Teach Us to Pray

Prayer is one of the great mysteries of the Christian life. We talk in our heads or out loud. God hears. And God moves.

However, He doesn’t always move in the direction we want Him to go, or at the speed we’d like Him to move. In fact, we often find prayer moves us in the way He wants to go, and at His speed.

Prayer is extremely difficult. Through prayer, God can reveal painful truths to us—so prayer sometimes scares us. Silence often greets our prayers—which can make us feel prayer is ineffectual, or worse, that God doesn’t listen. For such a quiet activity, prayer requires great effort. Distractions, rote words, wayward thoughts, and time constraints all seek to choke off our prayer life.

Someone doesn’t want us to pray.

Why? Because prayer is our connection to God’s infinite, holy power. Because prayer changes us into Christ’s image so we can do His work here on earth. Because prayer shows us the depth of God’s heart and causes our love for Him to bloom and grow.

The profound truth is that Jesus Himself, the very Son of God, prayed while here on earth. If He needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray. If He took great effort to seek His Father’s heart, how much more should we.

How can you make or renew your commitment to pray?

Never Forget

Today we commemorate the 67th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi power.

In August 2007, I was privileged to stand on Omaha Beach on a misty, overcast morning not unlike the men faced that historic day. As I stood on that long stretch of sand and gazed at those high bluffs which once bristled with machine guns, I was moved deeply. We’ve all seen the movies and watched the footage – men dashing with rifles in hand, stumbling in the waves, beckoning their buddies onward, sheltering against debris – falling to the sand. But being there and feeling that sand beneath my feet gave me another level of understanding.

Today the Normandy beaches bristle with people on holiday – those who come to remember, and those who come to play. Children laugh and chase the waves and build sand castles. Tourists stand in silence, wipe tears, take pictures. This is as it should be.

Sixty-seven years ago, 155,000 American, British Commonwealth, and Free French troops landed in the biggest amphibious operation in history, along with free people from many other occupied nations. Take a moment today and remember those who risked their lives, who gave their lives so we can live in freedom.

Book Club Beat – When Crickets Cry

Welcome to Book Club Beat, where book clubs share about their discussions.

Book club name and/or location: Bibliovores, northern California

Title and Author: When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

What it’s about:

From the back cover… “It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. The stranger understands more about it than he cares to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner is about to change the trajectory of both their lives.”

Were discussion questions available? Were they helpful?

They were available on the publisher’s website. We found the questions rather…odd, but we had no trouble keeping discussion flowing.

What we liked about the book:

We all loved Martin’s gorgeous prose and his fascinating characters. Reese’s pain is deep, and his secret keeps him in a stranglehold, but Annie’s sweet and spunky spirit changes him. Annie is well-drawn—cute and funny and precocious, but firmly believable. The side characters are a delight—especially Charlie, Termite, and Monk. I really enjoyed the story structure, how Reese’s past story with his wife Emma unfolds in parallel with the current story with little Annie. We were all impressed with the author’s research into heart surgery.

Anything we would change about the book?

Many of us found the ending abrupt and a bit confusing and had to flip back and re-read to figure it out.

Fun connections (did the story inspire food, decorations, etc.?):

Oh yes. We enjoyed smoothies and lemonade and hamburgers off the grill, all mentioned in the story. Our hostess decorated the table with plastic crickets and a placard with the book’s theme Bible verse printed on it.

Deep connections (this story made us think about the following discussion topics):

Actually, for this book, our discussion mainly revolved around the characters and their quirks and motivations, rather than delving into our own lives. We did stray onto many conversational rabbit trails though. We love those rabbit trails!

Do you recommend this book for other book clubs?

Yes. If your group enjoys novels with a more “literary” feel, this is an excellent choice.

If you belong to a book club and would like your group to be featured on this blog, let me know! Pictures of the book club can be included if you’d like. Christian or “clean secular” fiction/nonfiction only please. The questionnaire is short, and I’ll obtain the book cover and story blurb.

If you’re looking for a book club, check out the Book Club Network at The Book Club Network, an on-line meeting place for Christian book club members and authors. Over 1000 members and it’s just about to celebrate its first birthday complete with a big birthday bash coming June 13! Join the fun!

Kids Count

“If Jesus lives in your heart, does that make Him a parasite?”

For the past seven years, I’ve fielded questions like that from my class of fourth- and fifth-graders in Sunday school. When I started teaching, I was a little concerned. What if they asked questions I couldn’t answer? What if I made a fool of myself? What if they were too cynical, too cool, too “all that” for Jesus?

Well, they ask tough questions, but nothing I can’t answer with the Lord’s help. And the bigger a fool I make of myself, the more effective I am as a teacher. But the biggest surprise and the greatest joy is the kids themselves – far from being “too cool” for Jesus, they seek Him with all their hearts! In one week at Vacation Bible School last year, three kids told me, “I want to learn more about Jesus. Tell me how I can learn more about Him.” Wow. When the gospel message is placed in front of children, most of them gobble it up like a box full of sour gummy worms.

