The Lady’s Mine

Summer is the time most of us look forward to tucking a few good fiction books into our beach bag or suitcase to enjoy while relaxing for a bit whether at home or a destination. As the economy gets more difficult to navigate, a book can take us on an adventure that costs little (even less if we borrow the book from the library or get it digitally online).

If you’re a fiction lover, you likely have Francine Rivers as an author you know that will invite you into a good story and her latest book, The Lady’s Mine, is no exception. The setting of the story is California in 1875 when men from farther east were lured to pack their things and head West to look for gold. Few had any idea of what they would find or what they would experience in the unruly (often unsafe) mining towns that sprang up.

The Lady’s Mine introduces you to a young woman from Boston, Kathryn Walsh, whose stepfather, and mother want to be rid of her. When news reaches them that Kathryn has inherited a mine in CA, that gives them the opportunity to get her out of their wealthy home and on her way to an unknown future. This Irish redhead is not your typical female, however. She has a mind of her own and a voice she often uses to support women’s suffrage and other causes. Unlike most women arriving in mining towns, she has no interest in marriage or any of the not so lovely trades women pursue to survive the rough and tumble mining towns.

Her arrival via stagecoach sets the town of Calvada buzzing with more than a few men seeing a woman unlike any who has come into the town, and they nearly stumble over each other to try to get a chance to have her consider them as a husband. But Kathryn isn’t interested despite finding little information about the mine and only a small unkempt little house left to her by the uncle she had never met.

One of the most curious things about the little house is the discovery of a printing press tucked into one corner with the handle missing and learning her uncle had been murdered by someone using that handle to bash in his skull.

One of the prominent men in town is Mathias Beck who was a friend of her late uncle, and he is eager to encourage her to stay at his saloon and hotel that offers much more comfortable lodging, but Kathryn isn’t the least bit interested and despite the mud and sewage strewn streets, loud dance halls, and lack of any law and order, she sets about cleaning up the little house left to her. She is determined to find out what happened to her uncle (City) and why the mine was still open but hadn’t been actively worked for quite some time. Beyond that, she needs to determine how she will make a living in Calvada without skills to use in that effort.

Kathryn’s distaste for Mathias Beck will be heightened by her determination to prove she (as a woman) can manage her own affairs quite nicely without realizing how many in the mining town may be far less safe than Mathias Beck.

Kathryn’s strong sense of right and wrong and justice makes an impression on nearly everyone and a key reward in reading this book is seeing how one person can make a difference in a community despite the odds against her. Kathryn’s fearless determination and stubbornness are qualities that both help and hurt her as the story unfolds.

Be prepared for more than a few surprises in this book as well as an easy page-turning read to brighten any summer day.

The theme of this book had been simmering in Francine Rivers thoughts for some time but when the pandemic hit and her schedules were upended and canceled due to lockdowns and sheltering in place, it seemed like the perfect time to write this story. Most of us were eager for a good story about someone who made a difference and took us to a good ending. The Lady’s Mine checks all the boxes for a great summer read.

To Be A Lighthouse

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Before the first lighthouse was built, beacon fires were lit as we see in the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as in the stories and movies for “The Lord of the Rings”. It would be in Alexandria that the first lighthouse would be built. Known as Pharos of Alexandria, this first lighthouse stood 350 feet high.

The Romans would go on to build many more as their empire expanded far beyond Rome. A fragment of a Roman lighthouse still exists in Dover, England.

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Century by century modernization of lighthouses occurred to the present day, lighting the way for those out to sea, serving a vital purpose.

Long before GPS guided navigation, these sentinels stood at the place where the land and the sea meet, never wavering in their service with the faithful men and women who kept the beacons lit.

I have visited lighthouses along the east coast of the United States while on various vacations. Some of my favorites mark the beautiful coast of Maine. Each lighthouse appears unique in its design and the terrain on which it stands. My favorites include Bass Harbor Lighthouse, the Cape Neddick Light, and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine.

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If all the stories linked to each lighthouse were compiled into books, I wonder how many volumes there would be and how many shelves would be needed to hold them.

Reading in Lisa Wingate’s marvelous book, The Prayer Box, set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina brought back memories of lighthouses we visited there and reminded me once again that we, you and I, are called to be light (perhaps lighthouses) for those lost at sea.

