Once When Emmanuel Came


I have a new Christmas poem up at Anchored Voices. It was inspired by the Scriptures that will be read at the December 15 service at my church, Community of Faith. My poem will be read at the service too. It promises to be a truly beautiful Sunday morning of music, scripture, and poetry.

I can’t post the whole poem here right now, but here’s the first stanza and a link to the whole poem on Anchored Voices. I hope you’ll check it out and be blessed.

Once when darkness hovered deep
The Godhead planned our souls to keep
True Light shone bright and did not sleep
Until all that exists He created

Read more . . .

May you find the true Light of Christmas this holiday season.

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Train to Hawaii

If there was a train
to Hawaii
I’d be on it
I’d get up and stretch
my legs, take a
stroll to the dining car
for a ginger cookie
and a bottle of Lipton tea

If there was a train
to Hawaii
I could watch the waves
Maybe see a dolphin pod
jumping in the waves
Instead of endless
blinding-white clouds

If there was a train
to Hawaii
the Wi-Fi might be
a little spotty
in the middle
of the Pacific Ocean
But that’s okay
because I wouldn’t
be sardined six-wide
on this plane

I’d be on the train

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Hold Fast to Righteousness


As Christians, it’s important that we don’t rely on our self-righteousness—our own good works—for salvation. Though holiness and righteousness are important, they can’t save us. And yet we must hold fast to our righteousness.

This truth is illustrated in the book of Job. If you aren’t familiar with Job, in a nutshell it is the a story of the suffering of a righteous man named Job. He loses everything—his family, his livestock, his home, all his possessions—in a single day. Then he suffers debilitating boils all over his body. His wife suggests he curse God and die, because things have gotten so bad. Three friends come to offer comfort and counsel, but fall short of the mark. Then God speaks to Job.

This wisdom book of the Bible addresses the struggle we face of understanding God as a good God in the face of seemingly unfair suffering of someone who has done everything right.

In Job 27:6 (NASB), this suffering man says, “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.” In my Hebrew-Greek Study Bible, I learned that the Hebrew word translated “righteousness” in this verse (Tsedȃqȃh) is a legal term equating to justice or innocence. It often refers to the relationship between God and a person, or between two people.

Elsewhere in scripture we are told the righteous live by faith.  Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. The patriarch Abraham believed, or had faith in, God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.

The righteousness we must hold fast to is that which we receive as a gift from God when we put our faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son, our Savior, Jesus.

The righteousness that Job clung to was that which he knew he had because of his faith in God’s sovereignty and power.

I’m reminded of the lyrics of “Hold on to God” by Dwight Yoakam:

Hold on, hold on, hold on to God
And not the ways of the world
Hold on, hold on and put your trust
In His ever lasting Word
Hold on, hold on, hold on to God
In this life’s storm-tossed sea
Cling to Jesus, His lifeline
It will salvation bring

What are you holding fast to today? Are you clinging to your own power and might to control your little corner of the world? Or are you holding fast to Jesus?

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Of Eggs and Mad Money

I wrote this poem last May for a contest. Because it had to be unpublished for the contest, I didn’t post it here at the time. I wasn’t a finalist, so now I can do what I want with the poem. I decided to post it today, which is the 26th anniversary of my dad’s death. This is a poem about some of my memories of him, some good and some not so much.

Of Eggs and Mad Money

He would have been ninety-eight tomorrow
but instead he’s twenty-six years dead, huh.

I can’t enjoy my birthday month without
imagining his vast grin and lanky

walk, long fingers run through that black shock of
hair that never thinned even to the end

when the asbestos finally took its
toll. Come see me he said when we last spoke.

