Friday, April 30, 2010

Here's A Story to Break Your Heart...

Here is a story that will break your heart. Are you willing? Really?

Can words crucify a bad habit? Can a poem save lives?

Let Mary Oliver, crusader for the wild and endangered things, convince you.

Be led. For the wild things. For you and yours. For yourself. Then you can lead.


Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Have a great weekend! Love y'all.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

To TV or Not TV: That is the Question

Thousands of violent acts. Beer commercials highlighting burping, beer-bellied men, bad pickup lines (is there a GOOD pickup line?). Shows that spotlight dysfunctional people, dysfunctional situations...a dysfunctional world. A glance at today's TV Guide leaves me asking a question you've surely considered: TV or Not TV?

Television land has come a long way from my childhood memories of Leave it to Beaver , where Ward plants a kiss on the cheek of an aproned, coiffed June while the Beave and Wally tussle in their upstairs bedroom. So safe. So average. So good ole Americana values a la 1950 and 1960s. But were those values really indicative of American society or just window-dressing on the very middle-class, very suburbia, two-story house at 211 Pine Street, Mayfield, Ohio?

What's a Christian striving to follow the tenets of John 17:6-25 (believers in the world but not of the world) to do?

1. Ponder TV usage statistics and your personal schedule., reports that Americans spend an average of four hours a day glued to their TV sets. 99% of us own a television set; 66% of our households possess THREE. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that watching TV occupies the top slot in Americans' leisure activities. Second top activity? Visits with friends!

The Lacy household uses TV as a backdrop to exercise time when weather quashes outside activity. The spokes on that stationery bike sure whirr faster when a gritty Law & Order episode works my brain cells and pulls attention from my achy muscles.

2. When we accept Christ, we have a Wise Counselor available 24/7! Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on the niggling issues of "Does this activity glorify Christ, further His kingdom work, provide rest for my soul? If show scenes start a gut-churn, I need to listen. And punch the remote to "off."

3. Analyze potential programs for life or work application. TV CAN teach about moral premise, conflict resolution, and educate on topics as diverse as saving the biosphere to recovering your old sofa.

To TV or not TV: that is the question. What is your answer?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Kitchen Rules - Who Rules Your Life?

by Narelle Atkins

Cooking shows are very popular here in Australia and the new season of the top rating MasterChef Australia commenced last week (very good news for Aussie cooking show junkies!) A few months ago I was glued to the screen on a Monday and Tuesday night watching an Aussie reality tv show called My Kitchen Rules.

In the first round of My Kitchen Rules, the contestants (pairs) created an ‘instant restaurant’ in their homes (or they borrowed a friend or relative’s home for the shoot). There were two groups in Round One and a team in each group represented one of the five mainland states. The contestants flew around the country and dined with each other, plus two celebrity chef judges. The teams cooked a three course dinner for ten guests, and their performance was scored by the other contestants and the celebrity chef judges. The highest scoring teams from each group competed against each other in the studio to win the $100,000 first prize.

The teams consisted of married couples, sisters, friends, newly dating, childhood sweethearts and a happily divorced couple. I sat in my comfortable living room and tuned in, hoping to learn how to create fine dining food.

The contestants designed their own menus and had a few hours to purchase their fresh ingredients before they started cooking. Their courses included: Squid with Rocket & Aioli Garlic, Trout Ravioli, Orange Blossom Custard, Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango Slick and Palm Sugar Caramel. Clint and Noah (runners up in the competition) produced a divine chocolate cake that everyone loved. These recipes plus more can be found on the My Kitchen Rules website.

The trick was to create a difficult menu to demonstrate technique, but not bite off more than they can chew and have their dish ‘flop’.

One thing I learned from watching the teams was, no matter how prepared you are, whether or not you’ve cooked the dish fifty times before, a lot can go wrong on the night. Every course is a gamble and nothing is a sure thing for success! One little thing going wrong could set off a domino effect that ruined the dish. And bombing out in one course could be the difference between staying in the competition and leaving at the end of Round One.

We can sometimes try to fool ourselves into believing we have everything under control. Financial security, a stable family, good health, and a career we love. Life can be going great but, in the blink of an eye, everything can change – stock markets crash, lose your job, accident, unexpected health crisis. Like the old saying goes, there are two guarantees in life – death and taxes. Just because we work really hard to achieve something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or be successful. Aspiring authors know this all too well – there are no guarantees that we’ll be offered a publishing contract and sell truck loads of books despite how hard we work to improve our craft and write a marketable story.

In a restaurant, the chefs are in the kitchen, and it’s the waiters who deliver the food to the customers. The restaurant patrons don’t usually see what happens behind the scenes. Mistakes can be hidden, dishes recooked or replated if necessary, and the customers are none the wiser.

With an ‘instant restaurant’ in the contestant’s homes, the judges were seated in their dining room, could hear what’s happening in the kitchen (including arguments and stressed out contestants cracking under the pressure) and the judges made unexpected visits to the kitchen to check on progress.

God isn’t remote, like the chef’s in restaurants that you don’t often meet in person. We can’t hide from God – he’s omniscient and knows our secret desires and thoughts.

