Wednesday, May 31, 2017


I love acronyms. Whoever thought of this memory-jogger was a genius.

My husband, Bruce and I were introduced to one of these creative gems at a youth Bible study. But like other pieces of useful information that get crowded out by life, I needed a reminder of this helpful acronym during a situation we faced.

I figured it might come in handy for others too, so I’ll share it with y’all. So, here goes. H.A.L.T.: Halt if you are:


Oh my. When I’m hungry, I fall into the “whatever” mood category: “I don’t care, just get it done.”; “Let’s just get there.”; or, “I don’t care what we do, I just need a snack.”

And everyone knows to never go near a grocery store with a growling stomach. The junk food retailer’s stock skyrockets every time on this one!

*A: ANGRY: Stay tuned. I’ll come back to this one.

I’ve made some pretty bonehead moves when I was lonely (I won’t elaborate).

I figure I’d better not do anything while I’m tired. I may be convinced I’m coherent, but realize later…hmmmm, not so much. I’ve glanced at sent texts and emails and realized: Yeah, should have waited.

I’ve left the “A” part for last. Being lonely, or tired, or hungry can drive us to make less than stellar decisions. But angry? This one might be the worst decision-driving emotion ever. For it’s with anger that words are said, actions are taken, and destinies determined that may never, except by the grace of God, ever be fixed.

A healthy dose of self-control curbs emotions and can be a handy little tool to douse the spark that could cause a potential wildfire—a wildfire that destroys a lot of ground and a lot of people.

Which brings me to the following “situation we faced” and thankfully in this case, I listened and obeyed that Giver of self-control …

The wall our back was shoved against left indents in my shoulder blades. And the friend who could have helped us, betrayed us.

My hands shook as I pounded out a text message on my cell phone in response to one of her stunts. My thumb hovered over the send button when a still small voice cut through the flame, “Don’t do anything in anger.” I knew this to be true, but I so wanted to fire off that text!

However, I paused. I glanced over at Bruce who, not 15 minutes before, snapped, “That woman’s gonna push me too far!”

I read him my text, a little part of me hoping for validation and the confirmation to hit that little green button.  He looked around at me and to my surprise said calmly, “Don’t do anything in anger.”

Like cold water on a hot flame, I realized God was confirming His word to me. My phone fairly flew across the counter as I shoved it away. I knew one twitch out of me would have sent that text flyin’.

I cooled down, grateful I didn’t send this text. The day before, as I was ranting and flinging manure across my horse’s stall into the bin, the Lord gave me a serious command: “Hold your peace, vengeance is mine.” And then started chatting with me about forgiveness. It would not have been wise to ignite any fires with my message. (“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27).

God knows what He’s doing when He tells us to H.A.L.T. before making a decision. Take a breath, scarf an energy bar, take a nap. Whatever it takes that’s moral and decent with no side effects, we need to do it. Nothing is worse than having to undo an unwise move. I’d rather not spend the energy to apologize, lament over an excessive grocery bill, or explain why I sounded like a dork. I’d like to act right the first time and avoid cleaning up a mess.

So, the next time we face a challenge or a decision while we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired … and we will … join me in implementing H.A.L.T.. Our lives will be much more peaceful and productive for it.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

*Exciting announcement!* Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled is now available in print and Kindle editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the WestBow Press bookstore.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Beauty from Ashes

The morning sun flecked the curtains as shock waves coursed from my chest to my gut. The events of the prior day, November 24, 1980, had not been a bad dream. The nightmare was real.

My classmates and I smelled smoke from a distant fire and figured the mountain backcountry was burning again—like it always did during the high, autumn winds. But when the smoke drifted over our school, apprehension rose. Rumors ricocheted through the hallways, “Structures are on fire at the base of the mountains!” My home stood in those foothills. My hands shook as I called my family from the school phone—no answer. I panicked and raced for my truck.

Patrol cars blocked my way home, so I detoured toward my grandma’s house. Gripping the steering wheel, I drove through the smoke and screaming wind. Loose pets and livestock darted between buildings and across the road. I inched my way through the chaos, fearing the worst. 

As I pulled into the driveway, my family met me on the front lawn. Thank You, God. They’re alive, I breathed. But my brother's two words said it all: "It's gone,” he whispered. And I knew, in one afternoon, we had become homeless, losing nearly everything but the clothes on our backs.

With nowhere to go, my dad, mom, brother, and I crowded into my grandma’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. 

Do Unto Others

As I drove to my grandma’s after school, I glanced down at the passenger side of my El Camino—everything I owned now fit on the seat.  

