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, September 29, 2011

What I Think He Thinks

Queen Victoria once said:
"The important thing is not what they think of me,
but what I think of them."

At first glance this statement seems kind of arrogant, don't you think?
But, hold on a minute.
Maybe Queen Victoria was actually a woman of great emotional security.

I once heard a  Christian psychologist say, What you think people think about you, is usually what makes you behave the way you do."

This statement seems to be born out in politics, at least.
Look at anyone who's trying to get elected (or re-elected) to office. These people hire experts to gauge what voters are thinking of the candidates, and how they'll vote.

We humans invest a lot of time and energy in trying to get others to like us. Sometimes the energy spent is because we are insecure.
Wouldn't it be great if we could all just operate according to our convictions instead of how others will react?
(Yes, I know it's important to get along; I'm not talking about being a stubborn, pain-in-the-neck!)
But, seriously, wouldn't it be great if we said what we really feel or think?
But I'm afraid.
I'm afraid of judgment, censure, scorn.

However, it seems as if the most admired people in a community are usually the ones who have the courage to "march to their own drumbeat."
Think about the people in your life who you truly admire. They're almost always individuals with some unique style, good thinkers, secure, principled, disciplined, achievers in their own arenas. They stand out in a crowd not because they're flamboyant, but because of some inner strength.
They may possess their own insecurities, but somehow, they're able to rise above their fears and assert themselves within a group.

Many of the people I've most admired in my life have been quiet and humble, yet have possessed great inner gifts: compassion, single-minded focus on the thing that God has called them to do, wisdom, maturity, selflessness.
These are people who've struggled and grown strong because they've allowed God to do a transforming work within. Therefore, they no longer operate under the compulsions put upon them by what others think. They simply do what the Holy Spirit has imprinted on their hearts.

 Years ago, as a teen, I heard a speaker say this: "The truest thing about you is what God says about you."
Wow! So obvious, yet so hard to wrap our minds around. Wouldn't it be great if we could operate every day on that truth?

What does God say about me?
That I'm loved, that I've been forgiven, that I have a place waiting for me in heaven, that God does not condemn me.
I could go on and on. Any one of the above truths takes a life-time to internalize and apply.

"The truest thing about you is what God says about you."
Do you believe that?
How does that transform the way you live each day?

"Your word is truth." (John 17:17, NIV Bible)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Leave Your Mark

Did you know:

  • Shirley Temple starred in her first movie (The Red-haired Alibi) in 1932 at the age of four,
  • Marvin Hamlisch was accepted into the Julliard School of Music at the age of seven,
  • Mozart composed his first of 41 symphonies at the age of eight,
  • Felix Mendelssohn debuted as a concert pianist at the age of nine,
  • Louis Braille began divising his alphabet for the blind at the age of fifteen,
  • Jay Luo graduated from Boise State University with a B.S. in math at the age of twelve,
  • Samantha Druce was twelve when she swam the English channel?

But. . . did you also know:
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote Faust at 81,
  • Carl Sandburg published a new volume of poetry (Honey and Salt) at age 85,
  • Bob Hope, at age 87, traveled to Saudi Arabia to entertain American troops,
  • At age 89, Albert Schweitzer was hard at work every day in his hospital at Gabon, West Africa,
  • Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York at the age of ninety?
So, whatever your age, do you really have an excuse for not going after a dream?

As Canadian hockey player, Wayne Gretzsky said: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take."

And an added thoughts for us Christians:
 If God has placed a dream in your mind that He wants you to accomplish, will He not also strengthen you as you rely upon Him?

""As for God, His way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
He enables me to stand on the heights." (Psalm 18:30-33, NIV Bible)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Outrunning the Moon

When I was a child, growing up in northern California, I loved to travel. Of course, with two parents and five kids, travel was always by car.
That was fine for me. I loved to sit back and get lost in viewing the changing landscape as the car sped by coastal hills, merged onto larger highways and eventually reached the miles of central valley agriculture.
One of the things that fascinated me when I was six or seven years old was the way the rows and rows of artichokes, or onions, or what-not seemed to stretch into the distance like rows of long, skinny legs. As the car zipped along parallel to the crops, the rows seemed to run along with us as if to race us to our destination.
If we drove at night, the crops blurred into oblivion. The moon would take the next watch.
He'd rise slowly in the night sky. When he got high enough, I'd see his big grin. And if I was in the right mood, I'd silently dare the moon to a race.
We always seemed to be neck and neck. I'd tell my father, "faster, Daddy. The moon's getting ahead."
My dad would chuckle and press his foot to the accelerator for just a second.
When I became a teenager, the moon ceased to be a racing competitor. He became a beautiful confidant, to tell my longings to.
The moon has always been there, thank God.
God was always there, too, in my thoughts as our family made our little journeys. At first, I did not know Him well; he was more of an idea, a kind of imaginary playmate.
But in my teens, I came to know Him in a personal way.
Time and troubles came and I ran to my big Friend more and more.
Like the moon, He was always there, even when clouds obscured His face.
Sometimes, I tried to outrace God, just so I could go my own way.
But no matter how hard I ran, there was never a place I could hide.
No matter what I do, what I say, where I go, He's there.
He's even in my head. Even there I can't escape His presence.
Most of the time, that's a comfort. But it's a little disconcerting that He and I share space brain space even when I'm thinking less than good thoughts.
I'm glad I've made friends with God, through Jesus.
It must be terrible to be on bad terms with God and not be able to get away from Him, don't you think?

