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, May 30, 2011

Cats And Slinkies

Remember that old toy called a Slinky? With it's rows and rows of wire, wound into a cylinder, the thing provided lots of entertainment for a pre-techy kid of the sixties. I think they still make slinkies.

The Slinky could literally walk down stairs, flipping end over end until it reached the bottom.
Slinkies stretch out really long. Then they can be compressed into a small, squat cylinder.

I was over at my son and daughter-in-law's house the other day. They have a cat named Tidus.
Tidus loves to flop down at my feet and beg to be scratched and petted.
He rolls onto his back and stretches into a long cylinder so I can scratch his belly. Then he turns back onto his feet and retracts into a loaf.
It's almost like the cat has no fixed form.
So like a Slinky.
Slinkies and cats are amazing.
Both of them can be manipulated into hundreds of shapes and lengths. Then they spring back into their original form.
They each have a "skeleton" but the bones seems to stretch. Without breaking.
But no matter how the cat or the Slinky moves, the cat is still a cat and the Slinky is still a Slinky.

We humans could learn a thing or two from Slinkies and cats. We should emulate them.
How wonderful for our spirits to be able to stretch, roll, scrunch, flip or twist in order to adapt to the day's needs.
To move according to the call of the Holy Spirit.
No groaning. No breaking.

To stretch upward for our daily scratching and petting.
To roll over and give God an affectionate nuzzle in the morning.
To retract and examine our hearts.
To flip end over end to descend the stairs in order to reach the friend who needs us.
To twist and adapt to unexpected changes in our day.

I'd like a Slinky type of spirit.

"Yet, O Lord, You are our Father.
We are the clay, You are the potter;
we are all the work of Your hand." (Is. 64:8)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rescued by an Angel

Back in the days before Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) I used to take the Greyhound Bus from my home in Lafayette, California, over the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco. The bus came to its final stop on Seventh Street at the Bus terminal. It was a seedy area just a few blocks from Market Street where shoppers, workers and tourists mingled.
At sixteeen, when I went to San Francisco by myself, it was usually to visit my grandmother. In earlier posts I wrote about her beautiful Mediterranean house. I loved to go there for a couple days of sewing in her organized, peaceful sewing room.
I got off the bus at the terminal and then proceeded down Seventh Street toward Market. I clutched my purse close to my side and ignored the wolf whistles blowing out of the lips of unshaven, dishevelled, wasted-looking men hanging out on the sidewalk.
Market is a wide street that must accommodate car traffic, buses, taxis and street cars. Streams of pedestrians, more numerous than city pidgeons, cross the wide avenue at signals or at any other convenient place.
Raised concrete islands hold all the pedestrians who want to take a street car.
I crossed most of Market Street, but then the light turned red and I had to take refuge on one of the islands to watch for a break in traffic.
About five or six other pedestrians stood with me on the island. At last, a signal on 5th or 6th Street turned red, holding traffic back.
 I gave a careful glance down the street.
No cars.
I stepped down onto the street.
Immediately, someone grabbed me by the coat collar and hauled me back onto the island.
At that second, a car whizzed through the space my body had just occupied.
I whirled around in surprise.Who pulled me back?
The man appeared to be about sixty, with slicked-back salt and pepper hair. His clothes looked cheap. His face was lined.
"There was car coming. Didn't you see it?" He said, pointing to the narrow stretch between the island and the sidewalk.
I checked it out. Another car whizzed through. How had I not seen those cars?
I turned to thank the man and. . .
he was gone. Gone!
Cars and streetcars zoomed down Market. There's no way he could have gone anywhere. He wasn't on the island. He hadn't stepped into a street car. He hadn't crossed the street.
In the time it took for me hear the man's admonishment, turn my head, look at traffic and turn my head back --perhaps one second -- the man had disappeared.

