Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

This photograph of someone else’s hands on a manual typewriter keyboard reminds me of my college days. My fingers slipping off the keys, getting stuck in between as I wrote a paper. If I made a mistake I would slip a little piece of paper with white out on one side between the offending key and paper and press the key again. It was a relatively slow, pains taking process. The typewriters we used in Journalism classes were IBM Selectrics. These ubiquitous preferred electronic office typewriters were much faster and easy to use. Also, they didn’t eat fingers. The third keyboard in my student life was a VDT (video display terminal). We used these keyboards attached to small monitors to download stories onto diskettes. Fast forward 40 years or so and the writing I do now is different, but still influenced and benefited by the analytical/critical skills I learned in school. Who, what, where, when, why, and how still often find their way into my writing. Something a favorite professor of mine used to say was, “Our job is not to tell readers what to think, but rather to tell them what to think about.” That puts the onus on us as communicators. After determining the topic/story, whether speaking with someone face to face, or writing, I still believe the ability to get a message across is one of the most important skills any of us can cultivate. If we aren’t careful though, comprehension can be the drowning victim in a flood of communication. Unfortunately, the age of social networking encourages worship of the podium and “like” addiction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing applause from the same audience over and over again. Too often, the participants in platforms like Facebook foster an atmosphere of us vs. them instead of appealing to each other’s hearts and what we have in common.

Since today is Mother’s Day, you might be asking yourself what any of this talk about communication has to do with it. I’ve always believed the best communicators are great listeners first. Anyone with a loud voice can make a speech, but not everyone is a good listener, which is a hallmark of quality communicators. My mother was a wonderful listener. Looking back, I know she put as much or more effort into hearing than she did in being heard. This was one of her gifts to the world, and to the degree it is mine, she deserves much of the credit. As a Christian who believes the gospel message must take primacy in my life, I recognize that my words matter. I alone am responsible for them, both the ones I utter and the ones I choose to mull over and process.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:19 ESV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV

“It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.”
Italo Calvino

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
Truman Capote

Lord, inform what we say and write
to the exclusion of words
that tear down and divide.
Help us work the muscle
between our ears
to devote more attention to what we hear.
Focus our discernment
toward what you say
through your word
and our brothers and sisters today.
Then if reconciliation and peace
are worth being preached
like the song says, “let it begin with me.”

© Joel Tipple 5/10/2020

Hearing God

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 ESV

“Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”
From an essay titled, “Social Aims” by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1875.

Communication. It’s not so easy, is it? And we live in a time when communication is seemingly effortless. Unless the person we wish to speak with is located somewhere one of the many technologies dedicated to communication is not available, we are often able to connect almost instantly. Any time we want. Not that long ago, within the perspective of human history, one had to wait weeks or even months for a letter to find its recipient. I’m guessing letter writers were pretty careful with their words. Now, we live in a sea of words. Print media has virtually ceded power and influence to television and the internet. Vigilance over what we read and what we listen to is more important than ever. Who we listen to and believe and our responsibility to do our own due diligence is more critical than ever.

The two scriptures shown here at the top reveal aspects of God talking to us. One of the primary ways we are able to hear God is through scripture. The Bible we rely on to hear God remains remarkably unchanged. It is truly a miracle that it has stayed intact over the centuries. It’s clear God has kept a hedge of protection around his word. However, contrast those scriptures with the quote from Emerson. A Google search will reveal multiple versions of the original words, some differing so as to seem like the results of a game of telephone. Some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, there are a few that can’t be accurately sourced to the famed British leader, though they are repeated often.

So, we rely on scripture to hear God. Also, we rely on prayer. And part of prayer is listening. Being quiet. Finding a gentle river apart from the thundering sea of words and other sounds we are bombarded with every day. If sleep is a way for our body and mind to repair itself, surely prayer is a way to repair our spirit and hear God. Finally, we come to fellowship. God has designed us to be social beings, even for those of us who prefer solitude over crowds, there is a need to speak and be spoken to. God made us for community, where there is learning, sharing, and yes, healing, to be found.

I search for the hearing of you,
with every sense with which I was born.
I cry for the knowing of you,
and pray for the knowing to never be torn.
Teach me to gather every way
I can be with you.
Help me collect them,
as gifts beyond value.
Though the world may thunder away,
let me yet hear your whisper today,
the precious treasure,
the hearing of you.

© Joel Tipple 7/13/2019

What If Wonderful?


Remember when you were young

and with the car window rolled down

your hand could fly in the jet stream

almost breaking sound?

God gave you imagination

to see more than with your eyes.

So if a still small voice is saying so,

maybe you should fly.

What if wonderful?

It’s more than just a word.

What if God’s best you rehearsed?

What if fantastic and amazing occupied your mind

instead of just existing,

getting by.

What if wonderful?

Think beyond the tried, it’s true,

you won’t always know how the Lord can use you

until you step out.

What if wonderful?

Not just another day.

What if amazing? A highlight reel play.

Jesus lives in you, if you believe.

He wants the best for you, so conceive.

