“There is in God, some say…”

Tonight the moon rose, full and fat and orange. It lingered on the horizon long enough for me to put on shoes and trudge down the dark driveway, accompanied by my faithful, aging black Labrador and youthful orange cat. We didn’t go far. I stood and watched, jacket pulled tight against the cool evening breeze. Watched that big fat moon. Wondered and remembered other nights during my six decades when I stood beneath the great dark sky and watched the moon. I had no camera. Others see such stupendous things and have the camera ready and five minutes later, the image appears on Facebook. I always appreciate those photos…but rarely take them myself.
For my part, I wanted to write a poem, or sing a song, or dance a dance, but I did none of those things. I just stood and watched, feeling the fullness welling up in me. And remembered.
Here is a poem–two of them, in fact. But I didn’t write them. I only copy them now because these are the words that kept coming back to me while I watched the moon. Henry Vaughan, 17th century Welsh poet, as quoted in Madeleine L’Engle’s “Ring of Endless Light.” Enjoy–
“I saw Eternity the other night, Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright.
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world, And all her train were hurled…”
“There is in God, some say, A deep but dazzling darkness: as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they see not all clear.
O for that Night, where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim.”

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“Because He Lives–“

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When it comes right down to it, the whole of Christianity rests on one central fact–the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As good as the man Jesus was–as kind, as loving–if, after he suffered a martyr’s death, he stayed in the grave…then he would be no better, no different, than any other good man. It would be sad–it is always sad when a good person dies–but that would have been that. His early followers–those who forsook him and ran when he was arrested, some, even denying that they’d known him–would eventually have gone back to their old lives, as indeed they tried to do (see John 21). They would have lived the rest of their lives never forgetting the man from Galilee and the hope he’d engendered, but also disappointed and bitter, wondering how they could have been so deceived.
Then came Sunday…and the empty tomb, and the words of the angel “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here–He has risen!” And everything changed.
I’ve always loved Christmas, but it is Easter that changed the world. The resurrection was the proof that everything Christ claimed about himself was true. He really was the perfect Lamb of God, who took upon himself the sin of the world. He died, that we might live. Because “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15).
It’s all about Easter…

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My friend Valerie went in to have a tooth pulled a few weeks ago. She ended up experiencing what’s called “dry socket,” and it infected. We went to see a local church’s “Singing Christmas Tree,” and she told me that ten days of antibiotics hadn’t worked. She said she’d never had trouble with her sinuses before, but she was feeling terrible pressure and pain all through her sinuses. I told her to tell the dentist she needed a different antibiotic. She said she would.
That was the last I heard from her until I got a message from a mutual friend saying Valerie was in a coma in the hospital. She’d been found comatose on her floor at home and rushed to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed her brain had ‘shifted.’ Emergency neurosurgery was performed. The diagnosis? A ‘brain infection.’
That was two weeks ago. She has since come out of the coma, but is still in the hospital and had to have another surgery on her brain, because the infection is the kind that comes back….
At the beginning, the doctors were not optimistic. They told the family to contact her friends and other relatives. Now, they believe she will survive, but whether she’ll ever be ‘her old self,’ remains in doubt. The family doesn’t know what to do with her when she’s discharged; they’re talking nursing home.
Valerie is 56. She shouldn’t be going to a nursing home. No one at 56 should be going to a nursing home. How did this happen?
I want my friend back. I want to hear her laugh and talk and share pictures of her grandchildren.
This is hard. My friend had a tooth pulled, which led to a brain infection, which she may never totally recover from.
Jesus said “In the world, you’ll have tribulation (trouble), but be of good cheer–I have overcome the world.” I believe that. Valerie believes it. I know that, ultimately, in God’s providence, all will be well.
But for now–it’s still hard.SnowyRoad_08

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Reporting Live from Martin, Slovakia

Here I sit in a small dormitory room 5000 miles from home. How did I get here and what’s it all about, you may ask. The how-I-got-here question is easily answered: Delta Airlines. North  to Canada, east to the North Atlantic, across the southern tip of Greenland, then south to Amsterdam. A 2-hour hop on KLM to Budapest, then 4 hours by bus to Martin. The WHY of it is even less complicated. A door opened and it seemed the right thing to go through it.

