Friday, January 31, 2014

A Song of Praise

I am so glad I didn't cancel our ski trip yesterday because of reports of patches of black ice and frigid conditions. The roads were completely clear, and the snow was the best snow I may have ever skied on. It was real snow, which is rare in NC. Usually we are skiing on manmade snow which is icy and hard to ski on. I have heard that if you can ski on NC mountains, you can ski anything!

We always ski the twilight session, which means 12 pm-10pm. After dinner, all the wimps go home, and very few people are on the slopes. So picture this: Orion and a billion other stars in the sky, no one on the chair lift as I go to the top of the mountain, perfect fluffy snow, the valley lights twinkling far below me, and a wide open expanse of slope with NO ONE IN SIGHT. I skied down making huge effortless sweeps across the slope, so relaxed and in tune with the snow and the cosmos that I forgot to consider technique or be afraid, and flowed as one with the mountain. (I know...sounds like I am on drugs, but I am not...just really in synch with the beauty around me).

It occurred to me that the more relaxed I was, and the more willing I was to go fast and not brake continually, the more subtle my movements were that made me ski almost effortlessly. I only had to think "curve to the left" and I was curving to the left. Everything became unconscious, automatic, easy.

This is what it is like to be so consumed with joy and being, that I wonder why I ever thought it was hard. This is what it is like to be so overcome by God, and the glorious blessings of His world that every breath is an act of worship. Nothing feels forced or even considered. It becomes a part of existence, as impossible to separate from self as to pull a finger off one's hand. If only all life could be lived on this plane, with this level of awareness.


Psalm 40: 3,8
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I hope I am making the right decision. In charge of the homeschool ski group, I look at road and mountain conditions and make the call on whether the group goes or not. We have had to cancel twice due to windchills of -30. Incredibly, there were people angry at me for that decision.(?) I should have told them they could get the same experience by standing in their freezer. Fun fun!

Today is another borderline day. It will be ok weather wise - windchill around 20 so not bad. However, there are icy patches left over from the storm Tuesday that rocked through the state. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Charlotte, so I do read over the traffic/road condition updates, but  not being in the area where we ski, it is very hard to judge whether the roads are safe the entire route or not.

I decided we will go, drive slowly, and pray for the best. I never like it when the most dangerous part of a ski trip is not the's the getting there.

But you know, that is sort of true with life. It is not the end goal that is the dangerous part so much as the getting there (at least for those who are going to Heaven. To those going to Hell, the end goal is not so peachy keen.) So many of us get waylaid by icy patches of sin and temptations. We slide off the road, unaware of the black ice dangers that lurk unseen, thinking we are excellent drivers and we don't need to worry like "normal" people. Those hidden patches of pride, anger, lust, greed, gossip, envy are all slippery traps. They come upon us unawares, and it doesn't matter how we react once we have hit them...we are sailing off the road.

We are doomed...unless we are fortunate enough to slam against strong guardrails. Shaken, but alive, we come to a stop, and peer over the abyss that would have been our fate but for those guardrails.

Jesus is my guardrail.

It would be much better to just avoid the black ice altogether. Still the spirit is willing, but the flesh is often weak.  Praise God for guardrails.


Psalm 37: 23-24 , 39-40
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
 he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Yes, North Carolina is a snow-fearing wimp state. The mere forecast of 2 inches of snow caused the schools to close 2 hours early. Not a single flake had yet to fall and the kids had a snow day. And a full day prior to the earliest moment at which a single flake would likely fall, the six brine and salt trucks were out in force, covering every road they could get to with a safety coat of brine.  I myself, an intrepid northerner, cancelled an afternoon doctor appointment. What if the snow came, all 2 inches while I was at the doctor? I might never get home again!

The grocery stores were mobbed, the milk and bread supplies nearly gone.  One friend told me of a fight that broke out over a last loaf of bread. I got SIX text messages from the college where Asherel is dual enrolled, that classes would be cancelled at 2:00. SIX messages!!!!! All this BEFORE a single flake fell.

If only we humans would view the biggest calamity before us with the same level of concern and preparation. One day, we will all stand before God to give an account of our lives. Are we prepared? Have we carefully examined the evidence of God and the state of our souls? Have we loved our neighbors, used our gifts to bring glory to God, used our time on earth as wisely as we possibly could? Or have we squandered the time given us in meaningless activity that in the end will be as empty as eternity is broad?

I followed the brine truck two days ago while the sun shone and the 60 degree day was making the car uncomfortably hot. We will be so well prepared for that 2 inches of snow when it comes!

 I thought back to the sidewalk counselor beside me as we were packing up to leave the abortion mill a couple of days ago.
"If only we could have people for two shifts," she said, "Those women in there, when they come out...after having the abortion...what will they think to see all of us gone? So many will be grieving, people that we could help with the comfort of Christ... But there are barely enough for one shift...."

The snow began falling in earnest around 4 pm yesterday. Thank goodness we were ready for it!

 Matthew 24: 44-50
 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Into the Fire

The vet told me yesterday morning that it would be best for her to see Honeybun since she had had an unexplained seizure. She couldn't see her till the afternoon, however, so I went for my morning at the abortion mill as a brand new (terrified) sidewalk counselor.

Having been there once,  albeit only shadowing the other counselors, I was not quite as frightened as I had been the first time. Also, I prepared myself better. I read an hour of scripture, reviewed baby development information, and asked friends for prayer before I left.

Good thing I did.

When I arrived, no one was there. The sidewalk was empty except for one frail woman in a nurse's uniform. She waved, and looked relieved as I approached.

"Are you the team leader?" I asked hopefully.
"No, I am the nurse from the mobile ICU. But when no one is here, I stand on the sidewalk to try to urge women to come for the ultrasound we offer. I am glad you are here. We are not trained like you counselors are."

ohoh. I was now the expert, with exactly 2 hours of shadowing the counselors under my belt?

"Well," I said, "I guess it is the blind leading the blind."
At that moment, a car pulled into the lot and a young man and woman opened the doors. No one is at the facility for any reason other than an abortion. I may be untrained, unknowledgable, and unequipped, but I was all there was between that evil darkness and light. I would have to do.

"Please," I called out, "Please! There are other options. You do not have to do this. Please come and get a free ultrasound. There are so many resources in the area to help you. Let me show you...."

The door slammed on the heels of the young couple as they entered the abortion mill.
The nurse looked at me and sighed sadly.

Gradually, other counselors arrived. I learned that I never really knew what to say, but none of my words could change anyone's heart anyway. That process belongs to God alone. I was only trying to be the faithful conduit of His love. Since there were so few of us there and the stream of women was frequent, we all stepped forward to plead for life at varying times. There was one young man who almost approached me, and then turned back. There were two frightened teens ushered in by older men and women who glanced back at me, almost pleadingly. One sidewalk counselor sobbed, thinking the young lady might have been the victim of sexual slavery, and there was nothing we could do to free her. But there were no saved babies that morning that we knew of. The mobile ICU left at noon, not having shown a single prospective mother the image of her child's beating heart.

I came home from the abortion mill and went off to the vet with sweet Honeybun. Fortunately, her seizure from yesterday seems to be an isolated event. Just to be certain, the vet took blood and will run some basic tests. But Honeybun looks normal and we are hopeful all will be well.

