A wonderful Tuesday to everyone!

The idea for my latest novel Shooting at Heaven’s Gate published by Chrism Press, came from the third story in Birds of a Feather, my short story collection published by Wiseblood Books.  Both books can be found on Amazon or from the publisher.

Do you think you’re at Heaven’s Gate? Do you think God wants you enough to allow you to climb the ladder? Well, you’ll never climb it unless you’re pure as fallen snow. Unless you leave room for God’s wrath, not your own. Repent! –The Old Preacher speaking to Edmund in the novel Shooting at Heaven’s Gate

Here’s a little behind the scenes info. Both the novel and the short story take place in a fictional town in Alabama called Bethel,  which in the Bible refers to the Gate of Heaven and the site of Jacob’s Ladder. The name Bethel comes from the Hebrew beth, meaning house, and el, meaning God. Bethel means House of God. Numerous events of Bible History occurred there. For some time it was the place where the Ark of The Covenant, containing The Ten Commandments, was housed. Also, God’s appearance to Abraham, as well as Jacob’s Ladder – GENESIS 28:15-19

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”
He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.
He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
Jacob’s ladder brings us closer to God by an often difficult climb upward and towards Him. 


Satin is crouching at your door. You ain’t seen him coming, boy. Nobody seen him coming but the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, he’s after you. Don’t wait for his spear. Conquer him!

In the novel, Edmund is a young, married Sociology professor, haunted by his grandfather, a holiness preacher who, from the grave, constantly challenges to change his addictive ways. Except the young man ends up murdering his wife, and then, several other people, including a Dermatologist that Edmund has been led–by Dr. Mal Hawkins, head of the psychology department at their community college–to believe is having an affair with his wife. Mal is the real antagonist in the book, an atheist and true narcissistic sociopath, parading as Edmund’s friend even as he provides him with drugs. 

To counterbalance all this evil with goodness, is Alma, a teenager who works the jewelry counter at Dillard’s, where she is surprisingly given by Edmund an expensive diamond necklace meant as a ‘gift of amends’ for his wife, who he does not realize he has killed. 

Authors who take up the task writing fiction from a Christian perspective ultimately reveal whether they are theologians of glory or theologians of the cross. Kaye Park Hinckley is a theologian of the cross.  Climbing Jacob’s ladder takes suffering. You will find the symbolism of ‘climbing up’ in several situations expressed in Shooting at Heaven’s Gate. You won’t find this kind of hard-core realism in the “Christian Fiction” section at Barnes and Noble where theologians of glory are cashing in big these days.

Here are dope fiend lunatics, adulterers, and drunks, along with hard working, sympathetic, normal folks – typically of the suffering spouse model. Theologians of glory take one look at these scenarios and quickly identify who gets the glory and who goes to hell. The problem with the standard Christian fiction fare is that the derelicts have a conversion experience and then things always get better. But in these pages, it’s not so simple.

In “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate,” a spiraling out of control college professor is haunted by the voice of his Pentecostal preacher grandfather who warns a grief-stricken adolescent that he must repent or face God’s wrath. But he also remembers the words of a kind Priest who had told him that God would continue to love him despite his actions. His actions as an adult become front-page news in the same way regular readers of Southern grit lit are accustomed.

We have a serious sinner on our hands, but we also learn that he suffered horrible tragedy at a tender age and a brain injury to boot. As far as we know, he never properly repented, but his actions put the words of the Priest to the test in a big way, forcing us to ask whether the promise made by the Priest concerning God’s mercy was just cheap sentiment. But this Priest, who only gets a passing notice, is a theologian of the cross, and the bloody mess of the cross is the only thing that will resolve this mess.

I’ve come to appreciate how messy life is, and how wrong it is to ever produce a work of art that implies otherwise.  — Jim Hale, reader.


JACOB’S LADDER,  Bruce Springsteen

We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

Brothers and Sister’s all.

We are Climbing Jacobs Ladder

Every rung goes higher and higher

Every rung just makes us stronger

We are brothers an sisters, all.


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Is this statement True or False? Childish behavior is the opposite of adult behavior. 

Well … do we ever fully let go of our childhood experiences—joyful or sorrowful? Either we expose them for all to see and hear, or we hide them so no one sees or hears about them. Regardless, our personal childhood experiences color nearly everything we do as adults.

The older I become, the more I’m assured of this—that our childhood years have created a blueprint for the rest of our lives. Sometimes a good blueprint, sometimes not so good.

This is precisely why childhood itself is so important—how and where we spend it,  who was there, and most especially, what were the  attitudes of our parents? More than likely–unless there’s a conscious effort— we express those same attitudes with our own children.

