Wednesday, December 28, 2011


He gave me His hand and led me

Across stream,
and River,
and Mountain.

He gave me His Spirit to draw me
To the Wonderful

He gave me His Grace and Compassion
His Joy, His Righteousness, too.

He gave
me His Love and Mercy
And created a life wholly new.

He gave -- I received --
........Eternal Peace.

He gave -- I received --
.............Love never to cease.

Monday, December 26, 2011

BREAKDOWN... and then...

"You can wait in here." The nurse showed us into a small office, smiled cheerily, and left us alone.

For a few seconds I lost control, clung to my husband, and cried. Then I pulled away, wiped my face, sat in one of the blue vinyl chairs, and, with a heavy sigh, stared at the wall.

It seemed my whole life was spe
nt studying walls. Counting nails or tacks, bricks, concrete block, or following the flower patterns in wall paper. Especially when I was being assaulted with no way out. And now I was studying another wall, nubby plaster painted institutional green, willing myself to be somewhere else, to not think about what was happening, to not feel.

My husband stood behind the chair and put his arms around me. "Please try to relax, Honey. It'll be OK. You'll see."

I couldn't say anything. So I didn't. But I sure thought a lot. Mostly questions. How did this happen to me? I had always been strong, surviving hell, f
irst as a child, and then again in a disastrous first marriage. Now, for the first time, during the past couple years, life was good – really good – and I was falling apart.

The crisis reached a peak two days earlier. Dave and I were attending an outdoor concert
on a hot, humid, late summer day. Suddenly my heart started racing and I had the sensation of my body separating from my "self." Never having died before, I wasn't certain, but I was pretty sure that was what was happening. My mind flooded with insane, inane thoughts. "I can't die here. It would be so embarrassing. It would ruin the concert for everyone else." I willed myself to pull back together, but the line between life and death seemed very fragile.

That evening I tenuously suggested I might need "a little outside counseling." Relief flooded Dave's face and he said quickly, "We can call and check so
me hospitals on Monday." Inside, I panicked! "Hospital?!" I thought, "I don't need a hospital. Just a little help."

Sunday morning started out OK. I felt rested. Half way through the church service, though, I lost control again, and ran out of the sanctuary crying. I sat outside on the steps and sobbed. Dave followed
me out and held me. All I could do was ask over and over, "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?" He didn't answer because, of course, he had no answers.

And now it was Monday morning and I was staring at a wall. In a hospital.

A short rap on the door was followed
by a soft "Good Afternoon." I turned to look in the direction of the voice and saw it belonged to a pleasant middle-aged black male face. He shook hands with us and slouched comfortably into his chair, sifted through some papers on his desk, and brought out a file with my name printed in the corner. All I could think was, "They're quick. Doesn't take long to become a number in the computer."

He looked at me. I tried to maintain eye contact. I wanted to at least look like I had some volition in this decision. But, seeing the compassion in his eyes, mine filled with tears and I immediately s
hifted my focus to a point just south of his chin. "Joanne, your intake information and evaluation conference indicate you are in the midst of a severe depressive reaction."

I shot a sharp glance up to his face and thought rather than said, "Bright deduction. I knew that much."

He continued. "We will be exploring
several areas during your stay, not the least of which is the abuses of your childhood..."

I interrupted. "What possible bearing can my childhood have on this situation? I handled all that a long time ago."

He smiled indulgently and I could almost sense him patting my head. "I think you
're wrong. I believe you'll discover your childhood is handling you." He paused. I clenched my teeth exhibiting the characteristic "tight jaws" defense I used when I felt backed into a wall.

"Anyhow," he said, "we'll find out in time. Two of our programs are Codependent and Adult Children of Alcoholics. As a child, the life you
live in doesn’t go away just because you grow up and leave home. Even if, as you have said, you became a Christian 21 years ago, not all the needed healing was immediately poured into your life.” He paused, then continued, "Just as I went through as a child, and then when I came to the Lord as an adult. And I’m still not perfect.” He smiled. “Just ask my wife.”

I was quiet for a moment. Then asked, "How much time? My daughter is in a program at college in ten days and I need to be there."