It was an emotion filled day. Earlier, I had written my pastor to thank him for his message Sunday of doing the impossible when weak and outnumbered. He had written back. He told me the church might consider helping support Cities4life, and he would forward my email to the appropriate people. It was a breath of life and hope on a dark, dark day.

Psalm 34: 19-22
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
 but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
 not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Weak and the Outnumbered

Still reeling from the emotions of shadowing the sidewalk counselors at the abortion clinic, I was quite emotional at church Sunday as we sang about how God has never left us alone. The sermon was amazingly apt -- the story of Gideon and how God winnowed Gideon's army down such that the ratio of the enemy to the Israelites was 400 to 1. God wanted Gideon to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the battle belonged to the Lord, and the victory would be by His power, not men's. God perennially uses the weak and the outnumbered to accomplish the impossible. What a comfort that was as I am embarking on this mission as a sidewalk counselor -- shy, timid, fumbling of words me.

A friend warned me that this endeavor should never be undertaken without the full armor of God. Satan will attack, and will do so with a vengeance.Never lose sight that this is a spiritual battle, and one Satan does not want to lose.

As we walked in the door after church, the dogs greeted us with their usual overflowing enthusiasm. And then my dear dog Honeybun suddenly collapsed, stiffened, and emptied a full bladder. It was clear she had seizured. She has never seizured before. She came to quickly, stood up, and acted completely normal. She wanted to go on a walk even! The rest of the day and evening, she seemed totally fine. I will call the vet this morning as soon as she opens. I suspect this episode has to do with her medication levels, and hope it will be an easy adjustment.

Please, I ask any of you who know God to pray for me, for all the sidewalk counselors, and for my dog. Pray that we will not be felled, that we will not be fearful, that we will not turn away though evil faces us in all its ugliness. I am returning to the abortion mill this morning, unless the vet feels Honeybun needs to come in for a visit. I will remember my pastor's admonition that it is the weak and the outnumbered that God often uses to accomplish His purposes. And I will try not to quake in the face of unspeakable evil.

Deuteronomy 20: 1-4
1 "When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies:let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory. '

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Opening Mouths for the Mute

I went for my first day of training as a pro-life sidewalk counselor. After our class, we all headed out to the busiest abortion mill in Charlotte -- the Preferred Woman's Health Center on Latrobe Ave. I wrote a political article on my experience there, and I would encourage everyone to read it. If you are one of those who believe abortion should be legal to make it "safe", I strongly encourage you to read my article.

But for my blog today, I just want to give you a taste of who on earth these wacky sidewalk counselors are. I sat down behind a deaf woman in our first training class. There was an interpreter in the front of the room, and since I was early, I got to hear their conversation. The deaf woman was concerned that she might not be of any use. After all, she could not hear what the people she hoped to counsel would be saying.

"Can you pray?" signed the interpreter.
"Yes," signed the deaf woman.
"Prayer is powerful at that place of death," signed the interpreter, "And can you speak? You seem to voice words fairly well."
"Yes, a few," signed the deaf woman.
"Then you can say, 'Please don't kill your baby!'"
"Yes," signed the deaf woman.

That was only the first of many moments when my eyes filled with tears that day.

Proverbs 31: 8-9
8 Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
 defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Musings In the Cold

Bitter cold day again! And this is North Carolina where all the poisonous creatures like to live because it is so warm. I don't know, but sure seems to me the global warming crowd should be sent back to the lab without any coats or mittens. It was so cold yesterday that I agreed with my crazy daughter that our dogs needed extra sweaters. I am supposed to go learn about being a sidewalk counselor today, but given my precarious health in conjunction with this record cold spell, I may have to wait for the next seminar. I will be of no use as a sidewalk counselor if I am dead from pneumonia. However, my heart is telling me that I need to do this, so unless I take a turn for the worse in the next hour, I will be learning about how to lovingly encourage prospective abortion-minded moms to make another choice, even at that late moment before they walk into the clinic.

Yesterday, I spent the cold day writing. I am still waiting on the final proof of the book I just finished to be approved by the main character. In the meantime, I have been working on my first fiction book. It is about 3/4ths of the way done. It is a murder mystery, involving a dog. I know nothing about murder, police work, or really even the situations that caused the murder in my book. Fortunately, my niece just got promoted to Sergeant in Pima County, Az, and her husband is a deputy. They are a constant source of information. In a nutshell, what I have learned is that there are some really BAD people in this world.

I found myself circling my spiritual wagons to remind myself why God decided to let us humans live. The more I learn about us, the less I like us. Why does God like us? Does He ever really say? I tried to find out. There are plenty of Biblical references for why He shouldn't like us, but He never really tells us why He does like us. The best I could come up with is that God likes us because He wants to. It is completely because of who He is and nothing at all about who we are. This is a bit deflating for those of us with tender egos, eager for affirmation. When you get right down to it, there is nothing in any of us worthy of affirming when compared to God. On the other hand, if there is nothing we can do to earn His love, there is nothing we can do to lose it either. Maybe it is not such a bad deal after all.

Love is God's nature. The Bible tells us God is love. We are pretty fortunate that He is, because otherwise, we would be doomed. The takeaway: love Him back.

1John 4: 8-16
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live
through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Reflecting His Light

Did I mention I am loving my new Surface Pro 2? I have only begun to understand its capabilities in art and as a computer. I can't believe this wonderful machine was created in my lifetime. It is just what an artist/writer needs all in one device. I feel blessed.

Other than blessed, I feel pretty crummy. My outright cold symptoms seem to be decreasing, but my fatigue, headache, and malaise increasing. And as my nose unclogged, I realized that something smelled bad in the kitchen. I was not sure what it was, but my dear cousin Jerry was coming to take us to dinner last night before his return to NY and I didn't want him walking into a stinky house. So I got out the candle that I bought from, which is guaranteed to eliminate all odors. It is a powerful candle. I only use it for emergencies, like when I am not feeling well enough to find the source of the stink, so masking it is the next best solution.

Within seconds, the house smelled pungently of the candle. It would get us through the visit with Jerry. I knew at some point, I would have to buckle down and try to find what smelled like a rotting carcass, but was grateful for the reprieve.

Of course God pursues me even in this event. His symbols are ever before me. Masking what stinks in our homes is ultimately as ineffective as masking what stinks in our soul. You can only pretend the problem is gone when all you have really done is hidden it for a season. Guaranteed: the stink will out itself.

It really is best to get at the root cause, the bottom line issue of the stench, and truly eradicate it. Otherwise, eventually, the stink will return. Developing and keeping a pure character is as difficult as keeping my house smelling nicely. I doubt I am alone in wondering how I will cover the rot in certain aspects of my being.

This is a particularly hard thing to do when one is sick and weary....and most of us struggling souls are. Here is the good news! God can cover the ugliness and  terrible odor of our corrupted parts. And when He does, it is truly as though they no longer exist. Our sin is banished from His sight when we believe in the complete and atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We are washed as white as snow, spotless before Him. In His light, we are light. This is incomprehensible, which is why I tend to write nonfiction books. Truth is much stranger than fiction.