Children hear the gospel message with different ears than adults. They don’t think about what Christians are like (and how we fail), what churches are like (and how we fail) – but only what Jesus is like. And they want Him.

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matt. 19:14, italics mine). Note that He didn’t say “drag” the children to Me, but “let them come.” As in, that’s where they want to go naturally. So let them come. Don’t stand in their way.

You can be a doorway to let children come to Jesus. Tell your children and grandchildren. Help in a Sunday school class or at VBS. Watch children’s faces light up when they hear the joyful news that God loves them, there’s forgiveness for their sins, and they can have eternal life in Him! You’ll be as blessed as the children.

Is your church currently searching for summer Sunday school or VBS help? Why not step forward, try something fun, and make this a summer that counts?

Sheep in Chutes

Conducting research for historical fiction is usually interesting, sometimes dull, but occasionally yields an odd or funny story. I found this little story while reading The Army Air Forces in World War II, Volume 1: Plans and Early Operations: September 1939 to August 1942 by Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate (Washington DC: Office of Air Force History, 1948).

When the Italian army invaded Ethiopia in 1935, they faced a serious supply issue. The army was operating hundreds of miles inland from ports, with few good roads for transporting supplies by ground, and few good airfields for supply by cargo planes.

At the same time, the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) had developed a fleet of bomber aircraft. Italy’s General Giulio Douhet had published the controversial book, Command of the Air, in 1921, which called for aggressive aerial bombing. His doctrine stated that prolonged bombing of a civilian population could break the will of the people so that they would convince their government to surrender, thus making ground armies completely obsolete.

However, the Regia Aeronautica found few targets in Ethiopia. Instead the bomber aircraft were used to drop supplies to ground troops, including food, water, and ammunition.

In an odd twist – one that would never happen today! – the Italian Air Force experimented with dropping live sheep and goats in parachutes. The animals then joined the march through the desert until they were needed for fresh meat.

Let the jokes begin…or let the protests begin…

Book Beat – To Win Her Heart

I’ve found a new author to add to my must-read list. Karen Witemeyer’s novels brim over with romance, humor, and well-developed characters, and I chewed through all three in a very short time. To Win Her Heart has a similar setting (Texas in the late 1800s) as the first two novels, A Tailor-Made Bride and Head in the Clouds, but each novel completely stands alone.

Eden Spencer is the wealthy daughter of the town founder, who runs a lending library, makes art from pressed flowers, and abhors violence. Levi Grant is the new town blacksmith who stumbles over his words and has violence hidden in his past. Not a likely pair, but the chemistry between them rings true, and they discover unexpected depth in each other. When Levi rescues the daughter of a saloon girl and then reveals his secret, Eden has to confront the prejudices she holds inside and learn the meaning of redemption and forgiveness.

The characters were so richly developed. I loved Levi’s restraint – from how he creatively works around his speech impediment to how he resists the urge to violence. I also loved watching Eden grow from a woman who sees herself as charitable to a woman who actually is charitable. The side characters are delightful as well.

Even if you’re not a fan of the Texas frontier – and I’m not – the beautiful writing and fascinating characters will draw you in. I strongly recommend To Win Her Heart and can’t wait for Karen Witemeyer’s next novel!

Book Beat – A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad

What a privilege to get to read this novel in advance for endorsement. This is what I said about A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad…”A grand slam! In a story as refreshing and invigorating as lemonade, Seilstad raises deep questions about a woman’s relationship with God, her dreams, and the people in her life – while making me laugh so hard my kids came running to get in on the joke.”

Set in 1901 at the lakeside resort of Lake Manawa, Iowa, A Great Catch follows ambitious suffragist Emily Graham and baseball player Carter Stockton. Emily’s meddlesome aunts want to make a suitable match for her – and Carter Stockton would be the last man on their list. Fine with Emily because her work leaves little time for men. However, Emily’s dream of having the women’s “Bloomer Girls” baseball team play an exhibition game against the Manawa Owls comes with the provision that uncoordinated Emily play for the Owls – under Carter’s tutelage. Emily and Carter fall for each other, but their dreams leave little room for each other.

On the surface, this is a fun summer read. Seilstad has a light, breezy writing style shot through with humor. The episode with the little pills from her aunties – I almost busted a gasket laughing. But this novel also looks at issues modern women frequently face. What do you do when your goals don’t align with the goals of the man you love? Does your work interfere with the relationship? Does your work squeeze out time for the Lord? And how do you deal with these issues?

Any novel that encourages you to examine your heart while making you laugh is a grand slam. Enjoy!

Flying in a Fortress

B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

On Monday, May 2, I had the privilege of flying in a B-17 Flying Fortress. The Experimental Aircraft Association visited Buchanan Field in Concord, California with their beautifully restored B-17G, Aluminum Overcast. I’ve enjoyed walking through this plane for years and always dreamed of taking a flight. This year one of my readers, who volunteers with EAA, arranged for me to participate in the media flight.

