Contact Me

If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tracking Growth

Bruce and I have had a full week to watch our 5-month old granddaughter. The first year of life is truly miraculous. Being an educator, I have just enough knowledge of brain development to catch most new, little skills that Kaya is acquiring.

At two months she couldn't track a toy as it moved across her field of vision. Now she watches the dog run past her and laughs in delight when its fluffy tail brushes her face. She turns her head and smiles when we call her name. She inspects her hands and can reach forward and grab an object. When we put her on her tummy on a blanket, she begins to push herself forward. Her babbling continues to grow in varied tones, inflections and complexity and she watches our faces, in fascination, as we talk and sing to her.

In a couple of months she'll be pulling herself to her feet and "coasting" along the furniture. Kiri is a little nervous about this time in Kaya's development. I call it the "bruised forehead" stage. Unsteady on their little feet, toddlers easily and unexpectedly pitch forward and bump their noggins. This stage takes constant parental vigilance. The baby wants just enough help, but not so much that his/her developing independence is thwarted.
I would love to see a brain scan of a baby from week to week. It'd be fascinating to get an inside peek of the chilod's development.

I'm a child, too, in a sense. My spirit, as a believer and worshipper of Jesus Christ is being nurtured, instructed, and trained by an ever vigilant and incredibly wise Parent. Sometimes I wish I could track my own growth on a visual chart. It'd be nice to know if I'm moving in a consistently northeast direction on the chart. Hopefully I wouldn't see too many dips, valleys, or even worse, backward movement.

We know our babies are developing normally by comparing them to growth charts. And child development experts know that at approximately six months a child learns to sit unaided, walks at about a year, says it's first words at about the same time.

I would love to meet or exceed my spiritual growth charts. I guess my husband, children and friends are my best "chart." How would they track my growth? Have I grown this year?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galations 5:23, NIV)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Love Letters

Years ago when Bruce and I were engaged we were separated for several months. He'd graduated from the University of Michigan in the Fall semester and I still had one more semester to go. He went back home to Illinois to make some money and I remained in Ann Arbor to finish my studies, work on my Master's Recital, be a graduate teaching assistant, rehearse for an opera, and plan a wedding.
Bruce promised me that he'd write every day. Each afternoon I ran down the hall to check my mailbox. Sure enough, there was a letter waiting. And such letters. Such tender words about his love, his prayers for me, his wishes for our future life together.
The months of that last semester were busy ones, but lonely ones, too. Bruce's letters reassured me each day that he still pined for me, loved me, looked forward to our wedding, thought of no other woman but me.
Those words from my beloved kept me going, encouraged me, inspired me. I knew that in a short time I'd be reunited with Bruce and then we wouldn't be separated anymore.
I've kept those wonderful letters; there's quite a stack of them. From time to time I re-read some of them. Bruce's words have remained true for over thirty years. When we've had occasional difficulties I remember how he faithfully wrote to me each day. His goodness and faithfulness shine through those handwritten pages, helping me continue to see him as my hero.

I have other letters not written by Bruce, but precious to me, as well. They contain words of promises, words of love, words of encouragement, too. I've read the words so much that they are forever inscribed on my heart:
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. God with us."
"For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
God loved, God promised, God fulfilled. Then God reminds us that He has indeed performed miracles in our midst: God with us!
What letters.
What a faithful Beloved.

(scriptures taken from NIV)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bruce and I are in San Diego for the holidays, visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and new grandbaby. We had the nicest drive out from Colorado. I-70 was in its glory, with snow-covered mountains and trees, but no snow on the roads.
With very little traffic in Utah we sped along in our Highlander, making excellent time through the deserts and canyons, enjoying listening to our eclectic IPod collection of Rachmaninov, Hovhaness, Mo-town, Toto, and Bob James.
Past Richfield, Utah, there's a stretch a few miles east of the junction of I-70 and I-15 where wise drivers watch their speed and make sure they don't go above 75. That's because they've seen what happens to unwary motorists zooming down the pass. A highway patrol officer, hiding on the median, pulls over skads of cars each day. It's one of the best speed traps I've seen, and I've driven in nearly every state in the USA.
So, on this Saturday, December 19th, as I approached that suspenseful stretch of interstate, I set the cruise control to 75, then waited for the first foolhardy traveler to pass me. Sure enough, here came a little, black sportscar, first no more than a speck in my rear-view mirror. Judging by the way he whizzed past, he had to have been going at least 95.
I said with some smugness, "you're gonna get a ticket."
Then, because I have a sin nature, I started hoping that the guy in the little black sportscar would keep going 95 so I could see the highway patrolman do his thing.
There's one last big curve before the road straightens and drops at about an 8% grade just before the junction. I lost sight of the speeder around the curve and held my breath, as if I were watching the last few seconds of a Hitchcock flick.
As I'd hoped, the highway patrolman was waiting at the bottom of the hill. Have you ever seen those nature programs where the trap-door spider shoots out of his hole and grabs the unsuspecting bug? This guy was even faster.
I laughed with glee as I passed the sportscar and the squad car, parked on the side of the road.
What vindication. What justice. The driver of the little black sportscar thought he could thumb his nose at the posted speed and get away with it. Hah! For once there was a policeman when I needed one.
After I recovered from my glee it occurred to me that God is probably not pleased with my hypocrisy. There are an awful lot of verses in the New Testament that remind people like me that I shouldn't be judging the driver of a little black sportscar. He was caught in the very act. But how many times have I done the same and simply been lucky enough not to be seen?

Next week we'll be heading home, going the same route through Utah. I'll be praying for good weather, safe roads, no drunks, no hidden highway patrolmen. . . and especially, for a gentle attitude.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We celebrate our birthdays by lighting candles on a cake, one for each year of life. It's a symbol of our loved one's presence on this earth and our delight in his or her place in our lives.

But Jesus is referred to in the scriptures as a "great light." And so a mere birthday cake and candles will not suffice for His birthday.
We decorate a fragrant Christmas tree and plug in the lights, amid "oohs" and "ahs" at its beauty.
We string lights around the exterior of our homes, sometimes migrating to nearby trees and bushes. Our neighbors look out their windows and enjoy the bright scene, too.
Mainstreet, USA goes to great lengths to lure shoppers down to its businesses with beautiful, festive music and colorful light displays. Even those who'd never enter a church or read the Christmas story appreciate the lights.

But why do we all love lights so much? I believe God has built into each human the instinctive hunger for truth. Our journey will be difficult at times. We do not want to "stumble in the darkness," or be "in the dark," or have the "wool pulled over our eyes." We know that, just as light is necessary for our well-being, light also yields truth. And that truth is a flash-light for illuminating our way when life's path is dim.

When we can "shed some light" on a subject, or "see our way clear," or expierience "a light at the end of the tunnel" we breathe a sigh of relief.

So when that Christmas tree blinks, winks and twinkles, and we gaze admiringly at the beautiful star at the tree-top, we are reminded that a "great Light" came into the world to give us God's perfect Truth.

"I have come as a light in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark." (John 12:46, New Living Translation)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Eve baby

About 90% of the time that I present my driver's license when I make a purchase, the cashier remarks, "Ah, a Christmas Eve baby. I'll bet you wish your birthday was some other time."
Yes, there were some difficulties about having a birthday the day before Christmas.
First, as a kid, you don't get Happy Birthday sung to you because you're not in school at that time.
Some relatives give you one present and say, "This is for your birthday and Christmas."
You don't usually get your own birthday party because all the relatives are coming over for Christmas Eve.
If you're a musician, your birthday always takes a back-seat to Christmas Eve musical presentations.
You don't get your own birthday cake because it's also a Christmas Eve cake for everyone.
Sometimes your relatives open their Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve.

