Vacation Muse

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Morning waves pound the shoreline.

Soaring, hungry seagulls screech aloft.

Energized waves swell, then tumble

into foamy, sand-laden disarray. Beach

bathers gingerly extend toes to test

the briny foam’s integrity. Sun rays

sport a game of hide-and-seek with

thinning clouds. An airplane’s motor

strains to tow a banner with its siren

call to more exciting pleasure coves.

Umbrellas pop open among the dunes

like fanciful, sprouting mushrooms.

Two lovers pause to share a kiss,

then save the moment with selfie smiles.

Such is life seen from a hotel balcony

one balmy July morning, while a worker

skims the froth from an adjacent pool.

Thirty-seven years ago, Sharon French Logan and I joined our hands, hearts, and lives together before God and people in the church where I was a pastor. We’d both been down such a path before, only to end up painfully divorced and feeling broken. We pledged to love, honor and cherish each other, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health.” The intervening years have held experiences reflecting the breadth of life embraced by that vow.

This week we celebrate our anniversary. Our bond of love still holds. We are more vibrant, stronger, and wiser for all we’ve been through. God has been our anchor. God’s love for us has enriched our love for God, each other, our family, and many people he has placed in our path. We stand before God now, as we did then, in gratitude, humility, and eternal hope.

A few years after our wedding, we moved to serve a different congregation. One of the families there owned a cottage at Nags Head, which they generously invited us to use for a week each summer. Those summer vacations became healing times of bonding and strength amidst the stresses of church and family life. We always found our spirits refreshed by the presence of God we sensed on this fragile strip of  North Carolina land that forms a seaside buffer to the Atlantic Ocean.

Even after the family who owned the cottage and we had moved on in our lives, the Outer Banks has continued to call us. It’s still a place of renewal we cherish. A few years ago when Sharon recovered from dementia via a brain shunt that corrected a neurological condition, one of our first acts was to spend a few days on the Outer Banks. It was restorative then, as always before. The same is true of our days there this week.

What a blessing. Thanks be to God. 

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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