Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Love's Reckoning" by Laura Frantz, an Epic Tale of God's Faithfulness

Love's ReckoningOne of my favorite aspects of Laura Frantz's novels is her tendency toward epics - the novels span years, not just a couple weeks, and they depict lesser-known parts of American history, with good looks at the ugly as well as the beautiful.  It's not just a story of the romance between two people - yes, there is love, but it is the story of their lives and hardships through which they persevere.  She takes the time to develop the story and doesn't rush through it, while at the same time she never lets dullness take root. 

Unlike her three novels set in American Revolution Kentucky, Love's Reckoning is in post-American Revolution Pennsylvania, when even western Pennsylvania is growing increasingly civilized.  However, old British traditions still cling, and the consequences of breaking the traditions can be weighty.  As an apprentice, Silas Ballantyne in unknowingly caught up in the tradition of marrying the master's daughter, which he eventually discovers will determine whether his apprenticeship is completed or broken and unable to be resumed.  While he knows which daughter he would prefer to marry, he refuses to be forced into the marriage when his dreams lie further west, where he can make something of himself besides merely a poor blacksmith. 

As a daughter, Eden is only a tool in the hands of her father - to be used to keep a tidy house and to be given in marriage to cement an alliance.  She dreads the possibility that the new apprentice will have to marry her rather than her sister, and then she dreads her fate when her father starts making plans for a different husband.  Her only hope of escaping her mother's fate - married to a man she doesn't love, abused, and over-worked - is to leave home entirely and seek a position in Philadelphia, hopefully escaping before she gets caught. 

With God's grace, plans change and love blossoms, but Eden's spiteful sister and the once-brotherly neighbor intervene to rend them apart.  Only after seemingly eons of hard work and growth do they finally reconcile the past and gain hope for the future. 

Why, when they are so close to happiness, does her shame, his pride, and so much tragedy separate them?  And yet, in spite of their mistakes and the overwhelming circumstances, God does not abandon them; He remains faithful, even as they doubt His goodness.  They come back to rely on Him and He blesses them, first separately and then by bringing them back together.  As Frantz quotes Comte du Buffon, "Never think that God's delays are God's denials" (329).    He always remains faithful, even in greatest hardship - after all, His own son went through the very worst so that we shall never be separated from Him.  He says, "For I know the thoughts I have think toward you - thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11). 

Ballantyne Legacy:
1. Love's Reckoning
2. Love's Awakening
3. Love's Fortune 

Friday, December 21, 2012

"A Change of Fortune" by Jen Turano - clean and hilarious!

A Change of FortuneJen Turano's novel A Change of Fortune is incredibly funny - it is not often that I laugh out loud while reading, but there were many times that I could not help it.  It is undeniably a romantic comedy, and not one that relies on sexual humor or hideously embarrassing situations, though Lady Eliza is more than capable of getting herself into a scrape.  Thankfully Turano imparts the humor without the acute embarrassment. 

It is a great clean book - not even a kiss until the wedding!  It's so rare to see relationships develop in books without all that physical tension - "He kissed me - does this me he loves me?"  "Why would she kiss like that if she had no intention of marrying me?"  In this novel, there is still definite tension between Hamilton and Eliza, but the romance is not super physically intense or overpoweringly mushy.  It is still lively and great for this level of comedy.

As a Christian romantic comedy, A Change of Fortune does tie in a relationship with God - more in the end than the beginning, but neither Eliza nor Hamilton is exactly relying on Jesus at the start.  I get the impression they are simply angry at first and not so much disbelieving, but they learn trust in the end - both in God and each other.  Turano does not delve as deep as other authors, but her novel still makes a point that God can and will take very difficult situations and turn them to the better. 

I received a free copy from Bethany House for the purpose of this review; I was not required to write a positive review. 

I highly recommend reading the entire Ladies of Distinction series:
1. A Change of Fortune
2. A Most Peculiar Circumstance
3. A Talent for Trouble 
4. A Match of Wits

Friday, November 9, 2012

Addicted to Elizabeth Camden's "Against the Tide"

Against the TideElizabeth Camden's Against the Tide is an excellent sequel to her earlier novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill.  In some ways, the two novels are primarily about Alexander Banebridge - though he was the villain of Lady, it was the story of how he came to Christ, and Tide shows us where he went from there, tying up loose ends and taking out the real villain. 

