Saturday, January 31, 2015


I'm frequently asked,“What jump started your writing career?” I'll title my answer: 


The year was 1952 and at age 27 I had just returned by ship to the U.S. exhausted from missionary work in tropical Singapore and Hong Kong. I had a five month old baby and two toddlers in tow—our oldest was just over three. I traveled alone since my husband Ted remained overseas to complete a final year of seminary teaching.

As a young mom with no spare time for anything personal beyond my parental responsibilities, I nevertheless began to sense that it was God’s time to move forward in my desire to write more seriously. From childhood I rather clandestinely wrote poems and stories, kept a journal, and was a voracious reader dreaming that some day I would like to be a writer. However, I had no formal training in the writing craft.

Upon entering Wheaton College in 1943 I was disappointed that no Communications major was offered. That seems incredible now, given the prominent place it has in today's Wheaton curriculum. I was an Anthropology major but with an elective to fill I signed up for the only class in writing that I saw listed—a one semester class in “Creative Writing.” It was taught by a stately, energetic, buxom, silver-haired professor, Mrs. Tiffany. 

The only thing I remember about the class was that she assigned us to try writing in various genre and then spent an inordinate amount of time teaching us to write proper essays. How boring and irrelevant, I thought! Essays were from another century and not for our modern age. Little did I realize back in 1945 that my brief exposure to creative writing and Professor Tiffany's insistence on perfection in syntax would be the tiny mustard seed from which would grow the next seven decades of my writing life.

How could I begin to hone my skills for writing while juggling baby bottles and diaper changes? In those early years we didn’t have an abundance of Christian writers’ conferences, how-to books, Christian market guides, recordings, or videos. Certainly no computers or online internet instruction. More academic training was out of the question given my circumstances. My old Underwood manual typewriter and I were on our own. So I borrowed stacks of books from the public library and taught myself the writing craft by the seat of my pants between child care duties. I joined the local Iowa chapter of AAUW. There we mercilessly critiqued each other's writing—and some of us survived to write again and better. 

I recalled Professor Tiffany's idea of exploring which writing style suited me best. So I determined to try writing seriously in every genre until I succeeded in having one manuscript accepted by a publisher in each category. It seemed like an impossible dream, but after enough rejection slips to paper a wall, I did just that. Most magazines or publications didn't pay anything, but my byline was there! I concluded that the newsy, hurried aspect of journalism didn’t appeal to me, but I liked the reflective nature of creative writing, poetry, and the research process for nonfiction. Of one thing I was certain: I would never be able to write a book. The discipline and length of time involved in that process would be too demanding. 

(Update: I have just seen my 37th book roll off the press including more than a dozen foreign language editions of some of my titles and a growing number of my ebooks are available. Never say never!)

I continued freelancing while raising a family of four sons while working full time editing publications with the campus ministry among Chinese university students which my husband and I co-founded. I slipped into book writing quite by accident through opportunities for “ghost writing” for other people who had something significant to say but were not writers. Success as a “friendly ghost” led to writing my own books: historical and missionary biographies, my husband's biography and my own heritage saga with several spiritual autobiographical sequels, anthologies of my free-verse poetry, contemporized classic works, books on mission philosophy, and specialized target readership devotional books. Teaching workshops at Christian writers' conferences led to publishing my books on the craft and ministry of writing. 

My books related to China are based on a lifetime of ministry experiences among Chinese people both on North American university campuses and during my14 trips to The People’s Republic of China as tour escort and independent travel with my late husband listening to the stories of courageous underground Christians and churches there.

In recent years many of my books focus on what God is teaching me through the adversities of life, among them my lung cancer surgery and widowhood. Such struggles are not to be wasted but they are an opportunity from God to help readers who encounter similar experiences. Now that I am “calendar challenged,” my books reflect the issues one faces in vintage years. For all of the books I have published, the mustard seed basics about writing and perfection in syntax and wordsmithing that I learned from Professor Tiffany's brief writing class have been my foundation. After all, each book is simply made up of short topics or essays which, when accumulated, morph into chapters.

I am an ardent blogger with many faithful followers. There too I write under Professor Tiffany's shadow—each blog post is essentially what a previous generation would have called an essay.
Most of my earlier books were published through traditional royalty publishers. When I became more prolific in my writing, the submit-to-a-publisher-and-wait-endlessly cycle seemed too slow and burdensome. Speaking in churches and conferences was increasing my visibility and my web site was extending to new horizons. At the same time, my potential for marketing was developing through producing and broadcasting my daily radio program on the Christian station of which I am president. Even there I benefited from Professor Tiffany's essay writing class—each short program I produced was essentially an audio-essay.

Based on those pluses, my eldest son Rick and I established Golden Morning Publishing primarily as an umbrella for my books, although we have published a number of books for others which I have ghost written or edited. We control the entire process from writing through seemingly endless proofreading, ultimately producing camera-ready copy or electronic transmission which we send to a top notch press. I work with graphic artists to design full color covers to follow the themes of my books.

