Monday, September 30, 2013


(Excerpt from forthcoming chapter "My view from the summit")

“Don't move the furniture!” Those were my late husband Ted's parting words whenever he left on a ministry trip out of town or out of the country. He claimed that each time he returned, if at night, he’d have to quickly turn on all the lights so he wouldn’t stumble over my latest urge to “change things around.”

They say that opposites attract. My husband was a Just leave it where it is! person. I’m a changer at heart. I love change—most any kind of good change, of course. I always did.

“That chair might look better over there.” or “Why not pull the table over by the window?” Or “Let’s try the sofa against the other wall.” “Let’s drive a different route home.” “Wait till you taste this new recipe.” I thrive on change. It isn't change only for the sake of change, however. It has to be change with a purpose.

My family knows my idiosyncrasy well. They got together and presented me with a surprise gift when I moved into my current house—a box of round shaped slider things of various sizes that have one slippery side and one sort of spongy side. They are meant to put under the legs of furniture so you can shove it around on the floor with hardly a push no matter how heavy the pieces may be. I am delighted! I’ve tried about every arrangement of furniture imaginable…oh, not quite. “Let’s try the recliner over there….”

I guess God knew what He was doing when He added the love of change to my DNA. I’ve traveled and lived and raised my family, and ministered in many places in the world; I’ve had to constantly adapt to new cultures and situations and people. My willingness to roll with the punches and weather unexpected happenings has stood me in good stead.

There are, however, changes over which we have no control. Whether we like change or not, we will all encounter many major and minor changes throughout the seasons of our lives. Changes are inevitable, continuous, and lifelong—whether physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, geographical, circumstantial, or relational. There is nothing as certain as change. It often hits us like a ton of bricks when we least expect it.

As much as I like material change-arounds, something within me is apprehensive of those intangible changes of life because of their uncertainty. As one grows older, the future seems like a vast unknown that holds nothing but “what ifs.” Changes are part of God’s maturing process to shape me into greater conformity to Jesus Christ. I miss rich blessings if I resist changes. I gain and progress when I accept them as new challenges. At the same time, I need to remain anchored in the Unchanging One, our Lord, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Why am I surprised to know that I grow through the unpredictable? Although I struggle through the disenchantments of change, they bring me to new reality and joy. It seems that through changes God deliberately sloughs off the old and familiar and underneath the crust I discover the fresh and new that has been waiting for me. In the shattering of a dream, I awaken to new visions.

Well then, I’m wrong to resist change, since it is my friend. Change is God’s instrument to teach me to bend with the wind and lean in another direction that He has planned for me. The wind will always blow, and storms will be inescapable. They will beat upon my life as in the parable that Jesus told about the two houses built on different foundations. Settled in Him, as I live on my summit, I need not be shaken or moved if I am built upon The Rock, not sand. My infrastructure, my eternal spirit, is reinforced by the indwelling Holy Spirit to withstand life’s shifting earthquake changes.

The changes of life are opportunities for me to bloom transplanted. Lord, help me welcome change as a clean slate, a fresh breath, a cool breeze, an untried path, and a stimulus to renewal! In the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, the ultra-capable, super-faith woman described there is said to “smile at the future.” Help me, Lord; I’d like to do that in my summit years. It requires Saint Faustina’s faith-filled affirmation and continual aspiration, Jesus, I trust in You!


(Excerpt from Ch. "Living on my summit")

“Imagine waking up and looking in the mirror and seeing yourself as you were years ago!”

That TV commercial advertising some kind of facial makeover has been airing recently. It's accompanied by two “before and after” photos of women and men. The first frame is in black and white depicting a depressed-looking person with sagging features. The second is in full color, smiling, with wrinkles and sags erased. “Call this number for information about a 'Lifestyle Lift.' Hurry! Operators are standing by.”

It's not possible to turn back the hands of time. I might be able to do some camouflage temporarily with softening creams, cosmetics, and by holding my head up and developing the habit of a frozen smile. But nothing permanent. Nothing to wake up and look surprised at in the mirror. Those “hands of time” do their gravity pull all over my body as the years roll by. Healthy living and a positive attitude might slow down the aging process just a wee bit, but the ravages of mortal life on this planet are relentless.

Something can be done in the spiritual realm, however. Not a “lifestyle lift” but a heart-warmup. A restoration of what I left behind, a retrieval of what I lost somewhere, sometime. That loss may have been due to my neglect, or carelessness, the busy life I lead, the cares of this material world, or the mundane, ordinariness of everyday living. Any or all of the above.

One day I do wake up and look in the mirror to see my spirit reflected. I search for my fervent "former self" in relation to God as I was years ago. Where is my burning heart? I see only cold embers. The Holy Spirit doesn't abandon me. He too is relentless to remind me from whence I have fallen. He uses various means to draw me back to where Jesus wants me to live as my spiritual lifestyle.

He recently used my own voice to speak to me from the past. I'm in the midst of transferring from the obsolescence of cassettes to CD’s some of the still relevant messages I have spoken in past years to Christian Writers' conferences and keynote messages at other Christian gatherings. In the process I have been reviewing each tape to evaluate whether it has continuing worth. I listened to a message I gave to a group of Christian ladies upon returning from a three month journey in Asia where I researched the authenticity of the renewal of the Holy Spirit's power which was sweeping throughout the world a few decades ago. My own spiritual thermostat was on high as I spoke from a burning heart of what I observed and my own genuine experiences. I was convicted by my own voice, my own words of testimony on the tape recorded many years ago. 

I looked in the mirror and confessed that I am in danger of being in the condition of faithful believers in the church at Ephesus to whom Jesus directed His accusation, “[You have many good and commendable works] but I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent...” (Rev. 2:2-6). 

