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)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Writers: Learn From the Woodpecker

The humble woodpecker (actually it's a flicker) is a bold messenger. He's not apologetic or ashamed to announce: "I'm here! All interested females, please line up."
We writers, on the other hand, tap out our announcements in the quiet and anonymity of our offices.
And when we judge that a bit of our writing might be worthy, er, maybe, uh perhaps, of an editor's critique, our fingers hover over the "send" button as if struck by palsy.
I've only been working on this one query for, like 120 weeks. But it's not ready yet. Still needs polishing. I don't know. What do you think? (I ask everyone.) Maybe I should change my intro and move this one phrase to the next sentence, then change this statement to a question, and write this one description in the omniscient.
Outside my office, the woodpecker continues to announce his amorous: rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat.
He's somewhere in the metal gutter just above the garage.
His rhythmic beat reverberates throughout the house, gets into my bones, rattles my cranium.
I go outside and crane my neck, searching for the bold bird.
There he is. He raises his head and shoots me this kind of New Jersey look: "You talkin' to me?"
Then he dismisses me and aims his beak back toward the gutter. Rat-a-tat-a-tat. Ladies, come and get it! I'm the best thing on two wings."
I march back into my office, aim my index finger, and hit "send."
A shadow crosses my window. The woodpecker has flown away.

"When I am afraid, I will trust in You." (Psalm 56:3)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Driving Blind

The other night I was driving home from a friend's birthday party. The weather down in Boulder had been almost balmy. Usually I'd have been driving the trusty Highlander, but Bruce needed it for some hauling errand, so I drove the old car on this evening.
And anyway, the weather was nice, right?
At about nine o'clock I started up the hill, passed Lyons, encountered a little bit of rain. No problem. Traffic was light. I turned on my brights.
Just past Pine Wood, the first snowflakes kissed the wind-shield. The wipers swept them away.
More flakes. And more.
Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark,  that one near the end? Indiana Jones and his girl friend are tied up and forced to watch the bad Nazi guys perform some mumbo-jumbo stuff over the opened ark. These beautiful white angels come up out of the ark. Kind of flowy and feminine. At first, the bad guys exclaim over the beauty of the angels.
Then, the beautiful angel faces morph into faces of death. Spears of white light stab and consume all the bad guys.

That's kid of what those pretty little snowflakes morphed into on my trip up the canyon. One moment: downy soft, crystal prisms, reflecting moonlight and headlights and reflective paint.
Then: Bam! The snowflakes changed attitude and direction. For the next ten miles: an onslaught of millions of horizontal spears, zipping and stabbing at the windshield, as if trying to impale the frightened human just behind the glass.
The wipers arced back and forth wildly, like a warrior trying to deflect an enemy's hail of arrows.
Better believe that I kept a steady jabber of tension-filled prayer directed to the Lord.
I slowed to a crawl. The car slipped, slid, skidded, even skiied at some points.
I wanted to turn back, or even pull over. But there was no guarantee that the snow would stop anytime soon. The white-out was so thorough that I could see no road or driveway or pull-over.
It was keep going or get rammed by some other unfortunate blind driver coming up behind me.
"Oh, Lord, Oh, Lord!"
At Pole Hill, the deadly attack ceased, and I descended into the Estes Valley, unscathed and greatly relieved.
Those four miles down the rest of the way to my home, I thought about how the only thing that kept me on the road was the very occasional glimpse of a rock, or a reflector. . . something that let me know to turn the wheel of to go straight.

Isn't that how our walk with the Lord is? He doesn't always give us the entire view. Sometimes He gives us just enough to keep us going. Certainly not to make us feel comfortable. If we feel comfortable, we stop gazing intently at the road. Our minds wander. We cease looking for signs, for instructions, for warnings. He doesn't explain the entire route, but just what is immediately ahead.

