Saturday Photo Prompt | Behind You!

jmspp_logoLook at the picture below and write a 100 word story. It really is that simple.

If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.

I can’t wait to see what you write!

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Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t travel to foreign countries all that often. Also, that I don’t resemble any celebrities too closely. Because I would totally try stuff like this.
  2. What’s the coolest new sport that I would actually watch? This.
  3. Why are Christian films so often bad? Because they place goodness over greatness. This whole article offers a great point-of-view for would-be Christian art makers.
  4. Lord, bless book-lovers and their penchant for civil disobedience, especially when regulations don’t make any sense at all.
  5. I was voted Class Kiss-Up in high school. I had my reasons.


Buying Books to Help Children Grieve & Showing a Faith Worth Following

Just days after attending the Bev Smith’s funeral, her husband Eric stopped by Baker Book House. Eric didn’t know that I worked at Baker and it was by chance (divine appointment?) that I was on the sales floor when he came in. Since this is my final week at Baker Book House, I’ve been holed up in my office madly finishing marketing pieces for the remainder of 2015. But there I was, and there he was.

After a ginger hug (he’s still pretty bruised from the accident), he told me that he was looking for some books to help his kids through the grieving process. After looking at the different options, these are the books that he ended up with:

9780834128385When a Child You Love is Grieving by Harold Ivan Smith | 9780834128385 | Acts of caring and compassion can make all the difference in a grieving child’s life. Adults can often worry about saying and doing the right thing, too often giving children quick answers instead of the support they really need. Widely-recognized grief specialist Harold Ivan Smith explains that quick answers are not what children need when they are grieving. They need support, and most of all they need to be allowed to grieve-for as long as it takes. With an ABC-like approach, Smith offers insights and activities for the parent, teacher, or friend-anyone that loves a child and wants to offer his or her support.

9780962050206When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegard | 9780962050206 | This book was designed to teach basic concepts of death and help children understand and express the many feelings they have when someone special dies. Communication is increased and coping skills are developed as they illustrate their books with their personal story.

I hope these help. They seem pretty practical and I really like the idea of doing the children’s book together and illustrating memories of the one who died.

With books in hand, our conversation turned to a conversation that he and Bev shared on their way home from New Jersey. After listening to a radio sermon on evangelism, Eric and Bev both agreed that if the gospel of Christ could be furthered better by their death than their life, that they would both be willing to die. This was the day before the accident.

During the funeral, the pastor mentioned Bev’s renewed fervor for evangelism, encouraging us to pick up where she left off. He encouraged us to show God’s love to those around us.

As of this post, more than 5,000 people have read my “We are too young to buy caskets” post, which is thousands more than my typical post reach. I don’t think this number has anything to do with my writing ability. I think that Bev’s death is affecting people, and I hope that we can all follow Bev and Eric’s example of faith.

Eric told me that he was encouraged by the fact that God himself knows death and loss, but chooses to love us anyway. May we be encouraged to take that love to others and to seize every opportunity to be the gospel.

Icebreaker #2 | If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

This is the second installment of my Icebreaker series. So in case you don’t know me by now, you’ll finally get your chance. (For further reading, feel free to brush up on the rest of the posts on this blog. There are a few.)

If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

There are so many superpowers out there. If you can’t think of one, just watch an X-Men movie or two. You’ll get the idea.

A lot of people pick flight as their chosen power, but not me. I mean, I wouldn’t turn down the option to fly, but that wouldn’t be my first pick.

I’ve always been enamored with the notion of stopping time. I blame a television show from the 80’s for starting this desire. The show was Out of this World and the main character was a girl who could freeze time by touching her index fingers together. It wasn’t particularly well-received (The book Television Without Pity described it as “quite possibly the worst sitcom ever made-it’s a complete failure on every level,” and the Splitsider website called it “perhaps the worst sitcom ever, or at least the most ’80s sitcom ever”.), but it did light a spark of interest in my fertile mind.

I would also settle for slowing time down quite a bit, in the style of Marvel’s Quicksilver (Magneto’s son who made an appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past).