"I'm sorry, but you need to stay with us for four weeks. Minimum."

Once again panic struck. "Four weeks?! Oh no, I can't possibly be here that long. I have a house, you know... and responsibilities." I stood up. "We'll go home and talk about it."

Dave stood then, but did not start for
the door. He touched my arm. I turned to see his eyes flooded with tears and anguish in his face. "Please ... please stay. If not for yourself, do it for us."

I cried then. How could I refuse him? Dave loved me. He
treated me kindly, he cared for me. "I'm so scared," I sobbed out.

Our tears mingling, he kissed me gently and said again, "It'll be OK, Honey. It'll be OK."

I stayed.

It was.

I recovered.

When I saw the Carnival blog and "Recover" was the Word, immediately this story, previously written, fit the context. Other than being poured into one room at one time, it is all true -- believe me, I can recall every detail of that stretch of life.

Recovery did come... not immediately, but it DID... through certain people-- especially my dear husband and the counselor -- and the grace, kindness, mercy and blessing of our dear Lord.

[I was admitted to the hospital on Labor Day, 1987; our 2nd anniversary was September 21st. I was released October 7th.]

Thursday, December 22, 2011


There was a star that shined the night
that Jesus Christ was born.
It shone so very 'specially bright
with twinkling, brilliant sparks of light,
The night was bright as morn.

O Sing, O Sing of Christmas,

The time of Jesus' birth.
The time when we recall again

God sent His Son to earth.

The Angels sang their joyous songs
on that first Christmas eve.
"Alleluia, Praise the Lord"
Rolled 'cross the fields in sweet accord
And spread the news,
"God's Holy Word
has come; O please believe."


The shepherds in the fields by night
heard the angels sing.
They heard the songs and left the sheep,

they did not stop to eat or sleep,
They hurried on through darkness deep,
They ran as if on wings.


The Wise Men came from parts unknown
upon their camel's fleet.
They'd seen the star shine in the East,
they'd come to share a royal feast,

with the Baby, God's High Priest,
And worship at His feet.

I wrote this at Christmas, 1972. First as a poem, then while in the bathtub [as crazy as that sounds] a few days later, the melody went through my head and never left. That year, I sent out the poem as my Christmas card. Eventually, the music was written, and in the late '70s I sent it out again, this time as a song. One evening my dear friend, Susie, called. She played the song on the piano and her family sang it to me over the phone as a Christmas gift. That was truly a sweet present.

I haven't shared it for years. But wanted to post something Christmasy and decided this would be fun to do.

Monday, December 19, 2011


A couple weeks ago, my Bhutanese grandson, Sai [bottom photo], told me that someone was bringing fabric from Nepal so a dress could be made for me for Christmas. He said they wanted purple [they know it's my favorite color], but knew that was not always easy to find.

Last Tuesday, Sai took me to h
is home and his mom, wife, and aunt pulled the fabric out and I was just amazed at the color. And it was yards and yards and yards ... I couldn't imagine how it would become a dress. Then Sai and his aunt took me to an ESL sewing class so I could be measured. I kept telling them I needed an extra bit of sizing in case I gain any weight again. I don't think they understood English very well. They pulled the measuring tape really tight. I was told the dress would be ready by Friday.

Well, I didn't hear anything. So when I showed up at the Christmas party at their church on Sunday
afternoon they were excited when they saw me and pulled a large gift bag out and handed it to me. Two ladies pulled me to a room and started dressing me.

Let me tell you, it is one difficult project. The small, and very non-roomy, short-sleeved "blouse" is well above the waist
-- and I better never gain an ounce or it won't fit. Underneath, there is a full-length "slip"-oriented skirt. They made me tie it a bit below my waist, around my hips. THEN, they started taking all those yards of fabric and stuffing at the top of the slip, circling, angling, and hanging around my body. [And the front and back both show "skin"... in the middle of winter, that's not so comfortable!]

I was just amazed. Couldn't believe how lovely I came out.

OK.... now the fun begins.

