Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bad Times--the Era of the Dust Bowl

Last week I watched the PBS special on The Dust Bowl, a time in U.S. history during the 1930's when people in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and that area suffered greatly. It was on for two nights and I was intrigued. I was born in 1935 and remember seeing my relatives dressed like the people in those pictures. I remember stories my parents and grandparents told about hard times. My dad's parents lived in a tent like many people did then, even though they lived in the Dallas area. Before I was born, my dad worked for $1.00 a day to earn money to pay the doctor for my delivery. He and his family were migrant workers, and they knew hard times all their lives. So these pictures captivated me.

The announcer told about a woman who had written a book about her own experiences during that time, so I ordered the book and read it. Sonora Babb, the author, wrote with astuteness about that era. I am sure she incorporated many things she had seen and experienced to write this "fiction" book. It broke my heart to read about the hardships of these people. This book is similar to "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. In fact, mention was made of his book in the PBS series. Babb audaciously wrote to a New York publishing house and sent them three chapters of her book, but before she could get there and sign a contract to finish the book, Steinbeck's book pre-empted hers. Sixty years later, her book was published by University of Oklahoma Press.

I remember seeing my paternal grandmother with expressions like those of people in pictures from that era. When I was a little girl, she lived in a small house, but she was still a poor woman. She had eleven children and five of them died at birth or shortly after.

I saw my grandmother caring for grandchildren like this. And I saw the futility and barrenness on my grandfather's face, knowing he could not make enough money to care for all those children. He was a barber until his eyes became too bad for him to see, then he became a migrant worker.

My dad tells about wanting to go to school, but he had to help pick cotton and other crops to help the family make enough money to buy food and pay "the man" who owned the places where they lived. The sadness of the Great Depression was more than anyone should have had to bear.

  In the book by Babb, I read about hunger. Little children crying, mothers making "pepper tea" which was water with salt and pepper and nothing else, men and women who fainted from hunger, but the worst thing was seeing the people lose their dignity. Many of them packed up and left the dusty country, and moved to California. But once there, they found the same indignity, poverty, and hunger. Children were ostracized and called "Okies" at school, while their parents worked as migrant workers for seventy-five cents a day.

In the book, Babb tells about the beginnings of the unions. People wanted the dignity of work. They wanted to provide for their families, but the enormity of the situation caused them to begin to accept relief. There just wasn't any work for them.

If you like to read about real events, and yet read a book that is like a novel, you would like this one. "Whose Names are Unknown" chronicles a period in our history that I hope will never be repeated. The book is worth reading because of the history, and because you will learn about the resourcefulness of people.

Pictures were taken from the internet by searching "Dust Bowl Pictures."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Computer-Savvy Guy

An interesting thing happened at our house one day last week. My husband, whose main activity on the computer is Solitaire and reading e-mail, was at the computer. He had tired of Solitaire and was just looking at the pictures that I use as a screensaver. Many pictures of family members through the years make for a pleasant pastime and both of us take advantage from time to time as we remember those old pictures we see scrolling across the screen.

He saw our son's name on the page with all the icons. He had never seen that before, so he clicked on it, and suddenly Steve's face appeared in full view on the screen.

"Hello, mom," Steve said. He assumed it was me because I'm the one who does most of the computer stuff around here.

"This ain't mom!" my husband said. But he still didn't know what was happening.

"I can't see you," Steve said.

"Well, I can see you. What is this?" my husband asked.

"You're on Skype," Steve informed him.

"What's that?" dad replied.

"It's a telephone thing on the web. We can talk, but first I need to see something besides the ceiling. Is there a little round thing on top of your computer screen?"

My husband looked around, found it, and said, "Yes."

"Turn it until you can see me," Steve told him.

Charlie turned it and Steve said, "Now I can almost see you! Turn it a little more." After some adjustment, they were able to see each other and talk.

My husband came to me and said, "I just Skyped with Steve on the computer." He didn't know what he had done and he doesn't know how to do it again, but he felt capable and computer-savvy because he had Skyped with our son in Germany and he didn't even need my help to do it!

(Here is a picture of my husband with his brothers. He is in the back row, with the tan shirt.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Unexpected Family Member

The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell was a book with a twist that kept me reading, wanting to find out what happened next.

The main character, Susanne Carson, was sitting in her living room waiting for her husband David to pick her up for a birthday dinner, when she heard a knock on the door. Her children were with their grandmother, and she was excited about a night alone with her husband. But on her doorstep stood a bedraggled girl, about 13 years old, who said that Susanne's husband was her father.

Susanne discovered that the girl's mother had died and she had been living with an uncle, who drove her to the Carson's house and dropped her off without waiting to find out how she would be accepted.

The plot thickened as Susanne discovered that her husband had an affair before their marriage, and this child was truly his.

Susanne's daughter, Megan, her mother, and David's father all welcomed the girl, but Susanne found acceptance hard to find. The turmoil she went through as she vacillated between forgiving her husband or leaving him, and whether she could accept another daughter into her family was an evaluation of her Christian faith. The book goes to great depths to deal with Susanne's feelings and decisions.

