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 27, 2012

Your Reputation

While I was at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas, a number of us writers lined up to try to add on extra agent/editor appointments.
While we waited, a certain agent—a very capable, professional, well-known agent and a fine man—appeared from the hallway leading back to the rooms where we would do our appointments. He walked up to the appointment director and spoke with him.
The director turned to us hopefuls, waiting in line, and announced, "Mr. XXX has an available slot for an appointment right now. Anyone who'd like to meet with Mr. XXX, please speak up now!"
The agent raised his eyebrows and scanned us writers in the line.
Almost as one man, we all took a step backward and looked down at our feet.
Again the director said, "Last chance to meet with Mr. XXX.
Finally a little old lady stepped forward and croaked, "I'd like to take that appointment."
The rest of us took a collective breath.

I'm sure the agent was surprised by our reaction--or lack of one.
But he shouldn't have been.
He has a reputation.
A reputation for rejecting writers' pitches.
And if an appointment with this agent would mean forgoing one last conference appointment with some other, more receptive agent--well, you see where I'm going.

Do you have a reputation?
We probably all do.
I'm not famous...or notorious.
But I'm sure that I have a reputation.
It is reputed that I am an exacting teacher, that I expect a lot out of my music students, and that I will give my students "the lecture" when they come in for their lessons with the excuse, "I didn't have time to practice." The content of my lecture has gotten around, and now most of my students know that they'd better not give me the "not enough time to practice" line.

I don't mind that reputation.
But wouldn't it be awful to discover that you have a bad reputation?: you're never on time, you renege on commitments,  you cheat at games, you swear, you have a fearsome temper, you can't keep a secret.

My grand dad had a great reputation. He built his export/import business based on that. He was a man of integrity, hard work, dedication to his clients, scrupulous honesty. Clients were not afraid to sign a contract with his business.

As a believer in Christ my reputation is joined with His. My reputation reflects on Christ.
I hope I make Christ look good:
behind the wheel of my car,
at the grocery store,
at a writer's conference
in the classroom or office
playing or watching sports,
eating at my local restaurant.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord."
(Ephesians 5: 8 NIV Bible)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

God's Product

I just came back from attending the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas, Texas.
I had a wonderful time, soaking in the information provided in the classes, meeting new authors, talking to agents (who seemed interested enough in my latest manuscript to request a proposal!), and exchanging business cards.

Author Talk
 One of the topics that frequently come up as authors talk is the plot of our novels. We refer to the books as a "product."
Indeed it is.
A product.
An intellectual property.
It occurred to me that we think of our product as "ours."
Seems logical.
The plot, the characters, the theme, the concept, the scenes and dialogues all come from our minds.
So, yes, it's our product.
Then I thought, but I belong to God.
Not only am I His creation, but I have become His disciple, His bondservant.
That must mean that everything that I produce is not mine, but His.

Mine, Mine, Mine!
Many times we authors pray that God will help us find an agent, or publisher for "our" product.
But it's not ours. (If we are truly His).
It's His.
To do with whatever He determines, for whomever He wishes to read it, to accomplish what He decides.
He may never lead me to a publisher.
He may have already determined that the very exercise of writing this particular manuscript, and all the activities surrounding it: the praying, the lifting up the theme, submitting to God's leading, the talking about the manuscript, the research, the Bible study to assure myself that I am in alignment with His Word, the resting in Him as I wait for an answer from a publisher...all this is for the purpose of purifying me, making me more like the Master, growing me in faith, in hope, in trust, in obedience.
My product becomes God's way of shaping and molding me into the image He delights in.
More that my book...
I am God's product.

Are you God's product?

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV Bible)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

God Speaks to Those Who Listen

I was flipping channels a couple of nights ago, trying to get drowsy enough to actually fall asleep. (A hard thing to do for us insomniacs.)
Then I came across the James and Betty Robison show on one of the Christian channels.
James shared how he loves to get into God's Word and spend time in prayer, listening to God.
One day he was so overwhelmed by the wonderful things God was impressing on his heart as he prayed that he spontaneously said, "Lord, why do you tell me such wonderful things?"
Immediately afterward, he felt God impress an answer into his mind: "Because you love to listen to Me."
Wow. "Because you love to listen to Me."

When I heard James Robison share about his experience, it cut me. . . in a good way.
Because there are times when I don't want to listen to the Lord.
When I'm stewing in a problem and don't want to relinquish it just yet.
Even though God always has a better solution.

But eventually, I can't stay away.
I come back and enter His presence.
He always takes me back.
No harsh words.
No punishment.

Just "I'm so glad to see you, my child."