I walked into the fellowship room, a
nd everyone started laughing and clapping. Then when I went upstairs to the sanctuary for the special service, a number of teens and adults and kids all did the same. One of the Bhutanese men, a good friend of mine, non-English speaking, looked at me with a big grin, said, "Oh, NEPAL!" And did a big thumbs up.

Dave came a couple hours later, and loved how I looked.

There were a number of other ladies in these dresses, but somehow, I was the Queen of the Day. [Maybe because they saw me in jean
s most of the time.]

You know, none of us ever know how the Lord is going to bless us, whether we are "missionarying" here or other places. My Bhutanese families
have always blessed me, but this event was overwhelmingly glorious.

I'm planning to wear the dress to church on Christmas Eve... hope my church can handle it... but, to do so, a couple of my girls need to come here and dress me. Ain't no way I can do it myself.

If nothing else, just use this as an example of how kind our Lord is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I'll give you the important bit before you begin: this is LONG. I would have broken it into sections and posted a couple smaller portions instead of one only, but, if you read it, I think you'll understand why that wasn't truly possible.

I wrote this 28 years ago. AND the main part of the story occurred 30 years ago today. Earlier this week, I felt the Lord lay this on me to post, so I will. I know it's a busy time of year... I haven't ev
en had time to read some of yours for a few days and today I am going to spend HOURS to catch up with you. Fit me in when and if you can.

When the church hall phone
rang on December 17, 1981, and it was for me, I was irritated. The women's fellowship group was running a little later than usual, and I was positive it was my husband calling to tell me to get home and put the kids to bed. As I walked toward the phone, I was thinking of a variety of retorts to toss at him.

It was my husband, but the message was entirely different than anything I had assumed. "Frankie just called from the Mission," he said. "There's been a fight and Roy was killed." A few seconds later, in a state of shock, I hung up the phone and began to cry. It was so hard to believe. I suddenly became convinced Lowell had heard wrong. After all, he hadn't met Roy, and was never very good with names.

I called the Mission. My friend, Alex, answered the phone. He was kind, but very matter-of-fact. "Yes, Joanne, it was Roy ... he was stabbed ... he is dead ... Ernie did it." At that point, I heard myself nearly screaming, "Ernie? Not Ernie! He LIKED Roy." After I hung up, I walked back to the fellowship group, stunned.

My friends prayed and cried with me. They reminded me that, since Roy had turned his life over to God, he was Home. Mentally, I agreed with them, but that didn't take away the ache in my heart.

It was unreal. It made no sense. Roy had struggled with the knotty question of God's claim on his life. He was proud of being Norwegian, proud of being Lutheran -- and totally impatient with anyone who crossed the invisible boundaries he had established. When someone inadvertently stumbled across the lines, he received the full brunt of Roy's ire. "Who does that odd ball think he is, telling me I need to change?" And then he would bellow and stomp around like a wounded bull while others scattered.

I met Roy in June, 1981. Through a series of events, a couple years earlier, I was asked to teach a weekly class to the men at this downtown street Mission. Although the residents were not as transient as the men on the street, there was a large turnover, and it was sometimes difficult to establish a trusting, solid relationship.

Roy and I became friends quickly. One August morning when it was very hot in the chapel, Roy stopped me after class. "Next week it'll be cooler, Girlie. Someone gave us this old air-conditioner and I'm fixing it."

In September, nearly blinded by cataracts, he was going to the VA Hospital for eye surgery. When I offered to visit him, he said he'd like that, so the Sunday after the operation I went to see him. He "adopted" me that day. I wasn't much older than his daughters, and he wasn't many years younger than my dad, so the arrangement was comfortable.

The anticipated stay of two weeks in the hospital, stretched into two months. Doctors discovered a spot on his lung. It threw him into a state of depression. His self-confident facade began to crack. For three weeks he waited for his eye to heal sufficiently to undergo lung surgery. During that three weeks, he talked to the Hospital chaplain often. The chaplain's initial inroad into Roy's life was based on the fact that he, too, was a Norwegian Lutheran. Roy listened to him, without the usual barriers, and liked what he heard. Before the operation was performed, Roy made his peace with God. He knew he might not survive the operation, or its diagnosis, but he was prepared.

