Friday, November 30, 2012

The Angels Sing

The ski mountain was deserted. Asherel and I had the whole mountain all to ourselves, with just a handful of people. It was peaceful, and quiet. It took us a few runs to remember how to ski, but like so many skills in life, the memory never quite fades away. And when I stood on top of the mountain, looking down, I could hear the angels sing.

While on the mountain, I got a text from my 93 year old friend's daughter, Angie. She told me her mom, Evelyn, had passed away that morning. Meanwhile Comer had been in such intractable pain that she had moved him to a hospice center, with the hopes of better controlling the pain. When she gently broke the news to him, he thought she was making a bad joke, went back to sleep, and slept the whole day. My heart is heavy, and I cannot bear to witness the grief I know he will have to endure when he awakens.

On the car rides I used to take Comer and Evelyn on, even in the throes of Alzheimers, she used to sing. She could not speak or string two coherent words together in conversation, but she would remember every word of every song from the 30's to 60's or so. She and I would belt out song after song, while Comer grinned, holding her hand.
"Well now," he would say, "That's a might fine concert."

Maybe when I stood atop the mountain feeling I heard angels singing, it was Evelyn, freed from the struggles that had so overwhelmed her, touching my heart with her music one last time for my mortal ears to hear.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. Psalm 104:33

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Lovely Place to Reboot

I got up early, as I usually do. The parakeet, Tallin, is usually asleep. He is never a very social parakeet, and never seems to want our company. When I used to try to pet him, he would peck me. Even when I refill his food, he lunges at me with pecking motions. When I say good morning, he trembles and pops open his eyes. But this morning, while I was padding about making coffee, he was raising a ruckus, chirping up a storm. I had the feeling he was trying to tell me something. Then I noticed his water bottle, which I had refilled recently, was bone dry. It must have a leak. I refilled his water, and he stopped screeching. Funny how I knew the bird was talking to me.

The mountains are talking to me too. Our favorite ski mountain, Sugar, is open with a nice base of snow (mostly man-made, but some natural) and one good run open from the summit to the base. We have our own equipment, and mid-week half day lift tickets are affordable. Asherel worked hard to double up on her school so she could get the day off. Her Destination Imagination team that I manage even accomplished all that they had hoped to accomplish in their extended meeting yesterday. The snow was calling. My spirit has felt a little bone dry lately. I think it has a leak. I think perhaps skiing would help refill it.

That won't be a permanent solution. Snow cannot refill a spirit. But it can sometimes give a break from the worries and woes that wear one down. When my phone or iPad start acting funny, not working the way they should, I power them down, and then turn them back on. That usually solves the problem. The technicians tell me that it is like "rebooting" a computer. Even machines need a break now and then.

So I am going to the mountain with my daughter. We need a "reboot", a new perspective, even a bit of danger. I hope I haven't lost the skill I had last year that allowed me to go to the top of the mountain. Looking out over the whole world from that vantage point, with the gorgeous valley open before me and the endless rows of mountains on the horizon, I never fail to sense the overwhelming presence of God, who created it all. Unlike snow, God CAN refill a leaky spirit permanently. I don't HAVE to go to the mountain to find Him, but it is a lovely place for us to have a chat.

2 Samuel 17:29 (NIV)
.... “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness. ”

Psalm 107:8-9,43 (NIV)
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, [9] for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. [43] Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Curse and A Blessing

I frequently check my book reviews that I receive on-line. My first book, I'm Listening With a Broken Ear, has over 100 reviews and all but a very few are 5 star, so I was shocked to see a 1 star review. 1 star! I was shattered. Steeling myself, I read the review. It was glowing. It praised the book, the message, and our work with Honeybun. I realized the 1 star rating was a mistake. She clearly didn't mean to give me 1 star...but there it was, an indelible blot on my record, lowering my rating. A destructive mistake.

I had finished collating, typing, and editing my 93 year old friend, Comer's, poems. Then I had taken this new collection of 120 or so poems, that he wrote in about a month, and I compiled and sent them to the Publisher. The proof arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. Just in time. Comer is doing very poorly- now on double pain killers for inexplicable, unbearable pain in his hip. His wife Evelyn, one floor below in the Alzheimer Unit, can no longer swallow and is bed ridden. The drumbeat grows faster and louder for both of them.

When I tiptoed into his room at the nursing home, he was asleep. I know visits mean the world to him, so I called his name. He opened his eyes.
"Sorry to wake you," I said, "But I didn't want to leave without you knowing I'd been here." (The cry of every human heart...)
"Oh I never sleep," he said.
I handed him the Poetry book.
He smiled broadly, and ran his finger down the shiny, sleek cover.
"Isn't this beautiful? Well now this makes me very happy."
He quickly opened it up.
"I'm going to read this right now."
"Well then I will leave you to it. If you find mistakes, call me. This is just the proof. I can still edit changes."
As I left, he was engrossed in his book, a smile on his wrinkled face.

A curse and a blessing, all in one day, both involving books.

A friend wrote to me and told me that her husband broke his shoulder. In the process of xrays and diagnosing him, the doctor found a stage 2 cancer in his lungs. Had the man not broken his shoulder, the cancer would have gone undetected. Now, hopefully, it was caught in time to be treated and cured. Who would have imagined praising God for a broken shoulder? Sometimes what looks like a curse is really a blessing.

I don't know how the 1 star rating will end up being anything other than a curse, but I have learned that God is always present, always working, and always surprising. Nothing happens that He doesn't permit, and "all things work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) I think the most important lesson to remember from my day of curse and blessing was to thank God for all of it. You never know when being broken may lead you to the root of a problem that must, and can be healed.

Romans 8:31 (NIV)
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Broken Heart

You just never know about a person until you spend time talking with them. There was someone I didn't know well, but I had heard she was not attentive to her aging parents, spoiled, and cold. I didn't know her well enough to form an opinion, but I supposed she seemed like I had heard her described. I found myself disliking her for little reason other than the rumors. But then yesterday, our paths unexpectedly crossed, and we started chatting. I had just finished visiting my mother-in-law at the nursing home, and ran into the woman shortly afterwards. She shared personal parts of her life, her upbringing, which I had never known, and would never have suspected. Not only did I find myself completely understanding the way she had acted in response to a difficult and, in some ways, tragic childhood, but I found myself amazed that she had managed to survive intact, and become a good parent, and a forgiving daughter. By the time I walked away, my dislike and misunderstanding had completely transformed to admiration. I realized that once again, God had maneuvered a divine appointment into my mundane life to teach me a much needed lesson.

She was struggling with aging parents who were in pain, and dying. She said she never wanted to do that to her own children.
"I may rot in hell, but I may decide to just end it all with a handful of pills rather than put my children through this," she said.
"Yes, I understand why you feel that way," I said, "But you know, caring for my failing mother-in-law is the only thing I do that is completely unselfish. I get no benefit, and yet, when I leave, it is when I feel best about myself."
My new friend nodded, "I never really thought of it that way...but that is true. Through all of this awful stuff, I have seen my father come to God. And watching him in all this struggle has made me able to forgive him. In fact, it has increased my faith. I have changed through this experience. You are right."

