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)
Thursday, December 30, 2010
So, the New Year is upon us. I know it sounds like a cliche, but. . . where did the year go? I thank God for all He has done in my life.
My year was filled with ministry at our church:
music: performing and teaching
the adventure of making new friends and growing old relationships
writing opportunities: several stories published and interest from two publishers in one of my novels
starting a new Sunday School class at church that we named Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone is the glory)
trips to California to attend a niece's and a nephew's weddings,
a trip to Southern California to attend our granddaughter's first birthday party
a wonderful road trip in the Northwest
attending the birth of our third grandchild: a beautiful little boy
Hiring a wonderful carpenter to re-do our upstairs bathroom and the put in new log banisters in our main staircase
Writing a song that was sung and performed at our church
Singing the contralto solos in the Vivaldi Gloria. (This was a gift from God, because I really thought my performing days were over.)
This year, especially, I've been asking the Lord to increase my writing and speaking gift. Scripture says, "ye have not, because ye ask not." So, why not ask that God increase a gift that will be for His glory. . . soli Deo Gloria?
I look forward to seeing how God's answer to my request will play out during the 2011 year. My greatest desire is that I walk so closely to my Lord that I am a clean and unobstructed conduit for whatever is it that He wants to pour through my mind and onto the computer keyboard.
May He be praised!
And may you be blessed, encouraged, strengthened, comforted, inspired, even instructed
by whatever He pours through me this year.
God bless you in 2011!
Monday, December 20, 2010
Thanks for your patience. I hope to see you again on December 30th!
I think it's the music. It seems to help her feel a connection to God.
There's something undeniably majestic about music that was composed by incredibly talented musicians, inspired to express their faith.
Few people are unmoved by Handel's Halleluiah Chorus, or Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.
Even for people I know who deny that Jesus is the Son of God, the beautiful music still fills most of them with a sense of yearning for connection with an eternal and immense Something or Someone they cannot define.
That's what Christmas is all about: God reaching downward to connect with His man-creation,
through Jesus Christ.
No matter how long and hard I think about it, I still cannot wrap my mind around the thought that God chose to begin His earthly life as a embryo in the body of a woman. That this woman labored, just as every other woman labors, then pushed God out of her womb.
He took His first breath. Waah! They probably wiped his bloody, and amniotic-slicked body with straw. He would have cried some more because it's cold in a cave, and they would have quickly washed Him and covered His little body with strips of cloth. Mary would have comforted Her son. Probably tried to nurse Him. Then He would have quieted and finally, they would have laid Him in that manger. God, lying in a manger, taking His first breath of straw and blood and animal dung.
The Almighty, the Great I AM entered time and space so that He could experience what we experience, so that He could be both God and man.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
That quote is similar to the old adage: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But I like Helen Keller's better; it's a stronger statement. Who wants to have a nothing life?
Like most people, when I hear a quote like that, I immediately ask myself, is my life a great adventure?
Few people who meet me would know that I am a great adventurer.
I'm a little woman, barely five foot one. There's nothing special about my appearance. I'm a wife, a mother, now a grandmother, a musician, a teacher, a writer.
Most of my life has been lived in my home, my studio, my classrooms, and my church.
Where's the adventure in that?
I'm no Indiana Jones, who strolls out of his college lecture hall, then zooms across five continents to face some exotic danger.
But -- I'll bet you didn't know this -- years ago I was once a slave, laboring with others in the darkness of a dank and fearful cave. Cruel troll-masters snapped whips against my back, tearing my flesh, laughing when I screamed in agony.
One night, a Hero arrived and rescued me from that horrible domain of darkness. He magically transported me into a grand and wondrous Kingdom.
But evil trolls from that old slave-world are constantly trying to reach through the portal of the wondrous Kingdom, with gnarled, hoary hands, seeking to grasp me and drag me back into slavery.
I and my new Kingdom friends possess an ancient, enchanted scroll, which, when eaten, bestows power to be able to view through the portal and see when the trolls are approaching to attack. We are able to warn each other about the trolls.
At other times, we hike through the wondrous Kingdom, seeking to catch glimpses of the Maker of the enchanted scroll. It is said that He roams the Kingdom forests and meadows and sings a song so beautiful that all who hear it weep for joy.
Sound like an adventure?
There's way more to my story, but I'll save the rest for another day.
"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:13)
Monday, December 13, 2010
Doubtless, they are gone by now; this was last spring when I took the photo.
It probably seems strange to you, but wildflowers always make me think of my own life.
I suppose it the fleeting nature of their beauty and their life.
Nobody planted it.
Nobody cultivates it.
If a wild creature comes and chomps on it, nobody shoos the pest away.
It doesn't exist so that a human can come by and admire it.
But there it sits, displaying its beauty, attracting bees, sending its DNA on to some other place in the wilderness so that another flower -- sun-kissed and wind-caressed --will grow for no one to see.
How about the Creator who lovingly fashioned the flower's delicate petals, its graceful stalk, the perfect elliptical form of its leaves.
Is it a small thing to exist to bring God enjoyment?
Sometimes I wrestle with my job as a writer. I think, why do I spend so much time working on this craft, trying to come up with words that will encourage, uplift, make one think, point out God?
Does anybody notice? Are my words doing anything at all? That old, silly question: if a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it fall, does it make a sound?
I always thought the answer to that question was obvious. Of course, because God witnesses the fall of the tree He created. You don't need a human around to record the event by scratching with a stick on a piece of stone or a leaf or a piece of parchment.
So, like the flower, do I exist and do I have any purpose if no one's there to see and approve my work?
Is it a small thing if --even if no one reads anything I write -- that God sits on my shoulder each day, witnessing my effort to bring glory to Him?
Are you like that flower in the wilderness, also. Does your faithful work each day go un-witnessed?
God sees and He records each faithful deed.
Bringing Him glory --whether or not anyone sees the fruit of your work --IS the work.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." (Col.3:23)
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Roen mainly sleeps. But when he wakes, his large, dark blue eyes track movement around him. He smiles for no reason, then just as quickly, grimaces or yawns.
His whole, perfectly formed head fits neatly into my hand. (That's my hand in the picture)
I thought about that old song, "He's Got The Whole World in His Hands."
The verses go something like this: "He's got the whole world in His hands."
Second verse: "He's got the wind and the rain in His hands."
Third verse: "He's got the tiny, little baby in His hands."
Finally: "He's got you and me, brother, in His hands."
For just a few months, my tiny, little grandson will fit neatly in my arms. Then he'll grow too big. He'll toddle around for a few months. Later, he'll run and jump and play. One day, perhaps, he'll be on the football team in high school. Roen will grow tall and strong, too tall and strong to be held in a frail grandmother's hands. One day he'll be a man.
But Roen will always be in God's hands.
He'll never outgrow God.
I hope Roen learns that fact at an early age.
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91: 1,4)
Monday, December 6, 2010
Elk always make me laugh when they try to look at you straight on. Their eyes are set low on the sides of their long heads --- perfect for seeing behind and sideward ---for catching any movement that might signal the presence of a predator.
Mr. Elk was only a few feet from the sliding glass window on the lower level of our house. He swung his head up, grass still hanging off the sides of his mouth, and seemed to say, "You talkin' to me?"
Yes, Mr. Elk, we're talking to you. We want to capture your image and put it on our computer. We enjoy you, we admire your beauty, your magnificent antlers, your thick mane, the size of you. When you look straight at us, and we look back, we kind of feel as if we have a relationship with you.
Sometimes, like Mr. Elk, I am also caught unaware by the presence of an admirer: my Heavenly Father.
I seek Him each day because He has what I need. I have a relationship with Him and so I long to see Him, to be close, to listen, to speak.
But I sometimes forget that He also seeks me, loves to watch me, enjoys me, delights in our relationship.
Just like the elk, I go about my daily activities and am startled at times by the sudden awareness that God is very, very near.
These are the times when I raise my (spiritual) head and ask, "Lord, are You talking to me?"
"The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their trust in His unfailing love." (Psalm 147:11)
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The deer appears to be baiting the retriever.
She backs off, then hops forward and stomps the ground with her front hooves.
The dog darts from side to side, it's tail held high. I wonder what would happen if the fence were suddenly removed.
Looks like a stalemate.