God is up-close, personal, involved and interested in our lives. He loves us and we can’t hide our mistakes and disobedience to his word. He is like a judge in our ‘instant restaurant’, and he will sit in judgement and call us to be accountable for our lives.

Romans 5:8-10 (NIV) says: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

The good news is we can become a new creation in Christ, and have his spirit living in us to help us follow God’s will for our lives. Our salvation through Jesus is a ‘sure thing’, one guarantee we can hold onto as we face life’s challenges.

Childhood sweethearts Shadi and Veronica from Queensland won Season One of My Kitchen Rules. His Lebanese heritage and her Italian heritage inspired them to create a winning combination in the kitchen and one day they hope to open their own restaurant. They may rule the kitchen, but who rules your life?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why I Love Lucy

by Jen AlLee

When I grew up, TV was my constant companion. You may think I'm kidding, or exaggerating, but I'm not. From the moment I woke up till the time I went to bed, the TV was on. I knew what time it was not by looking at the clock, but by what program was on. I watched soap operas with my great grandma, Lawrence Welk with my grandma, and Dark Shadows with my mom. As an only child, TV not only kept me company, it fed my imagination. Television has been a source of entertainment and even inspiration. But I never thought it would save my sanity.

Flash forward to the summer of 1993. My son had just been born, and it should have been the happiest time of my life. But I was plagued by unexplainable bouts of deep sadness. I later learned that I had a mild case of post-partum depression, but at the time, I knew only that I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. And that's when I rediscovered Lucy.

It just so happened that I Love Lucy was being rerun on several different stations at different times of the day. I found that when I sat and watched it, I laughed so much that the blues were chased away, even if only for that half hour. By the end of that summer, I knew every time and every station it was on. And by the end of summer, I needed it less, but enjoyed it more. Lucy was an honest to goodness God-send and got me through a very challenging time in my life. Now, when I catch an episode on TV, I don't remember the depression so much, but I have sweet memories of my baby boy.

There are so many great Lucy episodes, it's hard to pick my favorites. But here are a few that stick out in my mind...

Lucy Makes a TV Commercial - "Hello friends, I'm your Vitameatavegamin girl!" Poor Lucy gets sloshed on a nasty tasty health-concoction that's almost 100% alcohol. Hilarity ensues.

Job Switching - The girls and the guys switch places. Ricky and Fred become house husbands while Lucy and Ethel find jobs. The scene where they can't keep up with a speeding conveyor belt and end up stuffing chocolate in their mouths remains a classic.

The Operetta - This may be my number one favorite. Lucy writes an operetta for her women's club, but post dates the check for the costumes and props. Ricky singing "I am the good Prince Lancelot, I love to sing and dance a lot" is funny enough, but when Lucy continues to sing "I am the queen of the gypsies" while the whole production is being repossessed brings me to laughter-induced tears.

LA at Last - Probably the best of the Hollywood episodes, it's the one where Lucy makes a fool of herself at the Brown Derby in front of Eve Arden and William Holden. Remember the bit where she eats too much spaghetti and Ethel snips it off with a tiny embroidery scissors? And how about when she tries to disguise herself later, and her putty-nose catches on fire? I've read that that was an accident, but rather than stop the take, Lucy kept going and put the fire out by dunking her nose in a cup of coffee. That's thinking on your feet!

How about you? Do you love Lucy?  Or is there another TV show that has a special place in your heart?

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Portal to Another World

There’s something about watching TV or reading a book that take us out of ourselves for a little while. For however long the show or book lasts we are removed a space from our own problems and trials.

I personally love mysteries because of the extra layer of engagement. Or it might possibly be my competitive nature, but I do love trying to figure out whodunit.

Luckily there are some great mystery shows on TV right now. My favorites:

Castle-As a writer this is especially fun for me. Love the chemistry between Beckett and Castle too. Overall, the show reminds me a bit of Remington Steele, which I discovered at the library, but also love.

Psych-So. Much. Fun. I love the goofy, offbeat humor and the cast are all great. Pure escapism and the concept sets the show up for all kinds of interesting story lines.

White Collar-Two words—Matt Bomer. What’s not to love? Again, it’s probably not a ‘real life’ scenario, but I love the concept and I also liked the interplay between the characters. It’s a buddy movie for the small screen.

Some others that have been favorites at our house: In Plain Sight, Monk, (sadly no longer with us. sniff, sniff) Law and Order (before there were a billion of them).

As much as I like to watch my favorite shows though, there is something about a book that transcends the medium of TV. At least for me. Being me, I’ve tried to analyze what the difference is and for me at least I think it boils down to this. I have to work harder at reading.

What I mean is that watching TV is passive. Reading, however is active in that I have to supply the images and voices and scenery myself. Oh, sure the authors help a little. They describe things, but I can pretty much guarantee that the complete picture I paint is going to be very different from what others ‘see’ in their heads. Just look at any movie adaptation for the screen. Was it exactly what you expected?

But here’s the thing, in direct proportion to the level of engagement I have in reading the story I am more fully plunged into a parallel universe where the characters’ experiences become mine.

