All posts by Dena Netherton

I'm a wife, mom, grand-mom, singer, pianist, guitarist, teacher, speaker and writer of stories and articles that point the way to Christ. I'm a lover of nature, good food, well-written books, great music, artfully directed theater, and late-night discussions about philosophy.

You Don’t Need To Survive

Fifteen years ago, in Paradise, CA —yes, that ill-fated town that later suffered a catastrophic fire— I heard a sermon that shocked and challenged me.

It was entitled: “You Don’t Need to Survive.”

The pastor spoke of our need to let everything go in the knowledge that Christ has given all for us, and we have been bought with a price. Christ, having purchased our souls, we should ready ourselves to do the same.

He spoke about missionaries in hostile countries, of lay people and pastors in countries where Christ is the enemy of the government, of businessmen and women working in companies that celebrate the acquisition of wealth even to the extent of disregarding powerless people.

Our pastor said that in the light of all that we have gained through faith in Christ, the loss of our physical lives is virtually nothing in comparison.

“You don’t need to survive” is antithetical to our instinctual drive to survive. Yet, the pastor repeated this phrase over and over within the body of his sermon.

But the survival  instinct, in faith-filled believers, and in extraordinary times, must be subjugated in order to fulfill a higher purpose than mere physical survival.

And when I say that I was shocked at the pastor’s message, it’s not because I had never considered the reality of Christians dying for their faith. It was the phrase: “you don’t need…”

“You don’t need.”

What? Of course I need to survive. I mean, isn’t it the most basic need? It shows itself from the beginning, at a newborn’s first cry, at the sucking of its fist, the startle reflex, the toddler’s first attempt at deceiving its parents to avoid discipline, clinging to Mama at seeing a strange, new face.

Our Creator God put that instinct inside each of us.

But the apostle Paul said: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV)

And the apostle Peter said: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Pet. 4:12)

According to these great apostles, being willing to suffer for identifying with Christ and His Word—even to the point of death— is the mark of the true believer.

Many Christians are aware of how our nation is becoming increasingly hostile toward people of faith. If this trend continues (and I believe it will) how will we as believers navigate this strange new world? Will we simply melt into the new fabric, or will we hold to our integrity and our orthodoxy?

The price may be great. Already, some teachers, professors, and others have lost their jobs for daring to disagree with the present correct stance.

We will all have to determine what is a hill to choose to die on. Will we keep silent when our HR departments instruct us to agree with bad and harmful beliefs?

Will we teachers teach new but false histories, sciences, philosophies, sociologies? Or will it be a personal hill on which to choose our own professional  death?

Will we leave a church that harps on and on about social issues but ignores preaching the soul-saving gospel? Are we willing to leave old friends and fun fellowship for the sake of clinging to right doctrine?

The other day I read an article about the church in China, how the communist government is very concerned by its rapid growth. What to do? I wanted to write a letter to the Chinese government and tell them how to make the church die: “Leave the church alone, give them tax benefits, approve their message, their work. Then watch them, in their newfound freedom, begin to tear each other apart, argue about doctrine, watch churches split, watch its members grow lukewarm and ineffectual in the face of all this luxurious freedom. Sirs, the way to destroy the church is by leaving them alone!”

I predict that, in the coming years, we western believers will face the same kind of snuffing out, disappearing, persecution that our Chinese brothers and sisters face. Are we willing to “not survive?”

Something to think about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9: 24 NIV)

 

 

The Comfort of Link

I was thinking the other day about keeping upbeat during these days of hiding away from a virus and masking away any possibility of meeting and connecting with new friends.

I hate these blasted masks! It thwarts my desire to connect with others at church, in the marketplace, in the neighborhood.

So I spend extra time at home. Besides having Bruce at home, I have extra time to read and study, pray, write, and FaceTime with some of my remote friends.

I also find solace by cuddling with my funny and outgoing cat, Link.

Link is a large marmalade cat with longish fur and an especially luxuriant tale. When he walks he uses his tail like a dancer’s scarf, gracefully waving it from side to side over his rump.

When he stretches, he brings his lithe tail up so high, it arcs over his body, touching the back of his head. He knows this impresses me because he looks at me after his stretching as if to say, “Ill bet you can’t do that.”

His orange eyes look just like a tiger’s, and when he walks toward me, eyes fixed on mine, I feel a little thrill of danger.

But in the morning, when I open my bedroom door, he’s waiting for me. He immediately says, “Prrt,” and rolls over onto his back, stretching his impossibly long torso out like a slinky.

I can’t resist the bate, and he knows this. I bend to rub his belly. And he bites me.

He’s learned not to bite hard.

He’s also learned to head butt my forehead. When he jumps onto the couch, I say, “head butt,” and lower my head. His little furry head meets mine with a gentle thump, and I can’t help laughing.

He comes when I call him. If I’m downstairs when I call him, I laugh when I hear the bump of his feet hitting the carpet– he’s on someone’s bed or dresser–then the horse-like gallop down the stairs and the quick search to find me. I love that because I’ve never having had a cat that would come when called.

