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‘Real’ Artists Share

– from Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work

Our math teachers (I’m looking at you Allyson Upchurch Tucker, Teresa Rankin, and Michael Whittenburg) taught us to “show your work” in each step to solving a mathematical equation. It permitted us to see the process from beginning to end.

It also helped us prepare for scary acronyms like the ACTs & SATs.

Sure the graphing calculator could do a lot of the work for us, but it didn’t necessarily teach us how we arrived at the final number on our screen.

They (our teachers) encouraged us to write it out by hand.

The hand is tied to memory formation. When we scribbled down an idea in our notebook, it connected to our brain in a way the keyboard could not.

Much like Austin Kleon’s previous book, Steal Like an Artist, his Show Your Work manuscript expressed the importance of sharing, too.

It’s when we give away something, collaborate, take a trip together, that memories are shaped in ways that really stick (sometimes for life).

Much like in mathematics class, we don’t need to be a genius to:

discover something new,

to share our process with others,

remain intentional,

be curious,

tell our stories,


remain honest,

shoulder criticism,

accept gifts,

and not quit.

Don’t ever quit.

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Art as Theft

This was an interesting read for me when I really needed it (about 1 year ago).

I highly recommend it for a multitude of reasons:

1.) desire to be more creative 2.) desire to share ideas with others 3.) interest in drawing better doodles 4.) simplifying your schedule

Austin Kleon brings a whole new approach to business and the impact of sharing information.

He details it in a clear, very visual approach. And it really works!

He delves into the controversial topic that no idea is uniquely original, and we all ‘steal’ from our predecessors. He even thanks them in his acknowledgments section.

If you’re looking for a good place to see how he presented this to a collegiate audience, check out his message at:

This is information I’d have loved to hear in my collegiate years. It is all helpful (even beyond the creative process).

And what’s best of all?

He practices what he preaches. In reference to #6 on his list – The Secret: Do good work and share it with people – he practices what he preaches and does just that by making all these things available online –

I hope you enjoy it, too.

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An early version of the prayer wheel.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16a

Prayer has frequently crept into a back corner for me. The ‘I’m too busy’s take over. I look, leap, fall. I fall hard and awkwardly. (Picture Jim Carrey falling off the jetway and landing with legs splayed. That’s me.)

But, recently, I came across a book, published in 2018, that I missed and never heard any press about. (Self-help books all-too-often clog the bestseller shelves and do anything, if rarely, help.) I’ll chalk this discovery of rediscovery to divine appointment.

It’s called The Prayer Wheel.

It originated in a 12th century monastery, only recently resurfaced in a small private library in 2015 (NYC), and is known as The Liesborn Prayer Wheel.

It features concentric circles, featuring:

  • Petitions from the Lord’s Prayer,
  • then, Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
  • followed by events in Christ’s life,
  • then, a Beatitude blessing,
  • and finally its corresponding Beatitude promise.

Each of these circles begin and end with ‘Praying the whole path.’ Much like the circular design, it’s meant to be endless and perfect in design. It’s outermost ring has the inscription The Order of the Diagram Written Here Teaches The Return Home. It feels very Middle-Earthian, and it taps into the creativity at which God permits people to visit Him.

I never knew this tool existed, and I’m so thankful the wheel was rediscovered near New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art!

The Prayer Wheel website does a much better job describing its formation, usage, and application. How people are returning to these monastic practices, such as: fixed-hour prayer (divine office), labyrinths (walking prayer), and lectio divina (meditative scripture reading). Their site even features a downloadable wheel you can use!

Worksheet screenshot – The Prayer Wheel

But I love the foreword by James Martin, SJ, who writes, there’s no ‘one’ right way to use the wheel, much like there’s no ‘one’ right way to pray.

And, I’m constantly feeling the necessity to return to the ancient paths mentioned in the verse above. It shows me the importance of contemplation in my own life. These are divine appointments each and every time.

New isn’t always better, and in this case, the origin story, is as important as anything else in our daily lives.

No. Not just important.


I pray this tool helps you in your prayer life today!

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2 Sam. 6:22 A – ” I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

Author Jim Forest’s account of meeting Thomas Merton for the first time is one of my all-time favorite stories about meeting your hero.

Think of yours.