We not only look like our parents, but we also tend to think like them—unless something causes us to rebel—and many do rebel, swearing not to be a clone of either of their parents..

Still, we may later find ourselves like them. We may corner the sheets on bed just like our mother used to do. Or we may have interest in a particular sports team as our father did. Interiorly, we may have learned to solve problems the same as one or the other of our parents.

Because of our parents, we learned empathy for others, or not. We learned selfishness, or not. We put great emphasis on money, or not. We give of ourselves, or not.

As we grow into adults, we often try to forget any sorrows we may have had as children involving our parents, and our peers as well. We may even put aside the joys, too; intending to be ourselves, our own man or woman. Some who have been badly parented have success in consciously doing the opposite with their own children.  But it’s not often any of us get away from the old tapes in our heads as our childhood re-plays. For better or worse, they are there.

The realization that your parents were human, and therefore, imperfect, can be tough to accept. We have a natural tendency to want to protect our parents. We even unconsciously identify with their critical attitudes toward us and often take on their disparaging points of view as our own. This internalized parent is what we refer to as one’s “critical inner voice.” It can feel threatening to separate from the people who we once relied on for care and safety.–Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, Psychology Today

Not all of us have/had mature, loving parents — and no parent is perfect. But even if our earthly parents fail, our heavenly Father never fails. Isaiah assures us, “Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

The love of God, Our Father, is constant and unlimited. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father loves his children beyond anything they have earned–the same way He loves us.

So when the blueprint of our earthly parents fail us, and our critical inner voice is heavy to bear, we can turn to the very personal and perfect love of God to become who we were truly born to be.

Passing it Down?

Posted: March 21, 2023 in World On The Edge


On my kitchen counter is a stone bowl on a stem–a fruit and vegetable compote that once belonged to my mother, and her mother before her. In it, I keep bananas and tomatoes, same as my mother did.

Some of the tomatoes are still green when I put them in the bowl, but that’s okay because the bananas have a way of ripening them. My mother likened it to friendship and love. “One ripens first and then helps the other along.”


And like her, I cannot waste the uneaten bananas. I simply cannot bring myself to discard a banana only because it’s past its prime for peeling and eating. I have to make something else out of it. Banana nut bread, muffins, cake—something!

Naturally, my children always liked this family quirk, when an aging fruit they might have discarded is changed into something fresh, new–and edible.

A couple of days ago, I noticed three spotted bananas snuggled against my home-grown, reddening tomatoes. I took the bananas and mashed them. I added flour, sugar, milk, egg, baking powder and pecans.

When I took the loaf from the oven, I set it beside the stone compote where the bananas had once influenced the green tomatoes to turn red. It smelled so good. It looked so good. And in half an hour, it would probably be eaten and gone.

There is nothing that’s useless, or past its prime. There is no experience, no matter how painful that we cannot learn from. There is no seemingly spoiled situation that cannot be benefitted from or perhaps even changed. Everything holds the potential of something new and fresh within it. Something we can pass on to those we love.

When she died, my mother’s closets and drawers were filled with “stuff.” ‘Stuff” she saw value in. Value in an old, torn school picture. Value in a hand-drawn birthday card, or a baby shoe, or a high school scrap book. Value in a postcard, and a menu from the old Dixie Sherman Hotel in Panama City, FL where she and my father spent their wedding night before he left for the Pacific in WWII. All those seemingly unimportant things held memory and a story that went with it

But how does all that “stuff” get transformed into something new? 

All those timeworn things are now in my closets and drawers, in my trunks and cabinets, even shoved under my beds. Those old keepsakes now pass memory to me. They create something new in me, not about a past reality, but a fresh way of seeing reality in the present and the future. And so, as a mother and grandmother, I pass it down — in stories, in a touch or a hug, in a word of confidence.

This is in the essence of every human being: that he is capable of passing down intelligence, imagination, and emotion to other human beings. A reminder though—the passing can be for better, or worse. 

Often, we’re unaware of this, but we should give it attention because it’s how we can spur the better parts of our culture and beliefs to our children and their children, and not the worst ones. Hopefully, “the something new” we pass onto them is bound up in love.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years ago, in the Fall, my husband and I sat on our boat dock when the moon was at its fullest, its reflection floating on the dark surface of the lake like pieces of a silver puzzle.

On both ends of the dock, where posts held up the metal roof, were spider webs lit up by the moonlight. One of the webs was strong, but delicate-looking, and classically precise; an ever growing circle, attached symmetrically by what must have been a ‘craftsman’ spider. The web was beautiful, in fact, it was perfect.

The other was a ramshackle sort of web, attached in a haphazard way to the post, almost like the run-down house of a derelict drug dealer. Loose strands hung from it, and there was no discernible circle to the web at all.