I'm usually writing more than one book at a time so when one book is on the press, I'm already excited about working on the next one. Professor Tiffany's encouragement not to limit my creative writing to one genre has enabled me to write in multiple directions, as God leads. After a lifetime as primarily a non-fiction writer, I'm dipping into fantasy-fiction with my forthcoming book Fables of God's Kingdom for Grown Ups, which will be published first in an electronic version. I think Professor Tiffany would be pleased that I'm still spreading my wings to attempt new genre. In fact, I just might dedicate the book to my long ago, silver-haired writing mentor! But I'm not sure she would remember me from the back row of her class. I was the one whom she consistently graded no higher than C+ for my efforts! I was definitely not the one voted "Most likely to succeed" in her class!

I find creative writing exciting and joyful. Nevertheless, it demands serious commitment and large, continual doses of self-discipline. The finished manuscript doesn’t drop from heaven nor is it dictated word for word by the Holy Spirit. For the writer who is a Christian his work may contain insights of truth, but of course is not “revelation” in the sense that Scripture is inspired. It requires long, lonely hours of writing and rewriting, constantly improving one's craft, if God is to be glorified with the writing gift He has given. 

That's what it's all about, isn't it?
Adapted and updated from an article “Meet the Pro in Cross-genre Writing” originally published in the Cross and Quill, The Christian Writers Newsletter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Note: The most frequent question friends ask me in this new year is "What are you writing next?" In answer, this is to let you know that I plan for two books to be published electronically first, (in ebooks) before they will be published in print. Both are already written pending final proofreading. The first I will explain below. The second, in a later blog post.


Our God is an “over-blesser.” Whatever He does is lavish, munificent, bounteous, unsparing, and abundant. God has an unparalleled record of faithfulness in providing for the needs of His own people. Beyond that, He outdoes Himself in generously giving us far more than we need, even to granting the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) He is the God of overflow.

As a result of His creative overflow to me while I was writing my recently published book STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT, the third book of my spiritual autobiographical Trilogy, I obviously flourished overly much! I had to perform syntax surgery by cutting the word count in half before publication. Several analogies come to mind to justify publishing this book.

The birth of twins

I look upon each book I write as if it were another child—a brain child or a heart child. While writing the above book, I was unaware that I was “pregnant with twins.” I thought it was one rather large “baby.” As I neared “full term,” I realized, editorially speaking, that this word-child was not a single birth. I had to delay the birth of the second twin. Although this is not possible in natural childbirth, it is possible in the editorial world. Here the analogy breaks down. I resume in wordsmithing terms:

The syntax surgery I had to perform on my manuscript was painful and painstaking. What should I retain and what should I reserve? I wanted to include all of the topics because of their importance. They had already gone through the final editing and proofreading. It didn't seem feasible to leave out entire chapters since each had a theme in continuity. I sifted prayerfully through each chapter to decide which topics could be omitted. The process left me sharing with my readers only half of what I wanted to say. I was stopped in mid-sentence, so to speak. 

In this book are the collected, omitted topics plucked from each of the original chapters of my STILL MORE! book. In a word, I am offering still more of STILL MORE!

Gathering up leftovers

A second analogy is that of conserving the leftovers. All four Gospel writers mention the miracle of the loaves and fishes. On one occasion Jesus took seven loaves of bread and multiplied them to feed 4,000 people. Seven large baskets full of leftovers were collected. He had previously blessed five loaves and fed 5,000, and the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers. Leftovers were of concern to Jesus.

I was faced with a decision about leftovers. Since Jesus has always given me more than I need, I should be a good steward and not waste the bountiful, equally nutritious leftovers with which Jesus has blessed me. I should find a way to share them generously with others rather than let them languish in a document on my PC and consign them to oblivion without blessing anyone. I waited for clear guidance from God. It felt it would come via feedback from readers of STILL MORE! who let me know whether they found the original book to be spiritually challenging enough to want a “second helping.” That has proven true!

Therefore, in this twin book are gathered up the nutritious leftovers tucked into twelve baskets full and divided into twelve new chapters of MORE.

Drinking from the saucer

I mused over a third whimsical analogy remembered from my childhood. I was blessed with two Czech grandmothers in my early growing years in the Iowa heartland. One grandmother lived with us; the other we often went to visit. 

My most vivid sensory recollection was of the overpowering fragrance of coffee in Grandma Anastasia's house so evident upon entering her front door. A large, blue-speckled enamel coffee pot was set on the wood stove brewing coffee for Grandpa Jed and for anyone else who might drop by to visit. The aroma of freshly baked kolaches, a fruit-filled, yeast dough, traditional Czech bakery, mingled with the powerful scent of coffee. 

Grandpa drank coffee throughout the day. He liked it piping hot and wanted his cup filled all the way to the brim. The pot was heavy and had a wire handle so it was a bit unwieldy for Grandma to manage, so she usually misjudged the amount she was pouring. Invariably the coffee spilled over the brim of Grandpa's cup. The runoff collected in the saucer. Grandpa never complained. On the contrary, he smiled and said it tasted even better from the saucer. He was fond of drinking the saucer overspill first. I think he deliberately made a lot of noise sucking it up because it made his little granddaughter giggle.

This book represents what I hope is the fragrant and generous overflow into the saucer from the original cup, my book STILL MORE!
The bubbling, overflowing cup above is the illustration I plan for the front cover of COME DRINK FROM MY SAUCER.