We talked a little bit on Friday about the future and one of the inventions many of us were looking forward to is the Time Travel machine. I would contend we already have a pretty good device for that in the historical novel. Books also work well as teleporters. They fall down on the job when it comes to replicators though. You know those machines that make the food. The problem is that I can see and smell the food, and almost taste it. But sadly it doesn’t fill me up, and in actual fact often leaves me with severe cravings.

So time to hear from all of you. Do you agree with my assessment? And if so what is one of the best books you’ve read lately? How far down the rabbit hole did it lead you? I forget where I am sometimes when I’m reading.

Conversely what are some of your favorite TV shows? If you don't like mysteries what is your favorite flavor?

Due to Technical Difficulties....

Don't you just hate that message. But sadly, we are experiencing technical difficulties here in Inkyland. We hope to officially kick off our Inky in Television week momentarily. In the meantime let's chat about some of our favorite television shows. Mine is "So You Think You Can Dance." What about you?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

No Slip of the Chisel

By D'Ann Mateer

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Do you have verses of passages of Scripture that you know, but you don’t know them within the context of the verses that surround them? That happens to me all the time. Then I’ll find myself reading along and think, “I didn’t realize how those two things fit together!” Like pieces of a puzzle they fall into place.

Romans 8 was like that for me this week. Not that I haven’t read Romans 8. At one time or another, I’ve even memorized most of it! But somehow the juxtaposition of verses struck me new.

Just a few verses before the rally cry of “if God is for us, who can be against us” is that hard but hopeful verse 28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Even in my knowing that God is working all things for my good (which, by the way, He explains in the next verse that my “good” is being conformed to the image of Christ, not my happiness or my comfort, not my own plans or desires) , I forget the real victory in that. If God is for me, who can be against me? In other words, who can oppose His purposes in my life?

The answer? No one! Whether the Lord walks me through a difficult time, either some consequence of my own sin or some circumstances that I didn’t create, whether He grants or denies my petitions and requests, whether He asks me to wait for a short time or a long one, no one and nothing can thwart the true purposes of God in my life. To conform me to the image of His son. For that conforming is what is ultimately for my good and for His glory.

Obvious, I know, but often the little things trip me up and slow me down. What about you? Are you discouraged today? Weary? Joyful? Frustrated? Content? In all of those things can you find the place where the Lord is doing His work in you, no matter how small? For He is working in it all.

He is for us, not against us. He is shaping us, not destroying us. There is no slip of the chisel in His hand. 

All photos courtesy of

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Scoop-The Inkies Are on Their Way to TV Land

The imaginary world of television is our Inky theme this week.
When you escape to TV Land, what's your favorite destination?

Sunday, April 25
A Devotional by D'Ann Mateer

Monday, April 26 - Friday, April 30
Monday ~ Patti Lacy
Tuesday ~ Jennifer AlLee
Wednesday ~ Narelle Atkins
Thursday ~ Lisa Richardson
Friday ~ It's Poetry Day!

Saturday, May 1
"Sing" by Lisa Bergren
A Book Review by Susan Johnson

Take a Trip to the Medieval Era with Guest Author Deb Kinnard

Hi, everyone. Dina here. I've spent the last two weeks traveling. Fictional traveling that is. My favorite kind. No layovers. No leg cramps. No time changes. No gastrointestinal disorders. Thanks to the creative mind of novelist Deb Kinnard, I've been enjoying a fanciful trip through the Middle Ages. And I had a top-notch tourguide, 21st century medieval historian, Bethany Lindstrom. So I just had to invite Deb to come and talk more about my favorite time in history for our "To Era is Human" theme. I hope you'll forgive me for straying from the Saturday review format, but I think by the end of the post you'll realize how much I enjoyed Seasons in the Mist.

Here's the basic idea: stranded in 1353 cornwall, American graduate student Bethany Lindstrom knows she must find a way back to her own time or face a life of falsehoods and peril. But with the stern overlord Sir Michael Veryan, she is swept into the intrigues of King Edward's court, which will test their mettle and their faith in God to the limits -- and forever bind their lives together.

Welcome to Inkwell Inspirationals, Deb. Let me start off with a few questions I asked Louise earlier in the week. First of all, why do you write historical novels?

LOL, I suppose for the same reason Sir Edmund climbed Everest--"because it's there." I'm fascinated by the middle ages and have been since I was a teenager, so it seems natural to try to tell some of their stories.

You have also written contemporary novels. What is different about the experience?

Research, mostly. Some facts we take for granted when writing present-day characters and stories are more difficult to get to, when writing in another era. For example, when were forks first used? How did medieval physicians and herbalists use the plants they knew as healing? All sorts of things. The answers are not always easy to find, but always fun to dig into.

I couldn't agree more. Seasons in the Mist is a time travel novel. That fascinates me. I love time travel novels, but I think I would be afraid to tackle one. How did you make this work for a Christian book?

I felt at first that I must "explain" time travel in a Christian context. Then as I got deeper into the story, I realized that some questions, for us in real life as well as for my characters, are unanswered and it's His best judgment for us that they remain so. My hero asks why so many died in the pestilence--this is an answer my 21st century character doesn't have, and I don't have my characters "solve" the question. So it is with time travel. They agree that God is sovereign and He does many things we puny humans cannot comprehend. They leave it at that.

