Thursday, July 20, 2017

From Firetrap to Icebox

Is she jumping from a city firetrap factory into a wilderness icebox? 

In the third and final book in the Alaskan Waters series, Beside Still Waters, Violet Channing, orphaned at a young age, is tossed about by life's turbulent waters when the aunt who raised her dies. She wants nothing more than to be a schoolteacher. 

Living in a Boston tenement in 1915, barely able to survive, she accepts a job as a live-in teacher for a sick, motherless child in the harsh Yukon Territory. 

Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska, she falls in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. Just when her life feels as beautiful as her new surroundings, tragedy strikes again. 

Can Violet allow her losses to make her better not bitter and learn to love again in this continuing saga of the loves, tragedies, and second chances of a Norwegian immigrant family who must battle the beautiful but often dangerous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska?

Scenes Violet may have seen while traveling to the Yukon Territory:

Whales bubble feeding along the Inside Passage

Whale breaching along the Inside Passage

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway between
Skagway & Whitehorse
Lake Bennett, Yukon Territory,
Yukon Sternwheeler "Casca" mentioned in Beside Still Waters

Beside Still Waters, along with the other two books in the Alaskan Waters Trilogy, Till the Storm Passes By and A Star to Steer By, is published by Ambassador International and is available at (Kindle and paperback), (Nook and Paperback), Vyrso, and Christian bookstores. Visit my website at or connect with me at

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Said the Spider to the Fly...

During the summer, spiders build webs on my front porch as fast as I tear them down. When they glisten with dew in the early morning sun, I marvel at their creativity. But when I walk into them, frustration takes over. I've read that peppermint oil will discourage them, but I haven't tried it yet.

Today, I was sorting through a stack of papers I'd saved as a tickler file for my blog. You can understand why an anonymous item in an old youth magazine now defunct caught my eye. I thought you might enjoy it too:

Once a spider built a beautiful web in an old house. He kept it clean and shiny so that flies would patronize it. The minute he got a "customer," he would clean up on him so the other flies would not get suspicious.

Image result for fly
Then one day this fairly intelligent fly came buzzing by the clean spiderweb. Old man spider called out, "Come in and sit."

But the fairly intelligent fly said, "No, sir. I don't see other flies in your house, and I'm not going in alone!"

But presently, he saw on the floor below a large crowd of flies dancing around on a piece of brown paper. He was delighted! He was not afraid if lots of flies were doing it. So he came in for a landing.

Just before he landed, a bee zoomed by, saying, "Don't land there, stupid! That's flypaper!"

But the fairly intelligent fly shouted back, "Don't be silly. Those flies are dancing. There's a big crowd there. Everybody's doing it. That many flies can't be wrong!"

Well, you know what happened. He died on the spot.

Some of us want to be with the crowd so badly that we end up in a mess. What does it profit a fly (or a person) if he escapes the web only to end up in the glue? (to loosely paraphrase Mark 8:36).

In Matthew 7:13, 14, Jesus also warned that following the crowd will not lead to eternal life.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lessons from the Juneau Gold Mill

When my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus*, landed in Juneau in 1917 to begin their missionary work there, the hard-rock gold mines were the primary industry. I recently came across Grandma's handwritten description of touring the gold mills and watching the process of separating the gold from the rock containing it and some spiritual lessons she derived from it. After my post last week about gold, I thought you might find this of interest as well.

Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine at south end of Juneau
Juneau is nestled at the foot of two mountains, Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts. In the heart of Mt. Roberts was one of the largest, richest gold mines of Alaska. It employed about 650 workers.

Gray rocks containing the gold were dug out of the mountain and brought by trains through a tunnel to the mill located above the lower end of the town. The trains emptied the rocks into a large receiver where they tumbled down into large crushers. If they were too large, they were first blasted into smaller pieces about a foot in diameter.

Gold bearing white quartz
The tumbling rocks were sprayed with a powerful stream of clear water. As the mud and muck were washed away, white quartz in which the gold was imbedded began to show through.

The white quartz must then be separated from the useless gray rock. As the rocks fell from the crusher, they were met by another stream of clear water before they landed on a moving belt about two feet wide. On each side of the belt stood a long line of men, called pickers. As the belt moved past them, they snatched off each rock that showed even the tiniest bit of white. The belt carried those that showed no white to the rock dumps to be discarded.