Monday, January 26, 2015


(View from my back door)
by Leona Choy

While I slept soundly
snow fell lightly last night
as if God were in Heaven’s kitchen
making an angel food cake.

He sifted it in heaps over the hills
spreading it smoothly like frosting
over every bare branch
beating white peaks of meringue
against our shrubbery
and making a marshmallow mound
of my deck furniture
and my Chrysler in the lane.

He swirled powdered sugar
with abandon down our sledding hill
while all life came to a standstill
in our deep-freezer pond.

But today the winter sun broke forth
and our world is a marble cake:
chocolate chip mud morsels
dot our lumpy lawn and fields
cocoa-splashes mar the pristine purity
of last night's spectacular beauty
of God’s divine cuisine.

Our crusted, rutted road is brown-sugared
with maple syrup puddles.
A lone duck splashes about with delight
in the thin, watery edges of the pond
quacking at the melting sight.

Who knows?
(Certainly the weather forecaster doesn’t!)
God may send a second angel
to fly down and silently add
another fluffy white layer
and frost it again tonight
spreading a frothy, finishing fillip
of whipped cream snow
to top His marble cake
or silver-crust it all with slippery ice—
even that would be nice!

I don't dream longingly
oh well, maybe occasionally
for Florida's predictability.
Come what may, I'm here to stay
I delightfully thrive
on God's culinary variety
in Virginia country winters!

Sunday, January 25, 2015



If it is really a truth, it can be found anywhere. The Scripture says, “Whatever things are true...if anything worthy of praise...let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Sometimes I find it in unexpected places. I came across a truth on the last corner of the cover of my college alumni magazine. A young professional, a graduate of the college, wrote,  

“I think of my life as a very small plot of land that's been given to me, that I didn't make, and I can't sustain by myself. I want this little plot to reflect God's glory, and so long as I can accomplish this [through her God-given gift and academic training in the arts] I'll continue to explore it thoughtfully and share the experience with others.”

Good stuff! A worthy analogy. I want to explore its application to my own life—perhaps the reader can find it has meaning for himself/herself as well. It fits into the theme of my recent blog posts. What difference does my life make anyway? Is my “footprint” of any significance?
What have I been doing with that “little plot of land” that is my life? For sure my life and my circumstances were given to me by the Lord. They are not of my own making, and I can't till the ground by myself; I need the help of others. Am I neglecting to plow and plant my life-plot just because it's little and so leave the ground unplowed? Perhaps it is larger than I know! God expects me to bloom where He planted me; He chose the location and my orbit of influence. He has given me the “tools” to make it fruitful. 

Is my little plot reflecting God's glory? Am I sharing the fruits of my spiritual experience with others to draw them to God? Or have I looked down on my gift and my scant opportunities and buried them in the ground like the one talent hidden in a napkin in Jesus' parable?

Cultivation takes planning and work and time. Weeds grow rapidly by themselves, but crops must be patiently sown and cared for.
I admit that I don't have trouble with the planning. It tends to be my strong point. I'm good at setting goals long term and short term, aiming for deadlines, charting my course full steam ahead. But I realize people are different and not everyone does that. Some just let life happen and then they respond to it. My strong point may also be my weak point. I'm inclined to make my own plans, to map it all out, and try to control the outcome in my time frame. I'm sort of a mover and shaker.
James 4:13-16 is my flashing red light.  

“Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” James put his finger on our incredible presumption that we know what the future holds, even short term. Only God is all-knowing.

Yes, I'm responsible for my little plot in life. Yes, I should plan and not just merrily row, row my boat gently down the stream. God has given us all free will; we don't dance like puppets dangling on a His string. He has given us minds and judgment and choice with that freedom so we can plan. “Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21). A man's mind plans [devises, designs] his way but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure [establishes them]” (16:19). 

God allows me to plan and devise and work my little plot in life in a way that seems good to me and as if it all depended on me. At the same time I should not be so presumptive as to take the future for granted. “If God wills” I shall cultivate my plot in stewardship because He owns it and has placed me here for His time frame and purpose. I happily understand that the Lord is over all and directs my efforts in the way that I should go!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Having been involved in radio broadcasting for decades, I am familiar with that term. It means “the area on the surface of the earth within a satellite's transmitter or sensor field of view.” In more user-friendly terms, our “footprint” meant how far the radio signal frequency could reach; how many potential ears could be listening.

In human terms, we understand our footprint to be a mark left by the foot, as in earth or sand. If my foot makes an impression in the sand of the seashore, it soon disappears. If the footprint is in the mud or soil, it can last somewhat longer. It means that someone has been there. (When a super-size footprint is found in the forest, “Bigfoot” is thought to have stomped by.) Like a fingerprint, an impression of the sole of a person's foot may be taken for purposes of identification, as a newborn for a birth certificate. 
When I was four years old, my parents built a new house and had me put my little foot in the cement of a step leading into the back porch. It was still there when I left home to get married.

I want to explore still another meaning of our footprint: “the impact or impression that a particular activity, person, or group makes.” What footprint or impact am I making by my life while on the earth? No matter how long I will live or how short my life will have been, it is but a tiny dot when compared to eternity. 

