Friday, November 29, 2013

When Not to Add Wax

We skied yesterday at a mountain that I had only been to once, long ago, when I was a beginner skier. It was covered in pea soup fog that time, and so I didn't get a real taste of what the mountain was like. (Other than a source of abject terror from climbing a near vertical, winding, switchback road and unable to see a foot in front of me...) Yesterday, it was a clear sunny day on Beech Mountain, perfect for our first ski outing of the year. I did a couple of runs on the 'easier' slope to get my "ski legs" back and then went to the top of the mountain. I had gotten my skis 3 years ago, used, and had never once had them waxed or tuned. But this summer, I decided it might be wise to have a pro look at them and "tune them", whatever that meant. He did so, assured me the skis were in good shape, and that now, newly waxed, I would be able to go fast.

Fast? Who said I wanted to go fast? I don't ski to go fast. I ski to make it to the bottom of the hill in one piece. 

I have skied from the top of a nearby mountain, (Sugar), and so felt confident I could ski from the top of Beech. On the chair lift up the mountain, I asked my chair mate if he had skied both mountains, and were they comparable? He felt they were. He had skied for thirty years, was a good skier, and prefered Beech. This was worriesome to me, a poor intermediate skier at best. I suspected he prefered Beech because it was more of a challenge. Another chair lift rider assured me Beech was "about the same" as Sugar.  However, when I got off the chair lift at the top of Beech, I noticed that since it was the only slope open for skiers other than beginners, it was slick with ice from all the snowboarders mushing down whatever little powder there had once been. And it looked much steeper than Sugar Mountain.

I am going to die.

Nonetheless, I had no choice but to head down the mountain. First I looked out over the precipitous drop and asked some nearby snowboarders who were strapping on their boards, "What's the easiest route down?"
They directed me to the far right slope, and must have discerned that I was nervous.
"Just zigzaag back and forth across the mountain and you will be fine," advised the girl.

So off I went, down the mountain. Now if you recall, my skis were newly waxed for the first time since I had owned them. And the mountain was already slick and icy. I shot down the mountain. I tried to go back and forth, but it is hard to steer on ice, and I was not at all happy with how wax makes skis go fast. In front of a slopeside condo with a viewing audience putting on their skis, I did a wild windmill of my arms and crashed. Fortunately, I was not damaged (much), and got right back up so I barely noticed their wonderment about why I was not on the easy slope. I headed on downward. There was little else I could do, since gravity was unfortunately still a law of the universe.

I made it the rest of the way without mishap, but I learned my lesson. I spent the rest of the day on the easy slope. I like to try new things, to push myself to do things I am not really quite capable of. Nearly every book or article I have written is an example of that tendency. It is disheartening when instead of expanding my skill set, it backfires. But life is quite often filled with set backs. Our walk is rarely a straight shot forward without stumbles. The wise person discerns that sometimes the stumbles are God rebuking us. Sometimes we really are on top of a mountain we shouldn't be on and the lesson we need to learn is back down, be humble enough to recognize when you have erred, and stay on a path that will allow you to go safely where God intends for you to go. 
(PS-- It is best not to add wax till you are ready to go fast.)


For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right. Strengthen your tired arms and weak knees. Keep walking along straight paths so that your injured leg won’t get worse. Instead, let it heal. Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord. Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you. (Hebrews 12:10-15 GW)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


There are few things more wonderful than sitting in a quiet living room warmed by a fire, with the smells of a roasting turkey filling the home. I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the peacefulness, the scents, and the traditions. I cleaned the house on Thanksgiving morning, rearranged the furniture in preparation for the Christmas tree -- which I always put up the weekend after Thanksgiving -- and then sat in front of the fire and smelled the luscious scents of our dinner. In a labor of love, I cooked the disgusting giblets for the dogs. (If you have never cut up raw turkey liver and hearts, you have not experienced YUCK to its fullest degree.)

Today, my hubby and daughter and I are heading to the mountains to ski for a day. We will pack turkey sandwiches for lunch! Life is good. I am thankful. I read a long essay about the first Thanksgiving and was convicted anew of how gently and graciously God has dealt with us. We wander so far from Him, find satisfaction in so many meaningless substitutes, and all the while, He waits for us to notice that our hearts are empty unless He fills them.

I read a very ironic section in 2 Chronicles 25. The king of Israel at that time, Amaziah, kills Israel's enemies and plunders them. Get this...he brings back the idols, the gods that the people he just annihilated had worshiped. And he bows down to them! God is notably unimpressed by the daftness of His people. He brings this to the attention of Amaziah. Does Amaziah really think it it is wise to worship the gods of the people he has just defeated in battle through the power of  the God of Israel? I am not sure Amaziah catches the irony.

But goodness, we all do this! God, the creator of the universe who holds every molecule of existance in His hand could destroy us in a nanosecond...yet we ignore him, continue in our sin, disregard not only His commands but even His existance. We exchange the gods of this world for the only true God, and wonder why blessings do not flow. If I were God, I would step on us and squash us. The fact that He does not fills my heart with Thanksgiving. 

I will try to keep that thought near as I stand on the mountain top, and prepare to hurl down the magnificent snowy slope created and formed by the hand of God. I will praise not the beautiful mountain, but the One who gave me the beautiful mountain.


2 Chronicles 25:14-15 NIV
[14] When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them. [15] The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah, and he sent a prophet to him, who said, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?”

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful beyond belief. Yesterday afternoon I got a text from my daughter Asherel, "I am ok, the car is ok...but two cars in front of me crashed and I hit them. Everyone is ok."

I had almost driven her into school that day. I had had a bad dream about her getting in a car accident. All morning I felt restless with worry. She came home from school safely, but had to go back out for a tutoring session. The tutor had canceled, and the half hour drive was for naught. And then she got in the accident driving back from the session that never happened.

When she came home, all I wanted to do was hug her. Not many 16 year olds will tolerate too much of that, but she graciously allowed me a few moments.
There are many provisions of God that we don't notice. He is continually providing, protecting, guiding. It takes a bit of a shake up sometimes to realize how often we are blessed and we forget to say "Thank you." Every breath we take is a blessing, deserving of our gratitude to our Creator.

Happy Thanksgiving beloved friends and family. What a joy to have all of you in my life. Go hug your kid now.

Persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us also, that God may open to us a door of the word to speak the mystery of Christ, on account of which also I am bound, to the end that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom towards those without, redeeming opportunities. Let your word be always with grace, seasoned with salt, so as to know how ye ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2-6 DARBY)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hope and Gratitude

It will be a small celebration for us at Thanksgiving. The boys won't be home so it will be just Asherel and her stodgy old folks. Sorry Asherel! But Friday, we plan to go skiing. I am watching the weather and the snow in the mountains. If all goes well, we will have clear roads and snowy mountains. Still, I was feeling a little down that as our children grow up and out, our home gets emptier.

ON the plus side, since there will be no big family gathering or guests coming, I won't have to knock myself out cleaning the house. It will give me time to work on my next article. Yesterday, I interviewed an SC candidate for the Senate who hopes to unseat Lindsey Graham. I do not consider myself well versed in politics at all, but I do care deeply about my nation and have grave concerns about the plunge into moral , social, fiscal, and spiritual decay. (Other than that, I feel hopeful.) Anyway, I was told this candidate was different...might really have a vision that could turn things around. He has been very busy since declaring his candidacy so I didn't know if he would ever have time to sit down and chat with me.