I kept looking in the mirror. Have I ever been more fervent in my love for God than I am now? Could I be among those Jesus foretold in Matthew 24 that in the last days “the love of many will grow cold”? To warm up my former love for Him just a little is insufficient. In Revelation 3:15,16 Jesus declared His displeasure and distaste for those who are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.

It seems to be a characteristic of those of us in advancing years that our bodily thermostats become defective. We get cold feet and hands due to poor circulation and diminishment of body heat. Our metabolism gets out of kilter. We reach for a sweater or blanket sooner than previously, and turn the thermostat higher. 

Spiritually I must stay warm and watchful through the means God has provided to maintain a burning heart of love for the Lord by continual meditation on His sacred Word, walking close to Him in prayer, listening to His voice with obedience, and availing myself of the Sacraments.

If I follow Jesus at a distance in my summit years, my heart will invariably grow cold, and I will yield to temptation as the apostle Peter did while Jesus was being tried before Pilate. He huddled in the courtyard near the fire and tried to warm his hands to no avail. Nor can I warm my heart at the fires the world offers. Jesus Himself lit the charcoal fire for the fish and bread breakfast He prepared on the shore after His resurrection. Through questioning Peter after breakfast, He drew him back to his first love. 

That's where Jesus wants me. Not trying any temporary “lifestyle lift” but living in first love relationship to Him in the final season of my earthly life. Just as I did in the first flush of His embrace when, as the hymn writer expressed, He “walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own.”

Friday, September 27, 2013


(Excerpt from Ch. "My View from the Summit")

The God of the Second Chance also gives us a third, fourth, and even fifth-and-beyond chance. He is patient and merciful with us as we go through His learning process. How thankful I am that He doesn't follow the rule “Three strikes and you're out!”

I've fallen short and failed so many times in my long life, but the Lord always reaches down and picks me up, brushes me off, gives me a hug, and sends me on my way again.

I learn from my failures—sometimes—and sometimes I don't, and God has to bring me back to kindergarten class again. Psalm 23 declares, “He restores my soul.” It happens over and over, and I am ever so grateful.


Long ago on a distant hill
in the springtime of my soul
I gathered a pile of stones
beneath an ancient oak.

It was my altar
where I knelt unseen by man
in intimacy with my God
for my special consecration.

Occasionally I return
if only in my memory
and seek that tree and the stones
and my place of sacrament.

Sometimes I find
the rocks scattered haphazardly
by insensitive hands
or nature's accident
perchance by passing time.

So I perform
the ritual of gathering them again
piling one upon another
to reassemble my altar.
I kneel to restore my commitment
to the Lord, my Rock.

Such is life:
the rebuilding over and over
of personal altars and the renewal
of promises made
to our Ever-Merciful and Forgiving God
The God of the Second Chance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


(Excerpt from Ch. "My View from the Summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

My life is like a book with chapters. I've written many chapters already. As I look back from my summit, I see myself as a different person in each of those chapters. In a sense I was; as I matured, I assumed different roles in the various chapters (seasons) of my life. At the same time, my core identity is secure; I am still me.

We’re always told not to read the final chapter of a book to see how it turned out, but to wait and be surprised. The Mother of Jesus was unique, however, because God gave her a prophetic peek through old Simeon at the Presentation of baby Jesus in the temple. He revealed one of the later chapters of her life that would pierce her heart. I'm not privy to such a revelation; perhaps it is best that I'm spared that glimpse. Either I would be too eager to reach the happy ending of my life story, or drag my feet if I knew in advance about some trials that are to come.

I'm a bookworm; it seems that I “inhale” books. I love to read all kinds of books, especially biographies and dramatic New York Times bestsellers, if they are clean. If I have any addiction, it is that I overeat when I read a book—once started, I swallow it whole, gobble it up almost at one sitting. Let the world go by; nothing else gets done while I read. And I try to have another good book waiting in the wings to start reading. I want to start on another pleasure cruise.

By contrast, my life, a biography, is only a single volume. It will not have a sequel nor will it be a series. God gives me one chance at life. Carrying through the book analogy, I start with what a publisher calls the Front Matter, the background stuff that launches me: the Acknowledgments, Foreword, Introduction, maybe a Preface. God has already predetermined the setting, chosen my DNA, and the circumstances where the drama will take place. He ordained the plot and the characters who will interact with me during my earthly life. 

It’s going to be a real page-turner, for sure, but it can't be written or read in a hurry. I'm subject to space and time in this mortal life. Each chapter is separate, chronologically progressive, and must be lived fully before the next chapter unfolds. No single chapter is the whole book; the plot keeps developing, so I shouldn't get bent out of shape over how things are portrayed in a particular chapter, like the one I'm living right now. God is at work processing the whole exciting adventure story of my life; I am a work-in-progress. I must just hang in there; everything will pass. Whatever I worry about, which I don’t think I can possibly live through, I might not even remember when I'm living in the next chapter.

I can probably anticipate a generous basketful of serendipity times and events and adventures that will contribute to the fulfilling of my dreams. And a ton of ordinary days and events. The trivial non-events and humdrum routines are said to be the building blocks to develop my holiness. Mary surely must have had many joyful but ordinary, homespun times with Joseph and her son Jesus as He was growing up; not everything they said and did would have been earth-shaking and serious and worthy of being quoted even around Nazareth. 

Since life is made up of so many commonplace daily doings, I shall enjoy each chapter in the now and treasure the beloved characters who are living it with me. In my biography some characters will come and others will go. I shall keep offering up all things joyful and painful to God and accept His big plot for my life story. I want to live fully in the present chapter until God turns the page to the next chapter.

