Tranquility

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Snow blankets day-to-day turmoil with an aura of tranquility.  Of course, there’s always the frenzy that follows with clogged streets, slick highways, icy walking paths, and all that. But, for just a few moments, if we step back, relax and let it happen, a snowstorm can bring at least a brief tranquil respite.

Tranquility represents a sense of inner peace and balance that is essential to healthy living.  Another word for it is serenity. That brings to mind the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My introduction to that prayer came from a pastor who was a recovering alcoholic. Sobriety brought a restoration of balance to his life, and that produced a call to ministry. He intentionally centered on the Serenity Prayer every day. It was part of his walk with Christ.

As snow falls today I recall Jesus’s words when he was preparing his disciples for the turmoil they would face as persons who had been deeply changed by their walk with Him. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27).

He knew they lived in a hostile world where they would need an inner resignation of worry through total trust in God after he was gone. How much we need this same inner peace and spiritual grounding in today’s world of lies, crudeness, bullying, and unbridled greed. When we are exploited by purveyors of fear, we need God-given tranquility to stay the course.

To be alive is to suffer sometimes. To be balanced is to cultivate a faith in our Creator that carries us beyond suffering to redemption, giving us hope and inner strength. The Serenity Prayer aids in that process.

Many people love snow at Christmas, even if they dislike it at other times. It somehow bespeaks warm legends of down-home joy and celebration that lie somewhere in the depths of our heritage. Christmas is near, and today it is snowing. The snow offers a chance, at least briefly, to slow down, take a deep breath, and relax.

I hope to so absorb today’s snowy tranquility that I will be able to call it back into my spirit when I hit the frenzy that awaits tomorrow. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

 

Frog Hollow Folly?

Hughs Wordquilts

100_2298Frog Hollow? Where’s that?

It’s a sort of isolated place, up in the mountains, in Limestone County.  Life is a little different there with no stores, post office, or cable TV.  Some families still keep a milk cow and chickens.  Hog butchering in the fall is still a big event.  Miz Mazzie presses a batch of apple cider each fall.  A few family garden plots still yield harvests producing stores of home-canned vegetables.  These days there aren’t many children around.  Most young families have moved elsewhere to find work.  

People in Frog Hollow have deep, sacred roots in their community…generations deep.  Many live out their days in the same house where they were born.  They share a long history of self-sufficiency.  When somebody has a problem, they rally to find a solution.  If something, or someone, threatens one of them, it’s seen as a threat to all.

That’s why there…

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Frog Hollow Folly?

100_2298

Frog Hollow? Where’s that?

It’s a sort of isolated place, up in the mountains, in Limestone County.  Life is a little different there with no stores, post office, or cable TV.  Some families still keep a milk cow and chickens.  Hog butchering in the fall is still a big event.  Miz Mazzie presses a batch of apple cider each fall.  A few family garden plots still yield harvests producing stores of home-canned vegetables.  These days there aren’t many children around.  Most young families have moved elsewhere to find work.  

People in Frog Hollow have deep, sacred roots in their community…generations deep.  Many live out their days in the same house where they were born.  They share a long history of self-sufficiency.  When somebody has a problem, they rally to find a solution.  If something, or someone, threatens one of them, it’s seen as a threat to all.

That’s why there is so much reactivity when EverMore Energy decides to construct a natural gas pipeline right through the hollow.   Anger and frustration are deep and often volatile because the pipeline threatens to change their beloved community forever.

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Frog Hollow is a fictional place in my recently published Kindle book, “PIPELINE: A Novel.”  It’s available from Amazon in both eBook and paperback editions.

The pipeline  in the story does not exist…but there are real projects like it taking place in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.  The story raises the question, “Is the pipeline FOLLY?”

The dictionary defines folly as something lacking good sense and sound judgement.  Is the destruction of forestry and private property justified by the proposed result of jobs and energy efficiency, or is it folly?  Perhaps the protests against it are folly?  News reports continue to dance around such questions.  

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“PIPELINE: A Novel” explores relational situations that could occur in such an environment–a story of suspense and romance told through the experiences of a young pastor, Billy Upshur.  Is it also a story of folly?