For twenty minutes the two creatures eye each other, neither one backing down.
Why doesn't the deer simply meander off and graze at a more pleasant pasture?
But what the camera doesn't capture is the rest of the situation.
About twenty feet behind the doe are her two half-grown fawns.
Ah, now the picture makes sense. Mom deer thinks she's protecting her kids.
Sometimes we get so close to a situation we can't see the whole picture. We see only a slice and make judgments based on a small piece of information. We need someone to remind us to back up and look with a more objective distance.
Our Christian faith calls us to "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things."
Faith calls us to see the entire picture, inside and outside of history. Our physical eyes see only a miniscule portion of the Kingdom in which we live. But, by faith we choose to see through God's heavenly perspective.
Losing a job
Suffering some kind of set-back
An illness. . .
I have a choice to make each day and in every situation. I can choose to stay with my nose pressed up way too close to my "photo," ignoring the entire picture.
Or, by faith, I can choose to see the unseeable, which is, actually, the real picture.
"For we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen." (2 Cor. 4:18)
Monday, November 29, 2010
It gives me a warm feeling to know that I'm helping these adorable balls of fluff stay alive during the cold Rocky Mountain winter.
But that warm feeling is nothing compared to the joy I feel whenever I write a check to World Vision. We've been sponsoring children through this wonderful organization since the early 1980s.
World Vision also sends out a Christmas catalog. You can buy chickens, ducks, or a goat or an ox to help a struggling third world family start a business which will bring them income. Or you could buy a share in the construction of a well that brings fresh, clean water to a village. This year I helped pay for medications to stock a medical clinic. I also helped pay for a girl who's been rescued from forced prostitution to receive care and education. The catalog also describes many other opportunities to support children, women, or families.
If you'd like to check it out, now would be a great time to do it. Here's the web address:
"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You?
When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it for Me.'" (Matthew 26:37-40)
Thursday, November 25, 2010
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." (Psalm 40: 1-3)
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms
in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in His kindness to us in
Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6,7)
Thank God for His activity in our lives!
This is the thought that I will bring to the Thanksgiving table today.
As I read these scriptures, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, I am struck by all the things God does. (I've highlighted them.)
- He responds to our cry for help.
- He is actively working to raise us up out of our miserable human experience and give us a heavenly hope.
- He is actively working to make us like Jesus Christ with the goal of showing us off as His workmanship.
"Praise God through Whom all blessings flow."
Monday, November 22, 2010
Dudley, the dog, was way too smart for his own good. . . and our good, too. My title in the Chicken Soup book was "The Houdini Dog" because Dudley seemed to be able to escape any enclosure, dog-proof or not.
Dudley also learned mucho tricks. But that dog had an independent spirit. He didn't wait for you to say which trick he should perform. He simply performed each trick, one right after another. All the time he'd be watching to see which trick would elicit the reward response.
It would go something like this. Me: "Dudley, sit!"
Dudley: sit, stand, bow, speak, roll over, raise paw, twirl in a circle, watch my hand for a possible treat, repeat whole litany of tricks, etc.
Me: "No, Dudley. Sit, Dudley."
Dudley: excitedly repeat whole repertoire of tricks and watch for expected treat.
Dudley apparently thought he could manipulate us to get his food treat simply by doing it all. He didn't understand that the treat we wanted to give him was dependent on his obedience, not the trick itself.
Sometimes I think our relationship to the Lord is kind of like Dudley's relationship to the Netherton family:
"Just do something, anything, whatever for God and He'll surely bless me."
Never mind listening to God and finding out first what He wills for me to do. Just do stuff."
I loved Dudley, and his comical efforts to get a doggy treat so amused me that he'd usually get a treat anyway.
But I hope my relationship to God is first and foremost about pleasing Him, not working for a silly "treat."
I hope my eyes look up to the Lord out of reverence and devotion, not what I can manipulate God into giving me.
". . . acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts." (1 Chron. 29:9)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Undisciplined and way too enamored of the whole college experience, I didn't work too hard academically. Oh, I practiced my music and grew quickly as a young musical artist. But, looking back, I could just kick myself for not taking advantage of the wonderful cultural and educational opportunities afforded by that extraordinary college.
I graduated with an undistinguished 2.99 grade point average.
Later when I started to apply to graduate schools, that same northwestern university that I really wanted to attend informed me that no matter how good my musical audition was, they wouldn't consider any graduate student with a gradepoint average less than a 3.0.
So I missed out because of a lousey hundredth of a point.
Brother Jay, now a doctoral student in music, told me that the University of Michigan was way better for serious music students anyway, and that's where I should go.
I made another taped audition, sent it off and was promptly accepted.
I really didn't have enough money to go to Michigan, but again brother Jay told me to "just go. If they really want you, they'll find a way to keep you there all three semesters."
When I arrived in Ann Arbor, the scholarship committee awarded me a scholarship and the vocal department offered me a teaching assistantship. I found out later that no one gets both a scholarship and an assistantship. Must be a God-thing.
A few weeks later, I met my future husband. Three semesters later, both with master's degrees, we got married.
Thirty-two years later, very happily married, with three children, three children-in-laws and three grandchildren, I wonder how life would have turned out if I'd actually gotten a 3.0 instead of a 2.99 GPA.
Guess that lousey hundredth of a point wasn't so lousey after all.
Monday, November 15, 2010
He waited patiently as we focused our camera. Didn't dash away, like we feared he'd do any moment.
He must be used to people.
He's so little and cute.
The other day I went to the Denver Zoo with my daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The reptile house always awes me. I'm so glad there's a thick sheet of glass that separates me from those pythons and pit vipers.
Monitor lizards can get really big, like six to eight feet long. Did you know that?
They start out cute, just like that lizard in the picture.
But if some predator doesn't gulp them down when they're small, they keep growing.
Then they're not so cute.
Yesterday I stood in line at a supermarket.
An adorable toddler pushed by my legs and gleefully perused the candies and other treats displayed for the purpose of last-minute impulse buying.
I've been tempted by those treats, myself. "Gee, I won't have dinner made for at least another two hours. Maybe I should buy a butterfinger to tide me over. Or two, or three."
Anyway, the little girl would not be deterred by her older siblings who warned her not to pick up any of the candy bars. She grabbed a kit-kat bar and tried to stuff it into her too-small pocket. Finally, Mom intervened and took the candy and put it back.
I felt sorry for the little tyke when her mother took the candy away. She was so little and cute. She didn't even understand that she was stealing.
Like most wrong-doing, when it's small, we kind of think it's not too serious, maybe even a little cute.
The lizard and the little girl don't seem too threatening. But when they grow up, the lizard might bite off your hand, and the little girl might steal cars.
Thank the Lord, the monitor lizard is restrained by zoo-keepers.
And the little girl has a wise mother who is training her, from childhood to respect other people's property.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I've stood above Niagara Falls and felt awe at its power.
I've watched ships chug under the Golden Gate Bridge into the beautiful San Francisco bay.
I've hiked national parks in all of the western states and marvelled at the beauty of cascading water falls.
Yosemite, Rocky Mountain National,
Olympic, North Cascades,
Without the beauty of the water, I doubt that millions of visitors would flock to these parks each year.
Have you ever stopped to think why water wows us?
Stagnant ponds, stinking bogs, oil-darkened beach water; how does that move you?
Do you want to spend your vacation admiring muddy, stinking water?
We admire water for its clarity, its purity, its life-giving, cooling, refreshing properties.
When I see a water fall, the first impulse I have is to immerse myself in it. I want my body to be cooled and cleansed. I want to feel the jets of water pummel my head. I want to open my mouth and taste the freshness.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Pronghorn antelope graze on the sage-covered hills. Yellow road signs warn motorists to beware of "eagles on the highway." Dust storms arise suddenly, their murk making it impossible to continue driving.
Some years ago we descended from a high plateau into what we thought was a dense area of fog, only to discover that we'd driven into a terrible blizzard. After three hours of white-knuckle driving, we reached the blessed little town of Salina and holed up for the night.
Years later, Kiri and I drove through the same rocky landscape, but this time it had been transformed by rain and fog into a magical, mystical fairy land of shape-shifting cliffs, cloaked in various hues of greys and looking very much like an Ansel Adams photograph.