Camden's hero and heroine are good, strong characters, but they have their weaknesses, making them real.  Bane suffers from an obsession with rooting out opium smugglers, specifically the man who formerly controlled him, but to the point where his noble intentions almost entirely deprive him of love and friendship, since whoever he cares for could be taken and used against him by the Professor.  1st John 4:18 specifically states that "There is no fear in love."  Lydia feels the need to control her small, concise, and well-ordered world; besides which, she is addicted to opium and refuses to acknowledge its hold on her. 

Lydia's salvation is a good reminder that not everyone has such a quick, dramatic conversion as Bane himself did, like Saul (who became the apostle Paul), or the wicked king Manassah.  As Bane says, "Don't be like the person who tears the scab off the wound every morning to see if has healed.  Just keep seeking and trusting." (341).  It takes time to reach the point of complete trust.  One thing I would have liked to see more of in the novel was trust on Bain's part - namely, trust in God to see things through, not just reliance on himself. 

While The Lady of Bolton Hill is an introduction to opium issues in America, Against the Tide makes it personal, as one of the main characters is an unsuspecting addict.  Even when confronted with the addiction, she is quick to claim it as only an occasional cure against a headache, not a real addiction.  How many addictions do we deal with, but daily deny?  Not all are technically harmful to one's physical health - computer games, reading too many books, watching too many movies.  But what about turning to food to make one feel better, or to men?  It's so easy to rely on men for feelings of self worth.  Like Lydia, we think, "It's not an addiction, I can quit any time," but really, can we?  And what if we try to replace it with something else - switch from masculine attention to chocolate?  That is no good either!  Replacing one addiction with another is not the solution, but replacing the addiction with God is.  The moments you want to fall back on that old habit, don't!  Spend that time with Him!


Overall, I found it to be an excellent book, and I give the novel five stars (and, incidentally, it happens to be the Christy Awards winner for Best Historical Romance for 2013).  Bethany House Publishers provided a free copy of this novel for an honest review as part of their book review program; I was not obligated to make it a positive one. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Revolutionary War through Laura Frantz's Novels

When you think of the Revolutionary War, what comes to mind?  The Tea Tax, the Stamp Act, Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Paul Revere's famous cry, "The British are coming!"  However, that is only a small part of life in the American Colonies during the war.  Laura Frantz's first three novels, each set in the Kentucky territory, paint a very different picture from the dumping of the tea and George Washington crossing the Delaware, which we learned in school.  What we rarely remember, or perhaps never learned, is that there was more than just one war being fought.  Yes, the Red Coats were the main enemy, but how many men, women, and children died on the frontier from wars with the Shawnee, Cherokee, and other native tribes?  We remember the French and Indian War for the battles with the American Indians, not the Revolutionary War - but battle them we still did. 

The Frontiersman's DaughterThe Frontiersman's Daughter  is an epic novel of a girl born and raised in Kentucky, who has a rare chance to live in tenuous peace with both the whites and Shawnee.  Others on the frontier are less lucky - homes burned out, families massacred, forts attacked - yet she lives nearly wild, courted by Shawnee, frontiersman, and gentleman alike.  The novel focuses on the simple life of those who were brave enough to make their homes on the wild frontier. 

Courting Morrow LittleIn Courting Morrow Little, Frantz looks closer at the war between the Blue Coats (Americans) and native tribes, and how the Americans broke many treaties without punishment in order to destroy as many of the Native Americans as possible.  As experienced through Morrow Little's eyes, this novel shows the unfairness to the Indians by many of the Americans in their war to take control of the country, and the unfairness to any white person who would live with them (for they surely must be either a traitor or a captive held against their will). 