We parted ways, and I hoped that she felt as blessed by our "chance" encounter as I did. You never know what road a fellow traveler has walked. It is so much better to offer a steadying hand, than to push her into the gutter, or even worse, pass her by as though she were of no consequence.

Psalm 51:10-12,16-17 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. [11] Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. [12] Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [16] You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. [17] My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

-save a dog-

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just What Our Village Needed

Every year Asherel and I go hunting for a clear ornament for our elegant Christmas tree. We try to find unusual ones, that most people don't have. It is not easy, but it is always fun going to various Christmas stores, searching for just the right ornament. Our other tradition is that Asherel, with her incredible artistic skills, arranges my little "Christmas village". We have collected little village pieces over the years, but now the narrow shelf our village goes on is full, so we only pick up little figurines if we find something irresistible. I just have a cheap knock-off village, not those collector villages where each piece can be hundreds of dollars. Usually we use cotton for snow in our village, but this year I bought real fake snow to sprinkle on our little villagers.

Yesterday was our day out to find our Christmas ornament. There are plenty of adorable colorful ornaments, but very few clear ones. Last year, we rejoiced to find a squirrel ornament. We both knew as soon as we saw it that it was the one. This year, we went to both Black Lion, and KMart, and no luck. At Peppermint Forest we found a bird that didn't knock our socks off, but we both liked it well enough, so decided it would be this year's choice. And then we wandered to the little village set-ups.
"Oh I love this!" I said, picking up a village horse.
"We could use a horse," said Asherel.
Then I flipped it over and gasped. The little fake horse cost more than our entire Christmas tree. I could build a REAL village for the cost of that little horse.
"You can get them on e-bay," whispered a fellow shopper conspiratorially.
Then Asherel sighted a package of 4 small pink flamingos.
"OH, let's get these!" she cried, "Wouldn't they look great in our village?"
A man glanced over and shook his head, "Pink flamingos in your Christmas village? No, that just isn't right."
I laughed, and checked the price. I guess the pink flamingos weren't designer flamingos because they were priced reasonably.
"Pleeeease," begged Asherel.
Since she is my village builder, I felt she ought to have a say in what went in our village. So we left the store with our chrystal bird and 4 pink flamingos.

Asherel and I built our village together when we got home. I placed everything on our little display shelf, and left the artistic arranging to her. She carefully placed the 4 flamingos. One was near the ice pond with the little skaters, one was crossing a bridge over a river, one was by a village home, and the last one, my favorite, was in a circle of Christmas carolers. He stood there as though he belonged, as every Christmas village should have a population of flamingos, as though bright pink in all the reds, and greens, and snowy whites were just the proper accent. They stood happily in the village, and I smiled at their long spindly legs, and realized they were exactly what our village had needed.

Earlier that day, we had dropped a painting off that I am donating to a fundraiser for a young man with no legs. Joey was a Romanian orphan, till his future Mom found him, and knew he was the son she was meant to have. She brought him home, got him the operations he needed and two prosthetic legs. Asherel and I met Joey three years ago in a homeschool class. He was then, as he is now, a delightful, engaging, and optimistic happy young man. But now, as an older teen, he has outgrown his prosthetic legs. He is too tall for them, and is falling frequently. He needs new legs, but insurance won't pay for what he needs. The legs cost $125,000. I reconnected with Joey when I saw posts on Facebook about him sitting outside local Walmarts selling donuts to raise money for his legs. By the time I saw him yesterday, he had raised $25,000 selling donuts. So, a friend of the family is organizing a fund-raising auction. I saw that on Facebook, as well. The gallery where my artwork had been just closed, and I had many paintings in my attic. I knew there was a special place for them, but I didn't know where that would be, at first. When I read Joey's story, I knew.

We pulled up to the church where we met Joey and his Mom to hand off the painting. Joey was, as I had remembered him, smiling and laughing and greeting friends exuberantly as he walked towards us. He always wears shorts, and his legs are not the fake flesh looking kind. They are clearly metal, mechanical legs, long and spindly, and even I could see, too short for his tall physique. I wondered why he wore shorts. Did pants interfere with the legs mechanisms? Or was he perhaps just proud of them, of how far he had come from an abandoned orphan in Romania with legs that didn't work, to the people that realized Joey was exactly what our village needed?

Joey is not discouraged that he has so much money yet to raise. He realized that by selling donuts, he met hundreds of people, was able to share his faith and trust in God and His goodness with an audience he might otherwise never have reached.

If you would like to contribute to, or attend the fundraiser in Charlotte, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Joey's mom.

Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This year, all year long, whenever I saw something I thought someone on my Christmas list would like, I bought it. So now, with a month to go till Christmas, every gift is purchased. There will not be any major end of year slam on our VISA, which is an incredible blessing. Today, I spent the morning wrapping the gifts, with varying pretty paper, but all tied with a silver sparkly ribbon to bring a cohesive look to the whole ensemble. Since I have no little children whom I need to surprise with a treeful of gifts miraculously appearing Christmas morning, I put all the wrapped gifts under the tree right away. I decorated the tree yesterday, so now it was complete. Then I sat down with a cup of tea, turned on the Christmas lights, and sighed happily. Let the festivities begin.

Of course, I do still have to make my Christmas cards, and bake cookies, but the most stressful part of the holiday is now done. I have a whole month to just relax and enjoy it, and remember the wonderful reason for the season. I know some people might consider me neurotic, and I am...However, we ARE told again and again in the Bible to be ready, to be prepared, to not let the Master find us sleeping when we should be working. Those verses are right in my wheelhouse. Since so much of the Bible convicts me of how miserably I fall short, I am going to take a breather from self-flagellation and sit in front of my tree, and praise God for the blessing of being ready.

Of course, the readiness of the Bible is one of being ready for the coming of The Lord. He will come again, and woe to those of us caught unawares, living a life and an attitude we know we should discard. At the moment He appears, we will either be found in eager anticipation or dread of His arrival. Here is a pop quiz to help you know which camp you are in:
1. If you eagerly await His arrival, you are probably ready
2. If you still need a few more days, you are probably not.

I sit in front of my beautiful Christmas tree, in anticipation of the celebration of His first coming. May I be equally prepared when He comes to claim the Kingdom He asked us to transform in His absence, especially the one part of it I have control

Ephesians 6:15 (NIV)
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 (NIV)
encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Many Ways to Trim a Tree

After three hours, my house was transformed. Welcome Christmas! I set up two trees. The front room tree is the elegant one, inspired by my mom. In fact, since she only puts out a little fiberglass tree nowadays, she gave me all her tree trimmings a few years ago. I added them to my growing collection. The front room tree is decked out entirely in clear or white ornaments, with glass icicles and white lace draped over the branches. Each year, Asherel and I go out and buy one new crystal ornament for the elegant tree. Sometimes it takes all day to find the one we both agree upon. It is a tradition I cherish. The tree is very lovely, as it was in my parents' home. One might even think, upon entering my house and seeing the elegant tree, that I possess good taste.

