Connecting the Dots: Part 4

5 W's and an H

Last time out we considered the five senses as unique elements or “pearls” on strings that spread out from our nucleus word, “Heaven.” As we dove into the sense end of the pool we immersed our imaginations in images — what does heaven look like, sound like, taste like, feel like, smell like?

Now we are ready to round out our clustering exercise with six more pearls that will enhance and help add unity to the clustering process. As you consider each of these pearls, you will discover what Gabrielle Rico calls a “trial web shift” in her excellent book, Writing the Natural Way. A pattern will begin to emerge from your cluster as you consider these new elements because they are the building blocks of narrative.

So, take up your pencil and add these five new pearls: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and the inimitable How. It should look something like this:


Who — When you ask “who” of the nucleus word, “heaven,” you can come up with a LOT of answers. Think of how you want to frame the question more specifically: “If heaven were a “who” then who would it be?”; “Who will I meet in heaven?”; “Who definitely won’t be in heaven?”; Who(m) do I most look forward to seeing again in heaven?” See? There are lots of ways to cast the “who” question. Same goes for each of the other pearls!

What —  “What is heaven like?”; “What will be there?”: “What will we do in heaven for all eternity?”

When —  “When will I go to heaven?”; “When as a time construct — do we experience time in heaven, and if so, how will it pass?”; “Is eternity just a really long time/when?”; “Was there ever a time when heaven wasn’t?”

Where — “Where is heaven?”; “Where is heaven not?”; “Is heaven a real place, like earth or is it somehow more real than my senses can comprehend this side of eternity?”

Why — “Why is heaven there in the first place?”; “Why should God let me into heaven?”; “Why would I be kept out of heaven?”

How — “How did heaven come to be?”; “How do we get to heaven?”; “How do we travel around in heaven?”; “How will we look, sound, smell” — uh-oh, we’re slipping back into the senses!

Once you have had a chance to explore even a few of the questions that will spring from these new pearls, you will find a story taking shape.

Here’s (most of) a finished cluster by one of my current Creative Writing students, Jonathan Campoverde (used with permission):


And here’s the brief piece that flowed from his cluster: the lead question which lead to his nucleus word was, “What am I?” FYI, DYH stands for “Directing Your Hand” and is a part of every writing exercise. See if you can trace themes from his cluster through his writing exercise. Remember, you don’t have to try to shove every element/pearl into your finished piece. You’re looking for patterns.


Jon is one of our outstanding students here at DTS, and I can’t even claim him as an official Media Arts student. He’s in New Testament! I’m just saying — art abounds here at DTS!

That’s it for clustering. I hope you find it helpful and maybe a little stretching!

Keep writing!


Connecting the Dots: Part 3

Using the 5 Senses to Overcome Writer's Block

Last week we explored Line, Color, Texture, and Mass as elements of clustering that will help us think of our nucleus word (heaven) in new and different ways.

This week we want to focus on the five senses: See, Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell. There’s going to be a bit of overlap between what your right brain generates here and the pearls it generated when you spun out Line, Color, Texture, and Mass last week. That’s Okay — in fact, it’s good! But resist the temptation to make too many connections between the overlapping “pearls” at this point. Each string needs to be pure, and for now, considered by itself.

Let’s stick with our nucleus word of “heaven.” I’m going to add a new string to my already-existing cluster. The pearl at the end of that string is going to have the word, “See.” Here’s what it will look like with your five new “pearls” in place:


See — 83% of everything you learn in your life you learn by seeing. Ask yourself, “what does heaven look like? When I think of heaven, what do I see?” Try to isolate the other senses and just focus on a vision of heaven.

Hear —  11% you learn by hearing. If heaven were reduced to a sound, what would that sound be? Would it be a sound from nature, a musical instrument, a machine? Try to pretend that the other senses do not exist and all you have available to you is the sense of hearing.

Smell — 3.5%. This one is fun! If all of the other senses were nonfunctional, what would the aroma of heaven be to you? Explore different categories. It could be a food, a flower, a perfume. Anything that has a scent.