Happily, although his lung was cancerous, the malignancy was confined to the lower portion, which was then removed. He came through beautifully. After two weeks of recuperation, he was released from the hospital. The other cataract was to be removed after Christmas. In the meantime, he had new teeth, one good eye, a repaired lung, and a "new" heart.

He still had moments of cantankerous behavior, but his changed life was definitely evident. He wasn't so quick to "con" the men in authority over him at the Mission or condemn those who had ideas that differed from his.

On December 5th, I was having a difficult time deciding what to use for the basis of our class discussion. A magazine came in the mail that morning and contained an article about the Believer's expectations after death. I decided to talk about death, using testimonies of after-life experiences and scripture. It was the first time Roy had been to class since late September, and I was a little disappointed when he took a seat in the back of the chapel instead of the front row, as he had always done. The men listened, and a few of them seemed a little nervous as the subject hit too close to home.

When class was over, Roy came up and hugged me. He flashed a big smile to show his new teeth, and said, "I sat in back because it's a different kind of chair. It doesn't hurt my incision." Then he said, "Little One, I wanted to tell them it's OK. You come to Jesus and you don't have to be afraid to die. It's going to be all right."

A few days later, in the Mission dining room during a drunken rage, his best friend, Ernie, grabbed a 16-inch carving knife out of the kitchen and stabbed Roy in the side. Within minutes he was dead.

The next few days were filled with contrasting activities. Parties, shopping, a funeral, joy of the Christmas season, sorrow for the loss of a friend. I couldn't understand "why", but somehow peace began to emerge and the knowledge that God is in control became a settled conviction once more.

Life goes on. Being a Christian, I trust that God's Word will not return void, that Roy's death was not in vain.

Ernie is in prison. He did not know at the time that he had killed Roy; he was drunk and does not remember it at all. He was, of course, arrested immediately and woke up in jail, not even knowing why he was there.

So far, he is still rejecting Christ, although he seems to be far less cocky, far less defensive, than before. Sometimes he calls me and asks me to come visit him, because no one else will. We have become friends -- a status I couldn't have imagined before the murder, and most certainly not when it occurred.

Most of the time, I don't think about the event on that cold December night. When I do, I often smile. My imagination carries me to a time when I, too, will enter heaven's gates. I fully expect a tall, burly Norwegian with a big smile to hug me and say, "Hello, Little One. Welcome Home."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


and Glory Filled My Soul."

When I was pondering the "Dow
n" Word Carnival this morning, wondering what I could share, these lyrics to a hymn in my past jumped in. And I grinned again.

You see, when I came to the Lord April 15, 1966, I knew very few hymns, and the only ones I knew well were connected to the occasional Lutheran church attendance on my part, and it had been quite a while since I'd even done that. [Not complaining about Lutheran church people; they were good to me and planted lots of godly seed.]

When the Lord broke into my life, as I've shared before, I was one tough cookie. Hard-looking, hard acting. Scared some folks and they weren't sure they should step deeper into my life. Couldn't risk losing their own ground if I began a fight of some sort.

At this Baptist church, not overly populated, the choir director in her mid-30s... about 15 years older than I ... became my friend. Lorna was very much involved with me. And, consequently, I sang in the choir, which had only a few members... about a dozen, I suppose, most of the time.

In November, 7 months after my salvation, this was sung. And when we practiced, I smiled. Every time I sang it to myself during that week, my heart grinned. And then, on Sunday, I SANG it.

After the service, a teen a couple years younger than I, came up to me and said, intensely, "When you sang, you smiled."

In my usual cranky, sarcastic sounding voice I said, "I always smile." She shook her head and said, "No. Today, you really smiled."

And she was right. There were other hymns that had touched my heart in those previous months, had truly changed my every-day focus.

But this one burst forth in a way I'd never experienced. And rarely since then.

When I decided to share the song, I had a tough time on Youtube. I was amazed at the number of times this song had been added to it. As lacking in the number of people singing and the fancy environment and every word exactly right, I felt this is the one to post. The reason? It is being sung by people who resemble my Bhutanese families here in Omaha, ones who have a heart for the Lord that goes much deeper than the casual attitude so many of us just have in our hearts. As I said, it isn't fancy, but it's true.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


From Utmost, Jan. 2 – “Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is."

