Friday, July 25, 2008

My new co-authored book will be out in September, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday. Check it out at or check out our new blog where my co-authors and I post six days a week on different holiday topics, recipes, and we post many pictures of products or our families:

Book Drawing next Thursday, July 31. Get your name in the “opportunity box.” Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for the July book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

A glossy picture in a Christian magazine shows a young girl from a Third World country. With her hands, she is splashing water onto her face from a trickling faucet. Her hair is turban-wrapped, her eyes closed, her lips smile because she is refreshed by life-giving water.

A look of intense delight radiates her countenance. The caption reads, "She's tasting pure water for the first time. Imagine her excitement when it reaches her soul."

The photo reminded me of the Hebrews' drink-needs when they traveled from Egypt through desert lands. Bible scholars number the Hebrews exiting Egypt between 1.2 million and 2 million, plus sheep, chickens and dogs.

Later, when they grumbled about their thirsts, a rock became a fountain. I had imagined a garage-size rock, Moses striking it with his staff then a small stream of water emerging. But trickles don't assuage thousands upon thousands’ thirsts.

The story of the Hebrews' parched throats is found in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. Quantitative details about the fresh water God supplied are in the Psalms: "Water as abundant as the seas" and water flowing down "like rivers" (78:15-16). When Moses struck the rock, "water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly" (20).

Another psalm tells about the "God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water" (Psalm 114:8). The additional information in the psalms deepened my puddle-thinking.

God is not a trickle fountain, nor is he tight fisted. Desert travelers need sufficient water. Moisture-starved pilgrims need abundance, an extravagance of water, and that's just what God gave.

The Hebrews also "drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:3). God kept their bodies alive with water while their spirits feasted on his presence.

Years ago on a country road, my vehicle broke down in 100-degree weather. After walking two miles, my thirst was extreme. Several cars passed but none offered a lift. Disheartened and thirsty, I needed relief. The eventual savior-truck-driver dropped me off at a convenience store. I had access to water again, just what I needed.

Physical thirst is not the worst thirst I've suffered. A need for liquid is usually easily met in my water-pampered culture, but there are worse ways to dry up. Tap water doesn't solve every thirst.

An old hymn lyric states a truth: "There's a fountain free." For dehydrated seekers, family or friends, an oasis is near. In the name of Jesus, a cup of "living water" can be shared – and imagine their excitement when it reaches their souls.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My new co-authored book will be out Sept. 1. Check it out here. or go to

Book Drawing: Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for the July book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

Fomites. They are everywhere. But what are they? A fomite is an inanimate object capable of transmitting diseases. The following, plus a whole bunch more, could be “carriers”: an escalator handrail, a doorknob, a piano keyboard or a tricycle.

Most of us come in contact with fomites each day with herds of germs on their surfaces. Now, if those pesky microorganisms would only bray or moo to let us know their presence that might help. Never mind. That’s a poor idea. All those germs emitting sounds might cause paranoia. That’s why God is God, and I’m just Cathy.

I heard that US currency has a fungicide in the paper to combat this passing of germs, but I couldn’t find any credible source to substantiate that. Sometimes I grow a bit obsessed about germs on a grocery cart handle but there are more infectious and dangerous things. One of those is a spirit of grumbling that can pollute a soul with peevishness.

Folks can get into the bad habit of complaining about nearly everything, sometimes causing friends to abandon and family to avoid the bellyacher. In an office, if a coworker inventories their gripes aloud, soon, the whole staff is whining unless a Mary Poppins is on the team, someone who can steer the mood.

Recently, I spent time with dear friend Jan Tickner, a former columnist for this newspaper, who wrote in this same space. I always gain insights from her even if it’s only her answer to my question. “How are you?”

Although her answer is customary, there is nothing stale about it. She answers, “I’m blessed.” We’ve had many, many heart-to-heart talks, and I know her answer conveys her outlook on life – to count the paved roads not the potholes.

In recent years, she gave me a bound booklet, she’d created for her “family and a few very close friends.” Inside are reflections over scriptures and insights gained from what Jan calls “one more lap around Mt. Sinai,” lessons God repeats until we “get it.”

In one devotional, she recalled the grumbling of the Hebrew people, who whined to God so much that he “gave them what they wanted but sent “leanness into their souls.” Bent on their complaining, they “despised the pleasant land” and “grumbled in their tents” (Psalm 106:24-25).

When I go to Jan’s tent, I do not hear grumbling. Instead, I hear about the latest victory or insight or lovely thing in her world. It’s not all rosy, but she chooses the scent of roses over the sting of the thorn.

One of her prayer requests is based on the lessons in Psalm 106, that God will give her a “fat soul and a lean body.”

