Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Out of the Gloomy Darkness

Today I fly out to see my folks in NY for a few days! I will be without my kayak, and knowing I would miss it, I dashed out for a quick run on the river yesterday. I stayed in the shade of the trees overhanging the bank. It was still morning, and there was a cool breeze wafting over the dark shadows of the waters lapping near the bank. I was enjoying the cool darkness, when suddenly, a large white bird materialized in front of me. I had chanced upon a white heron fishing for his breakfast! I hadn't seen a white heron on the Catawba before. It was as large as the Great Blue Herons there. No one else was on the river yet, and so the white heron was not expecting visitors. I glided quite close to him before he finally edged off the log and wandered slowly away.

What an unexpected and beautiful wonder! Sometimes, when you least expect it, out of the gloom and shadows emerges something breathtakingly beautiful. The contrast was startling, and magnificent. Perhaps that is why sometimes God brings shadowy darkness to our life. It certainly makes us take notice of the light!
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John 1:5, 7, 9 BOOKS)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Facing The Abyss

I hate Microsoft Word. I spent 2 hours trying to figure out why there was a big white space in the middle of my document that I could not make go away. I could not put any text in it, and when I tried every possible way of deleting it, it made the paragraph after it split into one sentence at a time on separate pages. In the end, I had to retype the paragraphs before and after the big white space, that gaping Abyss that nothing could remove, and then delete the old and copy the new. By the end of the day, I felt like I had been through the war. And that was just one problem on one page out of 400 I need to edit for my book. I want to be rich and able to hire someone to do this for me. I know this is greedy and totally unspiritual. I am sure that until I work through my lousy attitude, God will continue to send me to the Abyss. I hate editing my books! I like writing them, most of the time, but the editing is terrible, horrible agony.

I was desperate. I googled for solutions, and was surprised to find other people struggle with big blank white Abysses on their Word documents. However none of their suggested solutions worked for me. My Abyss was particularly difficult to cross.

Then I put a public plea out on Facebook. My sister must be a Word Doc expert because she gave a whole series of suggestions. None worked until finally, I retyped the sections on either side of the Abyss, and copied them into my document after deleting the old sections. That finally cleared the Abyss, but it was an arduous solution. Most of my day was spent on that one small section of editing. A day of frustration.

"Why do I do this!?" I moaned. Why do I try to write books, or blogs, or political posts? Why don't I just settle for scrubbing the toilets, doing the laundry, raising the last great kid at home and stop pretending I have anything worth writing?

Then, I noticed that a new review was up for one of my books on Amazon. I clicked on the review. Here is what it said:
Georgia Johnson (Ozark, AR United States) -
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: I'm Listening With a Broken Ear (Kindle Edition)
"It had me chuckling while at a cancer center while waiting for a radiation treatment! I would definitely recommend this book."

Ok. I may not change the world. But I made one person who was facing cancer chuckle for a little while. If I must face the Abyss now and then, perhaps it is worth it after all. We just never know who or how we may impact the world. I think God was telling me, face the Abyss and don't lose heart.

Therefore, having this service, even as we received compassion, we do not lose heart, (2 Corinthians 4:1 NASB)

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:40, 44, 45)

-save a dog-

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Little Green Car

The little green Honda Civic that taught two sons to drive stick shift, and made it through 7 years of my middle son at college and law school is now my car. My spacious mini-van will be daughter Asherel's vehicle as she drives herself to the Community College for her dual enrollment classes this coming semester, since it is big and safe. Besides that, I have only just begun to teach her to drive a stick shift car, and it takes a while to be safe and proficient.

Despite loving my big, safe and easy to drive Honda Odyssey van, I am enthralled with my little lime green hatchback. I discovered that while it is a tiny car, my kayak fits inside when I lay the back and front passenger seat down! All my kayak gear fits neatly beside the kayak, and I then sit happily in the driver's seat, the queen of all I survey. (Which isn't much but that is ok, because I never wanted to be a Queen anyway.) Not only is the little lime green car incredibly cute and compact and zippy, but it gets about a zillion miles per gallon. Since the river is 25 minutes from home, it makes sense that I take that 15 year old eco-friendly car to kayak destinations.

People smile at me in my little green car. They wave, and point at the kayak impossibly nestled snugly beside me. I feel happy in the little Civic. I am a small woman and this little car is just the right size. I love my safe big van, but this little car is scaled more appropriately to my size. In general, I have a tendency to like wide open space, limitless storage for all my stuff, the potential to expand....

But I feel very safe and contained and spartan in this little no frills car. It challenges me to think about how little I really need and how far, far beyond that I tend to desire and accumulate. For example, my iPhone memory is almost full! The culprit? My photos. And I accumulate more photos at an alarming rate. I can buy more storage on the iCloud so I can keep accumulating photos...but maybe that would not be best. Maybe, I ponder as I sit so contentedly in my little green car, I should just be satisfied with less.
Proverbs warns us: Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes. (Proverbs 27:20 NIV) And Psalm 90 reminds us: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14 NIV)

Satisfaction rests not in the endless expanse of our possessions, but in God's unfailing love.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced. (Psalm 63:2-8, 11 NIV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lessons From the Storm

I thought I had two hours before the rain hit, so I finished my chores and dashed out with my kayak yesterday morning. As I was about to get on the Interstate, the radio said there was torrential rain just north of me (where the river is), and flash floods all around, and the thunder storm should be hitting directly where I was right about....BOOM!!!!! FLASH! Rain! Thunder!

Oh well. I turned around and headed home.

It thundered and rained off and on the whole afternoon. I was stuck indoors, and alas, felt the best use of my time during the storm was to work on editing my new book. I am at a very hard part of editing. Despite the fact that I originally wrote many sections with great passion and conviction, I now have to cut away everything that doesn't propel the story forward. It is very hard for me to discern which parts are expendable. It is like cutting off a finger!

I suppose the storm was a fitting background to this process. When the storm rages, and the boat is driven to the shoals, the good captain throws all the dead weight overboard. Sometimes you must be willing to let go to move forward.

God spoke to Job from a storm. I have never quite understood the book of Job, but it seems that Job's peace with all that transpired at the hand of God came to him at last when God spoke to him....from the storm. No one likes storms, but it seems at times, they are necessary. Sometimes we don't really listen until it thunders.

