Friday, July 25, 2008

Lavender fields forever

We have been in the Pacific Northwest for a week now and it's been lovely escaping those 97-degree temperatures back east. After a tiring plane ride from Washington via Detroit, made bearable by a very nice steward on Northwest Airlines who amused The Child after I was about to throttle her, we arrived in Seattle - and 60-degree temperatures. Two days later, we were bound for the Olympic peninsula where I fulfilled a longtime dream of attending the annual lavender festival in Sequim. Sequim, a small town on the northern peninsula coast, grows more lavender plants than anywhere else in the country; thus eight farms were open for us tourists to drop in at.
We had the best time strolling through fields of purple plants, looking through all the lavender gift items (did you know lavender tincture is good for insect bites?), listening to some cool bands, sampling the local wines and introducing Veeka to pet llamas, all in very mild, sunny weather. It's so odd to see folks wearing sweaters here when back east everything is sweltering. That evening, we stayed in my cousin Kathy's fabulous waterfront-view-of-Puget-Sound home, then it was off to Portland to attend a reunion of folks who I met in the 1970s in the Lewis & Clark College Christian Fellowship. These days, the Princeton Review rates L&C as one of the top 10 godless colleges in the country but 30 years ago, things were a bit more religion-friendly. So, about 40 of us spent 2 days at a Presbyterian retreat house overlooking the Columbia River gorge catching up. I found an amenable 16-year-old sitter for Miss Veeka, who loved wandering around the family farm with cows, dogs, a kitten and other delights.
I still cannot get over the profusion of flowers in the Pacific Northwest - so different from what one experiences back east in the summer - and the waterfalls. A bunch of us visited Multnomah Falls at the close of the retreat and luxuriated in the sunshine. Then I spent 3 nights lodging chez my friend Gail Dall and her husband Jamie while visiting several friends in Salem and Portland plus being the beneficiary of a delightful party Gail organized for me and a bunch of folks from Good Samaritan Ministries, a Christian group I got to know years back while living in the River City.
We returned to Seattle yesterday, detouring for lunch with Amy, a Veeka friend whose recent marriage to a soldier at Ft. Lewis necessitated a move to Tacoma. While Amy and I talked, Veeka dashed about a park on the western edge of the military reservation. Today, her grandparents took Veeka to a water park of sorts in Bellevue where she happily dashed about before crashing a class of Japanese-speaking students. Her mother will try to rest a bit before we take off for a week in Montana for a family reunion.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Publisher's Weekly hypes my book

My publisher, Baker Books, was a'twitter today when they saw the most recent issue of Publisher's Weekly, a bible for those in the publishing world, give a very decent review of my upcoming book. PW always writes short little synopses like this:

Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It
Julia Duin. Baker, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8010-6823-2
Duin brings two kinds of experiences to bear in this engaging little jeremiad: as religion editor for the Washington Times, she is in her element marshaling statistics, interviewing authors and clergy, and commenting on the trend of faithful evangelicals who increasingly vote with their feet by leaving their churches. But she's also a self-described born-again evangelical herself, coping with the personal pain of not having a viable and permanent church home. Drawing heavily on research by pollster George Barna, Duin diagnoses a widespread dissatisfaction among evangelicals, who feel their churches do a decent job with new Christians but fall far short with mature believers. In particular, Duin shows, women and singles are leaving churches in ever-greater numbers. (As a single woman herself, she discusses her own experiences with being marginalized while successfully evoking a larger context through research and polls.) Duin has some prescriptions to help with these problems, including meatier sermons that address real issues; house churches and micro-churches that foster more genuine community; and even in-church matchmaking services to help singles who want to find a mate. (Sept.)

So, if you want to pre-order or anything, just click here.

Wish I could say I had lots of speaking engagements lined up, but books on why churches are doing such a rotten job aren't inspirational enough for a lot of Christian meetings. I will appear on a panel in September with other journalists at a large gathering of religion writers in Washington, which is gold, PR-wise.

Other news: both contracts for the condo (to sell) and the house (to buy) are signed and I just lined up my mover and settlement company today.

The photo of Miss Veeka shows her on a hot summer night setting a dinner place for Miss Kitty.