Think of how you’d expect them to act.

Then scramble that notion, and you might gain a whole new respect.

In Forest’s account, he and another Catholic Worker member have traveled from New York to Merton’s Trappist monastery in Kentucky.

They are tired. They’ve traveled what feels like forever to get there.

And despite his dogged stated, Forest goes to the monastery’s chapel to pray. He begins, and his prayer is loudly interrupted.

By laughter.

An unusual sound for what he thought would be a reserved, somber place.

He writes:

The origin, I discovered was [my friend’s] room. As I opened the door the laughter was still going on, a kind of gale of joy. The major source was the red-faced man lying on the floor wearing [the Trappist habit], his knees in the air, hands clutching his belly…I realized instantly that the man on the floor laughing with such abandon must be Thomas Merton…And the inspiration for the laughter? It proved to be the intensely strong smell of feet that had been kept in shoes all the way from the Lower East Side to [the monastery] and were now out in the open air.

Merton was bent over double, laughing at the smell.

And that is why other novices (approximately 200) often couldn’t identify him when they first joined the monastery themselves.

Thomas Merton, while being the most well-known monk of his day, often went unnoticed.

One said, “If you had asked me which one he was, he would have been the second to last one I picked.”

The reason for this:

His laughter.

He adds, “He was always laughing! And I had an idea that a monk should be very serious.”

It causes me to think of that opening scene in the film Amadeus. Where Mozart is running around like a wild child, and the much older, Antonio Salieri, is looking for this divine musical prodigy.

When he’s told that the immature child is, in fact, Mozart, he’s appalled.

I love this barrier that is broken. It’s the shining moment when fact and fiction collide. The hero is right there.

Questions to consider:

What are our often preconceived notions of others?

How can we change them to see through a different lens?

And if we do, how will this free us to experience personal joy in brand new ways?

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If your sphere of influence is literal,

what does it touch?

One person at work.

Maybe two at the store.

These are three people, in that order,

that no one else has the privilege to encounter

quite like you.

To make an impact.

Them on you.

And conversely,

you on them.

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Ocean, ocean pushing past

You traveled far and now you’re here

To wet the feet of sunburned travelers

Your touch is like bathwater

The foam of many rolls

Thank you for breaking where you did

Our toes are grateful

The sand climbs to our calves

The wind pushes beyond the dunes

Resplendent mercies are ours

From your mighty efforts

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Writing / Faith

I firmly believe writing is now an exercise in faith for me.

Would I have said this 5 years ago?

But the more time I log at a desk, ideas hit me, I see something greater at work.

What strengthens you?

In Greek, the root word for faith, offers us both a noun – pistis and a verb – pistueo (believe).

I love the duality of such a word. It involves our heart and our hands. It isn’t simply verse memorization or Sunday School bible trivia. Faith requires exponentially more.

A pastor, at a new church we attended last week, spoke on just this. He differentiated on two terms I use often.

He said, “Hope is future-oriented and faith is today.”

I immediately thought of the scripture, as so many of us can recite by heart: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

And I thought of so much Thomas Merton literature I’ve read since last year. He went into far greater depths than this blog (a lifelong quest really) to serve as a witness that faith was applied daily. It was growth at a much more practical level than anything I’d done prior. He emphasized how any act could be an act of service, a chance to serve One greater.

Merton likened his writing testimony to Christ’s sacrifice:

To be as good a monk as I can and to remain myself and to write about it. To put myself down on paper, in such a situation, with the most complete simplicity and integrity, masking nothing, confusing no issue: this is very hard because I am all mixed up with illusions and attachments…

One of the results of all this could well be a complete and holy transparency: living, praying, and writing in the light of the Holy Spirit, losing myself entirely by becoming public property just as Jesus is public property in the Mass. Perhaps this is an important aspect of my priesthood—my living of my Mass: to become as plain as a Host in the hands of everybody. Perhaps it is this, after all, that is to be my way of solitude.

And from this quote so many things jump out –

  • the importance of being ourselves
  • living simply
  • masking nothing
  • avoiding confusion
  • admitting confusion
  • showing transparency (in life, prayers, everything)
  • writing as a form of worship
  • losing ourselves in One greater
  • finding refuge

And if that list doesn’t startle us to action, then I must share this other Mertonism: Faith relies completely on him in perfect trust … letting him take care of us without knowing how he will do so.


