Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In God's Behalf

I spent part of the day yesterday continuing (and continuing and continuing and continuing) editing of my book. The other part of the day I spent playing with my new art app -- Art Rage. I spent an hour on one picture, then the iPad crashed and I lost all that work. After slamming a few cabinets, vacumming, and doing two loads of wash, I was ready to try again. This time I took care to save my work periodically. The picture above popped out of my imagination.

Meanwhile, my study of Job is continuing slowly. I have finished the sections where Job's three friends basically tell him he is suffering because he is an unconfessing jerk and that if he would just own up to all his secret sin, God would heal him. Job's wife adds her own cheery suggestion: "Curse God and die."

The section I am on now is the young man Elihu's speech. Elihu had sat nearby while Job's "friends" lambasted him as he lay covered with boils, his children all killed, and his livestock all destroyed. Finally, Elihu can stand it no more and says though he is young, he has some wisdom to impart. So he begins to explain to Job where the friends and Job himself have erred. I am only reading a little at a time because I think the lesson on how to deal kindly and in a Godly way with those who are suffering is incredibly difficult, and important. Having read Job many times, I know that in the end, God will not be pleased with the three friends, but seems to be fine with what Elihu had to say. I intend to figure out why Elihu's perspective is different.

I only got a little ways when I hit this gem by Elihu:
“Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf." (Job 36:2 NIV)

Job's friends had presented God as a terrifying Master, crushing rebellion and sin with a mighty hand. They refuse to accept Job's insistence that he has always loved and followed God. They see suffering as evidence of Job's deceit and dishonor before God. By the Bible verse above, Elihu is subtly shifting, I think. He is not focusing on Job, and what Job may have or may not have done wrong, but on God.

I don't know about you, but when I am suffering, the last thing I need to hear is that God is giving me what I deserve. I am not saying it is not good to know that disobedience can unleash the wrath of God. But there is only so much despair any one can handle. If God had been Job's comfort all his life, he needed to hear why he could continue to trust and find peace in God even when life had become so bitter. Job's friends were like my computer crashing and eating all my precious art work. Elihu, in contrast, is painting Job a new picture of God to cling to. To see God anew every moment is a blessing, and a nice thought to dwell upon this New Year's Eve.

But, stay tuned. There is more to be said in God's behalf....

Job 37:14 NIV
[14] “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Cheerful Heart

It was cold and rainy yesterday and I was not quite healthy. Nothing major, just a cough and malaise. However, Asherel was at a party all afternoon and thus would miss the midday walk with the dog she was dog-sitting. I offered to do the walk for her.

I headed to Max's house. Max doesn't know me at all, and yet, from the moment that big happy dog saw me, I was his best friend. He wiggled his whole back end with delight, leaned against me, and let me know that no one on earth was even close to as magnificent as I was.

Then Max and I eagerly stepped out the door for our walk. I was not as eager as Max, feeling less than wonderful, but Max's enthusiasm was infectious. He trotted along, sniffing the air, watering as many bushes as he could reach, and perking his ears at every squirrel. Whenever we passed other people, he began wagging his tail wildly, begging them to pet him. When we passed other dogs, he whined and pulled, imploring me to let him play with them. Max was the happiest, most good natured dog I have had the pleasure of meeting in a long time. Max exemplified cheerful. Here he was, owners gone several days, all alone in a big house, and contact with humans just three times a day. He had a lot to be mopey about. But Max exuded good cheer.

I did a little word study in my Bible on "cheerful" when I got home. There are numerous verses, but one thing is clear -- a cheerful heart is good medicine. No wonder I was feeling better after walking Max!

As I locked the front door and started home, Max stood at the front window watching me. He didn't look sad or try to fill me with guilt. He looked grateful and wagged his tail; his ears perked and his expression was cheerful.


All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NIV)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

A man's cheerful heart gives him strength when he is sick. You can't keep going if you have a broken spirit. (Proverbs 18:14 NIRV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Purpose of Doubt

What is remarkable about the book of Job is that it is in the Bible at all. Job demands answers of all the most troubling questions of mankind --- why does evil seemingly go unpunished? Why do the righteous suffer? Why does God delay in setting the swift and ferocious date of judgment? Why is God silent in the face of our oppression and struggle?

If one were concocting a religion, one would certainly concoct a God with ready answers. And one would probably not allow a Holy Book to include the questions Job asks in the first place. Why invoke discerning questions if one has concocted a fraudulent God? It would be too easy to doubt him or unmask him.

I thought of this as I was walking Honeybun. She is doing fantastically well. One would never know she had been unable to walk at all three days ago. She wants to walk her usual mile or two. However, her apparent healthy gait is currently due to medicine masking the pain, and a drug infused energy. Were I to walk her further, I fear I could do damage, as the healing is not real. Until time and rest have truly healed the inflamed area, the meds are only dampening her perceptions. They are in a sense, a false God. To live her life based on this false God could harm her. A good vet would be certain I understood the true nature of her problem, and while much less rosy and carefree than the current happy dog on heavy meds would lead me to believe, reality is the only way I can be of lasting benefit to her. As soon as I ask questions about the effects of the drug, the true nature of her "healing" is uncovered. Right now the underlying problem is still there. Questions and scrutiny eventually reveal truth.

So Job asks questions. Hard questions. The Bible not only doesn't ignore Job's timeless concerns, but allows us all to hear these difficult cries of his heart. If the Bible weren't true, this would be a risky enterprise. Why raise doubt, or show that even God's most righteous advocate had doubts?

God does not answer Job till the very end, and even then, He doesn't really explain Himself. But there is a striking moment even as Job is wrestling with his dismay, anger, misperceptions, and doubts. For a moment, he emerges from all that despair and makes a jarring statement that he is confident "after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." For that moment, clarity of eternity and God's purpose bursts through the fog of suffering. Later, when he hears God's voice, he is comforted not with answers, but knowing God is worthy of trust and Job finds comfort in that knowledge. His doubts are laid to rest.

For many of us, trust and faith do not come easily. We need to examine, question, and sometimes rant against forces we don't understand. Doubt is only dangerous when God reveals Himself (and all creation reveals God!) and unlike Job, we turn away and refuse to see Him.

Job 30:26 NIV
[26] Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.

Job 9:32-35 NIV
[32] “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. [33] If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, [34] someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. [35] Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

Job 19:25-27 NIV
[25] I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. [26] And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; [27] I myself will see him with my own eyes---I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Views

I like cleaning the house after Christmas. The decorations are up for a solid month or more. I put them up the day after Thanksgiving. I love the decorations, however there is one thing I don't love. The Christmas tree goes in a corner of our great room, by the front window. I do this so passersby can see the beautiful lights of the tree. However, this is also "my corner."

I have a beloved old recliner that goes in the corner by the window. Beside it is an end table with all my computers, plugs, drawing tools, book notes, pens, and chargers -- all neatly organized on a lower shelf next to my beloved old recliner. Since a huge portion of my day is spent drawing and writing on my laptop or iPad, this corner of my house is my work station. It is the best seat in the house. I can turn my head, and look out the window, watch the neighborhood saunter by with their dogs, or the sun rise over the trees, or the birds flit about the birch tree branches. If I face inside, I can see nearly every room of our house, with its open floor plan. Out the back sunroom windows, I can watch the sunset. I can see my family in the kitchen, or at the dining room table. I can see the dogs on the couch where they are not really supposed to be but which they gradually highjacked.

