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, January 31, 2013

Travel Light

Years ago, when I was about twelve years old, my mom and us five kids took a vacation in Yellowstone National Park.
While we were there, a young hippie type latched onto us.
I suppose he was lonely.
And hungry.
Since my dad hadn't come along on this trip, I suppose the young man thought my mom would be an easier target for mooching.
After a couple of days, my mom had had enough and told the hippie to go mooch off some other family. (She wasn't born yesterday!)

My sisters and I were sorry to see the guy go. He was really cute. Tall, blonde and lean.

I wonder where he went afterward.
He traveled light.
He certainly wasn't dressed for an upcoming winter.
I remember that he found an old burlap bag and cut holes in it so he could wear it as a shirt.
He seemed to have no money and no possessions.
What would that be like? To travel around the country with no money, hardly any clothes, depending on the kindness of strangers?

Now, it was clear that our young hippie did not have a mission. He had no important message for the people he met.
He wasn't trying to draw anyone in to any special revelation from God.
He wasn't surrounded by friends or supporters.
But he seemed intelligent enough, and not at all crazy.
I suppose he was just a young man who wanted to see Yellowstone who didn't have the funds to travel in style.

But what about Jesus, striding down the dusty roads of ancient Israel?
Certainly he had a purpose for his journeys.
Not to see a park, but to see people.
Not to freeload, but to travel unfettered.
Not to garner romantic attention from silly young girls, but to preach to souls.
Not to beg for food, but to feed.
Not to please Himself, but to save and heal.

Quite a difference, eh?

Jesus said of himself:
 "... report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. "

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Word for the Week (Jan. 30)

Here's the vocabulary word for the week of Jan. 30, 2013:

Cabal, noun
Pronounced kah-ball, emphasis on the second syllable

Definition: 1. secret intrigue 2. political clique

Can you use this word in a sentence? (I'll use the word in next Wednesday's blog.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's (Jan. 29th) Thought

"In times like these it is good to remember there have always been times like these."
Paul Harvey, (radio broadcaster)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ripple Effect

Last week some not-so-nice person hacked into my email. Suddenly all of my friends and associates started receiving messages that I didn't send.
Bruce and I immediately changed our password.
Then I left a facebook message informing my friends about our problem and not to open any messages from me that looked suspicious.
Next, I had to change to a new email address...and let all of my friends and writing associates know about the change.
Then, I had to switch all of my saved and old mail.
Then, I tried to switch my blog over to the new email address, but it did have any options where I could shut down the old one and simply change to a new address.

I know this is boring. It's boring to me, too.
And extremely frustrating.
And all because a selfish, probably mentally ill person decided that it would be fun to create a little trouble for someone he or she doesn't even know.

There is a ripple effect to sinful actions.
It rarely stops with just one malicious or mischievous action.
No, it spreads and touches not just the one who is initially harmed, but other innocent people, as well.

A thoughtless word
A vengeful action
A hate-filled acting out

My story is such a small example.
But it illustrates how one sinful act can trigger an entire series of equal and opposite actions to defend and protect the victim from further harm.
I had plans for a productive week.
But now my happy agenda has been put on hold so that I can spend hours putting to right the wrong that has been perpetrated by a stranger on the internet.

Sin has a ripple effect.
But I must remind myself that righteous acts also have a ripple effect.

A kind word
A forgiving attitude
A love-inspired act...

...can spread from the one who is initially blessed, and touch many other people.
Perhaps for eternity.

"The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward." (Proverbs 11:18 NIV Bible)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I'm the Biggest, Baddest

Yesterday, as I stood in my driveway waving goodbye to one of my music students and his mom, a big bull elk ambled onto our yard.
I recognized the massive beast right away because he frequently stands in the middle of our street and refuses to budge when cars need to get up or down the way.
He must be pretty old because he's got six points on his antlers and he bears scars from many battles from other bulls.
Unlike the deer, a bull elk is not afraid of people. Well, at least the elk that live around Estes Park.
As he made his way nearer, he swayed his antlers from side to side, kind of like a swagger.
As if to say, "I'm the biggest, baddest king of the hill you've ever seen...and I don't expect that you're gonna make trouble for me."
He lowered his massive head and mouthed the dry grasses in my yard.
I called Bruce to come look.
There was just something about this particular bull that commanded my respect and admiration.
As Bruce approached to take this photo, keeping a respectful distance, the bull ignored him.
After all, what threat does a six foot, 200 hundred pound man pose when you have antlers and weigh close to six or seven hundred pounds?
This bull elk knows that he is armed, that he can resist all comers.
Because he's fought many battles and come out the victor.
He has what it takes.