The spiders spun their webs to catch night bugs attracted to the lights on the boat dock. You might think that the classically perfect web would catch more bugs. No way. Not so. The derelict spider’s web was literally covered in trapped insects, while the craftsman’s web had none for a long while, and then only one or two. Still, night after night, the craftsman spider kept spinning and spinning, while the derelict one chomped on its plentiful catch.

My husband, to whom I’ve been married for many, many years, joked about this, comparing it to my writing. At the time, I was trying to find a literary agent for a book on which I was diligently working, but I hadn’t had any success. My husband grinned and pointed to the untidy web catching all the bugs. “Maybe you ought to take a lesson from that spider. Don’t be so hung up on perfection.”

I admitted that human beings have similar experiences. The most diligent worker isn’t necessarily the one who succeeds first. But if he continues to be persistent, success often comes. Being an born optimist, I fully expected the situation to change for the diligent spider.

Except night after night, the same thing happened. The derelict spider kept catching the bugs, and the diligent one kept spinning, but with no result in the bug department.

Then one day, a tornado hit across the lake. And on our side, trees were felled and boat docks blown about. After it was over, we went to look at any damage done to the dock. There was none. The only thing different was that the derelict web had vanished. Amazingly, the diligent spider’s web still hung, not quite as perfect, but it had survived. And that night, it was filled with bugs.

There are many morals you could attach to this story: A house built with a good foundation will last; or don’t take the quick way. But for me the most relevant is: Be true to yourself. You are a child of God, so never underestimate what He will do in your life if you keep the faith — no matter your age!

Not long afterward the tornado hit, I found a literary agent. She didn’t last long, and my book wasn’t published right then. More waiting. But I’d taken my lesson from the finely crafted web and kept spinning like the diligent spider. And was finally published by a small company, and then a book of short stories by another small press. Just enough to keep me going!

Now, I’ve written more books, and looking for publication.
I am still keeping the faith, hoping my diligence will produce results.

Are You Finished???

Posted: December 18, 2015 in World On The Edge

file6541254930080We all know something about creating, whether it be a meal, a flower garden, a painting, a book, or a ceramic vase. When we begin our creation of these things, they never appear as they will when they are finished.

The meal is at first just a bunch of ingredients on the countertop. The flower garden begins as a patch of grass or weeds that we must dig up in order to plant. The painting starts off as a canvas without color. The book is only an idea. The vase, a lump of clay.

We go through a lot of work putting these things into the form that we want them to be. We use our minds, our hearts, our hands–and it can be a struggle. But if we’re committed, we don’t give up. We keep our eyes on the end results, the beauty of our finished creation.

The is the way God works, too. We begin as a thought in the mind of God. He brings us into being, and tends us, never separating from us—though we can, and often do, separate from Him. He molds us by His hand, through the joyful and sorrowful events of our lives, into the loving people we are meant to be.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand…Jeremiah 18:1-6

At times in our lives, the hands of God do not seem gentle, and we are in mental or physical pain–i.e we are suffering. And we don’t want to suffer–who does? But God does allow suffering. He doesn’t cause it, but He allows it to be used for some purpose in our life. Some purpose we may know nothing about at the time.

One way to get through painful times is to picture ourselves, as Jeremiah did, as clay in the hands of the potter. And, just as we do when we create something ourselves, to keep our thoughts on the end results.

My Gratitude

Posted: November 26, 2015 in World On The Edge

Translating a World on the Edge

thanksgivingturkeyWhat are the best things in your life–the ones you’re most grateful for?

I’d be willing to bet they’re not “things” at all, but people.

Oh yes, “people” sometimes drive us crazy, hurt us, make lots more work, more stress, insolent remarks, dirty socks, dirty dishes, and confusion in general.

But we know the other side of the coin, too–“people” who are always there for us, who take our side, who run errands when we can’t, who feed us when we’re sick, who wipe our tears and hold our hands when we need the warmth of another human being. People who listen. People who love us.

I give gratitude to those people in my life. I cannot imagine living without those people in my life.

On this Thanksgiving George and I are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in the Atlanta area at the home of our daughter, Sheila, her husband, Matt…

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My Gratitude

Posted: November 26, 2015 in World On The Edge

thanksgivingturkeyWhat are the best things in your life–the ones you’re most grateful for?

I’d be willing to bet they’re not “things” at all, but people.

Oh yes, “people” sometimes drive us crazy, hurt us, make lots more work, more stress, insolent remarks, dirty socks, dirty dishes, and confusion in general.

But we know the other side of the coin, too–“people” who are always there for us, who take our side, who run errands when we can’t, who feed us when we’re sick, who wipe our tears and hold our hands when we need the warmth of another human being. People who listen. People who love us.