But for Christmas, the tree gets my corner. Instead of facing my kingdom, my recliner is now turned so that my back is to most of my house. The tree blocks my view out the window. It is only for a month, but I feel displaced and unsettled. I long for my corner.

Nonetheless, I think it is good for us all to be displaced for a time, nudged off kilter from our usual habits. It is good to have a new perspective, consider other views, see God and His creation from a new angle. I actually grew to find some pleasing aspects of the new position. I face the fireplace, and almost the only time we have a fire is over Christmas. I can look out the front door, and watch the dogs as they bark at the postman.

It is like reading a different translation of the Bible. Sometimes it makes familiar stories sparkle with new, previously unnoticed revelations. It reminds me how important it is to try to see the world through another person's eyes. We might all get along better if we could practice that more often. It is also a little like the admonition in Ephesians to "put off your old self...and be renewed in the spirit of your minds."

However, the day after Christmas, I eagerly put away the decorations. I put the tree back in the attic, and drag my beloved recliner back to my corner. I replace all my computer things, and drawing supplies, and writing materials on the little endtable. I settle back and with a sigh, look happily over my house, and notice the familiar with new, appreciative eyes...things that were always there but somehow escaped my notice.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)
22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why Do I Follow God?

My poor Honeybun could not walk at all yesterday. I called the vet, and asked what I could do. She prescribed an anti-inflammatory, and doubled her nerve block/pain meds. With Honeybun's lumbar spinal stenosis, inflammation causes the area to swell, and then the nerves become restricted and pinched through the narrow vertebrae. While it looks terrible, and she cannot walk when it flares, if the inflammation can be kept under control, she should be fine. Honeybun didn't move all day, but after her second dose of meds around 5 pm, she finally stood up and walked a short trip outside! She even trotted a little. There was a beautiful sunset, and my heart was full to overflowing with gratitude and love. This morning, she was not yet walking easily, but it was much better, and she even hopped up on the couch.

For every child out there who loves animals, consider becoming a veterinarian. The joy a helpful vet brings to people like me who love their dogs with all their heart is worth every penny you spend on your education. I am so thankful that there are people who want to help others, both animal and people others.

The flare-up was probably caused by how well she was feeling, and how much running around and longer walks she was taking. We just need to be careful to keep her walks slow and short. She loves her walks, but what she loves most are the frequent stops to sniff. That plays right into her disability wheel-house.

I have just started the book of Job in my daily Bible reading. This is a perfect book to be reading now with the challenges in not only my poor dog, but in my life in general. I work my way through the Bible every day, and when I finish Revelations, I start back on Genesis. Over the years, I have read the complete Bible many times. What is astonishing is each time, I see it from a completely new perspective. This is because I am a new person, slowly transforming as each day sputters to an end.

I have always considered Job one of the cruelest, and most difficult books of the Bible. I still don't like it. I always wonder why God taunts Satan to consider the Godly Job and his righteousness before God. Satan, evil but no fool, challenges God that Job would lose his goodness right away if God's hedge of protection were removed. God says, "Try him." And Satan unleashes a full, cruel torrent of disasters on the poor, unsuspecting Job.

As I am reading it now, I am thinking about the story from a new perspective. Instead of wondering why God allowed Satan such awful dominion over His servant, I am asking new questions. Maybe God's taunt of Satan had little to do with Satan, and everything to do with Job. Maybe Job was not a pawn in Satan's hands, but Satan was a pawn in God's hands. Maybe God knew that His servant Job needed to understand one of the most basic questions of the relationship with his Heavenly Father, and suffering was the only way it could be answered honestly.

Why do I follow God? Why do I love Him? Is it because He grants me health, family, freedom, and blessings? No doubt, as a young Christian that was my primary motivation. But if He chose to remove all that...even now after following Him for nearly 30 years....would I still love Him? That is the big question Job grapples with. It is a terrifying question to answer, unless one truly believes, with no shadow of doubt, that God is good and His presence is all sufficient. Job does eventually come to that conclusion.

I know that Honeybun will not live forever. We have been granted a respite, but not a cure. And even if it were a cure, dogs, like humans, are mortal. But, that is only part of existance. God promises that whoever believes in Jesus and His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins through His death on the cross will have eternal life. Satan may be allowed to take away everything we hold dear in our mortal lives, but he can never take God from us. Our soul can only be bargained away by our conscious decision and choice. Oh loved ones, I pray you choose God!

Job 1:9-11 NIV
[9] “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. [10] “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. [11] But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job 42: 1-6 ESV
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Dog's Lesson on Suffering

Wonderful Christmas for us. Not so much for Honeybun. Her spinal stenosis issue which had been completely controlled by her medications is flaring. Over Christmas, she could barely walk. I had to put her "hiphound hotpants" on her, which we used when she first became lame many months ago. The compression of the soft splint around her hips seems to support the muscles and she is more able to walk while wearing it. I will be calling the vet today to see if we need to bring her in, or just increase her meds.

It is very sad. She is totally uncomplaining, but it is clear she is in pain when she tries to walk. I don't know exactly what set if off. It has been 6 months since she has had any problems. So hubby built a fire and everyone played with their Christmas gifts while Honeybun stretched out in front of the fire. Despite the pain, when we changed rooms, she followed, and then collapsed near us. Her desire in the midst of her suffering is to never lose sight of her master.

It is perhaps fitting that my Bible reading has now landed in the book of Job. My dog has the patience of Job, and has been similarly much afflicted in life. As I begin the study of Job, I look again to my dear Honeybun and wish I could be more like her. Even though I don't speak "dog," it is clear she is not saying, "Why me?" She is not blaming anyone, nor is she losing faith in her caretakers. She accepts stoically what happens to her without despair, or despondancy, or rancor. She doesn't growl or whine as we put on her brace, though we know it must hurt as we lift her onto her wobbly legs.

I know my children and those around me are watching to see how I will weather the storms of life. I am not a Honeybun. I spend all night many nights fitfully sleeping, but then pouring out my heart in prayer. This is what they don't see, but it is probably the best thing I do. During the day, I fret, and worry, and often feel despairing over the mounting problems. I see no way out of some issues and wonder how we will face the future. The Book of Job will be a good place to settle for awhile. If anyone had a right to rant and worry, it was Job. And to some degree, he does. But in the end, he hears God, and his whole attitude changes. This is a good reminder. Keep my heart stayed on the word of God, while watching my stoic dog face suffering with trust and faith that her Master cares for her. And like Honeybun, no matter how much it hurts, and how difficult it is, follow my Master always.


Be humble in the presence of God's mighty power, and he will honour you when the time comes. God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him. Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, prowling around to find someone to attack. But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith. You know that all over the world the Lord's followers are suffering just as you are. But God shows undeserved kindness to everyone. That's why he appointed Christ Jesus to choose you to share in his eternal glory. You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm. God will be in control for ever! Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 CEVUK00)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

There is born "to you" a baby! The angel told the shepherds that great tidings of joy were upon them; the savior Christ was born! But what an amazing phrase the angel uses: To you. The baby was born by a woman, the Virgin Mary. How telling that the angel said "to you" and not "to Mary." The baby who would save the world was a gift not just to His parents, but "to you" and "to me." He was born unto us! What an amazing thing to ponder.