Next, we travel to the back room, where I have another tree. It has a completely different flavor. That one is covered with homemade decorations from my children's early years, as well as decorations my father gave me my first Christmas out on my own. Some of those are chipped in places. After all, they are now over thirty years old. That tree is bright and happy, with a touch of nostalgia. No one would mistake me for possessing good taste, but they would know I cherish my children and my own parents. Decorations from friends and other family members also adorn that tree. It is a hodgepodge of loving contributions that reminds me of family.

I wish I could put a tree in every room, one for every mood and every facet of my family's personalities. It would remind me that we are made up of many parts, all different, all valid, all contributing in some way to the entity family. Sometimes I forget that. It is as though I think there is only one way to trim a tree.

1 Corinthians 12:13-20 (NIV)
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body---whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free---and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. [14] Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. [15] Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. [16] And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. [17] If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? [18] But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. [19] If they were all one part, where would the body be? [20] As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for a Huge Thanksgiving Crowd

I don't know about you, but I have a lot to be thankful for. So much so, that I had Asherel take a picture of me in a thankful pose so that I could use it as a reference for my drawing today. And when I looked at the picture, I grimaced and asked her, "Do I REALLY look like that?" She nodded sympathetically. (Well, ok, "sympathetically" might not be as accurate a term to describe her expression as "mocking" .) Nonetheless, among other things, I am thanking God for art, that allows me to paint the world as I want it to be, not necessarily as it is.

We had just Mom K, Arvo, Asherel and me as Thanksgiving Dinner guests. I invited a friend I knew would be alone, but she had already accepted an invitation elsewhere. I wanted to invite everyone from the Nursing Home that had no place to go, but we thought if we do that, we probably ought to plan ahead next time, get a staff member to come along too... Still, it was a very nice, albeit small celebration. I made the usual feast, of which maybe 1% was eaten. The rest will feed us for the next 5 months. I am happy about that because today officially starts the Xmas season, and I won't have time to cook. I always set the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, start wrapping gifts I have collected over the year, make xmas cards and daydream about both boys being home breathing the very air I breathe. Who has time to cook in the midst of all that?

But back to Thanksgiving. We made a fire, despite a very warm and pleasant day outside, and then Arvo retrieved Mom K from the Nursing Home. We settled her in a recliner in front of the fire, and brought her hot cider. While I cooked, the dogs, Arvo, and Mom K snoozed in front of the fire. Then we feasted, after reading Psalm 100. And then we played Rummicube, and Mom K almost won. I won't tell you who did win since I am practicing humility.

As Mom K was exhausted by that time, she asked if we would return her home now.
"Thank you for inviting us," she said. I smiled, and told her I hoped "they" would come again. Of course, by "us", I wasn't sure if she meant her long dead husband, or some other ghost of a person that was in her heart. After she left, I thought about that. It is good to remember that wherever we go, we really are not alone. We really are always "us". There are angels surrounding us, and Jesus Himself is within every believer. I suppose it *seemed* like it was just a small gathering, but in reality, the legions of Heaven itself were crowded around us, and always are. That is something to truly be thankful for.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, 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, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Seeing Glory

I get a daily text from the Moravians which is always short and simple, and always leaves me convicted of some message from God. Today's verse was from Exodus 33, when Moses asks God, "Show me your glory." I thought about that verse and its circumstances. Moses has been asked by God to lead the Israelites through the desert, on their journey to the Promised Land. Moses is willing, but still has a concern. How can he lead these people on the word of a God he does not fully know? He understands something that I think I fail daily to grasp. It is not on *my* glory that anyone will follow any of my excellent guidance or advice, nor is it on *my* glory that satisfaction ever rests. That rests on God's glory alone. Yet how often am I eager for adulation and validation that I am doing a *good job*? How often do I worry that my life is not happy enough, not going the right way, too fraught with problems, and sadness, and disappointment? How often have I not done what God asked me to do, and stepped forth in His glory, rather than my own? And how incredibly ungrateful I have been for the manifold blessings I have, seeing every sunrise, looking upon a world He has molded, surrounded by the very people He longs for me to touch...and I draw back. I think true gratitude, true Thanksgiving, cannot ever evolve from selfish pursuits. I think it always involves seeing the glory of God for what it is, the light that properly and perfectly illuminates everything we have been given.

Yesterday, I spent the day visiting nursing homes. First I went to Comer, who is not doing well. His hip is inexplicably covered with bruises and he is in great pain. He also has increasingly stopped-up ears, so even with my shouting at the top of my lungs, he struggled to hear me. His normally cheerful outlook is being sorely tested. He crumpled at one point and cried out, "Lord, I don't like this!" I wanted to comfort him, but he couldn't hear anything I said. I had dropped by to tell him I had finished typing in his 130 (!) new poems, and had designed his book cover, and submitted it all to the publisher. Lord willing, the proof will arrive next week. I hope seeing his second book of poetry in print will cheer him up.
"I wrote some more," he told me, and pulled the new poems out for me to see. One was a poem of thankfulness for compassionate caregivers.
I asked if he would have a special Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.
He shrugged, "I can't go anywhere. It hurts too much to move. I hope they will bring it to me..."

Next, leaving Comer, I headed off to see my mother-in-law. She was sitting in her wheelchair facing her window, looking out.
"Hello," I said, sitting next to her, "Too bad there isn't a bird feeder out your window so you could see birds."
"I like looking out," she said, "It reminds me there is a world out there."
I told her I would be back tomorrow to pick her up for the day, and she would have Thanksgiving dinner with us. After we visited a while, I wheeled her to the dining room where her table of friends were gathered. I quizzed them on their favorite Thanksgiving side dish, hoping to come up with something to serve at our own small gathering. The winner was cranberry apple sauce mixed with whipped cream. MMMM! I asked if they were all going home with their families for Thanksgiving. They all shrugged.

I would like to make a plea to everyone this Thanksgiving. Go hug an old person or a lonely person today. (Yes, Asherel...even your mom....) So many of them are left only with memories, and a spark of hope that maybe this time, some family member will remember to call. Go forth not in pursuit of your own joy, but in pursuit of God's Glory.

Exodus 33:14-18 (NIV)
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” [15] Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. [16] How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” [17] And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” [18] Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)
“ ‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.

Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. [16] Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. [17] And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reflecting Kindness

We took Matt and Karissa to lunch and then popped in to visit Mom K in the Nursing Home. She was lying down, and almost asleep, but when she saw us, her whole face exploded into joy and she struggled to sit up. She asked for her brush so she could make her hair beautiful for her beloved grandson. Then she smiled at him, clasping her hands together, and gazing rapturously at him.
"It is incredible," she kept saying, "Look at him...and married too!"
We could not stay long. Matt and Karissa have final exams in Law School after Thanksgiving and had to get back to studying. I took a picture of her with Asherel, Matt, and Karissa and promised I would bring her a print so she could remember the visit. Then, everyone said goodbye, and after many hugs and kisses, left. I stayed behind for a moment to help Mom K lie back down.

