RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT
RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT
SLATE — On Sale This Week Only
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It’s February, the month of love. Wouldn’t you like to read some satisfying love stories that give you a whole lot more than just hugs and kisses? I’d like to introduce you to four men who want very much to love and be loved, but who are facing some serious challenges to love that only God and His Word can overcome.
Private Detective Maddison Holt, who is so bound by grief, guilt ,and self-incrimination that he feels he has no right to have real love in his life. Pastor Cameron McDaniels, who has finally found the woman who is the answer to his prayers for a helpmate but discovers that, since losing a fiance, she is now afraid of loving anyone else at all. Lionel Butler has caused many a girl’s heart to flutter, but he never even notices because he’s convinced he’s destined to be a bad husband and father. His future looks bleak and empty. And violinist, conductor Jonah McDaniels, now in his 40’s, finally recognizes the one woman who can fill his heart and life, but is fearful that the age difference between them makes his situation hopeless.
When these four leading men in the “Smoky Mountain Series” novels put their faith and the Word of God to the test, they find the God of miracles is a master in the subject of true romance. There are plenty of hugs and kisses, to be sure, but sooooo much more in the “Smoky Mountain Series.”
Paperback or Digital at Amazon.
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A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS is finally available in paperback at Amazon.
An author is by her books the way a mother is by her children: she never really has favorites. However, if I were forced to choose only one of my 12 novels as a favorite, I think it would have to be A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS. It isn’t the most important novel I’ve written, and it hasn’t sold as well as the “Smoky Mountain Series” books, but it has a charm that no other book has.
Even though I wrote the story — and have read it multiple times to edit, correct, and tweak it — I can honestly say I still enjoy it immensely every time I read it. I laugh; I cry; I feel happy; I feel poignant. And I always come to the words “The End” with a huge grin on my face. I hope all my readers do as well.
You can have that experience too. Check out the synopsis and purchase your copy of A QUIVER FULL OF ARROWS for $7.99 at Amazon now.
This week Book 1 of the Smoky Mountain Series took it’s place in the Paperback Inspirational Novel section of the Amazon book store. I’m really happy to report that this first book of the series —Set Free To Love — is now available at a new lower price — only $8.99.
It’s only a story — but when Private Detective Maddison Holt, Uncle Matt, Beth Hanover, and her young brother Lex get hold of your heart, you won’t feel like it’s just a story —– and you won’t want to miss picking up Book 2 of the series as soon as possible. The Smoky Mountain Series brings you stories where strong, loving, courageous characters meet the challenges of life with the power of God’s Word, and where true romance wins out over all.
Set Free To Love
As his vision suddenly blurred, Maddison realized he’d let it happen again. He swiped at his eyes with a thumb and forefinger, trying at the same time to pinch back more tears. He’d have to pull off the highway if he didn’t get better control of himself. The next moment, he could feel the anger boiling up from deep inside, needing an outlet. He’d swung back and forth like this relentlessly, between tears and anger for … how many weeks had it been now? Way too many … but then not really enough … not enough to dull the pain or answer any of the questions.
This first book in the Smoky Mountain Series follows private detective Maddison Holt’s journey from grief, guilt, and self-incrimination to a place where he is released from all of those burdens and able to freely give himself to loving and being loved. Order it here.
It all began with a dream. Yep, it’s another one of those stories. Two of my novels came from dreams that stayed with me long after I woke. I just knew I had to pick up from that point and finish those stories — one of which turned out to be EVERYTHING’S JAKE.
In fact, I can’t even take credit for the title because it was part of my dream as well.
It’s just a little love story. But, then again, it’s a whole lot more than a love story. It’s about finding out who you really are and learning to like that person – and discovering that liking who you are opens the door for the best relationships with other people. It’s about family – and friends who are just like family. It’s about letting God’s way of loving take control of your heart.
In this inspirational novella, you’ll meet Mariah Jacoby. She’s happiest working under the hood of a car, but she’s convinced that grimy hands and greasy smudges on her face aren’t exactly what guys are looking for in a girlfriend. Unfortunately, though, she’s having trouble holding down a job in any other field, despite college degrees and an upbeat personality. Desperate to change her unemployed status, she finally admits it’s time to face the fact that she’s really a “grease monkey” at heart. But dare she hope there’s a guy in her future who’s dreaming of a girl who smells like engine oil?
It’s a relaxing read, and it’s available from Amazon in print as well as in digital format.
Print Version is $4.99
Digital Version is $1.99
Check it out, and please don’t forget one other thing. If you like it, please go back to Amazon and leave a short review telling everyone how you enjoyed it. As most of you know, we authors are dependent on word of mouth from our readers to help us find more readers. So thanks in advance. (Oh, and if for some reason you don’t happen to like it — well — just don’t say anything, okay?) 🙂
Detective Maddison Holt is a man who loves God, but after facing a tragic loss, and accepting the guilt for causing that tragedy, he finds himself doubting both God and himself. Grief, guilt, and self-condemnation are keeping him from being free to love or even receive love from the woman the Lord wants to bless him with for the rest of his life. His journey into the truth that can set him free and give him another chance to love is the story you’ll find in SET FREE TO LOVE.
But Maddison’s story is just the beginning. Because once you get Maddison and Beth on their way to a happily-ever-after, you’ll find that several of the other characters in Book # 1 wanted a book of their own as well. And so the series grows. Four books currently make up the Smoky Mountain family of novels — each with its own hero who faces a challenge that only God’s love and power can overcome. There are more to come, and, hopefully, once you read Maddison’s story, you’ll want to read them all.