Touch — 1.5%. Wow! We only learn 1.5% of all that we know through the sense of touch. That’s not to say touch is unimportant, only that it doesn’t account for much in terms of our being able to interpret and learn from our environment (remember the illustration of the two blind men and the elephant, one feeling it’s trunk and the other it’s tail, and coming up with radically different “interpretations” of what an elephant is). Of course “Touch” will overlap with “Texture” from our last exercise. That’s okay. If you could write reach out and touch heaven right now, what would it feel like?

Taste — 1%. We don’t learn much through taste. 99% of all that you know will NOT come via your taste buds. Still, it’s fascinating to think about what heaven might taste like, especially if all of the other senses are muted.


Spend a few minutes exploring each of the five senses. Again, isolate each sense. Pretend that the other senses are nonfunctional.

You are creating quite a string of “pearls.” Each one could constitute a nucleus all on its own! You might come up with a striking simile related to just one of the senses. The ultimate goal here is not to try to shoehorn in all of the senses to any given writing project, but to open you up to the possibilities contained in the senses as we explore them discreetly, and then in combination with one another.

Happy clustering!

Connecting the Dots: Part 2

Clustering using Line, Color, Texture, and Mass

Heaven? Nope, Just Down at The Ranch with Evan


Last week we explored the essentials of clustering as taught by Dr. Rico in, Writing the Natural Way.

This week I want to expand on the basic idea of clustering to include some new elements for your consideration. This is pretty much a right brain exercise, and, as such, it will require you to keep your left brain in timeout for a bit longer.

The four elements that we want to add to the initial cluster are these: 1) line, 2) color, 3) texture, 4) mass.

Each of these should begin a new string emanating from the nucleus word at the center of the cluster.

Here’s how it works: draw four lines out from the nucleus word. We will call each one of these extended lines a string. Each element on the string is a “pearl.”

Now draw a circle at the end of the first line/string, and inside that circle write the word, “line.” That’s the first pearl on that string. Then draw a three more circles at the ends of each of the other strings and write the words, “color,” “texture,” and “mass” in each one.

Here’s a graphic that illustrates what it should look like using “Heaven” as a nucleus word:


Each new element will engender a host of other ideas — song fragments, pictures, quotes from old movies, and other sensate images. Here’s how these new elements of line, color, texture, and mass influence your writing.

Line — the shape of the drawn line suggests several things. “Heaven’s” line suggests to me an upward, slingshot movement. My writing is going to reflect, at least in part, this kinetic, ascending kind of structure and language.

Color — every person who can sense color brings baggage to the table when it comes to relating color to abstract concepts such as “heaven,” We may have been influenced by songs or biblical narratives that mention “streets of gold.” We may have seen paintings that depict heaven as golden-hued. But I may explore other colors, like the “cobalt blue” suggested in my cluster above. I bring a wagonload of positive associations to my vision of heaven as cobalt blue. This isn’t to say that you have to make everything (or anything) blue, or gold in your piece. But thinking of heaven in terms of gold, or blue or (fill in the blank with your color), will influence your word choice — simply because specific colors mean so much to each of us.

Texture — to me “heaven” makes me think of golden burnished leather. That image in itself is so rich. It has color, and an aroma as well as the texture of supple leather, which I love. The more multi-sensory the image, the better.

Mass — “heaven” to me is as light as a small child. Evan in my arms is, I think, a foretaste of the mass, the weight, of heaven.

Line, color, texture, mass —four doors that will open onto worlds of connections. Push into specificity. Refuse to be satisfied with a generic “pearl.” Try your best to make each string end with something tangible.

Then, look for those unexpected connections!

And write!

Connecting the Dots: Part 1

Clustering as a Way Out of Writer's Block


I grew up on a ranch, miles away from any city illumination that would bleach out the starlight. The Milky Way stretched out like a cloud beyond the local shimmerings of blood-red Mars and his legions. Even as a child, I felt incredibly small.

And lost.

My dad helped. He pointed out patterns in the stars—constellations. Learning to recognize Orion and the Great Bear, and  to connect those pictures with the stories that leant them “a local habitation” helped me organize the galaxy. Simply connecting the dots — learning to recognize patterns in the stars gave me a sense of control. Order (albeit artificial and imposed) displaced an uneasy feeling of chaos. That’s what I found in the constellations — clusters of meaning.

