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, August 30, 2012

My Precious Dad

My precious dad passed away Monday evening, Aug. 27th, 2012.
He slipped away quietly, as if he didn't want to disturb anyone by making a fuss.
So like my dad. Always quiet, always considerate, stoic, not wanting to alarm his wife or children.

My dad, Thormod James Nicolaisen was born in San Francisco on June 14th, 1915.

He remembers livery stables and horse-drawn milk carts. He remembers being frightened, as a three-year-old, of the white-masked citizens of San Francisco during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918.

The son of Norwegian immigrants, fourth of eight children, my dad lived the childhood of poverty.
Grandpa Oluv Nicolaisen had been an engineer in Norway, but after they immigrated, not being fluent in English, he found whatever work he could to support his quick-growing family.
Nana had enough to do just birthing and raising her four sons and four daughters.

Daddy went to school and worked to help support the family. In 1932, with the Depression in full swing, Grandpa suffered a massive stroke, so my seventeen-year-old dad dropped out of high school to work full time.

In 1941, after the U.S. declared war, Daddy and his brothers, Al, Stanley, and Bobby all enlisted. My dad chose the Army Air Corps. (It hadn't yet become the Air Force.)

Daddy, being the super-bright and cautious fellow that he was survived the training to become a pilot. His superiors quickly figured out that he'd be more valuable to the Allies as a pilot instructor. Even so, he frequently recounted hair-raising tales of near-death spins and malfunctions and the tragic tales of his many war buddies who didn't make it out of the war alive.

After the War, Daddy came home, worked at the Post Office, studied for his BA and met my mother.
They married in 1947 and had five children. . . in five years.
Daddy earned his Masters in English just before he was called back into the Air Force to fly B-29 bombers during the Korean War.

After that war, Daddy became a high school teacher and by the time we youngest had graduated from high school, he was affectionately known by all the kids in the district as "Mr. Nic."

My dad's life was characterized by sacrifice, hard word, responsibility, honesty, and dedication to family.
He was gentle and quiet and never raised his voice. He didn't have to; we respected him so much that just a look of disappointment in his eyes would be enough to instantly crush any rebellion or spirit of mischief.
We kids knew that Daddy would do anything to keep a roof over our heads. Sometimes he moonlighted two extra jobs to feed his family of seven.

Daddy could do just about anything. A child of the Depression learns how to do everything himself. He built a brick staircases, designed bookshelves for every bedroom --books were the cornerstone of our family culture --, repaired cars, installed sinks and toilets, knocked down walls, built up new ones. 

My dad had dreams, too. But his dreams to be a great writer and poet had to be sacrificed. After all,
first a man takes care of his family. Then, when they're raised and on their own, perhaps. . .

And so, when we were all grown, Daddy started to write his poems. They're wonderful. They express the heart of a man who thinks deeply. His poems express the wonder of small things and the glory of great ideas. His poems have been published in the poetry magazine, "North American Mentor."

I often think that for a man like my dad, it is a tragedy that he only lived 97 years. So much talent, so much potential, so many unlived dreams. What could Daddy have accomplished if he'd been given a second life-time, just for him.

". . . then time ticked down and ceased to breathe, and I
Closed eyes, dream-traced the starry lie
To sort this great inigma now set free
And reap the glory fruits of destiny. . .  (excerpted from "Destiny", by Thormod Nicolaisen)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dumb Blonde