The land of the southwest reminds me of the bigness of God and my own smallness.
It's comforting in an awe-inspiring sort of way, don't you think?
The high cliffs seems to proclaim, "Hah, you live as if you think you are the sum total of the universe. Let this be a reminder to you that you are, afterall, dwarfed by God!"
Not that I am insignificant.
Just that I am not very powerful.
I need this reminder often.
"I will lift up my eyes to the hills -where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1,2)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
"He's got red hair, wears glasses."
"Red hair, glasses?"
"You know, he works in building B."
The two men looked at each other helplessly; that was as far as their descriptive powers went.
I chuckled at their description and said, "If you were two women, you'd be describing the guy like this: 'he's about 5'10", 170 pounds, with wavy, auburn hair, high cheekbones, a strong jaw, hazel eyes, and he wears Calvin Klein sweaters and Rockport shoes."
We had a good laugh about the differences between men and women's style of physical description.
Usually when we describe the outward appearance of a person, we talk about height, hair color, job or position.
Wouldn't it be cool if we described people by capturing their inward essence? . . . . .
"I talked to George yesterday."
"You know, funny, animal-lover, compassionate.
"Oh, yeah, George. Empathetic."
Hopefully, you or I wouldn't be identified by such descriptors as crass, rude, insensitive, boorish, crabby, etc.
Wouldn't it be terrible if everyone knew you were the one being described if the single identifying word was "bossy" or "manipulative?"
My husband and I tried to come up with one single word that would best capture each of our children's inner essence. Of course, they're our children so we came up with wonderful, positive descriptors.
Kiri's words was "Intense."
Garrett's was "quicksilver."
Ian--he wasn't happy to learn our descriptor because he said the word wasn't masculine, but too bad -- was "sparkling." (We later changed the word to "ebulliant.")
It's a great discussion question. Next time you're sitting around the dinner table with family or friends, ask each other, "What one one best word that captures my inner essence?"
You'll be amazed at how similarly friends will describe you.
How would you want your inner essence described?
Monday, November 1, 2010
I had a friend in high school named Stormy. She got that name because her parents thought her eyes looked like the sky just before a storm.
One of my friends had a cat named Michelob. Makes you wonder.
Last year Bruce and I took a road trip through Oregon and Washington. Near the Oregon coast we passed a sign directing us to the town of Mist. Now that's an appropriate name.
Some names are just cute, like Tweedle Road. We saw that sign about a half mile beyond the Mist sign.
Or, coming up the canyon to Estes Park there's a sign for Muggin's Gulch. Well, I can sure understand the "gulch" part. But who in the world was Muggin?
There's a starkly beautiful canyon just on the south border between Utah and Arizona called Virgin Canyon. A couple of miles into it you come across the sign that I've posted: Cedar Pocket.
Huh? Do you see a single cedar tree?
You never have to wonder about the names of God. Afterall, these are names He, Himself has spoken to describe Himself.
"Lamb of God" He offered Himself as a death sacrifice.
"Alpha and the Omega" He always has been and always will be and His position in the universe is supreme.
"Emmanuel" God with us.
Prince of Peace
Son of Man
There are so many other names and each one accurately describes one of His mighty attributes. No one name, spoken in a human language can fully capture God's essence. But, unlike Tweedle Road or Muggin's Gulch, none of God's names makes me chuckle.
Instead, they fill me with awe.
"I am the Lord; that is my name!" Isaiah 42:8
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Since we have a daughter and son-in-law in San Diego, Bruce and I frequently drive the I-70 to I-15 route through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and finally California.
Most of the drive is spectacularly beautiful.
But when you get to the Las Vegas leg of the journey, you've left beauty behind.
A few miles past Baker as you begin to wind into some barren hills leading up to Barstow you go by the Zzyzx sign.
For years we've speculated as to how the strange word got to be a road sign.
And yes, I've looked in the white pages under "Z." No such name.
Here are some of our theories:
The scenery is so boring that they had to come up with a road sign that would wake you up.
They named the road after the sound that cars and tires make when they speed through the hills in the 120 degree summer heat.
Maybe it's the sound of snoring passengers --hopefully not the driver -- on this stretch of the road.
Someone bet someone else they couldn't come up with five-letter name using only the last three letters of the alphabet. (This one's the most likely explanation, I think.)
Whatever the reason for the name, Zzyzx, it tells me that we're on the last leg of our journey to So Cal.
So I like the name.
Not that we've arrived at our destination. But it means that we've safely avoided winter avalanches around Loveland Pass and Vail Pass. We've passed through snow whiteouts around Cedar City, Utah. We didn't get in an accident coming down the Virgin River Canyon and we missed rush-hour traffic through Las Vegas.
Unlike Zzyzx, the name of Jesus is no mystery; it mean's "Savior."
It's also a name I can trust. But the journey with Jesus is a much greater journey than the little one between Denver and San Diego.
Trusting in His name means I'm going to be safe for the entire journey.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I live in one of the most gloriously beautiful spots on earth: Estes Park.
As a result, EVERYONE wants to drive up here to sample the town's delights, from elk-watching to Art fests to rodeos and then on to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Half of my life actually takes place down on the flat lands of Longmont and metropolitan Denver.
It's a 45 minute drive down the canyon. . . that is, if my route is unimpeded.
Since highways 34 and 36 actually belong to me, I imagined a system of transportation which would relieve the traffic congestion and facilitate the flow up and down the canyon.
During my weekly drives up and down the hill --and taking way too long to get wherever I'm trying to get to because of other cars -- I've made some really important observations about drivers: there are four basic types.
The far-right lane should belong to the "Truly Slow Drivers." Those are the ones who think their car will go off the road if they drive above twenty-five miles an hour.
The second lane on the right should be for the moderate drivers; those are the ones who like to drive slightly under the speed limit, say five miles under.
The third lane should be designated: "The drivers who think they're fast but really aren't and you're really annoying me 'cause I drive faster than you."
Finally, the far left lane should belong only to the "Truly Fast." That's me and maybe a handful of F150s and little red foreign jobs.
(I explained to my daughter-in-law, XXXX, and other frustrated drivers about these observations and they added some of their own thoughts, as well.)
Daughter XXXX asked, "But how do you enforce people driving in their own lanes?"
"Simple," I said. "There should be section of the driver's licence test that gauges your speed on a winding, closed course. The results are fed into a computer, which then spits out your designated lane. An automatic traffic ticket of 500 dollars should be levied against those who stray from their lane.
A friend suggested that --since I own the highways, ha-ha -- I should dispense with the whole traffic ticket thing and simply levy a toll for the far left lane.
Some other suggestions were to construct a tunnel that would lead from Lyons all the way to Estes Park. This would be a private road, only for the "Truly Fast" drivers.
I said, "I don't think a toll for the far left lane would bring in enough money for that."
Some one else suggested, "How about we tax all the Suburu drivers?"
"And those Kansas drivers," someone else chimed in.
"Yeah, and what about those trucks that belch all that black smoke? It's really awful when you're stuck behind them all the way up the hill?"
I said, "I thought we were just talking about the problem of slow drivers?"
He said, "But why not roll in the black smoke people while we're figuring out how to tax the poky drivers? That way, we got 'em, too."
Ah, just think of that nice, private road. We and those F150s and fast foreign jobs would have our own patrol officer, but he'd only be there to take care of flat-tires and over-heating."
Yeah," someone else said, "but would you have any money left over to take care of the original road with all the slower drivers?"
"Oh, them," I said.
"What if all those poky drivers find out what you're doing with their tax money? Won't they get upset?" XXXX said.
He said, "Not if we make it look like we're just trying to protect them by keeping all of us fast, dangerous drivers off their road."
"So, true," I said. "As Sylvester Stallone said in Rocky IV, 'Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.'"
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I was, too.
Ever since that day in August when the news first covered the story about the trapped miners, my imagination had been down half a mile down, in the dark, with those guys.
Those first seventeen days, before the outside world knew that they were still alive, must have been excrutiating.
That is what I think about the most: how did those men keep going with hardly any food, thinking they might starve? Would they be discovered? Would help arrive? What were their families doing?
I'm fascinated with survivor stories and have read much on the subject. Ben Sherwood's The Survivors Club is a well-told and well-researched book on how and why certain people survive terrible crises. I highly recommend it.
