Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where There’s Smoke…

…there’s someone fuming.

I have a long history with cigarette and cigar smoke. Surrounded by it from birth, my family, relatives and most of their adult friends had the habit. I grew up quoting, “I’d walk a mile for a camel.” “I’d rather fight than switch.” At Ganser’s Five and Ten (that’s cents, not dollars) I’d buy a red or blue translucent case of chocolate cigarettes and pretend elegance as I held the paper-wrapped cylinders between two fingers. I nearly choked to death once on an aqua-colored cigar gum.

My parents quit smoking when I was seven. Ashtrays stayed out for visitors. I never even felt curious to try. But I didn’t think twice about someone else doing it; it was part of life. In my twenties, I started entertaining in bars and supper-clubs. Smoke clung to my hair and clothes. Next morning, I’d wake up with grit in my eyes. I opened my guitar case and smoke wafted out. Even the music folder reeked. I hated it, but it was part of the job.

Later I abandoned the weekend gigs in favor of raising our boys. We took them to restaurants (to train them to be civilized in public). Some places had a non-smoking section. We’d walk through the smoke to reach the few tables set aside for non-smokers—next to the noisy bussing counter or the kitchen door. One quiet night, we chose to sit in the main area. The few around us were busy eating. But one soon lit up. At the first fumes, my throat closed. I could scarcely breathe; I nearly panicked. I felt embarrassed by the angry looks of the smokers at the next table, but we had to ask to be moved.

With the years it grew worse, and we discovered I have asthma. A trigger is cigarette or cigar smoke. By the second whiff I reach for the inhaler. I can’t begin to number the dark looks I’ve received. Do they think I’m faking it?

Last July, Wisconsin enacted a state-wide smoking ban in public places. Every restaurant we avoided is open to us. We still marvel when we walk in and can both breathe and see. But who could have foreseen the new problem? A balmy evening beckoned us outdoors to escape the crowded stuffiness of a waiting area the other night. I took one step out, inhaled deeply, and ran back in fuming, “Get me outa this stinkin’ fresh air!”

The smokers are outside now.

by Robin J. Steinweg

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Very Squirrelly Tale

 "It takes more guts than talent to write a blog" I told a friend today.  This post may prove that, but sometimes you just have to "write what you know," even if it's squirrelly.

You know the feeling—you’re sound asleep and suddenly you’re awake. What’s that, you wonder? What woke me up? I sat up in bed and sniffed—was that smoke I was smelling? Climbing out of bed I wandered downstairs to the basement. Yep, it smelled, very faintly, like hair was burning somewhere down there. But try as I might, I could find nothing even hot that might be causing the smell. Then, it was gone. Really, not a trace of smokiness in the air. A bit nerve-wracking. Have put out three fires in houses, I know where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Repeat this scenario for several days, each time, smelling, searching, then nothing. I finally discovered the smell was coming from the CO vent on the top of the hot water heater. I could see nothing, but the smell was definitely very strong and coming out there!

Later that night when My Hero Hubby (MHH) came home, he heard a scratching sound coming from a door at the bottom of an old brick chimney in our basement. This is what the CO vent pipe from the water heater connects to. He opened the small door at the bottom of the chimney saw a bushy tail quivering. He quickly slammed the little door shut. After releasing two mice into the basement during a Christmas tree incident one year, he wasn’t anxious for a repeat of that adventure. Okay so we have a squirrel in the chimney. Is this “Rocky” so dumb that he not only got caught in a chimney but he keeps getting burned by the hot water heater venting?

I called the pest control guy (Squirrel Guy Mike) who came to investigate. With the help of an auger, we discovered that what was burning in the hot water heater was NOT fur, but feathers. Yuk. Since “Tweety” was no longer living, we decided I would take care of the feathered remains and SGM went home to get his squirrel gun for “Rocky,” both of us assuming the poor thing must be traumatized and close to death or at least a coma from lack of oxygen—hah!

As soon as SGM pointed that gun in the chimney, Rocky revived and scooted up straight up those old bricks. Why he couldn’t just keep on going up and out the top is a rodent mystery. So SGM set up a live trap covering the door out of the chimney, took his gun and left to catch a racoon across the way.  Sure enough, within a couple of hours curiousity got the better of  Rocky and there he sat, subdued but wary, looking hungry and thirsty. I placed the cage in the basement shower stall with water and sunflower seeds. By the next morning when SGM came to retrieve him, we had a feisty critter chattering up a storm. SGM was happy to be able to “Bring ‘em back alive” and took Rocky to release him into the wild, far away from our chimney.