She was unable to stop grinning, as I helped her lean back on her pillows.
"Are you glad we came?" I asked.
"Oh, yes! You made my day!" she exclaimed,"Next time I will rearrange in here, and make dinner."
I smiled and told her that would be lovely, as I helped her put her feet up and covered her with a blanket.

It takes so little to fill a heart with joy. So little and we are so often not willing to give even that. But as water reflects the trees that surround it, so our actions reflect our spirit. I pray we are a people that reflect compassion and kindness, and gratitude for those who love us.

Proverbs 27:19 (NIV)
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Everything Beautiful in Its Time

I have a confession. I am not in the full flower of my beauty. I have a massive boil on the end of my nose, right in time for holiday pictures! I have horrid skin- it is very dry and needs moisturizer, but when I use moisturizer, I get acne. So I am always bouncing back and forth between lizard skin, scaling off in unsightly dry flakes, or zits you could drive a truck through. I am only admitting this because there is no hiding it anyway. Additionally, I am not a typical woman. I have never used makeup, save occasional mascara and lip gloss, and that only under extreme circumstances like weddings. I have saved my husband thousands of dollars in beauty treatments. However, this particular Rudolph-look this time, even with Christmas just around the corner, was depressing me. I felt conspicuous.

So while Matt and Karissa, here over the Thanksgiving break, went off shopping, I stole away to the cosmetics section of Dillards. Normally I shun those aisles and scurry away when the consultants in white coats with flawless skin approach me, holding out fragrances and eyeshadow. They all naturally feel compelled to approach me. Who wouldn't? They see thousands of dollars of cosmetics that this poor woman needs. They truly want to help me. Yet I skitter away, self-righteous in my belief that the unadorned face I present to the world is the face God gave me. However, this time, when the bright-eyed white coated consultant approached me, I pointed to my nose, glowing like an aircraft beacon.
"Do you have anything that can help this?"
The consultant took my hand.
"Come with me. I think you need to come talk with Donna in the special skin care area."
She led me to Donna, who smiled, and asked how she could help me.
"Need you ask?" I said, with more bitterness than perhaps something as minor as a nose the color of a stop sign should have provoked.
"Well, first, are you using any medications or products?"
Yes, but I was loathe to admit that it was just the generic drug store crap that probably was why my face was blazing like a horror movie extra.
"I have never used makeup," I told her, "So I have no idea what to use...but at this point, I must admit, I have a problem."
"That's always the first step," she said sympathetically.

Donna led me to the severe extreme clueless customer section.
She sat me on a stool, in front of a mirror and began uncapping little bottles.
She put dabs of colors on my cheek to first match my skin tone exactly. On the third try, she had the right color.
"Now, let's try that on your nose," she said, "It is medicated and will help you alot, and will conceal it as well."
She brushed it on, with a look of intense concentration, and then turned me to the mirror.
I looked at myself. My nose looked perfect. No wrinkles, no sun spots, no carbuncles ten yards wide. My nose looked twenty years younger than my cheeks.
"I'll take it," I said.
"Now what do you use for moisturizer?"
"Your skin is dry, and this will dry it out more. You need to first apply moisturizer."
"But when I use moisturizer, I get acne."
"Not with this," she said, pulling out another little bottle, "And it will last 5 months. What are your goals with moisturizer?"
"What do you mean?" I asked. Goals? This was harder than my college exams.
"Do you want wrinkle repair, sunspot repair, spf..."
"Truthfully," I said, "I don't mind that I have wrinkles and sunspots. I am no longer as young I do need spf, and I don't want acne every time I use moisturizer."
"This will do it," she said smiling, tapping the little bottle.
"What if it doesn't work?"
"You bring it back for a full refund. And with these products you get a free makeup bag, tote, and lipstick."
"Sold," I said, still glancing in the mirror amazed at what masterful beauty products I have spent over half a century unaware of.

I felt guilty leaving the store. I mean, there are starving people in the world. I have no right to spend money covering spots on my face. But I am going to live with the guilt somehow. After 50+ years, I think I can buy one small jar of concealing cream. OK, two... I know God is a God who loves beauty. Look at the world He created! Look at the flowers He unfurls for our enjoyment! I think it is entirely possible that He was looking at my nose in horror too. Nonetheless, I did give an extra contribution to the Food Bank on my way out the door.

PS- some folks had asked how Honeybun did at the recent agility trial. We went home thinking she hadn't won or qualified (Q'd) in anything. Last night I got the printout of the results. She Q'd and placed second, with her fastest course time yet in her last run ! (I had thought she might have Q'ed but Asherel didn't think so, so we didn't check....). This means she advances to the next level- Excellent- in both classes. Sadly, she doesn't get her ribbons, because you have to pick them up at the trial, but hooray for Asherel and Honeybun.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Song of Solomon 4:1-3 (NIV)
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. [2] Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. [3] Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.

- a dog-

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Place To Fit In

Our wonderful neighborhood donated about 200 pounds of dogfood or so, several dozen rolls of paper towels, blankets, a dog bed, and lots of laundry detergent to wash the necessities of caring for a houseful of rescue dogs and creatures at Hollow Creek Farm. I got to take a rare trip out to the Farm to drop off all the goodies. It is an hour away, so I don't go often, but every time I do, my heart is lifted.

It was a little touch and go, however, before I headed off on the long country road. I was vacuuming the house, in anticipation of beloved Matthias and Karissa coming home. For the second time in my life, I gave myself a concussion vacuuming. I think I need to give this contact sport up. Housework is far too dangerous. I was vacuuming under the swing-out swivel large screen TV...and forgot it was swung out. I stood up, and bashed my cranium. I have quite a sore spot on my skull, and a headache. I lashed a headband around my head and put icepacks in it...then finished vacuuming. Life is never dull around here...but often painful.

But back to Hollow Creek Farm. I used to work with a wild mustang there, Sadie, until my tendonitis became chronic and I could no longer do the chores we used to do at the farm. However, I always loved Sadie. After I unloaded the dogfood and supplies, the HCF owner asked if I would like to give Sadie a goodie. She brought out frosted wheat cereal. When I raised an eyebrow at this 'horse treat', she said,"It's wheat...Horses eat wheat."
So I fed Sadie the frosted wheat, and felt very happy, even with my headache.

I also got to meet the subject of my next children's book- Toby, the wobbly dog. Toby has a cerebellar disorder and walks like a drunken sailor- a drunken sailor with 4 legs. He is a bundle of puppy joy, but uncoordinated puppy joy. I know it is not polite to laugh at disability, but one cannot watch Toby and suppress a tiny bit of mirth. Hollow Creek Farm found him on a road, unable to walk, abandoned and left to fend for himself in his helplessness.

