Five Minute Friday — The Book


That was my reaction when I finally settled down to read Five Minute Friday — A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. It was not what I expected.

To be honest, I didn’t know what  to expect. Perhaps I thought it would be more of a journal, not particularly put together in a splashy manner … something more plain Jane. But, one of our own, Susan Shipe, took on the unenviable job of compiling posts from our FMF community. It started with a simple question, do you have a favorite or popular FMF post you would be willing to share. Surprise! One hundred forty-four — yes 144! — sent in responses, including yours truly. Susan ran with it and put together one of the classiest collections I’ve ever seen.

20161027_182741I haven’t read all 144 yet. I’m still sifting through the book. But truth be known, as I have perused the 236 page, soft cover gem, I recognized names of my fellow writers and uncovered hidden writing jewels, some of which I have read before and others being unearthed here for the first time. I have decided I will  incorporate these posts into my quiet time each day. They are that much of a blessing.

Speaking of blessings, that was the post I submitted. The prompt for the week was TEN. I chose to list my top 10 blessings. There it was, starting on page 59 (

Five Minute Friday was the brainchild of Lisa-Jo Baker, who joined in the endeavor by providing the Forward. She explains it best. “I wanted to write like my kids ran — unselfconscious with arms flailing and heart beating wildly. Running [writing] just for the joy of running [writing].” She decided “one ordinary Thursday” to throw caution to the wind and invite people to just write without worrying if it was just right or not.

“What if we took five minutes and all wrote on the same prompt?” she thought. “What might we create?”

That’s how Five Minute Friday was born back on Jan. 11, 2011.

I came to the party Jan. 5, 2013, about three months after I first started blogging. I had been following Lisa-Jo’s posts for a couple of months, but hesitated joining in because, well, most of the posts were from very talented young mothers and women and I wasn’t sure how an old geezer like me would fit in. So I asked Lisa-Jo, who cordially responded “You’re welcome to jump in and write along. We have a few other brave men who join now and again.”

I never looked back. Although I typically don’t get to the prompt until Saturday, it has become a must do exercise. I feel bad if I am forced — and that’s really the operative word — to miss a post. I know I can just skip it, but I feel like I am skipping school … and there was an assignment due! Just a couple of weeks ago, I “caught up” on three missed weeks, not because I had to, but because I needed to.

The format is simple. Set the timer for five minutes and write. Don’t worry about mistakes, grammar, fonts or punctuation … just write from your mind and heart. Then, post and encourage others who have braved the exercise. That is the heart of the community.

Every Friday for four years, hundreds of people joined a kind of writing flash mob at Lisa-Jo’s blog, As she tells it, “We gathered over laptops, kitchen sinks and in conference rooms. Around virtual coffee tables, on Facebook, between the car pool drop offs and putting the kids to bed. And every Thursday night we met up on Twitter using the hashtag #FMFParty (Five Minute Friday party) to wait for the writing prompt that would always go live at 10 p.m. EST. Exactly.”

Lisa-Jo decided to turn over the coordinating to her “word sister and fellow lover of Five Minute Friday” Kate Motaung, who took the baton and has kept running with it. The only change she has made is moving the prompt location. Still at 10 p.m. EST, the single word prompt now goes lives at  That’s also where the posts are linked.

In her Introduction, Kate adds, “Expect to be surprised by what comes out [when you set your fingers free]. That’s all part of the ride. All part of the creativity of our God, of His image reflected in His people.”

I love these guys … the well over 100 who contribute weekly. They bless me with their words. Or as Kate says, “Above all, have fun! No stress, only smiles.”

Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat is available at or for $12.99. All proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to The Vine School and Take Action Ministries, both in South Africa.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You need to be as gracious to others as you want God to be to you. — Pastor Bill Welsh

Posted in Blogs, books, ecumenism, encouragement, Faith, Five Minute Friday, Friends, God, inspiration, Laughter, Life, love, relationships, Review, stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Minute Friday — Park

The promptmasters at Five Minute Friday have been very, very inventive with their prompts lately. At least for this contributor to the weekly writefest, I’ve had to dig deep into the gray matter. Since I don’t pre-peek into what my fellow writers come up with until I visit Kate’s place ( to post, I can’t wait to see what take these mostly ladies have come up with. I hope you get a chance to visit as well … and maybe contribute!

The prompt this week is PARK. The timer is set for five minutes, so I guess it’s time to GO

It’s been a long time since I thought about parks. In fact, I rarely think about parks. So I decided to dig into my mental files to reflect on parks through the years.