In a chapter about faith and health-outcomes, one researcher was quoted as saying that faith in God helps a person in crisis because he or she believes that there is a purpose in their suffering and that God is present. This, in turn, gives the survivor incredible perseverance.
Most of the Chilean miners said that their faith in God helped sustain them even in the worst time before the rescue efforts began.
A survivor might hit rock bottom (literally, like the miners) but hope persuades him/her to take one more step. . then another, and another.
What have you survived?
(Isaiah 40:31) "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Our son and daughter-in-law will call him Roen.
What a great name.
Yesterday, Bruce and I were taking a drive and Bruce said, "I'll have to remember to bring photos of Ryan when I go visit your mom and dad in California."
I chuckled. "Ryan?"
"Oh, I mean Roen."
Bruce is a bright and talented man, but he does have a tendency to fumble with names.
For years I've stood by his side at social gatherings, as a faithful helpmeet, and murmured names to him when people approach to talk to him.
But now that I'm older I'm not much help anymore. I just shrug and and say,
"That's my first cousin, but darned if I can remember her name!"
We all flub names. I used to laugh when my mother would have to recite all five of her children's names before she got to the right one.
But when my three kids came along, everyone's name became, "IanGarrettKiri."
They all responded and then I'd dismiss the two that I didn't want.
I imagine the day will come when little Roen will visit, and we'll both be calling, "Ryan, er Rusty, er Ross, I mean Rheinhold. Ach! Hey you!"
But God never fumbles with names. Whether it's Sue, or Bob, or Dena, or Rumpelstiltskin, your name sits comfortably on His tongue.
He knows you completely.
Unlike earthly parents (and grandparents) He doesn't make mistakes.
When He calls you, it's you He's calling.
He'll never say, "Oh, never mind, I didn't want you."
Your name is precious to God.
"He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I was in the lady's restroom the other day. A woman in a wheelchair and her friend needed help so I opened the door and held it while they wheeled inside. Then I assisted them in cleaning up the "room" they needed because it looked --shall we say-- less than inviting. Finally, I helped them with the washing and drying and held the door so they could exit the restroom.
And they never said thankyou. Just rolled out the door. In fact, neither one even so much as acknowledged my presence as I performed my acts of service.
Well, these were two old ladies, one of them handicapped. Maybe neither one was in her right mind.
See how generous I am? Ain't I wonderful?
Most of the time, when I bring a meal to a sick friend or give a gift, it is received with thanks and appreciation.
But when my service is not acknowledged?
Better know that I'm grumbling on the inside. And it's not my stomach.
But every time I complain in my heart about other people's lack of appreciation for my grand acts, I imagine God, throwing His arms out in a gesture of exasperation and saying, "Welcome to my world!"
"When I give you each day's breath, do you acknowledge Me?"
"When I sustain the world so that it doesn't spin off its axis, do you thank Me?"
"When I work tirelessly to prepare a wonderful home for you in heaven, do you praise ME?"
I'd have to say my answer to God's questions would be"sometimes."
Obviously I, too, miss the appreciation boat more times than I want to admit.
Maybe the secret to the world's greatest "Mother Theresa's" is that they realize how much unearned favor God shows them each day and then they turn around and give it to others, as well.
Just like my church's motto: "Broken People, Being Made New in Jesus, Overflowing with Gratitude, and Being Poured Out for Others."
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (Heb. 12:28)
Monday, October 11, 2010
How they get some of those shots inside caves or down under ice floes in the dead of an Antarctic winter is beyond me.
But it's the little intimate shots that charm me the most. Especially the ones of some male animal performing his fancy moves to entice a lady love.
The birds seem to create the most spectacular scenes.
The ones that make me laugh the most are the jungle birds who suddenly inflate elaborate black plumes that look like umbrellas, or rectangles with long, neon blue "mouths." Under the enormous feathery shapes, the bird's spindly legs perform a quick frenzied side-to-side dance, almost guaranteed to wow the plain female who, nevertheless, observes with an unimpressed turn of her beak.
Then there's the long-nosed dolphin who picks up a rock in his mouth and holds it aloft, all the while, eyeing his potential mate with a "aren't you impressed?" look.
What's that all about?
And of course, we've all seen nature programs of big-horn rams or bull elk and their famous jousts with other males.
And human males sing songs, write poems, fight wars, compete in sports, to impress females.
But God is the greatest lover of all. He woos us with sunsets, Caribbean-blue oceans,
snow-capped mountains, summer fields of corn flowers and sunflowers,
sweet corn and tomatoes, the song of the loon on a fog-filled lake,
the scent of pine or the moist air after a rain storm.
His dance is the clouds, swirling and tumbling into the forested gaps between the rocky peaks.
His song is in the murmur of the brook, or the low tunes in the wind through the ponderosas.
But His call is through human words: "I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with kindness. . . " (Jer. 31 3)
What a lover!
What a God!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sometimes I substitute a word that begins with the letter of the word I'm intending to say.
I'll say, "that's rhinocerous," instead of "that's ridiculous."
Or I blurt out "I'm on my way to cheat," instead of, "I'm on my way to church."
That one's kind of embarrassing.
It's like I have a giant, but flawed lexicon in my brain and sometimes the wrong word -- but on the right page -- gets selected and sent to my mouth.
I thought I was the only one who said such strange things. But recently I was talking to my daughter-in-law and she admitted that she sometimes expresses similar, but inappropriate words, too.
She's young and a busywife, mother, server at her church, and nurse. Maybe these verbal foul-plays are just a symptom of a brain under the influence of stress.
When our dog, Dudley, was just a pup, I explained to my brother-in-law that the dog was part cocker spaniel and part Jack Daniels, er, I mean Jack Russell. Rich laughed and said "is that why the dog always seems to be dizzy?" I'm not an alcohol guzzler, believe me! Somehow my brain had logged in Jack Daniels ( the strong fire-water) right on the same dictionary page, next to Jack Russell (terrier).
The worst, most embarrassing example of this brain betrayal happened many years ago as I paid a visit to the home of one of the older women in our church.
This very lovely lady was showing me a family picture of her six grown children.
I pointed to the eldest son and said, "Is this the one you said you were going
to bother . . . "
I meant to say, "to Boston next month to visit?
Try to get out of this gaff gracefully.
I turned red and muttered something about how my mouth trips up, and I meant Boston, you see, and, oh dear, and how in the world did that word come out?
People who grew up in the old days of Freud and psychoanalysis would say I'd chosen that word because I secretly considered this kind old lady an annoying, meddling, overly protective mother-in-law.
Monday, October 4, 2010
On rare occasions we've seen raccoons climb up and run along the log banisters, hoping to claw some seed out of the feeder.
I love the feeder because it draws such cute little birds: purple finches, house sparrows, chickadees --even a very small greyish bird that doesn't have a seed-eater's bill and has to deposit a sunflower seed on the corner post and whack the fool out it until he can extract the meat inside.
It gives me great satisfaction to know I'm keeping at least some of God's creatures fed and sustained.
But there are some critters I hadn't intended to feed: ground squirrels, mice, chipmonks.
I love the chipmonks.
But the mice? Those varmints!
Our feeder has drawn them closer to the house and, eventually, our garage.
Observing the little animals on the ground has helped me draw an illustration about life, even spiritual life.
The good that you do for an individual or group of people will eventually trickle down to others --those "varmints" -- that you hadn't even intended to bless.
That is God's good way.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:43-45)
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I tear up every time I get to that part. Every time.
It's such a timeless message: we all touch other lives in ways we'll never even comprehend this side of heaven.
Jimmy got to see his worth only because an angel intervened in his life and granted him his wish. The angel, Clarence, said, "You've never been born. This is a chance to see what the world would be like without you."
Have you ever thought about the impact of your life?
Oh, not just the meal that you brought over to a sick friend, or the encouraging word you spoke the other day to a stranger.
I mean, the entirety of your life.
I ask myself that question a lot, particularly as I approach (in a few years) my sixties.
Has my life counted? Has the quality of my character, my work, my relationships really changed the world?
Will I leave a legacy of good works long after I am gone to heaven and forgotten?
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. . . " (Galations 6:9,10)
Monday, September 27, 2010
Down at the end of Fish Creek Road, where it ends on Highway 36, is a small sub-section of Lake Estes. The elk love to wade into the shallow water there and congregate.
