The Countdown Begins

August 1, my debut novel, An Anchor on Her Heart, releases for distribution. For the next several weeks I’ll be offering insights into what prompted the story and why I wrote what I did.

 

The story behind the story—

When my college graduate son landed a job as an observer biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, I was thrilled he’d found work in his chosen major. He’d spent an extra term earning twenty additional marine studies credit hours to add to his biology degree and it appeared that extra effort had paid off.

Until I found out where he was headed.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, a world class fishing port in the middle of the Aleutian Islands, is an area rife with history. Look at a map of the northern hemisphere and you’ll see what appears to be the skeletal bones of a dinosaur tail hanging down from the tip of Alaska. Dutch Harbor sits near the end of that tail, not far from Kamchatka which was once part of the Soviet Union. The port encloses the same waters where the reality television show, Deadliest Catch, is filmed.  My son was leaving Christmas Day which meant he was flying to a territory in the middle of winter, a region covered with snow and ice. He would be working on the Bering Sea.

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Imagining all that could happen to him, I had to hide my fears. Watching him board the plane, it was all I could do not to run and drag him back. The next few months would be an experience in trust. I spent a lot of time on my knees, not knowing God was giving me fuel for a future endeavor.

When my son returned from his adventure and talked about his in-depth training and his work experience, I knew I had the setting for a great story. From his descriptions of life at the fishing port, the numbers of nationalities that frequent the area, and the personal accounts of men he met, the character of Rudy Taylor began to emerge.  All I needed to add was a heroine with a problem. That wasn’t far off.

More next week. . .

 

Another Generation Waits

From the street the building appears to be little more than a warehouse: concrete block structure, flat roof, a patched parking lot that has stood the test of time. The only indication life happens inside is the diner-style sign perched on top telling passersby of its contents—Skate World Roller Rink.

Inside the magic begins. For more than forty years the building has served parents and children as a place to hang out, rent four little wheels attached to a boot, and wobble around the brightly lit skating area. Children of all ages try out their skills skating in an oval pattern, grabbing the wall for security, and ungracefully plopping to the floor when they lose their balance. More experienced skaters occupy the middle, performing figure eights and backward glides with the precision of an ice dancer.

My children loved the rink when they were young. Still frequent it as adults.  The gaudy, red carpet, black tables, and the glittery globe hanging from the ceiling all evoke memories of good times in a safe place where they could just be kids. The snack bar is reminiscent of a movie theater venue with popcorn, candy, and hot dogs on the menu. The birthday party rooms have hosted more celebrations than an ice cream parlor.

But Skate World’s future is uncertain. The original owners have passed away and the trust under which the rink has operated the past few years has expired. One woman has come forward to buy and operate the enterprise for future generations of children, but her funding has failed to materialize. The rink is headed to the seller’s market again.

Skate World needs an investor or two. Someone with a heart for children who knows the value of a safe haven for kids, who understands there’s more to life than video games or electronic devices, and who wants to see the community’s youth able to access fun at a reasonable price. Without that someone, the building will become nothing more than a concrete warehouse. For our community, that would be a great loss.

Interested parties may contact Debbie Berg, c/o Skate World, 3188 Gateway Loop, Springfield, OR 97477

Good Summer Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

When someone mentions Amish fiction to you, how do you react? Do you yearn for a simpler lifestyle, where farm animals factor into your life, and a slower pace fills your days? Or does the word evoke something else in you, an overdone retelling of a life that most people would find difficult to live?

I don’t read a lot of Amish fiction, but one author who writes about the Plain community has captured my interest because she pits the simple life against the complicated culture in which the Amish have to exist. Her books bring the two different worlds face to face in a collision of values and the stories that result are fascinating.

Her name—Leslie Gould. The series—Neighbors of Lancaster County.

I finished reading the first story, Amish Promises, and found myself longing to know more about these characters.  The Lehmans, a dysfunctional Amish household, run a dairy farm and live next door to the Becks, an all-American military family. That alone is a pivotal factor for conflict, but the unmarried Lehman aunt  and a single male friend of the Becks, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan, discover each other and sparks fly. Literally!

In the second novel, Amish Sweethearts, the Lehman children and the one son of the Becks play together and grow up as close friends. But the two worlds are a universe apart and when the children show interest in the lifestyle on the other side of the fence, trouble brews. The eldest Lehman daughter and Zane, the Beck’s son, deny their love for each other, but it is a struggle they cannot win, even when the girl begins seeing an Amish man her father arranged for her to court.

I have yet to read the third tale in the series, Amish Weddings, but have it on my to-be-read shelf waiting for its turn in the line-up. I promise you won’t be disappointed by any of the three in the series, but if you take a chance on all of them, you will have a wonderful summer of reading.

Mother’s Day Beginnings

Mother’s Day means many things to different people. Most of us view the date as a way to show honor to our mothers, often bestowing gifts and sentiments to them. But, originally, the day began for a very different reason.

The observance grew out of a movement known as the Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, designed to raise awareness of poor health conditions in communities toward the end of the Civil War. A social activist named Ann Reeves Jarvis, working alongside Julia Ward Howe, believed mothers would unite to help the less fortunate and hoped to unify them to work for world peace.

Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, found her inspiration for Mother’s Day when she heard her mother say she wished one day someone might create a day just for mothers. Anna was motivated to carry on the social work her mother started. When the older woman died, Anna held a memorial ceremony on May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, to honor the matron’s life work. A shrine was erected at Andrews Memorial Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna contributed five hundred white carnations for all who attended the service. This is believed to be the first official Mother’s Day observance.

As commercialization moved in and gifts of cards, candy, and flowers came to be associated with the celebration, Anna Jarvis lost her enthusiasm for the day she’d helped establish. Embittered, she is quoted as saying the printed card was a poor substitute for a handwritten sentiment to a woman who did more for her children than any other person alive. Candy was a pretense for the gift giver to help himself. Only the white carnation, in her opinion, continued to represent the purity of a mother’s love.

Anna Jarvis never married. Her birthplace, Anna Jarvis House, in Webster Taylor County, West Virginia, has been listed as a national historic landmark.

How sad it is that Anna died unhappy with the work she started. Her quest had a biblical basis. The scriptures are filled with references to honoring one’s parents. In Exodus 20:12 we are told, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

However you remember your mother this week, know you are carrying out a command that the Lord established for each of us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Acknowledgements: Wikipedia online encyclopedia, dltk children’s Bible lessons

Novel Releases Today

Today The Road to Paradise, a novel by Author Karen Barnett releases to the public. The story is part of a series on Vintage National Parks which bring to life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands. He is quoted as saying, “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwood, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Here’s what the book jacket tells us: “An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainer National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.

But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden knows too well how awe-inspiring nature can quickly turn deadly. Ford is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its growing crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic Senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.

When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?

I’ve reviewed Karen’s first four books— Mistaken–, a book about prohibition in the 1920’s, and the Golden Gate Chronicles, a series centered around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake— Out of the Ruins, Beyond the Ashes, and Through the Shadows—in earlier blogs. Karen’s style and impeccable research combine to give the reader a thoroughly satisfying reading experience.  Available from Amazon, CBD, Barnes and Noble, and at your favorite bookseller The Road to Paradise is sure to please..

My copy came early. I read the story.  You won’t be disappointed.

Hosanna Procession

A friend entered eternity this week. She’d been an inspiration to me, her attitude toward life one of positive assurance that God would take care of her.

She’d reared three children after her husband left to find other women, had worked as a fraternity cook for nearly three decades, and had walked the cancer journey alone when illness struck later in her life. Her response to trials was always, “God has taken care of me in the past, he’s taking care of me now, and he will take care of me in the future.” Her unwavering faith in the face of hardship spoke volumes to those of us who knew her.

When I read of her death, I was warmed knowing she made her exit from this earth to heaven the same week we celebrate Palm Sunday—Christ’s glorious entrance into Jerusalem. He and his disciples were headed to the holy city to celebrate Passover. He knew, as he stood at the top of the hill leading to the main gate, he would not leave alive. Time for the fulfillment of his purpose had come. Mankind would forever be changed. Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb, offering anyone who believed in Him hope for eternal life in heaven.

In Ephesians 2:4-7 we are told: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

As I read those words and thought of what Christ did for us at the cross, I imagined my friend’s final triumphant walk into the arms of her Savior. Goodbye dear friend. Save a spot for me.

The Dogwood Has Bloomed

The dogwood has bloomed. The tree sits on a corner along the street I  follow to get to my bank. Every year I anticipate the arrival of the flowers, waiting for the splash of white blossoms to stir my heart as I hurry down the thoroughfare.

Not only is the sight breathtaking, it reminds me of the season into which we are about to enter. The most important day in the earth’s history is about to be celebrated, the remembrance one that affects every person on the face of the planet.

Two thousand years ago, God had sent his son to earth. After thirty-three years here, Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny. He traveled much of Jerusalem with his band of followers, teaching people about the kingdom of heaven, healing their diseases, restoring their loved ones. He’d made enemies and gathered many friends.

The Sanhedrin feared him because he spoke against the false teachings for which they were known. He threatened to upset the delicate balance the Jews maintained in the presence of the Roman occupation. They looked for opportunities to remove him.

He knew their hearts. He understood their thoughts. He sensed them watching him. He ate with publicans and sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. They were waiting to accuse him when the time was right.

Passover was coming. Jesus would enter Jerusalem to celebrate with his disciples. No one but him can know this would be the last time he would enter the city. His enemies waited. They plotted. They watched. Soon they would act. God’s plan was about to be fulfilled.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In the violent acts that would follow, everyone would gain access to eternal life. The innocent would be slain, the guilty redeemed, the key to heaven placed within everyone’s grasp. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would be only a matter of time.

 

This is the first installment in a three-part series leading up to the celebration of Easter.

 

The Simple Shamrock–God’s Tool for Truth

This post first appeared in FaithHappenings.com March 17, 2015

Did you remember to tuck your shamrock in your pocket this morning? Do you know the three-leafed clover was once used to teach the concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If your memory hasn’t been nudged by these clues, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, named for the patron saint of Ireland.

