Scripture Motto

"Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Walking to Bethlehem" by guest Pastor/Writer

I received this email just before Christmas from my friend Mark McMahon, Pastor of Hope Christian Church, Wichita, KS. I pray the words give you encouragement as you enter the New Year.

Walking to Bethlehem,
   still looming with huge questions.
How did I get to this place?
   I had a glimpse of a dream, of love longed for.
I trusted an all powerful God, growing to worship Him.
   I pledged my life, my heart; I knew he'd take care of me.
And now, a turn of events that I had not, to say the least, anticipated.
   This, His plan?
He said to me not to be afraid, but fear circles constantly near.
   Where will this take me?
I hold to His promises to never leave me,
   clutching to the reality of His love for me.
When will the mystery end and His life for me begin?
   Or, is this part of living for Him?
His timing, his purpose, his place, his promises;
   and my faint heart.
I know that I must be nestled in his protective arms.
   Your presence holy Father, my peace.
Please come near, you know my name.
   I am yours.

   It is interesting to remember that there was so much uncertainty, so many questions during the first Christmas season. Mary and Joseph were being faithful to God in their daily lives and grew deeper in their trust when the unexpected happened. Their walk with God, His care for them and the story of Christmas all can be a wonderful encouragement to you and I.

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, 
In God I trust; I will not be afraid..."  Psalm 56:3-4a

"Strengthen the feeble hands, Steady the knees that give way;
Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear;
Your God will come. . . He will come to save you."  Isaiah 35:3-4

I hope the light of God's promise will brighten up your day and illuminate your path this Season.  Allow worship to be a part of your celebration... 

To learn more about Hope Christian Church in Wichita, KS, contact Pastor Mark McMahon

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas has never been the same since I sang my first John W. Peterson Christmas cantata at the age of thirteen. My love of everything Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ exploded.

“…‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the 
Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’” Luke 2:10, 11 nlt

Peterson told the story of Jesus' birth through the lyrics, melodies, and scriptures. Growing up often times playing Mary in the Sunday school program, I knew the story of Christmas, but there are no words to express how I felt stepping out of the church into the cold and snow on Christmas morning after such a life-changing John W. Peterson musical experience.

The lights on the tree twinkled brighter; the shimmer of the tinsel intensified. My love sending and receiving cards became more meaningful. Tears flowed more freely from watching sappy holiday movies or reading of Christmas miracles. The music stirred the depths of my heart.

Celebrating Christmas has always been special. As a little girl, I pushed and prodded my mom to buy a tree—one of those real ones smashed against the grocery store wall. After Dad secured it into the red and green stand, I carefully hung ornaments, and then tossed slivers of silver icicles as high as I could.

When cards and letters from and about people I’d never met came in the mail, I read every word before displaying them around the dining room window.

My big sister’s record player and a few 45-rpm Christmas records were worn from being played them over and over, year after year. Around my twelfth birthday, I received my very own stereo and two Christmas LP’s (33 rpm). I still have them; a few years ago my oldest son copied them on to CD’s…scratches, skips, and all.

These days, I sing, ring bells, dress in costumes, and sometimes dance for our church Broadway style musical; rehearsing from September to November to perform fourteen times. The handmade nativity scene and stable nestled under a house plants reminds me of the first Christmas.

The biggest artificial blue spruce tree my house (and husband) will allow stands adorned with silver icicles accenting old, new, homemade, store-bought, shiny, and dull decorations. Suspended garland enhances the cards displayed on the wall around the windows. Our annual family letter will be tucked within a Christ-centered card for family and friends we haven’t’ seen in years (some my kids have never met). A couple of Christmas miracles books lie next to my chair. I’ll watch “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” soon. And, Christmas music plays in the background throughout the day.

Did I mention that I think “Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year”?

Weather you live where there are white Christmases or not, “may your days be merry and bright.”

Costumers from past Christmas programs at Capitol City Christian Church, Lincoln, NE 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath holy

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” Exodus 20:8-11

Is it okay…
…to eat at a restaurant after church on Sunday? Should the waitress be required to serve us on the Sabbath?
…to go shopping on Sunday?  Is it right for us to make someone else work on the Sabbath by patronizing these businesses?

(As a Christian, I recognize Sunday as the Lord’s Day, rather than the traditional Jewish Saturday because Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, and Luke 24:1).

After reading Isaiah 56:1-8, a search of the scriptures ensued.

What is lawful to do on the Sabbath?
Matthew 12:1-8, 9-13
The Pharisees condemned Christ and His disciples for picking heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath because they were hungry. Jesus then went into the synagogue where a man with a withered hand became the object of contention concerning what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.

As for the grain, Jesus refers them back to a time when David was hungry and ate the consecrated bread meant for the priests. (1 Samuel 21:1-6) He then speaks of His desire for His follows to show compassion and mercy rather than sacrifice on the Sabbath.

