Thursday, October 31, 2013

Raising the Bar

My middle child Matthias wanted to be a lawyer ever since joining debate club at age 11. He became a member of Charlotte Teen Court as an "attorney" as soon as he was old enough to be allowed to do so. He worked hard in school, and then want on to become a top student in law school. He sacrificed a great deal working towards his dream. He never wavered in his desire, and he kept plugging through some very deep disappointments. He never gave up, though there were many times I thought surely the many obstacles, setbacks, or failures might finally do him in. 

An abysmal economy hit during his years in law school. A very small percentage of his fellow students were extended summer internships or job prospects. In prior years, most law students would have paid internships and job offers at the end of their first year. By the time he graduated, he had still not received a job offer.

Dismayed, but refusing to give up, he continued applying. And then he got an interview with a major firm that had turned him down his first year as a law student. It was the firm in Virginia he had most wanted to work for. He didn't want to get his hopes up because there had been so many disappointments. It was a miraculous, joyful day when they hired him. All that was left was to pass the bar exam.

Students take the Bar in early summer. They don't find out if they passed until late October. He began working at the wonderful law firm, but of course, he had to pass the bar exam. 

Yesterday, I got a text message from my remarkable, hard working, never-giving-up son:
He passed the bar on his first try.

It is so easy to throw in the towel, especially when confronted with failure after failure. It is so easy to blame others, or to blame God when the world seems to be against us. It is much harder to keep trying, keep praying, keep hoping, keep persevering.

I write this with tears in my eyes, filled with love and pride and joy for my wonderful son, a man of God who exemplifies perseverance. I feel a little bit more able to tackle the day thinking of his example. In things of God, we will often be ridiculed, and discouraged by an increasingly anti-God society. We are often deceived that lowering our standards, lowering the bar of moral dictates or Godly behavior is what we need to do to reach the world. It is a lie, and one we should not succumb to. All of us are called to persevere in our walk with God as much as we our able, and in the end, we will be rewarded. Jesus set the bar, not us, and He wants us to pass over it even more than we do.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Remarkable Team

I have managed Destination Imagination teams for 4 years. Last night, the team I have worked with for the past two years met for their regular time together. I set up an "instant challenge" for them to solve. This is a difficult problem which they must solve with very limited materials and in a very short time frame. I wish I had videotaped it. Just imagine that they managed to devise a catapult in 7 minutes made of a spoon, spool, rubberband, and toothpick that shot a golf ball onto a papertowel roll ramp supported with 2 straws into a target 6 inches away. It was nothing short of brilliant.

Then they spent the next 45 minutes without any supervision finishing off a ten item check list of the things they wanted to accomplish in their meeting time towards their year-long project. I wanted to cry with the sheer joy of their maturity, accomplishment, and through it all, sense of fun and delight.

I have been very discouraged of late. The direction of our country makes me want to vomit. Personal struggles seem to be at an all time high. And on top of that, a spiritual battle rages in one of the darkest days of the year, and I feel like most of us are blind to it. But in the midst of all that angst, steps my Destination Imagination team. Young, bright, motivated, delightful, polite, respectful, and hard working. There is hope for tomorrow. Sometimes God brings fresh air into a room that has been long devoid of oxygen, and with a gasp, we realize we may survive!


Thank God ! Call out his Name! Tell the whole world who he is and what he’s done! Sing to him! Play songs for him! Broadcast all his wonders! Revel in his holy Name, God -seekers, be jubilant! Study God and his strength, seek his presence day and night; Remember all the wonders he performed, the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth. Seed of Israel his servant! Children of Jacob, his first choice! He is God, our God; wherever you go you come on his judgments and decisions. He keeps his commitments across thousands of generations, the covenant he commanded, The same one he made with Abraham, the very one he swore to Isaac; He posted it in big block letters to Jacob, this eternal covenant with Israel: “I give you the land of Canaan, this is your inheritance; Even though you’re not much to look at, a few straggling strangers.” (1 Chronicles 16:8-19 MSG)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Say no to Halloween

One of the hardest days of the year approaches. I hate Halloween. I hate the fact that animals are tortured and sacrificed in greater numbers than other nights, that it is the high and holy day of the occultists, and the images of evil sanitized and considered harmless. I hate the origins which are based on fear, as well as misguided beliefs that the dead can be wrenched out of purgatory by the offering of "soul cakes" (precursor to our candy.) I hate the images of death, the devil, witches, graves, and zombies. I hate the vandalism that occurs or even the subtle threat of "trick or treat."  When I became a Christian, I took seriously the admonition to be in the world but not of the world. I believed with all my heart God's warning to flee from evil, and that our adversary was cunning and a master of deception. 

Yet, I had children, and the world took this night of the occult, filled it with candy, and placed it before them. Knowing I would win no popularity contest and they might even hate me for my stance, I just could not in good conscience put any stamp of approval on Halloween. It was always a painful evening, and I went to bed many nights crying over a decision I felt deeply in my spirit I had to make.

We as believers are told in no uncertain terms to have no fellowship with evil, witchcraft, the occult, or glorifying deeds of darkness. In my heart, Halloween fits that description. I have been ridiculed, derided, and despised for this stance. I believe Satan wants us to rationalize why it is not dangerous. However, it is a night of darkness, and I believe my light cannot shine in participation at any level, but only in standing against it. For those involved in the occult, and witchcraft, this is a special night. I don't wish to celebrate what those in opposistion to God celebrate.

As in all decisions, each of us must examine our own conscience. Many people believe they can redeem the night by offering the kids that come to their doors Bible tracts. I read one online "alternative"-- offer the kids a toothbrush. (I hate halloween but that idea sounded fun. Maybe I could write on each toothbrush, "Jesus alone cleanses our moral decay." )  Perhaps some of you  have never wrestled with standing against the "norm" because your heart would not permit you to do otherwise. If not, you may not understand that decisions like this are never taken lightly, and they aren't "silly" as I have heard so many of late describe my view. It is based on a deep conviction of my heart, but that doesn't mean that I am not suffering for what I feel I should not do. 

Ephesians 5:11  variety of translations:

New International Version
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

New Living Translation
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

English Standard Version
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

New American Standard Bible 
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

King James Bible
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Don't participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.

International Standard Version
and have nothing to do with the unfruitful actions that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are. 

NET Bible
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Neither should you fellowship with the Servants of darkness, because they have no fruit in them, but you should rebuke them.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Have nothing to do with the useless works that darkness produces. Instead, expose them for what they are.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

King James 2000 Bible
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

American King James Version
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

American Standard Version
and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them;

Douay-Rheims Bible
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 

Darby Bible Translation
and do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather also reprove them,

English Revised Version
and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them;

Webster's Bible Translation
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Weymouth New Testament
Have nothing to do with the barren unprofitable deeds of darkness, but, instead of that, set your faces against them;

World English Bible
Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them.