Then yesterday, Bill Connor called and for 90 minutes we discussed everything from his philosophy of government, to his heroes, his vision for the country, his concerns and solutions, his diagnosis of the problems and his cures. I finished the interview thinking maybe there really is hope for America. Maybe all the good, brave, intelligent, articulate, Godly, and righteous people have not given up. 

I loved how he prefaced his desire to serve politically with the Biblical mandate for government. He quoted 1 Peter 2, how we are to be subject to the human institution of government, whose role is to punish evil and praise good. How refreshing it was to hear someone unabashedly see God's hand in the affairs of men and to have a world view fashioned after Biblical principles. He was quick to point out that he did not wish to form a theocracy -- he knew America was a Constitutional Republic. But the lens through which he viewed the world and his role in it was based on his relationship with and understanding of God.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that while my children are not all here this week, they are happy and thriving. I am grateful that for a little while my beloved daughter is still home with us and we get to ski together, something she and I truly love. And now I have a new item to add to my list of Thanksgiving blessings -- God has raised up a fresh, eager warrior in the battle for our nation's soul. It blesses all of us when Godly people listen to their calling in the service of others.  Maybe there is hope.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:13-15 ESV)

Monday, November 25, 2013


Oh how wonderful! Just in time for Thanksgiving, my oven broke! Actually, not all of it broke. Just the top broiler coil seems to have given up the ghost, but I presume it is only a matter of time before the rest follows. The oven/stove/microwave unit is original to the house, so probably 30 years old. I imagine there have been some upgrades to kitchen appliances in the past three decades.

About ten years ago the microwave stopped working. We were very resourceful and have used it as a spice rack. It always surprises guests when they see us pull our spices out of the microwave. So while I don't relish the expense, I really am looking very forward to shopping for a new stove. It is way past time for one. Maybe a new stove will reinvigorate me towards amazing escapades as a cook extraordinaire. A new era is dawning. I can feel it! Maybe instead of just collecting recipes, I will actually use one. That would also be a first in thirty years.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful my oven broke. Sometimes things need to break before we understand how badly the new is needed. I think that is what Jesus tells us. We really cannot understand how badly we need God, until we understand how badly broken we are without Him. And let me be clear, by broken, I mean full of sin. Unless we get that, we don't see the need for redemption. As long as we think we are ok, we are like a microwave that is full of spices. We will never accomplish our intended function and will be a poor substitute for what we were created to be. We will be an oven unable to function because half our coils are burnt out. It is good to admit we are broken. The new beginning, the new heart, the new spirit that indwells us is far superior to the old, ragged junk we were limping along with.

I really cannot wait for my new oven.


Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:13-17 ESV)

Thoughts on Technology and Thanksgiving

The fun drawing app on my iPad updated some new features. I love drawing on my iPad. No clean up. Easy correction of mistakes. A whole variety of effects with the touch of a button. One sister tells me this is not art, but I disagree. It is art, in my opinion, but it is different than drawing with pencil and paper.

The technology of this new world affects many areas besides art. I pulled out my smart phone when the teacher of our Bible Study group asked us to open our Bibles. I have every translation of every Bible right there in my phone. I can highlight, take notes, and even email myself pertinent passages. Yet I sense some disapproval at times in the hallowed halls of the church.

Or how about reading a book on Nook or iPad? How many people say there is just something special about holding a "real" book? I was one of those people...till I started reading books on my iPad. I can adjust the lighting, the size of the print, and switch instantly to a whole library of books all contained in a little 1 pound thin instrument. This is as real as it gets in my book! (pun intended.) you know what I dream about? The picture of a little log cabin with a wood burning stove and no electricity in a valley surrounded by snow covered mountains and not a modern convenience in sight. Is that strange?

A few months ago, I interviewed Eustace Conway, the mountain man, who lives off the grid and is one of the characters in the beloved Mountain Men TV series. He told me that we as a society have lost our connection to the source of living. I think he has a good point. We have become disconnected from our world, though we seem in some ways to be more connected, courtesy of the marvels of technology. I think that the area we have wandered furthest from is the need for God, from the simple belief that all creation and blessings flow from Him, and all our gratitude and living should be consecrated back to Him.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I find myself pondering this more and more.


singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders. I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells. (Psalms 26:7, 8 NLT)

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Growing Hair for God

(First, a disclaimer. Nearly all my blogs have deep spiritual least deep for me. This one is maybe a little less deep. God is in it....He is in everything I write one way or another...but some days my spiritual reservoirs run a little dry....)

For many years I have had very short hair, but now that my hair is turning grey and a little witchy looking, I felt it was time to grow it long again. (Yes, I am aware that doesn't make sense to you either....)

Who knows why I am doing this? Maybe to recapture my youth. Maybe to save a bundle on haircut bills. Maybe to hide my wrinkles. Maybe to keep my neck warm. Anyway, it is almost shoulder length for the first time in decades. In the process, I have discovered something important.

Long hair is annoying.

First, every time I go to brush my teeth, hair falls all over my face and gets in the way when I try to rinse my mouth. Second, my hair brush is full of hair balls that are difficult to remove. Third, when I try to wash dishes or cook and my hands are soapy, greasy, or covered in some sort of crud, my hair is in my mouth, my nose, and my eyes. I shake my head giving myself whiplash to try to force my hair out of all my orifices, but that doesn't work. Fourth, long hair takes forever to dry. Fifth, long hair clogs sinks and scatters about the bathroom floor like skinny worms.

There are many other annoying aspects of long hair but you get the point.
Now I have two questions:
1. How do you people with long hair manage? Why does everyone with long hair except me seem to be not eating it or sweating under it or blinded by it in the wind every time they walk outside? They all look feminine. I look frazzled. What am I doing wrong?
2. Why does the Bible say long hair is a woman's glory?

Here I am trying to be fiscally conscious and not spend a fortune every 6 weeks on haircuts, and following the Biblical suggestion that long hair is to my glory...and all I am reaping is grief. For about the first ten minutes after I blow it dry and brush it neatly in place, it looks great and I am so happy I have long hair. And then for the next 23 hours and 50 minutes I am cursing it. I understand I could tie it up in a ponytail, but what is the point of long hair if all you do is pull it up into short hair?

So I decided to discern what God really thinks about long hair. I did a word study in the Bible on long hair. Surprisingly, God talks quite a bit about hair. Long hair is a woman's glory, and yet she should not be vain about it with undue attention, fancy braiding or adornment. Her beauty should be internal, focusing on the matters of God not her external appearance. The mighty Samson's strength was in his long hair, but that was not due to any intrinsic power of the hair as much as the power of God and His Spirit working in His people. A careful reading of Samson's story in the book of Judges reveals the power of obedience, faith, and abiding by one's vows...the hair is an outward symbol of an inward state.

However, not one word of advice anywhere is in the Bible on how to keep long hair out of your mouth and eyes when your hands are covered with dishwashing soap. It is telling that in 1 Corinthians Paul mentions that people want to argue about hair. I guess I am not alone in worrying about this problem of hair.