The Colonel's LadyAlmost as a response to Courting Morrow Little, but on the other side of the conflict, The Colonel's Lady looks at life on a frontier military fort as they battle the British and Indians.  Many of the Native Americans had, in conjunction with the loss of their homes and territory, been incited by the British to fight the people living on the frontier.  Much like in the French and Indian War, the British made promises so that the Native Americans would fight for them, though against the colonial Americans now rather than the French.  The novel also looks at the dismal existence as a soldier, where alcohol was one of the few ways to escape from the pain of injuries, dysentery, and loss of friends in the many skirmishes of the war, and where desertion and suicide were the main alternatives. 

One thread that holds these books together, though, is God's love and forgiveness for any and all people - whether a simple frontiersman's daughter and gentleman doctor, a lady who chooses life with a half-breed over the whites, or a spinster and an officer in the Rebel army.  While the boundaries of who is right and who is wrong are brought into question in these novels, God's love and control are not; He is the bedrock that cannot be moved, and it is His desire that none should be lost. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When I am Weak, He is Strong

Being ill for three weeks can really bring a person low.  When no one is really sure what it is, and nothing is curing it, it seems even worse.  And it's even worse yet when it comes on two days after a lovely afternoon devoted entirely to spending time with God - tea and a picnic with a place for Him, painting the dragonflies He provided for entertainment, His Word for some spiritual bread; but mostly, spending time knowing He was there enjoying it with me. 

Thankfully Jesus came to heal and to save, and to be our strength in time of need.  After eight days of fairly high fever (102's), and even a foray into the 103's, plus eventually a cough, I went in to a clinic and was diagnosed with probably an upper respiratory virus, even though the temps were on the high side for a virus.  A couple days later I came down with an extremely painful throat, so on day 13 I was in again for strep test, which, to the great surprise of the nurse practitioner, came out positive.  Thus I was prescribed amoxicillin to take care of it.  It didn't.  At this point, it was a question of, "God?  Can I please be well?  It's up to You, since nothing is working!"

 Well, He didn't just fix me, but He has given me wise friends who know more of infections than I do, and when I began coughing out orange and brown sputum, my friend in med school sent me in to Urgent Care.  It was something of a fiasco, but I did see a doctor in the end, and he diagnosed me with a lower respiratory infection of Streptococcus pneumoniae.  This is not to be confused with the Strep A that causes Strep throat; this is far worse.  It can easily lead to pneumonia, and it is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, among other nasty problems.  It's not something you want infecting your body.  But the doc prescribed the super antibiotics, and God has see fit to take care of my infection through that. 

Throughout the 21-day illness, I had to rely on God for getting things done (and for making sure my husband picked up the right groceries and did what I needed him to), and I had to rely on Him for comfort in my distress of an extremely painful throat and high fevers.  Even for keeping the first round of antibiotics down, when they wanted terribly to come back out of my stomach in the middle of the night.  And He was faithful.

It makes sense to me that it was an attack, pure and simple: the devil does not like us to spend time improving our relationship with Jesus.  He'd much rather we be too busy.  I admit during the illness I was not up to reading my bible as faithfully, and my prayers were pretty centered on "help me feel better, please," but God remains faithful through it all, and He continues to bless us for our love. 

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2nd Corinthians 12:10

Focusing on Family: A Review of Mary Connealy's "Over the Edge"

Mary Connealy's third and final book of the Kincaid Brides, Over the Edge, thoroughly concludes the series with her usual comedic flair.  

Over the Edge The first two novels, Out of Control and In Too Deep tell the stories of the two older Kincaid boys, Rafe and Ethan, and highlight their views of an accident from their youth that changed their lives forever.  Now in Over the Edge we finally get Seth's take on what happened that night in the cave, when the floor collapsed and burning kerosene fell on Seth, burning him badly and causing him to go a little crazy.  His experiences in the Civil War were no help to his sanity, and he does not remember getting married near the end of the war.  However, his bride and 8-month-old son show up at the start of the novel, beginning Seth's war to reclaim his memory and sanity.

As with her other novels, the romance between the main characters was laced with humorous situations and tenderness, for all that the bride was angry enough to take shots at her errant husband. 