Young's Literal Translation
and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of the darkness and rather even convict,

Everything is possible with God

Monday, October 28, 2013

Story within a Story

I have some wonderful friends and family members who agreed to read my manuscript, before I complete my final edit. I have been working on this project for so long that it is hard to remain objective about it. I received feedback recently from one reader, and she was very perceptive. She told me that she liked how I had written a story within a story. Hmmm. That is true. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but as I think back over my books, they all are really a story within a story. It seems to be a literary device I use subconsciously.

And then I got to thinking, all of us are living stories within a story. The Main Story is about God, and how He created humans in His image, with the power to follow or reject Him. He knew they would be imperfect in their ability to follow Him, and so from the beginning, He devised a way in which the conflicting necessities of justice and mercy would be enacted. From the beginning, He knew He would send a savior to those hopeless people, who would provide the only possible means back to their Creator.

The stories within the Story are the lives of each of us as we make the decision to follow God or to reject Him. Our tales are fraught with struggle, turmoil, victory, defeat, pain, delight, despair, sin, and overcoming. Some of our stories will end in tragedy. Some will end in triumph. 

And the Savior Himself told stories to draw those hopeless humans to Himself. The funny thing is, all His stories were stories within stories too! There was the literal meaning of the story, and then there was the spiritual meaning -- the message that He hoped would capture the heart of His listeners. All His stories work that way. I guess I am learning to write at the hands of a Master.

He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way. “The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them. “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.” (Mark 4:13-20 MSG)

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I love pumpkins. Not only are they delicious in pie, pumpkin lattes, and cheesecake, but they are the absolute perfect color to complement the green grass right before it turns brown and dead for the winter. Orange and green are one of my favorite color combinations. I love driving by the pumpkin stands that are dotted across the county. Orange pumpkins  - such a cheerful color. And there are always children leapfrogging across the pumpkin piles, heaving pumpkins nearly as big as themselves in their chubby arms, or using a large pumpkin as a stool to rest upon. Very few people frown in the midst of pumpkins. Have you ever noticed that? Even before anyone carves a toothy grin in their bright orange crust, pumpkins are smiling. They are smiling on the inside, bursting with goodness. Oh to be a pumpkin! 

And they are so hardy! Tough as nails! It takes a strong grip and sharp knife to carve a pumpkin. Sturdy, happy, cheerful pumpkins. However, for all their cheerful nearly indestructible exterior, did you know that just one night of frost or  a few drenching rains and the ripe pumpkin on the vine becomes a sodden, melting mass of moldy putrescence? That hearty happy perfect globe disintegrates into a syrupy mess under seemingly insignificant adverse conditions.

Oh my! Maybe I am more of a pumpkin than I had thought. 

I couldn't sleep a couple of nights ago. I was tossing and turning worrying about how I could hold up the world. I am definitely one of those personalities that believe if I just try harder, life would be better and everything would be healed. But we all know that this is not true. We are not in control, much as we wish we were, and sometimes even appear to be for a season. Smiling hearty pumpkins until the frost hits.

In desperation, I flipped open my Bible. I read Galations 6:9 -

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

It says if we do not grow weary, keep plugging along in doing good, we WILL reap. Not we might reap, or if we do everything just right, we could possibly reap, but we WILL reap, if we do not give up. I was overcome by a wash of serenity, certainty, and even joy where just moments ago I had been spinning in my sheets. God's word is supernatural in its effect. I didn't ponder that truth for long though, because within seconds, I was fast asleep, dreaming of green valleys and bright orange pumpkins.


For your mercy is before my eyes, and I am serene in your truth. (Psalm 25:3 CPDV)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Leaves

The leaves in upstate NY where I recently visited my folks have already been through their glorious rampage of color and the trees are half denuded of foliage.  Here in my home state of NC, the leaves are only just beginning to think about changing color.  In approaching winter, the North has us beat by a month! But in approaching summer, the tides will turn. We will be slathering suntan lotion on bare arms long before the Northerners have packed away their long-Johns. 

I was thinking about "timing" while sitting in a church membership class yesterday. Some of us come to faith at an early age, and spend our whole life basking in the glow of the knowledge of God. Others will reach the last strand of the frayed rope of life, and just before it snaps, will proclaim faith in Jesus and be ushered into God's kingdom. Both will arrive, but the timing of their journey will be very different.

I had a discussion recently with a man who was born into a believing family, and he can't remember a time when he did not walk with God. I had a dramatic conversion experience at age 29. I have many regrets and often wonder if I would have had less remorse to fill my heart had I known God from my youth. My friend, the lifelong believer, told me he envied me! What!?

He told me that he didn't have a dramatic pre-God life that then was cataclysmically different from his post-God life. Because I could see the startling change in my perceptions and actions, he felt that I was fortunate. I knew beyond any doubt that life without God was not worth living. He knew that too, but in a subtler way. What astonished me was that his "family verse" was the same as ours- Joshua 24:15 - "as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord." 

Some leaves turn brilliant early in the season, some late. Some just crackle and turn brown, clinging to limbs through which no nourishing sap flows. Those are the leaves that make me want to weep.

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14, 15 NLT)

You will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:61,63

Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

The Blessing of Traffic Jams

I only had an easy 4 hour drive left yesterday after my stay at the hotel. IN THEORY. I had left NY the day before, hit massive traffic jams, driven 8 hours, and decided I was too tired to make it home in one shot. So I settled happily into a hotel with a gorgeous mountain view. I awoke well rested, and took my time getting out in the morning. I was grateful that I only had a 4 hour drive left that day. IN THEORY.

As I pulled way from the hotel and adjusted my GPS holder, it broke. No problem! I only had a 4 hour easy drive home (IN THEORY). I would just stop at Walmart, for a new GPS holder. The Walmart was just minutes from my hotel, right on the way out of Lexington.

I bought a new GPS holder, and attached it , per the instructions, to my windshield. It didn't stick. I tried multiple times, and finally gave up and returned to Walmart. They happily refunded my money, and urged me to try a new GPS holder, which has been shown on TV and people are snatching it in droves. It miraculously grabs the GPS or smart phone with tiny little suction cups and there is no need for a holster type device, like my old one. Fine. I bought it. It attached to the windshield just fine, and held onto my GPS miraculously.