Whether in word or deed, everything matters.

Now I admit, many things can be chalked up as trivial in our day-to-day lives – hair products, favorite brands of peanut butter, type of GPS we use to get from place to place. But faith is learning to see beyond these things and learning to sink our teeth into something more indiscernible, something less mundane.

Communion with others …and communion with God while being with others (and being intentionally alone) is something very much in this realm and also the spiritual.

Every time I type on a keyboard, write a note by hand, this is a moment to give. It’s a chance to grow. It’s service to you, to others, and ultimately Him.

Think about your life. Where you’re currently at. How can you grow your faith where you stand, sit, sleep, eat?

If you coach soccer, or cook dinner for the family, or service hundreds of screaming kids at VBS/church, this is faith. It’s a chance to do more than Disney wish or blindly hope.

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Secret Places

verse taken from Jer. 23:24

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?

No. This isn’t the voice of Amazon.

Although that sentiment rings true for many of us, when we think of some all-knowing, all-seeing omnipotence.

America is seeing a trend towards more than just commercialism, idolatry, and self-worship.

We, collectively, are tapping into a scary new terrain – ambiguity.

Phones save information for us. [I know my number, a couple of others – including 911.]

Computers save our browser history, credit data, and passwords.

Geo-fencing markets to us and supplies us never-ending chances to buy more, sinking deeper into obscurity.

And largely, we haven’t fought back.

The speaker above isn’t Big Brother. And it isn’t the government either (sorry conspiracy theorists).

No. The voice is taken out of context (my apologies), but it led me to emphasize that one phrase ‘secret places.’

We are obsessed with comfortable cloudiness.

My own stems from TV (streaming services 24/7) and overt self-indulgence throughout each fiscal year.

What is not overt and continually remains a mystery is how we protect broken, dilapidated portions of our lives.

Much like a home, the soul is largely neglected. I feel, inside more weeks than not, I’m a shell of what I want to be:

Honest, hard-working, transparent, giving, humble

Social media has allowed me to look the part, but again, this protects those secret places in my life.

If, instead, I thought of a spotlight following me around, and life was anything but a stage, then I think I would begin to allow the secret places to be revealed – to expose me for who I am.

Flawed, treacherous, unhealthy

loving, loved, saved

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Join me this weekend!

Friday, 4/26 – Saturday, 4/27 in Bowling Green, KY

The middle grade and young adult events will take place on Friday, 4/26. There will be panel discussions and time to ask authors questions. (I’ll be co-hosting a session on YA writing at 11am.)

Then, Saturday, 4/27, you will have plenty of time to get copies of books by Kentucky authors (like Eliot Parker & Tasha Cotter!) & out-of-state guests. It’s a great event. Hope to see you there.

Address for events:

Knicely Convention Center

2355 Nashville Road, Bowling Green, KY 42101

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7 Things a NEW Dad Learns

Angry crying is the wellspring of life. – Anonymous

As a mid-30s male jumping into the foray of parenthood, I’ve witnessed things my 20-year-old self would’ve ran from. For family members & friends wondering where I’ve been

I’m still alive.*

*No matter what the suffocating mound of Pampers, Huggies, disinfectant wipes, and empty Enfamil canisters behind my closet door suggests.

My wife says ‘Hello,’ by the way and wants to know if you have any good vacation recommendations. We hope to book one for the year 2032. Will Bermuda still be permitting tourists then? Will the polar ice caps make our destination point moot?

We tell folks that our honeymoon lasted 10 years and swear the best isn’t behind us. Regardless of what our Friday night routines tell us. (I’m still hunting for those dang Dr. Brown bottle pieces.)

For any soon-to-be fathers out there, here are 7 things this dad has learned:

  • Set the alarm 1 hour earlier than pre-Baby days
  • Wet wipes are the new paper towel
  • Diapers aren’t Tupperware containers (not air tight)
  • Happy Mom + Baby = some sleep
  • Toes will be bent on the bed frame
  • Keep swearing to a minimum (<2 per day, never in front of Baby)
  • Sound machines are better than any DJ you’ll find. I recommend the ‘waves’ setting.