What a lesson for us.
Are we equally unafraid and unintimidated by our adversary, the Devil?
As Believers, do we know—deep down in our core— that we possess the power to fight and win?
When our enemy approaches, do we know that the power that resides in us—from God's Spirit—is more than capable to bring us through battle and present us before our Savior clean and victorious?
Or do we cower and forget that we are armed and ready because of what Christ has done on the cross?

Our Choice

As Christians, Christ has empowered us to choose to be strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10)
(It is possible for Christians to live weak, fruitless, fearful lives because they choose to rely only on their own human power.)
  • We must consciously choose to walk with Jesus, 
  • to live according to His example,
  •  to submit to His will,
  •  to put aside our selfish desires and live for Him, 
  • to learn to recognize the tactics of the devil and to be ready with the Word, the Sword of the Spirit, and to pray according to God's will.

Then we are unafraid—like the big bull elk— because we have been armed with God's spiritual defenses.

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the Devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11 NIV Bible)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Word for the Week

Your word for the week:
Babel (pronounced: baybel)
Definition:1.  confused noise, especially of voices 2. noisy assembly 3. scene of confusion

Note how this word is not to be confused with Babble, which is defined as chattering incessantly or talking incoherently.

We get babel from the infamous Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) where God came down and confused the people by having them suddenly begin to speak in different tongues.

Example: Hundreds of impassioned residents packed the town hall, each clamoring to be heard above the babel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday's Thought

"The two important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why."
Mark Twain

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How We Get Good Judgment

When Bruce and I were first married, his parents gave us a used car as a wedding present.
We lived in Illinois at the time.
Bruce already owned the '67 Dodge Coronet. We called that one "the snowmobile" because it had such a powerful engine that it could literally plow through huge Midwestern snow drifts.
This second used car had once been a company car for Commonwealth Edison, the electric company.

I used it to get to my job, twelve miles down the road where I worked as a secretary.
Being a California girl, I hadn't had any experience driving in Illinois winters.
But I was pretty confident that when you hit a patch of snow or ice you should stomp on the brakes and wildly turn the wheel away from the thing you're careening toward.
So one day, as I drove down a stretch of icy country asphalt, I spied up ahead some sort of work vehicle parked along the side of the road. 
I vigorously applied the brakes and—you guessed it—began to slide to the right, directly toward the truck.
Well, wouldn't you twist the wheel to the left as hard and fast as you could?
Isn't it a curious phenomenon how times like these make your mind speed up? I recalled the entire driver's education lecture I heard back in high school about how to handle a car when it gets into a skid.
(This was before anti-lock brakes.)

  1. First you were supposed to not panic. 
  2. Then, you were supposed to gently and quickly pump the brakes 
  3. while turning the wheel in the direction of the skid until the tires once more gained traction and you could safely steer out of danger.

So, I did all these things.
Didn't panic. Pumped. Steered...

..after I'd already slid into the work truck.

Incidentally, the work truck was a Commonwealth Edison vehicle.
That truck was like a HumVe. Not a scratch, not a dent or ding.
But along the right side of my little used car was a scratch the length of Long Island.

The moral of the story:
Prepare for a crisis by practicing the crisis.

The next time I encountered icy roads, you'd better believe I was already prepared to: remain calm, gently tap the brakes, steer toward the skid.

 So, whether you're fresh out of Seminary, or Med School, or you're thinking about becoming the first perfect don't know nothin' until you apply what you've learned in the real world.

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." Barry LePatner

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lost In Translation

When my three kids were little I had an older friend, Marian, whose own children were nearly grown.
One day we were talking about the challenges of rearing children and how we dealt with their frequent squabbles over toys, personal space, chores, etc.