For me, it's elk as usual. I drive by and hardly glance at the big beasts.
But for the out-of-towners, a gander at an elk is big doings.
The other day, as I drove down Fish Creek on my way toward a writer's meeting down in Loveland, I came around the corner and nearly collided with about ten cars who'd all stopped in the middle of the road to stare and take pictures of the elk in the lake.
I sometimes wish I had one of those police loudspeakers that I could thrust out my window and say with an authoritative voice: "Please pull over!"
But I understand. Really, I do. I remember how overwhelmed I was by the Rocky Mountain's beauty when we first moved to Colorado from the flat farmlands of Illinois. Estes Park is about one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Add to that deer, elk and other fascinating wildlife, towering mountains and crystal blue lakes and you have a recipe for a wondrous vacation.
It's just that I've lived here for nearly two decades and an elk has now become a ho-hum sight.
I wonder. When you first arrive in heaven, doubtless you'll be looking around with eyes of awe, joy and worship.
But do you think that those who've been there for a few thousand years have grown blase about their heavenly home?
Nah! It's not even a close comparison to Estes Park and the majestic elk.
As beautiful as this world can be, it's still an imperfect world with imperfect people.
We see things God has made, but not He, Himself.
We see the created, but not the Creator.
I can't even imagine what it will be like to see GOD.
Would you ever grow blase about. . .
Thursday, September 23, 2010
You see, I have a relative who practices his tai chi each morning, and the word just flows from my mouth habitually.
It's like that with the names of my children, too. The name, Ian, flows out of my mouth when I mean to say Garrett or even Kiri. Or visa versa.
These household words flow from years of use. They have achieved, as they say in the education world, "automaticity."
We gain automaticity with thousands of small and gross motor actions: tying shoes, braiding hair, driving a car, saying "please" and "thank you."
I thought about the other vocabulary words that have achieved automaticity in my mouth:
"Good heavens! (I got that one from my mother.)
"Warsh rag" (That one came from my Iowa-born grandmother. I learned, with much practice, to exchange that word for the more genteel "wash cloth.")
"Don't even go there."
There are other words and phrases that I'm working on so that they flow from my tongue just as automatically:
"I appreciate you."
"You just made my day."
"Sue" or "Bob" or "Melissa" or whoever it is that you just met.
Wouldn't it be great if kind words just poured off our lips, habitually, like healing waters?
"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind words cheers him up." (Proverbs 12:25)
Monday, September 20, 2010
What they see:
we work at home
we often don't get paid
we must divide our writing time between loads of laundry, meals, errands and a hundred other distractions.
we're not famous like Debbie Macomber or _______ (insert name).
We don't travel (much)
We don't speak (much)
But, this is what we writers know:
We work at home
we often don't get paid
We must divide our time between hundred of daily distractions
We're not famous
We don't travel much
We don't speak much
This is what we also understand:
Writers are often the first ones to get put in prison when there's a revolution.
Writer's book are banned or even burned when ideologies clash.
Writers are sometimes threatened because they express controversial ideas.
Jesus told stories and those stories are preserved for all time in the Bible.
A good story has way more power than a sermon because it flows like a memorable tune.
Story has the power to change lives.
If God has called me to write, there's no way I'm going to listen to naysayers and not write.
God called Noah to build an ark. It seemed like a ridiculous project to his contemporaries. But Noah was obedient in spite of the ridicule.
And finally, when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin), he said, "So you're the little lady who started this big (Civil) war.
You, as a writer, are the only one God spoke to and called to do this work of writing. God doesn't explain to others what He's called you to do.
And anyone who thinks they know better how you should be spending your days, will have to take it up with God!
"From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Eph. 4:16)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Then, there were the routine fire drills. The worst part was the inital blast of the fire siren. But we kids sure learned how to immediately stand up from our desks, form a line and walk in an orderly fashion out to the playground.
I was a speedy runner in school. Our gym teacher had us practice how to explode from the crouch into a full-blown sprint. Then we practiced handing the baton smoothly. At the district meets, the skills we'd honed helped us win races.
As a pianist, I spent hours practicing scales and arpeggi and Hanon and Czerny. Then, when I played a Mozart Sonata, the scalework in the piece came automatically.
As Believers, I hope we practice our faith skills just as diligently. Do we:
thank God and worship Him every day?
pray for the needs of others every day?
read and meditate on God's Word daily?
instantly repent when the Spirit makes us aware of a wrong attitude or action?
bring every thought captive before it takes us captive?
Then, when it's no longer a drill, but the real big test or crisis, we're skilled in automatically drawing near to our HELPER.
I hope we don't wait until the bomb flies overhead to realize with dismay that we have no idea what to do.
"There everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who buillt his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did no fall because it had its foundation on the rock." (Matt. 7:24)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Anyway, the articles explain that after pouring out insulin for so many years, either the pancreas gets tired and can't quite do the job as well, or our cells get so they don't recognize the "doorbell" that says, "Open up and let the glucose come in, please."
As a result, the much-needed glucose can't get into the cells to power them. This glucose-run-amuck wanders around in the bloodstream causing problems, eventually gets converted into fat, then stored in places we don't want it. Like the belly.
I've noticed that same thing happen in marriages. One spouse needs something. The other spouse doesn't quite speak the right language. Result: an unmet need.
Over time, a husband or wife just shuts down and quits being receptive to the spouse. Condition: Love Resistance.
Just like diabetes (type 2), the problem isn't so bad at first. If you catch it early and do the right things, you can arrest or even reverse the disease.
But if you let the condition persist over years, the effects can be devastating. Heart disease, blindness, numbness. Those are just a few of the consequences.
These articles on diabetes sure gave me a lot to examine, not only about my physical condition, but about my marriage.
I hope I recognize and stop any "Love Resistance" before it causes my heart to get sick, my eyes to grow blind to my husband, or numbness makes me unable to feel his needs.
That would be awful.
"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another." (I John 3:11)
Thursday, September 9, 2010
The book outlines characteristics of un-safe people, those who hurt and bind us in habitually unhealthy ways of thinking, acting and reacting. These people could be parents, friends, business associates, employers, teachers.
Frequently, those who display un-safe characteristics, such as being overly critical, expecting perfection, using guilt, put-downs, unfair comparisons, over-spiritualizing of physical or emotional problems, do so with the desire to "help."
The book then goes on to describe characteristics of safe people. A "safe" person:
displays acceptance and grace
is willing to confront in a loving way
doesn't try to show superiority
doesn't try to control
has other friends
is humble and honest about his/her own struggles
is continually growing in his/her own walk with the Lord.
We've all had experiences with hurt and betrayal at the hands (or tongues) of un-safe people. Reading SAFE PEOPLE was not a pleasant experience because it brought up so many painful memories of people who've hurt me.
I've been on a long journey of learning that it's okay to place boundaries around myself. That's it's acceptable to say, "No, I'm a separate person. I am not you and you are not me. What I am feeling or thinking or experiencing is my own emotion, thought, experience. I have a God-given right to emotional self-preservation.
God bless my wonderful friends in Christ who've understood and respected my boundaries and who've supported my endeavors to grow in this area.
God has, in His wonderful grace, placed "safe" people around me who have blessed me in tremendous ways.
I'd like to be a safe person for others.
Isn't that what the body of Christ is all about?
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Cor.1:3,4) NIV
Thursday, September 2, 2010
The bulls become so love-smitten that any large object in someone's backyard seems to become a competitor.
While the younger bulls --who have no hope of any real success with the cows --parry, tilt and spar with each other, the older bulls have serious work to do.
Sometimes a bull will bring his harem of forty to fifty cows through our yard and watch them possessively while they graze on dried grasses and shrubs.
One fall I watched out the window at a bull in our neighbor's backyard. He narrowed his eyes and lowered his antlers at a swing set, swaying gently in the autumn breeze. Pawing the ground, the bull snorted, then charged the swing.
Then something terrible happened. The poor dumb animal got his huge rack of antlers tangled in the chains of the swing. I could see the white around each iris as his eye's grew wide in panic. He bucked and pulled frantically. He lost his balance and crashed onto his side. Then his antlers slid free and he climbed back onto his feet. Shaking his big, furry neck --and still eying the swingset with suspicion -- he trotted off to be nearer his cows.
