A Shepherd’s Tale

maxresdefaultThe shepherds play an important role in the Christmas story. Of all the people near Bethlehem on the night Christ was born, it was the shepherds who received the heavenly proclamation. Recently, our son brought out an interesting perspective on their visit to see Jesus on His birthday:

To this point, how much encouragement had Mary received concerning her circumstances? How many folks watched in disdain as Mary and Joseph left Nazareth, thinking the worst of this couple? The journey was difficult, and we know that she was “great with child.” (Our first son was born on January 14th. So that Christmas, we didn’t even make the two-hour journey by car to visit family!)

Mary and Joseph knew that she was carrying the Son of God, but delivering Him in a stable–I’m sure whatever ideas they had concerning the birth of their Savior, it didn’t include barn animals and a manger! Had they failed their God?

Then enters the shepherds, proclaiming that an angel had told them everything and that his description was EXACTLY as they saw: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger! WOW! We may never receive such affirmation when we doubt our way, but our heavenly Father KNOWS the purpose for every disappointment or circumstance which seems like a failure to us but is actually a part of His divine will for our lives.

The following is an excerpt from Bond Brothers, my latest book about Philemon and Onesimus. I’ve always been fascinated by the shepherds.  What happened to them after that night? Did any of them become believers, see Jesus on the cross, hear of His resurrection?

This is just the account of one writer with an overactive “sanctified” imagination! Merry Christmas!

And there are also many other things

which Jesus did, the which,

if they should be written every one,

 I suppose that even the world itself

could not contain the books

that should be written. Amen.

John 21:25

 

 

Joram walked silently down the road to the inn. Lately, there had been some trouble. He frowned as he thought about the Pharisees and their determination to destroy The Way. If only God would change all of their hearts as He had Saul of Tarsus!

He felt certain that the man at the inn was a Gentile, and he looked wealthy. No wonder the Pharisees are worried, he mused. God was doing some mighty strange things. But the most amazing work was that He was opening the hearts of more than just Jews!

As he neared the inn, he headed to the back of the building and knocked: one knock, then two quick taps, and then another knock, and the door opened swiftly. As quiet as a mouse, he slipped in.

“Welcome, my friend,” the innkeeper named Solomon greeted. He patted the older man on the shoulder and motioned him to the front room, empathetic to the dear man’s bent frame. He waited by the door until all had entered, and then looked covertly for anyone who might be watching. He closed the door when he was satisfied that they had not been seen.

They talked in hushed tones, but Philemon had heard them through the floor—probably because he had been straining to do so! He looked at Onesimus, “You may come or stay. It is your choice.”

Onesimus’ brow furrowed. He did not have any interest in the matter, but he did not want to disappoint his master. “I’ll go.”

Quietly, they made their way to the front room, feeling like intruders until they were greeted by the men. Two that sat near the stairway rose and greeted them warmly. “Come, we are so glad that you have joined us.”

After introductions were made, the two newcomers were seated among the group. All eyes turned to Joram. “So, you said that you heard Paul. What brings you to Judea?”

Philemon looked around the group. They were obviously Jewish, and he wondered once again if he had made a mistake, but he plunged ahead. He gave a brief description of his life and family and then continued to tell them about his encounter with Paul. “Paul spoke of the Unknown God. He told us that he sent his son and that he died and rose again. Is that true?”

Heads nodded around the circle.

Philemon searched each face, “But have you seen him?”

This time a few nodded, but they looked to Joram to speak.

The man looked older than time itself. His eyes fixed upon Philemon and then Onesimus, making the younger man squirm. “How old are you, son?” he asked.

Onesimus looked surprised that he would speak to him instead of his master. “Twenty-six, sir.”

Joram nodded slowly, a smile crinkling his already wrinkled face. “I was twenty-three when I first saw Him.”

The others grunted and nodded, obviously enjoying the well-worn tale that was about to unfold.

“I will never forget it, that night in the fields of Bethlehem. It was my turn to tend the sheep, and I remember trying to finagle my way out of it.” He shook his head. “That would have been the biggest mistake of my life.”

Everyone sat on the edge of his seat, waiting for the story to continue.

“It was an absolutely brilliant night. The stars were shining so brightly that night—more stars than I had ever seen. Something seemed different somehow—a tension or excitement in the air. Even the sheep seemed restless. Then he came.”

“Praise Jehovah,” someone shouted, and was soon hushed by the others.

“The son of God?” Philemon asked.

The men just looked at him, as though they had forgotten that he was there.

Joram smiled, “No, my son. The angel of the Lord!” He stopped, relishing the memory.

“Tell him what he said, Joram,” one of the others urged.

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Philemon looked on, trying to comprehend what the man was saying. “You mean the son of this God was born in a stable?”

