Second-hand Light

 

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A few days ago, after what seemed like hours at the mall trying to run down the perfect gift for my mother in law, I carried my packages out into a now dark parking lot outside Macy’s, started my car, and headed out onto Baker View Rd.

I’d gone east on Baker View for at least half a mile before my first red light. One other car waited in front of me at the stop light.

The guy in that car suddenly got out of his car and approached my vehicle. My heart rate jumped into emergency mode. Was the man upset with my driving? Was he going to tell me off? Assault me?

But then, he pointed at the front of my car, and pantomimed turning on lights.

Oh my goodness, I’d never turned on my lights! I’d been driving un-illuminated all the way from the mall. I hadn’t noticed because I’d been surrounded by the glow of ambient light from businesses, Christmas lights, and other vehicles.

I waved a thanks and the man climbed back into his car just in time for the green light. “Lord, thank You for sending this man to tell me about my lights.”

As I drove home, it occurred to me that there is a powerful spiritual application for this experience.

When surrounded by light, an individual’s awareness of their own darkness is dimmed.

I suspect this is the case with many church-goers, operating each day, guided only by others’ light. Unaware that there is no life and light from God’s Spirit within themselves.

I think this is equally true for those secular people who enjoy the blessings—though fading—of a once-Christian nation.

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And in this season of light: the light of God’s advent, the truth contained in our Christmas music, the message of joy—He is born, the Divine Christ Child!— ringing out from churches, it is a good time to ask ourselves: do I possess the light of God’s Presence that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, which came upon me when I placed my faith in the Person and work of Christ on the cross of redemption?

Or do I merely enjoy the ‘second-hand’ blessing of light shed on me as a result of other people’s faith?

2nd Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

 

Enjoyment of the lovely aspects of the church: the music, the praise, the fellowship, an inspiring message, does not make one a Believer.

Adhering to certain Christian tenets does not make one a Believer.

Participating in ministry activities, taking communion, repeating Christian doctrinal statements does not send the light of Christ’s presence into your soul.

Only a genuine recognition of your inability to make yourself acceptable through your own efforts, and a trusting in what Jesus did for you on the cross, makes you a Believer.

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (John 8:12 NIV Bible)

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Welcome to my Website

Hello! Welcome to my website.

Here you’ll find information on my published books and smaller works, my blog posts, and up-coming speaking or teaching events.

Also, below I encourage you to fill out the form to receive my monthly newsletter where I talk about my experiences as a Christian writer, anecdotes about the process of crafting a novel, as well as information regarding my latest book releases. I hope you’ll consider signing up for the newsletter. I’m a people person and I love connecting with my readers.

As a thank you for signing up, I’d like to offer you an opportunity to read the first chapter of my latest suspense, Haven’s Flight. Look out for an email with your free chapter!

God bless you!

Dena Netherton…“Up All Night Fiction”

I Miss My Grandparents

My grandmother was born in 1900, and grew up on a farm outside the very tiny town of Anita, Iowa.

Her mother had died when she was a girl. Her father needed a wife to take care of the domestic duties and to mind the six children, so he advertised and married a woman “in name only.”

This new wife, in time, became much beloved by the children, and eventually Grandmommy’s daddy, too. Soon, their marriage became a real love story.

Grandmommy watched her brothers travel to Berkeley, California to study at the University. Since she was anxious to escape the farm environment that held her a prisoner (Oh, she wanted excitement and glamour), she followed them to UC Berkeley to get her college degree…and a husband. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and many guys wanted to marry her. But she sensibly chose my grandfather, Jay Reed, a man with good moral character, a strong work ethic (he, too, had grown up on a farm), and business ambition.

(That’s my grandmother, in the center of the photo, with her siblings. Still good-looking even at the age of fifty!)

Granddaddy eventually became the CEO of a successful import/export firm in San Francisco, and a few years before World War II broke out he bought a lovely home in an exclusive district in the city.

But the farm ethic was strong in both of them.

In one corner of the garage, they had an old wash and rinse tub with a wringer overhanging the tub. On Mondays, the two of them would dunk their laundry in the steaming tub and wait while the old machine slowly churned. Granddaddy always made us stay well away of the tub and the wringer. He was super cautious about everything that could possibly endanger us. They put the laundry items through the wringer, then the rinse, then the ringer again. Even years after Granddaddy died, my grandmother kept that old washing machine.