As I opened the front door, piles of trash bags met me in the entryway. “They’re filled with clothes,” my mom said, pulling them out of the walkway. It was surreal to be the recipients of charity. Life isn't supposed to be this way, I lamented. 

I fumbled with the plastic tie on the nearest trash bag. Stuffed inside were blouses from the ‘60s, skirts from the ‘70s, torn jeans, and stained shirts—a virtual circus of clothes. Bag after bag revealed more of the same with only a few of the items fit to wear. As a newly homeless 17-year-old, this felt like rock bottom.

But a funny thing came over us as my mom and I numbly eyed the clothes now piled on the living room floor—a spark of God-given resolve. One by one, all articles of clothing became fair game as we picked our prize and headed for the back bedroom. Reappearing in a puffy, lime-green blouse—complete with stains on the front—I sashayed into the living room with chin in the air and hands on my hips. "How does this look?" I beamed. “I’m so in vogue, don't you think?"  

"You look mah-velous, dear,” Mom chirped as she disappeared into the "dressing room." Out she strutted in bell-bottom jeans with a tear in the pocket. With pivot turns and a flip of the wrist, she wore Christian Dior on a Saks Fifth Avenue runway. 

"Those jeans just become you, dahling!" I applauded. 

In the midst of our antics, someone knocked on the front door—a childhood friend had sent me a package.  Tucked between the tissue paper was a note and a model horse. But it wasn’t just any horse—it was King, her prized possession. I embraced him and read the note: “I know your entire horse collection burned,” she wrote. “King was my favorite, and now he belongs to you.


My friend’s selfless gift helped soothe the pain of receiving others’ rejects. Luke 6:31 (the golden rule) became my new motto, and I vowed to always give the best I had when another's need arose. 

 Helping Hands

My best friend, Dorothy, and I slowly walked together up the long driveway. My once beautiful childhood home stood lifeless, the concrete shell standing in the midst of white ashes. Gaping holes where the windows once set now stared blankly at me like a ghost. As my hands flew to my mouth, I felt her arm resting around my shoulders. 

In the days that followed, friends, family, and even strangers stood shoulder to shoulder with us. They sifted through rubble, brought food and wearable clothes, and replaced photos that burned. They prayed and consoled us as we cried.

A rancher had caught my horse as she galloped through town, graciously trailering her to the safety of his corrals. My plea for her in the local paper united us.

Actions comforted more than wordy platitudes of, “You can rebuild.” Or, “At least your family didn’t die.” The Good Samaritans sympathized with our shock and discerned what we needed, sometimes without asking. We witnessed God’s Word walking as our town worked in harmony to help all 280 families who had lost their homes. 

After a few weeks and frayed nerves in my grandma’s little house, our prayers were answered for another place to stay. A friend phoned my mother. “I don’t know if you’d be interested or not,” she said, “but some friends of mine are going on vacation for a month and need a house-sitter.” Within a week, our family moved into their lovely, two-story house.  

The day before the owners returned, a rental house became available on a lake in the mountains. And we realized that God had not forsaken us; He was restoring us. We stayed in the rental for a few months until my dad, a general contractor, built a house for us in a nearby town.  

It’s The Little Things

The aroma of popcorn and chocolate chip cookies drifted through the air as raccoons loafed on our rental’s deck rail, and squirrels peered through the sliding glass door.  We eagerly anticipated this community of critters that scampered across our deck to indulge in our weekly handouts.

Finally, with popcorn bowl in hand, Mom slid the door open. The temptation was too much for one young squirrel—he blasted through the gap like a rocket. Squeals and popcorn peppered the air.

Up the walls, over the counters, bounding over the couch, that squirrel flew like his tail was on fire. Mom grabbed a broom as I ran in circles, flailing my arms at this fly-by furball. We nearly collided as he squeezed between us and shot up the curtains.

Before the white flag waved, we somehow corralled him and he careened out the door. Mom slammed it shut and slid down the frame in hysterics. We laughed so hard tears flooded down our faces. 

These characters of God’s creation appeared at the perfect time—a merry heart indeed does good like a medicine.

No Longer a Victim

Life hurts sometimes, but God is faithful to His Word. I found that time does not heal, but God does. He abundantly restored us, honoring our trust in His promises and in Him.  He also helped me break the bonds of materialism, which remain broken to this day.  As 1 Timothy 6:17 encourages, I can enjoy the things God has given, but never cling to them for hope and stability. 

He gave me a newfound compassion that rose from the ashes to help me comfort others suffering loss. I can now come alongside them with the hope of Psalm 27:13: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified—”Isaiah 61:1-3.

Beauty from Ashes joins other inspirational stories in the newly re-released, award-winning book, Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled, available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the WestBow Press bookstore.