All heads nodded.

“That makes no sense. Are you sure you heard him right?” Philemon asked impatiently.

Joram’s face grew serious. “We did, because after the host of heaven appeared praising God, we decided to go and see for ourselves.” He stopped as though that was enough.

“And?” Philemon asked,   urg-

ing him to continue.

“He was there, just as they said He would be!”

Philemon shook his head. “A stable? The son of God was born in a stable?”

“Yes, my son.”

“But that makes no sense,” Philemon again demanded.

“It makes perfect sense if you know the Son,” Micah countered.

“Well, obviously I do not.” He sighed in frustration. “I have never been a religious man. Certainly, I thank the gods for rain and sun and good crops. In fact, I was in Athens partly to offer sacrifices on my wife’s behalf. But I live my life, and they live theirs.”

“Then why did you come here seeking answers?” Joram asked quietly.

“I just…” Philemon thought for a moment. “I cannot seem to get Paul’s words out of my head.”

“You have heard Paul speak,” one man asked incredulously.

Philemon only nodded.

Judah smiled. “That is Jehovah’s Spirit drawing you to Himself. Do not ignore it my friend. You have been given a great gift.”

“But why would God want to have anything to do with my life?” Philemon felt uneasy with the statement.

“He wants you to know Him and to love Him,” Joram said softly.

“But if He is God, then why does not He just make me love Him?”

Joram’s eyes were full of com- passion as he spoke. “You said you have five sons. Truly God has been good to you. Tell me, would it mean more to you for your son to come to you and express his love to you on his own; or would it mean more if he came because you made him do so?”

Philemon’s face softened as the truth of the statement deflated his argument. “I suppose the answer is obvious.” His eyes traveled from one face to the next until they locked with Onesimus. The young man seemed to be mocking him, questioning him for meeting with these men. He sat up straighter. “So, where do I go to give sacrifices to this Unknown God?”

The old shepherd sat quietly for a moment staring deeply into Philemon’s eyes. Behind the brisk question, which he knew was given to regain his composure, there was an uncertainty—a longing. “In here, my son,” Joram said as he reached out a gnarled finger and tapped Philemon’s tunic. As much as he wished to take this man completely to the truth, he could sense that the spirit of doubt was pervading the man’s heart. “Keep searching and you will come to the truth.”

The way home was a silent one. Philemon’s heart was in a turmoil, and he longed to talk to the men again; but they had all gone to parts unknown, and it was time for him to head home. He thought back to the evening’s conversation: the incredible story of the supposed Son of God’s birth, the excitement and peace he read on each face, the loving look given to him by the old shepherd, and then the mocking look that Onesimus had given him. Perhaps he had read Onesimus wrong last night. Leading their mounts to a shady spot beside a stream, Philemon dismounted and pulled a loaf of bread from his satchel. Onesimus soon joined him on a grassy spot near the cool water.

“So what do you think of the Unknown God?” Philemon ventured, casting a sideways glance Onesimus’ way.

Onesimus shrugged, picked up a stone, and tossed it into the water. “Why would a God choose to be unknown? How can your peons worship you if they do not know you?”

“True.” He could tell by the young man’s tone that he was not interested, yet he pushed on. “But do you not have any desire to understand all this?”

Onesimus sat a bit straighter, his eyes dark. “If there is a God that has any dealings with my life, then why did he take away my family and make me a slave?” The last word was spat forth like poison as he rose and went to tend the horses.

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We need the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation)

 

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2Timothy 4:8

BookCoverImage for A moment in timeWell, I’m at it again—trying to take off those extra pounds that crept back on throughout the winter months; however, this time is different.  There’s no wedding or graduation on the horizon to motive me to do this.  There’s no scheduled doctor’s appointment looming in the near future.  It’s just time to do it, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure that I will be successful without those deadlines!  I’m really a deadline person.

The Apocalypse—the word exudes doom and horror!  It means disaster, catastrophe, destruction.  To the world, it is Judgement Day or Armageddon.  The Book of Revelation often takes that name as well, and rightly so—Revelation 1: 1 begins with these words: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass…  And if you’ve have read any of the last book of the Bible, then you know that there’s a lot of doom and destruction written in its twenty-two chapters.

Does the knowledge of those prophecies help us to live a better Christian life? I mean, as Christians, the doom and gloom are not for us but for those who are left behind at Jesus’ Coming.  So, it’s not the doom that pushes the born-again believer, but the thought of seeing our God and Savior face to face which prompts us to live a life that pleases Him.  You remember that feeling: Dad and Mom have gone out and left specific instructions for you—the list!  You look at the clock and figure how long it will take to get the jobs done, and then either you choose to do the jobs first OR (most likely), you do what you want to do until the absolute least amount of time is left to finish the list!

