Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Love Unexpected, a Lighthouse Novel

I’d heard Jody Hedlund’s Love Unexpected describe as similar to Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly. How true. Emma Chambers, like Marty Davis, has to marry a man at first meeting because what choice does she have? She and her brother Ryan are destitute after pirates stopped their boat on Lake Huron and stole all their money. Patrick Garraty is desperate, too. He’s the lighthouse keeper of Presque Isle, he has a little boy, and his wife has just died. Emma’s the only available woman for miles around. They join forces to solve their problems.
Also like Marty Davis, Emma can’t cook. And like Marty, she has a neighbor to help her. But unlike Marty with Ma Graham, Emma has Bertie Burnham. Emma thought she’d found a friend, but Bertie can’t be trusted. She hates Patrick and blames him for the death of his wife, her cousin Delia.
When itinerate preacher “Holy Bill” suggests she and Patrick team up, Emma thinks she’s getting a job like a nanny. She’s shocked to realize he means marriage, but her deepest longing is for a home and family of her own. And Patrick is ever so gentle and kind with his toddler Josiah. He tries to tell her he’s done things he’s not proud of, but she says the past should stay in the past. After all, Holy Bill sings his praises.
Emma grows fond of Patrick, but how is she supposed to let him know she wants a real marriage? Several times, Patrick tries to speak of the past, but Emma assures him it doesn’t matter. Then she learns the truth under unfortunate circumstances. She’s horrified. Was Patrick a pirate? Did he shove his wife down the lighthouse tower stairs as Bertie claims? What is she to do?
Love Unexpected is the first of Jody’s new lighthouse series, Beacons of Hope.
            Now let's hear from Jody:

1. Lighthouses tend to be romanticized, but life for the keeper and his family was often hard. What do you see as their allure?

Not only are lighthouse beautiful and picturesque, but they bring back a sense of nostalgia, poignancy, and romance that few other historical markers do. They're rich in historical details and stories. They're wrought with danger and death. And they're just plain fun to explore. Climbing the winding staircase, reaching the top, and peering out the tower windows (or in some cases going out onto the gallery) is breathtaking.

The men and women who lived in the lighthouses faced deprivation, isolation, and often great losses. Every time I visit a lighthouse, I gain a deeper appreciation for the people who devoted their lives to serve their country through manning the lights.

2. Most of your readers are probably women. Does your husband read your books?

No. My husband hasn't read any of my books. However, he doesn't read fiction. In all of the almost 25 years we've been married, he's maybe read one fiction book but instead reads lots of non-fiction. He may not read my books, but he's one of my biggest fans and supports me in countless other ways! 

3. What is the take-away message you want readers to receive after reading your book?

The heroine, Emma, has lost hope in God due to some horrific experiences in her past. Although she "knows" God is still there, she doesn't have hope that he hears or cares about her personally anymore.

My prayer is that readers will find hope like Emma, that God does care. We may not always understand how he works or how he answers prayers, but he never abandons us.

No matter where we've wandered, no matter what we've faced, He is there as steady and constant as a lighthouse, bringing us safely into his harbor where we can find rest.

            Thank you, Jody. 

            Your turn. If you had been a light keeper’s wife, what do you think would have been the most difficult aspect of your life?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We Three Kings, or Four, or More

            After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
            Who were these magi? They were educated scholars, wealthy, and influential. They were philosophers and counselors attached to the royal courts of Babylonia and Persia and even those of more distant lands such as Arabia and India, knowledgeable in all the wisdom of the ancient East.
Common legend names them Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar. The number three comes from the three gifts named in the Biblical account: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Quite likely, there were more than three wise men, possibly as many as a dozen. And they didn’t come alone. Wealthy, influential men as they were would have traveled with a large entourage, complete with a military escort and servants. They would have traveled, not on camels, but on horses.

Journey of the Magi, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

Such a foreign group would have “troubled” Herod and all Jerusalem. The eastern nations were not part of the Roman Empire, but of the Parthian Empire that had defeated attempts by Rome to conquer them.
Moreover, they came asking for the king of the Jews. Herod, an Edomite, had been appointed “King of the Jews” by Rome. He had no wish for competition and he didn’t know the Jewish prophecies. The Jewish leaders did, but they weren’t interested in giving up their power to any coming king.
How did the wise men know to follow a star and look for the newborn king? Apparently they were familiar with the Jewish scriptures. Balaam prophesied, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) Daniel, a prominent wise man in Persia, gave a prophecy which included a timeline for the birth of the Christ. They believed, and sought Jesus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Linus' Christmas Message

     The television special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" debuted in 1965, and CBS was flooded with letters from viewers, thanking them for keeping Christ in Christmas. At a time when network broadcasting aimed to please everyone and offend no one, executives and sponsors avoided religion.
     Cartoonist Charles Schulz agreed to script a Peanuts Christmas special, but stood firm on two points. First, no canned laugh track would be used. Second, the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke would be included. The true meaning of Christmas had been lost in commercialization, but it would come through for Charlie Brown.
     For one whole minute, Linus recited the gospel story. The producer protested. The network executives weren't excited about the finished product. But over fifteen million households watched the show and many were moved to tears as Linus concluded, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." The simple television show that was a hard sell among the executives was deemed a "special that is really special."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Germans Used Our Planes Against Us