The problem that I see with being able to stop time would be that I would have trouble moving freely. If time is frozen, then the objects around me would be locked in place as well, akin to an object in a frozen pool. And if I did manage to move something, there’s a good chance that the relative speed with which the object would be moved in real time would probably cause that item to burst into flame.

But superpowers aren’t real anyway, and if they were, they would probably allow some wiggle room in the laws of physics.

This is not ministry.

It’s story time, kids!

A poor man needed some help covering his bills, so he asked a friend for $50. The friend lent him the money and the man promised to pay him back.

On his way home, the poor man passed a homeless man and gave the man the$50 he had just received.The next day, the friend came by and asked for the money back.

“I don’t have your money,” said the poor man. “I gave it to a homeless man. Can you forget about the money I owe you? After all, it went toward a good cause, right?”

The End.

That’s the simplified version of what is going on now with Family Christian Stores, who recently filed for bankruptcy in order to cut their debts and reorganize as a tax-exempt ministry, giving their profits (after business expenses) to their ministry arm.

A Family Christian Store at 3150 Alpine Ave. N.W. is shown in this file photo. (File photo | Mlive Media Group)

A Family Christian Store at 3150 Alpine Ave. N.W. is shown in this file photo. (File photo | Mlive Media Group)

Family Christian Stores owes $75 million dollars to its creditors. You can read about recent courtroom proceedings here.

In a recent video about the bankruptcy, Family’s CEO promised that no stores would close and no employees would be laid off.

There are a number of things that I don’t understand about the case:

  • Why would any of the suppliers who are having their debt written off continue to do business with Family Christian?
  • How do they hope to do any better than their current situation without making any changes to their stores or staff?
  • And, perhaps most perplexing, how is it responsible to cheat creditors out of millions in the name of giving to the needy?

This whole case leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I really hope that non-Christians won’t judge the Christian bookstore industry by the actions of Family Christian Stores. This is not ministry. This is shady business trying to be covered by a church robe.

I am a collector of random things.

I’ve always been a pack-rat. I have largely given this up the years after my marriage. But I forgot until recently just how many collections I had, because my dad just dropped off a plastic bin full of some old “collectables” that I had forgotten at his place.

Let’s see what we have here.


That’s a big pile of stuff. Let’s look closer.


Here’s more of my hat collection. Yes, that’s a Days of Thunder hat from when the movie came out in 1990. I’m almost sure that I didn’t see this then, but I must have shown interest in a movie about racecar driving. Also, there’s a Days of Thunder t-shirt that came in the bin that isn’t pictured here. Jealous?


Next we have my sugar packet collection. In the same way that other people find commemorative shot glasses to remember their trips to exotic locales, I took sugar packets from restaurants. The advantage of sugar packets is that they are free and easily packed. The disadvantage is that I don’t really remember which ones came from where, so the point of saving them is somewhat diminished.


As a representative of a larger (and mostly given away) collection, here’s a stuffed bear. I had quite a large collection of stuffed animals growing up. And in possibly the saddest part of my childhood, I called them my friends.

Sitting in front of the bear is a Mountain Dew bottle of unknown provenance.


Here are some nice model cars. Cars were a big thing in my house growing up. In fact, our garage was larger than our house. I now live in a house that is larger than the garage and my folks have moved into different houses (though my dad’s is still smaller than the garages (multiple).


What’s better than big metal models? Tiny ones! Yes, Micro Machines were the coolest. I can’t believe I never unboxed these. I still have quite a collection of loose ones that I’ve been storing. Maybe I’ll have to take those out now that my kids are old enough to probably not put them directly into their mouths.


I don’t remember collecting baseball cards as a fan might, since I never watched baseball or played baseball or knew anything about baseball really. I think I just got hooked on the idea that boys should have baseball card collections. Do I maybe have something valuable in this pile? I’d have no way of knowing.

And here is a pile of trophies from my years in Awana, mostly from the Awana Grand Prix. It certainly didn’t hurt that my dad managed a hobby shop and knew quite a lot about Pinewood Derby cars.


Last, we have a relic and a warning to early adopters of technology. This box once housed the newest and best in Compact Disc Players. Notice the price tag from Best Buy of $129.99. This is just a CD player with headphones, a cigarette lighter DC supply, and a cassette adapter. They don’t even call them cigarette lighters now. And no self-respecting car has a cassette player anymore. This product on today’s shelf probably costs one tenth of this price, but back in 1996, this was the going price of being awesome.

