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Friday, December 25, 2009

Love's Victory Forever


"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Hallelujah, for the God omnipotent reigns - King of Kings and Lord of Lords - forever. And he shall reign forever. Worthy is the lamb that was slain. And has redeemed us to God by His blood to receive power, and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever. Amen."

Perfect love came down at Christmas and perfect love casts out all fear. The angels said it, "Fear not!" Jesus (love perfected and made manifest) said, "Do not be afraid! Be anxious for nothing." Forever. He paid the redemption cost. God With Us sacrificed himself in our place.

Sin is broken. Evil is defeated. That means they have no power, no authority, no standing. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God because of Messiah.

Forever. For eternity. We never have to be afraid again - of anything - injustice, pain, sickness, poverty, lack, ridicule, failure, torture, humiliation, death. We have the victory in Jesus! Now and forever! And we reign with Him now and forever! Love conquers all! Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Strawberry Point Christmas


This heart-warming story from the Chicago Tribune is about my home town and the nearby town of Oelwein. I know some of the people in the story personally. And, I am happy to say I grew up and was educated in this area and with these values.

Click here for the story.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Giving


This Christmas, as in many Christmases past, I have no money to spend on gifts. This was making me very sad this morning. So when the people at Tyndale sent me an email about this free download from Matthew West, I wasn't going to bother with it. But, they usually provide good links and I like what they have to say, so I followed up and went to Matthew West's web site. I was so moved by his song with Amy Grant, that I haven't gotten any further. I want to share the link here, because it ministered to me today. You can also hear Matthew reading the Christmas story from Luke at www.thechristofchristmas.com.

As I was growing up, my family did not emphasize spending lots of money and shopping for gifts, but we often made each other presents. What do you give when you have no money and few material resources? In my case, I can tell stories and sing and play music. I can pray for other people instead of focusing on my own problems. I can encourage and smile and say a good word to people who might ordinarily be ignored.

I can do this! So can you! Whether you are rich or poor, give away as much Christmas as you can. Let someone know how much you love them and that you care about them - especially someone who might not be able to return the favor - like your enemy, or that beggar outside Burger King, or the kids who always leave their litter on your front sidewalk, or people in prisons and jails. So, in this season of light, let your light shine!

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matt. 5:14-16

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Editing


I have begun the challenging process of editing my NANOWRIMO novel. This is not nearly as exciting as the adrenaline-fueled process of writing. Now, I am actually reading to catch and correct the inconsistencies, repetitions and flaws. Despite this, it's kind of fun to read and edit. I have to say that, as of page 26, I like the story. Since, at this point, the words of the novel seem unfamiliar and foreign, I feel more objective - at least on the micro level. Structural changes may be more difficult. So stay posted. I may serialize the book here just as Charles Dickens did more than a century ago with "Little Dorrit."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Love



My husband and I know a man from India named "Prem" which means love. God loves Prem passionately - as he does all the people of India, which I like being reminded of periodically. In his usual friendly fashion, my husband befriended that man Prem. As a result, we were privileged to meet a wonderful group of people from India. This is just one aspect of my husband's personality that I appreciate. He tends to see something good in almost everyone he meets because he sees them as God's children - and they tend to love him back.

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday. And, although this has been a terrifically challenging year for us, I am actually grateful to people who have been directly responsible for some of those challenges placed before us. I am grateful because what is absolutely important to Dave and me has been clarified: loving each other, serving God and rejoicing in all the good He has done in our lives. And we have had incredible opportunities to minister love, compassion and hope to others who are experiencing difficulties as well.

God is the absolute essence and power of love. And we rejoice knowing that we will be privileged to spend eternity with Him. We know this with certainty! We know it deep inside! We are saved through grace by faith, and definitely not based on our own works. And, despite all our failings, nothing shall separate us from the love of God. I love the Apostle Paul's eloquent chapter in Romans:
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Just as it is written,
"FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Because of this assurance, I can say that my husband will have the happiest birthday ever and we look forward with confidence to the future because God's plans for us are good. "The Lord delights in the prosperity of his servant."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Honoring Fatherhood


“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Deuteronomy 5:16

This is the only commandment that carries with it a promise. There is a blessing attached to honoring your parents. God is our heavenly father - our eternal parent. Honoring God with the tithe is to honor our heavenly father, which would seem to be a natural extension of the original commandment. In the following quotes from the book of the prophet Malachi, God says it plainly.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts. “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts! So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’ Malachi 3: 8-15

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts. “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Malachi 4

Most of us would have to agree that our country – and our world – is not prospering right now. In fact, the opposite would seem true as people continue to lose their jobs or their businesses or their homes or their children. We would seem to be under a curse, and the Bible makes it plain why a land is cursed – dishonoring parenthood. Mocking God. Mocking fatherhood. Punishing those who tithe.

Galatians 6:7 further clarifies, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

We, the people, and, therefore, our government have been sowing some bad seeds. This is obvious from the harvest. If the people of this country do not repent and turn from their current path, we won’t be destroyed by foreign terrorists, but will be destroyed from within as families cease to exist. When both parents can no longer teach them biblical principles and lovingly discipline their own children, then the United States of America, one nation under God, no longer lives. Children are a heritage from the Lord, and when that heritage is taken away, there is no future.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Matters of Conscience


“In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.” –Gandhi

The other day, I saw a bulletin board in my nephew’s school. It outlined the principles that the school stands behind and teaches. One of those principles resonated with me because I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I read:

“’Conscience Is the Most Sacred of All Property’ (James Madison): ‘God requires faithful stewardship of all His gifts, especially the internal property of conscience. This is a tool for self-government as each child learns the revelation of consent. Each individual governs his life through the voluntary consent to do right or wrong.’”

I realized that there is a great deal going on in this country that is hurting my conscience. We must object to unjust and ungodly rulings and laws made by our government. Our consciences will not permit us to do otherwise. To live with a seared conscience is far worse than to suffer imprisonment or hardship.

For example, when a judge can dictate “that 100% of all monies earned on work release be applied toward child support and credited toward the purge amount,” then something in this country has gone very wrong. Did we not abolish slavery in 1862? Are we not required to pay income tax on money earned? Are we forbidden to support our church and to practice our religion, which teaches tithing?

"One great lesson arose from all the beatings, tortures, and butchery of the Communists: that the spirit is master of the body. We felt the torture, but it often seemed as something distant and far removed from the spirit which was lost in the glory of Christ and His presence with us. When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soup every day, we decided we would faithfully “tithe” even then. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to weaker brethren as our “tithe” to the Master." (from Tortured For Christ by Richard Wurmbrand)

This American judge’s ruling is especially egregious when the “child support” is 1) based on false information and a judge refuses to accept or consider exonerating evidence; 2) unequally determined and administered throughout the state and the nation; 3) demanded for healthy adult “children”; 4) becomes “college support” and is demanded and paid for children of the wealthy only. And, what is shocking about this judge is that he has been appointed to a federal organization to teach judges across the country his collection techniques.