Then the Lord spoke to Job from the storm: “Be strong, like a man! I will ask you questions, and you must answer me. Would you say that I am unfair? Would you blame me to make yourself look right? Are you as strong as God? Can your voice thunder like his? (Job 40:6-9 NIV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Subtle Warnings

Asherel and her friend Josh went kayaking with me yesterday. They spent most of their time swimming and doing death defying things like balancing on logs in the water and doing flips when I wasn't looking. Meanwhile, I zigzagged back and forth across the river, keeping them within sight and hailing distance, but exploring the cool shaded banks. There was one very curious section of the river. Under normal circumstances, large rocks are exposed near the bank in that section. However, with all the rain of late, the rocks are underwater. The current in that section is very strong, and swirls as it is disturbed by the large rocks. I have to work very hard to paddle upstream. If I stop for even a moment, I am swept back downstream and at curious angles depending on how the water is swirling. I am not afraid in my kayak, but I think those currents would be dangerous if I were swimming.

The only visible sign of all that turbulence were some twirls of water above the submerged rocks. If I weren't looking for them, I wouldn't have noticed they were there. Had I not known of the treacherous rocks because of all my prior experience kayaking there, I would not know to be careful near them now that they were unseen.

How like the snares and evils of the world those submerged rocks are! The wisdom of ages past might warn us, if we were inclined to turn an ear to those voices. The subtle signs of trouble might alert us as well, but with the danger just beneath the surface, we could easily miss the signals. How simple it would be to become trapped in the swirl of evil, ignoring the voices of experience and the little warnings that tug only gently at our conscience! On the surface, all looks relatively smooth, and it is tempting to ignore the little whirlpools, the small signs that should give us pause.

I kayaked carefully through that section and thought about my country. I thought about my recent trip to the Community College bookstore, where an openly lewd calendar sat on the counter to greet the eager, bright students as they purchased their books. Young people came and went, glanced at that calendar, and glided by, as though there were no treacherous rocks beneath their feet.

Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies. But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death. Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety. (Psalm 141:4, 8-10 NIV)

When they came to the place called “The Skull,” they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father! They don't know what they are doing.” They divided his clothes among themselves by throwing dice. (Luke 23:33, 34 GNT)

-save a dog-

Friday, July 26, 2013

On Target

I hurt in many places today. My forearm took a particular beating until I figured out how to turn my elbow down so that my arm didn't get thwacked by the very taut and accelerating string of the bow. There is already a lovely multicolored welt on it. Tomorrow I imagine it will be even more resplendent.

Still, I have decided that I want a bow and arrow set. This fun day all came about because Asherel and I got a Groupon Coupon for an archery lesson and range time for two. Since she had always wanted to try archery, and I am always game for new activities, we went yesterday to redeem our coupon.

There were three other kids and a couple of adults. Right after the lesson began, the pre-teen boy on the end of our line keeled over, right on top of all the bows. It looked like perhaps a seizure, but very definitely loss of consciousness. Who knew Archery could be dangerous even before shooting a single arrow? The two adults carried him to a chair where he came to, wondering what he was doing there. He admitted he had not had breakfast or any water that morning. The group leader brought him a sugary drink, and as he downed that, the instructor, shaking his head, went on with his lesson.

I was the only lefty in the group. (By that, I mean handedness, not political persuasion.) Thus, I had a special bow, and I had to reverse everything the instructor showed us. I honestly do not know why in this world of special interest legislation and treatment that I do not get some special stipend and sticker for my car. You right handed people cannot imagine how much harder life is for a minority group like us lefties. It took me at least 5 minutes just to figure out which way was up on the bow. I had to reverse everything the instructor was telling everyone.

Other than the painful thwacking of my forearm, it was great fun. One of our targets was a cluster of balloons. When everyone else was done shooting all 6 of their balloons, I had 5 left. (Again, I believe this is because I am left handed. It could not be because I am a hopeless klutz, contrary to what my oldest sister told me throughout my vulnerable childhood years.)Then they brought out the animal pictures for us to shoot at. I didn't really want to do that at all. However, I managed to shoot all three of my animals right in the heart.

By the end of our class, my shoulder and neck muscles ached and my bruised forearm felt a little broken. But it was worth it. We just have to figure out which neighbor would be ok with us pointing our arrows their way when we get our archery set....

Our instructor told us about a famous archer who used to shoot arrows at the cowboys on the old Westerns on TV. The actors wore steel vests under their shirt, but no other armor. The archer was so good that he could shoot the arrows at them while they were galloping by on a horse, and hit only the vest, no other vital part!
"Now that's trust!" said the instructor.
Well, it sure is, I agreed, but instantly I also thought of how people will put their trust in fallible people so easily...but struggle so much to put their trust in an infallible God. And then when those fallible people fail them, who so often gets blamed? Right. The infallible God who is the only one they should have trusted in the first place.

The instructor also told us that the bow was a machine. Like any machine, if you tell it to do something exactly correctly each time, it will always do it. If you are off at all, such as gripping the bow too tightly and thus subtly rotating it, the arrow will enter the target at an angle, not straight and true.
"The arrow will tell on you every time!" said the instructor,"The arrow never lies."

This is what I need in every portion of life! I need an arrow that will make it obvious when I am on the right trajectory, or when I need to make subtle adjustments. I would prefer a less public proof of when my aim is not accurate, but the instant, incontrovertible feedback of an arrow, true and on-target....or not....seems a helpful aid to those who really want to be better.

However, in a sense, I do have such an fact...I AM that arrow. Interestingly, the Bible offers that lovely symbol. The book of Isaiah tells me that I am part of a whole quiver of arrows in God's arsenal. I am afraid that too often I faint before He has even strung the bow, just like the boy who skipped breakfast, but that is not what God desires of me. He would have me always pointing at the target He has set for me, and His aim is always perfect. I just need to trust Him; because if I let Him place me exactly as He desires in the bow, He supplies the power that will insure I reach the target, flying much further than I could ever hope to do on my own. And when I fly straight and true, I serve God and pierce the Darkness.

Oh! To be such an arrow, that never lies and is always on target!

Listen, far-flung islands, pay attention, faraway people: God put me to work from the day I was born. The moment I entered the world he named me. He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me. He made me his straight arrow and hid me in his quiver. He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.” (Isaiah 49:1-3 MSG)

-save a dog-

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Before Perishing

Yesterday morning, I pulled into my parking spot on the banks of the Catawba River in Belmont, the idyllic place to kayak and lose oneself in beauty and tranquility, as the car radio announced, " A dead body was found in the Catawba River in Belmont, by two kayakers this morning...."


The body was fully clothed, and there appeared to be no foul play...but still. Nothing like a dead body to dispel the sense of heavenly peace and beauty.
The strange thing is that when I kayak along the shores, loving the quiet, secluded beauty, I HAVE thought, this is just the sort of place someone could hide a dead body.

Shiver me timbers.

