My faith may be on life support but ‘God’s Not Dead’

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By some miracle, our local theater is showing God’s Not Dead. A friend and I went to see it this weekend.God's

I would recommend this movie which depicts a college student’s attempt to stand for his faith against a philosophy professor, then the impact his decision has on others. The movie itself moved kind of slow with a plot based mostly on dialogue. The ending, however, was well worth it. Our whole theater joined the Newsboys in singing “God’s Not Dead.”

Much more than a night at the show, my faith needed a shot in the arm. No big crisis, or even anything that anyone else would notice. Just those discouraging things that make me question if it’s worth it to keep trying.

I needed to hear shouted from the big screen in stereo surround sound, that even if it feels like my dreams have breathed their last, “God’s not dead!”

I needed to stand in the moonlight of my backyard at 11 p.m. and see that even though I feel alone, the “heavens declare the glory of God.”

I needed to learn from my Sunday school teacher yesterday that even when my prayers go unanswered, to “keep on praying” (Romans 12:12) and to remember that “his ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

As I write, this latest release from the Newsboys came on the radio. This Easter, no matter what else, I believe.

When writers get together

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The Called To Write Conference this past weekend proved to be every bit as enjoyable and inspiring as I expected – and even more! Connecting with the Pages From Stages crew – all of us except Cherie – was as fun as always.Many other writers have become friends that I get to catch up with each year.

See more photos here on Facebook.

Julane and Kathy celebrate

We celebrated writing successes for Kathy Gronau and Julane Hiebert with sparkling juice.

Sara Meisinger and Susie Mires

Sara Meisinger and Susie Mires

Called To write Conference

Julane getting ready to open a session. She and the rest of the committee do an outstanding job.

 

Susan Mires teaching

I had a new experience and a wonderful time teaching a workshop on newspaper writing. I’m making a point – be like the Apostle Thomas and verify all information.

Called to Write conference

This is my favorite photo from the weekend. Look at all the ways it shows writers connecting and building friendships.

Five fast facts about the Pony Express

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Today is an important day in history – especially for St. Joseph. On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express rider carried the mail from St. Joseph toward California – and forever into history.

In honor of this achievement, here are some facts about the Pony Express.

A field trip to the Pony Express Museum which depicts
Johnny Frye preparing for the first ride on April 3, 1860.

  • All riders were given a Bible and signed an oath not to use profane language, drink liquor or quarrel with fellow employees.
  • On average, it took 12 days for the mail pouch, known as a mochilla, to travel the 2,000-mile route.
  • Riders rode a horse for 10 to 15 miles – or about an hour – and then changed mounts. The riders would change every 75 to 100 miles.
  • The rate for mail started out at $5 an ounce.
  • The Pony Express ran for 18 months until it was put out of business by the U.S. Transcontinental Telegraph.

    Modern riders take the oath for the reride leaving the Patee House in St. Joseph.

    Modern riders take the oath for the reride leaving the Patee House in St. Joseph.

Happy trails as we remember the Pony Express this week!

 

Book Review: Ellie Sweet novels for young adults

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Recently, I read some books for young adults/teens. And I thoroughly enjoyed them!

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is a funny, engaging book about a frustrated teen writer. Ellie Sweet is being ignored by the girls she thought were her best friends and she has a crush on a boy who thinks her name is Kelly.

She escapes through her keyboard to a medieval Italian court, where she is Lady Gabriella being wooed by a handsome prince.

Ellie was a delightful, honest girl who had to navigate the tricky waters of high school. As an adult, I could relate to her, but the story also had a humor and lightness to it that captured the fun of  being a teenager. (Unlike much young adult fiction that gets so loaded down with issues that it becomes almost inappropriate for young readers.) I confess to developing a crush on Chase, Ellie’s new friend, and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the book.

In the sequel, The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, the new author sees her book in print – and her friends recognize their role. It becomes even more difficult for Ellie to figure out where she fits in when her older brother starts dating her former best friend. And things with boys are never easy.

Real-life author Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kan., and encourages fresh voices through her blog GoTeenWriters. I’d recommend her Ellie Sweet books as bedtime stories for readers age 12 on up who can relate to someone who finds herself in an embarrassing situation.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is just 99 cents on Kindle. Click the cover to go to the Amazon page.

 

Joy. And bluebirds

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I’ve been thinking. As I walk down the sidewalks of the neighborhood and see winter give way to a season of all things new.

I’ve been thinking. About spring. And the delight to see two fat robins flitting around a yard.eastern_bluebird_11

About joy.

About how much it means when a friend comes to my defense. Even if I’m standing on shaky ground.

And how just a few sharp words. Or even a look. Or just being over looked. Can hurt.

How one of the most precious gifts of the Holy Spirit is the soft, persistent voice that whispers when no one else is around. When nothing makes sense. That it will be okay.

Joy. It doesn’t come in the noise. But in the quiet.

I’ve been thinking. That joy is like a bluebird. Often times unexpected. Sometimes out of place. And  always welcome.

May your day be graced with gifts of spring. And joy. And bluebirds.

 

Technology ended the Pony Express

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telegraph

Iconic drawing depicting a Pony Express rider passing by workers setting telegraph poles.
Image courtesy of the University of Nebraska.

Progress is a good thing. But sometimes, an advance in technology also creates a little sadness.

The Pony Express originated from St. Joseph, Mo., in April 1860. It was, at the time, the fastest thing going and connected the nation at a critical time in its history. Though hoofbeats still echo here in St. Joe, the pony ran for just 18 months before technology put it out of business.