She said that one day one of her daughters—Cathy—came upstairs to complain that littler sister, Karen was making too much noise. Cathy couldn't concentrate on her school project.
Marian instructed Cathy to go back downstairs and tell Karen that Mom wanted her to be a little more quiet while Cathy worked.
So Cathy stomped downstairs and loudly ordered Karen, "Mommy says to shut up!"

Somehow, Marian's gentle words had been lost in the translation from her lips to Cathy's mouth.

I laughed so hard at Marian's story because I can remember skads of times when I was a kid with four siblings. We'd done the same thing when we tried to translate our parent's instructions to one of our sisters or brothers.

As adults I think we have a tendency to change our Heavenly Father's words just a bit so that our own frustrations and emotions come through:
  • Take scripture out of context,
  • Add our own comments or interpretations as if they were equal in authority to God's Word,
  • Use just a bit more emphasis on a word that is not emphasized in the text,
  • Use scripture like a sledgehammer when silence would be more appropriate.
It's not that we don't know what the Bible says.
But we have our own agenda.
Just like Cathy, we'd like to make God's Word fit our present circumstances.
We'd like God's Word to justify our actions and attitudes.

Cathy grew up to become a young woman of grace and sweetness.
But as a child, her lack of maturity showed when she tried to twist her mother's words to serve her own anger, and desire to dominate her younger sister.

Let Cathy's story be a reminder to me to accurately translate God's wise, holy and grace-filled Words.
So that I accomplish His will and not my own.

"Every word of God is flawless;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words,
or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar." (Proverbs 30:6 NIV Bible)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Word For The Day

Word for January 16, 2013:
Abeyance (noun)
Definition: a state of temporary disuse.
Something that is set aside, shelved or postponed.

Can you correctly use this word in a sentence?
Oh yeah? Prove it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thought for Jan.15, 2013

"You never know how a horse will pull until you hook him to a heavy load."
Bear Bryant, football coach

Monday, January 14, 2013

Illicit Cookies Attract Mice!

My son, Garrett, has been sneaking Oreo cookies into my husband's office downstairs.
He does this out of affection for his dad, and out of pity because I won't allow anything "bad" in my house.
You know, cookies, candy, ice cream—well, that one, occasionally—chips, sugary sodas.
Usually Bruce discovers his treat the morning after Garrett and family have been up for dinner.
It's usually the small package. Enough to share with a friend.

Garrett knows I'm the sugar gestapo-woman.
If I find any sugar contraband anywhere inside my walls, it goes out. OUT!
I've told him, "Garrett, you're really not doing your dad any favors by sneaking him these treats."
Then Bruce shoots me one of those sad puppy-dog looks, intended to make me soften.
It doesn't.

"Nein!" I growl. "Ve haf no bad tings in zis house!"

So, after Christmas Bruce went down to his office to do a little bit of work. And discovered a big package of Oreos.
Oh boy, oh boy. A whole package.
A couple of days later he noticed that some of the cookies seemed to have broken.
Strange. He hadn't taken the bag out, or bumped or jostled the cookies.
They fit neatly, undisturbed by any other hands but Bruce's, inside his desk.
He'd eaten a couple of the broken cookies before discovering the neat little whole in the side of the package.
Uh oh. Wonder what made that hole.
Bruce came upstairs and confessed about the cookies, knowing I'd have a better handle on just what is attacking his cookies.
I was tempted to lecture him on the evils of Oreos, but I kept my mouth shut about that.
First we had to determine what kind of creature was helping itself to his treats.
Bruce thought is might be bugs.

"Bugs?" I laughed incredulously. "You think bugs chewed a nice, neat little hole in your Oreo package? Hah!"
I folded my arms over my chest and declared, "We've got a mouse, tempted into our house because of your sweet indiscretions!"
Okay, I know that's a bit of hyperbole.

"And," Bruce said, "it also chewed bits of paper and some Kleenex."
"Great," I groaned. "The critter has a ready stash of sweet stuff and now it's collecting paper and tissue so it can set up house nearby. Get out the traps!"

Moral of the story:
There are natural laws that God has put in place.
Society may turn a blind eye to your actions.
The Law may not catch you at secret law-breaking,
But the natural consequences of unwise actions will get you!