Not included in the plastic bin are my rock collection, my fake Dr Pepper collection, and a collection of broken hearts from every girl in my high school. Okay, not that last one.

What did you collect? Care to make me an offer on anything you see here?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Since I announced this week that I’ll be leaving my bookstore job for one in publishing, I thought this might be a nice link to share. I will say that Baker Book House doesn’t have many of the things on this list, because, you know, we’re one of the good Christian bookstores, but still.
  2. What if George Lucas really did have a plan for Star Wars 7 all along? Mark Hamill has a tale to tell.
  3. Irony in the oil business.
  4. You’ve probably heard all about how Harper Lee is releasing a second book all these years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Well, there’s another part of the story you may have missed.
  5. I don’t usually post political stuff, but this was pretty interesting. See how the presidential job approval ratings stack up over time.


We are too young to buy caskets.

We are too young to buy caskets. We are too young to buy urns or burial plots or headstones.

We will always be too young. It doesn’t matter how old we are. We are too much alive to consider death until it strikes us where we live. Though it has been the fate of mankind for century upon century, it is always, somehow, a surprise.

We comfort ourselves and our loss by saying that the deceased is somewhere better, somewhere beyond pain and grief. We wish that we could be there with them beyond such human experiences, but that’s not how this works. We are bound up with the passage of time. And time is the double-edged sword that takes our loved ones then heals the wound.

Or maybe not heals, because scar tissue is never the same, but it covers. And having had to buy a casket already, I can tell you that it does cover.

smith_famMy heart goes out to Eric Smith, a friend and former classmate who lost his wife, Bev, and their unborn baby girl, Grace, in a tragic car accident on February 14th, 2015.

I graduated high school with Bev and Eric. Bev was the sweet, smart, smiling-girl who brightened any room she walked into. Eric was the loping, good-natured guy who was not nearly as good-looking or smart as Bev. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wondered how he got to be with her. But when I look at my wife and myself, I know that other people are asking the same question.

But the question on people’s minds now is more likely to be, “How can this happen?” How is it possible or fair or just or okay for good people–parents, children, siblings, friends, co-workers–to die in the prime of life? How is it right for death to take even babies who haven’t even experienced life?

Contrary to many trite greeting cards or well-meaning Scripture-quoting strangers, it isn’t right or good or fair. There are no easy answers to questions like these. If there is comfort to be had in times of loss, it is that the separation is not permanent. The tricky part is in not separating ourselves from the living, from those who love us, in our grief.

I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a wife and the mom of my kids. I’m not going to try. What I am going to do is pray for Eric, pray for his two kids, for his and Bev’s extended family, and join in the grieving myself. Now isn’t the time to be chipper about God’s goodness. Now is the time to know that even God experienced death and loss. And because of that, we can have hope.

We are still too young for all of this, and none of it is right. All we can do is love while time does its job of moving on.

If you are interested in learning more about Bev or contributing to the memorial fund in her honor, details can be found in her obituary.

Icebreaker #1 | What do you like to read?

Since I posted last week about the icebreaker questions that I ask of others, I thought it would only make sense to answer them myself. So in case you don’t know me by now, you’ll finally get your chance. (For further reading, feel free to brush up on the rest of the posts on this blog. There are a few.)

What do I like to read?

When I read new books, I gravitate toward fiction, mostly fantasy-based. It all started in middle-school when I picked up my father’s copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, which is really the gateway book to nerdier books like The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. After that, there was no turning back and the next thing I knew I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis’ other masterpiece, The Space Trilogy. Harry Potter followed. Then the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Then the Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix. And on and on.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am a nerd for this reading list. In fact, I like who I am. Deal with it.

4_writers_vonnegutWhen I reread, I find myself in the books of Kurt Vonnegut. It’s actually kind of an obsession, but one that reminds me to treat others with kindness and love, so it probably isn’t all that bad. Plus, Vonnegut was a really good writer. People could do worse than read his books over and over and over again. And often, people do.

So it goes.