When questioned about the man’s hand, Jesus used the example of how if a sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath the shepherd would rescue it to explain the value of "doing good" on the Sabbath.

What is unlawful to do on the Sabbath? Exodus 20:8-11
According to the original commandment, God spoke of rest versus work on the Sabbath. He reminds us that He worked six days to make all of creation and then rested on the seventh. (Genesis 2:1-3)

It sounds to me like we are to work six days and not to work on the seventh or the Sabbath! And, that we are allowed to eat when hungry and to show compassion to others. It is also my great pleasure to attend church on Sunday mornings, the Lord’s Day, to worship Him with fellow believers.

There’s a fine line between legalism and obedience, and I want to be on the right side. I don’t want to live as the Pharisees with legalism as my motivation, yet I want to be in line with God’s desire for us to keep the Sabbath holy.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how you keep the Sabbath or Lord’s Day holy.

Additional Holy Sabbath scriptures:
Exodus 16:4-5; 16:22-26; 31:12-18; Nehemiah 10:31; Isaiah 58:13; Jeremiah 17:19-27; Mark 2:27-28

By Merrie Hansen, Christian Author

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turning my Doubt into Determination

-          Stay teachable, humble, & grow*
-          Write what I know…walk in my own shoes
-          The only time you fail is if you quit*
-          How do you eat an elephant?* How do you write a book?
-          Throw the net out a little deeper in the water…submit, submit, submit
-          Celebrate the successes, big or small; Toughen up for the letdowns*
-          Finish the race

I feel as though I’ve been on my writing journey for forever; but it actually only began five-and-half years ago, in June 2006. Along the way, some dreaded “D” words like disappointment, doubt, and discouragement pulled me down or made me drag my feet.

My disappointments don’t come because of rejected submissions, but rather because I fail to submit for publication often enough. My doubts spring up when I step out of my writing comfort zone even though that’s where I’m drawn. Discouragement is simply the result of an undisciplined life. Together, they cause the ugliest “D” word of all: depression.

These words are not just troublemakers for my writing journey, but to life itself. They plague me as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. In those roles, I set my own flexible or rigid schedule. Generally speaking, I answer to no one expect the One who placed me in those positions. The encouragement phrases from above apply to every area of life and help to move me toward the ultimate goal in all my roles.

Today, I am changing my dreaded “D” words to determination, definition, and discipline. I’m determined to finish projects in a timely matter. At this juncture in my writing journey, success will not be defined by being published, but by the number of submissions I make. It's time to discipline my flexible schedule for a more rigid one.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”
Psalm 94:19 nlt

*some phrases are direct quotes from (“Albert Einstein, Wet Noodles, and Kick Butt Advice”), others are paraphrased, & some are just my thoughts

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Looking for Nellie Elvira

Who is Nellie Elvira? What happened to her? Where did life take her? Did she live a long happily-ever-after life?

She was born December 23, 1887 to my great-grand aunt who died March 9, 1888. Prior to visiting the local historical society several months ago, I thought my great-grand aunt only had a son, but then I found the daughter’s birth announcement in the archived newspapers. My heart ached as I stood over the lonely grave of my great-grand aunt, but ached even more for this child without an ancestral trail.

I’ve searched for her, but without a name nothing popped up. Last week that piece of information emerged. There it was—there she was—in a letter written to my great-grandfather from her aunt D. J.

Jamesport, MO - Oct. 17, 1889

…I received your letter... Her name is Nellie Elvira and she looks just like her mother. I do not know how long we will keep her. The little boy's name is Guy. he lives with his grandparents in Ohio, but I can't give their address. Mother spent last summer with me, and she talked of going to see you, but her health was so bad that she thought she had better not go. She was nearly crazy over the loss of our sister. I do not know that I can tell any more, only that the children are real smart and sweet little things. Yours, D.J.

She’s alive! Or she was at that time. Where did she go from there? The censuses follow her brother and father back to Ohio and Illinois, but no Nellie. I have found a possibility of her living with a cousin in Ohio, but I’m not 100% certain this is my Nellie.

Yes, she’s become my Nellie, my obsession. I can’t get her off my mind. Where did this little orphan girl go?

My questions began at that lonely gravesite looking over Trenton, Nebraska.
-          Did my great-grandfather’s half-sister die due to complications of the child’s birth, the severity of the 1888 winter, or something else?
-          Was her husband so distraught, he buried his wife of three years without a headstone, and then immediately set out for his homeland with only their 2-year-old son in tow?
-          Did Nellie’s papa feel it would be best to let his grief-stricken mother-in-law, who was present at the birth of his daughter and the death of her own 24-year-old daughter, take his baby girl to D.J.’s Missouri home?
-          Is she the 12-year-old Nellie living with cousins in Ohio?
-        Did she skip rope in the school playground, fuss with her hair, and meet Mr. Right to have babies of her own?