Nonetheless, I pulled my kayak out of the car and into the river. What were the chances of TWO dead bodies in one day? Slim to none, I figured. I headed upstream, the current still strong from a summer of near daily torrential rain. I wondered about the poor soul, apparently drowned in the Catawba. I came across no scary sights, though I did scare a blue heron napping on the shore. I wondered if the person had been resting on the bank and slipped in the water by accident. Or had the death been purposeful?

Whatever the circumstances, few of us know the time or method by which we will be snatched into eternity. It struck me (again) how terribly important it is that we make ourselves right with God NOW. Don't wait. Don't even get to the end of this sentence without bowing your head, and praying, "Lord, if you are there, heal my unbelief! Show me the path of righteousness! Forgive me of my sins, and my pride that has kept me so long from your side! Let me trust and know that you are there, have always been there, and into your hands, I commit my life!" I found myself hoping, as I skimmed along the shores of the Catawba, that the person found dead was now in eternity with Jesus. And I hoped fervently that no other dead bodies were waiting to be discovered.


“If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire. (2 Samuel 23:5 NIV)

And so you will bear testimony to me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Luke 21:13, 18, 19, 27, 28, 33 NIV)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Temporary Crowns

I finally got the permanent crown on my beleaguered tooth. The temporary crown fell off twice! After the second time, I told the dental assistant not to scrape off the cement from the tooth before recementing.
"Maybe the old cement will hold the crown on this time!" I suggested.
She agreed. And the temporary crown stayed on until finally yesterday, the permanent arrived.
I did not charge the dentist for my advice.

When he removed the temporary crown, he held up a cement cap shaped like my tooth.
"I have never seen this," he said, "In all my years of dentistry...the cement under the crown formed a crown of its own!"
The dental assistant and I high-fived, "And it stayed on," I told him.

After the trauma of the crown replacement, I dashed off to the river. All the horrible dizziness and weariness of the past few days was gone. I kayaked joyfully against the strong current and then whizzed back to dock in half the time. My numb jaw lost its numbness, and I was able to eat a very late lunch, grateful for the new tooth and the adventure of crowns over for now.

One day, I will get a new crown. It won't be on my tooth, though. It will be a crown of glory, bejeweled according to what I have earned through a lifetime of serving God. I hope it will be filled with jewels, symbols of my devotion, my obedience, my trust in my Lord. Alas, I know it will be much sparser than it should be. Still, it is a crown that will not fall off, and will give me no pain. It will be the crown that shows I persevered to the end, and it is not cement that will hold it on...but love and completion.
You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked you for life, and you gave it to him— length of days, for ever and ever. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. (Psalm 21:3-6 NIV)

I do all this for the good news, because I want to share in its blessings. You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win! Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last, but we do it for a crown that will last for ever. (1 Corinthians 9:23-25 CEVUK00)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Becoming an Ant

We have an ant infestation. They can't be crawling all over the kitchen counter searching for water because it has rained for well over 40 days and 40 nights lately. There is plenty of water outside our house. I am not sure what they are looking for. If it is good cooking, they are in the wrong house.

Whatever they are hoping to find, we plan to confound them. We called Terminex and requested they find a compelling deterrent. Thousands of ants swarming over our kitchen counter is just not acceptable, no matter how much I love all creatures great and small. One visit by Terminex and the ants have retreated. I don't know if it is permanent, but it is a blessed victory to have our counters back.

On one level, I feel very bad for the ants. They don't know that they are not supposed to be in our house following the path to destruction. I have no way of letting them know. If I could become an ant for a while perhaps I could warn them. But one ant among so many...would they listen? Would they believe I really was who I claimed to be, the Master of the House, the One who could save them if only they would follow me? Would they believe me that I was warning them of something they could not yet see? That I had greater knowledge, fuller sight, and was worthy of their trust? Probably not. If I stood in their way, they would likely just laugh in the way ants laugh, and swarm over me, trampling me on the way to the crumbs of food and the poison traps, while the feast I could have led them to outside remained untouched. Knowing all that, I would have to love the ants very much to become an ant just to save them.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:10-14 NIV)

-save a dog-

Monday, July 22, 2013

Out of the Sun

I sat in church and suddenly felt dizzy. It must be that the many days of kayaking in a heat index of 100+ weather had finally hit me. So I tottered out to the section outside the sanctuary for the mothers of young children. There was a TV monitor there so I could listen to the sermon (which was excellent) while not causing a stir should I pass out.

An usher rushed over and asked me if I was ok.
"Well, I feel faint," I told him, "so I didn't want to pass out in there and disrupt the service."
He hurried to the lady behind a desk nearby and told her to keep an eye on me. Then he returned and asked if he could get me anything.
"No," I assured him, "I will be fine."
His concern was very touching. After a few minutes, I felt almost normal again, but I liked sitting with the young mothers and their little babies cooing and gurgling around me. One kept dropping his toy, and I kept picking it up. The mother kept thanking me and telling me I didn't need to do that, and I kept telling her I really didn't mind.

After church, my friend texted me asking if I wanted to kayak with her. Yes, of course! But I should not. I think the dizzy spell might have been a touch of heat exhaustion. I read that heat exhaustion can actually build over several days of exposure to high heat. It has been very hot here, and I have been kayaking nearly every day. But I hate to pass up a day of kayaking. Still, it would probably be smart to just sit in the cool AC and rest. I regretfully told my friend I better not go, and settled down to read. First, I read about heat exhaustion. After succumbing to heat exhaustion, one is susceptible to high heat for at least another week! Oh no! The effects linger, and can become even worse if one continues to be overheated. The only cure is to stay out of the sun.

That is not unlike our sermon! The guess speaker, a well known author and theologian, Dr. Norm Geisler, methodically and factually laid out the case that America was founded on the moral bedrock of Christianity. Schools, public officials, and the community all embraced the teachings of Christ as foundational in fostering the ideals and basis of freedom and natural rights. However, as time went on, and the country moved further and further, step by step, from that foundation, societal ills increased exponentially - divorce, crime, abortion, suicide, drug use and other addictions, etc. He made a very compelling and well thought out case for how the continual immersion in a society that removed God from its center led to an increasingly sick society. Like heat exhaustion, it would only get worse if the source of the illness were not removed.