Forty some years later, I still wonder. . . was that man an angel?
Had my Heavenly Father sent one of His messengers, speeding from heaven at supernatural velocity, to appear as an old man, in order to grab my coat collar and pull me away from certain death?

How about you? Have you had some strange and wonderful angelic rescues, too?
That would make for an interesting little book.
Praise God for His untiring vigilance and care.

"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvations?" (Heb. 1:14)

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb. 13:2)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Look Before You Leap!

When I lived in the Midwest, and later, on the East coast, I used to have run-ins (literally) with tree squirrels. Those cute little critters love to dash out in front of a car, right into the middle of the road, then have a change of mind and dash back to their original side.
 I've seen a squirrel change its mind several times in one street crossing. Poor little things; if they'd just commit themselves to one direction, maybe a car could avoid them. It makes me so sad when I see a dead squirrel lying on the side of the road.

On the Front Range of Colorado, we have the prairie dogs.
Ah, the prairie dogs: those cute, pudgy, dirt-colored, short-tailed, gregarious rodents.
Seems like every sixty seconds one decides to cross the road.
There's one stretch of E-470 that I call Prairie Dog Death Alley.

Up in the mountains where I live, we have our own version of the prairie dog: the ground squirrels. They're not agile enough to do the back and forth can't-make-up-my-mind dance of the tree squirrels. They just hobble out into the road and hope for the best.
Not a good method for crossing the road, judging by the number of dead squirrels smashed on the pavement.

Then there are the deer and elk. Being herd animals, they'll pretty much go wherever the animal in front of it goes. The elk stop traffic for long minutes as a hundred-strong herd decides to follow the lead animal across Hwy 36.

Humans perform crossings too.
Getting over the death of a loved one.
 Healing from a divorce.
Moving on after your children move out.
Recovering from a failed relationship.

Transitions can be dangerous places if not negotiated properly. We do not want emotion to cloud our judgment.
  1. We can jump out into the middle of the road too soon. We're not ready, but the side of the road we're currently on doesn't satisfy us.
  2. We can start to make the transition, then get scared of the change and retreat back to where we came from. Maybe we vacillate time and time again.
  3. We can hesitate on the side of the road, unable to come to a firm decision either way.
If an animal could talk, maybe it would it be asking itself these questions:
Why am I making this change? (job, move, relationship change)
Will the digs across the road really be better for me (and my herd)?
Is this the right time and the right place to make the crossing?
Am I ready for this change, or do I need to do something to prepare?
What are the consequences of this crossing?

If you're a human in transition, consult your guidebook, the Bible.
Stay close to your Heavenly Father in prayer. If you sincerely want His will, He'll warn you of dangers.
Talk it out with wise people in your life.
List the pros and cons.
Make a plan.
Look before you leap!

"In his heart a man plans his course
but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Love Guard Rails

