, I don’t really enjoy being NPO for after midnight, but it really isn’t a huge problem. I Have certainly faced worse.

The trip down was uneventful. Traffic seemed fairly light. I can’t tell if it was really due to coronavirus or whether it was just a good traffic day. Downtown seemed kind of sad, although I guess it was more the medical center itself then downtown. We some more of that on the way home. It just seemed like fewer people were around, of course they all were masked. They also seemed a little bit sadder, if you could tell by their posture while walking around the campuses of all those hospitals.

We probably got there about 15 minutes before I thought we would. I always budget extra time for finding the parking lot, it’s usually horrible. I may not have needed to, but I don’t know. The parking lot was not empty, but it was not difficult to find a parking place. There were fewer people around waiting to use the elevators that led to the place where you could walk across the sky walk. We answered some questions about whether we thought we had Covid, they took our temperatures, and sent us on our way.

We made it to the waiting room in record time, this time we didn’t turn the wrong way. There were about one third as many chairs available for patients as usual and everyone was being correctly distant. And then we waited and waited some more. We got back to the pre-procedure area and I got my hospital gown on. Then we waited for a bedpan so they could sample the urine to make sure the Spinraza wasn’t affecting my kidneys. Then we waited for them to access my port so they can do blood work. Then we waited for all the lab work to come back.

The nurses and the doctor came to discuss with me about the procedure – making sure I knew what I was getting into. I pretty much described to them what they were going to do and how long it was going to take. Then we waited, I’m not sure what we were waiting for this time but it was part of the procedure.

I went to the CAT scan room and they positioned me. They tried to comfort me but I really didn’t think that was necessary, I have mastered lying still. The doctor came in, I was mildly sedated (very mildly, by my own request), and they figured out how the needle was going to work around all my spinal instrumentation. (I have to admit, I think CAT scans are a nifty tool, and I like seeing the pictures afterwords.) When they inserted the needle, I was a little uncomfortable in my thigh this time. It is SO weird what happens when they brush against a nerve! Anyhow, the procedure itself took about three minutes, but I was back in that room for about 15 or so minutes?

I got back to the room and got dressed. Oh yeah, they introduced me to the PureWick device. I couldn’t use it then, I’ve been without any liquid since midnight the night before. I drank an instant breakfast so I at least have SOME nutrition in my system. Then I had to wait for them to de-access my port and get papers to go home.

This is the longest amount of time it ever took to do a Spinraza’s dosing. We got into the parking garage at maybe 11:10 AM. We did not leave the parking garage until 4:50 PM. Then we got to face Houston Medical Center and downtown area traffic. Such FUN! After nearly running down some suicidal bicyclists who almost deliberately ran in front of the car, we got to the HOV lanes. It was not incredibly bad, except that just as we came to it, FM 1488 had an accident that really messed up traffic. We found another way home and I ate pizza for dinner.