But the most important verse about hair is that the very hair on our heads is numbered by God. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice, and every strand of our hair is counted. God loves us so much that every part of us, to our very hair, long or short, is important to the creator of the Universe.
That gives me pause as I contemplate ripping it out.

But long hair is a woman’s glory. Long hair is given to her as a covering. Some people may still want to argue about this, but I would add that neither we nor the churches of God have any other practice. (1 Corinthians 11:15, 16 NCV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, (Matthew 10:29-32 ESV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seeking Truth

One of the volunteer readers of my new manuscript agreed to offer critique, but was concerned she would hurt my feelings if she didn't like the book. I begged her to be honest. Hurt my feelings. I will get over it...but I want the truth. I can improve with the truth. I will wallow in self deception with false optimism.

One of my favorite prophets is Micaiah. Probably most people have never heard of him, or don't remember anything about him. He was a prophet of Israel during the evil reign of Ahab. (Please note the following is a paraphrase. For the exact translation, go to 2 Chronicles 18.) Ahab wanted to know if he and the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, should go to war against the Syrians. Would they be victorious? All Ahab's prophets said, "Sure! Go! You will kick their tookus!"
But Jehoshaphat didn't trust the prophets and asked if there was anyone else they could ask. I love what Ahab tells him, "Well yeh...but he only prophesies bad things so I don't like to hear his opinion."

I thought about that portion of the story. I love optimism, but I think optimism has become a God for some people. Given the choice between positive thinking and truth, I think we ought to go for truth. But there are a disturbing number of people I know that would rather not hear truth if it is not uplifting.

Returning to Michaiah, as he is brought to the king, he is warned to go along with the cheery prophesies of the other prophets. Michaiah, in one of the funnier sarcastic sections of the Bible tells the king, "YES! Go to battle! You will win hands down!" Ahab, evil but not stupid, knows Michaiah is being disingenous, and tells him to knock off the sarcasm and speak what he has on his mind. Michaiah tells Ahab not to go to battle, and if he does, he will be killed. Ahab responds as many of us do to bad news -- he throws the messenger in jail and ignores the advice. In the end, Ahab goes to battle and is indeed killed.

There are so many lessons in this story it is hard to focus on just one. However, since this is a blog, not a book, I will stick with one point. Do not worship optimism. Truth is a far better companion in the end, even if along the way it is not quite as pleasant. Optimism based on ignorance or even worse, lies, will make the walk into Hell more congenial perhaps, but in the end, you arrive at a place you don't want to be.

On the other hand, follow truth, and the truth will set you free.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31, 32, 36 ESV)

2 Chronicles 18:13-19 NIV
[13] But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says.” [14] When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.” [15] The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” [16] Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’ ” [17] The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” [18] Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left. [19] And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 22, 2013

God's Validation

I have been putting in so many hours editing that my chronically weak wrists have become quite painful. So I put on my wrist brace, and prayed this really was the final edit. I may have to take some time off before tackling another book. But just when I thought I had written the perfect ending to this latest one, something miraculous happened not once, but twice to change the story. I had to redo the whole thing after that!

Each time, I burst into tears, not out of dismay, but out of amazement that in the midst of my overwhelming fatigue writing this book, God sent some "sign," some amazing validation that He is with me on this. It is not really a book about God, but God is in every word of it.

Still, I wanted to throw the book out the window anyway, so weary of all the work and not certain it is getting any better. Then my brother called me. He told me to put the book away for a couple of weeks, better yet, a month. And don't plan on a publish date before February. He reminded me of what I tell many new writers. When you think you are done, you are not...but you need a period of not looking at it, and then when you return to your manuscript, you will see it with new eyes.

This is a biblical principle as well. Even God rested from His work. He gave us the sabbath rest for a reason. Between the miraculous endings to some of the book's unfinished sections and the encouragement from my brother, I felt God had stepped in to talk me down from great despair. I have been accused many times of "seeing God in everything," and it is true. I do. But that's because He IS. It is so incredibly gracious of Him to make it obvious when I need it the most.

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. (1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT)

So there is still a Sabbath rest for God's people. God rested from his work. Those who enjoy God's rest also rest from their work. So let us make every effort to enjoy that rest. Then no one will fall into sin by following the example of those who didn't obey God. (Hebrews 4:9-11 NIRV)

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Delayed Promise

I dropped my Destination Imagination team off at Lowes Building Supply store so they could come up with creative ideas of how to construct a realistic set for their science/performance project using inexpensive and unexpected building supplies. For example, I still cannot look at plumbing hoses and not think "elephant trunk." I hoped the team would have similar wild associations and come up with clever ideas and unusual uses of materials. I told them they had an hour and a half, and I would just do laps around the parking lot while waiting for them. I expected them to last only about 40 minutes.

I started my laps. Forty minutes later, not a peep from the team. I walked on and on, growing hungrier and tireder. I began hallucinating about the nearby Burger King and its delicious sweet potato fries. I wanted those sweet potato fries with a vengence, even knowing how terrible they were for me. Many times over the next hour, I veered towards the path to Burger King, but then pulled away, knowing I had a good healthy dinner at home. So, I kept doing laps, as my blood sugar plummeted and my stomach growled. I had no choice but to keep walking. It was cold outside and if I stopped, I knew I would freeze to death, particularly given my emaciated condition and growing malnutrition.

An hour and a half later, my team emerged. They had gotten some ideas, though they didn't share those thoughts with me. Or maybe they did. I was near comatose with starvation so my brain may not have been working. I dropped them all at our Church youth group which they attend every week after our meeting, and chewed on my seatbelt as I drove home.

And then I rushed in the door, expecting my husband, the cook, to have dinner waiting after my hard work with the DI team like he does every evening after my DI meeting. The house was empty, except for the dogs, who were very glad to see me. The cook had been called away to an emergency worship team practice, so I was on my own for dinner.

I could have gotten the Burger King sweet potato fries! I had purposely not gotten those fries, braving death from starvation, just so I wouldn't spoil my dinner. And now there was no dinner.

I have a teenage girl still at home. I want more than anything to raise her so that she loves God, honors His commands, and remains strong in her integrity, excellence, and purity. It is a tall order in today's world. Temptations abound. The smell of Burger King sweet potato fries assault us from every corner! And sometimes, it seems as though all the denial of self satisfaction for the greater good comes to naught. We grow weary with the long and never ending journey. Devouring that which will not ultimately satisfy becomes a powerful temptation! Sometimes we walk into an empty house, devoid of the wafting scent of a prepared healthy dinner waiting for us. We wonder if we should have just succumbed to high calorie, over salted, high cholesterol junk food....


Hold out beloved for that which will truly feed your soul! Don't settle for less, or for the temporal when the eternal is waiting! It may seem that God tarries too long in bringing your reward, but His promises are true and will be fullfilled! Trust Him! Serve Him! In the end, He will not disappoint!

I flung open the refrigerator. It was overflowing with healthy and delicious leftovers. The dogs and I had a feast.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9 NABRE)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fulfilling One's God-given Role

It was near 70 degrees two days ago, but yesterday dipped into the low 50s. We were all shivering.
"Honeybun looks cold," said Asherel, passing by the room where Honeybun and I were nestled.
"Well put on one of the three thousand outfits you bought her," I suggested.
So Asherel rummaged in her closet and found a pretty purple sweater into which the ever compliant Honeybun allowed herself to be ensconsced.