We took a road trip one summer from Aspen to Leadville when the boys were little and the girl was a toddler. If you know Colorado, you know that the most direct route connecting those two towns is using Independence Pass.
Ooo, those two words still strike me with trepidation.
It's not like we haven't been over Cottonwood, Vail, Loveland, Monarch, and Milner Passes.
But this trip stands out in my mind because it could have ended in catastrophe.
We had a minivan that we'd purchased while still living in New York.
That car was not made for high country driving. So every time we attempted a pass, the darn car got vapor lock. "Ka-poo-wah, ka-poo-wah, ka-prump."
We'd sit for at least a half hour, then start up the car, only to have it sputter and die about every half mile.
A two hour drive would stretch out to five hours.
Finally, we'd reach the summit and it was smooth sailing from there on down the other side of the pass.
So, anyway, we'd had a lovely day touring Aspen. Now it was time to head for Leadville.
Trucks and other big vehicles are not permitted on Independence Pass. The road is narrow and laden with sharp switch-backs.
Another thing about that pass: I didn't see any guard rails.
I don't like heights. Never have. The only thing that gives me some confidence on these high mountain roads are the guard rails. At least, if the car skids, those guard rails will stop the car before it goes oooooooVrrrrrrrrrr!
No guard rails. You'd think they'd at least put them around the switch backs. Maybe they think guard rails aren't necessary because you're probably driving about 15 miles an hour anyway.
We got about halfway up when the first vapor lock sputtering stopped us. It wasn't so bad there since we were surrounded by really pretty scenery.
Half an hour later, it happened again. At this point we were getting near the tree line.
The third time, we could see the finish line about fifty yards ahead. "C'mon car, c'mon car, just a few more feet. Don't quit on us now!"
Ka-poo-wah, ka-poo-wah, ka-prump.
Not only dead, but slipping back down the 6 percent grade.
Of course I was sitting on the cliff side of the car, looking straight down a couple thousand feet.
I imagined what would be left of the car and us when rescue personnel managed to land their helicopter
on the rocky slope near our crash site.
Not pretty.
Bruce brought the car to a halt and we both breathed a sigh of relief.
There we sat.
The boys unbuckled their seatbelts with excited faces. Ian said, "Wow, look at all those rocks down there. Can we get out and play?"
No!! Bruce and I shouted simultaneously.
Roads without guardrails are no place to play.

  • Sometimes we need guard rails just for our peace of mind. 
  • Other times we need guard rails for inclement weather and the possibility of icy roads.
  • Sometimes we need guard rails for our own stupidity in drinking and driving.
  • Or maybe just because there is always the possibility of fatigue or human error.

Whatever the reason, guard rails save lives. If our car had slipped any further, without the guard rails, we'd have been toast.

The Word of God is like a big guard rail, don't you think? Most of the time it serves as a reminder that our heavenly Father has his hand around our lives. Other times the Word protects us from our own human error or poor judgment or weakness.
Aren't you glad His Word "guards" us from slipping off the road and free-falling into oblivion?
There isn't much to protect you without the guard rail of His Word.

"for He guards the course of the just,
and protects the way of His faithful ones." (Prov. 2:9)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Footprints in Time

I looked out my office window after a gentle snow had blanketed our driveway. The little critters had already been up and about and left their tracks across the snow.
The tracks are a gentle message for me: "I, squirrel, have been here."
"I, bird, have also been here."
The tracks appear to have been made simultaneously. But that's probably not the case. At least, I don't think a bird and a squirrel would be hob-nobbing together in the snow in the early morning hours.
The tracks move in parallel fashion.
  • You can tell a lot about the animals from the tracks:
  • Both animals are moving from the rock retaining wall toward the bushes under my office widow.
  • They're both small.
  • They're light-weight.
  • They're early risers.
  • The tracks show that both animals are purposeful; neither divert, but move directly toward my bushes.
  • The tracks show that the animals' gaits were consistent, neither pausing or sitting.
When I go out for a walk in the snow my tracks show that I'm probably small, since my boot-prints are small. Also, the length of my stride is not long, so I'm probably not very tall. The depth of my track shows that I'm heavier than a coyote, but not so heavy as a bear. It's clear that I'm not a trespasser since my prints stay on the side of the road. It's also clear from my tracks that I have a definite goal. My tracks do not wander in an aimless fashion.

That got me to thinking about my other "tracks."
You know, the kind that are read by other people's accounts of me.
What kind of tracks have I left?
Would my "tracks" indicate that I am a woman of purpose, a woman who knows where she is going, a woman who moves confidently?
Or do they pause, hesitate, show fear or uncertainty?
And where have my tracks gone?
Do they head to dangerous or unwise places?
Do they regularly move toward church?
Can you follow my tracks to the homes of others, to hospitals, to schools, to places where they can do some good and constructive things for others?
Will friends and neighbors and relatives record mental photos of my tracks and tell others, long after I'm gone, about the interesting places my tracks have been spotted?
I wonder.
What do your "tracks" say about you?