Now please do not hear this to mean we should not attack sin in our life with a vengeance. We should! If God has done this incomparable thing for us, we should be so filled with love and gratitude that every waking moment should be one of desiring to please Him. However, He assures us that while we are struggling and will probably always struggle, our eternal salvation is sealed. Even while we yet stink, He loves us and promises not to turn away...ever! I can certainly rest in this amazing love, but I don't think that is what I am being called to do right now either. I am feeling like I should go and be a candle, light the way for others, cover the terrible stench of death and decay of sin with the incorruptible, alluring scent of Christ. In His light, I should venture forth in light. All of us who love Him should.

So the intoxicating smell and flickering flame of the candle filled my home. Jerry never noticed the unpleasant smell beneath the surface, or if he did, he didn't mention it. I followed my nose and discovered it was meat packaging rotting in the kitchen garbage and hustled that bad boy out the door to the trash can. This morning, the bad smell is gone, and the smell of the candle lingers. Meanwhile, I am considering how I can be a candle.


Psalm 36: 7-9
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
 in your light do we see light.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


While I was in Tucson, someone whom I will not name stopped giving Honeybun her medication for her vertebral stenosis. This someone said the notes I left with explicit instructions were confusing. We will not discuss how I went over the notes with said someone whom I will not name. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She cold-turkeyed from three different medications with no apparent ill effect. I noticed when I returned home that she was moving slowly, and dragging one leg a little, so started her back on two of the meds, but only in the morning rather than twice daily as she had been taking. The symptoms disappeared and she is fine now on half the dosage she was on, with the worst medicine completely eliminated. A serendipitous and welcome mistake in the end.

Not all mistakes lead to happy endings but it made me consider how often we are overdosing with things we don't realize we could, and should, do without. While I was in Tucson, I had no phone reception in the desert place where I was staying, and slow, spotty internet. I was too busy to check email often, or read Facebook posts, or even check my book sales statistics. For ten days, I was almost off the grid. I had not downloaded any of the wonderful Kindle books I had bought. They were in the "cloud" and not on my machine. I had downloaded the Bible however. So the little reading time I had was spent reading the Bible. The only internet indulgence I took was to write my daily blog. And I realized when the week was over that I had actually liked not knowing what was going on in the world, and not being a slave to email, political posts, or Facebook. I had dwelled on the Bible, and found it to be perfectly what I needed.

God is so gently trying to get our attention. He knows that we have "overmedicated" ourselves in a desperate attempt to make it through life without paying attention sometimes to the only things that are truly important. Television, movies, music, art, books, clothing, fancy foods, shopping, internet, facebook, twitter, etc. etc. etc.  It is not that all those things don't have a place in our existence...they do. But sometimes I think our time spent in those endeavors far outweighs our time spent in the things that matter eternally. There are countless ways to numb ourselves to that which is truly of value. I think sometimes we feel we cannot do without those distractions. Sometimes, God wrenches them away, not to punish us, but to liberate us. We find we never needed those things afterall, and what we did need, we ignored.

Honeybun walked by my side cheerfully on our walk today. I was glad someone had taken away the medicine she had not needed because I wouldn't have dared.


Psalm 51: 10- 17
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Striking Without Warning

I cannot get the desert scenes of the Tucson mountains out of my head. I may have to move there. Of course, I was there when the temperature was perfect, and the rattlesnakes and scorpions were hibernating. I understand that the rattlesnake are deciding that warning humans is stupid, and they are becoming more aggressive. And this doesn't even touch on creatures like Gila monsters, or mountain lions. I saw the desert at its best. As my sister Amy and I bushwhacked through the desert, even she admitted that this was the perfect time of the year to be so cavalierly wandering where deadly poisonous creatures habitate. She is the one that told me the rattlesnakes have decided that rattling is an unfair advantage to the prey...and we are the prey.

"Are you sure this is true?" I asked. I am the gullible Gussy usually, and even I found this to be unlikely.
"It might just be an old wive's tale," she admitted, "But that is what I heard."

Well, I googled it, and guess what!? Other people are discussing this! Some experts believe it is an urban legend, but many herpetologists agree rattlers that don't rattle are less likely to be seen and killed. Thus through natural selection, they tend to pass on the nonrattling disposition to their little creepy babies. Take Heed: rattlesnakes do sometimes strike without warning!!!

This is terrible. However, it is a warning to those that would traipse through the desert and it can be amplified to include a spiritual warning as well. Evil doesn't always rattle its presence. Sometimes it slips in undetected, and before you know what hit you, you are poisoned. It is by far the greater part of valor to be vigilant and always avoid the dangerous hidden places where evil is most likely to lurk. And if you see any sign of in the opposite direction!

Too many of us think we will not be bitten, and we realize long after it is too late that evil is a silent and cunning adversary.

I intend to only visit my sister in Tucson during rattler hibernation season.


1 Peter 3:11
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.

Proverbs 3:7
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
 fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Still Mountains

I sat around playing with painting programs yesterday. Having come home from Tucson with a cold, I felt it was best to sit around, drink tea, and rest. Since my head was still filled with visions of the wondrous mountains surrounding Tucson, I painted the mountains. Then, lo and behold,  my daily Bible reading led me to the book of Psalm 46, which mentions mountains!

I grew increasingly sick as the day progressed, which is not good since I lead a ski group Thursday. I was hoping the cold would stay mild and leave by tomorrow. It is not looking promising. So I read Psalm 46 with its promises of God who is an ever present help in trouble. In fact, His promises of refuge are stronger than the mountains! Even they will tremble and crumble before God does. The mountains which seem such powerful monuments of stability, grandeur, and strength are like putty compared to God.

This is good to remember when struggles arise. It is not that God has forgotten us, or that His strength is insufficient for the task of rescuing us. If we are left to struggle or endure trouble, He must have a reason. He who can move the mountains could blow away a cold virus should He so choose. But, if He doesn't choose...what are we to do?

The end of Psalm 46 tells us: Be still and know that I am God.

This is my favorite verse, perhaps because it is one I need to read again and again. Being still is not my forte. Mountains can be still. I cannot. But the result of our stillness before God is that as we wait, and pause, He sometimes takes action, and in the end, He is exalted.

Maybe that is why I love painting mountains. It reminds me that while God doesn't move them often, He could. I will practice being still like a mountain before my Creator.


Psalm 46: 1-3,10
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God.
 I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wide-eyed Wonder

On our last morning in Tucson, Amy and I took her grandkids to a stupendous park with a half mile long pathway lined with bronze animals. Elephants, zebras, giraffes, gorillas, foxes, black bears, hippos... all full size. The 2 year old was enthralled, climbing on every creature with wide eyed wonder.

I felt like that 2 year old the whole time I was in Tucson. I never realized how stunningly spectacular and grandiose the desert landscape is. I feel sad not only to leave my beloved and very fun sister, but also to leave this surprisingly captivating land. I will miss hearing the coyotes, and awakening to a pink and gold sky slowly spreading across the ring of mountain tops that surround the desert valley. I will miss the saguaro cactus, with their funny stubby arms and prickles. I will miss the sounds of the 3 month old baby, with whom I shared a room, gurgling in her sleep. I am looking forward to sleeping late in my own bed and recovering from the cold I picked up at the tail end of an exhausting, but wonderful trip.