When I’m in the bathroom, he, outside, meowing for me, slides an inquisitive paw under the door, feeling around. As many times as he does this, I always laugh.

Sometimes he forms his body into what my oldest son describes as a “kitty loaf,” folding his paws underneath, eyes half open, slowly blinking, sometimes purring.

When I say his name, his eyes open a bit wider and he gives me what I can only describe as a cat’s look of love. His tail, warming his haunches, perfectly molded to his side, twitches slightly, then stills.

When I sit at our kitchen counter, he jumps up and sits at another chair, watching, his twitching nose or tail asking questions.

And I thank God that I have this little attentive, affectionate, orange creature who follows me around, offering his companionship. Filling me with delight when he ‘talks’ to me with his mrrrrows, prrrrts, kick, kick kicks, meows, and purrs.

Yes, I sorely miss people, but for the time being, I have the comfort of Link.

Don’t these photos make you feel a little more peaceful?

“Pangur, white Pangur. Oh, how happy we are. Alone together, scholar and cat.” 

Embrace Your Elements

We’re in the process of making a transition from the wet, but beautiful northwest  to cold and windy southeast Wyoming.

Each year, in the state of Washington, I geared up (literally) for the onslaught of constant rain and dark during the fall and winter and spring days. It seemed as if as soon as October arrived, so did the gloomy weather.

Now, before the covid lockdowns this wasn’t much of a problem. I’d just load up my backpack with writing supplies and my laptop and head on over to my favorite coffee places. I’d sit by the fire, with my laptop, enjoying its warmth as I occasionally gazed outside to watch the boats glide by in the harbor. 

I found ways to enjoy the rain. And sometimes there’s something kind of romantic and mysterious about the cloudy weather that lends itself to imagining all kinds of potential stories to be stored away for future writing days.

But in Wyoming, dark clouds are rare (yay!) and sunshine is plentiful (big yay), but wind is an almost daily occurrence.

And I don’t mean whimpy wind. I mean WIND. The kind of wind that knocks semis off the interstate, and makes  walking a challenge of strength just to maneuver in a straight line. The kind of wind that screams around building corners and sends clouds of dust powerful and gritty-sharp enough to scalp a hatless man or woman.

I woke up this morning to another windy onslaught and gritted my teeth. Another day of wind? Oh no, God. Please make it stop.

But the wind is not going to stop. This is the way of Wyoming. The high altitude and treeless prairies invite the wind to fill the empty spaces. And the wind obliges, with gusto.

I saw some pronghorn antelope recently. I’m amazed how these creatures survive out in the open range during the cold and wind.

We’re building a nice, big house on acreage where we intend to plant fruit trees and berry bushes and anything else that is able to stay grounded. Everyone around here with land plants wind barriers of bushes and evergreen trees on the north and west of their property to shield their home. Good idea!

So, what’s good about the wind?

  • It cleanses. Not too much air pollution around here!
  • It brings good things like much needed precipitation from the west.
  • It gets my imagination rolling because the wind sounds like music, and music is the brain’s  great motor.
  • It makes me strong. Otherwise I’d blow away!
  • It reminds me of the power of God, and calls me to pray.

The Gospel of Christmas Carols

 

 

My mom was part of an organization that helps young women go to college. One of her duties during the holidays was to find musical talent to perform for their local chapter.

My four brothers and sisters and I were the talent on three different years. None of us danced, and our piano talents weren’t developed enough for us to be effective entertainment.

But we all had good voices, and with my mother’s considerable pianistic talent, we rehearsed and prepared a sweet program, complete with three-part harmony and even solos.

Oh, I wish I had a photo of the five of us standing in front of my grandmother’s grand piano, dressed in our cute Christmas outfits, singing our Christmas carols. Those are
precious memories.

Most precious of all to me as a five-year-old was learning the words to the carols:

“Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.”

As a five year old I  wondered, how can a newborn baby be a King? I thought kings were old men with beards and crowns, wearing royal robes.

We sang: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

Wow, this King lay in a manger, not a soft crib in a palace. Why?

I wondered a lot as I learned my carols.

For instance, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing.”

How can a heart let Jesus in? Oh, I wanted to know. And so began a quest to find out more about this Lord Jesus and how He can come so close that He can be inside of me.

The beauty of the music touched my soul. Such beauty would have to fit a great and good King.

And the words of the carols created beautiful images in my mind of this baby King. Angels announced him. (He must be very, very important!)

And shepherds left their sheep so they could hurry to Bethlehem to see Him. (Again, He must be way more important than most people.)

Wise men from the east followed a bright star. And when they found the baby Jesus they worshipped Him. How did they know Jesus was Someone to be worshipped? (I wondered this when I was seven, and preparing for our second Christmas performance.)

I mean, we’re supposed to obey a King. But worship Him? Only God gets worship. (Somebody told me this; I can’t remember who.)

So this baby Jesus was more than a king? He must be God?

No one in my family could answer my question. I didn’t have a Bible, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have known where to look in its pages to find the answer.

Jesus is God?

He must be. All those Christmas carols we were learning affirmed my question. And those wonderful words comforted me and let me know that there is a God who knows me, who came to make things right, who is worthy of worship as truly God.