Meanwhile MHH (My Hero Hubby) cleaned the leftover baked bird out of the vent for me. And for his birthday, I gave him a bird/rodent-proof hat for the top of the chimney.

So now I’m wondering what to do about the two chick-a-dees who are building a nest in my mailbox….

Just for fun, how about suggesting some spiritual applications for this squirrel saga.  I'll be looking forward to your comments and some great spiritual wisdom. 
About the best I can come up with is a verse we used to quote to our middle child who tended to wake up very crabby:
"All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast."
 Prov 15:15. 
Although afflicted with squirrels and birds, laughing and blogging about it makes it all better.


Thursday, March 24, 2011


By Marie Tschopp

Spring is on its way, and, once again, I am on a diet. I’ve cut way back on my food intake and have lost a whopping two (count 'em two!) pounds. I think my scale just snickered.

I hear losing weight at the speed of snails is a by-product of growing older. As I discovered other age-related side effects, I did what anybody in my situation would do—I wrote a song about it.

Yesterday Revisited
(To the tune of "Yesterday" by the Beatles.)

AARP seemed so far away
But now my hair is turning gray
And I stockpile jars of Oil of Olay.

A hot flash comes over me
And I start to sweat profusely.
Hot flashes come so suddenly.

Where did my neck go?
I don't know, the mirror won't say.
I sense something's wrong
How I long for yesterday.

Life was such an easy game to play
Now Metamucil starts my day.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Turn back the clock to yesterday.

I am changing, but with help from Preference by L’Oreal and Spanx, I think I’ll be okay. Besides, no one ever stays the same, except God. He never changes. He is always the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In the crazy times we live in, isn’t that nice to know?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

National “I Believe” Day

By Lori Boruff

I declare today is National “I Believe” Day

I Believe...

I Believe spring is sprouting.

I Believe round pizza should come in a round box.

I Believe it's okay to wear socks that don't match.

I Believe Mr. Sun is always shining on someone.

I Believe in miracles.

I Believe a broken heart can mend.

I Believe Hope makes things happen.

I Believe Truth is more powerful than lies.

I Believe that God loved me first.

I Believe He sent his son to find me.

I Believe Jesus found me and I found him.

I Believe I'll be dancing forever in his presence.

What do you believe on National “I Believe” Day?
Tell your friends about this holiday and ask what they believe.

“For God so loved the world he gave his only
begotten son, that whoever believes in him (Jesus Christ) will not
perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Help! I'm Stuck!

By Lisa J. Lickel

We've all been there – lost either because we didn't follow directions through poor sense of direction or miscommunicated instructions. Either works for when you get lost in the maze of your writing. You need to write material that makes the reader care to keep with you, to find out what will happen next, to absorb every word until the last one.

But…at this moment you're either staring at albino cows lost in a snowstorm, or the Gordian knot your heroine or topic managed to get in to when they wandered away from you. How do you get from Crisis to Aha!?

a. Call the cows

b. Go for a walk

c. Kill someone

Less messy is Brainstorming.

Good brainstorming starts with "What If."

Pacing, vacuuming, mowing lawn, or sweeping the garage are acceptable multi-tasking jobs that can help you while you begin this process; however, at some point you'll want to record your thoughts.

Conflicts – or problems – usually fall into two categories: plot or character for fiction; content or teach-ability for nonfiction; and consist of being unsolvable or solvable. A writer builds tension by using these conflicts; to create tension, a writer adds elements to the storyline or takes them away.

Some of these methods include adding new surprise characters which do not always have to be human – pets with a quirk (think Charlotte's Web); a natural element like weather or earthquake; a favor element – friend or stranger asks something (think fairy tales); something needs to be learned.

For taking away elements, consider what can be lost – freedom, choice, things both or either loved or hated. What if the character recovered or received the goal without working for it? Loss through death; loss through carelessness (guilt); theft, natural or unnatural means. Think loss of mentor: now the student has to figure out how to carry on.

These and other ideas are some of the things we'll expand upon at the Late Night Chat on April 8 at the Quad-Cities Christian Writer's Conference. We'll brainstorm together on your individual works in progress, whether fiction or non, adult, historical or children's. We might do some role-playing or take a field trip through the lobby; we'll definitely make charts. There will be chocolate. I hope you’ll join me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Foxes, Friends and the Father – Corrections for Becoming a Writer

By Kathryn Lang

“You are good – you should be a writer.” My friend likes to tease me. I have discovered that fellow writers tend to jab a lot with words. He may have meant the comment as a joke, but he was right.