And I admit, you made it work well. I think the smartest thing you did was making the main character a medieval historian. That was a really nice touch. But why did you choose this period?

Because I know it best and love it best. I've written a Regency romance, but better not ask about that one. It stinks, big-time. I don't know the period well enough, and that book remains forever in the bottom drawer.

It's obvious that you really have a grasp on this time. I admire that. For me, it was sort of the opposite, I knew a little about it, but I wanted to learn more. Probably what drew me to it the most, was that I was interested in learning about life before the Reformation. Tell us about the spiritual climate of this time period.

It was an era in England when virtually everyone believed. Imagine, if you can, an age in which reverence and fear of God was universally understood. People in England were either Christian or Jewish. There were few if any who did not know God. Contrast that with the age we live in -- the only answer is "whew!" Granted, some "believers" were nominal and some in their hearts had secretly fallen away. But virtually all people were part of the church and expected to follow the Lord.

Yes, one of the subjects I deal with in my writing is the differences between nominal Christians, corrupt elements in the "church," and true heart felt believers. I discovered that many during this era had instensely personal relationships with Christ. Can you share any interesting or off-beat facts you discovered about this era?

I had to dig quite deeply simply to discover what language they spoke. Did the upper classes speak French? English? How much French did the middle and lower sort of folk understand? Since this was a transitional age, linguistically, those answers were surprisingly difficult to find. I settled with my characters speaking English, with an occasional French or Cornish phrase thrown in, and I think it works.

I found that interesting. I think having a 21st Century protagonist narrating allowed you to dig deeper into the language than I did. I just sort of treated Middle English like a foreign language, but having Bethany there to translate and give us a break with her contemporary thoughts was a big help. I chuckled when she described one of the characters as a surfer dude. Does the book have any themes or messages inspired specifically by this time period?

First and foremost it's a love story, so I didn't intentionally go for deeper truths. However, Bethany is a believer who has left God behind, and I think one of the reasons she must travel in time is to rediscover the bright fire of faith. The reader, I hope, will get the idea that God is infinitely creative about bringing His children to Himself, and loses no opportunity to call us back!

Amazing concept Deb. I think our Inkwell audience will enjoy this trip back in time as much as I did. Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

* Deborah Kinnard started writing at age ten, frustrated because there was no preteen girl with a horse on Bonanza. She earned two degrees in health care and has enjoyed a career that encompasses Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital. Deb keeps busy with reading, playing the guitar, participating in a church outreach team, and skiing in the winter.

You can order Seasons in the Mist at or

Deb will be stopping by to chat more with us today, so be sure to leave your questions and comments.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Here's to the Future!

by Jen AlLee

There's been a long trend in Hollywood to look at the future through a bleakly-colored lense. Despite advances in technology, or perhaps because of them, movie makers see misery and destruction ahead. Of course, this messed up future allows for lots of conflict followed by - of course - conflict resolution. In short, it's the stuff creative dreams are made of. Who could ever forget these screen gems...
  • Logan's Run - It's 2274 and life inside the big bubble looks like paradise, but when Logan finds out that the "renewal" ceremony for newly turned 30-year-olds is actually an execution, he becomes a runner. Naturally, a beautiful woman runs with him, and they discover a new life outside the dome.
  • Blade Runner - In 2019, Los Angeles is even grittier and dirtier than it is now. Rick Deckard is part of the LAPD Blade Runner squad. His job is to identify replicants, artificially created humanoids. The problem is telling them from the real humans...
  • The Book of Eli - Denzel Washington is Eli, one of the few humans to survive a catastrophic event. The word he lives in is about as dystopian as it gets, but he has a mission. And it involves a book. (Since this is a relatively new movie, I don't want to give away the ending.)
Obviously, I'm a fan of science fiction. I especially enjoy movies and books set in the future where they find artifacts of the world we live in right now. However, my own personal view of the future isn't nearly so bleak. In fact, it's downright rosy.

Baring some cataclysmic event (like volcanoes that spew so much ash they make air travel impossible) I think things will keep getting better. Yes, right now, things might seem a little bleak. The economy is anemic. The job situation for many is stressful, to say the least. Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party people, Independents, and whoever else wants to throw their hat in the political ring are at each other's throats. It would be easy to look at all that and think we're on the fast track to dystopia. But rather than look at what's wrong, how about we look at what's right?

First and foremost, we've got John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. That right there takes care of the biggest need any of us will ever have. No matter what, no one can ever take your faith from you. There may not officially be prayer in public schools, but no one can stop kids, teachers and parents from praying. Praise God!

We still have each other. Look at your family. Your friends. These are the people who've got your back, and you have theirs. Technological advances like cell phones, email, Facebook and Twitter have made it easier than ever to stay connected, no matter how far apart we are. Another blessing!

But what about money? Jobs? A place to live? Higher education? What about all the stuff that we need? I know... I worry about all that, too. Right now, my family is trying to buy a house. Due to circumstances that have nothing to do with us, we've been in this process for close to a year now. Somedays, I'm so worn out from the waiting, I want to kick something. But I always have to come back to this:

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
Matthew 6:27-30

I for one look forward to seeing what the future holds. Bring it on!