I give gratitude to those people in my life. I cannot imagine living without those people in my life.

On this Thanksgiving George and I are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in the Atlanta area at the home of our daughter, Sheila, her husband, Matt, and precious sons, Daniel, Anthony, and Matthew. We will also visit with our youngest daughter, Anne Marie, her husband Pat, and their two children, Caroline and John Patrick. Our youngest son, Patrick and his daughter, Georgia, will be coming along, too.

I am so grateful for all my family, those I will see over the Thanksgiving Holiday and those who will be in their own homes, but in my heart.

I’m grateful, too, for all you who read this blog. Because of your support, I look forward to writing it five days a week.

So children help your mothers, and mothers hug your children. And fathers love your wives.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, all of you.

What’s in Your Backpack???

Posted: September 16, 2015 in World On The Edge

file0001338534726We are all hurt as we travel through life. We often hold on to those hurts. The betrayal of a friend, the infidelity of a spouse, the abuse of a parent, and on and on–things that stay with us for years after they occurred.

Some of us go through life aching and sweating, beneath a heavy backpack of grievances that weigh us down. Oddly, we keep adding to the weight of that backpack with fistful after fistful of “what he/she did to me,” and thoughts like, “I’ll never forget it. In fact, I won’t let them get away with it. I will pay them back!”

When we’re hauling around a backpack like that, we’re usually grumpy, or at the very least, difficult to be around. We’re certainly not smiling, or happy, because grudges make us inherently anxious.

How can we get over our grudges? How can we empty our backpack of all that disturbs us, and re-fill it with things that are worthwhile, things that do make us happy? (more…)

conversationA human characteristic is the ability to speak, to converse, to give instruction, to make our opinions known. We talk. We use our tongues–sometimes without thinking, and sometimes very intentionally.

Our speech is directed to another, a listener. The listener may be a child, a friend, a family member, or a stranger in the grocery store. Regardless of who or where, what we say to each other matters. Speech is a gift to be used with care. I would suggest loving care, though I’m often guilty of overlooking that.

Matthew 12:36 says, But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Wow! That’s a lot of personal responsibility.

Yet what we say to each other is not always done with words. Often it’s what we D0 that speaks loudest.

How do our actions speak to our vulnerable children, or the friends and family who learn from us? Are we responsible in our actions as parents and teachers, leaders and co-workers?

Do we practice what we preach? Again, many of us often fall far short of that. It’s a good thing we have personal control over what we do, and if needed, the ability to correct ourselves.

There are times though, when we’re not the ‘speakers’ or the ‘doers,’ but the receivers, the targets of speech and action. Over this, we have little control, and no doubt the voices and actions are loud–the media, movies, TV, newspapers, books, and even our own government. Except each of these segments are made up of individuals like us.

Are these individuals any less responsible than us for what is said and done in today’s world? Don’t they, too, have the ability to correct themselves–or have greed and power simply struck them dumb and immobile.

Photo by Oleander, 2015, MorgueFile.com

Photo by Oleander, 2015, MorgueFile.com

When an artist creates a work he/she creates an expression of something personally known, even if the work is far-out science fiction writing, or abstract painting. An artist paints, writes words, writes music, acts in film or on stage, or sculpts, from something personal within. The viewable, readable, or audible creation may be untrue all the way around, but the artist often uses untruth to bring forth truth. When an artist does this, it is a truth he or she accepts, and then the artist attempts to impart that truth to viewers, readers, listeners.

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. -― Pablo Picasso

An artist makes a statement about the world as he understands it. This is a personal world. In the artist’s view, it can be a good world that he wants to praise, or a bad one that he wants to condemn.

But an artist will have strong feelings about it, one way or another, before his art is complete. This is the motivation for a person who creates. It is a statement, an observation, a whole persona.

The artist has been given a gift. A vocation to follow. And in doing so, he/she can live a good life, a life of purpose. A life of service, and even holiness.

The most direct way for the artist to live a good life is by making good art. To this task the artist must bring, not so much Christian principles, but the whole of his or her personality, including religious faith. A particular artist’s work begins with his or her distinct talents and preoccupations. Yet much of the self must be left behind in the act of making. Virtue, for the artist, involves subordinating the good of the self to the good of the thing made; and to do this, the artist must cultivate “the habit of art”—by developing skills and work habits and purifying the source of inspiration. There is service in this, even holiness; at the same time, there is freedom for the artist to put some of those scruples about everyday life aside.– Paul Elie, Pious Anxiety: Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal

An artist who allows his/her soul to move them toward truth, is a satisfied artist, and that is a very good life.