And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:6-11 ASV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Promise of Christmas

I may be dreaming of a white Christmas but we are only likely to have a wet Christmas. We have a lake in our back yard. We don't normally have a lake. The rain has been virtually nonstop for two solid days.Once upon a time we had grass. Now we have mostly mud and then thanks to the rain, this new lake. As I stood looking out at my backyard lake, I wondered if there was any chance of a freezing cold spell that would turn the lake into an ice rink.

I would love that. I have recurring dreams about being an Olympic level ice skater. In the dream, there is usually some very bumpy and imperfect ice rink, similar to the one that my backyard lake would become if the south were suddenly plunged into a deep freeze. Despite the unforgiving rink, in my dream I take full advantage of the surface I am given, and I do leaps, pirouettes, and magnificently graceful glides on one leg, with arms outstretched like angel wings. And then I wake up, and wish I could have kept dreaming.

This is a very hopeful dream. The ice is never perfect. It is always too small, and too choppy for all the wonderful things I know I could do if the ice were as it should be. Nonetheless, I am able to do things that bring me great pleasure, a sense of freedom, and delight. I amaze myself. I skate miraculously well, especially considering the condition of the ice. I am never afraid, or insecure. I have certainty (that I lack in real life) that I will overcome, and excel.

This is a gift, this dream. God is reminding me that none of us will likely be given a smooth and obstacle-free path to skate along...but we are still supposed to go out and skate as best we can. You just never know how God will mix things up and bring about victory that never seemed possible -- virgins giving birth, shame into honor, water into wine, despair into hope, sin into repentance, death into life, and mortal into eternal.

I looked out at the little lake, the mud, and the incessant rain, contemplating the hope and joy and promise of Christmas. Maybe I will take the family iceskating at the uptown rink over the holidays. That is unless the backyard lake freezes.... You never know....Miracles abound.


I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 HCSB)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rain Falls Like Blessings

Torrential rain and over 70 degrees outside! Strange weather. Next thing you know, there will be a star hovering over a barn and a glow coming from the manger while a bunch of animals and kings bow down...

It was a magical day yesterday. We met a really wonderful family, complete strangers, who then sat in our home and chatted for 2 1/2 hours with us! I am not very social, and really pretty solitary. I would never have envisioned I would enjoy such a marathon time of getting to know someone like that, but they were completely delightful. And when they left, I understood better why we are supposed to surround ourselves with people. People can be a positive influence. You folks that aren't introverts don't understand how draining social interaction can be and why people like me tend to avoid it. But I was uncharacteristically energized, and grateful that God brought this family our way.

I am always amazed at what God teaches me, and in the most unexpected circumstances. In our Bible study yesterday morning, our teacher made the excellent point that it is often through very difficult times that we are forced to understand if our faith is real, or is it just hypocrisy. Mary, Jesus' mother, accepted on faith that what the angel told her was true, and that she would bear God's son, the savior of the world. Through that unfathomable hardship and uncertainty, she endured because she trusted that God was there and He cared for her. In faith, she emptied her life into His hands. We all know how that story ended. All humankind that shared the faith of Mary would be saved, by believing in the sacrifice of her Son, his redemptive atonement for our sins, and His resurrection. New life, life eternal, became reality for all who believe.

We had a difficult circumstance we needed to confront, one that gave me yet another sleepless night. And yet, we turned to scripture and to God, and the result was meeting this wonderful family and believing all will be well... In the process, we as a family wrestled with the Word of God and our own interpretation and understanding of its sufficiency for every issue of life. That struggle will continue till the day we die, but I find it infinitely encouraging to read the words of Mary when confronted by the terrifying image of the Angel of God with his impossible message to her:
"I am the Lord's hand maiden."

I sit by my Christmas tree with the angel glowing atop it and watch the continuing torrent outside, falling like blessings upon the earth. As Christmas approaches, my prayer for me, my family, my friends, and all of you is that the message of God reaches our ears. Then, may we, like Mary, bow in humility and echo, "Thy will be done."

Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angel left her. (Luke 1:38 AMP)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Simple Bath -- A Lesson on Slippery Slopes and Redemption

Yesterday was bath day for the dogs. Frankly, this is not something either me or the dogs really look forward to. I hate the smell of wet dog. Besides that, on one of my dog washing escapades I slipped on the wet floor and bruised my tail bone. That little dog washing episode took me 6 months to recover from. But really, the major objection is that what starts out as a simple bath balloons into a massive undertaking, fraught with struggle and despair. All I thought I was doing was bathing the dog, but in the end, the entire house was affected. Heed the warning.

First of course, I have to get the dogs into the tub. I have to carry Honeybun because there is no way she will get in without a fight. Lucky will get in the tub himself, but if I turn my back for a second, he also gets out of the tub himself. Once the dog is wedged by my knees in the tub and body blocked from escape, there is the scrubbing with sweet smelling shampoo. The dogs don't usually mind this part. During the rinse cycle however, they shake. Dog perfumed water sprays all over me and my bathroom. And when they get out of the tub, they shake again. Any spots that were spared in early shakings, are now soaked with the wet dog perfume. After drying the dogs (which soaks two towels per dog), I have to clean the entire bathroom, including the walls.

Then, I have to brush the dogs since the dog bath loosened all their hair. No matter how long I brush them, more hair comes out. And because it is wet, it gets all over my hands and my clothes and clings like Saran Wrap. It also gets all over the house. So then I have to take a shower. And after that, I have to vacuum the house. Next, I gather all the dog smelly towels, and rugs, and clothes and do a couple of loads of laundry.

By the time I have done the dog washing, the dog brushing, the bathroom cleaning, my showering, the vacuuming, and the laundry, most of my day is shot. And then, of course, there is the lingering smell to remind me of my fun-filled day.

Nothing is ever as simple as it should be. OH yes, it starts simple, and then one thing slips into another, and pretty soon, just like sin, we have landed squarely in Hell.

Look at the Bible, for example. It is pretty straightforward. God gives us guidelines and rules for our protection. There really are not that many, and they are fairly easy to understand. But try to live them! Good grief! Look at all the arguments, rationalizations, twisting of clear cut words to make scripture mold itself around what we want to do, even when we know it is wrong. How do we manage to turn such a simple thing into such a wretched complexity?

Really, if we would just do it His way, God simplifies life. "These are the rules. Obey them and all will be well." However, we are hopeless sinners. We can't obey or be good all the time, or even most of the time. This is obvious. If it isn't obvious to you, ask anyone who knows you well. Sin stinks worse than wet dog. It hurts the sinner, and it hurts those around him. Few of us start off thinking, "Today, I think I will sin!" No, most of us think we, unlike everyone else, will not succumb. We alone are strong, and perceptive, and faithful.

Hint: no you're not. I'm not either.

We might avoid the BIG sins, but how many times today will we speak in anger, or ridicule, or be lazy, or be unkind, or be selfish, or be prideful, or be impatient, or say we will do something and don't do it, or stretch the truth, or gossip, or withhold our help and our resources from those who need it most....etc. etc.? And believe me, sin may start off small...but it never stays that way.

So our merciful God simplifies it even more.

We deserve punishment, and the Bible is pretty clear: the wages of sin is death. So, being just but also being merciful, God provides a substitutionary atonement for our sin. He sends His only begotten son that "whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Jesus pays the penalty for our sin, and we stand spotless before God. This is an awesome deal, and it is shocking that many of us snub it! It is clearly not fair, but it is filled with grace and love. When we recognize that, we should be filled with grace and love ourselves towards others in our infinite gratitude. It is really quite elegant in its simplicity.