I traveled on, without the GPS, since I didn't really need it. I like having it on since it tells me when I can expect to arrive home. Before it fell off, it told me I had only 3 hours and 45 minutes left...IN THEORY.

Around lunch time, an hour or so later, I pulled into a small town, and saw a Walmart. Perfect. I would return the GPS holder that didn't work, get a new one, as well as lunch, and be home by 2:30. It was all going almost as planned. I didn't love the several diversions to Walmart, but since I had such a short drive (IN THEORY), I wasn't as upset as I might have been by the extra errands. Walmart happily refunded my money, gave me a new GPS holder that was not like the miraculous one shown on TV, and while pricier, was guaranteed to work. As I returned to the car, I glanced at my right front tire. Something did not look right. It looked almost flat. This was not at all good, even with only 3 hours (IN THEORY) left to drive.

Fortunately, the new GPS holder was perfect. I pulled into a nearby fast food restaurant, and asked my smartphone to direct me to the nearest tire repair garage. The cashier at the take-out window confirmed my smartphone's choice of a reliable garage. I got my lunch to go, and headed to the garage, just a mile away. It was closed for lunch. However, during the few moments I sat pondering my next move, a car pulled into the lot. I rolled down my window. I asked the driver if there was another car repair place that might be open. He directed me just a mile down the road the other way. So I drove to that garage. Fortunately, they were not closed for lunch. I explained my problem, and the mechanic looked at my tire.

"Yes, we need to check that out," he said, "You can't drive much further on that. We'll get you in right away." I ate my lunch while he checked my car. Twenty minutes later, he came to the waiting room and handed me a nail.
"If you had gone much further, you would have been sitting on the side of the interstate with a flat."

I thought back over the past two days. Due to incredible traffic jams, I decided not to plough all the way home in one day as planned and got a hotel. I had wanted to do the drive in one day, and was frustrated by all the traffic that made my passage so much longer than usual. The car had been pulling to the right (the side of the bad tire) for days. I had probably had the nail and a slow leak for some time. Had I not stopped in the hotel, I might have been driving in the mountains, in the dark, when the tire finally went flat. Had my GPS holder not broken, I might not have pulled into the little town with the Walmart, would not have noticed the slowly flattening tire, nor found the little garage willing to take in my car right away. All those frustrating delays had led to a very fortuitous salvation. (this is salvation with a little s. Only Jesus can do Salvation with a big S.)

And how much did the little garage charge me to patch my tire? I cringed as I awaited the price gouging bill, since I was at their mercy. $7.

I hit massive traffic jams the whole rest of the way home. The 4 hour drive took me 8 hours. And yet, I realized that sometimes when God waylays us, there is a reason. I can't say I LOVED the traffic jams, but I was a little more patient than I might otherwise have been. God has His reasons, and sometimes, we are blessed to see them, though often we are not. Either way, it is probably best to trust Him, and accept His diversions. He may be preventing a tire blowout from sending you careening off a mountain cliff in the frozen darkness.


“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord ’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. (2 Samuel 22:31 NLT)

-save a dog-

Friday, October 25, 2013

God Shouting "I am Here!"

I wanted to make it home from my folks in one 11 hour drive, but alas, Pennsylvania is one giant traffic jam due to construction. And how could I be blamed for lingering at the rest stop where someone was walking a HORSE and not a dog? I made it to Lexington, Va., and then knew it was foolish to try to go any further. Everything ached, and I was beginning to make inattentive mistakes. So I headed to my favorite hotel that overlooks the mountains, facing the setting sun. I got a salad to go, parked myself in front of the sliding glass door in my 4th floor room, and watched the spectacular show that God, in His infinite kindness, put on for me. I kept the lights off as the darkness descended, and watched the sun slowly give way to first brilliant rays of yellow and orange, then muted magentas, and purples, then slowly fade to deepening blues, then finally black. The lights of the valley flickered on, and I felt peace like a river wash over me in the darkened room.

When I look upon nature, I hear God shouting, "I am here!" I don't know how anyone can gaze upon a sunset or a redwood or a waterfall or a baby's tiny perfect ear and think there is no God. I can not think of a single evolutionary advantage to appreciating beauty in one's world. To me, the fact that the world is exquisitely beautiful is proof that God IS and that He loves us. But maybe that's just me.

Let the name of the Lord be praised now and for ever. From dawn until sunset the name of the Lord deserves to be praised. (Psalms 113:2, 3 CEVUK00)

Don't you know? Haven't you heard? Hasn't it been clear since the time of creation? God is the one who rules the whole earth, and we that live here are merely insects. He spread out the heavens like a curtain or an open tent. (Isaiah 40:21, 22 CEVDCUS06)

-save a dog-

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hard Labor

I decided to take a final stab yesterday at my folks back yard leaf pileup. It would be my last chance till the next visit, as I head home today. Their back yard has about a hundred trees...or so....and the leaves have not been cleared in a few years. But I went at them with a vengeance and a leaf blower. I worked three hours straight and made significant progress. About a third or more of the yard was uncovered. I would have done more but then, disaster struck. Smoke began coming out of the electric outlet at the base of the blower, near my hand. Fortunately, before I self immolated, I switched it off. The electric prong was melted. Melted! I have never seen such a thing! Oh well. I had had quite enough of leaf blowing anyway. Maybe God was telling me I had done enough. Unfortunately, my folks now need a new leaf blower. I saved them the expense of hiring a service to gather the leaves, but I cost them in ruined equipment. Not sure if I was an asset or a liability.

After I was rejuvenated by lunch and hoping to redeem myself, I headed out to my leaf piles with a garbage can. Two hours later, I had completely cleared half of five years of leaves. I felt pretty good about it. If I thought I would be able to move today, I would stay another day to finish the job. But I think perhaps I have done all I am physically able to do of hard labor, and will spend the day driving back to North Carolina instead. I need to get back to editing my book, though the leaves were a nice diversion.

My parents employ a teen boy to help with their yard work, but they say he is not very careful and is only good for an hour of work. Yard work is hard labor. After the first ten minutes of gathering the leaves into the garbage can, hauling the garbage can across the yard, and then dumping it over the curb where the leaf vacuum will suck it up, I didn't think I would last another five. But somehow, the desire to finish the job and help the parents I love took over, and I fell into a rhythm.

It was still hard. After the first few cans of leaves, the yard looked hardly any different. It did not seem it would be worth the effort. But as the minutes and my breath ticked away, slowly the massive mounds of leaves began to diminish. And it was with deep satisfaction that I hauled away the final can, and the entire middle half of their yard was clear.