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:7-10, NIV Bible)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who Gave the Mountain its Power?

A while back, as my husband and I wound through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, we drove over McKenzie Pass (In Deschutes National Forest) and encountered a devastating scene of destruction. There had been a volcanic eruption; I never found out when it happened.
Spread out before us were miles upon miles of black, viciously sharp lava rock. Nothing grew among the piles of dark stuff.
 We pulled over and I grabbed my camera and carefully scaled a mound of rock to get a better look.
Miles away, I glimpsed several cone-shaped mountains that look liked photos of Mount St Helens before its 1980 eruption.
Farther on down the road the Parks system had erected a kind of monument to the eruption. (That's me walking up a path for a better look at the devastation.)
I thought about the power of nature and a mountain that could literally blow its top and change the look of the entire mountain range.
Not only that, but the eruption might have decimated an entire local population of indigenous people, plus killing thousands of animals and leveling miles of forest.
Now that's power.
Some people worship mountains and the power and majesty that they represent.
But a mountain has no feelings, no compassion, no plan for the inhabitants who rest in its shadow.
A mountain might alter the weather or force a river to change its direction. But the mountain does not listen to the bleating of sheep which feed on its slopes. It cares not a whit that trees shelter on the lee side or that elk and mountain lions drink the snow melt that cascades from its lofty summits.
But God, who made the mountain, does care.
Here's what scripture says about God's power and His loving concern for His creation:

"Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:41)

Does the eagle take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south? (Job 39:27)

Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? (Job 39:19)

Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind? (Job 38: 36)

Look at the behemoth
which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. (Job 40:15)

The mystery and majesty of God's creation should cause our minds to recognize His power and our mouths to shout His praises!

(All scripture verses are from the NIV Bible)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why We "Shout for Joy"

Last night, at choir practice I shared a story to highlight the Christian's reason for why we "shout for joy.":

Imagine that you are in an old Hollywoood western. But, instead of being a good guy, you're one of the bad guys.
You tried to rob a bank. The bank teller made you nervous. Your hand jerked and the gun went off. You've been apprehended, tried, and condemned to death.
As you sit in jail, awaiting your execution, you go through all the usual rationalizations. You really didn't intend to shoot the bank teller. It's just that you needed the money badly. You've lost your job. You have to feed your wife and kids. What else could you do?
But now it's the morning of your execution.
The sheriff arrives. You hear the turn of the iron key in the lock. The jail door swings open. You are escorted out of the jail and into the cruel,white morning.
Crowds of spectators jeer and insult you.
You look up and see the gallows, the hangman, the noose.
You put your foot on the first step of the scaffold. As you mount the steps, your legs turn to jello. Your mouth is dry and your heart pounds. Your gut sickens at the horror of your impending violent death.
When you reach the top, the judge turns to you and says, "Do you have any last words before we execute justice?"
You can't speak. Terror wraps around your throat. You shake your head.
The hangman ties your hands behind your back. The noose is slipped around your neck.
Your life flashes before your eyes and you are filled with regret. Too late.
You wonder for the last time what death will be like. Will it be oblivion? Or will it be the terrible everlasting punishment your Sunday school teacher told you about when you were just a kid?
The hangman fits a black cloth over your head. Your breath puffs the fabric in and out. You take your last big breath.
And then. . .
And then. . .
"Wait!" Someone shouts. You hear footsteps. "Don't pull that lever. The governor has just signed a reprieve. This man is free!"
The cloth is whipped from your face. Bright sunshine greets you.
Free! I'm free! I don't have to die!
Where seconds before dread and despair filled your mind, now joy makes your limbs strong. Your shackles are removed and you rush toward freedom, down the gallows steps, across the town square, into the arms of your weeping wife. You shout with triumph.

Wouldn't you shout, too?
Sometimes I think we Christians only half realize that we all have been granted a reprieve. The gallows was our fate, just like that murderer.
Let's shout for joy! We don't have to die. We're free. Free!