Nothing like bathing a dog.

This is all that I have learnt: God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated. (Ecclesiastes 7:29 CEB)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The God of Heaven Will Give us Success

I started my day with a great verse. Little did I know how badly I would need it. "The God of Heaven will give us success." I was so struck by the verse that I copied it and put it in my saved emails. Then I suggested to my darling 16 year old that we could go to lunch together. I thought we could bond, share some laughs....

We settled down to our Panera Bread feast.
"Do I have to wear a dress tonight?" she moaned.
She was going to the church Christmas party. My hubby and I were going to a Christmas party of our own in the neighborhood.
"Did they tell you you have to wear a dress?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, close to tears.
"Then yes, you have to wear a dress. You have that sweater dress we got you a couple of years ago." (which she wore once, under protest at the church Christmas Eve service.)
"No!" She recoiled in horror.
We decided we had no choice but to buy her a new dress. Asherel is an unusual teen girl. She hates shopping. She doesn't like makeup, hair accoutrements, or dressing up. She despises high heels, and will never ever ever carry a purse. I knew I was in for a brutal afternoon, but I was determined. I would not allow it to devolve into a miserable marathon of negativity. I would be patient, and encouraging, and we would have a lovely time and find the perfect dress that both of us loved.

3 hours later:

The saleswoman looked worried. It may have been the lava running out of my nose and down my chin. She came rushing over, "Can I be of assistance?" she asked me.
"YES!!!!!" I shrieked.
"How can I help?"
"She needs a dress. Can you help her?"
"Of course," she said, smiling sweetly.
"Good. The adoption papers will be in the mail. I am going to your bar."

So I left Asherel in the capable hands of the saleswoman. When I returned from an extended stay in the restroom, (sadly, there was no bar in the store...),
I saw the saleswoman, a haggard look on her face. I noticed no dresses in either of their arms.
"Any luck?" I asked sweetly.
"What does she like?" groaned the saleswoman.
"You have discovered the problem!" I said.

Over the next hour, we left a wake of crumpled saleswomen. We did find a dress, though it must be worn with a jacket given a low cut back. Everything else about it was perfect and we were out of time.

Does anyone else start off with the best of intentions, certain this time, it will be different? This time, everything will be perfect, and all relationships will flow in harmony as God designed us. Smiles, gentleness, and shared memories will be built to reminisce upon in our golden years.

And then reality intercepts, tackles us to the ground, and we are left groping for air wondering where we went wrong. "The God of heaven will give us success." Where? When?

My daughter walked out of her room in her new dress. She didn't look completely thrilled, but she was stunning. And I thought how much I loved her, and in retrospect, how glad I was to have spent the day with her.

Nehemiah 2:20 NIV
[20] I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding....”

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Exiles' Distress

I hear that on Saturday it will be near record highs here in Charlotte, near 70 degrees!
let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Five days before Christmas, and I need to break out the shorts and tshirts! I don't mind. My middle son will be home for Christmas and he loves to play frisbee. It will be a perfect warm sunny day to frolic in the park. I moved to NC twenty years ago because I had had enough of frigid weather, 5 months of ice and snow, and burrowing in my home till June. I am grateful for warmth. The older I get, the more grateful I am. I don't know what all the fuss is about global warming anyway. I much prefer being warm.

It is a little ironic that my Christmas tree is covered with fake snowflakes and icicles. White lace is draped over the branches like snow. Ok, so maybe I miss Christmas snow just a little....But I am not alone in being affected by the weather.

I just finished the book of Ezra in the Bible. In this book, the Israelites are finally recognizing how far they have fallen away from God and His commandments. One of their "ah-ha" moments as they are planning to return to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity is "oops", they married pagan women in direct disobedience to God's command. They are very upset, because many of them have children from these women, and now they realize they must send the foreign wives and their children away. As I was reading this, I was in deep mourning for them. Yes, they had sinned, but how on earth could they bear to send away their own children?! And then I reread the last chapter and one line really popped out at me:

Ezra 10:9 NIV
[9] Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain.

Because of the rain?

I don't know. That struck me as odd. They are distressed understandably about the need to toss away their wives and kids...but because of the rain?

Sometimes I wonder why God puts up with us. I am as affected by the weather as the next guy, but doesn't the rain seem like a piddling consideration when one is confronted with denouncing one's own wife and kids?

In the end, despite the rain, the exiles pledged to "put away" their foreign wives. I admire them for that. They recognized obeying God was the most important duty before them. Still, I am not sure I could have done it. They would have of course been more admirable if they hadn't sinned in the first place, but it takes a lot of courage to admit one has grieved God and then suffer the consequences and try to right the wrong at great sacrifice to self.
With this story, one cannot escape the poignant message that sin takes many victims besides the sinner. Think of how those innocent children must have felt.

As I sit in my warm city with my tree covered with fake cold weather accoutrements, I am grateful for Jesus. I am as weak as the people of Ezra's day, grieving my God and worried about the weather. I don't think I could have sent away my children as the exiles of Ezra's story did...but the wonder and promise of the Child born unto us is that He would save us from our sin and pay the penalty we owed. He knows how we shiver in the cold and melt in the rain. In the midst of our weakness, Jesus came and provided a safe haven, shelter from the wrath that we deserved.


Ezra 10:1-4 NIV
[1] While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites---men, women and children---gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. [2] Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. [3] Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. [4] Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29, 34 ESV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Finish Line

Oh happy day! The proof of my new book arrived in the mail today! Now the final edit begins in earnest. I have to look for every misplaced comma, or absent period, or grammatical error, and correct every one. Then....publishing time! So exciting!

I opened the box, and clutched the new book to my heart. Eight years ago this project began, and now, I have almost reached the finish line! So many fits and starts, mistakes along the way, successes and epiphanies, revisions, tears, exhaltation, struggles, despair over what to edit, what to keep, certainty I will never finish, faint assurances I am on the right path...This book is in many ways a microcosm of life.

I had just returned from lunch with a wonderful friend. We talked of many things. One of our discussions was about letting go of the failures of the past. Guilt and self recrimination are tools of Satan. They only discourage, and never bring us closer to our goal. They defeat us. Satan knows this, and loves to remind us of how terribly we have messed up, and how we have no chance of finishing well.

Fight this!

God sent Jesus to conquer sin and guilt once and for all. If God Himself has forgiven us, how arrogant of us to think we should not forgive ourselves! What a slap in the face to our Savior and Lord. Either His sacrifice was sufficient, or it was not. I think we should fight hard to believe it was. We are forgiven. Let us not revisit the struggles and sins of the past, but keep our eyes on the finish line, on the "author and perfecter of our faith."

I held the new proof in my hand. I slowly turned each page, not yet to read, but to experience the pleasure of a job nearly done.

Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me. I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven. (Philippians 3:13, 14 ERV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Here am I -- Send Me

My Destination Imagination (DI) team met for their "building day" yesterday. This was the day scheduled with several hours devoted to creating and building the set for their presentation at the State contest in March. The day started on an interesting note with an email from one of the team member's mom: "What time is DI today? Ben broke his finger but will be there...."

When Ben arrived with his dominant hand wrapped in mounds of bandages, he told me that while he was strongly right hand dominant, the injured hand, he was sure he would be able to help build something...somehow.

You just gotta love Ben's spirit.

"What did you do, Ben?" asked the team.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said.
But we lack sensitivity, and kept prying.
Suffice it to say, it involved a bowling ball.