What do you think?
Here are three of my favorite futuristic inventions that I'd love to see come to pass: the transporter, the replicator, and the car that folds up into a briefcase (from The Jetsons). What far out technology would you like to see become a reality?

Image Credits:
The Book of Eli - Alcon Entertainment
The Jetsons - Hanna-Barbera

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just Americans by Robert Kaku

Hey all!

Lisa here. I've had the great privilege of working in a critique group with Bob Kaku. He has written a fascinating story set during the tumultuous years of the Second World War. Being of Japanese American descent, he naturally gravitated to the tales of the Japanese Americans of that era. There were no easy answers for anyone. Bob deftly illustrates the conflicting priorities that tugged at people and the results of prejudice and hatred through the lives of three brothers and the very different choices they each make.

With grace and style he weaves his story into actual events and manages to teach the reader that beneath our differences we have a lot more in common than we think. And most important, that we are all in need of God's grace in our lives.

Just Americans by Robert Kaku
Many people acknowledge the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as a big mistake. Buried in this backdrop was a small mistake that epitomized the fundamental error and tragedy of the incarceration of American citizens whose only “crime” was being of Japanese descent.

Out of the internment camps in the interior of the United States, thousands of young Japanese American men enlisted in the army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Despite their families being locked up behind barbed wire, these men went on to serve their country with great distinction. The 442nd RCT became the most decorated unit of its size in World War II, and perhaps, in the entire history of the U.S. Army. President Harry Truman addressed these troops after they had returned from Europe in 1946, saying “You not only fought the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you’ve won.”

One of the heroes of the 442nd was Young Oak Kim, an Asian American, not of Japanese descent, but of Korean. Throughout his military career, he won nineteen decorations, including Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Medal of Military Valor, a L├ęgion d'honneur, and a Croix de guerre.
He was drafted into the army in 1941, prior to Pearl Harbor. His superiors quickly recognized Kim’s intelligence and leadership abilities and selected him for Officer Candidate School. Upon graduation, he was attached to the all Japanese American 100th Battalion, which later became a part of the 442nd Regiment in Europe. Apparently, his commander had mistakenly assumed Young Kim was Japanese American.
Japan and Korea had been enemies for centuries. Twice in the late 16th century, Japan’s military ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, invaded Korea, causing a tremendous loss of lives and infrastructure, destruction and confiscation of significant artworks and historical documents, and the kidnapping of Korean artisans and technicians. Japanese soldiers brutalized, raped, and starved Koreans to death.

In the early 20th century, a modernized Japan sought to acquire hegemony in East Asia, battling and defeating the Russian military forces. Korea was one of the prizes of victory and became a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945. Once again, the Japanese occupiers made Koreans suffer, forcing many into servitude in Japan, robbing their country of its resources, and virtually eliminating their language and culture.
The Koreans had plenty of reasons to hate the Japanese, and these feelings traversed the Pacific with immigrants from both countries settling in Hawaii and the West Coast of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Upon discovering the mistake, the commander offered to transfer Young Kim out of the 100th Battalion. Kim replied, "There is no Japanese nor Korean here. We're all Americans and we're fighting for the same cause."

That reply symbolized the fight the Japanese American soldiers took to the enemy over sixty years ago.
Indeed, it is an inspiration all Americans can rally around in the service of their country.

In his work-in-progress novel, Cherry Blossoms in the Storm, author Robert Kaku tells Young Kim’s story as a part of a fictionalized account of the Japanese American experience in World War II.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Revolutionary Era with Guest Novelist Louise M. Gouge

Good morning, everyone. Dina here. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Louise M. Gouge about her elegant and exciting Revolutionary romance novels as we discuss our historical eras theme.

Welcome to Inkwell Inspirations, Louise. To start off, why do you write historical novels?

When people ask me this question, I tell them it’s because I like to live in the past. That’s only partly true. I love the days gone by when belief in God was the norm, honesty and good manners were expected, and people were taught to respect authority and each other. I realize that might sound a bit idealized, but my maternal grandmother, a true Victorian lady (1875-1979)) exemplified this behavior. She said it was the way things were in her day. So when I write historical novels, I can revisit that world and those attitudes. But there were many troubling things about the past, too, so those provide conflicts for my stories. Slavery, the secondary place of women, unjust governments, and many more issues provide fodder for great stories while (dare I say it?) educating my readers about the past.

You can certainly say it as far as I'm concerned. I love to learn from reading novels. Probably why I'm such a huge historical fan. So, Louise, have you written any contemporaries? If so, what is different about the experience?

Successful fiction relies on good research, whether historical or contemporary. My first two published novels (from Crossway Books in 1994 & 1998) were contemporaries, and I had a blast writing them. Because the hero was an NFL quarterback, I needed to research professional football. The Lord put a man in my path who had played for the New England Patriots (and was a Super Bowl MVP!), and he generously helped me with the entire picture of that world. Also, although I had once lived in my Colorado setting, I still needed to call an old friend to do some research for things I’d forgotten. Writing historicals, I have much more research to do, everything from clothing to customs to locations, but in either case, that’s one of the things I love about being a writer.

Your new release, The Captain's Lady, is set in the time of the Revolution. Why did you choose this period?