The other day I ran down to my local supermarket for some last minute supplies. My husband and I were giving a party the next day.
Usually our store is well-stocked, but this day it seemed as if everything I needed wasn't stocked.
I must have looked slightly confused ( I guess my face just habitually looks that way) because when I got to the produce section a nice lady employee asked me if I'd found everything I needed.
Well. . .  she asked.
So I told her I was frustrated that they always stock things that older people need in places where it's difficult to reach. "For instance," I said, they put the gluten-free pasta waaaaaaay down on the bottom shelf where it's hard for us people with bad knees to get down to get it. And if you even get down, then you hafta get back up. Why do they do that?!"
The nice lady explained that she'd suggested to the store managers many times to stock these items higher up where it's more accessible.
"That would be very much appreciated," I said.
"Anything else you couldn't find?" the nice produce lady asked.
"Well, since you asked, I also couldn't find any diet caffeine-free Pepsi. You've got all the other Pepsi's, just not the one I'm looking for."
The produce lady then went on to explain in great detail about how the stockers can't stock the diet caffeine-free Pepsi because sometimes the Pepsi people just don't deliver it. And if it's not delivered by thus and such day then the store is just out of luck. . . etc.
After her long explanation I didn't have the heart to tell her that I'd already gotten that same story from another store employee when I first discovered that there were no diet caffeine-free Pepsi's on the shelf.
The produce lady was so eager to help, and the two of us were getting along so well that I said, "And also, I really don't like that ranch dip that they keep in the chip section. Is there a better, refrigerated kind?"
She said, "Why don't I just walk you over  to where we keep the ranch dip?"
"Why thanks, Ma'am. How kind of you."
"No problem," she said over her shoulder.
I followed her to the refrigerator section where they  have the salad mixes. Funny how I never noticed those tubs of vegie dips before. The produce lady spent a couple of minutes extolling the individual tastiness of each kind of ranch dip. "And I particularly like this one, but if you like, this Southwestern one is pretty good, too."
"Oh, I think I'll just go with the plain Ranch, thank you." I reached in and grabbed a tub.
Then the nice produce lady smiled sweetly at me -- like the way you smile at a cute, innocent six-year old child -- and said in a sing-song, high-pitched voice, "And don't forget that your shopping cart is still parked over there by the sweet peppers."
She hurried back to her fresh produce and I stood there feeling foolish.
The whole time I stood in line at check-out and all the way home I kept asking myself, Did I say something that led that woman to believe I'm simple minded? 

It made me kind of insecure.
Maybe I come across as simpleminded to everybody.
Maybe I really am simpleminded.
 Do simpleminded people know they're simpleminded?
 Maybe my husband and children and friends have been humoring me all these years!

I had to laugh after I got over the initial disturbing emotion brought out by that encounter at the store.
I guess we're all simple-minded occasionally.
And brilliant at other times.
Even Einstein had trouble negotiating around town.
My husband is amazing in his ability to manage groups of people. But he loses things. All the time.

Whether or not I'm losing ground in the cognitive arena, it's nice to know that that doesn't change God's love for me one whit. (Pun intended.)

"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever." (Psalm 73: 26 NIV Bible)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Stink!

For the past few days there's been a stink in the garage, probably coming from the garbage.
Man, it will be nice to put out the garbage tomorrow morning and be rid of the assault on my nostrils.
But last night I needed to drive down the hill for choir practice. I collected all my stuff, grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge, opened the car door and slipped quickly into the driver's seat.
An odor rushed toward me, tackled me, made my eyes water, rubbed itself into my nose, poured down my throat.
Nausea nearly overwhelmed me.
"Oh. . . oh. . . where is that coming from?" I almost gagged on my own words.
I glanced wildly around, scanned the passenger seat, the second row of seats.
It had to be coming from the cargo area.
I pressed the back latch release and jumped out of the car, holding my nose.
Running around to the back of the car I examined the cargo area. Maybe it was coming from the hot/cold bag we use to transport ice cream, milk, eggs, etc. from the store.
No. Empty.
The mesh bag that stretches across the back of the cargo area sometimes holds small grocery bags. I pulled the bags out and spread them on the carpet.
One last bag to check. My hands wormed inside and touched something unfamiliar.
Something round and smooth.
I pulled it out. For a second I couldn't identify the bowling-ball shape in my hands.
When I did, I let out a bellow: "EEEEEEWWWWWW!
The once plastic, cylinder shape of ground beef had ballooned into a ball of putrifying meat. Gasses produced by the rot threatened to explode the plastic container at any minute.
I hurried the swollen container to the garbage can and gingerly placed it on top of other garbage bags. After I returned from choir I'd wrap it up more securely.
The stink in the car was so potent that I drove the whole hour trip with all the windows down, in spite of the rain.