The rocks that showed white went to another crusher, where they were broken into smaller pieces. They were again washed and carried to another moving belt for the same separating process. Finally, the crushed pieces went into the tumbling barrels, which contained many iron balls. As they tumbled over and over, the heavy balls pounded the little pieces of rock almost to powder, which could be poured out like a stream of dirty water.

At this stage, the slurry was ready to be poured onto large slanting tables with ridges from end to end that vibrated back and forth while the fine crushed rock was continually washed with water. The gold, being the heaviest, settled into the spaces between the ridges, while the water carried away the dross.

Inside the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine
Along with the gold ore were other metals such as iron and silver. They were useful too, but the gold must be separated even from them. Some of the gold let go easily. It was called "free gold." It fell out first into the top grooves of the tables. These little gold nuggets were gathered up with great care and formed into gold bricks.

Much of the gold, however, clung to the other metals. The "concentrates" had a dirty gray appearance and had to be refined by fire.

Grandma wrote that as she watched the rocks being washed and crushed and separated and tumbled repeatedly, she was reminded of how the trials of our faith bring us to spiritual maturity. We need to have the washing of water of God's Word continually applied to our hearts to reveal the pure gold hidden under the grit and grime of sin.

The process is not easy. Just as the other metals cling to the gold, the sinful nature clings tenaciously to us. Some things, like the iron and silver that cling to the gold, may not be sin in our lives, but they weigh us down and hinder us in our Christian walk. We need to let them go.

But don't lose heart. We used to sing a chorus, "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me." Each step brings us nearer to having His image revealed in us. If we persevere through the trials that seem to crush us, we shall soon come forth as pure gold.

*You can read the complete story of the Personeuses in my book, Frontiers of Faith, available at

Thursday, June 29, 2017

More Precious than Gold

Years ago on a visit to my home state of Alaska, I purchased a can of "genuine gold-bearing gravel" to be saved as a souvenir or panned. The label said it was "mined from the fabled dutch hills of Mt. McKinley in the Great Land of Alaska" and was "guaranteed gold in each can."

Bob and I decided to open the can on our 50th wedding anniversary on June 10. With great expectations we opened it only to discover that if there ever was any gold in it, it had all turned to dirt!

Sadly, that is exactly what happened to many gold stampeders too. Their dreams turned to dust. Only a few made it rich.

Juneau, Alaska, was founded on gold.
Juneau, where I grew up in the fifties, was founded on gold. It had been the hard rock gold mining capital of the world in the early half of the 20th century, producing billions of dollars worth of gold, but the price of gold dropped too low to make the expensive process of separating gold from the quartz rocks profitable. Now, all the huge gold mines are closed and are only of historical interest to the Alaska tourist industry.*

Gold has long been considered to the most precious of metals.

But how do we know the price of gold?

Twice a day, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. London time, representatives of the five member firms of the London Gold Market meet in the the Rothschild Bank to set the worldwide price of gold for the day. Traders call this process fixing the daily gold price, which is based on the happy medium price between the buy and sell orders placed with member firms. The price, always stated in U. S. dollars, is then transmitted around the world.

How did gold become the most precious of  precious metals? Here are some facts about gold:

In about 560 BC, King Croesus of Lydia struck the first pure gold coins to be used as an official, respected medium of exchange. Before that, beans, cattle, pigs, and other commodities were used to pay for purchases.

The Romans designed their gold coins with ridged edges to discourage greedy thieves from trying to slice off a few valuable slivers.

In 1531, Spanish conquistadors helped themselves to Inca gold and melted it down into ingots for easier transport. They melted down an estimated 13 tons of gold objects--one of the world's greatest cultural treasures.

In 1827, so much gold was found in Georgia that a branch of the U.S. Mint was opened there. Other branches are found in Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California, sites of famous gold rushes.

Gold bars weigh 27.6 pounds, or 400 troy ounces, the standard weight used for international trading. They are also know as "Good Delivery Bars."

The simple gold wedding band, which symbolizes enduring love, probably uses more of the world's gold than any other type of jewelry.

In 1987, it was estimated that about 20 percent of the annual gold production worldwide was stashed away by investors and hoarders. Of the rest, about 75 percent went into jewelry, about 9 percent to electronics, about 9 percent into other industrial uses, and about 4 percent to dentistry.

Gold is so soft and malleable that one ounce can be stretched into a 50-mile long wire. Skilled gold beaters can hammer gold so thin to make gold leaf that it would take 250,000 sheets of it to make a layer an inch think.