I am a writer. I create content for other websites, write on my blog and contribute to a local paper. I have bits of books and bible studies scattered all around the office. Words pour out of me on a daily basis and sometimes they are even worth sharing.

I am NOT writing in a consistent and persistent fashion.

My writing talent and desire pours over me from my Father. It is a gift – uniquely wrapped up and presented for use in and through my life. So often I leave piled up in the wrapping like a pitiful after Christmas discard. My focus turns to things that I want or I think and I forget all about the gift that has been presented.

The more I think about those words the more I understand that I have missed the mark. My aim has only been a little off, but even a little off can cause you to miss the target altogether if corrections are not made.

Correcting my Path to be a Writer

1. I sat down and wrote out a business plan for my writing. I put the priority in the areas where God has pressed my heart and made other areas secondary to that one. Creating a business plan gives me guidance on how I should spend my limited resources of time, energy and finances.

2. I set goals and objectives that would challenge me to do more but that were reasonable enough to be obtainable IF I follow through. Several weeks ago I tried to set up a plan to create 9600 words PER DAY. This time I looked at the reality of life and then planned around that reality in a way that would push me a little harder towards my dreams. My new goal is 3200 to 4800 words per day (that includes personal writing and work writing, since I do work full-time as a freelance writer).

3. I set aside time to read words of encouragement and motivation to help feed my own words of encouragement and motivation. A spring that is not refreshed will eventually run dry.

4. I committed to specific writing times and narrowed down those writings to things that would help me achieve my goals and objectives set forth in my business plan. I left enough time in my plan to be flexible for the unexpected events and activities that life throws at me.

My own walk has not been disturbed by the big issues of life. It is the little foxes that have gotten into my life and wreaked havoc. The words of my friend reminded me that I need to recognize the little foxes. Keeping them at bay will allow me to treasure the gifts of my Father and through those gifts truly become the writer He intended.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


By Michael Elmore

No one likes to takes tests. I remember the very first test I took in seminary; my hands were shaking because I was so nervous. (Incidentally, I aced the test!)
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, 14, the Bible states that God tests us, “No test has seized you except what is common to everyone. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”

God’s tests are not like pencil and paper tests. His tests aren’t to see what we know; he wants to see what we are. His tests are more like drop forging hot metal. In the process of drop forging, one metal is combined with another and then dropped into a vat of cold water to see if it cracks or remains strong. In this way it can be shaped and molded. The purpose of God’s test is to make us stronger by shaping us into the image of Christ.

As I said, no one likes tests. However the apostle Paul shares with us three things in this verse that will help us “ace” God’s test. The first secret to passing the test is to realize that you are not in a unique situation; the test you are going through is “common to everyone”. In other words, lots of people have or are facing the same thing you are. God is not picking on you.

The second secret to passing the test is to realize that, “God is faithful”. Like the Marine motto “Semper Fi”, you can count on God not to test you beyond what you can stand up under. Will you face pressure while being tested? Of course! We must realize that most of us rarely change unless we are pressured to do so. That is why James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy brothers when you face many kinds of tests.” Why? God is doing his best to help you change for the better. God guarantees that the pressure won’t be so great that we will fail the test.

The third secret to passing the test Paul says is that “when we are tested God will provide a way out.” What we don’t realize is that “the way out”, is “often the way through”. I went through the largest corn maze in the State of Iowa with my family. We all went in and wondered around in circles asking other people for directions. Finally, we spotted a platform where we thought that we would see the way out. Up on top of the platform we soon realized that we were stuck in the middle of the maze. We could see the end but we still had to go through the maze to get there. Fortunately, an employee met us and offered to take us through to the exit. God doesn’t provide a way out, but he does provide a way through. The secret to passing the test is to realize that it is God who takes us through.

You may be saying to yourself, “hey, I am going through a whopper of a test RIGHT NOW and I need help. Like a dead car battery your strength might be used up and you don’t think you can make it. That’s exactly where God wants us to be . . . wholly dependent on his power. Open yourself heart right now and receive a boost of God’s power to recharge your life. Remember, “God is faithful he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear.” Use the three secrets the Apostle Paul gives us to pass this test: tests put the pressure on us but God will never let it become too great that you can’t stand it. You are not unique many people face tests like yours and pass it successfully. Don’t forget, you may have to go through the test, but you are not alone God goes through it with you.