Family, throughout the whole series, seemed to be a major theme, but it was most prominent in Over the Edge.  Connealy surprised me in an unexpected plot twist - the existence of a fourth Kincaid boy - and all four of them must work together in the novel to accept and forgive themselves and their father, who had started another family while still married to the three boys' mother.  Each has spent years believing himself responsible for the collapse of their family, and they truly need God's strength and each others' support to work through this unexpected turn.  The youngest, Heath, also needs help learning to forgive his older brothers for being part of the other family and to learn how take comfort in them and to be a real family with them. 

It's a great, light romantic comedy and fitting conclusion to the series, but it lacks some of the depth of novels by other authors.  It's still a great read and I highly recommend it, but be sure to read the first two first!  Here is a link to a trailer for the novel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeSzqacHzQM&list=UUOTCh77FT1ZAyg-Mrj97HWw&index=2&feature=plcp

Kincaid Brides
0.5: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (a related prequel)
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep
3. Over the Edge 

"Runaway Bride" (follows Trouble in Texas and Kincaid Brides series; from the novella collection With This Ring?)

Cimmaron Legacy
0.5 "The Boden Birthright"
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down

This review is an honest opinion, written for Bethany House Publishers as part of their book review program, and I was in no way obligated to write a positive review. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Don Hoesel's "Serpent of Moses"

Serpent of MosesIn the book of Numbers, as the Israelites were wandering in wilderness after rejecting the promised land, they became discouraged and spoke against God, who had freed them from slavery in Egypt and performed many miracles to keep them safe and whole.  In response to their hardheartedness, God plagued them with fiery serpents, which were killing them left and right.  When the people recognized their sin, and asked Moses to pray for them, God responded with a cure:  Moses was to commission a fiery serpent, made of bronze, and lift it high on a pole--then any who looked to the serpent would be cured.  Later, in the time of the kings, people worshiped the bronze serpent, called Nehushtan, and King Hezekiah ordered its destruction. 

However, according to Don Hoesel, it may not have been as thoroughly "broken into pieces" as the bible implies. 

Don Hoesel's timing in his novel, Serpent of Moses, is superb, reading like an adventure movie.  The reader is instantly dropped into the action - almost like a prologue, the Libyans first encounter mysterious Israelis and an archaeologist in the initial, unsuccessful attempt to recover the bronze serpent, but the suspicious foreigners are killed before the Libyans can interrogate them and discover their interest in the area.  [Were it a film, insert credits here].  The next scene, occurring two weeks later, introduces our hero, archaeologist Jack Hawthorne, dodging bullets in a narrow tunnel, running for his life.

He and Indiana Jones could really swap some stories.

Interspersed between Jack's close calls, captures, and escapes while trying to hang on to the archaeological artifact are the journeys of his friends who are trying to locate him and extract him from whatever trouble into which he has dropped himself.   As they solve the clues that brought him to where he is, the reader learns how Jack found the serpent in the first place, while providing his friends with the clues to the other missing piece of the serpent--something Jack is desperately going to need, if he and his friends are to have any hope of surviving this adventure.

Hoesel's novel is well-written and fast-paced, much like an adventure film.  It even has little bits of humor that often make adventures so appealing--our hero, though typically able to hold his own or outsmart the antagonists, ends up with a vision of Imolene's massive fist as the last thing he sees on several occasions. 


Hoesel's story clearly follows a previous novel, Elijah's Bones, and I believe it would be better to read them in order, but Serpent of Moses still makes sense without the first.  It just leaves one hungering to find out what precisely did happen in Australia that changed their lives so thoroughly . . .   My understanding is that Jack's spiritual state undergoes a major transformation in the first book, but Hoesel does not delve too deeply in this novel.  It is clear that Jack is still working out the details of his spiritual life--and maybe he doesn't have a personal relationship with Jesus yet--but he clearly recognizes the bible as truth.  I hope that subsequent novels will further his spiritual journey, as I at least am not completely satisfied with where he seems to be right now. 