When I was a kid, my usual “park” was a vacant field on East 19th Street. It was there the neighborhood guys would congregate for a pick up game of baseball or football, occasionally being pestered by the girls of the neighborhood. There were also real parks with regular park things like swings and monkey bars and such, and there were neighborhood parks, well defined, some with stone walls like the one in People’s Park. And there were bigger parks like Eastside, Westside and Pennington. Eastside at the time featured rolling hills, great for sledding. Westside and Pennington were on opposite sides of the Passaic River … STOP

submarine… connected by a footbridge. Westside featured the forerunner of the nation’s first submarine, the Holland submarine built in Paterson and tested in the Passaic River, as well as a deer pen where kids could visit and feed the deer. Pennington boasted the first fenced in little league baseball diamond, while Eastside had two home plate to home plate fields, one fenced and the other not. While Westside was fenced in, it was angled and high, I loved playing Little League games in the fenced fields where a well-hit ball would fly over the fence as opposed to me actually having to run around the bases {some things never change}.

Well, that’s what seeped out of the memory box this week. Now it’s time to post and see what the girls have written.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.

Posted in family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, growing up, Life, love, Memories, New Jersey, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dreams … Dreams … Dreams

I have been called a dreamer … and I would never dispute it. Psychologically, a dreamer is a person who lives in or escapes to a world of fantasy or illusion. Again, I would never dispute that. And dreamers tend to dream. Again … me.

I’ve always been a dreamer and I always had nighttime dreams. They’re especially vivid after a repast of sausage or pepperoni. I’ve even shared some of them with you in the past.

But I’ve noticed something “different” since my tiny brain bleed. First, it knocked me out. I can’t get enough sleep … five minutes here … 15 minutes there … early to bed … late to rise. And each and every time I dream.

It’s like all the files in my mind have been tossed out of their neat little compartments to rustle through the caverns of my grey matter. And they’re intermingling with the free range thoughts grazing my brain.

It makes for some interesting entertainment when my eyelids droop.

On short trips to la la land, the eyelids screen highlight little pop-ups like puppies jumping for frisbies, sunrises, sunsets, rolling clouds, geometrical shapes, silhouettes and waves.

Nighttime REM dreams have been just as regular and vivid. I can’t say I remember them all, but I remember I did dream. The other night, after binge watching The Good Wife final season, I dreamt of Diane Lockhart and Cary Agos  interviewing a smart ass Goth teen, dressed all in black except for bright red fishnet stockings. Go figure. Another night I was dressed as Santa Claus entertaining kids on a train on the way to South Dakota {???}. Still another was a rerun of the day a young sideline reporter {me} was tackled by a 270 pound lineman on a sideline sweep at a frigid Sparta-Franklin game.

I’ve also noticed I am more active in my dreams over the past month. Typically, my “action” dreams were narratives where I watched the action. Since the bleed, I’ve actually been involved in the action {nothing strenuous, but, hey, at least I’m walking; that has to count for something}.

I dreamily recalled taking my grandmother to Connecticut as an 18 year old in my Studebaker Silver Hawk. The dream was limited to my hands on the wheel, the road ahead through the windshield and the Hawk’s long nose and the mother of pearl dashboard with my tach locked at 3500 rpm. Grandma again asked me why I was driving so fast. In another, I was visiting with my other grandma in dreamland, eating a biscotti while she sat at the kitchen table in her signature apron and housedress.

I dreamt of walking down a trail as the leaves changed with Sonni hand in hand. And I dreamt of getting a kiss from Karen  as we walked the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.

As I reflected on these dreams and mini dreams, it occurred to me they were all good memories. No nightmares. No unpleasant thoughts. No dark shadows.

That makes me smile. All is well with my unconscious self.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Encouragement does for the soul what fresh water does for the body. We need it! It revives and refreshes us. It brings hope for a better tomorrow and helps us get through today.


Posted in dreams, family, Humor, Laughter, Life, love, Memories, relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Mail and Catching Up

I’ve been missing in action from Five Minute Friday for a few weeks. There are a lot of reasons … my health … falling behind … catching up … literally finding time. But the exercise is so important to me. It’s part of my routine {even if I do generally get to post a day late}. I value the camaraderie of my fellow writers as we open our minds and reach into our souls to put down five minute’s worth of words {hopefully} worth reading. Then we congregate to Kate’s place ( for the most important part of the exercise — sharing. It’s as much of the routine as the writing. I invite you to stop by any time or even share your thoughts or try your hand at the writing.

But back to being MIA. I found the prompts difficult and kicked the writing down the priority ladder. I also feel a tremendous loss. So I decided to provide a synopsis of what was missed. I’m not going to stick to the time limit … just write. I hope my fellow writers accept this departure from form and I hope my other followers appreciate the post. It’s not pithy. But it is in the spirit of community.