Sometimes when you’re writing, you feel like the ideas are out there, but they are remote, as distant as the stars, and you can’t grasp them. They splay across your imagination scattered, unfocused, and unconnected — an arbitrary spray of thoughts like glitter spilled onto black velvet. You feel confused, frustrated at your inability to lock something down, to discern a pattern in the confusion. That blank page/computer screen is a wall that no battering ram of words can crack. The wall has a name: writer’s block.


Gabrielle Rico offers a solution to writer’s block that I have been using for years. Her approach, contained in her classic Writing the Natural Way, is called clustering.

“A non-linear brainstorming process, clustering makes the Design mind’s interior, invisible associations visible on a page. Clustering becomes a self-organizing process as words and phrases are spilled onto the page around a center. The Sign mind begins to see pattern and meaning, and the writing flows naturally into a vignette.”

The first word (Rico calls it the nucleus) is the ideational big bang that creates a creative event horizon for the galaxy of ideas that will spring from it. As you look at the simple clusters on Rico’s website, consider expanding yours to include snippets from songs, quotes from movies, a half-remembered stanza from a childhood poem. The key to the initial phase of effective clustering is variety — allowing your non-linear “right brain” free rein.

Get ready — the words, the images that will proceed from the nucleus idea refuse to march in tight left-brain ranks. They are not orderly, at least not in a conventional sense. Instead, they erupt from their confining stall like a bucking bronco, untamed, wild. Trust this impulsive burst. Don’t inhibit, don’t bridle, don’t edit.

Just ride, and hold on.

Be forewarned, as you cluster your left-brain logical side is going to resist: “Quit goofing around — you’re wasting time. This is stupid. And dangerous. And it doesn’t make sense!” But that’s to be expected because your right brain is speaking a language that is foreign to your left brain. It’s the language of unbridled creativity.

So, put your left brain in time out. We will invite him back later.

For the moment, it’s time to play.



Chunking Your Way to Fluency

Memorization and Practice as Keys to Effective Learning

Illustration by Sam Falconer


“How much should I practice?” It’s a question I get every time I teach Dramatizing Scripture. I always answer, “First of all, football players practice. Actors rehearse!” It’s a snarky way of suggesting to my students that actors breathe a rarefied air—that we are above the Philistine idea of mere practice. Rehearsing, I argued, was meant to be a substantive exercise in discovery and invention.

But that is a flippant and arrogant response. And it’s wrong.

There is a repetitive element to rehearsal that cannot and should not be denied. Not every rehearsal unearths new discoveries. We do not constantly invent. If we did, we would not have time to refine what we have discovered or invented. Rehearsal requires repetition. An actor can’t simply understand a character. He must memorize the lines, or he will soon be out of a job!

The great Russian director Constantin Stanislavski said,

“Rehearsals are taken up, in the main, with the task of finding the right objectives, getting control of them and living with them.”

OK, so “finding” has to do with discovery. But “getting control” has to do with two things: understanding what you have found, and practicing until you have mastered the action. “Living with them” results in a kind of procedural fluency that allows the actor the freedom to focus his relationship with the other actors, and with the audience rather than struggling with the distraction of “what do I say next?”

In her insightful essay, How I rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math, Barbara Oakley demonstrates how cognitive/rational apprehension of a subject (like math) can lead to “an illusion of competence that sets the student up for failure.” The contemporary focus on conceptual understanding of STEM/common core disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)  trumps the older teaching methods of memorization and repetition. But we need more than understanding. Because, as Oakley rightly observes,

“Understanding doesn’t build fluency; rather, fluency builds understanding.”

Oakley grew up reading Madeleine L’Engle and Dostoyevsky. She went on to study language at one of the world’s leading language institutes, and became a translator for the Russians on Soviet trawlers on the Bering Sea. But at 26 she grew eager for something new, so she made the  make the dramatic shift to learning engineering—a discipline which required a lot of math.

Long story short—Oakley learned math. And algebra. And trig. Eventually, she became a professor of engineering at Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan. She learned—became procedurally fluent—in her new discipline the same way she became fluent Russian: through understanding complemented by repetition, and memorization.

Fluency of something whole like a language requires a kind of familiarity that only repeated and varied interaction with the parts can develop.

Fluency required an applied technique called “chunking.”