The problem with Jesus’ return is that there’s no clock, not even a calendar to go by.  Paul and the other apostles looked for Him to return in their lifetime, and here we are, over two thousand years later, doing the same thing!  Did God not disclose the time and date of His appearing because He wanted to keep us on our toes?  I think not.  He created us; He knows us; He is constantly doing what is best for us.  We walk by faith, and if He gave us the due date, that would take a huge part of our faith out of the equation.

Reading about the Rapture and what it may be like should sharpen our desire to live for God, as well as hone our desperation to parent godly children and polish our vision to reach the lost.

In A Moment in Time, Carrie Spangler, a pastor’s daughter, has heard all her life BookCoverImage (1)that Jesus was coming; she just didn’t think He would come when He did. What was she doing?  Was
she looking for His return?  Not in the least.  She was busy living her life the way she wanted to live it.  She disregarded the years of Bible teaching which she had received at church and at her Christian school.  Notice, I didn’t say in her home.  The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five which gives us a glimpse into the Spangler household, but before you read it, may I give you several reasons why I wrote the Strong Delusion Trilogy(Book One: A Moment in Time; Book Two, Angel of Light; Book Three: Thy Kingdom Come):

  1. To see life through the eyes of a troubled “Christian” girl
  2. To learn about the End Times from a layman’s point of view
  3. To gain a burden for the lost
  4. To take a “salvation” check
  5. To understand the Lost’s way of thinking
  6. To be entertained

Chapter Five excerpt:

Betty turned to face him, propping herself on one elbow. “Charles, how do you think [Carrie’s] doing spiritually?”

The question hung in the air for a moment before he found the answer, “I guess that’s your department.” He sighed deeply. “Betty, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I can successfully lead ten pastors in an area-wide revival, pastor a church of six hundred, and run a Christian school, but I can’t talk to my own daughter. I guess I just don’t understand girls.”

“Don’t say that, Charles. I’m afraid for her. I’m not even sure that she’s saved.”

“But she said she was, and every time it comes up, she’s defending her decision.”

“That’s just it, that’s why I wonder if she really is. And we never talk about spiritual things with her.”

“Yes we do,” he said defensively. “At dinner, we often talk about…”

“…about church activities.”

“Yes, but we talk about what God is doing.”

We talk, Charles, but does she?” Betty could hear the hall clock ticking as Charles mulled the words over in his mind.

“Can’t you talk to her?” he asked.

“I’ve tried. I think I was getting somewhere tonight until you walked in.”  It was a simple statement, but it charged the room with energy by all the messages it carried.

“You always make it sound like it’s my fault.” The defenses were up.

“Charles. You come floating into the room on your own pride and never even see…,” but she didn’t get to finish.  Betty knew she had said too much.

“How dare you,” he shot back, getting off the bed and pacing the floor.

Carrie heard the conversation escalating and went to her door, cracking it just enough to catch their voices.

“Charles, I’m sorry; I’m just so worried. But I shouldn’t have said that.” She came around the bed to him, but he wasn’t ready to give in that easily.

Carrie could see the scene in her mind, and it sickened her. Dad is huffing and puffing while Mom grovels at his feet.  I hate him!

“Charles. Let’s not fight,” Betty whispered realizing how loud their voices had become. She reached up and ran her fingers down his arm, squeezing his hand. She knew how to melt him. He was a good man, and she loved him so!

 

A Moment in Time is fiction but it is not a fairy tale in which everyone lived happily ever after.  This book was written with a heart and burden for Christian families.  It was written for us to take a good hard look at what is really going on in our homes and in the hearts and minds of our children.

Jesus is coming—we know that.  A Moment in Time just put’s it into a realistic setting.  What if He did come back right now, today?  Where would our children and grandchildren be?  Would we be glad to see Him?  What will it be like?   None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  My prayer is that the

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  My prayer is that the Strong Delusion trilogy will help my readers to see the End Times events just a bit clearer and perhaps encourage them to take a look inside themselves as well.  It’s an exciting book—the plot continues to thicken until we reach the ultimate climax, and the characters are real, but that’s not the point.  Reading even a Christian novel gains merit when we take the lessons sewn into the fabric of the content and apply them to our hearts.

 

He IS Coming!!!!