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."(Col.2:14)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Those Who've Gone Before Us

Last week Bruce and I hiked up to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain Nation Park.
The sign at the trailhead said the hike was only 1.7 miles. "That's a snap," I said. "We can be up and down in an hour."
The trail began horizontally, winding through ponderosas, weird rock formations and aspen whose leaves held just the merest trace of gold. But I swear the trees tittered and giggled in the slight breeze as we hiked underneath their foliage. "Hee-hee-hee! They don't know what's around the bend. Tee-hee."
Sure enough, once around a sharp bend, the trail, which had baited us with its deceptively innocuous beginning, abruptly switched to long stretches of stair-climbing.
I hadn't brought my hiking poles because we'd planning on hiking an easy trail. As we climbed, I began to sorely regret that decision.
Bruce, of course, climbed blythely upward, hardly breathing. (I don't think his heart rate has ever exceeded 60 beats a minute.)
As I stopped every so often to catch my breath, I half imagined my husband breaking into a rousing rendition of "Valdaree, valdara, valdaree, valdara-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha."
We hadn't brought enough water for this type of hike, so we had to ration what little we had.
We took it slow. Even so, we passed several groups of hikers, young and old, who had to stop to let their own fleshly motors cool down.
Occasionally, breaks in the trees gave us breath-taking views of Estes Park, way down below, and the surrounding Rockies.
About half a miles from the top I asked a group coming down the trail how much farther we still had to go. The man gave us a thumbs up and said, "It's not far now. Just beyond the outhouse, you'll have one more push and then you get to the lake."
"Thanks," I wheezed.
More groups passed us, coming down, and gave us encouraging reports: "You're almost there." It's just around the corner."
Their encouragement gave me the strength to keep on going inspite of the heat, almost no water, and my aching joints. I'm not sure if I could have continued without the hope that I'd soon reach my destination.

When we finally reached the top, and Gem Lake, we encountered many groups of hikers sitting and enjoying the view. It felt so good to sit and cool off under the shade of trees.

I thought about the groups of people who made it to the lake well before Bruce and I. How grateful I was that they noticed our tired expressions and had the compassion to offer us encouragement.
Isn't that what our older and wiser friends in the Christian faith do, as well? They've walked many of the same paths, encountered some of the same trials, perplexities, and discouragements. But they've made it to the "lake." They can confidently say, "It's not much farther. You're almost there; don't give up."

I've been blessed to have had mature friends who've encouraged me and given me guidance when I felt like giving up.
How about you?

"There, 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)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Fight- Part 3

In the times of the book of Judges, the Israelites were doing pretty much what we do: in times of hardship and oppression, they cried out to the Lord, their God. (Remember 911?)
But when things smoothed out and enemies ceased to oppress,  they became complacent and forgot to worship God. They also allowed idol worship to flourish. Oh well, keeping an idol around isn't all that serious, is it? (The presence of an idol demonstrates that the Israelites didn't fully trust God.)

In Gideon's time things had gotten so bad that he was forced to thresh wheat in the winepress so the Midianites wouldn't steal or destroy his crop.

God came to Gideon and told him  "I am sending you to save Israel. I will be with you when you fight and destroy the Midianites." (paraphrase mine)

 Before Gideon went out to do battle, God first asked him to destroy his father's Baal idol and to prepare a proper altar in which to worship God. (God must be worshiped sincerely, and He must come first if we hope to win a battle that He has called us to fight.)

Perhaps you know the rest of the story. Before Gideon and his men went out to battle the Midianites, God told him that he still had too many men. Out of ten thousand men he still had, God allowed Gideon to have only three hundred men. (Talk about a classic David and Goliath scenario!)

God said, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand.
(Note: God says, "I will save you." Who saves? Gideon. No. God. God saves. Remember, the Bible is about God, and only secondarily about men.)

God prepared the battle by spreading fear and confusion among the Midianites. By the time Gideon arrived, the Midianites were ready to flee in terror. As they did so, more Israelites were called into the battle to pursue their enemy. Eventually surrounded and trapped, the Midianites were defeated.

Everything about Gideon and his battle is amazing. The victory was so clearly engineered by God, again.

Things to note:
  1. Gideon first had to clean up his own family's ties to idol worship.
  2. His own family at first misunderstood and wanted to kill him. (When you first try to clean up shop, expect to get flack from those close to you)
  3. Although God called Gideon, the young man had to respond in obedience and action.
  4. And, most important, God was the orchestrator of this entire battle. Gideon simply responded in obedience. Then God filled Him with His spirit and Gideon was able to accomplish the impossible.

There are so many lessons to learn from this wonderful account. Today, one lesson that really strikes me is:
the complete sovereignty of God.
In other places of scripture, God says, (and I paraphrase): I am the Lord, there is no one who can stand before Me. I make nations rise and fall. I laugh at puny people who think they are more clever and more powerful than I Am. (examples: Job, chapters 38, 39; Psalm 2; Psalm 14; Revelation, chapter 4, etc.)

