The Dogwood Has Bloomed

The dogwood has bloomed. The tree sits on a corner along the street I  follow to get to my bank. Every year I anticipate the arrival of the flowers, waiting for the splash of white blossoms to stir my heart as I hurry down the thoroughfare.

Not only is the sight breathtaking, it reminds me of the season into which we are about to enter. The most important day in the earth’s history is about to be celebrated, the remembrance one that affects every person on the face of the planet.

Two thousand years ago, God had sent his son to earth. After thirty-three years here, Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny. He traveled much of Jerusalem with his band of followers, teaching people about the kingdom of heaven, healing their diseases, restoring their loved ones. He’d made enemies and gathered many friends.

The Sanhedrin feared him because he spoke against the false teachings for which they were known. He threatened to upset the delicate balance the Jews maintained in the presence of the Roman occupation. They looked for opportunities to remove him.

He knew their hearts. He understood their thoughts. He sensed them watching him. He ate with publicans and sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. They were waiting to accuse him when the time was right.

Passover was coming. Jesus would enter Jerusalem to celebrate with his disciples. No one but him can know this would be the last time he would enter the city. His enemies waited. They plotted. They watched. Soon they would act. God’s plan was about to be fulfilled.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In the violent acts that would follow, everyone would gain access to eternal life. The innocent would be slain, the guilty redeemed, the key to heaven placed within everyone’s grasp. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would be only a matter of time.

 

This is the first installment in a three-part series leading up to the celebration of Easter.

 

Carrying Another’s Burdens

I thought I was going to slip out of winter this year without being hit by one of the inevitable viruses that seem to affect most who reside in the wet and cold Willamette Valley. But not to be left out, I developed a persistent cough two days before “spring” arrived and began the downward spiral toward a full-blown cold. So much for sneaking by.

I’m the chief cook and bottle washer at my house. That fact alone makes me extra vigilant when risking the health of others around me. A nasty virus could potentially affect many people. My 94-year-old neighbor takes supper with us. Our son, who lives nearby, prefers the company of his nutty parents rather than a lifeless computer screen. Finish the list with my daughter and husband and the potential to infect four additional people exists. A great responsibility.

My son, though, is an excellent cook. When he learned of my plight, he took over in the kitchen. He is familiar with most of the recipes I had included on my menu planner and assembled them for me. He also is great on cleanup detail. I slept through two nights of meals, secure in the knowledge my people were being cared for.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:2-3: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” I wonder if when God spoke those words He meant a son would step in and cook for his mother when she is ill. I’m not a commentator nor a Bible scholar, but from my perspective what my son volunteered to do certainly bore my burden. He blessed me with a simple kindness, but the act multiplied in the numbers of people he fed.

Who is looking to you today for help carrying their load? The need might be as close as your neighbor’s kitchen sink.

The Simple Shamrock–God’s Tool for Truth

This post first appeared in FaithHappenings.com March 17, 2015

Did you remember to tuck your shamrock in your pocket this morning? Do you know the three-leafed clover was once used to teach the concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If your memory hasn’t been nudged by these clues, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, named for the patron saint of Ireland.

Born the son of a Roman British army officer in the 4th century, Maewyn Sucat was captured by a band of pirates who landed in South Wales and sold him into slavery in Ireland. He spent six years there, mostly imprisoned, until he made his escape to Britain on a getaway ship.

Now free, he adopted his Romanized name Patrick, joined a monastery in France, and studied under St. Germain. After twelve years in training, Patrick became a bishop and dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. With the Pope’s blessing, he returned. Patrick used the three-leaved plant, the shamrock, to explain the Trinity to the Gaelic Irish. The number three was a significant number to the pagan culture, which had several triple deities, a fact that aided Patrick in his evangelization attempts. A tireless preacher, Patrick made many converts, even among the royal families.

When the Order of St. Patrick was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color. But Irish nationalism prevailed and green emerged as the chosen color, associated both with Ireland’s lush, green countryside and Patrick’s use of the shamrock. Even though the day originated as a religious feast day in honor of the patron saint, it has now become an international event celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods, and wearing green.

The man’s history is intriguing when you consider how God used a childhood event, Patrick’s capture and imprisonment, to give the man a heart for a pagan culture, utilizing a native plant to teach them about the God he knew.

In Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) parents are told, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Many learned about a loving, heavenly Father who sent his son, Jesus, to save mankind from eternal damnation by living, dying, and rising again, all because of one dedicated man and the simple shamrock.

Launching a Book–Part 2

This week I met the graphic artist hired to design my cover. When I say “met”, she appeared in a chat line thread on my Facebook page, along with my editor. Her picture was the size of a cheerio on the screen. I have no idea where she lived. Via computer and online messaging we discussed how the book should look.

When I earned my journalism degree, I studied graphic design. I knew some of the elemental properties a good page should have. But in my time, “cut and paste” meant using scissors, x-acto knives, and glue stick. (If you don’t know what those things are, consult Wikipedia).  Computers and their ability to manipulate graphic images had not yet appeared. We literally cut our pictures and text apart and pasted them on a ruled background printed in camera blue. The color guaranteed that the design lines would not be copied by the camera lens.

The process I experienced this week was far more sophisticated. I’d completed a template beforehand that listed the elements I thought the cover should have. I’d been asked to suggest other covers I’d seen that I liked and to search online photo banks for pictures I thought represented my story. I chose models in various poses who resembled my title character.

The graphic artist took my suggestions and created five different covers for me to consider. I was overwhelmed. They were all good possibilities, but one stood out from the rest. The tone of the page—the combination of colors, photos, and lettering—matched what I felt as I wrote the story. My editor had the artist flip the pictures to see if they worked better from that angle. In the end, the final composite pleased all of us. A new cover had been born.

An editor friend reported this week that his most recent box of books had arrived. He said he never tires of the feeling a new work stirs within.  I can truly say the process made me ecstatic. I looked at the cover and thought, “I’d like to read this book.”  Then I realized I’d written it. Reading the story would pass to you, my friends who have shared this journey with me.

A “cover reveal” will happen later, as the novel, An Anchor on Her Heart, nears its release date. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, you can dream.

Rascal Refuge

My husband and I have always owned cats. Or, as most cat lovers know, they’ve owned us. Someone once said that dogs have masters and cats have staff. That’s the way things are at our house.

One thing, though, on which I stand firm, is the absence of a litter box in the house. I relegated the nasty thing to the garage when my children were toddlers and it has never returned. The cats seem to appreciate the convenience when they are outside or it’s snowing. I’m grateful I need not deal with lingering odor.

That being said, the cats still need a place to sleep where the litter box is available. Garages tend to be cold, drafty places with cement floors and walls that are often not insulated. Not an amiable place to snooze. My husband, though, is a soft-hearted individual who would probably give up his bed for a suffering animal. He devised a cathouse where comfort reigns supreme.

When our dishwasher died, he removed all the outer adornments, including the motor, and kept the inner plastic shell. He then inverted the boxlike structure, turning the hole where the motor had been, outward. He added a light socket to the top of the old appliance, wired it for electricity, and screwed a bulb into the opening. To keep the cat off the cement floor, he lined the bottom with an old foam pad and discarded towels. The light keeps the interior just warm enough to be cozy. The cat disappears inside, the only evidence he’s there is a pair of ears that poke out when we open the garage door.

This morning, it seems, we opened the garage a little early for a Saturday. The cat’s ears poked out of his nest, then retreated. The furry feline didn’t emerge for another hour, this being his morning to sleep in. As his butler and maid, we honored his wishes and kept the noise down.

To quote a once popular movie, “Cats rule.”