Back Up and Running


You can have the best-looking 4-wheeler (quad) in town, with all four wheels dressed up in brand-new tires with impressive treads, perfect for frolicking along an Alaska beach or Arizona desert. But it won’t get you anywhere if that vehicle won’t start. I know this from both fact and experience.

The gas tank can be full, the battery charged up, and it isn’t going to matter a bit until you get that thing started! So you tap here and there on a piece of metal, hoping to awaken a spark of life. And if you have the skill or intuition, or imagine you just might get lucky, you might even begin to take that machine apart, looking for that something that will make a difference.

Getting started … Even in life in general, that can be the hardest thing of all.

You can put your best-treaded running shoes on and never make it to the starting line, whether it’s that intriguing project you’ve been eager to get going on, or the one you’ve been putting on the back burner for years. But even a full tank of ideas doesn’t guarantee the energy and initiative needed to get the project in gear.

What stops us or gets in the way? Is it lack of confidence? … fear or depression? … difficulty in focusing or lack of clear direction? Do we continue to tap here and there, looking for that missing spark that we hope will bring us to life? Or do we finally come to a point when we have to admit that we need more than our own resources to get ourselves going, along with some better tools?

For me, one of those tools is prayer, but I don’t mean the usual kind where we ask God to give us this or that, or to do this or that for us. I’m talking about simply sitting with eyes and mouths closed, waiting for God to speak to our open hearts. Try it! Close your eyes, relax, clear your mind … and wait. And let God do the rest.

It’s amazing what a difference just sitting awhile with God can make in getting our engines back up and running again, and those wheels turning smoothly in the right direction.


A Beak Full of Bread


A dashing pair of bluejays made their residence near our home. They’d taken it upon themselves to scold and chase off a few cats who would have liked to have lived there too. They were not at all shy, and were happy as larks (or should I say joyful as jays), to find in our driveway a few pieces of stale bread that they took to be a fine house-warming gift. The next day one of them appeared again in his best blue suit and freshly-combed top knot, strutted around a bit and announced his presence with a few squawks! l was duly impressed, and reached into my bread wrapper to find two whole pieces of fresh bread for my stately visitor. (I was out of the stale stuff.)

I threw the bread into the driveway in various-sized pieces, as he watched from the branches of a tree. Then in a self-assured manner, he headed straight for the biggest piece of bread and picked it up. Rather unbalanced, he hopped over to another piece of bread and stopped, a bit puzzled. Then he dropped the first piece to pick up the new one, which wasn’t as big. Being a rather greedy bird and seeing his dilemma, he picked up the big piece again and managed to get the other one into his beak as well. This done, he headed for yet another piece. But here lay a greater challenge. Setting the first two pieces down, he went for the third, and somehow got all three large pieces of bread into his beak before taking off and struggling to gain altitude.

I hope he made it all the way with that full beak! But what are we to make of him?! Should we scold him for his greed or applaud him for his perseverance? Was this a lesson about greed almost getting the best of him or about the courage to risk all for a greater gain? The Bible discourages the first and encourages the second.

And in our own lives, if we are truthful with ourselves, our hearts will know the difference.

When Easter Hope Is A Handlebar


One day I looked out my window and saw a handlebar peeking out above the deep snow just under my window. And my first thought was “Easter”. My second thought was “Hope”. But Easter had already come and gone, and the snow had come late and had stayed. And the only hope of it all melting soon was the sight of that persistent handlebar.

Until that happy day I’d had to imagine that handlebar beneath the snow and the ATV attached to it, still sitting where I parked it when the autumn days had grown windy and wet — and the darkness of winter had followed. And in the worst winter ever, my powerful motorized toy had soon entirely disappeared under a deep bank of snow. And unless you had parked it there yourself, you wouldn’t have had a clue that it was even there.

But now there was new hope for a ride on the beach, and new enthusiasm for the days ahead. And I even considered doing some digging to hurry the process along, before deciding to let nature take its course.