The sweet and gentle little dog submitted without complaint to the little dog hoodie. She is an amazing dog. She allows Asherel to do anything she wants with her, including dressing her in any ridiculous outfit she wishes. All Honeybun asks in return is to be near us, fullfilling her role perfectly as the family dog.

In my daily Bible reading, Solomon had just finished building the temple of God and now offered a sacrifice. God spoke to Solomon, and offered him anything he desired. Solomon humbly asked only for wisdom. That is the part of the story that I have always focused on -- that Solomon did not ask for worldly possessions but wisdom. However, I noticed a portion of the verse that I had never really paid much attention to before. God is impressed by Solomon's thoughtful request for wisdom, which God notes is "to govern my people over whom I have made you king." It struck me that what Solomon was doing was recognizing his God-ordained role and wanted God's help in best doing the job God had given him.

I don't think I often pray with that focus. Basically, I should be asking God for the ability to carry out God's purposes in my life...not my own. As Solomon discovered, blessings may follow, but they were not at all the focus or even apparently the desire. I am sorry to say, my prayers are probably usually the opposite, "Bless me Lord that I may do MY work," rather than, "Empower me Lord to do YOUR work."

Honeybun placidly lay like a rag doll as Asherel stuffed her legs through the dog sweater armholes, and then pushed her snout through the neck opening. She let Asherel roll her over and straighten the little hoodie around her tummy. Asherel stood to survey her little dog. Honeybun looked like a purple sausage in the somewhat snug hoodie. She sighed, but would do whatever was necessary to fulfill her role as dog. Asherel went back to work. I noticed an hour later that Honeybun wasn't curled up so tightly with her tail over her snout for warmth. She snored a little, toasty warm with the unexpected blessing of the sweater.

2 Chronicles 1:11-12 NIV
[11] God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, [12] therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have. ”

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

He Is Right There All the Time

God works in such remarkable ways. I am often dumbfounded by His provision, and how I am so often completely unaware He is working. You may recall a few weeks ago that I got a flat tire while traveling home from NY. Over the past couple of weeks, I thought that tire was again looking low. I wasn't certain, but since my dear daughter drives that car to school, I wanted to get it checked. I brought the car in.

It turns out that the very kind garage that patched the tire on my trek home from NY had patched the sidewall. That is a big no-no, will never hold long term, but it only cost me $7, and got me safely home. Once home, I was able to go to the shop where I have tire insurance, and the tire was replaced for a fraction of the cost of what I would have had to pay had the garage who patched it tried to sell me a new tire instead.

It all worked out...well, miraculously.

OK, you cynics. I know what you are thinking. If God was so good, He wouldn't have let me have the flat tire in the first place. WRONG! By getting the flat tire and then being able to observe and even perhaps understand the sequence of events of His provision, my trust and faith in His goodness was enhanced. I learned other lessons like patience, and trusting my instincts, and probably others I don't even yet know. If there is one really important lesson in all of this it is keep my eyes wide open because God is right in front of them all the time.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

-save a dog-

Monday, November 18, 2013

Arising from Grief

Some people face tragedy, become bitter, and are consumed by it. They blame God for the cruel fate they have been dealt, and their life becomes a mournful suffering. Yesterday, we met a man who chose a different path.

Doug Herbert is a top racecar driver, the first to break 300 mph. in elimination rounds of drag racing. He was rated a top ten Hot Rod driver. Tragically, five years ago, he lost both his sons in a car accident. The teenage son, age 17, was driving too fast, weaving in traffic, lost control of the car and crashed, killing both himself and younger brother instantly.

Yesterday, Doug stood before the group of teens and parents gathered at the Concord Z-Max Drag-way, as we gathered for the four hour teen safety driving class. He told us his story as the background for why he founded the teen training classes, called B.R.A.K.E.S. ( Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe.) He told us he never wanted any parent to ever have to go through what he went through. Working with the Dept. of Transportation and other groups to assess the major causes of teen driving accidents, Doug and his group of volunteers developed a program that targeted those areas, and trained teens how to avoid accidents, in a safe environment with professional drivers. The first year, 50 kids enrolled in his course. Five years later, over 10,000 teens have learned safe driving practices through BRAKES. He charges nothing, though gratefully accepts donations. The program hopes to continue to expand nationwide.

The teen's parent must attend the course as well. They are encouraged to drive the same hazard courses that their children are training on. I hopped in the car with a gentleman who told me he had never done much volunteer work before. But his pregnant daughter was in a car accident 5 years ago that put her in the hospital. She and the baby survived, but he knew that accident would never have happened if she had the skills that BRAKES teaches. He became an instructor. Nearly all the instructors have a similar story -- a loved one hurt by a reckless teen driver, or their own teens hurt by bad driving choices.

My daughter loved the four hour training session. So did I. We both learned a great deal about driving. I learned something else as well. I learned that God does not always prevent tragedy but even the most awful things that He allows in our lives can be used for good.

Doug told us that they receive many letters from teens and their parents who attribute saved lives and wise driving decisions because of the BRAKES program. One friend of his daughter told him of nearly colliding with a man running a red light. Because of what she had been taught in BRAKES, she escaped a collision and severe injury, if not death, by inches. After that incident, Doug's daughter, his only remaining child asked him, "So when my brothers died...that's why you started BRAKES, right?"
"Right," said Doug.
"And my friend would have been killed if she hadn't learned what you taught her at BRAKES, right?"
"Yes," said Doug.
"So my brothers saved her life...right?"
"Yes, in a way," said Doug.
"That's pretty cool," his daughter said, "I think they would have liked that."

I have no doubt that if Doug could have his sons back, that would be what he would want most on Earth. But knowing he could not, he did the next best thing...he saved other peoples' sons and daughters.

We never know how long we or our loved ones have here on earth. It is important that we know God, and are always prepared to meet Him with the assurance that we are in a right relationship with Him. God certainly is no stranger to watching a son die that would save many. God gave over to death His beloved son Jesus that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. He knows suffering can be turned to good. And in the brief time we have here on earth, perhaps our noblest acts will arise out of grief.


As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Flying with the Eagles

We went to the Eagles concert a couple of nights ago. Asherel, our 16 year old can't stand most of the music of her generation but loves the music from ours. So she was one of about 3 teens in the sold out crowd of old hippies. It was mobbed, and as I looked around at all the grey haired old people, realized...ohoh....I am one of them.

Since we were a little late getting our tickets we had arguably the worst seats in the arena. We were at the very top, with our backs against the wall, just under the roofline. It was like running a marathon getting up all those stairs to our seats. I'm surprised given the average age of that crowd that there were no defibrillators every few rows, nor as far as I could tell, no medical emergencies.

The Eagles were really fantastic. I never listened to music, even as a teen, but I recognized every song. I guess since every one else in my generation had an Eagles album, somehow I managed to have heard all their music. It is astonishing that they sounded just like they did 40 years ago. It was a really fun concert once I had adjusted to the intense vertigo from being up so high. And of course, once the oxygen masks dropped I was fine.