But. . .

You get to share your birthday with the most significant birthday of all time: Jesus Christ!
You have the honor of singing on your birthday for Jesus' birthday.
As a child, you secretly feel a little special because you arrived on such a special day.
No one forgets your birthday because your dear mother is there to tell everyone that it's your birthday.
Deep in your unconscious, the wonderful music, celebrations, fellowship and feasts of these holy days forever associate your day with His Day.
You realize that your birthday pales in significance to the One whose birth heralds God's grace to all mankind.

I wouldn't trade my birthday with anyone else's.

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Matthew 2:10,11)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I got an email the other day inviting me to join a touring blog. I thought that might be an interesting venture so I typed in my info and then went hunting for a picture of myself to post.
Under my Glamour Shots photos I ran into a lot of jpg #18, or 38 or 43 or whatever.

I thought I remembered #18 as the serious, professional shot, so I clicked on that picture.
This was the semi-sexy shot, the one with the pearls, slightly low-cut gown and the romantic expression. I'd done that shot thinking to print out an 8 by 10 for my husband.
Now I went hunting for the cancel button. . . or the delete button. . . or whatever button for getting rid of that photo.
Nothing. Not a single button to remove that darn picture.

Now, you understand that this was not a naughty photo. I'd never do something like that. Never! It just wasn't the image I wanted to project for a writer's blog tour.
I ran downstairs in a panic and summoned my husband. He'd get rid of the photo and then I could start fresh with the serious picture.
But Bruce was as mystified as I had been. There sat my photo, gazing dreamily out from its published spot on the page along with all the other, lovely, serious, professional shots of other writers who'd recently signed the guestbook page of this particular blog.

I spent the greater part of the morning, diligently following instructions for deleting items. Who are these people who design the help pages? If I've clicked on a help button, wouldn't you figure that I'm dumb enough to need help in plain English????
I finally shot off an email explaining my predicament and asking for computer help.
Know what I got? The same help page I'd just spent three hours trying to comprehend.
That one thoughtless click of the wrong button thrust my entire morning off kilter as I tried to undo the undoable.

It's just like a thoughtless word, a viral hurt, ah-chooed from our lips, spraying those nearby. How we long to grab that noxious vapor and stuff it back where it originated.
Too late.

If only I'd let my finger hover for a few seconds longer over that button before I forever committed myself to the photo with the wrong message.

If only I'd let my mouth hesitate before spewing the wrong word.

Computers can teach you a lot of life lessons.

Monday, December 7, 2009


For the past three summers my husband and I have been waging war with the most clever, obnoxiously cute, persistently destructive rodent we've ever encountered: the ground squirrel.
When Bruce first grumbled about the little darlings I said, "Oh, leave them alone. They're so cute and after all, we are living in their environment."

Then the rock retaining wall along our driveway started shifting and shrinking, like on old person whose spinal disks are flattening. I noticed the little piles of dirt on the driveway. It did not take me long to put two and two together. Those "little darlings" were digging networks of tunnels directly behind our wall, extruding dirt like so much sewage through thousand of convenient orifices.

"I've got an air gun," my next-door neighbor said. "I can come over and shoot 'em."
"Oh, that won't be necessary," I confidently told him. (I could take care of the rodent population with less violent means.)
So I went down to my local True Value and purchased a bag of rodent repellant.
Didn't work.
"They hate cayenne pepper," someone told me. So I roamed from hole to hole, pouring mounds of the spicy stuff down.
That lasted about two weeks. Then one afternoon I looked out my office window and saw movement. Would you believe it? One of the "enemy" actually stood up, liked he'd climbed out of his fox hole, and waved at me. I think I heard him singing Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."

One summer we were assisted in our hate crimes by an obliging, scuplted carpet-on-legs: a badger. Like a miniature dirt-moving Caterpillar his powerful front paws and claws demolished the squirrels' homes. We didn't even have to see the tragic denouement; the stillness of the yard told us everything. Unfortunately, the badger got hungry again and moved on to meatier yards, leaving ours, once again, undefended.

This past summer, help came from the sky in the form of foot-long black and white stealth bombers. Magpies, we discovered to our delight, love fresh squirrel meat. Together with some me-too crows, they lined our fenced, watching the yard with eager, beady eyes. As soon as a head surfaced, one of our warriors dropped noiselessly, plucking the hapless creature from his hideout. Thank you, Mother Nature!

Mid-August came and the squirrels disappeared down into their hybernating dens. (By the way, does anyone know why the critters don't suffocate when three feet of snow cover the ground for weeks?) I've been studying for the next summer season. Gonna hit 'em with a one-two punch next May. They won't even know what hit them.
Tell you about it next summer. If . . . I'm successful.
You never know. They might be sitting down there right now, plotting their next offensive.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My House

I like my house. It's in the Colorado Rockies.
From the front it looks like a cedar two-story cabin. People are surprised when I tell them that the place has nearly 3000 square feet.
There are two bedrooms and a bath upstairs.
My office is on the main floor. Before the great remodel of 2004 it used to be the master bedroom. I love this room. It's cozy, with a southern exposure, and looks out on Twin Sisters. When I look out the window I feel like writing.
The new Master suite is on the main floor, too. Right outside is a big wrap-around deck, a state-of-the-art hot tub, and fantastic views of the mountains. You wouldn't believe the stars at night.
Bruce's office is the entire downstairs. When he takes a break from work, he can hop onto the treadmill or the Bowflex.
Outside any window we can see deer, elk, coyotes, hawks and eagles, groundsquirrels, bunnies, chipmonks.
It's a great house. Beautiful, comfortable, spacious.
We didn't always live in such nice digs. We've lived in our share of rentals, fixer-uppers, and crowded or noisy subdivisions. For thirty years we've worked, raised our children, and dreamed about a home in the mountains. In purely economic terms, I should say that we've earned our lovely mountain home.
But there's a much nicer home that I'll eventually live in. I'm sure I can't even imagine how nice that crib will be.
I haven't done anything to earn the priviledge of living there. Some One just offered it to me. Said He'd go and build it just for me. Sweet.
All I gotta do is believe that the Builder is who He is and is giving me the place (and a whole lot of other perks, too) and in due time I'm gonna inherit an indescribably wonderful mansion. Some deal, huh?
No joke. This is on the level.
Can you think of a better deal?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Images

When I was a child, one of the greatest lessons in patience was the slow march through the fall school semester: cool, then cooler weather and shorter days. School crafts marked the special calendar events of fall, leading up to that most joyous time, Christmas.

Some time in the middle of December my mother would select a six-foot-something tree and my father would lug the fir into the house and set it up in our ancient, slightly rusted tree stand.
We decorated our Christmas tree with a few well-crafted homemade ornaments and lots of Hallmark specials. I used to explore each bough, trying to decide where I'd most like to sit if I were one of the snowmen or bear or angel ornaments.

We weren't great artists so each tree never went beyond anything but ordinary looking. Didn't matter. It was the emotion evoked by pulling the box of ornaments out of storage, unwrapping each ornament and enjoying the memory of past Christmases. "Last year Mr. Snowman sat near the top of the tree, facing the fireplace," I told my sister. "This year let's put him by the sofa."