But what about Easter? And why did my discovery turn my thoughts to that day already come and gone? And what’s the connection, anyway, between my emerging ATV and a holiday filled with eggs and bunnies? Not much, I’m afraid, unless we are aware of the meaning of this day.

Easter is about knowing there is hope, even when it’s buried beneath life’s struggles and concerns. Easter faith is about believing that some things we can’t see with our eyes are still here and real, and waiting to be revealed to us. Easter is about the hope of overpowering the powers of darkness in our lives. And it’s about New Life bursting forth — like my ATV emerging from beneath the snow with the promise of spring and beach combing.

But Easter faith isn’t just a one-day experience, like a handlebar appearing from the snow one day and then covered up the next by yet a new snowstorm. It can be a daily celebration of New Life and Hope emerging from the darkness, manifested both in this life and beyond.

Close Encounters!


Encounters with Unidentified Flying Objects have been categorized into five groups: encounters of the 1st kind, encounters of the 2nd kind, and of the 3rd, 4th and 5th kind.

Seeing a UFO within 150 meters is an encounter of the first kind, and when an encounter with a UFO in the sky or on the ground leaves evidence behind (such as scorch marks or indentations), it’s an encounter of the second kind — with each category thereafter becoming progressively more up close and personal.

And this, a personal encounter of my own, begins with a side trip down a dark, two-lane road one night.

We had strayed from our main course of travel, and turned south — heading down New Mexico’s Interstate 25 from Albuquerque to the little town of San Antonio. It is there that Route 380, a road famous for unfortunate encounters of various kinds, heads cross country toward Roswell. But we had not intended to be on that road so late. The night sky had already blended into the darkness of the road beneath it. We were alone. And our own headlights were all that illuminated that dark road.

My daughter and I were on the first road trip we had taken together since her younger years, when she and her sister had sat complaining in the back seat, reading their books and refusing to take in the scenery. And even then we had often found ourselves driving in darkness after my insistence that we take the time to encounter an experience advertised on a road sign along the way.

Back then the car I had owned was small and economical, without even the luxury of air conditioning. But this time the tables had turned, and my daughter, now an adult and appreciative of those former road trips, had insisted on doing most of the driving and had taken on the responsibility of arranging and financing a rental car. I had preferred the cheaper model, opting for the more frugal choice, but she had cautioned about the importance of paying for the extra protection of the sturdy, more solidly built and more expensive model, with the windshield protruding out and away from the front seat. And thank God … in light of what was to come.

Though we were already running late, I had true to form insisted on the side trip. But I have to admit that even I began to have second thoughts that night.

The road would soon take us just south of the spot where the wreckage and debris had been found from that questionable alien encounter in 1947, the place where the story of the crash of a UFO and alien bodies had bumped heads with a possible government coverup. But this was an adventure, and I love adventures! And I have to admit that I was secretly hoping for an encounter of some kind.

And then it happened! The lights up ahead … and the encounter!

I had just offered to drive, and my daughter had accepted the invitation, lying back in the passenger seat to doze off for what proved to be just a fleeting moment. I had just pulled out to pass the slow-moving car up ahead, its tail lights the only light besides our own headlights in either lane.

And it was then that that it appeared … suddenly — as out of nowhere — there right in front of our headlights, soaring across the road at great speed — with its huge frame pushing the window in close to the passenger seat, stopping just inches from my daughter! An encounter of the second kind … leaving behind the evidence of indentations to our solidly-built car’s hood and roof.

And then just as quickly, the huge buck with its imposing antlers was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared! And we had become yet one more example of the most frequent encounters along this road — between automobiles and the deer population.

We were shocked — and shaken! But unharmed!

But if it had not been for the shattered glass and slivers of glass showering down on us, we might have reported the accident and continued on our way with a slightly-dented hood and roof. The other car stopped to help and they directed us to the next town where the only police officer on duty directed us to what might have been the town’s only hotel. We were glad for a place to stay and assess our situation.