Overall I very much enjoyed the book, but I would have liked to see more conclusion to the novel; it ended rather quickly.  **SPOILERS**  Were the Libyans all killed in the final skirmish?  Were the good guys really the only ones left standing after the Israelis departed?  It was a little unclear, but I have difficulty in believing that were any Libyans still alive, they'd have let them go so easily.  This is where a movie could clearly show the decimation in a 2-3 second shot! 

I received a free copy of this novel from Bethany House Publishers as part of their book review program, and I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lights in the Firmament

Genesis 1:14-15
 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so.

When one thinks of lights in the sky, what does one think of?  Primarily the sun, the moon, and the stars.  Genesis even continues to describe that on the fourth day of creation, God specifically hung those great lights in the sky to "give light on the earth, to rule over the day and the night, and to divide the light from the darkness" (1:17-18). 

However, those are not the only lights God put into the sky.

On a warm, summer evening, with stars glittering above in a cloudless sky, streaks of green danced in front of the Big Dipper and across the northern sky.  In some places even a touch of pink flirted with the with the green, as they streaked and darted in front of the stars. 

Of course, Aurora Borealis is caused by the solar flares from the sun, and there is a scientific explanation of how it works, so technically you can say that it is part of the sun, but it does no justice to the mysterious beauty God has created.  Isn't the hand of God something that He can take a bands of green light like water color and paint them across His wide canvas in restless streaks that never cease their rippling dance across the heavens?  The Northern Lights are just one more example of our Creator's creative genius. 

Sweeping, dashing, dancing, flashing,
Green shoots across the sky;
Heaven's canvas painted o'er
Like water colors spilled on high.

Leaning back to look straight up,
I see it flash as lightning will;
The green streaks move with swiftest speed,
Racing for the sky to fill.

Lower down horizon-way,
It, restless, dances with the stars;
The Dipper fades 'neath verdant waves
That change to ripples, sweeps, and bars. 

Then the colors move and travel on,
For nothing there is permanent,
 But God's great hand still holds the brush
To paint Aurora 'cross the firmament.

Friday, June 22, 2012

God's Grace in an Unexpected Flood


Tischer Creek (turned raging torrent)
Job 38:8-11, 25-28, 34-38
“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,
To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,

A wilderness in which there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate waste,
And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?
Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
And say to you, ‘Here we are!’
Who has put wisdom in the mind?
Or has given understanding to the heart?
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?”

Trailhead of Congdon Park
Duluth, Minnesota, is a city on a hill – from the base of the hill, where the waters of Lake Superior lap (or pound) the board walk along the shore, all the way up the 800-foot elevation gain to the flatter top that was once a giant swamp.  Its foundation is granite, shallowly topped with red clay that offers just enough depth to make the woods flourish.  It is known for some of the strongest blizzards in Minnesota, where the Lake creates her own weather to suit her preferences.  It tends to be cooler and rainier in the summer than in the inland parts of the state, but it can certainly hit 90 degrees on a sunny July day.  Superior whips up some incredible storms with ocean-sized waves all year round, and the winter storms offer some of the best Lake surfing for extreme surfers.  Despite the quantities of water Duluth handles on a regular basis, there is one thing one does not expect in this city: flooding. 
Congdon Road

In the recent rains that covered the entire Minnesota northland, many areas received seven to nine inches of rain in the course of two days or less.  If it were winter, we’d be talking ten feet of snow, making the Halloween Blizzard of 1992 a minor snowstorm.  However, this was pure water—water that had nowhere to go but straight down to the lake. 

The shallow clay could not begin to handle the waves of water that flowed in rivers down the streets—above and below—causing up to a swift six inches to run on top of the tar, and masses of water that blasted the clay out from underneath roads in a desperate push for the lake.  Duluth’s thirty-odd creeks more resembled rushing torrents as they raged to the lake, many exceeding their banks and running down the streets instead. 




Behind the University of MN Duluth stadium
Up on top of the hill, the water was much slower to move, and parking lots and roads became lakes.  One car dealership in the city discovered all their cars completely underwater.  Basements flooded, gardens washed away—yet some places look entirely untouched.