As he cantered away I imagined the bull was thinking something like this: "Man, that was one big, dangerous dude! I think I'll take my cows and skedaddle to a safer pasture."
That poor, dumb animal almost got himself killed because he didn't recognize that the swingset wasn't his real enemy. Where was the real enemy? Lurking somewhere nearby. . . behind a neighbor's garage, or up the hill fifty or sixty yards, eying the heard of cows with greedy eyes.
That's who the feckless bull elk should have been looking out for.
Not a swingset!
Poor, dumb beast. How could he be so stupid. Can't he see that a swingset doesn't look remotely like another bull elk?
But, you know? I'm just as dumb as a bull elk at times. I get angry or annoyed at people or situations, sometimes thinking that they are my enemy:
- that blasted politician who thinks abortion is justified,
- that neighbor who uses the Lord's name in vain every chance he gets,
- the school board that voted a god-denying, history-re-written textbook into the school district for the proper education of our naive youth.
If only I have eyes to see reality, I'll recognize that these people (for whom Christ died) are not my enemy. The real enemy is lurking around my neighbor's garage, or fifty or sixty yards uphill, watching our souls with greedy eyes.
God grant me discernment. God grant me love.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
Monday, August 30, 2010
It was the end of the seventies, and that's just the way lots of couples started out.
A few years later we got our first microwave. I didn't know what to do with it at first. Now I don't know what I'd do without the thing.
Couple of years later we got our first new car. It was equipped with cruise control. At first, I balked about using the cruise. But then we took a cross-country trip and I became a believer.
We bought a house with an automatic garage door opener. Such luxury.
As we have accumulated wealth over the thirty-one years of our marriage, we wonder how we functioned so well without the next newest "thing" that makes our lives run easier.
Aging seems to be exactly the opposite.
Over time --instead of accumulating -- we gradually give up things: good hearing, good vision, quick reflexes, good digestion,
good joints, strong muscles.
When my skin was young I couldn't imagine what it would be like not to have a smooth, unlined face. Now I slather night cream.
I can still take my daily five mile walk, but now my feet get sore.
I wish I could sleep better.
At first the changes were subtle. But now, like a ball rolling down the hill, gaining momentum, the decline is obvious.
Accumulating things, jobs, houses, or experiences doesn't seem to have done much to force Christian maturity on me.
But aging gives me daily opportunities to look toward Christ and His Kingdom.
Now that I cannot sing so well, I give more energy to encouraging other, younger singers.
Now that my children are grown and my house is empty of their energy and youthful voices, I spend more time helping and praying for younger mothers.
Now that I am no longer beautiful, I understand and have compassion for those who are plain and ignored.
Now that time has passed and God has redirected my energies, I can spend more time at the computer, tapping out what He is teaching me.
It takes faith --His gift --to adapt to "losing."
It takes grace --from Him -- to expend new energies in an outward direction.
It takes eyes --lifted upward --to see beyond the temporal.
Losing is gaining, if you let it be so.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Old pipes, rusted out parts of tractors and sheet metal lay in haphazard fashion throughout our little kingdom.
And under each piece of sheet metal lay the possibility of untold riches. . .
The riches part of the "lady or the tiger" equation would be a lizard. Those lightning-quick miniature dragons with the detachable tails brought out the ancient, prehistorian huntress in Lori or me. As soon as we lifted the sheet, one of the critters would dart for safety. It took keen eyes, nerves of steel, and nimble fingers to grasp those little reptiles just behind the head. If you missed and caught its tail, he'd simply let the appendage go and you were left with a wriggling, scaly tease. On some summer afternoons we proudly came home with two or more lizards in our makeshift cardboard cage.
But. . .
occasionally, when we lifted a piece of sheet metal, we were met with a little, black demon. . .
a STINK BUG!
So, we were ready. Lifting the sheet with trembling fingers, holding our breath, ready to drop the metal at the first hint of something black.
We were savvy little hunters.
We knew about the risks.
Lizard Land provided us children with valuable life lessons.
Sometimes your efforts yield treasures, sometimes unpleasant surprises.
So, envision great things, but prepare your mind and body for warfare.
Ya gotta be ready for what's under the sheet metal.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Anyway, just after we took the left fork in the trail around Long Lake I saw him. Big --very big - --with dark-brown fur. At first I thought it was a horse. Then, immediately my brain made the leap in reasoning. "Couldn't be a horse. What horse would be wandering around in the mountains -- at 10, 500 foot elevation --without an owner? Th-that m-means it's a-a-a MOOSE!"
In hushed excitement I called Bruce. "Get your camera, quick! Hurry up, before it gets away!" Bruce took a hurried shot and the picture didn't quite capture the moose's wide-eyed anxiety to hurry away into the obscurity of the thick undergrowth.
Bruce is a die-hard mountain peak sort-of-guy. That's what he usually takes pictures of. It's a wonder he's never stepped off the trail and plummeted to his death. He's always looking up at a mountain peak.
Me, I'm a small things kind-of-woman. I go gaw-gaw over tiny flowers and unusually shaped leaves. I'll stop to watch an Abert's squirrel and laugh at its antics. Or try to identify a bird's call. Or wonder why this aspen tree is blackened by a lightning strike and this one, inches away, escaped.
I sometimes wonder why Bruce even comes on these hikes; he misses so much. Those two bull moose we encountered weren't more than twnety feet off the trail, but he'd have walked right by them if I hadn't pointed them out. 'Cause he's always looking up at some mountain peak!
Then I thought, isn't it wonderful how God has made us so different? Bruce is a big picture sort of guy. I'm a detail person. Bruce likes big, grandiose music. I like understated, complex harmonies with lots of dissonance. I'm verbally creative, but I'm constantly yelling, "Bruce, help me!" when I run into computer quandaries. Bruce gets computers; I don't.
The longer I live, the more I'm amazed and humbled by the diversity of gifts, talents and interests displayed by others.
Many people love the mountains for their grandiosity. Something to be worshipped.
Others love the mountains for the sublime beauty of a shimmering river and the trout hiding just under the surface. Something to be harvested.
Some of us love the little plants, sheltered under the towering aspen and spruce. Something to be nurtured.
Similarly,we approach the Majesty of God, some with eyes to view the far-reaching horizons, others to hear and blend their voices with the music of the brook, still others, to build a rock cairn to point the way for other hikers.
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit." ( I Cor.12:4)
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Do you remember that, too?
I think I watched that film at least once each year from fourth grade through seventh.
The film's premise was that there was a logical order and structure of things in nature. Then, as Donald waddled around Mathmagic Land, he encountered flowers, snowflakes, honeycombs, etc. that illustrate the geometrical patterns most able to endure the natural stresses put upon them in nature.
Although a Creator was not mentioned in the film, it was clear to us baby-boomers that One was implied.
And as I take my daily walks around Estes Park and enjoy the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, God does not shout audibly, "Here I am; I made all of this!"
He doesn't have to. It's clearly understood that all of this can not come about without a Designer.
No more than a cake can come about without someone assembling the ingredients, putting them together, pouring the batter in the pan and setting it in the oven to bake at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time.
And I didn't even mention that each ingredient had to have a source, as well.
And there was a logical progression in the creating of the cake. If I baked the pan, then poured the eggs in the pan, then whipped the other ingredients in a bowl, we would have not cake.
Thank God for the order in nature that you see each day. Give Him glory.
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities --His eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . . " (Romans 1:20)
Monday, August 16, 2010
That was back in the day when bathing suits didn't cost a hundred dollars. And so, even on my dad's schoolteacher salary, we could all afford a decent suit.
I can remember just about every bathing suit I've ever worn since my teen days.
There was the pink two-piecer: I wore this one for two years.
Then there was the wild and crazy kind-of bikini: I didn't mind wearing this one around the house, but I did mind having to wear it (it was the only one I owned) to swim class at high school. All the boys would parade past the pool on their way to soccer or whatever and they'd ogle us girls.
When I married Bruce I weighed a scant 105 pounds. 34-24-34 were my dimensions and I proudly wore a yellow bikini on our honeymoon.
Then there was the pregnant bathing suit. Ugh.
My suit sizes have gone up. No more size 2.