So, my head hurts, but my heart is smiling. And I feel like saluting my neighbors for the kindness they showered on a rescue farm overflowing with misfits that finally found a place where they fit.

Genesis 19:19-20 (NIV)
Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. [20] Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it---it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Following a Call

We were on the way to the dog trial, and traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl, for no apparent reason.
"What's up with all the Corvettes?" asked Asherel.
I looked in the right lane. For as far as the eye could see were Corvettes driving in the right lane of 485 N. Red , blue, yellow, green, black, silver....all with some cute license plate like "born2run" or "Igotmine" or "retiredhowboutu". There had to have been hundreds, if not thousands of Corvettes. Fortunately, the left lane was moving just a tad under the speed limit, so we slowly passed the miles and miles of Corvettes, and made it to the agility trial with plenty of time to spare. The Corvettes were all following one another, on a trail that seemed to have no beginning or end.
"How do they find each other to join the parade?" I wondered aloud.
"Someone must have called them, and they all met someplace," Asherel decided.

Later, I was drying my hands in the bathroom, standing for several rounds of the hot air dryer as it was very cold in the Arena. A lady came to dry her hands, and I noticed she was sleeveless.
"Aren't you freezing?" I asked, as I smacked the button to restart Round 7 of the hot air on my numb fingers.
"No, I'm always hot," she said, and then, one thing let to another, and soon we were standing outside the restroom, and I heard her entire amazing story. This woman had a brain tumor 14 years ago. The kind she had was enormously invasive and only 20 % of the people who get that kind of cancer survive. The surgeon spent 8 hours taking away a whole piece of her skull, and then carving away at the cancerous tentacles that reached into every section of her brain. When she awoke from the surgery, her family was told she would likely never walk or talk or care for herself again, if she survived. She could do almost nothing independently. However, for a full year, she spent every moment trying to regain all she had lost. And agility with her dog helped her. She could not walk without falling, so at first had to wear a helmet when she did the agility trials. She could not remember more than one or two things at a time, so could not at first complete the twenty jump course. People would line the ring and call out to her where to go next. She would fall, pick herself up, and find the next jump with her dog. They helped each other stumble to the next jump, and the people lining the ring called out instructions.
Slowly she got better. She could never remember the jumps in her mind, but if she walked the course over and over again, her muscles would remember.
"Now, 14 years later, I have a full time job, I run agility, I take care of my home..."
I would never have known by looking at her that she had inched her way back from such a devastating disability. It was as impossible to me as seeing a line of Corvettes stretching to the horizon following a call to gather for no reason I could imagine.

I read a book by a new author last night. It was a free ebook on Kindle, and I thought it was very good. It ended with the hero realizing in a burst of tears and revelation, "God cares for me! He really does!"

That is how I felt as I listened to this woman's tale.

As Asherel and I drove home from the trial, I asked her if she thought she could teach me to run agility.
"Sure," she said.
"But I have such a horrible memory...I just don't know if I will ever be able to remember the jump sequence."
"If the lady with the brain tumor did," said Asherel, "So could you."
"Yes," I agreed.
And besides, God cares for me. He really does.

John 16:27 (NIV)
No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Deuteronomy 23:5 (NIV)
However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reap what you Sow

Lucky is always a little woebegone when we leave to an agility trial. He doesn't get to come, and with those nostrils that can smell a molecule of ham a mile away, he knows Honeybun is walking out with us accompanied by a cooler full of many molecules of ham.

Yet, when it is time for him to practice some agility, which equal-opportunity Asherel often offers, Lucky bounds over the jumps for a minute or two, and then refuses to do any more. He is a lazy dog, but he forgets all that when we walk out of the house with our cooler of ham. He somehow thinks he deserves to go to the agility trial too and eat handfuls of ham.

So I always leave with a little bit of guilt. Honeybun prances happily beside us and Lucky hangs his head as we head off to the agility trial. Lucky just can't seem to remember that you reap what you sow. The lazy dog does not get the ham.

He is not alone. Most of us long for the goodies of hard work, but we are sometimes loathe to do the hard work itself. We dream of great things, leaping effortlessly over jumps, but we never bothered to develop our leaping muscles. It is true for agility dogs, it is true for living, and it is true spiritually. We all reap what we sow. While you can, sow bountifully.

Still, I sneak Lucky a little piece of ham as we head off to day two of the agility trial.

Job 4:8 (NIV)
As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.

Proverbs 11:18 (NIV)
A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fleeting Joy

I think my teenager wants me to have a heart attack. I was nervously counting down the dogs as they ran in her Agility class...knowing she had to be up soon for her run, yet she calmly sat in the stands, listening to her iPod. Finally, I ran down to check the board with the line up and order of dogs yet to run. There were 6 dogs till Honeybun's run...and each dog takes about 30 seconds. That gave Asherel 3 minutes to get Honeybun down there, warmed up , and ready for her run. I raced back up to the stands and yanked the earphone out of her ear.
"You have 3 minutes!"
She sauntered down.
Honeybun could not care less. Nothing matters to Honeybun except that she gets the juicy morsels that reward her for pretty much ANYTHING except for outright leaving the agility ring.
I don't think Asherel understands how many years I age watching her in her agility trials. Or maybe she does, and that is her plan. I think she knows it drives me crazy to wait till the last minute and then mosey down like sludge.
I hope one day she has a daughter just like her. And I mean that in the best possible way...
So why, every single time as we drive home from these agility trials, do I look back at our snoring dog, and my daughter hooked up to her iPod and think, "That was fun."?

There are a lot of horrible things happening right now. Our country is on the brink of falling off a fiscal cliff, rancor is at an all time high despite promises of bipartisanship and compromise, and Israeli civilians, families, are being bombed like crazy by the Hamas. Death, persecution, and suffering are all around us. We should all be on our knees praying...but I think also, it is very good to spend time with a child you adore watching her run a happy dog in a swirl of joy that we all know is ephemeral.

2 Timothy 3:10-11 (NIV)
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, [11] persecutions, sufferings---what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Ask for Just a Few

We are off to an agility trial today. I hope it goes well. High school has really cut into Asherel's practice schedule. Honeybun is excited though. Agility trials always mean lots of snacks. And I am excited because I love being around all those dogs. It also involves a lot of sitting and watching. That will be a welcome break from yesterday.

Yesterday, I put out 200 flyers all over our neighborhood for our biannual Hollow Creek Farm dogfood drive this Sunday. Our neighborhood is very generous, and I usually collect 2-300 pounds of dog food. That feeds the Hollow Creek Dogs for about a week, but every little bit helps....

Anyway, it was colder than I expected and so I was frozen as I stuffed the flyers in the mailbox flag section. I wanted to stop long before my 200 flyers were gone, but I kept thinking of the Bible story where the widow was told to collect empty jars. Elisha told her, "Collect not a few." She collected many, and when she brought them back to her home, they miraculously filled with oil, and her needs were supplied. If she had stopped when she had just a few, she would not have been as blessed. So I wanted to make sure every mailbox got a flyer.

