Category Archives: Christian faith

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— road 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.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Tiny, But Powerful

I turned off the news yesterday.

Not gonna watch it for awhile. It’s too distressing. It’s not the tragic stories themselves. It’s that every news media outlet spins the latest occurrences to reflect its own biases. Drives me crazy.

On a personal level, I do the same thing. I wish I could turn off my own tongue, too. My mind is filled with judgments, prejudices, criticisms, harsh words, or snarky comebacks. And my tongue practically pants to articulate those negative thoughts to anyone who will listen.

It’s not that I don’t also have some lovely thoughts, too. Those slip off my tongue like rain from our backyard big-leaf maple, nurturing the shrubs and flowers below.

May I alway rain this way!

Last week, Bruce and I stayed in the Seattle Marriott by the water. The scenes outside our windows thrilled me. To the west I viewed long ferries carrying cars and people to and from Bainbridge Island. To the south, towering office buildings, piers, restaurants, the Ferris Wheel, and beyond, magnificent Mount Rainier. Below, bustling car and pedestrian traffic moved along Alaskan Way.

Out in the sound, a gigantic cargo ship was being escorted south into the Harbor by a tug boat. Bruce and I watched for nearly a half hour, entranced by how such a tiny ship could pull the black behemoth, loaded with box cars. I imagined that the weight disparity between the two boats would be staggering. Yet, the cargo ship submitted to the leading of this tiny boat.

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Then, of course, the verses from James popped into my mind:
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue.” (James 3:4-7 NIV Bible)

In the world of boat and harbors,  a tiny tug boat is a good thing.

But in the heart and mind of a woman who sincerely wants to bless people, my tiny tongue leads me where I don’t want to go.

My tongue expresses the real thoughts and intentions of my heart. It mocks my occasionally self-satisfied state, those days when I think I’ve got it all under control.

“Aha, you super-Christian. You think you’re so mature and godly. Well, if you’re so good, how come you just said what you said?”

And I recognize again, that I simply lean into wrong-doing as easily as a dog to a fire hydrant.

It’s a comfort to know I’m not a lone in my struggle to tame my errant tongue. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15)

My goal is to sideline my negative speech with words such as these:

  • “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16)
  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6)
  • “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” (Psalm 34:1)
  • “Whoever of you lives life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34: 12-14)

What are your favorite verses on the subject?

Youth and Age: Better With God

I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes. What a great book.

The poetry is amazing. I love the author’s metaphors in chapter 12 for the aging process (something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately).

How about this?:

“When the keepers of the house tremble and the the strong men stoop.” Yes, at the age of 63 I’m beginning to understand this. It annoys me that I can’t bounce up the stairs like I used to. It bothers me that my back hurts after an hour of yard work.

My dad had been a strong, capable Army Air Corps pilot during World War two. But the years (here he is at the age of 92 at our daughter’s wedding) stole his vitality.

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“When men rise up at the sound of birds.” Yep, I awake at about 4:30. I remember my grandmother getting up at the crack of dawn, and I wondered, how does she do that?

“When men are afraid of heights.” As a child, I used to climb trees and perform gymnastic feats. Now, my balance isn’t as good as it used to be, and I worry that I’ll trip and fall down my own steps (like I did last year and almost broke my knees.)

Here’s me, going carefully down the steps near Lake Evergreen, CO. Bruce is holding Little Kira’s hand. I’m gripping the handrail.

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Age continues to surprise me. With every new ache or strain, I have to remind myself, “Oh, yes, you’re an older woman now.”

I bristle at the thought. In my mind I’m still 22, even though the mirror and the camera shock me with their harsh reality.

But I wouldn’t go back to that age. Even though I was in the thick of performing in shows, singing concerts and recitals, learning opera roles, finishing up my music degree, with wattage to burn at both ends of the day, I wouldn’t go back.

At that age, I hardly gave God a nod. Life was too much about me all the time.

I had a vague feeling that I was missing out spiritually, but I couldn’t jump off the merry-go-round. It was going too fast.

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Ecclesiastes says, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come…”

Oh, how well the author understood our frailty, our brief days of vitality.

Thank God, He intervened and communicated this message to me: Don’t waste your years only thinking about acquiring wealth, knowledge, degrees, fame. It only lasts a very short time.

Let Me order your days. Then what I call you to do will be something that will last beyond your brief time on earth.

Youth and age: better with God.

Where’d That Come From?

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“Where’d you ever come up with the idea for your book?”

I get asked that question at least once a week.

Why would a sweet little old lady write about an evil, delusional man who thinks he has met the re-incarnation of the girl he loved, but murdered?

My answer: I came up with my story idea years and years ago after I read a news article about a teenaged girl who had been abducted by a crazy guy, and taken into the wilderness.