We can’t avoid fomites, but we can avoid complaining. Instead, pass along bits and pieces about the good life—they come out naturally from the “fat souls,” who fill up at God’s well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Advantageous Grower

Leave a comment and I'll enter your name into the July drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.

As I walked along the state road in front of our home picking up the weekend warriors’ trash, I noticed something unusual, a short pine sapling. Here’s some history about its growing spot.

We’ve had pine tree stumps in the front for some time. We cut one tree down about eight years ago after lightening hit it. That tree is the third in our yard to get bolted from above. My yard is a good place to not be when humid and cold air rumba. At midnight, one of those strikes occurred outside the bedroom window and the subsequent quake of the house chased off all sweet dreams.

When we cut down damaged trees, we left the stumps to rot down on their own, and they’ve just about melted away. My surprise find was in the middle of one of the rotting platforms — a one foot pine tree sapling is growing right where disaster took place.

Most likely, a tiny winged pine seed shook lose from an overhead pine cone (seeds grow under ovulate scales of pine cones). After the fertile seed broke free, it whirly-gigged down — around and around — until it landed on the stump, embedding itself securely enough to root and take hold.

In 2005, I wrote a similar column about a cactus in an oak tree. We saw it in Fredericksburg, Texas. Back then, I spoke with Hal Hollibaugh of Cactus Jungle in Berkeley, California, and he said most likely the prickly pear was “simply an advantageous grower.” Seeds sometimes germinate in odd places if they find enough nutrients.

I really like the horticultural term “advantageous grower.” It has kinship with the maxim, ”Bloom where you’re planted.” Imagine the bemoaning if the petite sapling were a complainer, whining about his foothold: Why couldn’t I grow among the St. Augustine grass like all the other giant pines in the yard? But if his roots had taken hold in the grass, he’d be long gone, mown down months ago.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "For everything you have missed, you have gained something else." Paul advised each Roman disciple, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” He further encouraged, “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (12:1-2, The Message).

What’s happening in your world? Any lightening strikes of late? Are your roots in plain days or difficult? Whatever the circumstances, the pine sapling is willing to teach its lesson—be an “advantageous grower.”

Friday, July 04, 2008


June Book Drawing Winner: Virginia B from Oregon.

My new co-authored book will be out Sept. 1. Check it out here.

Book Drawing: Leave a comment here or email me at and I’ll enter your name for the July book drawing to win a copy of The Stained Glass Pickup.


On the morning of July 4th, 2000, I fastened a Texas flag and an American flag into the pole brackets on my front porch. My two year old grandson, Jack, watched. I said, “Today is the United States’ birthday.”

Jack asked, “Will there be presents?”

Eight years later, his question haunts me. This country gives a lot—from the sea, the soil, and the government, and we enjoy specific freedoms. My toddler grandson planted an idea. Why not give back to the USA?

I know of a gift that each individual can give, even the poorest among us, one that can affect our culture and effect change like no other — the gift of loyalty. The virtue is not indigenous, but can be cultured.
Loyalty means faithfulness, devotion, trustworthiness, constancy, reliability, dependability — a Fourth of July picnic basket full of good characteristics. Just imagine the difference in government spending and dispersion if each law maker were truly trustworthy, looking out only for the citizens who voted them into office.

Envision the amount of revenue, to assist our citizens, if no one cheated on their taxes. Our friend Gail Curtis said about her dad, Leonard Martens, “When daddy did his taxes, he always added a little to his payment in case he’d forgotten something.” That’s the kind of loyalty and honesty I’m talking about, a high personal standard.

Picture the production level if every able bodied American worked with vigor, giving a full eight hours labor for eight hours of wages. What might happen in educational institutions, if teachers and students were all devoted to teaching and learning?

How might a family benefit if the husband and wife were committed to each other on paper and in person, and their children recognized them as dependable, constant? The family is the largest educational system in America, an important stage where loyalty can be modeled by adults.

Of course, the top model for loyalty is God whose rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). God is constant and programmed the seasons to never falter “as long as the earth endures” (Gen. 8:22). God is faithful, dishes out hope. He is love.

Knowledgeable citizens have stressed that keeping freedoms and character compatible is a great challenge. A first step in not abusing freedoms is for each resident of the United States, citizen or alien, to check their loyalty quotient.

Today, sparklers glitter, children decorate bicycles, parades queue up, and watermelons chill in ice chips, American flags wave — all signs that it’s America’s birthday. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, citizens will enjoy city-wide bashes and backyard barbeques. Enjoy today and what you receive from the USA, and consider the thought provoking question: “Will there be presents?”