Chunking was originally conceptualized in the groundbreaking work of Herbert Simon in his analysis of chess—chunks were envisioned as the varying neural counterparts of different chess patterns. Gradually, neuroscientists came to realize that experts such as chess grand masters are experts because they have stored thousands of chunks of knowledge about their area of expertise in their long-term memory. Chess masters, for example, can recall tens of thousands of different chess patterns. Whatever the discipline, experts can call up to consciousness one or several of these well-knit-together, chunked neural subroutines to analyze and react to a new learning situation. This level of true understanding, and ability to use that understanding in new situations, comes only with the kind of rigor and familiarity that repetition, memorization, and practice can foster.

“Fluency with something whole…” that’s what we’re after in the Christian life as well. If we want to gain fluency in our Christian life, if we want to reveal Jesus on the world stage, we need to “chunk”! To familiarize ourselves with His word and His person so that we fluently articulate His character in everything we do and say.

Illustration: Sam Falconer

What Not to Fear

Taming the fear monster...


“To him who is in fear everything rustles.” Sophocles

I didn’t mean to be the fear monster to Rosalyn. It was supposed to be just a game. Rosalyn — then 4 1/2 — wanted to play hide and seek. We played often, and Ollie (my pet name for Ros) loved to be the “seeker.”

She would count to 10 and then I would hear, “Ok, Daddy, here I come!” And I would whisper loudly, “Oh, I hope Ollie doesn’t find me here in the closet in her bedroom!” But this time, I thought, I’ll string things out a little. So when I heard her say, “OK, Daddy, here I come!” I stayed quiet.

“Daaadyyy!” followed by a little laugh.

I tucked myself back into the shadows of our darkened dining room.


Hmm. Maybe a little tension in her voice. No laugh this time.

“Daddy?” Small voice. Scared.

From my hiding place I see her stop in the hallway, right in front of the open dining room door. She paused, took a shaky breath and – I’m not making this up – bowed her head and folded her hands, and prayed in a little whisper: “Dear God – please help me find my Daddy.”

Ollie found her Daddy pretty fast. And then everything was fine. She was smiling, and she gave me a big hug.

She wasn’t fearful if her daddy was with her. Of course, I hadn’t been absent. I was there all along, but Ollie felt like I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I feel like my heavenly Father isn’t there. Or that He doesn’t care. Fear has a way of inducing grace-amnesia. In the middle of a fear-invoking crisis we forget that God loves us and that He is always with us (Matthew 28: 20).

But on this day 15 years ago, a lot of people felt like God had blinked. On 9-12, 2001 people felt alone. Someone had left the door unlocked and some bad people had come into our house. And they had hurt us.

But then, in the persons of our nation’s pastors, God stepped out of the shadows to remind us of those things that we need not fear. Here are just a few from His book of promises to encourage you:

Things not to fear:

Natural disasters: Mark 6:49-52

The World in Chaos: Luke 21:9

Public opinion when following God’s will: Matthew 1:20

Leaving everything behind to follow Jesus: Luke 5:10

Having run out of time for a miracle: Mark 5:36 (this is my favorite)

Those who can kill you: Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5

Philippians 4:6,7 sums it up pretty well. Christians need not fear anything. And here’s the amazing thing. This isn’t an option – it’s a command!  “Christians, listen up. Do not be afraid. Of anything! Instead get your head up and look to your heavenly Father. Talk to Him and be thankful that he’s there to hear you!”

Feeling fearful? Call out to your heavenly Father, and you know what you get? It’s the opposite of fear, and it’s bound up in one of the titles for the Lord Jesus—

“The Prince of Peace.”

So Long

Why 10 Miles Feels Like 10 Light Years

Ranch Sunset Windmill


I knew this was coming. I’d been preparing for it for a few months. In some ways that made it harder.

When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t home. I was in Tahiti trying not to think that, as Lauren and I were snorkeling for the first time ever off the coral reefs of Bora Bora, Evan was being tucked into his carseat and transported to his new home down the road a ways.

Our wise and kind daughter, Rosalyn, had planned it this way. So we wouldn’t have to be there to see them go. She knows how much PoP! here loves to get Evan up in the morning – every morning. For 2 1/2 years I’ve tiptoed up to his door and listened for him to stir, or talk to himself, or sing the Evan and PoP! song. It was the same every morning. I would say, “Hey!” Evan would respond with “Hey you” and then I would go in for hugs, kisses, prayers, the Apostle’s Creed (yes!), and maybe a story.