However, I failed. I missed one mailbox. The reason I missed that one mailbox is somewhat ironic. There was a loose dog sleeping by the mailbox. I slowly approached the mailbox, overcoming my concern that the loose dog might not be nice. As I came close and slowly reached up to wedge the flyer in the flag, the dog opened an eye and growled. So I slowly retreated. It was the only house in the whole neighborhood that didn't get a flyer.

I was tempted to skip the houses that have never donated dogfood. But I didn't. I decided maybe this year, they will be happy to donate. I should give them the never know. If the widow hadn't collected so many jars, she might not have had enough oil to last. And the mailbox I skip might be the very person who loves dogs with all his heart, and was wondering what he could do to help save a few discarded ones.

I might have to sneak back when that one mailbox isn't being guarded....

2 Kings 4:2-7 (NIV)
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.
[4] Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” [5] She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. [6] When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. [7] She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Person God Sees

When I popped in on Mom K yesterday, she was lying in bed, holding her broken shoulder, gazing into space. No TV was on to mask the loneliness of the scene.
"Hi there!" I said, with forced cheeriness.
"Oh Vicky," she said, "I wasn't expecting anyone."
She didn't try to get up. Her arm was bothering her. So we talked. Well, mostly I talked and tried to come up with a topic that would capture her interest, take her mind off the pain, make the room seem less like a prison and more like a home.

I have never been good at small talk. I like to discuss the things that we are warned never to discuss- religion, and politics. Usually, even when I try to avoid those subjects, that is where we end up. I learned that Mom K's mother had been devoutly religious. I hadn't known that. I also learned some things I don't think her own son knows.

"Some things are better left not knowing," she told me.
"Perhaps," I said, "Unless those things can be used to help teach others what not to do."
"Yes," she agreed.

Case in point, look at all the horrific stories in the Bible, the sinful acts that humans are capable of. It is enough to turn one off of the human race forever. It is a wonder God stuck with us. Yet, change is possible. We can be the person God sees in us. There are many examples of that in the Bible as well- Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Peter, Paul....All fell short of God's expectations at times, yet all were redeemed by the end of their lives and became brave, righteous, and spirit-led. Everyone fails, but praise God, everyone can be restored.

I noticed Mom K had her Bible right next to her, on the little end table. She was looking sleepy-eyed. As I tip toed out, I was less worried than when I'd first walked in, as I glanced at the Book, the legacy her devout mother had left her.

Acts 16:25-33 (NIV)
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. [26] Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. [27] The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. [28] But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” [29] The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. [30] He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [31] They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved---you and your household.” [32] Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. [33] At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Problem with Many Paths

With the WWII book, Turning Points, now launched and hopefully on its way to building a following, I can turn my attention to the other project I have been working on for quite a long time. I had started that manuscript 8 years ago. The book was almost ready, I thought, to peddle to some agent...and then, I realized, it is not even close. I had thought I had told the story in the best possible way, but now I see that there are many ways to tell it, and I should have chosen one of the other paths. I have about 250 pages, but probably a good half of them will end up being tossed. It's ok. In the end, revising and rethinking till you are sick of the whole mess is a good thing. Quite often, out of the ashes, a new and better creation arises. But I do sometimes wish the path had been a little clearer, without so many possible spurs. I wandered in so many ways that now, in retrospect, I wish I had not. One path. I do better with one path. Otherwise I tend to get lost.

I think God understands that. So He made it easy. "Jesus is THE WAY...."
It makes it impossible to be lost unless we are really bent on getting lost.

Joshua 3:4-5 (NIV)
Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” [5] Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

John 14:6 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

-save a dog-

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Best Day of the Year

Comer sold out all my books of his life story, Turning Points, at Park Road Bookstore. The place was mobbed, teeming with friends, and even a few WWII vets that were out wandering stopped by.

When I arrived to pick Comer up from the Assisted Living home, I was fifteen minutes early. Comer was dressed in a dapper suit, already sitting in his parlor waiting for me, his framed medals next to him for us to bring along.
"What's this?" I asked, holding up the medals.
"My medals," he said.
"What's this one?"
"Meritorious award."
"Comer, you never told me you got medals for valor!"
He shrugged.

From the moment we arrived till we left 2 hours later, fans were pouring in. Few asked me to sign the book, but Comer was signing like a madman.
As the final fan left, I said, "I bet you will sleep for a week now! You must be exhausted."
"No," he said, "This is the best I have felt in a year."

I may never be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I have to say, watching my friend sign the books of his life story was a big reward nonetheless. To all my Charlotte friends who popped by, shared the postings on the book, and emailed to Comer your prayers and gratitude to him, you are the best. Thank you. And please know that you made an old WWII soldier, very happy.

"Now when is the sequel?" someone asked.
"Not ever, if I have to fight another war," Comer answered.

Jesus told us that we were to serve one another, wash each other's feet. If anyone is feeling lonely, or neglected, or useless... Jesus has given the only prescription for healing of the soul. Turn to Him and serve others, and by so doing, blessings scatter across your day like autumn leaves whisked in all their beauty by the wind across the sky.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. [14] For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 11, 2012

And what a Veteran....

I really never imagined that listening to an elderly man recount his war days would lead to where it led. Today, Comer Hawkins will be sitting with me at Park Road books in Charlotte, from 2-3 pm, signing copies of his war and life story, which I spent a year writing. I still cannot fathom the courage and sacrifice of our veterans. I could not imagine sending my own sons to do what my friend Comer had to do in WWII. He did what he had to do without complaining, because it was his country that needed him. He would do whatever he needed to do to be sure that the enemy never flew over his dear mama's home. The e-book, free today, is currently #1 in Christian Living, and #3 in WW2 books. Not bad for a story that I first learned of by driving a couple of sweet old people around Charlotte so they could get outside of the nursing home and see the azaleas bloom.

I learned many things, only some of which concerned WWII. The main thing I learned was that the old people decaying, often unnoticed, in countless nursing homes have stories to tell that we should all be enraptured to hear. We should all be flocking in droves to those Homes, begging them to impart their experience, their wisdom, their wild and often completely unexpected tales. If we don't, honestly, it is our loss.

Happy Veterans Day, and to all you veterans, Thank You for your service and my freedom.

Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)
“ ‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Something Akin to Rapture

When the boys were little we went to the Virginia Creeper Trail. That is a rails to trails pathway that starts on the top of a steep mountain and goes downhill for 37 miles. We took a tram to the top and then we coasted downhill all day. That is only a slight exaggeration. There were many miles of just a slight downhill slope, so peddling was occasionally required. It wound through beautiful mountain forests along a stream most of the way, and then it flattened out, through the valley of farmland and pasture. It was quite beautiful, relatively easy, and all of us loved it. It filled my spirit with something akin to rapture.

I am grateful for memories like that, for days when all one does is effortless coasting. They shore me up for the inevitable uphill battles that always follow. There is no downhill without an uphill.

