Sunday, September 30, 2007

Grace Missings

Periodically I encounter friends and acquaintances -- believers -- who exclaim about how much God is blessing them. "All these wonderful things that I have have come from God," they say. "All these contracts, all these clients, all this success and materialism -- all from God. I know it is Him and nothing I did." I hear it often, and the other day it occurred to me that while those statements are true (everything anyone has ultimately comes from God), the real test of whether a person believes them or not comes not during prosperity, but in adversity.

When all those grace blessings are missing. When there are no contracts, when there are no readers, when rejection has come again and again, what does the person think then? Is there self-condemnation? Does the person flail himself for not having written better? For not having worked harder? For lacking talent? For having made bad decisions? Does she think it's something about her and her performance and her works that has produced this lack in her life?

But wait. I thought everything came from God, as a grace gift, and nothing depended on the recipient. In situations I've observed, including my own life, the implication in the good times is that none of the blessings are deserved. Why then in the bad times do we presume to think that it's our failure that's caused the lack? It's not. Or at least it's not when it comes to our worldly performance. (okay, yes, there are some times when failure is plainly due to lack of preparation or unrealistic expectation. For example, the midget who has never played basketball and fails to be drafted by the NBA. That's not what I'm talking about.)

Instead we should look to our spiritual lives. Are we going forward in God's plan for our lives, renewing our minds by learning God's truths from our pastor-teacher on a daily basis, rebounding regularly, and trying to live in what we learn as much as possible? If not, some adjustments need to be made. If so, then you can count on the fact the lack of particular blessing has nothing to do with your performance in the world, and everything to do with God's wisdom and timing. Grace missings, that's what I call them.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be provided for you."


Thursday, September 27, 2007


A friend from the San Francisco area sent me this link to a fantastic slideshow set to a song by Rex Allen, Jr. about Arizona. Since we're soon to have our annual Arizona Bible Conference, it's been making the rounds, but I wanted to share it with those of you who haven't seen it yet. I have been viewing/listening to it at least once a day, and then I can't get the song out of my mind! Since I've been to nearly every place pictured, it stirs old memories and reminds me of how much I love where I live!
(make sure you have your volume on)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I went for my second therapy session yesterday. My physical therapist (Jeff) first had me put my arm in a tank of melted paraffin. That was pretty cool -- er -- hot, actually. But when I pulled my arm out and had a wax hand, that was cool. Then he wrapped it in plastic wrap, then some kind of quilted thingie that had been heating in a steam bath and finally a blanket. Then I sat there for a bit and let it all sink in. That was the good part.

After everything was nice and warm, he took it all off, including the paraffin, and started cranking on my arm. The two places with the most limited range of movement are bending my hand back from the wrist, and trying to turn it over, palm up with elbow locked at the waist. Even with lots of work and pressure, the muscles/tendons hardly gave at all in either area. Progress is minimal. And of course my wrist, which doesn't care for such abuse, tends to swell and ache in reaction afterward. I do have a brace, but Jeff recommended I use it as little as possible.

At the moment, my most regular use of it is in the middle of the night, when I wake up to a throbbing wrist and grope around in the dark for the brace. Putting it on brings swift relief and I fall back to sleep until morning, when I take it off again.

The whole process has made me think of things spiritual and how much time, teaching and pressure it takes to transform us. How so often in our lives we see no progress at all, even as we know that God is at work in us. Staring at my stubborn wrist, especially when I'm trying to pull it around palm up, and seeing such resistance, seeing maybe a hair's breadth worth of movement, is a great visual aid to compare with things invisible.

And what of Black Box?, some ask. It's coming along slowly (I finished going through chapter 3 and making changes today), but I am not in the least alarmed. I just feel very calm, very placid, very much at peace about it all. It will get done in the right time. And I am no longer interested in stressing out about it.

So many things have happened lately in my life that have shown me that God really is in control of every little detail, I can hardly think otherwise. Relax, He has been telling me, and let life come to you. I have everything under control. The only thing you need to fear is not entering into the rest I've designed for you to live in. I've really seen it as a choice, and more than that. I've come to the realization that nothing the world has to offer is worth giving up this peace. Yeah, maybe I'll be so relaxed that I won't get the book out "in time" (whatever that is) and lose readers. But you know what? I no longer care. I'd rather have the peace.