SET FREE TO LOVE went on sale yesterday at the Kindle store on Amazon.com. For the rest of June, you can purchase it for only $1.99. Check it out. And if you don’t have a Kindle, no problem. Amazon has a free Kindle app for any device you use. You can download it right from the page where you order SET FREE TO LOVE.
Take newspaper publisher Lawson Wainright, who has a gut feeling that two sleeping bags and a can full of peanuts under his front porch just might be connected with four run-away children who have been in the news. If he’s correct, his life as a quiet, orderly, 40-year-old bachelor just might be on the verge of being turned upside down.
Now add those four children, and a handful of other characters who will make the reader’s heart melt. Throw in a miracle or two from the hand of a loving God. And there you have a story that’s just made for Christmas giving.
It’s available in e-book on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and the price is right for giving: only $2.99.
And don’t forget, Amazon offers a free Kindle app for any device. Downloadable right on the page where you order A Quiver Full of Arrows.
Give a copy to someone you love this Christmas.
DON’T READ THIS BOOK if you don’t want your heartbeat to pick up speed at the sight of someone walking through a door – or if you don’t want to find yourself holding your breath waiting for a kiss – or if you don’t want to find tears rolling down your cheeks when disappointment is unbearable – or if you don’t want to find yourself grinning widely and looking a little foolish if you happen to be reading in public – or if you don’t want to finish the last chapter with a deep sigh of satisfaction and longing all rolled into one. If those experiences are not what you’re looking for, then do not read this book.
Most of my novels include a romance, but often it is only a part of the story, and not always the main focus. But I have to tell you up front that Jonah’s Song is totally and completely an honest-to-goodness, no-questions-asked, out-and-out old-fashioned love story – from beginning to end. Now don’t misunderstand: no parts of it are rated “R”; it’s a perfectly clean read. But it is a story that digs deeply into the hearts of a man and a woman – and into the heart of what God intended true romance to be.
All right then, who should read this fourth book in The Smoky Mountain Series? Well, if you’re not one of those people who fits the description in the first paragraph of this article, here’s the book for you. IF you “love” a good love story, then make a bee-line to Amazon’s Kindle Store and order Jonah’s Song while it’s on sale. In digital format, it will be selling for the special price of $1.99 from now through Christmas and then revert to the same price as the other books in the series..
So buy one for yourself – and another one for someone you love – this Christmas
(Also, if you do read it and you do finish the last chapter with a sigh of satisfaction and longing, please stop and say a few words about the book in the “Customer Review” section of its Amazon page. Thanks.)
Her sculptured cheekbones and her coal black hair, which she wore in layered curls to just below her shoulders, she had inherited from her Cherokee ancestors on her father’s side. Her emerald eyes and the light dusting of freckles across her cheeks (she could cover them completely with properly applied makeup, but usually preferred to let them peak through) had been passed to her from her mother’s Irish bloodline.
And the truth was that when one considered all of these parts together – from head to toe – Suzanne Peterson was simply, strikingly beautiful.
Of much more importance was the fact that she was so beautiful in spirit that she had no vanity about her looks and hardly gave them a thought. So her beauty wasn’t at all sophisticated. There was an innocence about her – in her eyes – in her smile – in her manner – that made her charming, and most everyone who knew her found her a delight to be around.
At the same time, she felt most things passionately, and when her sense of injustice had been aroused, her eyes would flash fire, and her lovely voice would take on a ring of authority that seemed incongruous with that innocence. So potent was this combination that when Suzanne Peterson took her stand on any issue, most people listened – whether they wanted to or not.
That fact gave her an advantage as a newspaper reporter. She was an accurate and truthful reporter, but every time she had an opportunity to do an article or a story that didn’t require her to be unbiased, she invested every bit of her talent and passion into persuading people to embrace what was right and good, and to abandon what was not.
But tonight, she wasn’t thinking about newspaper articles, or even about injustice of any kind. Rather, she was happily weighing the merit of packing her rose pink silk robe against that of taking the navy blue flannel as she prepared her luggage for tomorrow’s trip to Tennessee. She hummed quietly as she worked, stopping every once in a while to admire and smooth her hand over the ruby velvet bridesmaid’s dress hanging on her closet door.
“Oh, Lord,” she stopped to pray now, “how good You are to bring Maddison and Beth together as You have. I can’t imagine any two people better suited to each other. I know it took a lot of miracles to make everything work out for them, but You’ve certainly shown Yourself strong on their behalf. … It just swells my heart to see Maddison so happy after all he’s been through as a result of Matt’s death.”
Her eyes filled with tears, but she blinked them away. Her grief had to give place to her stronger joy for the man who would have been her own brother-in-law if things had gone as planned. She sighed deeply and sat down on the end of her bed in thought. Six months ago it would have been her own wedding she was packing for. …
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Two)
Pastor Cameron McDaniels had never felt his heart stop beating before. … Was that what was happening … or was he just forgetting to breathe in and out normally? … He couldn’t have answered either one of those questions, because his usually quick and concise reasoning abilities had just deserted him.
All he knew for sure was that he was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in all of his thirty-eight years on earth. … And her laughter … He had heard it as he came down the hall. Now, standing in the same room with her, it seemed to radiate from her whole being … rich and warm. It reached out and embraced him and drew him in … like a magnet. …
Somewhere in the back of his mind was the vague thought that this must have been what Adam felt when he first saw Eve. A foolish comparison perhaps, but he was used to thinking in Biblical terms after all. He knew others were in the room, but he couldn’t seem to focus on anyone but her.
All of this experience had taken only a few seconds, but he had lost track of time. Finally, he shook his head to clear it, deliberately took a deep breath, just to prove that he still could, and reminded himself that men didn’t really fall in love at first sight – particularly men who were ministers of the Gospel.
