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Friday, May 29, 2009


In the early dawn, Cobus squinted through blood-shot eyes and surveyed the scorched earth lying in ruins around him. The air still reeked of death and smoke, although it had now been three days since his sworn enemy, Prince Joshua of Fortiscaelum, had been imprisoned lifeless underground.

The prince’s ineffectual army had broken and scattered the moment that he had fallen. Or had he fallen? Cobus wondered fretfully. The thought nagged at him that his victory had been too easily won.

The immense golden crown rested heavily on Cobus’ head. Never before had he noticed that the weight of it practically crushed the vertebrae in his neck. But, he brushed the pain aside and stroked his spiky blond hair into place. After all, he had worn it for years. And, once again, he had prevailed and proven to the King how weak his subjects were.

“This land, and everything in it, still belongs to me! Now, to take Fortiscaelum! Move out!” Cobus shouted to his generals as, deep inside him, anxiety simmered. Thankful for the transformative white cape that disguised his age and deformity, he still wished his voice sounded lower pitched and more authoritative. He would have to counter with harsher measures to keep his army in line.

“Sir!” an officer bowed before him. “The work is ready for you to inspect.”

Cobus strode over to scrutinize the prison entrance. Laborers had worked ceaselessly over the past three days to seal the great stone in place with cement and iron chains.

“No one from either side will ever be able to move it,” the captain in charge said.

Cobus inspected the work, and gradually became convinced that the entrance had been secured. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to leave a contingent of his most elite guards at the site. “Kill anyone who even approaches this place! No one must come near it!” he said.

“Yes, sir,” the captain said with a salute and a bow. Twenty heavily armed soldiers took their places in a semi-circle around the entrance and twenty more positioned themselves on the slope above. Cobus, satisfied, turned to go.

At that very moment the earth underneath his feet shook and undulated, knocking Cobus to his knees. Dust filled the air and painted his cape a dull gray. The crown flew from his head and rolled downhill. The metal circlet bounced and bumped along the ground and landed directly in front of the great stone.

Cobus’ troops screamed in terror as deep cracks formed in the earth, swallowing up huge numbers of them. Even the elite guards were flung to the ground, where they lay frozen with fear as boulders and dirt came crashing down around them.

A giant warrior dressed in white suddenly appeared beside the stone. With one hand he pushed against it, snapping the metal chains and rods as if they were twigs. The stone rolled aside as easily as a door on rollers. Then, he picked up the crown that had fallen from Cobus’ head and kneeled in front of the entrance in anticipation.

As the morning sun burst over the horizon, rays of light simultaneously exploded from the hole in the hillside and Prince Joshua stood visible to all. As he walked out into the morning light, in the distance behind him moved an army of millions – one by one – as if awakening from a long hard sleep. The prince stopped in front of the giant white warrior who, at a gesture from the prince, stood and placed the crown on Joshua’s head. Every creature in sight fell to his knees – except Cobus.

As soon as the ground had stopped moving, Cobus had stolen away, unnoticed, to his lair. Insurgo, his silver-scaled dragon, lay sleeping inside.

“To Treabhlaim!” Cobus shouted as he sprinted inside, gathering up his bag of tricks and removing the magical white cloak. He needed no disguise with Insurgo. In seconds, he and the dragon soared through the air to his one remaining stronghold.

Almost relieved, Cobus plotted as he flew. He still had a sizable force hidden away in Treabhlaim and solid information still flowed from his spies in the field. I will call a meeting and carry out a new plan, he decided.

Pleased with himself, Cobus urged on the dragon, his anxiety subsiding. With a lucky break and some good information, he thought, Fortiscaelum can yet be brought to its knees. After all, the King has vulnerabilities – his three lovely daughters.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Living in the Past

Making history come alive is fun! And, researching history almost transports me to the past. As a child, I secretly wished I had been born one hundred years earlier – just so I could wear “real” long dresses and petticoats every day! Now, I wouldn’t willingly exchange my blue jeans and clogs for corsets and uncomfortable shoes, but I do long for the days when communities were smaller and more close-knit; when the chief entertainment was a local sporting event or theatrical group or a great book.

