Hubpages Has Gone Too Far

Remember that old Wendy’s commercial where the old lady says “Where’s the beef?” Well, I found my beef and it’s with Hubpages. Some time ago they came under new ownership or management (not sure which) and they have made some changes that make me and all the other writers annoyed and disappointed. First, they set a time limit and how long comments are open. Then they put up a gigantic annoying video on every article written at the top: NOW PLAYING: WELCOME to HUBPAGES. It’s a 1:28 minute advertisement trying woo people to write for them. Then they added pop-ups. And now, they have turned off comments. No one can comment on anything. I have no idea what their reasoning is but it’s hurting a lot of writers.

I’ve been with the content site Hubpages for eleven years now and I don’t recognize it anymore. Although I love writing and making a little money from it, what excited me most was the community. I have friends all over the world from Hubpages. For years we followed one another and commented on each other’s work and received encouragement. I couldn’t wait to read Dora Weither’ inspiring articles and talk with her and the others who commented about what she wrote. I miss commenting on Bill Holland’s weekly column, The Writer’s Mailbag. I miss being able to comment on William Kovacic’s wonderful fiction series, and I miss hearing from everyone about my work. I miss asking Linda Lum about her amazing cooking articles. I miss discussing Pamela Ogelby’s health articles. But that’s not all comments are about. We also talk about our lives, where we live, what’s going on in our lives, and more than anything, I miss the camaradery.

I love reading books my Hub Homies write. Don’t know how I’ll find out about them unless they put it in an article. I miss getting their advice on my work and giving mine when asked for. I miss the exchange of knowledge on writing and publishing. I miss hearing how their families are doing, how their health problems are going, what kind of weather they are having in other parts of the country and around the world. I miss hearing about the culture some of the people live in. I used to converse with people in Australia, India, the Caribbean, Shri Lanka, and many more. Now I can’t. At least we can still email, but I don’t think it will happen often enough. I must be more intentional about it myself.

Through the years there a few people I keep in touch with via email anyway. But I want my community back.

Years ago I wrote for a content site called Writers had specific topics they wrote about, and their titles went along with their field of interest. I was Lori Colbo, Mental Health Examiner. It was not that fun because I never heard from anyone because they didn’t have a comments section. I couldn’t converse with outsiders or other writers. There were few options to talk to the powers that be, whomever they were. I had no idea if anyone ever read my articles because you can’t track them. At least at Hubpages, we can. Writer’s write because they have something to say and want it to be of benefit to others. Examiner said writers get paid, but I never earned a dime. Never knew other writers. It was like writing into empty air.

Suddenly they began to fill all their articles with multiple pop-ups to make money. It became mass confusion just to read one article. It reminded me of that carnival game where the balls come up out of holes and you bop them down. People don’t like pop-ups. It spoils their reading experience and they get frustrated and leave before reading. This put them out of business very quickly.

My very first online writing venue was back in the early 2000s. It was called Suite 101. I loved writing there. It was exciting to be writing for the first time publicly. It was a training ground for me. I had nothing to compare it to, but I remember I could talk to the editors personally. They were so encouraging, guided me, and fielded my questions. I don’t recall comments or being involved with the community, but it was so long ago. Unfortunately, they went out of business also. I don’t know why. I also wrote for some fly-by-night called E-Zine. I didn’t like it for all the reasons I didn’t like Examiner, but I wrote there to gain experience. They went out of business also. None of those held a candle to Hubpages. It’s been around for fifteen years. That my friends is remarkable.

With all my complaining, I still have to say it’s the best outlet I am aware of. Here is a bullet list I still appreciate:

  • There are lots of support and help forums. Sometimes you get an email getting questions answered. It has
  • Your Profile page shows all of your articles and you can spotlight six articles.
  • If your article is of high quality, it will be bumped up to a niche site where it will be seen more.
  • You can make money. They have a couple of different ad program options. I personally don’t make much because I don’t write on topics like cooking, travel, medicne, household or auto repair type of topics. They also have Amazon earnings and a monthly report.
  • There is an Article Statistics page. You can track all your articles for daily, weekly, and monthly, and all time views. We used to be able to track comments. We can track several aspects of our earnings. And we can track our traffic sources.
  • The settings can be set for notifications.
  • There is a Legend that gives you all kinds of information and notifications. It shows red and blue arrows to show if your traffic is increasing or decreasing on individual articles. It also has icons to reveal broken links, copyright (someone may have copied your article), if you have violations, disabled ads, and feature status.
  • We can follow people or topics or both. Unfortunately, we can’t communicate except through email now. Not everyone is open to that for security reasons so it’s nice we can chose in our settings.
  • You can write about whatever you want. They of course do not allow content on sleazy topics regarding sexual matters, drugs (except medicianal), and too much profanity.
  • Hubpages is not woke, partisan, conservative or liberal. They don’t cancel, fact-check, or care what side of all things COVID you write about. They welcome all views on major political and cultrual issues of the day. They do encourage writers to write factually, cite their sources for photos, and sometimes of professional content. They have a disclaimer feature also.
  • Their rules are fair.

I started out complaining about Hubpages, and I missed a few minor things. Then I proceeded to list all its good features. I guess I’m trying to hold onto the good things. But just to say, at least HP is far better than any other site I’ve written for and has outlasted them. My fear is that their current drastic changes will either put them (and us) out of business and /or continue to make writers more frustrated. Nothing is perfect. But I miss my HP community.

Content Thief Sleaze Ball Strikes Again

I have to rewrite this post because I am not allowed to name the creepo thief who stole my article word for word, photo for photo, callout to callout. This has happened before but they are usually people from other countries who use broken English, poor grammar, and get word order wrong. Most of the time I can get them to take my article down. But this guy lives in Pennsylvania and had the audacity to copy and paste it on his blog under his name. His blog has ads which means he gets paid, just like I do on Hubpages. If they don’t get paid I don’t get too crazy, but if money is coming in for them, that’s another sotry. I left a comment telling him he’s a sleaze ball and stole my article. He took my comment down immediately.

His phone number and email are posted so he will be hearing from me until he takes it down. I suspect his photo is phony also. He wrote a book or two. I hope he didn’t steal them. Now that I think about it, I think I remember seeing his photo before. These kinds of people find a photo of someone, often times in another country and use it as theirs. I will look into it further. Guys like him are lazy fraud cowards. That’s all I have to say.

The Comedy World Has Become a Cesspool

After show clowning. I wasn’t as happy as I looked.