He squared his shoulders, taking another deep breath, glad that the others were still gathered around his secretary’s desk, intent on what they had been talking about that had them all laughing. They hadn’t seen him enter the office, so he had a moment to collect his thoughts.
So this was the young woman who had been engaged to Maddison’s brother and was now becoming a partner with Beth. Suzanne Peterson. … The name suited her, he thought.
The laughter of the others stirred him out of his reverie again, and squaring his shoulders once more, he moved forward. “Hello everyone. I’m sorry I’m late. The meeting with the other pastors ran longer than usual.”
Beth hurried toward him, her arms outstretched. “It’s about time you got here; we’re starving!” she said as they hugged each other. By that time, Maddison had crossed the room, beaming from ear to ear. “Don’t pay any attention to her, Cameron,” he said. “She’s always ready to eat. And can she put away the hotdogs!” he added, sliding his arm around Beth and squeezing her shoulder. She responded by punching him gently in the stomach.
“Now, Honey,” he said shaking his finger at her, “if you don’t behave, I’m going to have to arrange some more counseling sessions with our Pastor here before the ceremony.”
“All right, enough of that, you two.” The words came from across the room, and Cameron looked beyond Maddison to see Suzanne approaching them.
“You must be Pastor McDaniels,” she said, extending her hand to him.
“That’s right,” he answered as he took her hand. The luxurious sound of her laughter already had him mesmerized; now the feel of her hand in his disrupted his concentration even more. He had to get his thoughts together; he was the pastor after all; he needed to act like one! “And you’re Suzanne, of course. It’s so finally to – I mean – It’s so good to finally meet you.” He almost never stumbled over his words. Why now, of all times?
Suzanne spoke again: “I’ve heard so many good things about you from these two, that I feel I already know you.”
Let go of her hand, Cameron, he told himself. “Good … I mean … I … uh … I feel the same way.” He shakily drew in a long overdue breath. No woman had ever made him almost speechless before!
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Three)
With Suzanne in Honduras to interview the pastors, Cameron felt lost and uptight. This being in love was a whole new experience, and he was only beginning to get used to its ups and downs. But by Monday, with only four more days to go before her return, he was able to focus on his regular schedule a little more earnestly. He even congratulated himself because he felt like he was finally getting back into his stride. But it all came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night with a phone call from Juan Cordoba that began the worst nightmare Cameron would ever experience in his life.
When he first heard Juan’s voice speak his name, he assumed he had called to give an update on Suzanne’s visit, but when the only thing following the word “Cameron” was silence, he knew something was wrong. His heart started pounding, and he cried out silently … not Suzanne … not Suzanne!
“What is it, Juan?” he asked in a strangled voice.
“I don’t know how to tell you this in a way that will make it easy to hear, so I’ll just give you the bold facts. Suzanne went out with two of our medical team in the mobile clinic van. They were going pretty far into the more primitive areas, and she wanted to get some pictures and talk to the people that were receiving help. But the van never arrived at its destination.”
“You mean it’s just disappeared!”
“Nobody’s heard from any of the team since they left here very early this morning. They should have had time to visit both of the villages they were scheduled to work at and be headed back by now.”
There was silence on both ends of the line. Finally Juan Cordoba spoke again.
“You know what probably happened.”
Cameron let out a groan. He felt as if something were choking the breath out of him. Juan was again quiet on the other end of the line. He knew without words what kind of pain his friend was in, and he hurt for him, as well as for the family members of the other people on his medical team.
Finally Cameron was able to get enough breath to let out an agonizing sigh. “You think the van was hijacked for the drugs.”
“That seems most likely. I’ve called the authorities, but you know how hard it is to get things done very efficiently in these cases. They are on the job, but I think we’re going to have to keep our trust in the Lord for this one.”
Tears ran down Cameron’s cheeks and dripped from his jaw, but he wasn’t paying attention. He had picked up a pen, and started making notes. “Tell me everything you know at this point … and I mean every detail, Jaun. Don’t try to spare me any of it. I have to know.”
There wasn’t much more to add for the time being. Juan told him their own people were trying to track the van, and might be able to come up with some kind of lead before the authorities. He promised to call back as soon as he knew anything.
“Well, I’m going to call our congregation to a special prayer meeting right now, but I’ll be on the first plane out of here tomorrow morning,” Cameron said. “If I haven’t heard anything from you before I board the plane, I’ll give you one more call, so if you’re going to be away from the house or office, will you be sure somebody’s there who can give me the latest information?”
“Sure, Cameron. But I’ll be back in touch tonight yet; I promise.
“I’d appreciate that, if you don’t mind … even if you don’t have any more news.” Juan could here the tears choking his friend’s voice, and his heart broke for him.
“You can count on it, my brother.”
Cameron cleared his throat of the thickness caused by the tears. “Thank you, Juan. I’ll be waiting to hear from you, and you can be sure we’ll be praying with all the faith we’ve got for all of them.”
“We’ve notified all of our sister churches, and the congregations are going to prayer even as we speak. The Lord won’t fail us, Brother.”
“I believe that, Juan. Good bye, my friend.”
Cameron’s first call was to Maddison Holt and his wife Beth, knowing they would call others on the prayer chain for him. But even more to the point, Maddison had become Cameron’s closest friend and was so much like his own brother that he knew he could count on the solid comfort and support.
“Hi, Cameron,” Maddison said, “what are you up to this evening?”
Cameron cleared his throat again, and took just long enough to get his words out that Maddison knew there was a serious problem. “Cameron … ?”