After the wringer,everything got hung on a wire that Granddaddy had strung down the length of the garage. Grandmommy had a contraption call a mangle. Some of you older people know what that is. Her sheets and table cloths and napkins had been heavily starched, and then they would go through the mangle for pressing.

A coal man used to deliver coal and set it in a bin in their garage. On cold days, Granddaddy would tote a big lump upstairs for their fireplace.

Granddaddy worked in the financial district of San Francisco right at the bottom of all those impossible hills that cable cars climb. He rode the street cars there and back, and when he arrived home, Grandmommy would have his favorite bourbon and soda and some little appetizers ready for him. They’d sit in the lanai (a kind of sun room) and talk for about an hour while Granddaddy’s favorite chicken was baking in the oven.

Their life was predictable and organized, quiet, and unemotional. They had rules, which we followed without question. One did not question people of that generation.

No running in the house. No yelling. No “unglamorous frowns.”

Put your wraps in the closet immediately. In fact, everything in its place.

No feet on furniture.

Do not touch Grandmommy’s international dolls in the linen closet.

And especially…do not sit in Mr. Howell’s chair. Ever. Grandmommy had explained who Mr. Howell was, but that memory had become buried or lost by early childhood mental pruning We didn’t dare ask for a re-telling of the story of Mr. Howell and the reason for my grandparent’s devotion to his memory.  Still, we never touched Mr. Howell’s chair, even though the man had long since passed away.

My grandparents had lived a long time, and even though they didn’t tell too many stories from the old days, we knew their brain’s mental archives had shelved a wealth of them.

Granddaddy played the piano sometimes, usually at the end of a dinner party. He especially liked to play 1920 era pop duets with my uncle Harold. I loved the funny old lyrics. Granddaddy put his heart into his playing, which was about the only time he let emotion show.

I loved my grandparents and respected them. I loved their rules, even the ones that didn’t make sense, because I knew their wisdom far exceeded mine.

I miss the days of respect for older people. For the old memories and stories, the lovely rules of etiquette, the way men tipped their hats and held doors and carried packages for women,  the culture that makes no sense to the younger generation, the civility, the expectation of good behavior, and the censure of wrong speech and actions.

Do you feel sad, too, for the loss of that generation?

 

 

 

Hate To Write Bios

 

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Today, I was tasked with writing two bio’s, a short one and a longer one for my publisher. Really short is not so hard because there’s so little you can say. You just write, “Dena Netherton used to sing and teach, but now she writes. Here’s what she writes…”

Bada bing, bada boom.

The slightly longer bio is harder. Because, if it were a really long bio I could write all sorts of boring stuff that you really don’t want to read, and it would be okay, ’cause it’s supposed to be long.

But @250 words is challenging. I can’t be boring, but I can’t do the Joe Friday style—”just the facts, Ma’am—” either.

Should I leave out all the usual stuff about being born and raised near San Francisco, where I studied (the Midwest), and where I’ve lived? (Just about everywhere in the continental US.)

The middle-sized bios I don’t like are this kind: “Jane lives in the country with two cats, three dogs, and a grumpy husband. But she loves coffee. Lots of it. In her free time she loves to go to yard sales.”

First of all, I don’t have a dog or a cat (please don’t come down on me; I love animals, particularly donkeys), and my husband is perfectly lovely. I’m not a particularly interesting person, either. On the plus side, I have musical talent, a high IQ, and I’m told my stories are pretty exciting. And I find everyone fascinating, so I’m good at listening.

On the negative? I’m short and looking older every time I pass the mirror. I love donuts, but I shouldn’t. Things stress me out because I’m a perfectionist. My memory isn’t as good as it was two decades ago.

Some weird things happened to me:

A police officer practically tackled me one dark night in San Francisco because he thought I was intending to bomb a high-ranking city official’s house.

I—a shy, Christian, non pot-smoking gal— rode a hippy bus, packed with pot-smoking, skinny-dipping, free-lovin’ hippies cross country. Somewhere between Cheyenne and Lincoln, NE, I got to share my faith with a guy. I still wonder what happened to him.

