Saturday, July 4, 2015

Selah Saturday: A God of Second Chances


 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)

Several years ago I worked with a man whose wedding ring was engraved with the word mulligan because he and his wife had remarried after divorcing many years before. Not being a golfer, I was unfamiliar with the term.

According to Wikipedia, “a mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best-known meaning is in golf whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke (though this is against the formal rules of golf). The term has also been applied to other sports and games, and to other fields generally. The origin of the term is unclear.”

In April of this year, twenty-one year old Jordan Spieth took first place in the U.S. Masters tournament, one of four major championships in professional golf. The young Mr. Spieth set several records on his way to winning the tournament. You can be sure that nowhere during the event was he allowed a mulligan.

Fortunately for us, God is a God of second chances, a God who regularly provides His people with a mulligan, a “do over,” if you will. For example, Rahab was a prostitute, yet is part of our Lord’s lineage. Or consider Paul who persecuted Christians, yet became a great missionary. Then there was the prophet Elijah who fled in fear and asked God to let him die. But God sent an angel to refresh Elijah before telling him to anoint Hazael king over Aram.

Do you sometimes wish there was a rewind button in your life? Have you recently said or done something you instantly regretted? Or perhaps you are arguing with God about a task he would have you do. It’s not too late for a mulligan.  Your second chance may be less dramatic than that of these Bible characters, but it is no less miraculous. And it’s available. You just have to ask.

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Three Ways WWII Impacted Women

World War II impacted men, women and children in untold number of ways. When the U.S. entered the war after Pearl Harbor, life as folks knew it was over. One of the many ways it changed women’s lives was to redefine their roles in the workplace.

During World War I, the “war to end all wars,” women took positions vacated by men serving in combat. When the conflict was over they returned to their homes and readjusted to lives as wives and mothers. If statistics and reports are to be believed, they were happy to do so.

Less than twenty-five years later, women again took jobs available because of departing service men. However, this time many of the women fought for the opportunity to keep their jobs when the hostilities ceased and the men came home. They also fought for the opportunity to join unions and receive equal pay for equal work.

Another way the war changed women’s lives was through education. Prior to the war, hosts of
women attended college and earned degrees, but there was limited access to jobs in which they could apply the degree. Thanks to WWII, employees (read men) with higher education were overseas fighting. Therefore, employers turned to degreed women to fill their needs. They were pleasantly surprised to discover the women were more than qualified to get the job done.

The third way the war changed women’s lives was the chance to join the military and military auxiliary services. Women were generally not allowed in combat situations, but some jobs took them close to the front, such as the Army and Navy medical corps.

I have always had a career. Even before I left college with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I knew I wanted a job that would challenge and excite me, a job for which I would be paid an equitable salary. I don’t think I would have had that if it weren’t for those women who went before me to pave the way.

Is there a special woman in your life who paved the way for you?




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Traveling Tuesdays: The German Occupation of British Soil


Did you know that the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey were occupied by the Germans during WWII? Between June 1940 and VE Day, more than 40,000 German troops were in residence of these two British territories. (The island of Alderney had been vacated days before the arrival of the Germans.)

Shortly after the Allied defeat in France, England decided to forego a military presence on the islands because of their lack of strategic importance. With the exception of propaganda purposes the Germans didn’t need them either. It was a morale booster for Germany to boast the occupation of British land.

Prior to the invasion, the British government made boats available to the residents of the islands in order to evacuate those who wished to leave. Over forty percent of the population of Guernsey took advantage of the opportunity vacate, however, less than fifteen percent of the residents of Jersey evacuated.

There are many reports of incidents of resistance against the Germans on both islands. After radios were confiscated in 1942, Frank Falla created a clandestine newspaper, an act for which he was deported to a prison in Frankfort. Officials of the Parish of Saint Helier provided ration cards and identity cards for fugitives. A study by Dr Gilly Carr has found examples of small radio sets that were concealed in books, biscuit tins and even light switches. Other resistance was symbolic such as the woman who stitched a dedication to George "V" (for victory) into her tablecloth, her German occupiers apparently oblivious to the fact that George VI was on the throne at the time.

