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)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What's a Body to Do?

When I taught elementary school I used to pose this conundrum to the fifth graders each year:
"Not and Shot fought a duel,
Not was shot
and Shot was not.
Now, would you rather be Shot or Not?"

Almost invariably, one of the kids would raise a hand and thoughtlessly answer, "I'd rather be Shot."
"You would? You like to be shot?" I'd ask.
"Oh, no, I mean, uh, I'd be, uh. . . "
Then the whole class would scratch their heads and look confused.
Because there doesn't seem to be a way out.
You either choose to be Not, who was shot, or Shot, which sounds like you want to be shot.

Then I'd explain to the kids that sometimes there are no easy choices. At the age of ten or eleven,
most kids are just beginning to consider this.

Sometimes, doing the right thing results in your being inconvenienced, even harmed.
Being kind is sometimes misunderstood.
Being humble sometimes means you are passed up for recognition because someone else tooted his or her own horn.
Taking this pill will give me side effects that are almost as bad as the disease the pill is treating.
Do I stand up to the bully and get pummelled, or do I kow-tow and make peace?
Should the government raise taxes for revenue or lower taxes and let businesses create revenue?

Everywhere, these perplexities exist. What do you do? How do you make sense of the senseless?

I am not equal to the challenge of comprehending the complexity of the physical world, the labryinth of governmental workings, the psychological inner-workings of maniacal and brutal dictators, even my own heart.

Only God knows.
But for the person who has put his trust in Jesus Christ:

  • He promises to guide us if we trust Him (Proverbs 2:8,9)
  • He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
  • He promises to give us spiritual light in the darkness (8:12)
  • He promises to keep us safe eternally (John 17:11)
  • He promises to give us peace (John 16:33)
  • He promises to give us wisdom (James 1:5)

Strong comfort in confusing and challenging times!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Pencil-in-the-Blender Problem

Bruce and I were snuggled up the other evening, reading the March 2011 issue of Reader's Digest when we came upon this notable quote: "Suppose you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put inside a blender. How would you get out?" (This was an interview question posed by an analyst at Goldman Sachs.)
I thought about it for a few minutes. My solutions began typically as:
Well, I could step up onto the blades and jump up and try to reach the brim of the blender. . .
or what if I had something that I could balance on and so reach the edge and pull myself out?
Then I thought, that's what most people would come up with; there's got to be a more out-of-the-box type of answer.
So I thought about the blender more.
Maybe the blender is not resting on its base. Maybe the blender is lying on its side. The interview question did not specifically state that the blender is standing up; I simply saw it that way, as probably most people would. Imagining the blender in different positions gave me a whole lot of different solutions. What if the blender were turned upside-down? Then, the necessity of escape becomes more time sensitive due to the limited supply of oxygen inside the blender. Could I wedge my foot under the lip of the blender and allow fresh air inside? Would I be strong enough to push the blender over and escape?

Thinking about problems from a different perspective often brings novel solutions. How many of you, when posed this interview question pictured the blender in the upright --on its base --position?

The ability to look at problems from more than one perspective is valuable in business, science, or just about anything.
As Believers, we have the unique opportunity to view problems from heaven's perspective. Because we have God's Word and God's Spirit residing in us, we can climb up on a mountain, so to speak, and view the terrain below. We do not have to be limited by our human eyes.
Old patterns of thought are usually deeply entrenched. It sometimes doesn't occur to us to adopt another way of thinking or viewing.
Until a solution escapes us.

Who would have thought that dying (Christ's death) produces life?
Who would think that losing one's life for the sake of Christ, giving sacrificially, submitting, humbling, being last, praying for those who hurt you, blessing those who persecute you,
are a better solution?
These all seem counter-intuitive. Don't they? They're a new paradigm, presented by an Eternal and Omniscient God.
God's Word tells us to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:1)
Just like the solutions to the problem of being stuck in the blender, the solutions to life's problems require a new mind, and a new heart.
Next time you're stuck, check out God's solutions. They seem crazy at first.
But they work.

