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, March 29, 2010

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The choir at church sang about the trimphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It's always seemed strange that it is called "triumphal." Wasn't He coming into Jerusalem so He could be crucified?
Yes, it's true that people spread garments on the road and waved palm branches, shouting
But a few days later He would die a horrible death.
How can anything that bad be triumphant?
Here's the life of Jesus in a nutshell:

Born in a dirty stable and placed in an animal's feed trough.
Parents flee to Egypt to protect Him from Herod's death threat.
Grows up in poverty and ignominy (some doubt about His parentage)
Misunderstood and viewed as a little crazy by His family and country-men
"no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him" (Isaiah 53:2)
"the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him." Isaiah 53:5)
"For He was cut off from the land of the living. . . " (Isaiah 53:8)
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death." (Isaiah 53: 9)

Do you ever feel as if your life looks like that, too? Lots of hard knocks strung out on a short continuum of time. You're a follower of Christ, but wouldn't it be great to know that all this life-gunk is leading somewhere glorious?

Look at the end of Christ's story:

Hundreds witnessed Him alive just days after His death (I Corinthians 15:5)

Jesus Himself said, " "I am the first and the last; I am the living one: I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:19)

And finally:
"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.. ..On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Jesus was accompanied by a whole host of others, also riding white horses. Christ's followers. Are you going to be one of those riders?
His final triumphal entry can be yours as well.
His story is your story!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Make-My-Day Skunk

We lived in Paradise, California for four years. Beautiful area in the foothills of the Sierras. Wooded, steep terrain, quiet, seemingly serene.
At night, from the master bedroom, we heard the never-ending chorus of spring peepers, the back and forth hoot-hoot of a pair of owls, howling coyotes, and the occasional demonic screeches of dueling kitties.
One animal we never heard but were painfully aware of was the skunk. Every night around ten or so, the fluffy critter made his way from the empty lot just west of us, under our fence, across our long, concrete patio and under the Filman's fence for a long, cool drink at their pool.
Two times, Mr. Skunk decided to cross our lawn earlier in the evening and encountered Dudley, the dog. Dudley probably would have qualitfied for Doggy Mensa --if there were such a thing. Yes, he was that smart.
But smart dogs never seem to learn about skunks. That's what the guy at the pet store said when I came in for the stuff they use to remove skunk odor from fur.
Mr. Skunk also liked to terrorize my then-teenaged son as he walked to the bus stop early each morning. Garrett had to make a wide berth around the little menace each time he encountered him on the street.
My friend, Annie, came out for a visit one hot summer. When it cooled off at the end of the day, we decided to take a leisurely stroll around the block.
It's a big block, about a mile and a half around. Did I say that rattlers used to lie on the road at sun-down so we had to keep a look-out for them?
So we're being careful not to step on a snake but enjoying the lovely walk, too.
We get about the last couple hundred yards from the house when something catches our eye.
Mr. Skunk.
Does he run away when he sees us?
Of course not.
He ambles across the road, a mere fifty feet in front of us. And, instead of disappearing into the woods and undergrowth, slows to sniff at vegetation bordering the street. Then he sits, apparently waiting. Like a miniature Clint Eastwood. "Go ahead, make my day."
Now we're in a quandary. Should we try to walk past the stinky menace, hoping he doesn't get riled? Or should we back-track? It's at least a mile if we turn around and go back the other way.
And it's getting dark.
Did I mention the rattle snakes on the road?
You know how they say, "discretion is the better part of valor?"
We walked all the way back around the block.

I thought about it the other day. That skunk has faith. He's not afraid, because he knows he's armed. He's invincible. The white stripe down his back tells predators, "Back off."

I have a weapon, too. Very effective for warding off my own kinds of predators.
The Sword of the Spirit. I can say, just like Mr. Skunk, "Go ahead, make my day."
I don't always realize just how powerful my weapon is.
But it's invincible.

"Put on the the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."
. . . Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6: 11,17)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Give Up!

In the past few weeks, Bruce and I have had the honor of listening to and praying with three separate families who are facing incredible challenges with their teenagers.
The stories are so strikingly similar to our own, that our hearts ache for the child and the parents.
  1. I remember pleading with God to heal my child.
  2. Being on my face on the floor, weeping.
  3. Praying scripture over her.
  4. Searching my heart: how have I contributed to my child's challenge?
  5. Consulting numerous professionals.
(If you've been there, you know the rest of the list.)

You'd gladly take your child's pain on yourself to spare him or her the agony.
(That in itself is a distant echo of the way God loves each of us.)

I am blessed that, over the past five years, I've seen my child move in a steep incline toward complete healing. Because of her illness, she clung to her faith and God's Word. The Holy Spirit did some miraculous things, intervening at just the right time to show her the significance and value of her life.

She and Bruce and I have experienced a comfort beyond what we could have ever known apart from Him. I would not know God's comfort if I'd never known pain.

There are no earthly answers to why we suffer. We simply cannot comprehend the Divine interweaving of our individual story threads, and how, together, the tears, the prayers, the joining of hands, the sharing of our agonies, brings glory to God.