It crossed my mind as I sat back in the rarified air, looking down on the band ten stories or so below me that I really was flying with the Eagles. It reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses:
But those who wait for the Lord ’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired. (Isaiah 40:31 NABRE)

The Eagles far below me did 3 encores. They seemed hesitant to leave, as though they were truly enjoying themselves, singing their hearts out to the sold out crowd of old folk. After 40 years they are still together, still singing without growing weary. This is what my walk with God should look like, I thought watching them. Persevere with joy, and fly like Eagles.

The Eagles finally called it a night at 11:30. That's 3 1/2 hours past my bedtime. I would have fallen asleep, with their beautiful harmonies lulling me, but I was afraid if I slipped out of my chair I would fall ten stories and that would not have been the idyllic end to an evening of memories and enchantment. So I kept my eyes open, and pictured eagles' wings on the thermals swirling about my head.

‘Every one of you has seen what I did to the people of Egypt. You saw how I carried you out of Egypt, as if on eagle’s wings. And I brought you here to me. (Exodus 19:4 NCV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hard Work

It is easy to grow tired of hard work. Especially hard work that is never ending. My homeschooled high school daughter is taking some demanding dual enrollment college classes and working very hard. The end of the semester is in sight, but she is tired and it is hard to muster the energy to stick with it.

I am in a similar situation as I close in on publishing my latest book. I have revised it at least a hundred times, and still find errors as I go through it. The editing seems to never end.

And then, if you are like me, in the back of our minds as we struggle and groan through hours and hours of never ending hard work, we ask, "Is it worth it? Is all this toil and trouble going to pay off in the end?"

In all honesty, there are times that it will not. At least not always the way we hope. We may still fail classes that we have given our all to. We may not have best sellers despite years of perfecting our book. Relationships may crumble, dust bunnies may gather, sweaters may be irreparably shrunk in the wash, and dinner may be burned.

As I was musing all this, I came across a verse in 1 Chronicles 28 that leapt off the page straight to my heart.
"Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for The Lord God, my God, is with you."

He promises that He will stick with us. He does not promise us the results that we crave necessarily, but He does promise we will not be forsaken. And He makes it clear -- we are to do what we have been called to do with strength and courage and optimism and faith.

I don't know about you, but that made me perk up a little while doing my hard work.

1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV
[20] David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.

-save a dog-

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Soft Answer

I was on a walk with my "reactive" dog Honeybun. This means that while she has come an enormous long way from the days when she was actively aggressive and tried to kill my other dog and visitors to our home, she still does not always respond well to other dogs approaching her. If you follow my blog, ( and if you don't, you should...) then you know that a week or so ago, a kind man who happened to be a dog trainer stopped me on my walk. He had his huge "nonreactive" dog with him, who he uses to help teach "reactive" dogs like Honeybun not to be reactive. In no time, he had Honeybun calmly and appropriately touching noses and greeting the strange dog. I was very impressed. The trainer was quick to point out that the problem with aggression in dogs is rarely a problem mostly with the dog. More often it is the owner who is the bigger problem. I tend to be "reactive" too. I know this to be true. I become tense and worried when I see strange dogs, and communicate that to my ever vigilant Honeybun.

So, back to my walk yesterday. We were trotting along when I saw a loose black dog in the distance. I turned around immediately, pulled out my pepper spray, and hoped the dog hadn't seen us. Honeybun is deaf so she didn't hear the dog come running up behind us... but I did. The dog instantly approached Honeybun and sniffed her butt. This is dog language for, "Hello, can I be your friend?" At this point, I could see the dog was friendly, so kept my finger off the mace trigger, but was still worried about how my reactive dog would respond. She swirled around, and then wagged her tail! And touched noses!

"Good girl!" I said. She made one short growl to let the black dog know that she was no pushover. I told her to knock it off, and that was that. The dog returned down the street, a happy look on his face (I think he lives at the end of that street), and Honeybun and I walked on having learned a lesson in relationships.

When we respond with good nature and love, quite often that is what we get in return. It is probably in part why Jesus commands us to "turn the other cheek" when our enemy strikes us. Nothing deflates aggression faster than gentle, humble acts of compassion and kindness. It is a lesson I am sorry to say that I am learning even more slowly than Honeybun. The good news is I have a patient Trainer and He promises He won't give up on me, even if it takes an eternity.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-4 ESV)

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Counting the Cost

I went to bed a couple nights ago with the promise of snow. Lots of Facebook friends in the area were getting snow. I kept peeking out at the very cold night. Not one flake of snow near me! Still, I went to bed thinking there was a chance I would wake up to streets milky white and thick with enough snow to cross-country ski on. However, there was not one flake of snow anywhere. It was bitter cold. Bitter cold without snow is just cruel.

I left upstate NY in order to flee the snow and ice and bitter cold. But I do love to cross-country ski, and have only done so a handful of times in the twenty years that I have lived in NC. Choices have consequences. Whenever we choose something, we are giving up something else. I hate that.

Jesus of course knows that, and warns us to make our choices carefully, counting the cost before we embark upon the uncertain world of choice. It always amazed me that He seemed to make that warning even when presenting the choice of eternal salvation in front of us. He does not mince words. He wants us to follow Him, but He doesn't pretend there is not a cost. Every choice has a cost. If we follow Jesus, we must disavow the world. He must be our world. It is near impossible for humans not to look back over their shoulder and wonder if the uncertain promise of eternal life with God is worth the certain pain and sorrow and glimpses of Joy that the world offers. I don't think the choice can be made purely on a human level. I think God Himself must intervene, and the wonder of Grace, is that He does.

I was a little sad that I woke up to no snow yesterday. I envied the northerners sending me pictures of their dogs playing in the snow. However, I won't be envying them in their fifth month of snow and ice and dirty drifts blowing across their frost bitten faces. Then I will think again how blessed I was to have made the choice to move from the known.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-33 ESV)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Following When It Doesn't Make Sense

Poor Honeybun didn't know what she was in for. She saw me heading out for a walk and thought surely she wanted to come.
"OK," I told her, "But you aren't going to like it."
Then I commenced to drag her to every single one of the two hundred mailboxes in our development to put a flyer in each for a dogfood drive for my favorite Animal Rescue.

It took her quite a while to figure out that this was a walk with a mission. No stopping to smell the roses, or any of the terrible things dogs love to stop and smell. On top of that, walking up and down every little cul de sac, and criss-crossing to hit every single mailbox, chalks up the mileage. It was a full hour later that we were finally in the homestretch.

Honeybun was exhausted when we got back home.

This was not at all what she had been expecting when she signed on for the walk. Yet, throughout it all, she gamely trotted, looking at me frequently to assess if I knew what I was doing. Since I seemed to be determined to continue this absurd and frustrating way of conducting our walk, she soon got the hang of it and was criss-crossing the street to each mailbox on her own.

When reality falls short of expectations, life is disappointing. Many of us fight and kick and scream, and bemoan our fate with morose self pity. Once again, we should all take a lesson from my dog. If the walk is not the normal path, and in fact filled with what looks like senseless zigzags, perk up your ears, wag your tail, and follow your Master anyway. There is very likely a purpose you don't understand, and when it is all over, as Honeybun discovered, there is sometimes a biscuit for the good and weary dog.