What an experience!

The video below includes footage on the ground, takeoff, my rollicking tour of the plane in flight, and the landing. I hope you enjoy! Here’s the direct link if the embedded video doesn’t work: Sarah’s B-17 Video

My flight included journalists from local newspapers and news blogs, two World War II B-17 veterans, and me. After we were briefed on safety, we were strapped into military-style jump seats. I was seated in the waist compartment, toward the rear of the plane.

They started the engines, which set the plane to bumping and rocking. After the pilot taxied into position, he ran up the engines. I couldn’t hear my own voice, so I’m stunned that the camcorder continued to pick up my narration. It didn’t take long to get us airborne, and as soon as the landing gear was raised, the volunteers gave us the thumbs-up to move around – while the plane was still climbing and banking. I didn’t waste any time getting up!

Sarah Sundin with B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Sarah Sundin with B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Moving around the plane was challenging and not for the fainthearted. At five foot six, I had a bit of room over my head, but not much. Climbing around the ball turret apparatus and through the doors requires some maneuvering, watching what you hold onto, and giving yourself plenty of clearance so a sudden dip or turn won’t make you bonk your head. I gained even more appreciation for our airmen moving through the plane wearing full high-altitude flight gear.

I made my way from the waist compartment through the radio room and bomb bay, and into the cockpit. This particular restoration does not include the apparatus for the top turret in the back of the cockpit, leaving more room for spectators. I spectated.

Then I stepped down into the passageway between the pilots’ seats and crawled – yes, on hands and knees – into the nose compartment. The clear conical nose allowed great visibility for World War II bombardiers – and now gives the same great visibility to aviation buffs. I turned around and enjoyed watching the engines and whirling propellers from the front. As I did so, Mount Diablo came into view. Oh my goodness. For once I had the presence of mind to take a still picture.

View of Mount Diablo from the nose compartment of B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

View of Mount Diablo from the nose compartment of B-17G Aluminum Overcast of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Buchanan Field, Concord, CA, 2 May 2011 (Photo: Sarah Sundin)

Not wanting to hog the best seat in the house, I made my way back to the waist compartment. Only a few minutes later it was time to sit down for the descent and landing. That was one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced. The WWII veteran pilot was extremely impressed and remarked that it was a crosswind landing, which is more difficult.

I am so thankful for groups like the EAA that make history come alive and commemorate the outstanding things our airmen did. The combat airmen flew long missions in unpressurized, unheated aircraft at over 25,000 feet, where the temperature often falls to forty degrees below zero. They endured antiaircraft fire and fighter attacks over enemy territory. They watched too many of their friends, promising young men, come to early deaths. One of the veterans on our flight admitted, “We were scared.” They didn’t consider themselves heroes, but they were. Despite their fear, they acted. And because of their actions, we live in freedom today.

To learn more about the B-17 Flying Fortress and the men who flew in them, please see my articles on the B-17 Flying Fortress and on the B-17 crew.

Happy V-E Day Anniversary!

Sixty-six years ago today, the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe. People went to church and prayed. Bells rang. Parades rejoiced through small towns and cities.

The cost of victory was high. Tens of millions were killed in battle. More tens of millions were murdered and starved in concentration camps. And more millions perished as civilian casualties of bombing. Many of Europe’s great cities lay in heaps of rubble. The infrastructure of factories, railways, bridges, and roads lay in tangled ruins.

But the cost of defeat would have been even higher. The fascist dictators had conquered most of Europe and ruled with totalitarian brutality. They trampled the freedoms of the occupied lands, freedoms we take for granted – to speak our mind, to worship as we please, to associate with the people of our choice, to keep the fruits of our labor, and even to listen to the radio. They ruled through fear, and it was legitimate fear. Entire villages were emptied and massacred. Dissenters were tortured and executed. Anyone who didn’t fit in the fascist regime due to ethnicity, religion, or mental or physical incapacity, was eliminated with horrid efficiency.

We reap the benefits of that victory today. Despite today’s economic woes and terrorist threats, we live in relative prosperity and peace – and we have freedom. We must never forget what a blessing freedom is – or how much it costs. Use it wisely. Use it well.

Thank you to all those veterans who set aside their individual rights to ensure freedom for the future. God bless you.

B-17 Flight Video Coming Soon…


View of Mount Diablo from the nose compartment of B-17G Aluminum Overcast

I know, I know. I promised to have the video of my B-17 flight posted today. Due to technical difficulties – the difficulty being that I’m not technical – it won’t be up today. But soon. Very soon.


Me standing under the chin turret.
B-17G Aluminum Overcast, owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association

Here are some photos of the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber I had the privilege of riding in.

To see if Aluminum Overcast will be visiting an airfield near you, check out the Experimental Aircraft Association’s website at http://www.b17.org/.