We're usually very careful to remove all grocery bags from the back of the car after we shop.
Somehow this little bag had escaped our attention.
Until the stink alerted us to a problem.

Have you ever thought about your soul "stink" in this way?
It, too, can be ignored. . . for a while. You've securely packaged it and hidden it from the eyes of those who might judge you.
But after a while, though the package may be small, it grows into an un-ignorable situation.
The resulting stink doesn't just assault you; it pretty much sickens everyone within  smelling distance.
Have you ever thought that your sin sickens others around you?
Not exactly a pleasant thought to meditate on.

I sometimes apologize to my husband for all my "soul stink" he has to put up with.
My goal is to clean it all out (by God's grace and through His power) and get sweet-smelling.

I wonder if we'll be able to smell Jesus when we see Him.
What will He smell like?
Flowers, incense, the sweet wood-shavings of a carpenter, a pine forest, rain?
Oh, to smell like that!

Lord, please clean up my stink. I want to be a sweet offering for you.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Eph. 5: 2 NIB Bible)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Help, help! The Globolinks Are After Me!

When I was in graduate school, working toward my Master of Music, I was cast in the lead role of Gian Carlo Menotti's little opera, Help! Help! the Globolinks!
This was the 100th anniversary of the University of Michigan's School of Music.
Menotti himself did the stage direction.

Since I was little and also played the violin I was the logical choice to play the school-girl, Emily.

The story goes like this:
Emily and her friends are returning home in a school bus after some kind of after-school activity.
Meanwhile, evil Globolinks have invaded the earth and are attacking and transforming all who they touch into Globolinks.
It is discovered that the only defense against Globolinks is music.
Emily's school bus breaks down on a remote stretch of road.
Since Emily is the only child with a musical instrument --her violin -- she volunteers to set out on foot, armed only with her violin, and seek help.
Walking through a dark forest, Emily is beset by Globolinks. She plays her violin to ward off their attacks. When she finally reaches her school she finds the head-master and tries to tell him what happened. But the headmaster can barely talk. Emily doesn't realize that he has been touched by a Globolink and is in the process of turning into a Globolink himself.
When Emily realizes what the headmaster is becoming, she faints.
Just then, help arrives. The opera ends happily as earth's residents make music and so frustrate the Globolinks that they give up and return to their alien home.

We often think about music on the radio and how so much of it communicates evil messages:
Messages of almost militant hate toward women in a lot of rap music (if you can call it music)
Messages of overt sensuality and  encouragement to engage in "love," without benefit of marriage.
Messages of revenge, grief, sorrow, jealousy. And on and on.

Music has the power to move us toward negative thoughts and emotions.

Or music has the power to encourage and inspire our spirits towards humanity's most noble emotions:
self-sacrifice, love for country, love for family, honor and commitment, and most sacred of all:
awe and worship of God.

I hope that we as Christians, especially Christian educators striving to keep up with secular educators,  never discount or marginalize in their estimations the power and value of music.
With music we denigrate or raise up the value of others.
With music, we use our tongues to confess our love and devotion for our God.
With music, we comfort or encourage, admonish or instruct, identify ourselves as belonging to the same philosophy, and unite under common passion.
With music, we partner with God in expressing emotion too deep for words alone to communicate.
And with music, combined with the Word of God, we stir our minds and hearts to thwart the discouraging attacks of the enemy of our souls.

What a wonderful gift our Heavenly Father has given us.
Rightly yielded, music is a most powerful defense against our common enemy.

