Animals Courage Crestline Culture Photography

A Caring Lesson from Winston

I knew from the beginning Sir Winston of Crestline was a very special pup, but I had no idea he would be called into the ministry . . . First clue came when I found him with these in his mouth.

ImageHe has chosen the bottom shelf of a bookcase covered wall as his daytime den and sleeping place. The shelf is positioned beside a large chair I sit in when I’m working at the computer and had a few books on it with a large vacant area. He just took over. I moved the books so he has the whole shelf to himself . . . otherwise there would be no books left. He’s very studious it seems, and besides that he’s teething.

ImageHe conquered the four cement steps from the driveway yesterday and today. He was hesitating to come down, but I encouraged him, and here he came but on the last step got to going so fast he tumbled over and bonked his little head.

I’m eager for his vet appointment on Monday when he will receive his first puppy shots, for he’s at a high risk now for lots of things, and the nurse in the doctor’s office advised me to keep him in at our house. But we go so much . . .and when we went to a funeral last week, Rebecca “baby” sat him, and of course Winston met his cousin, whose name is Sir Maxwell. (Another titled, rather important dog!) Maxwell is a Snauser.

untitled (9 of 56)…and he’s met and played with Sarah who lives across the street. Sarah bounds up our driveway with Winston chasing right after her, his short legs chugging like a locomotive. He tires easily when he does that, though, and will plop down right in the street. (We live on a cul-de-sac with almost no traffic.)

untitled (21 of 56)Winston is fearless.

untitled (22 of 56)Our delightful neighbor Bill lives next door. He walks into the woods every day, blows snow off his sidewalks on blizzardy days, is sharp-witted, as friendly as can be, and is 91 years old. Last week from our back deck, I lifted up Sir Winston and showed him to Bill who was out in his yard. He grinned . . . then yesterday came into our yard and down the steps to meet his newest neighbor who was frolicking with his master.

untitled (15 of 56)He bent over then, and lifted up the tiny pup.

untitled (18 of 56)I didn’t notice the lesson as I snapped the picture, but as I processed it and saw Bill’s feet and his hands grasping my little pup, the understanding of the helplessness of Winston and to some extent the neediness of Bill occurred to me. Winston taught me another lesson, that of caring for those who have difficulty caring for themselves. Last week Bill hired a young boy to rake up leaves and acorns, and by the time he was finished he had more than a dozen large, black bags full of debris. Today was the day the huge trash trucks would come on our street. Led by the charge of my caring husband, a few men of the neighborhood grabbed up those bulky, heavy bags and set them out for Bill. Too many for the collectors to take, so Jerry put some bags with our trash, Ken put some with his, Mary some with hers, as did also Kerry.

A nation–a people–are known by the care they give to those who cannot care for themselves.

Winston adds his greetings.

Christianity/Religion Courage Death God Medical/Technical

A Thousand Pieces Anniversary

At the recent camp meeting in Santa Maria, (which by the way was off the charts in excellence,) a lady came to me wanting an autograph of my book on backsliding, The Bitter Bite of Beelzebub, which she had purchased from the Pentecostal Publishing House booth at the camp meeting.

“Do you have more books,” she asked. I told her I have written three other ones, but was not sure if they were available at the camp meeting display area. Others have asked, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you a link to my site where you may order any of my books.

It so happens that today, August 6, 2013, is the 19th anniversary of the event that led to the writing of my first book, A Thousand Pieces. That book is in its 4th printing and has proven to be a faith-builder of rare effect. A quick summary is that my husband Jerry was struck by a truck driven by a drunk driver as he stood by our disabled car. He was knocked 86 feet through the air and landed in the street, dead. A lady revived him, but he had almost unbelievable injuries including a broken neck, bleeding into his brain stem, compressed spinal cord, bruised kidneys, bruised heart, punctured lung, broken hip . . .and more. He was paralyzed, only able to move his toes and a couple of fingers. He spent five months in the hospital, but through the mercy and healing power of God, coupled with excellent medical care–if you saw him today, you would never know anything had happened to him. Many people refer to him as a walking miracle.

It’s all in the book, A Thousand Pieces, whose opening lines are:

Screaming brakes slashed the afternoon air. Tortured wheels whined at high pitch digging into the hot pavement as the truck careened crazily, strewing debris in its path.