One of my favorite ornaments was a large orb with a hand-painted picture of the wisemen and their camels. The indigo sky was illuminated by the brightness of the star and we children knew that those wisemen or kings were being guided toward a very important destination: the baby Jesus.
The picture filled me with a sweet yearning I couldn't even define. I looked at it every day and thought about that night two thousand years ago. It must have been an incredibly important event because so many ornaments, decorations and paintings, done by so many different artists, show the same thing.

Inspired by those artists, my child-mind formed its own pictures of that event. Those craftsmen and women, over the ages, whether motivated by faith or economic need, helped introduce a young child to the awe and wonder of God clothed in humanity.

"We three kings of Orient are: bearing gifts, we traverse afar;
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.
Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light."(John H. Hopkins Jr.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Belly Up

I shopped yesterday for last minute groceries needed for all of my traditional dishes that I'll serve my family on Thanksgiving. The Safeway was mobbed --as one might expect on the day prior to Turkey Day -- with moms and older couples picking up their last-minute items, too. Carissa was my helper today; we divided the list in half and each went in search of our designated goodies.
Afterward, a quick trip to Hallmark for nice dinner napkins and then down to Lower Stanley Village for drive-through Taco Bell. Well, I rationalized, the fridge and the freezer are both stuffed with the turkey, the green-bean casserole, my mother's fancy raspberry jello mold, fancy devilled eggs (Bruce's favorite) sweet potato pie, brie cheese and onion dip, a gallon of cider, twelve-packs of Fresca, Dr. Pepper and Diet Coke (caffeine free). And there's more coming. Oh, much more. Because Danielle is a good cook and she's bringing homemade bread and the desserts, as well. And the dishes are all washed and ready for serving and I don't want to wash another mixing bowl, skillet, or utensils.
So, the day before Thanksgiving we load our stomachs with chalupas, burritos and tacos and wash them down with Diet Cokes.
Our tummies are full.
In fact, my tummy is always full after a meal.
I eat three full-bellied meals each day.
I include plenty of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vegies and fruits.
It is an understatement to say that I am well-nourished.
And just in case I'm missing some key nutrient, I also swallow tons of vitamin supplements.
The day after my family and I feast, Bruce and I will go down to Longmont's Our Center to help prepare food to be served at lunch for some of the town's neediest.
On Thursday I will be grateful.
On Friday (at the Our Center) I will be even more grateful to God for the richness of his blessings to me.
That same day I will mail off a check to World Vision for our sponsored child and an additional check to buy 5 ducks, two chickens, and aid to help rescue a young girl from prostitution in some terrible place where girls are not loved.
And I will be reminded again that those people who need the ducks, or the girl who needs to not be a prostitute anymore could have been me. God loves those people just as much as he loves me. Why in the world am I so blessed?
I don't understand. I probably never will.
But God has blessed me and I would like to turn that blessing around. Hopefully I'll be able to keep buying more chickens and ducks and helping little girls escape horror.
Because I'm very grateful. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, God!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Nina isn't charismatic.
Few people even know her since she's nearly a recluse.
She's a creature of habit down to the food she eats,when and how much, her afternoon naps, her daily toilet, including the fastidious care of her nails, and the time she spends just looking out the window at life.
She's a vain thing, always washing her face, like she thinks one speck of dust or dirt would mar her perfect look. Like anyone's going to see her anyway.

I got to know her four years ago. Call me crazy, but one day I invited her to come and live with me. She didn't seem to have anywhere else to go and I'm such a pushover.

You would think that in four year's time I'd have made some progress with her.
After all, I'm a pretty social person. I love to entertain. And with all the kids and parents who come each week for music lessons, you'd think she'd follow my lead and gain some social skills.

It's very hard being the only person Nina connects with. If I dare go away with my husband for a weekend she whines and carries on for days. Bruce warned me that she'd be like that but I wouldn't listen.
We introduced her to Tidus, a very handsome fellow. He likes lots of the same things. Even looks like her except he's got darker hair.
He took one look at her and fell in love.
Nina hated him right off.
But that charmer, he set right about to woo her. I thought it was hopeless and I told him so. But Tidus wouldn't listen to my pessimism.
Each day he made his tender advances, only to be met with a sharp rebuff.
He wouldn't give up. He was smitten.
I don't know why Tidus loved Nina with her nasty personality, snobbish, unsociable, selfish, self-absorbed nature.
I only took her in out of a sense of duty.
But Tidus. . .
One day Nina responded to Tidus' sweet nature. Just a little thing, really. She let him sit nearby.
Days later, more signs of the first tentative steps toward a relationship. Like the unfolding of a rosebud, Nina began to trust Tidus enough to let him into her sad, self-absorbed world.
What I could not do in four years, Tidus did in just a few weeks of persistent, gentle, daily reminders of his attention.

I thought about it this morning. How our natures are bent, perhaps distorted by harsh memories, abandonments, insensitivities.
God never forces Himself on us. Patiently, over time He reminds us how He longs to be close. How He yearns to draw us tenderly into His arms, soothe our hurts, calm our hearts, encourage, counsel, say "I love you."
Nina loves Tidus now. I see it clearly every day as a blur of gray stripes, and black and white fur streak by my office chair and my slippered feet. Claws retracted, rolling and wrestling, chasing and swatting, meowing and purring.

This is what Tidus longed for: someone to share his toys, his sense of adventure, the world of chair legs, cushions, and birds just outside the window.

God longs for us in the same way: to partake in His sense of adventure, to share His enjoyment of created things, to sense His pleasure when we say "I love You," back.
I'm so glad we're friends.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

June's Norwegian Meatballs

Many of you read my last post on the passing of my dear Aunt June. Besides begin a wonderful singer, she also spread a great table for the holidays. I remember her long dining room table laden with Turkey, Ham, pickled herring, boller (dumplings), julekake, and especially glogg.
She served her Norwegian meatballs with a rich brown sauce. I think of her every time I make them.
Here's the recipe:

3/4 Ib lean ground beef
1/4 Ib ground pork
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
one egg
one onion, minced
1 tsp salt and a pinch pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 T. butter
1/2 cup cream

Soak bread crumbs in cream. Add all ingredients except butter. Form into one inch balls; slowly brown in butter, add sauce and keep warm till serving.

2 cups cold water
2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 or 3 T. Wilsons BV sauce

Dissolve flour in water. Add seasonings, BV sauce and butter. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. When thick and bubbling, turn down and simmer 30 minutes.

I am so grateful for my mother and father, my aunts and uncles, for our shared heritage of Scandinavian roots, for my grandparent's safe passage to America, their years of struggle and triumph through poverty, war and illness.Their stories, their traditions, their foods, their songs are alive in my heart. Thank you, God, for family.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forging Links

My favorite aunt, June, aged 87, just passed away. She was the spunky little blonde who passed herself off as "old enough" so she could sing in San Francisco night clubs during the Depression. My Norwegian immigrant Grandpapa, Oluv Nicolaisen had had a stroke and died, leaving Nana and her eight children to work odd jobs, trying to pay the rent and buy food.

I've always thought Aunt June's life would make a great novel: beautiful girl lies about her tender age so she can sing in night clubs and bring home money to help her ailing, older sister afford doctors and medicines.
Ailing sister eventually died of tuberculosis. June met tall, dark and handsome Uncle John, the love of her life, and they settled into an upper middle-class life across the bay, raised four kids and helped Nana live comfortably till the end of her days.

Aunt June had none of the leg-ups that I, her niece, had.
I had parents who, coming out of that great Depression, scrimped so that I could have my music lessons. The government provided me with a nice low-interest loan. That, accompanied with a sizeable scholarship, parent aid, and work-study enabled me to attend one of the best music schools in the nation. And when I got a paycheck from one of my music gigs I didn't have to place it into the family earnings pool.