Edward Creighton, a successful and generous businessman in Omaha, Neb., commissioned the surveying of a telegraph line between the Missouri River and the West Coast. On Oct. 24, 1861, the Transcontinental Telegraph was completed. On Oct. 26, 1861, the Pony Express ended. It just so happens that Oct. 26 is also my birthday.

And now, 153 years later, I live in St. Joseph and found this intriguing little tidbit while writing a historical novel set in the early days of the Pony Express. (Could I even say “Telegraph killed the Pony Express star?)

Telegraph communication was much more effective than the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Co. The telephone even better,  only to be topped by video chat or Skype. Still, there’s something romantic about a lone rider carrying the mail across the plains. Thank goodness he can live on through stories!

Susie

 

Davy Crockett Bars

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Another hit from the Mires Family cookbook. A friend requested the recipe for Davy Crockett Bars.2012-10-13 08.42.11 Why are they called Davy Crockett Bars? I have no idea.

Thanks to both cousins Alice and Becci who submitted this recipe.

Davy Crockett Bars

2 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. quick oats
2 eggs
1 c. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. Stir is brown sugar and oats, then add eggs, oil and vanilla. Last, stir in the chocolate chips. The dough is very thick. Press into a jelly roll (11×17) pan. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. You can also press the chips into the top of the dough and mix chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Called To Write 2014 – I’ll be learning and presenting

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The countdown is on to my favorite writers conference. Called To Write Conference will be here in about seven weeks.

Called To Write was the first writers conference I ever attended and as I go back year after year, it keeps getting better. It’s where I first met Julane and Sara and Kathy and other writers who I love to connect with each year.

The conference will be April 3-5 in Pittsburg, Kan. Julane and her chapter have managed to line up some world-class presenters. Best-selling Christian authors Janice Hanna Thompson and Kristen Heitzman will be leading several classes. The other presenters include Kathy and myself. I’ll be teaching on writing for newspaper and I’m quite looking forward to it.

Besides the wonderful classes, the Called To Write conference focuses on a writer’s calling to serve God and minister to others through the written word. It is an amazing value for just $70.

If you’ve ever thought about being a writer, you will not find a more affordable, uplifting, instructive conference than this one. Please consider going – if you haven’t signed up al ready! Click here to register.

I’ll see you there!

 

High rollers at the cattle auction

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The crowd at the United Producers sale barn on Saturday. Notice the dog at the left.

The crowd at United Producers in Maryville, Mo., on Saturday. Notice the dog sitting at the left.

The air in the sale barn was filled with more than the aroma of cattle. A sense of anticipation hung over the crowd and a sort of energy as they took seats early, eager to see just what would happen.

The cattle market is – in the words of one analyst – crazy. Drought and an early freeze have caused the smallest herd of beef cattle in many years. As a result, prices for all kinds of cattle are at record highs. I went to visit my dad on Saturday and tagged along when he went to the cow sale at the sale barn near home.

The auctioneer calls out bids. The sign at top shows they sold for $2,500 each.

The auctioneer calls out bids. The sign at top shows they sold for $2,500 each.

Dad had sold a few calves recently, receiving the highest price he’d ever gotten for a calf. In true farmer fashion, he wanted to put the money back into buying more mother cows to have more calves.

Fifteen minutes before sale time, the curved benches of the sale arena started filling up. Nodody wanted to miss this because it felt like just about anything could happen. I sat among those hard-working men who were dressed in brown duck coveralls and muddy boots and thought of a recent visit with a crop farmer. He said you had to be an optimist in this business, otherwise you’d never put seed in the ground.

There was a lot of optimism at the sale barn and it became clear I was rubbing elbows with some high-stakes gamblers. In a matter of minutes, one man spent $137,000 on 55 head of Red Angus heifers. I overheard one guy on his cell phone, I imagine talking to his wife, say: “They’re high. It’s scary.” But his tone suggested it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

There was also this row of adorable future farmers.

Learning young

Learning young

The last cow of the sale, a nice three-year-old black Angus cross, was bought by an eternal optimist – 94-year-old Hugh Mires of Maryville.

It also inspired me to do something I’ve never tried before. I uploaded this video to You Tube. If you’ve never heard a livestock auction, it’s interesting to hear how the high rollers do business. If you have been to a sale, you’ll enjoy the familiar cadence.

PS SmallI was very careful not to scratch my nose for fear I’d bid and spend a year’s salary. You could say that I’m all hat and no cattle, until I can work up the nerve to join the high rollers.

 

Fuel for the Fire

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Wood heat can’t be beat, as far as I’m concerned.

I grew up on the farm and the wood stove was our only source of heat. My dad loved chopping wood and stoking the fire. We had more more trouble being too hot than being too cold. The stove makes a natural place where we all still gravitate on a winter’s day. My mom cooked chili and ham and beans on the stove, simmering all day to reach a delicious aroma. The wood stove warmed us inside and out!

My little wood stove, powered by electricity with a candle to add scent.

My little wood stove, powered by electricity with a candle to add scent.

When I first purchased my home, I was quite leary of the gas furnace. Those things are dangerous – they can explode! A serviceman assured me the late-model unit was one of the safest things on the market. The furnace does have it’s advantages – it fires up automatically on a cold morning and no chainsaw required.

But it produces only a surface kind of heat compared to the deep-in-your-bones heat of a wood stove. A couple years ago, I purchased my own “wood stove.” Just an electric heater with a fake flame, but it warms me up.


Recently, I snuggled up in front of the fire (with my best reading buddy) to read the fabulous book Lincoln’s Battle With God.
As I read – on my Kindle Fire, no less – about Lincoln sitting by the fireplace late at night after finishing his chores to read and pursue his studies, it seemed like a connection.

A warm fire is good for the mind and the soul – even if it is just an electric one.

Keep warm!

 
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