"For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord."  (Psalm 27: 5-6,  NIV Bible)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm About You, Babe

My husband finally went in for his annual physical.
I told him, "Make sure you have him take a look at those funny little  bumps on your forehead. Oh, and ask him about that red spot on your cheek."
Bruce rolled his eyes. He thinks I make a big deal out of nothing.
But I've been married to him for over 33 years and I intend to stay married for at least another thirty years.
He's a man; he won't look after his health.
That's my job. 'Cause I'm all about him.
When he came back from the doctor's, I planted myself in front of him. "Well, what did the doctor say? Is that skin cancer?"
Bruce looked a little sheepish. "He wants me to see a dermatologist."
A few days went by and he still hadn't made the appointment.
So I called and set a date.
I accompanied him to the dermatologist. Not that I was intending to be his "mommy" and go into the exam room, too.
But I wanted to make sure he mentioned all the places on his face that looked suspicious.
Just before he went in to see the doc, I reminded him about the red spot on his cheek.
"What red spot?"
I huffed at him. "The one I've been telling you about for months. Do I hafta come in there with you?  Will you promise to point it out to the doctor?"
Again Bruce gave me the look that said, "Woman, you're making a mountain out of a molehill."
Half an hour later, Bruce came out, handed some form to the receptionist, then smiled at me.
He said nothing.
I noticed that the funny little bumps on his forehead were all very red now.
We stepped out of the office. In man-speak --a totally unsatisfactory type of communication, as far as I'm concerned -- my husband told me that most of the spots on his body were just bumps that crop up as one ages. "It's hereditary."
As if that explained it all.
And in typical Bruce-fashion, that was all I was going to get out of him.
Unless I pressed him.
"So," I pressed, "what about that red spot?"
Bruce didn't look at me as he said, "It's a precancerous lesion. And I also had one on my ear, too."
My husband is a wonderful, kind, affectionate, charismatic man who thanks me for all the things I do for him and around the house.
But he's not ready to thank me for pointing out his little red spot. . . just yet.
I think it bothers him that he's not so invincible afterall.
We came home and he went right into the bathroom to stare at his face.
"I still don't see any red spot on my face."
I poked my head through the doorway, looked at him and chuckled. "of course you can't see it; you're color-blind." (He really is red/green color blind.)
But I'm not color-blind, and I love him very much.
So, even though it bothers him, I'm still going to bug him about seeing the doctor regularly, and mentioning anything that doesn't seem quite right.
The other day, Bruce thanked me for something. I can't remember what it was, but it wasn't the red spot thing.
I gave him a hug. "I'm about you, Babe."

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
if one falls down, his friend can help him up."(Ecc. 4:9 NIV Bible)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oscar Wilde's Biggest Mistake

Writer Oscar Wilde  once said:
"Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes."

This quote saddens me.
I wonder if Oscar Wilde ever regretted saying it.

I would say that the exact opposite is true:
Most people die, wishing they'd had more common sense so they wouldn't have made colossal mistakes throughout their lifetimes.

I sorely regret the stupid things I've chosen to say and do. And I haven't changed my mind about any of my mistakes.
I still regret them, terribly.
Mistakes hurt you and your loved ones.

Perhaps Oscar Wilde was a hardened individual who reveled in sin.
Perhaps he neither cared for others or himself.

Do you ever look back and wish you'd been more of a fool?

Here's another take on the subject, this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:
"I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe they both get paid in the end; but the fools first."

Does this square with you a little more?
Perhaps because we have an innate desire to be rewarded for good choices and actions.
And we'd like to see justice meted out to those who've done the opposite.

Stevenson's quote comes closer to the biblical view: God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.

I hope the following verses from the Bible have shaped your way of thinking.

Proverbs 14: 16: "A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hot-headed and reckless."
Proverbs: 14:22: "Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness."
Ephesians 6: 8: ". . . because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free."
Revelation 22:12: "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."

Perhaps Oscar Wilde's biggest mistake was his rebellion against God. If he remained a hater of God to the end of his days, that may have been the "mistake" he was referring to.

The biggest mistake anyone can make is rejecting Christ's offer of salvation.

I hope no one I love goes to his grave glad he made that mistake.