I want her to have a legacy—a happily-ever-after life. I want her life to count for something. 

I may never find out what happened to Nellie Elvira, but I have found Lord. No matter my ancestry, no matter my past, I am blessed and saved. If one day, my want descendants seek to know me, I want them to know me as a passionate seeker of the Lord—as one who found the way to live a happily ever-lasting life.

“You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!”
Jeremiah 29:13 ncv

Friday, September 16, 2011


Thursday: I drove 300 miles alone to my parents’ home in southeast Nebraska.
Friday: I awoke in my old bedroom refreshed and excited to visit with family and friends. After breakfast, I took advantage of the quiet surroundings of my childhood home while Mom and Dad ran their errands.
 I sat at a wobbly card table immersed in my Bible study, when Dad unexpectedly appeared at the door.
 “What are you reading?” he asked.
 “Oh, it’s on revival,” referring to my lesson.
 He pulled up a chair and sat down. “What does the Bible say about grudges?”
 “Well, we need to let them go.” I wasn’t ready for such a question.
 Then, he asked. “What about sixty years of anger?”
 I prayed silently, “God give me wisdom to speak,” as I listened to Dad pour out the pain of his heart,
 “Since my dad died when I was twelve," he went on, "the high school principal decided I needed a man to discipline me.”
 His sad blue eyes pleaded for answers. My heart broke. I listened. I prayed.
 “Your mom doesn’t understand why I sometimes wake in the middle of the night angry. This man still haunts me.” He wrapped one hand over his clinched fist.
 Growing up, I saw his outbursts of anger. I’d seen that same clinched fist bang on a table or against the car dashboard without explanation.
 “Dad, you need to forgive this man. Ask God to help you forgive him. The anger in you has turned into a cancer. Forgiveness is the only way to let go of it.” 
 We talked a few minutes longer until Mom returned home. The conversation ended.
* * * * *
 Saturday: Keeping with tradition, Dad and I watched our beloved Nebraska football team go against arch-rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners.
 Monday: My sister and her husband came to the house for supper. We played the family card game.
Tuesday: Mom took a Polaroid snapshot of Dad with his arm around his dog.
Wednesday: Mom and I went to visit a few family friends, on this seasonably warm October afternoon. Dad went for morning coffee with the friends.
He also stopped at the local truck stop for lunch and found my over-the-road truck driver brother. Dad shared his plans for the day with my brother, and then headed home to work on our old Ford tractor. He drove it up to the corner hill of their acreage to drain the hydraulic fluid.
Mom and I returned home shortly after. As we walked into the house, Mom looked up the hill and Dad waved at her. She sorted the mail, and then went to see how he was doing. Within a few short minutes, Mom was back in the house, reaching for the telephone, “I think you dad is dead.”
While she called 911, I hurried up the short hill. “O God, he forgave that man, didn’t he?” Tears ran down my cheeks. I began to sing, “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder…” Very soon, I reached Dad's motionless body.
Mom joined me on the hill where we stood and waited for help to come. She looked at me. “You’re here."
* * * * *
I had no idea when I decided to go home for a visit it would be Dad’s last week, nor of the important conversation we’d have.
I wish Dad had forgiven this man many years earlier so that he could have experienced a more peaceful life rather than one of torment. Yet, I do believe he passed into eternity knowing the peace which passes all understanding, the true meaning of Rest In Peace.

This happened October 2001. Whenever I think about that week, I acknowledge God's hand in it all, feel blessed beyond measure, and remember to forgive.
 “Pray in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven…forgive us our trespasses 
as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ ”  Matthew 6:9-13

By Merrie Hansen, Christian Writer

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The fog is so thick I can’t see my hand in front of my face. My trekking pole sinks into the spongy tundra. No birds are singing; the silence is deafening.  I’m lost… a daydream.
Pondering...daydreaming...whatever you want to call it, as a writer I need to do more of it. Writing fiction or nonfiction requires a creative, imaginative, daydreamer heart and mind; I also find it relieves stress.
Like most of us as children, I was taught to stifle my daydreams. The logic of my adult head says daydreams are distractions and hindrances to responsibility—an evil guilty pleasure. Yet, according to the Writers Digest article, “25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30-minutes-a-day”, I should devote some time each day to daydream, to let my mind wonder.
Right now, I suppress my need to daydream with responsible activities like doing laundry, paying bills, or cleaning the house or divert them with other seemingly wasteful activities like watching TV, surfing the web, or reading a fictional book. Yes, I need to do responsible things, but I also need to devote some time each day to simply daydream.
However, undoing a lifetime of subduing this guilty pleasure will not be easy. It will take time. It will take getting the rest of my life (the responsible side of my brain) to give me permission to daydream a portion of every day.
Changing will require relearning, igniting, and training the creative side of my brain back into action. I need to give my imagination room to breathe and roam. Then, I need to allow the words of the Holy Spirit to grow and flow through my heart and mind to my writing fingers.
Just as health professionals encourage walking 30-minutes a day, I need to include 30-minutes a day devoted to daydreaming. It will benefit my writing as well as relieve stress in my life. The responsibilities of my life need not dominate my thoughts. I need to still the voices of my parents and teachers telling me to “stop daydreaming and get back to work.”
Do you daydream? Do you allow your mind to wonder 10, 20, or 30 minutes each day or do the voices in the back of your head stop you? Maybe on that next 30 minute walk you take you can do a little daydreaming, too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gearing Up