This story shows how people might react when they discover their spouse has made mistakes before marriage, and the strength that one needs when a spouse is blindsided by a situation such as this. This is a different sort of Christian fiction with a twist at the end, when the uncle and his live-in girlfriend reappeared.
The story proves that sometimes we have unexpected twists and bends in the road of life, and we have to make decisions that will change everything that we think is safe and comfortable in order to come to grips with it. 

I won't give away the ending, but I think if you decide to read this book, you will be reading long past your bedtime.

The author, Miralee Ferrel, wrote this debut novel in 2007, then she wrote a sequel focusing on a woman you meet in the book. She then did some historial fiction. This is an author you might like to keep an eye on in the future.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just Stay in the Race

Mary Hollingsworth tells a story about the noted director of biblical epics, Cecil B. DeMille. When they began working on the movie Ben Hur, DeMille talked to Charlton Heston—the star of the movie—about the all-important chariot race at the end. He decided Heston should actually learn to drive the chariot himself, rather than just using a stunt double.

Heston agreed to take chariot-driving lessons to make the movie as authentic as possible. Learning to drive a chariot with horses four abreast, however, was no small matter.

After extensive work and days of practice, Heston returned to the movie set and reported to DeMille. "I think I can drive the chariot all right, Cecil," said Heston, "but I'm not at all sure I can actually win the race."

Smiling slightly, DeMille said, "Heston, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win."

Those are the words of God to everyone through a time of tumultuous change: "John, Mary, Heather, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win." Look for God's hand. If you cannot see it in the event itself, look for it in the aftermath when you are putting your life back together. I promise you, God's hand will be there. (King Duncan, Collected Sermons,

 I borrowed this story from Donna Goodrich's blog today (with her permission) because it really spoke to me. How many times have I thought I just couldn't keep up, I couldn't stay in the race? I'm sure every woman had has these feelings. Can you remember a time like that?

Back in our early days in the ministry, when the money was short and the bills kept coming in, and I kept having babies while my husband tried to finish seminary, it was hard for me to stay in the race. I even dropped out for awhile when my emotional depression took me out.

But God is good. He picked me up and kept me on the path. Today I count my blessings and thank Him for His goodness.

Psalm 40:5 reminds me, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for me no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."

Thank you, Lord.

In my book "A Heritage of Faith," one of the chapters deals with the nervous breakdown that I had when I was a young mother, and how God brought me out of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Out of a Far Country and The Edge of Grace

This unique book, Out of a Far Country, shows the redeeming love of God as He came to two individuals. The sub-ttles are "A Gay Son's Journey to God", and "A Broken Mother's Search for Hope." It was written by both Christopher and Angela Yuan.
Angela, the mother, was an Atheist and her husband had a nominal Catholic background, so they raised their boys outside the church. Their marriage was in trouble and their family was falling apart when Angela sought to end her life. When God intervened, she came to know Him personally. After leading her husband to Jesus, both of them prayed earnestly for their son, Christopher.

Christopher was a gay man, a drug user and seller, who had no time for God. Angela prayed that God would do whatever was necessary to bring her son into a relationship with Him. Christopher was at his lowest when the police raided his apartment, found drugs, and he was arrested and imprisoned.

When man is at his lowest, he has nowhere to look but up. And this is where Christopher found himself. A Bible happened to be in his cell and he began to read. Then he began to understand what his mother had been saying to him. He came to realize that his imprisonment led to his salvation and to ridding his body from the drugs that were so prominent in his life. His conversion and life change were dramatic, as God led him out of the mess of his life.

Not all gay men and women have such an outstanding conversion and life change as Christopher Yuan did. This book was dramatic and inspiring. I recommend it to people who want to see the drastic changes God can make when a person yields his or her life to Him. I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah for my honest review on Blogging for Books.

Another book dealing with this subject was one I downloaded recently on my Kindle--The Edge of Grace. It is about Caryn and David, a brother and sister who grew up in a close family. Their parents had died, Caryn had lost her husband, and the two of them, plus Caryn's little son, were all that was left of their family.

When David told Caryn that he was gay, she was devastated. She withdrew from him and her son missed his uncle very much. Then when Caryn discovered David was living with another man, she tried to keep other people from finding out about it.

The only thing I have against the book is that Caryn agonizes with her thoughts and it gets pretty wordy. However, I wanted to find out what happened, so I continued reading. Of course, they went through some hard times getting there, which makes the book worthwhile. But grace won out as Caryn came to accept her brother for who he was.

If such a situation comes to you and your family, you will need help in dealing with it and sorting out your feelings. I would recommend both these books to help in that regard. Many times, with such heavy burdens in our lives, all we have is God's wonderful grace to lead us through to understanding.