Why didn’t I hear the urgency in
his words and in his voice and go? Instead

I planned visits like I held all the
time in the world when truth be told there was

none left for him. Now all I cling to are
memories of plunging toast in sunny-

side up eggs because that’s how he did it.
Of eating der Weinerschnitzel mustard

dogs he knew I’d hate, because I refused
to eat at home. Of roasting marshmallows

over a campfire he built, until they
reached perfectly bronzed outside, gooey good-

ness inside for s’mores. Of cards
in my airbox at college carrying twenty

dollars of mad-mad money and a note that
said Don’t tell your mom. Of him dropping me

off at church on Sunday and for youth group
on Wednesday even though he never stepped

inside the chapel himself. Of the book,
the Bible he and Mom gifted that year

with his perfectly lettered inscription
inside the front cover, love Mom and Dad.

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God’s Perfect Timing

God’s timing is perfect. I keep forgetting that. Patience is not a virtue I come by naturally.

Almost a year ago, pain in my left shoulder and arm sent me to my new primary physician for a solution. As a short term fix, she gave me a shot of cortisone in my shoulder. All seemed well. I was happily in less pain and went about my usual sedentary winter existence.

Fast forward to late January, and the pain returned. My new doc was on vacation so I saw another doctor in the clinic. Somehow we came to the conclusion that the pain in my shoulder and arm was referred pain from a long-standing problem of osteoarthritis in my neck. So off I went to my pain specialist who gave me not one, but two, epidural cortisone shots in my neck.

My neck now felt great, but there was no improvement in my shoulder and arm. And my range of motion was decreasing. Cortisone directly into the shoulder was, however, not an option because of the two epidurals. My primary doc sent me off the physical therapy. Skepticism didn’t keep me from being a compliant PT patient.

The physical therapist measured my range of motion at the first appointment. After three weeks of me consistently doing the exercises she prescribed, I suggested she measure again—as I suspected, my range of motion had decreased. The pain had increased. Still I continued to do the exercises as instructed. At weeks seven, measurements revealed an even greater decrease in my range of motion.

The next step was imaging—first x-rays and then MRI. The latter revealed, in my primary doc’s words, “multiple tears to tendons in my shoulder.” She referred me to a surgeon.

When I called to make the appointment with the surgeon, the soonest I could get in was three weeks out. I asked to be put on the waiting list in case of a cancellation, and the scheduler said she would. I then sent an email to my church prayer-chain coordinator. My specific prayer request was that there would be a cancellation and I would be able to get in sooner to see the surgeon.

If I had to have surgery, I wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. My husband had rotator cuff surgery two years ago, and I knew how long the recovery process took. I had things planned for the fall and winter that were in serious jeopardy of having to be cancelled if I didn’t get into surgery soon.

The day of the scheduled appointment finally arrived and I was a little annoyed that God had not answered my prayer. It was a Tuesday—last Tuesday, to be specific. And during the appointment I endured excruciating pain as the physician’s assistant tested the limits of my range of motion, trying to determine if she could make my arm go where I could not.

The diagnosis was adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. The tears to my various tendons were minor and not the source of my pain, the surgeon declared when I asked. The treatment for frozen shoulder is a procedure called manipulation under anesthesia. No actual surgery will be required.

Basically, they’ll put me under general anesthesia plus a block and then move my arm all the ways it won’t go, thus breaking up the scar tissue that’s impeding my range of motion. The surgeon said it sounds a bit like unsticking velcro. Thankfully I’ll be asleep and won’t have to hear it for feel it.

Then I have to start PT the day after the procedure and continue for four to six weeks. But by week two, the surgeon assured me, I should have 90% of my range of motion back.

“I like to do these on Monday,” the surgeon said.

“I’m available next Monday,” I replied, not thinking that would ever work out. But at least there was relief in sight.

I next met with the scheduler to find out which Monday would work.

Now for God’s perfect timing. I was able to get into a pre-op appointment two days after the consultation appointment and there was an opening on the surgeon’s Monday schedule the very next Monday. (As I write this, that’s tomorrow).

The surgeon wants me to start PT on Tuesday. If you have ever tried to schedule PT on that short of notice, you know it’s not easy to do. But because of a cancellation—yes, a cancellation—there was one PT appointment available on Tuesday at the clinic I need to go to.