Just like the driver in the snowstorm, we are indeed blind. God provides us with instructions to help us on our journey. One day, we will see clearly. But for now, we rely solely on trusting God that He will warn us of the next deadly curve.Without the aid of the headlights, the wipers, the signs, I wouldn't have made it home.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straights." (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fear of Death

When I was a little girl, we had a beloved white cat named Layairteese. (yes, that's how I spelled the Shakespearean name.)  Oh, he was beautiful, with long, lustrous white fur and the greenest eyes.
Affectionate, too.
He'd lie on my bed and I'd stroke his fur, warmed by the afternoon sun, and gaze into his sleepy eyes.
He purred so loud it'd make me laugh.
I loved Layairteese.
One day, my pet got sick.
At first, it didn't seem so serious.
But the next day, he seemed even worse off.
We should have taken him to the vet, but we were pretty poor in those days. A trip to the vet would have been financially impossible.
Dad had taken our only car to work and would be away till late at night.
By night-time, poor Layairteese seemed near death. We tried to tend him, but there didn't seem to be anything we could do for him.
He died horribly, with all of us youngsters watching in shock and hysterics.
My mother put him in a box and laid it outside in the garage until we could bury him.
I sneaked out and looked at him, wondering at his cold, still body. I'd never been so close to any dead thing and I could not wrap my seven-year old mind around how dead things are.
Witnessing Layairteese's death so traumatized me that I became depressed. I hid in my room after school each day and thought about how horrible death is.
One day I, too, would end up in a box, all cold and still.
Is that the very end of me? The thought of death terrified me.
I guess all children have to come to grips with death around that age. At least it hadn't been a close friend or relative that had died.
Seven years later, a Sunday School teacher shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me: that without Christ, our spirits are already in that box, all cold, stiff and still, and one day our bodies will go that same direction, too.
The teacher said that I don't have to end up that way. There was another One who died and was put in a cold dark tomb.
But He didn't stay there. Death could not hold Him. Because He is God!
He came back to life and lives now. He'll live forever.
The teacher said, I can also live forever if I put my trust in Jesus Christ.
He took my death upon Himself so I don't have to die.
I remembered Layairteese and the horror of his death. That was my fate, as well.
Darkness, misery, no hope, fear, disease, stench.
All of that was inside me.
I wanted it GONE.
I knelt and received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.
The Gospel is simple, so simple that a child of fourteen can understand.
Praise the Lord that because He died, I don't have to.
I'm not afraid of death anymore.

"Where, O death is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:55-57)

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'll Be Back!

Remember that scene in The Terminator when Arnold Schwarzeneggar, as the "terminator," comes into the police station, looking for the good guy and the good woman? (The police have them in custody.) Arnold says, "I'll be back."
Based on his activities in earlier scenes, we thoroughly believed that he'd "be back."
Sure enough, good (or not so good) ol' Arnold returns, drives right through the police stations walls, gets out and starts blasting with his machine gun. I'll bet you saw that coming. Because the terminator didn't mince words. And because Hollywood wants you to sweat it, knowing that the bad cyborg is never gonna give up coming after the the good guys.

My parents didn't use those same words. But when they went out on a rare evening date and left us five children to our own devices, we knew they'd be back. As soon as we heard the old Buick pull out of the driveway, we kids knew we only had a few precious hours to run amuck. Aw, we didn't do anything bad. We knew we had to stay indoors and we weren't allowed to use the stove. That's about the extent of their prohibitions.
First, we dragged in all the chairs in the house, turned them upside down and covered them with blankets. The construction looked like a patchwork, space station. Then half of us became the space aliens and the other half the good American astronauts.
After that got boring, we divided up into two teams --oldest brother Jay teamed up with Lori, and oldest sister teamed up with littlest twins, Royce and me -- and played a very scary form of "hide-and-seek-with-all-the-lights-out."
Unfortunately, that game usually ended up with one of us kids (usually the youngers ones) getting slightly injured or terribly traumatized by having a bigger kid popping out of a closet, screaming like a banshee, and scaring the begeebers out of us.
But around ten PM we knew my parents' return was imminent. We set the house back in order, folded all the blankets, dried our tears, and promised we'd never, ever tell what happened that night. When mom and dad walked into the house, they found us happy and relaxed. "No Dad, the house didn't burn down and no one broke a leg."

Arnold said, "I'll be back."
My parents said, "We'll be back sometime around ten."
Jesus Christ also said, "I'm coming back."
Too bad we don't know the exact hour when He'll return.
Or not.
Maybe the Lord will be more pleased that, when He arrives He'll find us minding our p's and q's. Isn't that a better indication of our real devotion to Jesus Christ: being good even when He's not standing over us?
Seriously though, do you believe Jesus when He says, "I'm coming back?"  As much as the Terminator and your parents?
And if you knew Jesus would return tomorrow morning at precisely 8:30 AM, would you be doing anything different today?
What would you do?