Michael Elmore


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Longing Heart

By Sr. Jeannette Doran, OCD

The human heart hungers for God. And our hearts are truly restless until they rest in God. With fear that our needs will not be met, we search in empty places for what will satisfy us. This continues the cycle of trying to fill ourselves with fruit from bare branches. One will not find lasting happiness. The longing in our hearts can only be filled with God.

John of the Cross writes that “the center of our soul is God”. In taking moments of quiet to enter into our inner depths and seek God, peace will penetrate our being.

Yet we say in our chaotic world how is it possible to find a real silence? The noise of news blares from all corners of our immediate world. This can draw us so quickly into the almost daily reports of roadside bombs in Afghanistan, and gun violence in families and cities across our country. How can one find this quiet space?

Personally, I've begun to realize interior peace is attainable, even if world wars exist. St. John of the Cross writes in the third book of The Ascent of Mount Carmel that peace and tranquility are such blessings that even if the whole world were to come to an end this should not disturb our peace. Victor Frankl wrote of his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. He reflected that when one focused on some gift of beauty each day such as the sight of the rosy hue of mornings light, one could survive and find meaning in life. Many who lived severe atrocities survived because they learned to do just this. We learn that even in seemingly unbearable circumstances we can cry out to God in the center of our soul.

It does take practice not to allow oneself to be overwhelmed in darkness but this can be done in becoming aware of the beauty in our lives. Awareness comes when we take time to touch the velvet rose petals and grasp the lovely lilies, to gaze at the gentle sky-blue pinks of dawn and the vibrant red-orange hues at sunset. It is realized when we understand why the deer longs for refreshing water surrounding us each day. The more we taste and see what beauty envelopes us we praise God for these gifts surrounding us each day. Above all when we fill our minds and hearts with holy thoughts, our serenity will be guarded and moment by moment we can hold on to a lasting joy. It is possible for the longing in our hearts for God to be satisfied.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Baseball

By Marvin Ferguson
It's a good thing I'm not afraid of speed or height. At times I travel very fast
and other times very slow. Sometimes I go high into the air before coming
down. I'm use to getting knocked around just like people. My face is round. I
don't have any eyes, but sometimes people wish I did. Nor do I have a nose
or mouth. Not even a hairline to put some character on my face. All I have
are stitches arranged like an appendix scar. Folks, I'm different. I don't have
any feelings. You never see me smile or cry. I am a baseball.

One day I found myself comfortably inside the web of a baseball glove
before I felt a pair of hands moving on my face, flipping me around until
some fingers rested on my stitches. Then the glove moved, but I couldn't tell
where I was going.

The hand on my face didn't move either until I suddenly felt a cool breeze.
As I was lifted out of that cozy spot inside a glove I traveled over a man's
shoulder toward his back so fast it took me by surprise. Then, as he extended
his arm to its maximum position, suddenly I felt a jerk that brought me back
over that same shoulder leaving his fingers, traveling on my own at ninety
miles per hour.

As I sailed through the air, the breeze increased whipping in my face. All
around me everything looked blurred. In front of me, all I could see was a
faint patch of dark brown that looked like the glove I just left. But I never
got there. For out of nowhere came a piece of wood that sent me into a
different direction, rolling over a green carpet, parting the thick grass like a
boat speeding through the Everglades.

The joys of being a novelist are the challenge to personify things in the real
world. From my book titled "The Boys On The Gold Coast" I had the
opportunity to share life from the view of a baseball. I wish you all some
happy reading.


Photo from

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What If Your Husband Didn't Come Home?

This year Cynthia Ruchti will once again be Assistant Director for the Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference, held April 8-9 in Eldridge, Iowa.  For more information about the conference or to register please visit  She would love to meet you there and so would we! 

Last year, Cynthia's first novel was released to great success.  What follows is my review for:
They Almost Always Come Home
Cynthia Ruchti's debut novel.

Move over Ted Dekker. “They Almost Always Come Home” is one of those books that grabs your attention on the first page and holds your heart all the way till the last. By the time the first chapter ended, I was hooked on this story of a real woman facing real problems the best way she knows how.

Libby’s husband, Greg, is late coming home from a wilderness/camping-fishing trip. But Libby is not sure if she’s mad or glad about that. The loss of their young daughter has put so much stress on Libby and the marriage that some days she isn't sure if their life together can survive or if she even cares any more.  Despite Libby's conflicting emotions, Greg's mysterious absence is all she can think about.

