because the more things change the more they stay the same

Archive for December, 2010



I grew up with the Western…my father an avid reader of Zane Grey. Great television Westerns like Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Bonanza, The Virginian, The Rifleman, just to name a few, a part of my early development: “Happy Trails to You” hummed in my head for more days than I can count. With the success of Lonesome Dove, both the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and the television mini-series, and most recently the remake of True Grit, demonstrates the strong possibility the Western will make a comeback, one of the reasons I why I can recommend Henry McLaughlin’s award-winning book, Journey to Riverbend, due for release February, 2011. also available on Kindle.
“We’re so proud of Henry and his award-winning first novel. This one grabs you from the first sentence and never lets go.” Said Jerry B. Jenkins, owner of the Christian Writers Guild. And it doesn’t take long before we realize why Henry won Operation First Novel sponsored by Christian Writers Guild.
I echo Jerry’s sentiments because Henry is a former critique partner. Fearless Fiction Writers knew from the first, Henry would do great things with his writing.
Michael Carter makes a journey to Riverbend as a favor to a boy he counseled who dies on the gallows. Ben Cartairs left his home after a falling out with his father and wants more than anything in this world to be reconciled. But, when Ben is hung, unable to prove his innocence, Michael promises to find Ben’s father and tell him he could be proud of the man his son had become, a changed life saved by Grace.  
Soon after his arrival in Riverbend, Michael learns that Ben’s father, Sam Carstairs has been kidnapped. Michael joins the search party, determined to fulfill his promise. But the journey to Riverbend isn’t only about Ben and Sam Carstairs. In the tension that follows his journey, Michael recalls his own evil past, his bloody brawl with his father and a journey that had resulted in Michael’s salvation. In Riverbend, Michael meets and falls in love with the beautiful Rachel Stone, a former prostitute who has conquered her past through faith but who is resistant to trust any man.  
And so it is that all the characters McLaughlin introduces are on independent journeys. In this historical western, McLaughlin mirrors the same situations many Christians and non-believers struggle with today. Told with raw reality that was the West of bygone days, McLaughlin takes the reader on parallel journeys. Kudos for a job well done. An entertaining read from start to finish. 
By Henry McLaughlin
© 2011



I pulled out my recipe for snicker doodles, an old-time favorite for the holidays. As I put in the shortening, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, the recipe said to blend until creamy. My mind flashed to when I first learned how to bake, back in the day when cake mixes were a novelty or used for last minute church suppers.

The kitchen was my mother’s paradise and her instructions were gospel. To deter meant banishment from the stove.

First: “Wash your hands. No good cook comes to the kitchen with dirty hands.”

Next: “Now read the recipe, and put all the ingredients on the shelf.”

Third step, to my mother the most crucial in the whole process: “cream the shortening, butter, eggs and sugars.”

I stuck in the rotary beaters, set it on high and splashed wet globs from one end of the kitchen to the other. “Done,” I said.

Mother knew better, knew I was always in a hurry to get to the end of a project. “Nope. It’s too grainy. Set the beater on low, scrape the sides frequently, fold the batter together and repeat. Let time and the ingredients do their magic.”

Reluctantly, I started again, following her directions blowing out my frustration all the while. “This takes too long.”  

“Don’t rush it,” Mother said. “Creaming is the most important step in the whole process. If you hurry the creaming, the cookies will come out crumbly and dry. Creaming is what makes them chewy and delectable. Don’t rush the creaming. It takes time but the result is worth it.”

I slowed down and watched with wonder as the goo gradually melded into a creamy, light texture, the ingredients transforming before my eyes.

As I carefully creamed for the snicker doodles, Mother’s words came back to me. I thought about our instant society, how we crave immediate results, the growing tendency to hurry through life in the fastest checkout line. In our haste we blunder through the mix of it all, leaving globs of broken dreams in the muck of our speed.

I thought how the creaming principle is true in all the rooms of our lives, not just the kitchen. We tend to rush for the pleasure without enduring the process. God has given us the recipe for a rich, textured life. If we take the time to cream it, not be satisfied with grainy goo or toss it aside because of its unpleasantness—if we repeatedly scrape, fold and beat for as long as it takes, the grimy gook of our shattered hopes will become that creamed foundation that awakens the flavor of our human experience.  


Remember Jim Neighbors, Gomer Pyle, who smiled with every new twist and turn in his life? I love surprises. And I hope I never get too old to appreciate the new or the old with a twist. This blog is dedicated to life at its fullest. Not every surprise brings joyous news, like a flooded kitchen sink in the middle of a holiday dinner. But every surprise is a reminder that life is far from boring.

My husband and I stopped at an IHOP on our way to New York City to visit our son for Thanksgiving. Even an IHOP is a treat…we don’t eat out that much. But we were met with a surprise in a place where we thought no one would know anything about us or that we were approaching our 33rd anniversary.

I left for a few minutes to go to the ladies room. When I came back, I saw my husband’s neck stretched, perhaps looking for me. Maybe I was gone a little longer than expected. When I sat down, an elderly man came to our table and handed us a poem he’d scribbled on a napkin, written in the voice of my husband. What a special moment, found at random. Made us want to give back a little…a random kindness in return to perhaps give someone else the pleasure of a surprise.

YOU LEFT ME by Joe Testo

                My Darling, you left me

                For minute or two

                Though that is not much

                Still I missed you

                So I thank the Good Lord up above

                For giving me you

                My Darling, to love.

                Give someone a random surprise today. In fact, come back and let us know about it. God bless.

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