Born the son of a Roman British army officer in the 4th century, Maewyn Sucat was captured by a band of pirates who landed in South Wales and sold him into slavery in Ireland. He spent six years there, mostly imprisoned, until he made his escape to Britain on a getaway ship.

Now free, he adopted his Romanized name Patrick, joined a monastery in France, and studied under St. Germain. After twelve years in training, Patrick became a bishop and dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. With the Pope’s blessing, he returned. Patrick used the three-leaved plant, the shamrock, to explain the Trinity to the Gaelic Irish. The number three was a significant number to the pagan culture, which had several triple deities, a fact that aided Patrick in his evangelization attempts. A tireless preacher, Patrick made many converts, even among the royal families.

When the Order of St. Patrick was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color. But Irish nationalism prevailed and green emerged as the chosen color, associated both with Ireland’s lush, green countryside and Patrick’s use of the shamrock. Even though the day originated as a religious feast day in honor of the patron saint, it has now become an international event celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods, and wearing green.

The man’s history is intriguing when you consider how God used a childhood event, Patrick’s capture and imprisonment, to give the man a heart for a pagan culture, utilizing a native plant to teach them about the God he knew.

In Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) parents are told, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Many learned about a loving, heavenly Father who sent his son, Jesus, to save mankind from eternal damnation by living, dying, and rising again, all because of one dedicated man and the simple shamrock.

Bidding A Mentor Farewell

Not long after I married, I decided to pursue my life long passion of writing. Two initial successes in well-known magazines followed. To further encourage me a friend invited me to attend a writing conference with her.

The date was October 4, 1980. The speaker was Lee Roddy, a man whose writing career had moved from copy writer to radio network dramas to the sale of his novel to NBC, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. The story would become a prime-time television series for the network.

Later Roddy would write the Jesus film for Campus Crusade for Christ, which is now in more than three hundred languages and is viewed worldwide. Countless books are attributed to the genius of this man.

I don’t remember what Lee told us that day at the conference, but whatever it was I was moved to write him a letter. I posed the question about writing as a full-time pursuit. His response was to get creative in my thinking. Get beyond the obvious—magazines, books, newspapers—and find other avenues that could use what I had to offer.

Writing, he said, often requires a singleness of purpose. He asked what is keeping me from writing? What do I need to give up to devote more time to my calling?

Finally, he addressed the mixing of other money-making pursuits with the business of writing. He said many writers have to spend time like Paul did, making tents to survive while preaching the Gospel to those around him. A writer does the same.

He admonished me to take care of the ministry and God would take care of the money.

This past week Lee Roddy, age 95, passed from this world to the next. Many writers mourned the loss, citing the myriad list of things they learned form this humble man. I will always be indebted to him for taking the time to write to me—someone he didn’t know, who didn’t really have a career yet, but  who had the audacity to ask foolish questions. His kindness will always be remembered.

I can only believe as he stands before the God for whom he spent his life writing, he will hear those wonderful words of Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

My Iranian Suitor

park-008This is NOT a political post.

Watching the news this week as reporters hashed and re-hashed the recent presidential order to prevent people from terrorist-infested nations entering our country, I was reminded of an incident that happened to me in the early 70’s.

A recent graduate from college, I had landed a job in a downtown office not far from a popular public park. To get away from the feel of four walls and canned air, I decided to spend my lunch hour on a warm bench.

I hadn’t been there long when an olive-skinned young man with dark eyes and unruly hair came and stood near me. In those days, terrorist was not a word we knew. As a college grad, I’d spent many classroom hours alongside peoples of other nations and skin colors. We all shared the same goal—get through school.

I said hello. He returned the greeting and launched into halting English, telling me his family was in Iran, he was here alone, and could we be friends and meet sometimes?   I was startled.  He hadn’t asked my name, nor had he given me his. But his phrase certainly sounded like a pickup line.

I was mindful of the verse in Hebrew 13:2 that says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” By the same token he didn’t fit the profile of Emma Lazarus’ poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddling masses yearning to breathe free.” He knew what he wanted to say and do.

I proceeded to keep the conversation going, trying to answer his questions, and trying to make him understand I was only on a lunch hour. When it came time for me to leave, I wished him well and we parted amiably.

A few days later I headed for the park. No sooner had I sat down than he appeared. Surprised, I asked him how his week had been. He responded with pretty much the same conversation we’d had before. His request for us to be friends grew more insistent. I told him I was a Christian and my belief in Jesus Christ was basic to who I was. Any friendship we’d have would be limited by our different views. The relationship he was pushing for couldn’t happen. He didn’t seem happy.

At the advice of a trusted friend, I didn’t visit the park for several weeks. Something about this encounter left me uneasy. The young man was a little too insistent. I’d known others sweet-talked down a trail they didn’t intend to go.

Later that summer I returned to the park, no sign of my suitor in sight. Relieved, I ate my lunch in quiet reflection. Could I have done more? Made a difference? I’ll never know. I’d offered  a man who seemed lost the gift of friendship. It was all I had to give.