I've always told my daughter, "God must have some unique and glorious purpose for you because He gave you a special sensitivity, not only to look inside and see your own pain, but to recognize others, as well."

I want to encourage you; if you're suffering deeply in your soul, it could be that God is preparing you for some mighty work. Cling to Him. Call out to Him. Trust Him. Let His Word bathe your brain.

I know that you want to run away from people. But, please do not do that. Much of what God does to minister to us is through other people.
I want you to know that if you've asked for me to pray for you, I'm praying. And I'll keep on praying.
This is what I pray for you:
"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." (Psalm 40: 1-3)

Don't give up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Demolition Man

We're finally doing it. We're going to make the upstairs bathroom as nice as the rest of the house.
We hired our man: a tall, brawny contractor with years of experience in building lovely kitchens and bathrooms.
In my mind I see the finished product: new contemporary-looking shower tiles with a decorative strip of contrasting tile traveling about two thirds up the wall. New granite countertop with a tile backsplash. Lovely wainscoting to set off the new tile and counter top. Brand new fixtures.
I can hardly wait to see the new bathroom.
Tim arrives on Tuesday. I'm surprised --and I tell him so -- that he doesn't have too many tools with him. He laughs goodnaturedly.
Because he knows all about these kinds of jobs.
And I don't. I only see the finished product in my mind.
Tim envisions the entire process, leading up to the glorious end.
That first day I've never heard so much, banging and booming, clanging, rattling, crunching. The dust flies, clings to everything, filters through the house, gets tramped all over my nice wide-plank wood floors. Tim's assistant runs down the stairs carrying box after box of bathroom debris outside.
At the end of the day, my little bathroom looks desolate. It is totally non-functional.
But the next day, the wainscoting is up, a new shower pan and new plumbing has been installed. Still not functional, but looks promising.
It scares me to see the bathroom empty. But Tim knows exactly what he's doing. I trust him.
I know that, in a week's time, I will have my bathroom back, and in much better condition.

There's a Master Carpenter working on me, as well. Sometimes, as he demolishes old attitudes, habits, fears, strongholds, I feel left without a safe sin to get me through the day. But I trust Him. I've seen some of His other projects and I feel confident that He'll be able to complete the job on me. And it'll be worth the mess, the devastation, the disfunction.
I'll have me back, much better than before.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." Psalm 127:1

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How I Sometimes Pray

Dear Lord,
I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,blah, blah, and I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So, blah, blah,blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I blah, blah, blah.
I blah, blah, blah, NEED blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. and I blah, blah, blah. PLEASE, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I WANT blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I NEED blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah AND ALSO blah, blah, blah, blah. I blah, blah, blah, blah. Please blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. PLEASE blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. . . . .
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and I blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I blah, blah blah. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I WANT blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I blah, blah, FEEL, blah blah, blah ME blah, blah, ME, blah, me, blah, blah.
In Jesus' name.

Dear Dena,
Is it my turn to speak?
The Lord

"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My PC, the Big Bully

My PC is a bully.
It's like the horse at the local riding stable who sizes you up and knows you're a gringo before your untrained seat even plops into the saddle.
PC (short for Pugnacious Codger) snickers every time I approach it. It senses my fear.
Today, for example, PC let me think all was well. It hummed along, applying words and edits onto the screen according to my speedy fingers.
Waited till I was warmed up and in a groove.
Then, Blam!
One of my lines suddenly shifted to the right about twenty-five spaces.
What the. . . ?
I placed the cursor to the left of the first word in the line and tapped the backspace. The last word of the previous sentence jumped down and joined the errant line.
My son, Garrett, was just getting ready to leave for work.
Garrett came into the office, leaned over and peered at the strange sentence while I explained what happened. He tried the same thing: placed the cursor, tapped backspace. The line moved back where it belonged.
Garrett smiled smugly. I know what he's thinking: I'm computer challenged.
As soon as he was gone PC employed another of its exasperating moves.
You type a word and the letters fail to appear on the screen for a full three to five seconds. Just as you type the word again, the previously typed letters appear. Now you have "thethe."
Oh, PC has many tricks up its sleeve. But as soon as Bruce sits down to type up his Bible study notes, it sits up straight and folds its hands in its lap. The big bully.
Nary a typo nor a misplaced line on the screen for Bruce.
My theory is that PCs everywhere recognize the vibes sent out by right-brained humans. (Bruce is decidedly left-brained.)
Maybe the vibes come directly from my fingers.
Should I put on latex gloves?
What do you think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cats and God

