Thursday, April 28, 2016

Beavertail Lighthouse--My Inspiration

In 1948, when I was two-and-a-half years old, my family sailed up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my uncle Byron Personeus' gospel mission boat, the Fairtide II, to begin missions work. Throughout my childhood, I lived on the water in towns such as Juneau, Pelican, and Seward.

Maybe that's why I've always felt a special connection with the restless waves of the sea. In seventh grade, I choose to memorize John Masefield's poem, "Sea Fever," for an assignment in school. I can still recite most of it.

A few months after our wedding in Valdez, Alaska, also on the water, in June of 1967, my husband, Bob, went on active duty in the Army. On our second anniversary, he left for a year-long tour in the Vietnam War.

Then, we were sent to Rhode Island, where he commanded a small Army detachment that provided high-level security for 250 civilian personnel at the facility where the strategic world map was made.

Aerial of Beavertail Courtesy
That's when we discovered Beavertail Lighthouse at the southern end of Conanicut Island in the mouth of Narragansett Bay, a body of water which nearly cuts the state in half. Whenever we could get away, we headed south to Beavertail.

After our son was born, we'd bundle him up in his stroller and walk around the point on the one-lane gravel road. If the wind was too strong or it was raining--the best times to watch the surf crash against the the rocks, we'd sit in the car.

After two years, we were transferred from Rhode Island to Arizona. Then, Bob resigned his commission to study for the ministry in Springfield, Missouri. But always we longed for the sea.

In 1977, we returned to the East Coast to start a church in Upstate New York. Whenever we could get away, we drove to Rhode Island to visit Beavertail. For the past 25 years, that is where we've spent every wedding anniversary.

When we first get out of the car, the scent of salt water and blooming wild roses mingle in the wind. We climb down to our favorite spot where we love to sit on the rocks just above the water.

The ever-changing sea always fascinates me. Silently, I recite "Sea Fever." The breakers churn in endless succession against the rocks. Strangely, the restless sea and the mesmerizing rhythm of the surging waves soothe my spirit.

Waves at Beavertail Courtesy
The crashing surf foams and hisses as the waves charge against the rocks, explode into spray, and tumble into tidal pools, fracturing their tranquility. White threads of foam lace the ebbing waves like delicate embroidery on tapestries of blue and teal and gray.

Seagulls scream overhead. One suddenly swoops down to pluck a tiny, wriggling crab from a nearby tidal pool in the rocks and carries it to a higher boulder. There, it pecks vigorously at it to break its shell. Another gull lands nearby, stretches its neck, beak open, and squawks its request for a share in the meager meal.

The Author at Beavertail
The breeze flings spray from a crashing wave, wetting my face. The sun hides behind a puffy cloud, and I feel a chill. Just when I decide to put on my jacket, sunbeams spill out and warmth envelopes me again.

Beavertail is where the idea for my Alaskan Waters series was born. The nearby town of Jamestown is the opening setting for the first scenes in Till the Storm Passes By, and Beavertail plays a key role. The colors of the sea became Evie's favorites, the sea a recurring theme.

With time for ideas to free fall, the plot settled into place along with the sequence for the series of novels.

Once again, as our anniversary nears, my thoughts turn to Beavertail. "I must go down to the sea again; to the lonely sea and the sky...."

 About Beavertail

The lighthouse received its name from the beaver-like shape of the island, with its tail at the southern end. Beavertail was the third lighthouse (after Boston Harbor and Nantucket) to be built in the American Colonies. The southern point of Conanicut Island is open to the onslaught of the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. Winter storms and hurricanes make it extremely treacherous to ships trying to make harbor in Newport or Providence and was notorious for shipwrecks.

The lighthouse itself, rebuilt in 1863, a square granite tower, is not the most picturesque of lighthouses. Today, Beavertail is a state park with a paved road. Its popularity lies in the fact that it is easily accessible with numerous parking areas from which one can view the waves even when its too stormy to leave one's car.

Till the Storm Passes By, Book One in my Alaskan Waters series of historical novels, can be purchased in trade paperback or e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or go to my website,, for other options. A Star to Steer By, Book Two, is also available, and I'm currently working on Book Three, Beside Still Waters.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Soar with the Eagles

Growing up in Alaska, I loved to watch the bald eagles perched atop a tall, wind-gnarled tree or soaring alone high on currents of air. The eagle--symbol of the United states of America--regal and majestic, rises above the squabbles of the other birds.

The eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks and prepares. It flies to a high spot and waits for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it set its wings so the wind will pick it up and lift it above the chaos.

While the storm rages below, it uses the strong air currents to lift it higher. Unlike other birds that struggle in the midst of the storm, the eagle rides effortlessly above it on the winds that brought the storm.

I admire the eagle and want to emulate its qualities. When the storms of life assail me, and they will come sooner or later, I want to rise above them. I can only do that by setting my mind and faith on God. The storms of life do not have to buffet me and overwhelm me. I can allow God's power to lift me above the storms.

Over the years, I've discovered that its not the trials and burdens of life that weigh us down and buffet us; it's how we handle them. God wants to enable us to ride the winds of the storms that bring sickness, tragedy, failure, and disappointment into our lives. He can help us soar above them.