 "Be dressed ready for the service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. (Luke 12:35-37)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simplehearted Dears

Last fall, as I drove up to my house, a herd of deer crossed the road in front of me and then meandered down the side of my yard. I saw a young buck, two mamas and three youngsters. One of the fawns --I'll call him Li'l Bitty -- obviously belonged to Big Mama. The other two fawns hung out close to Scruffy Mama.
About an hour later, I looked out my office window and noticed that Big Mama had disappeared, probably in search of better munchings farther up the hill.
Li'l Bitty hadn't noticed that his mama had wandered off. . . until this moment.
I saw him take some hesitant steps toward our neighbor's house, then call out in a little bleat.
His held his head up, sniffed the breeze and bleated again.
No answer.
Where was Big Mama?
Scruffy Mama and her two fawns ignored Li'l Bitty's frightened bleats. They crossed the road and made their way into another yard.
Li'l Bitty followed them and tried to get close to Scruffy Mama. Scruffy kicked Li'l Bitty and drove him away.
Poor Li'l Bitty!
Without his mama, how would he protect himself from bears and cougars and coyotes?
Baa! Baa! Baa! he called.
Oh, how I wanted to run outside and put my arms around his little furry neck and soothe him. Common sense told me, "No."
I considered calling Animal Control, but surely Big Mama had to be aware that her little one was missing.  Surely, she would come looking for him.
Finally, from way up the hill, I saw a deer emerge from a group of Ponderosa trees. She didn't hurry, but I could tell that this was a doe with a mission. Minutes later Big Mama had reunited with Li'l Bitty.
She resumed her grazing, but this time Li'l Bitty stayed close by.

How safe are we when we wander away from the protective presence of our own parent, our Heavenly Father?
How long does it take us to realize that we've tried to get close to another "parent" only to discover that she doesn't care about us at all?
And without our own "Big Mama" to guide us and lead us to good food and safe places to lie down, how long do you think we would last in predator-infested territory?

"The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me." (Psalm 116:6)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Day Like Any Other?

Going through my on-line photos, this one particularly caught my eye. It was taken on a hot summer day in July of 2010.
The night before, Bruce and I had stayed with dear friends in Chico, California. The next morning --this day that I'm highlighting -- Greg and Betsy treated us to a wonderful breakfast. We sat on comfy garden furniture in their lovely park-like yard and watched their Northern California variety of birdlife: stellars jays, humming birds, finches, robins, black birds. . . and a large grey squirrel, compete for grubs, bugs, seeds, syrup and perhaps, food scraps.
Betsy printed out her recipe for egg and cheese strata and I put the sheet of paper in my luggage. We thanked them for the wonderful visit and made them promise they'd share our hospitality the next time they came through the Denver metro area.
We left Chico and drove north on I-5. I took out my travel journal and made some notations in it. We watched fluffy clouds --the kind a child might draw -- floated across a sapphire sky. The air temperature climbed rapidly as the noon-day sun approached. Lake Shasta, under this blazing blue sky, glistened like a piece of turquoise. I love that color; it's one of the reasons I love the Northwest. The rivers snake through emerald forests, occasionally startling travelers with their bluegreen brilliance.
We pulled over at a viewpoint and I snapped a couple of photos of the Lake.
I remember the rest of that day as if it were only a couple of weeks ago: remarking on the speed limits posted on I-5 through Oregon, admiring the verdant and windy passes through Grants Pass, Green, Roseburg, deciding to skip having lunch in Eugene so we could have more time in Portland, sitting on the tenth floor of the down-town Marriott and oohing over the lush, hilly topography surrounding Portland. We had a wonderful dinner at a nearby fish restaurant, then walked along the Columbia River, remarking about boats, young couples in love, joggers and other tourists. Bruce had premium points through Marriott so they'd given us a very luxurious suite with two fireplaces and two flat-screen tvs and two bathrooms, complete with the white, terry bathrobes. Ahhh.
I remember thinking how gracious the Lord is to have given us this lavish day of refreshment.
Of course that day was memorable.
But each day, just like this one I described, begins with wonderful potential. Oh, not necessarily one so obviously dazzling. But dazzling, nevertheless, with little and simple things. If only we'll stop and notice.
Today is like no other. There will never, ever be a day exactly like this one you're in right now. There must be a reason God made this day unique.
Perhaps it's because He has a unique assignment for you today.
Perhaps He wants you to notice something about His character which, on another day, might not strike you the same way.
Perhaps He wants you to make a decision today, to listen to His instruction, to draw closer, to say "I love You, Lord," to choose to follow Him.
Perhaps the uniqueness of this day is just for your own benefit.
Or not.
Maybe it's a day to begin doing something of significance. A day that will forever alter the direction of your life. Oh, I like that one!
Maybe one day you'll look back on this particular day and say, that was the day I began to. . .