Nevertheless, God has entrusted me with life and expects me to be a good steward of it. I am to make a unique footprint for Him, an impression worthy of Him, an image of Him left upon the lives of other people.

Not a selfie-footprint that will be washed away with the tide. A permanent one. Just as our prayers are everlasting when we release them up to God, and our thoughts are recorded in God's book of remembrance, so my impact on every person I have ever encountered is everlasting—and I am impacted by their footprint. Every step I make in life is as if I made it in cement. Footsteps can be heard and footprints can be seen. Every word I say, every deed I do, as well as every word I forgot to say, or act which I neglected to do. Yes, every discouraging or negative word, every unworthy deed also leaves a footprint in cement. What a sobering thought!

Footprints are supposed to lead somewhere; they are meant to be followed. The footprints God expects me to make should lead others to Him by way of the Cross and the Empty Tomb. They are meant to draw people upward not lead them downward. When Jesus called men to discipleship, He beckoned “Follow Me.” Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). People can no longer see Jesus' visible footprints on the soil of Planet Earth, but they can see my footprints. I am responsible for where my footprints lead others.

Saint Paul offered himself as a model for early Christians taking their first steps in their new faith. “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you...” (2 Thess. 3:7-9). Yes, Paul, your footprints were worthy and wonderful. But I am only a humble twenty-first century follower with often unworthy footprints for anyone to follow. Nevertheless, I have no choice. I make footprints daily. 
When I was a child I was closely bonded to my Daddy. I stuck to him like a burr. Whenever he did yard work I would follow him and try to put my small feet into his big footprints. Likewise, I must stick close to my Father in Heaven and put my feet in the footprints of Jesus if I in turn hope that people will follow me to Him. 

"If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also” John 12:26).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Just to show up and make myself available to the Lord, as young Samuel was instructed to do, is good but it is the bare minimum. I must go further--to listen attentively to God's voice and then obey. 

The mother of Jesus simply instructed the servants at the wedding feast in Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” It is not enough even to call Jesus “Lord, Lord.” When I hear His voice, I must do His will. 

I belong to God because He created me and also because He purchased me at such great cost on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:19). God wants my body as well as my soul. When God asks for my body (Romans 12:1), my only acceptable response to His appeal is to say YES to all that He asks of me. 

Saint Philip Neri (1515-1595) reminded us that the only response acceptable to God when we experience losses, illnesses, disappointments, adversities, and problems of any kind is, “Yes, Lord!” 
“We must accept the adversities which God sends us without reasoning too much upon them, and we must take for granted that it is the best thing which could happen to us. We must always remember that God does everything well, although we may not see the reason for what He does.”

When I surrender myself to God, it involves total acceptance and a continual “YES!”

Receive whatever God gives me—with joyful heart and continued thanks.
Yes, Lord, I thank You for Your goodness” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Be content with what God withholds—companionship, health, material things, even life itself.
Yes, Lord, I bow to Your loving will and plan for my life” (Psalms 84:11).
Endure what He allows in my life—in His strength, not my own.
Yes, Lord, without complaint” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Hold all things of earth loosely—living with Eternity’s values in view.
Yes! Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Live today for Jesus only—celebrate each moment as a love-gift from God.
Yes, Lord, to the praise of the glory of Your grace” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

A little chorus is still tucked into my memory backpack from my early walk with the Lord. It is just as good in the vintage season of my advanced calendar years--perhaps even better:

Yes, Lord, YES! to Your will and to Your way
Yes, Lord, YES! I will trust You and obey
When Your Spirit speaks to me
I'll listen attentively
With my whole heart I’ll agree
And my answer will be:

I make it a habit to repeat this little prayer-chorus mentally or in a whisper as I drift off to sleep after checking in with God: “Here I am, Lord, speak to me while I sleep if there's been too much static during the day to hear Your voice clearly. My answer will be “YES! LORD, YES!”

Monday, January 19, 2015


This quote in the context of the court hearing about the Benghazi tragedy: “What difference at this point does it make?” went viral in every form of media and continues to be applied to every imaginable situation. But I want to explore it in a spiritual context, namely intercessory prayer. I adapt it from a topic in my second LAND OF MORE Trilogy book, LIVING THE TREASURES.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a holy early Christian who died in 387, wrote, "Be of good cheer, only work, pray, and strive cheerfully for nothing is ever lost. Every prayer of yours, every psalm you sing, is recorded. Every alms, every fast is recorded.

Could Saint Cyril ever have imagined what technological recording systems would be invented in the twenty-first century to enable man to record in voice and view in full color something that was happening even in a far-off corner of the world—and to disseminate it by satellites through space, and replay it instantly anywhere, and store it permanently? Perhaps God did reveal it to him as an accurate analogy in the spiritual world, and it is for us to marvel that such recording has been taking place in heaven since before creation.

What difference does it make?
A tremendous difference! 
God not only hears every prayer but keeps a permanent record! Whenever I pray, my prayer doesn’t just vanish into thin air, disappear with time, or ever lose its power. Every prayer is indestructible; it is eternity long, it keeps working forever. I never pray in vain. I launch my prayers out into the universe to the Throne of God, wherever that is. God does not misplace my prayer in some heavenly filing cabinet, overlook it, toss it in the circular file, or set it aside because it is either too trivial or impossible. Received and permanently recorded, my prayer is always answered by God in the fullness of His time and in His perfect way. Even if it takes centuries or eons of time. That would include every prayer in Scripture, the prayers of Jesus, the apostlesancient formulated prayers, every spontaneous request, every sign of the cross meant as prayer, and every other form of prayer including the simplest lifting up of my thoughts toward God.