Most of the time when Bruce and I swim it's at a motel far from home. Where nobody knows me.
The anonymity makes me feel less self-conscious.
Half of the time, when we go on a road trip, we forget to bring out suits. Then I insist that we stop off at WalMart and buy a cheap one just for the trip.
We joke about how funny it would be if we had a room in our house just devoted to displaying our suits. It would be a kind of bathing suit museum. Each suit would be under glass, complete with the name of the wearer, the date, and possibly the occasion where it was worn.
I don't much like to wear bathing suits anymore. I'm in my fifties and, even though I'm still strong and fit, my shape isn't quite the shape of my youth.
I suppose that a swimsuit is a kind of gauge of how I wish, or don't wish to be viewed by the world. It reveals that I'm prideful and a perfectionist. God continues to work on me in these areas.
I frequently see people at motel pools who aren't self-conscious about their bodies. Many of them have lumpy, saggy bodies.
I wish I could stroll out to the pool with the same abandon as these sun-bathers.
It's gotten me to wondering: do I hide my internal flaws with the same self-consciousness that I hide my aging body?
What does that say about me?
I'd like to say that I have great self-control so I avoid saying or doing anything that would bring shame to God.
But is that the real reason I hide the real me?
Job 12:20 says, "He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light."
Perhaps one day I'll have a room, open to visitors and friends, that presents my internal flaws. Each display would carry a label with words such as: July 1, 2010: "I gossiped about you and I'm sorry." Or Aug. 10th, 2010: "I didn't quite tell the truth."
God, may you develop in me the freedom and courage to reveal the real me. Help me to face my imperfections and allow You to transform me.
Monday, August 9, 2010
One second the border collie or shepherd or terrier is sniffing oncoming traffic to the right, the next second, the dog has whipped to the other side to bark at the man walking his dog on the sidewalk.
The dog isn't thinking about his destination; he's just enjoying the moment, savoring messages in the wind. So much to see and smell along the way!
I try to remember the passenger dog whenever I get too obsessed about some goal I'm straining forward to reach. The dog is like a gentle reminder from God that every second of life --not just the future -- is precious.
Yes, it is good to envision a goal and work for it. But let's not forget the joy of the ride toward our destination. In your journey there are treasures along the road: people and relationships, a delicous meal, lingered over and shared with loved ones, a rousing thunderstorm, a super-good book and a mug of tea, singing a great song at church, showing hospitality and encouragement to someone who's hurting.
I think one of the reasons we love dogs is that they enjoy the little things. They have no goals; they just live.
Keep your goals, my friend. But as you travel forward, stop every once and while to delight in what you see, touch, taste, hear.
Savor the messages in the wind.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The little girl is absolutely delightful. Just one year old. Oh, she's going to be a charmer. Kaya already knows how to look at you sideways with a smile and a little scrunch of the nose. And when you whip out the camera, she also already knows how to hold her pose and smile while you focus and shoot.
Her mommy and daddy adore her, of course. I do, too.
When Kaya gets crabby she's very dramatic, switching from chuckling, laughing and cooing to screeching with unbearable decibels. After ten minutes of the ear-splitting vocalizations you're ready to throw up your hands in frustration and do some of your own screaming.
But you tolerate her behavior. You find something to distract her. You feed her, or rock her, or change her.
Because she's a baby. And you love her. Adore her.
Isn't that just like our Heavenly Father?
He's so much bigger and stronger. When we exasperate Him, He could make the mountains crumble with the power of His voice. He could make the oceans roar or the wind uproot trees.
But He doesn't. Because He loves us. Our gentleness and patience with our own little ones is only a tiny picture of God's own gentleness and patience.
I hope we never take such gentleness and patience for granted. It's meant to draw us to respond to His great love.
Just as your own child responds to your love by holding onto you and cuddling, I hope you get close to God today.
Spend time "cuddling."
Monday, August 2, 2010
Not like the road trips of 2010.
I mean the the kind before interstates. Before air conditioning and seat belts.
There were seven of us: two parents and five kids.
Jay, being the oldest, got to sit up front with the adults. Mother said it was because he got car sick and needed to watch the road.
Never mind that I got car sick regularly and Daddy would have to pull the car over so I could heave.
In the 1950s child-rearing mindset, being the youngest meant that you had the lowest status. Thus you were relegated to the back seat, and when the older kids got to sleep in the tent, you had to sleep in the car.
And so, my memories of those road trips are very different from older children, Jay or Lee.
But the memories are there, nevertheless. And for the most part, they are beautiful.
Because we were all together, seeing the same things, eating the same stale cheese sandwiches, playing the same silly word games to pass the time.
But we kids were only vaguely aware that we were headed to the Grand Canyon or Bryce or Zion or Yellowstone.
At ten or eleven, what I remember were the stories around the campfire and the homemade blackberry syrup that Jay made for our made-from-scratch pancakes.
When I think of the 1966 trip to the Grand Canyon, I think of our agonizing hike back UP the trail and how hungry we were when we got back. I o.d.ed on Fig Newtons and couldn't look at another one for at least two decades.
Brother Royce climbed out of our station wagon just seconds before a tree came down and smashed the back end of the car.
A young good-looking hitchhiker attached himself to us one vacation at Yellowstone. I still remember how he took a burlap sack and cut holes for his head and arms, and that's what he wore the whole week that he followed our family around.
These are the memories that bind our family together. Precious vignettes that we recall at family gatherings while others listen and don't understand our laughter or groans.
We've carried on the tradition with our own kids, now grown.
Those memories cement our relationships and provide us with a certain pride about belonging in the family.
When times are bad or arguments tangle our feelings, we still have our memories.
Like glue, they keep our love intact.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Well, it could actually be a step in the wrong direction. But I prefer to think of one of those "kicks" as something that propels me further along my journey.
And if you're trusting God and praying for His will, then a kick in the pants may be just what you need to:
Correct your course: Revelation 3:19 "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline."
Motivate toward further action: 1Thess. 5:14 "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."
Grow in wisdom: Proverbs 12:1 "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge."
Keep learning from your "kicks," my friend. They happen because God loves you!
Monday, July 26, 2010
And while it's true that every prudent citizen should be considering how to survive should our country go bankrupt, even our physical survival isn't the ultimate state of well-being.
The Bible contains many passages about money and treasures and inheritance. God wants us to work hard, invest wisely, save with discipline. But in spite of all our careful living, God is our supreme bank account.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (italics mine) -- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5)
No change in tax law, no change in administration, no calamity, no demise of country can ever take your inheritance away if you belong to Jesus Christ. What you have --what God has given you -- will never "perish, spoil or fade."
What a comfort in uncertain times.
"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise God, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
No more disease
No more death
No more crying and wailing
No more hate
no more racism
no more poverty.
Our current president thinks he can legislate his idea of a perfect world, a utopian society where everything is fair. Enough laws, enough government control and this society will be just perfect.
No! Won't happen. Can't. Impossible.
No man can make the world perfect. How presumptious, how arrogant.
Note the scripture above. We don't ususally think of water that flows through a city as clean, let alone clear as crystal. But where does the water of the river of life come from?
And the tree, God's tree, is for the healing of the nations.
Obama can keep on deceiving himself and anyone else who will listen.
But only GOD can heal the nations.
And one day every knee, including Barack Obama's, "will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:11)
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev. 22: 12)
Monday, July 19, 2010
"A misty morning does not signify a cloudy day."
I grew up in and around San Francisco. In the morning, the sea air sometimes contained so much moisture that it'd make you cough when you took your first outdoor breath. But some San Francisco mornings commence to spectacular. afternoons. (See the above picture.)
San Diego, where my daughter and son-in-law live is similar. The day begins with sea fog, then burns off to become a beautiful 70ish day.
There's another way you can think about this proverb, obviously. If your day, your week, your year begins as dark and cloudy, does that necessarily mean that it must continue, even end that way?
How can you get out from under that oppressive cloud?
Is the cloud of your own making? Are you holding on to negative feelings? Anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, worry?
"Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col. 3:13)
Are you focusing on inconsequential things? Have you forgotten to thank God for big and little things surrounding you?
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits." (Ps.103: 1,2)
Are you struggling with a great burden? Seek the Lord, seek His Word, seek trusted counsel.