I love my kids. But it’s different with grandkids. Joy. Freedom from some of the worries that haunt first-timers – also known as parents. I don’t know. I do know that when he looks up at me he sees his PoP! and not a parent. That when he asks for a “combination” (conversation) he prefers more of a monologue – about riding down to the ranch on a big red firetruck with a silver light made out of a magic peach that lights up the magical windmill rocketship with blades that spin so, so fast and sparkly (red, blue, green, yellow, and vermillion) that it takes off for the moon where we meet green moon-men and drink green moon-juice and then fly back through the stars and down through the clouds to land just as Mommy steps out on the back porch with a plate full of warm cookies and ice-cold milk and vanilla ice cream.

His room is empty. The bed is gone. The toys are packed away for the most part.

I walk out onto our deck that juts out into the back yard and I notice a couple of tennis balls hiding away under the sweet potato vine that blankets the rock fountain – two that Evan swung at and missed. He always swings. No such thing as taking a pitch. And I notice the bare spot where he always stood, bat in hand, is starting to grow over with fresh Emerald Zoisia.

The grass, the bat and balls, the bedroom. The house. The front porch rocking chairs. They are reserved for visits now. Now Evan and Ollie (my nickname for Rosalyn) live in her newly renovated home.

Just down the road a bit.

Ten  light years away.


Whither Ethics?

A Primer on Where to Look These Days...


Old man Aristotle had it right. He claimed there are just three basic principles to keep in mind when imbibing the latest draught from the political or entertainment well. Depending on where you dig, you may wind up with fresh water or foul. Best practices and common sense require that you test the water before swallowing.

First of all, know the fellow (or gal) who told you to dig. Is he trustworthy? After all, you are counting on his advice to help you find truth. He wants you to buy what he’s selling, believe in his message, and elect him to office. This is called ethos and it goes right to the fellow’s character.   A man who is ethical is a man who has integrity. He may be incorrect – he may, in all sincerity believe he is a rutabaga – but at the very least you can trust him to give you his version of the truth. He may try to persuade you, but he won’t try to manipulate you. He will give you the truth as he sees it. But that’s as far as ethos will carry you. I don’t want to elect a man who believes he is related to one of the three food groups, no matter how deep his convictions.

That’s why we need principle #2: logos. Logos has to do with the logic of the salesman’s argument. Does it make sense that you should dig your well here? Do you have a seismic survey that indicates there is water down there? In short, is the argument reasonable?

Now we come to the tricky member of this rhetorical trinity: pathos. Pathos appeals to emotion. Of course pathos can be abused. The unethical director can spin an emotional tale that will corkscrew his audience into an emotional pretzel – to swallow his message based on an emotional appeal that is a lie. In a pure appeal to pathos, Leni Riefenstahl paraded ethos in a swastika. In a kind of rhetorical final solution, she crowded logos into a cattle car with the rest of the Jews and made it disappear.

In a pure appeal to pathos reason is reduced to how I feel.

On the other hand, the legitimate use of pathos inspires the reader or viewer or listener to passionate conviction and ultimate action based on the integrity of the speaker (ethos), the logic of his argument (logos) and – here comes pathos – the degree to which the person receiving the message identifies emotionally with the story/message that is true.

There is an inner sense that the emotion of the story is being revealed and not concocted. And that we are being invited to participate intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally in a truth claim. There is a resonance based on a moral premise that rings true and is consistent with natural law (read Stanley Williams’s The Moral Premise).

Ethos. Logos. Pathos. Jesus invites us to come and drink from His well (see John 4). He is trustworthy because he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). He is the divine Logos (John 1:1), the one who perfectly, reasonably reveals the way of eternal life. He is the one who inspires absolute allegiance of intellect, heart, and will.

If you’d looking for ethics these days, you need look no further than Jesus.


Slow Down. Listen. Say no.

Learnin' to Love the Sound of Silence

time-warpTeach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

In the 90th Psalm Moses revealed a keen awareness of our need for wisdom in living out the span of days allotted by the Lord. One unexpected result of learning to “number our days” is that we gain a working knowledge of the difference between the qualitative and quantitative value of time.