I drank cool water and reclined in my air conditioned home thinking how I needed to get out of the SUN, but our culture needed to find its way BACK to the SON.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. (Revelation 16:8, 9 NIV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Risky Living

Two friends this week asked, with some concern, "Do you kayak alone?"
Yes. I do. But I have a boat filled with emergency measures. I have kayaked for years now, and I have assessed the likely dangers.
Danger #1: Drunk motorboats collide with me.
Solution: I have my OSHA regulation Kazoobie Kazoo boat horn. I have been told in no uncertain terms that when I blow it, it destroys the hearing of anyone within 15 feet of me. Even drunk motorboat captains will be alerted well before impact, and hopefully have the wherewithal to veer off, or be in danger themselves of losing their hearing. I could also hop in the water out of the path of the boat.
Danger #2: wasp attack.
Solution: Yes, wasp build nests on the low overhanging branches at the river banks. I know to look for them, and I never let my paddle or my kayak swipe a low branch. I also advise all who kayak with me to avoid low branches. However, should I by accident bash a wasp nest, and incite a swarm, I have benedryl in my dry sack with me at all times. Two benedryl should hold off anaphaleptic shock long enough for me to get off the water and get to a hospital. I could also hop in the water to avoid getting stung.
Danger #3: heat prostration and or sudden drop in blood sugar.
Solution: I have an extra large water bottle, and an emergency package of peanut butter crackers. I could also hop in the water to cool off, munch my crackers, and rest.
Danger #4: Armageddon.
Solution: This one is easy. Whenever I kayak, I pray. Not because I am particularly concerned about Armageddon but because being in the midst of nature, I am overcome with worshipping the One who engineered this magnificent setting just for me.
I could also hop in the water and be baptised, though it would be unnecessary and redundant since I already have been. However, it is a nice symbol of being washed clean in entering eternity with The Lord. But mostly, I should not have any problem with Armageddon because I have put my faith in Jesus, accepting his atoning sacrifice on the cross in my stead, and thus when I die, I know I will instantly be ushered into the presence of God, of which the beautiful Catawba river is only a pale reflection.

So what else could happen? I have all the likely bases covered. Life is not without risk, but I really am not a risk taker. The risk would be staying home and missing the joy of living, or venturing out like I did yesterday in the early morning, while the air was cool, and the osprey were fishing, and the water was peaceful and quiet, and I felt like I was gliding down the river of Heaven.

My life is always at risk, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have set snares for me, but from your precepts I do not stray. Your testimonies are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (Psalms 119:109-111)

-save a dog-

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Call You Friend

I spent the whole day yesterday sitting or in the car. First I met an old friend for coffee and realized that sometimes the people you spend the least amount of time with are the ones you should have spent the most amount of time with. After that lovely hour, I drove home for my daughter, Asherel, and we headed out to the Community College to get her parking pass and math book for her dual enrollment courses next semester. We arrived only to discover the college is closed for the summer on Fridays. A half hour drive each way for naught. Still, it was good practice for Asherel, who takes her driving test in a month. We had lots of near catastrophes - merging into a lane filled with trucks, cars cutting us off to dash across 4 lanes, construction suddenly slowing traffic from 60 to 5 mph unexpectedly. We spent a little time behind a car that had a bumper sticker for some church. It said, "Relationship! We don't practice religion." It seemed odd on first blush. A church that didn't do religion.
All that driving gave me the opportunity to mention (again) pearls of wisdom, cultivated from years of driving. I think they are what my mom told me when she taught me to drive. I have always taken them to heart.

"Two things you must never forget when you drive," I advised my student driver, "One: The car is a lethal weapon. Always remember you have the potential to kill or to die with it. Two: Always assume everyone else on the road is an idiot and will do the wrong thing." We had many opportunities to test both edicts.

We were still not home, out on errand #367 when the dogs' dinner time arrived. I am the dispenser of Honeybun's medicine for her nerve issues, but I carefully instructed my husband on what meds to give her in my absence. Our messages crossed and he gave her an extra nerve block. I don't think it will hurt her, but it will wipe her out. That will make two of us. All that driving and shopping with my teen girl, and pounding my nonexistent brake while she drove wore me out. I had been out of the house, mostly in the car, from 10 until 5:30.

Some days are like that. Filled with errands and must-dos from beginning to end. No beautiful river while floating on my kayak listening to birds, sighting osprey and communing with nature. Just diesel exhaust fumes, frantic masses of cars all around me, and endless roads filled with necessary but uninspiring tasks. Still, when I got out of the car, with our final errand, bags of Chinese food for dinner, I looked at my daughter and said, "That was fun."

I have two years left with her before she dashes off to college, graduates as the last student of my homeschool, in continual operation since 1990. Then I board the windows and put out a sign, "School Closed." Not all moments spent with those you love are doing the things you love...but the things you do are not as important as who you are doing them with. I don't know if Asherel understands that YET, but I do. I understand and I praise God for the day in the car doing errands. Perhaps the message is just what the bumper-sticker on the car meant, "Relationships. We don't do religion." It is not about what we do. It is who we do it for, and who we do it with.


My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:12-17 NIV)

-save a dog-

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not What we Deserved

For once, we timed it perfectly. Asherel and I were on the Catawba River with two good friends and our kayaks for exactly the only part of the day that was sunny, and perfect. The rain started in spits and spots as we drove home, and poured in earnest an hour or so later. It was a wonderful day, swimming, finding clams and skipping them on the water, and then sipping slurpies back at the dock while rocking and looking out over the beautiful water. Irresistible beauty and wonder!

The world did not have to be beautiful. It could have been mud and grey drab and noxious sulphur and methane smells rising continually about us. But instead God gave us robin egg blue skies, currents of blue green rivers gurgling and lapping at shores covered with rhododendron, and tiny clusters of red and white wild flowers. He gave us River Birch, fragrant Sassafras, and Slippery Elm trees bending elegant limbs towards the water, as though beseeching us to draw near. He filled our ears with birds singing from cool island depths. All around us, the Heavens declare the glory of God. It did not have to be so breathtakingly beautiful. Why did God create it that way for such a wayward, stubborn people?

When we got back, I read a wonderful Facebook discussion about God's "irresistible grace." One can deny the pull towards perfection, beauty, and the revelation of creation only so long. At some point, it is easier just to succumb, to release all doubt, to fall wondrously into the marvel of creation and pay homage at last to the Creator. After all, He gave us beauty when we deserved ashes.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19 NIV)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)

-save a dog-

What Sets us Free

More deer and more fawns on my run yesterday morning! I saw four! It was a whole family- a buck with only one side of his head with antlers, a doe with an injury on her shoulder which seems to be healing, and two fawns. The world seems to be bursting at the seams with deer! And more rain, and thunder, and hot hot days! Our whole summer thus far has been spent hiding from the rain and the heat indoors. I don't think Asherel minds too much - she had a ready excuse to overdose on Minecraft on her computer. And I spent the day editing my new book. But I AM getting weary of being trapped indoors.

I have a couple of people reading through my rough drafts and helping me refine my message in my new book. Both have indicated I need a more exciting "opening" and I am struggling with that. I like to build up to excitement, set the stage, build anticipation....but apparently that translates to boring sometimes. So I wrote a totally fictional account filled with blood and gore and danger for an opening chapter, just to tease my editor.
"Yes!" he wrote, "Now I am interested!"
Great. He only got interested when I lied.