But yes — to my great joy, we did indeed encounter that most famous story of close encounters as well. And without our own encounter we would never have heard it.

That next morning we couldn’t drive out of town slowly enough to stop the shower of glass splinters upon our laps, so we suspected that going back to the Interstate would not be a good idea. Unfortunately the little town had no car repair shop. But by the grace of God we came across a tire place, where a man with a pick-up truck pulling a flatbed had just pulled in. He was good enough to hoist up our car and take us back up to Albuquerque, where he just happened to be going that day.

And on the way, with open cab windows blowing hot New Mexico air against our cheeks and blowing our hair, we heard that Roswell Encounter story almost first hand by a man who had been a neighbor to one of the witnesses. He assured us that these neighbors, whom he and his family had known since childhood, were good people whom he didn’t believe would tell any tall tales.

I will let you come to your own conclusions.

After exchanging our damaged car for one that looked more like the one I had at first preferred, I convinced my daughter to drive back down to Roswell, where I bought a little rubber alien souvenir and my alien, glow-in-the-dark t-shirt. And we completed out trip safely, with no further encounters.

Now isn’t life like this sometimes? You’re going down the road, maybe even hoping for something interesting or exciting to happen, and then a crisis appears out of nowhere. It’s dark and you are in unfamiliar territory. But although God doesn’t prevent every crisis from coming our way, I do believe that God can give us the right vehicle to see us through … and in our case that quite literally included both that solidly-built car with the right windshield and the pick-up truck with the flatbed.

And I recognize that as an Encounter of the God kind.


l was taking a walk one winter day and came across a strange assortment of items along the side of the road. Scattered near a driveway were a few carrots, and several pieces of coal. And as I wondered aloud what sort of bird or animal the carrots were left there for, and why someone had dropped the coal, my friend simply said “Snowman”. And the nearby clumps of melting snow took on new meaning, as the picture formed in my mind.

A few days later I built a snowman with my granddaughter, who had never seen one before. It was her first winter as a toddler. The snow was icy and didn’t stick together very well, and the finished product was a tiny, misshapen creature with two stubby little arms, dents for eyes, and a stone nose that kept falling off.

People walking by probably didn’t even notice the pitiful little snow sculpture, but my granddaughter peered over the back of the couch frequently to point him out through the window. “Snowman! Snowman!”

What we see is influenced by more than eyesight. We see through the eyes of experience, through the eyes of love, and even through the eyes of childlike faith. And sometimes that’s what‘s most important of all.

Never Too Early

[Revision of  an Earlier Post]


A huge truck with the letters D-A-T displayed boldly on its side rumbled to a stop in front of our house one day — looking for direction to deliver who-knows-what to who-knows-whom on our disjointed road.

And I could not help but think that if our little granddaughter had been there with us on our front deck that day, we might have passed her off as a precocious one-year-old reader, as she would no doubt have pointed with great enthusiasm to that truck, shouting “dat!”

She is now 3 1/2 years old.

But this word, which we think meant “that”, was one of her first words after “Mamma” (and maybe “statue” of all things), and was used to point out anything of interest to her. The popularity of the word was rivaled only by “oonch!”, which she used for anything she wanted us to get FOR her or take her TO. And don’t ask us the etymology of that one!

It’s surprising what these little ones understand before being able to put it into words — at least what we might call English. It’s popular nowadays to teach a few words of sign language to babies, which they can amazingly pick up from early on. So little Petra could sign “eat” and “enough” and such things before her first words. And from that she developed her own sign language of beckoning little hands and wriggling fingers amidst the “oonches” and “dats”, to make her point — which was often “please take me outside to my pool”. And soon she was quite proud of herself to have added the distinctive “up” and “down” to her vocabulary, accompanied by large arm movements in each direction, after which she would run to her parents with great glee over this accomplishment.

But my biggest surprise was to hear from the lips of this one-year-old child the words “God” and “Jesus” — well, actually “Ga!” and “Za-jeesh”, while pointing to an old picture in a little plastic case from my childhood, and then recognizing him in other pictures without our prompting.