The description Lisa Wingate pens in The Prayer Box reminds me of important truths:

“What does a lighthouse do? I ask myself. It never moves. It cannot hike up its rocky skirt and dash into the ocean to rescue a foundering ship. It cannot calm the waters or clear the shoals. It can only cast light into the darkness. It can only point the way. Yet, through one lighthouse, you guide many ships.”

What clarity these words bring to those we find in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV):

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The lighthouse isn’t rushing about from one place to another. It stands consistently where its designer places it and its light points the way. Those at sea are the ones that must move to avoid disaster and destruction.

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To be a lighthouse is to keep the light burning even if we do not see beyond the place we stand. To be a lighthouse is to know the singular call to provide light when darkness, dense fog, and storms would seek to shroud the light. To be a lighthouse is to draw attention to the light within it rather than the lighthouse.

How simply these truths remind us of what it means to be called by Jesus to be light, but how clearly they also underscore the need for light to be ever emanating from our lives. We never know when someone lost in darkness may be hoping to glimpse even the smallest light to give direction and hope.

Near the end of his earthly ministry Jesus told his disciples a parable about how vital it is to keep the light (the oil) in our lamp from running out, from going dark. The parable in Matthew 25 speaks of wise virgins whose lamps are filled and lit, but also warns of foolish virgins whose lamps have gone dark.

Tending the light within us is not a casual admonition.

Let us not forget that even though we may not see those who are searching for a light, we are called to be a lighthouse consistently allowing HIS  light to shine so He can be seen.

“Yet, through one lighthouse, you guide many ships.”

Lisa Wingate

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Possibilities Revisited

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Are you a possibility person? If so, you likely see a variety of options to consider in any context you find yourself and are considered by your friends to be creative as well. You enjoy catching a glimpse of something others may miss and are likely a lifelong learner. You could be someone who gets teased for the random facts you invariably mention when family gets together. Ideas often pop into your head like dandelions on a spring lawn.

When I retired 8 years ago next month almost anyone who knew me would have told you I was a possibility person. That may have been because it seemed I often saw some bud of an untapped skill or gift in someone else and the possibilities of what it could become. But despite that, I had little idea of what this new season of retirement would hold for me after spending fifteen years teaching special education students and another nearly twenty-five as a licensed professional clinical counselor. There were things I enjoyed (many) but no serious hobbies those who retire tend to pursue.

But then I sensed the Lord give me a clue about the new season, leading me as He had every other season of my life. From childhood I had always loved reading and writing and thought of ideas in my head I would jot on paper or tucked in diaries or notebooks. I confessed this desire to write to my high school English teachers and was surprised to find them encouraging, but then tucked it away not risking believing it was possible for me.

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My path to become a teacher had already been set and writing was a dream I wasn’t sure I could risk in any area. And yet the nudge to write never totally disappeared and when our children were toddlers, I was given a chance to write for a local newspaper for a period of several years, covering local events and meetings and here and there writing feature stories armed with a black and white Polaroid camera. I loved it despite only being paid a pittance per inch. But that season opened into another and another and suddenly retirement lay ahead of me.

As we were planning a family vacation trip to Yellowstone National Park, I learned of a Writers Book Camp that would take place in Colorado that could fit in the timetable we would be in that part of the country. I had been given some monetary gifts at retirement that would cover the cost and with my husband’s encouragement and willingness to add those days to the trip, I registered to participate. I had no idea it would mean before even arriving I needed to develop a website and create a blog. What were those and how would I do it? But when God opens a door to a dream, He supplies the provision. A young couple I had done premarital counseling with had all the tools I lacked – he was an author, writer, and editor, and she was a graphic arts designer. The two of them helped me get that first assignment completed before arriving at the workshop and I could never have guessed how those possibilities would develop since then.

Little by little I discovered my voice and week-by-week sensed the direction God was leading me to write and somewhere in the middle of all that, He opened the door to the “big dream” of authoring a book. So today I am celebrating seven years of possibilities and sharing what I wrote on that first post.

Many if not most of you reading this didn’t know me then, but today I share it again to encourage you to consider the possibilities God may have for you no matter what season you find yourself or how far back on the shelf some dream or desire may be.

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The commitment begins, a commitment to risk discovering if the spark within me that has never died is to be stirred into a flame to help others find their way, take their own risks.

Discovery is the name of the journey. I follow what seems like a reverberating whisper that I have heard since childhood and long ignored. Perhaps it is as Margaret Feinberg would describe a “sacred echo” to a destination I have yet to discover.