Hard labor can crush the spirit, and discourage the best of us. Many of us would rather run from the hard work of relationships, or excellence, or following God as we should. I suspect most of us would prefer the path of least resistance, least sweat, least struggle. God knows this, and graciously when the labor is too intense, will sometimes pull us out of our distress. But I would contend that the blessings of His assistance will be all the more rewarding if we have given all of ourselves first. If we don't reach the end of our own limits, how can we understand how insufficient they will ultimately be? And unless we recognize that, will we ever feel we need God? And if we don't feel we need God, we are lost.

I woke up and looked out over the cleared lawn. Already new leaves were falling, scattering its once pristine surface.

He broke their spirits with hard labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His faithful love and His wonderful works for all humanity...
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distress. Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths, their courage melting away in anguish, they reeled and staggered like drunken men, and all their skill was useless. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.
Let whoever is wise pay attention to these things and consider the Lord ’s acts of faithful love. (Psalms 107:12-15, 19, 26-28, 43 HCSB)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In the Midst of the Deluge

Rain yesterday morning, and probably today in upstate NY, and a possibility of SNOW. Yes. SNOW. Why does anyone live north of the Mason-Dixon Line? However, since it was an unexpectedly nice afternoon yesterday, I finished raking my folks' front and side yards. Then the wind picked up, and with the new onslaught of leaves wrenched from the trees, it hardly looked like I had done anything. There was a deluge of new leaves to be raked.The world is like laundry - it requires constant upkeep.

This is my last day in NY, unless I get snowed in. I hate leaving, but I also miss my dear daughter and hubby back home (and my beloved doggies.)It is a long drive, so I intend to take two days, and maybe stop and visit some beautiful sight along the way. I am always sad leaving my folks. I wish they lived closer. But to comfort my heart, I had a most amazing dream, a first ever for me of this sort.

I dreamt I saw Jesus.

I don't remember any of the circumstances at all, and I don't remember what He looked like in my dream. Given the circumstances of the day, one would imagine I dreamt of Him with a giant, cosmic rake. Lord knows, that is all that would begin to make a dent on the forest of leaves in my folks' backyard. But I don't think He had a rake. All I remember was He was in the center of whatever was going on (how I wish I could remember what that was!) and He glowed, like a light source. I awoke right after the dream, and was filled with joy. I don't recall that He *did* anything...He was just there. And knowing He was there in the midst of it all transformed the frigid, dark night into a glowing, warm nucleus of peace, and hope.

The Lord sat as King over the deluge; the Lord [still] sits as King [and] forever! The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:10, 11 AMP)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

For His Name's Sake

Sometimes there are startling patches of brilliance in what is a rather subdued Autumn here in upstate NY. Yesterday, my parents and I drove out to lunch in a lovely, historic, little town about forty minutes away from their home. It was a beautiful sunny day, and rain is forecast for the rest of the week so we decided it was a good day for a longish drive to view the fall foliage. It is a beautiful drive even without spectacular fall color, through forested and pastured hillsides, on narrow winding country roads. I don't know if the leaves are past peak, or if it was just a less astonishing show of autumn in general. However, on occasion, we would round a bend in the road, and there would be a burst of glory - usually yellow. Whatever the yellow trees were, they were neon flashes in the melting browns, rusts, and olives of dying leaves.

Having trouble sleeping (as usual), I was reciting the 23rd psalm in my head. It is one of only a few scripture of any length that I have successfully memorized. But last night, I was getting stuck after the second line. So I flipped open my Bible. Oh yes, "He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake."

And then like a neon burst of yellow trees out of the murky background, that line hit me.
Why does He guide me along the wonderful paths? Not for MY sake!? For HIS name's sake!!

I don't know why I had never really pondered that. I always have thought of the 23rd Psalm, my favorite, as a comfort to ME. But here was a line unequivocally stating that it was not about ME. It was about GOD. You would think that after 35 years of being a believer, I would not be surprised by this, but I was. I had never noticed that our being guided on the right paths was not for OUR benefit, but for GOD's.

And I felt a wave of relief! If walking the right path was for HIS name's sake, then I could trust that He would do everything in His power to insure my success sticking to the right road. All I have to do is be obedient to His guidance, acknowledge that He is the Shepherd I need to follow, and stay on the path He sets before me. I closed my eyes to visions of golden leaves twirling in the sunlight.


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3 NIV)

-save a dog-

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Sublime Hidden in the Obvious

You never know what you might find when you peer carefully beyond the surface. My parents have always been masters at looking for the sublime nestled in the obvious. Dad would do so on long country drives every Sunday with his brood. We never knew exactly where we were going or what we hoped to find, but we always found something worth pausing to see. Mom would do so on her hunts through nearby forests for wild flowers or slate or pebbles she could transplant to her woodland trails she was creating in our forested back yard.

They continue this practice today, to the best they are able with the creaky joints and tiring muscles of growing older. They live in a very beautiful area of upstate NY. Every day, they go out for a modest lunch, single handedly supporting the restaurant business in their area. Then they go for a drive, taking circuitous routes home. They are always on the prowl for wildlife.
"There is something so exciting about seeing an animal in the wild that you don't feel when you see them in an enclosure," Mom told me as we drove yesterday, "Even deer. When you meet them in the wild and gaze into their eyes, there is a don't get that when they are caged."

On our drive yesterday, we saw first the glimpse of a great blue heron, almost completely hidden in the reeds of a bog, and then a flock of wild turkey grazing on the lawn of a farm house. We had crawled slowly over the old country roads, peering about us with expectant wonder. Had we been going the speed limit, or straight home on well traveled roads, we would have missed all of that delight.

Before our drive, I had worked all morning in their yard. First I tackled the garden area that was professionally put in a few months back and was littered with weeds. I pulled out all those nasty buggers, but that was child's play compared to the daunting task of removing the bushels and bushels of leaves in their heavily forested yard. The day before, I had discovered the joys of using a leaf blower on the front yard. (Yes, over half a century old and I had never used a leaf blower.)

Yesterday, I decided to tackle the back. My folks told me not to bother, just let the leaves lie and the forest would reclaim all Mom's beautiful paths, stone hedges, slate patio, and pebble "river" with the hundreds of blue smooth pebbles I had helped her collect. No. I could not let the forest have it. Not yet. But they were buried under a thick blanket of leaves, and the trees were only half done contributing to the deluge.

I knew it was perhaps a fool's errand, but one I was compelled to do. Bit by bit, I uncovered the slate patio, and then the pachysandra garden hedged by rocks Mom had carefully chosen and transplanted. Next, I began forging a path through the trees, making a neat leaf covered circle in the center and creating a cleared loop through the back yard. I uncovered a patch of spotted plants that I know my mom had transplanted, but I can't remember their name. And then out of nowhere, I blew the leaves from the blue pebble "river". I could almost hear the little stone brook babble.