At the time, I was about the same age as this girl, and I kept thinking, “What would I do if this happened to me? How would I survive? Would I be able to keep my wits about me even if I were terrified?

Gradually, over the years, a suspenseful but adventurous story began to percolate through my mind. Bits of my own experiences, scary imaginings, dark dreams, things I have read, suspenseful movies I’ve seen: these all contributed to the formulation of Haven’s Flight.

Can you imagine being lost in the densely forested Cascade Mountains, being injured, running from a man with murder on his mind? He’s got all the odds in his favor. He knows the woods, he’s an expert hunter and tracker, he’s big and strong, and he never seems to tire.

But Haven has more in her favor than she thinks.

She’s got a big, strong God who has promised never to leave her or forsake her.

Find out more about Haven here:

Have you ever doubted God’s ability, or willingness to come to your rescue?

Remember this: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him.” (Psalm 91:14, 15)

 

 

 

 

 

When Failure Is Success

I’be been reading in the book of Acts.

This account of the early Church provides us 21st century readers a comfortable opportunity to analyze and see the big picture of God’s dealings.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to read our own story and recognize how God—in spite of our lack of faith, or because of it—is operating to accomplish His plan?

Bruce and I sometimes wonder about decisions we’ve made in the past:

  • Should we have taken the job in New York?
  • Why didn’t we buy a used car instead of that brand new car that turned out to be a lemon?
  • What if I never picked up that gargantuan box, herniating the disks in my neck? Would I have continued on my path toward being a full-time singer?
  • What if Bruce hadn’t accepted the telecom job  in California right before the telecom bust of 2002?

I’m sure you have your own speculations. Most of them involve failures that you can’t forget.

When viewed from above, are my apparent failures something more?

Does my chronic pain, and my struggle to conquer bitterness, make me more compassionate? Did our job loss so many years ago help us to empathize with and counsel others? Did our marital spats help us recognize our own individual patterns of wrong-thinking, leading to a better marriage…and opportunities to teach younger couples what we’ve learned?

Now, I’m not suggesting a cavalier attitude to failure. It’s painful, and it ripples outward and affects those around us, too.

However, like the book of Acts, our own Christian redemptive stories should become part of the larger picture of unity within the Body.

It is within the Body that God has designed our successes and failures to interweave in a narrative of faith.

Think of Peter’s Denial of Christ. This man became the head of the early Church.

Think of Paul, the murderer, who became an Apostle.

Think of the persecuted Church who dispersed to other nations.

Failure becomes success when viewed from this perspective: In Christ, my story is His story. My failures belong to Him, not me. He can do with them what He wills.

 

 

 

 

Slugs and Motivation

I don’t know about you, but what frequently motivates me is…

Dis-satisfaction.

It could come from looking in the mirror

or reading my latest medical lab reports

or catching myself doing one of my pet sins.

Lots of Christians say it’s not good to be dis-satisfied. It leads to focusing on negative things. For the most part I agree.

But not when it comes to things that can or should be changed. My dis-satisfaction does not take my joy away. It’s merely an impetus.IMG_0682

I took a long walk the other day. It’s my time to talk to the Lord, to reflect, to enjoy God’s creation, and to let my mind get creative.

I crossed this critter:

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and wondered what made this slug decide to brave the wide, wide, gravelly expanse that separates one lovely, wet, arboreal area, from the other lovely, wet arboreal area across the path. The path is only about six feet wide. But to the slug, who neither comprehends human measures of distance, nor circumscribes his movements according to my perception of boundaries, his journey across the rocky wasteland is “what you do.”

To me, the woods on either side of the trail look identical.

There’s a stream on one side.

But there’s a pond on the other.

On each side, there are plenty of plants and other delectable things for a slug.

So why expend so much energy crossing over?

Because the slug wants something more.

And I do, too.

This is what motivates me:

Professionally, I’m not satisfied that I’ve published three books this year. What good is that if no one knows my books are out there? So I’m currently seeking friends who will review my book, and researching on-line promotional sites that will help me get the word out about Haven’s Flight, and the sweet love story, coming out in June: High Country Dilemma.

Physically, I’m not satisfied with the numbers mocking me on my glucometer each morning. They’re a mite too high. Which motivates me to get on my hiking boots and head for the trails. And eschew donuts and pasta and grains and soy and potatoes and ice cream, and anything else that tastes good.

Spiritually, I’m not satisfied about the sin that hangs on, making me want to self-flagellate. Oh, how I long for the day when I will be freed from my flesh. It’s almost painful to read Paul’s words in Romans: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

In the meantime, I recognize that “it is God who works within both to will and to work for his good purposes.” (Philippians) And I keep slogging (slugging?) toward the goal of conquering the “sin that entangles.”

Like the slug, my progress is slow, on all three aspects.

The slug is driven by his God-given instincts, whatever they are.

And I am driven by my God-given need to push on, not content to stay in an imperfect place.