BASIC TRAINING FOR HEROES ~ You Included!

Danger stalked Winnetka, a wealthy Chicago suburb, in the early morning of May 20, 1988. A woman delivered poisoned snacks to dozens of people. Then she moved from one location to another trying to trap people in fires she started. She shot children at an elementary school. After that, news reports told the city that her location was uncertain, but she was believed to be in a particular home, holding the family hostage.

When my teen-age son got home from school, he asked us to drive him to Winnetka. With common teen-age audacity, he was certain he could confront the killer and end the day-long siege.

Legion of Honor -French medalWho among us hasn’t fantasized of some highly visible way we’d like to be heroic? Maybe rescue someone from a burning car. Or pull a drowning child from an icy pond. Isn’t some daydream touched when you hear about the three American men, friends from their youth, who restrained a terrorist on the Paris-bound train and were awarded the Legion of Honor Medal?

Those are big deals. Television news big. But most of us don’t live out such grand daydreams.

Jill Stanek, Pro-life Advocate

Jill Stanek

My friend Jill got a brick thrown thru her window. Sounds like some random act of vandalism. But it wasn’t. She was targeted.

She’d been a nurse, so it was strange she was sent a note on a brick. An ordinary nurse in the Labor & Delivery unit of an ordinary hospital ~ until the night a co-worker was carrying a small baby to the soiled utility closet to die. You see, this tiny boy lived through an abortion. Typically when that did happen, the parents or hospital staff held the child until it died. That night, the nurse didn’t have time to hold him.

Dr. Alveda King

Dr. Alveda King

So Jill held the hand-sized child. And as he slipped away, Jill’s determination to protect life grew. She’s become a prominent pro-life activist. One might say she’s reached that rarefied air of fame. She’s spoken around the world, testified before the US Congress, attended signing ceremonies at The White House. I mean, I learned about the brick incident when Dr. Alveda King ~ a woman I dearly love and respect & Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece ~ posted it! (Does Alveda King tell the world about your life? Not mine either.) But Jill’s fame also brought her a brick through the window. Being well-known isn’t always fun. And it isn’t Jill’s goal. But it is a consequence of her taking a stand.

I’m convinced that as Jill went to work that day, she had no idea a David-and-Goliath battle would appear.

And, dear sisters, neither do we. Yes, God prepares his children. Perhaps occasionally we sense that “something” is coming. But every day we’re given opportunities to be prepared. Opportunities to build our faith muscles, practice right thinking. Right attitudes. Right responses. I know I’ve missed noticing the majority. They often come disguised.

They look like my friend Clarice getting lost in the hospital parking garage visiting her husband who is fighting leukemia. They look like being asked to provide an excuse for your boss when s/he’s late to a meeting. Getting your finger slammed in the closet door. Knocking over the bottle of olive oil.

Your calling, your path and mine may not lead to invitations to The White House or the Legion of Honor Medal bestowed by French President Hollande. But as discussed in last week’s blog, the little acts matter. Choices in routine matters multiply in impact. Let’s go forward in that confidence. Stay faithful, keep reading and applying Scripture, being on the look out for the choice points in your day ~

So that we may be prepared ~

When a friend looks at you through tears and says, “I can’t hang on any more.”

Or in the night hours, your child telephones saying, “It’s all falling apart. I don’t know what to do.”

What obstacles are you facing today that may be opportunities in disguise?

If you’d like to learn more about Jill, Alveda King, or Clarice James, click on their name & you’ll connect with their blog or Facebook.

Photo credit, Legion of Honor: Alexvonf, public domain on German Wikipedia 

[originally posted Feb. 4, 2016]

A Journey through A MOONBOW NIGHT by Laura Frantz

MOONBow woods cr-BACKGROUND LOCATION - Woods450 COPYWhew. What a journey. I just returned from an arduous trek, blazing a trail thru untamed mountain wilderness of Kentucky. The doctors and lawmen back in Virginia could not help us with catastrophes there. But we enjoyed gifts along the way ~ like when lush moonlight “silvered  the woods and river.” And the “hallowed, heavenly magic … a star shower.” The moonbow rose from the mist of the falls, spanning the river, bands of white streaked with red and indigo and pale green, “vivid against the froth of the falls.”

 

 

GREEN VEIL OVIBut the journey was long. Through springtime teasing with warm breeze but dumping snow at night, “the cold polishing every rock and speck of grass like barley sugar.” Summer with its veil of green protecting us but also hiding danger. And heated “air shimmering like a cast-iron skillet.” Autumn with its canopy of color, treacherous when wet and fallen.