I don't know if I would have had the grit and determination to stand up, night after night, and sing in smoke-filled, raucous beer halls, having to fend off tipsy men, listening to off-color remarks.

Of course, Uncle John took her away from all of that. World War II ended. My dad and uncles returned to civilian life and tried to put horrific war memories away. The prosperous fifties arrived and all of us baby-boomer cousins were born.

At sixteen, I started taking voice lessons with Aunt June. I remember standing in the crook of her big grand piano while she sat in front of the keyboard, trying to play scales fast enough to keep up with my agile voice. Unlike me, she'd never had the opportunity to take piano lessons. She helped me prepare for for my first important audition and came to my first important performance.

My uncle Bobby said, "You're just like June."
But I knew I wasn't.
I was soft and timid, sheltered by a kind, self-sacrificing father,
pushed by an ambitious mother.
I don't know why God, in His grace, placed me at this time in eternity,
instead of those hard, un-aided, if-you don't work-you-don't-eat days.
May I never take for granted the gifts and opportunities afforded to my generation of women.
May I always carry with me the memory of my favorite Aunt June.
I'll miss you, Auntie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brighter Colors

Back in 1986 I hurt my neck. The doctor gave me muscle relaxants and a neck brace and told me to take it easy.
Yeah, right. Take it easy. He said "Don't drive, don't lift anything more than five pounds, don't play the piano or do anything where you have to move your neck."

I had a husband, a kindergartner and a toddler at the time, and a full plate of life.

Most of my activies came to a screaming halt.
Bruce stepped up his household help. Friends, friends and more friends came to clean, do laundry, take the kids for whole afternoons so I could rest.
I felt so useless.
Depression oozed into my brain.
Worse yet, after months, the pain was so unrelenting that I began to consider suicide.
The Lord, in His incredible grace, reached down to me at my darkest hour and gave me a powerful glimpse of His never-ending loving presence.
He gave me healing. Not instantly, but over time, as I learned to cling to His Word He removed the despair.
The neck? Well, that injury is always reminding me that there will come a day when God will wipe away my tears.

Depression is horrible; I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
But, emerging from that dark pit -as if my world had just had a good rain and the dust and grit of the season has been washed away -I see, hear and feel in colors only guessed at in my former life.
The touch of a baby bunny's fur, the sound of my child's laughter, sunshine draping my head, the dappling of light through the maple leaves, my husband's face.

It's been twenty three years. Each year I am more and more delighted by the simple gifts that God so graciously places in my lap. Life is God's first gift.

Psalm 40 1-3: "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wee Me

I went to my doctor for my usual check up. The nurse wrote in her chart that I'm 5 foot. I told her in no uncertain words that I'm 5 foot and one inch. ( I must've slumped when she measured me.) She shrugged, smiled condescendingly and left the chart un-amended.

I'm middle-aged; you'd think I'd have come to terms with my very tiny stature. But it seems to bother me now more than ever.

When I was a young thing, people use to call it cute, my being so little. ('Course I only weighed a hundred pounds then.)
Tall guys used to lean their elbows on my shoulder and chuckle.
My mom used to pat me on the head and say, "You're just like your Aunt June."
Grandmommy said, "good things come in little packages."

The condescension didn't bother me so much then.

But now that I'm old and not nearly so cute (or slender) I would like some tradeoff,
some compensation.

I've been married for thirty years. . . successfully, happily
Raised three great kids
Efficiently run a home
Operated a home business
Studied, meditated, discussed, taught, applied scripture
Been a friend
Served in multiple capacities in church
Taught in public, private schools and colleges
Thought, examined, pried, delved, pondered, discussed, wondered
Written devotionals, articles, books

That ought to be worth something, surely.

My husband, God bless him, is of average height, which is to say, that he's nearly a foot taller than I am. He puts things away in the kitchen. Short people, you know where I'm going with this.
One day I caught him in the act. I said, "now, would you just hunker down to my level, shorten your arms about six inches, and then try to reach that glass that you just pushed way to the back of the cupboard."

Later that day I had to use the step stool three times to retrieve seldom-used items for a special dinner. "Why, oh why, did God make me so little?" I lamented to my husband.
He came over and hugged me and said, "He made you little just for me."
And that, of course, was God speaking through my husband.
"I made you little just for me."

Zaccheus was a wee little man. But because of his short stature he climbed a sycamore tree. Because he was in the sycamore tree the Lord noticed him. . . noticed his unstoppable desire to see Jesus. His shortness gave him a special opportunity to spend time with the Messiah.
Jesus must have known that this man hungered to hear truth, longed to speak with Him.
Small in stature, that Zaccheus
but mighty in his quest to know God.

Whatever people see when they look at me. am I:
short with pettiness, jealousy, selfishness, unkindness?
Or am I
Tall with a heart that rejoices over God's grace and His purposes for me in this world?
Oh, I want to be this kind of tall.
God, please make me Tall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who do I Thank?

Some years back, I was a guest at a family's Thanksgiving celebration. Just before the meal was served, the hostess instructed us each to share one thing we were thankful for this season.

Most of the family shared things like being thankful for, "good health," "getting a good job," "passing my algebra mid-term."

No acknowledgement of God as the giver of these blessings. Hmmm.

The meal was great and I really enjoyed spending time with the family. Just before leaving I thanked the host and hostess for their hospitality and stepped out into the frosty November night air.

I thought about it the next day: does thankfulness count when you receive a gift but don't bother to thank the giver? Since I received something, someone must have been involved in giving me that something.

If you gave somebody a gift, how would you feel if the recipient just walked away and said, "I'm so thankful," but never acknowledged you?

The phrase, "Thank you," has two words: "Thank" and "you." It's actually an abbreviated form of "thanks be to you."

I hope we, as a nation, never forget to acknowledge God as the Great Giver. We are the thankers, but He is the Thankee.

"Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath done, in Whom His world rejoices.
Who, from our mothers' arms hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today." (Nun Danket, Rinkart/Cruger)

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's a bulwark?

"A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. . . "

You know how you've sung certain songs or hymns for years?
Then one day you look at the text and you say, "What on this blessed green earth is a bulwark?"
I kind of knew, given the context, what a bulwark is.
But, honestly, if someone asked me to define bulwark and use it in a sentence, could I?
How about "constrained"
or "girded"?
And what's the difference between "cherubim" and "seraphim"?

There's a comfort to singing or speaking these words. They fit within the context of church or religion, or worship. We understand, by faith and tradition that "bulwark" or "girded" are acceptable words to use, even if we can't quite explain their meaning.

"Bulwark" is defined in the dictionary as a defensive wall, especially of earth, a rampart.

But what if you looked up "bulwark" and suddenly discovered that the comforting word you've been singing in the old hymn, "A Might Fortress is our God" is now defined as. . .
bulwark: a thin, transparent film of plastic used to provide a buffer from the wind.


Now how mighty is God when He merely shelters you from wind, but not from fire, arrows, bullets or an army?

Words are evolving. Words like "freedom" or "tolerance" or "respect." There are many others.
Their new definitions may or may not yet be included in your dictionary.
But ask your children to define words commonly used in their social studies classes and you may get a surprise.

Thank God "bulwark" is still a defensive wall, able to hold back the enemy.
And God is still mighty in "A Mighty Fortress."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."( Mark 1:35)

Hope you're not getting weary of this prayer blog. It's just that all (and I do mean all) of our life as a Believer is about staying connected to our God and Savior.