Overall, most roads are fine (perhaps a little worse for wear, but typical Duluth roads are hardly perfect anyway).  With a few detours, one can basically get wherever one wants.  However, some streets have gaping holes or no longer exist entirely.  The zoo lost all but one of its petting zoo critters, but the more exotic creatures were safe (though not necessarily in their pens). 
Vermillion Road, at the intersection with Hawthorne

Vermillion Road
Miraculously, God kept everyone safe.  Even a little boy who was sucked into a culvert and washed up six blocks away was basically uninjured.  For a disaster of this magnitude, where children and teens were playing in the streets, tubing in parking lots, and kayaking around the east end of the University, putting themselves in danger of being swept away to drown in the raging creeks or muddy red Superior (and in danger of waterborne disease from the bubbling fountains of the sewer), God made a major miracle in preserving the life of all His children. 

Genesis 9:11: “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy all the earth.”  The landscape is changed, but God’s promise to all creation still stands—we were not destroyed, but preserved.

God bless Hope for Duluth!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A deeper view of Ruth: a review of Regina Jennings' "Sixty Acres and a Bride"

What sort of reception did Ruth, a heathen, receive upon relocating to Israel?  How did Ruth feel about practically forcing Boaz to marry her?  And likewise, how did Boaz feel?


Regina Jennings' novel Sixty Acres and a Bride looks deeper into the story of Ruth, exploring the relationships, emotions, and prejudices that might have similarly affected Ruth and Boaz themselves.

Sixty Acres and a Bride, Ladies of Caldwell County Series #1   -     
        By: Regina Jennings
Placing it in 1878 Texas, with Rosa, the Ruth equivalent, a native Mexican who accompanies her American mother-in-law back to Texas, Jennings dives right into the prejudice toward and the fascination of a foreigner who tries to join the rest of society rather than existing on its fringes.  Since she is now the daughter-in-law of one of their own, the locals cannot ignore Rosa and must try to accept her in spite of her improper ways.  As a foreign woman, she is colorful and different, attracting the eyes of the male population while inspiring jealousy and horror among the women.  Modest attire in the Sierra Madres turns out to be scandalous in Texas; a dance that embodies propriety in Mexico becomes a seductive act suggesting wanton behavior among the Americans.  Rosa stumbles repeatedly in American culture, just as Ruth no doubt experienced the shock of Israelite culture.  In addition to cultural mistakes Rosa makes, she also faces the prejudice of a Mexican among Americans - even today, Hispanic immigrants are often seen as second-class citizens and automatically disregarded due to their coloring and country of birth. Likewise, the Moabites, though far distantly related to the Israelites, were not children of Abraham, and therefore little better than the other heathen nations surrounding them.  Ruth was every bit the second-class citizen as Rosa. 

Jennings also depicts the horror and embarrassment of the girl as she humbles herself to a reputation-shattering position as she begs financial rescue for herself and her mother-in-law.  In Sixty Acres and a Bride, Rosa pleads with the kinsman redeemer for money rather than marriage, but the end result is the same - he saves them financially and chooses to marry her (though as much to salvage her reputation as out of attraction).  So Rosa finds herself saddled to a man who married her through obligation, and her husband knows that she, too, married him under duress; they must learn together how to love and respect each other as spouses and overcome the fear of potentially being unloved in return.  Ruth and Boaz could not have been much better acquainted, and probably had less of a relationship before marriage than Rosa and her Weston.  Ruth 4:13 says, "So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son."  It offers no details of how their relationship progressed, whether it took a day or a year before they were comfortable together as a couple.  Jennings' novel offers us just one possibility to consider, but it also inspires us to contemplate other situations Ruth may have experienced, and even how we ourselves might act under similar circumstances. 

Overall, Sixty Acres and a Bride is a beautiful story - detailed, exciting, sprinkled with moments of humor, sporting a villain one loves to hate, filled with tenderness, and ripe with hope.  Not many novels inspire me to tears, but as a bride myself, I found that this one really speaks to the hopes and fears of a young marriage.  No matter how in love and prepared one feels prior to the wedding ceremony (and Rosa and Weston scarcely felt ready at all), learning to put aside one's individual self in order to live as one with one's spouse is a bumpy road, and small misunderstandings between a husband and wife can lead to great hurt without immediate reconciliation.  Thankfully, God's grace sufficiently covers us in our foolishness, and Jesus came to heal our bodies and hearts (and, of course, to save), and so we can truly love our spouses with God's perfect help.  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear," I John 4:18a. 