Tonight, I am meeting with some writing members of the Gifford Park Association (a.k.a. GPA), a local group dedicated to the preservation and safety of our neighborhood here in Elgin. GPA’s big money-making project is a house tour every year in late summer. Homes selected for the tour represent various types of architecture and interesting approaches that their owners have taken in preserving and decorating them. GPA puts together a well-researched brochure that accompanies the tour and details the history of each house.

The writing portion of the project begins tonight as the GPA writers gather at the Elgin Historical Society, which is appropriate. We’ll be assigned our houses so we can begin the research phase, which includes visiting with the current owners and getting a tour of their houses – a special bonus of this task. I am already looking forward to my trip in the way-back machine through local history!

I'll post some of the interesting tidbits I come across, as a sneak preview.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Count Your Blessings

So much news seems meant to scare me: GPS will fail in a year, our environment will soon be uninhabitable, our children will carry an impossible tax burden, there is no sign that the recession is improving, the publishing industry is failing, children are becoming addicted to computer games, and so on and so on.

In this state of affairs, what have we got going for us?

On Sunday, my husband’s father celebrated his 80th birthday! A man who has suffered incredible heart issues, is now strong and chipper, and doesn’t look a day over 65. His backyard birthday party included many of his favorite people – close friends, neighbors, his wife, his brother and his wife, most of his kids and their spouses, and four grandchildren. Dad just beamed – all day! And, talked – all day! This is a man who grew up during the Great Depression – a time of little hope. Then, he lived through World War II, several gas crises, nuclear scares and radical changes in manufacturing. Yet, he has endured and his life is good!

We all need to take stock of what we’ve been given. The human race survived without GPS! The human race survived a small ice age in the Middle Ages. After World War II, cities and countries needed rebuilding and people got it done!

Planted inside each of us are seeds of ideas – tangible ways to help other people, inventions to simplify tasks, methods to maintain and improve our environment. If we can all just give thanks for what we’ve got, we’ll realize that we have so much more to share! We live in a small world, now, and Americans can use their position of leadership for such good! We need to endure and do good.

We are so blessed. God bless America.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Documentary Making

I went to a video production tradeshow and saw the trailer to “Malatya” both in the same day. I am newly inspired to re-visit my old love, documentary-making.

For a number of years, I have wanted to produce a documentary: “Children of the Americans” – the story of an orphanage begun by two single American women in the 1940’s in Morocco. One of those grown up orphans is our friend, Sal Semlali. He was the person who introduced the story to us, and who is part of the story himself.

I wonder what impact those original 70 or so children have had on the country of Morocco and on the world. The orphanage still exists today, and I wonder how it has changed. I wonder about the real Morocco – its religious culture, and how its ordinary men and women interact.

The world of Islamic culture remains something of a mystery, and Africa itself holds so many secrets. I remember reading a story of the Berbers in 6th grade and how they built beautiful buildings in Spain and practiced advanced medicine in Europe and North Africa while most Europeans suffered in the Dark Ages. As a child, I also loved reading the Tales of the Arabian Nights and delighted in musing on the unique viewpoints and lifestyles revealed in those stories.

Now, as an adult, I am amazed that two unmarried American women missionaries could have accomplished so much in a country that, dominated by Islamic culture, allowed women no authority. How did those two women do it? Was the path opened up and protected for them by God’s divine will? Would political correctness condemn their work in this day and age?

Maybe I will have the opportunity to answer these questions and more. Maybe this is the right time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wisdom of Silence

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Proverbs 17:28

O that you would be completely silent, And that it would become your wisdom! Job 13:5

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Future and a Hope

My niece just moved in for a few months. Her name is Lindsay and she is doing an unpaid internship at the Jesse Brown VA Hospital in Chicago to complete her degree in Recreational Therapy from the University of Northern Iowa.