MOONBOW copy-SNOWY EVERGREEN TREE -crop - half Cmkm colorI ache with the walking and carrying supplies. My mind and senses cannot rest after months of being alert to any subtle change. Getting lazy in observing allows death to strike. I wonder if I will ever settle, not react to every slight sound. Every variance of breeze or temperature or color of the sky …

 

But wait. As I rouse, a book slips from my fingers and I sit in my own room. I glance around. Gradually senses adapt as I drift out of story-world reality of A MOONBOW NIGHT and into my 21st-century home.

moonbow night cover

As a reader I love a good story. One that invites turning pages quickly, chasing plot turns with characters that have captured my interest. I want be so immersed in a book that closing the cover and returning to my time and place is a shock. Laura Frantz writes stories that come alive. A venture she succeeds in every time. For a reader, that is enough to know opening A MOONBOW NIGHT will bring satisfaction.

Frantz creates living, breathing characters. Though this is her fourth novel set in l770-1790 Kentucky, her characters are always fresh, distinct, and seem to emerge perfectly from the era. Not a retread among them.

She places these characters in a time of keeping delicate balances. Frontier living was living on a knife’s edge. Survival was tentative at best. The times demanded one be constantly alert and correctly interpret even the most subtle of things around them. A rapidly-hidden glance. A slight weather shift. A near-indiscernible sound. A barely-there hint of something out of order—a fallen leaf out of season, birdsong gone silent, hoof print with no shoe… Missing natural or human clues left one vulnerable. Death could be sudden—in a rockfall, a storm, gunshot, snakebite. 

Trkee river

Much of MOONBOW unfurls as Tempe Tucker or Sion Morgan (with various companions) travel. Sometimes they trek familiar, narrow paths; other times unfamiliar territory, be it tough terrain, rough rivers, forests lost in fog or laced with enemies. Many miles are walked, then backtracked. Yet throughout Frantz keeps the action moving in a setting that some might see as an endless slate of green and wood to forge through. Not once does she revert to lazy repetition.

MOONBOW Yosemite - falls close up brtWith her extraordinary observation and writing skill, every turn of trail and fortune unfolds in a vividly-drawn setting. Much like inhabitants of extreme northern climes have a vast number of words for snow, Frantz finds a seemingly infinite variety of sights, sounds, and senses within which to place the action. No cookie-cutter travelogue descriptions here. Rather, an endless diversity of vegetation impedes progress or provides food, fuel, or healing agents as the characters move thru the forest. A variety of sounds soothe … or frighten, an array of sights assist in navigating the journey … or stirring emotions.

An example is when Tempe recalls first traveling to Kentucky. Weeks upon weeks amid a long, snaking column of people and animals, eating cornbread and meat that tasted of wood smoke and ashes, clothes full of briars and burrs. Then one night she was lost in a sunset, “a blaze of red and gold, the sky pretty as a party dress.”

God is Present Sunset cprt color - MOONBow copy

The germ of the story is a little-publicized event in the life of Daniel Boone. Frantz says learning about it as a child impacted her greatly. Around that incident, she’s woven a plot as filled with twists and turns as paths early surveyors had to travel through the wilderness. Sion, Tempe, and her family~indeed all the secondary characters spring to life so authentically connected to the era and location that MOONBOW seems a tale of history told, not a novel spun from Frantz’s imagination. Even knowing beforehand that part of the story was fact-based, as I read I could not find the line between fact and fiction.

Frantz’s diction is another area where she displays her skill and her readers benefit tremendously. Her language is fresh, evocative, sensory, and captures the dialect of the times.

LIFE is chancy posterShe also captures the unsettledness and danger of 1777, a year of much violence and bloodshed in Kentucky known as “the bloody sevens.” Indian attacks grew more common. Constant vigilance and heightened senses were required. The story shows the toll vigilance takes, and the price of being careless.

Fog in valleyTempe, as expert as any professional guide, regularly finds solace from the past that haunts her by wandering through the woods. But now fewer patrons stop at their inn, and fog settles in. “The lull unsettled her. She didn’t dare venture far with the fog. It seemed to take the land captive whilst scrambling her usually sound sense of direction. Without the sun or North Star as her guide, she felt adrift.”  [p 65]

MOONBOW - blossom“Tempe was struck right then by how chancy life was. Like a spider’s web or an eggshell or a butterfly’s wing. Their world seemed made of little losses. She was always having to say goodbye, part with something. A brilliant sunset. A blossom. A sweet feeling.”  [p 182]

And again as Tempe trekked toward a favorite place:

MOONBOW - tree-massive“A hymn stirred in her spirit. Her mouth opened, then shut. She sensed the meadow wasn’t entirely hers … she felt a cloudiness. Not fear, just a foreboding, a heightening tension. She stepped behind a chestnut, its bulk broad as two men.

Raven.

