b-blog

The Power of Words

Words have the power to build or to destroy. This week I’ve revisited one of the worst ways I’ve ever misused words and taken steps of redemption.

My best friend growing up was my opposite in many ways. She was outgoing and fun; I was quiet and serious. But we enjoyed each other’s company and complemented each other, bringing out the best and toning down the worst.

Our junior year in high school, I sensed her pulling away from me. Instead of talking to her, I chose the cowardly path. I wrote a letter. Even more cowardly, I slipped it into her locker. Oh, and that letter! The venom flowed through my pen as I chronicled everything she’d ever done that annoyed me. Any close, long-term friendship can generate a long list, but it should never be put to paper!

The friendship was shattered. Our mutual social network lay in shambles. Worst of all, I hurt my friend deeply. And we each lost out on joys we can never recover – long phone calls from college groaning about boys, holding each other’s babies, and being there for each other always.

Over the years I’ve prayed for the opportunity to tell her how wrong I was and how sorry I was – and this week, I found her on Facebook. We “friended” each other, and I’m thankful for this second chance.

Words are powerful, and the written and electronic word have a permanence I will always be wary of. Every day I grapple with this power and struggle to choose my words wisely, edit mercilessly, and season them with prayer.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29.

My Book Cover!

It’s official! Here’s the cover for my first novel. If you received my newsletter last week, you may notice Allie’s suit is now red.

A Distant Melody will be released by Revell in March 2010 and is now featured on their website at http://www.revellbooks.com

Here’s a brief summary of the story: Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie Miller will do anything to gain her approval–even marry a man she doesn’t love. Lt. Walter Novak–fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women–takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt’s muddy bomber base in England and Allie’s mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

A Distant Melody is the first book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

So many of you have lavished me with prayer and encouragement, critique and advice, for which I am deeply grateful. The name on the cover is almost a lie – none of this could have happened without the support and love (sometimes in the “tough love” category) of my family, friends, and critque partners. Thank you all! I love you!

What’s in a Name?

Names have always fascinated me. In a few syllables a name proclaims a message to the world.

As girls, my sister and I loved to pore over my mother’s baby name book. We giggled over silly names, sighed over melodious ones, and delved into the meanings behind them. Each time I was pregnant, my husband teased me about the lists I made, but I wanted our children’s names to be right. The decision would affect them for a lifetime.

This past week I had the joy of naming a new “baby,” the heroine of a novel percolating in my head. Most of my characters come with names attached, but her name eluded me. I knew she hated her name, and that it was long and unusual. Since the story takes place during World War II, I had to remember that many names my generation laughs at were popular then. So back to the baby name books! Was she Aridatha, Calandra, or Ludovika? How would you like to go through life with that name? Then I found Philomela, which comes from an ancient Greek legend of a woman changed into a nightingale. A shiver of recognition ran up my arms. My series follows three women who are flight nurses, and I’m calling it “Wings of the Nightingale.” Philomela it is, and her friends will call her Mellie. Oh, and she has a lovely singing voice.

How about you? Do you love your name or hate it? Does it fit you or did you have to alter it to fit you? What do you look for in choosing names – the sound, the meaning, the cute nickname? Do you like a name that’s fun and trendy, one that stands out in a crowd, or one with the weight and wealth of tradition? I can’t wait to hear from you.

Walking Miss Daisy

Meet Daisy.

Yesterday, when my thirteen-year-old daughter, Anna, took our yellow lab for a walk, she accidentally clipped the leash to the small ring attaching Daisy’s name tag to her collar. Eighty-four pounds of pure energy snapped the ring—right before the house with two pit bulls. Outside. Off leash.

“Don’t worry,” said the owner. “They’re friendly.” Um, isn’t that what all pit bull owners say on TV after their dogs have mauled someone?

I’m thankful these pit bulls only wanted to play. The three dogs frolicked while Anna tried to reconnect the leash in vain. Then the owner called his dogs inside. Well, Daisy went too! Some time later, the owner herded our lab back outside to Anna.

When Daisy is on her leash, we can guide her and keep her out of danger, but when she sheds her leash, she loses our guidance.

Psalm 23 tells us how the Lord guides us as a shepherd. He leads us to rest, refreshment, restoration, and righteousness. Sometimes His rod and His staff seem irksome, but He applies them for our good. Because He loves us and knows best, He can lead us on the best paths—but only when we let Him.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want…He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” Psalm 23:1,3.

Tearing down Walls

Jesus, the Good Shepherd with a lamb draped over His shoulders, the gentle servant who tells us to turn the other cheek—He threw a temper tantrum!

He didn’t pitch fits because sinners lived in sin or because Romans acted like Romans. No, His anger was aroused when those who claimed to be God’s people kept other people away from God.

Hear Jesus’ tirade against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. What did they do to provoke Him? They took pride in their external righteousness, while inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence. They heaped extra laws on the people, but neglected the meaning of God’s Law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Watch Jesus throw the moneychangers out of the temple in Matthew 21. Not only did they build a financial barrier between worshippers and the Lord, but their loud presence in the Court of the Gentiles hindered God-fearing Gentiles from praying.

Feel Jesus’ love for those who long to come to Him. Do we in the church erect barriers to those who seek Him? Do we set demands beyond what the Bible requires? Do we stick to our cozy group of friends and neglect visitors? Do we, even subconsciously, wrinkle our noses at those who don’t look or dress or smell like we do?