Drive recklessly? Get in an accident.
Smoke two packs of cigarettes every day for twenty years? Maybe get lung cancer.
Eat too much and sit around all day? Heart disease, diabetes, fat body.
Treat people around you with rudeness and inconsideration? People avoid you.
Ignore God and worship only yourself? Broken relationships, unhealthy attitudes, sick soul.

I know Bruce's Oreo illustration is a silly one, but it still fits the law of natural consequences, don't you think?
And wouldn't you rather read a cute story than a tragic one if it gets the point across?

I think I want to re-phrase the moral of this story:
"Illicit cookies attract mice. "

Now the next time I'm tempted to drive over the speed limit, I can tell myself, "Illicit cookies attract mice."
The next time I'm thinking of giving someone a piece of my mind, I'll remind myself, "Illicit cookies attract mice."
The next time...oh, you get the picture.

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7 NIV Bible)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

He Did What? And What Did You Do?

When I was teaching in the public schools, I got to know a very skillful and dedicated special education teacher.
I admired the way he managed his classrooms.
One afternoon, after a frustrating morning of trying to get kids to behave I asked him what he does when kids have spats in the classroom.
He said, "I always separate the kids and ask each one, "What happened?"
Then my next question is "What did you do?"
The kids will always try to point the blame at the other kid or kids, but I always bring them back to "What happened, and what did you do?"

I loved his advice and I started to implement it right away. Each time one of my students had a disagreement that ended in choice words being shouted or some shoving, I'd meet with the offenders, one at a time and ask them,
"Johnny, what happened? What did you do?"

Invariably, Johnny would say, "Well, Tommy (or Susie) said xxxxxxxxx."
And then I'd say, "We're not talking about what Tommy (or Susie said). Right now I'm asking you what you did?

Eventually Johnny would come to see that, even though Tommy or Susie was at fault (in his mind), he had made the problem worse by shouting back or shoving back.

I used this technique with my own children when they were pretty young. One of them would come to me with, "Kiri threw a toy at me!"
Me: "What did you do before Kiri threw the toy at you?"
Boy: "I walked into her room."
Me: "Why did you go into her room?"
Boy: "Because she's giggling and I told her to stop!"
Me: "Did Kiri invite you into her room?"
Boy: "No, but she was giggling."
Me: "So you're telling me you went into her room without her permission?"
Boy: "But...
Me: "I will deal with Kiri and her toy-throwing right away. In the meantime, it's okay for Kiri to giggle. Furthermore, you don't go into Kiri's room unless she says it's okay."

Of course, sometimes it was the girl who was the main offender. But the conversation almost always went the same way:
 Kid:"He did such and such!"
Me or Bruce:  "And what did you do?"

For any of you who remember the old Dick Van Dyke comedy show:
Rob and Lora Petrie have a big spat. Lora runs to Millie, her best friend, and Rob talks about the spat the next day at work with his associates.
Each presents a very emotional, persuasive story illustrating his or her perfect innocence in the fight. Later, a goldfish, who had witnessed the domestic spat in his bowl in the Petrie's living room gives the unvarnished account. Pretty funny.
 Of course, eventually Rob and Lora make up, realizing that they've both exaggerated each other's fault.

I sure wish adults would counsel themselves when they get into arguments or spats with their spouses or associates at church or work.
What happened?
What did you do?

Of course, there are times when we are innocent victims of someone else's capricious or malicious nature.
But in most cases, we should ask ourselves, "In this conflict with XXX, what have I done that may have caused or influenced it, or how have I reacted that escalated the tension between me and XXX?

The Lord has convicted me many times when I have complained in my heart about someone else's actions. Many times He has quietly impressed on my heart: "I'm patient with you when you do or say something that displeases me. Shouldn't you be patient with XXX?"

How did you solve conflicts with your kids or help mediate at church or at work?

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Pet. 3:8, 9 NIV Bible)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Your Office=You

Recently I sat in my doctor's examining room. Besides the usual medical illustrations: the musculo-skeletal system, the heart, the spine and its pathway of nerves, he's got a hodge-podge of photos and posters with rather nebulous sayings.
Most of the time, I can glean something about the professional from the what he/she chooses to put up on the walls.
This one, I can't.
Except that perhaps he's trying very hard not to offend anyone by putting up anything that could be construed as religious, philosophical or political opinion.
That room tells me nothing about my doctor, his personality, his interests, his values.
I wish he would nail some telling art work or philosophical phrases on his walls.
Something to tell me more about the man who I trust to probe, scan, manipulate, thump, or inject.