“I … I just got a call from Juan Cordoba, Maddison. There’s a problem, and we need to get the church together for prayer.”
“Suzanne went out in the medical van this morning with their team that visits the outlying villages, but the van never arrived at either village. They’re all missing.”
“Oh, man! Do they have any idea what’s happened to it?”
Cameron cleared his throat again. He just couldn’t seem to get beyond this choking feeling. “The most likely explanation is that some local gang has hijacked the van in order to get the drugs it carries.”
“That’s pretty common down there?”
“Yes, unfortunately. It’s so common that I’m positive that’s what’s happened.”
“Do you have any idea what their attitude is likely to be toward the people on the van? I mean … are they likely to let them go?”
Cameron’s sigh was so weary that it almost broke Maddison’s heart just to hear it, knowing how much this man loved Suzanne. “It just depends. If they’re focused enough on the drugs only, they may just throw the people off and leave them stranded. But only God knows what these guys are like … if that’s what’s happened. There’s always the possibility that they’ve kidnapped them to hold them for ransom, of course, but I don’t think that’s as likely.”
“So you want us to call some of the others?”
“Yes, if you will. Call Uncle Matt and have him call a bunch, and then get Hilary, and have her call another group. Let’s ask them to come down to the church if they can, so we can all pray together. But any who can’t come down can at least be praying at home. I need to stop and call Suzanne’s parents next, so I’m going to let you guys handle the congregation.”
“Consider it done, Buddy, and we’ll be down to the church just as soon as we can get there. As a matter of fact, I think Beth and I will go on down there, and we can keep making calls from there.”
“That’s great. I’ll see you there pretty soon … and … Maddison …” he made a choking sound that barely held back a sob.
“I know, Buddy … I know. … We’ll be with you soon.”
(Excerpt, Cameron’s Rib, Chapter Eighteen)
The three excerpts above are just to tempt you. They’re from CAMERON’S RIB, the second book in The Smoky Mountain Series, which is finally available for e-readers. You can find a copy at Amazon’s Kindle Store right now. If you’ve read Book # 1 and liked it, you’re sure to like this one as well. Only $3.99
My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and third grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And most of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis barrelling down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.
That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came along to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.
In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got, the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.
I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place – or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my life and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.
But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I live there with them and enjoy being “home” for all those months. And I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.
The Smoky Mountain Series began with the novel Set Free To Love, which was actually the first novel I had ever written — although it was not the first of my novels to be published. The second book nudged its way into my heart and mind just as I was writing the conclusion of Set Free, and by that time, I couldn’t shut off the flow. Two more novels later, I had a four-book series, but book number 5 is in progress even as I write this post.
Most of you, my readers, know that I have finally been catapulted into the digital age, and I can now offer Set Free To Love in digital format for all those lovely technologically advanced gadgets that make reading while on the go so easy.
You can find Set Free To Love — and a synopsis of the story, along with a rerun of this article — at the Kindle store by clicking on the book cover above, and you’ll find book number 2 (Cameron’s Rib) in the same store shortly. So many readers have shared with me about how they have been blessed by Set Free To Love. I hope all the new readers will be equally blessed as well.
Oh, and one more thing: Last fall, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.” Ahhh, yes it is, my friends. YES IT IS!
Discovering a terrorist plot and risking your life to stop it before three U.S. cities are destroyed, receiving a visitation from an angel with important information from the Lord, falling in love with someone halfway around the world — through the help of a rusty old computer — and learning that it’s never too late to give your life to Jesus Christ. What more could any reader want from one book?
QUENTON’S HONOR (by me) has it all, and it’s just waiting at the Amazon Kindle Store to be snatched up by readers for their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, tablets, iPhones, and Androids. The novel has been out in paperback edition for several years, but this month saw its debut in digital format, and it’s available only on Amazon.
If you’re looking for a fresh, inspiring reading experience, check it out.
It’s worth $3.99 — even if I do say so myself.
You can also visit the “Quenton’s Honor” Facebook page to meet the characters and learn more about the book.
(Paperback version is currently available from St. Ellen Press, but will also be available on Amazon in June.)
And they say that everyone who lives there spends their time making toys and games and yummy treats to give away to all the boys and girls who live on planet Earth.
The reason is that the city is the home of a jolly, round, kind man named St. Nicholas – and he’s known as the giver of gifts. Some children in different countries call him by other names: Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus, to name a few.
As the story goes, St. Nicholas plans his whole year around one particular night – Christmas Eve – when he loads up a huge sleigh with all the wonderful gifts his helpers have made and flies through the night to deliver them to homes all over the planet Earth.
He has twelve reindeer who pull his sleigh for him, and when they are on the ground, they look just like any other reindeer. But as soon as he’s ready to take flight, St. Nicholas calls out to his team, “Let’s fly!” and they all leap into the air. The leader of the team is a reindeer named Rudolph, and he has a bright red nose that helps light the way when it’s foggy.
Rudolph has become very famous. There’s even a song about him, and people all over the world sing it. But a lot of people don’t know that he has a younger brother named Arnold. That’s right. And the story in this book is about Arnold and his antlers.
When Arnold was born, his parents were so excited, and so was his older brother. Rudolph had been an only child for many, many years, and even though he had a lot of friends among the other reindeer who lived at the North Pole, he didn’t have anyone that he felt was his very own.
So as soon as Arnold was old enough, Rudolph took him along everywhere he went and taught him all about the city where the toys were made. He also taught him about the North Pole, the great forest that hid the city from sight, and the icy cold river that ran through the forest and all the way down to the places where the weather was warm all year.
