Water Bottle Hack

Water Bottle Hack

Just back from our trip to Omaha, I thought I’d share my water bottle hack for travelers.

Doctors always advise air passengers to stay hydrated, but carrying a bottle of water through security is not allowed. Perhaps that clear liquid is really nitroglycerin, kerosene, or some other dangerous fluid. Heaven forbid you carry that onboard. Therefore, one is forced to pay water-scalper prices at the shops on the other side of the security check-point. They want $3 to $5 per bottle. We all know that a bottle of water is worth about 10 cents. Sheesh!

Enter the water bottle hack: carry an empty bottle through security (no problem), and fill it up in the terminal to drink on the flight. Ta-da! You win!

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the first person to think of this hack. In fact, I wager it is now quite widespread. Why? At the start of our most recent trip, I took my empty bottle to fill it at the drinking fountain and found that one of those cool, bottle-activated filling taps had been installed near the fountain. Others have been fighting the good fight for free water alongside me. Hooray! Water hackers unite!

Now if we could just get Southwest to give us something other than those nasty pretzels, we would be all set.

silhouette of airplanes

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 3)

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 3)

One thing I dodged by not going to church was being felt up by my youth pastor. Two of my girlfriends were initiated into heavy petting by men who stood in positions of trust in their churches. I was shocked when they told me and appalled at the hypocrisy. I was an expert at judging others in those days. This was back in the late sixties. Recent revelations of church hanky-panky just show that churches haven’t changed over the past fifty years.

Searching for my niche market of young unchurched families who might want to buy my children’s books, I came across a Facebook group called “Raising Children Unfundamentalist.” This discovery is really the reason for this whole blog thread. Most of the young mothers and fathers in the Facebook group were raised in strict churches and were deeply wounded by it. They were brainwashed to hate other people, to judge that others are going to hell, to feel superior for being “saved” when others are damned, and to espouse narrow ideas about gender roles. They are afraid to take their kids to visit the grandparents for fear the grandparents will pull the same stuff on the kids. Most of them are still believers in God, but not the God of their fathers. They struggle to find a church that thinks the way they do. They feel the loss of church community, substituting the Facebook group.

I feel for these young parents, and I find myself wishing they could have been raised as atheists, like me. Then they would not have to unlearn the toxic doctrines they were fed in their self-righteous churches. They would be clean slates, ready to receive God’s communications directly. The only flak they would get from their atheist parents would be a condescending shake of the head, not a fiery condemnation to hell. I have heard it preached that it is much easier to convert an atheist than to convert a self-righteous Christian. I believe it, from my personal experience. And that is the bright side of atheism, in my opinion. God can work with what you give him, and he doesn’t have to erase a blank slate first before writing his message of Love.

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 2)

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 2)

By the time I was ready to get married the first time, I was pretty well confirmed in my unbelief. At college all the folks I hung out with scoffed and avoided the Jesus freaks and Hare Krishnas that strolled the quad looking for prey. The only person I remember mentioning God was Les, who was so excited to meet a “nice Jewish girl” he could propose to. I hadn’t even known he was Jewish, but I sure enjoyed dancing at his wedding. For my wedding, I called up a judge to preside in my grandma’s back garden. I had a Shakespeare sonnet read. If anybody prayed, it was my aunt, who kept trying to convert me by giving me bibles. God bless her. The marriage lasted about four years.

By the time I got baptized at age 38, I was in my second civil marriage and had given birth twice. God was palpable to me in the recovery room after my first daughter’s birth. When the second baby was on the way, I said to my husband that I didn’t want our kids to be unschooled in things spiritual. I wanted them to go to church, and I would go too. If they wanted to reject God in their early adulthood, so be it. I wanted to give them something solid to reject. So, we started attending St. Mark’s Episcopal church and we all got baptized together on All Saint’s Day of 1991.

I carried my former atheism proudly as I slowly started to learn more, read more, and attend Christian education sessions. God works with whatever you give him. Looking back, I see his hand in my entire life, even though I was oblivious or incredulous. Up to this point, I saw my atheism as a good thing. I was not indoctrinated into any particular denomination at an early age. I visited all the churches of my friends and found them equally boring and incomprehensible. I respected my scientific education and honored the scientific method. I was free of the trammels of organized religion, like having to go to confession on Saturday (jeez, you mean the Catholics want to mess up your Saturday as well as your Sunday?), or wearing a doily on your head if you were a girl. Little did I know the bullet I had dodged.

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 1)

The Bright Side of Atheism (part 1)

In eleventh-grade English we had to read an essay called “The Bright Side of Pessimism” [by H.L. Mencken?] in which the author claimed that is was good to be pessimistic about the future. If the worst came to pass, you would feel vindicated for being right. If something wonderful happened, you would be pleasantly surprised.

Recently, I have been feeling that there is a bright side to my having been an atheist for the first 38 years of my life.

As a kid, I felt privileged to have total freedom on Sundays. Other kids had to go to church, but I didn’t. My Sunday was as footloose as my Saturday, until the upper grades made me hate having to cram homework into Sunday nights. I continued hating Sunday nights into my adulthood since I chose to be a teacher and an English teacher at that. The thought of facing a pile of essays to grade gives me the heaves to this day. But even church-going English teachers feel this way, so it’s really irrelevant.

My parents had been forced to attend church (Dad the Methodist, Mom the Baptist), even though their parents didn’t attend. I despised the hypocrisy of the grandparents and rather liked the integrity of my parents. They would not send my brother and me to church when they themselves didn’t go. I twice asked my dad if he believed in God. The first time he said, “Well, I’ve never seen him.” The second time, as he neared death, he said, “Yes.” Both of these answers had profound effects on me. Kids go to their parents for the truth about God. My truth was that God probably didn’t exist, but for sure church was not the place to find him.