It is good that I have paintings and photos of that day. My memory is horrible, and even that wonderful event sometimes fades. I reread the Bible from front to back over and over again partially for the same reason. I can never remember it all...and I want to. That is why I love Acts 7, when Stephen recounts the entire history of the Jewish people from Abraham to Christ. It helps me keep all those Patriarchs straight, and is an amazing synopsis of God's miraculous provision for His people. Stephen coasts through that history with glowing enthusiasm, and apparently a spell-bound audience, and then at the end accuses his listeners of killing the clearly prophesied Messiah, and is stoned to death. So much for his coasting along with the speed of light through thousands of years of God's greatness!

All of us will eventually hit the uphill part of the journey. It is good to remember that God's greatest heroes hit those rough patches too. But in the end, before Stephen closed his eyes, he saw God Himself and all the glory of Heaven. I suspect he closed his eyes to mortality with something akin to rapture.

Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. [56] “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

PS- today and tomorrow, Turning Points- the Life of a WWII Milne Bay Gunner , will be free as an e-book in honor of Veterans Day. Please send one to a veteran you know and love! And tomorrow, Sunday, from 2-3, the veteran the book honors will be at Park Road Bookstore in Charlotte signing copies purchased at the bookstore.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 9, 2012

Creating Life

One of the great joys as a parent: walking into my daughter's room to see her drawing and to be blown away by the wonder of her creation, the skill and beauty of the art, and especially, to see she was not on the computer.

I worry that the creative spirit of a whole generation is being stunted by technology. The allure of the internet, computer games, and spellcheck is taking over the need to think or to create for ourselves. One young lady told me there was no need to travel because she could just see what it looked like in that distant place on the computer. She seemed to really believe she could live a virtual life and find satisfaction. Thoughts like that frighten me. Is that what living should be?

It is cheaper. This year, instead of a vacation to the beach, perhaps we should all change into our bathing suits and sit around the monitor. We can turn to a youtube ocean video, turn up the sound, watch the waves and listen to the sea gulls screeching. No danger of sunburn, drowning, or being nibbled on by sharks. And if we tire of the ocean, on the next day of our vacation we can find a video of the Grand Canyon. No longer will we fear breaking bones from skiing. We can just watch a virtual run down some highly dangerous mountainside that under normal conditions, (a.k.a. real) we would never dare attempt. Life would be so much safer!

I am typing and editing one hundred poems given to me a few weeks ago by my 93 year old friend Comer. I will publish Volume 2 of his poetry soon. He sits in his room, and dispels the loneliness and ravages of aging by writing poetry. Comer has his host of troubles- a beloved wife crumbling from Alzheimers, his own feet swelling so much that at times he can't walk, blood clots that pop up now and then in his hip and leg such that he can't move without pain. Still, he finds one thing he can do that reminds him that he was created by a creative God, and given a creative spirit that can be unleashed even now, after a near century of life. He inspires me.

Many of his poems are about people he loves, things he is grateful for, and quite often, of God. The poems often start off about mundane subjects like small towns, or shopping...but then end with an exhortation to trust and follow and glorify God. I am not sure his work will endure like Shakespeare or Milton, but the truth of his message is eternal. Live! Live life fully, creatively, exuberantly, to the full limit of your strength and above all, trust that God who created you never stops loving and guiding His creation.

PS- that very same Comer is the star of my new book, Turning Points, and both he and I will be signing copies of the book this Sunday, Veterans Day, 2-3 at Park Road Bookstore in Charlotte. Please stop by and have this remarkable veteran bless your day.

Job 12:12-13 (NIV)
Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? [13] “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Herded to the Slaughter

ok, so I was really depressed over what feels like the dissolution of my country. No one likes being herded along to forced acceptance of reprehensible practices that every fiber of one's being finds repugnant. I can't quite join in the celebration where taxpayers should all join hands and help pay for ending the life of babies, or funding contraceptives. Or a government takeover of health care that will bankrupt our children and make even a greater number of people inextricably dependent on Uncle Sam to survive. But then, who am I to question if that is the proper role of government? I understand our progressive West coast legalized marijuana. Yippee! So much to celebrate! But, the good news is that according to the Mayans, the world ends Dec. 12!

But just in case it doesn't, nothing is gained by slipping into despair. Nothing happens without God's knowledge. All circumstances present opportunities to learn, reassess, grow, and practice one's faithful reliance on God. Things really do look their darkest right before dawn. I know this for a fact, because I have been getting up lately before dawn, and it is stinking dark our there! In the end, even this government can not take away my salvation. My security and hope has never rested in the hands of man.

Still, I have an inexplicable urge to "mooooo".

Acts 4:11-12 (NIV)
Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ [12] Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Choices. They all have consequences. Some, like Noah's, carry grave consequences, especially for the ones he chose not to bring on the ark. May God bless and guide us in our choices.

Psalm 25:15 (NIV)
My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I noticed, looking back over old artwork, that I have many pictures of doors and gates. I love the old iron gates in Charleston. They are so elaborate and beautiful. What a fancy, lovely way to say, "You may not come in."

I also love Psalm 24, but I admit, it confuses me. The gates are told to lift up their heads and let the King of Glory in. Who are the gates? Are we the gates? Are we sometimes locking out the King of Glory!?

Psalm 24:7-10 (NIV)
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. [8] Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. [9] Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. [10] Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty---he is the King of glory.

-save a dog-

Monday, November 5, 2012

Can we Deny the Call?

There is snow in the mountains...
It calls to me, just like cheesecake in the refrigerator.
One cannot deny the call.
We may have to go to the mountains....

Mark 8:34 (NIV)
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Long Walk

I had errands to do, but all the stores were within a 2 mile radius. I could walk, save gas, save wear and tear on the car, get exercise on a beautiful day. So I sauntered off. By the time I reached the stores, 2 miles down the road, I was dying of thirst and hungry.

Fortunately, Fresh Market does an awesome job of offering free samples on Saturday. I popped in to Fresh Market, knowing at the least, at this time of the year, I could get free hot cider.
I hit the jackpot!
They not only had free hot cider but a full turkey dinner with all the fixins' and pumpkin pie. Now admittedly, the plates were small, but I only needed enough fuel for the walk home. I gratefully took my turkey dinner and nosed about the store while eating, acting like I was going to buy something, and then snuck out, none the poorer, well fed and happy.

Don't sneer at me. You all do it too. Admit it.
I really could have afforded a small snack at Fresh Market, but that takes all the fun out of it. There is something tantalizing about free samples.

Despite having several healthy calories now safely deposited in my blood stream, I lost steam on the long walk home.
I realized, with some dismay, that I was tired.
I never used to get tired. I could walk all day, and not be tired.
It is the beginning of the end, I thought sadly. At least, I had started early enough that I would be home before dark.

Life is often a long, wearying walk. Sometimes, it really feels like we are not sure how we are going to make it home before darkness closes in. We know the route, we have walked this way before, and yet the path seems a little longer, a little rougher at times, littered with obstacles. Our muscles don't seem to do what they used to do with ease.