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion, 'your God reigns!'" (Is. 52:7, New International Version)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life Along the Straight-Edge

I have terrible handwriting. Always have.
In grade school, when other girls wrote with nicely slanted, rounded cursive, my writing was too small, with crowded letters and skinny loops that didn't even look like loops. I got C's in cursive.
It wasn't because I didn't have a good eye; I actually got some of my sketches published in the local newspaper, and the principal had me do art-sy murals to decorate the school hallways before parent/teacher conferences.
And my bad handwriting wasn't because I'm left-handed. Lots of left-handers have very nice handwriting.
This was in the days before computers, you know, when writing in script was still a valued skill.
My bad handwriting filled me with shame.
I tried slanting my script backward, like lots of lefties do.
Still terrible.
I went through a printing phase in ninth grade.
But my English teacher asked me, with a raised eyebrow and a slight tilt to one side of her mouth, hadn't I ever learned cursive?
After I read The Lord of the Rings, I tried to give my script a long, flowy runian Medieval look.
In college, I gave up. It didn't matter by then since every research paper had to be typed.
But it still mattered to me.
One day I watch an artist friend set up a poster board for illustrations surrounded by various types of print and cursive. She used a straight-edge.
Hmm. Her letters came out looking absolutely professional.
I went home and addressed an envelope using the straight-edge method and voila! Script just short of calligraphy.
I discovered something about people with bad handwriting, well, some of them, including me.
We just need something to bounce our pen or pencil against.
Kind of like a backboard for your ball.
Then the letters rise from the straight-edge, majestic, authoritative, intellectual, venerable.
We need a guide, a hedge, a fence, a wall. Something strong and unyielding.
To keep us on the line.
Without the boundary of my straight-edge, I wandered above, below, slanted too far forward, leaned too far back.
Unlike a painting or a scribble, my letters need the structure of those straight lines.
Kind of like my life in general.
I need borders and boundaries.
So my life makes sense. So it can be read by others.
How about you? Do you feel safer with a wall or two?

"I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk your steps will not be hampered;
when you run you will not stumble." (Proverbs 4:11)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Because I'm Family

I have wonderful memories of visiting my grandparents' house in San Francisco. They had a big, beautiful Mediterranean-style house with 16-foot ceilings in the living room. After hors d'oevres and beverages in the living room, dinner was announced and we would line up to load our gold-rimmed Lenox plates with turkey or roast beef, casseroles, salads, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, marinated artichokes or cold asparagus with hollandaise sauce. We stuffed ourselves even though we'd already savored various kinds of chips and dips, crackers for sardines, kippers or herring in cream sauce or smoked salmon as appetizers. (I always wondered why these filling snacks were called appetizers.) Sometimes, when the occasion called for it, my grandmother would hire Ailee, the maid, and then we'd also have hot appetizers, fresh from the oven.
Anyway, we would all sit at my grandmother's big, ornate dining room table. The table was set with silver serving dishes, filled with dressings or preserves. We placed starched cloth dinner napkins on our laps. We sipped iced water from crystal glasses. Each place setting consisted of a fork for every course, a dinner knife, a butter knife and two spoons. We kids knew to keep our hands on our laps except when taking a bite of food. We also knew that our childish prattle was not an appropriate accompaniment to adult conversation, so we confined our talk to asking polite questions and then listening to incomprehensible adult answers that sounded like, "Wah, wah, wah."
As we kids grew older and more sophisticated, we entered the adult conversations, navigating our talk in and around the boring, "when I was your age. . . " or the dangerous, "So, how many "A"s did you get this semester?"
Sometime around the age of twelve, it occurred to me how undeserving I really was of such wonderful feasts.
If I'd been some other family's child, I wouldn't have been invited to my grandmother's table.
No, I was a guest at the table simply because I was family.
I didn't do business with my grandfather.
I didn't play bridge with my grandmother or team up with her to raise money for the P.E.O.
I was the fourth child born of my mother.
That, and that alone, qualified me to share in the feast.

