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.

 

 

Wilderness and Writers

 

Last weekend Bruce and I decided to revisit some of our favorite scenic spots on Washington’s Highway 20. The clouds and rain have still not gone to bed for the night, but given the amount of rain the Pacific Northwest has gotten this year, I hoped to see waterfalls.

I was not disappointed.

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Close to the town of Marblemount, we passed more:

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After Newhalem, I photographed about six more, but you get the idea.

What is it about waterfalls that make our hearts beat faster, in awe? Is it merely  the water? Or is it the distance that it falls? The “shhhhh” sound as it tumbles and whash-boards over the layers of rocks? Or the white spread and spray, resembling a bride’s veil and train?

We continued on Highway 20 until we met the road closure, turned around and parked at the top of Diablo Lake. When the sky is blue, the lake resembles Canada’s Lake Louise, with its turquoise water, hedged by giant, snow-capped peaks.

But today, the clouds, fog, and wind stirred up gun-metal gray waters.

There were only two cars in the vast parking lot: ours and a woman accompanied by her little boy, who complained about the cold while the mother insisted he “at least take a look” at the lake.

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There’s a kind of visual that inspires the writer in me. It’s the one where the sky is as gray as the mountains, un-mirrored in the lake they overshadow. The clouds twist and swirl, and hover over the mountain peaks as if God had settled there, waiting to speak with Moses, His prophet.

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They say that stories are largely inspired by social interaction, where conversations and situations create a personal challenge in the protagonist, giving rise to an interesting story concept. Perhaps that’s why so many writers love to hang out in coffee houses, watching and listening.

But I think viewing God’s dazzling creation, His mountains, lakes, and waterfalls, is another kind of stimulant. A trip into the wilderness sends a message to the mind: Here’s your backdrop, here’s your setting. Now go and search your memory to find the right characters to populate this stage.

Tell me, what scenes prod your creativity?

 

Newness

The Northwest is positively gorgeous in the spring.

Right now, the daffodils and tulips of various colors glorify the fields in Burlington, Washington.

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Dramatic clouds hover over mountains to the east, which still sport a cap of white.

The air is cool, and the sun even peaks through the clouds from time to time.

The day before Easter, Bruce and I drove down to Burlington to view the magnificent fields. Believe me, my photos do not do it justice.

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The next day, we celebrated Easter at a friend’s house. They had just gotten two baby ducks, which were an absolute hit with the kids.

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And on Monday, I prepared a new manuscript for my publisher, the sequel to Haven’s Flight, which launched on Amazon two weeks ago. That, too is a wonderful beginning…at least for me.

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I love beginnings. I love to watched crocus’s and daffodils and tulips poke through the dirt: the promise of beauty after coldness, and an end to the monotony of gray, gray, gray.

I love the peep, peep, peep of baby chicks and ducks…

Baby horses, baby cows, beautiful children: God’s provision for the future.

In a week or so, we’ll open our doors and windows and let the house expel its staleness, to be replaced by wind-purified, rain-washed air.

I wonder what the morning was like when Jesus began his life anew. When the stone rolled away by an invisible hand and the Lord stepped out. Did heavenly air rush out of the tomb, or did earthly air flow in?

I love the way His resurrected life, and the new life of crocuses and tulips and ducklings coincide.

It’s a reminder each spring that death is vanquished, and that God is the giver of life.

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Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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