About 100 thousand times more gold than has ever been mined from the earth's surface is estimated to be held in suspension in the world's oceans. Unfortunately, the process for recovery is too expensive to be practical.

Before gold is useful, it must be refined. 
Refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the Bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. With flames reaching temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, this job was definitely a dangerous occupation for the gold refiner. The tradition remains largely unchanged today with the exception of a few advancements in safety and precision.

The second method of refining gold involves the use of chemicals. Strong acids (n
itric acid and hydrochloric acid) are used to dissolve the impurities in the gold ore and afterwards, are neutralized and washed away, taking the impurities with them. The resulting product is a muddy substance that is almost pure gold (99.999% or 24K). This muddy substance is dried until it is a powdered residue and then heated with a torch or other source of heat to melt the gold powder into useable gold. 
As enduring and costly as gold is, the Bible tells us that the genuineness of our faith is as precious as gold that perishes. Just as a refiner applies extreme heat or strong acids to purify gold to make it useful, God allows tests to come our way to refine and purify our faith.

 If you are facing hard trials today, just remember, God is not trying to destroy you. He is refining and purifying you your faith. With Job you can say, "When he has tested me, I shall come forth as pure gold" (Job 23:10).

*These old Juneau mines play a part in my historical Christian fiction novel, Till the Storm Passes By, Book One in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy. The third book in the series, Beside Still Waters, features the Klondike Gold Rush.The entire trilogy is now in print in paperback and ebook. See

Friday, June 23, 2017

No Outlet

In 1986, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of going to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked. Tears welled up as I sat in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and realized this was the site where Jesus walked on the water and calmed the stormy waves with His "Peace! Be still!"

Across the waters was the mount upon which Jesus preached His "Sermon on the Mount" and fed the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish.

At its base was the place where Jesus met with His disciples after the Resurrection and commissioned Peter to "Feed My sheep."

On the other side, Jesus cast the demons out of the Gadarene and into the herd of swine that then plunged into the sea.

 Then we followed the Jordan River through the Rift Valley south to Jericho and on to the Dead Sea. From a distance, its blue waters looked like a shimmering gemstone set in the platinum surroundings of salt formations.

Our guide explained that the area was once the well-watered plains of Sodom and Gomorrah chosen by Lot when he and Abraham parted ways. He pointed out the pillar of salt named "Lot's Wife." Lot's family was warned by the angel not to look back as they escaped the destruction of Sodom, but his wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:12-29).

The natives of the area call it the Salt Sea. It contains ten times the salinity of ordinary ocean water. In fact, its water volume is more than one-fourth mineral matter. A person cannot sink in its waters. We were warned not to even stick a finger or toe into the water unless we could wash it thoroughly with fresh water because the water is so caustic.

The Dead Sea is well named. No animal life can exist in it. Fish that are swept into it by the Jordan River soon die.

The Dead Sea region is probably the deepest depression on earth. It is 1,300 feet below sea level. The bottom is another 1,300 feet below the surface in the deepest part. This hole is 2,600 feet in depth--with the Mediterranean Sea only 50 miles away.

The trouble with the Dead Sea is that it holds everything for itself. It has an intake but no outlet. Water flows in from the Jordan River, but none flows out.

How like some people who take in but never give out. Some Christians go to worship services and take in but get so busy with their own lives that they never give out to others. I want to be like a glass held under a faucet. The glass fills up and overflows to others with fresh, life-giving water.

Looking for good summer reading? Check out my newest book, Beside Still Waters, Book Three in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, available now in paperback and ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Our Surprise Honeymoon

Last week, Bob and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary, and I blogged about the events that threatened to derail our best-laid plans. After the ceremony and brief reception on that Saturday evening 50 years ago, we hopped back into our Chevy Impala and drove the 500 miles back to Fairbanks, so we could return to our jobs on Monday. No time for a honeymoon! 

Back in Fairbanks, our working schedules were crazy that summer. Bob worked for the Alaska Highway Department from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I worked at the Alaska Purchase Centennial Exposition from 2 p.m. until midnight. Not a great schedule for anyone, let alone newlyweds!

The Chena River flows through Fairbanks, Alaska

On July 1st, at about nine o'clock in the morning, I was jolted awake by violent shaking and a big crash as something fell on the roof above my head.

Adrenalin pumping, I hopped up and staggered to the front doorway, the best place to stand during an earthquake, and hung on. The telephone poles were jumping, the lines snapping up and down like cowboys' whips.