PS. The picture is of one huge, 4-parted kite that we saw on our beach walk in Oregon. It was cool, and reminds me of resting and relaxing... so I put it up. The biggest one on the bottom spun in the wind

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Grace Bible Church

Today I want to direct your attention to a fantastic source of information on the Word of God. Grace Bible Church has just redesigned its website, making the material easier to receive than ever. You can listen to messages live as they are being taught, stream recorded messages, both as audio with powerpoint messages and as videos, or download them to your computer or mp3 player to listen later. There are mp3 messages on CD you can order, and even cassette tape. If you prefer the written word, there are selected doctrines to download in a pdf format, as well some of GBC's booklet publications.

There's also a search function. If you have a subject you want to study or research, you can type that into the search box and come up with all the places where your subject is mentioned -- it might be an entire lesson or series of lessons to listen to/view, or a printable doctrine, a publication... It's a goldmine of information. There's even an online Bible.

Best of all, in accordance with GBC's objectives of making the teaching of God's word available to whoever is interested on a grace basis -- it's all offered free of charge. All you have to do is go there, click on what interests you and listen. No signing up, no logging on, no one contacting you.

You can find the site at

Have fun!


Monday, September 24, 2007

More on those Unstressed Ancestors!

Ooo! A friend emailed regarding my Unstressed Ancestors post and brought up the example of baking bread. A weekly task for our utterly at ease ancestors. For those of you who've ever tried baking bread, you know how hard kneading it is. Especially if you're making more than one loaf. And it just goes on and on and finally you just give up because your arms have become limp, shaking, noodles hanging off your shoulders.

Or what about beating rugs? Or doing the laundry by stirring it in a pot over an open fire for days like my stepmother used to do? And these are not even that far back of ancestors. They cooked on wood burning stoves with all that dangerous fire and lit their homes with candles or kerosene/oil lamps.

Ah, but one thing they did not have was a barrage of voices over TV, radio, Internet, email, magazines, newspapers, etc pouring into their lives, warning them about the dangers of candles. No nightly videos of how the Christmas tree went up in a flash flame and took the house and family with it. There were no special safety classes on how to stir the laundry without falling into the fire or scalding yourself on the boiling lye-filled water, nor detailed stories complete with gory video of those poor unfortunates who did fall. Of course today, such activities would probably be banned as far too unsafe. Already in many places it's illegal to have an open fire in your yard.

So maybe we really do have more stress, being inundated with warnings and disaster stories...

...and articles detailing how stressed out we are... :-)


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wasted Service

"No service offered to God is ever wasted."

I first encountered this saying in Elisabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Heart years ago. Not only did I think it a good saying, but I often claimed it when I was down in the dumps about the lack of success I'd had in writing. I think I even quoted it once in an interview.

Lately God's been convicting me that it's not true. For the most blatant example, take Cain, who offered the fruit of his labors to God in all sincerity and, I'm sure, complete confidence that God would be as pleased as Cain was by all his hard work (much more than Abel had put out). We know that because the Bible tells us how mad Cain got when God didn't accept what he'd offered.

But we also know that God is fair. He had to have provided instruction for the kind of offering He wanted before the fact, which is why He rebuked Cain for his anger afterward. In fact we know that Adam had already been shown the need for a blood sacrifice, since an animal had to die to provide skins for himself and his wife to cover their nakedness in the Garden after the Fall.

It's hard to imagine Cain did not hear the instruction, whether it was given by God directly or by his father Adam. But hearing doesn't always mean receiving. Who knows what he was thinking when he "heard." Perhaps he wasn't really listening, or didn't think it mattered. Perhaps zeal (arrogance? competition with Abel?) prompted him to want to do even more than what God asked. In fact it must've seemed to Cain completely unacceptable to have to go to his younger brother to get the lamb for sacrifice. Then he would have had to do nothing, since Abel had done all the work of keeping the sheep. How much better, his human mind must have reasoned, to give of his own labor. Surely that would be ever so much more meaningful to God -- all Cain's blood, sweat, tears and effort through the months of tending his crops. Now there was a sacrifice! A real giving of himself.

Unfortunately God wanted nothing to do with it. Thus all of Cain's service, though offered sincerely, was wasted effort.

As with his, so can our efforts be wasted if our good deeds are done in the power of the flesh rather than the Spirit. (I Cor 3:12-15) And anything done in violation of God's word (instructions) cannot possibly be done in the power of the Spirit. Which is why it's so important that we know exactly what the Scripture teaches about what God wants of us in terms of service, rather than depending on our feelings or traditions or the opinions of others.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's Gone!

