Spiritual Writing Retreat In Lanesboro MN

Are you interested in a writing retreat?  I will be moderating a weekend retreat at Anna V’s B&B in beautiful Lanesboro, MN, the B&B capital of MN.  It will be held the second weekend of April, beginning at 7pm on April 10 and wrapping up at noon on April 12.  The title is “Writing from the Spirit” and will focus on communicating spiritual truths in non-traditional ways.

The retreat is appropriate for writers of all stages and interests.  We will have time for writing, thinking, praying, as well as learning more about the writing process.  There will be great fellowship and good food.

If you’ve tried writing something very personal in nature, you know that it is harder than it looks.  We will investigate ways to dig deeper, write with fresh language and convey those deepest yearnings of the human heart.  All you need is a notebook, favorite pen and laptop (optional).  Contact me at simar@tds.net for more information, or comment on this post with your contact information, and I will get back to you.

I think it will be a great weekend.  Hope to see you there.


Light and Love Ahead



To him who led his people through the desert, His love endures forever. Ps 136:16

When they had heard the king, they went their way, and behold the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. Matt 2:9

Christmas is a season of light and joy, when all Christendom celebrates Jesus’ birth. It’s a good reason to celebrate. After all, Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection are the means to our eternal salvation.

However, many struggle to find joy this season. Grief, loneliness, addictions, unemployment, heartache, family problems, illness and a host of other issues rob humanity of the joy of Jesus’ birth. These desert places are difficult and real. Maybe you walk such a desert path this Christmas season.

Consider Mary and Joseph’s difficult journey to Bethlehem. She was very pregnant, riding on a donkey and too poor for amenities that might have made the journey easier. How uncomfortable that ride must have been! They were exhausted, worried, fearful and miserable. Perhaps they wondered if they had made a mistake in venturing out of Nazareth. They must have doubted they were on the right path.

But they were exactly where they were supposed to be. The Old Testament clearly prophesied the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. God’s mercy brought Mary and Joseph to the City of David for a reason. Their difficult place was for our benefit. Their desert had reason and a purpose. Though they struggled, they were triumphant in the end. God confirmed His word with angels, a magnificent star, wise men, a chorus of angels and adoring shepherds.

Your desert place is also part of God’s plan, and you will see the reward if you persevere. Listen to His voice. Pray for wisdom to navigate rocky paths. Trust Him to guide you along your difficult journey. While there is no pat answer or easy fix, remember there is light and love ahead. Look toward the manger where your Redeemer is born. Do you see the shining star? In spite of your suffering, there is light and love ahead. Don’t give up.




A Harmless Sun

Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering.

Wisdom 18:3 RSV-CE

 A friend describes a recent trip to China as “grueling.” Most travelers know what she means. Though traveling has its glorious moments, much is downright uncomfortable. Certainly being crammed with strangers on a crowded airplane is neither delightful nor exciting. Increased airport security means longer waits, more rules to follow and increased opportunities for tedium and dissatisfaction. Travelers, like my friend, grit their teeth and persevere, believing their destination worth the expense and hassle.

We are each on a spiritual journey.  Our paths meander and circle back to old problems and former nemesis. We get tied up in the rules and expectations of others.   Messy and uncomfortable situations blindside us. We stumble and fall, make mistakes and make amends. We learn most things the hard way. The passage above describes life as our glorious wandering.

Most days feel anything but glorious. But somehow on this unknown journey, we are guided by the flaming pillar of God’s presence. He changes our most fiery trial into a “harmless sun” that may feel hot and uncomfortable, but does not burn our skin. And by our daily cooperation, He leads us through all of life’s problems to our final destination.

Rowing Against the Wind


Lately my plans have fallen apart.  An unexpected illness kept me from attending a major book event, a clerical error meant a reading had to be rescheduled, plans for a retreat fell through and other day-to-day intentions disappeared into thin air.  Believe me, it left me shaking my head.  I’m an organized person, and I take pride in both planning and following through on projects.

And having seen that tthey were troubled and tormented in rowing, for the wind was against them.  Mark 6:48a Amplified Version

The above passage put new light on my situation.  My life had slipped out of balance.  Family responsibilities, work, gardening, and writing had left me over committed and exhausted.  The Lord saw me rowing against the wind.  He knew I needed rest.  Surely my disappointments were part of his loving plan to help me take care of myself.

Are you rowing against the wind?  Jesus will help you find that place of balance in your life.

Place Your Own Mask Before Helping Others



Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

Yesterday on our Delta flight, the stewardess instructed us to place our own oxygen masks in an emergency before trying to assist others. Why? If we lose consciousness due to loss of oxygen, we will be of no good to anyone else.

Jesus says basically the same thing in the above passage. As humans, we are quick to notice the faults of others while remaining oblivious to our own. After a lifetime of trying to make others change, I realize that my efforts have been in vain. How much wiser to work on myself instead of trying to force change on others. Only then will I be strong enough to help someone else.