I had a devastating, traumatic evening yesterday, and it has left me reeling and a bit discouraged and cynical. As some may know, I love to perform stand up comedy. I’ve been doing it for seven years but I’ve only performed maybe ten or eleven times. I love doing it. My venues have always been corporate events, fund raisers, a couple of church gigs, and things of that nature. I met a woman recently who does comedy. We met for coffee and she told me about her experiences at open mics at the Tacoma Comedy Club. I’ve always avoided clubs because I know there aren’t many clean comedians there, and as a Christian woman I did not want to be connected to that. But it’s been so long since I performed and I’ve been chomping at the bit to do it again and I decided to try it just once, a decision I deeply regret. The woman told me one of her jokes and I winced. It was awkward. It was about her private parts. I just said I work clean and she said she does too. Hmm, I think not.

I was number 15 on the roster out of 18, so I had to listen to over an hour of the most vile material I have ever heard. A thousand F-bombs were bad enough, almost every act mentioned body parts in every imaginable situation, and countless kinky sex comments (I can’t call them jokes). It was far worse than I could ever have imagined. The most perverted acts of the evening were so horrifying I wanted to flee but I had six friends who came out to support me and I decided to stay (another bad decision). The first one talked about grandma doing unspeakable sex acts with grandchildren. People laughed like crazy. I don’t get it. I’m a mother and grandmother and it grieved my spirit and made me very angry. The other one was a man who said he likes target shooting with his guns but hasn’t had the opportunity since COVID because all the schools were closed. There was a collective gasp in the crowd, and loud groans, and sadly, some laughter. It was a terrible shock wave. The young male ( I refuse to use the term “Man”) was so pleased with himself for having shocked the crowd, a pathological smile spread across his face. His eyes showed a sick thrilled expression. He needs to be in therapy or even jail.

It was made clear by a few people that old people don’t deserve to live on the planet. Everyone was young. I will be 65 in another week or so and I was the oldest person in the lineup by a couple of decades except for one man I will mention shortly. I knew I didn’t fit in and my material wouldn’t meet their lack of standards. The whole experience was like stumbling into a porn theater by mistake, or falling into a cesspool or septic tank. The images are hard to shed.

Several people before me announced they were gay and it started to feel like I was in a gay bar and very out of place, but then again, I was out of place in every way. So when it was my turn I tossed my planned opening line and spontaneously quipped, “I’m old, straight, and treat my grandchildren with respect, so I guess I’m in the wrong comedy club.” It got a big laugh. My message was I don’t fit in. Because I was so shaken by the vile smut and realizing my material and age wouldn’t go off well I went blank a few times and bumbled my way through my routine. Yes, I got some laughs, but not many. They didn’t laugh at some of the places other audiences have laughed at in the past. It was such a strange night. All professional comedians will tell you that bombing is part of the package. I felt a little embarrassed because friends had come to see me. But I was more shook up by the depravity in the material. There was one man who calls himself Skippy Sprinkles who was the only other clean comedian. He was precious. He was a big guy, probably close to my age, and had a traumatic brain injury. He was dressed in loud colors. His speech was a bit difficult and he had to read his jokes, but my goodness, he had everyone rolling in the aisles. Not one dirty, or even suggestive joke. He was a big hit. After the show I asked it we could get a picture together and told him I loved his set. He was so kind to me and said he loved mine too.

Skippy Sprinkles and me after the show. A mutual admiration society.

It clearly was very poor judgment to perform in a club with no standards whatsoever. I will not do another club again unless it’s a clean one. As a Christian, God-fearing women, I sensed the grief of the Holy Spirit and knew in my spirit He was saying “You have no business being here.” I agree and I felt so filthy when I got home, I had to spend time in prayer, asking God to forgive me. I think God gave me the gift of being funny, but I should not say things or work somewhere that would displease Him.

Today I have been so sad that people today find the vilest perversion to be good comedy. Why is killing school children and perverted grandmas appreciated as good comedy, and graphic comments about private parts considered funny? These people have no clue that everyday life is full of material that doesn’t require you to douse and spew your mouth with filth. I love Ellen Degeneres’s stand up. It is clean and hysterical. She can slay us with a routine about going to the movies and ordering food at the concessions stand, or little mundane silly things we do. Bill Cosby was family friendly and one of the greats (I realize his character and jail time is a sad end, but it doesn’t take away from his brilliant comedy). I could take my grandkids to one of their shows. But so many of the comics today I’m told are filthy. Smut is cheap, lazy, and sick. I told my sister and best friend that if I knew anything about business, I would start a clean comedy club. There is one on the internet called Dry Bar and it’s all clean material. I watch it often. I will put links at the end. Why did I write about comedy on a blog about writing? Because jokes are written, creative work. That’s it.

That’s my time, as they say in comedy. Your comments are most welcome.

CLEAN COMEDY ALL THE TIME Dry Bar Website Dry Bar YouTube Channel

How My Taste in Fiction Genres Has Evolved

My Worldview

When I was a kid I read all kinds of different books. I read the traditional young children’s books, Dr. Seuss, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Rabbit, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, all the traditionals, and in middle to upper elementary grades I read The Box Car Children, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, many of the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, etc. But I loved biographies about baseball players, presidents, men and women who made a difference in the world throughout history. I loved reading about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, particularly their lives growing up. During high school I read many other classic books and got turned onto Shakespeare and poetry. That was also the time when I became obsessed with Erma Bombeck. I read every book she ever wrote and many of her columns, as well as her TV appearances. I remember laughing so hard one time I was pouring copious tears and holding my aching stomach. She was brilliant. My sister Jamey said I have a wit like her when I write. That is not intentional, but certainly her brand of humor was a big influence on how I see the world. When I hit adulthood I read mostly chick novels. Many were romance stories (a genre I hate now) and historical novels. I remember a book called Sacajewea (a novel) by Anna Lee Waldo. Utterly fascinating. One scene that stuck with me is how she washed her hair at the river by wetting it and rubbing sand in it, then rinsing it out. That was the native American way, at least the tribe she came from. I learned so much about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and it was a novel.

I got really caught up in Danielle Steele, a romance writer. Barf. In my 30s I got into Christian novels that read like Hallmark movies. Barf. I can’t stand those kind of books anymore. I discovered Francine Rivers, and amazing Christian novelist I still respect. Her famous book, Redeeming Love was a parallel story of the book of Hosea in the Bible where God told the prophet to marry a prostitute. It took place in the 1800s. It was a thick book but a riveting story. Then I took a turn and read the Little House on the Prairie and Anne Green Gables series’. I can read those over and over. I will never tire of them. I also discovered Jane Austen. I remember once trying to read Anna Karenina. As riveting an epic as it was, I just can’t read a book that fat – 864 pages, come on.