Just how does God, as we understand Him, work in these little ones? Where, when, and how can we speak to our children of that which is spiritual? Perhaps it’s really so simple that we are tempted to make it hard. Perhaps we just need to let the words speak for themselves, and “preach” more through our own sign language and actions.

And it’s never too early.

**Hear me reading this story at:

A Little Christmas Story

The Christmas Tree in Bethlehem in Manger Square


Once upon a time Christmas couldn’t wait any longer. So it made its appearance before Thanksgiving in a flurry of catalogs,      store displays, and Black Friday coupons.

And then with barely a moment to spare, it soared  quickly past Thanksgiving in a display of colored lights, illuminated trees, and the promise of multiple holiday events and Cyber Monday’s      best deals and coupons.

But Christmas was still early. So it stuck around and began to overshadow and overwhelm the often forgotten time of anticipation and preparation we call Advent — the season of waiting and expectation, and preparing our hearts for the coming of God’s greatest gift.

Yes, something was missing.

So Christmas made another appearance, this time with an old story of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and of Angels and a star and the song of peace on earth and goodwill.

And then Christmas became real.

A Flower in Disguise


The “lilies of the field” of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are more likely the wild flowers of his day –scarlet crowfoot, purple iris, orange-red poppies, blue lupine, yellow wild mustard, and others.   What distinguishes a wild flower from a weed?


A Flower In Disguise

I remember a poster I used to have on my wall … “A weed is only a flower in disguise.”

It reminded me of my yard in Alaska, which was mostly weeds, intertwined by a profusion of strawberry vines and a few varieties of wild flowers that took turns blooming. Sometimes it took the form of an overcrowded mess that needed tending. But I couldn’t help thinking that every plant I “weeded out” could have been a flower in some other context or at least an interesting part of a floral arrangement. It might even have been edible or a source of medicinal healing.

How we see something sometimes makes all the difference.

Some little children think dandelions are pretty flowers, and pick their yards clean for bouquets for mothers and favorite aunts. I used to get a nickel a hundred for them from my dad, but grew up learning they were something we needed to get rid of. Although they announced Spring in Wisconsin, we fought those bright yellow blossoms for control of the lawn.

Back in Illinois, I felt compelled to mow my big yard full of grass and bushes at least once per week. Some people spent all weekend mowing. So I was happy with my Alaska lawn full of weeds and strawberries and wild flowers!

In a way, both flowers and weeds are like people. Each has a special beauty and purpose that can be cultivated. And how we see them might make all the difference.

Webster’s definition of a weed is “any undesired, uncultivated plant that grows in profusion so as to crowd out a desired crop.” So if I desire a so-called weed or cultivate it, might it become a flower?

Maybe with the right kind of love and nurturing, we can all be flowers.

In Search of Thanksgiving


The sign said, “Entering Plymouth — est. 1620”.  A moment I will always remember. Plymouth, Massachusetts … The Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the first Thanksgiving … And I was THERE, and the Sign proved it!  I stopped my car to capture the moment forever on my old camera. No smart phones yet!

It was the summer of 1988. And I was taking our daughters — aged 13 1/2 and 10 at the time — on another road trip that they would only admit appreciating as adults.  And my own excitement was not contagious.

But there it was in front of me … the faded sign mounted on top of the metal pole, with that quaint old historical look about it.  But we might easily have missed it, dwarfed as it was by the telephone pole planted right beside it, which cautioned about the danger of high voltage and snapped me back into the 20th century.

But there we WERE … and there’s something about BEING there in the Real place. And that date on the sign … 1620.  One of the first dates I ever memorized in school.

“Plymouth” — says the encyclopedia: “site of the first permanent settlement by Europeans in New England.”

But in another entry: “Plymouth — an outstanding summer resort.  A tourist-based economy supplemented by light manufacturing of ropes and cords, fishing, and cranberry growing.”  Maybe a clue as to where the tradition of eating cranberries at Thanksgiving came from?