There are times in my life when I might think I have surely reached the last chapter, that God must be getting ready to close my book. None of us can be sure about God's timing. As I approached my eightieth year, I thought I had written the final chapter in my literally about-to-be-published autobiography. What more could God possibly have left for me to experience in life? Little did I know that not one but several more incredible chapters (and another book or two or more that I would write) were about to unfold. Little did I know that I was on the verge of what I consider the greatest faith paradigm shift of my life—I joyfully became a Catholic Christian after a lifetime as a Protestant evangelical missionary, teacher, writer, and broadcaster. 

I'm always eager for God’s breathtaking, fantastic surprises in my next chapter. As a Christian, no matter how many chapters I will live through, or how many different roles I will play, I can look forward to a grand Epilogue, a fitting climax, even after God writes the last chapter in my earthly life story—it will be Eternity in the Presence of the Blessed Trinity! 

As they say, “The best is yet to come!” So I celebrate each chapter as a loving gift from God!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


(Excerpt from Ch. "My View from the Summit"
Me—still me!” That was the caption on a “Pro-Life” poster with two pictures. It got my attention because although arresting and true, it seemed incomplete. In the first frame was the photo of a pre-born fetus; in the second was a cute, smiling toddler. The point was, even in a fetal stage it was an identifiable human being. True.

Nevertheless, I wished there had been a third photo of an inwardly beautiful elderly person. In fact, the third picture—which wasn't there—is the identity which is often stolen or lost or denied. The elderly are the same persons of worth who once were in the bloom and energy of youth and prime of life.

I am told to beware these days of “Identity Thieves.” They lurk around in unsuspecting places and devise ways to pounce on my Social Security number, bank statement, credit card data, and scraps of paper on which I innocently reveal who I am and what is of value to me. It seems that when people are in the senior season of their lives, they are more vulnerable to having their identity stolen.

Is it considerate for someone to ask a person in advanced years, “Who did you used to be?” intimating, however unintentionally, that he or she is not identifiable or of value now because he or she is no longer engaged in what may have been his career. Age doesn't make us past tense. My real identity at the core of my inward life can never be stolen, nor can I lose it. If I have retired from my lifelong occupation, I haven't regressed to become a nonentity. My spirit doesn't age and it is continually renewable.

Those of us in our advanced years need to maintain our self-esteem with gratitude to God for who we have become. He has been working on me for a lifetime conforming and transforming me into the image of Christ through all the ups and downs that have shaped me. Roles in life may come and go, but I am a unique person known and loved by God, distinct from all others, unduplicatable, uncloneable. I am a sheep that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls by name and I answer to it. It wouldn't matter if my name was Jane Doe and there were a million other Jane Doe's throughout history; my particular identity would be secure. 
In fact, even if I may not know who I really am as to my genealogy, God knows. What's more, I expect to be still me and uniquely identifiable in the Life after Life throughout all Eternity. No “Identity Thieves” are allowed in the Courts of Heaven, and no longer will anyone question me about my identity. The Scriptures promise that in “The Father's House,” as Jesus called Heaven, “we shall know as we are known.”

That must mean that no one there will ask for my I.D. Does it follow that I will know everyone else--and they will know me--without being introduced? Fascinating! 


(Excerpt from Chapter "Living on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

One problem of advancing years is often dry skin because the natural lubricants of our body diminish. Creams and lotions crowd the store shelves touting miraculous results. 

Psalm 92:10 is a prayer for “anointing with fresh oil.” As Christians, we’ve hopefully had our exhilarating, anointing times in the past, but fresh oil is still abundantly available to us now, and more needed than ever. The Holy Spirit is both the dispenser of that oil, and the oil itself.

Psalm 45:7 promotes the “oil of joy” as our essential oil at every age. Joy is not the predominant emotion that comes to mind when we think about older people. Rather, it seems that depression, sadness over losses and limitations, weakness, discouragement, and melancholy are more characteristic of aging. 

When Jesus referred to “old wineskins” in His teaching, He may not only have meant institutions and traditions. Another layer of understanding might be applied to people. The Holy Spirit’s power is prophesied as coming upon the old and simultaneously on the young, irrespective of gender, status, or position in life. (Joel 2:28-31) The Oil of the Holy Spirit can soften hardened, dry, brittle, leathery, wineskin-people enabling them to receive and contain the New Wine of the Spirit which is being poured out these days. God puts His oil on the old wineskins to restore them to youthful elasticity and usefulness. The Oil of the Spirit will stretch our capacity to hold more of Jesus.

God does not limit himself to making new and moving by His Spirit on the young. He can, and in these last days spoken of by the prophets, may move in tremendous power of renewal also upon those more advanced in age. It is never too late to reach higher by opening ourselves to more of God’s fullness. For both the young and those advanced in years there is available “new every morning” refreshing and rejuvenation. There is great potential for elderly people who are refired with zeal for evangelistic witness to draw into God’s Kingdom their peer elderly friends.

The gospel is not exclusively for the young to receive or to share. A great impartation of power from elderly Spirit-filled believers to other age groups in the Church is God's norm in Scripture and history. Generations are meant to move in power together similar to the way patriarchs passed on truth to their families in Old Testament days. 

We are called to go on “from glory to glory.” God’s Kingdom has no retirement plan. I don't want to be left by the wayside as His glory passes me by. God has planted me where I am at this season of my life to be a pliable wineskin container for His New Wine to be offered inter-generationally in my orbit of life.


(Excerpt from Chapter "Living on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

When I have reached one of my goals, it is good and right to thank God for the achievement, but not to settle down and bask in my successes. I must keep raising the bar and moving forward and upward. It is when I stop moving and pressing on that I become old. 

That is why I consult my “bucket list” from time to time. Is my bucket empty in my advanced years? I would do well to examine what’s been in my bucket. Have I given up on or neglected some of the contents, or have some things simply leaked out? Should I press on to accomplish what’s left in my bucket?