Remember those great passages in the book of John where Jesus is comforting His disciples and telling them about what it means to follow Him?

He said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Selfishness, apathy, lack of love, avoiding self-examination.
These are all other reasons why I do not pray.
These are all reasons why I can do nothing. My natural self cares only for me, cares little for others, lacks love for God and for others, doesn't want to see anything negative about myself.

I hate that I'm this way. I want so much to be like Jesus.

What's the antidote?

God's amazing GRACE.

I am spiritually bankrupt.
So He provides all.
Through His Spirit
He supplies the power to obey,
the desire to obey,
the wisdom and love needed to obey.

"If you love Me you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

Not grudging prayer, not seeking Brownie points, not mindless liturgical prayers.
But. . .
Drawing near, abiding, seeking, remaining in, cuddling, nestling, enjoying

Dear Father, may we obediently seek, cuddle, nestle, enjoy Your presence. Amen

(all scriptures quoted from the NIV, 1985, Zondervan Corporation)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Lie!

I'd said that I believe pride is the number one reason I don't seek God in prayer.

But another reason is. . .
It sounds like this:

This is too small a request, too insignificant.
This is too big a request.
I'm not sure I have the right to ask God for this.
God is busy; He really doesn't want to spend time with me.
God really doesn't love me.
God doesn't answer prayer.
The Scriptures are not truthful about God answering prayer.

I'm sure you can come up with some other "unbeliefs."

So what's the antidote to unbelief?

Here are some suggestions to open your spiritual eyes to God's mysterious and wondrous activity all around you:

First, READ the Word daily and feast on God's assurances of His never-ending love and concern for His children.
PRAY. . . and see what God does. You'll see how He answer your prayers for yourself and for others. You'll draw nearer to Him and gain a stronger sense of His presence.
SPEND TIME with other believers. Listen to their testimonies of how God answered their prayer.
WORSHIP God. Draw near to him in praise and adoration and He will draw near to you.
Read BIOGRAPHIES of missionaries, preachers, and others who faced tremendous adversity and how God sustained them.
Keep a prayer JOURNAL to help you keep track of how God has answered your prayers. Write your prayers. Include your doubts, fears, concerns, grievances; also write down your thoughts about God and about your meditations from scripture.

Just writing these words has already encouraged me to press on in prayer. I hope this blog on prayer blesses you as well.

Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this is mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.")

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You're Not the Boss of Me

I think I don't think that I'm more capable than God.

After all, He is the Allmighty: Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent. He is the Ancient of Days, existing before time began. He was, is and ever shall be.

I'm. . . well, my life began in 1953 in San Francisco, California. Born to a school teacher father and a stay-at-home mother, youngest of five children, raised to be a good girl, conservatory-trained musician, graduate degrees in music and education, turned writer. My life a little blip in eternity, a bit of knowlege and wisdom gained that can be gained in fifty-five years.

I taught my children "actions speak louder than words." And if I am brutually honest I will admit that, yes, I really do think I know more than God. I know that because my lack of prayer says I am capable of directing my affairs without consulting God.
Here are some variations of the "I know better" attitude:
"Dena do it" 18 months old
"Me do it myself" 2+ years
"You're not the boss of me" 4 years
"Who made you the president? 4th grade
"Oh, yeah?" 13
"Leave me alone" 16
"I'll call you if I need anything" college age
"I did it my way" Frank Sinatra and me

Seems kind of funny when you look at it through the brief timeline from toddlerhood to adulthood. We recognize those attempts at independence as stages that the child must pass through in order to establish him/herself as an autonomous individual with the desire to direct his own thoughts, actions and destiny.

But Jesus said you must become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Not childish. But childlike. A child recognizes that Mommy or Daddy is bigger, stronger, more capable. He looks to his parent to supply his need, to protect him, shelter him, nurture him.
May I continue to realize that I am very small and God is very, very big.

Therefore, I come to him in prayer seeking mercy, justice, help, counsel, fellowship. And if I'm a wise child, I'll do it daily.
But there are more reasons why I don't pray. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why I Don't Pray

I had a dry spell last month. A spiritual desert. Even when I was in the midst of it, I knew exactly why it was dry. Did that help me turn around and re-enter God's presence?
I clearly saw the stream of refreshment, glistening and flowing, gurgling and rushing, clear, cool, able to slake my thirst.

Now, I've heard many a testimony of some poor Christian who went through a mysterious period of spiritual nothingness in which he/she earnestly sought God, prayed, confessed, read Scripture, memorized, served, sang. All to no avail. The malady persisted until, quite without explanation, the curtains were one day drawn back and sunshine poured through the window again.

But that was not my experience. My dryness came as a result of intentional neglect of prayer.
And I suffered.
When I couldn't stand it anymore, I ran back to Abba and clung to Him. He always welcomes me back and it is always wonderful to be close again.

After my dry spell ended I asked myself why I do it? It was totally my choice. Why do I ignore my Father for a day, even a week? He never, ever does that to me.

Have you thought about it, too? Do you "run away" ocassionally?

In the next two weeks I'll be sharing what I believe makes me avoid prayer. I'll also be sharing solutions. I hope these encourage your heart to keep seeking His face.
Have a great day.

Monday, October 12, 2009


My friends, I'm going through a grand funk about my writing. Did God really call me to write? I used to think so. Was I wrong? Did I mistake God's direction? Am I wasting my time doing something that will have no lasting value in other people's lives?

I know I'm not alone. Even if you're not a writer you, doubtless, have struggled with discouragement in your area of mninistry.
Let me encourage you, just as I am attempting to encourage myself. Please read on.

"Problems are God-allowed to prove (or develop) your character." (from a sermon by Pastor Les Darrow)

Luke 8:15: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop."

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil.3:13-14)

"We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

To those of you who strive to do something excellent, something which you used to know God called you to do, remember:
Your LONG-TERM GOALS (do you have them?) will carry you through short-term disappointments.
God is the Great Comforter and the Great Counselor. If He has called you to do some work for His Kingdom, look to Him and His Word and He will bring you encouragement.

  • Read the Word. Let it fill your mind.
  • Ask God to work His will in your life.
  • Sing songs of praise to Him.
  • Commit your work to God.
  • Trust Him for the outcome, even if it will be different than you envision.
There, I feel better already.

"Now to Him is who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Eph. 3:20,21)

God bless you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lining Up With God

"Enoch walked with God; then he was no more because God took him away." Gen. 5:23

In the geneology between Adam and Noah, we read - and many times miss - the little phrase, "Enoch walked with God."

Today, as I was trying to outline a brief talk I would give at my writer's group, that little verse came to mind.

"Enoch walked with God."

What would that have looked like in antediluvian days? Did Enoch see some pre-incarnate manisfestation of Christ? Did he walk (literally) with Him and have conversations?

Does the word, "walk" mean that Enoch was so in-tune with God that his daily activities and speech reflected this intimate relationship?

I love that phrase. "Walk with God."

Notice it doesn't say, "God walked with Enoch." No, twice (verse 22 and 23) the scriptures say that Enoch did the walking.

I tried to share with my writer's group how sometimes we try to get God to sign on to our agenda. Or, we somehow fool ourselves into merely thinking we're following God's lead.

What would it look like if every day I simply opened my hands and released the coming day to whatever God wants? "For it is God who works in you to will and to work according to His good purpose." (Phil. 2:13)

May I remember that each day lived is a gift from our Heavenly Father, to be lived for Him and His holy purposes.