About 11 or 12 years ago I was introduced to Brock and Bodie Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee), who write award winning historical novels. Brock, the husband, is a messianic Jew and does the extensive research and contributes to the story line. Bodie, his wife, is a Christian woman who once wrote scripts for Hollywood. She writes the stories and I have learned a lot about writing through reading her books. They are known for writing book series and what is remarkable is that most of the series are connected, usually through the prologue. It is really amazing. The Zion Chronicles novel series covers the events surrounding Israel’s statehood in 1948, something I knew nothing about. By reading their Zion Covenant series I learned Hitler’s strategy and tactics to enter and take over Europe. I learned the big players his regime and their roles. All of this done through well rounded characters and edge of your seat plot.

They wrote the A.D. series about the time of Jesus. The author’s bring all the people in the gospels into the series and make them come alive. Every series, every book is a sweeping saga, brilliantly written. After reading almost every series they’ve ever written (I am re-reading the Zion Covenant series now) my taste in novel genres has changed drastically. I want to read books of substance and depth, not flowery love stories or books that are interesting but not riveting.

Several years ago I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. I’ve read them two or three times. Other books of Lewis I love are The Screwtape Letters about an Uncle demon named Screwtape who writes to his nephew Wormwood to teach him how to be a good demon and bring Christians down. Anything by Lewis, non fiction or fiction is genius.

Recently some ladies in our church started a book club. I joined but have been disappointed sometimes. They started with a Hallmarky type book by a very popular Christian author so I declined to read that one. I used to devour that woman’s books. Then we read a Brock and Bodie Thoene story, then a great novel called Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody. Another riveting historical novel about Holland in WWII. It’s also a coming of age story, a small town boy grows up when he goes to war. Now we are reading another Hallmark book by another author I ready voraciously 30 years ago. I have been scratching my head because of the way she writes. Another romance book but I find her wording strange. Parts of it our interesting but I’m rather bored. I will continue reading because I paid for it. I hope we will be reading in many genres. Did I mention I don’t like Hallmark type movies, TV series, or books? When I tell women that they say how much they adore them. The men always roll their eyes and yawn. Why don’t I like them? They are so predictable it’s ridiculous, it’s always a love story, and it always has a happily ever after ending. Oh, and their Christmas movies, endless. I looked through a menu of their Christmas movies and was amazed how many titles they came up with using “Holiday” or “Christmas.” People that like these movies like them because of their happy predictable endings. That’s okay. It’s not bad or wrong to love Hallmark. It’s just not my thing. Life is not full of tidy bows (I almost wrote tidy bowls, lol). It will be interesting to see the next change in genres I will get into. But for now, my favorite type of fiction is historical, or dramatic books that keeps me on the edge of my sea or reaches the depths of my soul. I am not for horror stuff, but I love a good mystery. My favorite non-fiction is biographies and books on issues that are important to me. For a while I was reading a series of comic proportions called Miss Julia books. They were fluff but I needed the laughter and oh my did I laugh. A cranky woman of a certain age and all her antics and drama. Sometimes you just need something light.

All this reminds me of the evolution of magazines. When I was very small it was Humpty Dumpty, followed by Highlights, the Weekly Reader (I’m dating myself aren’t I. I know your heart’s beating with sentimentality), then Tiger Beat and all the other teen magazines, then Redbook, then Better Homes and Garden, and Parents. Then I got hooked on People, then Readers Digest. And now? I get a thrill when I see a copy of AARP. All the iconic idols of my growing up years, like Bruce Springsteen, are on the cover with deeply etched crows feet. I will be 65 in a few months. My son called me elderly last summer. I nearly slapped him, but I know he was just grasping for a word and that popped out. He felt bad. But I told him in 4 years he’ll start being offered senior discounts. Lol.

At my age, and with a case of Macular Degeneration waiting to come into bloom, I am just grateful to be able to read at all, and I’m thankful for audio books which I will need one day. Let me end by saying I would rather spend three hours in a book store or library than going to the beach or a Macy’s sale. I would rather inhale the scent of books than a salty breeze. Am I weird? I don’t care.

If you are interested in the Thoene books here is their website: or you can find them here on Amazon

Lyrics About My Comforter

Back in the early 2000s I was in the beginning stages of PTSD. I was tormented night after night after night with traumatic nightmares, and flashbacks accosted me frequently out of nowhere. The nightmares clung to my psyche and created great emotional turmoil during the day. My then pastor and his wife were walking very closely with me through this nightmarish journey. In an act of compassion, they gave me a CD with a single song, Jesus King of Angels by Fernando Ortega to bring me comfort. I remember my CD player then could be set to play a CD over and over again. At night as I lie down, I would turn it on and it helped immensley. Fernando Ortega is a poet. His songs are melodic and reflective. I cannot hear the song today without tears. It was almost as if he wrote them specifically for my situation.

Jesus King of Angels is a prayer by a person needing comfort and freedom from the dark oppression of Satan’s ploys. Ortega recognizes and proclaims the power and sovereignty of God; Our God who loves us enough to fight for us; how much the writer loves and trusts his Savior and rejoices in Him.

Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light
Shine Your face upon this house tonight
Let no evil come into my dreams
Light of Heaven keep me in Your peace

Remind me how You made dark spirits flee
And spoke Your power to the raging sea
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man
Remind me Jesus, this is what I am

The universe is vast beyond the stars
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls
And mindful of the anxious thoughts
That find me, surround me and bind me

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord
Tomorrow let me love You even more
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name
Until I close my eyes and sleep again

The universe is vast beyond the stars
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls
And mindful of the anxious thoughts
That find me, surround me and bind me

Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light
Hold my hand and keep me through this night

To hear the song you can find it here.

And now my prayer for those who are suffering and oppressed.

Father, how we rejoice in the midst of our suffering that you are with us as our Protector, Healer, Warrior, and Savior. Thank you for Your power and glory, Your faithfulness, Your everlasting love, that You will never leave us nor forsakes us as the Bible tells us. Help us Lord to trust You with all our hearts.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct Your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Gracious Heavenly Father, we commend our broken selves to Your care with hearts oftrust and faith. In Christ name, Amen!

Musings From My Sick Bed

Yes, I am sick in bed. I suspect I have COVID. My test results won’t be in for 3 to 5 days. If it is COVID, I have a pretty light case of it. Today is day 5, I think. No fever is a blessing. Having a fever is what makes a person feel so miserable. I have a few other symptoms but it could well be I just have a bug that’s going around. Though I feel crappy during the day, as soon as the sun goes down I feel much worse. Have you ever noticed illness, injury, post surgery, mental and emotional problems, worry, are always worse at night? Some would say that is because things are quieter at night with fewer distractions. I’ve always been intrigued by this. I figured your body chemicals change at night, and since I have all the time in the world, I looked it up today. Here is what I found, in case you’re interested:

This comes from Intercoastal Medical Group website.