I wonder how the buck I saw on my run lost half a head of antlers? And how did the doe get injured? I could definitely make an exciting story out of that...But in the end, I would rather have truth than exciting fantasy. After all, Jesus said that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. And even better than freedom, if we know the truth and call on God in truth, God will be near. It might not sell, but it seems to be the better path. It seems the truth is sometimes lost in the frantic glitz of the world. Maybe that is why despite a world full of diversion, when we close our eyes and the quiet dark settles around us, we know something is missing. Without the truth of God, we are like that deer, missing half its antlers. Everything is thrown off balance.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV)

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 NIV)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When Does it End?

"We should fix the AC," I told my husband, "It is a good car and then Asherel will be able to drive to CPCC herself next semester. What else could go wrong? It is in good shape."
So we fixed the AC, and the AC was great, and the car was good. Morning and evening, and the next day.
"Oops, the power outlet is broken. We need the power outlet so that Asherel can use GPS to drive herself to CPCC next semester. What else could go wrong? It is in good shape."
So we fixed the power outlet, and the power outlet worked and the car was good. Morning and evening, and the next day.
"Oh no. The muffler is broken. We need the muffler so that Asherel can hear her radio as she drives herself to CPCC next semester. What else could go wrong? It is in good shape."

Ominous silence from the husband.

The good news is that Asherel did not stall once when I took her out to drive the money pit with the stick shift. We made a lot of noise, with the broken muffler and the new stick shift driver grinding gears, and popping off the clutch a little too quickly, but she did remarkably well.

Then we heard a loud bang.
"What was that?" I asked Asherel.
"I don't know," she said.
I am beginning to suspect the car is NOT good anymore.

This is the way life goes sometimes. You keep thinking you are getting to the end of a problem, and somehow, it keeps growing. It is easy to become discouraged. How does one keep trudging when the trudging is so continual?

I guess you have to keep the long range view. Somehow, you have to look beyond the struggles today to the ultimate victory tomorrow. In the end, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. There will be no more pain, or sorrow, or tears, or car repairs. We will be One with God, and He seems able to be everywhere He needs to be without the use of a car.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 NIV)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jobs for the Old

My sweet old dog with the compressed nerve is doing well on the nerve medicine. She almost never limps anymore, though she is not as eager to get up and go as she used to be. She likes to sit, or lie down and just watch the world. Her days of wild romping are over, but she seems content with the legacy she left - a wall full of agility ribbons and a family of her own that loves her despite her homeless and abusive beginnings. She has earned a little rest. Nonetheless, when I get up and move to a different room, she usually still follows. She will not easily relinquish her job of protecting the people who love her.

The cute old car we had loaned my son while he was at college was returned when he bought his new flashy car. It came home still eager to be used, but with a broken AC, and lighter socket that doesn't work. Since I need that to plug in my GPS, we will need both things fixed. The old car had served well. The faithful Honda Civic had weathered 2 teen boys learning to drive a manual shift car. It had then been Matt's car for 7 years, and I think it is possible, it had not been cleaned in all that time. Matt is a wonderful person and son but has never been accused of being too neat. Karissa, his delightful wife, cleaned out all the debris before they had to dash back home to studying for the law school Bar exam and editing law papers.

So I brought the old car in to the mechanic.
"I apologize for the unkempt condition of the car," I said as I dropped off the key and instructions, "But it belonged to my college son."
"Say no more," laughed the mechanic.
"It's a 96 Honda civic," I told him, proud of having memorized what I knew they would ask me. (I am not at all a car person. I wouldn't recognize more than one or two car models if a gun were put to my head.)
"Engine type?" he asked me.
"You're kidding, right?" I said, "The car is green. That is the extent of my knowledge."
"We'll take care of it," he smiled.

The old car has one more job. It still has to teach our beloved daughter Asherel to drive a stick shift. If possible, it would be nice if it could accompany her to college. I plan to wash and vacuum it thoroughly today, polish its dashboard, clean its windows. It is old, but as I saw its cute, faithful, cheery lime-green body in our driveway again, it made me happy. It was like a family member returning home.

There is so much excitement and anticipation in new things, but I have become more and more appreciative of old things lately. Perhaps as I become old, that just reflects narcissism. But God loves old things too. He used old people to accomplish many of His purposes, Moses was an old man when he led the Israelites out of Egypt, Joshua was 85 years old one when he fought for the land across the Jordan. Sarah was well past child bearing years when she gave birth to Isaac, the forefather of many nations and child of God's promise to Abraham. Old age is honored and revered by God, and most remarkably, still of great use!

The nerve medicine won't restore youth to my old dog, though it should keep her comfortable. The thorough cleaning and new AC won't make the old car young again. But there is something almost of expectation in both of them, as though they are hopeful for renewal in the jobs that remain for them. Honeybun knows that if she didn't follow me into my room each night and curl up nearby, I would not be safe. And I bet the old car knows that one more young driver is about to wrench and grind the old clutch, and stutter her way slowly to proficiency. I bet the old car can't wait, eager to embrace and teach this new generation.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:5, 9, 17, 18 NIV)

-save a dog-

Monday, July 15, 2013

Living in the Moment

It was a big weekend for my son and his wife. Their old cars died, both hand-me-downs from their parents, and now with a great new job as a fresh eyed young lawyer, they got new (used) cars. It is strange to fathom this, as a parent with very recent memories of holding that young man as a baby in my arms while he squawked and squirmed with colic. When did he grow up, and how could he possibly be old enough to drive that flashy convertible? He took me for a spin in the new car. I gripped the (very comfy) seat as he changed lanes with an impressive surge into 5th gear and roar of the engine.
"Heehee!" he exulted.
My son has worked his tail off for the past 7 years of college and law-school. It was nice to see him so happy.
When they bought the car, the salesmen told them, "You may not always have money. It is nice to enjoy it when you can."

Now the salesman certainly wanted a sale, but his advice is not all that unsound. I am a strong believer in savings accounts and wise use of money. However, I also tend to let fear guide my future. I am always in need of remembering that we may not have tomorrow so we really should enjoy today. It is a fine line between wanton disregard of the future while reveling in the blessing of the moment, but it is a line we should work to balance. Now and then, it is probably good to tiptoe to the other side of the line, if we are normally not inclined to do so.

Interestingly, this was sort of the point of our sermon Sunday. It was about stepping forward in faith, remembering we are NOT in control. God does not advise recklessness, but over and over He reminds us to enjoy what we have been given, live life fully in the moment we have been given, and trust Him for the future. If we live in His will and trust and abide in His guidance, tomorrow will come exactly as it is supposed to.