While the team worked, I made chocolate chip cookies for the team...from scratch...with Ghiradelli chocolate. (If you don't know what that is, you live under a rock.) Ben meanwhile was using his gauze wrapped hand to operate a circular saw. Fortunately, the team quickly realized that what they were trying to cut with the circular saw was not appropriate circular saw material. (They realized that when it shattered into a million pieces.) Ben and his broken finger moved on to the super glue work table. Still risky, but not likely to lead to dismemberment.

I sat in the living room nearby, fire extinguisher and medical kit at the ready. Our writer came out and told me one page of the skit was done, but she was no longer inspired. I gave her the speech my best college art professor once gave me: art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. She nodded, and disappeared.

I love this team.

I like to remember that Jesus called his apostles from a most unlikely crew. They were fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and a thief. Some of them had backgrounds that were unstated. They were not what one would typically expect from a team that was supposed to bring the message of God's salvation to a fallen, desperate world. Yet they were completely transformed and used by God. They became heroes, rising to the occasion. All but one were martyred for their beliefs, standing firmly for the truth of the Gospel. Ordinary men who became extraordinary with the power of God.

People, this is of tremendous hope to all of us! If we are called by God, no matter how damaged, how broken, how weak, and how uninspired we may be, God can use us! All we have to have is a willing spirit, that says, "Yes Lord, I am here." We just have to show up. Broken and weak as we are. Just show up and let God take it from there.

I sent photos of the team at work during the course of the afternoon. Ben's mom sent me an email, "Is that Ben's broken finger I see next to the circular saw?"
"It is indeed," I wrote back, "But it is already damaged...what is a little more?"
(besides, the saw was not on at the time...)


Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 NLT)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Set Your Mind on Things Above

I slept till almost 9 this morning...so only just now, 3 hours later than usual, sat down to do my Bible study and write my blog. You can see I didn't draw my daily picture either. I wimped out with a photo which explains why this all transpired. We skied the twilight session at Sugar Mountain. I got home late, way past my 8:00 bedtime. The mountain was very uncrowded so every ten minutes I was back on the lift and down for another run over a period of 8 hours. I was exhausted when I got home. It was heaven.

Though, lovely as it was, I listened to a Bible radio show on the drive out that clearly showed me, it was not heaven. Heaven will be perfect. it will be as far from the best things we experience on earth as a slug is from an angel. The host wondered aloud why most of us don't long for heaven. We all have things we want to do first, that seem to be more glorious in our mind than heaven. I heard that very comment from one of the kids on our ski trip yesterday. He told me heaven could wait. Too many wonderful life events remained that he wanted to experience. Then he skied off the top of an icy mountain. Seems to me he was tempting heaven....

The radio host suggested we do a word study on heaven, and find out what heaven is all about. It is a wondrous place. I wanted to get up early enough to do that, but the old gray mare just ain't what she used to be...and I slept like I haven't slept in five years.

But here is one:

Revelation 7:13-17
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

and another:

Revelation 21:4-8
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

and one more:

Revelation 22:3-7
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place." "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."

It is hard to imagine a place more perfectly peaceful and beautiful than being with those you love on a clear night with a full moon, stars, and an empty ski run laid out before you. Still, God promises that what awaits us is far superior if we trust and believe in His salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. I think moments like mine on the mountain are perhaps a foretaste of what lies ahead when my skiing days have ended and my eyes close to what I thought was a very nice world to be a part of. Since I was all alone on the mountain, I skied while singing hymns.

Colossians 3:1-2
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, December 16, 2013

Unfathomable Courage

The Christmas Cantata yesterday morning in church made me cry. There was one song that did me in, performed by a trio -- singers representing the angel, Joseph, and Mary. The angel in a deep bass voice tells Mary she will carry God's son and not to be afraid. Then Mary in her beautiful sweet voice wonders what will she tell Joseph, and how can this be? Then Joseph, bewildered but accepting that if this is what God wants of him, agrees he will accept what he is to do and marry his pregnant fiance, knowing the scandal the young couple will endure. Each cries out in solo the message and the fear, and then they all join together in acknowledging God's will be done, come what may.

We have all heard the story so many times, that sometimes it loses its impact. Imagine being a young innocent girl, betrothed and a virgin, and suddenly told you are pregnant with God's son! You must tell your fiance, and hope he believes you...but who would believe such an incredible story? You know you will be talked about, shunned, and accused of behavior that shames you. Yet you hear the angel's voice, and you know it is true, and somehow you square your frail shoulders and brave the world's scorn to obey your God.

Christmas is an amazing time, celebrating Jesus, but I rarely think much about Mary. That song made me love Mary all over again. What a brave young woman she was. How many times are we Christians called upon to stand up for our faith, for truth, for righteousness...and we cringe, fall back, fall away...fearing the derision of the world? As I listened to the singer portraying the magnificent role of Mary, mother of my Savior, I felt the nobility of sacrifice, and of unfathomable courage. Maybe what I am called upon to do in this life is not really so hard....

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Generations Growing Towards God

My sister Amy gathered three generations -- her daughters, grandkids, and she and her hubby -- and flew them all to see my parents, the great grandparents. Four generations gathered for three days together. She sent me a photo of my Mom (Great-Grandmamma) with new baby, Riley, as they prepared to leave after their 3 day visit. Riley is smiling in the picture and my mother is beaming back at her. I could look at that picture for hours and not grow tired of it. My father, not given to much "religiousity" of speech, admitted there was no word to describe the visit other than "blessed."

My sister Amy is well known for great acts of kindness and love. The whirlwind trip of the three generations of families included not only gathering the various people from Arizona and Texas, but then flying the whole kit and caboodle to Maryland, driving to NY for three days, and then driving to the other set of Great-Grands for three days in Virginia.

I am reading a wonderful book by Jen Hatmaker, called "7". Another wonderful sister, Holly, recommended it. I am loving it. It is essentially about how we Christians don't always do a very good job of changing the world by our actions. Oh we pray, and we have programs, and we have fancy churches, and wonderful Bible studies, but are we out there meeting the needs of others sacrificially? The author has really made me rethink what I hold dear and essential in life, as well as my purpose. I know I fall very short of what I should be, and as is typical with my somewhat melancholy personality, I become very down on myself wondering why I grow in Christ so exceedingly slow. This morning, my reading of CS Lewis was on just this issue. I love what he said about spiritual growth. He says we rarely see it happening, and if we focus on it, sometimes we end up going the other way. Then he gives wonderful advice, "As to your spiritual state, try my plan. I pray ‘Lord, show me just so much
(neither more nor less) about myself as I need for doing thy will now.’"

I watched the travels of my sister Amy and the many lives that she was filling with joy at great expense to herself and her wonderful husband. Sacrificial love. And four generations are watching... and wondering about The Lord she loves that gives her such boundless generosity towards others.


He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. He makes peace in your borders, And fills you with the finest wheat. (Psalms 147:3-5, 12-14 NKJV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Secret to Beauty

I discovered one of the mysteries of God last night. It was quite by accident, as many of the truly astounding revelations are. I had just taken out my contacts and was putting on my PJs while near our full length mirror. I glanced up, and could only see dimly, as without my contacts, my far vision is not very good. It looked like I had lost 20 pounds since my eyes could not quite discern my outer edges. Additionally, all my wrinkles, sags, and brown spots were gone. It was as though I had been airbrushed fresh off a photo shoot.