The positive attributes of this novel so far outweigh the flaws that I rate it a 5 out of 5.

Ladies of Caldwell County
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Love in the Balance
Caught in the Middle

Friday, June 15, 2012

Samson's Source of Strength

Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me?  You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies."  And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, "No razor has come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb.  If I am shaven, then my strength shall leave me, and I shall become weak like any other man."   Judges 16:15-17

Of course, Samson fails to mention that he has already broken most other aspects of the Nazirite vow (detailed in Numbers 6):

1. No alcohol, vinegar, or anything from grapes (Samson threw a feast for his wedding - questionable whether he kept his vow)
2. No Shaving your head (which Delilah takes care of)
3. No going near dead bodies (Samson voluntarily comes back to fetch honey out of the dead lion)
4. If one should have a sudden death in one's vicinity, one must take seven days to cleanse oneself and then shave one's head to begin the Nazirite vow anew (Samson did not do this regarding the lion, his fresh jawbone of a donkey, or any men he killed)

Essentially, shaving the head was the final straw for Samson.

"If I am shaven, then my strength shall leave me, and I shall become weak like any other man."

However, it was not just Samson's strength than left him - in verse 20, it says,"The Lord had departed from him."  

Samson's strength was not in his hair - his strength was in the Lord.  By breaking his vows without atonement, he was forced into cleansing and atonement, for the Lord had left him.  In time, yes, his hair grew back and the Spirit of the Lord filled him once more, but his strength truly was the Lord, not his hair.  What if he had had the sense to tell Delilah the true source of his strength, that it was not in anything he was capable of doing himself, but rather in his God?

Would he have died in revenge for his eyes?

Or would the Lord have found even greater uses for a man who relied on Him for his strength?

And likewise, oughtn't we give credit where it is due?  That our strengths and talents are not of ourselves, but rather of the Lord our God?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sonja


My Dearest Duck Sonja

Sweet Sonja, my duck -
My beloved first child;
Thou cleft unto me 
From out of the wild.

I as thy mother,
Thou followed me 'round,
From pillar to post,
O'er high and low ground.

Trailing directly 
Behind my left foot*                *or right, as occasion should warrant
We walked up the path,
O'er dirt and o'er root.

Searching for worms
Under rock, tin, and tire,
Thou tuggest them out
With a manner inspired.

Shaking and quivering
And tossing thy head,
Gulping and swallowing,
Thou downest them dead.

All sizes of earth worm,
And night crawlers too,
Slide down thy gullet
All the day through.

Chest now distended
And squishy with food,
Thou sleepest it off,
My single-child brood.

Splashing and paddling
Around in the river,
Thou shakest off drops
With thy tail all a-quiver.

And when thou bathest
In the full cattle tank,
Thou divest in deep
And spasht me in prank.

I've learned in this time
That it's a great luck
To love and to cherish
And to mother a duck.

Oh, what great luck to mother a duck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Regarding the Posted Poetry

On occasion, or occasionally for an occasion, I feel the urge to to jot down a bit of poetry - whether it is is to commemorate an event, or I simply have a line running through my head that needs a bit more development.

The story of Sonja, my duckling, is an example of the former - in May of 2011, I discovered a lone duckling in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen, and as the poor wee thing would not survive the cool night without her mother, who was long gone, I brought her home and placed her under a heat lamp in a box that was currently devoid of the oranges it once held, and I took time to cuddle and comfort her in the days that followed.  If you are familiar with Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," you may remember Peter's friend the duck was named Sonja.  One morning, after nearly two months under my care, my child was gone - most likely to the river, where we often went down to play and dig up leeches and water insects and snails.  I never saw her again.  Incidentally, her head was turning green, which is a rather bad sign for a female (indeed, an indication she was not a female at all).  I shall soon post the poem about Sonja's life that I wrote as sequel to her "birth" poem.