Build something

with your two hands.

Make reality

out of your plans.

Write a book,

or paint a scene.

Give arms, legs and a brain to your dreams.

What if wonderful?

Don’t let lack of trying

make you set your goals aside,

and don’t ever let dream breakers

cut your imagination down to their size.

What if wonderful?

Ask questions of your direction;

do you have one?

Or are you adrift, without oars?

Have you sought God’s will for your journey?

Without his direction you’ll surely drift off course

and miss the wonderful.

What if exciting? Life lived to the fullest.

What if energy infused your walk?

What if every day, or at least most

it matched your talk?

What if wonderful?

What if you started each day, seeking God’s face,

expectant and childlike, no matter your age?

What if the most high God, full of justice and grace,

were to mold you?

What if now?

What if astonishing?

What if wonderful?

©Joel Tipple

Home For Christmas

I’m not sure when I first came across the old newspaper. It was in a chest of drawers in a hall closet where our family kept mementos: old photographs, report cards, etc. Most families have a place like that. Somewhere to store memories. For photographs anyway, I suppose that place now is the hard drive on your computer. Back then, for us, it was still a chest of drawers. Today, either someone else in the family has ended up with the newspaper or it’s gone missing, but I was able to find the newspaper article with an internet search. Computers aren’t very romantic, but they are very good at saving information like that. For this I’m grateful.

The newspaper is The Humboldt Standard, December 20, 1955, four years before I was born. Dominating local news at the time was the largest flood the Eel River valley had ever experienced. Thousands were made homeless and there were many many acts of heroism as the area was largely cut off from the rest of the world except by air. Christmas would be spoiled again by an even larger flood nine years later. A pole near Miranda shows the 1964 flood crest at an amazing 46 feet above the highway surface. In ‘55 it got to just shy of 43. The story I refer to begins on page one and continues on page five. One of several large pictures on that page shows the tops of two cars as they are about to disappear under water. Two white arrows point to the roofs as they are difficult to see in the night shot. A good part of the left side of the page is taken up by a picture of two men standing next to a rowboat. The taller man on the left with a concerned look on his face is identified as Chester Goble. The man on the right, his head turned toward Chester, is holding a flashlight in one hand and one of the boat oars in the other. He and Chester have just saved the lives of eight people, two adults and four children from the first car, and two 18-year-olds from the second. A 70 year old man, who was also in the first car, didn’t make it out that night. His body was recovered from the car the next day. The man standing next to Chester is my dad. In 1955 he was 28.

I don’t remember asking my dad about the photograph. When I was growing up he could be intimidating, hard to talk to. I wish I had tried, because I might have more details. But it’s clear that the little my mom volunteered when I asked about the newspaper at the time was true. She said, “He and that other man saved those people. They were heroes.”

When the Eel River floods, it spreads out through the valley. That night in ‘55, a low spot on Waddington road on the outskirts of Ferndale began to cover with water. A normal wet year might mean driving through a few inches of water, but as the rain continued to intensify this swath of road through dairy pasture became what it really always was, a branch of the Eel River. Since my dad’s business was automotive repair and towing, I suspect what brought him to the scene was a call to rescue a car, but as the water quickly rose and surrounded two cars along with their occupants, the situation changed dramatically.

Fast forward to about ten years ago.. One evening when Lori and I were having dinner with my parents the subject of the rescue came up. Dad related that the day to him was a series of miracles. At the scene, it became clear to get to the cars a boat would be needed fast, so Dad took off in search of one. He eventually found a suitable row boat in someone’s yard, but no one was home and he didn’t have a way of getting it back to the scene. So he took off again in search of something to transport the boat. In another yard he found an old flatbed truck that looked like it hadn’t moved in ages. Again, no one home. Growing more desperate, he opened the driver’s side door of the truck, and to his wonder there was a key in the ignition. But would it start? He got in, turned the key, hit the floor starter, the engine turned over… and caught! He was in business. My dad, now a truck thief, soon to be a boat thief, continued back and managed to load the boat onto the truck. Back at the road/river, somehow, the two managed to get almost everyone out of the two vehicles before they were completely submerged.

Dad’s story ended at this point and no one pressed him for details. Later, talking to Lori, he expressed how he had never gotten over not being able to get the last person out. He said he tried to go back, but Chester stopped him and said, “Jack you can’t. You’ve got a family, and it’s too late. You can’t save him.” Apparently for the rest of his life he carried the burden of the one life out of nine they were unable to save. While I’m sure he could appreciate what he and Chester were able to accomplish, he never really stopped grieving over that one life lost. Many rescuers would take to the skies and water before the ‘55 flood was over, then, once again in ‘64. As illustrated in the parable of the lost lamb in Luke 15, I believe God has implanted in our hearts the desire to always bring back the one who is lost.

Lost lamb at Christmas,
What kind of lost are you?
Have your feet taken you far from home,
or has your hardened heart left too?

The door to home is never closed
the fireplace always warm
for those who would repent and turn,
and come in from the storm.