Research shows that our bodies are on a 24-hour clock called a circadian rhythm. Hormone levels fluctuate, increasing and decreasing within this daily cycle. Cortisol, a hormone made by the adrenal glands, helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure. It also helps the body manage stress.

In addition, cortisol helps your immune system function properly and reduce inflammation. In other words, it helps you fight off infection and sickness.

More cortisol circulates in your blood during the day, which suppresses your immune system. This means that your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, are less active during the day.

At night, there is less cortisol in your blood. As a result, your white blood cells readily detect and fight infections in your body at this time, provoking the symptoms of the infection to surface, such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating. Therefore, you feel sicker during the night.

The doctor goes go on to say that less distractions at night also contribute, and the position of your body. Lying down often makes your pain or sickness feel worse. So there you have it.

It is now 5:17 P.M. and it’s dusk. The wind is blowing and the rain is pouring. Apparently it has for the past few days. I’m glad I’m sitting up and writing this post, because very shortly I will be miserable until daylight tomorrow. I know, what does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing. But now I will talk about writing.

Yesterday I was able to write a whole chapter, a great accomplishment when you’re sick. I wrote a few paragraphs a while ago for the next chapter. Today I felt worse than yesterday but writing from a sickbed is a new experience for me. I don’t believe I’ve ever done it before. For the past month or so some new ideas for the next novel have been rolling around in my head. I have the time to think about it and figure out some of the particulars. I usually write by the seat of my pants. I have a simple idea and run with it as I go along with only one character in mind, and it’s all pretty shallow. Then I get out my keyboard and let the story unfold. I feel for this next project I need to write down and plot a few things first. Nothing extensive, just enough to know the main characters and their circumstances, and one aspect of the conflict they will face. By now I’ve learned that is very helpful. So what do I have right now? Not enough but its a good start.

It will be a period piece, 1800s or maybe during WWII or the great depression. How’s that for clarity? I’m leaning heavily toward the 1800s. The protagonist is a child, Gideon Orr, who comes from a troubled home. He’s overwhelmed by things at home but has a wild imagination, infinite curiosity, and hearty lust for life. He forges a relationship with an older man, Herkimer Yates. Yes, Herkimer is a name. My dad had some distant uncle named Herkimer and I found the name intriguing. Herkimer will be short and walk with a limp, but have a strong and powerful upper body as a result of his labor job. I’m trying to decide what his labor will be. A farm hand? A blacksmith? I don’t know. I like the blacksmith idea. It’s been on my mind since I looked into the song lyrics in my last post. I am fascinated with the art. Herk will be reserved, hard to befriend at first. He’s not real crazy about kids and he’s a loner. He has a past of pain. But Gideon will get through to him. That’s all I have. It think it’s almost enough. All I want to know is a basic idea of what’s going on inside the home. BTW, I was thinking of titling it Fire and Fury, but I found out there is a book out by that title and it’s about Trump. That won’t work.

Now I’m exhausted. If you have any feedback or ideas about my Gideon/Herkimer story let me know. Blessings to you. Don’t get sick.

P.S. My wonderful friend Dorene brought over homemade chicken soup yesterday. Today I told her I was craving a blueberry muffin, so she came by with a fresh batch. The moral of the story is, if you don’t have a spouse to make you these things, find a good friend who loves to cook. Thank you, Dorene.

P.S.S. COVID test results just came in. Drum roll please…


The Hammer Holds

This hammer pounds to give me form
This flame, it melts my dreams

My friend Bill Holland just posted a wonderful blog post on lyrics. It brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend a week or so ago.

I was talking about adversity and how it shapes God’s people. I used the analogy of a blacksmith who heats up the steel, pounds and twists it on the anvil to form something useful. I likened adversity to the fire and blows of the hammer, we are the raw metal, and God is like the blacksmith. It brought to mind a song by Bebo Norman. A poet through and through. He is not a main stream Christian artist any longer. In fact, he got out of performing several years ago to be with his family. No idea what he’s doing, but I’m sure he’s still writing. Anyway, he wrote a song called The Hammer Holds and I shared the lyrics with my friend as an example of what I was talking about and she found it very profound. Read the lyrics below but be sure to follow through the entire post:

A shapeless piece of steel
That’s all I claim to be
This hammer pounds to give me form
This flame, it melts my dreams It glows with fire and fury
As I’m twisted like a vine
My final shape, my final form
I’m sure I’m bound to find

So dream a little dream for me
In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me
So I can bear the flames And hurt a little hurt for me
My future is untold But my dreams are not the issue here
For they, the hammer holds

And the water, it cools me gray
And the hurt’s subdued somehow
I have my shape, this sharpened point
What is my purpose now? And the question still remains
What am I to be?
Perhaps some perfect piece of art
Displayed for all to see

So dream a little dream for me
In hopes that I’ll remain
And cry a little cry for me
So I can bear the flames
And hurt a little hurt for me
My future is untold
But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds

The hammer pounds again
But flames I do not feel
This force that drives me, helplessly
Through flesh and wood reveal A burn that burns much deeper
It’s more than I can stand
The reason for my life was to take
The life of a guiltless man

So dream a little dream for me
In hopes that I’ll remain
And cry a little cry for me
So I can bear the pain
And hurt a little hurt for me
My future is so bold
But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds

This task before me may seem unclear
But it, my maker holds

“The Hammer Holds” Words and music by Bebo Norman.

After I shared my thoughts and these lyrics with my friend I decided to look for the “Story behind the song,” something I love to do. (BTW, there is website called Song Facts where you can look up the stories behind songs. Fascinating stuff.)

As it turns out, Norman was writing in the voice of a nail that would crucify Christ. WOW! That makes it more powerful than anything I thought it could be. Go back and read the lyrics now and see the difference.

The reason for my life was to take
The life of a guiltless man

Here is a link to the YouTube

Your Feelings About the Villain in Your Story

Behind every Villain is a hurting soul.

Everyone loves a good villain. I believe the term “The person everyone loves to hate.” Personally, I don’t hate people, but you get the drift. If your readers hate the villain then you’re doing well, but there’s more to it. I think it’s apropos to call the villain an antagonist. He opposes the central character (protagonist) and other characters, to the point that you want to scream. A villain scrapes the bottom of the barrel for redeeming qualities. This post is not about how to write a villain; that’s for another post. But I had a unique (to me) experience the other day while working on my novel that took me by surprise and I think it was a remarkable growth spurt as a writer and human being.