I was curious about the origin of that analogy and did some online research. “The Bucket List" was the title of a movie about two terminally ill men and what they set out to do before they died. It came to mean a list of however many things you might want to accomplish before your own mortality closes the door. Before you “kick the bucket,” which is a slang term that has come to stand for dying. In short, it’s a list you have made of what you hope to accomplish or do in your lifetime.

But where did the bucket aspect come from? One source traced it to the Middle Ages when hanging was a common form of capital punishment. The victim would be taken to an elevated scaffold with a noose around his neck. He would stand on an overturned bucket or pail. When the bucket would be kicked out from under him, his body would drop, the rope would tighten, and he would be hanged.

In a sense, since a bucket list is a list of goals to achieve or roles in life or places I would like to go, or things I would like to do, I could very well ask myself, “Who put those items in my bucket? Did I? What was my motivation? As a Christian I should ask, “Have I consulted God and His will and purpose and plan for my life? Or am I simply on a self-centered ego trip through life? Are there things that should not be on my list? Are there valuable things I have omitted?"

In rural China, it is common to see two heavily loaded buckets being carried by one person. A long pole is suspended across the shoulders and two buckets in balance are hung on each end of the pole. It might take two buckets to contain all that some of us would like to do in one lifetime. There is nothing wrong with having personal goals and wishes and desires. On the contrary, it is good and right. I may fill up one bucket with that kind of list. 

Nevertheless, I should balance it in the other bucket with a list of God’s priorities and purposes for creating me and calling me to become His child. One bucket may contain temporal desires; the other, eternal values and desires in sync with the will of God. 

God isn’t about the business of raining on our parade or taking all the fun out of life. The Scripture says, “God has given us richly all things to enjoy.” God created the world and everything in it for man. In the Psalms we read, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God is an over-blesser, always generous to give us more abundance than we can ask or imagine. God’s storehouse of goodness and mercies is overflowing. The bucket list of how He wants to favor His children is a lot weightier and richer and a greater treasure than anything we could think of to put on our own bucket list of “to do’s or to be’s.”

I encourage myself to be more concerned with God’s bucket list for my lifetime, however short or long it may be according to His sovereign plan. The question I should ask myself is not, “Have I accomplished all I want to do from my bucket list?” I can’t go wrong with continually praying, “Lord, I want Your will to be done in my life on earth as it is in heaven. Show me how to fulfill Your bucket list for my life!”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


(Excerpt from chapter "Living on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

Daily I see neighbors walking their dogs along our street. Pets on a long leash are straining, running ahead, barking at every rabbit or squirrel, pulling their master along, and winding themselves around bushes and trees. They even ignore their master when he calls them. However, if the leash is short, the canine is under control, obedient, and happily wagging its tail. 

A phrase in a familiar hymn is the confession that I am “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love....” Those of us in advanced years sometimes begin to wander from our spiritual center because the road seems to be getting too difficult, our feet are sore, and we tire easily. Our minds wander from our earlier sharp focus on the Lord. I need to keep close to God's side so I can hear His commands and heed His instructions. 

From my first waking moment and often throughout the day I ask God to keep me on a short leash. I pray:

Grant me discernment. Show me Your priorities for the hours of this day. I can no longer do as much as I did in earlier years. Make Your guidance clear to me and give me Your strength and wisdom to accomplish only the tasks that You've specifically appointed for me. I want to hear Your voice clearly so I can obey and follow You fully. May I be careful to abide in You and maintain my "first-love" relationship although I am far along in years. While I do the good works that You have commanded and fulfill the responsibilities that You have given me, may they not deter me from a close walk with You. "Martha was distracted...worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one..." (Luke 10:40-42).

Schedule this day for me. Bring into my life everything and only, whatever and whomever, You ordain in person, by letter, email, phone call, thought, impression, prayer, event, responsibility or circumstance. Then I will know that interruptions and changes are not accidental or incidental but my opportunities and Your appointments for my good and for Your glory. And please give me good sense to let go of all other good things which I could do or to be concerned about. Help me accept that they are not Your main thing for me because they would draw my time and energy away from Your priorities. Help me to avoid them and leave them gratefully in Your hands.


(Excerpt from the chapter "Living on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

Living on my summit I shall try to roll with the punches and meet changes of life head on with courage and trust in God. 

Changes are inevitable, and they come thick and fast as we grow older. They are part of the Heavenly Potter’s finishing process, shaping us like clay until the final day of life. Changes move me further along as I am being transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to glory. Changes are not accidental or incidental. God brings them into my life for my growth toward spiritual maturity.
Youth, by and large, welcomes changes. Older people tend to resist changes outward and inward. Our negative attitudes and habits become more pronounced as we grow older. We become more rigid and insist that it is too late to change. That isn’t true. I lose a blessing if I refuse to change. I gain and progress when I view changes as new challenges and opportunities to grow. Even while living on the summit, I can still change so that the rest of my way will be more pleasing to the Lord. I face life’s changes anchored to the Unchanging One, the Lord who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

God apparently uses changes to make us malleable. Those of us in our later seasons of life often find ourselves far from malleable. When applied to matter, malleable is defined as “capable of being extended or shaped by hammering or by pressure from rollers.” Ouch! What a painful analogy! When applied to people, the term is used to mean adaptable or tractable, open to change. Other synonyms are compliant, supple, flexible, and pliable. All are good spiritual attitudes. The word mallet comes from the same root and refers to a hammer-like tool usually made of wood. A judge’s gavel which is used to demand attention and order in court would be a mallet of sorts.

To the degree that I remain spiritually malleable, God can extend my horizons, teach me more of His truth, and shape me into the vessel which He envisioned I would be when He planned for my life before the foundation of the world. 

At the same time, God also created me with free will so that I can either resist His work in my life or accept it. The Lord doesn’t force me to receive His blessings or more of His truth. With love He draws me gently in that direction, but the choice is mine. If I wholeheartedly will to do His will and try to live in a state of grace surrendered to His leading, I open myself to receive His blessings in overflowing abundance. I become His instrument to draw others to Him.