As I see it, to pay what the court demands in this case would be to violate conscience. The demand by this judge amounts to a violation of civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and challenges the very concept of "equal protection under the law."

I would strongly urge the citizens of this country to wake up their consciences. The erosion of civil liberties ultimately results in the inability to worship and serve God as He directs us to. The reason God told Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt was so that they could worship Him as He directed them to. Their deliverance from slavery and provision of the promised land were the outcomes of their obedience. A numbed conscience can’t hear clearly from God.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Finish Line


I posted this on The Last Draft blog, but I am so excited I had to post it here as well.

I just finished writing a novel in 30 days - and I had a one week break where I didn't write at all. Talk about a marathon! The bulk of the novel was written in the last 5 days! And, last night when I went to bed, my creative energy felt bone dry. But, I prayed for an infilling. I prayed that my brain would be like the jars that the woman rounded up for the oil that Elijah miraculously multiplied for her. I prayed and this morning, I felt like the story was writing itself!

I know the whole thing will now need some major editing. There are quite a few loose threads hanging, but overall, I'm pleased! The Dad Wars is a complete work.

Thank you, Beth and Christine!!!! And, NANOWRIMO, someday, I want to give you buckets of money!!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving
















I hope everyone in this country sits down to count their blessings today. We have so much to be thankful for!

"Then on that day David first entrusted to Asaph and his brethren the singing of thanks to the Lord [as their chief task]:

O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known His doings among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; meditate on and talk of all His wondrous works and devoutly praise them! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; yearn for and seek His face and to be in His presence continually![Earnestly] remember the marvelous deeds which He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered [as in Egypt], O you offspring of [Abraham and] of Israel His servants, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.



Be mindful of His covenant forever, the promise which He commanded and established to a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His sworn promise to Isaac He confirmed it as a statute to Jacob, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, To you I will give the land of Canaan, the measured portion of your possession and inheritance. When they were but few, even a very few, and only temporary residents and strangers in it, When they went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people, He allowed no man to do them wrong; yes, He reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not My anointed, and do My prophets no harm. Sing to the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He also is to be [reverently] feared above all so-called gods. For all the gods of the people are [lifeless] idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are [found] in His presence; strength and joy are [found] in His sanctuary.




Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and in holy array. Tremble and reverently fear before Him, all the earth's peoples; the world also shall be established, so it cannot be moved. Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice; and let men say among the nations, The Lord reigns! Let the sea roar, and all the things that fill it; let the fields rejoice, and all that is in them. Then shall the trees of the wood sing out for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge and govern the earth.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! And say, Save us, O God of our salvation; gather us together and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, forever and ever! And all the people said Amen! and praised the Lord....

Then all the people departed, each man to his house, and David returned home to bless his household." 1 Chronicles 16:7-36, 43

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Dad Wars


Working on a novel for NANOWRIMO inspired by both the attacks against fatherhood in our society and my husband's battles, but also a modern re-telling of the King David and Absalom story.

It will definitely not be a work for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Water and Weddings


The ocean humbles me. It’s relentless power, unending waves, massive size, and strange beauty captivate me. I love it’s sound and the spray of the waves. A morning sunrise over the ocean shows me God’s endless supply of newness and his methodical ways. Our God is the God of order as well as the God of the universe and the God of Angel Armies.

My husband once physically experienced waves of God’s love as tangible as the waves of the sea. He said it was so overwhelming and amazing that he could only endure it physically for a short time.

I envy my husband that powerful experience, but I have experienced God’s love in other tangible ways – the peaceful love that filled my heart when sitting on the sand surveying the pounding surf, the peaceful love that calmed my mind when a baby slept all afternoon in my arms, and the peaceful love inspired by watching two passionate lovers exchange wedding vows.

How is it that God knows exactly what you need at every moment? The God who created and sustains the oceans and the universe, cares for me, personally. Why? I still can’t fathom that one. But, He does care for me and provides for my every need. His Word is sufficient, but He also speaks to me in the still small voice and through his creation – so that I can’t possibly miss his messages.

Jesus, the bridegroom, is coming soon for his bride, the church, and our father in heaven is preparing each one of us for the day. He has already paid the dowry. He will never leave us or forsake us, but with patience, groom us for himself and that great marriage feast day.

Isaiah 54:1 (Message) For your Maker is your bridegroom, his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel, known as God of the whole earth. You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief, and God welcomed you back, Like a woman married young and then left," says your God.

Matt. 25:6 (New American Standard Bible) "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'

Friday, October 2, 2009

Review of the audio drama: The Screwtape Letters


Fascinating listening, the audio drama, The Screwtape Letters, gives an amazing and insightful voice to those nagging thoughts and destructive emotions that plague all of us. Particularly appropriate as a radio-type drama, The Screwtape Letters was written by C.S. Lewis in England at the beginning of World War II. And, the measure of good literature, as editor David Brawn said, is that “it works as well today as it did 50-60 years ago.” Fortunately for all of us, The Screwtape Letters is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

This Tyndale House/Focus on Family production is excellent: the actors portraying the various characters are wonderfully appropriate and dynamic; the music and sound effects fresh and skillful. Andy Serkis as Screwtape is the epitome of malevolence and seduction, and Bertie Carvel as Wormwood brings slimy and whiny to new heights. I enjoyed every moment of it – including the DVD commentaries.

C.S. Lewis’ teaching itself is compelling storytelling and reinforces the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB): “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” and in Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

To be taught from the opposite viewpoint, challenged my thinking and exposed the enemy more clearly. I felt surprised, again, to discover how subtly the enemy works in our thought lives – in situations both mundane and dramatic – and that is where the believer’s battle is truly fought. I feel like I'm fighting trench warfare in my own life, and night-time is the worst for those demonic thoughts. Thank God, I'm learning to recognize them more quickly, and fight them with the word of God.

It was a brave thing that C.S. Lewis did, giving voice to those principalities and rulers of darkness. According to the notes provided in the production, he had to put himself in a dark place mentally to write The Screwtape Letters, which was perhaps inspired by a Danish book, Letters from Hell. In doing so, C.S. Lewis has helped so many to learn to distinguish those wicked voices from the voice the Good Shepherd.

I highly recommend this radio drama, especially in this era of MP3 player and iPod listeners. I hope that many listeners – young and old – will be blessed and will grow in their understanding as a result. And, the production is entertaining enough to listen to again and again.

Produced in partnership between Tyndale House and Focus on the Family, The Screwtape Letters audio drama will be available for purchase beginning on October 15 - just in time to understand what Halloween is truly about.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Children of Eden" a review

I took my little neighbor, Anna, to see the musical "Children of Eden" for her birthday. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and the story by John Caird, the musical was “freely based” on the creation, the fall of man and the flood in Genesis. The show itself was a nicely directed and choreographed ensemble production by the Fox Valley Youth Theatre. However, I soon began to feel the story and message of the musical were extremely negative. After the glory of creation, God was portrayed as an arbitrary earthly father. And, can you imagine a Noah story with no rainbow?