I have come to realize that I tend to create men in my stories as either pure white in virtue, or totally evil and beyond the reach of redemption. I figure it’s some deep seated psychological issue in the bowels of my psyche. Regardless, I don’t think that’s the way to go. The other day I was writing about my antagonist, a megalomaniac, arrogant, condescending, cruel, pathological bully. It suddenly hit me that it’s important to give some background on this guy, to give readers some context to the mans’ deviant behavior. I wrote a scene from his past where his cruel father demeans him and emasculates him in front of others. I came away from writing this scene filled with compassion and empathy, and I realized I loved and cared about him. It was a profound moment and nearly brought me to tears. I doubt readers will feel that way, but it helped me a great deal. I think it’s imperative we have an intimate understanding of all of our characters. To have intimate connection with them. I have had scads of those kinds of connections with my two protagonists. Now that I have connected with this awful man, I think the story will be better. We should give the good guys flaws, and the bad guys a few positive traits, or at very least, a context which explains why he is the way he is. With these new revelations, I need to put more thought into a few of my male characters.

I love profound discoveries in writing. One of the most surprising discoveries in writing fiction, is how my heart can be deeply moved by the people and the story. I have wept and laughed and been terrified writing this story. I guess it exemplifies the notion of blood sweat and tears. Whether this will end up being a good book or not, is strictly up to the readers to decide, but I am blessed to come away a more empathetic person, and expanding my heart to understand broken people, including myself.

“You- have to love your monster.” ― Philippa Dowding, Everton Miles Is Stranger Than Me: The Night Flyer’s Handbook

Redemption of a Hireling: A Christmas Short Story

LUMO Project

I love the raw first Christmas story. The message and what happened reminds us of the hope we have in Christ. He came as our Deliverer, Savior, and God. Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift. Several years ago I wrote a story on Hubpages called Redemption of a Hireling: A Christmas Short Story. Although the story is partly fiction, I wanted to give a tangible message of redemption. The Christmas story doesn’t need any addition but I still took the liberty of a scenario displaying the newborn King setting free a sinful man. I am resharing it here.

Yakov hugged his ragged cloak tighter on this unseasonably cool night. He took in a deep breath of the brisk air, energizing his weary body. His stomach growled. Dinner had been sparse – the last crust of bread and a dried fig he had leftover in his pouch. It had been a long couple of weeks. The sheep had been restless ever since a wolf had killed two of his finest lambs. Abel, his hireling, had been careless and lazy. Dozing seemed to be more important to him than tending the flock. The end result was the loss of income. The lambs were ready to sell for temple sacrifice at Passover.

Yakov found his way to where Aaron and Levi were warming themselves by a fire.

“You should have seen how I clubbed that wolf today after he went after my Star,” Aaron was saying.” He was known for his brute strength, audaciousness, and the occasional embellishment of his heroics. “Thank Jehovah I was able to save her.”

“You did well, Aaron,” affirmed Levi, who had witnessed it with his own eyes. “I know Star is always lagging behind or wandering off,” He poked the fire with a stick. “Yakov, how are the sheep faring on your side of the field?”

“They were restless awhile ago, but I talked to them and they are calm for the moment,” he answered.

“Isn’t it strange how the simple sound of the shepherd’s voice settles the sheep?” Levi mused. “They are so trusting. I wish we could settle the wolves with a few words.”

“Say, Yakov,” Aaron said, handing a hunk of cheese to him, “where is that scoundrel Abel who napped during that wolf attack the other day?”

Yakov chewed hard on the cheese. The memory of his showdown with Abel rushed back to him. Abel had been unconcerned and dismissive when he confronted him about the incident.

“The wolf was too far away and too swift for me to get there in time,” Abel had said. “Better the lambs than me, anyway.”

Yakov had given him a thrashing. When Abel got up off the ground he wiped the blood from his mouth, spat at the flock and stalked away. No one had seen him since.

Turning back to his friends from his reverie, Yakov answered them. “Yes, they were two of my best lambs. I beat the coward to a pulp. He’s the poorest excuse for a man as there ever was.”

The men grew quiet, listening and watching for any stir. But Yakov couldn’t stay quiet for long. “That rogue is a sluggard, a thief, and a liar. Remember how he was caught stealing produce from a nearby farm last month? And it was you, Levi, who caught him in the act of trying to sell some of the increase of the flock.” He stroked his beard, simmering with indignation. “What was I thinking giving him another chance? As soon as I can, I’m going to hire someone else.” He hated Abel and wished him dead.

Levi had just tossed some thorny scrub into the fire when straightaway an angel of the Lord appeared before them, radiant with the glory of God. Their legs quivered and they recoiled in fear. Levi lost his strength and fell to his knees.

“Do not be afraid.” the angel said. “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”

Riveted to their celestial messenger the three men remained motionless.

“For to you is born this day,” continued the angel, “in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Christ the Lord? This news hit them with great force. How could this be?

“And this will be a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Before a single thought could flit through their heads the entire sky became ablaze with angelic beings; their praise to God filled the universe.


As quickly as they had appeared the angels retreated back up into heaven, and the night returned stark with silence. The shepherds remained motionless, their heads lifted heavenward in astonishment trying to comprehend what they had just seen and heard.

“I…I can hardly breathe,” said Aaron. Having just witnessed the angelic host, his brawn, grit, and bravado had melted away.

“Did you hear what the angel said? Christ the Lord!” said Levi.

“Right here in Bethlehem,” said Yakov, still trembling a bit.

“A baby in swaddling clothes,” Levi added. “Just like we swaddle the lambs.”

“Imagine, Christ the Lord lying in an animal trough?” said Abel.

Abel? Where had he come from?

“Abel, how did you get here?” Yakov asked. He did not ask in anger, but out of surprise.

“I was hiding and sleeping over there.” He pointed to some scrub in the near distance. “I saw and heard it all.”

The truth was Abel’s heart was deeply stirred. Dare he hope in this Savior, Christ the Lord? Surely not. He was a bitter, selfish young man, uncaring for anyone but himself. But he recognized it now and wanted to be anyone else other than who he was.

Strangely, no one seemed to care that the lazy, no account Abel was there with them. Not even Yakov. He was just one of them. This glorious thing that they had all just witnessed seemed to dissipate anything dark, evil, or contentious.

Yakov cried over the din, “Brothers, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”

They set out with haste and calm assurance that the sheep would be safe. The thrill of hope surpassed anything and everything.

The usually quaint and quiet Bethlehem was swollen with humanity and beasts. The census ordered by Caesar Augustus had brought pilgrims from near and far to register in their ancestral home. The voices of campers gathered under the stars echoed in the night and their firelight dotted the hillsides. Many slept with no shelter at all. The heavens were their abode.

The shepherds swiftly traversed the hillsides bent on their mission. They passed an encampment where an intoxicated traveler was relieving himself in the open. Raucous laughter and shouts of mockery came from his likewise drunken comrades.

“Hey, you shepherds,” cried one. “Where’s our leg of lamb?” They slapped their legs and roared with merriment.