It almost makes me want to run out and buy a flashy convertible.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)

“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” (Exodus 16:12, 15-19 NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25, 26 NIV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Biblical Math

If I didn't know that global warming was burning the planet into a little ball of charred carbon, I would swear this was the coolest July in NC on record. It felt like Autumn as I stepped outside yesterday morning. The skies were still grey and overcast, though rain only smattered through now and then. I saw two speckled fawns on my morning run. One fawn sighting the day before, two fawns yesterday....If it keeps raining, I might see thirty fawns by the end of the month! The rainy gloom is subtracting summer fun, but the deer seem to be multiplying.

Perfect weather for running and seeing deer. Not so perfect for kayaking. Oh well. So I settled down with my Bible, not daring to venture far in the iffy weather. I am in the book of Judges. I hit a curious passage:
Judges 12:13-14
[13] After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. [14] He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years.

Why would we need to know that the forty sons and thirty grandsons rode on seventy donkeys? A couple of chapters prior to this, we are told that another judge had 30 sons who rode on thirty donkeys and ruled thirty cities. Is this just a Biblical math lesson? What a strange thing to record in scripture. Of all the valuable things we need to glean, this just strikes me as strange.

The commentary I read claimed that this was proof of the extensive wealth and prestige of the rulers of Israel. It is one of the proofs to me of the truth of the Bible. Little details that seem so insignificant are constantly being mentioned. It has the feel of faithful recording of facts, building a case that will stand the test of naysayers.

Now, fast-forward from the time of the book of Judges to another king and donkey story much later in the Bible chronology. Jesus, one man, rides into Jerusalem to the scene of His sacrifice on a donkey, one donkey. One King, one Son, one donkey....but He saved the WHOLE world!

By evening, it was pouring rain again. I expect I will see even more deer tomorrow, rain-deer, blessings multiplying in the gloom.

And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:12 NIV)

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” (Genesis 8:15-17 NIV)

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16 NIV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When You Feel Alone

I spent five hours in the research wing of the public library trying to find out obscure and ancient bits of information for the book I am working on. I read newspaper clippings from the early 1920s to 1940s, hoping to uncover what I wanted to learn. A very kind woman, Jane, brought me books, and microfiche, and folders brimming with more news articles. The pile in front of me grew, as did my headache...and my hunger.

"Jane," I said, "Can I leave this here and run out for a little lunch? I will be right back, but I have to eat. My head is swimming."
"Of course," sweet Jane the librarian said. She put a "do not disturb" sign on my materials, and I dashed out. I found the first place that would have easy and quick food, Fuel Pizza. I gobbled down the slice of pizza and hurried back to the library. Unfortunately, a piece of tomato was stuck in my teeth, which I didn't notice till I got home. I hate it when that happens.

In the five hours of my research, I found only one interesting fact that would be useful to me. I wearily gathered my materials, and thanked Jane. Research is tedious, I decided. I had enjoyed parts of it, reading about a long ago time that seemed in many ways much simpler, kinder than my own. But it is not easy, slogging through hundreds of articles hoping to find one sentence that might relate to the subject of interest.

Jane brought me many folders of news clippings that had key words related to my search, but all were tangential. None were EXACTLY about my subject matter.
"Don't you have a folder that is labeled with exactly what I want to find out?" I asked finally.
"No," she said, "When you are doing original research, you will never find a folder like that. You will be the one developing that folder."

I will? Suddenly I felt very important, valuable....even needed!

"Now you see that no one else has ever bothered or cared to study what you are researching," she explained.

OK, Jane, you could have just stopped with the part about original research...

With my newly deflated ego, I headed home. I wondered why I was so excited about something that apparently no one else cared one whit about. And tomato stuck in my teeth while smiling at the librarian! What a day! There was good news, however. A bill that made abortion clinics more accountable, allowed opting out of taxpayer abortion funding in Obamacare, as well as banning sex-selective abortions had passed the NC House. I was surprised to see how hard a battle this was, how alone the people feel who long to end this horrible scourge against innocent life. It is one of the issues that since I became a Christian seems to me to be a no-brainer. I couldn't believe how many Facebook posts by friends said they were ashamed of NC! I had never been prouder!

My family was gone when I returned - off to movies and golf. I settled down to a solitary dinner and read one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, 1 Kings 19. Elijah is despairing, being pursued by the evil Jezebel, and feeling utterly alone, he cries out to God. God sends Elijah a special friend and future prophet, Elisha. He reminds Elijah that while he may feel all alone, he is not. God has reserved a remnant who care about just what Elijah cares about. He is not alone.

After reading a few more angry Facebook posts by people calling NC pro-lifers "troglodytes", I called the librarian Jane.
"Just in case you happen to chance upon something that relates to my research, I thought I ought to leave you my name and number," I said.
"My brother is very interested in what you are looking at," said Jane, "I am glad you called and gave me your number. I had planned to tell him about your work. He may know something that will help you. He loves this area of research!"
I smiled, no more tomato pieces stuck in my teeth marring the expression of joy.


And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:14-18 NKJV)

-save a dog-

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pardon me Lord...But Are You With Us....?

I woke up to what appeared to be a regular day. And then my temporary crown came off (again) as I was brushing my teeth. Instead of panicking, which is my usual tactic in the face of pain, I angrily shoved the crown back on. It stayed. I called the dentist when they opened an hour later, and made an appointment to have it glued on (again). I have very sensitive teeth, and the whole process of replacing the crown is very painful. Especially when they have to scrape off the old cement that is sticking to the sensitive exposed tooth. After half an hour, I convinced the dentist that we could perhaps leave some of the old cement on...maybe it would help hold the loose temporary crown in place? She concurred. This was good because I didn't know how much more of the electric shocks of pain I could have handled. Since the crown seems to want to fall off, I am not looking forward to the next two weeks before the permanent crown arrives.

My Bible reading that morning was highly appropriate:
Gideon: (Vicky): "Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon (Vicky) replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about ..."
I kid you not. That is what I read.

Sometimes, life doesn't look like what you think it should. Sometimes the rewards and wonders you expect are a long time coming. Sometimes the suffering is more than the blessing. A friend reading the draft of this post thought I was saying, "Why me?" That isn't what I am saying. I understand that pain and suffering comes to all. My point, however clumsily expressed, is that the timing of struggle seems odd at times. It is often when I am doing my utmost for His highest that struggles accelerate, just as Gideon observed. It doesn't make sense from our earthly perspective that when we are in the midst of God's work, He doesn't protect us from getting knocked around. Sometimes, in fact, it seems it is indeed a better gauge that one is moving forward in God's work the *more* trials one encounters! Certainly Jesus Himself experienced that (and believe me, I am not equating a sore tooth to what Jesus endured!)