As I expand my understanding of the Communion of Saints as declared in the ancient apostolic creeds, that would also mean that every prayer prayed by my godly ancestors or Christians throughout history, men and women of faith through the ages, the prayers of those who populate heaven, continue to be efficacious for generations to come—forever—and efficacious for me now in real time!

What difference does it make? A tremendous difference!

In some mysterious manner difficult for my human mind to grasp, even every conversation about the Lord, and by inference every communication, every letter, every e-mail related to our faith, every deed of mercy and love and encouragement, according to Malachi 3:16, is also recorded. I quote from the Amplified paraphrased version: “Then those who feared/revered the Lord talked often one to another, and the Lord listened/gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord, and who thought on/esteemed His name.” How awesome to realize that God is listening in on my conversation when I talk about Him with friends, and leaning over my shoulder, so to speak, to see what I write about Him! Or even that God is aware of every time I think about Him!

What difference does it make? A tremendous difference!

Truly I would like to have a big, thick Book of Remembrance to present to the Lord as a love gift by the time I leave Planet Earth! God may have assigned a special contingent of angels to serve in some Heavenly Communications Studio to supervise that gigantic recording process that continues through the ages. Heaven must have a huge library with endless storage space for all those Books of Remembrance—unless the angels convert them to celestial micro-chips or there is a designated, endlessly expanding “Storage Cloud.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Greeting cards can be purchased for nearly every possible event and occasion you can think of. “Get Well Soon” cards are more than plentiful.

Despite well-wishes or prayers for getting well, not all of us will get well soon--or at all. God really does heal today as Jesus did while on earth--but not always. And if we do get well through human or divine intervention, our healing will only be temporary. We are mortal. 

This is pretty heavy, but there is only one way to enter heaven. Jesus declared unequivocally, “I AM THE WAY.” But the manner in which each of us arrives at the gate of heaven varies. We get there either through illness, age related disorders, accident, martyrdom, being killed, or dying "of natural causes" in one's sleep. (Committing suicide is not acceptable.) There is one exception to entering heaven through the death route and that is in the end times at the return of Jesus Christ. We can't, however, choose the manner of our inevitable demise.

One-size-fits-all “Get Well” cards are not realistic. “But we have to talk about cheerful stuff. We can't be morbid,” some of us may counter. “Keep it light. We don't want to scare people, discourage them, or cause them to lose hope. We sure don't want to talk about death—that's a downer!” Yes and No. True and False. It's a Both/And situation.

 Our society seems to be in cultural denial about human mortality. If you avoid talking about it, it apparently doesn't exist. Nevertheless, there is no escape route or pretense that death only happens to someone else. All of us are terminal regardless of age or station in life. This world is not our home; we are pilgrims just traveling through, some more rapidly than others.

This past year it seems that I have had more than usual the number of close friends and relatives who passed into eternity. Last year at this time death wasn't even on the fringes of their minds. At this very moment I have many more friends who are at death's door. Some may recover but the prognosis of others may be only a few more weeks or months. Generic “Get Well” cards are not appropriate. There is little time to waste on unrealistic recovery talk if they are getting close to laying aside their “earth suit,” their body of flesh.

Some may be reluctant to admit it but they might be fearful of the unknown and longing for someone to have down-to-earth “Going Home” discussions with them. Many people avoid such talk because they are uncomfortable with spiritual conversation. It might help to role play what that final hallway to the door into God's presence will be like. The fact is, when we actually arrive at the point where our lives are ebbing away, our minds might no longer be clear because of medication, and our awareness may be slipping. 

Isn't it NOW, while we are still lucid, that is our prime time to grapple with what we want to say to loved ones, and what witness to our faith we want to leave behind while we are still able? Above all, each of us should want to make sure while we are of sound mind whether we are headed in the right direction. We want to know what heaven is all about, what Jesus said about it, how to get there, and what Scripture teaches about eternity.

Those of us who are Christians are preparing to face the moment toward which all of our lives have been heading—our launch into the new spiritual dimension where we will spend the eternity that Jesus promised. Shouldn't we be eager to put on the immortal, to exchange corruptible, weak, and painful flesh for the incorruptible? To experience all the marvelous, incredible things beyond man's imagination? Our expectation should overshadow any apprehension or dread. It is time for us to joyfully anticipate actually seeing the Beloved One in Whom we trusted for a lifetime, who never let us down, who promised He was preparing a Place for us “in His Father's House.” 

Along with some light encouraging talk, why shouldn't we talk openly about all those urgent eternal matters too? Shouldn't someone design a card with a cheerful “Bon Voyage!” motif? A card that will focus on the ecstatic expectation ahead of Seeing God, the Welcome Celebration, and joyful Reunions that await the faithful children of God whose spirits will soon take off and fly out of our sight into a new life of greater reality than they ever experienced? 