Wedged between the rather Muggleish Psalm 90 and Psalm 91 you will find Psalm 90 3/8 (think, Harry’s Platform 9 ¾), and in it a lyrical fragment from the 60’s.

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
– Simon & Garfunkle, Feelin’ Groovy

Time can be measured as a metronome sequence of events (chronos), or as an opportunity (kairos). Moses has chronos in mind when he tells us to “number our days.”

Here’s what we need to do: 1) slow down; 2) listen; 3) learn to say no. Some practical benefits: 1. We will live longer. 2. We will be happier. 3. We will discover that we actually do better work! 4. Suddenly those closest to us will come into focus. Once the fog of distraction clears it’s like, “really, where have you all been?!”

The instrument of instruction during my slowing-down periods has been music. Music can keep us from the peril of missed opportunities. That’s what Paul is warning us to guard against.

Another “Paul”— modern day secular prophet and lyricist Paul Simon—captures the essence of the missed opportunity in his lament, “Slip Slidin’ Away:”

I know a father
He had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done

He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

It’s hard to stay sensitive to opportunities when the world, the flesh, and our enemy are screaming in our ears. The resulting cacophony dulls us to the beauty of silence where we can attune our hearts to the still small voice of God. C. S. Lewis understood that part of Satan’s strategy is simply to fill our lives with distracting noise:

We will make the whole universe a noise in the end….
The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.
But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, #22

It doesn’t matter how much time you invest in living your life if you squander the days you’ve been given on junk.

So, it all comes down to choices.
We choose to count, to remind ourselves of the brevity of our lives a la Moses.
We choose to redeem the time a la Paul.

Slow. Down.

You may be surprised that you emerge from that intentional pause in which you kicked down a few cobble stones feelin’ — you know.

Swayed by Tahitian Waters

Yet another lesson in maintaining balance

Tahiti & Bora Bora

Yep, the Lord called me to a ministry in Tahiti! Took me about 1/2 second to accept Chuck Swindoll’s gracious invitation to join him on a four-masted sailing ship that would cruise the islands. I would be performing Bible characters along the way.

One of them was Jonah, a new character for me. Old Jonah wasn’t called to paradise. He was called to go to Assyrian Nineveh. About as far from paradise as you’re going to get. And he did NOT want to go. In fact he headed the other way, only to be stopped by the Lord while on board a ship.

But who wouldn’t want to go to the South Pacific? When you think of Tahiti you may well conjure coral reefs ringing black sand beaches with shallow lagoons filled with iridescent rainbow fish and near-transparent eels with coal black button eyes. You may be able to feel the feathery touch of balmy breezes that carry just a whisper of coolness. You can almost smell the fragrance of a thousand tropical flowers. And that’s just the way it is. Tahiti is as close as you’re going to come to paradise.

On the island.

What you may not be aware of is that there’s a lot of what is ironically called the Pacific Ocean between the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia where we find Tahiti. There isn’t much that’s pacific, or peaceful, about some of those waters. The technical name for the dramatic movement of a ship caught in rough swells is called “sway.” So there I was, reciting the lines of God’s reluctant prophet, Jonah who found himself in the gut of an enormous fish—wondering if I might be in for the same fate. And I wasn’t even running from the Lord!

You should have seen me as I was performing Jonah—trying to maintain my balance and remember my lines as the ship was swaying back and forth—praying I wouldn’t tip over. I looked out the portholes on the starboard side and all I saw was gray sky. Five seconds later we tilted back and out the port side all I could see was water crashing against the thick glass. Thanks to a heavy stool they pushed out onto the stage for me I managed to avoid stumbling into the laps of the seasick seafarers to starboard or the green-gilled patrons to port!

The Lord graciously sustained me, though many passengers (including my sweetheart, Lauren) got seasick and stayed that way for more than 10 hours—all through the rest of the night. I should say “nights” because this was the first of two!

There was a good lesson here. There are going to be rough seas ahead.

I thought of another boat scene. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. Unlike Jonah, they were in the midst of obeying God when they encountered a life-threatening storm (Mark 8:33). Tumbling waves—even if they were going where He told them to go.

The same holds true for us today.

The good news is that He is with us. Always (Matthew 28:20). In the fish. On the boat. He is with us wherever we go.

Even between the islands of paradise, where the water can get rough.