So, here goes …

The four prompts I missed were:

Five: I was truly confused by the prompt. Five? Why not six? or eight? or 27? or three? Of course there was a reason for the post — the launch of our special Five Minute Friday book, celebrating the wonderful representation of what we’re all about: A safe place for writers to gather around one word and write free and unedited. I am proud to say I am one of the contributors {available at Amazon CreateSpace  }. The secondary reason for the prompt was the fifth anniversary of the death of Kate’s mother. Her words were heart-wrenching, heart-warming and something each of us can relate to.

Collect: I literally was running around to doctors’ appointments and trying to keep my business moving. My contribution is simple. It was time to collect my thoughts and assess my life … even if that meant foregoing putting those thoughts in print.

Test: Again, plenty of thoughts, too little time available time. We are tested over and over in this life. In fact, tests are part of life. My test was an unexpected illness that landed me in the hospital for three days resulting in a barrage of medical tests.

And this week, Mail: Another Five Minute Friday perk … snail mail. It started with a tweet a long time ago and turned into an ongoing ministry. Members of Five Minute Friday have been sending each other snail mail once a week over predetermined six-week periods, and it’s so amazing! I join Kate and the rest of the crew in definitely encouraging you to try it out. If you’re not a Five Minute Friday participant, do it anyway. A word of encouragement by e-mail or snail mail could lift someone’s day. In addition to sending snail mails to my FMF friends, I regularly send out e-mail words of encouragement weekly to my friends and daily to my family.

Well, now we’re caught up. See you next Friday … or Saturday.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Stay the course. Keep believing. You may be tired, discouraged and frustrated, but don’t give up on your future. Our God is faithful.

Posted in encouragement, Faith, Five Minute Friday, Friends, health, Life, reflect, relationships, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Year Without ‘Sonni’-Shine

I received the news a year ago today. My very close friend Sonni had died, less than two weeks after suffering a debilitating overnight stroke.

Over the past few years, Sonni and I had become very close friends, She was the salve that helped heal a broken heart — not repair it, not fill it, not replace it. She learned from experience and took me under her wing.

10462798_705210946212149_4533542319486351694_nI like to think we were helping each other get through the days of widow- and widower-hood. We talked just about every day — if not directly, then certainly through messaging and e-mail. I knew when something was troubling her. She knew when I got into my “moods.”

I’m reminded of her every time I pass her house. Before she died, that casual trip would evoke a sense of security. The brick and mortar had an aura of love and compassion that lived within. You could sense it. That aura has left. It’s just brick and mortar … another house down the street.

I was furthered reminded of how much I lost last week when I did some spring cleaning of my phone messages. {I’m not big into cleaning things out.} There she was. “Sweetpea. I’m going to Wegman’s this afternoon. Do you want to come with me?
It was a combination request/command. It was Sonni at her best.

I remember the day she made the call. I WAS going through some emotional issues. She knew that. I HAD to step away from reality for a little bit but wouldn’t have done it on my own. She knew that. I NEEDED human companionship. She knew that.

She called a little later that day. This time I was home and answered. Her words were simple. “I’m leaving in about 15 minutes. Be ready. I’ll pick you up.”

Needless to say, I was ready in 15 minutes. We went to Wegman’s … ate one of their $5 meals … stopped at Friendly’s for an ice cream cone … went to her house to watch a movie and talk. It was a respite. She knew that.

I miss Sonni. I miss her laugh. I miss her hugs. I miss her words. I miss her guidance. I miss her unconditional friendship. I miss Sonni.

I’m a pretty independent guy. I like to think I think things through. But the truth is, before I make a decision, I rely on tons of opinions, deciphering {at least trying to} fact from fiction. And I have always relied heavily on the thought of strong women to ground me, corral me, give me a greater perspective. I had that for 40-plus years with Karen. I had that for six-plus years with Sonni. I don’t have that now.

In my mind’s eye, I can see Karen and Sonni sitting there in heaven chatting, Sonni with her Diet Pepsi and Karen with her water turned into exquisite wine. I can see them laughing at the foolish things I say and do without their physical sphere of influence. I see them taking turns proverbially whacking me in the back of the head when I REALLY do or say something foolish (Hmmm, maybe it wasn’t really a stroke after all).

I really miss them — both of them  — every day.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Often we spend so much time focusing on where we want to get to, we forget to enjoy the things along the way.