But I leave my sister healthy and laughing again, a far cry from the wretched form I arrived to, groaning and pale on her hospital bed. I feel deep gratitude to God for her healing and that I was privileged to share in that transformation from terrible pain to wholeness and joy again.

We all have that opportunity. We who believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life and unfettered joy miss such a monumental blessing when we are not shouting that good news from the mountains. How could I ever lose the wonder of His provision and sustenance? He lines my path not with bronze creatures that mimic life in a dry and thirsty desert, but with living water that will quench my thirst forever. In wide eyed wonder, I looked out over the mountains as the plane lifted above earth, carrying me home.

 Psalm 40: 9-10
 9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
 as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Heeding the Call

My last night in Tucson, I was ready for bed when sister Amy told me, "Quick, listen outside! The coyote are going crazy!"
We rushed to open the door and could see nothing in the deep darkness of the nightdraped Sonora desert. However, coyotes from every corner of the world seemed to have converged in the near expanse outside the door. They yipped and howled in a crescendoing call. A lone dog barked in the distance. We quickly brought in my niece's dog.
"Will coyote kill a dog?" I asked.
"If they are in a pack, they will," my nephew said.
"Why are they making such a racket?"
"They are calling to each other," he said.
They were gathering, with the strength for whatever coyote do in the deep darkness of night.

I thought of this past week and a half in Tucson, helping my sister recover from pancreatitis, and then helping her move in to her new house. She is a giver, not a taker, and thus had not asked for help. Still, anyone with ears can hear the call of their fellow sojourners if they are listening.

We should all be listening. Listen for the call of those around us who need the "pack" to brave the cold desert night...but most importantly, listen for the call of the One who provided the pack in the first place. It is unmistakable when the world falls dark and silent -- a terror if one is alone, but a comfort when we are huddled with one another.

As suddenly and explosively as the coyotes had erupted into song, they fell silent. Those who had not gathered at the call would have trouble finding them now in the endless black desert. Heed the  call while we can!

God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Interludes of Rest

"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." / Hebrews 4:9

This was the verse that greeted me early this morning on my second to last day of my trip to Tucson. I have been away from home a week and a half on my trip to care for my sister Amy in the hospital and then to help her with her grandkids' care while she regains strength. She seems fully up and powered now, while frankly, I am pretty tired. Caring for young kids is not for the faint of heart...or anyone over 30. And on top of all her medical and childcare issues, she is moving in to her new house near her grandkids this coming week. She and I have been traipsing back and forth from her daughter's house where we are staying, to the new house, which we are cleaning and slowly filling with her things. Needless to say, it has been a busy time in Tucson.

Last night, while my remarkable nephew in law, Richard, made one of the most heavenliest meals this side of...heaven...Amy and I sat in her dark house waiting for the internet man to finish installing her internet. It was taking much longer than expected. Few lights work in Amy's new house, so we sat in the semi-dark, making a to-do list and growing hungrier and hungrier as the installation took longer and longer than expected. We asked him several times, "How much longer?", as we drooled thinking of the crab stuffed pork chops waiting at home for us.

He never gave us very direct answers, but kept working as the sun set on our hunger and fatigue of the full day. Amy owns 5 acres in a secluded piece of Nirvana in the Sonora desert south of Tucson. There are no streetlights, few residents, and only dirt roads for miles.
"Show me your land," I told her, as the internet man worked on.
We walked just a few feet up the road aligning her property and the sky was filled with stars. A coyote howled in the distance. The lights of Tucson in the valley an hour away glittered like Christmas. A bird with a wondrous song serenaded us in the utter quiet.

I am tired, but I would have done it all over again gladly. What beautiful peace in this lovely land, and what a joy to have been with my sister in her struggles and now this exciting new life before her. I am looking forward to returning to my own land, my own family, my own bed, my own teenager who doesn't need diaper changes or me to make her a bottle twenty times a day...but I know I will miss it here. I like to think God used me here to the last ounce of my energy. Ultimately, like the verse says, He will grant me rest. The verse from Hebrews pertains to eternal rest, but He grants us periods of spiritual rest along the way. As I stood on the peaceful knoll under the starts in the silent desert night beside my sister restored to health, God was granting me rest. I am grateful for those interludes. As we returned to the house, the internet man was testing his finished hours of work.

"Bad news," said the internet man, "You are not getting a signal. I will have to come back."

Interlude of peace over. Eternal rest is not looking so bad.....


 Psalm 38: 9, 21-22
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

Friday, January 17, 2014

How Walking a Dog Teaches about God

I awake long before the rest of the crew here in Tucson, being still on Eastern Standard Time. This gives me time each morning to watch the sun rise over the incredible mountains that surround my niece's beautiful home. Yesterday morning, I saw a coyote lope across the back yard just as the sun was considering rising.

Now that Amy is recuperating from her pancreatitis and doing well, I still assist with her duties caring for her young grandkids, but have taken on a new project in my last few days here. My compassionate niece Renee and gentle giant husband Richard took on an immense white German Shepherd puppy to help out a friend who was in a horrific accident. The one year old pup is taller than me when he stands on his hind legs, and a ball of untrained, uncontrolled energy. He really is the last thing the parents of a 2 year old and 3 month old need, but they would not turn their back on their friend's request when he could no longer keep the dog.

So, I decided with my vast dog training expertise (sarcasm alert), I would train the dog that was 3 times my size to walk on a leash. Then he could go on long walks and dispel some of that energy. I warned the crew that I would be back as soon as my arm dislocated.

Now truth be told, what I was taught in 6th grade 4H class still holds true in training a dog to "heel." I have taught many dogs to walk (sort of) calmly at my heel. So I leashed Gus the big white dog, and off we....WENT!!!!! Whew! Gus was strong but physics is my friend, and I knew that if I kept the leash short, and his weight off balance, I still had the advantage. Each time he pulled ahead of my heel, I would swing around in the other direction, giving the "heel" command, and telling him he was a "good dog." Poor uncontrolled Gus doesn't hear the words, "good dog" often. Sometimes I would circle clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise. Gus was a quick study, and began looking at me in a touch of bewilderment as he loped at my heel. Good dog!

He seemed very pleased to be a good dog, as we twirled our way down the peaceful dirt roads of the quiet Sonora desert. When he was no longer pulling, I took off at a fast clip walking. He kept glancing at me, and for longer and longer periods, he didn't pull at all. I felt the inexpressible communion of dog and master when they are in synch on a joint purpose, moving forward. Gus was happy. I was happy. He was content to walk at the heel of his master. I could see the wheels turning in this intelligent dog's expression. I could tell he was thinking: "This is what controlled obedience feels like, submitting to the will of one who loves me and has my best interests in heart! It feels...good."

oops, RABBIT!!!

Gus lunged, but I had seen the rabbit too and we began our swirling again, till he had stopped pulling. Loose leashed, we continued our walk.

It takes no symbolic genius to see the parallel here to how we should be walking with God. So many of us (yours truly included) fight for our own way with the noblest of intentions (sarcasm alert) and we leave unwittingly a path of destruction. Yet when we submit, and walk in perfect step with the Master who loves us and has our best interest in heart, a whole vista of potential opens before us.