Rudolph and Arnold ran and played with the other young reindeer in St. Nick’s herd, and they were very happy. One of Arnold’s favorite things to do was to sit and listen to Rudolph tell how he had became the leader of St. Nicholas’ team. Arnold was proud of his big brother, and he got so excited when Rudolph told him stories about flying through the air delivering all the toys.
And St. Nicholas was always looking over the herd, checking to see who might be a good addition to the team. He liked to have young deer in training at all times. If some of his team caught a cold and couldn’t fly on Christmas Eve – or if his older deer became tired and needed to switch to doing easier jobs – he could get a substitute instantly and never be without enough reindeer who were in perfect shape to pull his very heavy sleigh. Every year, he chose two young deer to go into the training program.
When Arnold was about a year old, St. Nicholas came to look him over thoroughly and talk to the family about his following in his brother’s footsteps. The whole family was excited. They just knew that since Rudolph was St. Nicholas’ most important deer, his younger brother would surely be the first one chosen that year to go into training.
“What a fine specimen you are, Little Arnold,” St. Nick said, as he lifted Arnold’s head and smiled at him. Continuing his examination, St. Nick checked out Arnold’s back and hips and legs. He lifted each leg to examine Arnold’s hooves. And when he was done with that, he came back to Arnold’s head and began to look over his antlers.
Now, regular deer grow antlers and then shed them and grow new ones the following year. But the reindeer at the North Pole do not shed their antlers. They keep the same antlers all their lives. St. Nicholas looked carefully at Arnold and said, “Hmmm, these are quite large already, aren’t they?”
“Yes sir,” said Arnold proudly. He felt that growing large antlers must be a good thing.
“Mmmmmmm …” was all that St. Nick said before he patted Arnold’s head kindly and turned toward his parents. Mom and Dad had noticed that St. Nick did not seem all that happy about Arnold’s antlers. They looked at him hopefully.
St. Nick sighed gently. “Well,” he said, “we’ll let Arnold start training and see what happens. He may grow into those antlers yet.” And with that, he took his leave of the family, but he asked Rudolph to walk with him.
As they walked, St. Nick looked at Rudolph and said, “Well, Rudy, you know what the problem might be.”
Rudolph’s heart beat fast. He was feeling afraid. He knew that his little brother wanted to fly with St. Nick on Christmas Eve more than anything in the world. And Rudolph had looked forward all year to helping train his brother so that they could work together. He finally managed to get words out. “You … you think his antlers are going to be too big to fly, don’t you sir?”
St. Nick looked kindly at his favorite deer. “Yes, Rudolph, I fear that Arnold is one of those special deer who grows such a huge set of antlers that they make him too top-heavy to fly.”
“But, sir … but you said yourself that he might grow into them!” Ruldoph’s voice shook just a little as he talked, and St. Nick reached out his hand to stroke his back and comfort him.
“Yes, I said that he might grow into them, but, you know as well as I do by now that it rarely ever happens that way. I just could not disappoint him today. So … we will put him into the training program and see how things go.”
And so it was that Arnold began his training. There were so many things to learn. Pulling the sleigh wasn’t just about leaping into the air and taking off.
Each deer had to learn how to balance his body once he was airborne. And he had to learn how to turn left and right even when the wind was blowing the opposite direction. And, most of all, he had to learn to pull with all the other deer, so that they all worked together as one. It wouldn’t do for some of them to be pulling one way and the rest pulling a different way – or for some to be pulling all the time, and the rest not to be pulling much at all.
Arnold loved his training, and when the day came for him to actually lift off the ground, he was so excited he could not sleep the night before. On that day, at Rudolph’s command, Arnold threw himself into the air, all four of his legs moving at the same speed, just the way he’d been taught. He felt the wind brush past him, and his lungs sucked in the delicious air.
He was bursting with pride and excitement as he began his turn to the left, but suddenly, he felt thrown off-balance. He could not complete his turn, and he began to roll through the air, headed for the ground. He landed with a thud, but, thankfully, since he hadn’t been flying very high yet, he wasn’t hurt badly.
Rudolph hurried to his side. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I just sort of lost my balance and started rolling to the left.” He had scrambled to his feet by then, so he shook himself to get the twigs and dust off his coat and said. “But I’ll give it another try.”
“Okay, if you want to, but be careful, you hear?” his brother said.
“Oh, I will. And besides, what’s a little fall. I’m sure other reindeer have fallen plenty of times when they were learning.”
By this time, he was a year and a half old, and his antlers had kept growing and growing and growing. They hadn’t bothered him because he just figured he would do as St. Nick had said and grow big enough to fit them. But now he found himself worrying that it was his antlers that were his problem.
Two days later, when St. Nicholas sent for him and his parents to come to his office, Arnold felt very afraid of what was going to take place. St. Nicholas was very kind when he talked with them, but that didn’t make what he had to say any easier to hear.
“I’m always sorry when one of my deer has to be disqualified from flying with my sleigh,” he said. “It’s happened only half a dozen times in all these hundreds of years, but it’s always sad for me. This time,” he added as he looked over at Rudolph, “I’m especially sorry because I know that Arnold’s flying with the sleigh means so much to his brother as well as to Arnold himself.”
St. Nick got up from his chair and walked over to Arnold. He put his arm around the deer and rubbed his nose gently. “I’m sorry, Arnold, but I have something for you.” St. Nick picked up a holly wreath from a stack of them on his desk. “As you know, only my sleigh reindeer wear these wreaths around their necks, but I’m giving you one and making you an honorary member of the team because you’ve worked so hard”.
St. Nick placed the small wreath around Arnold’s neck and said, “And I promise you that you can have any other job you want here at the Pole. You just think about it and let me know what you’d like to do.”