When it subsided, I turned on our tiny radio and learned that the earthquake that had just occurred registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. I went outside to check out the roof and discovered the chimney on our tiny rental cottage had fallen down on it.

During the summer in Alaska’s interior, it was not unusual for temperatures to soar into the 90s in Fairbanks. That summer, though, was chillier and rainier than usual. With no chimney, we couldn't use the furnace. The first week of August, the landlord built a beautiful cement block chimney. At last, we had heat.

Then it began to rain again—almost nonstop for a week. The Chena River runs through Fairbanks, and one night in mid-August, reports came that it would crest well over flood stage. Everyone stayed tuned in to their radios. We weren't too worried since our place was sixteen blocks from the river, so we went to bed but kept the radio on.

About midnight, we heard that many basements had been collapsing due to the extreme pressure from the high ground water. Our basement had a dirt floor and board walls. The furnace was there, and we had stored boxes of school books, wedding gifts that didn't fit in the tiny living quarters, and winter clothes, shoes, etc. We decided it was time to empty the basement. 

Bob had no sooner carried up the last box when two cellar walls collapsed. With a tremendous whoosh, filthy brown water rushed in. Our cottage teetered over a giant water-filled mud hole.

Outside, muddy water swirled around our house. We piled everything we could on top of our bed, chairs, and couch, all except two huge boxes that wouldn't fit.  

But how could we get safely from our house to the hotel about a block away where the radio said buses were picking up survivors to take them to the shelter set up at high school?

In back of our house was a small boat dealership. Bob waded over and broke out a skiff.

But we had no oars.

“This will have to do.” Bob held up the leaf from our Formica kitchen table.

We packed our toothbrushes and a few toiletries, our Bibles, and our wedding book into Bob's backpack and climbed into the boat, along with a few neighbors, to "row" to the nearby hotel.

A gray dawn was breaking as we paddled away at four a.m. Tears filled my eyes. Bob said, "Don't cry! We still have each other and the Lord. That's all we really need, isn't it?"

From the hotel, a bus drove us through flooded streets to Lathrop High School, where Bob had attended ninth and tenth grades. We spent a week there sleeping on the hard tile floor with at least thirty people to a room, side by side, head to toe, without bedding of any kind.

The lady whose place was next to me on the floor worked in the kitchen preparing meals for the school filled with displaced people. Secretly, she kept her white Persian cat with her, refusing to place it with the other rescued pets. The first night, I walked through the line in the cafeteria and received a chicken back with maybe four tiny bites of meat. 

Back in our room that night, the lady offered her cat a beautiful chicken thigh. My mouth watered. That finicky cat sniffed it all over and walked away. To make matters worse, Bob and I never could get rid of all the white cat hairs stuck to our new matching burgundy wool car coats.

A long week later, the waters had finally receded sufficiently that we could trudge back to the house. The flood had opened up huge craters in our tiny street. If we had not used a skiff to evacuate, we could have been swallowed up in one and drowned.

Inside the house, mud caked everything up to nine inches above the floor. Everything in the two large boxes on the floor had to be thrown out--Bob's school books and my lifelong collection of shoes and purses. 

Cold and damp, with no water, sewer, or heat, the house teetered over a basement full of filthy water. We knew we couldn't live in it. But that new chimney still stood tall!

Parked on slightly higher ground next to the house, our 1960 Chevrolet Impala had stayed dry inside, although the engine had probably been at least partially flooded. Bob opened the hood to let it dry out then tried to start it. It roared to life!

Bob still had work with the highway department, but the Centennial Exposition on the river had been completely inundated so my job was gone. We decided to load everything into our car and drive to Valdez (it took two trips) to stay with my folks until Bob's orders to active duty in the Army came through (three weeks later).

At that time, the town was only partially moved. My folks lived in the old parsonage that was connected to the old church. There, we slept in the missionary apartment above the old building, ate meals with my parents, and had a wonderful three-week honeymoon.

From the beach in Valdez, which had once been the waterfront of the old town, we fished for silver salmon, stocking my folks' freezer for the winter. 

And we explored one of the most scenic places in the world—Keystone Canyon with its Bridal Veil Falls, Thompson Pass, Worthington Glacier, and the Gulkana River Gorge along the Richardson Highway north of Valdez. 

We weathered the Fairbanks Flood of 1967, but even the worst storm clouds often have a silver lining. For us, it was a honeymoon to remember.