While admiring my svelte and instantly youthful appearance, with shattering clarity the truth of God that I had never understood before came crashing into consciousness. Loss of visual acuity as one ages is not a curse! It is a blessing!

Face it, while some of us age more gracefully than others, all in all, the corrosive effects of gravity, sunlight, and dark chocolate truffles do not add up to a pretty sight over time. It is a kindness that God robs us of our ability to see clearly as we age. No wonder spouses of fifty years and more keep talking about how their mate is as "lovely as the day I met her." Don't you just want to go, "Yeh, right!" every time you hear that sentimental garbage? But, now I see!! In his eyes, she is indeed as lovely as the day he met her because he is increasingly growing as blind as a bat!

How many other apparent curses have really been blessings? How many times have I begged God, crying, "Why, why, why??" All along, He is perhaps giving me something that in my limited perspective I simply cannot comprehend as benevolent when indeed it was! I have had massive clues to this epiphany. One only has to think of Jesus on the cross as Satan cackles in the background and then fast forward to the empty tomb, the rock rolled away, and the 500 witnesses of the Risen Lord. Now who's laughing, Satan?

I admired my image which I could not quite make out and then went to bed thinking how fortunate I was to be growing old while remaining so lovely.

PS- for those of you who don't know me, this is tongue in cheek. I don't want a hundred emails talking about the sin of pride and vanity.


Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the Lord, and they search our hearts. Rulers are protected by God's mercy and loyalty, but they must be merciful for their kingdoms to last. Young people take pride in their strength, but the grey hairs of wisdom are even more beautiful. (Proverbs 20:27-29 CEVUK00)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

The Secret to Beauty

I discovered one of the mysteries of God last night. It was quite by accident, as many of the truly astounding revelations are. I had just taken out my contacts and was putting on my PJs while near our full length mirror. I glanced up, and could only see dimly, as without my contacts, my far vision is not very good. It looked like I had lost 20 pounds since my eyes could not quite discern my outer edges. Additionally, all my wrinkles, sags, and brown spots were gone. It was as though I had been airbrushed fresh off a photo shoot.

While admiring my svelte and instantly youthful appearance, with shattering clarity the truth of God that I had never understood before came crashing into consciousness. Loss of visual acuity as one ages is not a curse! It is a blessing!

Face it, while some of us age more gracefully than others, all in all, the corrosive effects of gravity, sunlight, and dark chocolate truffles do not add up to a pretty sight over time. It is a kindness that God robs us of our ability to see clearly as we age. No wonder spouses of fifty years and more keep talking about how their mate is as "lovely as the day I met her." Don't you just want to shout, "Yeh, right!" every time you hear that sentimental garbage? But, now I see!! In his eyes, she is indeed as lovely as the day he met her because he is increasingly growing as blind as a bat!

How many other apparent curses have really been blessings? How many times have I begged God, crying, "Why, why, why??" All along, He is perhaps giving me something that in my limited perspective I simply cannot comprehend as benevolent when indeed it was! I have had massive clues to this epiphany. One only has to think of Jesus on the cross as Satan cackles in the background and then fast forward to the empty tomb, the rock rolled away, and the 500 witnesses of the Risen Lord. Now who's laughing, Satan?

I admired my image which I could not quite make out and then went to bed thinking how fortunate I was to be growing old while remaining so lovely.

PS- for those of you who don't know me, this is tongue in cheek. I don't want a hundred emails talking about the sin of pride and vanity.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11, 13, 14 NIV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Golden Calf-- A dog parable of Exodus 32

If I hurry she won't notice. Besides, I am sure the commandment not to eat her lunch was for only full plates. I am sure she was done eating anyway...probably....mostly. And I have been very hungry lately since she cut back on my dog food which compared to this, tastes like tarpaper. (Which is not bad in a pinch, by the way....) And she has been gone such a long time. She is never coming back, and it is only 4 hours to my dinner time. How will I survive till she returns?

Oh oh. I meant to leave a little. Usually if I leave a little she doesn't notice. Memory loss can have its advantages in my human...Now what? Who to blame? Who to blame? I think I hear her coming back. This is so not good.

Oh, I know how this looks but it is not my fault. I did not do it. It must have been that other dog, the one you made me come here to live with. He put the plate before me with all that lunch left on it, and whamo-slamo, it just disappeared.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:1-4, 7-10, 21-24 NIV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mary, Did You Know?

Do you think Mary noticed anything unusual about Baby Jesus? The Bible doesn't tell us. We don't know if there was anything unusual in His eyes, or if he had an aura about Him, or even if He cried to make His needs known. And since He was fully God and fully man, did He know everything but was like a little Savant trapped in a baby's body? Did He have to pretend to be an uncomprehending infant while all the while He knew that one day He would be crucified for our sins, die a gruesome death, and then be resurrected to show that death had been conquered and overcome for all eternity? It is all very interesting to me, wondering what that special little baby knew and understood. How I wish I could've been there.

As I was pondering Mary and little baby Jesus, my sister posted a picture of my parents holding their new great grand baby. Not only is the look on their face enough to make me cry, but the corresponding adoration on the baby's face equally liquifies me. Babies! They universally bring so much joy and wonder -- their sweet innocence, and all the promise of what might be, what could be if they are brave, and determined, and faithful.

But I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be Mary. It is hard enough raising people who aren't God. I can't imagine the pressure of raising God Himself, particularly since she knew it was not going to end well. She was warned by Simeon, the priest in the temple who blessed the new baby, that she would see things that would make her heart sad. She probably knew he didn't mean just a mountain of diapers to change...

I look at the picture of my parents holding that precious new life. We all know there will be suffering along the way, much as we wish we could prevent it. There always is. But there is victory as well. For Baby Jesus, the cross loomed, but then came the Resurrection. As Simeon told Mary, "I have seen your salvation, which you prepared before all people." He cradled a baby, but saw the promise of God nestled in his arms. I think that is on one level what we all feel when we gaze into the eyes of newborn babies.


The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to do what the law said they must do, Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God: “Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you said. With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, which you prepared before all people. Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon had said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, “God has chosen this child to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God that many people will not accept so that the thoughts of many will be made known. And the things that will happen will make your heart sad, too.” (Luke 2:27-31, 33-35 NCV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Questions God Never Answers

On some evenings I hear owls outside our window. Several years ago, the lot next to us was empty. It was covered with trees. Back then, we heard the owls all the time. Now, with the trees long since removed and a house standing where the owls used to roost, I don't hear them as often. It is a mournful sound, an owl's call, but I always love to hear it in the velvety darkness.

The owls that live near us are barred owls. They have a distinctive call that even unknowledgable owlers like me recognize: "Who cooks for youuuuu? Who cooks for youuuu?" Occasionally another owl will answer, but he always answers with a question himself: "Who cooks for youuu? Who cooks for youuu?" In the owl world, one never seems to find out who does the cooking.

Jesus is the same way. In the Bible, He never answers straightforward questions with straightforward answers. I wonder why that is. It seems a lot of confusion would be cleared up if He would just answer plainly.