Well done, good and faithful servant!

Psalm 37:5-6
Commit your way to the Lord;
 trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Desires of My Heart

 My sister and I took the 2 year old and 3 month old for a twilight walk on the deserted dirt roads in the remote desert where my niece lives, just as the sun was setting. As we walked, the sky turned from blue, to purple with streaks of orange and magenta.  The mountains reflected salmon colored rays of the settling sun. And then, as the sun disappeared, an enormous full moon began to lift its brilliant disc above the top of the craggy mountains that ring this valley. It was glowing against the darkening sky, and perfectly round. It was visibly moving, climbing into the sky. The two year old stood transfixed, watching it.
"Circle!" he cried.

We heard a coyote in the distance, but otherwise, there was no sound in this quiet place, save the crunching of our shoes on the dirt road.

After a week in the hospital, my sister is now out just a couple of days but feeling completely fine. I am helping her with the little one's care for a few more days to be sure she doesn't overdo and relapse. She is not at all thrilled with my reminders of the doctor's dietary suggestions. I tell her that as she reaches for those luscious french fries, remember the nurse sticking her twenty times searching for a vein to get in the IV.
"My life is over," she told me, as I remind her that there are many delicious lowfat choices in life.

I don't think as she watched the moon rise over the mountains and her delightful grandson pointing with awesome wonder that she thought her life was over however. I think perhaps she may have been thinking, "Life is just beginning!"

God is wonderful in that way. When we struggle, He is constantly reminding us that there is a greater plan, a most beautiful world beyond what we know that awaits us. At least that is what I thought about as I watched the most glorious moon I had ever seen casting its mysterious light upon my face.

 Psalm 37: 3-4
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
 dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Mountains of God

After nearly a week in hospital with acute pancreatitis, my sister finally got discharged! I am here in lovely Tucson a few more days taking over her childcare duties so she can recuperate. I may be unable to write much this week due to the intensity of caring for a 2 year old and 3 month old, so don't think the worst when you don't see my posts -- it is not because I was attacked and annihilated by a Jack Rabbit or horde of scorpions. However, I am aware that is a risk in this part of the country.

Since sister Amy is now in her daughter's guestroom, I am sleeping in baby Riley's room. I dreamt all night that I was fired from my duties because I didn't wake up when baby Riley woke up. The funny thing is I was up all night every time baby Riley made a peep, so I could fulfill my appointed role perfectly. In between, I dreamt about how I was not waking up. At one point, in my dream, I was turned out into the night to go find a hotel because I had been such a terrible caregiver.

I was so happy to awaken early in the morn before anyone else was up. I felt like Scrooge on Christmas morning, discovering  I had been given another chance! I could get up before Amy or the parents to care for the baby!

The beautiful mountains greeted me and the sun rose, a glorious flame above them. God is always giving us new mornings, new days, new opportunities. Seize the glory of the day He has given, I thought, as the memories of the dream faded in the magnificent outpouring of sunrise.

Psalm 36: 5-6
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
 your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.

Monday, January 13, 2014


The sky foretold victory -- a brilliant sunrise greeted me in the morning. Wonderful day at the hospital yesterday. I arrived to hear my sister ordering her first solid food meal in 6 days. And she had not had pain meds since 8 pm the prior eve and was in minimal pain. Discharge probably today. I haven't been in yet -- child care for my niece first this morn -- but I expect only wonders from here on out.

After her sumptuous meal, we went on a walk around the hospital grounds, she in a double gown rolling her IV stand with her. After a rather harrowing downhill wrangling the IV stand, we found a magnetic board for the Life Sciences building. The magnet strips were all a mess, many broken in pieces. It was a jumbled mosaic chaos, begging for intervention. So we stopped and I made a horse using the magnet pieces and wrote with more magnet pieces, "Amy was here." Meanwhile, Amy made a paddock and bridle. It was quite a pretty little mosaic work of art where there had been just ugliness and confusion. We took quite a few pictures of us with the mosaic, and sent a video to Amy's husband.

Who would have thought hospitals could be such fun?

We laughed quite a bit over our little prank, taking a mess and turning it into a little whimsical work of art. This is just what God does to each of us! I imagine He is laughing with joy as well as He transforms us.

I ran out for sushi for the two of us for dinner, which we ate while making fun of all the scantily clothed actresses on the Golden Globe award show. Strangely, we both were remembering this week in the hospital as kinda fun....

So where was God in the midst of the suffering? He was in the gifts, and the flowers, the prayers, and the emails, and the holding hands through unbearable pain, and the slow walks admiring the art work and discussing the artists' intent, and the kind nurses who cheered with us when Amy ate her first solid food, and the hope of better days ahead, and the ability to laugh at changing a terrible mess into something that would bring joy in a place not usually associated with joy... knowing that no matter the outcome, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.


Psalm 34: 4-8
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
 Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On Not Losing Hope

The picture above is drawn by my sister, Amy, who is finally feeling much better on day 6 of her lovely hospital stay for acute pancreatitis. I gave her a lesson on using one of my wonderful art programs on the Surface Pro because she mocks my computer drawing as "fake." I did not convince her it was one of the 7 wonders of the world, but it diverted her from her drab hospital life for ten minutes.

Her picture is of one of the strangest creatures I have encountered on my visit here to Arizona. I was on a run this morning through the desolate dirt roads of the expansive desert, when I spied what I was sure was a coyote or deer. It was huge, and had enormous ears sticking above the sagebrush. As I approached, it bounded away, like a gazelle. Fortunately, as I approached closer, it was waiting to let me gaze at it. It was a bunny rabbit on steroids. I have never seen such an enormous rabbit. It had to have been 4 feet high or more with the ears. Then it spied me, and hopped away just exactly like Superman would have hopped if he were prone to hopping. I could not believe it.

Amy tells me this is a jack rabbit. I wondered anew at what variety and creativity God employed in crittering the world.  God is always full of surprises, and never seems to work the way we would expect. It seems incongruous -- this bunny crossed with Tyrannosaurus Rex genes. I wondered if it was vicious at all. It would be a formidable foe.

And speaking of formidable foes, life in the hospital from Hell seems to be finally turning around. After a harrowing morning of IVs falling out, and having to call in emergency medics to finally get the IV bsck in her using a vein in her leg, the day began to morph back to livable. She had her first food or drink in five days. We both ordered from the "room service" menu -- she ordered the "clear broth variety plate", and I got a Ceasar chicken Salad. Her blood work shows normal pancreatic enzyme levels. Thus, she is on the road to health. She started pain meds by mouth rather than IV. Today she will move on to soft foods, and if she continues to do well, we are hopeful for a Monday or Tuesday discharge. Docs haven't said that yet but we have a lot of folks praying for one of the sweetest, funniest persons on earth and are hoping this will move mountains.

When I walked in yesterday morning, Amy was gasping in pain, pale and grey, and medics surrounded her, trying to get the IV in her neck. I wondered why God would let my beloved dear sister suffer this way. 

 Fix this, Lord!

This morning, I woke early, still on ES time, and went to read my Bible and do my daily blog. My beloved BRAND NEW surface pro would not turn on. I used my phone to google what to do when BRAND NEW surface pros do not turn on. I tried the first 9 out of 10 suggestions. None of them worked. I was close to tears by now, and feeling panic rising. Then I tried the 10th suggestion. That worked! As it blinked on, I thanked God.

Then, after using the bathroom, the toilet stopped working. Wouldn't flush. Emboldened by my success with the Surface Pro, I removed the tank cover, saw the plunger had detached from the chain and reattached it. The toilet flushed. I thanked God. I knew He was sending me a message.

Hang in there, Amy. Sometimes the first 9 steps don't add up to victory...don't give up. The tenth is coming.

Psalm 33: 13-19
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
 on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Steadfast Love

I woke up yesterday morning in Tucson with my first duty shift of caring for my 2 year old and 3 month old grand niece and nephew. I was up long before they were, so I made coffee and watched the sunrise over the mountains that ring this beautiful, remote area south of the city. A good omen of beauty and reminder of God's presence.

The kids are among the easiest children I have ever cared for. Sweet tempered, smart, smiling little creatures. The baby woke up, has never seen me before, and what do you think she did? She smiled.
She flashed me one of the sweetest, most angelic smiles I have ever seen, as though she was truly glad I was there to care for her. And two year old Gregory sat nearby quietly playing while I fed Riley, the baby. It was like a scene out of the Waltons. I didn't know such sweet people were still populating the earth.

Anyway, after I successfully returned the two delightful creatures to their now well rested Mom, (she works the night shift as a deputy sheriff), I headed off to the hospital to take arms against a sea of incompetence by my sister's side. I was not disappointed. Incompetence was still winning the battle. When I walked in, my sister was chatting with her head nurse. After 4 days now of acute pancreatitis, she had yet to see the gastroenterologist, (GI), who would be the appropriate doctor to oversee her case. The paperwork from her last few bouts of this had still not arrived, and no one seemed to be working on making that happen (besides her husband Jim and me.) She had had the MRI (finally) that morning to determine what was going on with her pancreas (after 4 days in the hospital...) but the internist who is not a GI specialist didn't really know how to read the results.

"How are you Amy?" I asked as I walked in.
I could tell on her face all was not well.
"Same old same old," she replied, reviewing the litany of ongoing neglect of her case.

"This has got to stop!" I cried turning to the nurse.
Amy and the nurse talked me down. This nurse, only on duty for the first time with Amy was on our side. She gave Amy the number for Patient Advocacy, and while Amy was leaving a voice mail with them, I went to the front desk with a number for the doc with Amy's records and told the nurse there I would wait while he called for her records. He called and told me if the records weren't faxed in an hour, he would call them back and let them know.

"I will be back in an hour," I told him.

Meanwhile, Amy and I waited for patient advocacy to call back. They didn't. Since the nurse wanted Amy strolling around to help keep her lungs and muscles active, we slowly walked down to the Patient Advocacy office. They were locked and closed. We wondered what advocacy group we could contact to complain about patient advocacy.

An hour later, I returned to the front desk.
"Did you get the fax?" I asked.
"No," he said, "They never called."
"You were going to call them," I reminded him.
He jumped up to go check the fax machine, returned shaking his head, and then looked down at his desk.
"Oh, here they are."
I asked that they be sent immediately to the GI doc we had requested, and I would return in half an hour to insure the doc had received them. The whole nursing staff did not smile at me. Little baby Riley could teach them a thing or two.

A half hour later, Dr. C, the GI doc, walked in. He had a ponytail, jeans, and casual shirt. The intern with him looked like a doctor. (I may be remembering the jeans incorrectly, but for sure he had a ponytail.)
"You look like GI people!" my sister cried hopefully. (That, or Vietnam vets...)
"We are," he said.
"Praise the Lord!!!" I shouted, raising my hands to the heavens, "There IS a God!!".
"Vicky, now is the time to be silent," reprimanded my sister.

I opened my wonderful new Surface Pro tablet and began taking notes of everything the hippie doc said. Looks can be deceiving. This doc knew his stuff. He had Amy's records in hand, had just received them, and as he went through them, noticed right away the salient issues, and took her future and treatment plan down the road to a whole new level. Instead of looking despairingly at a rather bleak uncertainty about these terrible attacks, this doctor laid out at least three very hopeful issues to check as causative, and also a treatment plan of pancreas enzyme suppression for down the road. He wrote out new orders for the staff to adhere to, and even said Amy could have clear broth today, the first food or drink in five days.

"You look like a new woman," said the kind nurse when she returned to check on Amy after the doc left. She was going off duty, and told us we had been fun and she had enjoyed working with Amy.
"Thank you so much," I told her, as she had been the catalyst in part behind things happening finally.
"And you were ready to battle me when you walked in," she reminded me.
"I thought you were part of the problem," I said.
"I was ready with Plan A," she said.
"I was plan B," I told her.

 I know many people been praying for my sister. I am a little too tired to come up with an amazing metaphor of how God is present in the symbols of life. But He is. He showed up yesterday in a ponytail and jeans.

It was a trying day. However it started and ended with a smile, and perhaps that is more than many people get.

 Psalm 32: 10-11
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
 11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Shouts of Deliverance

Yesterday, I arrived safely in Tucson on my errand of kicking butt at the hospital where my sister Amy is staying. She is doing her best to advocate for reasonable needs (e.g.pain meds on time, and a doctor trained in dealing with her issue, pancreatitis) but it is hard when one is in great pain, or loopy from the drugs. My job was to rant and rave on her behalf. This is work I am particularly well suited for.

By day's end, the nurses began scattering when I would approach the desk. However, by the end of the day, they seem to be a little more attentive and responsive to the issues poor Amy has been so frustrated by. They even claim to be scrounging up a comfortable chair for me to sit in...rather than the low back interogation chair currently at Amy's bedside. I have made it clear I am here to stay for the duration and while Amy may be drugged and incoherent at times, I am not drugged and usually coherent.

This is the amazing thing. Amy is in great discomfort, hooked to a million monitors, and yet she is keeping her cancer patient roommate cheerful and loved. She had me laughing so hard most of the day that my pancreas was hurting. I don't know how she does it but being around Amy, even when she is in wretched shape is always fun.

The good thing is she seemed to have turned a corner by the time I left last night. Her pain level was down, and her color and whole demeanor was better. We even strolled a good fifteen minutes or so around the hospital floor, the first real walking she has done in three days. Praying for real miracles of healing for her today!

Psalm 32:7
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Times are in God's Hand

Psalm 31
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God."
15 My times are in your hand;
I am en route to Tucson to sit by the side of my sister Amy in the hospital. I have an open-ended ticket so I can stay as long as I will be of use to her. Right now, she is alone with her pancreatitis. She can not eat or drink, likely for several days, and when the pain killers don't arrive on time, in great pain. So my job is to sit there and bark at nurses if they are late with the drugs, and to read to her, make her smile during her wakeful times, and let her know she is loved and not alone. I will also be watching her grandchildren in the mornings -- a two year old and a new baby. It has been 35 years since I have done such duty. I hope it is like riding a bicycle, and it all comes back to me.

Poor Amy had several serious bouts of this before, but a couple of years ago, a stent was put in her pancreas and the problems seemed solved. We hope the doctors will come up with a new plan of action, and if they don't, pray God will.

As I boarded the plane, we were told it was a jam-packed flight. I settled in my seat, and noticed that every seat on the plane was almost taken, people still boarding. A lady in the aisle seat in front of me asked if I would change seats with her so she could sit with her friend. I hesitated, since I had a row with only two seats, and she was in a row with three. But my better nature took over and I said sure. When every passenger had boarded, only one seat on the entire plane was empty… the one next to me.

I happily spread out and opened my Bible app on my wonderful new Surface Pro. The verse it opened to  was the one in Psalm, that I began this blog post with.

You are my God. My times are in your hand.

A comfort and promise.

Psalm 31
23 Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!

Sent from Surface Pro

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

To Love Sooner

It is bitter cold outside. I brought two bags of coats to the group collecting coats and blankets for the homeless. In one bag was a coat I loved, but I hadn't worn in years. Before I placed it in the bag, I put it on. I posed in front of the mirror, twisting and turning and admiring the beautiful coat. It was very warm and very lovely. Yet, I had not worn it in two years. This could save someone's life tonight in this bitter cold. With great difficulty, I carefully folded the coat and put it in the bag.

Then I tied the bag closed as quickly as I could. I knew that if I saw the coat, I would lose my resolve. I would retrieve the coat, hang it lovingly in my closet, and not wear it. I know. Sick.

I hurried with the bag of coats to the drop off site. I thought of the beautiful coat, and how I would miss it. I hope that I will watch the news tonight which will undoubtedly report on the plight of the homeless in this record breaking cold. I will see the homeless people being handed the coats that the wonderful community of Charlotte collected for them. I will see a young woman look wide-eyed at my beautiful coat. She will slip it across her shivering shoulders, and I will watch her sigh in relief.

I hold so tightly to the things of this world. I tell you this story not because I am good, but because I am so evil. For two years, young women have shivered while no one wore that beautiful warm coat.
Oh Lord, help me love sooner.


Isaiah 58:7-9
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
 and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
 and your healing shall spring up speedily;
 your righteousness shall go before you;
 the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am. '

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Grateful for Warmth

Compared to the rest of the nation, Charlotte is not bad at all, despite unusually cold temperatures for our area. Just in case, embarking on my walk yesterday, I put on my megapuff coat that is able to withstand temperatures up to -30. That would not have been good enough had I been walking in Chicago this week, but it was quite adequate for Charlotte. Honeybun was given the go-ahead to walk all the way around the block as of yesterday. The vet wanted her to rest until now after her collapse 2 weeks ago. She was so perky and excited. She pranced around the block. Meanwhile, I was nice and toasty in my megapuff coat.

But the wind picked up during the day and the chill got chillier. So Honeybun and I holed up in the warm house. I worked on my manuscript and Honeybun snored. I checked Facebook periodically, sad to see one friend's pipes had frozen and burst in the cold. I have a sister in Chicago where the wind chill is fifty below zero and residents are advised to stay inside.

What if they lose power? How long can anyone survive in fifty below zero? My goodness, we are lucky that we have been destroying our planet with global warming! Can you imagine how cold it would be without that!?

Interestingly, in my daily Bible reading I was working my way through Psalms, and came across a line in Psalm 19 about the sun and how nothing is hidden from its heat. I laughed when I read it, thinking about my sister in Chicago who probably was certain she was hidden from the sun's heat. In fact, most of our country is hidden from the sun's heat this week.

But then I began pondering the spiritual message. While those in the midst of this arctic chill may feel the sun has deserted them, in actuality, it has not. If the sun were to suddenly explode, earth would be plunged (over time) into temperatures of -400 degrees. Now that's cold. Even my megappuff coat couldn't protect me from that. We may feel we are hidden temporarily from the sun's heat, but it is not forever, and we are not as hidden as we think we are.

There are many times when I feel that God has deserted me, that I feel I am hidden from his "heat." Life seems impossible. Pipes freeze and burst, ice covers the windows and I cannot see anything but frigid hopelessness. Sometimes for a season, cold is allowed to enter in. But, it is not forever,  and it is not as cold as it would be if the Source of warmth were truly to desert us. Think how grateful for warmth we are when we have been terribly cold. Sometimes it takes bitter cold for us to truly appreciate warmth.

Then I read a post on Facebook from another friend, collecting blankets and coats that evening to bring to our "homeless neighbors" on this frigid night. I realized sometimes we are God's heat and decided I could probably find coats we no longer need.


Psalm 19: 4-6
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Did I mention I am loving my Microsoft Surface Pro tablet/computer? This picture was painted by using the watercolor app on the Pro. I have snowy cold mountains on my mind because the forecast is not changing and I am in charge of the ski group slated to go skiing on the coldest day in eons in the NC mountains. If the forecast holds, it is going to be cold enough to freeze the synovial fluid in our joints. Frostbite will take approximately 27 seconds to permanently remove all our noses. Fifty below zero windchill! We have to cancel, sadly.

This is disappointing but not as disappointing as Sunday's sermon. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I sat down and read the title on the bulletin for the sermon:
Family Idols.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered in a panic, "Oh-oh. I hope this doesn't convict my spirit that I will have to give up the Surface Pro."

Fortunately, the sermon focused less on material "idols" in our life and more on relationship idols. It hovered across that pesky verse about anyone "who doesn't hate their father and mother, sister and brother cannot be my disciple." I have always wondered about this verse, but was just relieved that the pastor said NOTHING about hating the Surface Pro as a precondition to following Jesus. Whew!

However, he did make sense of that verse that has always troubled me about hating one's loved ones before one could follow Jesus. He said the term is relative. If one loves Jesus as one should love Jesus, it is so all consuming, so powerful, and so intense that by comparison, all other love pales.  That kind of love is as distant from all other love as fifty degrees below zero is from "a little cold spell." This is the way we are to love our Lord. Whatever else eclipses that kind of love for our savior is an idol in our life.

If I use the Surface Pro as a tool to express to the world the need for Jesus, and how ardently we should love the one who died for us to pay the penalty we owe for our it still an idol?  I hope not. Really I do.


 Luke 14: 25-27
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

 Isaiah 44:12-18
12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"
18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

When the Wind Chills Your Faith...

As the homeschool ski group organizer, I get to make the tough decisions. For example, do we want to go on our scheduled day Tuesday if the forecast is calling for wind chills of 10 and 20 degrees BELOW zero? I am pretty sure at that temperature the vitreous fluid in eyeballs crystallizes. And by the way, this is not a hypothetical. The forecast is indeed making these dire predictions. Good golly, that's cold!

I hate being in charge when I have to make calls that disappoint some people. The families with little kids do not want to ski in 20 degrees below zero wind chill. The teens in the group admit they might have to wear a sweater, but otherwise, no biggie! Meanwhile, I went on a walk in the 30 degree above 0 day yesterday wondering why global warming seems to have bypassed Charlotte, and could not begin to imagine how hideous it would be if it felt like it were 50 degrees colder as forecast for Tuesday.

So I am watching the weather and hoping the forecast shifts about 30 degrees. Right now, I would even be ok with ten degree wind chill...

This is the thing, however. If God wants us to ski, He can shift the weather. He makes the ice and He makes the rain. If He chooses to make the ice, forcing us to huddle in our homes, maybe He is saving us from something we need saving from. It really alters one's perspective if instead of railing against adverse circumstances and disappointments, one has faith that even those hard things come from the hand of God. There is a purpose and benefit in everything He brings across our path. It is often easier to heed His opening doors rather than His shutting them. It is important to remember He does both.

If the wind chill remains at 20 degrees below zero on Tuesday, I have no doubt God has a good reason for why I should instead remain home that day. And be assured, I will be home if the forecast doesn't change.

Psalm 147: 16-18
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

An Abundance of Steadfast Love

In between working on my long, nonfiction book over the past few years (due out soon), I collected my months of illustrations of Honeybun, and wrote a children's book about dog rescue -- Saving a Dog. It just came out as an e-book yesterday! It is short, and sweet, a quick read. The print book is also at the site:. The link to the ebook is: . I will pause in my deep commitment to spreading God's message for a brief, shameless plug:

Please buy, read, and then write a glowing review at the Amazon site. It is dirt cheap! If you act now you could read the book and be the first person to review it! Your name will be immortalized on Amazon! And please share this blog and/or the book link with everyone in the world. My retirement depends upon it.

Now, back to my Godly message.

I published the book using my new Microsoft Surface Pro. I cannot believe the amazing things this tablet/computer can do. I can draw and paint with it, and it feels almost identical to working with actual materials. The picture on this blog was done on my Surface Pro. The absolute ONLY thing I have been unable to get it to do is cook dinner, but that is why God made pizza delivery. (See, I told you this would be about God.)

I started the day feeling like I was getting the flu, with violent chills. So I spent the whole day preparing the children's book for publication and working on editing the other TOP SECRET book due out very soon. By the evening, I was feeling healthy again. I guess all that sitting around must have healed me....unless the Surface Pro healed me. It really is a remarkable machine. It struck me how fortunate I am, what an abundance of wonderful things I have been granted -- freedom, family, shelter, my new Surface Pro...and forgiveness for all my lack of gratitude to the One who provides every morsel.But as I worked on my writing and editing on the new Surface Pro, I was feeling like this was a taste of heaven. I know that sounds terrible but there is a spiritual message. Stick with me.

My old laptop was a hand me down. While owned by another unnamed family member, it had had an unfortunate collision with the floor (the details of which I will leave out to protect a certain family member...). Anyway, while it had been a great machine in its day, it was now old, used, and had been somewhat compromised in the terrible struggle with gravity. So guess who inherits the laptop? For the past year I have been editing and writing my books on the laptop with great frustration. It crashes regularly, taking with it as much work as I had not saved up to that point. It is slow and noisy, with a fan that clicks on constantly as it struggles not to overheat. Some programs it cannot access at all. It was damaged in the fall, and try as it might, it can not on its own power ever be what the manufacturer intended it to be.

That is me without God.

I repented of ever trying to create perfection on that old computer. I prayed for something that would end this struggle and frustration of constant failure. My friend, the Computer Master emailed me that the Surface Pro was on drastic sale. Intervening on my behalf, he felt certain that this was what I needed. If I would just accept this computing gift, I would find book writing peace, perfection, and joy. The old computer must die, but a New One would rise from the ashes. By faith, I trusted him, put off the old, and accepted the new.

Enter Microsoft Surface Pro. It is new, fast, does everything I want it to. I wrote, illustrated, edited, and then sent to publish the entire children's book on the Surface Pro seamlessly. This is what a computer was meant to be!

This is me with God...sort of.

Analogies are never perfect, but you get the point.

Psalm 5:7
7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.

Colossians 3: 1-4, 7-10
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Friday, January 3, 2014


I am not stupid after-all. I am getting the hang of this new laptop and I am loving it. I learned a whole multitude of things all on my own yesterday. Well, there was the rather impatient and rude Apple Care specialist who did try to assist. I called for some specific instructions on certain problems I was having synching my iPad with my new laptop. He said, and I quote, "Ma'am, I think it would be a good idea to take some sort of class on basic computer use."

Yes, and I bet anything you can't draw a mountain with beautiful colors that make you think of God.

I didn't say that, but I might have thought it. Still, I practiced being patient with the young man who found it incomprehensible that I didn't know what browser I was using....or really, truth be told, exactly what a browser was.

Then my computer guru Brian came to help me with MASSIVE problems I had developed over the day. He solved them in 3 minutes flat. What I love about Brian is partly that he is masterful and competent at what he can do with computers, but mostly that he never makes me feel stupid. He always makes me feel that everyone on earth needs tutorials on how to turn off a computer. If I had a fortune, I would donate some to Brian.

Anyway, I am figuring this new device out, and am convinced that except for the exquisite and perfect salvation plan of God, this is the BEST thing that has ever happened to mankind. But about that perfect salvation plan....I may not know how to turn off...or on...a computer, or what a browser is....but I DO know this. God has a plan, and it is wondrous. We will never be what we were meant to be. We will always fall short. So God sent His son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, and heap the punishment we deserved upon Him instead. When God looks at us, He sees not our sin, but how incredibly we are loved that such a sacrifice should be made on our behalf. It is really quite amazing.


1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Old Dog, New Tricks

I have been very frustrated in trying to work as an illustrator/writer with a very old laptop that has seen better days. So when the tablet/laptop that I have been eyeing went on a drastic sale, I grabbed it. I had 14 days to try it and could return after that time period with no loss of any money. So I got it. Then I spent most of New Year's Day trying to figure out how to use it. The picture on this post was drawn on the art program on the new tablet. It took me about twenty times longer than a comparable picture on my iPad, but I am as yet unfamiliar with the program and the machine. I have decided that truth be told, I am stupid. At the very least, I am ignorant.

I cannot figure out the simplest things on new devices. The iPad spoiled me, because frankly, anyone can use an iPad. This new device is made by Microsoft (the Surface Pro) and while it has the art/touch screen capability of a tablet like the iPad, it is a full fledged computer. That means, the user needs to have half a brain. I am discovering that I do not.

Still, the warranty gives me two years of "support" where I can have sessions with gurus who will teach me how to operate this thing. 
"Unlimited support?" I asked.
"Sure," they said.
I came back to the store TWICE in one day, for "support", and that was complemented by two lengthy phone calls.
"You have a son that went to MIT?" asked one of the support techs, a little incredulously, "And in computer programming, you say?" He peered at me suspiciously.
"Yes," I insisted, "And I homeschooled him all the way to college."
The support tech shook his head and whispered to a fellow guru.

So I am trying to write today's blog all by myself, no support techs helping at all.  It has been a challenge. It took me an hour to find the picture I had drawn on my new tablet and to upload it. Then it took me a half hour to find the Bible verse I wanted, and copy and paste it. This whole process takes me ten minutes on my iPad. Nonetheless, I will take the full 14 days to explore the potential of this new machine. I do not want to remain ignorant if I can help it.

God does not take kindly to those who willfully remain ignorant. He says that when our spiritual understanding is darkened, it is because we have willfully separated ourselves from Him. We have chosen to remain in ignorance and darkness. This is serious stuff. I know God was not really talking about computer ignorance, but nonetheless, I consider it a warning.

  • Ephesians 4:18 (NIV)

  • 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.