There is no greater tragedy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ten Reasons to Attend Church

The other day a woman posted on Facebook that she had had it with her local church. She intimated that she 'd had a falling out with her pastor. Her response was to chuck church altogether.
After all, she stated, only the Body of Christ (the universal church) is the true body.

I couldn't keep my mouth shut. I asked her to clarify how she distinguished the Body of Christ from the people who form the local body of Christ.

She said that the local church was man's idea of how to worship, therefore it was fraught with problems and hypocrisy.

I was very gentle in my response to this statement, but I reminded her that the local body of Christ was Christ's idea, not man's.  I mentioned that the Epistles were largely written to encourage various  local churches throughout Asia.

I hope you're not considering going it alone when it comes to being a believer and disciple of Christ.

But here are TEN GOOD REASONS to seek out and get involved in a local body of believers:
  1.  Jesus commanded us to "make disciples." Hard to do this all by yourself! (Matt. 28: 18-20)
  2.  The Holy Spirit (at Pentecost) met the believers as they assembled together. Then He indwelt them. (Acts 2)
  3.  The early church regularly met together to worship, pray, remember Jesus's death. (Acts 2:42)
  4.  The early church organized to serve the individual members. Acts Acts 6, Acts. 12:12, Acts 13:1-3, etc.)
  5.  Paul, Christ's chosen apostle to the gentiles (most of us) exhorted us "." (Let us not give up meeting together. . . "
  6. The Old Testament Priests and Prophets assumed that believers met together to worship God (Psalm 35: 18)
  7. People who get involved in church are generally healthier physically and emotionally.
  8. God has given us spiritual gifts in order to benefit others in the church.
  9. When you fall on hard times, the church is there to minister to you.
  10. The local body pools its resources to reach out to the community in service. 
 I could go on and on. There are tons of reason to stay involved in your local church. If you are one of the unfortunate believers who has had to leave a church due to a church-wide doctrinal dispute or other unmitigated problem, I urge you to find another local body of Believers.

Don't just go off into nature to worship Jesus. He is saddened when you refuse to unite with other Believers. You need others who love Jesus. And they need you.

"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 mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5 NIB Bible)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Life Without Prayer

I used to tell my kids, "I'm praying for you."
They also saw and heard me praying for them.
When they were little this short sentence, "I'm praying for you,"  gave them great comfort.
Later, when they became teens, "I'm praying for you," took on a whole new meaning.
One with an awesome kind of fear.
My oldest son, especially,  felt like this statement warned him to make good, God-fearing choices.
He'd seen the results of prayer in our family, and he knew that our God is real, powerful, and active.

Even though my parents were good people, they weren't people of faith.
I never heard, "I'm praying for you."
I often wonder if my childhood and teen years might have been different if my parents had prayed for me.
Maybe I would have felt more confident.
Maybe I wouldn't have felt so alone.

Remember the lyrics to the Beetles, Eleanor Rigby?
"All the lonely people, where do they all come from?"
That song used to make me so sad when I was a teenager.
I was one of those "lonely people."

Thank God I always had hope that my life would be better some day.
I knew just enough about God to know that, somehow, He was watching over me and that He wanted me.
I don't know how I knew that.
Maybe, in one of my brief visits to church or Vacation Bible School, some wise and Godly teacher decided to pray for me.
Maybe I was one of those names on a prayer list.
And some persevering prayer warrior kept lifting me up to my loving, compassionate Heavenly Father.
Until one day I responded to His gentle call and asked to become His.

I'm not saying that when you pray for people everything works out just like you prayed.
Sometimes, in spite of our prayers for our children, they still make wrong choices or run into difficult situations. Or a loved one gets sick and God doesn't heal him or her.
I know that.

But what would your life be like. . . your children's, your husband's, our schools, our governments, our churches. . . if no one prayed for you or for them?
Can you imagine life without communication to our Creator/Savior God?

It's the most desolate thing I can imagine.

Thank God there are people who pray for us.
Thank God that our Savior God listens and really cares for us.

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." (Col. 1:9-12 NIV Bible)