There were just as many stories of collaboration with the Germans. Some of the prisoners joined the British Freikorp (a division of the Waffen SS formed by POWs), and there were dozens of babies born of relationships between island women and German troops. According to papers released in 1992, there is also evidence proving that individuals in the government collaborated with their captors.

Seventy five years later, it’s easy to cast aspersions on people and the decisions they made during a situation about which we know very little. I’d like to believe I would have resisted, or at the very least simply minded my own business and live day to day. Would I have collaborated if it meant saving the lives of friends and family? Hard to say.

What would you have done?

 

 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Forensic Friday: Can You Smell That?


Dogs and humans are different. You probably already knew that. But did you realize just how different we are? Think about it. Humans primarily use sight as the way we process the world around us. Dogs, on the other hand, use their sense of smell to interpret their experiences.

Do you own a dog? What happens when you come home? My Boston Terrier, Ben, immediately jump off the couch and sniffs my pants and my shoes. If I bend down to greet him, he sniffs my blouse, face and any other area he can reach. If he could talk, he’d tell me exactly what I had been doing all day.

How is that possible? Well, a human has about five million scent glands as compared to a dog who has anywhere from 125 to 300 million scent glands. Therefore, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than our own. According to James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, "If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well." I don’t know about you, but that is mind-boggling to me.

According to searchandrescueassist.org, dogs have been doing search and rescue for three hundred years. It all began with the St. Bernards of the Monks of the Hospice in the Swiss Alps. The dogs were trained to locate travelers who had become stranded or lost in winter storms while crossing the passes between Switzerland and Italy.

Search and rescue dogs can be broken into two categories: air-scenting dogs and trailing (or tracking) dogs. Air-scenting dogs primarily use airborne human scent to home in on subjects, whereas trailing dogs rely on scent of the specific subject. Specific applications for search and rescue dogs include wilderness, disaster, avalanche, drowning, and cadaver recovery. Cadaver dogs can locate entire bodies (including those buried or submerged), decomposed bodies, body fragments (including blood, tissues, hair, and bones), or skeletal remains; the capability of the dog is dependent upon its training.

In the United States a volunteer civilian organization, Dogs for Defense, helped convince the military to use dogs by training sentry dogs for the military to try out. In 1942 the Army authorized DFD to train 200 sentry dogs. Later the military took over the training, and DFD was appointed the sole procurement agency for the Armed Forces. Dogs were trained as sentry dogs, message carriers, sled dogs in the Arctic, and scout dogs.

Not surprising that dogs are referred to as Man’s Best Friend!

Got a favorite dog story to share? I’d love to hear it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wartime Apple Cake

A single anachronism in a historical novel can draw a reader out of the story and impact the credibility of the writer. Therefore, to ensure my books are accurate, I conduct a tremendous amount of research. I am fortunate that a World War II museum, the Wright Museum, is located in the town where I live. I have access to genuine artifacts and a curator who has answered many questions through the years.

During a recent research junket about the availability and rationing of food during WWII, I stumbled on a website called www.1940sexperiment.wordpress.com. The author of the site is using recipes from the war to help her lose weight. I wasn’t interested in the dieting part of her site, but I was fascinated with her use of wartime recipes.

I’m not much of a cook, but I love to bake. Probably because that’s what I love to eat! I was intrigued by the idea of doing hands-on research by using a wartime recipe and baking without or with a limited amount of certain items that we take for granted in the 21st century, such as eggs, sugar, and milk.

In possession of a bag of apples I needed to use before they spoiled, I wandered the internet until I found a recipe that used ingredients I already had in the house. The recipe, originally from the 1943 Victory Cookbook, came from a blog authored by a staff member of the National D-day Museum (www.ddaymemorial.blogspot.com) in Bedford, VA: “Spicy Apple Coffee Cake.”