Two messages disturbed me. First, the musical conveyed the message that creativity belonged only to God and not to curious humans. That seemed to be a major theme and was repeated again and again.

A second message of the musical was that God was a racist – unbiblically portraying God as prejudiced against the children of Cain.

The musical’s final message was that we should love each other. Ironic, since the musical showed human failure to keep every promise made, especially loving your family.

The only thing I could say to Anna at the end of the musical was “thank God for Jesus.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lovely Summer at Last

September can be a lovely month. And, this has been one – perfect temperatures, very little rain and lots of sun. No other place on earth seems as lovely as our backyard with its geraniums and petunias and sedum and astors. Even the cucumber vine is pretty with its bright yellow flowers and silly looking fruit. And, I would still like to get to Iowa to eat the grapes and apples that are ready, now.

The mood of the country seems to be more upbeat, too. And, the economic news is improving. The Jewish new year is celebrated tonight and for the next two days. It is a fitting time for a new year. This is a great time for a new start.

Shanah tovah!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

History and Community


What a weekend! The Elgin Housewalk tour was Saturday. The Elgin Housewalk is a wonderful, volunteer event that involves people who enjoy history, appreciate old houses, and love the people of the local neighborhood. Annually, more than a thousand people walk through the houses on tour.

I helped as a house co-captain, and earlier had assisted housewalk veteran Bill Briska with some writing for the booklet. As a writer, I researched four of the homes and talked with their current owners, learning more of the history of Elgin and its inhabitants. As house captain, I worked with thirty volunteer docents and talked with many of the visitors. I loved hearing their stories.

The homes on this year's tour were mostly built between 1870 and 1910. Just walking down the streets of Elgin, you can see the tremendous variety of architecture. This year's tour featured an elegant Romanesque revival brick mansion, a cute little second Empire style house with Mansard roof, a traditional American foursquare, some Queen Anne's and a bungalow.

Inside the homes, you can feel the sense of history, and also see how our lifestyles and attitudes have changed. Kitchens and bathrooms have become more important. Smoking rooms and parlors have gone out of use, replaced by family rooms and dens. Servants, with their own quarters and own stairs, are no longer common for middle or even upper middle class families.

But, the families who lived in these houses experienced the same pain of loss when babies or husbands or family members died, when houses were lost to bankruptcy or when the local economy suffered. They also celebrated life milestones, loved decorating their houses and serving the community in their own unique fashion.

Certain aspects of life change, but the fundamentals do not. How quickly we all come and go from life's stage. What lasts seem to be the things that people do with love and care for others - both in the short term and the long term.

Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'

Luke 12:16-21
Then Jesus told this story: "There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, "I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!"'

"But God said to him, 'Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: Fearless by Max Lucado


In the midst of the current global financial crisis fueled by fear, Max Lucado has written Fearless. The book examines the “why” of fear, and then encourages Christ-followers to “fear not.” Chapter by chapter, Lucado disarms the fears of global calamity, of death, for your children, of the future, of failure, of violence, of insignificance, and of financial ruin. Using short stories, poetry, song lyrics and anecdotes, he speaks with a calm, matter-of-fact voice and uses scripture to back up his assertions.

An easy-to-read book, Fearless reaches across class, ethnicity and age. My favorite chapter was the last and it contained a segment, that, for me, summarized the message of the book: ‘Courage does not panic; it prays. Courage does not bemoan; it believes. Courage does not languish; it listens. It listens to the voice of God calling through Scripture, "Fear not!" It hears Christ's voice comforting through the hospital corridors, graveyards and war zones: “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2)… “When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic.” (Matt.24:6) “Let not your heart by troubled.” (John 14:1)’

Just after those encouraging words, Lucado includes a wonderful poem by William Fariss – seven-year-old. This poem is filled with glorious imagery and a global perspective.

For the many who fight fear every day, Fearless is a profound encouragement, and can be read again and again. As the book cover says, “Imagine your life without fear.” And, for some of us, this is a daily – maybe even hourly – assignment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Value of Volunteering


Today, a friend introduced me to a lovely city park, the Hawthorne Hill Nature Center. Located on the west side of Elgin, this 65 acre plot was once part of a Girl Scout camp. I helped pull weeds out of the prairie planting bed. It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a warm sunny day, and to get to know June, a volunteer, and April, the woman who oversees volunteers and activities here.

I wish that everyone would volunteer to help maintain our public parks or buildings, or to assist in one of their programs. The library, the museums and the parks belong to us all and remind us to value our community. The volunteering experience and commitment reinforce our personal ownership of these wonderful assets. If we would all spend a little less time in front of the television or computer, and a little more time volunteering to help in our communities, we might discover new or hidden treasures and meet some good-hearted people who share common interests and goals.

I guarantee that those who give of their time would receive back a hundred-fold blessing for their efforts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why are Amish stories so popular?


Amish stories are among the most popular fiction for Christian women. With new books by many authors – both established and new, from Beverly Lewis to Amy Clipston – Christian publishers continue to supply a raft of novels for hungry readers.

Beverly Lewis' first Amish fiction book was The Shunning. Published in 1997, it was the first in the Heritage of Lancaster County series. However, two years earlier, Hallmark had entered the Amish story market with its production, Harvest of Fire, starring Patty Duke and Lolita Davidovich. The film went on to win a Primetime Emmy and a Writers Guild of America award. Filmed on location in Iowa, many in the Mennonite community near Iowa City helped out in various ways with the production. The film pointed to incidents of Amish persecution, but its main theme was the cohesiveness of the community.

Amish people make incredible sacrifices to keep their unique community intact, and to limit the influence of the outside world on their children. Those sacrifices include cutting off members who leave (called shunning), ending education in the 8th grade, resisting the use of electricity or owning modern transportation, and maintaining use of the peculiar strain of German that they speak.

The Amish have also endured many types of persecution. In the 1960s, the Iowa government tried to interfere in Amish education by insisting that they hire “state certified” teachers. The Amish community near Oelwein refused, citing the increased cost. It is against Amish principles to go to court against anyone, so they were virtually defenseless. Newspapers, Chambers of Commerce and the Iowa Education Association publicly supported the arrest of Amish parents who wouldn’t comply despite the fact that, at the time, almost no parochial school and only about half of the public schools in the state met that requirement. According to a Donald B. Kraybill, in his book The Amish and the state, at this point the National Council of Churches stepped in and made the point that this was a religious issue. All the while the Amish were being fined thousands daily in court.

The issue in Iowa and other states was resolved at some point because the Amish still operate their one-room schoolhouses in the country. In Wisconsin, the Amish won a big victory due to the support of Christians outside the Amish community who advocated for them. These victories may have paved the way for the home-schooling movement.