It occurred to me that when God told James Robison, "Because you love to listen to me," He was also communicating His delight in a servant who not only listens but who is ready to obey.

I think these words "You love to listen to Me," are going to become my mission statement for the coming year.
Do I love to listen to Him?
Am I always ready to obey?

"You are my portion. O Lord.
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart. . . " (Psalm 119:57, 58 NIV Bible)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movies Prove We Believe In God

There are some people who try to convince me that there is no God, that there is no meaning to anything, and everything is just an accident of nature.
No order.
No plan.
No meaning.
No God.

But these same people who argue this will also tell me about the latest action adventure movie or touching movie that they saw.
Why was it such a good movie? I'll ask.
Because, says my atheist friend, it looked like all was lost. Things went from bad to worse, and I felt so sorry for --insert name of hero or heroine.
Then, at last, the hero realized...
Or, the hero made a drastic decision, one which could either destroy him or save him.
And the hero made it out alive, or saved the day, or rescued the perishing, etc.

So many books and movies have this same plan: hero faces difficulties, difficulties nearly defeat him, difficulties make the hero take a drastic path or make some life-altering decision, for a time it looks as though the decision didn't work, then ultimate victory.

Have you noticed the same thing in your reading or movie viewing?
Why does this order work so well?
Why are we so satisfied when the hero finally overcomes? Think Rocky, The Karate Kid, Lord of the Rings, Snow White and the Huntsman.

We humans instinctively recognize and respond with feelings of security to order and meaning of all kinds.
Day follows night.
Summer follows winter.
A baby giggles and we laugh.
A child hurts himself and we want someone to comfort the child.
When bad things happen, we feel empathy for the sufferer and we expect good things to happen afterward to kind of even it out.
We expect fairness and justice.
When we see a movie or read a book in which the main character (with whom we've begun to identify) experiences suffering or challenges, we want that person to rise above it and be victorious.
We want what is fair or good or righteous to happen to the person we've identified with. (This character is, in reality, us.)

Why do we care?
Because God has put the stamp of His nature in us. We feel the God-given yearning for things to be made right. Bad must justly be turned to right.
As humans who suffer our own challenges, we want to experience the vicarious thrill of feeling the hero's angst. But as creatures made in God's image, we want to see justice.

How would we enjoy a movie where the hero experiences both good and bad things, never has to come to grips with any life-altering decision, and then the movie ends? No message, no meaning.
We'd feel cheated of our need to see the character endure, change, then win over his circumstance.

We humans naturally choose order over chaos.
We feel the need to assign meaning to both Suffering and our Blessing.
Even those who deny the existence of God naturally try to assign good or bad karma for the things that come into their lives.
And diehard atheists who try very hard not to assign meaning to life's occurences, slip into this natural mind-set.
When Jesus's disciples saw a man who had been born blind, they asked, "Master, who sinned, his parents or the man that he was born blind?"
The disciple's need to assign blame for the man's condition illustrates our natural human tendency to try to find order and meaning in events.
So when those who deny the existence of God try to argue that the universe was formed out of a chaotic combination of explosions and a remixing of elements with coincidental concocting into operational life forms...
I'll point them to their need to enjoy the order and meaning of a well-planned, well-scripted movie.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Daddy's Magic Nail

After my dad's interment, we all went back to my sister's house, sat around and tried to remember all the funny stories and jokes my dad used to tell at family gatherings.
All of us kids (well, we're years past being kids) remembered The Magic Nail story.
None of us could tell the story, now that he's gone.
It's not that we don't remember every detail of the story; it's that we can't tell it without getting all choked up.
There were two places in particular that I can remember Daddy telling us stories:
One was while sitting in the family car while Mother went into the store for a few groceries.
The other time was while watching Daddy in the kitchen as he concocted one of his wonderful Mulligan stews.
Being Norwegian, not Irish, Daddy preferred to call his stew "Magic Nail" soup.
I would sit on a chair  nearby while Daddy chopped up onions, potatoes, carrots and added it to a simmering beef stock. Then he would tell me the story of The Magic Nail. The mouth-watering aromas coming from his stockpot, and his story-telling would transport me into another world. Here is what he told me:

A wizened old beggar struggles through sleet and bluster on a frigid night. "My, my, if I don't get out of this storm, the cold will freeze my old bones, and the wolves will make a light meal a me."
At last he see's through the gloom the dim lights of a cottage on the edge of a small village. "Perhaps it is time to bring out my magic nail." The man adjusts his satchel and stumbles forward to knock at the door of the little house.
The door opens just a crack and the beggar sees just the tip of a long nose and the sad, wrinkled eyes of an old woman. "Eh? What do you want, old man?"
"Please, kind woman," the beggar says, "could you spare a spot by your fire? It's a cold, cold night, and the wolves are howling fierce tonight."
The old woman eyes the beggar suspiciously. "Do you have any money to pay for your lodging?"
The beggar shrugs. "Not a penny have I."
"Then," the old woman says, "I will not let you into my cottage. I'm a widow and I have nothing to share, especially not with a beggar. And no one else in this village will share their fire since famine has gripped our land. " She starts to close the door.
Desperate, the beggar thinks fast. He shoves his foot into the quickly diminishing space between the door and the jam. "Old woman, not so fast. I said I have not a penny. But I have with me," he pats his satchel, "a most magical nail."
"Eh? A nail, you say?" the door opens just a hairsbreadth more. "What's so magical about a nail?"
The beggar lifts the satchel and holds it protectively to his chest. "Ah, this nail in my satchel is like no other nail you have ever seen. With this nail, you can make a most marvelous soup. A soup so delicious and nutritious that your tongue will exult and your belly will be satisfied even during the most lean years."
The woman's eyes light up. "With just this nail I can make soup?"
"That's right," the beggar replies, nodding his head enthusiastically. "All kinds of soup: lentil, squash, vegetable or vegetable with beef, or beef barley or --"
"Oh," the old woman coos. She extends an emaciated arm. "Show me this nail. Then perhaps I will let you inside."
The beggar takes a step back. "Oh, no, Ma'am. This old man and his nail must never be parted. During these years of famine my nail has kept me alive when I should have starved otherwise."
The old woman licks her chapped lips. "I have not eaten a morsel since breakfast," she mutters. "And that was just a dry crust of bread and some thin gruel."
She opens the door. "Come in, come in, old man. Show me how you can make wonderful soup with just a little nail."
The beggar hurries inside, eager to be out of the wind and biting cold. "First, old woman, fill this pot on the fire with water."
"How much water? This much?" the woman dumps a little water into the pot.
The beggar stands with his hands on his hips. "My, my, no. This is a magic nail. You must fill it all the way to the brim with water."
The woman eagerly does as she is told.
"Now," the beggar says. "Here is my magic nail." He slowly reaches into his satchel, rummages around, then finds what he is looking for. He lifts the nail out and flashes it before the woman's eyes.
"Do you see how plain my nail is? Why, one would never guess that it has such powers. But just watch as I drop it into this pot of soup."
Plink. The nail drops down to the bottom of the pot.
"I will get the bowls ready," the old woman says as she reaches into a cupboard.
"Not so fast, old woman," says the beggar. "Let me taste the broth." He dips a spoon into the water and gives it a slow taste. "Hmm." He smacks his lips.
The woman clasps her hands. "Yes? Yes? Is is delicious soup yet?"
The beggar puts down the spoon. "Not quite ready. But what would make it even better would be a potato or two.
"Yes, I can see how a potato would make our magical soup even better." The woman scurries to open her cellar door. When she comes back up, she is holding an old potato, and  a dried sprig of rosemary. "Beggar man, do you think our magic soup could use this old root?"
"The beggar man leans over the pot and murmurs, "What do you think, my magic nail? Would you accept an old, dried up potato?"
He nods his head, then turns to the woman. My magic nail also says that any old carrots would help to make the soup even more delicious."
The old woman frowns with concern. "I don't have any carrots. This potato was the last thing in my cellar."
Then her face brightens. "But my daughter and her husband may have a carrot. and I'm sure I could borrow an onion from my son and his wife. They live just down the way."
The woman throws on her shawl, grabs her lantern and hurries off into the night.
When she returns with her borrowed vegetables, the beggar hears many voices behind her.
He smiles.
The woman opens the door wide to let in her daughter and husband, her son and his wife and their many children. Behind them, too,  are the hungry, hopeful faces of other neighbors, each carrying  some small item meant to be added to the magic soup.
"Welcome, welcome, friends." The beggar motions them all inside. "With my magic nail, we have more than enough to feed everyone on this cold, stormy evening."
They stoke the fire with wood. Light, laughter and full bellies dispel fear of the future.
As long as the village possessed the magic nail they need never concern themselves with famine and an empty pot.

(The Magic Nail, a variation of Stone Soup, by Thormod James Nicolaisen. Literary adaptation by Dena Netherton)

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Dad's Funeral

I'll be in California this next week to be at my dad's funeral.
Expect a new blog post on Monday, September 10th.
Thanks for reading my posts.
Love to you and yours,
Dena Netherton