Lindsay told me that she couldn’t believe how hard she had to search just to be able to work for somebody else for free! And, Lindsay isn’t your typical 22-year-old college grad. She is twenty-seven years old and a graduate of the school of hard knocks as well. While in college these last few years, she has been working two other jobs – one as a cocktail waitress and the other as an aerobics and fitness instructor.

Lindsay has spent a great deal of money and time to earn a degree at a respected university. She has learned to manage her time and her finances wisely. She is enthusiastic and personable, and has practiced many of her degree skills already. However, finding employment in her field of training will be challenging. She faces a tough market – as do all graduates this spring.

We must, for the sake of our children, turn this situation around. Both college and high school students who study diligently, work hard and complete their education MUST be rewarded with employment. Business owners, not-for-profit executives and even corporate America must make a place for new graduates, and not by simply firing all the older employees to replace them with younger cheaper ones!

Instead, we need to think optimistically and creatively, as well as soberly and conservatively, about how to integrate these young people into the workforce. Don't rely on the the government to solve this problem. These new graduates represent your personal future and hope, as well as mine.

If you, personally, are not part of the solution, then you, personally, are part of the problem. What will you do to help?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I wrote this two years ago, but updated it just a bit for today:

Hine Ma Tov - How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

I have been hearing this message from multiple sources lately–even in my parents’ Lutheran church on Sunday. And, what a powerful message it is! So much good can be accomplished when people live and work together as one. It is a dynamic and amazing thing that happens. For instance, despite their differences, the people of the United States agreed to form a common government with certain principles – certain inalienable rights. They agreed that God was the authority under which they established those rights.

When a group of individuals agree on a script and the direction of that script, then a produced play or film results. A band can’t play unless the band members work as one.

And, unless we live together in unity in our homes, neighborhoods, towns, cities and churches, we will have warfare, lawsuits, broken families, poverty, abuse of power and apathy. Living in unity means living in agreement. When a group of people agree on a certain course of action, what a powerful difference they can make.

Right now, the people of the world are suffering in a recession. But, here in this country, I am seeing signs of hope. I see people encouraging each other. I see food distributions and job fairs. Let’s live together with the united purpose of helping each other – those in need both in our own neighborhoods and in our global community.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Christian" Propaganda

I recently received an email from a Christian friend with the subject line: Very Important Notice. The subhead said: Scary Stuff Happening. The email went on to complain that: “Obama funds $20M in tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA. This is the news that didn't make the headlines...

By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in "migration assistance" to the Palestinian refugees and "conflict victims" in Gaza…”

The email was right. It was a very important notice, and I was very disturbed by it – although probably not in the way the writers of it intended. First of all, I refused to be “scared” by anything that is going on! I am a person of faith. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is the weapon of choice of terrorists. And, I refuse to be manipulated that way! Yes, I disagree with many of the actions that President Obama has taken. But not all! And, after I have expressed my opinions on legislative issues to my representatives in Washington, I pray. I continue to pray for our leaders in every area of government.

Today, I discovered a link that pointed out clearly to me why bringing Palestinian immigrants to this country could be a really fantastic opportunity. Tass Saada was a Palestinian terrorist who came to this country to go to school. Because of the loving kindness he experienced in Kansas City, Mr. Saada became a follower of Jesus Christ. Here is a link to a recent interview with Mr. Saada: http://onceanarafatman.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/03/once-on-fox-4-news-in-kansas-city.html

Mr. Saada's story should be a call to action for every American citizen! We can win our enemies over with love, compassion and kindness - and these are not difficult to do! That is something that we Americans do well! Just look at what happens in the time of disaster. So, c'mon, America. We don't need to wait for a hurricane or tornado or earthquake. Let's do what we do best – care about each other and the people in this country who are hurting.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during his first inaugural address in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hidden Talent

Jim Gattone is the creator, executive in charge, energy and drive behind the Hidden Talent Theatre Company. Along with co-founder, Tim Smoot, Jim wanted to provide a professional level venue for actors in Chicago’s northwest suburbs as well as including opportunities for inexperienced actors – thus the name Hidden Talent. Begun with the help of Life Changers Church, the two founders also hoped to include Christian themes and new works in the theatre company’s offerings.