Doors that open and lead to adventure is a recurring literary theme, and vitally important in two of my favorite books. In one story, there is a great need to hide and an old wardrobe, with its door opened just a crack, beckons. In the other, an uncle tells his nephew “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

This is the second time I’ve let myself be swept off to this seemingly insignificant country in central Europe. I’m with a church group and we’re tasked with teaching conversational English to whomever wants to learn it. 25 years past communism, Slovakia is eager to find its place in the world market and English is seen as a necessary step. Well, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk. In English, even. A perfect fit, then.

But English is only the beginning of the story, I think. I just returned from an evening spent looking out over rolling green hills that could well have been part of a Narnian or Middle Earth landscape. I ate and drank with people–some of whom I’d just met–who are already good friends. Earlier in the evening, we had a church service in a tiny, circular building from the 13th-century where the music was so pure and the acoustics so  perfect, all I could do was weep.

When I came to Slovakia two years ago, I thought it was so that I could be of help to others. I learned then and I’m sensing again this time that these visits may be even more about me than about what I can do for others. Yes, it’s a dangerous business, but I don’t want to keep my feet, anymore. I have gone through the door and stepped out onto the road, because, I’m pretty sure, there’s something I need here in Slovakia.




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What Are You Reading?

We’ve been talking about reading and the books we’ve loved, lately. So, what about now? What’s everyone been reading lately? Why those books? What have you loved most? Not everything you’ve read, mind you. Just, say, in the last couple months?

For me, it’s been “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett. Sir Terry (knighted for his ‘contribution to literature’) is an insanely imaginative, irreverent chap who never fails to entertain and yet make you consider your most strongly-held beliefs. I’ve only recently discovered him and hope to make up for lost time by reading everything by him I can get a hold of. “Dodger” is about a character who lives in London’s seemy side during the reign of Queen Victoria. He is a ‘tosher;’ making his living by searching the sewers for anything and everything of value he might find. In Dodger’s adventures, he rescues a damsel in distress, becomes friends with a newspaper writer called Charley Dickens, and has his hair cut by a barber named Sweeny Todd. And the story goes on. Highly recommended.

I continue to read the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. Brother Cadfael is a 12th-century Benedictine monk who spent his early years as a Crusader. Now he minds the herb garden at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, and helps solve crime. A sort of medieval CSI, if you will. Lots of detail about life during that time by a historian who really knew her stuff. And Brother Cadfael is such an endearing character; it’s great how bits of his notorious past find their way into his current placid life in the abbey.

I also recently read a YA book called “Seraphina,” by Rachel Hartman. A world in which dragons and humans (attempt to) peacefully co-exist. I didn’t think I’d like it much, but I did. Enough so that I’ve been checking to see if Ms. Hartman has anything else out (she doesn’t), but I’ll keep my eyes open. Seraphina herself was a strong character, doing her best to hide secrets that could cost her life, if discovered. And of course, she falls in love with a prince, while she was at it (which is always a plus in my view!).

And I also got through “The Secret Garden.” What a sweet story. I had such fun learning Yorkshire (speech).  And I’ll never look at robins or gardens the same again, or forget Mary or Dickon or Colin. Or the wisdom shared about the power of thoughts. They’re “as powerful as electric batteries,” the author said. Change your thoughts, change your life. Once again, a children’s classic that oozes with truth and is a lot more entertaining than any self-help book. Oh, the power of fiction!

So now it’s your turn. What are you reading? Why?

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What Your Reading Says About You

Recently, I listened to a CD on which a literary agent spoke about how writers discover their core story, the thing that fires their passion, the thing they care most about. The thing they want, somehow, to communicate to others.