May I "walk" with God each day, just like Enoch.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I spent a large part of August getting ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference in September. What an opportunity to meet new writer friends, attend writing classes and be inspired by the writing journeys of the keynote speakers. I knew I'd have the opportunity to pitch my manuscript to at least one agent. Perhaps he or she would find the story compelling.

The last week prior to the conference God motivated me to read several passages in Scripture about His sovereignty. Two days before the conference I read Ephesians 3:20:

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen."

This verse helped me align my thoughts and goals with God's. In His sovereignty, He was preparing me for an experience I could not have imagined.

You see, I thought I would have important appointments with agents and editors, perhaps one that would speed me further along my writer journey.
But instead, God had "Appointments" of a different, but much more valuable nature for me.
My two roomies decided that our hotel room wouldn't comfortably accommodate another person, so I got switched into another room with a lovely lady who also writes suspense. We spent late nights listening and encouraging each other.
On Friday, I ran into several friends, troubled and anxious about their appointments and I was able to listen and offer encouragement and affirmation about their writing.
Another friend from out of town had nowhere to go for dinner that night so I invited her and a couple of other attenders to join us.
After an evening class, a lady asked me if I would read her sell sheet and give her constructive comments so that she would be prepared for her meeting with an agent the next morning. We spent an intense hour together, ending with sweet prayer.
There were too many other "appointments" to share on this small space.
I may never see many of these sweet ladies again, but I know that, in some wondrous way, God allowed me to have a tiny part in speeding each one along their journey. Who knows? One day, in heaven I may find out that some word of encouragement that I offered made the difference between a writer giving up or pressing on.
My prayer to be aligned with God during the conference was answered. Those appointments weren't about me; they were about all the other writers needing a leg up.
One thing I know, we sure as shootin' aren't staying on this side of heaven for ourselves.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Dad's Bigger than Your Dad

When I was a little girl I thought my dad was the strongest man in the whole world. One year he constructed a stone patio and walkway around the house. I remember him pulling hundred pound sacks of cement mix out of the car and slinging them over his shoulder just as easily as if it'd been one of his five-year-old twins. The rocks he used for the patio were big and heavy. We tried to pick them up, but only Daddy could lift them.
To my little girl mind, strength meant brawn.
When I grew up and came to know about God and began to study the Word, I formed another picture of strength.

In Jesus' day, the Romans were in power. Their strength lay in their ability to conquer and control other nations.
To the Jews, whose former glory boasted King David and Solomon, power was a coming King and the overthrow of heathen foreigners.
To the Greeks, power was intellect, education, and knowledge.

But to Jesus, power is humble submission to God. What a strange paradox:
if you want to be first, you must be last (Matt. 20:25-28).
If you want to become the greatest, you must become like a child (Matt. 18:3,4)
Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient, to death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8,9) and God exalted Him to the highest place.

But I cannot do this. I naturally want to do what those old Romans and Greeks did: exalt myself. No, just as our pastor said today in his sermon, "You can't! You are a failure! You're not good enough!"

And that's what it's all about. The way of Christ is recognizing that my Daddy is the strongest man in the world. I can't lift that rock or tote that cement bag. But He can. Just like a little child, I recognize that and I rely on Him.
That is true power, for when I am weak, then He is strong.

Eph. 3:30: "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus thoughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen."

(all verses from NIV)

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Glory of Crows

We put up a bird-feeder on our back deck this summer. Within an hour, sparrows, siskins, chickadees, house finches, crossbills and a little fluffy black and gray bird that I can't find in my bird book, flocked the feeder.

Even when I'm inside the house I can identify each visitor to the feeder by its distinctive call. Their little chirps, cheeps, fee-bees and tweedle-eedle-oo-ees sound like excerpts from a symphony score composed for piccolos. So harmonious, so delightful. Like miniatures members of an orchestra, their music lifts my spirit and summons me to worship the Creator. What pleasure I derive from their daily hymns of joy. It's easy to see why God created song birds.

A telephone pole towers on the far west side of our property. Another type of bird likes to perch at the very top. Impressive in size, his bright, beady, intelligent eyes examine us from his post as we sit on the deck, having breakfast. His lustrous black feathers catch the sunlight and he turns to preen an errant plume back into place. Another of his kind glides to a nearby tree and our shiny fellow thrusts his head forward, opening his beak for his solo.
That's it. One note, blatted like a beginning trombonist.
What was God thinking when He made that sound?
The crow must suspect that his call does not belong in the musical score, for he rarely joins the orchestra except when, as if by accident, his voice should happen to mingle, uninvited, with our adorable woodwinds.
Yet he is the black-caped comedian, croaking, cawing, and imitating humans and other birds. He is the street cleaner, awkwardly galloping away from a road kill when a car approaches. He is the vigilante, joining with his dark gang to mob an owl or hawk.
He is no songster.
But he belongs.
I Cor. 12:14 and 17-20:
"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But, in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wasn't Me

Until our children arrived, the creature had held back, barely venturing a scaly toe over the Netherton threshold.
Even when our three darlings reached advanced childhood, I did not share my suspicions with my husband. No sense alarming him if the threat did not exist. After all, unlike mouse-droppings, which indicate the presence of multiple nocturnal skitterings and nibblings, this invader preferred to work alone.
He worked by day --the impudent gnome -- snatching kitchen gadgets, trampling my freshly seeded garden, shredding and littering, smearing and scuffing. The infiltrator moved with singular speed, always lurking just around the corner, beyond my watch, the pattern of its footprints strikingly familiar to one I'd known in another earlier era.
In those days, my mother was the hunter, tracking her elusive prey's progress from bedroom to bedroom with a Sherlock Holmes intensity, interrogating each of her family members. She held objects in her hands, tainted by the alien's touch. Lifting each item, in turn, she eagle-eyed us. "Do you know where this came from?"
Giant family shrug.
And after each fruitless quest, she would throw up her hands and utter a curse which all mothers voice in their darkest moments. "One day you'll find our what it's like to be your mother!"
Now, it seemed, the creature had hopped the continent and taken up residence in a new culture, a new venue. My household.
And if I could not catch the crafty beast, I could at least identify it.
I cornered my twelve year old son in the family room where he played video games with his two younger siblings.
"Where did this half-eaten plate of nachos come from?"
He shrugged.
Turning to his younger brother, I demanded, "How did this stack of clean clothes get dumped on the floor?"
The boy's big blues eyes swivelled toward his little sister.
"Wasn't me, Wasn't me," she proclaimed.
There are moments of sudden, quiet and terrible insight. Like a hangman's noose, my mother's curse descended over my head, tightening around my neck.
Wasn't Me would always be one step beyond my grasp, just around the corner, in the next room, two minutes ago.
I opened my mouth and uttered my own mother-curse. "One day you'll find out what it's like to be your mother!"
Wasn't Me lurked and snickered from an invisible corner of the ceiling.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

True Worship

Psalm 95:6 "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. . . "

True worship goes beyond the ascribing, the recognition of God's greatness; it must strike my heart with fire and cause me to fall on my face before Him in humble acknowledgement of His sovereign power. He is the Master. He is my Master!

Then my will is bent to His. He has the right to direct me according to His divine wisdom and power.
This is where I fall short so often. I recognize God's greatness, yet I am not moved to go the next step: humble submission.

May I know that if He redeemed me, then He bought me. I am no longer my own (actually, I never was) but I have become His slave.
By recognizing that Jesus has the power to save me -- eternally --I also acknowledge His right to rule me. (I Cor. 6:20)

Rule? Rule me?
Yes! Yes, Amen.
Because He is great. and i am not.
Because He loves perfectly. and i cannot
Because He always does good. and i do not.