     During World War II, hundreds of American bombers and fighters were shot down over Germany and German-occupied territory. What did the Germans do with all the wrecks?
     The Berge Bataillonen under Luftwaffe control were salvage units. They were kept very busy.
Most planes were so damaged, they were good only for reusable scrap. The wrecks were trucked to a train station and on to a salvage yard. Engines, tires, fuel, and parachutes were all saved for use in German planes. A Junkers bomber was equipped with the salvaged main landing gear assemblies for B-24s.

The American stars have been replaced with the German insignia six months after Wolf Hound was captured.
     The real prizes for the Germans were the planes that suffered little or no damage. As early as December, 1942, a B-17 Flying Fortress dropped out of formation in a mission to Paris. Wolf Hound had sustained major damaged, and the pilot became disoriented in bad weather. A German fighter intercepted the bomber over the Netherlands. The bomber crew lowered their landing gear in surrender and were guided to an airfield.
     The Germans made repairs on Wolf Hound and flew it to the Experimental Center at Rechlin. German engineers studied every system on the plane for three months. Luftwaffe pilots studied it to find its weaknesses to find ways to attack it, and develop new tactics. By September, the Luftwaffe has thousands of pages of technical information to use in the design of their own bombers and to improve their air-to-air tactics.
     Some planes were captured when the crews thought they were in neutral countries―Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland. Or they landed carefully to protect seriously wounded crewmates. These planes were sent to Captured Item Depots. Unique equipment was studied.
     American crewmen reported seeing unknown B-17s. These were captured bombers used by the Germans for clandestine missions, such as dropping agents behind enemy lines or attacking B-17 formations.
The first P-47 came into German hands when the pilot, out of fuel, thought he was landing at a southern England airfield. He landed near Caen, France, and was captured. This plane was of great interest to the German pilots. It proved to be faster in dives than they expected. Again, it was used for training in tactics to use against the American P-47s.

A German officer inspects a B-17 in fairly good condition. Allied fighters destroyed it before it could be repaired.
     The Germans were also pleased to get a P-51. The pilot had made an emergency landing and managed to destroy all valuable equipment before capture. The Luftwaffe attempted to repair it, but was hampered by the lack of spare parts. Other P-51s came into their possession, and these, too, were studied to develop tactics.
     The Italians captured a P-38 Lightning that landed at one of their airfields by mistake. They studied it, then used it to attack a B-17 formation. One bomber was shot down. Allied fighters were ordered to stay clear of the formation after that, and the captured plane failed to shoot down any more. It was eventually grounded because the bad Italian fuel damaged  its engines.
     A B-24 Liberator was captured after it landed near the Swiss board. The Germans created a propaganda film about the crew “surrendering.” They then used it to shadow RAF formations.
Some planes were recaptured by the Allies at the end of the war. Others simply disappeared.

From Strangers in a Strange Land by Hans Heiri Stapfer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Soldiers' Crickets

A one, and a two, and a “Friend or Foe?” The Acme clicker debuted in the 1920s as a time keeper for band leaders. How it came to the attention of the 101st Airborne Division is unknown. Someone may have seen it in use at a wartime concert and decided it would make a clever signaling device for the paratroopers.
Called the No. 470 clicker, manufacturer J. Hudson and Co. Ltd. of Birmingham, England, received a large order for the device for use by the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The military planned to use the clickers as a means of signaling in the early hours of darkness on D-Day. The soldiers called them crickets.

Very early on June 6, 1944, the paratroopers jumped into France. They landed scattered and out of position. The only soldiers one American could see were German. “We jumped right on top of them.”
Calling out, or checking their maps with a flashlight, would have been fatal. To find each other, they relied on their clickers, which some believe to have originated as prizes in Cracker Jack boxes.
To identify each other, one man would click once. If he was answered with two clicks, he’d found a friend. “The first American I picked up, I picked up with this,” recalled a veteran. “I gave him a click and he responded with two clicks. Boy, was I glad to see him.” Through the next few hours, he used his clicker to draw together a patrol.
Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, General Maxwell D. Taylor, said, “I had my pistol in one hand, my cricket in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.”
General Taylor is said to have anticipated his men would need a way of finding each other in the likely chaos of D-Day. His aide, Pfc. Cecil J. Mick, thought of the child’s toy. Whether it was a toy or a band leader’s timer, the clicker saw service only on D-Day. Afterward they were to be discarded.

Former Army Capt Sam Gibbons holds cricket

“The Germans picked them up off people they’d captured and people they’d killed, so it wasn’t a secret device anymore,” recalled Army Capt. Sam Gibbons.
Today the clickers can again being made. The National WWII Museum sells a replica clicker for $9. You can listen to a cricket here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lWIN6ktdKM