Jesus didn't promise that all of us would “get well soon.” He gave us the greatest, the very best promise of all: “He that believeth in Me shall never die!” Can we doubt the sure words of the One who created the universe with all its galaxies and far flung stars, Whom the Almighty Father sent to redeem the people on this tiny speck of a blue Planet? Can't we trust His perfect and marvelous plan for our life after life?
Hallmark, you're missing the boat with those exclusive, well-meaning, but sugary, sentimental and generic “Get Well” cards. There's something better than getting well—or perhaps "getting well" needs a better definition. You need a new marketing plan that will target all those soon-to-be space travelers who just can't wait to lift off from earth's launching pad on their Heavenly Journey!


Sunday, January 11, 2015


I don't hear the door bell or the phone ringing if my vacuum cleaner is roaring over my carpet. It takes silence to become aware that someone wants to communicate with me. But even silence is not enough. I must be attentively and intentionally listening or I might miss the communication in the confusion of other distracting noises. I must be tuned to the right frequency.

In my early childhood I remember an uncle who had one of the first radios. (That really dates me!) It was a large, tan, rectangular metal box with a round receiver on top of it something like the open end of a tuba. On the box were several knobs and a dial. Uncle Jake spent an inordinate amount of time precisely tuning the dial a hair-fraction line at a time until the whining and static stopped and he heard a discernible voice or music. Sometimes he resorted to headphones to get a clear signal.

Young Samuel, a prophet in training with the prophet in residence, Eli, was not yet accustomed to hearing the voice of the Lord (1 Samuel chapter 3). Samuel “did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” Apparently God wasn't saying much either because the sins of the leaders created static between Him and His people. “And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (verse one). Eli and Samuel were sleeping all snug in their respective beds when suddenly Samuel heard a voice which he thought was Eli calling him. 

He repeatedly reported to Eli, “Here I am!” Eli insisted that he had not called him. Finally the seasoned prophet Eli got it. Duh! He recognized that God was calling the boy and instructed him to say, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.” Samuel tuned into God's frequency and heard the Lord's voice loud and clear with an important prophetic message of judgment and a monumental vision of what God was going to do among His people. That set Samuel's course as a prophet in the years to come and the Lord was with him confirming his call.

Our take-away from this biblical episode? My take-away? “Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts...” (Psalm 95:6-8).

God is still speaking to His people. He is speaking to us collectively and individually. He is speaking to me. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27. I just need to show up with the attitude and the words “Here I am!” I need to tune off from the static of life and listen. The problem isn't that God is not speaking, but that I am not listening. 

I need to still my soul. I might need to break my routine more often, to have “out of the office” days for rest and restoration, for spiritual reflection. I must loose myself from the restrictions of time and the hectic pace of modern life. Simply to sit awhile and be present in the moment, present in the warmth of God's presence—like sitting in the warm sunshine and soaking up His love. Not asking anything of Him, perhaps not even interceding at the moment, or going over our prayer list, but just listening for His voice. Just showing up and acknowledging our presence, like we answered in school when the teacher took attendance: “Present!” Or it might be in the middle of the night, like Samuel, when God has our undivided attention: “Here I am!” 

I should intentionally anticipate hearing from God. Not infrequently, not once in a blue moon, not rarely, but “today if you would hear His voice.” In truth, He speaks to His own children continually.

To develop a listening ear and spirit and heart may take time, if I am not accustomed to hearing God's voice. I don't expect to hear it audibly as from an echo chamber, although God may speak however He wills. He may communicate through His written Word or through circumstances, through His impressions to my mind, through the voices of others, through contemplating Him, through quietly resting in Him or adoring Him.

Perhaps the simple bottom line is for me just to show up in God's presence and say, “Here I am!”

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Life is not always or even primarily “a piece of cake” in the sense of being easy and smooth and sweet.
Life happens. It comes upon each of us in different ways. Usually not in the self-charted way we neatly and perfectly map out. “A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure” (Proverbs 16:9). “A man's steps are ordered by the Lord; how can a man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24)

Nevertheless, life really can be all cake if we look to Jesus Christ to keep us from being moved by its vicissitudes. Even if we are in Christ, that cake may not be the flavor we would have chosen. It may not be Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines. It may not have all the ingredients listed in the attractively colored box and we are afraid that we don't have all the extras that we need to add.

God may seem to be serving us a pound cake—things happening to us and to those we love are too heavy for us. Or we may dislike the piece of cake of life that we are served and call it devil's food cake. Or we want to refuse a fruit cake heavily loaded with fruit and nuts because we'd rather have light angel food cake made with egg whites and beaten fluffy with sugar. 

Some of us like the icing on our piece of cake more than the cake itself. We clamor for more frosting. God does add his sweet touches, His consolations, His serendipity blessings to our cake—but not all the time. Were we to eat nothing but frosting we would get sick. 

Moreover, we might feel that unless we have the whole cake, only a piece of cake is not enough. We feel deprived. But Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread....” He promises to give us our portion daily, not all at once. We are tempted to look around and see other people with a bigger slice of cake than we have. But God the Father knows best just what portion of cake we can handle and measures it out to us. We would be overwhelmed if we were given the entire cake at once. That's why He portions out our life in segments of days, one day at a time, one piece of cake at a time. Remember the question about how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. With God's help that is doable.