If I drag my feet to obey and follow Him from afar, God may use gentle or not so gentle loving pressure to make me more malleable and shape me in His direction. It is not punishment; it is progress in transformation into the image of Jesus. 

"Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.” Can I say, “Thanks, Lord, I needed that!”

Thursday, September 19, 2013


(Excerpt from Ch. 15 "Wordsmithing on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

Dear Lord,

I'm in a dilemma. When I have a computer problem in my word processing, my high tech sons keep telling me, "Just be logical, Mom!" I have a hard time trying to do that.
I’m not complaining, Lord—just putting in a request through channels. My valued Guardian Angel has been faithfully with me 24/7 since my conception. I really appreciate him. You created him smart as a whip, wise, alert, skillful, and powerful as are all Your heavenly messengers. He is multi-gifted and he helps me multi-task. He does marvels for me in every area of my life. But, forgive me for mentioning it, perhaps he is not too sharp in the technical department.

Be that as it may, Lord, I really need a Techy Angel to assist him in these highly specialized days in which I live as I try to serve you through my published words.

My four sons give me immeasurable help in computer technology and provide me with state-of-the-art equipment. But they are still mortal and limited and not always available to help me. Of course, being more skillful and experienced than I am, they lovingly scold me when I’ve got into some computer confusion. They first ask me accusingly what I did to get myself into this fix. That intimidates me! Usually I don't know. My sons keep telling me that I should simply follow the prompts to solve my own problems. I honestly can’t, Lord, because sometimes I really don’t even know what the questions or options mean in order to make a decision. I hesitate to venture into unknown areas “above my pay grade.”

My loving sons always do come through to rescue me and give me a new start. Without doubt they have their own Guardian Angels who are probably more tech-savvy than mine. He helps me with the creative stuff.  Forgive my adult boys, Lord—sometimes they shout at the computer calling it stupid in their anger when they themselves may have hit a brick wall trying to figure out a certain problem. 

When I get into some unsolvable-to-me computer predicament, my son Rick can even magically guide my cursor from another location without being present with me. Awesome! He tells me just to sit back, and I watch the monitor with amazement while he guides the cursor here and there in the squigglies of computer language, right at the heart of this thing. He makes his way around in its inner workings like a brain surgeon. That’s so much like You, Lord, when You take over to solve some life mess I’ve made. I relax and let you do the driving.

But I’d really like to have a Techy Angel on duty all the time to assist my Guardian Angel because I’m so often frustrated with the hardware and the software. You’ve given me a dominant right brain and I deal primarily with creatively processing words to help people draw closer to You. I can’t seem to think in a technical direction. It was so simple in my earliest days of writing when all I needed was a black manual Underwood typewriter whose carriage you had to push back to start another line and you had to use “White-out” fluid for corrections and onion skin paper and carbon paper for copies. And there was no such thing as a printer.

Oh no, Lord, I wouldn’t want to regress from the marvelous ease of this technological and electronic age! Certainly I wouldn’t like to go back to how it was with a manual typewriter—or to a quill and parchment or chiseling words in stone! Thank you for all the advancements at my disposal to accomplish the divine tasks of Your Kingdom!

But the vehicle of writing and publishing these days seems to demand a stronger left brain. Lacking that, I need a Techy Angel with a left brain to help me. If You want to send a human one, I will be so grateful. If you send an invisible angel, brilliant and mighty directly from Your Throne Room, that would be so cool! I’d take good care of him, feed him angel food cake, and laud and applaud him. It would make my writing life a whole lot easier, thank You.

Your created and redeemed mortal with an Eternal Destiny,


(Excerpt from Ch.2 "Living on my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress STILL MORE--FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT

The rear view mirror in an automobile is relatively small and the distance and objects for the backward look are not in the right orientation. By contrast, the windshield for the view ahead is large and panoramic. Both are necessary for driving perspective and for our life perspective.

Looking backward, the choices I recounted that I made in the past, even as far back as childhood, largely determine the consequences and rewards and blessings I'm experiencing now. From my current summit position, it is time to look forward. There is still a “rest of the way” whether it is one day or a decade. 
As King David meditated in the Psalms at the summit of his life when he was advanced in years and declining in health, he stated the obvious: “I have been young, now I am old....” He had experienced the vigor of youth, the warrior strength of maturity, and now he was suffering the weakness and decline of age. That is the destiny of each person if he or she lives long enough. 

Realistically we will all struggle with the natural limitations of aging. There will be the inevitable diminishing of physical and mental energy, the decline of mortal faculties, and the termination of life on earth. I will encounter a plethora of new choices that I've never had to make before. Some choices may eventually be made for me as I lose my independence. Nevertheless, at this very moment I still may have time to prepare for abundant living on the summit. Or even learn how to climb to greater heights on my summit. With aged Caleb in the Old Testament story, I ask, as he did, for God to give me the challenge of another mountain to climb. I anticipate singing on the summit until, God willing, “the hills are alive with music”!

The summit of a mountain isn’t usually a plateau. I don’t believe the summit of my life is a place to settle or let down my guard. As I look around my mountaintop, I see more peaks to climb in the mountain range. My life is not yet spent. I’m still spending it, even if I have only one day left.

If I don’t keep growing, climbing, moving, I will slide backward. Doctors say that this applies to both the aging body and mind. As they say, you have to use it or you’ll lose it. If I don’t keep my mind alert, it will deteriorate in the same way as my body will for lack of movement. The latest medical research gives us some previously unknown and unexpected good news. Even in advanced years the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can renew themselves and new stem cells can grow! That’s not news to God. He created us with that capacity and expects us to daily “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Therefore, I want to push the horizons of my mind and spirit further and remain on the cutting edge of life. The more I stretch, the higher I can reach. I don’t want to miss anything God planned for me.