The cast is off! My arm is skinny, wrinkled, the skin feels hypersensitive, I have three dimpled scars from the pins and VERY limited mobility. Dr. Meaney gave me a prescription for a wrist brace and a referral to a physical therapist. I got the brace, went home, called the therapy place, and it turned out they had an opening in 2 hours. So I took it, and 3 hours later I completed my first session. I have a long way to go in regaining my range of motion.

Typing is ironically pretty easy for it; it's my right hand that's having trouble now, seeing as I overdid yesterday with trying to wash all the coats in the coat closet combined with working too much on the computer. I'm going to have to get that headset I think, because the computer has too much trouble understanding what I dictate through the desk microphone. And since the carpal tunnel in my right wrist seems to be an ongoing problem it looks like I'm going to have to get serious about this speech recognition program.

My assignment for now is is a quartet of exercises I'm to do three times a day until my next appointment with the therapist. There's also a period of warming the arm before the exercises and then icing it afterward. Which means the whole operation is probably going to take up a good bit of time. Oh well, I'm getting used to that by now.

Mostly I'm just thrilled to have the cast off.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Our Unstressed Ancestors

Recently I read one of those ubiquitous articles about how to deal with stress. Along the way the author made this statement: "Unlike our ancestors, we live with constant stress. Instead of occasional, acute demands followed by rest, we’re constantly over-worked, under-nourished, exposed to environmental toxins, worrying about others — with no let-up."

I'd guess most people read this sort of thing like I always have before, identifying with the common stressors and nodding my head. Yup. Our modern day lives are so much more stressful than those of our ancestors...

Oh, really? Is that why we are living longer than at any time except the days of Moses, Abraham and Noah?

Stress our ancestors didn't have? Are we talking those cavemen, hunter gatherer types the evolutionists always reference? For the sake of argument, let's say we are. They lived in the wild. They had to worry about injury, about animals eating them or their children at any moment, about finding enough food and water. Storms, floods, snakes, predators, no doctors. Heat, cold, disease with no vaccinations and no antibiotics. They worked constantly just to eat, and keep themselves clothed and sheltered. Former childhood ailments like whooping cough are nearly extinct in our day, yet killed many in years past. Death in childbirth was at 30% for the mothers back in the 1700s, let alone in the caveman days. And even in the 1700s, children often didn't live past three.

And this was less stressful than our lives... how?

Frankly I think we have it pretty easy. Most modern day stress is really the result of a way of thinking, not a saber-tooth tiger who just started feeding on our village....


(Hmmm. Was that a rant? Maybe not a full-fledged rant. Maybe only a mini-rant. But still, I think it might have been.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Review & BHP tips

A new and nifty review of Return of the Guardian King is up at Christian You can find that here. What a nice present to start out the fall.

Also, every other month or so Bethany House sends me an envelope with advertising and publicity material produced for my titles. This is not usually a very thick envelope, alas and in the cover letter they always include some marketing tips for the month. I don't think the marketing tips are included specifically because there isn't a lot of stuff in the envelope, but I could be wrong. :-)

This month's tips concern reader reviews at, and "If a reader lets you know that they enjoyed your book," says the BHP letter, "ask them to consider submitting a short review at one of the sites. As a first priority, encourage them to post at Amazon since it has become the top site for book-buying research, but it's very helpful at the other sites as well."

Bethany House has also developed a page on their website which they intend to continually update with simple ways readers/friends can help promote books they particularly like. If you're interested in seeing what they've come up with, click here.

With Tuesday being day 2 on my countdown to cast removal, my wait is now almost over. Only one day left. Hooray! I know the bones have healed to a large degree because there is so much more I can do now that I couldn't do only a few weeks ago. I have more strength in my fingers and the most pain I have seems to come from pressure spots inside the cast where my hand bumps it when I try to do things. (Like type, for example -- which I'm doing now.)

I also made some decent progress on Black Box, which surprised me. And I'm staying with the relaxed mental attitude about it all! Yay!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Tyranny of the Small

This morning I woke up with an addendum to what I wrote yesterday.