"First seek the counsel of the Lord." (2 Ch. 18:4)
"I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Ps. 16:7)
Answers to why we live under a dark cloud are seldom simple. But God's word is always a good place to start. And sometimes the dark cloud lifts when we:
repent. . . or thank Him. . . or seek Him.
Have a great day!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
- I walk up to a CUSTOMER service counter at some major store and wait for a long time, unacknowledged, while the CUSTOMER service employee does some kind of paperwork.
- Or, I have a question and I walk up to two store employees who ignore me while they finish their non-store-related conversation.
- One afternoon I was nearly bowled over when ten area managers rumbled through a narrow store aisle and stopped to talk, blocking the way. They ignored my polite attempts to roll my cart through their midst and out of their way. The subject of their converstion? They were actually talking about being more aware of customer needs.
Seems to me there was a similar Customer Service problem in Jesus' day:
- Jesus spending time with children. The disciples response: "But the disciples rebuked them who brought them." (Matt. 19:14)
- Jesus hears the blind man calling to Him. The people's response: "Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet." (Mk.10:48)
- Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. The synogogue ruler's response: "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath. (Luke 13:14)
I am just like those Customer Service employees and the people in Jesus's day. How many times do I put "work" and my personal agenda ahead of "customers?" Recently God has been bringing my selfishness to my attention by thwarting my daily plans, then bringing scriptures into my brain just like the ones above.
Jesus summed up His purpose on earth: "For the Son of man came to seek and save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)
As Christians, let's imitate Christ in putting "Customers" ahead of our own personal agendas. Let's not forget that our work here on earth is all about people. People whom Christ loves with an indescribably wonderful love.
Let's be good Customer Servants.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I don't like that saying. I'm not a last-minute person.
Oh, maybe I was in high school, eons ago.
But when I got older I found what does and does not work for me. And procrastinating definitely does not work.
Here's my problem with putting things off:
- You think about how IT has to get done and IT hangs over your head.
- You can't really enjoy the things you're doing right now because you keep thinking about the IT you still haven't done.
- Then, when you finally get to IT, you feel under the gun.
- You don't really have time to get IT done in an excellent way.
- You lose respect for yourself because you did a half-baked job of IT.
- You wish you'd started IT earlier.
- You're exhausted and stressed because you didn't pace yourself to get IT done.
My son says he loves to do things at the last minute. Says he thinks well under pressure. That's fine for him; he's got a brain that works at warp speed.
As for me, I'm no Speedy Gonzales. So I've learned to be a plodder. I love to work steadily toward a goal. No pressure, no pushing, no reminders. Plodding keeps me emotionally healthy. . . kind of.
Which are you: a plodder or procrastinator? Why?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
My grandparents lived in San Francisco, and Stones Town Shopping Center was only five or six city blocks down the way.
After Granddaddy announced plans to visit the pet store my mind would conjure up visions of fluffy bunnies, adorable kittens, playful puppies. Oh, how I wanted to be in that pet store NOW.
"C'mon, Granddaddy!" I'd pull on his hand, trying to get him to walk a little faster.
"Hold on," he'd grip my hand harder and make me stop and listen to the lecture he always gave us:
- "The most important thing you've got to do is hold onto my hand.
- Just look at all those cars whizzing by! I'm trying to keep you safe.
- And what if you got lost?
- Next, you've got to obey the traffic signals and wait for the light to turn green.
- And make sure you walk. You might trip and hurt yourself if you run.
- So just be patient and we'll get to the pet store in one piece.
- Those cute animals are all still going to be there even if it takes a minute or two longer to get there.
As a worshipper of Jesus Christ, my granddad's words come back to mind when I'm tempted to rush through the process of becoming a good writer. There are some excellent parallels in his lecture. To get to the pet store. . . or to have success in your writing:
Hold God's hand and don't let go. (Micah 6:8)
Let Him guide you. (Proverbs. 3: 5,6)
Follow His laws. (Heb. 10:16)
If you move faster than you're able, you can get hurt. (I Pet. 1:13)
And finally, your patience will reward you: "The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride." (Eccl. 7:8)
I hope I've encouraged you today. Have a great day!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Just a few days before, we'd driven down the canyon on Hwy 34 on our way to Loveland. In a horse pasture we saw a mama horse and her newborn foal. It ilicited the same "Ah," response from me.
What is it about babies, animal and human, that bring out the tender feelings? Bruce says it's because they're so innocent.
I don't think so.
As a mother, I'm moved to protect and nurture any creature that seems helpless. Even a wiggling worm, driven out of the ground by a heavy rain moves me to try to put the slimy thing back where it can tunnel into the earth again.
I think that's how God is, too.
He saw man's spiritual helplessness and His parental tenderness kicked in. On a huge scale.
Oh, we're not innocent.
But we are helpless.
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him." (Psalm 103: 13)
Thursday, June 17, 2010
- deciding where we'll go
- planning the trip and studying maps
- Getting the vehicle checked (oiled, filtered, gassed-up)
- Leaving super early in the morning
- Watching the sunrise
- having breakfast in some small, distant town
- listening to music
- conversations unfettered by phones and other interruptions
- the sights along the way
- driving long hours to get to our destination
But even with today's modern roads and vehicles, accidents or breakdowns can occur. We need to be careful and vigilant drivers.The journey of the Christ-follower is similar, don't you think? There are lots of parallels to the list above. You may even suffer hardships, or get lost momentarily. At times the journey may be arduous, or it may be one grand adventure. And because Jesus is the driver, he may take a route other than the one you'd originally envisioned.
But the best part of the trip is the destination: meeting Jesus face to face.
And reaching Him is guaranteed.
"Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. . . " (Eph. 1:13.14)
Monday, June 14, 2010
Tidus is so quiet that I sometimes forget he's there. I've stood up and almost stepped on him a number of times. "Oh, good grief!" I do a little stumbling dance as my feet try to avoid crushing the unmoving cat.
He follows me into the kitchen where I pour myself another cup of hot tea. His black and white body snakes around my shins and his irresistable green eyes woo a bowl of milk from me.
After our respective libations, he returns to his place in the office at my feet.
When Tidus decides that I've ignored him long enough he reaches up and places his feet on my thigh. Then he gently taps my arm as if to say, "Hey, I'm here. Notice me."
I laugh and pet him. Then I go back to my writing.
Tidus will repeat his little tap on my arm several times. And if I don't get the message he'll jump up and stand on my shoulders. He nudges my head, purring loudly, and his tail wraps around and tickles my nose. Impossible to ignore. And so, Tidus gets a place on my lap for some just-me-and-you-cat time.
Have you ever noticed how God does that, too?
His presence is easy to ignore. He accompanies me wherever I go, sometimes interjecting a quiet, little thought into the middle of my own inner monologue. Then, at times he reaches over and gently taps me. "Hey, I'm here. Notice me." And if I put Him off, He finds a way to make His presence undeniable. He teaches me that His friendship is much sweeter, much more valuable than the work He has called me to do.
Unlike Tidus, however, God does not sit at my feet.
I sit at His. And in his Big-ness, He gives me --tiny me --the choice to respond to His daily invitation to fellowship.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The previous winter's unrelenting cold had prevented any snow melt until just recently, when we finally got some very warm temperatures.
Now the banks were barely holding the water back and the city workers scrambled to line the river with sand bags.
The workers wove yellow tape through the trees bordering the river, warning visitors to keep their distance from the churning water.
After my meeting, my friend and I walked along the Riverwalk, marvelling at the power of the water. Tourists gawked and took pictures. Parents held on to their toddlers. The roar of the river made conversation impossible.
I thought, how like water is God. At times, it is the soothing "quiet waters" of Psalm 23, or the life-giving water that feeds the tree in Jeremiah 17. Sometimes, it is the dark, swift and dangerous water of Isaiah 43 through which God promises to accompany us. It is the washing water that cleanses us with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:26, or the living water that God promises will flow out of us: John 7:38.
No one word can describe water.
Neither can one word describe God.
At times He is gentle, soothing, comforting, inspiring.
At others, just like the river in Estes, He is dangerous, majestic, glorious and awesome.
That river is nothing in comparison to the majesty of God. But it makes me think of God. . . and worship Him.
"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail. . . ? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm. . . ?" (Job 38:21,25)