For example:

Disciples of John: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" (Matthew 9:14, 15 ESV)

Disciples: “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
Jesus: “How many loaves do you have?” (Matthew 15: 32-34)

Disciples:(when a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on Jesus' head) “Why this waste?”
Jesus: “Why are you bothering this woman?” Matthew 26: 6-10

Pharisees: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus: “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? (Mark 2:1-11)

Disciples: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:38,40)

Pilate: “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus: “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” (John 18: 33-34)


You get the idea. There are a gazillion more. It is a fascinating study to go over every case where Jesus answers a question with a question. In every case, He is stretching His listeners understanding of who He is and why He is there. Like all good teachers, He understands that the answer that remains with you forever is the one you struggled to derive on your own.

"Who cooks for youuuuu? Who cooks for youuuuu?"

All creation mirrors God.


Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me?
(John 13: 37-38)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Armored for God

It is frigid, even here in NC. Of course, frigid in NC is a heat wave in Minnesota. Snow and ice seem to be hitting the rest of the nation, but we only have rain. I bundled up in my coat designed for 20 degrees below zero to walk Honeybun. I was toasty warm since it was probably a good 50 degrees warmer than what the coat is designed to handle.

When we first came to Charlotte, my husband found an LLBean coat at Goodwill. It would have been a $300 coat new. It looked brand new. It was real down, with a fur parka hood, and as puffy as a pillow. It was about 4 sizes too big for me, but it was only $5 and was made to survive winter in Alaska. My husband knew a good deal when he saw one! He bought it for me. It filled the car. I could not wait to wear the massive coat. Just what is needed in balmy North Carolina. Back in my pre-hotflash days, I was always freezing. I loved the mega-warm coat.

So the first cold day, maybe 40 degrees outside, I put on the coat. I looked like a StayPuff Marshmallow, or an astronaut exploring the dark side of the moon. The arms were so puffy with down that I couldn't bend them. The fur lined hood completely concealed my face. I went shopping in my arctic-proof spacesuit, hood up, face ensconced in fur. As I was walking between stores, one man looked at me and stopped in his tracks and said, "You have got to be kidding."

I will never forget that. I was so happy for that nice warm coat. I didn't realize how...well...weird I was. (It seems lately I have had to face the reality that I am not normal. It is quite sobering. I know I have quirks, but I always thought I was still within the bell curve. I am beginning to think that might not be the case.)

Anyway, I was prepared for the worst slings and arrows that winter could throw at me. I was totally unafraid of the wanton ways of the weather. In that coat, I could survive anything.

Well, almost anything.

The Bible warns that our battle is not against flesh and blood or even Old Man Winter. The Battle is against the principalities of darkness -- the forces of evil. We are not told to put on a coat that can keep out the chilliest of chills but we are told to don battle gear: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes ready to go forth with the Gospel of Peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Word of God. All that impressive armor is to be further covered by continual prayer. Two things struck me about this description.
1. the enemy is powerful and not to be trifled with. This is head to toe protection, giving the impression that if one teensy portion of ourselves is exposed to the enemy, we are mincemeat.
2. my LL Bean coat can't hold a candle to this gear.

I don't think we take the spiritual battle seriously enough. I think most of us don't realize we are even in a battle. Most of us look at this description and think, "You have got to be kidding." I don't think God is kidding. Evil strikes sometimes from never expected corners. If we aren't covered head to toe in the armor of God, we are exposed to a brutal adversary. Better people than I have been felled. Look at the list of respected and honored paragons of leadership and faith that have succumbed in scandal after scandal. That should be a grave warning. Best to be ready, prepared for anything.

"No," I told the man, who was incredulously surveying me in my enormous warm coat, "I am not kidding. It is supposed to get colder this afternoon and I want to be prepared."
"Well that you will be," he said walking on, shaking his head.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:11-18 ESV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, December 9, 2013

Filled with Hope

I came home from church on the freezing cold rainy day, and decided it was a perfect day to make a creche scene out of Sculpey Clay. I wanted larger figures than the little Sculpey Clay creche I made a few years ago. My plan is that every year, I will add one animal to the scene. I thought it would be easy. It was not. I don't know how people make large Sculpey figures since they tend to fall over as they warm up in the oven during the baking/hardening process. I suspect they use some sort of wire armature, but I didn't have any wire. Additionally, I was limited by the colors I had, because I had no desire to go out in the cold rain for more clay. Besides, I wanted to practice making due with what I had, and being content in my limitations. It took me much longer than I thought it would, but in the end, I was happy with my little clay family. (No one needs to know that Joseph is propped up with a Sculpey clay blanket I made for Baby Jesus, but it didn't fit over baby Jesus once it baked into a solid hard slab. However, it was perfect for propping Joseph who melted in the oven and keeled over severely to the left. SHHHHHHH!)

I decided that if I get good at this, I could make Christmas gifts. Who wouldn't want a handmade Sculpey clay creche scene, afterall? Not only will the creative work perhaps keep me from despair or senility, but it will play nicely into my desire to decrease the excess of consumerism at Christmas. I am envisioning spending the whole year slowly constructing a complete tableau of Jesus' birth scene -- Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the manger, the three kings, angels, and then a few penguins or maybe kangaroos to round it all out.

Art is my gift... or so I thought. Despite that, it was really not as magnificent as I envisioned the Sculpey Creche would be. Our sermon Sunday reminded us that we are not supposed to wait till the day when we feel we will be completely ready to do what God would have us do. We are to do it now, ready or not. God always covers our inadequacies, and frankly, compared to God, we will never be adequate. The Pastor reminded us of Barak, the commander of the Israelite army that went against Sisera, the evil Canaanite king. God commanded Barak to go into battle and free his people from the Canaanite oppressors. Barak was willing, but not confident. He told Deborah, the prophetess of the time, that he would go and lead the troops, but only if Deborah came with him. His obedience was conditional, and as a result, the blessing of the victory was given to Deborah, and to another woman, Jael, who was the one who actually killed the evil Sisera with a tent peg through his forehead while he slept.

I guess that sermon gave me courage. If we are led by God to do something, we shouldn't hem and haw while assessing our fitness to do it. Just do it. God will accomplish whatever He wants to, but if we hold back, we will miss the blessing. Anyway, my little holy family is not perfect, but I like it. It reminds me to step forward in faith in all things God desires of me, even when I am certain that I do not have what it takes.

Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins— even those you do in secret. Then you won't be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge, and your darkest night will be brighter than midday. You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry. (Job 11:13-18 CEVUK00)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When We Are Weary....

oh yay. I just got the most wonderful email. My middle son is coming home for Christmas! He is a new lawyer and he wasn't sure he would have any time off but he does!!! So he and his dear wife will be home for Christmas. I was feeling so blue, thinking none of the adult kids would be home. Thanksgiving was the first time that had happened, and I didn't know how I would bear the emptiness over Christmas as well. Knowing that the proper way of the world is that mamas raise their children to move out, cleave to a spouse, and make their own way in the world doesn't mean I have to like it. I am struggling to reconcile myself to the reality that my children might not always be coming home for holidays, as they develop families, lives, and communities of their own. It is good and it is as it should be...I guess. But I wonder if any mother ever pictures her adult children without flashbacks of their tiny fingers curled around her thumb when their little hands first clasped hers....and wish she could have those moments back, if only for a little while.

But for this year, I will still have the blessing of my children near. Funny how one little sentence on one little email can fill my heart with such joy. I guess I am very old fashioned, a dinosaur...but I believe one of the saddest facts of modern life is that families don't remain in the same town anymore. Aunts, and uncles, parents, and grandparents are no longer the support system for the young couple starting out in life. Strangers now fulfill that role. No wonder the government assumes the role of nanny. Something will always fill a vacuum. I don't believe it is the way it should be, but it is the way it often is.