This book is a sequel to my first Steeple Hill book, Love Thine Enemy, which takes place in British East Florida. I love to tell people about this because there are two remarkable things about it. First, I have lived in Florida for thirty years but never considered setting a novel here until the late Kristy Dykes asked me to write an anthology with her. We roughed out our respective stories, but it didn’t sell to the original target publisher. But then Melissa Endlich at Steeple Hill bought my part of the anthology, and I fleshed it out as a full novel! Second, in all these years in Florida, I never realized this was a British colony until I began to research the idea Kristy gave me. Just think about it: if colonists in East Florida had joined the Revolution, the United States would have begun with fourteen colonies instead of thirteen! So I wrote Love Thine Enemy and used the war that was a part of my home state’s history. Then, in one of those lovely things that can happen to a writer, one of my secondary characters asked for his own story. I was happy to comply, and thus, The Captain’s Lady came to be! But I set this book in London to raise the stakes for my dashing hero, a true Patriot and a spy! I’ve fallen in love with this era because this is the foundation of our country, and I’m a flag-waving American!

Your excitement is contagious, Louise. I have to say, your love of the period came through in the book and made me fall in love with it as well. But, what do you think was the greatest weakness of the people of this era?

I think the greatest weakness of our founding fathers was their failure to abolish slavery and grant women’s suffrage at our nation’s inception. Think of all the pain and death that would have been avoided had these men gone deeper into the mind of God and set all men and women free and raised them up to full citizenship!

Beautiful answer. I couldn't agree more. What do you think was the greatest strength?

That they were willing to die—and many did—because they had a vision for what this land, this new nation could be. We hold our lives so dearly, yet these people counted the cost—their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor—and were willing to pay the price so WE can be free. What a responsibility we have to live up to their expectations, don’t you think?

What was the spiritual climate of this time period?

The hardest thing for us to understand these days is how Christian people could have fought so bitterly on both sides in the Revolutionary War, much the same as we have a hard time understanding that Christians fought on both sides in our Civil War. Both sides believed in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and tried to live it. But in our Revolution, one side believed in kings and rulers dictating how people should live, while the other side demanded their freedom from such government controls.

Deep thoughts. Sort of that spiritual paradox between having freedom in Christ, but also needing structure and authority. So, Louise, how did you go about weaving all this history into The Captain's Lady?

I have one theme throughout this three-book series: when fair-minded people read the Declaration of Independence, they are forever changed. I use that grand document, our country’s very foundation, to remind people of all that our forefathers and foremothers went through so we can be free. Because it is a part of the story, I’m subtly reminding (dare I again say teaching) my readers about this bit of history. In addition, I briefly mention one or two real life people who wrote and/or signed the Declaration or who fought the good fight in that war. We all need to remember those who struggled and died that we might live in freedom. Hmmm. I’m harping on a theme here.

By the way, random fact by Dina, I'm a direct descendant of John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Now back to our guest. Louise, your new release is part of a series. Can you share more about the series in general?

As I said above, the first book, Love Thine Enemy, takes place in British East Florida in 1775. In this story, the hero and heroine are on opposite sides in the conflict. In the second book, set in 1776, The Captain’s Lady, the two protagonists are also on opposite sides. I’m currently writing the third book, whose working title is St. Augustine Bride (this will be changed), which takes place in 1780. Trying something different, I have both hero and heroine on the same side, the British side! Writing from a viewpoint I don’t agree with is quite tricky, but it’s also a lesson in human understanding. Empires have risen and fallen on some of these issues. I am delighted to report that The Captain’s Lady garnered a 4-star review from Romantic Times Book Club Magazine!

Good for you, Louise, on the great ratings and on moving out of your comfort zone for the next story. Speaking of moving, do you think you could move your story lines to other time periods, or are they too rooted in the era?

The plot thread could definitely work in other eras. The emotional thread involving people with opposing views falling in love can also be placed in other eras. The romance thread works because historically people on opposite sides of issues and wars have fallen love. Sometimes it works out better than others. Finally, the spiritual thread, which centers on the hero and heroine both growing in the grace of God, can also find a home in any other era. So, yes, I think these conflicts are universal and can be found in any era.

Any parting thoughts for our readers before we say goodbye?

I pray that those who read my books will discover their roots in American freedom and come to appreciate all that has been done for them. Of course, some readers may live in other countries, so I pray they will enjoy my story and apply the spiritual themes to their own lives. God knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for your life. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life.

Excellent words of wisdom, Louise. Thank you so much for visiting today. I enjoyed learning more about you and your writing. I hope you'll come again sometime.

*Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award for her 2005 novel, Hannah Rose. With her great love of history and research, Louise has traveled to several of her locations to ensure the accuracy of her stories’ settings. When she isn't writing, she and her husband love to visit historical sites and museums. Her favorite Bible verse is “He shall choose our inheritance for us” (Psalm 47:4), a testimony to her belief that God has chosen a path for each believer. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life.