Right before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that they still had a walk left to finish. He warned them to walk now, before darkness overtook them. I am certain they were looking at Him with bewilderment. They weren't planning on going on any walks! What on earth was He talking about? And then he added that if darkness descended before they got home, they might be lost. "Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light," he told them.

I love that. If we want the journey to be in the sun, we must believe in the Son. If we want our path lit and our weary bodies strengthened for the task, we are told to believe in the light and walk in it! And in such a case, even if darkness descends before we reach our intended journey's end, it will not matter. We will be OF the light, and light alone dispels darkness. Just don't start off on the journey believing light does not exist, because then when darkness descends, all that will be left to you is to curse the darkness.

Believe in the light
While you have the light
So that you may become children of light.

I may just take another long walk today!

John 12:35-36 (NIV)
[35] Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. [36] Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Walking Alone

It is perfect fall weather, crisp, low humidity, clear air. It is hard to believe that soon the whole world will fade, and hibernate in sometimes numbing cold.
When I stopped to see Mom K at the Assisted Living Home a couple days ago, she was in a discussion group in the parlor. I waved, but sat outside the parlor to let her finish. Soon, I heard my name called a little frantically from the leader of the group, and went dashing in. She was trying to keep Mom K upright.
"Why is she standing?" I asked.
"She tried to walk out to you, can you grab her wheelchair!"
I scooted the wheelchair under my crumpling mother-in-law.
"Gert," said the leader, "You should not get up and try to walk without help."

Later back at the room, we were having a pleasant discussion and noting how nice all the workers there are.
"Yes," said Mom K, "But sometimes they make me very angry."
"Every time I see them they tell me I should not walk without help!"
I pointed to her broken arm.
"Does that hurt?"
"Yes," she said.
"Do you want to break something else?"
"That's why they are telling you not to walk without help," I told her quietly. I can be very patient with her. I don't know why. Patience is not my strong point, though Lord knows, I try.
"Yes but they keep telling me over and over again!"
"Well that's because you keep walking and falling. If you called them every time, they would stop telling you."
"I don't like it," she said.
"I know," I told her, "I wouldn't either. But it is what it is. We love you and we don't want you to fall anymore. So please call for help every time you want to walk."

When I left, i ran into the nurse and we chatted a while. The buzzer she carries when residents alert her went off.
"That's your mother in law!" she said smiling.
I followed her but stayed out in the hall, to listen and make sure that all was well.
"Hi Gert, what do you need?"
"I need help walking to the bed," she said.
"Well thank you so much for calling me!" said Angela.
"Oh, my daughter in law just left and she reminded me to be sure to do that."
I smiled and headed out.

It seems my role in life is the official nag. I have found that people get angry when they are reminded to do what they know they should do, but are not doing. But I am not alone in my nagging. God nags us continually. Over and over again we are chastised for the simplest things He asks of us that we persistently ignore. Be faithful, follow Him even when it is hard, forsake the things of this world, help those who cannot help themselves, honor our parents, be industrious and cheerful in carrying out the roles given us...the list is endless. And in case it is too long a list, He boils it down to just two simple edicts: to love Him with all our heart and mind and soul, and love our neighbor as ourself. I am sure God would prefer He didn't have to remind us, but one look at most of us, and it is clear He needs to.

In a sense, we are all trying to walk without Him...and usually at our peril.

Genesis 6:9,22 (NIV)
This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. [22] Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 2, 2012

He Restores

The gallery that had oodles of my paintings has decided that in this wonderful economy of hope and change, they will need to close. So they had me come pick up my artwork. Over the years, I have brought close to a hundred pieces of artwork to that gallery. I was always thrilled to have the gallery represent me, though frankly, they sold very little artwork. So now what? I have about a hundred paintings, pastels, watercolors which are currently in my dining room, lining the wall. My first inclination was to photograph them. Maybe I will use them in book illustrations, or maybe they will be destined to raise money for worthy causes, like Hollow Creek Farm Animal Rescue, or homeless children. They mean a great deal to me, representing years of my artistic life, so I won't be hasty in where they live.

The photographing didn't go so well. Most are shrink wrapped in reflective plastic, or frames. I didn't want to remove the shrink wrap or the frames, as : 1. it is not easy, and 2. it protects them, particularly since they will need to go in the attic until I decide what their final fate will be. At any rate, photographing art in reflective wrap is not possible. I did my best, but it is not really very good. And really, my art is better than I think the lousy photographs would suggest. Then, when I downloaded the photos onto our computer, our old, slow, crashing computer, it seemed to have eaten the photographs. I found them eventually, two hours later, but the computer kept crashing so that I couldn't copy them onto a nice safe CD. I finally gave up or I would possibly have been incarcerated for doing unspeakably cruel things to inanimate objects. Are there always snafus in life?


There are always snafus. Count on it. And then, kick yourself in the butt and make the best of it. It is all you can do. And, God reminds me, trust Him. Learn the lessons those snafus hoist upon you, be patient and good despite the rage and worry, and lean on Him.

I can't hold a candle to the fire of adversity that crackled down on the Biblical widow of Zarephath. When she met the prophet Elijah, she was gathering sticks for a fire for her last meal. She and her beloved son were down to their last bite of food. Troubles troubles troubles! Elijah had them gather jars, and then oil and flour filled the jars each day miraculously. They never ran out. But even worse troubles now stalked the poor widow. Worse troubles! Widowed, then what? Her son died. Would troubles never cease!? Elijah returns the son to life, through the power of God, in what strikes me as a parallel of another Son that would one day be resurrected. There will always be snafus. Count on it. But God hears our cry- through despair, loss, hunger, pain...and even shrink wrap, He is there and in the end, He restores.

1 Kings 22-23 (NIV)
[22] The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. [23] Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 1, 2012

While it is still Today

I dropped off copies of my book about Comer's WWII adventures to him in the Assisted Living Center. He was not doing well. His leg was in great pain, and he wasn't sure why. It had slowly been getting worse. Fortunately, I had some good news to cheer him with. Park Road Books, the only independently owned remaining bookstore in Charlotte, had agreed to have Comer and me come on Veteran's Day, November 11, from 2-3 for a book signing. Comer warned me that if he felt like he did today, he could not go even for that hour. But we pray whatever is going on with his leg will resolve by then.

This was short notice for the bookstore, and they offered we might want to wait till 2013, so we could properly advertise. They are booked till then, except strangely for this Veteran's Day slot. If you ask me, God was pointing right at that Veteran's Day opening and saying, "Seize it!"
"He is 93," I told the bookstore owner, "I don't think we better wait till 2013."
So Veteran's Day it is.

It is always tempting to put off what we should do till tomorrow, or next week, or next month. The timing will be better, we will be able to gather more support, better skills, etc. The problem with that attitude is for some of us, next month won't come...maybe not even tomorrow. I have always been of the mindset that what we should do today, DO today.

1 Chronicles 29:5 (NIV)
...Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?”

-save a dog-