She had some fascinating theories. The agent told her listeners to go back to the earliest book they could remember, the one they begged their parents to read aloud…over and over and over. Then, to think about what it was about that book they so liked. She used her own example of loving the book “Robin Hood,” and laughingly wondered if her role now, as an agent, was to speak up for  the “poor” starving author before the “big, bad” publishers. She also had her listeners answer several questions about books they’d read: Which book do you wish you could read again…for the first time? Which book created a world you wish you could live in? Which book is on your nightstand right now? Which book are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

I decided to make lists of all the books I’ve loved over the years and then to look for the common denominator.  Sadly, I don’t remember my parents reading anything to me. As soon as I could read for myself, it was all the horse stories the school library held, but it wasn’t a horse story that made the biggest impact on Dawn as a child. It was a dog story, but not really. Kinda like “Moby Dick” being a story about a whale…Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” is only on-the-surface about a dog. When I discovered that book, my eyes were opened to a world so completely outside of myself that I would never be the same. Coldness and cruelty, savagery and survival, darkness and death. And at the end, a larger-than-life story emerges, a story that becomes a legend that haunts the native tribes of the north (and a 12-year-old girl in Vancouver) for generations.

“The Call of the Wild” was just the first. There were all the horse books, then “Little Women” and Alcott’s other lovely girl tales. (I cried when Beth died, and I cried when Ginger, in “Black Beauty” died. but, my theory is, if it’s not worth crying over, what’s the point of reading it??) Later it would be Narnia and Middle Earth, A Wrinkle in Time and Harry Potter, Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. And so many others.

So what has my reading taught me about me? That I’m always looking for that ‘something more,’ sacrifice, nobility, and redemption. If there isn’t actually magic in a story, I want the hint of it, that ‘larger-than-life’ something that stays in my heart long after I put the book down. A good number of the books that make my list are supposedly for children or teens. All of them have amazing, memorable characters and most all of them exist in a story-world I’ve never experienced.

So all I need to do is create an incredible story world, peopled by characters of strength and valor, who defeat evil against great odds, and save the world. That’s all…

What about you? What books do YOU love? What books changed your life? In what way? Tell us about them–we really want to know!

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Wish I could find a good book to live in (and write!)

I am a writer. Most people who know me, know this about me. Shortly after being exposed to the glories of the printed word, I understood that someONE, some person, out there somewhere in the world, sat down with pen in hand, and out of the fullness of that person’s imagination, they created a world. And put people (or animals) into that world. And let things happen to them. And it was amazing. The first book I stayed up all night long reading was “Man O’War” by Walter Farley (of the Black Stallion series fame). I was 10. I had school the next day. But I couldn’t stop. Decades later, spouse and teenage children would get up at 3:30 in the a.m., head for the ‘water closet’ and stop dead in their tracks when they saw me, ensconced on the couch, nose in my book, eyes (almost) being held up with tooth picks. They’d try reasoning with me: You’ve got to get up in the morning. You’ll be tired. Can’t you just quit? To which I’d always answer–oh, just a minute–I’m almost done. Just gotta finish another chapter…and then the chapter after that. Finally, they just gave up. They’d see me; I’d give ’em my best ‘mom’s big smile–not to worry! And they’d just shake their heads and go about their business. There was no hope.

And they were right. For a true bibliophile, there pretty much is no hope to breaking the…addiction. I choose that word carefully, just so you know. Remember that song back in the ’60s, 70’s maybe. Kinda dreary, lilting, one of those girl bands, I think. Ive found her Melanie Safka; don’t know if she ever did anything else again, but this one was unforgettable. “Look what they done to my song, Mom, look what they’ve done to my song…” It was very sad, but being a feeling-heavy teen, I was pulled in. The second verse was the best “Wish I could find a good book to live in! Which I could find a good book. If I could find a real good book, I’d never have to come out and look at….what they’ve done to my song.”

Okay, pretty smarmy, but to a teenager fascinated with the writing life, it was just the right mix of maudlin  melodrama and heroic quest. And I still remember it. I’ve never had a song that I lost, but I’ve had books I wanted to live in. Haven’t we all? Come on? Narnia? Middle Earth, Wonderland, Dune, Lilliput. Or worlds in books where Vampires are vegetarians and don’t drink human blood. but are beautiful beyond human imagination (“Looking like Zeus’s younger and better-looking brother!”), and who love for eternity. Yes, I’ve given myself away here, but I don’t care. The true power of a book is its ability to take you to new places, so you can become the hero/oine who will fight the giants, slay the orcs, climb the mountains. Ride the fastest horse that ever ran on an American track.

That’s the book I want to write. And you know what? It’s a lot harder than those who’ve gone before us make it look, but by golly, I’m not quitting! I’m gonna write a good book and people are gonna want to live there! The RainCountryWriter girl is Back!

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