Currently, the Amish community in northeast Iowa seems to be thriving. Not reliant on loans, they purchase farms with cash and are expanding into nearby areas. Obviously doing something right, their hard work keeps kids out of trouble and enriches families.

These factors seem to have attracted a great demand among women for Amish stories. They relate to the Amish struggle to educate their children as they see fit, and admire the strong Amish family model. Home-schooling parents have had to fight government interference, in many cases, to establish the “right” to educate their own children
The Amish choice to refuse telephones, computers and televisions may also provide inspiration to parents who wring their hands over the messages bombarding their children through their peers, the media and the Internet.

Amish families hold to a traditional structure where women keep the house, cook, clean, sew and mind the children. Men work with their hands to provide for their families. And, when someone has trouble, the entire community pitches in to help.

In addition to legal woes, the Amish have withstood much criticism and mockery from those who don’t understand their choices. Now that many practicing mainstream Christians are experiencing persecution in courts or ridicule in the media, they can empathize with and look to their Amish brothers and sisters as role models.


Christian books about Amish
* The Amish and the state, by Donald B. Kraybill, pages 98-112

Friday, August 14, 2009

Help! I need comedy Rx!





I am going to write something totally, hilariously funny and clever…

Not!

I just can’t do it alone! Beatrice had Benedick, Lucy had Desi, and Jerry had George. If only I had Debbie Bock’s quick wit, or Beth’s hilarity, or my neighbor Karen’s teasing humor. If only they were sitting right here feeding me one-liners.

If I were onstage, I could walk smack into a door or fall flat on my back on the floor, or make a totally silly face at someone the minute they turn their back. That would be funny… but only live and in person.

If I were a guy, I could drink down an entire glass of something and burp loudly afterward. Or, I could whine about not understanding what women want. Of course, I’d have to have an audience of other guys who would then compete over who could burp the loudest or complain the longest. A contest always helps.

But, I’m writing on a blank white computer page. It has no comedy whatsoever. I can hear the little boys in the house behind ours splashing in their pool. Earlier they were shooting the hose straight up into the air, while dogs barked all around them. Little kids can be funny – what they say and what they do. Too bad I don’t have a recorder that I could sneak out and put by the fence. Then later, I could transcribe what they say! I can't even take credit for the photos above of our nephew. My husband shot them. And they make me smile.

But, that doesn’t make this blog funny. And, now that I think about it, I haven’t read anything lately (except Beth’s blogs or Karen's emails) that even made me smile, much less laugh out loud. Where has all the humor gone?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Celebrating the Young and the Old







Family reunions and August, they go together. August is a fitting month, too, since it was my grandfather's first name. It seems that we grow gentler toward one another as we get older. Or maybe it is just me...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Onix and her sisters


illustration by Meghan Jones

Onix snuggled deep into her downy quilts as her father’s song poured through the halls and grounds of the palace. Her younger sister, Ruby, in the bed to her left, had already fallen asleep. Her older sister, Topaz, lay in her bed on Onix’s right with her eyes closed, smiling to herself and nodding in time to the tune.

Tomorrow, she and her sisters would leave for the winter palace at Fortiscaelum to prepare for Christmas. Of all three sisters, Onix loved the winter palace the most. There she could roam freely and spend time with those who were so dear to her.

Even though Onix knew her father’s lullaby well, she fought sleep to hear all of the words tonight. She loved his rich deep voice as he sang:

My precious children
More treasured by me
Than exquisite sculpture
Or a great symphony.

My son set like a Diamond
My daughters, my gems
Topaz, Onyx, Ruby
In my best of diadems.


I wonder if I’ll ever see my brother, Onix thought as her eyelids fluttered shut and she fell peacefully asleep.

A few days later after settling in at the winter palace, despite the freshly fallen snow, Onix found her copy of the royal cartographer’s map of Fortiscaelum’s lands and sped to the stable to saddle her palomino, Ancilla.

The royal squire sauntered over to the stall. “Welcome back, Princess. Going out?”

Glancing up, Onix frowned. It was Roger, a sturdy-looking kid with straight blue-black hair that always fell into his tawny-colored eyes. Onix answered, “Yes, Topaz is having ‘ideas’ today. I needed to get away for awhile.”

Roger nodded. “Your older sister always seems to have something planned for everyone.”

Onix felt her face warm in embarrassment. Why did Topaz have to make a splash wherever she arrived? She would take charge and tell people what to do – even if they didn’t need her to. Upon their arrival, she had insisted that their music and books be unpacked and the rehearsal hall set up – even before saying hello to the staff and having tea.

“I’m headed for the woods near the castle.”

“Want some company?”

“No… thanks. I just want to be by myself.”

Onix certainly did not want Roger’s company, or anyone else’s, for that matter. Her younger sister was next to Topaz on Onix’s list of people to avoid. Ruby had commandeered Onix first thing in the morning to dance with her and play with her and listen to her endless chatter. Onix simply could not take another minute.

Roger patted Ancilla’s flank. “Be on your guard. I’ve heard reports about increased spy activity around here.”

“I have my bow, and I’m not going far.”

And with that, Onix gave a final tug on the girth. Roger opened the gate for her and she took off. As she cantered through the courtyard, the thought occurred to her that although Roger tried to be a good friend to her, he wasn’t very interesting.

The red feather in her cap fluttered in the wind and a cluster of her jet-black curls teased her face as Onix galloped Ancilla through the snowdrifts. Girl and horse sent the snow flying as they headed to a clearing within view of the main castle entrance. Since it was one of her favorite spots, the place had become known as Onix’s Meadow.

At a high point, Onix reigned in Ancilla and studied her well-worn map. Then, inhaling the smell of the evergreens, she spun slowly around in the saddle, enjoying the prospect. To the east, the mountains sparkled brilliant white in the bright winter sunshine. To the west, the castle itself shone golden warm and inviting even with its creamy white frosting. Chickadees and cardinals flitted and chirped here and there, and danced in the air around her. She felt so free! “Thank youuuuuuuuu!” she shouted, and her voice echoed back, “Thank youuuuuu! Thank youuuuu!”

Onix tucked the map into the quiver on her back and jumped down from Ancilla. Her sharp eyes scanned the area. To her left, high in a tree a squirrel swished his tail and watched her. The slight smell of skunk lingered in the air to her right. As her gaze traveled upwards, she squinted her eyes as she saw a potential danger at the top of a rocky outcropping. There appeared to be two glass orbs buried in the snow.

Instantly kneeling, she whipped the bow from her shoulder and an arrow from her back. Nocking the arrow, she felt the smoothness of its feather fletching on her cheek as she sent an arrow flying low over the orbs.

Two bushy eyebrows popped out of the snow and field glasses emerged next. A black-streaked face with an enormous mustache followed.

“Who are you?” she shouted out, nocking another arrow.

“Don’t shoot at me. I’m Brevis,” he answered back in a froggy voice. “I mean no harm. I was just leaving.” He continued looking at her right through his field glasses.