Suddenly, so it seems, I am the eldest in our extended family; I am the “matriarch!” That role carries with it serious responsibility. I am supposed to be wise by this time, and matriarchs should pass on their godly wisdom. Some who reach mature calendar age unfortunately become foolish instead. I am happy in my continuity role as the trunk in our family tree, as the connection between the roots (our heritage) and the branches (our children and grandchildren). When I was a child, my paternal grandmother was the trunk and the matriarch. I was a little branch, just a twig. Now I feel honored to be the trunk, and I pray that I might be a strong one to support and encourage our multiple branches as long as God gives me that opportunity.


(#5 excerpt from Introductory Ch.1 "Climbing to the summit")

Life lessons learned

I eventually accepted the fact that I can’t solve everything, understand everything, or fix everything. I'm still learning and relearning that lesson. I tend to try mending or correcting every situation or relationship that seems broken. A long life and watching God do His work in His own way are teaching me to relax, step back, pray, be available, but “leave the driving to God.” He may want to allow people to go through some difficult circumstances to teach them His own lessons. God has not appointed me to be His Rescue Squad. I don’t have to retrieve every ball that someone drops.

I refused to live with regrets or guilt about my mistakes, failures, or sins of the past or present. God wants me to view them as He does: after I have repented and confessed them, to accept God's forgiveness and move on. I made mistakes even in later years when I should have known better. I am still making them and still learning. God is incredibly loving and patient with me. I never ask for His justice but always for His mercy. 
I may not be writing the last chapter in my life story yet. In fact, I may not really have reached the summit of my mountain. I am still climbing. Certainly I haven’t attained, but I press on toward God’s high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:12-14). This slogan is so true: Please Be Patient With Me, God’s Not Finished With Me Yet! 
I decided to be willing to sacrifice whatever God wanted since I discovered that God always more than compensates me for anything I might give up. He is a God of increase, not deprivation. Whatever sacrifices I’ve made are not worthy to compare with the generous “exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ask or even think” blessings that God has showered on me (Ephesians 3:20). 

To hold back anything from God is to lose it. To give up my life for His sake, Jesus said, is to save it (Mark 8:35). In Mark 10:29,30 Jesus promised that if anyone “left houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for His sake and for the gospel’s sake” he would receive “a hundred times as much now in the present age and in the age to come eternal life.” Jesus said that if I seek first His kingdom and righteousness, all material things I need will be added to me (Matthew 6:25). I have proven this to be literally true in the past, and it is still being fulfilled in my life.

Late-in-life climbing adventures

I determined to become a survivor not a victim. When I was diagnosed with cancer, a defining moment was my decision not to allow a potentially terminal illness to interrupt God’s purpose for my life. I learned that “goodness and mercy (lovingkindness)” (Psalm 23:6) does follow us all the days of our lives through adversities, valleys of the shadow of death, and other painful experiences. Whatever has come into my life, I’m learning to genuinely say, “Thanks, Lord, I needed that!” God developed compassion in me through those God-ordained painful events.

Each such experience enabled me to write another book to minister to others who walk similar paths. My adversities launched me into new ways to encourage others. I learned to celebrate each day of life as a loving gift from God while He continues to give me bonus time to live, serve, write and speak.

I decided not to let widowhood define my life. I chose to move forward and continue with God’s assignment when my beloved husband died. God had a purpose for our lives together as a couple, for our parenting, and for our ministry together. In God's plan, that purpose was obviously completed after 46 years. 

Nevertheless, I realized that God still has a purpose and agenda for me as a single woman again, as a single mom, a single grandparent, and single great-grandparent. God has had a continuing ministry and a fulfilling life for me that was part of His original plan. I am not living in some “Plan B” now. Nor am I only half a person. I am still “complete in Christ.” My new single status allows me to minister to others who are walking life’s path alone and has given me the opportunity to write several books to help them.

Late in life God surprised me with a serendipity: I came to joyfully accept my ethnic and cultural heritage as God's perfect arrangement after having resisted it most of my life. A defining event late in life was my discovery, through the adventure of searching for my genealogical roots, of the meaning of my Czech heritage and where it fit into my life puzzle. I now wholeheartedly identify with it, value it, and understand God’s sovereign intention to enrich my life through this appreciation.

I began to pursue my own ethnic identity more fully after Ted died because that event seemed to put some measure of closure on my total involvement with Chinese culture and ministry that had been my life. I thank God, however, that while Ted was still living, we were able to share the initial experience of exploring my Czech heritage by traveling to the Czech Republic together. I knew I had his blessing in my pursuit.

The crowning joy, which God saved for whatever His perfect reasons until the late season of my life, was that I have become a Catholic Christian after a lifetime of faith and ministry as an evangelical Protestant. That step was in no sense a denial or abandonment of my past biblical faith but a fuller discovery and understanding that there is MORE to the Christian faith passed on faithfully from Jesus and His apostles through His Church.

If I could live life over again, would I make any radically different choices? Of course, I definitely wouldn’t want to repeat some mistakes and detours I've taken. I might change some secondary choices. But no—I haven’t regretted any of my major life decisions as I climbed the life-mountain to my present summit. I have no complaint about the colors which God, the Master Artist, is even now choosing to paint on my life canvas. “Father [God] knows best.”

Now here I am!

The foregoing is how I climbed to this summit, the long trek uphill. These were some of the decisions which made me who I am at this point in my life. The journey has been rich and adventurous. I trust God that “the rest of the way” I am still in His hands as the Potter being molded into the vessel He intended before I was born.