Our so-often question: “What do you want us to do with our lives?”

The answer is from the lips of the Ghost of Christmas Present from A Muppet Christmas

“Come up and know me better, man.

What to do with our lives? – Live for Him. Seek Him. Fill our minds with Him. Grow in Hi

How is that accomplished? Openin
g all of our senses, all of our selves to His Spirit – in whatever form that may take.

Does that mean hiding away from the world-at-large and becoming solitary, untouchable? Probably the opposite.

--- The Triune God gave The Spirit entity to convict, convince, comfort and counsel;

--- the Triune God gave The Father entity
to govern,
to dictate and “spre
ad his wings over
[us] as an eagle overspreads her young. She carries them upon her wings, as does the Lord His people.” Deut. 32:10-12;
to set the boundaries, to know when and how
“enough is e

--- The Triune God gave the Son -- a Holy, Loving, Father-Focused Servant -- a call opposite the life of a hermit, even a hermit
determined to focu
s his mental and
spiritual energies on Him.

--- The Triune God calls u
s to be out among
the hurting and the hopeless.
To provide refuge for
the homeless –
in spirit, soul, or body.
To fulfill the cry of M
atthew 25:
visit the hospitals and prisons, clothe the naked,
feed the hungry;
To fulfill the call of James 1:
27-- to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.

And how is this done – individually and corporately – without becoming overwhelmed by the needs, without becoming hard and cynical wh
en confronted with people who are hard and cynical?

By hearing and heeding His call:

“Come up and know me better, man.”

Friday, December 9, 2011


Sorry if this is too blunt, but thought I'd toss it there first, and you can choose whether to read it or not.

On FB someone mentioned the seriosity of it right now and mentioned an article about Seattle.

Well, it's been going on in various parts of our country and all around the world for many years. A ministry friend of mine is in Greece at this moment, ministering to the prostitutes in one area. These "wo
men" are often young teens, forced into this life, and no one is stepping up to free them. Overall, sex trafficking has been one of my ministry study areas for many years.

Thought I'd share one episode involving me that occurred nearly 44 years ago. You'll certain
ly see that this has been a common occurrence; it's not just a "today" issue.

In March, 1968, I left East St. Louis, IL, to return to the Northwest. I had been in E. St. L. for about a year, working and involved in a street ministry. Because of some serious issues involving rac
e rioting and street fighting that occurred there, I was, basically, forced to leave town and return to my family.

I was on a bus and it stopped for a couple hours of layover and transfer in Kansas City
, MO. As soon as I was off the bus, a man came up to me and flashed his rings at me, and opened his jacket to show me more and more jewelry.

I was 22 at the time, looked about 16
. I was shocked confused and, unfortunately, didn't try to find a security guard or police officer [don't even know if bus stations had them in those days]. I tried to get away from him, and he always followed me and always found me. He kept telling me that because I was such a cute girl there was a party he wanted me to go to and he would let me have a good time that night and they would make sure I was on the bus the next day so I'd reach home. Later, to try to push me closer to agreement, he said they would pay airfare for me so I could get home quickly. Once, when I was in the women's rest room and lounge, the door was hammered. I was the only one who wasn't involved with children, so I answered it, and it was the man again, trying to get me to go out with him. I quickly shut the door and hid inside. When I had to leave, I mixed in with a group that was also heading out, so he couldn't get near me.

When it was finally time to get on the bus, I DID!! FAST! He still stood outside flashing the rings and trying to convince me to get off the bus. I wa
s very relieved when the engine started and we hit the road.

I was sitting beside a man who seemed to have a tough background, and after a while I tol
d him what had happened and asked if he knew anything about it.

He laughed. "Yes," he said. And then he described it. The man was trying to convince me to go to a "party" but it was going to be only drugs and sex, and I would never be going home. I would either be forc
ed into sex and do the "job" they had for me, or I would be dead. No other options.