“I’m certainly not afraid of you!” she said as she took in his diminutive form and charcoal-stained tunic and beard. “You're a spy! I should pin you to a tree right now!”

“So… What are you doing out here today?” he asked. Brevis slowly backed up to the cover of the trees.

“I need more target practice,” Onix said, sending another arrow zinging over his head.

Brevis lowered his head and cowered.

“Don’t worry. I’m getting much better,” she said.

Then, glancing quickly over her shoulder, Onix jumped and ran for the cover of a tree. Spotting a downed log, she ducked out and shot. Then, she aimed and shot at clumps of grass, knotholes in trees and both ends of the log, using up all the arrows in her quiver. Not a single one missed its target.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Brevis sit down. Unaware that the princess could still see him, he eased a tattered piece of parchment out of his rucksack and scribbled on it with a gnawed-on piece of charcoal. After he finished his message, he folded the parchment around a stone and rolled it down to the base of the rock. A skunk scuttled out of hiding, picked up the note in its mouth and scurried into a thicket.

Just then, the King’s patrol swept through Onix’s meadow. Brevis shook with fear and disappeared.

Miles, the tall captain of the guard, swept up beside her on his glossy dapple gray horse. Miles seemed surprised to see her out alone so late in the day. He questioned her with his ocean-colored eyes as he asked, “And, how are you today, Princess Onix?”

Onix heart skipped a beat at hearing him address her by name, but she certainly didn’t want him to notice.

“It’s a great day for target practice, Captain!” she answered, glancing up at the rock. The spy had disappeared from it; and the sun had sunk down and was poised to dive behind it.

“Good for you,” he said, his eyes following her gaze, “but don’t stay out too much later. The sunlight disappears fast in the winter.”

“I’m ready to come in,” she said and gathered up all her arrows except for the two shot over Brevis. They seemed to have disappeared, along with the strange little man himself. The patrol rode a circuit around the meadow as she whistled to Ancilla, who trotted over shaking her mane and flicking her tail as if she wanted to tell the captain herself about Onix’s escapade.

“He is so handsome. Isn’t he, Ancilla?” She stroked her horse’s neck dreamily.

Onix headed back to the castle, and a little song formed itself in her head and flew out of her lips. The exquisite sound floated purely over the high notes and rang out even on the low notes.

The sky so blue, the trees so green,
Colors so brilliant by sunlight seen.
Or watch the sky unfold at night!
The moon so close, the stars so bright,
Even the night-time possesses light.
If only my sisters would share with me
Just one single interest or common delight.
What joy that, a song worthy to write!


As she reached the castle courtyard, the sound of her song drifted up through the bare trees and hovered outside the windows of the King’s study. Hearing that resonance, the King’s most trusted servant and the princesses’ tutor, Amadeo, flung open his windows to let the music come wafting in. His tall frame and silver-hair made him distinctive and the princesses called him “the silver tower” behind his back. When Onix’s song ended, Amadeo called out to her, “Onix, if only you weren’t afraid to sing out for others to hear! Your songs could melt the hardest of hearts.”

Her face flushing red, Onix hung her head and mumbled, “Nobody else thinks so.”

“In that, you are mistaken, Onix,” he said and retreated back into the King’s study.

As Onix led Ancilla to the stables, the sound of a trumpet blared through the courtyard. From up in the watchtower, the castle watchman roused the King’s household and every creature for miles around. Onix nearly jumped out of her skin.

“A messenger approaches!” the watchman announced. Captain Miles and his men turned around and headed back out to meet him.

A few minutes later, her heart pounding, Onix watched from Ancilla’s stall as the captain’s guard escorted the racing messenger over the drawbridge. His horse and clothing were spattered with mud and his face dripping with sweat. The great horse reared up at the stables, his nostrils flaring. Still frothing at his bit, the horse dwarfed Roger, who ran out to help. Ignoring the squire, the messenger leapt from his mount and immediately walked his steed in a circle speaking softly to him all the while. When the horse had quieted, the messenger handed the reins over to the young man and sprinted inside to meet with Amadeo in the King’s reception hall.

Onix raced inside and up three flights of stairs to the grand rehearsal hall. Since her sisters hadn’t appeared after the horn blast, she knew she’d find them there. They spent most of their free time in that room at the top of the castle: Topaz endlessly practicing intricate melodies on her flute, and Ruby dancing with her slender legs and willowy arms, bringing the music to life as if she were dancing before hundreds of nobles and princes.

As Onix burst into the room, Topaz looked at her in surprise with her large purple eyes. Topaz gently drew the flute from her lips and set it down. A strong pang of envy passed through Onix. Topaz looked so lovely with her slim fingers and her long honey-colored hair that fell in plump curls to frame her face. She had an elegant composed manner and boys always noticed her first.

Completely opposite, Ruby’s vibrant red hair flowed and swept around her head as she used a Pas de Basque to reach Onix, grabbed her hands and demanded, “"What would the king have me dance next? A love song of the meadowlark or a tempest driving forth the mighty ships at sea?” Then, she laughed and spun around in a perfect pirouette.

Ignoring her sister's fantasy, Onix cried out, “A messenger is with–”

But before she finished, her sisters flew from the room. Onix chased them down the stairs to the hallway outside the reception hall. Amadeo, heading out of that magnificent room, intercepted the three princesses. Joyously, he announced to them, “Your brother returns! He has won the war and plans to be home for Christmastide!”

The three sisters hugged each other and jumped up and down ecstatically. This would certainly be a Christmastide like no other! But, for the first time in her life, Onix felt a twinge of disappointment over the Winterberry tradition. She had never desired to be crowned the queen, but now... Well, she just wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be chosen as the Winterberry Queen, even if the unpredictable berries appeared this year.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekend Rejuvenation


What a lovely weekend we had – full of weather variety, fascinating new people, exotic travel and wonderful cuisine. Okay so maybe it was a garage sale, a concert and fireworks show six blocks from our house and rural Indiana, where we ate fried chicken and potato salad and saw a community theatre production of “The Music Man.”

It is my husband’s fault (time for finger pointing here). He got me involved with a neighbor’s garage sale. Generally, I dislike that kind of thing, but the women running it were great fun, and I really appreciated getting to know them a little better. Even though the weather was unseasonably cool and rainy, I didn’t mind wearing a jacket and meeting the people who braved the weather to go garage sailing - especially the man who bought the collectible Matchbox cars, and then came back with his daughter to purchase the 50's dinette for her first apartment; or the older gentleman who was totally out of breath from walking up the hill who came to buy the bike; or the lovely young woman with big brown eyes and gorgeous short-cut jet black hair who bought a designer sweater.

I didn’t sell much, but the whole experience required little work on our part and I had fun. I really did! I definitely would not do a garage sale on my own. It’s only fun if you have other people around to talk with. And, other people’s stuff makes for a more interesting inventory.