Yes, Plymouth, MA has much to offer, but I must say that I found its Real gifts hiding beneath the commercialism and all of the distractions.

Plymouth had been an afterthought on the way to Lexington and Concord.  And we arrived late — too late to see the biggest attractions, including Plymouth Plantation, a re-creation of the original Pilgrim Village — the Pilgrim Hall Museum — and the Mayflower II, a REPLICA of the famous ship.

But that turned out to be a blessing — because we had to seek out the REAL meaning of Plymouth for OURSELVES.  We had to look for something meaningful outside of the now closed Tourist Attractions, Re-creations and Replicas.

We did find a couple of authentic buildings — and yes — we found Plymouth Rock.   As a little girl, I had imagined Plymouth Rock as this medium-sized Rock, that each Pilgrim had personally stepped off onto as they disembarked. Later, I figured the “Rock” was probably mostly legend. But there it was … an actual ROCK …   CRACKED like the Liberty Bell, and identified in 1741 by a 95-year-old man whose father had assured him of the exact landing place! At least, that’s how the story goes.

A couple of years before the Revolutionary War, the rock was split while dragging it to a spot near a Liberty Pole.  Then moved twice more and sustaining more cracks — it came to rest on the shore of Plymouth Harbor under a portico of granite.  And I’m happy to report that it’s actually touchable through a portion of the metal gate that surrounds it.

But I have to admit that it’s always bothered me when they cover something meaningful in itself, with a huge edifice that overwhelms it.  First a simple monument to mark the spot, then a small chapel built over it to preserve its memory, and finally a huge building like some of the churches in the Holy Land, that overwhelms the place — the spot in which you are hoping to feel an intimate relationship with what happened there.

And I guess that’s what has happened to the story of Thanksgiving.  It has become overwhelmed by a picture of smiling Pilgrims in big, black hats and white collars, Native Americans with headbands and feathers, and all sitting around a big table … with,  I might add, very colorful and very live turkeys, and cornucopias overflowing with vegetables.

But even back then, there was much more to Thanksgiving than that stereotypical image of peace and good will.

And even now, in spite of the imminent approach of the BIGGEST shopping day of the year — and beyond the intoxicating aroma of roasting turkey amidst hectic preparations and football … beyond it all … we can find REAL Thanksgiving.  And not only in the ritual around the Table of remembering something or someone to be thankful for.

So where did I find Real Thanksgiving back there in Plymouth?       I found it on Burial Hill.

It was almost dusk and the sun was low in the sky as I moved up the hill among the old grave stones. I sat on a bench among the graves of some of the original Pilgrims, and looked down from the sight of the first fort and watchtower, onto the original center of Plymouth Colony — the two old churches nearby —     and the seaport.

And away from the commercialism, in that simple old cemetery,     I could feel the spirit of those Pilgrim colonists. And I remembered that it was faith and courage that had led them to flee persecution for freedom, and to journey into the unknown.

I remembered the picture entitled “Pilgrim Exiles”, depicting a few Pilgrims after the Mayflower had set sail again that Spring without them.  They were looking off into the empty space in the water down below the hill, where the Mayflower had lain at anchor during the first terrible winter.  There was no turning back now, and survival was not guaranteed.

Even in their decision to leave for America, there had been heartaches.  The majority of the original congregation and some of the colonists’ children had remained in Holland and Governor Bradford’s wife had died soon after their arrival, while he was on an expedition on shore.

And by the time of that First Thanksgiving, they had been plagued by sickness and death, after losing half of their group that first Winter.

So when they famously celebrated in thankfulness, that gratitude did not come forth out of just positive experiences — as if Real thanksgiving can ONLY happen when Life is Great — in every way!

It’s been said that Happiness depends on Happenings.  Whether they are good or bad. If I have a great day, I’m happy; If everything goes wrong — maybe NOT so happy.  But even those happy feelings are fleeting.