Why Write This?

Hughs Wordquilts

IMG_E7872-001My fourth novel is out.  Titled “PIPELINE,” it breaks away from my previous Dinkel Island Series, moving to the Virginia mountains. It features events, tensions, and pressures of a community impacted by construction of a natural gas pipeline.  

Some have asked, “Why did you write about this? Why didn’t you just stay with your series? I’ve been waiting to see what happens next with the characters in your other books.  What gives?”

Good questions.

I wrote it because the situation intrigues me. Decades ago I did a sociology project in college studying life in a remote Blue Ridge mountain community. Life there was centered in shared history and primary face-to-face relationships. The people had always been self-sufficient, providing for their basic needs through local interdependence.

At the time of my study, however, the basic needs for food, clothing, employment, education and health services were supplied from outside their community in…

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Why Write This?

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“The wind whistled and tree branches chattered, but he did not perceive the voice of God. Time warped as he clenched his fists and shut his eyes. The judgmental wind rattled his bones. He shuddered and bolted back to the car where he started the engine, turning the heat on high. Billy sat immobilized for a moment. The sound of a passing truck nudged him forward. Life goes on, he told himself as he pulled back onto the road.”

My fourth novel is out.  Titled “PIPELINE,” it breaks away from my previous Dinkel Island Series, moving to the Virginia mountains. It features events, tensions, and pressures of a community impacted by construction of a natural gas pipeline.  

Some have asked, “Why did you write about this? Why didn’t you just stay with your series? I’ve been waiting to see what happens next with the characters in your other books.  What gives?”

Good questions.

I wrote it because the situation intrigues me. Decades ago I did a sociology project in college studying life in a remote Blue Ridge mountain community. Life there was centered in shared history and primary face-to-face relationships. The people had always been self-sufficient, providing for their basic needs through local interdependence.

At the time of my study, however, the basic needs for food, clothing, employment, education and health services were supplied from outside their community in a nearby town. None-the-less, self-sufficiency was highly valued, creating resistance to the values of the larger culture surrounding them. 

Two real-life Virginia natural gas pipeline projects, and resistance toward them, have been increasingly visible over the last few years. As I read and listened to debates about this issue, my mind went back to my college study. I wondered how people in that remote area would have responded had eminent domain caused disruption to their settled world.

I knew, in fact, that such had occurred when the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed. How would it play out if the issue was a pipeline in the setting of  our current time? How would it feel to be part of that experience?

Using the templates of current pipeline issues and my earlier sociological study, I began to imagine a present-day isolated community, its people, history, traditions, and stresses in the modern world. Within that framework I designed the village of Strong’s Creek, and the adjacent, more isolated section called Frog Hollow.

Most authors write from the perspective of their own training and experience. Having spent decades as a local church pastor, I use that lens for my perspective.

In “PIPELINE,” a brand new pastor, Billy Upshur, is assigned to Strong’s Creek and Frog Hollow. He runs headlong into emotional reactivity toward the pipeline project. He also discovers much of the reactivity is centered around the house of an aging Cherokee healer whom everyone respects. Her house is threatened by the pipeline.

One of Billy’s early challenges is dealing with fear. Another is clarifying a faith perspective on the pipeline issue. Both tasks are embraced by scripture passages from Psalms 23 and Jeremiah 29. 

“PIPELINE” has many twists and turns, folksy moments as well as dramatic, even violent times. Romance also comes to play when a local Frog Hollow woman, Cindy Barker, and Billy fall in love. 

Writing “PIPELINE” was an intense emotional experience. I collected newspaper articles, consulted online sources, and shared excerpts with my two writer’s groups during the process. For a long time I could not envision exactly how these various strands would come together in the end. Then one day in early August, while doing my morning fitness walk, the wrap-up came clearly into my mind. While I had aimed for an early October release, I was now able to finish and publish a few weeks earlier.

“PIPELINE: A Novel” is available on Amazon in both e-Book and paperback formats. I hope you will be curious enough to get a copy and have a good read. Let me know your thoughts by writing a review for Amazon.

Blessings from Frog Hollow.

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