Years later, I thought how that one fact qualifies me to share in the feast of the King of Kings.
I haven't done one thing to earn my place at His table.
Sure, I'd been a good and obedient (for the most part) child.
I was a decent student.
In school, I distinguished myself as a talented artist, a winner of spelling bees, the fastest runner, the best singer (so I was told), the most compassionate toward new students or nerd-y students.
I've been a good wife, a loving mother, a faithful servant at church, a hospitable home-owner.
none of these things qualifies me to sit with the King at the Lamb's supper.
It is only my position as a daughter of the King that gives me the right to sit with Peter and Paul and Isaac and Moses and Deborah and Rahab and Ruth and Mary.
By placing my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I have been adopted into His royal family.
So I look forward to the day of the great gathering of all of the King's children to the table.
To sit and behold Him, who did all to make it possible for me to become His child.
What have I done to earn  my spot there?
I'm just a member of the family.

Revelation 19:9  "Then the angel said to me, 'Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' And he added, 'these are the true words of God.'"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Dog's Life

I'm in San Diego this week, visiting my daughter and granddaughter. (Son-in-law is on a business trip and will be home shortly)
We decide to take Tessa, the family border collie, to the dog park to run off some crazy-border-collie energy.
When we arrive, there are about 15 dogs already in the 3 acre enclosure.
As soon as we relieve Tessa of her leash, she bounds forward and tilts for the rapidly approaching pack of dogs.
Surrounded by the other  dogs, they exchange the usual greet, sniff, growls, assessment, and establishment of doggy hierarchy.
Once that's taken care of, the dogs disperse to exercise, chase balls, get pats from their owners, or mess around the big water dish under the water spigot.
Tessa apparently doesn't visit the dog park often enough because she still behaves inappropriately. She likes to run up and nip at a dog's back feet, then dart away with a kind of bratty little kid energy: "nyah, nyah, nyah, you can't catch me!"
Tessa also thinks the dogs in the next enclosure are sheep. She darts up and down the line of fences, slinks into a wolf-like stalk, holds their attention with a hypnotic stare, then drops down to the ground, only to explode into another dash.
The dogs all seem to understand where they fit in the doggy hierarchy. The labs are big and confident, the three dung-colored mutts rank somewhere in the middle, the Bernise  Mountain dog is jovial and popular, the Brittany spaniel is light-weight so she looks to the higher-ups for doggy cues. There's also a miniature pinscher running around. He really shouldn't be in this enclosure, but I hear his owner say that
he's accompanying his big brothers (two Great Danes).
A woman walks her two Yorkshire terriers just outside the enclosure They yip frantically and lunge with all their six-pound energy at the bigger dogs on the other side of the cyclone fence. Do they really think they could take on a 100-pound Bernise? Apparently so.
Shortly after we arrive, a woman follows us in with her enormous Bull Mastiff. I hear all the other dog owners murmur, "Whoa!" as he strides into the enclosure.
My daughter is so impressed, she can't resist asking, "How much does he weigh?"
The dog's owner is as nonchalant and self-assured as the dog. "Two hundred pounds."
The other 15 dogs half-heartedly run up, do the obligatory sniff, then move away.
I watch the mastiff for most of our remaining half hour in the enclosure. He's magnificent. He commands my attention and respect.
The dogs think so, too. They watch him, watch where he steps, watch where he raises his head to sniff. Even the Great Danes move out of his way.
He does not run, or bark, or play.
Just takes his leisurely promenade around the periphery of the park as if surveying the state of his kingdom.
I love the doggy civility. Once order is established, the pack operates with efficiency. For the most part, the dogs get along: no scheming, no insurrections, no murmuring or growling once the alpha's back is turned.
Yeah, yeah, I know that dogs operate by instinct, and humans are way more complicated and thus we can't expect for human society to run so smoothly.
Still, wouldn't it be nice if our cities and towns and schools and companies and churches and families got along like dog packs?
I don't want to take this analogy too far, you understand. Just that I really like the way dogs don't waste a lot of time fighting.The survival of their pack depends on each member's cooperation.