How foolish we are to perceive we truly know ourselves no matter what our age! The notion belies the reality of divine creation and our capacity to grasp the smallest nuances involved in the process.  We are created in His likeness and how much can we truly comprehend of Him?

So, discovery begins by setting aside all that I think I know of myself and allowing the journey to reveal the truth. It requires humility and pushing past the fear that has halted every attempt to begin the journey. Today is but a step on this quest, but it is a step nonetheless and one my heart cannot fail to risk.

The length of the journey is uncertain, but at long last time is there to make it and there can be no more excuses, childish excuses must be set aside once and for all.

That was the first day of the journey of “A New Lens” and I am so glad to have you join me on it and I hope it will give you courage to discover your own new season. It is my joy to have you along with me and I wanted to share with you how my discovery began. And it continues because of that spark God created in me long ago.

Photo by Pam Ecrement from Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN

What Would You Choose?

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One of my favorite activities growing up was coloring in a coloring book. I was always a lousy artist, but this was my substitute back in the days before iPods, iPads, and an assortment of electronics that captivate children today. There are several adults in our family who still enjoy coloring in those wonderful new intricately designed books that are popular now. Sometimes I join them.

The one disappointment for me in childhood was never having the big box that gave me every shade I might want to consider as I colored in my pages. In most areas of my life, I enjoy a lot of variety. It shows up with that desire for more different crayons and in the wide variety of music that I enjoy as well.

It doesn’t stop there.

I love getting to know different people, learning about their stories, hearing about the paths where the Lord has led them, finding out what excites them and fuels their passions, and how the harder times in their lives were used by the Lord. Yes, I am an extrovert, but I most prefer sitting with one person while we share a great latte or cup of tea for an unrushed time of relating.

Taking time to listen, share stories, and getting to know someone beyond the quick greeting on a shopping trip or even at church is an investment well worth the time. That kind of relating not only allows us to know someone else better, but we also see glimpses of the Lord and often learn something about ourselves in the process if we are listening well.

Most of us would say we are “busy”, but busy and urgent should never take the place of better and important.

I love and so much agree with this quote by Barbara Bush:

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”

Sometimes we get in the way of opportunities relationally because of our own perspective about others or ourselves. We may believe we have nothing to offer the other person. We may believe that we have nothing in common.

And we may be wrong.

When I finished reading Unified by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, I was reminded of the blessings that can come from unlikely friendships where we set aside our misperceptions. Listen to one of the things Trey writes in the book:

“I don’t care how great things appear to be going in someone else’s life; we all need somebody we can trust, that we can be fully candid with, and who will give us the best advice for us and not just for them.”

A few paragraphs later he adds:

“Relationships where people put the other person first and remain committed to giving their best counsel for the benefit of the other person are few and far between……Once you know someone will keep a confidence, give you sound counsel, and genuinely have your best interest at heart, there is no limit to what you can share, and there is no limit to what can be gained.”

One of the things that stands out to me is how often Jesus took time to relate to people. Yes, He spoke and taught huge crowds at various points, but the gospels give us many glimpses of how He noticed someone that others bypassed. He took time for conversations with some that his earthly heritage and religious teaching would have told Him to avoid.

Jesus never compromised who He was in the process of valuing someone else enough to take time to listen and engage with him or her.

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Polarization and divisiveness are so commonplace today that we can be tempted to think our differences are too great to have any common ground. But what would happen if we had a real desire to get to know someone beyond the differences? What if we utilized that knowledge and those different perspectives to make each other better?  What if we were to look for common ground at a heart level first?

I think we learn far less if we stick with only those who look like us, think like us, come from our side of town, or have the same educational background.

Consider the unlikely friendship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel of the Old Testament. David was a shepherd boy who knew how to sing and initially brought peace to the troubled heart of Jonathan’s father, King Saul. Jonathan was of royal blood and privilege. These two would not have typically developed a friendship much less one of a covenantal depth. They would have been from opposite sides of town in those days, but spending time together allowed them to know each other’s hearts until they were knit in an exceptional bond of friendship that caused Jonathan to risk his father’s rejection rather than betray David.

When we look for a solution to our divided culture, our search seems to be in the wrong place. It won’t come from a program or any number of other forums. I think Tim Scott describes a better way in Unified:

“Politics is not going to change the nation. We will change the nation only by changing the condition of the human heart. And that can only happen through love. True friendship is born out of acceptance and unconditional love – a love that is consistent and intentional.”