"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:17, 18 BOOKS)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Greater Love

When I walk in the door, my dogs greet me as though I have been gone for years, not just a few minutes. I am the most special thing in their world and no matter how down I am, the dogs greeting me day after day with unconditional love makes me think I have worth.

I met my friend Linping for lunch yesterday. She has been in China for 5 months, and has just returned. She is one of those friends that no matter how long it has been since we last saw each other, our conversation picks up as though we had just spoken the day before. She always greets me with a huge smile and hug, as though I am the most important person on earth. Everyone needs a friend like Linping. Everyone needs to know that someone is very glad they are alive.

I just read a summary of the top ten healthy life habits and one is being religious, and another is having strong relationships with others. I can't recall if having dogs is on the list, but if it is not, it should be.

I think God gave me dogs, and He gave me friends like Linping. He also opened my heart to faith in something greater than myself. He gave me the vision of what selfless, sacrificial love at its finest looks like in Jesus' atoning death for my sins on the cross. He reminds me that I am eternally loved beyond compare and that He would do everything in His power to greet me at the door of Heaven with a huge smile and hug as though I were the most special thing in His world. His unconditional love reminds me that I have worth no matter how worthless the world may find me.

He gave me my dogs to lick away my tears, and my friend to share in my joys and sorrows. And then He laid down His life for me, that I might find life.

How can one not be encouraged knowing this!?


“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12, 13 ESV)

-save a dog-

Monday, November 11, 2013

Finding Ways to be Bad

I saw a painting a while ago that a bunch of people were raving about. I was too ashamed to admit I didn't "get" it. I didn't really think it was very good. In fact, I thought it was bad. However, I didn't discount the possibility that I didn't understand it. Maybe it was good and I was just ignorant. I did not want to be a killjoy since others seemed to "get" it, so I decided silence was the best strategy. Since I am an artist, I figured I of all people ought to understand the deep and relevant symbolism and meaning. But I didn't. This really bothered me. Did all those people saying it was beautiful not want to hurt the person's feelings? Or did they really think it was good? I was baffled.

We are studying the book of Judges in church. The Israelites in that time period were spiraling further and further into sin. The famous refrain of Judges is "Everyone did what was right in their own eyes." That is as good a definition of "relativism" as I have seen. When God is shoved aside, there is no absolute standard of good and evil, right and wrong, and each of us determines our "reality" for ourself.

I think this is where our culture is headed. Violence, sex, and aberration is viewed as entertainment on television, video games, music and movies. Even commercials are often on the edge of pornography. Our freedoms and the morals that our country were founded on are eroded daily. People of faith are ridiculed and accused of bigotry and hate when they try to live by Biblical standards. It is difficult not to become despondent.

We are so faithless, so sinful, so far from the standard of goodness and we keep pretending all is well. Don't rock the boat. Don't point out sin. Don't hold others to any standard. Can't we all just get along? My reality is not your reality. Chill out! Coexist! Truth is not what matters! Excellence or accountability are so yesterday!

It would be hopeless if it were not that God is faithful, and is continually extending mercy and grace. God loves us, which is beyond comprehension given how prone we are to wander.

The painting is good if we say it is good, even if it is really not good at all.


I used wisdom to test all these things. I wanted to be wise, but it was too hard for me. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. One thing I have learned: God made people good, but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad.” (Ecclesiastes 7:23, 24, 29 NCV)

"Underneath are the everlasting arms." / Deuteronomy 33:27
Charles Spurgeon:
God--the eternal God--is himself our support at all times, and especially when
we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks
very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is
humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in
his own sight, so worthless. Well, child of God, remember that when thou art
at thy worst and lowest, yet "underneath" thee "are everlasting arms." Sin may
drag thee ever so low, but Christ's great atonement is still under all. You
may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as "the
uttermost;" and to the uttermost he saves.

-save a dog-

Sunday, November 10, 2013

To See God in Memories

Edit # four million and five is done! I sent it to two of my readers, and should be able to just relax tomorrow! No more editing till I get their feedback! Yippee!I woke up at 5 a.m. yesterday morning and got right to work. I finished at 6 p.m. in the evening. Thirteen hours of writing with almost no breaks. Whew.

I received many encouraging notes from friends after my post yesterday about the struggles of editing books. All were encouraging and all helped me through what has not been an easy past month. But one friend, Carol, said, "God is always in memories....we just don't always see why."

I thought about that statement. Carol knows the subject of my book, and it is in part about memories, though I would not have thought to characterize it that way. But it does explore a past that few know, or have ever even considered. For whatever reason, I was made privy to those memories. If my friend Carol is right, God is in those memories....

I have so many memories, some wonderful, some agonizing. I have sometimes thought that Alzheimers would be a blessing, that it would wipe away the memories that I can not bear. But I think maybe my friend Carol is correct. God is in all memories...always...and we may not understand the purpose, but that doesn't mean the purpose does not exist. To wish them away would be sacrilege. Better to embrace them, to try to learn from them, and to see God in places one might never expect to find Him, His solace in places that one thought was only filled with pain, or perhaps worse, indifference.

But for today, no editing.


My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever. (Psalm 45:1, 17 NIV)

-save a dog-

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wrestling With God

I am cross-eyed with revision fatigue. The book I thought was done is undergoing major surgery. I have done nothing for days now but revise and edit. I hope all this effort is worth it.

Does anyone else ever get the nibble of an idea yanking on their brain, but it is not well formed and yet they feel they can not give up until they wrestle that idea into existence and find out if it was indeed worth all the trouble? ( oh goodness... when I reread that sentence I thought of Obamacare. That is not at all what I was thinking so strike that from your brain.) At any rate, that is where I am right now with the book I thought was done. I don't even know if it is a good place to be, but it won't let me go, and I feel I need to see it through.

When I was not yet a believer in God, in the corner of my eye, I thought I was catching glimpses of Him. I could not let the idea that He might be there go. It terrified me, to tell you the truth. I remember cross country skiing in a secluded area around a lake in upstate NY. No one was around. I was not at all afraid that I might be accosted by unsavory people, but I suddenly was terrified that I might meet up with God. I finally stopped skiing and shouted out loud, "If you are there, show me!"

He did not. Not then. Not visibly. I skied on, but I felt like I was being watched. That is sort of how I feel with this book. I know somewhere He is in it, but I am not quite sure how. So I am bleary eyed and weary, and I feel like I am wrestling. I hope all this effort is worth it...


So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30 NIV)

-save a dog-

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Edit of Autumn

Leaves are falling like snow. I had been editing my new book all day yesterday, hours and hours, and desperately needed a break. It was a beautiful day, and the orange leaves were swirling through the air all around me.The wind was snatching them from the trees and tossing them about like confetti. In my edit-overloaded mind, I could see not leaves, but thousands of unnecessary words being plucked from my book and swirling away. Some I tried desperately to hold on to...Afterall, I had struggled so long and so hard to write them in the first place. But in the end, they had to be tossed away and let the wind carry them to a sentence that could better sustain their presence.