Closing lines:

Life beats us all. Mysterious and vaporous in creation, a new being spurts forth, its plump flesh rosy, gushing with Adam’s juice. The quick intake of breath and the sharp wail are but the front edge of a grim continuum. Invisible yet, the deadly claws have revealed their tooth, for insidious and relentless, they work their scheme of death and decay. For now, though, Jerry and I had escaped. Just ahead of the whirlwind, we had danced a frantic cotillion, swinging always toward the passage of life and avoiding that of death and its greed.

That it was done with grace, let it be said.

We are forever grateful.

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Mall Trip with Three Teenagers

The continuing saga of the teenage grandchildren’s visit took in a visit to Ontario Mills on Monday, a place that is touted as the largest single-story mall in the Western United States. It consists of a huge food court and 200 stores that cover 1,473,000 square feet! Right, you read that right: One million, four hundred and seventy-three thousand square feet! . . .Feet?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Did you say feet?

Maybe I should not have done this, but I had a terrible time restraining myself when we passed by this set of massage chairs. Later, as my own legs were yelping, I wished I could find these people and apologize–well, actually I wanted them to scoot over and share their place.

untitled (17 of 52)Before we actually entered the mall, just across the street, we took a quick duck into Tai Pan Trading. The boys weren’t too excited about prowling about a gigantic home decoration store, but they did fine, I believe, in entertaining themselves.

“Twenty minutes, that’s what we’re giving you, Granny,” Nathaniel ordered, and Gentry agreed.

untitled (4 of 52)untitled (5 of 52)untitled (7 of 52)

untitled (10 of 52)We shopped . . . and shopped . . . each trying to find the outfit they wanted, that fit, that was in Granny’s budget.

untitled (18 of 52)They laughed at belts that would almost reach around Gentry twice. Along the way we had picked up a couple of honorary grand-youngin’s that Patrick and Holly had dropped off.

untitled (45 of 52)Finally, many hours later, each of them had treasures in their hands, and we headed for the exit.

untitled (34 of 52)But one more thing: Those sweet youngsters gathered about me in that huge mall and as Rebecca operated the camera, they gave me a group hug! Love it!

Trekked all of them up to our home in Crestline, where we all fell out of the car totally exhausted. Even the youngsters complained of sore legs.

We prowled about the kitchen for food. The boys opened the Balderdash box and soon uproarious laughter came from the dining room. Pictures that will make you laugh are here.

Christianity/Religion Courage God Photography Weather/Nature


Of course, there is no one whose life is perfect. There are no people whom with ease reach all their goals without bumping against obstacles and without kicking over barriers that try to snag them and to hinder them from the success that should be theirs. It may appear that some persons stroll about with glitter raining down on them and with golden rings easily within their grasp. But such is not the case. Anyone who is a success has worked at attaining that place, and although we may not see their struggle, rather see only the accomplishments, the smiles, and the accolades, be assured that difficulties have been a part of that life.

There are others, though, whose conflicts and wars are of such a nature that we see the negative results that pound about their heads. We see their violent storms–be they physical or spiritual–be they in some ways spawned by the very person upon whom the whirlwind blows, or not. We observe, and if we are close, and if we care enough to untitled (3 of 6)suffer, we nudge beside them and the hail pelts about our shoulders, and we feel the cold rain, and in our ears we take the crack of their black thunder. And we whisper or shout, “You can do it, You can make it, Keep going,” and sometimes they hear us and turn their drenched head our way and a fraction of a smile may be there, but sometimes the gale is of such violence they cannot even hear us, but heads bent into the wind, they keep trudging.

I’ve seen such people emerge from hurricanes that nearly took them out, and although I rejoice with my friends and family members who are successful–a new song recorded, growing business, another book published, a church that thrives, invitations to speak all over the world . . .it is with those who barely escaped that I take most joy. I know one or two. You know who you are. I salute you.

And there are others. I don’t know you, but you’ve had a storm . . . and you escaped. Congratulations!

Courage Culture Goodness of man Grief Photography Writing

First Draft Tears

“On your blog, why don’t you publish bits of it as you go along,” someone suggested, knowing that I am writing my first novel. I was opposed to doing so then,  but I am sharing now, although it’s not something I plan to do often. I am doing so because I wept as I wrote this morning.

In a way, I was astonished at myself for crying over words printed on a computer screen about a fictional character. But when I thought more about it, I considered again that novels come from the author’s mind–in this case, from my mind, and that the people in my novel are real to me because in one sense of the word, they are real people. I have seen their lives. I have cried with them, and I have clapped at their accomplishments. I have eaten meals with such people, and have sat in conferences with them. I’ve shared their struggles.

