On birth and hope and Memorial Day.

She was having trouble.

My cousin and his son worked quick to wrap the twine around the hooves protruding from the mother cow as she worked to push her calf from her womb. Then they used the weight of their bodies, in rhythm with the contractions of the cow, to try to pull the calf free.

In the end, a third man had to help them before the calf finally slipped out and onto the bed of hay.

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The dazed mother began to lick her calf, each stroke of her giant tongue massaging life into it lungs, stinging, I imagine, from the first shock of air. (Can you stand the preciousness of the onlooking calf in the next stall?)

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And within the hour, the calf was standing and eating from its mother.

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I’ve been hoping for years to see the birth of a calf, and it was every bit as beautiful and amazing as I expected.

What’s more, the events played out nearly exactly as they did in the second chapter of my novel, Lead Me Home, thanks to YouTube videos and the generous input from my cousins I used during the writing process.

Many of the things that inspire my writing I have never seen in real life.

Besides spending time at my cousins’ dairy farm yesterday, I had the privilege of attending three high school graduation parties. One of them gave attendees the chance to highlight a favorite Bible verse for the graduate, and I picked this one:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 1:1

Which brings me to today, Memorial Day.

The men and women who gave their lives for our country were convicted enough about the importance of freedom to give their lives for it. Hope kept them slogging across the beaches of Normandy and the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, trudging through the frigid mountains of Korea, and fighting along the Western Front.

Freedom, indeed life, is worth the fight.

As we kick back and enjoy a day off, may we keep the memory of these men and women in the forefront of our hearts and mind.

May we never forget, and may each of us be as convincted of hope as the men and women we honor today.

Here are some pictures from a trip our family took to Washington D.C. last spring.

Have a beautiful, blessed Memorial Day, friends.

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All creatures great and small

The Lord God made them all.

Those two lines were penned by James Herriot, beloved English veterinarian and author of so many books I loved especially in childhood.

Today is Earth Day.

Nature deeply inspires the novels and poetry I write, and with good reason. Creation is full of the inexpressible wonder of the Lord.

Some of my favorite authors are fellow nature lovers…Barbara Kingsolver (a fellow alumni!), Annie Dillard, Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Gene Stratton Porter (a fellow Hoosier author!), Beatrix Potter, Sigurd F. Olson, Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, and the list goes on and on. 

The current novel I’m working to finish is no different, and it may pull in the most nature to date. Set in southern Indiana, I’ve drawn upon waterfalls and spring time, red tail hawks and box turtles, orphaned rabbits and so much more.

When all the world is chaos, we need only to look at the miracle of spring, the joy of a fawn grazing alongside its mother in a hazy field at dawn, the call of a mourning dove perched on a weathered fence.

Ponder the wonder of the earth today, friends. Take care of it. Not for politics. But for the simple fact that it is a gift from our Creator.

They nailed him up.

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They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the Jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.

 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 Some of the bystanders who heard him said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

 But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

The Gospel of Mark, 15:25-41 (TMV)