Rejoice for the rescued.
For those no longer astray.
We have all at one time
been unable to find our way.

May God give us a burden at Christmas
to reach out to the lost,
to the young and old with ravaged minds,
and bodies torn and tossed.

Jesus was born into our world
to shepherd us back to the fold.
God, don’t let us rest until we’ve reached
every wayward and wandering soul.

©Joel Tipple

The End of the Beginning


Sometime around Christmas of 2012 I decided to challenge myself by posting at least once a day for a year beginning January 1, 2013 to a newly created blog. From the beginning the toughest part of this challenge has not been posting “something” each day. Posting something I was truly happy with, now that has been a whole other bottle of ink. So, I made up my mind to make this year a training ground of sorts. I would allow myself to experiment with various styles of poems, devotions, short stories, editorials… really, any sort of writing that I could come up with in a day. I made it as fun and meaningful as I could, both for myself and anyone who cared to take the journey with me. I tried to not pay too much attention to the number of people reading or “liking” each post and I tried to give myself enough room to fail now and then. One of my favorite lessons to take away from the Bible is that God expects us to fall down once in a while. Anyone who has gained a reasonable amount of life experience knows that’s part of the process. I failed just enough to learn some, I think.

My prayer throughout this year has been that I might be an instrument of God to bring healing to those who need it. That sounds like a lofty goal, and I guess it is. If I may be bold enough to say so, I think followers of Jesus bear the responsibility of expressing healing words to those we encounter every day, whether they are spoken in what we might consider an artful manner or not. I don’t consider myself to be that sophisticated. Most of my training in writing has been to write clearly and succinctly. Conveying thoughts through the various means of creative writing can be tremendously therapeutic for the writer, as well as (it is hoped) for the reader.

So what will I do for 2014? To begin with, I will continue to post here at least once a week. Going from seven days to one will allow me to branch out into other projects. I would like to publish my first book before the year is up. Naturally, you want to know what kind of book I have in mind. Right now I’m considering that. Using a word I learned reading Mark Twain, I’m “cogitating.”

To those of you who followed this blog during the last year, I want to express my deepest appreciation. Thanks for reading, commenting and just hanging in there to read again when you had no idea where I was going. Thank you very much indeed.

© Joel Tipple

Politicians and Celebrities

I would hope to make the people I actually know
more important than politicians
and celebrities
in my life.

I would rather go to the mat
for Joe or Sam down the street
than a guy being paid to be popular on TV.

If I know the names of your children,
and where they go to school,
shouldn’t I be more interested in them
than in who this week’s magazines have spun to be cool?

So much is artificial,
ultra-refined and designed
but without nutritional value
for the body or the mind.
I just think we should focus
on what’s real instead of buying
the mass market media line.

© Joel Tipple

If you work at it…


If you work at it hard enough
you can find seven things wrong with you
at the expense of the one thing that’s right.

If you commit thoroughly to the cause
you’ll ignore that encouraging word
and instead find a way to start a fight.

If you just devote yourself
you can undermine the faith
someone dear helped you find.

With focused effort you can avoid
seeing the strengths God gave you
because it’s easier to remain blind.

You can put in the work to be amazing
or you can work just as hard to be not.
God uses those you might least expect
when they say yes to what they’ve got.

© Joel Tipple

New Paint

i could use a new coat of paint
all a board is peeling
that isn’t faded and gray
looking through my windows
i shutter to think
how much longer this can go on
a home that’s gone from red to pink

i could use a new coat of paint
the grand dame of my block i must say i ain’t
so many seasons missing attention
have passed while here i sink

spring i don’t feel it in my foot treads
summer’s heat i peel some more
falling down on my foundation
winter with brittle cold i’m beset

my value from high has gone to bargain basement
there’s hardly any swing left in my casements
the mouse that this house once housed
has left for next door while its years still allow
so please don’t consider it vain
that I ask you to favor me
with a new coat of paint

© Joel Tipple



Taking into account a couple of times when I’ve reblogged someone else’s post on “Write here, Joel” in addition to my own for that day, today marks blog number 300. The official beginning was Jan. 1, but I already had a few things written so I had something of a running start. The daily blogs will continue through the end of December. I have an idea of what will happen at that point, but you’ll have to wait until then to see just what that something will be.

I promised at the beginning that I was going to experiment a lot. True to my word, I’ve tried all sorts of stuff. All kinds of poetry, short stories, jokes, social commentary, devotions. I’ve been all over the place. While we bloggers have access to, and probably watch too closely, the myriad of statistics about what we’re doing, I’ve tried not to be a slave to the numbers. By now I have an idea of what will do well and what won’t. However, I try not to let that drive what goes into this blog. This has been a learning experience and you can’t learn by always playing it safe.

I’ll say it again, but I want to say thank you now to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. I never take for granted the opportunity to express myself in print and the spoken word. My overriding desire is that God is glorified through my expression in words. Towards that end, some exciting things are brewing that I’ve prayed about for some time. Thanks be to God for grace and for truth, always.

© Joel Tipple