I offer up my will to You, Lord Jesus, in worship. It is the beginning of my every thought, word and action. Amen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No Shadow of Turning

I started writing No Shadow of Turning in 1999. Snippets of the story had been knocking around my skull since I was a teen.

Recently, I listened to a talk given by Brandy Bruce, editor at Focus on the Family. Her subject was "Creativity." After reading a collection of quotes by famous authors on the subject, she got to the more interesting part of her talk: her own journey toward becoming an editor and author. She said that her tendency to see a story in the most mundane activities --a van with no side or back windows drives by -- and conjure dangerous conspiracies and dark characters inside, impelled her to study writing.

Many writers develop a story based on only the merest mental picture. C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia eventually because of a lingering image in his mind of a fawn carrying an umbrella.

No Shadow of Turning began as an image of a young woman, standing knee-deep in snow, surrounded by dark forest. Her long, blonde hair falls in disarray about her shoulders, as if it hasn't seen a brush in days. Her clothing is ragged. The girl's arms stand out from her body to balance her, as if to aid her should sudden flight be necessary. Her eyes stare into the dense trees, trying to pierce the green barrier.

What is she afraid of? Is she trying to run away from some menace? Why is she all alone in the wilderness?

I had to flesh out the story to satisfy my own burning curiosity. Now my questions have been answered and I can move on.

Yes, move on with more of the woman's story in a sequel.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book review of Broken Angel

Sigmond Brouwer has written a masterful suspense tale which takes place in post-apocalyptic days. Set in a sub-nation within the United States, no one comes in to Appalachia, and no one gets out. Caitlyn's father, Jordan, is trying to keep the details of her birth a secret to the oppressive townspeople. . .and her, as well.

Wonderful, sympathetic characters will grab your heart as they attempt to escape Appalachia, while hunted and hemmed in by bounty hunters and a bad guy who makes Dexter seem tame.

The writing is masterful, with beautifully crafted descriptions, compelling characters and an intriguing plot.

I can't wait to read his sequel, Flight of Shadows, which will be available January 2010.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hero for the Day

I was six years old when our family went on a rare camping trip to Sequoia National Park. That was back in the days of canvas tents, cheese sandwiches, and powdered milk.

Mother and Daddy sent us five kids away from the tent site so they could catch a nap. (That was also back in the days when older children watched the younger children and no one called CFS.)

We hung out at the restroom/shower building, trying to come up with some exciting activity, like how many times Lori could punch your arm before you got a bruise, or how long Lee could stand to keep a daddylonglegs on her shoulder without screaming.

As we lounged on the cool cement under the eaves, pondering our choices, a shiny red cadillac zoomed up. The man driving it pulled around the corner. We heard the motor shut off.
"Quick," big brother Jay whispered, "you two go hide in there and we'll go in the other restroom." Never mind that he'd just directed big sister,Lee, and I into the men's room. Without thinking, we obeyed. Ducking into the restoom, Lee and I slid into the nearest shower stall, covering our mouths so our giggles wouldn't be heard.

In strode the man. Cick, click, click went his cowboy boots on the tiled floor. He chose the farthest stall for his business. He took forever and made the most darned-awful noises. I wanted to dash out of our hiding place, but Lee held me back, holding a warning "shh" finger in front of my face.

Finally, the man flushed the toilet and opened his stall door. But he didn't go out of the restroom. No. He started opening each stall door, one by one, loudly commenting on the condition of each toilet. Each toilet critique brought him closer to our stall. Lee's eyes grew as round and as big as pie plates. I'm sure the guy could hear our child hearts hammering at the thought of discovery and. . . murder.

The moment came. Mr. Red Cadillac slowly nudged our stall door open. Halfway. "My, what a clean shower."
The door eased shut. Click, click, click. The echo of his boots receded. Lee and I remained frozen in terror. Moments later, we heard Mr. Cadillac drive off. I took my first real breath in five minutes.

We high-tailed it out of that men's restroom like two Jack Russells chasing a rag bunny. Jay and Royce and Lori waited outside. As we breathlessly related our harrowing experience and how we'd --giggle, giggle -- hidden so well that that stupid old guy didn't even know we were right behind the shower door, our siblings looked at us with newfound admiration.

Throughout childhood, every time Lee or I needed an ego boost, we'd resurrect the story of Mr. Red Cadillac and our courage in the face of certain death.

I think I was somewhere around 25 when, in recollecting that day at the restroom in Sequoia National Park, it dawned on me that a good-natured man in a red cadillac played along in our child's game.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anxiety Therapy

Ephesians 3:16 "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being..."

Remember way back when I said that I'd revisit the subject of how I dealt with my panic attacks? Well, here goes.
After my first panic attack, several weeks passed in which my anxiety grew. They call it agoraphobia: literally, fear of the marketplace. Got so bad I couldn't even stick my head out the front door.
I spent hours in prayer, asking the Lord to heal me. My pastors and some elders came to my house, anointed my head with oil and prayed over me.
I had just committed to directing our church's children's music theater, so it was imperative that I regain the ability to drive and to walk into buildings without freaking out.
"I pray that out of His glorious riches. . . " Even in my time of mental illness, Jesus Christ has riches to offer me.
"He may strengthen you with power. . . " The Lord is fully capable of giving me power to do what I need to do.
"through His Spirit in your inner being. . . " Because His Spirit indwells me, my inner me has all of God's power at my disposal to do His will.
Like a solid rock where I could hide from the elements, prayer became my first refuge.
But God's Word was His soothing counsel, reminding me that I am a warrior, not a mouse.
More on the "warrior" subject later.
Let me know what wonderful scriptures God has given you in your time of trouble.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mad bomber

Did you know that I was nearly arrested on suspician of trying to assassinate a prominent city of San Francisco official? (I won't name his name.)
This was back in my young twenties when I was a very busy singer, doing gigs all over the bay area.
One dark and stormy night. . . no, actually it was a calm, star-filled night, I decided to walk home after my voice lesson. I could have taken the street-car, but I wasn't in any hurry and you know how it is when you're young and stupid about the dangers of city streets at night.
Halfway down Vicente, a guy on a motocycle passed me and slowed to get a better look. I ignored him and kept walking. He made a u-turn at the next block and came back for another ogle.
Getting nervous, I hurried down the hill and crossed the street at West Portal, straining to hear any sounds of pursuit from the motorcycle guy. None came.
With great relief I climbed the hill to Portola and waited for a break in the traffic.
Then, "rrum, rrum." Mr. Motorcycle again, a couple of short blocks away.
Still a quarter of a mile away from home, I cast about for a place to hide from my stalker.
The houses across Portola were built on a hill with garages situated at street level. The nearest one, bordered by a thick hedge, might hide a frightened woman.
I dashed across the wide avenue, cleared the sidewalk in one bound and thrust my body into the thorny green stuff.
I held my breath, listening. Mr. Morocycle approached. Slowed. Drove off fast.
Shew! I climbed out of the hedge and brushed myself off.
Then I saw the police cruiser parked on San Anselmo. An officer jumped out and ran across toward me, brandishing a flashlight and a gun.
"Hey!" he yelled at me.
I cowered in front of my hiding place. The guy had to have been seven feet tall.
"What were you doing in there? Let me see your ID." He gripped my arm and pulled me out under the streetlight.
"I. . er. . . you see, there was this guy on a motorcycle and-and. . . "
He scrutinized my driver's license.
"And he kept following me. . . so I thought I'd hide in--"
The officer put his gun back. "Where do you live?"
"With my grandmother. . . j-just down on San Pablo."
He shut off his flashlight. "All right. You get on home. I don't wanna see you anywhere near this house again."
I turned and walked on shaky legs all the way home.
In the morning I told my grandmother about the police officer on San Anselmo.
"Oh, yes," that's where (name of official) lives. Apparently he's gotten several death threats. That must be why the policeman's there."