It's not that we're to do nothing. It's that it doesn't matter whether God puts us in a situation where we can do nothing or whether He gives us things to do. Our attitude of rest and calm and relaxation should be the same, regardless. God's plan doesn't depend on us doing things. Yet in the process of carrying out the tasks He does give us, we can slide into thinking that it does. We forget that it's His work that matters and begin to think way too highly of ourselves. We get caught up in the "importance" of what we're doing, even start to assign ourselves tasks He doesn't mean us to do at all.

The world barrages us with things to do and in that barrage we get swept up in the tyranny of the small, carried along from one task to the next to the next, with 20 more "shoulds" and "have-to's" and "want-to's" waiting in the wings. All those little tasks fill our thoughts and become our masters, while a subtle tension builds as we scurry to obey them. And peace flies out the window.

So today (Day 3 in my countdown to cast removal), as I started getting back on track with writing and housework (both long-neglected), I've tried to keep all this in mind. To stay relaxed, to stay focused on Him and not let everything get so blasted important. I've actually been typing with both hands until my cast gets too uncomfortable, whereupon I switch to the speech recognition feature. It's working well, though it seems to me I can type a lot faster than I can use the speech thing.

As for the content of the book... I spent today analyzing the cobbled scene I dictacted on Friday, and slowly getting back into the flow of ideas. As I've mentioned, I spent my time off doing lots of research, and I'm feeling good about the things I've learned and the ideas they've given me. I've also gotten to the point where I can see what needs to be changed and how that's going to head the plotline off in a stronger direction.


Sunday, September 16, 2007


We used to keep homing pigeons, and though we got rid of all of our birds years ago, there are still pigeons who come and hang out near the water tub in our back yard. Sometimes they settle into the grass and just rest in the sun.

The picture above is evocative of my life this summer, though even last spring there were already glimmers of the thought changes to come showing up in Bible class and in my journals. It was sometime in April when I was reading about Noah and contemplating the unlimited atonement of Jesus' work on the Cross. Both pointed to the fact that part of the process of being conformed to the image of Christ is that we learn, and are transformed into being able to do things with full effort without regard for the outcome. Without the need for the world's or people's positive feedback, or any feedback. Without the expectation of it, in fact.

Noah preached for 120 years and had no converts. He made no discernible difference in his world, and yet he was glorifying God in a magnificent way, demonstrating the patience and grace of God with every word and with every new year that passed with those people who cared nothing about what he said continuing to live and pursue their wickedness. Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, swathed in darkness for three of them while he bore, willingly, the sins of all the people who have ever lived and ever will, so they might not perish but come to change their minds about Him.

The vast majority did not and will not change their minds, and as we've learned lately from a study of the divine decrees, He knew in eternity past they would not, yet decided to die for them anyway. "Anyway" is the wrong word. Because dying for those who would refuse to respond is part of the point. Yes, His work was to to save those who would believe in Him, but the fact that He provided the same work, the same opportunity to those who would not, speaks of the importance of the free will of men -- our capacity to choose -- and God's incredible graciousness toward us. The only reason any creature ever ends up in hell is by his own choice, not by any lack of desire or provision on God's part.

God has run these truths through my thoughts, through Bible class, and through my life for the past five and a half months. This time of quietness, when I've been able to do so little, has drawn my attention to a long held-motivation I've come to see as wrong: the motivation to produce and to accomplish for the sake of what that gives me. This too, I've written about before, but the glimpses are getting clearer, and the conviction of its wrongness greater.

There is the satisfaction of feeling good about myself because of what I have done -- when I am in reality but an unworthy slave who has done only what is required of her. This is the arrogance of achievement, when there is no achievement we can really do that the Lord does not provide or enable.

On the flip side, there is the guilt that comes in when my accomplishment doesn't meet my goals, the subtle impatience that simmers behind the scenes as I try to get each thing done only so I can go on to the next, the frustration and sense of loss and even purposeless when the accomplishments seem to have no effect on anything -- or at least not the effect I'd hoped. Arrogance, guilt, impatience, frustration -- those are all sins.

And a sense of purposeless is unfounded and flies in the face of what the Word of God teaches. For we were created with great purpose: to bring glory and pleasure to God. Not by our actions, or our striving, but in receiving with joy all that He wants to give to us. All that He has already given us. To relax and let life come to us, knowing He has all under control. To think His thoughts, rather than human/worldly thoughts. To confess our sins (rebound!) . To recall we've been bought with a price and that we are even now perfect in His eyes and that our experiential sanctification is something He does, not something we have to strive after...