"The Wanderer's Prayer" is an example of the latter - where I had some ideas floating around in my head, and maybe even a rhyme or two.  One hears of such people as Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the Russian composer famous for "Scheherazade," "The Golden Cockerel," and "Flight of the Bumble Bee" (the theme song of the Green Hornet), who could actually hear in color; what would it be like to sense things with all five senses that to our meager knowledge can only be sampled using one or two of the senses?  Hear things that we can only see, or taste what can only be felt?  As I hashed out the poem, I realized (perhaps subconsciously at the time, but ten years later I now know) that it is not enough to find those answers, nor are the questions even the goal of what I seek; without the Holy Spirit walking with me, it would be utterly pointless - "vanity" and "grasping at the wind."  On this Earth I cannot hope to truly taste the night and day, nor see music flow or hear a path's glow, but in that day when there is a new Heaven and a new Earth, who knows what will be possible?  Yet even that cannot be the goal of my life - to go to a perfect place with streets of gold when my body gives up its last breath.  Who doesn't want to go to Heaven and forgo eternity in the Lake of Fire?  But the destination is not what is important; the journey is.  Spending my time wandering with Jesus, Savior and Friend, letting Him be my guide, seeing what he wants to reveal to me - that's the real treasure.  It's not about Heaven - it's about Him. 

John 3:8 acknowledges that "the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."  I don't know who all is walking with the Spirit - that is in their own hearts to choose; the Spirit will go where the heart is open to receive it.  But I do know that I have chosen Jesus as my walking companion, and every day I want to be walking with Him.

God bless!

The Wanderer's Prayer

I know not where I'm going,
Nor from whence I came,
I only know that I'm going,
And nothing e'er will be the same.

I need to hear the seasons change
And taste both night and day;
To smell the odd, the droll, the strange,
Feel all the wind must say.

I need to see the music flow
Through each and every stream;
Hear the path's soft earthen glow,
And catch each and every dream.

See all there is to see, I must,
Ken all there is to ken;
Feel all there is from love to trust
And taste both now and then.

Walk and wander, rarely stop -
Forever I will run;
Spinning always like a top
Until Thy will be done.

A wander-lust have I at heart,
And with it I must tread,
Until my life is snapped apart
Like a thin and silken thread.

No matter how far I'll ever go,
No matter what I do,
There's something else I need to know -
Something I need from You.

Not clothing will I ask of You,
Nor spoon, knife, fork, nor dish;
Not pencil, paper, pen, nor give
Aught but a simple wish:

I do not wish to walk alone,
So someone with me there must be -
Not Mr. Kent, Trapp, or Malone,
But please, Lord,
You Lord,
Walk with me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The discovery of Sonja, my child for two months


'Twas the last night of volleyball at my brother James' church,
And to satisfy our hunger, for ice cream we searched.
Dairy Queen, now open, sold what we held so dear,
With sundaes and blizzards down the street so near!

We placed our orders and bye and bye,
Came to our ears a heart-wrenching cry!
Alone in the parking lot a little duck waddled,
Desperately seeking and longing to be coddled!

She was covered in down from her head to her tail,
And for two days or less old, she seemed pretty hale.
Her voice, undiminished, loudly pierced the night,
And her little legs sped to the one in her sight.

Yes, to me!  Right onto my hand she came zooming,
Despite my great height that o'er her was looming. 
Cheeping and peeping, she then made a mess
And a yellow-green smear ran right down my dress*            *Poetical license allows me to change my sweaty t-shirt into more elegant attire

With no mama or siblings over her to guard,
We took her to Mom so she can live in our yard.*                 *Or garage, at this point
In an orange box with clippings from the fresh-mowed lawn,
She abides under a heat lamp to keep her warm til the dawn.

This experience has taught me one thing new,
Which I shared after I told this story true:
"It's difficult to eat," I concluded to Mother,
"With a Blizzard in one hand and a duck in the other."