After taking the waiting as long as she can, Libby enlists her best friend, Jenika, and Greg's wilderness-savvy father to join her in a trip attempting to retrace her husband’s steps to find out what really happened.  Libby & her friend are as far from campers as you can get and she has never really gotten beneath the hard exterior of Greg’s father. She leaves half-expecting to find Greg has left her for another woman. Her journey and what she finds cause her to reach to the very depths of her faith in God.  At this point the story really kicked into high gear for me and became as suspenseful as any John Grissom or Stephen King I’ve read.

The book had me reading late into the night. The gripping story took twists and turns I never saw coming and kept me turning pages, on edge and nervous for the characters. As I read this story I felt I was reading behind the scenes of a real life mystery as it unfolded.

Author Cynthia Ruchti’s writing is REAL. You can feel Libby’s frustration and fear, her anger and grief; her humor and sentimental moments all ring true. Libby, Jenika (her sister in Christ and best friend in faith) and Frank (Greg’s father) seemed like friends I might run into at the corner store or Wal-Mart. The faith and commitment they exhibit is never overdone, but always just people doing what people who really care for each other do faced with a crisis.

It was one of the things that made this book so satisfying to read.

I hope if you’re a mystery or suspense fan you won’t be disappointed in “They Almost Always Come Home."  And come join Cynthia and all the other professional faculty at the QCCWC.  Maybe your book will be the "blest-seller" I review next year!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Introducing Genaire Walker

Learning to Surf

I have always loved the water. Ironically, I also have deathly fear of drowning.... which is why I am learning to surf.

 Though I learned to swim at a local YMCA as a child, it wasn’t until our annual vacations to the coast of South Carolina I came to love the water. I quickly learned the difference between pool and open water swimming. The pool was a very safe environment. Entries were clear, boundaries defined, depths measured, and help was close. Ocean swimming was quite another matter. I found the ocean to be dynamic, exciting and unpredictable. It did not take long for me to go from a child frolicking along the shoreline at low tide to a fearless teen attacking 9 foot waves and riding them in to shore. I relish those memories of lazy 12 hr days at the beach and my fearless “jump in” attitude.

But as young adulthood faded to middle age I forgot my love of the sea. Instead of splashing in gorgeous waters, I found myself swimming in debt, drowning in problems, and sinking in despair. These new waters seemed murky, ominous.
Before long, this once confident swimmer was struggling . . . flailing . . . fighting hard just trying to survive each day. When I had exhausted myself from kicking hard (and going nowhere), God gently reminded me of the things I learned many years ago:
  • FLOAT. To float is an act of acceptance. The moment I can no longer stand on my own, I release my being to the control of something bigger. Floating is the choice to surrender, practice stillness, rest and trust in God.  
  • SWIM. To swim is the art of navigating myself in situations I can’t control. Active faith is very much the same. It is the exercise of my faith which keeps me disciplined, centered and pointed in the right direction. To choose not to swim is to risk being set adrift . . . or worse yet, to drown.
  • SURF. To surf is spiritual mastery. To surf is finding ecstasy in an uncertain journey. More powerful than swimming, with surfing comes the realization I can travel much farther (and faster) by yielding the movement of God, than any distance I can go on my own. It is communion, sensitivity and response to the ebb and flow of God’s will.

This shift has made a huge difference. That is, I now flow with life instead of struggling against it. I am being taught God’s timing. I am learning to ride life’s storms with finesse and confidence, knowing that HE is holding me up. It is also humbling -- I still wipe out from time to time, but at least now I am enjoying the ride.

  I am learning to surf. Come on in . . . The water’s fine.

Genaire Walker
Genaire Walker is newcomer to the blogosphere from Davenport, Iowa.
She is not new,however,to the craft of writing, however. A twelve-year veteran of the television and radio fields, she has produced countless advertising campaigns under her previously owned business and former pen name, WalkerCreative. Her shift from advertising to inspirational writing reflects her deeply rooted desire to spread knowledge rather than negative messages to her community.

Her poetic accomplishments include the House of Rah ‘Sun-Ra Blazing Track Award’ for her produced collaboration of “It Don’t Belong to You” with poet Disillusioned.
Another recent poem of hers, “Love Letter to the Black Man” was awarded Image of the Day in on, and her Audio “Got Your Numba” produced by Rahkyt (pronounced Rocket) was awarded January’s Honored Audio in Written Images Live. The same piece received the Soultry Echoes “Soultry Spotlight” Award at www. Her heartbreaking poem “Mal Practice” was recently awarded ‘Poem of the the Week’ on
She is thankful for the encouragement of her husband, children and church friends. She humbly asks for prayer as she explores new avenues in her writing career.