Yes, life happens. But not happenstance, not randomly, not haphazardly. Even if life seems to be going over the cliff or in circles or if nothing appears to have any meaning, God is in control. He is Lord of our circumstances and of the changes through which He allows us to go. 

We can live without cake, but not without bread. Jesus identified Himself with bread, with the staff of life, the staple of nourishment in nearly every culture, and with the manna that sustained God's chosen people in the wilderness and the desert. He is our necessity. “I am the bread of life,” He declared. 

Just as Jesus blessed the bread at the miracle of the loaves, so He blesses the piece of cake He portions out to each of us in life. When Jesus blesses our piece of cake, it too will be multiplied with blessings. It will not only satisfy us but there will be baskets full left over.

The Lord Himself is my piece of cake. “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup....God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever....I cried out to You, O LORD; I said, 'You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living....Feed me with the food that is my portion...'” (Selections from the Psalms).

Thank You, Lord, for my daily portion, for the piece of cake You've served me today and for Your provision for tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Does God smile? 

Does He have a face, an eye, a hand? The Scripture is full of such anthropomorphisms. However, God is a spirit and cannot be seen or accurately depicted despite the fantasy artistic renderings of Him as an old grandfather-like human figure with a long, white beard.

Anthropomorphism may sound like a contagious disease! Not to worry, it is defined as the interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics. It is similar to personification, a figure of speech attributing human nature or characteristics to animals or inanimate objects or abstract ideas as for literary or artistic effect. I use it freely in my forthcoming book Fables of God's Kingdom for Grown-Ups which I've posted one by one on my blog in the recent past.

So...does God smile? Some people wrongly think that God always seems angry, is always raining on our parade, imposing negatives and rules about what we shouldn't do. On the contrary, Scripture employs the anthropomorphism of “God's face shining” (smiling) with pleasure upon us especially by the use of that term in the Old Testament. Its early first use is in the book of Numbers 6:14-26, the instruction of God for Moses to pass on to Aaron who in turn was to bless the people with those words. I quote from the Amplified version: 

“The Lord bless you, and watch guard and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you. The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you, and give you peace [tranquility of heart and life continually].”

Then it is picked up in the Psalm 4, Psalm 31, Psalm 67, and repeatedly in Psalm 80. The search for that phrase in the foregoing Psalms about “lift up the light of Thy countenance” and “make Thy face shine upon us” is an encouraging affirmation. 

How does a child or adult know that he has the approval of someone? The person “lifts up his face,” his face lights up, and he smiles! We can “make” or “cause” God's face to shine on us by responding to His love, by walking with Him, abiding in Him, being present to Him, and obeying Him. God actually takes pleasure in the human children whom He has created. We are not His slaves. It is not our productiveness or activity even on His behalf that He delights in. It is being present to Him. 

Written first by the prophet Zephaniah to Israel, the following Scripture is by implication also for God's people, for each of us who bear His name. “The Lord your God is in your midst...; He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (3:17). Here is another anthropomorphism: the Lord gets excited and loves us at the same time quietly and deeply and also with shouts of joy over us! Another version says God sings for joy over us!

A great way to start the new year and to begin each day is to “lift up our own countenance” to the Lord, smile at Him, and intentionally plan to give Him pleasure and delight, to walk in His presence joyfully under the smile of His approval and favor.

Then whatever may come during the day, during the coming year, during the rest of our lives, we may, as the Proverbs woman of virtue was said to have done, “smile at the future” (31:25). Another version expands the word future as “the latter days or time to come.” 

Especially for those of us in our chronological latter days our personal  scenario may seem dark and foreboding. And we fear that the world as we know it is also in its latter days. Nevertheless, we may look toward the future not with apprehension, dread, or fear but with a smile knowing that at the end of our life's journey we will receive the loving welcome and approving smile of our heavenly Father.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Our God is an “over-blesser.” Whatever He does is lavish, munificent, bounteous, unsparing, and abundant. God has an unparalleled record of faithfulness in providing for the needs of His own people. Beyond that, He outdoes Himself in generously giving us far more than we need, even to granting the desires of our hearts if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4)

All four Gospel writers mention the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In Mark chapter eight, Jesus took seven loaves of bread and multiplied them to feed 4,000 people. Seven large baskets full of leftovers were collected. He had previously blessed five loaves and fed 5,000, and the disciples gathered twelve baskets full of leftovers. What happened to all of those leftovers?

I too am faced with a decision about leftovers. Since Jesus has always given me more than I need, I should be careful not to waste the bountiful leftovers with which Jesus has blessed me. I should in turn share them generously with others.

The fact is, while writing the book I recently published, I had “flourished overly much.” It was too long. Before it went to press I realized I would have to prayerfully and skillfully perform syntax surgery and cut the manuscript in half—which I did. A painful process! There remained another entire book's worth of already edited, choice, equally nutritious leftover topics and many of my new contemporary poems. They had been part and parcel of my original third book in my LAND OF MORE spiritual autobiographical Trilogy. These leftover topics from STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT had a trajectory to also bless my readers. Presently they are languishing in an addendum document on my PC as an overflow from a cup that was too full.