Every once in a while, I remember this event. I know that, just a couple years earlier, before the Lord broke into my life, if this had been pres
ented a bit differently, I might have been tricked and sucked into that world. And death would have occurred... either from their hands or my own.

If this happened to me all those years ago, in a public location, why would we think it
wouldn't happen today, here and there, and all over the world? And with all the digital connections people have, the ability to flee could be more difficult. It just ain't an easy world out there.

I guess the only way to close this is
to say that I love my Savior for many reasons... and His kindness and protection for that short stretch of time in that bus station should be near the top of the Love-List.

And I worship Him, day and night, and will forever and ever.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"IS IT I?"

Do you ever read that phrase in the gospels and wonder why they wondered?

Been buried in Mark for about a month a
nd this phrase keeps jumping out at me.

It used to be, in most of us, a question of "WHY would they ask that? Wouldn't they know if they were faithful or not?" ["Don't they already know it's Judas?? Come ON, give me a break."]

Well, since Mark is so blunt compared to the other gospels, this has jumped out at me, over and over.

The answer? "No!"

Several examples:

---Inner-discipleship confrontations. Fussing at each other. ...Who's the best? .... Who's the greates

---Believing they will forever run the show. -- What does He mean about death when we know He's going to be KING? ... Why would He think we would scatter? Of course we won't!

--- Sometimes less than kind. ...AAKK! We don't need any kids hanging around. And we sure don't need a woman anointing Him when the money could help the poor.

Even John, later known as the deep-hearted lover of Jesus, wasn't perfect... he and James called by Jesus the "Sons of Thunder" because they had wanted fire called down from heaven for a not good reason.

And on and on. Story after story, time after time, moment after moment, where a lack of faith, a lack of understanding, an increase of anger, were expressed -- verbally and physically -- over and over again.

So... my question:

When it comes to being picky, faithless, cranky, angry, withdrawn, jealous, unable to
show the love of Christ for the world, not willing to step forward to help with the globally intense issues ....

Sunday, December 4, 2011



Autumn leaves of gold, purple, scarlet, yellow, russet --
Their loveliest since early Spring.

Yet -- looking closely -- see edges frayed or worn,
wrinkled and creased.

From the distance, beauty --

Up close, wasting away.

I believe it’s the same with us.
As our bodies age -- where am I now? --
somewhere in mid autumn? --
My body is wrinkling, drying, creased --
frayed at the edges.

As I grow in God,
as with the leaves,

the glow comes through.

As I watch my older mothers, sisters, friends,
from Autumn to Winter,
the line is drawn closer --

They pale,
gray --

And cling to the bough that no longer supports them.

I wrote this a few years ago. I know it's about Autumn -- and we're in Winter -- but the point is the same... age kicking our tails a bit, but hoping, as we grow older, we will have enough of God's character imbedded in us that we can glow in the dark.

That's my significant hope, anyhow. [Be a nice Christmas gift, wouldn't it?]

Friday, December 2, 2011




Today’s kids are missing
In their centrally-heated,
thermostatic world.

... the shock of
blasting awake in
a freezing room –
ice thick inside windows –

... of pulling cold robes
under the blankets
to body-warm
before undressing and
all while hardly moving the
blankets –
a lost talent.

... of hanging ice-frozen,
line-“dried” clothes
over the stove
water dripping
sizzling on
hot iron.

... of (sometimes) lolling
in bed
long enough to feel
heat float through
floor registers
and slowly turn the room
from ice to nice.

Campfire mornings remind me
how fortunate I am
to live in a
centrally heated
thermostatic world.

A few years ago, Dave and I were camping for a couple nights at Tettagouche Minnesota State Park at the North Shore of Superior. In October. Forgot extra blankets. Forgot how cold it would be near the Lake in the Fall. Dave would get up earlier than I, and start a campfire. When the warmth began to penetrate the area a bit, I'd pop out of bed and rush to the fire, turning and turning to warm all sides of my body, hoping it would penetrate to the inside and release the frozen portions of my bones and muscles.

While standing there, this thought hit me, and I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the poem. Bet some of you will truly understand this bit of reality.