I did, however, feel left out. All my friends went to some kind of church. One was Jewish, one Unitarian, one Congregational, one Baptist, one Episcopalian, and one went to the Church of the Brethren. We didn’t talk about God at all. It was not a cool subject. When a bunch of Jesus freaks tried to tell us that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel was about Jesus, we scoffed. The public school was not a place to learn about God, even though the English teachers had to teach Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Blake and other writers who can’t keep from mentioning God. I actually tried to fill the gap in my knowledge by taking “Bible as Literature” in both high school and college. I figured I needed to know the stories of the Bible even if I didn’t believe.


God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 2)

God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 2)

As we were emailing and Facebook messaging back and forth, I asked Nicole if she would like to illustrate my book Labyrinth Wedding. She said yes, and there began our second project together. I told her what the book contained, and she painted away. You will see her joyful wedding scenes as part of the non-fiction book coming out soon on Amazon: A Spiritual Guide to the Labyrinth Wedding.

But God wasn’t finished with his Pam-and-Nicole project. I wanted to do something with those lovable Jesus pictures that just kept pouring out from Nicole’s brush. At first, I thought of an inspirational art book, similar to Blessing to Go. I am always thinking of the unchurched, since I was one for 38 years, and I found the joyful Jesus paintings spoke to my soul. Though the theology of the bleeding, suffering, crucified Christ may be true, the ugliness of those images can hardly draw in the seeker. Why would you follow such an unappealing mentor? But you would follow Nicole’s vision of Jesus. In fact, you would want to hug him, laugh with him, fall in love with him. Her paintings pulled at my heart, and I knew they would draw others. We had to share him somehow.

Enter Shelley Hitz. At the Colorado retreat, I mentioned my ideas to Shelley, and she said, “I like to make my books interactive. What about making it a journal for people to write their responses in?” Light-bulb moment! So that is what we made: a journal with Jesus on one page, a related scripture, and space to write a response to the painting, the verse, or both, or neither. I wrote a little introduction on various types of journaling the reader can use, in case they are just learning the practice. I am very excited about this project, and I will think you will be too, when you see our Jesus in Jeans Journal.

God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 1)

God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 1)

Nicole Schiffers lives in The Netherlands. She started posting a painting a day on Facebook, calling it Blessing to Go. Her paintings were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and often they included pictures of Jesus in modern dress with a friendly, joyful expression on his face. I loved them, and I told her so.

One day, she said her dream was to publish her Blessing to Go paintings in books she could give as gifts, and maybe others would like them enough to buy them, too. I offered to publish her books for her, since I have a self-publishing business and was between projects of my own. On September 1, Blessing to Go, volumes 1, 2, and 3 came out on Amazon.

But that’s not all. My husband Don volunteered to learn how to format books on Createspace (now absorbed into Kindle Direct Publishing). He said, “How hard can it be?” So, we owe it to God and Nicole for giving us courage to leap over a hurdle that had been frustrating us and costing us money. Now, we can do our own formatting and our books can be published faster.

So, if you are looking for inspirational gifts for Christmas, birthdays, get well, or any other reason, please find Blessing to Go on amazon. If you like the books, a review would be much appreciated by Nicole and me.


The Genesis of Labyrinth Wedding

The Genesis of Labyrinth Wedding

During my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2009, I wrote a mostly autobiographical novel called Avocado Highway. At the end of the book, I got an inspired idea to stage the main character’s wedding on a labyrinth under walnut trees at the monastery. I didn’t even know there WAS a labyrinth at my fictional monastery, but now I did. In 2009, I was not practicing centering prayer yet, was not journaling consistently, and certainly didn’t know about hearing God’s voice through two-way journaling. Still, I had a solid sense that the idea was from the Holy Spirit. The smooth flow of the writing of that scene confirmed it.

Looking over that novel draft, I decided it was not worth revising, and I set it aside. Nine years later, Matt Tommey asked during the Created to Thrive experience course, “What is already in your hand?” And a clear answer lit up in my mind: “That chapter on the labyrinth wedding.” I was being urged to resurrect that scene somehow. I considered writing a whole new novel around it, but that idea left me cold. I placed the scene on the back burner and went on to other projects.

Then, I felt called to sign up for a Colorado writing retreat offered by Shelley Hitz in September of 2018. For three days I would write with five other Christian women, in view of the Rocky Mountains. Shelley Hitz mentors writers of all stripes, but advertised this retreat as a chance to get a non-fiction book done. I thought, “I don’t have a non-fiction book in mind,” then the idea struck: Write the labyrinth book as a non-fiction how-to book. Brilliant!

I started off with the idea that brides will buy anything if it has the word “wedding” on it. I dreamed of capitalizing on the prodigal way women throw money away when planning for their big day. I wrote for two hours in a breathless, retail tone, then I hit the wall. I could not write any more. I confessed this to my fellow writers, and Shelley said, “Try journaling about it.”

Too tired to journal, I went to bed discouraged and fraught. An altitude headache woke me at 4am, and I journaled by flashlight, hoping not to wake my roommate, Teresa. God encouraged me to change my tone and not give up. He asked me if I had felt a twinge of guilt about playing the commercial game with my book. I answered yes. I realized that I didn’t want to feed into the wedding industry. I had seen the effect of their marketing on my own daughter and on myself in the build-up to her wedding the past March. I wanted my message to be about giving marriage a chance by planning a more spiritual, realistic, humble, God-centered ceremony using the labyrinth as an aid.

The next day, with my heart back in it and God’s blessing, I knocked out the draft of the book titled A Spiritual Guide to the Labyrinth Wedding. It is still in process, but will be available on Amazon soon.

Links to my mentors:

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