God reminded me this week in so many ways that true contentment will never come till we honestly believe that He is sufficient, completely sufficient. It is almost impossible, at least for me, to let go of self to enter fully into His purpose and ultimately His rest. I cling desperately to the world and all that it offers, all the while knowing how spiritually shallow that is. And I try, and try, and try...only to falter again and again and again. But God, being God, knows that. And He is gentle, giving respite when we are not certain we can manage another second on our own strength.

If you are like me, when His purpose for your life is increasingly revealed, you feel a sinking realization that you are wretched selfish scum. You see how wide the chasm is between what you should be, and what you are. You are ready to lock yourself in the back corner of your closet and sing sad songs. And then, God knowing that perhaps the magnitude of the task before you threatens to turn you into a basket case, He sends an email that tells you your middle son will be home for Christmas.


The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalms 34:17, 18 NKJV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What Poinsettias Can Teach Us

I love poinsettias but I always seem to kill them. I don't mean to kill them. I don't want to kill them, but nonetheless, I end up killing them. I vaguely recall my Mom putting them in a closet for periods of time as they need darkness to keep the red leaves, or something like that. I am not sure. I think she killed them too, to tell the truth. It is a family curse.

However, I was listening to a radio gardening show one day and found out that poinsettias are finicky. It is not my fault that I killed them. Most people kill them. That's why poinsettias do such a booming business each year. No one ever has her poinsettia last all the way from one Christmas to the next.

This is so like the Bible book of Judges. The story of both the judges and kings of Israel is depressingly the same as the story of my poinsettias. In the history of Israel during the time of Judges, there is a constant cycle of blessing, disobedience, punishment, repentence, blessing, disobedience...etc etc etc.
Similarly, each year, I get the lovely poinsettia, then I don't care for it properly, it dies, I am terribly sorry, get a new poinsettia, neglect it, it dies.....etc etc etc.

The lesson is clear. Somehow, someone has to break the cycle. In the case of human kind, the cycle of sin was broken by Jesus. He knew we would never escape the perpetual slide into sin. The hope and promise of Christmas is that we could be reborn into new life, through faith in Jesus' paying the penalty of our sin once and for all. Christmas is about His birth, but the real gift of Jesus comes with His death and resurrection. I didn't really understand that until I became a Christian.

Anyway, back to the poinsettias. I wised up this year. I got very realistic silk poinsettias. I put them in a gold basket that looks like a sleigh and arranged them artfully. They look real. In fact, they look better than real. My real poinsettias never looked that good. The silk ones will be eternally beautiful. They are an entirely new creation! Why did I wait so long?

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, 17-21 NIV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reflections of Morning

I woke up at 5 a.m. yesterday morning. This is not unusual, but often I stay in bed and pray or try to go back to sleep. I decided instead to get up. As soon as I crept into the living room, I flicked on the Christmas tree lights. I love sitting in the quiet, still house, looking at my beautiful Christmas tree. Even at 5 a.m. And then I logged into facebook, and within seconds, my sister Holly "instant messaged" me. Her time zone is an hour behind me, so she must have been up at 4 a.m. We had a nice long chat, while I watched the Christmas tree.

I love mornings, even ridiculously early mornings like that. I am the only one in my family wired for morning. Everyone else is a night owl. So I spend my solitary mornings reading my online Charles Spurgeon daily inspiration, my C.S. Lewis thought for the day, a few verses sent by the Moravians, and then the Bible passages for my daily blog. It is a habit that is incredibly dear to me. When I have finished reading all the thoughts of those Godly influences, I am almost always ready to leap into the day with fire in my heart and a spirit ready to battle the slings and arrows the day will bring. In the morning, I can conquer the world.

And then in no time, 5:00 p.m. comes. I am so weary by 5:00, that I am often ready to put on my PJs and crawl into bed. All the fire that fueled my energy from the morning is flickering out. Mere embers remain, and I am not certain I will make it through the last singer of "The X Factor." I creep into bed usually by 8 or 9 latest, and almost always, my last thought is, "Thank God for this comfortable bed." No thoughts remain of conquering the world...only how short I have fallen, how few dragons I have slain.

But the Christmas tree is still on, in the corner of the room with its glimmering crystal ornaments and shimmery white lace and flickering white lights. As the sun sets and the sky framed by the window grows dark, I watch the Christmas tree, the same tree that greeted me so long ago in the early morning, now saying Goodnight to me at the end of the day. I almost never achieve what I was sure I could when the morning sun first tickled me with promise. Still, as I sit watching my tree at night, I realize the day was not wasted. I usually learned something or was blessed by someone, or if it was a very special day, was a blessing to someone else.

I woke up at 5 a.m. again this morning. I tiptoed out to the quiet, still living room. I flicked on my Christmas tree, and opened my iPad to see what Charles Spurgeon, CS Lewis, the Moravians, and then God Himself had to say to me. It is a day of promise, spread like a banquet before me, as I settle in the presence of The Lord.

He awakens me morning by morning, he awakens my ear to listen as a disciple. Isaiah 50:4

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35 ESV)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:5, 6 ESV)

I will meditate on all your works; I will ponder your deeds. (Psalms 77:12 CEB)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Choose Love

I again spent much of my day drawing characters for the book I am illustrating. This blog picture is the sketch of the dog who will be in the series. He looks suspiciously like our Lucky when he was younger. I also spent a good portion of the day dealing with salespeople. I had a problem with an order and was put on hold for about an hour off and on over the course of three or four phone calls.

My cousin Sue who is a Newtown, Connecticut resident and approaching the year anniversary of the horrific school shooting has been an inspiration to me. She, and the whole town, have been practicing random acts of kindness since that terrible day. Their motto is: Choose Love. They are consciously and individually trying to spread love instead of hate -- their response to the evil that filled their little town with the shooting. One thing Sue mentioned that she does is to be extra kind to the cashiers she comes across during her day.

I thought perhaps I could do that. During the rather frustrating hours of trying to iron out the problems with my phone order, I thought of Sue. As I was taken briefly off hold by the woman who had kept me on hold for 15 minutes, I asked her, "Are you all ready for Christmas?" There was a moment of silence. Almost suspicious silence. I think she was taken aback. I think she expected cursing. We chatted quite some time about christmas shopping and the merits of doing it early in the year.

Next, I moved on to the post office. Everyone knows that mailing packages three weeks before Christmas is crazy time. I stood quietly in line, but not every one did. Several people tried to cut in line. Some huffed and puffed and then in a fury, fled from the premises, stomping their feet. By the time I reached the counter, the mail lady looked tired.

I thought of cousin Sue.
"Busy day?" I said.
"Awfully busy!" she said, "Has been all week."
"And will be till Christmas," I laughed.
"You got that right," she said.
"Well I guess being busy is better than having nothing to do," I offered.
"Well if the customers would just realize it is always busy this time of year and they should be prepared to wait."
"Yes they should!" I agreed.
She smiled at me, and handed me my postage and receipt.
"Have a merry Christmas," I said.
"You too," she said, and honestly, she seemed less weary.

Such little moments of saying something to strangers as though they were friends may not change the world. But it might change that person's next few minutes. It is a start.

That phone saleswoman who I chatted with about Christmas never did solve my problem, by the way. But this morning when I checked email, I had been sent a $10 gift certificate from her. Ripples of kindness...

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ 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. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:14-17 KJV)

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org