Yes, God is mighty. We have seen that in these three posts about His involvement in warfare.
But, isn't it also wonderful that His purposes are always holy and just?
And isn't it thrilling that, whatever He accomplishes, it is for the love of us, His children?

"Holy,holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:8)

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Fight - part 2

Now David fought Goliath in the strength and courage of the Lord.

But many years earlier, God prompted a prophetess and judge named Deborah to call upon a warrior, Barak, to go up against Sisera. Sisera was the army commander for King Jabin of Canaan. This king had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years.
Barak was commanded to take 10,000 men and fight Sisera near the Kishon River.
But he was timid. He said to Deborah, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."
Here was a man who sorely doubted Israel's capacity to fight Sisera. So much so that he would only go out to fight if the prophetess lent God's continued assurance of victory by her presence at the battlefield.
Deborah agreed to go but told Barak that because of his lack of faith, that the honor of victory would not go to him, but to a woman. (In those times, and in that culture, that would be the ultimate "shame on you.")
So Barak and Deborah and the ten thousand men went out to fight Sisera. They had a great victory. Every enemy troop was killed. Except Sisera. He managed to escape on foot.

Can't you just see this whole scenario played out on some theater screen? I'm really amazed that Hollywood hasn't made this into a movie.

Anyway, as Sisera fled, he met Jael, the wife of Heber. She invited him to hide in her tent. Heber had always been on good terms with King Jabin. So Sisera thought, why not?
He was very tired after all that fighting and running, so after Jael gave him something to drink, he lay down and she covered him up and promised to send anyone hunting for him away.
But when Sisera fell asleep, the woman took a tent peg and drove it into his skull.
When Barak showed up, Jael showed him the dead body of Sisera.
Thus, although Barak ultimately obeyed God and fought according to God's command, his initial cowardice resulted in someone weaker and less respected --the woman, Jael --getting the glory for killing Sisera.
Isn't that just like God?Again and again, throughout scripture, we see Him use the weak, the lowly, the least in a family for His glorious purposes.
And why not?
God's victories are always about His power, not ours.
If Barak had fought the Canaanites and killed Sisera, the glory would have gone to a man.
When Jael killed Sisera, it became clear that this victory had been engineered by God. (my account paraphrased from Judges, chapter 4)

Don't ever think that God calls you to fight a good fight (whether physical or spiritual), then leaves you alone to accomplish the victory.

Obediently go out to fight, with a humble heart of dependence upon Him,
fight the battle according to His ways, (love your enemies, pray for them, speak the truth in love, etc.)
then give the Lord, your God the glory and praise when the victory happens.

What victory has God accomplished through you lately? What biblical principle guided you? Did you realize at the time that God was working through you? Did this victory draw you closer to God as a result?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

To Fight the Impossible Fight-part one

At the beginning of my newly completed novel, In the Valley of Elah, I paraphrased and condensed the Bible account of David and Goliath. As you read, ask yourself, what are your "Goliaths"? What do you fear every day that seems like an unconquerable enemy? How can faith and trust and complete dependence on the Lord, your God, fight your battles for you?

"In ancient times, the Philistines and the Israelites got ready for war. They set up their troops on opposite sides of the Valley of Elah. The evil Philistine army had a champion, named Goliath from the town of Gath. He was over nine feet tall. Each day, Goliath walked out onto the Valley of Elah and shouted a challenge to the Israelite army: "Choose someone to fight me!"

But the Israelite King, Saul, and his men were terrified of Goliath.

One day, David, a shepherd boy, and the youngest son of Jesse, heard the giant's challenge. "Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He's making fun of the armies of the living God."
David went before King Saul. "Your Majesty, let me go out and fight this man. The Lord has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and He will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine."

"All right," said King Saul, convinced. "Go out and fight him."

Then David took his sling and five smooth stones and went out to meet the giant.
When Goliath saw the boy approaching, he cursed him by the names of his gods.
But David said, "You've come out to fight me with a sword and spear and javelin. But I've come out to fight you in the name of the Lord, All Powerful. Today the Lord will help me defeat you. And everybody will see that it is not by might or by sword or spear, but by the Lord's power that our battles are won."
Then David ran out toward Goliath. Taking a stone, he placed it in his sling and swung it hard. The stone flew and struck Goliath between the eyes. The giant fell face down. David ran up, took the giant's own sword and cut off his head. So David defeated Goliath with only a sling and a stone." (paraphrased and condensed from 1st Samuel, chapter 17)

The Israelites were in a quandary. How do you fight an enemy that is more powerful than you are with the usual human implements of warfare?
In future blog posts I'll be sharing other "impossible" wars from the scriptures, and what God did to defeat Israel's enemy.