I hate editing. I hate being edited as well, and yet God is constantly doing so. He is constantly cutting away the portions of me that are not necessary and perhaps even damaging to the story my life is meant to tell. He hacks away at the plots that deviate from His truths, or the irreverent and irrelevant thoughts that detract from the message. He whittles the poor choices and outright errors from the character development. Sometimes, like the trees, I feel like I have been stripped bare.

Ouch. It is so hard to edit. In fact, many writers cannot effectively edit their own work. They are too close to it. It has become too precious and they no longer see objectively. Likewise, it is so hard to be edited. Like the writer, we often find it difficult to edit our own character. It sometimes takes the objective and steady influence of others, and the word of God, and a convicting conscience to really accomplish the often painful task. But in the end, it is the only way to produce something of worth...and really, that is my goal, as it is His.


Jesus said to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit. When you become fruitful disciples of mine, my Father will be honored. (John 15:1, 2, 8 CEVUS06)

-save a dog-

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The King

My niece loves Elvis. She once drove with me on a long trip, I no longer remember where or why...but she regaled me with Elvis stories. I never met someone who knew so much about the history, background and life of Elvis. Recently, I painted a picture of her with Elvis on black velvet. You just cannot love Elvis and not have a picture of him on black velvet. But surprisingly, she had no pictures of Elvis on black velvet. She confided after I gave her the gift that she had always wanted one. I chuckled the whole time I was painting it. How can you not chuckle while painting Elvis on black velvet? And the "coup de resistance" was adding real gold sequins to his white jacket. How can you not love it?

Maybe I could make some deep spiritual connection here. So many people worship Elvis, who they call "the King." I worship the King of Kings, but not Elvis. Elvis is adorable, and sure could sing, but he can't give me eternal life. Nonetheless, I am glad I have the skill to immortalize him in black velvet for my sweet niece.

I don't get to see my niece often, but I love her. She has a very sweet gentle soul. It is her birthday today, a date she shares with her grandfather, my dad. So today, I wrote a bonus blog, not filled with any deep spiritual truth but to say to those dear birthday beloved ones:
"I can't help falling in love with you!"
Happy Birthday Jenn and Dad!

Pay close attention! Come to me and live. I will promise you the eternal love and loyalty that I promised David. (Isaiah 55:3 CEVUK00)

-save a dog-

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Selfless Love

A friend of mine has volunteered at the Waterfowl rescue for years. She told me a story of an unusual friendship. A male snow goose had befriended a male Canada goose. The two were inseparable. When new goslings would hatch to the other geese couples there, the two buddies would gravitate to the babies and help raise them.  After years of being best buddies, the Canada goose died. That day, the snow goose flew away.

This is a true story. What a beautiful picture of what it means to be a friend, a real friend. Presumably, the snow goose could have left the rescue facility at any time. Obviously whatever was the issue that landed him in the rehab waterfowl center had been resolved. He chose to stay out of love for his friend. When his friend died and no longer needed him, only then did he fly to freedom.

A world is calling us, luring us to selfishness. It is a constant battle to love others sacrificially. As my friend told me about the snow goose, I was humbled, and prayed I could be more like that goose.

Philippians  2:3-4

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Overflowing Kindness

Such a wonderful day yesterday! I was gone all afternoon on a fact finding mission for my latest book. The two gentlemen helping me had made special arrangements to allow me to be in a place I really should not have been. I can't tell you more because the project is still top secret and I can't divulge where I was. Nonetheless, I was given access to records that are not generally open to the public, and by poring over them for four hours, I gained valuable insight for the book. They are experts in a field I have no training in at all. Yet, they gave unselfishly of their time, and their expertise, and treated me as an equal...not an ignorant pest (which is actually closer to the truth...)

Bob, one of the kind gentlemen helping me, is a strong believer in God. Had I not known that about him, I would have known it anyway. He went far beyond the call of duty. He had no reason to be there all afternoon helping me. It was purely out of overflowing kindness. And he had traveled an hour from his home to do so.

And then, that afternoon I started getting emails, updates from Amazon of reviews of one of my older books. A reader, "Dottie" who I don't know, had one by one responded to the few negative reviews of my dog book, shooting down the negative reviewers and calmly telling them why they were wrong. I didn't ask to be defended, but oh my, how wonderful her support and encouragement was! She seems to be methodically going to anyone who gave me a review under 3 stars, and arguing in support of my book! Each rebuttal from Dottie that rolls in removes a little of the sting and pain of those few negative reviews. For example, one reviewer said the prayers in my dog book detracted but could be easily skipped over by the reader. Dottie said she loved the prayers and found them to be integral to the uplifting message. I could weep from the overflowing kindness of this unknown friend and defender.

Many of us are fearful of how we can impart the truth of Jesus in our lives. We fear we can not say the right words, or cite the right scripture, or dispense the coherent logic and rationale for our belief. We hold back, fearing we may do more damage than good, in expostulating the hope and faith that we hold so strongly in our hearts. We desperately long to share what we know to be true, but sometimes, it is so impossibly difficult and we feel so ill-equipped. Knowledge and cogent explanation of the gospel is important, that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin and by believing in His sacrifice on our behalf, we would be restored to a right relationship with God and have eternal life....Still, it is important to remember that God can shine through our lives in other ways as well.

In that selfless afternoon that Bob gave me, I saw Jesus. He had already shared his faith with me, so I knew the powerful motivation that prompted such incredible generosity of spirit. I learned a great deal in that wonderful afternoon. Some of it was about the subject of my top secret book. Most of it was about seeing someone living his faith with such a blinding light of sacrificial kindness that it was impossible to disregard. The result was I felt blessed and encouraged, and bolstered in my faith. 

In the selfless methodical rebuttal Dottie gave to every negative review of my dog book, I saw Jesus. I saw a complete stranger who loves God see someone she felt was wrongly judged, and set about to right that wrong as completely as she was able. The result was I felt blessed and encouraged, and bolstered in my faith.

 It was a wonderful day yesterday, filled with overflowing kindness that wrapped arms around me like God Himself. An indulgence and blessing, but now I feel Him nudging me to go and do likewise.


Remember this: The farmer who plants a few seeds will have a very small harvest. But the farmer who plants because he has received God’s blessings will receive a harvest of God’s blessings in return. Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver. Besides, God will give you his constantly overflowing kindness. Then, when you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 GW)

I know that there is someone to defend me and that he lives! And in the end, he will stand here on earth and defend me. After I leave my body and my skin has been destroyed, I know I will still see God. I will see him with my own eyes. I myself, not someone else, will see God. And I cannot tell you how excited that makes me feel! (Job 19:25-27 ERV)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Christmas Coming Earlier Each Year

I had to do some errands at the mall, and was flabbergasted to hear Christmas music. Christmas music on Nov. 4! How could this be?? I walked in one store and the saleswoman was blasting a radio and it was not playing Christmas songs.
"I love Christmas music," she said, "But I am trying to drown it out. They are starting way too early. When you are in retail and have to listen to Christmas music for two full months, you get a little sick of it."