The Lord’s challenge to us is always about love. Our challenge is to remember He is the source of love within us, and we need to model love as He did.

The love of Jesus was and is always consistent and intentional.

That is where we start.

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Photo by Pam Ecrement from Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

No Other Way

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Photo by Pam Ecrement – Walland, TN

I remember the day we came to this spot on the trail we had chosen. The first part of the trek had given us no clue this would be farther along on the trail after we were more weary and ready to return to our lodging. It was getting in the way of a leisurely hike and setting us up for using up our stamina and putting us at risk for the difficulty of the path ahead. We would have wished for the path to continue that we had experienced before, but that was not the path and there was no other way except to press on.

How like us that is! We move out in a direction that looks right or uncomplicated or less risky and more doable, and then we discover there were things ahead that challenged us and made us doubt and want to turn back.

It can be true in every area of our lives, and it can be true in our spiritual lives as well. Perhaps that is more a temptation now than in times past as our faith and courage to hold fast to our values and beliefs are tested on every level and arena we find ourselves. The path ahead is not as clearly marked and rockier than we think we have skill to manage and yet it is the path the Lord has charted out.

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“One who has made up his mind to go to the uttermost with God will come to a place as unexpected and perhaps looking as impossible to travel as that riverbed looks. He may glance around for an alternative route, but if he wants what God promises His faithful ones, he must go straight into the danger. There is no other way.”

Elisabeth Elliott

We hear that echoed in Christ’s words in the Garden of Gethsemane when He knew the path before Him and had chosen and yet asked his Father, God, if it would be possible to take that cup from Him. But there was no other way if Christ were to accomplish what He had been sent to earth to do that would open a door to eternity with Him to any who would believe. It was the choice before Christ that He knew God required Him to obey and surrender.

Surrender is not a word or a choice we want to make. It seems innate in us. We fight to be free. We fight to have our own way. We fight to gain something. We fight to live. To surrender seems unthinkable and a way of defeat that we cannot see as right. But it does not mean we are to give up, but rather to know when and what we are to surrender.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”

1 Peter 4:12-13 (MSG)

God wants us to discern where we are in the story – his story and our story.

The truth is that we don’t always see that clearly or recognize that we don’t.

In J.R.R.Tolkien’s epic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, we first meet Frodo as a carefree hobbit living in the Shire anticipating the celebration of his uncle’s birthday. The Shire had been a peaceful place and it was to be a grand party, but that was only a small segment of the story Frodo was a part of. He didn’t know about the secret of the ring his uncle possessed or the powers it contained and represented. Even when Gandalf fills in some of the details, Frodo cannot fathom the evil connected to the power of the ring.

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Men, elves, dwarves, wise sages, and even hobbits believed they could use the power of the ring for good despite its evil. They had been captivated by it and longed for it for ages past. Battles had been fought and lost in its quest. To think that it could only be managed by destroying it was hard to grasp, but when the ultimate decision was reached to take the ring to Mt. Doom to destroy it using a fellowship of those committed to it none realized the path ahead would destroy more than one of them. Even Frodo did not initially realize there was no other way.

The Lord of the Rings allows us to see stories within a story unfolding at the same time testing individuals, cultures, and nations. Frodo battles to overcome incredible odds on his trek to Mt. Doom with Sam while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli marshal forces of light to meet the enemy head on time and time again until the battle at the black gate where they must risk it all.

Tolkien’s metaphor shows us there are times to stand and times to surrender and how difficult surrender can be when we see Frodo stand at the edge on Mt. Doom and refuses to surrender the ring to the molten flames. He had taken a hard path and yet he could not see and was not shown that the celebration for his uncle was nothing compared to the celebration that would occur at the end of the story when the king returned.

In this hour when the economies of the world begin to crumble, threats of war and famine fill the headlines and all manner of opposition to life as we have revered it and known it are being threatened, we need to remember there is no other way. The story we read in the Bible has told us that before we would come to the grand celebration it would be this way. It is ours to remember what our part in the story is to be and that sometimes the most powerful thing we are called to do is to discern when we stand and when we surrender to the path God would have us take.

“Surrender…is the key that unlocks the vault of God’s best and deepest treasures.”

Chuck Swindoll
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