Monday, February 21, 2011

God-appointment On an Icy Road

So early Sunday morning we're driving down the canyon from Estes Park on our way to church. The roads are covered with ice and we are driving with extreme caution. We pass Pole Hill Road, then the church up on the hill. Nobody's passing the slower cars because we're all the "slower cars" this morning.

We come around the bend and greet the first icy-canyon casualty: a truck, resting completely on its side, off the road. There are no people in or near the vehicle; the accident must've happened hours earlier. I feel so sorry for whoever was in that truck. Then I remark to Bruce that the two counties that control this road really should place regularly occurring call boxes up and down the canyon instead of just the one by the fire station in Pinewood.

How would you like to be stranded on this twenty-mile stretch of road in the night, or worse yet, the night in the dead of winter? Alone? Unprepared? And with a cell phone that's useless because there's no nearby tower to pick up your distress call.

As we get within a mile of Pinewood, we come around a corner and spy another car off the side of the road. This one appears to be parked; there's no one in the car. Was this another accident? Just as I'm thinking this, I see a woman walking brisky along the highway and put two and two together.
"Bruce, we have to find a place to turn around and help that woman."

When we finally get turned around and approach the woman, I roll down my window and I ask if we can take her to help. She speaks no English. I mean, nada. By her accent, Bruce thinks she's Korean so he tries out a phrase in that language and she nods her head and answers with more Korean. We manage by gestures, expressions and tones of voice to convey that we will take her to a phone.
She gets in our car. She's very upset and also very nervous. I think she thinks we're not to be trusted. We drive up to the fire station in Pinewood and get out to look for the call box.
The firestation is locked up, tight as a drum and we can't find the call box.
Just then I look up and see a man and a woman walking their two dogs about 75 yards away.
"Excuse me,"I call to them. "Do you live around here?"
The couple approaches rapidly and I wonder at how responsive they are.
When the man gets closer, he says, "I'm a firefighter. What happened?"
I explain the situation and he unlocks the station and ushers the Korean lady inside. He asks me a couple more questions about her car, if it's in the road, blocking traffic. I answer his questions.
That's the last I see of the Korean lady.
Bruce and I say thankyou to the firefighter, get back in our car and resume our commute down to Longmont.
We're a few minutes late for our rehearsal, but realize our agenda was just pre-empted by God.
Remember how I wrote in my last blog,
"I find that it's the appointments that I don't write down that are more important than the ones I do write down."
God is amazing.
How long would that Korean woman have had to walk to find help, speaking no English, alone, distressed, with a useless cell phone?
How did it just happen that Bruce knew the Korean phrase for "how are you?"
Good thing her accident happened so close to Pinewood.
And how "coincidental" that the firefighter and his wife just happened to be near the station at just the right time?
And why did I even ask that random couple for help?
The Lord was definitely looking out for that Korean woman.
And we were part of His plan to help her.
Another God-appointment.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ready for your next God-Appointment?

I have a daytimer. I really like that thing. It helps keep my day clicking along.
It has spaces to write in thoughts and plans for the month, a monthly calendar, then several lines for each individual day. It also has a page just for monthly expenses, and payments made to me (from my clients). At the back of the daytimer is space for important addresses and birthdays, plus a slot to put important envelopes containing receipts and other necessaries.
I like my daytimer so much that I sewed a pretty cloth cover for it.
It's nice to be organized and to keep one's appointments.
But I'm not rigid about all of my appointments.
I leave room for flexibility in my day.
That's because I'm learning that it's highly possible that my appointments and plans are going to be pre-empted by God.
It goes something like this:

I have three things that I need to do in the next hour and a half: make dinner, return several phone calls, type up a devotional that I'm going to submit to XXXX publishing company, and mail a contract.
Then I get a phone call from X. She's distressed. She's having trouble with one of her kids. It's something I faced a few years ago. I listen, comfort, and when she asks, share some of the solutions that helped us, express sympathy, pray with her, promise to keep on praying, ask what I can do to help.
The hour and a half has passed quickly.