Years passed, and with each Christmas holiday I sang those carols. And each time I did, the truth of the words drew me toward Jesus. I didn’t know Him, but I knew of Him. I wanted to  embrace Him, but there was no one to tell me how.

Finally, as a teen, a Sunday school teacher explained how to turn from all the bad things in me, and invite Jesus into my life.

Whenever I think of how Jesus used Christmas carols to prepare my heart to receive Him, I tremble with the wonder of His love.

I think this is the essence of Christmas, at least for me. That God looked down from heaven and loved this little un-churched girl in Rio Vista, California, and made a way through music to teach her and draw her to Him.

Oh, thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord Jesus!

Best Laid Plans

Here’s the inside of our cute Winnebago. We named her Winnie. Not very original, but it works for us.

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We planned to go camping near Mt. Rainier last Friday. We had reservations at a very nice RV resort and fully stocked our trailer fridge with goodies for breakfast, lunch and dinner for four days under the shadow of the sublime mountain.

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But on Wednesday, I woke up with a sore spot on my head, right in front of my ear. About the size of a bean. But quite sore.

Hmm. well, it’ll go away in a few days. I ignored the sore spot.

Until Thursday. This is what the pain looked like:

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My painful spot had grown from a bean to a small plum and was approaching the early stages of agony. I told myself, “Doggone it, this thing must go away on its own. I’m not going to miss our camping trip.”

I took a couple of ibuprofen and went to bed. The pain had now grow so bad it was like someone had bludgeoned me with a two-by-four.  But I’m a stubborn gal. I toughed it out until 4 am.

“Ow, ow!” I can’t stand it anymore,” I told my husband. “I’m going to the ER.”

I thought, maybe I’ll get right in and the doctor will say it’s nothing: “It’s just a bug bite. Here, take some aspirin.”

Bruce dropped me off in front of the ER entrance and went to park. After the guard at the ER entrance took my temperature and asked me if I had any of “these covid symptoms” and I said, “no . . . no . . . no . . . no, ” etc. to his list, he let me go inside.

Amazingly, they took me right in and the intake nurse did all the usual intake stuff. Another nurse put me in a ‘room,’ and asked me more questions. Finally, the ER doctor came in and I told him how painful my plum-size spot was.

“Hmm,” he said, “yes, it does look significantly bigger than the other side of your head.” Then he pressed firmly on my spot. I’m usually very spartan about pain, but the doc’s poking felt like another wham of the two-by-four.

“Ow, ow, ow!”

At my outburst, the compassionate nurse made a compassionate sound and the creasing of her skin above her mask told me she understood. The doctor said, “You’ve got an inflamed lymph node and you’ll need a CT scan with contrast so we can see what’s going on in there.”

The nurse gave me two oxycodone for the pain.

They gowned me and rolled me on a gurney through a labyrinth of halls until we reached radiology. After that was done, we rolled back to my curtained cubicle to wait for the doctor. And the whole time, I was thinking, “Doggone it, I’m going on this camping trip if it kills me. We’ve been waiting for months to do this and I’m not gonna let a little lymph node boss me around!”

Bruce came inside and sat down to help me wait.

“How’re you doing?” the nurse asked me.

“I’m feeling no pain. in fact, I feel kind of wonderful right now.”

“Yes, that oxycodone is a very effective painkiller.”

Just then the doctor arrived. “Well, it looks like you’ve probably got some sort of infection somewhere in your body and the lymph node is trying to fight it off. So, I’m going to write you a prescription for an antibiotic . . . oh, and some more oxycodone.”

“Ok, ” I said kind of meekly, “but I still wanna go camping this weekend.”

The doctor’s eyes went round and his eyebrows shot upward. “Well, I guess you can go, as long as you’re pretty near a medical facility in case you need it.” He handed me the prescriptions, and I thanked him.

I changed into my street clothes and followed Bruce out. That’s when I realized I could barely walk straight under the influence of the oxycodone. Plus, nausea was threatening to send me running for the nearest restroom.

What was I thinking, insisting on camping while popping pain pills? Bruce helped me down the steps and into the car. “Bruce, I’m so, so sorry for this, ” I said as I struggled to buckle my car seat. “I know you were really excited to go camping.”

He smiled kind of sadly. “That’s ok. You get better and we’ll find another weekend to go camping.”

So our lovely Mt Rainier trip got cancelled. Actually, we postponed it till next summer.

And I spent the weekend sprawled on my bed, ‘watching’ TV. And Link stayed close by as my feline personal nurse.

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I don’t know why the Lord allowed this to happen. Yet, it’s not the end of the world, just a minor disappointment.

However, I learned a bit more about making plans.

Life is uncertain. Yes, I know that. Plans can fail. Yep, I know that, too. God has not given us the gift of seeing what’s around the corner. Uh huh. But He has given us the promise of His abiding presence and never-failing love.

I felt Him near that weekend as I slowly recovered. I read the Word and prayed for others, and slept for hours at a time, like a two-year-old.

That was God’s plan.

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