Are you facing a storm in your life today? Set your wings of faith and wait for the winds of the Holy Spirit to pick you up and lift you above the storm to soar in heavenly places with Him.

Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God wants to raise us up and "make us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." After we see our lives from God's bird's eye perspective, we can then face our trials and troubles and "run and not grow weary, and walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31) because we are doing it in His strength and power, not our own.

Come soar with Him today!

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

My uncle, Byron Personeus, spent more than forty years as the captain of a gospel mission boat among the islands of Southeast Alaska and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One of his favorite songs was "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," by Philip P. Bliss, a gifted American composer and gospel songwriter of the late 19th Century.

My uncle and aunt (couple on left) in Ketchikan, Alaska, in 1948 standing next to their first mission boat 
Lower lights are the tiny lights along the shore that mark the safe channels. Without them, ships could easily smash on the rocks or get stuck on sandbars, and lives are lost. Before reefs and rocks in Alaskan waters were marked by lights, many terrible tragedies occurred.*

Whenever my uncle took his mission boat into a town, village, or cannery, he would play a recording of that song over his boat's public address system. Everyone would hear it and know that he would be holding a church service that night.

The story behind the song is this: In one of his meetings, Evangelist Dwight L. Moody used as his sermon illustration the story of a terrible shipwreck.

The night was dark and stormy. The ship was bucking and plunging as it approached the harbor of Cleveland with a pilot on board. The captain noticed only one light--the light from the lighthouse--as they drew near. The lower lights needed to line up correctly with the channel to take them into the harbor was dark.

Cleveland Hill Lighthouse, built in 1859
"Where are the lower lights?" the captain asked.

"Gone out, sir," the pilot said.

"Can you make the harbor, then?" asked the captain.

"We must, sir, or we'll perish," the pilot answered.

The pilot steered his course toward what he thought was safety, but in the stormy darkness he missed the channel. The ship struck the rocks, and many lives were lost.

"Brothers, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse!" Moody proclaimed. "We are the lower lights. Let us keep the lower lights burning!"

In the audience that night was Philip P. Bliss. The story inspired him to write the well-known hymn, Let the Lower Lights Be Burning:

Philip P. Bliss
Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the light along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a beam across the waves!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamps, my brother;
Some poor sailor tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Maybe in this modern age we don't relate as well to sailing ships. But think about finding your way on a dark pathway to your front door at night with no street lights when your porch light is out and you have no flashlight. Some homes use solar lights to mark their walkways. We might call those "lower lights."

Jesus is the Light of the world, the great Lighthouse, but He wants us to reflect His light to the sin-tossed people we come in contact with every day. He warns us not to hide our lights or someone may be lost for eternity.

What can you do today to be a lower light?

*All of my books feature a gospel missions boat ministry. My present work-in-process, Beside Still Waters, features one of the most tragic shipwrecks in Alaskan waters that occurred because no light marked a treacherous reef in Lynn Canal. For more about my books, go to

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

He Never Sleeps

Last week, I wrote about how my mother lay awake worrying about house fires and how to get everyone out of the children's home she and my father operated in the early fifties in Alaska. (See Fire!) Although she got sick and had to give up the children's home, through that she did finally learn to trust such things things to the Lord.

But I had to learn that same lesson myself.

Bob in Vietnam 1969
When my husband, Bob,  resigned his regular commission in the Army to go into full-time gospel ministry, the Army asked him to keep a reserve commission even though he had satisfied his required time in the military.

The Army needed personnel to fill in for certain officers in the regular army when they took leave. But they couldn't use just anyone. They needed officers who had performed that job while on active duty. Instead of fulfilling the requirements of reserve duty the usual way one weekend a month, he could chose which two week time period he would serve.

That allowed him to fulfill his active duty requirements between terms at seminary. It also provided extra income then as well as later when he was a pioneer pastor.

While Bob was in seminary in Springfield, Missouri, our son was a preschooler. We rented a small, one-story house with windows all around. I worked at our denominational publishing house as an editorial assistant. My job included a lot of proofreading and editing.

The first time Bob went away for his two-week tour of duty was the first time I would be home alone at night with a young child. The first night, I lay in bed afraid to close my eyes. All through those long hours, I stared toward the open bedroom door imagining every shadow to be an intruder. What would I do if someone broke in?

The next day, I could hardly function at work. My eyelids drooped, and I struggled to stay awake as I tried to proofread. I knew I could not survive two weeks like this.

That night, when I got into bed, I prayed, "Lord, you promised in Psalm 121 that You neither slumber nor sleep. There's no sense both of us staying awake. I'm going to trust You to watch over us and take care of us." And I deliberately closed my eyes.

It took a determined act of my will, but I kept my eyes closed. It wasn't long before I fell asleep and awoke refreshed in the morning.

Each night, I repeated that prayer. Before long, I had no problem sleeping in the house when Bob was away. Of course, I always took the necessary precautions of checking to be sure the doors and windows were all locked.

Do you have trouble trusting the Lord in everyday situations? Try what I did. Find a Bible promise that relates to your need and pray it. Determine to trust it to God.

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