Posted in death, encouragement, Faith, family, Friends, grace, heaven, Karen, Life, love, Memories, relationships, Sonni, women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

If We’re Honest

Here’s a share of my sermon this morning at West Fayette Presbyterian Church.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

If we’re honest — notice how I linked the sermon topic — do we really believe that? Do we have the power to make extraordinary things happen? Can we change the natural order of things?

I believe we do and can, although I say that with a little caveat. We cannot do it, but our faith can. That, my friends, I believe, is what Jesus was saying in the opening words of today’s gospel. And Matthew (17:20), Mark (4:30-31) (9:23) and (11:22) echo Luke’s words, All things are possible to him who believes!

All my life, I’ve been a pretty positive guy. I always looked at the “half full” side of the glass. Even in dark days I could look beyond the storm. Okay, some times I had to be forced to be still and remember God is God and in control. And I will never say I totally understand the whys of life.

But I have learned to accept the daily ups and downs and recognize I am not in control. I want to be, Lord knows, but I’m not.

After we learned the prognosis of Karen’s illness, my mantra song was Dare To Believe by Ray Boltz. I would crank it up when it played on the radio or if I had popped in the CD. Everyone knew I was coming … they could hear me.

There’s a miracle inside you
It’s just a mustard seed of faith
But by the mighty hand of God now
You know that tiny seed was placed …

For the God that we serve
He is much more than able, yes, He is
So don’t be afraid
Stand up and say, I dare to believe

I dare to believe
That miracles happen, yeah
That mountains still move
And demons must flee …

I believed that with all my heart. I still do, although God’s results didn’t move my mountain.

There are many other traditional hymns and contemporary Christian songs that address God NOT moving mountains. They are reminders to me to keep the faith … to trust … remind me who is in control … and most of all to look forward, not back. A contemporary favorite of mine is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. The chorus says it all …
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Let’s be honest. THAT is extremely difficult. Our faith does get shaken. Our focus does get diverted. We retreat into ourselves or we lash out at others. We get hurt. We get disappointed. We get disillusioned. We can’t make sense of the violence or abuse or illness or even the death of someone close.

Truth is we don’t have to. There is a greater Power who has all the answers. My job — your job — isn’t to figure out the answers. My job — your job — is to trust in the God who has been there through the good and bad times. Isn’t it exciting to know we have an anchor in the storms of life?

That’s what makes it all worthwhile. That spurs hope for a future. That’s the seed of faith germinating inside you and me.

Despite the dark words of Psalm 137 and our first reading in Lamentations, the darkness is replaced with light by way of hope. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…

And Paul shares with us the words to Timothy in today’s epistle reading, telling us to rely on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

But, again, let’s be honest. We can hear the words, but do we HEAR the words? Do we believe them? Do they resonate with us? Do they change us?

Well, maybe … or least for an hour on Sunday morning with perhaps a short bump as we walk through the everyday, mundane tasks of our lives. But generally, and unfortunately, Scripture words are just words and not life changing. When we leave here we return to the “real world” and revert to our “real lives.”

Jesus’ tells us if you want to increase your faith, have faith the size of a mustard seed. Believe in that power. Believe while we may not be able to move mountains, God can. And, sometimes, maybe He doesn’t want us to move the mountain but figure out a way around or over it that gives us the opportunities to shine His light.

By the way, the Jews of Jesus’ day probably understood this phraseology better than we. “Removing mountains” was a common phrase known in the day as meaning “to remove difficulties”. And, of course, in the agrarian nature of the time, they would have understood the significance of the mustard seed, one of the smallest of seeds which can overtake a garden and have been known to blossom to a large shrub that commonly reached the height of eight to ten foot around the Lake of Galilee.

Today’s parable is almost like Jesus telling the apostles — and by extension, us — “You already have faith you silly disciples! You just aren’t using it!” A little faith can go a long way.

See, the disciples were asking for the wrong thing. They didn’t need to increase their faith — they needed to increase their faithfulness. They needed to increase their faithfulness. There is a big difference.

Faith is a gift from God. He gives us the amount of faith we need and it never runs out. Actually, to ask God to increase our faith is kind of an insult.

Faithfulness, on the other hand, is our response to our faith. It’s what we do with our faith. And that is entirely up to us.

Faithfulness is defined as being loyal and obedient to the person we put our trust in. If we put our faith in Jesus, then we also have to be faithful to Him.

When we accept Jesus as Savior, we put our faith in Him. When we accept Jesus as Lord, we put our faithfulness in Him.

The second part of today’s gospel deals with our relationships with a parable about masters and slaves. Jesus is telling us to do what is expected of us … and then some. By today’s standards, the whole slave/master thing might seem wrong or archaic. But I think it’s a little deeper with an underlying challenge.