So, from a first draft of my first novel with the working title, The Soul of Abram Clark, I bring you part of chapter 10.

Richard beat on the floor, his two black fists, hammers.

For two hours, Richard and Sten sat on the floor immersed in conversation that was a mix of Richard’s vomiting out hate and fear and of Sten’s projecting hope and understanding. There was no balance in the conversation: Sten listened long and easy, while from Richard spewed a torrent of words and emotions, as though the walls of Hoover dam had split asunder and the pent-up Colorado had rushed to cover land and houses and farms and roads. Or perhaps the escaping river was of oil, black and greasy, that crashed boulders about and that decimated life and that wasted the landscape.

Finally, Richard was finished, emptied. His face was swollen, his eyes almond slits. The two men sat in silence on the living room floor of the Shepler home.

“Richard, Marjorie and I have spoken about this, and we are inviting you to live here with us, permanently. We believe in you and in your potential for success—even for greatness. There is something special inside you—something that you probably are not able to recognize yourself, although somewhere deep inside, my words may resonate with a tiny spark in your heart. Life has tried to beat it out of you and has tried to destroy you. You’ve been kicked around by your mother and abandoned by your father. Drug dealers have pawed over your young body and over your impressionable mind. You have been mutilated and bloodied.

But listen to me, Richard.” Sten again placed his hand on Richard’s shoulder. Richard’s head banked over. His eyes were closed. “You are a survivor. You are of strength. You are steel and of integrity.”

Richard lifted his head and looked straight now into Sten’s face.

“There is an intangible factor within you, Richard. You are destined to make a mark on this world—a positive mark. You will make this world a better place.”

Richard stared, unblinking. Tears began tracking down his mutilated face. He did not move. In an infinitesimal motion, he elevated his head.

“I’m investing in you, and I am positive my return will be of a thousand-fold,” Sten finished.

There you are, the first ones to read from my developing novel. I’m interested in hearing anything you might have to say.

(I don’t know where all those extra quotation marks came from, but I cannot get rid of them. Please ignore them. 🙂  )

Courage Food Patriotism

Eat Mor Chikin

In Phoenix, a few months ago, I saw a billboard like this one and I roared with laughter. It probably is my favorite billboard of all time. Jerry was driving and didn’t see it, so I tried to describe it to him. Since then, I’ve learned from the internet that there is a whole series of Chick-Fil-A cow ads. They strike me as very funny, especially this one. Check it out–a team effort–one cow perched on another to get out the crucial message. Don’t eat us–eat those chickens. Love it!

Chick-Fil-A is a southern entity and are not widely available here in California where I live. In April of 2012, their 49th California store was opened on Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa, and they are planning more openings.

Today, as most of the country knows, I’m sure, has been designed a day to show appreciation for “president Dan Cathy (who) told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” That unleashed a torrent of criticism from gay rights groups and others, who have called for boycotts and efforts to block the chain from opening new stores.”

If you have the chance, today, get out and “eat mor chikin.” We must fight to protect our First Amendment rights!

Read more:
Christianity/Religion Courage Goodness of man Photography

Persistence, the Crucial Step to Success

“A southern writer named John Kennedy Toole wrote a comic novel about life in New Orleans called A Confederacy of Dunces. It was so relentlessly rejected by publishers that he killed himself. That was in 1969. His mother refused to give up on the book. She sent it out and got it back, rejected, over and over again. At last she won the patronage of Walker Percy, who got it accepted by the Louisiana State University Press, and in 1980 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.” __From Rotten Reviews (Reported by Noah Lukeman in The First Five Pages.)

Rare is the man who goes to such extreme as suicide in response to rejection and to the perception that his work has been marked as failure. Probably universal, though, is the anxiety that attacks us when it seems we just cannot attain the success for which we reach. Others about us are more successful, their churches are bigger and better, their children well-behaved and ours are squirmy. Our friends are well-dressed and articulate. Their cars are shiny and dependable, their houses large–the paint not peeling. Some of them fly around the world, in wide demand as teachers and preachers, while we hear only the silence of un-ringing telephones and our engagement book is pristine and unmarked. Others’ art pieces and others’ engineering designs are perceived as prestigious, while ours remain undistinguished. No one pins medals on our lapels.