Roanoke, the Lost Colony, by Angela Hunt

We've all heard about the Pilgrims coming to America on their three ships and landing at Plymouth Rock. I learned about it many years ago in elementary school and taught it to my students as a teacher. But I don't remember hearing about the settlement at Roanoke, Virginia, by another group of English men and women during the late 1500's.

This ocean crossing was just as difficult as that of the Pilgrims. Perhaps it was even more difficult because of the ship captain, who was more interested in looting other ships for gain than taking care of the people who traveled on the boat. The protaganist, Jocelyn, and her pregnant cousin, Eleanor, slept on filthy floors with the women for more than forty days, while the men were in separate, but equally as bad quarters. Food rotted and water was almost non-existent by the time the group arrived in the new land.

This was a true story, crafted by Ms. Hunt to read like a novel. The personalities of the characters are carefully drawn and they come alive to the reader. As the people deal with the natives and with each other in their closely knit community, we can be thankful that ones such as these came to begin our wonderful nation.

This small community lived together with the Indians for about twenty years until another tribe, one that was more war-like, came into the picture.

These people came to America to make a new start and to worship God as they pleased, but they did not dream what difficulties they would have. John White, one of the leaders of the group, traveled back to England to get help for them, but he was thwarted at every turn by the Queen, who had lost interest in the group.

John White never made it back to his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter in America. However, his papers and writings provided much of the research for this book.  I have read other books by Angela Hunt that were just as carefully documented as was this one. She does excellent research to make the books true to the situation, whether they are historical or biblical. Look on and you will see many other books about Roanoke. Be sure to select the one by Angela Hunt for this story.

If you are interested in historical Christian fiction, you will enjoy this book. I downloaded it to my Kindle for free.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The One Day Way by Chantel Hobbs

      If you are anything like me, and have dieted several times in your lifetime, only to gain the weight back and have all that to do over, you will enjoy reading a new book by Chantel Hobbs. She lost two hundred pounds by doing it one day at a time.

      Chantel offers many tips on how to lose weight and keep it off by focusing on food, faith, and fitness. She not only shows you how to lose weight, but how to hold on to the new life you were designed to live. In her book, she teaches you how to change the way you think, which leads to new actions.

      Beginning abou mid-way through the book, you will find meal plans of 1400 to 1600 calories a day.  Her book also contains stories from many people who have lost weight, with before and after pictures.

      This book explains fasting and how that can help you lose weight while you are focusing on God. You will also find a chapter that tells about tools for losing weight: attitude, exercise, strength training, and results. A strength-training program of exercise is illustrated with easy-to-follow pictures.

      This very positive book can be the new beginning we are all looking for.

      This book was provided to me free from Multnomah for my honest review.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Barn Again Gang

Last week my husband and I attended a meeting where a group was scheduled to sing. I had heard the group before and knew they were good, so I told many people in my acquaintance. When we arrived, almost all the seats were taken, but we found two together and began visiting with those around us, waiting for the program.

After a nice meal, the Barn-Again Gang took their places. As I remembered, there were three people in the group, two men and a woman. Brenda played bass while her husband, Gene strummed his acoustic guitar. Their friend, Steve, sang harmony and his wife, Debbie, took care of the sound equipment.


As the trio sang, I was not disappointed. The close harmony of the three singers took my breath away and brought some tears to my eyes. They sang old hymns, mostly. Their website states that they sing Southern/Country Gospel.

Besides the uplifting music, I was touched by Brenda's testimony.

Brenda wanted to share with us how much God truly cares for us and the lengths He goes to speak to us personally to give us strength and courage, so we can fight the battles we face. She stated that early one morning in 2006, while standing at her kitchen window praying, she cried out to God in desperation because of a heavy burden. She looked out the window and saw a helium balloon laying in the grass. She went out to see the balloon and found a card attached to it from a little girl in Vacation Bible School in another state.

The balloon had traveled 250 miles to Brenda's home in less than 24 hours, and on the card attached to the balloon, she read these words: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go, (Joshua 1:9). Brenda held the card close to her heart and looked to heaven, thanking God for his promise that day, little knowing just how much that word from God would continue to hold her up.

The following year, 2007, Brenda was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would read the card and trust God as she went through surgery and treatment. By 2009, the cancer had metastasized. She knew that meant it was terminal, yet, still, she held on to God's promise. She read her Bible daily and trusted God.

Brenda, her husband, and their friends have been singing for several years. They continued to sing. (The first time I heard them sing, Brenda had very little hair on her head because of her cancer treatments. Last week I noticed she had a nice cap of curly hair.) They continue to praise God with their music and are a great testimony to His promises. Brenda still carries that card with her to this day. As she continues to fight this battle with cancer, they covet the gift of every prayer offered on their behalf.

The group lives in House Springs, in Jefferson County, Missouri. If you get a chance to hear them, you will be blessed. Check out their website to see the CD's that are available for purchase, or to invite them to sing at your church.

                                                       THE BARN AGAIN GANG
                                                               Steve, Brenda, Gene

                          CD's available, among others. Check the website