In a month (or less), the paths will be covered again, but I will come back in the spring. Meanwhile, as long as I am here, I will continue to clear away and search for the unexpected flowers buried from sight. It is so often the hidden things that captivate our souls; the hard to uncover beauties lying along the path of life, the revelations of God that we have to seek diligently nestled in the obvious. All creation is shouting His name, but we have to be willing to walk with expectant hearts, pausing at times to listen, to look deeply for things we may not otherwise notice.


indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; (Proverbs 2:3-5, 9, 20, 21 NIV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Seeds of Kindness

Today every muscle in my body is wondering what I was thinking yesterday. Lovely historic Owego, the town my brother lives in near my folks in upstate NY, was having a tree planting day. Since his wife Jenny is village trustee, I thought it would be supportive, as long as I was in town, to help plant trees. Jenny was one of the organizers, and has done some amazing things for little Owego which was devastated by a massive flood in 2011. About thirty folks from the community turned out to help, and I was (by far) the one who had traveled the furthest to help greenify Owego.
"You came all the way from North Carolina to plant trees?" asked one volunteer.
"Well, I was going to visit my folks anyway," I explained, "So I was glad to arrange it to coincide with this since Jenny is my sister in law."
My group was told we had to plant two trees, but then somehow or another, we were assigned 6 trees. I had come prepared with wrist splints, and work gloves...but 6 trees? At my age? What was most astonishing was there was a retired man, Barry, at least 25 years my senior who was overseeing the project who could run circles around my tree planting ability.

Since he was nearby, I asked him to hold my tree straight while I filled in the dirt. As soon as the tree was anchored by the dirt, Barry was raking and shoveling up a storm, putting me to shame. Later Jenny told me the kind elderly man had just lost his wife to cancer. She said he was a little at a loss as to what to do with himself so she had taken him under wing. Do you need any further explanation as to why I love Jenny?

Two hours later, our crew of four had planted all 6 trees. My folks met me in Owego, and we had lunch reservations at a cute little restaurant. I invited Jenny but she said that she had hours of work left and could not join us. However, she ended up appearing at the restaurant with Barry at her side. My parents, always gracious, were delightful companions and conversationalists, and Barry seemed happy in our midst. I think the time spent with Barry was even more valuable than planting the trees.

Barry is a "master gardener" (as is Jenny) and so we bombarded him with questions about the disturbing spate of weeds that had cropped up in my parents' new island of mulch and flowers.

"The seeds are always in the soil," explained Barry, "In fact, to control weeds you should not till your yard! If you till soil, the seeds that might have stayed buried are brought to light and can sprout. So you often get weeds when you till the soil."

But I was thinking of other seeds that when stirred in a community could yield a much more desired outcome. The seeds of kindness tilled by Jenny and my folks to that grieving man brought a harvest of joy. The trees the community planted will flower in the spring, after a winter of dormancy, dotting the flood ravaged town with bursts of color and hope. I loved considering how seeds of kindness, when brought to light, could sprout and what was once dead and buried, could still blossom.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 ESV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Journey's End

I arrived safely at my folks in NY after a drive that would have been 7 hours, not 8, if I had a bladder the size of anything greater than an amoeba. I did have a first hand view of all the rest stops between Richmond and Binghamton. For the record, Virginia's was probably the nicest. I listened to 8 straight hours of talk radio with one brief interesting exception. For the few moments that I was trying to find another of my favorite fellow mourners of the state of our new Socialist Republic, I chanced upon an announcer who said he was about to give us a pastor with a moment of inspiration.
"I could always use that," I thought.
"John Munro will be speaking with us about 1 Peter," said the announcer.
"What a coincidence!" I thought. My own pastor has the same name! But he won't be as wonderful as my own pastor. And my pastor, from Scotland, is like listening to melted butter the way his mellifluous accent drips across the ears.
Than the pastor began speaking.
"Now that is REALLY a coincidence!" I thought, "How many pastors named John Munro have a Scottish accent!?"
Had anyone but me been privvy to my stunning display of dull-wittedness, I would have been embarrassed. As it was, I did feel a little sheepish when I realized, " IS my pastor!"

I vaguely recalled he had mentioned he would be doing this national radio bible spot periodically. What a joy it was to hear his voice so far from home, so unexpectedly, and near the end of a very tiring journey!

And what a lovely picture it created in my heart; a foretaste of Jesus as we travel to our journey's end. There He will be, His gentle words so familiar and comforting greeting us when we are so weary, when we are wondering if we have the strength to reach our final destination.


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV)

-save a dog-

Friday, October 18, 2013

Do Not Lose Heart

I was blessed to have a late lunch yesterday in Richmond with my handsome new lawyer son. And then, because he IS a new lawyer, he had to go back to work. So I put on my walking shoes and went wandering along the James River. I spent the night in Richmond, and then after breakfast with my dear son and wonderful daughter-in-law, I will travel on to NY to see my folks.

I was very excited to spend the afternoon wandering along the James river in Richmond. I happened to pass a man preparing to launch his kayak in the James. I almost brought my kayak on this trip, but decided it would be too cold in NY which is where I head tomorrow. So I stopped and asked the man some questions. I noticed right away that the man had a flatwater, not whitewater kayak. Yet I knew that many portions of the James within sight were rapids...dangerous rapids.
"I see you have a flatwater kayak," I said, "Can that go over those rapids?"
"I'm not going over the rapids," he said, "I am a chicken. I will just go across the river. See that island over there? There are many miles of shoreline you can explore and stay on flatwater."
"And you can easily fight the current and not get swept downstream?" I asked with mounting excitement.
"Yes, we do it all the time. I am strictly a flatwater kayaker. I put in and take out here."
And only a mile from my new lawyer son's apartment! And I even noticed a little flurry of rapids that I could actually go upstream alongshore to get around, and then shoot down those rapids for a thrill within my capability.

I have visited Richmond a few times now, and have eyed those rapids, seen the kayak launch area, and dreamt about having the courage to get in the river. Now I know I can do it! I watched the man kayak across the river, not coming close to being swept downstream over the dangerous rapids. As if seeing my beloved son were not wondrous enough, I chanced upon an answer to a long held dream.

But wonders were not over for the day. I sat in my hotel room on the 18th floor last night, overlooking the beautiful James river, and watched the sun set. As the darkness descended, the river was the last to blend into the night. It reflected the last embers of the sun's glow, and then shimmers of moonlight and streetlamps glinted off its flowing waters.