The family returned to their apartment in the stables, and for days, Arnold just lay on the hay and would not even eat. “But, dear,” his mother said, “you must eat to keep up your strength.”
“Strength for what?” he cried. “If I can’t fly, then I don’t need strength to pull the sleigh, and there’s no other job that I want to do.” His mother didn’t argue because she knew that when a young deer decides to feel sorry for himself instead of making the best of things in his life, there is no taking him out of his self-pity. She would just have to let him figure it out for himself.
“I wish I’d never grown antlers!” Arnold shouted. “Why couldn’t I have been born a girl! Girls don’t have antlers. That would be better than this.”
Rudolph just shook his head. What nonsense, he thought. Who would want to be a girl reindeer? They didn’t have nearly the fun the boys had. Oh, he had heard St. Nick talking about how he thought it was time to start including girl reindeer on his team for the sleigh, but Rudolph doubted it would ever happen. (Now, that’s where he was wrong, because, although he hadn’t told Rudolph yet, St. Nick planned to put two girls into the training program the following year.)
But Rudolph tried once more to talk his brother out of leaving. “You know Mom and Dad will worry about you,” he pleaded.
“No, they won’t. They’ve taught me well, and they know I can take care of myself.”
“But what will you do?”
“I don’t know, but there’s nothing I want to do here,” Arnold answered and turned to walk away.
“Well, will you at least stay in touch with us?” his brother asked.
Arnold turned to look at him. “Maybe,” was all he said, and headed into the forest.
Arnold walked through the quiet forest for hours, once in a while stopping to nibble on a few berries or sniff at an unusual scent that came his way. For several hours, the only sounds were the normal sounds from the other forest animals, and he was so used to them that he didn’t even pay any attention. But all of a sudden, he heard a terrible squawking coming from an area of forest up ahead of him, and he hurried his steps to see what it was all about.
He followed the sounds to a huge Spruce tree where one of his favorite Redbird friends had her home. But something strange was happening today. Several men in hard hats were surrounding the tree, examining it. Off to the side sat a huge truck with a long flat trailer on the back. Suddenly, one of the men pulled a handle on the machine he held in his hands, and the machine started groaning loudly enough to hear it on the other side of the forest. Arnold learned later that the machine was called a chainsaw, but knowing what it was didn’t make it sound any less scary.
At that moment, Arnold’s Redbird friend swooped down toward the man, screeching and acting as though she would attack him. A couple of her friends did the same. One of the other men picked up a large stick and started swinging at the birds.
Arnold couldn’t believe his eyes. He hurried over to the scene and called out to his friend. “What’s wrong?” He asked. “Can I help?”
“Oh, Arnold,” the Redbird cried, flying over to him, “I don’t know what to do! These men are going to cut down my tree. But my nest is there, and my little babies are just about to hatch. I can’t let them cut down my home and kill my babies. But I can’t get them moved to a safe place without building another nest, and that will take too long. What can I do? What can I do?”
The chainsaw had stopped for a minute, while the men talked together, but now it started up again. Arnold thought quickly. “I know!” he said. “I will come and lift your nest onto my antlers and carry it away safely.”
“But my nest is very high in the tree. Can you reach that high?”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” Arnold said. “My antlers are much bigger than an ordinary deer, so I will have no trouble reaching your nest and lifting it to safety.”
“That’s very kind of you, and it would get my babies out of the tree, but where can I put them? It will take me at least three days to build a new nest anywhere – and that’s if I can find the materials. Wild animals will find my babies and eat them before I can get it done.”
“No they won’t. I will keep the nest in my antlers until you build another nest. You can sit on your eggs in your nest, and when your babies are hatched, you can feed them and take care of them just the way you always do. I have nothing else to do these days, and I will enjoy being useful.
“Oh my, what a great friend you are. How can I ever thank you?”
“There’s no need. In fact, I am the one who’s grateful. I’ve been feeling rather useless lately. You see, we discovered that my antlers are way too big for me to be able to fly with St. Nick’s sleigh. They put me out of balance, and I keep heading toward the ground.” He hung his head low, and one little tear ran down his nose and dropped to the ground. “I’ve been awfully sad about it.”
“I’m very sorry, my friend,” said Redbird. “But I’m so grateful for your extra big antlers today.”
Arnold lifted his head and looked toward the big Spruce tree. “Let’s get your babies to safety,” he said and started toward the back side of the tree where he knew the nest rested. He pushed his way gently between the lower branches, stretched his neck up, and lifted the nest onto his antlers very carefully. “Now, you make sure it’s settled,” he told Redbird, and when she was satisfied her nest was lodged snugly into the antlers, she flew ahead of Arnold into a quieter, safer part of the forest.
Arnold was having fun with the babies hopping around in their nest and chirping loudly, wanting to be fed. He enjoyed their company, and he almost forgot about his problem with his antlers. Finally the day came when the mama Redbird was able to move her babies to the new nest.
“Arnold, my friend,” she said. “You have saved my babies lives. If there is anything I can ever do for you in return, please, please let me know.”
“It was my pleasure, Redbird. I’m so glad they are safe.” He sighed deeply. “I guess I need to be on my way,” he said, the sadness back in his voice.
“I know you’re very unhappy because you can’t pull St. Nicholas’ sleigh, but I wonder if the Creator who made all of us didn’t work it out for you to have extra large antlers because you can use them to help other animals and even people sometimes. You need to think about that, Arnold.”
“I guess,” he answered, but he didn’t really believe it. He just didn’t want to hurt Redbird’s feelings by arguing with her. “I’ll see you again sometime I hope,” he said now and started through the forest again.
