Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spiritual Aerobics

In 2000, my husband underwent triple bypass heart surgery. Even after the surgery, he still got out of breath frequently. The doctors said two-thirds of his heart muscle, the part that pumps oxygen to the body, had been seriously damaged by the blockages.

Today, after losing weight and years of walking a couple miles a day, his heart muscle has been strengthened. It is still functioning at only fifty percent of normal, but it is twice as strong as prior to the surgery. Episodes of breathlessness are much less frequent, and he enjoys a fairly normal life. That improvement has been made possible by continually stressing his heart muscle through aerobic exercise.
Fireweed after a boreal fire in Alaska
Alaska, where I grew up, is noted for its vast fields of beautiful wildflowers. Vibrant fuchsia fireweed is the first regrowth after a wildfire. God exchanges beauty for ashes.

The seeds of other wildflowers must first endure a freezing winter before they can germinate and produce such beauty.

The cones of some conifers must first withstand a forest fire to release their seeds.

Winds blowing against trees strengthen their roots.

In military training, new recruits are pushed to the limit to prepare them to be able to endure the hardships of battle.

Athletes don't just go out and win without months of physical training.

A first grader doesn't immediately solve quadratic equations, but after years of schooling and testing, solving them becomes doable.

So it is with our Christian life. Hebrews 12:1, 2, describes the Christian life as running a race:

 "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 

We need to develop spiritual muscles. We don't become mature Christians the moment we come to Christ. Tests and trials and tribulations strengthen our spiritual muscles. Life stretches us spiritually and teaches us to lean on Jesus.

No one is a greater blessing to others than one who has grown sweet and loving, but this doesn't just happen. It takes a long time to become saintly, and it doesn't happen without patiently enduring the tests and trials in the race called life.

Did you know that the benefits of patiently enduring don't end in this life? God has promised a crown of life to those who are faithful to love and serve Him in spite of the trials.
The next time you are tempted to gripe and complain about the trials you go through, remind yourself that they are the means by which God is growing Christ-like character in you. He doesn't cause bad things to happen to us. They are common to all. But God will make "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" that we might "be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28, 29, NKJV).

What trials have you weathered that have brought spiritual growth?

The main character, Violet, in my most recent book, Beside Still Waters, faced the choice of allowing the severe trials of her life to make her bitter or better. Notice that the only difference between those two words is the letter I. Taking your focus off yourself (I) and "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews, 12:2), makes all the difference.

Beside Still Waters is available in paperback and ebook. See my website ( for more information about the book. Available at Ambassador International, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and bookstores.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Praise the Lord Anyway!

Have you ever had days when the nagging inconveniences of life seem to gang up on you and threaten to steal your peace and joy?

Yesterday was one of those days. A simple project of replacing my computer keyboard and our modem with a newer, high speed one turned into a complicated process. Then, when everything seemed to be working well, we woke up this morning to discover our internet and phone weren't working. We finally located the problem. The modem power cord had somehow become disconnected.

Rev. & Mrs. C. C. Personeus in Pelican, Alaska, in the fifties
Such inconveniences remind me of my Grandpa Personeus, pioneer missionary in Alaska. Traveling home to Seward from Anchorage one night in the dead of winter, he got a flat tire. He slid out of the warm car, looked at the tire, and exclaimed, "Well, praise the Lord anyway!"

Those irritating yet really insignificant events in the whole scheme of things happen to all of us. They can ruin our entire day if we let them. The best way to keep them in the proper perspective is to learn to praise the Lord anyway.

We have no control over the occurrences of those annoying events. They seem to choose the most inconvenient times, don't they?

But we do have control over our response. We can praise the Lord no matter what happens. As we constantly speak of God's goodness and grace toward us, we bless Him and keep ourselves from being overwhelmed.

The next time a car cuts across in front of you forcing you to slam on your brakes to keep from hitting him, like happened to me yesterday, and you feel that road rage roar to life, tame it by praising the Lord anyway.

When you drop that last egg on your freshly mopped floor and it splatters all over, praise the Lord anyway.

When your toddler smears jelly on your freshly dry cleaned suit as you kiss her goodbye, praise the Lord anyway.

When your computer shuts down in the middle of preparing a report, praise the Lord anyway.

Praise the Lord no matter what happens! God inhabits the praises of His people. Praising will not only bless the Lord and cause Him to draw nearer to  you, but you will feel better too.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lesson from a Solar Eclipse

All the talk about the solar eclipse expected on Monday brought to mind the eclipse of 1994, when New York was in the path of a total solar eclipse.


I was teaching second grade. Remembering my experience of a total solar eclipse the summer I graduated from high school in Alaska, I wanted the children to see the beautiful corona without damaging their eyes. I set up a large tub of water in the parking lot and with the help of several mothers, I took them out one by one to observe the reflection of the corona in the water. The still water gave us an exact reflection of the happenings in the sky.

Proverbs 27:19

Just as the sun and our faces are reflected in water, so our lives give an accurate reflection of who we really are inside.

My Cruden's Concordance has more than seven columns in tiny print of references in the Bible that contain the word, heart. What does the Bible mean by that word?

With a quick perusal of the references just in the Book of Proverbs, we find a wise heart, a wicked heart, a perverse heart, a deceitful heart, a heavy heart, a sick heart, a merry heart, a righteous heart, a proud heart, a haughty heart, a prudent heart, a pure heart, and a foolish heart.