I thought about my own office.
What would a stranger construct in his mind about me from the objects scattered about the room?
Would the artwork that I chose for my walls lend me credibility as a writer and musician?
What does my private office say about me?
What I value?
What I give my time and attention to?
What I believe?

The picture that I've posted for today is my office, or part of it.
My husband framed the first article I ever got published, for a Christian publication. That hangs just to the left of the computer screen.

The lovely wreath was made by my clever daughter-in-law, Danielle. It's made up of rosettes formed from the pages of several literary classics.

Next to the wreath is a framed print (a gift from my other son and daughter-in-law) of a grand piano with a cello resting against the piano bench. At the bottom of the print are beautiful words about singing psalms and making music, from the book of Colossians.

My piano keyboard awaits any time an original tune pops into my head. Manuscript paper sits on the music stand in case I want to notate my new music.
On the keyboard bench is my Bible. 

Next to my keyboard rests my classical guitar. I've been teaching myself to play and, after twenty years, am finally proficient.

And then there's the book shelf. 

You can't see the other half of my office. It consists of the computer printer atop a file cabinet, another bookshelf under the picture window that looks out on Twin Sisters Peaks, then my wing-back chair and lamp, and the closet.

I had the walls painted a restful, organic, pale golden brown.


I feel about my office the way I suppose Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins felt about Bag End, their cozy little hobbit hole in the Hobbiton of the Shire.
My office is a place of beauty, comfort, and creative energy.

Do you have a special place?
Have you decorated it to reflect you?
What's in your special room?
Tell me about it.

"Let the Word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom,
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Col. 3:16 NIV Bible)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Ties that Bind

The day that my grandmother passed away, Bruce and I had been desperately trying to travel from Illinois back to California to stand by her hospital bedside for a last goodbye.
We didn't make it.
She had died a couple of hours before our plane landed.
My father picked us up at the San Francisco airport and we proceeded directly to her lovely home in the city.
I don't remember why we went there. But as soon as we entered her home, I noticed right away that the energy within the place had changed. Without my grandmother's presence, the walls, the furniture, the decorations just didn't seem the same.
I went right upstairs to my grandmother's bathroom, opened her cabinet and took out her bottle of Youth Dew. I slipped the small bottle into my purse.
No one but I would have appreciated that perfume. Most likely, one of the family members would have thrown it into the garbage.
But Grandmommy and I shared a love for scent—in particular, all things Este Lauder.
And Youth Dew had been her favorite.
Youth Dew and sewing.
She'd taught me how to sew.
We used to go down to the Emporium and shop for fabric, a pattern, and notions.
Then we'd go back home and she'd show me how to lay out the fabric and the pattern and cut out the pieces.
Even as she moved from the work table to  the sewing machine, my nostrils would catch the subtle scent of her perfume.
Unlike my father, who lived to tell his stories, my grandmother was very much an in-the-moment kind of woman. She rarely reminisced. Maybe she thought I was too young.
Anyway, I'd hear the muted sounds of cars on San Pablo Drive, sniff the remnants of her Kent cigarette, burning down to the stub in the nearby ashtray, and feel a wonderful sense of rightness about spending the whole weekend away from the chaos of home,  and insignificance of being the last-born in a family of brilliant siblings.
Such happy memories. Just Grandmommy and I, sewing.
The sound of her voice, instructing, the whir of the sewing machine, and Youth Dew.

I kept that bottle of Youth Dew for several years.
It stayed fresh mostly because I only opened it and used a drop for special occasions.
But of course, each time I did, images of my grandmother rose in my mind.

It's too bad I can't transfer those memories and the emotions engendered by them to my children.
To them, she will only be a name, Frances Reed, and a function: grandmother.

The Youth Dew is long gone.
But that's okay.
I no longer need it.
Just thinking about Grandmommy now brings up her scent.
And with it, those memories that bind us together.