It's more, even, than that, though. It's a paradigm shift in my thinking, not happening all at once, but day by day, and it's hard to articulate. Even with all the words I've set down here, I feel as if I've not yet come to the core of it. And probably won't for a time. All I know is, I'm finding a greater peace than I ever have before. Things I used to care about, I don't any more. He's got it all under control. Whatever He has planned, He is doing, not me. Like the pigeons, my soul can settle into the grass and rest in the sun, confident that whatever lies ahead He has already thoroughly provided for it. It's His plan, all the way. Not mine.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Speech Recognition

Well a number of people have told me I should try using speech recognition and since I have a program already on my computer, I thought I'd give it a try. It comes automatically with Vista so I didn't have to buy it or install it, all I had to do was go through the tutorial to learn how to use it. I'm using it now. It makes me talk more slowly than I'd like to, so I'm not sure how well it will work for writing fiction, but I'm going to give it a try.

When I first started I was so excited I started laughing and the computer didn't know what I was saying. There's a little box at the top telling me it's listening and if it doesn't understand it asks me "What was that?" So while I'm laughing, it's asking me that and meanwhile typing "up up up up up up" and something about "losing she got offer but up up up up up up up up up up up up up". Which only made me laugh more. At least if I get totally lost I can just use the mouse, but I think this is really going to help take the load off my hands.

Already I've written an e-mail and this blog post and plan to try some more e-mails and maybe even Chapter Nine tonight. What I really should try is a nonstop but I fear I would talk way too fast and mumble way too much to produce anything coherent.

Next is to see if I can get this inserted into the Blogger program (just now when I said Blogger, the computer thought I wanted to "save water"). I guess you'll have found out by the time you read this if I succeeded.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Finally Back

Last post I said I'd be back on Tuesday, but as it turned out I was too travel-tired to make myself write anything. One of the reasons I added another week to my hiatus from blogging is because I was in Salem, Oregon for their annual Oregon Bible Conference over the weekend. We had fantastic weather, fantastic and challenging lessons, wonderful, rich conversations and a lot of conviction about showing God's mercy to others, specifically in the realm of communicating the Gospel or important information regarding the spiritual life, even though the likelihood of being rejected is great.

A group of us also went to the coast again (see photo) but this time it wasn't foggy. Cold when you were walking into the wind, yes, but not when it was at your back. I had a great time.

The friend I traveled/roomed with and I approached the entire adventure without our usual in-detail planning, and didn't even rent a car. Instead we relied on God to work out all the details, and boy, did He. It was awesome to see the provisions unfold, day by day, moment by moment. And seeing as our lessons have been on the divine decrees of late, it's been tremendously stimulating to be able to apply those concepts to our lives.

Also, while in Oregon, my broken arm and carpal tunnel hand had a chance to rest since I didn't have to deal with the usual chores and such. Even better, the cold dry air worked wonders for relieving the discomfort, though that returned as soon as I stepped back into the hot, humid air of Tucson. Thankfully, the humidity is falling rapidly, so that, too, may soon be a thing of the past. Plus, I've only one week left of wearing this cast. I can't wait to get it off!

The really funny thing? I've never been to a conference where anyone had a cast. And this time there were two of us with them. So we got to compare casting technique and injury stories. His was much more interesting than mine...


Monday, September 03, 2007

An Update

Well, last Thursday, I saw my orthopedic surgeon and he took out the nails. (Really, "pins" is a euphemism. They were 3-4 inches long and about a thick in diameter as framing nails.) He used a pair of pliers to get them out and had to tug pretty hard to do it. It hurt and felt weird but wasn't all that bad, and I much prefer having them gone.

He also made it clear that the break is very bad and I "did a lot of damage" which was evident this time from the x-rays. I'm going to be in physical therapy for months. And the swelling and need to elevate my arm is not going to end until I get the new cast off in 3 weeks.

The carpal tunnel problems in my right hand that I mentioned last post, continued through this last week and have not really abated even today. I've been reduced to reading, praying, watching movies or just sitting and staring out the window. It's been strange to be so... unproductive, though I've been at peace about it. It's obvious this is where God wants me for a time, so this is where I want to be. I know He's working, just not exactly clear on what.

Not wanting to push the typing/carpal tunnel problems, I'm going to take another week off from the blog. Check back next Tuesday for my next entry.