At the end of its first season, Hidden Talent produced its first original play, “Slow to Anger,” which examined themes of mixed race marriage, adoption, and violence against women – in the context of Christianity. Well-received, the play enjoyed a second run six months later, and talks are underway to tour the show throughout the Chicago suburbs.

Coming off a busy year and smacking up against the economy, Hidden Talent has also been re-grouping and re-evaluating its venues and its charter. A few questions remain to be answered – where to perform and what will our season’s message be? Can the company produce quality Christian themed plays that are current, relevant and of high caliber? And, where will these plays come from?

The Christian book publishing industry provides an excellent model in that it produces both high quality literature and highly popular literature. Just as Christian literature has expanded to include much beyond Bibles and devotionals, so Christian theatre can include far more than passion plays and sermon skits.

Hidden Talent is poised to create quality Christian themed theatre with its CAST commission and to capitalize on the use of technology to be more inclusive and responsive. With social media, dialogue with potential audience members, actors, technicians, musicians and writers is possible. Imagine a new way of developing an original production that included ongoing input from the far corners of the country; and, of growing a new generation of theatre-goers!

Exciting times are in store for those willing to try the waters! And, Hidden Talent is on the diving board.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Increasing Personal Productivity

My new goal is increased personal productivity. Almost immediately, this morning, I observed myself sliding off track with what I was planning for my day. However, it was a Monday morning, and there were messages to be dealt with from over the weekend..... Note to self: Monday mornings must include message response time and phone call time.

Now I am back on track.

Gregory A. Dale Ph.D. (Professor of Sport Psychology and Sport Ethics at Duke University and Director of Mental Training and Co-Director of the Leadership Program for Duke Athletics), on dealing with distractions, says: “Even when you can't prevent them from happening, you can learn to respond to them. Athletes of all ages and abilities are constantly being forced to cope with all kinds of distractions. Unless they learn to deal with them, they are going to experience a frustrating drop-off in performance.”

In my capacity as writer and self-employed businessperson, I am an athlete, of sorts. I run a race every day – all day. I can't afford a frustrating drop-off in performance. I face the fact of distractions – internal and external – just as athletes face. Now, how can I deal with them successfully?

Chris Yeh, writer and Harvard Business School MBA, writes that you can run from, hide from or fight distractions, and he provides practical advice on how to do that. His final sum-up is this: “The key to making this strategy work is iron willpower. You have to take a stand and stick with it, no matter how reasonable the arguments against your stand may sound.”

So that is what it comes down to – self-discipline, which is, of course, how successful people succeed. Tomorrow: the concept of self-discipline.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Twitter Class 101

“If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow,
Why, oh, why can't I?”

Now, you can fly beyond the rainbow with the bluebirds. The little bluebirds of Twitter will take you there, if you just learn how. And, that’s exactly what we did in a class taught last night by Twitter teacher and avid Twitterer, Duong Sheahan.

Fresh from a weekend of SOBCon, Duong showed us the Twitter 101 ins and outs, and sold me on its really amazing communication potential. Using Twitter gives an ordinary person access to and the benefit of some of the best minds in the country. It also provides an amazing potential for reaching many people, and discovering resources you may never have had access to, including professional and special interest groups.

Duong also covered TweetDeck, which helps organize information and messages that come flowing in when your Twitter account gets up and running. If you are serious about maximizing Twitter’s potential, you are going to have to organize the content that comes pouring in when the faucet is turned on. And, if you don’t, you’re going to waste a lot of water or even swallow some that should have been filtered!