I staggered out of the dentist office, and went on to do some research for my book at the Charlotte Aviation Library. I felt a little woozy and weak from the stupid tooth ordeal, not up to any physical activity, much as normally I would have loved to kayak on a free afternoon. The threat of rain along with the still very sore tooth convinced me to head off to the tiny, little-known library instead. Four elderly men volunteered at the library. Not another patron was present. They told me that from time to time, people do come in, but I got the sense it was not a regular occurrence. Over the course of my two hours there, I heard many stories from their lives. The men gathered helpfully around me, listened to my research problems and eagerly brought me maps, photos, and books. We put our collective heads together to try to solve the conundrum I had brought them.

As I stood to leave, they asked if I would stay for coffee with them. I had to get back home however, or I would be stuck in rush hour traffic. They all asked if I would let them know when my book was out. And would I send them the link to my other books, as they thought they would like to read them, especially the one about WWII?

"No one cares about history anymore. All this..." said one, sweeping his arm around pointing to the room crammed full of historic books, "And no one is here to learn about it! Too busy playing their video games."
"And the ones who know about it, who can tell them about it, are dying off," said the oldest one there, a WWII bombardier.
I asked if they were familiar with the Atterbury Bakalar Aviation museum.
"It is filled with WWII vets who volunteer; great guys like you," I said.
"Great guys!" they chuckled, "My, my, great guys like us!" They all smiled at each other.

I was suddenly very glad that my sore tooth and the rain had convinced me to head to the Charlotte Aviation library.

Sometimes, not always, you see glimpses of God's provision in the midst of pain. Sometimes you can shove an unglued crown back on all by yourself and the throbbing is dulled. Sometimes the pain even drives you to a place you might not have ended up otherwise. In the midst of turmoil, I must try to remember I am sent by God for purposes I may not always understand.

Judges 6:13,14

[13] “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Judges 6:14 NIV
[14] The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Reinventing the Wheel

My mom accused me often of "reinventing the wheel." I would solve problems, move on, and then forgetting I had solved them, would encounter them again, and re-solve them. There are advantages to this. (It is always good to find the positive in strange or dismaying behavior.) I am never bored. Never. Every moment is like one I have never seen before.

While working on my latest book, I found (again) a document that was crucial to solving one of the mysteries that I was certain I had accurately solved. Looking at the document now, however, I began to ask the same questions I had asked a year ago. I revisited many internet sites I had scoured for months, and I began to formulate new theories...except they were actually the same old theories I had formulated, and rejected months ago. (Please tell me someone else out there does this.)

I spent the entire day "reinventing the wheel." Meanwhile, my sweet dog lay on the couch near me, watching me. Occasionally she was awake, but most of the time she was asleep. I found myself not infrequently wishing I was a dog. Her only concern was that I would not become so busy that I would forget to feed her. And if I did, like I did yesterday, she would remind me. Loudly.

This is why I must read the Bible daily. I forget everything...all the time. I need constant and frequent reminders of what matters and why it matters, and how I discovered that it matters. The nice part of rereading the Bible, is every time I do, it is like the first time, and every time, I am struck (again) by how marvelous a plan God's plan is, and how much simpler it would be if I could just manage to stick to it. My dog, sleeping on the couch, raises one heavy eyelid and watches me as I ponder the imponderables I pondered just yesterday.

Fortunately, God also "forgets" what has gone before. When we put our faith in Jesus and the atoning sacrifice He made in our stead, all that went before is wiped clean. Again and again, we disobey, and again and again, God forgives, as though erased from His memory. He is not reinventing the wheel. He is reinventing His image.

Deuteronomy 30:7-9

New International Version (NIV)
The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you.You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors,

Acts 10:42-44

New International Version (NIV)

42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Imperceptible Signals

While I was on a run yesterday, a deer walked across the street, right in front of me. I was in a neighborhood, with little forest area nearby, so was startled to a stop. The deer stopped too. She looked at me, and stamped an elegant foot, attempting to look menacing.

" are really scary," I told her, "With your big brown gentle eyes and ears the size of turkey platters."

She looked at me, almost pleadingly, and then I saw movement on the other side of the street. It was a small speckled fawn. Much as I wanted to stay and "ooh and aah" at the little fawn, I quickly ran on. I would not be the cause of any angst to a mother protecting her baby. But, a short distance away, I turned and watched, eager to see the reunion. The fawn began nibbling grass and the mama deer was walking on.

You lousy mother! Where are you going? Wait for your baby! I ran in place watching, wondering when the fawn would follow. He didn't but fortunately, Mama Deer stopped and looked towards him, waiting patiently. I ran on, knowing that while I would have been hovering near, as is my way, this Mama deer had it under control.

This is a lesson I have some trouble absorbing. I don't like waiting for those I love to make the right decision. When given a long rope like that, they sometimes make the wrong decision, and I don't want to be witness to a hanging. How had that Mama deer telegraphed to her fawn not to move, not to run across the street into the arms of the predator? (me) I had not heard her make a sound. Was the foot stamping her warning to the baby? And how had she remained so still, so trusting her baby would not bolt into the face of danger?

Two things I learned from this encounter. First, sometimes we have to trust those under our care even though we know that harm may befall them. Secondly, if I am the one under the authority and care of another, I myself have to trust, read the signals, and submit. The Mama Deer and fawn saga was not unlike the relationship between God and His followers. He gives us free will, and lets us wander sometimes impossibly far. But His eyes are always on us, and He is always guiding and sending signals that are for our good and our protection. We ignore them at our peril. His signals are sometimes very faint, nearly imperceptible. Sometimes the signal is a still small voice, and if we turn our ears away, the words that might save us are carried away on the breeze. But, if we have become in the habit of listening for them, we won't miss them.

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (I Kings 19:11, 12 NKJV)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mixed messages

Asherel was gone all day volunteering at a horse camp. She was responsible for teaching the campers how to draw. I hoped she was having more success than me. I was home ripping my hair out while trying to learn the new Sketchbook program for my "new" old laptop. I have 13 more free trial days, and then must decide if the learning curve for this program is too steep for an old grey mare like me. I had an incredibly frustrating hour drawing, though somehow still produced an abstract piece that I didn't hate...but wondered why the computer touch screen was so totally unresponsive, and lagging behind my pen so badly. Then I realized that if I turned off the mouse, the computer stopped trying to listen to the mouse, and listened to my stylus input. It was distracted! The problem had not been an incapability of the computer; it had been mixed messages scrambling its brain. Oh my! I felt sorry for my poor computer. I could so totally relate!