After the phone call, I make a quicker type of dinner and postpone the devotional and phone calls either to later in the evening or the next day.
The phone call from my friend was definitely a God appointment.
I'll bet you can also think of hundreds of times your schedule was pre-empted by a divine appointment.
Unlike me, God does not keep a daytimer, and even if he did, I would not be privy to the things He writes in it.
So I'm learning to keep my physical eyes on my daytimer, but my spiritual eyes trained on Him. Just in case.
Because the appointments that I don't write down are almost always more important than the ones I write down.
I think it's a good thing to do with life in general. I like to say, when making plans: "Lord willing and the creek don't rise."
Scripture puts it like this: "If it is the Lord's will we will live and do this or that." (James 4:15)

You never know when the next God appointment will be; it could be just around the corner, or two blocks down the road, or the next phone call.
Are you ready?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will You Be Remembered Well?

I wish I had known my grandmother better.
Nana was my father's mother. I remember her as a white-haired little old lady with twinkling blue eyes, beautiful features and a cute Norwegian accent. Sigrid (Nana) came to the U.S. as a sixteen year old, recently married in Norway to Oluv Nicolaisen. They immigrated, came through Boston and across the states to settle in San Franciso. Nana gave birth to 8 children and the family lived-- or should I say -- struggled to live on a bakeryman's salary. My grandfather, Oluv, who I never met, had been an engineer in Norway. But he was a shy man and never learned to speak English extremely well. The language barrier prevented him from getting a more lucrative job. But in 1932, at the beginning of the Great Depression, he suffered a terrible stroke, was bed-ridden for a couple of years, then died, leaving Nana and eight children ranging in ages between late teens to preschoolers.
My dad, at seventeen, dropped out of school to work and provide for this big family.
Years later, when I was a big enough girl to enjoy sitting with Nana and hearing her fascinating stories about the kids (my aunts and uncles) and their antics, it never occurred to me to ask her about her childhood in Norway, why they immigrated, how she felt about leaving her relatives back near Oslo, what it was like to be a widow during the depression with eight children.
Now it's too late. How I would love to hold my Nana's hand and ask her these questions and listen to her soft, musically accented voice as she spoke about herself. I know that she did many kind things because her children spoke so lovingly of her.
Someday I'll see her again in heaven.
I never heard about her parents, my great-grandparents. They were probably very kind and loving people, too.
But their names are just entries on my family tree.
It wasn't too long ago.
But I know nothing of them.
As I grow older I think, someday my name will be an entry in my children's or my children's children's updated family tree.
My children know me well.
And I am determined that my grandchildren will know me well. I intend to pour myself, my experiences, my hopes and dreams, especially my faith and my knowledge, and my love for Christ into them.
Perhaps, if the Lord so allows, I will have the opportunity to lavish some old-woman love on my great-grandchildren.
But that will be as far as the memory of me will last.
However. . . .
The heritage of faithfulness, the legacy of love for God, family, friends, community. . .
my "Acts": I hope that those will live on and bless people, even those to whom my name means nothing.
I hope that my Father in heaven will one day say: "Well done, Dena. I have not forgotten the things you have done in my Name while still on earth. Many of my children have been blessed because you lived your years well."
Wouldn't it be fantastic to hear thoses words?
And won't it be fantastic to get to heaven and be able to say to your grandmother or father or teacher, "Thank you. I remember what you did." ?

"I thank my God every time I remember you." (Phil 1:3)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Your World-view: From Christ or yourself?