I don't know why they do it. I've known very few cats who don't do it. Perhaps an animal behaviorialist could tell me.
I settle onto my bed for a good read. My head and shoulders are comfortably propped with a pillow and my book rests on another pillow on my chest. Perfect height for reading.
I thumb to the page where I'd left off and start to drift into the world of fictional characters and settings.
Then. . . ploomth. Nina, the cat leaps onto the bed. She usually starts at the foot of the bed. I feel the little mattress depressions of her paws, stealthily moving upward toward my shoulders and head. Her throat rumbles with affectionate (and hopeful) purrs and she nudges the book away from my face.
My arm comes down, pinning her soft little body next to my torso.
Same old drill.
She waits, lies still, yellow-green eyes staring, waiting.
I turn my attention back to the book.
Nina's body shifts slightly but not enough to distract me.
Another shift.
Now her head rests on my shoulder. I can feel her breath, coming in little puffs. She gazes at me adoringly.
Next comes the paw, which she uses to pull herself up closer to my face. The action is nearly imperceptible.
My cat is stalking my face.
And in another second half of the book's page is obscured by a furry face. She leans forward, sips my breath, her purrs coming in quick little "huffa, huffa, huffa" pants.
Not to be denied, the cat wants all of my attention.
Not content merely with a warm side and caressing fingers.
No, I must look at her, only at her. My book is an idol, to be cast down (on the floor, actually). Nina desires my worship.
She will not accept cast-off attention.
That is not worship.
No when-I'm-ready, or when-I-feel-like-it, or if-it's-convenient, kind of attention.
That is not worship.
I must sacrifice the book.
And if I put her off, she will be back. Again and again.

How like God are cats!

"I am the Lord, your God. . . you shall have no other gods before me." (Genesis 20:2,3)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book, Take Me Away!

After a long day filled with writing, teaching, chores, running errands and social activities, it is one of my most sublimes pleasures to settle into bed with a good book and hot mug of tea.
Remember the old commercial, touting bath oil beads?
In my mind I can still hear the echo of the lady's voice as she sighs, "Calgon, take me away."

That's the way I feel about a good book.

When I was in the seventh grade my brother handed me Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and said, "Here, read this book and quit bugging me."

I disappeared into my bedroom and, within minutes, was transported to Middle Earth. Frodo completely charmed me. I fell in love with Aragorn. And Gandalf? Oh, how I wanted to don a grey cloak and traverse my own mysterious, dangerous, heroic world, riding a magnificent silvery stallion who could outrun the fleetest of Mordor-spurred steeds.

I cried at the last few sentences of the third book in the trilogy, emerging from my bedroom -three days later, having hardly slept or eaten, feeling as if my childhood had been abandoned somewhere in the middle of The Two Towers.

A masterpiece such as The Lord of the Rings is much more than an epic tale. The story of men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of preserving their noble world and the lives of their loved ones touched my soul and forged pathways in my impressionable young mind. It was John 15:13 fleshed out in impossibly real fictional characters: "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Stories have such power. First, they transport us. Then, they teach us. Last, they inspire us to be better than we are.

Tonight, I'm going to turn off Fox News, pour some Earl Grey tea and nestle in with another great book. Ahhhh.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spread Too Thin

I'm a participating music instructor in my community's area music teacher's association. Last week we conducted our annual recital. Kids - and some adults - performed. In general, the young musicians played (or sang) well.
I prefer that their teachers would have required them to memorize their music. (You generally play with greater accuracy if your eyes are not swiveling between the music and your instrument. I could on and on about the various merits of playing by memory, but that' s not the purpose of this post.)
Two students - a brother and sister - came in late. That same day they'd also been participating in a sports event.
They each read their music. Nothing was memorized. Neither was sufficiently prepared. Each performance was marred by inaccurate rhythms, wrong notes. hesitations, inconsistent tempos, terrible pedalling, and long pauses in which the performer turned the music over for the last few pages of music. (Another reason why it's best to memorize music.)
I'm surprised that the teacher allowed them to play, unprepared as each was for performance.
I happen to know the parents of the two siblings. They're fine people. Unfortunately they subscribe to that modern philosophy of child-rearing: expose your child to EVERYTHING; make sure their every waking moment is filled with entertainment and activity. (Heaven forbid that the child should have a moment of down-time - sandwiched in between his frenetic schedule - for writing in a journal, or quiet reading, or imaginative day-dreaming. . . or prayer.)
The brother and sister who played are bright and lovely kids. But I know that their schedules are so filled with sports and other extracurricular activities that there is scant time for proper preparation. . . for anything.
So, they can do a lot of things.
But none well.
Doubtless, the two will go on to high school and college, choosing some field that will lead them to a nice career in some field that is neither artistic or athletic.
They won't be able to say to their kids, "I won first place in my community's piano competition," or, "I went on to State competitions for track and field."
Because they were spread so thin they didn't have time to get good at either piano or track and field or the myriad other activities that fill their days.
It's like a piano student a few years ago who told me that he just wanted to "kind of" play the piano. He didn't want to get "really good" at it. I know what he was saying: he didn't want to spend the time required for excellence.
Parents, help your child commit to working hard at one (maybe two) skills. Then, when he or she achieves childhood excellence, they'll know the time and devotion required to be excellent in their future career, their parenting, their volunteerism. . . and especially, their service to Christ.

Proverbs 22:29 "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings. He will not serve before obscure men."