While driving through the empty hillbilly countryside of Virginia en route to Richmond, the only radio stations I could find were of preachers exuberantly proclaiming the Gospel. I listened for quite a while to one who kept saying, "It is so easy to lose heart, but that is one thing we must never do. Never lose heart." He spoke of Saint Paul's predicaments, being beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and in chains for his faith. Yet in the end, Paul's message of faith and salvation in Jesus reached an entire world. It all felt like impossible rapids, but God knew the flatwater path safely to eternity, and He would guide him there. One thing we must never do is lose heart.

Next time I come to Richmond, I am bringing my kayak.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1, 6 ESV)

PS- Since I will be traveling many hours and then visiting my folks for the next week, there may be some days of no blogs. I apologize but remind you I have a backlog of 3 years of blogs in case you feel the desire to get a dose of my outlook on life.

-save a dog-

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Blessing Nonetheless

I went on a wild goose chase yesterday. I had a hot tip about a historic object which I am writing about. Because the subject of my soon to be released book is still top secret, I cannot tell you what the object is. Anyway, my informer told me that twenty or maybe thirty years ago this object was north of Charlotte and he gave me directions. He did not remember street names, but he gave me landmarks which may or may not still be there. It was an hour drive each way, but I didn't see how I could NOT go. If the object was still there, it could be a major clue in my book mystery. So I drove off, knowing this was a crazy thing to do.

As it turned out, I never found the object, nor really the landmarks, so I suspect I had the wrong exit number. It was two hours of my life I can never have back. However, I did notice the leaves were beginning to change color and I always love seeing the first murmurings of autumn. I got to cross over Lake Norman sparkling in the sun, and I listened to talk radio which I rarely am able to do. I kept my eyes open and watched carefully in case God had some unexpected encounter waiting for me. Maybe I was not supposed to find the historic object, but something else entirely. I have learned that much of the joy of life ends up being the side-trips. Sometimes those side-trips become the biggest blessing of all, the main event.

I had just read in 2 Kings 13 about Israelites who were burying a friend when their enemies came upon them. They threw the dead friend into Elisha's tomb, and when the body touched Elisha's bones, the dead man came to life! I imagine that was the last thing the Israelites expected to happen! Sometimes when even unawares we chance upon a presence God has touched, we come away renewed and miraculously changed.

But this time, I didn't see anything obvious. No dead bodies rose up. No bones started dancing. And sadly, I never did find the object I was looking for. However, on the way home, I saw that Interstate 485 now went all the way to Interstate 77 north of Charlotte, and it was a route I had never tried. It would be great to bypass all the busy traffic of Charlotte, and since I had no pressing plans, decided to give the new route home a shot. It was wonderful! It took no more time than the busy though shorter route through Charlotte, and was mostly traffic free. It was a little blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.

2 Kings 13:20-21 NIV
[20] Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. [21] Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Wisdom of the World

I love 2 Kings in the Old Testament. It is maybe my favorite book in the Bible. I just adore Elijah and Elisha. As I was toodling along, reading about my favorite prophets, I came to a very interesting passage:

2 Kings 13:18-20 NIV
[18] Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. [19] The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.” [20] Elisha died and was buried.

Is anyone else left shaking their heads over this passage? How was the poor king supposed to know ahead of time that he needed to strike the ground as many times as he could? I wouldn't have known! It is not like Elisha gave him any clues! It struck me as unfair. Why was the King chastised for not knowing the future repercussion of his action?

I read a few commentaries on the passage and came to a startling conclusion. There are some things in life that we cannot know by experience or cognition. Some things are only known through faith, and spiritual discernment. This may have been one of those instances. How often, like the king, are we brought into circumstances in which only faith and spirituality will guide us in how to act?! If we are not in the habit of perceiving the world with eyes that have learned to focus on the unseen, we will not be able to follow the commands of the spirit. Even in the king's ignorance, God was gracious, and gave him partial victory over his enemies. But complete victory will never be achieved without faith and spiritual discernment.

And faith and spiritual discernment will never be achieved without daily immersion in the word of God and obedience to His promptings. It is simultaneously a passage of rebuke and hope.

We cannot, but God can.

For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:21-25 ESV)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arms of Love

My sister is a grandmother again, this time with her first granddaughter. She is spending a month with her daughter to help care for the growing family. She is in complete heaven. (Well, perhaps not complete...the two year old IS wearing her energy to a nub, but besides the exhaustion, she is in complete heaven.) New babies are so important, especially when the world is topsy turvy and perhaps not as perfect as one would hope. No one can help but feel optimism and delight when new adorable life opens her eyes and gazes with wonder at an earth brimming with color, and sounds, and smells, and kisses. It changes everyone's perspective. Sometimes babies can make the most jaded cynic pause and see the world with a different lens.

Jesus tells us that unless we approach the kingdom of God as "little children", we will not gain entrance. We are to look upon His Majesty with a sense of awesome wonder, incredulity at the miraculous beauty of it all. We are to enter with absolute faith into a universe of promise and hope. No heavy burdens of sin or dashed dreams shackle our joy. We are carried on the arms of love and forgiveness with the kiss of eternity. Oh Lord, how magnificent a plan to remind us to trust in your goodness with the sweet innocence of babies!

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 NCV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2, 3 NIV)

But I am calm and quiet, like a baby with its mother. I am at peace, like a baby with its mother. People of Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forever. (Psalms 131:2, 3 NCV)

-save a dog-

Monday, October 14, 2013


We had a special treat in church. Os Guinness with his delightful accent spoke! For those of you who don't know Dr. Guinness, he is very famous in the Christian world, a prolific author, and a most insightful Christian thinker. I was so excited to be in his presence. He spoke about how we have come to think of worship as an "experience" and yet it was never meant to be that. It was meant to be a worship "service". Interestingly, the word liturgy means "service." We have come to look at church and in fact, the whole Christian life, as something we should get something from, as opposed to something we should bring something to. It is not about us. It is supposed to be about God. Then he talked of three things we should do to better serve God:
1. cleanse ourselves (through prayer and careful examination) of any of the blinding distortions of our society and self
2. follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit
3. know what our calling is and pursue it for God's kingdom!

I loved that last one. As soon as he said it, I felt my entire being shout, "Write! Write and draw and use those gifts God gave you for His glory!" It was almost audible. The wonderful incredible joy of serving God is that He equips us bountifully to do what He is calling us to do. There is great joy in using what He has given us to serve His kingdom. I had lived nearly half a century before I truly realized that. Serving God's purpose with all He has bequeathed upon me is inexpressibly wondrous.