I was rather skeptical of how good the cake would be when the recipe created a dough rather than a batter, and an ungreased cake pan was called for. (I had visions of hacking the cake out of the pan – didn’t happen). The end result was a huge success. The cake was deliciously sweet despite the reduced amount of sugar in it and had a texture more bread-like than cake-like. I’ve already had requests to make it again!

Here is the recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening

2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
2 to 3 apples (your favorite type)

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter

½ cup nippy cheese (I didn’t use and never missed it)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and set aside.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Cut in shortening (and cheese, if using it). Add milk to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead for about 30 seconds. Pat the dough into an ungreased 9-inch cake pan. Pare and core the apples. Slice them into 1/4” slices. Arrange apples in petal design on top of dough. Sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture and dot with butter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Start a Mystery (Or any other genre) Book Club


image: clipartbest.com
I’m a voracious reader. There are always at least a half dozen books on my night stand or in my office waiting to be read. How about you? Are you constantly on the lookout for the next book you want to read? Or do you find yourself sharing thoughts at church socials or over the water cooler at work about the latest book you read?

If so, you’re probably a great candidate for a book club. But what if there isn’t a club nearby? Guess what? You can start one yourself.

Really.

It’s not hard. Here’s what I suggest:

Determine the logistics of the meetings: how often will you want to meet, time, location, etc.
 
Determine the style of the club. Will it be scholarly/academic or social/bonding? Folks will want to know this up front.
 
Brainstorm a list of friends and family who might be a good fit for the club. BUT don’t confine yourself to only people you know. Post a sign at your local library or bookstore, or advertise in the newspaper. Strangers quickly become friends over a shared interest in books.
 
At your first meeting, decide on the title selection policy, and it can be as easy as a majority rules vote. Lay other ground rules as well. Trust me. It’s best to handle them before the club begins.
 
Select a facilitator for each book. Just because you started the club, doesn’t mean you have to lead
every discussion.
 
Work with your local reference librarian on how to find author information and reviews about the book. This will help move the discussion along.
 
Consider keeping a group journal. It can be as simple as a list of books selections or as involved as themes and plot points discussed.
image: clipartbest.com
All groups have a life cycle. Your book club may function for years. Even better, a sub group may form. Or you may discover that after a half dozen books, you’re ready to call it quits. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. When it stops being fun, it’s time to move along.

Got a success story about your book club? I’d love to hear it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Selah Saturday: Come as You Are


“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

My husband and I recently went to England on vacation where Spring has already arrived. In addition to visiting many of the famous buildings in London such as Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, and the Tower of London, we had a chance to enjoy Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.

Both parks are beautifully landscaped and filled with numerous gardens, ponds and statutes. Foliage was coming on the perennials, and splashes of color were provided by the crocuses, daffodils, snapdragons, tulips, and primroses. Swans, ducks, gulls, herons, geese and cormorants played and fed in the water while, jays, robins, thrushes, and finches flitted among the trees.

Along the shore, the pigeons vied for attention. Not from us, but from each other. The male pigeons were quite a sight. If the female pigeons they wanted to impress weren’t looking at them, they would either peck at her back so she’d turn around, or they’d take flight then land in front of her. Once the male pigeon had his potential wife’s attention, he would puff up his neck and sing to her all while performing an intricate dance. Usually she turned away and continued searching for food, so the poor, male pigeon would have to start the ritual all over again.

Watching the pigeons got me thinking about what we as Christians often do in our relationship with God. We think we have to look a certain way or perform all sorts of fancy moves to get his attention and make him love us. The good news is that God loves us no matter what we do, and often times in spite of what we do. It’s not about the number of committees on which we serve or how many people we bring into the Kingdom, although those are both worthwhile pursuits. It’s about approaching God as we are, with child-like faith and gratitude that we can rest in his arms. In the days ahead, try not to let busy-ness and preconceived expectations prevent you from experiencing sweet fellowship with your heavenly Father. And next time you see a pigeon, remember God loves you just as you are.