Watching political programs on TV, I am always struck by how people stick to their political beliefs even when facts clearly refute their opinions.
You know the old saying, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
Why is that?
For example, if I can prove that communism results in massive disillusionment with the system by the people who've been drawn into it, why then, do so many countries still try to institute this political and economic way of life?
Another example: Do you ever listen to a particular political pundit and wonder how in the world he can hold his "crazy" opinions?
Each person constructs his or her own world view (or basic philosophy of life) based on gender, beliefs of family and close friends, religion, experiences, observations. Then, as life unfolds, this individual builds, justifies and reinforces his world view by picking and choosing those facts which seem to fit his constructed world view. Other facts are eliminated or rejected because they do not fit his world view.
This is the danger of science, as well. Researchers must continually avoid the temptation to make assumptions based on preconceived ideas.
For example: Since it has been determined (I'm not convinced, since there is science that shows the exact opposite), that the world is experiencing global warming, then a snow storm in the Midwest is evidence of global warming, just as a hurricane off Puerto Rico is evidence of global warming, and triple-digit temps in Seattle prove global warming.
People and maybe even scientists choose what they believe based on how it fits in their world view.
But the Christian faith is different.
Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is like having your world view shaken up each day. Just as Jesus, when He walked the dusty roads of ancient Israel, continually outraged and amazed His hearers, so He does to us individually. Each day, as I read scripture, the Holy Spirit illuminates some fixed attitude in me and seems to say, "There, you see how your opinion about XXXX is skewed? You need to get in line with my way of looking at XXXX.
My old nature does not want to do this. It want to stay comfortably situated in this old wrong attitude. It pleases me to keep thinking the old way. It fits my old world view.
But God prompts me to "be transformed by the renewing of my mind." (Romans 12:2)
The old, natural way of keeping my world view is:
I want to please myself
The new, Spirit-controlled way is:
I want to please Jesus Christ, whose World View is shown in the Word of God.
Reverend James Kennedy once stated, "There are really only two religions that operate in the world: the 'I' or the 'cross.'"
Your world view will be determined by "I" or "Jesus Christ."
It's a good thing to examine your way of thinking from time to time and ask yourself, "Is what I'm thinking in line with Christ, or am I holding on to a pattern of thought simply because it pleases me?"

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5)

Monday, February 7, 2011

A terrific read: Bonhoeffer

I finished reading Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. The author, Eric Metaxas, does a brilliant job of showing the German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's progression of thought and maturity regarding the question of what a Christian must do in the face of tyranny (Nazi Germany) and terrible persecution. Bonhoeffer's best-known work, Discipleship (sometimes called The Cost of Discipleship) grapples with how far a Christian must go in his obedience to Christ. The young pastor's conclusion was: only absolute obedience to Christ constitutes a true disciple. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed in April 1945 for his unwavering protests against Hitler's tyranny.
Nazi Germany divided Germany's Christians. Would they swear allegiance to Hitler or refuse to do so and risk persecution, even death? Would they stand up and protest the persecution of Jewish people and the systematic killing of "undesirables?"
Something for us believers to grapple with today.
If our government ever becomes so completely secularized that even the metion of Jesus Christ results in being fired or kicked out of organizations, or even being imprisoned, will we, as individuals, have the gumption to stick to our allegiance to Christ?
Where does obedience to the governing authorites end?
Where does civil disobedience begin?
These were difficult questions for Bonhoeffer.
Sometimes the distinction between tyranny and oppressive government is blurred.
If you have the patience to plow through all 542 pages of Bonhoeffer, you will be richer for having done so.

"May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself. . . " Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What it Takes to Win

My daughter is a world champion jiu jitsu competitor.
She does whatever it takes (honorably) to ensure that she wins at her tournaments:

She goes to her training classes several times a week
She trains hard
She eats right
She and her husband continue to "talk shop" about the latest jiu jitsu techniques
She educates herself about the current competitions
She enters the competitions and prepares well in advance for the events
During the competition she disciplines herself to think and react according to training, not emotion
She competes with passion and perseverance
If she wins, she learns from the experience; if she loses, she learns from the experience.

I talked to her the other day and we discussed how valuable each of the above elements are to her jiu jitsu endeavors. We also marvelled at how they're a perfect analogy for other things in life that we average, every-day people would like to achieve.

We pretty much have to do what Kiri does:

We have to identify our goal
We have to want to achieve our goal. . . passionately
We need to work at it, not just wish at it!
We need to analyze how to improve
We then implement the improvement
We continue to educate ourselves
We put ourselves out there when it's the right time
We learn from our successes and our mistakes

Can you think of ways this might relate to your current goals. Id' love to hear about it!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Heb. 12:1)