Many are gearing up for school, but for me it’s time to pull the backpacking equipment out. Time to pack and go. Yes, we’ll soon be heading west—northwest Nebraska, that is—to do a little hiking, camping, and touring the historical area.
Today, I took my Therm-a-rest sleeping pad, Big Agnes sleeping bag, Gregory backpack, hiking poles, and Marmot 2-door tent off the shelf. My goal pack weight is 20-24 pounds. Every ounce is calculated. (Pack weighs 3 lbs/2 oz; sleeping bag, 2 lbs/8 oz; tent, 2 lbs/6 oz; pad, 1 lb/8 oz, and then there’s the cooking & eating gear, food, water, first aid, clothing, jacket, flashlight, toiletries, etc.)
Backpacking is a crazy activity this fifty-something Nebraska woman calls fun. Up until 2007, carrying all the gear on my back was not something I did; I left that to my husband and our Boy Scouts sons.
Yet, right from the beginning of our marriage, sleeping in the great outdoors was a part of building our marriage and family. We spent a few nights of our honeymoon in a tent, then traveled the 1500 miles to Alaska setting up/taking down the canvas tent we bought with our first tax refund. After years of tent camping, we fixed up a topper for the pickup, and later still, purchased pop-up campers. When the kids were grown, our empty nest reverted to tent camping. However, backpacking takes it to the next level.
It’s a physical and mental challenge. We walk 6-8 hours a day dealing with the weather, the insects, and the terrain. It’s beautiful. It’s boring. Muscles I forgot I had hurt, my knees get scraped, and my feet develop blisters. Then, I sleep on a 1-inch air mattress pad in a tent or 3-walled shelter on a wooden bunk.
So, why do I do it? Why do I call it fun? Answer: As we walk up and down the mountains, swatting away flies, we talk. We listen. It is the ultimate quality time together.
Of course, we have found simpler less strenuous activities throughout our 36-year marriage to provide quality time for good communication. Sometimes we take long drives or sit in the park, but in this day and age, removing distractions is the challenge. In the mountains or hills, cell service is rare. Out on the trail, neither of us has other things to do or places to go. Bottom line, we have lots of time to talk, listen, or just think privately.
So, I’m gearing up for another crazy long walk with my wonderful husband, investing in our marriage relationship.
     “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB

Friday, August 5, 2011

"To Die For" by Sandra Byrd is historical - informative - entertaining

“’…God did not create me to be any man’s plaything…’ Anne stopped and faced me afore taking my hand in her own. ‘God has given me clear instructions on how a man is to treat his wife. I require—and desire—that kind of treatment. I will not back down.’” (from page 126)

I couldn't read this book fast enough; I couldn't read it slow enough. I didn't want to put it down; I didn’t want the story to end. History blended with enough fiction pulled me into Henry the VIII’s court. Life was breathed into names I only knew from history classes. I believe I even heard the swish of beautiful gowns as I watched everyone dance around the ballroom.
Sandra tells the controversial story of Anne Boleyn from the perspective of Anne’s lifelong friend, Meg Wyatt. It begins when two carefree girls ride horses, make pledges, and flirt with boys. Being upper class daughters’ specific etiquette was expected. Their story of friendship grows through trials of good versus evil, betrayal, envy, and abuse. Along the way, they become stronger women in their beliefs of people, marriage, and spiritual matters.
As I read the book,I laughed, wept, and pondered. My heart rejoiced when Meg and Anne rejoiced, and broke when their hearts broke. Then, I would remember, “Much of this really did happen; it’s not just fictional make-believe.”
Despite not wanting to put the book down, I had to stop long enough to brush up on my knowledge of the era. As a lover of history, I appreciated the author’s notes and Q&A section explaining certain historical versus fiction discrepancies. Ms. Byrd’s research and love of the period certainly comes through on the pages of “To Die For.” (A book club discussion page is also included in the back pages.)
Beautifully written. Excellent read.

Be sure to visit Sandra’s website
Get your copy at Amazon, Christian Books, or Barnes & Noble
Published by Simon& Schuster
[Personal side note: I'm related to one of the personalities in the book!]