“Are you going home?” Redbird asked.
“No, not right now,” Arnold said. “I just can’t go back and watch my friends training to pull the sleigh and know that I never can. Goodbye, Redbird.”
So he went on his way, and Redbird watched him, hoping he would soon learn that he had been created for things more important than just pulling a sleigh.
Two days later, Arnold heard the sound of a chainsaw again. It frightened him, because he thought maybe another bird friend was in trouble. But as he came close to the sound, it suddenly stopped, and he heard the thud of a big tree hitting the ground.
But he also heard another sound. It was not the cry of another animal. He thought it sounded like the voice of a person, so he moved toward it slowly and carefully. He had heard the voices of the men who cut down Redbird’s tree, and was used to hearing the voices of St. Nicholas and his family, so he knew what people’s voices sounded like, but this voice was smaller and lighter than men’s voices.
As he came closer to where the tree had fallen, he also heard weeping. The terrible sadness in the sound touched his heart, because he knew what it was to be so unhappy that he cried. He moved even closer and saw a little girl kneeling on the ground close to the fallen tree, crying and saying, “Daddy, please wake up. Please wake up.” Then the girl moved just enough for Arnold to see that there was a man on the ground beside her, but he was under the top part of the tree that had fallen.
Of course, Arnold couldn’t understand the girl’s words. St. Nick was the only person whose words he could understand, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened here. The man had been cutting down the tree, and it had fallen in the wrong direction. People often came through this section of the forest to cut Christmas trees for their homes, but sometimes, they didn’t really know how to do it safely.
Arnold slowly made his way toward the girl. She looked up when she sensed he was beside her, and she must have been able to tell that he was not going to hurt her, because she reached out to him and touched his nose. He gently licked her hand to let her know that he was friendly, and she sniffed and said, “I wish you could help my daddy. I can’t get him to wake up.”
But just then, the man on the ground made a sound. Then he said, “Kelly, honey, are you all right?”
The little girl moved closer and touched her daddy’s face. “Daddy, I’m right here, and I’m okay, but what about you?”
“I don’t feel like I’m hurt badly, honey. I think I was just knocked out for a minute. I can feel my legs and hands and all my fingers, but I can’t move out from under this heave tree, and I can’t get to my cell phone in my pocket. I need to think of what to do.”
“I’ll go find someone to help daddy.”
“No, darling. You could easily get lost in this forest, and it’s going to start getting very cold in a couple of hours.” Kelly sniffed again and wiped more tears away, and her daddy spoke again. “You know, Kelly, we’re not really alone here. We have the Lord with us, and He promised to protect us and take care of us, so let’s pray for His help.”
“Okay, Daddy. You pray, and I’ll close my eyes and believe with you.”
“Dear Lord,” Daddy said, “in the name of Jesus, Kelly and I are praying that you will do something to get me out from under this tree and get us home to safety. We just don’t know what to do, but we know that You promise You will take care of us, so we are going to thank You right now for working everything out.”
Kelly sniffed again and finally pulled a handkerchief out of her pant’s pocket to blow her nose. Arnold felt so bad for her and for her daddy. He looked around, trying to think of a way to get them some help. Then Kelly stood up. “I’m going to try to pull on the tree, Daddy,” she said.
“No, dear. Please don’t,” he said. “To begin with, it is too heavy for you, and another problem is that if you just pull it to the side, it could cut into my legs. We need someone who can lift if up so that I can roll out from under it.”
All at once, Arnold shouted, “Hey, I just thought: my antlers are big enough and strong enough to lift the top of that tree off that man!” Of course, Kelly and her father did not understand Arnold’s words, but they heard him making excited sounds and saw him begin to circle around the fallen tree, looking things over.
Finally, he stood still, braced his four legs, and lowered his head. Then, very, very gently, he worked his huge antlers between the smaller branches of the tree until they could get hold of the main trunk at the place where it lay on the man’s legs. Next, Arnold took a deep breath and began to lift his head slowly and steadily. As he did so, the whole top of the tree came away from Kelly’s father, and he rolled out from under it and crawled completely out of the way.
“Oh, Daddy!” Kelly shouted, running to him and throwing her arms around his neck. “The deer saved you!”
Arnold gently laid the top of the tree back on the ground and turned to look at Kelly and her father. Kelly ran to Arnold then and threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, you darling deer!” she said. “Thank you! Thank you! I love you for saving my daddy.”
Arnold’s heart was about to burst. He was so happy that he had helped to save Kelly’s father, and he felt proud. Then Kelly’s father spoke again. “You know, Kelly, the Lord sent that beautiful deer to help us, and do you realize, he was here even before we prayed. How wonderful God is.”
“You’re right, Daddy. He was here before we prayed, and then after your prayer, he just walked right over there and lifted the tree.” She petted Arnold’s back and his nose and rubbed his ears. “What a wonderful friend you are,”she said, and then turning to her father, she asked, “Could we take him home with us, Daddy?”
“Oh, honey, that would not be kind. He lives in the forest and knows how to take care of himself out in nature. He was never meant to live in someone’s little bitty yard in town. He wouldn’t be happy there. The kindest thing we can do for him is let him stay here where he belongs and pray that the Lord will take very good care of him and bless him for helping us.”
He stood to his feet then and checked out both his legs to make sure they moved correctly. Then he walked over to Arnold and petted him. “Dear Lord,” he prayed, “Kelly and I thank you for sending this deer to help save us, and we ask you to bless him with a very long, happy, healthy life. Give him plenty to eat, wonderful deer friends to play with, and the best kind of life that a deer can have. Amen.”