The Bible uses the term, heart, to describe the source of our emotions and motivations. The heart contains all our desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections.

The heart is what we really are, not what we or others think we are.

Our heart determines why we act, speak, and think as we do.

Jeremiah 19:9 tells us that "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." That is why we need to pray with the psalmist every day, inviting God to "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23, 24, NIV).

Our hearts can deceive us. Only God really knows our hearts. Sin begins in our hearts, so God's daily search can nip sin in the bud.

Growing up in coastal Alaska, I often observed the reflections of the mountains in the water. I noticed that the clearest, most perfect reflections appeared in calmest waters. Only as we quiet our hearts before God can we have our hearts cleansed and purified.

Have you initiated God's search of your heart today?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fight Ever Onward!

In Alaska, where I grew up, the Pacific salmon are now returning to the glacial streams where they hatched. They spend most of their lives in the ocean, where they grow big and strong. Then their instincts send them back home to spawn.


The salmon must fight against the current with every ounce of their strength. Their flesh turns red and gets torn on the rocks, but the instinct to procreate is so strong that they struggle on until they reach the spot miles upriver where they originated.


They face many hazards along the way--bears, fishermen, birds of prey. Yet, so many make it to the spawning pools that often the streams look like blood at first glance.There, the salmon lay their their eggs. Their life cycle complete, they die.

Alaskans had a saying: "Any old dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a real live one to swim upstream."


As Christians, we too must swim against the current of this world. We face many snares that would trip us up. If we are going to make it, we must continually strengthen ourselves spiritually and check our progress, keeping our eyes on goal.

As a teenager, I spent a week on a salmon fishing troller on the Gulf of Alaska. I noticed that when the engines stopped, the ship didn't just sit still in the water. It drifted wherever the waves took it.

So too in our Christian lives. If we are not moving forward in our relationship with the Lord, we will drift along with the current and end up on the rocks.

Just as sailors constantly check their navigational instruments to keep on course, so must we check on our position by studying our life's compass, the Bible. When we see we are getting off course, we need to quickly make corrections. We must not be careless. We can never rest on our oars until we are moored safely at our journey's end.

Have you checked yourself recently? Do you need to make a mid-course correction? Do it today.
Don't delay.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Excerpt from Beside Still Waters

Opening Scene in Chapter 1 
Beside Still Waters 
Book 3 in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy

Boston, Massachusetts, March 1915

Aunt Mabel was dead.
Violet Channing unlocked the door to the three-room flat she’d shared with her aunt, her only living relative, now deceased. The cloying scent of her aunt’s floral perfume could not obscure the rancid odors of garbage and stale food in the stairwell or the medicinal smell of sickness that pervaded the apartment.
Violet clenched her fists. Aunt Mabel was too young to die!
Closing the door behind her, Violet surveyed the tiny living room. It was stuffed with the nicest things Aunt Mabel had been able to salvage when she lost her large, Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors after her husband died.
Slightly tattered lace curtains draped the lone window, the only source of ventilation—if it could be called that. The soot-ladened air from the tenements’ stark chimneys had permanently stained the curtains a dirty shade of brownish gray. Hand-crocheted doilies covered the head and armrests to protect the Victorian sofa she’d managed to save when her house was repossessed.
The apartment felt empty without Aunt Mabel’s dominating presence. She had tried so hard to make this cold-water flat look like her lost home. But the two of them couldn’t even afford enough coal to keep warm in winter or the doctor’s fees when she started coughing.
If only she’d stopped taking a lunch to work sooner to save up enough money for a doctor’s visit. Violet shuddered. Her aunt’s fits of coughing had worsened so quickly. She had refused to see a doctor until her sputum became tinged with blood. By then, it was too late.
“Consumption,” the doctor told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”
He took Violet aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably has only a few weeks.”
“Keep warm. Ha!” Violet spat out, feeling again how her stomach had clenched at his words. She groaned. Her throat tightened, and she sank to her knees on the Persian carpet Aunt Mabel had brought with her to cover the bare, plank floor. The torrent she had held at bay throughout the funeral broke forth like a sudden, angry squall.
When she had no more tears to cry, Violet mopped her face with her handkerchief. The cold had seeped through her skirt. Suddenly aware that she was shivering, she arose.
Hugging her threadbare wool coat closer over her long, black mourning suit, she sat in her aunt’s Boston rocker to figure out what to do. She no longer had the responsibility of Aunt Mabel’s welfare and was now free to choose what to do with her life—if only she could find the means to do it. The rent was paid until the end of the month, but the simple funeral had required all but a few remaining dollars. She needed money.
Violet reviewed her options. Before her uncle died, she had been studying to be a teacher. That’s what she really wanted to do. Because Uncle Chester had mortgaged the house to the hilt to finance his risky business ventures, she and Aunt Mabel were left destitute when he died.
At eighteen, Violet had had to give up her education to take a low-paying job as a seamstress in a garment factory to provide for the two of them. Six weeks ago, she’d had to quit that job to care for her dying aunt. The thought of reapplying there made her shudder—and not from the cold. That ramshackle wooden building, full of dust and lint, was a tinderbox.

But how else could she support herself?

Beside Still Waters, along with the other two books in the Alaskan Waters Trilogy, Till the Storm Passes By and A Star to Steer By, is published by Ambassador International and is available at (Kindle and paperback), (Nook and Paperback), Vyrso, and Christian bookstores. Visit my website at or connect with me at