Monday, January 26, 2009


I’ve mentioned our nightmare efforts to fly to Australia for vacation in the midst of a winter snowstorm. But I neglected to mention the heroic efforts of our angel travel agent in Wisconsin and the way God used the situation to bless her in return. I’ve never actually met Julie in person. In fact, until the fateful day of Sunday, December 21, 2008, we’d never even talked on the phone. But that day our family awakened with our bags packed, ready to depart the Portland airport at 5:20pm, but there was snow and ice everywhere. At 7am, I had my first phone conversation with Julie. By midnight, Julie and I were seasoned comrades in our quest against the evil forces of airlines, cruise lines and Old Man Winter. We’d lost several battles and would miss four days of the cruise, but with Julie on a cell phone in my right ear and Alaska Air on the home phone in my left ear, we’d won the war – we’d secured flights for our family on Christmas Day to catch up with the cruise. Julie and I had laughed, cried, grumbled and prayed through the disappointments of the day, so just before hanging up, Julie hesitantly asked if I’d pray for her about a certain something coming up in her life. She’d been asked to sing “O Holy Night” for their church’s Christmas Eve service, and she was terrified! All her life she’d loved music, had been a voice major in college, and then sang for many years at church and civic functions. But a few years ago, she’d endured medical treatments that damaged her vocal chords, and she hadn’t sung publicly since then. Well, I promised to pray, and we said our good-byes, trusting all would be well with her song and our flights. Not so. Julie called us Christmas Eve day to say that she’d checked on our flights, and Alaska had somehow unbooked our four seats on the flight. Julie spent the entire day getting us back on the Christmas day flight, which meant she had no time to think about singing that night – or to practice with her accompanist. She called me just before walking out the door to church and said we were back on the flights and asked again for me to pray – HARD! Of course, we got on the plane the next day, not knowing how Julie’s song went, and by the time we’d arrived home from vacation, I had an e-mail telling me the Lord had done an amazing work in her voice, and she’d already sung at another church! The Lord works in mysterious ways to take our minds off our own fears and concerns, doesn’t He? Do I believe Portland had all that snow so Julie could sing beautifully for her church in Wisconsin? No. But I do believe that our God took a terrible situation, and cares about two women, who became friends because they endured difficult days and watched God do a mighty work in both circumstances. God is the Creator of all things, and He can work any situation together in a beautiful circle of life…

Gen. 1:24-25 – “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (emphasis added).

  • God SPOKE Creation into existence, but He often used the things He’d already created to create the next thing. He commanded the land to produce the living creatures in v. 24, just as He had commanded the land to produce vegetation in v. 11. God could have created spontaneously, but He valued connectedness and He used those things already present to enrich the new Creation.

Gen. 1:26-28 – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (emphasis added).

  • The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – our singular God – determined to make humankind in His image, and His image and likeness was too magnificent for one human representation, so male and female were created to display the full illustration of God’s image. (We get the whole story in Gen. 2) Since sin marred the image God intended for us, we must reckon with death and its consequences, but it’s important to remember – to absorb this truth – you and I are still, as human beings, the bearers of God’s image (marred, though it may be). And if we are believers in His Son, Jesus Christ, we are TRULY God-bearers since His Holy Spirit dwells within us! How awesome is that?

Gen. 1:29-31 – “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day” (emphasis added).

  • There it is – the meeting of the circle. God did all the creative preparation of the other five days in order that on the sixth and final day of Creation, He could fashion humankind in His image and give every green plant for food. And the sky…and the seas…and the animals…and…and…and…each one enables the other. And humankind is to rule over it.

Gen. 2:1-3 – “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

  • News flash! God did NOT rest because He was tired! On the sixth day, God stepped into the center of the circle of life He’d created and enjoyed every detail of each created item. But for one item, He showed special care. Imagine that you’re these brand new, adult human beings. You just arrived in this magnificent Garden, lush vegetation, paths crawling with living creatures, rivers and streams teeming with fish, sky filled with birds. And your first day alive is spent resting with God, enjoying His finished work. Can you imagine what that day of fellowship was like?

Lord, so often I don’t take time for that rest and fellowship with You – and that’s probably why I miss the connectedness of life and events. I know that when I slow down and spend time with You in Your Word and in prayer, things seem to add up, make sense, fall into place. Please help me to make rest and fellowship with You a priority, Father.

Monday, January 19, 2009


My family wanted a dog. I was the bad guy. However, my reluctance was not unfounded. We were terrible dog people. I mean, we loved dogs, but we just had a terrible track record of dog ownership. Our first dog was an adorable mutt that we chose from a barn litter of who-knows-what breed when we were expecting our second child. We just decided one day to go look at puppies. This little guy had giant paws – which should have been our first warning sign – and was the most playful one of the bunch – which should have been our second warning sign. We named him “Hondo” after Roy’s favorite basketball player of all time, and he was aptly named because he could jump higher than any fence Roy could build. We could have named him “Pavarotti” because he also had the loveliest singing voice, which he chose to use every night – in the middle of the night – that soon became the bane of our neighbors’ existence. Hondo found another family.

Five years later, we gave it a little more thought and decided a pound puppy was pretty cheap and a benevolent thing to do. This dog was a gift for our older daughter’s sixth birthday. “Molly” was an adorable, lovable border/schnauzer mix that potty trained easily and fit our family well. Three months after we adopted her, we were called to seminary and couldn’t find anywhere in Ashland, OH, that allowed pets on our shoestring budget. Amid weeping and gnashing of teeth, Molly, too, found another family.

Can you see why I was a little hesitant to get a dog in 1994, even when my family begged and pleaded for one? So I prayed (don’t ever do that unless you’re ready for God to take the other guys’ side). Roy was at least willing to stall the process and suggested that our daughters do some library research on what kind of dog would fit our family’s needs. Mr. Library Research made me look the books over, too. We decided on a sheltie – even though they shed like a snowman in Tahiti, they’re sharp as a tack (plus I knew we could never afford one). Four days later, my sister-in-law calls out of the blue and tells me that my mom mentioned we might be interested in a dog. She said her friends had a 3 yr. old sheltie they’d like to find a good home for. Ugh. Now, my wise husband wouldn’t allow us to rush right out and get the dog. He’d learned from our other mishaps that we must prepare for its arrival. We spent the better part of 2 weeks building a dog run for this animal – nicer play area than my children had at the time. Our girls helped paint the fence and spread pea gravel. And when “Princess” finally became a part of our family, all that preparation made the difference. (Roy in the 1994 picture above is in his favorite pose with his favorite 1980's purple sweat pants.) Our precious sheltie was with us for twelve wonderful years. Process, Patience, Preparation – these are words I don’t particularly like, but they’re words God has a special affinity toward – especially in His creative work….

Gen. 1:2 – “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

  • Why didn’t God create the earth formed and full? Why allow darkness? Why hover? Because from the very beginning, God chose PROCESS for Himself and for the heavens and the earth.

Gen. 1:3-5 – “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.”

  • Notice God called light “good” before sin occurred and before light or dark contained any merit or evil from human interference. God then separated light, with its inherent goodness, in order to accentuate the difference between it and darkness. He was PREPARING Creation for the recognition of two essences – the knowledge of something good and something less than. Even before sin, darkness has been separate from light’s goodness. So why did God allow darkness at all? Perhaps so humankind would know the difference…

Gen. 1:6-13 – “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky.’ And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day. And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day. ”

  • God was PATIENT, waiting ‘til the second day to create the sky and a third day for dry ground. He spoke the vegetation into the ground immediately, but notice He made them seed and fruit-bearing, requiring time and PROCESS for them to reach full productivity.

Gen. 1:14-19 – “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.”

  • God went to a lot of trouble in this PROCESS of Creation to remind us daily of His distinction between light and dark, good and less than His best.

Gen. 1:20-23 – “And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.”

  • All the water creatures and birds were spoken into being on the fifth day – more PROCESS and PATIENCE and PREPARATION for all God would create on the sixth day....

Lord, it astounds me that You PATIENTLY chose to make Creation a PROCESS of PREPARATION rather than speak it immediately, wholly into existence. What seems to me a painfully slow and meticulous delay was to You a labor of love for the precious Creation You knew would later betray You. Oh, what kind of love is this that gives so lavishly? I am humbled to reverent awe….

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Every sentence, paragraph, report or story must have a central theme or topic – a golden thread throughout weaving together all the information in a lovely tapestry. The choosing of that golden thread is not for the faint of heart. It’s the key to good story telling. Well, our family has just returned from an incredible cruise adventure. My challenge is to decide which theme to weave through my story so you can enjoy it to the utmost. Should I simply list the ports of call? Let’s see, we started in Auckland, New Zealand on December 28 and proceeded each day to a different city in that country: Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. The final day, we sailed through Fjordland’s Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound (Pix in the slideshow at the right). Hmmmm. That account seemed rather boring, didn’t it? And our cruise was anything but boring. So let’s try another theme. How about all that went wrong with our trip? We missed the first five days of the cruise – one of those days because of bad weather, the other four due to (at best) unhelpful, (and at worst) incompetent folks at our cruise line. We were then stranded in Auckland’s airport for more than three hours because Royal Caribbean’s rep. never showed up to meet us. When we finally got on the ship, a driving rain caused us to miss our first port altogether. The food was terrible – no lobster tails served the entire cruise. Four of the six ports were a 30-40 minute drive inland, and the cruise line shuttle buses were outrageously priced. Well, that theme is worse than boring. It’s ungrateful and depressing! So let’s try a happy theme: We arrived in Auckland a day before the ship docked, so we stayed in a fabulous 5-star hotel. Our girls base jumped from the Auckland Sky Tower (the highest bldg. in the southern hemisphere), and lived to laugh about it! We ate dinner each night with three wonderful couples, one Russian/Canadian, one Australian and one Israeli, who became dear friends. Roy won the ship’s ping-pong tournament (and got a gold medal) on his birthday! New Year’s Eve came twice this year – once New Zealand time and again 18 hours later as we watched the Times' Square ball drop on the ship's TV. We caught a glimpse of Sydney’s harbor before being whisked away to the airport. And most importantly, we spent 9 glorious, restful, uninterrupted days with our adult daughters and the precious parents-of-our-hearts in a fabulous part of the world we’ve never seen before. Doesn’t that theme sound better? And I could choose other themes and tell you much, much more, but I had to just hit the highlights.

As did the writers of Scripture. Those who wrote God’s Word wrote with one Theme in mind – God – and then they hit the highlights. As I read the introduction to Genesis in Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, it occurred to me that the reason Genesis reads like Swiss cheese (it has lots of holes – come on, keep up!) is that the author only included the information that was central to the theme of God. All those questions like: Who did Cain and Abel marry? Where do dinosaurs fit in? Where exactly was the Garden of Eden? Who were the Nephilim? don’t really matter in the central theme of the story about God. So the author left those details out! So move on. Get past it. Enjoy the story he DID write…

Gen. 1:1a – “In the beginning God created…”

  • Right there it is. The author, probably Moses, tells us the theme of his Book. God. As Eugene Peterson said in The Message, “First God…If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God in the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God. Genesis pulls us into a sense of reality that is God-shaped and God-filled.” Genesis is all about God because our lives are to be all about God. There was nothing before God, and everything after Him, He created. After Creation, we find God at the center of every reported incident, every life, every struggle, every victory.

Gen. 1:1b – “…the heavens and the earth.”

  • Do you get a little squeamish when people talk about fortune telling and spiritual forces in the dark world? Let this verse calm all your fears. God is the ultimate Creator. Without His creative power, nothing would exist. In heaven above or on this earth or under the earth – our God reigns. He created everything human eyes have seen as well as the worlds science has not yet uncovered. He created the physical world that we taste, touch, see, hear and smell; just as He created the metaphysical world that is beyond our senses. But let there be no mistake. There is one God, and He reigns over His Creation – the heavens and the earth.

Lord, as I have come to know you as my Savior over the years, You’ve become my Friend and my Comforter. It’s been a blessing to know You more intimately each day, but with that intimacy comes a level of familiarity that threatens to diminish my awe of Your power. As I read Your Story, reawaken my awe at Your power and glory.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Blog for Writers

Hey, writing buddies - and all of you closet writers out there! I just got news of a great blog that just started Jan. 5th, consisting of seven talented gals who have some exciting things to say about writing fiction.

At Novel Matters they will discuss the art of fine fiction from the viewpoint of author and reader. They will talk about what makes good fiction good, and what writers can do to improve their work. Those of you who read lots of fiction can also be of help as you offer insight into what makes for the most interesting reading. It's a great blog for everyone, and you'll find a quick link listed at the bottom right of my blog - along with several other writers' blogs that might be of interest to you.