(#4 excerpt from Introductory Ch. 1 "Climbing to my summit")

Embracing my gifts

College was a defining period in my life when I sought for and formulated a world view based on sincere inquiry into the basis for my Christian faith. That provided me with a satisfactory frame for the picture that would be my life.

I decided not to care what people say or think, if I know clearly what God wants me to do. That was a major decision with far reaching consequences that flew in the face of my strong desire and need to be approved by others and accepted by my peer group. It was hard on my inferiority complex to become still more “different” when I married someone from another culture and anticipated spending a lifetime identifying with that culture overseas.

I envied my friends who were obviously more gifted and talented than I. Eventually I decided to stop whining about what I lacked. I thought God passed me by when He gave out His gifts. Eventually I decided not to look back over my shoulder at my disastrous failure at piano lessons! God intended a different keyboard for my fingers—it was to be the computer keyboard for word processing which had not even been invented until decades later. I finally discovered and accepted with joy God’s gift to me of creative writing. That bolstered my self-worth and enabled me to have a fruitful lifetime of service for God. In embracing my gift, developing, exercising, and teaching others the writing skill, I discovered not only one gift but a cluster of gifts. In my adult years writing led to speaking, teaching, traveling, publishing, broadcasting, and related ministries. Even now I am unwrapping new gifts within that one generous gift from God. 

Decisions while climbing

I was open to marry and have children, if God willed it so. That choice opened a whole world. God’s blessing, in turn, gave me a wonderful husband and four wonderful sons whom I thoroughly enjoy, respect and value at every age and stage of their lives from infancy to manhood. Each one of my six feet tall “Chinese Czechers” is the Master Artist’s “original,” blessed and gifted by his Creator in unique and diverse ways. That led to the bonus delight in my daughters-in-law (whom I call “daughters-in-love”) and my ten (current count) grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren (so far).

I agreed with God that my character was more important than my accomplishments. I began to understand, during my years of active ministry, that being and doing go hand in hand but we are created by God primarily to be in His presence and communicate with Him as His highest desire for us. He wants time with His children—to talk with and listen to them. God did not create us primarily to be His servants. He created ministering angels to do His work, and He invites our co-labor to help build His Kingdom. But God desires above all my “first love” and values time spent in His presence waiting on Him, more than busy Christian activity (Revelation 2:2-4). That doesn’t demean service for God but puts it in proper perspective. I am still learning this lesson.

I came to understand that I wouldn’t be able to—because I couldn’t—live up to God’s standards. I discovered in my late childhood and early teens that in spite of my will power and good intentions, I could never live up to my endless good resolutions. I failed over and over. I wanted to do better, but I didn’t have the power in myself to do so. I thought I had to work really hard to live up to His commandments—not only the original ten but the thousands of others in the Bible. 

Then I discovered in the Scriptures that being “born again of water and the spirit” meant that God implants His new, supernatural life within me and provides me with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to please Him. He never intended for me to conjure up my own goodness. God’s law and commandments were meant to show me that I couldn’t do it on my own. On the cross, Jesus Christ already did everything that needed to be done to atone for my sins and to obtain my salvation. I realized that truth early in life, but the process of understanding its depths and living it out continues. 
Overlaying that truth, there is another critical one: The fullness of the Holy Spirit, as taught in Scripture, is essential for living victoriously and abundantly and serving God with power. Whatever theological terms one might use to describe that experience, God wants us to pursue it and continue in that fullness as a priority.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


(#3 excerpt from Ch. 1 "Climbing to my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)

Choosing my direction

Within the framework of God's sovereignty and His generous gift of man's free will, He allowed me to make critical choices at specific times in my life. Looking back from my summit, I realize that those decisions determined the direction of my entire life. I was a strong-willed, stubborn child. I was adamant that I would decide for myself. I determined I would be the one to choose whose expectations I would try to meet, and they wouldn’t be the expectations of my parents. From the time I was very young, I resolved to leave my hometown as soon as I grew up and go to “some other place--any other place!” Perhaps it was the immigrant blood in my veins from my forefathers. I didn’t want to pursue the settled comfort zone that my parents valued so highly and urged on me. I believe God put this desire in me.

Without a doubt, a major defining choice was when I found God. That put me on a trajectory to conform to God's will instead of insisting on doing everything my way. Because of my godly generational roots, which I knew nothing about until much later, coupled with my grandmother’s prayers for her little charge, I was restless and searching from my earliest recollection. Instinctively, I seemed to know it was God for whom I was searching. He would fill the void in my young life all the way to the summit.

I recognize now that my choice to go in God's direction was also the work of the Holy Spirit. God was actually pursuing me, choosing me, while I thought I found Him, had chosen Him. That was still part of my insistence on self-determination. I wanted to decide whom I would follow. When I discovered who God really was, and what He had done for me, I was eager to submit myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I surrendered my way to His way without reservation and forever. That commitment gave me security and direction and, at the same time, catapulted me into a life of adventure and risk. God didn’t instantly change my life, my negative attitude, my distorted view of my heritage, or my low self-esteem. God accepted my surrender, turned me around in the right direction and continued His process of my lifelong transformation.

Accepting myself “as is”

Because I had been ultra-critical of myself, my imperfect body, my shy, introvert temperament, always comparing myself unfavorably with others, it was a pivotal decision to finally accept myself the way I was. I realized that God loved me and accepted me unconditionally. Moreover, He fashioned in detail and according to His deliberate plan, all parts of my body while I was still in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139). I was finally on the road to a proper perspective on my authentic self and being comfortable with who I am. I had the sense that God was in the process of changing me from the core, including my attitudes and perceptions, aligning me toward His best for my life. I became a new person in Christ right away, but the outworking of that newness would take my entire lifetime.