He crossed the clearing, moving with an easy grace, gaze turned toward her as if telling her she was plain as a parakeet with its noisy chatter and brilliant plumage. She looked down at her showy skirt, dyed pumpkin orange … Half Chickamauga Cherokee, Raven seemed rootless, restless, living between two worlds, never quite at home in either. Whenever she saw him he was on the move, usually on the Warrior’s Path. But today he was in this very meadow, near her beloved Fairy Rock.

She felt … wronged.

Chafing … she stepped from behind the tree as if to banish any territorial thoughts. This was Indian ground be it anyone’s. She had no special claim … ‘Twas more Raven’s than hers.”  [p 70]

SCOTs AZALEA or rhod - MOONBOWThough the story is set in a turbulent, violent era, and covers many raw, tough days, do not fear it’s a dark and overwhelming story. That all is relieved when Frantz peppers the story with beautiful observations, joyous experiences, noble deeds, glimmers of hope, as well as snatches of humor. In this example Tempe, concerned by the reserve between her brother Russell and her friend (clearly smitten with him) decides to intervene.

“Mama, maybe it’s time to give Russell a talking to.”

[Her mother’s] dark brows arched. “What for?”

“Don’t you want some grandchildren?”

“I’d like a wedding first.”  [p 95]

Laura Frantz’s skill as a story-teller astonishes me. A MOONBOW NIGHT is filled with accurate historical detail, intricately woven, and beautiful. As a writer, I re-read her novels as a master class on technique. Though I must say studying them to explain details of writing craft feels like an intrusive act that violates their integrity and beauty, much like dissecting a delicate flower or pinning a lovely butterfly.

Thorough research is another of Frantz’s hallmarks. I could fill a page listing the areas she has mastered to give us the verisimilitude in this story—history, tracking, Indian languages, plant/animal knowledge, food preservation, weapons, to name only a few. All that plus her keen observational skills, and familiarity with and love of the region combine to create a world so immediate that a reader cannot help but inhabit it. You will find yourself holding your breath, the hair on the back of your neck tingling as you sense, without knowing why, impending doom. And relief will make your legs go weak when help arrives.

I think the magic of Frantz’s writing (which in my experience is shared by only a few) is that her stories are not so much read as lived.

 Visit with Laura on her blog or Facebook or Pinterest. She’ll be thrilled to meet you.

UNEVEN FOOTING at CHRISTMAS

We’re traversing an unsteady season of life in our family. A journey that requires attention to each step taken. Tender hearts are at risk. The magnitude of the impact of decisions made and actions taken makes the path feel perilous. A step in the wrong direction, a stumble, a misunderstood word can send one’s life careening off a cliff.

Oh, for a level, well-lit pathway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Recently I attended a meeting at a lovely venue all decked out for Christmas. From the parking lot it was a glorious sight: massive evergreens festooned with ribbons and garlands that glittered in the morning sun. Friends gathered, and as we crossed the mosaic-floored terrace I tripped on an uneven tile and had to pull my gaze from decorations to the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered a grand lobby with glittering lights. Bedecked topiaries dotted the slate floor. The uneven slate floor. Again I had to look away from the surrounding beauty.

Once settled at the table, I relaxed and lifted my eyes, taking in the glowing fireplace, candles, wreaths and colorful packages. And the radiant faces of friends, gathered to enjoy each others’ company, our journeys as writers, and joy celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Later I thought about that precarious path and bristled at the fact that to traverse it, I had to keep my eyes glued to the floor ~ missing some delightful scenery. Then the memory of the uneven, perilous path facing our family came roaring back. I realized that I felt cheated by having my life forced into a narrow lane. I was missing opportunities to connect with people, missing out on pleasures and joys. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to pout. Wanted to complain and ask God to fix it.

pathway-blocked-at-far-end-maybe

And He did.

He reminded me, during this season of Christmas, that …

He is Emmanuel ~ God with Us.

That my path is not precarious. Nor is it devoid of beauty.

The Lord Himself holds my hand. And if I look at Him, the view is more glorious than any beribboned, ornament-laden tree. If I hold tightly, He can keep me from falling … and missing opportunities to connect with others.

The difference is not in my path but in where I choose to look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I wish you plenty of time and freedom to gaze without limit on a season filled with light to remind you of The Light of the World, God With Us.*

Merry Christmas!

*John 8:12, Matthew 1:23

Basic Training for Heroes

Danger stalked Winnetka, a wealthy Chicago suburb, in the early morning of May 20, 1988. A woman delivered poisoned snacks to dozens of people. Then she moved from one location to another trying to trap people in fires she started. She shot children at an elementary school. After that, news reports told the city that her location was uncertain, but she was believed to be in a particular home, holding the family hostage.

When my teen-age son got home from school, he asked us to drive him to Winnetka. With common teen-age audacity, he was certain he could confront the killer and end the day-long siege.