It did not deter them. They made their way into the town where homes and inns were fairly brimming with families and patrons. The cry of a baby rang out and the shepherds halted for a moment, wondering if it was the baby they searched for. They followed the sound and found the One whom they sought in a stable at the inn. A woman sat cradling her newborn baby, cooing to quiet him. The baby drifted off and she lay him in the trough, wrapped in swaddling clothes just as the angel had said. The heavy aroma of dung permeated the stable. The woman’s husband plumped up their nest with fresh straw to keep them warm and clean.

Levi, heart thumping wildly, entered first. As he watched the baby he forgot to breathe. He felt warm breath on his shoulder from Yakov who was leaning in from behind him. Aaron came around to Levi’s left and knelt. All three were in awe. The husband spoke to them.

“Welcome. My name is Yoseph and this is my wife Mary and our new son, Yeshua.”

“The Lord is salvation,” whispered Levi in awe.

“Yes, the angel told us He was Savior, Christ the Lord,” said Aaron.

“Angel, you say?” Yoseph inquired.

Yakov gave them the story.

“Yes, you see we were watching our flocks this night, nothing out of the ordinary. We were talking by the fire and all of a sudden a great angel appeared before us. He shone brightly as if it was the glory of the Lord that illuminated him. I don’t mind telling you we were trembling in fear.”

“Yes,” added Aaron. “Levi here was so scared he slumped to the ground.”

“He’s right,” said Levi. “And I’m not too ashamed to say so. If you had ever seen such a grand angel you would be afraid too.”

Yoseph and Mary exchanged a knowing look and smiled. “Go on,” said Yoseph.”

Yakov continued. “The angel gave us a message. He said ‘Do not be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…”

“For all the people,” Aaron interjected. “All, I say.”

“Then he said ‘For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”

“Who is Christ the Lord,” Levi finished.

“Yes,” said Yakov. “As I was saying, he then told us a sign to find Him.”

“A sign, you say?” Yoseph said.

“Yes, he said we would find a baby, lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, just as your dear babe is now.”

Mary took in a sharp breath.

Levi exploded in animated wonder as he described the next thing that happened. “You wouldn’t believe it but all of a sudden the entire universe was filled with angelic beings saying “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN!”

Yeshua startled and let out a lusty squawk. Mary calmed him with whispers and a warm hand on his head.

Yakov scolded him. “Levi,” he hissed, “you startled the poor lad. Keep your voice down.”

“Oh, so sorry,” Levi whispered to Mary. “But you just can’t imagine how…how…well, there are simply no words to describe it.”

“I saw and heard it, too.” Everyone turned to see Abel stepping forward out of the shadows. He looked askance to Yoseph. “May I?”

Yoseph nodded. Abel knelt at the manger overwhelmed by his unworthiness. Tears spilled down his face. Yeshua squirmed in His sleep, let out a sigh, and curled up into the fetal position he’d been accustomed to in the past nine months. Abel had never seen a newborn child up close that he could ever remember, nor had he ever had interest in babies and children. They soiled their diapers and made a lot of noise. But now, he was gripped in wonderment at the delicateness of Yeshua’s skin and the thick black downy hair that covered his sweet head. He looked up into Mary’s eyes.

“He’s beautiful. So beautiful.” He wiped his runny nose on his cloak.

“Abel, move away or you’ll drown the baby or make him sick,” scolded Levi. Abel pulled back and looked apologetically to Mary. She gave him a reassuring smile.

“Finish your story,” Yoseph said.

“No more to the story, sir,” said Yakov, “except we left our flocks immediately and made our way quickly to find the baby the angel and told us about. We thank you for letting us see Him.”

The others nodded in agreement and stood to go. Abel couldn’t break away and remained kneeling near the manger. “You are a little lamb, the Lamb of God,” he whispered to the baby. “A Savior. Is there hope for me?”

The baby made no sound or movement but Mary reached out and put her hand on his. “There is,” she said. He sighed with relief and stood to join the others. “Thank you,” he said, wiping his eyes.

After the men left Yoseph reclined in a corner and prepared to bed down for the night. He encouraged Mary to get some sleep as well. Just then Yeshua mewed and she took him up in her arms and put him to her breast to nurse. Yoseph wrapped a blanket around her and went to sleep, his heart full.

Mary beamed as her son’s tiny hand gripped her finger. “A strong grip you have, son. You will make a good carpenter like your father.” As Yeshua drew in His nourishment she wondered, ‘If He is Savior, will He work as a laborer? What will His life be?’

The exuberant band of shepherds left the baby and stopped everyone they could to tell them the events of their evening. The people marveled at the news and it spread everywhere. They finally arrived back to the fields a few hours before dawn, sleepy but still full of excitement. The sheep were safe and sound and happy to see their shepherds once again. Abel separated himself from them and wandered through the flock pondering the last several hours.

At the edge of the field, he fell to his knees, his cheeks damp once again.

“God of my fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, in some ways this all seems so surreal, but it was so incredibly real and wonderful. Why would you include a wretched dog such as myself to meet this sweet Lamb of God? Lord, I am sorry for my evil ways. Forgive me. This Savior, Christ the Lord, that the angel proclaimed, has changed me and I will never be the same. Thank you that you have blessed me with the hope of salvation. Amen.”

After his prayer Abel lie down for a quick nap then he would return to Yakov and ask for forgiveness and mercy and pledge to work off what he owed. Even if Yakov did not take him back, he would find work elsewhere and pay his debt.

When dawn was but a line of amber light on the horizon, Yakov sought out Abel and found him a half mile away talking to a lamb with the tenderness and love of a father. He was rubbing olive oil into a deep scratch on one of her back legs, the result of a run-in with a thorn patch.

“There now little one, let this be a lesson. You are no longer unblemished. You can’t be sold for sacrifice. So you shall be my pet. Stay close to me and I will protect you. If you wander away, I will pursue you to the ends of the earth. And if you get caught in the brambles and thorns, I will always tend your wounds. And if a bear or wolf should come near, I will take this rod and beat him to death. No one hurts any lamb in the flock of Abel. No, love, not one.”

Yakov swallowed hard. He couldn’t help eavesdropping on Abel’s intimate conversation with the lamb. His heart was touched at the change in Abel. A hard, selfish heart had become as soft as the skin of Yeshua. At that moment he recognized the change in his own heart as well. His hatred for Abel was completely gone. He now saw everyone and everything differently. He finally spoke.

“Abel, my friend, I’m glad I found you.”

Abel looked up at Yakov. He stood and cleared his throat. “Yakov, I…I’ve done wrong by you and by this flock. I will work to pay you back what I owe you, if you’ll have me, that is. I am a changed man and I will care for these sheep as if they were my own children.”