Creedence Clearwater Revived provided the music for the outdoor concert on Elgin’s riverfront. The drummer and bass player from the original Creedence Clearwater Revival play with this band. The lead singer had a real John Fogerty-type voice, and the band was really tight. They were very good and I enjoyed it, although I was glad to have my Blackberry with me because, after all, they only played old hit songs and after an hour I got a little restless.

However, the fireworks had me on my feet. It was absolutely thrilling. I had never seen a laser light show outdoors, or those fire columns. Paired with the traditional fireworks, it was a spectacular show.

Spending Sunday in Indiana opened my eyes to a whole new side of that state. Just like Iowa, Indiana can be very maligned by some Chicagoans who prefer Wisconsin or Michigan. Bass Lake was lovely with a beautiful breeze and gorgeous sunshine. And, there is nothing like attending a well-directed community theatre show. The full-house audience absolutely adored the actors – many of whom were friends and family. The chorus was hardy and strong, the leads were graceful with pleasant voices, and the set was a veritable work of art. And, I have always loved “Iowa Stubborn.” Since I’m from Iowa, I can say that. And, I must say it brought a tear to me eye.

Very refreshing – like cold sweet watermelon on a hot day.

"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." Jeremiah 31:25 (NASB)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anniversary Time


Today is the 13th anniversary of our wedding. We have faced some amazingly tough times together, including major illness. But, God has preserved us. And, we are grateful.

It really isn't easy to stay married. It seems the forces of hell (and very often, the government) are arrayed against marriage and family because these are supposed to be the ultimate bastions of love, protection, encouragement and agreement. So, despite the odds and opposition, most men and women continue to marry with that hope and promise.

As in our marriage, I hope that in all those marriages that start with such hope and promise, the two partners grow together or that they will have patience when one or the other gets a little out of sync. It happens. But with God at the center you have a fighting chance. And, prayer and patience work wonders, as well as forgiveness and sometimes having a bad memory.

I really like this version of what Jesus said about marriage.
But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it."
Matthew 19:11 The Message (MSG)

Thank God for his protection and provision, and for the blessings of marriage.

And, honey, I love you more than ever!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sean Tries On Grandpa's Uniform

Ev Sets the Record Straight



Recently, I wrote about my parents' wedding anniversary and mentioned my father's military service. He wants to set the record straight, so here is his story:

"I was inducted into the army from Quincy, IL in late June, 1954. I had a student deferrment for four years while I attended Wartburg College in Waverly, IA. I volunteered for the draft after graduation.

[Note: When I asked him about this terminology, my father answered that he volunteered rather than wait to be called up, so that he had more control over the timing. By volunteering in June, he would get out of the Army two years later in the summer–just in time to get a teaching job in the fall.]

July-August, 1954, I attended basic training for 8 weeks at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. There, I had the opportunity to audition for the Army band school. As a result of the audition I was ranked #3 against a quota of 2. However, the #1 man got sick and was put back a cycle (2 weeks). So I moved up to #2.

September-October, 1954, I attended band school at Ft. Ord, CA. After 8 weeks of training, I was assigned to the 324th Army band at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, along with Tony Archuleta. Joe Viola came 2 weeks later.

In June, 1955, Jean and I married in Madison, SD on June 19th. On June 21st, a telegram arrived from Band C.O. Bearman informing me that I was to be sent to Far East Command."

[Ev's side note: After my marriage, I got one half of the $78 monthly pay and Jean got the other half. After Laura was born, my Spec. 3 pay was up to $135 monthly, Jean got half of that and Uncle Sam added $55 (I believe) for Laura.]

Back to Ev's story:
"Tony Archuleta, Joe Viola and I, all clarinetists, arrived on August 4th for 2 weeks' wait at Ft. Lewis, WA, certain that our destination was Korea. But when a Korean-bound troopship left without us, we hoped it would be Japan.

From mid-August, 1955 to mid-April, 1956, with less than a year of service remaining, the Army flew us to Japan via Hawaii and Wake Island. I was assigned to the U.N. Headquarters Army Band at Pershing Heights, the site of the former Japanese military academy in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This was the 293rd Army Band with Marion Durbin, C.O.

We played for all ceremonial troop reviews at Pershing Heights, troopships coming and going at Yokohama Harbor, concerts around Tokyo, civilian parades, Far East football playoffs (Torii and Rice Bowls), plus regular season home games, and the huge and moving ceremony for the return of the unknown Korean war dead. This ceremony was held in the early spring of 1956 at Yokohama harbor.

From mid-April to late May, 1956, the entire headquarters band transferred to Camp Drake (an hour from Tokyo and site of the Japanese Kamakazi pilot training school). We were re-designated the 1st Cavalry Division band.

On June 4, 1956, I arrived in Sioux Falls, SD after an eleven day voyage aboard the U.S. Fredrick Funston troopship from Yokohama to Seattle via Adak Island, AK. I attained the rank of Specialist 3rd Class - the equivalent of Corporal."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: The Last Ember by Daniel Levin


From the moment you step off the plane at Rome’s airport with main character Jonathan Marcus, The Last Ember takes you on a fast-paced ride through archeology sites and research labs, courtrooms and U.N. offices, churches and catacombs from Rome to Jerusalem and back again.

The story begins when Marcus, a New York lawyer, unexpectedly arrives in Rome, the scene of his academic disgrace seven years earlier. His past passions begin warring with his common sense almost immediately after examining a chunk of the Forma Urbis Romae (a detailed marble map of Rome made around 200 AD) at the center of the case. When his colleagues discredit his long-lost girlfriend in court, Jonathan Marcus can’t ignore his feelings or the lure of archeological sleuthing.

A modern web of terror, destruction and deception as complex as the ancient Roman-Jewish world it parallels emerges as Jonathan slips, once again, into the fray. At the center of the vortex is the preservation of the ancient Jewish temple menorah and the secrets of controversial Jewish historian, Josephus. Powerful and elusive enemies seek this artifact to corrupt and destroy history, along with all Jewish and Christian Temple Mount historical treasures, as Jonathan and Dr. Emili Tavia fight to uncover the truth and preserve it.

This thriller reveals the high stakes and dangerous world of archeology in the Middle East, and the very real threat to historical preservation and archeological research. The actions described in the book are reflected in headlines and even in Congressional bills to stop the destruction of the Temple Mount.

For an exciting summer escape and a crash course in ancient history and languages, pick up The Last Ember

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Halfway through Summer


This past week and half felt as if it didn't even happen. Time flew by so quickly. We are nearly midway through the summer. Events that loomed so large - like the Chicago Telegu Festival with its vibrant music and dance - have come and gone.

I am sad about missing the ICVM Conference in Denver last week. The filmmakers, actors, producers, writers, musicians and tech people who attend are always amazing. They come from all corners of the earth and their energy, joy, prayer, worship and fellowship feeds the soul. The speakers this year, as always, were exceptional. Next summer, the conference will take place in St. Louis, MO. I hope that its being closer to Chicago will make my attendance more feasible.