I face the decision of the wise disposition of these lavish leftovers—whether to publish them in a second book as a limited edition along with an ebook version, perhaps titled TWELVE MORE BASKETS FULL—or consign the twin manuscript to oblivion. I wait for clear guidance from God. It may come via feedback from readers of my FLOURISHING book to determine whether they are finding it to be spiritually challenging enough to want a “second helping.”

Meanwhile, to gain a perspective I researched what value Jesus put on leftovers. When faced with the dilemma of how to feed thousands of people with only a child's lunch, John records in his Gospel that "Jesus knew what He would do" when He asked His disciples to give the multitude something to eat. It was a test. Philip began human calculations of how much it would cost so that "everyone could have a bite" and called it impossible.

The disciples thought in terms of providing just a little to satisfy the hunger pangs of the crowd. Jesus thought in terms of abundance. He wanted to provide by multiplication more than enough until the thousands of people had totally satisfied their hunger. My guess is that even the leftovers were not His afterthought or His Divine miscalculation of how much would be required. Moreover, Jesus expressed concern about the leftovers since they were part of what He had blessed.

I've always been curious about what happened to the bread and fish leftovers. They were likely gathered up into large woven baskets used to carry crops from the fields. Obviously, no paper or plastic bags were available. And the people had not brought any “doggie bags” to bring leftovers home. Was Jesus simply being frugal to see that the fragments were conserved? Was He environmentally concerned? Or was He setting up a teaching moment? Think about it: what remained was astoundingly more in quantity than what they had in the beginning. The leftovers still had the supernatural touch of Jesus; they weren't stale, and certainly were packed with nourishment that could satisfy the needs of still more people.

We aren't told for whose needs those particular leftovers were used. Perhaps Jesus left the decision to the disciples. All those baskets of food would have fed many poor folks. They were accustomed to remember the poor with some of the money that apparently passed through the hands of Jesus designated for the daily provisions of Jesus and His followers.

We don’t find any record in Scripture that Jesus and His disciples were wandering mendicants begging for food. They paid their way. We read that His disciples were accustomed to stop along the way and buy provisions at village markets. We know that one of His disciples even held the position of treasurer with oversight of the disbursement of those funds—the one who eventually betrayed Him. 

Scripture does tell us that a group of caring, benevolent women, probably of considerable financial means, were part of his entourage. They followed Jesus not only to hear His life-giving teachings but, as women are gifted by nature to be nurturers, they attended to the collective material needs of Jesus and His disciples. When they traveled on foot from village to village, the faithful women followers probably found great joy in doing “Martha work” by helping to set up camp for the group, start the fire, and prepare the food for all those hungry men. Do you suppose the disciples reserved some of the leftover fish and bread for that purpose?

We know one thing the disciples didn’t do with the leftovers. They didn’t pack any of them in their picnic basket for the very next day's provision. Immediately after the miracle where seven baskets of leftovers were gathered, the disciples were crossing the sea in a boat. Let the record show, “They had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.”

What were they thinking? Was it really sheer negligence? Or perhaps the hope that Jesus would miraculously encore yesterday's event and start miraculously providing food for their small group on a regular basis? Did they buy into the idea of the crowd whose stomachs were full of the miracle bread? The multitude was hoping the free handout would continue indefinitely. The crowd didn't understand that Jesus was the spiritual Messiah and not a military leader who would overthrow the Romans. Jesus had to flee because they plotted to take Him by force and make him king on the spot.

Jesus was aware of the disciples' lunch time dilemma and He reproved them, “Why do you discuss your lack of bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?” They still didn't get it. He took them through a refresher course. Patiently He went over with them the details of the two miracles of multiplication in case they had short memories.

Of course the one loaf they did bring along in the boat would have been more than enough for another miracle. Jesus could even have added peanut butter and jam to the bread that He could multiply. Of course He could have caused fish to jump into the boat and they could have had fish sandwiches. Yes, He could even have miraculously produced a charcoal grill right there in the boat as He would do later on the seashore after His resurrection. Of course He could have “prepared a table before them” providing salad, vegetables, and a dessert, if He wanted to. Obviously that was not His plan.

Let’s not overly fault the disciples for being dull of understanding. They were slow learners as we all are—as I am. Sometimes I'm inclined to feel like a "leftover" since I'm a widow living in my advanced years. Nevertheless, God has His eye on leftovers such as me and has planned for my ongoing provision. He doesn't put any expiration date on His generosity that would exclude His children when they reach their advanced years.

Unimaginable blessings are stored up and prepared by God for me from before the foundation of the world. They are not meager or skimpy, "just a little bite" to assuage my hunger pains. I don’t have to beg God for His blessings; He promised life abundant. God's provision is pressed down, shaken together, and running over just waiting for me to simply ask for and receive it (1 Cor. 2:9; James 4:2).

With the history of God’s faithfulness to me in the past, why don't I trust Him more readily during the summit season of my life to continue to be incredibly generous and copiously satisfy my every need beyond all I can ask or think according to His riches in Glory? (Phil. 4:19) I only need to ask for my provision, thank Him that the supply is on the way, confidently expect it in whatever shape or form He chooses to deliver it, and receive it with joy and gratitude when it arrives in God's perfect time.

I can be sure that God has good plans for leftover people and leftover abundance.