Legion of Honor -French medalWho among us hasn’t fantasized of some highly visible way we’d like to be heroic? Maybe rescue someone from a burning car. Or pull a drowning child from an icy pond. Isn’t some daydream touched when you hear about the three American men, friends from their youth, who restrained a terrorist on the Paris-bound train and were awarded the Legion of Honor Medal?

Those are big deals. Television news big. But most of us don’t live out such grand daydreams.

Jill Stanek, Pro-life Advocate

Jill Stanek

My friend Jill got a brick thrown thru her window. Sounds like some random act of vandalism. But it wasn’t. She was targeted.

She’d been a nurse, so it was strange she was sent a note on a brick. An ordinary nurse in the Labor & Delivery unit of an ordinary hospital ~ until the night a co-worker was carrying a small baby to the soiled utility closet to die. You see, this tiny boy lived through an abortion. Typically when that did happen, the parents or hospital staff held the child until it died. That night, the nurse didn’t have time to hold him.

Dr. Alveda King

Dr. Alveda King

So Jill held the hand-sized child. And as he slipped away, Jill’s determination to protect life grew. She’s become a prominent pro-life activist. One might say she’s reached that rarefied air of fame. She’s spoken around the world, testified before the US Congress, attended signing ceremonies at The White House. I mean, I learned about the brick incident when Dr. Alveda King ~ a woman I dearly love and respect & Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece ~ posted it! (Does Alveda King tell the world about your life? Not mine either.) But Jill’s fame also brought her a brick through the window. Being well-known isn’t always fun. And it isn’t Jill’s goal. But it is a consequence of her taking a stand.

I’m convinced that as Jill went to work that day, she had no idea a David-and-Goliath battle would appear.

And, dear sisters, neither do we. Yes, God prepares his children. Perhaps occasionally we sense that “something” is coming. But every day we’re given opportunities to be prepared. Opportunities to build our faith muscles, practice right thinking. Right attitudes. Right responses. I know I’ve missed noticing the majority. They often come disguised.

They look like my friend Clarice getting lost in the hospital parking garage visiting her husband who is fighting leukemia. They look like being asked to provide an excuse for your boss when s/he’s late to a meeting. Getting your finger slammed in the closet door. Knocking over the bottle of olive oil.

Your calling, your path and mine may not lead to invitations to The White House or the Legion of Honor Medal bestowed by French President Hollande. But as discussed in last week’s blog, the little acts matter. Choices in routine matters multiply in impact. Let’s go forward in that confidence. Stay faithful, keep reading and applying Scripture, being on the look out for the choice points in your day ~

So that we may be prepared ~

When a friend looks at you through tears and says, “I can’t hang on any more.”

Or in the night hours, your child telephones saying, “It’s all falling apart. I don’t know what to do.”

What obstacles are you facing today that may be opportunities in disguise?

If you’d like to learn more about Jill, Alveda King, or Clarice James, click on their name & you’ll connect with their blog or Facebook.

Photo credit, Legion of Honor: Alexvonf, public domain on German Wikipedia 

Walking Without Feet

CASTLE in Scottish highlands - Paula 2So how’s your year been? Are you ending it with satisfaction? Disappointment? Looking at my long to-do list for 2015, I think I haven’t checked off nearly enough. Big issues needed tackling. Big goals to accomplish. And despite thousands of tasks completed, big things remain. Honestly, I could be discouraged. You too?

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. Fortunately, he says, he was born to a good family ~ his mother was a nurse and knew what he needed. By 8 years old, though, he had compiled a massive list of things he’d never have or do, and faced suicidal thoughts.

Yet by age 23 he had graduated college, dabbled in real estate investing, and was a powerful motivational speaker who inspires his audience with wisdom and humor. At 33 he’s also an author and actor who enjoys painting and swimming. And he’s married and has two sons.

What changed? He said three things ~ perspective, vision, and choices. Especially pertinent as I look at my list for 2015 are these words about his dreams and vision for the future: “It’s coming as long as I keep moving forward … in baby steps.”

This man, who has no legs, speaks these words as he inches across a table to reach a telephone (which he flicks off the cradle and catches on his shoulder). I read that Nick keeps a pair of shoes in his closet because he believes in miracles!

Well, if this young man with no arms, no legs, can strut around on stage, encourage thousands to persevere in their dreams and reach their fullest potential, and hope for his miracle ~~ then I can buck up and, with a smile and good cheer, create a new list of goals that help build a foundation under my castle-in-the-air (or Scotland) dreams.

The focus word that God gave me for 2015 is CHOICE.  With gratitude I’m choosing to look beyond my tattered list, unmet goals, and creased dreams and keep moving forward. What’s hobbling you as you step into 2016?

Perhaps this quote will nudge us both to keep moving:

Success will never be a big step in the future, success is a small step taken just now.  ~Jonatan Mårtensson

See more about Nick Vujicic at Life Without Limbs or hear him speak by video here.