But, this summer still holds promise and adventure. My writers' group is planning a little getaway weekend. My sister from Florida will be visiting. At the family reunion in August, the family will get to meet my cousin's legendary twin baby girls. And, who knows what unplanned exploits and escapades lie in store?

I am looking forward to the second half and I know this will be a summer that leaves a sweet smell of remembrance.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Harvest Waits for No One


For the last two days, I have picked raspberries in my backyard - lots of them! The plants have been in the ground here for four years, but this is the first really good harvest. For several years, we have been trimming tree branches, which has gradually allowed more sunlight for the raspberry plants. Last year I had to battle Japanese beetles, which nearly destroyed the plants. Early this spring, I dug around the plants to give them more ground to expand to. With the abundant rains, they grew like crazy. Four weeks ago when they bloomed, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were so many blossoms!

In the last week, I had been watching and waiting, and picking a few unripe ones because I couldn’t wait. But now, the berries are ripening. And they will wait for no one. If I don’t pick them, now, they will fall to the ground. And, I’ll have to check and pick every day for the next week until the first harvest is complete. I’m not the only one who has noticed, I have to fight with the squirrels and birds to get there first.

Most garden fruits and vegetables are that way. You have to harvest them at exactly the right time. And, when that time comes, you have to act because delay means loss.

The Bible uses agricultural analogies frequently. Modern-day farmers (I mean real farmers–not the corporation farm owners) and gardeners understand those analogies and teachings in a way that no one else can. If you have never dug in the dirt or sand with your hands, you’ve missed out on the tangible experience that God had in creating man. If you have never fought with weeds, weather, insects, deer, raccoons or birds for your crops, then you may not understand the parable of the sower quite as viscerally.

If you have never watched and waited for your trees’ fruit or your garden produce to ripen, then you have missed out on the full impact of God’s teaching about seedtime and harvest – especially the great end-time soul harvest. The cool thing about my raspberries is that they are called ever-bearing. That means there is an early harvest in June, but there is also an even better late harvest in September when the berries are even bigger and juicier because of the cooler temperatures.

Luke 10:2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Spy Stories and Summer Silliness


All right, I confess! I love spy stories. As a kid, I adored Honey West and Harriet the Spy and Mission Impossible. When I wasn’t pretending to be a nun or a princess-knight in King Arthur’s court or a prairie girl, I wore my trench coat and carried my brother’s cap gun. My friends and I would range throughout their farms or the water tower hill in town running from the Germans or the Communists. I even made hiding spots in our house to escape from the secret police, or my brother, when he was looking for his cap gun.

I still love spy stories, only now they are called thrillers – even if I do have to shut my eyes for the most violent parts. My favorite spy story recipe includes: international travel (use foreigners in the U.S. as a substitute), hiding or chasing intrinsic to the plot, snooping on a government or other large corporation, and a daring rescue or escape. And for a nice high-stakes blend, some espionage or theft of top-secret documents that will save the world adds great flavor.

There are very few thrillers due out this summer. But there is a genuine “spy” movie coming out: G Force (about some high tech spy guinea pigs). I look forward to comparing it against my favorite recipe. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have to add a few more ingredients.

G-Force coming July 24.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: Between Wyomings


Between Wyomings: My God and an iPod on the Open Road should be required reading as a cautionary tale for anyone who may be set upon the pedestal of popular success. Through his leadership in the music industry, Mansfield fundamentally shaped, influenced and reflected the world of the Baby Boomers and beyond. Although born again in the 1980’s, he doesn’t fully recognize or let go of the showbiz world’s illusions until he makes the road trip described in Between Wyomings.

Every generation of successful artists will be faced with the same choices as Mansfield – even Christian artists. Jesus said in three of the four gospels, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He also said in Luke and Matthew, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Maybe it is a function of my age, but I enjoyed the non-linear progression of the book. The poetry and lyrics were a natural accompaniment to the story. I loved the disorderliness of Mansfield’s thoughts and crowding memories being set right by reflection and journey and relationship. This book may not be for everyone, but musicians, actors, filmmakers, writers and artists could all benefit from the insights that Ken Mansfield offers from his viewpoint on the "open road."

This book is published by Thomas Nelson and is available from Amazon.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Halfway Between Wyomings


Half-way through… Isn’t that a strange place to be? I am reading Between Wyomings by Ken Mansfield as part of Thomas Nelson’s book reviewer bloggers program. The only reason I chose it was because there was no fiction on their list of available reads and this looked to be the most interesting. Intrigued by the title, I saw that it was about the music business. I thought even if I didn’t enjoy it, my husband – a musician himself – might like it. Now halfway through it, I am absolutely engrossed.

Ken Mansfield tells the story his life’s journey in the framework of a God-inspired road trip with no specified destination. As he and his wife Connie drive in their van (named Moses) they take off from their home in Northern California and wind their way down to Los Angeles and beyond. In the process, Ken talks with God, revisits sites of his tragedies and triumphs, and recalls history, relationships and experiences in the music industry. And, it is this mix of recollections, King David-like arguments with God, present-time reality and scripture that make for such fascinating reading. This man lived and worked and breathed at the pinnacle of the Hollywood pop scene in the 60’s and 70’s, and then went on to work as producer with legendary country performers Waylon Jennings, Willy Nelson and Jessi Colter. He also suffered from the same high profile maladies as his many of high profile peers: drug addiction, financial ruin and a sojourn in New Age religion. But, because of the prayers and choices of his fourth wife, Connie, he found salvation in Jesus Christ in the 1980’s.

I like that this book meanders and winds its way through time and space with a poet’s taste for words. Although I’m tempted to say the book was really written for us baby-boomers, I am sure that anyone who has embarked on a spiritual journey with Jesus Christ will find rewards in reading Between Wyomings.

On Friday, I should have wrapped up my reading and will complete my review.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Stoning of Soraya M. – Part Two


At its heart, this movie is a human drama filled with tension, peril and hope – but it is also a true story that I felt strongly had to be told, a story the whole world needs to know.”– Director Cyrus Nowrasteh

There could be no better time than this Friday for this film’s release. At this moment, the women of Iran are at the forefront of the revolt against Iran’s unjust elections. And The Stoning of Soraya M. illustrates clearly what the people of Iran have been terrorized with and how powerful is the bravery of just one person telling the truth.

According to the film’s producers, the film’s subject “is incendiary: the thousands of women who are hounded, conspired against and murdered in cold blood around the world for so-called and often trumped-up ’crimes of dishonor,’ such as adultery or premarital sex. But the film’s treatment is universal, wrapped in a classic, gripping drama of one woman’s danger-fraught quest to bring the conniving evildoers in her remote village, who think they are acting with impunity, to global disgrace.”