But REAL Thankfulness in an ATTITUDE … not dependent on our present circumstances.  In fact, it is a response of Gratitude — a word coming from the same root as Grace.

The first Thanksgiving was a recognition of the grace shown to the Pilgrims by the Strangers who now shared food and fellowship with them, and an expression of Gratitude to their Creator for this and other blessings.

The word “Joy” also evolves from the root word for Grace, and flows out from Gratitude.  And if we, like the Pilgrims, are able to recognize the graciousness of others and the blessings bestowed upon us by God, even in the hardest of times, then we can know real JOY.

JOY is said to be “Grace Recognized”.     And for me —   that is the REAL meaning of Thanksgiving.

Not what I Anticipated …


The Alaska State Ferry was late, so I also was late to arrive at my destination, at 8 pm instead of 7.  And that was the first sign that I would not get the relaxing evening I had anticipated.

And there I stood — outside the terminal, watching passengers leave in taxis and hotel vans.  And then suddenly — everyone on the ferry had gone and the lights of the terminal were going out.

I was concerned.

This terminal is “out the road” as they say in Alaska — and my Arizona cell phone was on roaming, and prompting me with a strange procedure to go through every time I tried to get calls out. The door of the terminal opened and the last employee looked out.  She asked about my predicament and offered to call the hotel again.

I was thankful.

They said someone was on the way.  She said she wouldn’t leave until they came.        No one came.

After awhile this nice employee called the hotel again, and offered to take me there herself if no one came for me.  That was reassuring.  We watched as headlights shone up the road and then passed by, and decided to wait 5 minutes more.

The van finally came, stopping along the side of the building, even though I was obviously the only one there out in front.  I left the terminal feeling very irked toward the driver.  It was now almost 9 pm.

I approached the driver with my story about all of the waiting and surprisingly the first thing he said was “Please forgive me” … which kind of shocked me and changed my mood.  Then he said “God bless you”, which was unusual in the situation.

So I said, “God bless you, too”.

He was sorry about what had happened, because I seemed like such a nice lady.  And I told him that I was actually about to be a bit angry and NOT very nice, until he said “forgive me” and “God bless you”, and that in my life things often happen that show me that God is involved in the situation.

He told me he was a believer.

It was probably not his fault;  I think they even sent him to the airport instead of the ferry a couple of times.  And between the ferry employee and the van driver, it seemed that God had been looking out for me.

So I was content.

On the way to the hotel, the driver told me he had just recently gotten the job at the hotel and had lived a hard life in a “Lower-48” city.  He was happy with his job and his new residence.

I ended up tipping him.

But when I finally got to the hotel, now after 9 pm — the guy at the desk said he had gotten only one call for the van.

I was irked.

Then he didn’t seem to know if I could print out my airline boarding pass even though I had just seen someone check in for their flight on the lobby computer.  But he didn’t know if there was any ink in the printer.

Maybe God was testing me now.

When I asked why as an employee he didn’t know these things, he said because no one had ever asked him that question before.


Well, that was not too surprising, as you had to call him out of his room by dialing his number on a phone in the lobby, even when I had checked in a week earlier — and that was not evening but mid-afternoon.

Next he told me to sign up for the airport shuttle to leave for the airport at 7:20 am, which was my boarding time.  He was willing to settle for 7:15, but I won the debate with 7. Still cutting it close, but the airport was nearby.

Once again I was irked– but remembered I had decided to be nice because of the van driver and the “God Thing”.

I got to my room, and a red Message light was beeping, so I called the front desk and the guy said, “Oh, that doesn’t mean anything.”  So I tried to ignore the blinking and attempted to turn on the TV.

I had to call again, as I had no idea how to get the two separate controllers to work together. But then who should appear at the door to figure it out for me but my van driver.  And I finally got to relax for a few hours.

But I have to admit … the only reason I didn’t fill out the Evaluation Card in the room, or an evaluation for (which would not have been good) … was because of the terminal worker, the van driver, and what I once more had to call —  “That God Thing”.