Having Duong for a teacher was also a real bonus. Always positive and courteous, with a great sense of humor tossed in, she exudes enthusiasm and imparts practical knowledge and truly inspires her students! I know that with more people like her in the world, there is a lot to look forward to!

To follow Duong, go to:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thoughts About Praying

The National Day of Prayer is tomorrow. Interestingly, this observance was established in 1952 by a resolution of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

Who can pray? Everyone – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, people who don’t know what they believe, people who want to believe in something, people who feel like they have no hope, people who feel that they have no future, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents, single people, middle-aged people, elderly – everyone

What to pray? Pray for the welfare of this nation and wisdom for its leaders. Pray that the people of this country would walk in compassion for their families, their neighbors, their enemies, their fellow citizens and for citizens of the world. Pray for wisdom and compassion for yourself.

How to pray? Say the words of your request to God out loud – any time or anywhere.

History documents that George Washington was a man of prayer. According to Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, an ordained Presbyterian minister, graduate of Princeton with a degree from Dickinson College, "I felt much impressed in his presence and reflected upon the hand and wonderful Providence of God in raising him up and qualifying him with so many rare qualities and virtues for the good of this country and the world. Washington was not only brave and talented, but a truly excellent and pious man of God and of prayer. He always retired before a battle and in any emergency for prayer and direction."

Even Joni Mitchell believes in prayer (from “The Same Situation”, Album: Court and Spark):
“Still I sent up my prayer
Wondering where it had to go
With heaven full of astronauts
And the Lord on death row
While the millions of his lost and lonely ones
Call out and clamour to be found
Caught in their struggle for higher positions
And their search for love that sticks around”

So, these are my prayers for tomorrow: First, what Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Then, what the ancients recorded: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” And, finally, St. Paul’s words: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Daily Discipline of Writing

I have not always loved writing. In fact, I do not love writing. It is an unhappy love affair with only brief moments of satisfaction. But, I persist. And, it is good discipline for the mind to write daily.

From the age of six and into my twenties, I practiced piano daily (except for Sundays, when I played in church as I grew into my teens, or on vacations). Some days it was a despised chore and on others it was a pleasant escape – especially as I began to find music on my own that I loved playing. Since piano practice time had to be shared with my brother and two sisters, I often chose the morning slot at 6 a.m. in the morning.

I am calling on that imprinted practice of daily discipline, now. I probably won’t be up at 6 a.m. every morning, but I will try to make a habit of daily thought writing. I am sure that my reward will be remembering better what I’ve read, meditated on and prayed about – and even developing new ideas and connections or exploring concepts I’m writing about in longer format.

So … here goes!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Upcoming National Day of Prayer

I am quoting from my friend, Marcy Grams, who is representing the entertainment industry at Minnesota's capitol on Thursday:

"Dear Friends,

I'm watching to see if the current President will encourage Americans nationwide to pray this Thursday on the 58th Annual National Day of Prayer.

We all know America needs help - even the lost recognize this fact. Prayer is our only hope.
I am writing to encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer (even fasting) this Thursday and to encourage your friends to do the same.

Corporate prayer is powerful when we stand together, united with one voice, as the disciples did on the day of Pentecost before the Holy Spirit came upon them with tongues of fire. A re-awakening occurred - a revelation of what Jesus really did on the cross, with signs and healing miracles to follow. Acts 2 - 5.

Stand with me - as no one can wake up America alone. We need each other and the voice of an army to shout down the walls of the enemy.

God bless you!




What will the day be like, she wondered as she kicked back the covers and planted her feet on the chilly floor. White light lined the edges of the shades. Cool. More of the endless rain.

Fear nudged her heart in the stillness. So dark. So dreary. A Monday…

She hotfooted it over to her computer, flipped open the cover and the cool blue of the screen appeared. The computer emitted burps and bells as messages and notifications poured in. Peace rose within her. The world had not ended just yet. She was not, in fact, the last person alive on the planet. Her day would be perfectly fine.

"Honey! You up? Tea's made!" her husband called.

Yes, her day would be perfectly fine.