Serving God does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. (1 Timothy 6:6 NCV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Music in my Heart

I had not kayaked in nearly three weeks with the awful flu or crud that I had. And on top of that, I have been consumed with editing my book and preparing for an interview and then long trip, so I was pretty sure I could not go this weekend either. But with the summer over and the water getting colder, I decided perhaps I should sneak out for at least a brief time in my kayak. You never know how many kayakable days are left.

As I floated joyfully on the river I love so well, I felt like singing. Now whatever crud had attacked me the past few weeks had not totally cleared out. I am still a little congested and my lungs are not completely emptied of gunk. In the best of times, I am not a great singer. But there was no one around besides the turtles, so I lifted my voice in song.

At least that was the intention.

Instead, my voice lifted into a very off key croak. The turtles ducked underwater. I tried valiantly to wrestle it back in tune, but it was quickly apparent that I could not sing.

"Well I'm singing on the inside," I thought.

And I thought how blessed I was to be strong and healthy enough to be on the river kayaking. I knew I would not always be able. My body would someday let me down. It is the way of all living creatures. God has His reasons and I trust they are Good.

"But I will be kayaking on the inside," I thought.

... Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything. Give thanks to him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19, 20 NIRV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Lift My Eyes Unto the Hills....

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1, 2 ESV)

I have embraced the plight of a good man who is struggling against the State. As a writer, I have the opportunity to tell an audience about this struggle. The good man is in the right...clearly. The State is wrong...clearly. I am baffled by the degree to which obvious right is challenged. I am dismayed, and understand anew, the battle belongs to The Lord. What we experience on earth is only a small part of what is raging around us. Good and Evil are clashing and the whole universe shudders. Sometimes it is very easy to be discouraged, to lose heart, to know that there is no possible way that Good will win. But it does. In the end, it does. So we fall to our knees and lift our eyes to the hills, to The Lord who made heaven and earth... and wait.
If we are lucky, we have a fuzzy dog or good friend waiting with us. If not, I would advise you go be that fuzzy dog or good friend to someone else who is waiting.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pack Walks

There are several Carolina Dogs in our neighborhood, all look exactly like my dog, Honeybun. All seem wary of strange dogs, and considering my Honeybun's past when she was aggressive, I am careful to steer clear of any that are loose or on a long leash. Those of you who don't have "reactive" dogs do not know how insensitive some dog owners are to those of us who DO have reactive dogs. I will give you a little hint, in case your dog is nice and likes other dogs. That doesn't matter. Even if your dog is nice: if he gets in my dog's face, she will respond with fear and aggression. And if she growls or bites, it is likely your nice dog will defend himself. Then my dog gets in trouble because you let your dog get in her face. So, don't. Just don't. Respect my space, and ask before you invade it.

My nice neighbor Roxan is a responsible dog owner and understands that. She also has a Carolina Dog. So we went on a pack walk when we converged on a route yesterday. It was very interesting. Our dogs were wary, and Honeybun gave a warning growl. Her dog, Jenna, looked like she would like to explore further exactly what that growl meant. Because Roxan once had a reactive dog, and understands dogs, she knew better than to let Jenna get in Honeybun's face. And as a result, as we walked together with the dogs near each other but not able to reach each other, it was harmonious, and pleasant. "Pack walks" are one of the best ways to help "reactive dogs" relate to other dogs in a positive way.

What was extremely interesting is that while we walked, Roxan and I were engaged in a very deep political discussion. We had some areas of agreement, but many areas of sharp disagreement. And yet, just like our parallel walking dogs, we did not attack each other, but heard the view of the other without rancor. I cannot say either of us came away changing our point of view, but we did come away without bloodshed. In my mind, that is a victory.

Roxan, if I can paraphrase her position, believes peace and getting along, and compromise is key. I believe that there are lines that cannot be crossed, points at which compromise becomes evil, and a stand must be taken, sometimes at enormous cost. When we parted ways, we were still friends, and our dogs were calm and content to walk parallel paths. I suspect our Congress could make some gains if they would all gather together and walk their dogs.

Meanwhile, I understand with greater clarity why God says, "Where 2 or more are gathered in my name, there I will be." Agreement on anything is a miracle, and that is just one more reason why we so desperately need God.


Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:19, 20 ESV)

-save a dog-

Thursday, October 10, 2013


This is a picture of inside my head. Some people have organs that look like walnuts inside their skull. I have a network of fuzzy colors with frayed edges. I think I may have started the day with something approximating a working brain, but by the end of the day, all that was left were threads of frazzled, fuzzy colors. Pretty, isn't it?

Let this be a warning to you. NO ONE should edit a book for 12 hours straight. In the middle of my marathon editing, I got an email confirming an interview next week. I cannot tell you who I am interviewing - because that would spoil the book, and I know you will ALL want to read it once it is published....But anyway, he is a miracle. He is the perfect ending to my book, and I didn't even know he was alive until last week. It was an amazing confluence of events that plopped him in my hemisphere.

Anyway, I had been editing all day, and still not feeling completely myself after the killer illness I had for a couple of weeks. I had a massive headache. I received his email, confirming our interview. I read past his name, to the
email signature. It was a verse from the Bible, Joshua 24:15 , "As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord." I almost dropped my computer. If we have a family verse, that would be it.

I wrote him back and told him the time for the interview worked for me as well, and noted that the verse at the end of his email was our "family verse".

"It is our family verse too," he told me.

Not only did he appear out of nowhere, and make my book a thousand times better, but he LOVES God! A fellow believer! Sometimes life is so beautiful, so filled with stunning serendipity that it is hard to fathom. God's exquisite engineering of every detail is continually constructing an arrow to heaven that pulsates with the message, "Here I Am!"


“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14, 15 ESV)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


I have some amazing friends. When I came home with four carousels of old fashioned slides that miraculously came my way for my new book, I had no way to view them. After a plea on Facebook, friends offered me a vintage carousel projector, a projection screen, and an afternoon to help me make the slides digital for my book.

That last one was no small offering. Each slide, were I to pay to have them digitalized would have cost about $1.50. My friend, Melissa, has a scanner at her home that would do it for free. Each slide would take about 5-10 minutes ...I had 20 slides. That meant 2-3 hours of scanning! Melissa made it sound like this huge assault on her precious time was doing HER a favor- "While I digitalize the slides, we can chat!" she told me. She even sounded DELIGHTED.

Three hours later, I headed home with my twenty slides not only digitalized, but cropped, edited, and all put in a single folder in my Pictures album (the amazing Brian, her husband, synched them to my computer for me). All this occurred while I had a single task assigned to me: sit and chat.