In Thompson Pass

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fiftieth Anniversary Musings

Saturday, June 10, my husband, Bob, and I celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

During our first year of courtship at the University of Alaska where we were both students, the faculty advisor for our Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, a confirmed bachelor from Madagascar, said, "Couples start marriage like a prince and a princess. But soon they become a wrinkled and worn old man and old woman sitting across from one another at the breakfast table, wondering what they ever saw in each other."

Bob disagreed. "They would become more like a prince and a princess to each other."

Thinking of my Personeus grandparents, who celebrated their fiftieth anniversary that year and were still very much in love, I agreed with Bob.

That inspired me to write this poem:

To Bob

(written in December 1965)

Young and in love, like a prince and a princess,
They embarked on a journey in search of success.
Through time and sharing of joys and sorrows,
An old man and woman with few tomorrows
Look in review of the years spent together.
Though wrinkled and worn from work and the weather,
In their faces the glow of contentment does gleam
That more like a prince and a princess they seem.
For, Through the years, the secret they'd found
That in quietness and confidence their strength would abound.*
For God had not promised no problems they'd bear,
But only His strength with them to share.

*In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15.

Newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Conti
On May 22, 1967, Bob and I both graduated from the University of Alaska with plans to marry that summer. That year was also the Alaska Purchase Centennial. Fairbanks, home of the University of Alaska, was the site chosen for the Centennial Exposition. Due to the shortage of hotels/motels, most rentals in Fairbanks became daily or weekly rentals that summer, making the price prohibitive for a couple just out of college with no pay check until mid June.

We searched for several weeks and could not find a place to live. We had everything ready for our wedding but couldn't set the date until we found a home.

Bob, who had also been commissioned into the Army at graduation, was expecting orders to go on active duty at any time. When we couldn't find a place to live, he suggested that we wait to get married until after he arrived at his first duty location. He would then send for me, and we'd get married there.

That did not set well with me. I wanted my father, a pastor, to marry us. For two and a half years, I had been praying for God's will regarding our marriage. That night I prayed, "God, if we aren't married before Bob leaves for the Army, I'll know it is not Your will for us to get married at all."

The very next day we found a tiny furnished bungalow on 16th Street, a block off the main road out of Fairbanks. It was just what we needed, and the price was right. Bob rented it immediately. 

Knowing that Bob would have two weeks' notice to prepare to leave for active duty, we set our wedding date for two weeks after renting the house--June 10.

Bob was working for the State Highway Department, and I had been working as a cashier at the Centennial Exposition and living with family friends since graduation. Bob would not receive his first paycheck until the first of July, but I was paid every two weeks. Unfortunately, my first paycheck, which we were depending on to pay for our marriage license, was a day late.

When we went to pick up the license on Thursday, the day before we planned to drive to Valdez, 500 miles south of Fairbanks, we discovered that my require blood test certificate had expired the day before.

I was frantic! The state lab was only open on Tuesday and Friday mornings. The Gowins, the friends I was living with, helped me get an early Friday morning appointment at my doctor's to retake the blood test. Then Bob and I hand carried the blood sample to the state lab for testing. We then rushed the health certificate over to obtain the marriage license.

By then, it was afternoon. We still had to pick up the flowers (Valdez had no florists). But they were not ready when we stopped for them. We finally left Fairbanks at 3 p.m. for the 12 hour drive to Valdez.

Since we were nearing the longest day of the year, we had only a few hours of darkness. We arrived in Valdez in heavy rain at about 3 a.m., Saturday, our wedding day. Since Valdez had no hair salons either, I fell into bed three hours of sleep and got up at 6 a.m. to wash and roll up my hair, which would take all day to dry.

Saturday dawned clear and warm, one of those rare Alaskan days that make all the bad weather worth enduring--a perfect day for a wedding. Since we both had to go to work Monday morning, after our 7 p.m. ceremony and a reception of wedding cake and punch/coffee, we drove back to Fairbanks Saturday night. Arriving at our little bungalow about noon on Sunday, we crashed for the rest of the day.

We had no time for a honeymoon. In Fairbanks, where the sun hardly sets in the summer, the Highway Department worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 6 days a week, and I worked from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Centennial Exposition.

But God arranged for a honeymoon in a most unusual way. I'll write about that in my next blog.

As we look back on 50 years of marriage, we both agree that our bachelor friend was wrong. Perhaps we view each other through the eyes of memory of how we looked in our youth, but we still see a prince and a princess. Yes, we've had our share of difficulties, but through commitment to our marriage and forgiveness, we've made it through the hard times.