I love Christmas music too. Unlike the saleswoman, it is not the music that makes me sick; it is the manipulation. The attempt to force us into the Christmas spirit...the buying spirit...the going broke commercializing the birth of God spirit. Starbucks already has Christmas themed cups for their overpriced drinks (which are delicious, and yes, I know this because I bought one of their overpriced drinks...). Christmas trees are already being erected in the center court. Christmas decorations are already blinking in store fronts. But I was lulled by the Christmas music. The crowds have not yet descended and so the mall was quiet. I sat sipping my overpriced Starbucks drink listening to the Christmas music and felt...well, I hate to admit it, but tranquil.

Later in the afternoon, Asherel and I had our monthly volunteer work teaching art at the Nursing Home. This month  the residents had requested we teach them to draw a pig. Our regular gang of about ten residents were gathered. This time not a single one said they could not draw the pig, and in fact, most of them just got right to it. They didn't even wait for instruction -- the step by step guidance Asherel provides. They began drawing as if they knew what to do and were developing confidence that they could do it.They told me many stories about pigs from their past as they drew. 

One lady who is very careful with her drawings each class told me that her three grandchildren were visiting this week. She had 3 drawings now from the past 3 months of class, and is going to give one to each of the grandchildren. They never knew their Grandmom could draw. I can tell she is very proud of her newfound skill, and tickled that she can give each child a gift she made herself. 

Another lady called me over and whispered, "How much do I owe you for the lesson?"
"Not a thing!" I exclaimed, "It is a joy to teach you!"
"Well then sign me up for the next one!"

The next class will be in December and so we will do a Christmas drawing. It has to be simple, but I want to make it meaningful. Something that will impart the true meaning of Christmas. Fortunately, I have a headstart thinking about Christmas after the Mall trip that morning and the too early Christmas music.

"How about a manger, and baby Jesus?" I asked.
"Yes," they said, "That would be nice."
"Just keep it simple," said another.
I smiled. Yes, it is simple. No reindeer, no Christmas trees, no fancy decorations, and God forbid, no Santa. Just a baby in a manger, profoundly simple in the message of hope.


The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; (Psalm 116:6, 8 ESV)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Divine Appointments

I was walking Honeybun, when I saw a loose dog down the street...a large loose dog.  I saw the owner nearby, but started to turn around to return home another route. The problem was that I was only a half mile from home if I went by the large loose dog, but 2 miles from home if I turned around and avoided the large loose dog. I really didn't think I had another 2 miles in me. What to do!?

So I called out to the owner if it was ok to pass him by. I warned him that if his dog approached mine, she might not react well. He called back, "My dog, my property. He's under control."

Normally I would determine the guy was a jerk, and probably unaware of how unlikely his dog would be under control once he saw Honeybun, but decided I was too tired to turn back. I pulled out my mace, and bravely moved forward into the valley of the shadow of death. 

As I came near, the man must have had pity on me, or wised up to the potential of a problem and put the large loose dog in his car. As I came nearer, the man said, "Oh, a Carolina Dog! Now I understand why you were worried how she might respond to a strange dog."
"You know about Carolina Dogs?" I asked.

That began an hour long conversation with a really nice man who not only knows Carolina Dogs and the breed traits that make them difficult for some people, but he knows all dogs. He is a trainer who has just ventured out forming his own business just 4 months ago. His costs are low, and I am here to tell you, this guy is amazing. (find him on facebook by searching Carolina k9 Solutions.) After talking quite a while about what I had gone through with Honeybun and all her issues, he asked if I would mind if he took the leash and let his dog out. He told me his dog was completely nonaggressive and was who he used to train "reactive" dogs like Honeybun. He let the giant dog out of the van. The dog instantly approached Honeybun, who instantly growled. However, the giant dog turned his back on her and sniffed the ground. Honeybun took the opportunity to sniff his butt. This little meet and greet dance of growl/sniff/ignore went on until soon she was completely calm and happy with him. The trainer, Josh, assured me a few sessions like that, and I would not need to worry about strange dogs. 

"Not all dogs are as nice as yours, nor the owners as knowledgable as you," I reminded him. He agreed, and told me if I ever had any questions, chatting with him was free. And he gave cut-rates for training sessions to rescue dogs and rescues, having been in dog rescue himself for years.

I had a wonderful chat with such a nice and knowledgable person. And Honeybun had a very positive interaction with a large dog, and was perhaps even a little more stable than she had been before meeting him.  I had been so annoyed and angry with him for his dog being loose when I had first seen him. I had been ready to fight, with mace in hand. Instead, God taught me a very important lesson. Every encounter is a divine appointment. Perhaps I was being as "reactive" and defensive as my Honeybun! You never know when you extend interest and kindness what blessings may flow in return.

Oh Lord, again, please give me a gentle heart that loves first above all else!

We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (1 John 4:19-21 MSG)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Perfecting the Call

I found the perfect gift for my Dad's birthday! This is not easy since anything he wants, he buys himself. So I have to precede his knowledge of what he wants. Every lunch, he takes my mom to some cute eatery, and then they drive circuitous routes home, enjoying the scenery. Often they stop at a park to feed the geese. Sometimes the geese are far from the picnic table where my folks sit, so they watch the geese in the distance, their unused packets of crackers in their pockets. It is hard for them to walk very far, so they have to be content in observing the geese, but not interacting with them. It is of course a little disappointing. Feeding the geese is a highlight for them.

This gave me a brainstorm. I went online and found the world's best beginner goose call. It is a short reed caller, that the manufacturer claimed, "Anyone can master." Sold! I told Dad he could open the package as soon as it arrived, though his birthday is not till Nov. 7. 

Dad called a couple of days ago. He was delighted with the gift, though frankly, he wasn't sure what it was. There had been no identifying packaging or instructions. Just the goose call wrapped in newspaper. I explained it was a Canada goose call. No longer would he and Mom have to be helpless bystanders to the distant flocks of geese. Now they could lure them near!  Dad blew into his call, and did sound like a loud goose...sort of...

Nonetheless, I went online and found many YouTube instructional videos on how to use a short reed goose call. I sent the links to him. Invariably in the videos, the instructor was a young man, not very sure of himself, who seemed to be making this video despite painful shyness out of a deep desire to spread the arcane knowledge of goose calling. And each one of them apologized to the viewer, saying, "I'm not very good at goose calling...but you'll get the idea."

I found that so touching. These shy young men seemed to be making the videos despite limited self confidence and less than expert skills out of a deep desire to help others. I personally thought they sounded just like a goose with their goose call, and I was impressed at their selfless goodwill towards goose call wannabees. Besides that, they may not have been competition-worthy goose callers, but they were a lot better than me or my dad, and thus helpful in instructing someone with no knowledge.

Yesterday morning, we were at the final day of our new membership class for the church we attend. The last portion of our training was about spiritual gifts. Everyone has gifts that God has given them, and they are to be used for the glory of God and in His service.  The pastor pointed out that sometimes people don't know their gifts, and that was ok. Serve anyway. Find a need and meet it. On the way, eventually, you will find your gift.

As I watched the YouTube video of the shy, faltering young goose callers, instructing those just a little less knowledgable than they, I thought they were a wonderful example of people using whatever they have to serve others. Find a need, and meet it. On the way, you may find your calling.


There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve, but we serve the same Lord. And there are different ways that God works in people, but it is the same God who works in all of us to do everything. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person. The Spirit gives this to each one to help others. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ERV)