Do you think the officer entered my name in some official "potential terrorist" government list?Is there a statute of limitations for suspects? That was over thirty years ago. Maybe I'm still be in there. I wonder.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Say "Yes" to the Best

Ive been teaching music for over thirty years. So many students come in with great expectations. I always ask them, "What do you want to do with your singing (or piano or guitar)?" They always answer confidently, "I want to play in a band." Or, "I want to compete in American Idol."
I always tell them, "That can happen if you're willing to work for it."
Months later, through practive -- or the lack of it -- it becomes clear to me if the student is actually motivated to become an excellent musician.

I've been a disciple of Jesus Christ for forty years. And just like a student musician I need to frequently ask myself: How can I be the best . . . for God?

Several years ago I listened to a powerful sermon on being the best. Preacher said:
1. Decide what you want. (Find my target and aim for it)
2. Discern what is best (Am I willing to pay the price for excellence?)
3. Be holy (No one will follow me if I'm no different than the average person)
4. Be righteous (Walk close to God, confess wrong-doing, serve, give)

Four good directives for anyone desiring excellence in their personal walk. I hope I say "Yes" to the best every day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Music for an Aging Woman

Monday, July 27th: We traded in our "clunker" for a new car, a hybrid. Not a moment too soon. The same evening, our son-in-law, Wayne, called from San Diego and told us to high-tale it out as soon as possible so we could witness Kiri giving birth to our first grandchild.
I thought I'd drive out by myself, but Bruce got permission from his boss to work off his computer. So we drove 1000 miles, remembering, thinking about life, praying for our little girl, who's all grown up, and for the little girl who'll be our granddaughter.
Hanging in my upstairs hall is a photo of my Norwegian grandmother taken ca 1900 when she was just 14. She stands in front of the family farmhouse outside Oslo, Norway, next to her siblings, mama, papa, and cousins I don't recognize. Nana's smooth, pretty face is set in a head-cocked, jaw-squared manner, a demeanor that persisted even into her older days. Her round, blue eyes gaze at the camera with naiive dreams of adventure and romance.
In a more modern frame, hanging inches to the right, a much older woman gazes into the camera. The same tilt of the head. Once auburn hair generously salted with white. Flanked on both sides are her four Norwegian-American sons, each uniformed in preparation for deployment to various war campaigns. It is 1942.
I am the same age as that small, pudgy, work-worn woman in the photograph. My life has not been as hard as hers. I did not marry at 16, bear 8 children, lose a child and a husband, and struggle through the Depression in poverty.
I think about the cycle of life: of being born, being young, being strong, being beautiful. How I'm caught up smack-dab in the middle. Neither young nor --thank God for HRT and cosmetics -- too old.
One day I'll look just like the white-haired Nana that I remember as a girl. My daughter will go through menopause and watch her beautiful daughter graduate from college. Makes me feel sad and happy all at the same time, like a beautiful and haunting piece of music.
Thursday evening, July 30th: I stand by my daughter's hospital bed and try very hard not to cry as she pushes little Kaya Victoria into the light and the doctor's gloved and capable hands.
Kiri is just shy of 21 and exceedingly gorgeous. She gazes at her baby with an expression God has given mothers. The same way I looked at Kiri. The same way Nana looked at my father.
Wayne hovers at every conceivable angle, over mother and baby, capturing the moment on his camera. One day, perhaps, in decades to come, their faces will gaze out from time-worn photos at clear-eyed children, curious about their ancestors.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Words and Music

Music and song are inextricably linked with God's glory. Moses sang," I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted." (Ex.15:1)
Deborah, the biblical judge and prophetess sang," I will sing to the Lord, I will sing; I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel." (Judges 5:2)
David, the psalmist, sang, " It is good to praise the Lord and make music to Your name, O Most High." (Psalm 9: 1)
Dear reader, the next time you listen to a beautiful piece of music, meditate on God's greatness and thank Him for creating in you the capacity to enjoy rhythm, melody and harmony. We may not even know why some music moves us. Listen to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." Why is it that a few well-placed dissonances in Barber's orchestral score proceed through our ears, to be translated in our brains as pleasure so intensely sweet that tears sting our eyes?
I believe music elicits a deep longing in our souls for intimacy with our Creator. He made us; He made music. We know instinctively that music is our spirit's quest to connect with that Someone Who, similarly, longs to connect with each one of us.
Tell me what music does for you?

(all scriptures taken the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright 1973,1978,1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fear of Fear

"What on God's green earth was that?"
I sat at the seven-foot Kawai grand piano in Calvary's worship center on a crisp Sunday morning, 12 bars away from the final chord of my piano solo.
The most awful, nasty, atrociously horrible sensation of impending death sneaked up from behind and bludgeoned me like a sledgehammer to my brittle skull.
My field of vision funnelled, nausea gripped my innards and hot and cold shocks jolted my spine. My heart machine-gunned my chest, as if trying to breach ribs, blood vessels and flesh.
Terrible as the fear was, the thought of passing out and falling onto the piano keys in front of 500 horrified spectators was nearly as bad.
Somehow, though the piano keys and music score looked incomprehensible, my fingers limped to the finish line.
I stood up, amid applause, and made my shaky way back to my family, sitting in the pews, far stage left.
My husband put his arm around my shoulder and squeezed me. "That was great, honey."
I smiled at him with my mouth, but the rest of me was reliving the horror of my first panic attack.
My mind would relive that horror thousands of times over the following weeks, each time finishing with the logical question: will that happen the next time I perform?
I've later discovered that this is the greatest horror suffered by those sensitive souls afflicted by panic attacks. When/where will it happen again?
I'll be sharing more about my 17 year struggle --what works, what doesn't. I've even written a novel about a woman who battles attacks of anxiety.
How about you? Do you battle panic? How do you cope?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why I like Suspense

It's just past one a.m. on a breathless, fog-shrouded night in Northern California. I'm eleven, and I should be dreaming about Jimmy, my fifth grade crush with the long, surfer dude hair, and the blue eyes rimmed by thick, dark lashes. Instead, I'm holding my breath and listening for all I'm worth because someone or something is right outside my bedroom window. I hear the brush of a body, squeezing through the narrow space between the house and the juniper tree.
I can easily pass through that narrow space. Done it tons of times. All I gotta do is open the window, scramble out onto the nearest branch of the juniper and slide down.
But this thing does not get through so easily.
I should jump out of bed and go get Daddy.
Mr. Klosten. That creepy old man who lives next door. He's always working on his garden next to our side of the property. I'll bet it's him.
What if I just tiptoed to the window and threw back the curtains? That'd give him a good scare.
But what if I saw something really creepy? Like a monster face from The Twilight Zone?
Still, I have this irrational impulse to just open the window and make a stupid face.
I really should go get Daddy. But then he'd go out there with a kitchen knife and whack the bushes and make deep, scary noises. Then whoever's out there would skedaddle really quick.
I'm just gonna lie here and imagine the worst. It wouldn't be so fun if I knew for sure it was Mr. Klosten.