“You don’t need to say anything else, Abel. All of us who witnessed the angels and the baby has been changed in our hearts. My heart needed changing as much as, if not more, than yours. Forgive this angry shepherd for being so harsh.”

Abel tried to speak, but nothing came out. Yakov put his hands on his shoulders, looked into his eyes and said, “That angel said the good news of the Savior is for all people. Abel, you and I are included in ‘all people.’ He has brought peace between us, in us, and to all men who will trust in this Savior.”

Abel nodded with a grateful heart. Yakov placed his arm across Abel’s back and they began to walk. “To me, Abel, you are no longer a hireling, but a shepherd, and my friend. We are now brothers and true sons of Israel.”

The sun rose crimson, gold, bronze, and purple, over the eastern hillsides. The colors reflected the hope and joy of the Lord and His everlasting peace. And it was Abel and Yakov’s to share.

Free Bible Images

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The Power of Lyrics

I love poetry. I write poetry. I read poetry. But poetry put to music (known as lyrics) resonates to the marrow of the soul more often than poetry with no music. It’s hard to memorize a poem. But memorizing lyrics comes easier because the melodies and harmonies, the singer’s voice, make them come alive yet further. We listen to them over and over, and we sing them in the shower, in the car, with our friends, or alone in our rooms. Lyrics to songs in our past bring us back to those seasons of life. Some are painful, some are joyous, some are just plain cool. A funny thing about me is that the chorus is usually is the part that sticks in my memory. If I am actually listening to a song I know, the words come to me.

I remember the first record I ever had. It was a 45. The Purple People Eater. My sister and I thought we were so cool to have a rock and roll record. Rock and roll it was not, but it felt like it at the time.

It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater
(One-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater)
A one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater
Sure looks strange to me (one eye?)

We were just little kids. Our parents later got us a Petula Clark record, Pet Clark Sign of the Times, and Beatles VI. I was in awe of Petula Clark. She was beautiful to look at and I loved her voice and passion. Her lyrics and tunes were so catchy. Many written by other songwriters. My sister Chris and I would stand on the hearth on Saturday mornings while our parents slept in, and play the records and sing. My sister always got to be John and Paul, me George and Ringo because Chris was a year older and the boss. We had a 45 of Yesterday ad that was Chris’s signature cover. We used a number of items to be our instruments. Brooms, badminton rackets, vacuum hoses, batons, pencils, silverware. We took turns being Petula. We also listened to my parents’ Frank and Nancy Sinatra album. All I can remember of it was These Boots Are Made for Walking, and particularly Saying Something Stupid Like I Love You.

I know I stand in line until you think you have the time
To spend an evening with me
And if we go someplace to dance, I know that there’s a chance
You won’t be leaving with me
And afterwards we drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two
And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I love you”

I can’t stand the melody of the song or the way Frank and Nancy sang it, but for some reason, it’s still in my memory. Probably because I heard it and sang it with my sister so many times. The Supremes song, Stop in the Name of Love takes me back to a day I was at my aunt’s house and my older cousin Nancy played it over and over. She taught me some dance moves and I practiced them in front of her large oval mirror. My childhood was spent listening to KJR and KVI with top 40 hits. Yep, remember them all and they all bring back good memories.

In 1967 we moved from Tacoma Washington to San Gabriel California (Los Angles county). The culture shock was profound and I had trouble adjusting. That year I got Sgt Pepper and the Magical Mystery tour. I’m sure you all had Sgt Pepper. I found endless amusement with the Magical Mystery Tour. It was so darn bizarre. It came with a booklet of pictures and lyrics. It was kind of like a primitive rock opera. I’m sure I Am the Walrus was written while on acid. But dang, it was catchy.

I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together
See how they run like pigs from a gun
See how they fly
I’m crying Sitting on a corn flake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday
Man you’ve been a naughty boy
You let your face grow longI am the egg man
They are the egg men
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’joob

Goo goo g’joob, very profound.

Mr. Goo goo g’joob, John Lennon, went on to write these beautiful lyrics, poetry if ever there was, probably the most beautiful in his career.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind

Images of broken light
Which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe

The melody makes these lyrics all the more memorable. You can have stunning lyrics, but put it to bad music and you miss it. It goes the other way too. The melody of Imagine is absolutely lovely but the philosophy behind the lyrics are against all I believe in, so I don’t honor the song.

The following year, we moved a short way to a tiny town called Sierra Madre. One main street full of cool shops, a pool hall (we were forbidden to go through), a movie theater where Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet ran for a year and we saw it again and again, and a park overrun by hippies. The nearby foothills were inhabited by hippies. I started Jr. High that year. It was another transition too quickly made to adjust to. It’s hard enough to come of age, but those years were extremely painful. Experimentation with sex and drugs flooded our school (which was in Pasadena, several miles away). Because of the hippie culture right in our face, drugs were easy to get. The hippies were a great influence on us younger ones. I was 12 years old, just a kid and it all terrified me. I never did the drugs or have a drink. I had a friend named Susan who lived at the end of our driveway. My sister and I hung out with her a lot and she became very wild. Drugs and boys seduced her quickly, not to mention stealing and smoking. I felt extremely pressured by her and judged for not keeping up with her. She had boyfriends all over the place, I had none. I didn’t want one except to satisfy her. I was in a size A bra, she was a B, and if you listened to her, she was Dolly Parton and I was Twiggy. I felt alone and terribly pathetic. I fell into my first clinical depression and it was bad with a capital B. Back then, people didn’t know about mental health so my parents were very concerned but at a loss how to help me. A school counselor helped me through it. I wrote the entire story on Hubpages which you can find here. When I hear songs from that time of my life, even if it’s a happy or innocuous song, they bring me to tears or deep sadness.

Fortunately, some songs from that era lift me. All of them Beatles songs. Let’s face it, in the 60s and early 70s the Beatles were king in pop culture and music. I had a friend, Elizabeth. She was a hilarious character, goofy, mischievous, and a prankster. She liked smoking, but boys and drugs weren’t on her radar as I recall. She was the only friend I had who didn’t demand that I conform to the culture of sex and drugs. She just liked to have a good time through humor and antics. Elizabeth was a Godsend. We would hang out in her bedroom and listen to the Beatles Rubber Soul, the White Album, Abbey Road and Let it Be. I’m sure we listened to other bands, but these stick out in my mind because, well, they’re the Beatles. But also because I was with her when I listened to them, so they have a positive vibe in my soul. Of course, they were immensely popular on the radio, but listening to them with her made the lyrics stick all the more.