I’ve been assaulted several times—never seriously, though—while traveling to some of my many musical gigs.

I tumbled down a dark flight of stairs, but some unseen force—obviously an angel— caught me and gently placed me in a seated position on the steps.

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Now that you know these weird facts, you’ll never have to read an entire long bio of Dena Netherton.

But I’m still trying to figure out how to be interesting at under 250 words.

 

 

What If?: Writing Suspense

I have an imagination that seems to be suited for suspense. Maybe it comes from being the youngest child in my family and having to sort out when my bigger siblings were joke-threatening, or when they really meant it.

Disclaimer: I love my brothers and sisters and our sibling disagreements never amounted to more than squabbles. Nothing serious.

For example, when I annoyed my older sister too much, she’d say, “You’re going to get it.”

And I’d say, “Yeah? Well, what are you gonna do to me?”

“Just wait and see.”

She’d make a sudden move toward me—which might start as a wrestle to the floor, followed by an awful tickling session—and I’d squeal and run away.

My older brother left me with worse angst. The kind that comes from not having things fully explained. For a child too young for much abstract thought, my brother’s stories about the horrors of getting a cavity and having a “giant drill” blasting away inside my mouth sent me running to my dad for confirmation. Naturally, I’d pictured the dentist wielding a jackhammer.

And then there was the other story he told me about giant ants who ate people. This was loosely based on a newspaper article about swarms of giant ants attacking villagers in the Amazon. But I didn’t know where the Amazon jungle was when I was five. And my brother didn’t bother to explain that “giant” might have been one inch long, not six feet long. He joked about the ants coming up from my grandmother’s kitchen cabinets to get us at night. I was really scared of cabinets for several years.

Like earlier generations of children fed a nightly story-time of Grimm’s fairy tales, I learned to fear the dark, and what’s around the corner or inside certain cabinets, and to wonder if that horse in the pasture down the road is really just a horse, or an enchanted prince.

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Suspense—whether I’m writing a scene or a chapter or an entire novel— is all about unanswered questions. Now that I’m not wondering about the tall tales my brothers and sisters told me, here are the suspenseful questions I mused about this week. (I particularly like number 5)

  1. Is that religious gal I met at the bookstore for real? What’s behind her smile? Am I a new friend to her, or a potential cult follower?
  2. Do I know my friends well enough to trust them with a secret that means life or death for me?
  3. What if I woke up to find my family has disappeared and everyone insisted I never had a family?
  4. What if my husband were a foreign agent and he only told me this on his deathbed? But he left me with a post office key.
  5. What if anyone you were touching could not die? What if the wrong sort of people found out about your gift? What if they kidnapped you?

 

Do you like to read suspense? Some people read for escape. Is that why you read? What did you wonder about this week?

 

 

 

Above My Pay-Grade

“I gotta tell you, I’m not techy.” Imagine me screaming these words and you get the picture…or the audio.

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My publisher wants me to build my newsletter list. Simple for her. Not so simple for me.

My stomach is in knots, my head hurts, and my eyes are starting to blur.

I’m getting used to an email distribution system. The system instructions say:

“Type the recipient name here.”

Okay, but what about all the other names?”

“Drag this block over here…or wherever you want it.”

But it won’t stay where I put it.

“Upload a photo.” Ugh, it’s too big. How do I resize it?

“You have some text that needs to be removed.”

I go to remove it. “Are you sure you want to delete this text?”

“Cause once you do it, you’ll never ever, ever, ever, ever get it back. So ARE YOU SURE?”

Okay, it’s my first newsletter, so I hope my recipients are going to be understanding, even though I probably put the wrong names at the top of the letter.

Forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

This experience reminds me to show people grace. Just as I would want others to overlook my mistakes and perhaps give me an encouraging word. I’m trying to improve, and I’ll bet you are, too.

It’s good to learn new things. It teaches us humility!

 

 

 

We Love Our Readers Sweepstakes

 

FRONT Havens Flight

Hello Readers!

Several of the authors of Write Integrity Press (me included) are giving one lucky entry of the We Love Our Readers Sweepstakes a free Kindle or a 100 dollar Amazon Gift Card.

The Sweepstakes runs now through September 28th.

To enter, here’s the link:

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Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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