None of this will interfere with the two big things I have planned over the next two months. I’ll be able to teach the poetry workshop I committed to on Oct. 12 at the Oregon Christian Writers One-Day Conference. And I’ll have finished my six weeks of PT the Friday before our two-week trip to Hawaii in November, where I’ll be in good enough shape to snorkel.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I spent so much time worrying about the impact of a surgery I wasn’t even sure I needed would have on my plans. I don’t know why I doubted God’s timing for my appointments, thinking I needed to get into the surgeon sooner.

God has a plan and a timetable for everything. Someday I’ll learn to go with the flow and trust. Maybe someday Jesus will no longer have to say, “You of little faith . . . why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31 NIV.

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Light and Momentary Troubles

Check out my newest poem over at Anchored Voices.

Anchored Voices

Therefore we do not lose heart.Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewedday by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NIV)

Brokenness and torment abound
Only in faith is wholeness found
My sweetest friend knows how I feel
O my Jesus help me to heal

Affliction and sorrow entwined
To this life of pain I’m resigned
Endless suffering makes me reel
O my Jesus why don’t I heal

There is nowhere else I can go
No other heeds my tale of woe
At Your cross I lovingly kneel
O my Jesus help me to heal

For patience and grace I do yearn
Yet wellness one never can earn
Your mercy will wholly reveal
O my Jesus how I can heal

Though this body may e’er be ill
My soul found contentment so…

View original post 142 more words

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God’s Plan, My Steps

I had a plan for my coaching class at a recent writers’ conference. The safe route would be best. I determined to share the first chapter of my current work in progress, a nonfiction Christian living book about living without regret. But when I opened the piece on my phone, I saw a glaring error I had missed before. I’d given away the ending in the first paragraph.

A quick prayer resulted in the idea to share the first chapter of my edited memoir manuscript instead. I immediately balked at the idea, which is a sure sign it’s from God. I tend to argue with Him over His best instructions for me.

Thinking I probably didn’t have access to it on my phone anyway, I did a quick email search. There it was, attached to an email I’d recently sent, which meant is was the most current edited version. I opened the document and read the first to paragraphs to myself.

“I can’t read this in front of these 21 people, most of whom I barely know,” I argued.

“Yes, you can,” God impressed upon me.

My heart raced as I prepared to pour my soul out with this offering. And then someone else was selected to read first. I struggled to concentrate on their piece as I conversed with God, seeking peace for what I was about to share.

Peace did not come, but resolve did. I read through tears and an occasional crack in my voice. I bared my soul in a way much more intimate than having someone miles away read the words of my life. I made it to the final line of the chapter: “But what could He do with these shards of clay?”

What, indeed, could God do with this offering, these shards of my life penned and edited with care and humility?

Well, first, He provided immediate blessing for my obedience. The reaction from others in the class was overwhelmingly encouraging. The coach said, “Well, I don’t think anybody wants to critique that.” I was told my writing was poetic and beautiful, that I had evoked a deep emotional reaction in those who listened.

Second, He inspired one member of the class to approach me later that day to discuss my reading. This man is the editor of The Christian Journal newspaper, and he ask me to write articles for future issues. I’ve already submitted an article and it will be published in two days in the September issue. I have ideas for October, November, and December articles already floating around in my head.

Third, He motivated me to tell an agent, who had already expressed interest in my nonfiction Christian living book, about my memoir when I sat next to him at dinner that night. I’ll be sending proposals for both books to that agent as soon as I can get them completed using the template he sent me. And make sure they are polished and have NO TYPOS!

Finally, He reminded me that patience is a virtue. It may seem like it’s taking forever to get my memoir published, but it’s all going according to His timing. I think I started working on it four or five years ago, but I’ve made great progress during that time. The work I’ve put into learning the craft of memoir writing and considering feedback from knowledgeable people in the industry has resulted in a much better book.

I’ve had a plan all along, but God’s plan will prevail. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV).

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