I think it is the same reason the Bible tells us that Jesus goes off to solitary places to pray to His Father. The distractions of the world snag the line of communication, muddling the reception. It is best to turn off all the conflicting allures and focus on the one thing that really matters with single minded devotion. If we don't, as my computer showed me, nothing works the way it should.

1 Corinthians 7:35

New International Version (NIV)
35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dancing in the Rain

Rain, rain, and more rain! And rain predicted all week! The sky clears briefly, we dash out for quick dog walks, and then the skies reopen and pour forth. It is predicted to rain all week (again!). I am not loving it. However, at least it is conducive to keeping me indoors editing my new book, which I spent a good nine or ten hours doing yesterday.

The strangest thing happens when I start the edit process of my books. Problems I never saw while writing them multiply like mushrooms in a never ending rain. This new book is almost 400 pages long, so now I can go through and strike out the less than wonderful parts. But in the edit process, another strange thing happens. ALL the parts seem less than wonderful! Suddenly I feel like a fake, a fraud, a fearful failure! Whatever compelled me to believe I could write this book?!

Sometimes, I think we Christians struggle similarly in shouting out with abandon the joyful message of salvation. We fear rejection, we don't think we are good enough to convince anyone, or we have no right to impose our thoughts on mankind. So we cower inside, finding the rain a convenient excuse.

I feel this way with every book I write, all the way up to the moment I publish. (sometimes even after...) And some are not as good as others, but I have learned that unless one takes the plunge, moves forward into frightening self disclosure before the world, one will always be hiding indoors, afraid to go out and dance in the rain. And sometimes, if there is endless rain, you have no choice if you want to dance.

I know there will be lots of people who won't like my book. But there will be some who do, and even a few who will thank me and say it carried a message that they needed to hear. It is not directly a book about God, though indirectly ALL my books are about God. And since God brings the rain as well as the sun, it is best I find joy dancing in both.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 NIV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Never Easy

Why is it never easy? I had a wonderful time playing with my new sketchbook program on my "new" old laptop, and then I began to edit the word document that would be my next book. I sent the 250 page document from my iPad to my "new" old laptop, and encountered one awful problem after another. The formatting is completely off, and I have to go line by line and reformat. I spent two hours and got through 50 pages. I was feeling a little nauseous so decided I would tackle the rest another day.

The nausea had started when I dashed out in the morning right after my 5 mile run to kayak. I knew I had a very small window of time to get in a kayak trip, so despite being a little worn out from my run and the sun and breakfast a few hours earlier, I decided it would be my only chance. The river was even higher and faster than the day before. Still, the first half hour was fun, and then suddenly I was overcome with nausea. I felt a little like passing out. Not good in a boat. Ohoh. I turned around, and the current carried me quickly back. I dashed out to the nearest fast food place and downed lemonade to raise my blood sugar, making a note to myself to carry emergency food in my kayak from now on. I never really felt quite right the rest of the day.

And now this terrible job of editing before me! I never have been a night owl, but I went to bed even earlier than usual, somewhat dreading the hours of mindless editing before me the next day. But this morning, my friend who fixed the computer for me had sent an email. He told me I can format the major problem away instantly. It won't solve all the formatting problems, but it will solve the worst one!

There is always some issue to tackle in life. No sooner is one problem solved than another arises. I don't think God even wants us to pray for a trouble-free life. Not a single hero in the Bible ever waltzes through either Testament, Old or New, without being continually beset by struggle! It reminds me of something one of my kids once told me - "I wouldn't be annoyed so easily if you weren't so annoying."

That isn't how it works. He wouldn't be annoyed so easily if he practiced not getting annoyed in the face of annoyance. I am sure I am not the only annoying person on earth. I think God keeps sending us problems because it is the only way we will ever learn the character qualities we need to overcome adversity. And our Adversary is powerful. We need all the practice we can get.

So today I will tackle the formatting problems, and I am sure by the end of the day, a new problem or two will emerge. I will then smile, praise God and echo St. Paul's words, "I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness so that Christ's power may rest on me."

2 Corinthians 12:8-11

New International Version (NIV)
 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What Computers Can Teach About Restoration

I got a new old laptop. My daughter Asherel bought herself a fancy new laptop so I received the consolation prize of her old laptop. The old laptop was an incredible machine when she got it several years ago, but a few unfortunate tumbles from high places and age had taken its toll. It overheated instantly, crashed constantly and several things on it no longer worked. It had one of the best touch screens and stylus in its day, but Asherel had lost the stylus and we couldn't find a replacement. It sadly looked like the wonderful old laptop was good for little but the trash heap.

However, I decided it wouldn't hurt to call our computer guru friend, Brian, and ask him if the laptop could be salvaged just as a place to store my photos and keep my book drafts. He launched into an eloquent speech about how magnificent this laptop was and all the things he felt he could do to save it. I know nothing about computers, but I know Brian, and his expertise is legendary. I felt a spark of hope.

A week later, Brian returned the laptop. He had opened it up and cleaned it from the inside out. The overheating issue was solved by removing a felt-like mass of dust and doghair from inside the body of the poor laptop. That had the immediate effect of the battery that had not worked at all now lasting about 2 hours. The broken CD drive also seemed to miraculously now work, and he found a way to fiddle with the SD card so that it wouldn't pop out. He found a stylus pen online and ordered it, hopeful it would work. And he switched out the slow hard drive for a new one that has no moving parts like the old one, and is much less vulnerable to damage...and fast!

For the first day after receiving back the prodigal computer, I was frustrated. I have used mostly my iPad for the past few years and am very unfamiliar with real computers. Also, I downloaded a trial art program since this computer was made for graphic design with its wonderful touch screen. However, the art program was very complex. I played with it for quite a while, making the drawing on this post. I could see it had great potential but at this point, I was like a baby learning to walk. It would be months before I conquered the intricacies and remembered all I would need to know to use it effectively.

By day two of the prodigal computer's return, I was in love. this was a fantastic machine with great potential. I had a lot to learn, but I could see in the end it would be far more  useful in my publishing career than my iPad had been.

And to think...I had been ready to throw it away! All it had needed was some extensive cleaning from the inside out, a new heart (hard drive), and a Master Repairman who understood and loved it, seeing beyond what it was in its broken state to what it could be when restored.

What a lovely symbol of who God is to us! We are all broken, tarnished from deep within by rebellious spirits and sin. Many times others, and even ourselves, look at the damaged wreckage of our lives and feel there is no hope. We are beyond repair, good for nothing but the garbage. But then God, who sees us not for what we are but for what we could be, what we should be, promises we can be restored. He begs us to return to Him with a humble willing spirit, and He will give us a new heart of faith and hope. We may still not live exactly as we one day will, but the brokenness is repaired and the potential is revealed.

2 Samuel 16:12
It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

Ezekiel 36:26
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.