I don't deserve Brian and Melissa. All I can do is praise God that for whatever reason, I am blessed to be their friend.

It made me consider what it takes to be an extraordinary friend:
1. Make yourself available to others, especially in time of need.
2. Always make others feel welcome, not as though you are too busy for them or their presence is an intrusion
3. Make them feel as though they are doing you a favor gracing them with your visit
4. Laugh, and smile, and make their world feel like it really is a special place and we are all enjoying the ride together.
5. Make them feel that everything they say is brilliant, and illuminating, and has blessed your day.
6. Make them feel that they are the most special human beings on earth, and your whole family wishes they could see more of them.
7. Offer the perfect words of advice and encouragement at just the right time so that instead of feeling defeated, they walk away thinking, "I can do this."
8. Make them feel that in this vast and sometimes frightening world, they are not alone.

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible is when Jesus tells the disciples, "I call you friend." Jesus, God Himself, wants to befriend us! What a monumental statement that is, miraculous even. And God chooses to befriend us for a purpose. In that same passage, He tells the disciples He chose them so they could go forth and spread fruit- the glorious message of hope and salvation. But first, God tells them, "I call you friend." There is obviously a very special value placed on being a friend. I am not as good a friend as I want to be. But at least I have a wonderful role model.
Bless you, Melissa!


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 15:15-17 ESV)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Talk Less, Learn More

Yesterday, my daughter Asherel and I taught nursing home residents how to draw an elephant. This time, we had a really big group, including many returning participants. We run an art class once a month at the nursing home. One lady told me, "Remember how last month we drew a penguin? Well, my granddaughter came to visit, and I showed her my drawing. I asked her what it was, and she told me 'a penguin of course!' So I gave it to her. She was thrilled."

I detected pride in the sweet lady's voice. She had made something in the winter of her life that had impressed her granddaughter. I noticed she was very careful with her elephant drawing, and when portions of it did not look just right, she asked me how to make it better. In fact, many of the residents asked for help in making the drawing closer to what they knew it should look like. Only one this time told me, "I can't draw." All of them seemed to believe that they indeed *could* draw. I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to have 80-90 year olds improving in a skill that none of them thought they could possibly do a few months ago.

Learn new things. It is so important at every age. We had a rousing discussion about whether our elephant was an african or asian elephant. I remembered the ears are very different in each, but couldn't recall who had the bigger ears. I looked it up on my iPhone, and the residents were excited to learn they were drawing an African elephant.(Big ears)

I have taught children art for decades. I noticed some stark differences between teaching the very young, and teaching the very old. Old people talk less and listen more. Old people are not defensive when their drawing is corrected. They welcome the suggestions! Old people do not take themselves so seriously, and laugh more when the drawing doesn't take shape as they wish. Old people want very much to learn, but are not as upset if they don't. They are content, as one person there said, "To just observe. I like to observe."

All in all, I have to say, I am at a stage in life when I prefer teaching old people. Their attitude is so refreshing. Their wisdom and acceptance of who they are is uplifting. Even the Bible recognizes that wise people talk less and learn more. God showed me an important lesson in my art class at the nursing home.

Wise people are quiet and learn new things, but fools talk and bring trouble on themselves. (Proverbs 10:14 ERV)

-save a dog-

Monday, October 7, 2013

Boasting In The Lord...and Other Things....

I am not much of a golfer but it was my husband's birthday yesterday, and he loves to golf. So I suggested we go golfing. It was only about 90 degrees outside with 70% humidity...not AT ALL daunting to someone coming off of 2 weeks flat on her back with the flu.

"Should we do 9 holes?" I suggested.
"Not on this little par 3 course," he said, "It will take us one and a half hours for all 18."

As we crawled into the shade near the clubhouse after the 9th hole, nearly 2 hours later, I hoped the birthday boy was having fun. Because I was ready to pass out with heat stroke. On this "little par 3 course", I was averaging about ten or so strokes per hole. For those of you who don't golf, in layman's terms that means I stink. We sat for a long time in the shade sucking down water. Time for the back 9.

The back 9 was shadier, at least in parts, and something clicked in my non-golfer brain. I actually began hitting the ball into the air instead of just creating trenches along the surface of the pristine grass with my line drives to the center of the earth. And you know, when you hit that sucker correctly, golf IS fun. I could actually see enjoying it on a day about 30 degrees cooler.

Whenever we came to the holes with water traps between the tee and the green, I suggested we forego the optimal club selection, and just toss the ball directly into the water. We all knew it was going to end up there anyway. On the last hole, there was a huge expanse of water. While I offered to just tee off on the other side of the water, my husband said I should go ahead and try to hit it over the lake. I would have to hit at least 70 yards to clear the water. I laughed, but teed my ball, and concentrated.

"Bend your knees, focus on the spot on the ball you want to hit, don't lift your head after hitting, bring the club smoothly back in a straight line, and follow through with a smooth swing keeping your head down." All the instructions of the day danced across my brain. And then I whacked the ball, knowing it would make a loud embarrassing "kerplunk" like it always does when I try to hit across the water hazards.

But when I looked up ( after dutifully keeping my head down throughout the follow-through), I heard no kerplunk. I could not see the ball. I looked for several seconds, waiting for the splash. And then, I saw the ball plop on the distant shore, a good 30 yards further in fact than the distant shore.
"Look!" I cried, leaping up and down, "I cleared the water! Look at how far it went!" It was at least 100 yards, by far the furthest I have ever hit a golf ball.
But the birthday boy missed it, the one and only time in my life that I have ever hit a golf ball perfectly.

Part of our Sunday sermon was about "boasting in The Lord." If you must boast, it is best to boast only about God and how He saved you. Salvation is through grace alone. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was all sufficient to atone for every sin, and by grace and grace alone, when we accept that sacrifice on our behalf, we are instantly filled with God's Holy Spirit and our soul is saved for all eternity. There is no room for self satisfied bragging because we did nothing. God did everything.

But I forgot myself in the joy of that wonderful golf shot. I wanted to shout it from the mountain top, so unexpected and rare it was! It was only later, after my little celebration dance on the golf course and a few emails describing my marvelous drive across the lake that I remembered the pastor's admonition to boast ONLY in The Lord.

I guess I am as lousy at walking righteously before God as I am at golf, but you just never know when you might have a moment of perfect clarity and do it right, so you must keep trying. Where God and Golf differ is Golf is all about YOU doing everything perfectly and you trusting in yourself. God is all about HIM doing everything perfectly and you trusting in Him.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28, 30, 31 NIV)

-save a dog-