In my summit years I am learning a new aspect of accepting myself “as is.” By the time I became comfortable with living in my own skin, that “skin” began to "go South"—it has become gravity challenged and my youthful tight skin, in a physical sense, has become loose and wrinkled! Because that comes with the aging “gift package” too, I am in a learning mode to accept that gift with humor and gratitude along with my calendar peers. I am not defined by my skin, my outward appearance; I am the inner, immortal soul who lives in that skin. I am still the “me” God uniquely created and chose to be His own throughout the seasons of my life.

When I was young, I struggled with finding my identity, as most people do. That also takes a lifetime because “what you will be, who you will be, you are still becoming,” and that is a process. Now at the summit I believe that I know who I am, and I’m at peace with that discovery. I am who God intended me to be and who He has been working on all the years of my life.

That has segued into the following choice: To follow God’s plan for my life, not mine. Before I left high school, I began to understand that God has some special life purpose for me. My sense of destiny became strong and was a defining factor in my future decisions. That has given meaning to all the decades of my life. Although I couldn’t have expressed my purpose in life in my early years, as time went on it became clearer. God Himself and what He wants to do in my life is still central to my thinking, ambitions, desires and goals. I would say that I never lost the awareness of God’s purpose for me, even at this latter stage of my life.

Embracing my gifts

College was a defining period in my life when I sought for and formulated a world view based on sincere inquiry into the basis for my Christian faith. That provided me with a satisfactory frame for the picture that would be my life.

I decided not to care what people say or think, if I know clearly what God wants me to do. That was a major decision with far reaching consequences that flew in the face of my strong desire and need to be approved by others and accepted by my peer group. It was hard on my inferiority complex to become still more “different” when I married someone from another culture and anticipated spending a lifetime identifying with that culture overseas.

I envied my friends who were obviously more gifted and talented than I. Eventually I decided to stop whining about what I lacked. I thought God passed me by when He gave out His gifts. Eventually I decided not to look back over my shoulder at my disastrous failure at piano lessons! God intended a different keyboard for my fingers—it was to be the computer keyboard for word processing which had not even been invented until decades later. I finally discovered and accepted with joy God’s gift to me of creative writing. That bolstered my self-worth and enabled me to have a fruitful lifetime of service for God.

In embracing my gift, developing, exercising, and teaching others the writing skill, I discovered not only one gift but a cluster of gifts. In my adult years writing led to speaking, teaching, traveling, publishing, broadcasting, and related ministries. Even now I am unwrapping new gifts within that one generous gift from God.


(#2 in continuing excerpts from Ch. 1 "Climbing to my summit" from Leona's book-in-progress)
God, my Potter

God has been the Potter; I have been the clay. He had something specific in mind for this insignificant, chubby little child hiding shyly behind her immigrant grandmother’s apron. God worked on the clay of my life when at times it was still unyielding, or when I tried to squirm out of His hand. Sometimes the clay was broken even while in His hands.

“...I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:3,4).

God gives us second chances and third and fourth chances, whatever it takes for Him to accomplish His purpose through His children in tandem with their free will. It is never too late; the clay is not ruined forever. Many times I have made major mistakes. In my early years, I sniveled about my lot in life, talked back to God, disliked my environment and the people in my life.

“Who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God...Why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have a right over the clay...?” (Romans 9:20) “Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

God, the Master Artist

I was wrong when I tried to push the Master Artist’s brush away when He painted a background I didn’t like on the canvas of my life. I thought He was unfair, that I had been short-changed in my ethnic identity, in the body He gave me, in my heritage, and my apparent lack of abilities and talents. I liked other canvases better and wanted mine to be like them. But God didn’t give up on this pouting, sullen little girl. He was painting an original which He would consider His masterpiece because He planned it from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). There would never be another like me.

The Master Artist’s canvas is nearly complete now. The picture is taking shape as He is putting finishing touches on it. I don’t know how long that will take, but He knows. This I have learned: God is not in a hurry. Radishes take only a couple of weeks to mature. Oak trees take considerably longer.

God waited to put some unexpected finishing touches on my painting late in my life. He still keeps coming up with surprises—more “little happy things,” bright color daubs on my canvas. He alternates with darker colors that I haven't thought were necessary. But after His brush applies them, my painting is enriched. I see that all the colors are important to give dimension and perspective.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces

Because I am a writer and think in visual terms, another metaphor comes to mind as I live on my summit. God gradually gives me more pieces to fit into my life puzzle but doesn't let me see the cover of the box on which is pictured what the assembled pieces should finally look like. As are all of God's people-pictures, my picture is unique. It takes a lifetime to put it together. It is incomplete at any point, even now.

Sometimes it seems as if there are too many dark pieces and they are hard for me to fit in. Where would cancer and widowhood fit in? No experience is wasted in God’s picture. There are many small pieces and some are look-alikes, the trivials and routines of daily life. But if even one piece is missing, the puzzle won't be complete.
Putting together puzzles was one of the traditional fun things we did with our family of four boys. Sometimes our pet dog would find a piece that dropped under the table and chew it up! When children are small, they start with puzzles of only a few large simple pieces. Our family progressed to puzzles of a thousand or more pieces. Now you can buy circular puzzles, 3-D puzzles and other complicated variations. I think my life-puzzle is more like those.

Mine will eventually be complete. “In Him [God] you have been made complete” (Colossians 1:10). “He [God] who began...will complete...” (Philippians 1:6). “I [Jesus] am the Alpha [A] and the Omega [Z], the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). 

I may not see the finished picture until God Himself fits in the final surprising piece and I view it from “the other side of the mountain” in the dimension that is Eternity. I will understand that every piece had its purpose and place. Without a doubt I will see that under God’s control my life did turn out just like the picture on the box that is me.

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11 Amplified).
When I am in the full presence of God, I will see how He answered my grandmother's prayers for her little granddaughter and how her prayers and the prayers of my godly ancestors continued to be effectual as they reached all the way to our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and on through the generations.