The Captain's Lady
Torn between love and duty, American Patriot James Templeton must deny his heart to help win his country's freedom. Captain Templeton's orders from General Washington are clear. His target: Lord Bennington, a member of George III's Privy Council. The assignment: find Bennington's war plans. The risks: the future of the East Florida Colony, Jamie's life...and his heart. In spite of the dangers of their hopeless situation, he's fallen in love with Lady Marianne Moberly, Lord Bennington's daughter. Desperate to protect his country, Jamie carries out his orders with a heavy heart. But Marianne's persistence is a challenge he never expected. With love and faith, they must navigate troubled waters to win their future together.

The Captain’s Lady is available at,,,, ISBN: 13-978-0-373-82832-6

Click here to read Dina's review of The Captain's Lady

Louise should be stopping by today, so please leave your questions and comments for her.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Intrigue, Danger, and Forbidden Love, Reformation-Style

Susanne Dietze
Yes, I know. The Protestant Reformation was not an era.

When I told my husband that I’d come up with the idea of posting on the Reformation during “To Era is Human” week, he smartly reminded me that the Protestant Reformation was not an era. It was a movement.

Well, I’m going to talk about it anyway. While some may view the Reformation as a time of heavy theology or (perhaps) boring history, I see it as a thrilling time of change in the Church which has affected each of us, Protestant or not. If you own a Bible in your own language, have never paid money to earn forgiveness of sins, or have a married pastor, you have the work of 16th century Reformers to thank. But their work was not easy, nor safe.

The participants of the Reformation lived in a time of intrigue, danger, and (much to my sentimental pleasure) even some romance, too. Some Reformation-period factoids are downright scandalous.

Here’s a bit of what I mean:

From Germany to Scotland, England to Switzerland, many theologians and average joes questioned what they regarded as false doctrines: the authority of the pope, the requirement of celibate clergy, and the sale of indulgences (payments to get into heaven), among other things. When Pope Leo X declared his intention to fund the building of St. Peter's Basilica with monies raised from the sales of indulgences, a monk named Johann Tetzel was commissioned to travel throughout Germany, hawking indulgences with all the gusto of a street vendor. Tetzel promised that “whene’er a coin in coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

Tetzel’s mission initiated outrage as well as political intrigue. Archbishop Albert of Mainz, in whose territory Tetzel was working, wanted some of the indulgence income to pay off a bank debt. Elector Frederick the Wise, however, banned Tetzel from Wittenburg so his people’s money would line his pockets, not the pope’s. Martin Luther had enough, and it wasn’t long before the times, they were a' changin’.
Martin Luther (1529, Uffizi).Image via Wikipedia

Church doors often served as bulletin boards back then. Though some scholars dismiss the story as legend, it’s nevertheless probable that Martin Luther nailed a copy of his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle's Church in 1517, inviting debate. (Needless to say, he got it.)

Smuggling nuns was a capital offense, punishable by both church and state. (Am I alone, or doesn’t it seem like a good idea to have a law against smuggling people?) Therefore, merchant Leonard Koppe faced grave danger the night before Easter, 1523, when he helped twelve nuns escape their cloister by hiding them in the back of his wagon. Among them was Katharina von Bura, the future Mrs. Luther.

Katharina von Bora, Luther's wife, by Lucas Cr...Image via Wikipedia
Noting that the apostles had married, leading reformers determined they should wed, too, to serve as examples of clerical marriage. The nuns who’d escaped in Koppe’s wagon either returned home or made excellent candidates for clergy wives. All but one. Katharina von Bura dismissed at least three suitors before she suggested Martin Luther for herself. He agreed, and wrote, “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.” (By many accounts, the Luthers enjoyed a healthy marriage, and a famous one. When their firstborn got his first tooth, it was a national event.)

Water was a suspect beverage, so brewing beer was as much a part of a housewife’s daily routine as laundry or baking. Luther enjoyed Katharina’s home brew very much, and had a large stein in which to drink it. The stein was decorated with three rings, representing the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and The Nicene Creed.

It’s been noted that much of the work which bore fruit during the Reformation was accomplished in taverns. Englishmen Thomas Bilney, Edward Fox and Robert Barnes met at the White Horse Tavern to discuss their ideas. (Other notable Christians who’ve gathered for intellectual discourse at a pub? C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, at the Eagle and Child in Oxford.)

Thomas Cranmer, principal author of the Forty-...Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and author and compiler of the first two Books of Common Prayer, believed in clerical marriage. Henry VIII did not. Yet Cranmer fell in love with a fair German maiden, Margaret. Despite the danger, he married her anyway, although in secret. Rumor said that Margaret hid in a box to escape detection, though some historians dismiss this as a legend explaining how well Cranmer hid her existence. Others believe Cranmer’s marriage was an open secret, but nevertheless, many of Cranmer’s enemies never caught on.

John Calvin determined to marry too, though he didn’t have a lady in mind. Friends recommended a certain noblewoman for his consideration, and though he agreed, the match never came about. He later said he wouldn’t have wed her “unless the Lord had entirely bereft me of my wits.” He found happiness with widow Idelette de Bure.

Church music began to change during the Reformation. The first protestant hymn (“The Only Son from Heaven,” 1524) was written by a woman, Elisabeth Cruciger, who was also married in the first recorded protestant wedding.