“Amen,” said Kelly, as she hugged Arnold one more time. “Goodbye, deer. Jesus will take good care of you.” Her father patted Arnold’s head one more time, and then he took Kelly’s hand.
“I think I tried to cut down a tree that was too big for us, Kelly. We’ll go home and buy us a smaller tree for this year, and next year, maybe we can come back with more help and try cutting down a smaller tree for our house. So he and Kelly started back through the forest to head home, and Arnold watched them until they were out of sight.
“My goodness,” he said to himself, “that’s the second time I’ve been able to help save someone because of my big antlers. I’m almost glad that I have them.” But, suddenly, he remembered that he could never pull St. Nick’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, and he hung his head down again and felt sad. He also noticed that his holly wreath from Santa was missing. He must have torn it off when he squirmed in under the branch to lift it. He breathed a big sigh and started off through the forest again.
But as he walked, he remembered the look on Kelly’s face when she saw her father was free from the tree. And he kept thinking about how she and her father kept petting him as if they couldn’t thank him enough. And, slowly, as he walked and thought about those things, he began to feel happier.
He began to think about how, if he had not grown such huge antlers, Redbird’s babies would have died, and Kelly and her father might have been trapped there for days before anyone found them – and then it might have been too late. And the longer he thought about it, the more he began to feel that he didn’t want to be just an ordinary reindeer with ordinary antlers.
That night, Arnold slept close to the river, and the next morning, as he was walking along the bank and stopping now and then to take a welcome drink of the clear, sweet water, he suddenly heard someone scream. By now, he was getting used to the sound of human voices, but this time, he wasn’t sure it was a human because it was so loud and sharp.
He looked downstream, but didn’t see anything. Then he moved a little so that he could look upstream a long way, and, immediately, he saw where the sound was coming from. A man and woman were in a boat coming down the river, and the man was jumping out of the boat into the ice cold water.
Arnold walked closer to the edge to see better, and that’s when he understood the problem. There was a little baby in the water. It had on a life-jacket, so it was still floating, but the water was much too cold for a little child. The baby was in great danger in water that cold, and it had been caught by the current and was being carried downstream too fast for the man to catch up to it.
Suddenly, Arnold leaped into the river and started swimming toward the baby. All those months of training for pulling the sleigh had caused his leg muscles to grow very, very strong, and he had no trouble swimming against the current.
He heard the man yell something, but of course, he couldn’t understand the words He also heard the woman screaming even louder. He guessed that she was afraid he meant to harm the baby, but the thought never entered Arnold’s mind to do anything except grab the little bundle and carry it back to its mother.
It took longer than he thought to reach the child, but he finally did. Then he ducked his head beneath the water just enough to get his antlers underneath the baby, and as gently as he could, he lifted the little bundle onto his big antlers and out of the water completely. He then turned and swam as fast as he could toward the boat.
By that time the man understood that Arnold was bringing the baby back to them, so he started swimming back toward the boat himself. He and Arnold reached the boat at the same time, and as Arnold paddled along the side, the mother reached over and lifted her baby from Arnold’s antlers. “Oh, my darling little boy!” she said, as she held him close and then began to wrap him in warm dry blankets. The man got back into the boat and hugged his wife and child.
“The Lord answered our prayers, honey,” he said. “He sent this precious deer to save our David.” Then he reached over the side of the boat to pet Arnold’s head. “What a gift of God you are, little deer,” he said. And even though Arnold did not understand the words, he knew that the man was telling him how grateful he was.
By that time, Arnold was very cold himself, so he wasted no time in swimming back to land. And as soon as he could, he found a place in the sunshine where he could lie on the dry ground and let the sun get him warm. It felt very comforting on his body, and he was surprised at how fast he got dry. In fact, he was warm and comfortable in no time at all, and he fell asleep.
About an hour later, the sound of someone calling his name woke him. He looked up and turned his head in several directions, trying to figure out where the sound had come from.
“Arnold. Arnold.” There it was again. Arnold shook his head and listened carefully. That sounded like Rudolph’s voice. But surely not —
“There you are!” Rudolph shouted, coming through a thicket of bushes and heading straight for his brother.
“I couldn’t stand it another day without you, Arnold,” his brother said. “I’m so unhappy, and Mom hasn’t stopped crying since you left. Please, please come home.”
“I’m ready to come home,” said Arnold. “I have had so many adventures since I’ve been gone, and they have taught me a very important lesson.”
“Really? What have you learned?”
“I’ll explain it to everyone when we get home,” said Arnold. “Right now, let’s just hurry back home.” When they arrived safely, their mother greeted them with tears and laughter, and Dad said he was proud of Arnold for being wise enough to come back home.
Even St. Nicholas laughed and cried with joy at Arnold’s return. Then they all sat down and Arnold told them of his adventures. At the end of his tale, he said, “So I have learned that I have extra big antlers for a reason, and I am glad now that I am who I am.”
“Arnold, my young buck,” St. Nick said, “you have learned a very valuable lesson indeed. The Creator gives each one of us special gifts and special abilities to do the work that He wants us to do on this earth. No two of us are alike. And if we will just learn what our special gifts and abilities are, and be grateful for them and use them to do good for the rest of God’s creation, we will live very happy lives.”
Then St. Nick hugged Arnold’s neck tightly, and putting his other arm around Rudolph’s neck, he laughed: “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas, everyone! I think this will be the Merriest Christmas we have ever had!”
And it was.
I came across this article today by Dr. Russell D. Moore: “Why Christians Should Read Fiction.” I could not get the article to re-post onto WordPress, so I’m just sharing the link to the post on his own website.