I want to remind you today that the Bible speaks to this scenario, and that the instructions therein are clear: persist, hang-on, keep trudging, keep believing, use your gifts, hone your tools.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. I Cor. 15:58

Think about this: If after the grief of her son’s death, and the pain from multiple rejections of his work, that mom hadn’t sent out his manuscript one more time, the papers would now be in a trash heap somewhere, burned into grey ash. Instead they are ribboned with one of the highest writing honors in the world: The Pulitzer.

Don’t give up. The corridor is long and the steps are high. Sometimes it’s dark, and you just might be tired. Don’t give up! Give your work one more thrust, one more shove, one more opportunity. Success may be close, very close.


PS July 30th 6:17 pm I’ve thought about this subject throughout the day and want to add something that is crucial for us to consider. The manuscript that finally won the Pulitzer was the same manuscript that had been rejected numerous times. Think about it; excellent work that later would receive the highest of accolades was summarily rejected time and time again.

So, then, your having failed to attain the success you’re reaching for may not be a fair assessment of the quality of your work. It may. It may not. Time and place and chance come together and in great part determines the immediate success or failure of any project.

The lesson remains the same: Persist!

Christianity/Religion Courage Death Family Goodness of man Grief Photography

Face of Beauty; Face of Grief

In my estimation, he has been elevated, and could you understand Dustin’s entire history you would likely agree with me. Let me tell you a little of his story.

Some time ago, Dustin Halliday’s father Daniel had a heart attack, an episode that left him with significant brain impairment. He cannot talk. He does not open his eyes. His hands are clenched, his feet are curled. For many months Daniel was treated in a VA hospital, and it was during those times that Dustin often begged to have his father released to him.  Dustin wanted to care personally for his father.

A couple of weeks ago, the dream was realized. Now, on a hospital bed in Dustin and Misty’s living room lies Daniel. On the front door is a warning sign: Oxygen in use. Daniel is totally dependent on others; he can do nothing for himself. Someone else is responsible for his feeding, his medication, his bathing–his very breath. At times, others in the family lovingly tend Daniel, but the preponderance of his care comes from Dustin.

Daniel bleeds, and in the long, dark nights, Dustin tends him. He lifts his father’s legs, arranges the cloths, then pulls snug the tabs. His is a life-watch, a death-watch. It is of antiquity, of creation, of beginnings and endings. More often than not, though, throughout history, women have been those who people such a room.

I visited a few days ago. Dustin stood near the top of the hospital bed. I watched as he lifted his hand and caressed the slick head of his father. Dustin’s handsome face was a study in grief; marble chiseled by a master, canvass plied with dark and heavy strokes. Tears cascaded down his face. Tender. He ran his hand over the face of his father.

Dustin is not a man of softness. As is true for many people, his has been a life of challenge and of extreme grief. He has responded in a manly, strong way. Tonight, as his father nears the inevitable crossing place that leads from this life into that of another world, Dustin delicately ministers to his father. With love, he watches and washes and prays. His is a face of beauty.

Dustin Halliday, you are a prince.

Children Christianity/Religion Courage Culture

Never Give Up

That today is Winston Churchill’s birthday, that I posted one of his quips on Facebook, and that others responded in kind prompted this piece, for the subject here  (one that Kasse Foster actually put up on said FB account) is one I had considered earlier in the day, even to the extent that, only this morning, I had noted the subject in emails to each of my sons. Frankly, the thought of loyalty to one’s convictions, to concerns of what is morally right, and certainly the thinking of adherence to scriptural principles is never far from my mind. I suspect the reason for my frequent contemplation of the subject may be that I am surrounded by a society that seems to have abandoned such principles–not all, certainly–but a thunderous flood of secularism and barbarism, to my mind, threatens humankind. Consequently, seeing I am of a different inclination and am striving to be godly and to possess the mind of Christ, this glaring lack of decency and the lowered standards of conduct are alarming to me.

“Never give up,” the prime minister has said, and of buildings, of earthen borders, of human government, of the prospect of defeat, of victory, of ships at sea and of weapons in hand, of resilience, and endurance did he speak. Well said, has been the judgment. Wisdom and courage were his sense.

Consider it not strange that if from my huddle in this vast universe I chant Sir Winston’s words, and yet presume to turn them toward a more gallant goal than that to which his words were first directed. I charge for righteousness and for holiness. I plead that we who are God’s people will have the grit, the courage, the understanding to resolve that we will never give up, that we will press on, that we will not be deterred. We must be true despite the threat of compromise. What is compromise is a significant question, and on such consideration may we long think. Our spirits must  be sterling and generous; our motives pure.