Is this the day?

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

My viewpoint:
A woman pulls into a handicapped parking slot, gets out and walks like a normal person into a large discount store. Another woman follows her and harrasses her for "illegally" parking where only truly handicapped people should park.

A friend's daughter goes to church dressed in weird styles, wears dark makeup and seems sullen, almost rude.

On a jet, a woman rudely shoves my arm off the armrest and takes both right and left armrests. How rude!

Gosh! The things people do.

Another viewpoint:
The handicapped parker who walked like a normal person really is handicapped. She suffers from a rare neurological disorder that will eventually kill her. She puts up a brave front in public, but her muscles sometimes seize, and other strange symptoms sometimes make movement painful and difficult. I know this because she is my friend.

The teenaged daughter who wore lots of makeup suffered from very bad depression and anxiety. She attempted suicide a couple of times and spent several years seeing doctors and counselors. Most people didn't know that. She didn't appear handicapped. But, in a feeble attempt to raise her self-esteem, the girl tried to make others notice her. Her mother knew that some battles are just not worth fighting (the clothers, the makeup). Just keeping her daughter alive one more day was progress. I know this because this dear teenager, now grown, and a lovely young wife and mother, is my friend. But this girl could be anyone's daughter.

And the woman who shoved my arm off the armrest is actually terrified of flying. After the plane took off and she calmed down a little, the woman explained to me about her phobia and apologized. I told her she is a hero for facing down her fear.

It's so easy to judge, based only on what we see. Only God knows what the real story is. Just reading these brief descriptions again helps remind me not to be so quick to judge.

"Lord, help me to love people like you love people. Grant me wisdom and discernment. Help me show grace to others, just as You have shown such great grace to me."

"Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1)

Monday, April 4, 2011

'Cause I'm So Perfect!

I've been married to my man for thirty-two years. I know him better than anyone, his habits, his likes and dislikes, his mannerisms, how he's going to react to things I say and do. And I love him more than anyone else could love him. Of course I don't actually tell him, but I sure wish he'd listen to my advice about how to handle problems at work.  And finances. And chores around the house. And how to drive.

I've been raising kids for just about as long. I think I know my kids! Too bad they don't always listen to or respect my incredible insight about where they should live or what kind of job is best for them or where they should go to college. After all, I'm thirty or so years older than they are. Don't you think they'd realize that I've learned a thing or two more than they have in those thirty years? Of course I don't offer my advice. But it sure stings that they don't ask for it.

Oh, and when I'm sitting in the choir rows on stage, during rehearsal, can't those sopranos tell they're way under pitch? It's sooooo annoying. I sure wish the choir director would tell them. But I'm not going to say anything. It's not my place.
I'd sure like to help those basses get their rhythm straight, though. They've made the same darn-tootin mistake for the third time!

You wouldn't believe how inconsiderate some people can be at the grocery store. I'd never leave my shopping cart in the middle of the aisle like that. Hello! Do they think they're the only ones in the store?
I don't say anything as I try to finagle my cart around theirs. But I do sigh loudly and sometimes roll my eyes as I pass. Such inconsideration.

And driving up and down the canyon three or four times a week? Boy, I sure see a lot of inconsiderate behavior. Now wouldn't you think that all those speeders or under-the-speed-limit drivers would take a hint when they see my driving? I've often told my husband that they ought to invent a machine that you could install on the front of your car that would flash a menu of comments, instructing other drivers to "kindly move over," or to "please stop tail-gating me." Something like that.

I sometimes imagine how great it would be if I could stand at a lectern each week, like our pastor, and kindly advise all my listeners how to do things more efficiently, more considerately. I'd post all my wisdom in signs on the walls. I'd call them: "Dena's Rules."
I'm really the most qualified to do this. Because there are so few people left in this world who possess --as I do-- such exquisite sensitivity to others.
I just hate it when others try to give me advice, don't you?  I've seen them do the very things they're advising me not to do. Hypocrites!

What do you think? Should I indeed pursue this idea about seeking a place to lecture each week?
If I hear from enough of you, I'll take it as affirmation that God has called me to this unique position.
I'll humbly accept your advice on this question.
Because that's what I am: humble.