Lord, help me tear down human-made walls between You and those You love, root out hypocrisy in my soul, and fill me with Your love.

On the Road with Trash-Talking Geckos

“Trash-talking geckos go in the glove compartment.”

I never thought I’d say those words, but as a mom, I say lots of things I never thought I’d say.

Last summer I was driving with my three children from the Bay Area to Oregon to visit my husband’s parents. After ten hours on the road, the kids got punchy. Ten-year-old Matthew set the stuffed gecko he’d just gotten in Hawaii on the seat between him and his sister Anna, then twelve. Except the gecko couldn’t sit still. He climbed on Anna’s lap, shoulders, head.

“Mom,” Anna said with a giggle. “Make Matthew stop.”
“It’s not me. It’s the gecko.”
“Well,” I said, eyes on the road. “Tell your gecko to sit properly in his seat.”
Silence for a minute, then whispers, then more giggles. “Mo-om, Matthew said I was stupid.”
“It wasn’t me. It was the gecko.”
I changed lanes, careful to check my mirrors. “Tell your gecko to be nice.”
A minute later: “Mo-o-om. The gecko said he was going to hit me and send me to Australia.”
Australia? “Matthew, tell him to behave or…” Then I said it: “Trash-talking geckos go in the glove compartment.”

Laughter bubbled up and spread throughout the car. Have you ever seen those words strung together? Have those seven words ever been strung together before in the history of the world?

No deep lesson here. No great spiritual connection. Just a simple reminder that we are all unique, that every day presents something fresh, and that we can contribute something never seen or heard before.

And watch out for those geckos. They look cute, but talk trash.

Only One Thing

What comes between me and Jesus? Do I let money, time, my to-do list, or the opinions of others stand in the way?

Today I read three related Bible stories: when Mary anoints Jesus (Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, John 12:1-8), when the sinful woman anoints Jesus (Luke 7:37-39), and the account of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

In each story, someone can’t see beyond the things of this world.

  • Judas Iscariot only sees the money. How could anyone waste so many denarii?
  • Simon the Pharisee only sees the reactions of others. What will people think if they see a sinful woman in my house?
  • Martha – dear, much-maligned Martha, who really did love Jesus – only sees the mountains of food and dishes. How can anyone sit still when there’s work to be done?

Oh, what a contrast with those who can only see Jesus!

  • In Mary’s eyes, no cost is too great to anoint her Savior and prepare Him for burial.
  • The sinful woman doesn’t care what anyone thinks when given the chance to express her gratitude for Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • To Mary, no time is better spent than time at the Master’s feet, drinking in His teaching.

I want to be like these women. I want to be so devoted to Jesus that money means nothing compared to the joy of giving to Him, that I prefer the favor of God to the opinion of man, and that I never begrudge a minute spent serving Him or sitting in His presence.

Jesus told Martha, “‘But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'” Luke 10:42 NIV.

Every minute of every day, I want to choose what’s better. I want to be completely devoted to my Lord. He deserves nothing less.

Graduation

A graduation makes you stop, look around, and see where you’ve come from and where you hope to go.

This week my youngest son finishes elementary school, my daughter finishes middle school, and my oldest son, a high school junior, will serve in the honor guard at graduation – a dry run for next year.

Like all transitions, bittersweet.

We leave behind good things we will miss. My youngest is already mourning recess, and I will miss the atmosphere of elementary school – the glue sticks and finger paints, the tiny chairs and apple decor.

But some things we leave behind gladly. Anyone want to return to the days of middle school insecurity or high school drama? Anyone? Anyone?

Transitions also can produce worries. The First Locker in middle school. Entering high school and knowing your grades really count now. College Applications. Will your friends leave you behind? Will you ever make new friends? Will you spend the next three years upside-down in a trash can?

But oh, the joy of a fresh start, a clean sheet of paper before you to fill as you will. The chance to improve yourself, to make deep friendships, and to take steps toward the future.

That’s what we celebrate – the joy, the hope, and the opportunity of a new start.

Something New: Today in World War II History

To commemorate the coming 65th anniversary of D-Day, I will be starting something new on my blog. In addition to my usual weekly posts, every day I will make a short post entitled “Today in World War II History,” which will highlight events that happened 65 years ago. On September 1, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, I will add entries from 70 years ago.

I hope you enjoy this!

Never Forget


On Saturday, we will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi power.

In August 2007, I was privileged to stand on Omaha Beach on a misty, overcast morning not unlike the men faced that historic day. As I stood on that long stretch of sand and gazed at those high bluffs which once bristled with machine guns, I was moved deeply. We’ve all seen the movies and watched the footage – men dashing with rifles in hand, stumbling in the waves, beckoning their buddies onward, sheltering against debris – falling to the sand. But being there and feeling that sand beneath my feet gave me another level of understanding.

Today the Normandy beaches bristle with people on holiday – those who come to remember, and those who come to play. Children laugh and chase the waves and build sand castles. Tourists stand in silence, wipe tears, take pictures. This is as it should be.

Sixty-five years ago, 155,000 American, British Commonwealth, and Free French troops landed in the biggest amphibious operation in history, along with free people from many other occupied nations. On Saturday, take a moment and remember those who risked their lives, who gave their lives so we can live in freedom.