A rendition of Huldrych Zwingli from the 1906 ...Image via Wikipedia
Controversy surrounds the musical legacy of Huldrich Zwingli. Some have interpreted his teaching to indicate he was against music in church, but other scholars claim it was only chants to which he was opposed. Either way, Zwingli enjoyed music. He could play the harp, violin, dulcimer, and flute. Sometimes he would play for local children, and earned the name “the evangelical lute-player and fifer” from his enemies.

Many Reformers had prices on their heads. Some died in poverty; others, like Cranmer, were executed. Reformation was not a bloodless endeavor. The 16th century saw a Counter Reformation, years of war (the Thirty Years War is said to have killed over 25% of Germany’s population), and unrelenting flux as individuals continued their quest for religious freedom. A few of these folks boarded a ship to find a place where they could worship in their own way: here in America, we call these early New England settlers Pilgrims.

The Reformation continues to shape us, no matter our denomination. The right to worship in our own way, to read Scripture and interpret it ourselves is fruit borne from the work of this astonishing period. Even if it isn’t technically an “era.”

Chadwick, Owen. The Reformation. Penguin, 1964.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

by Gina Welborn

Last week as I was painting one of the bathrooms in my house, I learned that over seven million tons of plastic is spanning our oceans. A vortex--gyre--of marine litter. No joke. Apparently "the existance of plastic in the oceans is causing infertility." Considering my feet have dabbled in ocean waters (hmm, does the gulf of Mexico count?) twice since I got married almost seventeen years ago and since I have five children, it's obvious the plastic-infected waters have not sterilized my womb. Of course, I could merely be an anomaly.

Could be or could not be an anomaly, that is the question of which I'd need at least half a day to ponder.

Anyhoo, this Great Pacific Garbage Patch spans "the size of Texas." Texas!?! I've been to Texas. It's huge-er than huge and that's not just the hair on the women. (On a side note, I read the other day that you might be a redneck if your stock portfolio consists of two sheep and a goat.) Get this: Imagine Texas-size trash heap floating aimlessly amid all those adorable human-eating sea critters....

Oh. My. Satellite Dishes. Poor SpongeBob and Patrick.

Well, I couldn't ignore this dreadful news so I googled for some pictures to show y'all.  Only I couldn't find any. Oh, I found YouTube videos, even one from a news segment from a national network morning show, but no actual pictures of the vortex so I'm limited to showing you this diagram. Dreadful isn't it?

My mind is swimming...I mean, spinning. But what's even more dreadful is the fact no one has pictures of this ginormous garbage. In this crazy day and electronic age when everyone but me has a mobile phone, surely someone with the time could mosey on out to that plastic-filled gyre and take a pic. I want a pic. While in labor with child #5, I suffered through six hours of the Anna Nicole burial trial. I freakin' deserve a pic! (No offense intended to anyone offened by the accidental use of the minor-f-word. Hubby spent three days in Disney World, leaving me alone with all of our five children, the dog who dislikes our nice Asian neighbors, and a cat who just won't run away. My nerves are rattled.)

Sadly, it's impossible to take a picture of this watery trash. Why? Experts say, "Since plastics break down to ever smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the patch is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average."

Huh? You lost me at polymer. Is that a cousin to polyester? Machine washable or dry clean only?

So, in other less scientificky words, the reason for no pictures is because "[the garbage patch] is [a] huge pile of trash collectively, but trash so small individually that the patch doesn’t show up."


If I understand correctly it's like air: unseeable, untouchable, untasteable, made up of bajillions of oxygen atoms that are so utterly small that we can see them even though we can breathe them. Obviously since I need oxygen to survive and since I'm still breathing, then, ergo, air does exist. Ergo, the Garbage Patch of the Great Pacific and other oceans exists.

Can you hear me sighing?

Call me Doubting Gina if you wish, but for me to believe this votex of swirling semisynthetic organic amorphous solid exists, I want proof. I want a picture! I want evidence! I want thousands of people who believe the Garbage Patch exist to suffer torture, imprisonment, and even death in the name of their faith in the existence of this littery waterworld!!!!!

Oh dear. I just typed five exclamation points. Perhaps I'm being a tad dramatic. (See note above on hubby in Disney and me alone with children.)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day" and the darkness "night." And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.
~Genesis 1:1-4

For many people, the problem with faith is the fact that faith doesn't prove God exists. You know, faith doesn't prove that "in the beginning," God created anything. The age-old faith issue. Does He or doesn't He. In my less-thn-forty-years-lifetime, I've learned that anyone who doesn't believe in God says those who do are narrow-minded. Well, to me, narrow-minded signals an unwillingness to consider other possibilities than what we believe.

I believe God exists and that He created the heavens, the earth, and all things in and around them in six literal 24-hour days. I'd go to my death for that belief. However, I'm also willing to honestly listen to someone explain to me why He doesn't and He didn't.

If you don't believe God exists or that He created what the Bible said He created...well, are you honestly willing to listen to someone explain why s/he believes God does and did create everything? Or are you going to be narrow-minded and insist you're right and no other truth can possibly exist?

Does God exist? Click here for some answers or here or take a trip to an Ohio museum.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ~Hebrews 11:6

Serious question of the Day: Ever learned anything cool/interesting/weird about creation or the existance of God? If so, what was it?
Non-serious question of the Day: What summer movie are you most looking forward to?

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