I’ll share a story.

A young man applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications,  he simply said, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”

This puzzled the farmer. But he liked the young man, so he hired him.

A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found the shutters on the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace.

The young man was sleeping soundly.

The farmer and his wife then inspected the rest of the property. They found the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the barn. And the barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well.

It was then the farmer understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”

Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it came. And (SLOW) he could sleep in peace.

There was nothing dramatic or sensational in the young farmhand’s preparations. He just faithfully did what was needed each day. Consequently, peace was his when the winds blew, when the storms came.

Those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior can sleep  when the wind blows as well. Their salvation is assured.

Now the challenge. We live for Christ, and to do His will, not for reward, not for praise, not for gain, but because I am to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. It isn’t the things you do, it is the things you leave undone which will give you heartache. The message is easy to read over, but aren’t like we often like worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!

Again, let’s be honest. That’s our nature. We do what we ought to do and often very little else. We — you and I — are broken and we — you and I — often let that brokenness pave our path. We — you and I — often look for the praise and adulation and forget our purpose in life, to shine the light of Christ in a dark world.

If we’re honest, we would see how God has taken us on our individual journeys. Whenever there were difficult encounters or joyful events, we can — or should — see Him at work. He has taken us from our youth to today — 10 years, 20 years, 50 plus years. Remembering His faithfulness is like looking at the mustard seed to remind us He is real. He gives life its purpose. Our heavenly Father provided our sacrifice for all times — His Son– as redemption for us all! That’s why we are reminded to give thanks in all situations and to praise Him for all He is and does.

You and I have a chance to change the trajectory of our lives, right here, right now. As you’ll hear in our special song from Francesca Battistelli,
“Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine,
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides.
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest. If we’re honest.”

Our lives may be the only sermon those around us will ever hear or, more important, will ever see. We say things like, “I’m not ready yet. I’m not prepared enough. I need to learn more. I need God to give me more faith.”

No. Show grace to the world around you, to those God sends into your life and make your broken life a glorious sermon.

Faith. Belief. Trust. Hope. Grace. Honesty. Brokenness. Love.

Personally, I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.

Amen and Amen!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if you lost everything … all your possessions, your family, your health, your money, your job security, your friends … would you still love God?

Posted in ecumenism, encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Life, love, Music, relationships, sermon, songs, West Fayette Presbyterian, worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

September 27

Some dates seem to have more significance than others. August 20 — my birthday. August 31 — the day I got married. November 20 — Karen’s birthday. March 25, April 12, May 19, November 4, November 8 — my children’s birth dates.

September 27 — the day my life and my family’s lives changed forever … the day Karen died.

We’ve been through the details before. If you’re interested, just page back to this date over the past four years.

For the most part, I’m doing fine eight years after the fact. I’ve been able to navigate through the early days of widowhood and the ever-expanding realization of life alone. The bright spot is you can get away with more — working late, sneaking snacks, watching what you want on TV, not sharing the covers — but it’s really just a flicker.

Karen and I were married for 40 years. That’s a lot of memories. That’s a lot of togetherness. So, yes, even though I’ve been maneuvering through life for the last eight years, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought of Karen. It’s not melancholy. But the joy of life is dulled. As countless widows and widowers following long relationships can attest, there is a hole in your heart. It closes over the years, but you still wear the scar. And it’s not just the same going through life alone … especially after being yoked together for so many years.

I’ve tried to maintain a relationship with Karen beyond the grave. I’ve maintained many of the traditions we had — like morning coffee and cartoons, flowers, our conversations still. Those, however, are less frequent because she is in Maine and at least half the month, I’m in New York.

I certainly miss her. But even more, it saddens me she never got the chance to meet three of her grandchildren or her two great-granddaughters. Even as I move forward, there is a twinge of sadness Karen isn’t sharing those adventures. You can blame her for my fascination with Maine and, while she is there now, it’s inside an urn.

There is a Funky Winkerbean cartoon taped to the file cabinet next to my {her} desk. I look at it every day. Les Moore lost his wife to cancer and he is driving with his daughter Summer. She asks, “Dad … Do you still miss Mom?”

Next frame, Les responds, “There hasn’t been a day. But after a while, you begin to understand …” Jump to frame three. “… That you can’t let your grief become the substitute for the one you love.”

We always kidded each other. I would say “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone” and she would respond, “No, no, no. You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”

Once again, she was right.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if you knew you had one day to live.

Posted in anniversary, family, grief, Karen, Life, love, Memories, relationships, wife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment