Five Ways To Avoid Regret




Years ago, when I was still in college in Ohio, I’d go home during the summer to find a temporary job.

At the beginning of my senior year I talked with another music major in the conservatory about what we’d done for our summers. I had worked at a self-serve gas station. My friend told me about her three months working at a national park in Montana. She had cleaned rooms and served food at a lodge. During her free hours, she and some other music theater students had rehearsed skits and songs that they later performed for some of the guests at the lodge. My friend looked refreshed and happy. She fairly glowed as she told me about her experiences.

As she told me what her summer had looked like, I felt a huge sinking inside my chest. I had missed out on an exciting opportunity where I could have used my musical talent, gained some valuable experience, and enjoyed a season living in one of the country’s most beautiful parks.

Why hadn’t I done more research about the possible summer jobs for college students? Why hadn’t I been at the right place at the right time to hear about national park jobs? (This was way before one could do a google search on the computer.)

Of course, this wasn’t the first, or the last time I would miss out on an opportunity.

I’ve thought to myself many times that it’s not the things I’ve done I regret; it’s the things I haven’t done that haunts me, and might plague me at the end of my life.

Today, most of the times when I miss out it’s because  I’m living on auto pilot. When I forget to live intentionally, and fearlessly:

  1. to really hear when people talk
  2. to ask questions everywhere I go
  3. to reflect on what’s the very best that I can do, (I always find this “best” in the Bible.) not just what’s okay, or good enough
  4. to pray to God each day: “What do you have for me to do this day? I’m listening.”
  5. to obey God’s gentle nudge to volunteer, join, phone, invite, help, host, befriend, etc.

I don’t want to look back with regret. To kick myself because I was too afraid, or too unwilling to give up some emotional or physical comfort in order to respond to God’s call to do my “best.”

I remind myself every day: It’s not usually what I do that I regret (okay, maybe sometimes); it’s what I don’t do that fills me with regret.

Five ways to avoid regret?

Remember HARPO:

Hear, Ask, Reflect, Pray, Obey.





“Love Casts Out Fear”

Last night my husband and I attended a presentation at our church given by Mark-Lori Amini, a former Iranian Imam. Mark was a devout Muslim Imam at the University in Tehran. In 1993, while in the United States for the purpose of seeking medical care, Mark accepted Jesus Christ.  Now Mark shares the love of Jesus, particularly to those who speak the Farsi language.  He is able to share the good news of God’s love through his ministry, Hayate Ministries, which reaches over 46 million Muslims weekly.

Since so many more Muslims are entering our country, our church has become more interested in reaching these dear people with the message of the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. Muslims are very sincere in their beliefs, but they do not know that they can have assurance of salvation when they die. They do not know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He loves people so much that he died on the cross so that everyone who believes will have eternal life. (john 3:15)


After the presentation, various books and pieces of information were laid out on a table for us to take and read. I chose a book about an Egyptian Christian—Brother Nathan— who has given his life to establishing and running a school in Egypt for training the next generation of young people to know and to share about Jesus.

The book is called Love Casts Out Fear, by Brother Nathan and David Culross, published in 2015 by Baker Books.

I couldn’t put the book down and finished reading it that very night. Brother Nathan’s father—a pastor—was murdered by Islamic terrorist. For a number of years, Nathan struggled with thoughts and feelings of revenge and hatred. But when he gave his life to Christ,  God gave him forgiveness for his father’s murderers.

Later, Brother Nathan studied to become a pastor, and God called him to establish a Christian school in Cairo.

I highly recommend this inspirational and informative book about what Christians experience in Egypt.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1st John 4:18, 19 NIV Bible)

This Ain’t Paradise

2005 Sequoia Park Camping 035

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: how we humans continually try to make our lives…

as peaceful,

as clutterless and simplified,

as pain-free and healthy,

as secure and free of perplexing and unanswerable questions as possible.

We seek perfect relationships,

perfect jobs,

perfect houses and schools,

perfect churches,

perfect communities.

I have to remind myself in my own Don Quixote quest: It ain’t gonna happen.

Because this world ain’t paradise.

Remember, long ago we were expelled from paradise? Cherubim with flaming swords guarded the entrance so that no one could come in.

And ever since that awful day, we all have sought to re-enter paradise. Whether we’re aware of it or not, our quest for paradise is demonstrated by seeking happiness and pain-free relationships, through religions, philosophies, the quest for wealth or celebrity. This is our attempt to return to the days before our intimate fellowship with God was broken.

Every time I hear someone ask the question, “How could a loving God permit such suffering in the world?” I imagine I hear the echo of Adam and Eve’s anguished cries outside the portal to Paradise.

I think we have, in our very DNA, the memory of how life could have, should have been. And we yearn for that unreachable, historic reality.

Jesus Himself entered this fallen world as a baby and experienced what we experience. Jesus did not try to make this present world paradise for His disciples. (It certainly wasn’t paradise for Him!) He said, “In this world you will have trouble…”(John 16:33)

I remind myself: Dena, don’t expect this present world to be pain-free and untroubled. No matter how mature and kind you become, no matter how much you learn of God and submit to Him, no matter how much you give to others in life-giving words and good actions, you cannot transfer Eden’s perfection, characterized by sinless, unfettered, intimate fellowship with God to your current circumstances.

I tell myself: Dena, expect things to go wrong each day. Trust God. Walk by faith in God’s promise of unfailing love and presence. Be encouraged by these words:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they might have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14 NIV Bible)

That will be Paradise.

36 Hours


I graduated Yay! 36 hours of training and assessment for being a volunteer at the Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic.

It’s kind of scary, because I still don’t feel prepared to handle all the challenges that will surely come as I meet with clients and help them sort through their options, and help prepare them for motherhood.

The ladies on staff at the Clinic are awesome: godly, skilled, affirming, deeply caring and compassionate. Really, they’re warriors surrounded by a hostile environment that would like very much to shut down the clinic.

During our six-hour per day training sessions, we opened with a Bible study on Ephesians 6:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray…”

None of God’s protective blessings comes from me. My job is to choose to walk in His power, not my own.

And that is my great comfort. That my work at the clinic does not depend on me. God does the work of changing hearts.

When I get this mixed up and start thinking it all depends on me, my peace flies out the window.

  • The truth that I can stand on is not my truth; it’s God’s truth
  • The breastplate of righteousness has nothing to do with anything good I’ve done. (Hah!) It’s the righteousness of Jesus, covering my most vital body parts.
  • The gospel of peace isn’t my personal message of how I found peace (even though my story might be powerful), but God’s provision of reconciliation and peace we can have with Him because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross.
  • The shield of faith isn’t something I can muster. That, too, is a gift from God.
  • The helmet of salvation protects my head, where every wayward thought and feeling once separated me from God.
  • And the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—speaks God’s thoughts, not mine.

Again, I say, what a comfort!

“Lord, You are holy; may Your kingdom come and Your will be done. And may I simply be faithful to do whatever it is You want me to do each day.”

Little Zeke’s Gift

He’s about nine or ten. A handsome boy with dark hair and soul eyes.

Each Sunday morning before the worship service begins, little Zeke (not his real name, but he’s a real boy) moves across each row of seats to greet and shake hands with people.

Not just a few of the worshipers, either. Zeke greets everyone. Then he goes up to the balcony and gets to everyone there, too. From his eagle’s eyrie, Zeke spies late-comers downstairs. He swoops down the stairs again to greet them, too.

When Zeke greets me, with his sincere gaze and tender palm, my mother’s heart makes me want to embrace him and give him a squeeze. But I don’t detain him because Zeke has a mission.

The adults have many cares and worries. Maybe they’re thinking about the next church business meeting, or their big to-do list, or a bill they have to pay this week.

But Zeke is in the moment, scanning the sanctuary for anyone he might have missed.

His little-boy attention feels like a tender reminder from the Holy Spirit: “I’m so glad you’re here. I love you. Now, go and do what Zeke is doing.”

Zeke is a minister of the Gospel.