The production notes continue: “From the beginning, Cyrus and Betsy made the decision to focus the tale’s suspense around Zahra, the savvy, outraged village woman who attempts to protect Soraya and ultimately tells her story in the hopes of saving others. Her quest for truth and justice amidst lies, betrayal and fraud became the driving force of the story. Meanwhile, Soraya and her accusers were etched as the two opposite poles of innocence and corruption between which each of the villagers must make a choice.”

To me, this message transcends the situation in Iran and other Islamic countries and should cause all of us to be vigilant about justice in our own backyards. As director Cyrus Nowrasteh said, “At its core this is a story that is very relatable, because it is about a conflict between a man and a woman and you connect to the characters in an emotional way as husband and wife.” Like the Apostle John, we need to examine ourselves and continue to look for the truth. We have huge problems with marital strife and abuse and injustice in our country. 1 John 1:8 (NKJV) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we look at injustice in Iran and judge it without scrutinizing ourselves, we are hypocrites.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Times



Today is my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary. They were married in the 50’s in Madison, South Dakota just before my dad was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. He had been drafted and played in the Army band.

For their honeymoon, my parents spent time in New York City going to all the hot jazz spots, including Birdland, which was pretty amazing for those two babes in the woods! Both of them were from rural areas and had met while at a small Lutheran college in Waverly, Iowa. But, my dad, a music lover and musician, was intrepid and they still remember that trip as a highlight of their lives. Of course – it was their honeymoon!

My husband and I watched Grease once again last night – Hollywood’s musical view of high school in the 50’s. My parents’ world and the Grease world were far apart in some ways, and very close in others. The stigma of being an unwed mother and unofficial hot rod car racing did represent certain norms across the entire country. But my parents and the students in their high schools were definitely not as disrespectful of adults as the Grease kids. It just wasn't done – because teachers, principals and parents simply wouldn't tolerate it. Those were the days of physical discipline – a reality missed in the movie.

However, the 50's era was a very special time, and its jazz, pop music style and dancing are great fun and still draw an audience. Perhaps, this music reminds us of a more innocent time – something our society may never recapture or value again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Stoning of Soraya M. - Part One


In light of the recent election in Iran and in anticipation of next week’s film opening, I have begun reading the original novel, THE STONING OF SORAYA M. by Freidoune Sahebjam. Sahebjam, who died a little more than a year ago, had led a life fraught with danger as an Iranian-French journalist. Kidnapped and tortured by Islamic militants in Paris in 1979, he was rescued by French police and went underground. He slipped into Iran many times to cover stories there and was the first to break the news about Iran’s use of twelve to fourteen year old boys as soliders.

However, THE STONING OF SORAYA M. may one of his most important because it highlights a global problem – abuse of women by their husbands and corrupt justice systems that condone the men and condemn the women. Although this is a particularly gruesome story of an entire village’s complicity in a stoning, it happens in every country, every day. Christians and Muslims, Europeans and Africans, and yes! even Americans – all face this story, or even the convoluted reverse – where the husband is the victim.

To address this issue, the film website has a “GET INVOLVED” menu button. Anyone who desires to may register their name in support of a petition to the UN calling for women’s human rights.

And, in a more immediate way, readers in the Chicago area can help the Elgin Community Crisis Center. This organization averages one suicide call per day, and without immediate financial assistance will have to close on July 1. Supporters of the center are asking for 25,000 people to donate $10 in the next 24 hours. Contact Jeri Hodal at littlered1321@yahoo.com for more information.

Psalm 103:6 The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

On Friday... more about the process of turning the book into a film, and a report on the Elgin Community Crisis Center.

FOR ANOTHER FILM ABOUT IRAN: A Cry from Iran

Monday, June 15, 2009

Give and it shall be given back to you


There’s just something about kids and dogs, and sunshine, and green grass. Ahh… the beginning of summer when celebrations abound and a warm day is a treasure, and where babies and 99-year-old grandmas eat cake and ice cream together.

I am reading Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. The book, an autobiographical story, takes place in Iowa during the Great Depression. And, what I find amazing is that kids still enjoy the same things – sweet treats, running around outside, cuddling up on a lap and playing with animals; and, that multiple generations enjoy each others’ company. They all have something to give and receive from each other.

A happy family and friends’ celebration stokes the fires of peace and prosperity – even when the economy says different. A community that walks in love and care towards each other is recession-proof whether money and jobs do or do not abound. To me, every business decision is a community decision, and should be held to that standard – the larger the company, the more responsibility. And, if our communities took better care and more individual responsibility for each others’ well-being, our government would have much less to do. And, isn’t that really the idea?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writing for Profit


I just began writing for Examiner.com as Chicago's Christian Fiction reporter. To that end I have written and posted two reviews, one for Distant Echoes by Colleen Coble and the other for Face of Deception by Lis Wiehl. I enjoyed both books and felt confident recommending them. Unlike past writing jobs, I don't get paid by the word or project but by the number of hits on the articles themselves. With so many journalists and writers being laid off and publications closing, this payment method certainly takes the burden of marketing off the employer and, in that sense, forces writers to reach their audiences on their own.

I wonder where all this Internet social media communication flood will end, and I now have some grave concerns about how much more vulnerable we as a society are becoming. Newspapers and magazines don't require electricity to read, and are not dependent on a cable or satellite. What I hope is that somehow after the chaos of the economic crisis and digital conversion, we will still have a fair amount of printed newspapers and magazines that remain well-staffed and viable.

But, for the sake of blatant self-promotion and economic survival, here is a link to my examiner page, please enjoy!

http://www.examiner.com/x-13313-Chicago-Christian-Fiction-Examiner

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don’t like the ending? Look online!


With the publishing world in an undeniable state of change, Michael Hyatt, Thomas Nelson Publishing’s tech-savvy CEO, is taking the bull by the horns by experimenting with digital delivery. A few weeks ago, he and author Colleen Coble offered to readers, via Twitter, a free download of her latest romantic suspense novel, Distant Echoes. Published by Thomas Nelson, the book is the first in her new Aloha Reef series and set in Hawaii. Just recently, Thomas Nelson also gave away a free PDF of its Expanded Bible New Testament – also announced by Hyatt on Twitter.

As many publishers scramble to deal with sales decreases, Hyatt has been forging into new territory. Recently, he blogged about the pros and cons of the Kindle 2, Amazon’s new wireless reading device. As a Kindle user, Hyatt liked its accessibility to over 250,000 titles and fast downloads. However, he believes there will not be wide acceptance until the device has a color screen and touch screen interactivity – standards set by Apple’s iPhone.

An established writer, Coble has adopted a personal and interactive approach to her readers. On Coble’s web site, visitors can: email her; sign up for her newsletter that offers an epilogue to her new paperback, Cry in the Night; see pictures of her family; discover her other novels; or even click on a YouTube link to a video commercial for her novel, Anathema.

What does all this interactivity and digital delivery mean for the future of books? From the looks of it, readers’ immediate accessibility and feedback have already begun altering the way authors tell and publishers sell their stories.