To be acknowledged is that each generation faces its own challenges, yet it is well  within the mark to say we face issues as has no other people. God’s wisdom must be employed for the charting of our roads.

Ground lost is rarely reclaimed. Standards lowered are seldom restored.

Dishonesty is prevalent in our society, from the lowly to those in high places, so that jokes of lawyers and politicians abound. Of fallen priests and football coaches we whisper. Within my lifetime I have witnessed a deplorable decline in modesty, both in dress and in conversation. Women and men alike speak loosely, and bodies exposed in an unseemly fashion are no exception. Suggestive dress is common, especially among women. Most astonishing is that many of these traits are now seen in churches of nearly every denomination. Gradually has this occurred. Inches have become feet; feet have become yards; yards have become acres.

Never give up! My small, but steady, voice is directed to all of us, but especially to us who are leaders, to us who are parents, especially to you who are fathers. Why fathers? For you are the head of your home . . . and the children will become as you. Never give up. Do not be pushed aside. Do not be deterred. Do what is right. Never give up!

My ninth great-grandchild was born a few days ago. Today she and her mother and father went home from the hospital. Gabrielle cannot fight for herself. Totally dependent on others, someone must fight for her. I hope you will join the battle for you are part of her and she is part of you. John Donne, also an Englishman, spoke so:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Animals Children Courage Crestline Culture Family Goodness of man Life My Home Photography Social

Kitty Rescue

They appeared on our front deck this afternoon, two pre-teen girls. I left my place on the couch and walked to the open sliding door to address them, but before I could say anything, they blurted out “There are kittens under your shed.”

“Kittens?” Kittens under our shed? A strange thing since we don’t have a cat–neither the Tom or the Pussy variety–and it’s rare to see stray cats roaming about here in the mountains for they typically don’t escape too long the eager mouths of our abundant coyotes.

But the youngsters heard stifled meows coming from that backyard out-building of ours, and when they climbed up the slope to our fence, they saw Mama cat sitting nearby, but then she ran away.  “There are kitties under your shed,” they said again to me as I walked down the steps and to the back yard with the girls.

Six of us were involved with the rescue; three other youngsters joined the girls and me as we labored about the scene. One brought over a flashlight. The kittens were a far reach from the opening under the shed, so from our potting shed I carted out rakes, brooms, and shovels and a couple of the children took turns raking out excess dirt so they could finally reach the kittens. There was only one, they thought.

We must have worked at it for the better part of an hour, but finally the older boy who did most of the work crawled halfway under the shed and yelled, “I’ve got it,” quickly adding, “There are two,” and out he came with a kitten. The cat was much older than I was expecting, for I was thinking that perhaps their eyes wouldn’t even be open. This kitten appeared to be several weeks old and seemed mature enough to be weaned.

Wild! That kitten had likely never before seen a human, and before we knew what had happened, it leaped away from the youngster who was holding it and took off across our yard. I found gloves in the potting shed for the main rescuer and found two old towels in the garage. “Wrap the other kitten in this towel. Won’t scratch and we’ll be able to hold it better.” We never saw the first kitty again, although we searched carefully.

The children had plans for the remaining kitten and I agreed they could take it home with them, but were they sure it was okay with their parents? “Don’t leave yet,” I told them. “Come to the front. I want to take your picture,” and then I took the kitten in the house so Jerry could see it. He rolled his eyes when I poked the towel-encased kitten before him, and I knew he was thinking, Shirley, we’re not having a cat here!

“There’s the mom,” one of the youngsters said as we finished with the pictures. “We need to give the baby back to its mom.” They set the kitten down facing its mother, and quickly it scampered away.

The children have gone home, and so ends the story, except that I keep thinking that out in this dark night here in Crestline is a mama cat, who this morning lay snugly in the dirt under our shed nursing her two babies. Then came the rescue, and her home was disrupted. I’m wondering about those baby kittens and their mother.  Are they together again? Will they sleep snuggled around each other tonight? Will they escape the hungry coyotes? Are they perhaps back under the shed?

I’m thinking too of those sweet youngsters, their bringing over a fist full of cat food for the mother, their diligence at getting to the babies, their kindness, their friendliness. Such as this is why I write. A slice of life, an unexpected event, though examined in the most cursory of manner yet holds countless lessons. I think of the five youngsters I met today who will in but short years be mothers and fathers themselves and their children will run and scratch and eat and sleep. Perhaps one day they, too, will need a rescue.