He doesn’t need a pulpit or a lectern to preach.

He doesn’t need a white board and markers to teach.

Or a piano to help him sing.

Zeke communicates God’s love and encouragement each Sunday: “I notice you, you are significant, you are welcome.”

May I be like Zeke, with an eye out for others. Each day.

What a gift!

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us…if it is encouraging, let him encourage. (Romans 12:6,7 NIV Bible)

Hunting For Bunnies

A beautiful cat lives somewhere around here. She frequently visits our backyard. With stripes and spots and stealthy movements, she behaves just like a leopard or tiger in the jungle, and I call her “Beautiful.”

Beautiful always comes from the south side of our wooded yard. Crosses through the steep middle section, behind the rhododendron, under  the bows of the cedars, languidly trailing her long tail under the hanging blackberry vines as if enjoying the scratch of the thorns.

She’s looking for bunnies.

Bunnies do occasionally browse in and around our shrubs. I’ve seen them.

But not always.

But Beautiful comes in nearly every day with the full expectation of catching one.

I remarked to myself the other day that Beautiful is a reminder of the importance of persistence and of checking back already-searched areas.

Yesterday I received a sweetly-phrased rejection from an editor to one of my literary submissions.

Of course my first reaction was disappointment, followed by the usual, “I can’t believe they didn’t want this project; it’s so good.”

Then I felt the inevitable, “Maybe I should give up writing.”

After I calmed down, I remembered Beautiful.


How she keeps coming back, again and again.

Because today might be the day that she actually catches her bunny.

So I decide to keep trying, and I thank God for reminding me that survivors—like Beautiful—only survive because they don’t give up.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll catch my bunny in the bushes.

“Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” (T.H. Huxley)

Fall Delights

In honor of the advent of fall, my husband and I took a long drive through the Cascade mountains of Washington.

There’s a wonderful spot—I think it’s new—called the Washington Overlook— on highway 20 near the summit. You can park and walk some winding trails that lead to spectacular scenes, like the one my husband snapped of me in front of these mountains.

As soon as we stepped out of our car, we were immediately greeted in noisy fashion by Stellar Jays and Grey Jays. These greedy beggars nearly flew into our open sky light. They hopped right up to us, reading our intent with bold inquisitiveness.


“I’m sorry, birds. No snacks today. Next time, we’ll have plenty of handouts for ya.”

A few hours later we pulled into Leavenworth, a charming, small town known for its Swiss architecture and tourist shops and restaurants.


Leaves are turning and the air is getting crisp. Our drive, and the changing air put me in a mind to find a good fall-type recipe.

So last week, energized by the cool, moist northwestern air, I tried to come up with my own version of an apple and sweet potato hash.

If you’re like me and you can’t or shouldn’t eat regular white potatoes, this Yam/apple hash might fill the bill:

Yam/Apple Hash (@ 3 to 4 servings)

One good-sized yam or sweet potato, peeled and thin sliced and diced

Two apples, your choice, peeled and thin diced

Olive oil or another healthy oil

Four breakfast sausage links.

One smallish yellow onion, diced

Salt (1/4 teasp)

pepper,to taste

cayenne (@ 1/8 teasp),

cinnamon (@1/4 teasp)

optional: Maple syrup (Grade B)

(If you’d rather, you can roast the yams in a hot oven for about half an hour) But I was impatient, so my recipe says:

Peel and thin slice and dice the yam. In a good-sized skillet, brown and cook the yam in the oil until almost tender. Add the onion and continue to cook. Meanwhile, slice and brown the sausage in another smaller skillet. To the bigger skillet, add the diced apple. Stir to mix., and scrape the pan often. When the yams and apples are soft, add the sliced sausage. Sprinkle in the pepper, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon.

Serve with Paleo or gluten free muffins, some eggs, some coffee. Yummy breakfast!

Bruce likes to put a little bit of syrup over his hash. Whatever.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Remember, you can always adjust the amounts and add other ingredients. This is just a basic guideline, and springboard for your creativity.

Enjoy your fall season!

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts


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