We could all take a lesson from a dog's life.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5)

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Good Fit is Hard to Find

I never have a problem with leg room. I fit anywhere, if you can call feet that never reach the floor and knees that never bump the back of the seat in front, a "fit." I sure feel sorry for those tall travelers who have to sit in coach. Must be pretty uncomfortable.

When I took driver training in high school, my instructor --I'l call him Mr. X -- had the supreme misfortune of getting my name on his roster of students. That was back in the days of bench seats, so, in order to accommodate my tiny stature, we  had to move the seat all the way up. Mr. X had, in his younger days, been a pro-football linebacker. He was a handsome, well-built almost-giant who stood 6' 6". His good looks and adult suavity made me even more shy than usual.

Poor Mr. X.  Being scrunched up into the dashboard for a half hour next to me must have been agony. After two weeks, he probably wound up at the chiropractor.
Bad as Mr. X's driver training experience was, I'll bet his discomfort didn't come close to my psychic suffering. A more sensitive teacher might have treated the lack of "fit" with humor. But every time the man grimaced when it was my turn at the wheel, I felt like an ugly pygmy frog with facial warts and body slime. And afterward, I'd slink home and sulk in my room for a while, wondering if Mr. X went home and told stories about my ineptitude to his tall, adult friends.

With adult perspective, I realize that Mr. X didn't do too much instructing, didn't care about teaching, didn't care about us kids, and didn't even recognize us individually if we happened to pass in one of the high school hallways during the weekdays. His interactions behind the wheel with us three kids amounted to: "turn right; turn left at the next intersection; apply the brake more slowly next time; okay, let's switch, who's next?"
I did not fit that bench seat; Mr. X did not fit with me, and Mr. X did not fit with his job.

I cared very much about finding the right fit for myself when I drove my first new car, a Dodge Omni.
Since those days of bench seats, engineers who built cars finally realized that even short people need --for comfort and safety-- to fit their car seats. I finally found a car with bucket seats that moved up and down, tilted, and, moved far enough forward so that I did not have to prop myself, behind and under with pillows in order to drive.
Since my Dodge Omni days, I have continued to find cars that fit.

But people fit? That's a whole different challenge. My fit with Mr. X was more of a lack of fit with his personality than a problem with physical disparity. How do you make people fit each other?
Do you hammer the bones of our sockets so that our eyes focus on exactly the same things? Do you whittle the width of two people's ideas so that they align perfectly? What if you used a grappling hook to seize opposite ends of our hearts to stretch and mold them into uniformity?
All of these seem so violent. I hope we never force our own fit on someone else.

It's a difficult thing to do, maybe an impossibility, to make our insides fit together.
Even in the church, where we're supposed to be united in one pure-hearted vision of God-worship and service, even there the fit is uncomfortable.
Christ is the only Person who "fits" inside of each of us comfortably. Like water, His Spirit enters and flows into each empty place, filling it to the measure of its capacity, then moves on, never bursting the chambers, never over-filling to the point of distension.
I heard someone say that we, as believers, each fit into a giant puzzle. God has designed each of his children to interlock and create a large and beautiful picture.
But it's a puzzle that can, on this side of heaven, only be viewed --or perhaps only be felt, since we do not see clearly -- in small parts.
I suppose a good fit is all about knowing well and loving well.
I do not fit well with those I do not understand. I must come to know the size and shape of the person I'll fit next to on the puzzle board.
I must love and admire the puzzle pieces around my empty spot enough to mold my piece to fit in with theirs.
To  fit well, I must both know well and love well:
 "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge --that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God."

Have a great day. And have a great "fit" day.