At home in my room, I still listened to Sgt. Pepper constantly. I didn’t have but maybe three records. I bought a psychedelic poster for my room from a head shop of the Beatles and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds written on it, the LS and D highlighted. Susan was green with envy and that tickled me. Even though I was anti-drugs, I felt cool having that poster. Mom and Dad didn’t know about LSD so mom would come in and say how cool the poster was. There has been debate whether it was aboout LSD, but that was the rumor. So I know all the lyrics to the Beatles last several albums. That’s not special because most people who came of age in the 60s know them too. I’m just saying the events in my life then helped cement the lyrics into my head. I eventually got my own copy of the Let It Be album. Probably of all Beatles album, that’s the one that stuck in my head the most. Abbey Road a close second. When I hear one of the songs, I am at Elizabeth’s or my room, or my friend Margaret’s ( best friend in high school a few years later).

If you were to ask me or anyone else what Beatles song meant the most to you or was most memorable, you’d probably take several minutes going through a mental catalog of their songs. How does one choose one or two? It depends on where you were at the time the song came out; what was happening in the culture, the nation, the world, your family, circumstances. All I can do is choose the ones that made me feel the lyrics. Yesterday, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road, A Day in a Life always gave a mood for me. I guess Paul’s lyrics reached me more. No one ever says Yellow Submarine or Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a favorite, but when you hear the titles you perk up and remember the lyrics. They wrote dozens of songs with silly quirky words and tunes and sound effects. I think Lennon and McCartney had the most creative minds in modern history when it came to lyrics and themes. Of course the music was brilliant as well.

One song that makes me cry from that time in Jr High is Time of the Season by the Zombies. I know it by heart and my heart breaks when I hear it. The lyrics aren’t sad, but it takes me back to that time of pain. Maybe if I pondered it longer I’d find the emotional connection, but I have no desire to go fishing. When I hear it, I picture a certain friend’s house, Caroline, a wild cohort of Susan’s (an expert at shoplifting clothes). I have no idea why that image comes up or why I hurt when I hear it but it is what it is. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s songs Woman, Young Girl, and Over You are also bittersweet. I can’t tell you why.

We moved to Anaheim when I began 9th grade. My parents wanted to get us away from Susan. High School began in the 10th grade. My moods cycled constantly and I was so fearful all the time. I spent days in my room listening to music, or hours at Maggie’s house. Maggie had Elton John’s first album and we listened over and over to Your Song and Daniel. I had tons of records by then. When life was too much, I went to my room where I felt protected and found solace, or I would listen to sad music to feed my sadness (a tendency I still have when I’m down). I had every Neil Diamond record from the 70s. His fast beat songs like Sweet Caroline and Cracklin’ Rosie, were catchy but it was the soulful ballads where I wallowed. One in particular from his Moods album (how appropriately titled) spoke to my heart. Cante Libre (which means “sing freely” by the way). Some of it was in Spanish but I had enough knowledge to follow those lyrics because they were simple words and I was learning the language in school. But the English parts are where my heart was stirred.

I got music runnin’ in my head,
Makes me feel like a young bird flyin’,
‘Cross my mind and layin’ in my bed,
Keeps me away from the thought of dyin’.

photo by Jessie Eastland, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I just teared up writing that, because that was why I was in my room on my bed listening to music. It’s funny, Neil Diamond had a gazillion popular songs that everyone knew, and this obscure ballad is the one that reached me in a deep place. Neil Diamond was a charismatic performer, but I think his songwriting is his greater gift. He once said, “I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I love it because it’s so satisfying…when it works. I hate it because it forces you to dig inside yourself. It is without question the most difficult thing I do.” As writers, we can relate to that, can’t we.

I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I love it because it’s so satisfying…when it works. I hate it because it forces you to dig inside of yourself. It is without question the most difficult thing I do.

Neil Diamond

The Who’s Tommy rock opera album also resonated with me.

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me

I don’t think all the lyrics spoke to me, but that line did, because it was expressing my heart. I was in agony and felt like a piece of crap and wanted to be seen, heard, and healed. And Roger Daltry’s voice in the line was so desperate.

Lyrics still capture me as they do us all. Sometimes I am more inspired by a cover from another artist and their interpretation. Go on YouTube and find KD Lang’s version of Hallelujah. Beyond description amazing. I hate the lyrics to the song, but I remember them since I heard her sing it. Susan Boyle is one of them. Listen to her rendition of Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones, or her Over the Rainbow. Stunning and very unique. I never learned or appreciated the lyrics until she sang them. Recently I heard her sing Always On My Mind, one of Willie Nelson’s signature songs. It never touched me when Willie sang it. The lyrics went in one ear and out the other. When Susan sang it while I was driving I started weeping. I love and know the lyrics now. They are cemented in my heart.

Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
And maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
If I made you feel second best
Girl I’m sorry I was blind You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind And maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
I guess I never told you
I am so happy that you’re mine
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind Tell me
Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
And give me
Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied
I’ll keep you satisfied Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Nothing more stirs my heart than gospel music, whether it’s hymns or southern gospel. There are a lot of contemporary songs also.

The lyrics to the hymn, It is Well With My Soul was written by Horatio G. Spafford. Knowing the story behind a song, the context, can make it more meaningful. This song is more powerful knowing the circumstances. Dear Horatio Spafford had deep sorrows in his life. In the same year, Spafford, a successful businessman, he lost almost everything in the Chicago fire and his 4 year old son died from an illness. Later on, Horatio sent his wife and 4 daughters on a ship to England where he would join them later for a long needed vacation. He had to stay behind for some critical business. Tragedy struck and the ship collided with another and sank. His daughters were all lost. His wife survived. She sent him a telegram “Saved alone, what shall I do?” What a heartbreaking message to receive. He boarded a ship and set sail to see his wife. As the ship sailed over the spot where his beloved daughters had died, the Lord touched his heart and he wrote these lyrics:

When peace like a river attendeth my soul

And sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

To hear the story in more detail look here. When you’re standing in church singing this song, your heart goes to the times of despair and sorrow in your life, or the life of someone dear. A big knot forms in your throat and your eyes tear up. If you know the story of Horatio Spafford, the tears are more profuse. God can bring comfort in times of great pain.

With all this said, I occasionally write a poem that I wish like anything I could put to music because, without it, I feel like it isn’t as powerful or poignant. I’m not a musician or a good singer. I have many musician friends and several friends with good voices, but putting someone else’s lyrics to music is hard. A few people have tried but it just hasn’t worked out. I wonder if I learned to play an instrument if I could put a poem into a song. Knowing how to play an instrument does not necessarily mean one is gifted in songwriting. Oh well, I do what I can do and that’s all there is.

Music and lyrics are a gift from God. All of the arts are of course. God is the master of all creation. He made his people to be creators as well. Not as God, but as His people.

Please share with me the song lyrics that have touched your life and why.