Today!! He is coming today!  Today, I will see him.  TODAY, I will hold him!  This is the day that I’ve been waiting for for forty-one days, or nine hundred eighty-four hours, or fifty-nine thousand forty minutes.  Count it anyway you wish, but today is the day!  Today, I meet Caleb Thomas MacAvoy, face to face.  I’ve heard his cry, I’ve seen his picture, I’ve even facetimed his little face, but what is that but a very dim shadow of human touch?
Caleb is our youngest son and his sweet wife’s newborn, and he arrived on Christmas day!  What a joy! Because of several circumstances, we have not seen him yet. It really didn’t matter how much we wanted to see him, it just didn’t happen.  It probably could have happened, but life is full of choices, and no matter how much we would like for a circumstance to be different—a loved one suffering with an incurable disease, a wayward child, a stolen credit card—there are times when we must accept our situation as the will of God.  Does that make us like it any better? Honestly?  Probably not, but it does give us a sure footing amidst the storm of emotions which swirl around us! Of course, the challenge is there:

 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.Philippians 4:11

So, what am I doing to get ready?  In a moment, I’ll begin cleaning.  Then I’ll wash the dog.  I’ll save my favorite task for last: cooking!  I’ll bake a pie and slay the fatted calf (actually the fatted pig) and prepare for not only Caleb, but the beloved couple whom we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving.  Is this a happy day? Absolutely! Are we anticipating a wonderful weekend?  Yes!  Are there any trials surrounding their coming?  More than you can imagine, but today it doesn’t matter!  Today, they just keep getting closer and closer! All day, I’ll be playing that first moment of laying my eyes on my youngest grandson for the first time. And when it finally happens, I’ll probably blubber all over the place!

Jesus us coming.  And here’s the challenge, short and sweet because I’ve got lots to do!  Are you looking forward to His coming?  Of seeing Him face to face for the first time?  Can you even imagine it?  Does it send goosebumps down your spine just thinking about it?  Are you getting ready, because when He comes, there will be no more preparing.  This life, which He so graciously gave us, and then so sacrificially and miraculously redeemed with His own blood, will be our gift back to Him.  Everything we do with these hands, everywhere we go with these feet, everything these eyes watch and these ears hear is either preparing a better gift for Him or destroying it.

He is coming!

 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. Matthew 25:7,8

Pro-Choice

This month, we recognize two very sad days in America’s history. Oroe-v-wade-death-pie-chart (1)n January 22, 1973, our supreme court made its landmark decision promoting abortion. Since then, in the United States alone, 16,000,000 children have died because we gave their mothers choice to have it be so.

On January 27th, we remember the eleven million people who died because one man believed that their lives were somehow inferior: some because of their religious beliefs, others because of their sexual preferences, and still others because of their mental state. His beliefs concerning Nazi eugenics made the conclusion that these people were not fit to live, and Adolf Hitler led in the mass murder of millions of innocent men, women and children.

One man decides that his way is the best, and somehow, he is able to convince an entire army of Nazis to agree and carry out his plan—we call that insanity. Sixteen million men and women chose to end the life of their babies—we call iAuschwitzt pro-choice. The freedom to choose—it’s a powerful right, and I’m thankful for the rights that we have in America, even though many seem to be eroding away as fast as the moral fiber of this great land.

What can be done? Were there people living within ten miles of Auschwitz who felt as helpless as I do concerning the death of the innocent? Probably. Thankfully, we do have the power to vote.  This is not a political blog, so I’ll leave the rest to you, but think about it when you cast your ballot.

We can’t do everything, but we each can to something. I chose to write a book. It was the product of a heart filled with an unusual burden concerning the Holocaust. The research I needed to do for the book still haunts me, but the burden I carried for the Jewish people needed an outlet! Stepping away from the book, I realize that it also became a cry to any person who is very religious but lost.  Religion may be a powerful force in our lives; however, like Esther Ruth Raul, the main character in my book, each of us must realize that only the Living Water of Jesus Christ can quench the thirst of a parched and tattered soul!

Twelve Smooth Stones (also available as an ebook)tells her story of trials and tragedy which ultimately led her to redemption.  It’s a historical fiction. I hope you’ll take a look! In spite of all that, it is does contain a romance and is an easy read.  My purpose in writing it was not to expose all the grim details of the circumstances surrounding the Holocaust, but to focus on the people and their tenacity to live and overcome those obstacles.  Above all, it’s a book about the Gospel, because when it is all said and done, is there really anything more important?

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.

2 Corinthians 4:3

Something just for you!

With the Christmas holiday upon us, perhaps you need to take a moment and just relax… with a good book!  I have just the thing for YOU!

BookCoverImage - CopyI really enjoyed writing this little book.  It’s under one hundred pages and might be just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit!

 

BUT WAIT… there’s more…

 

BookCoverImage (2)

This little collection of seven short stories are all based on Bible characters (except for the first one–that one is “out of this world!”)  I had fun putting these together throughout the year, actually starting last year with a story about Mary called, “Chosen.”

 

 

 

 

 

BookCoverImage (1)AND, if you just have loads of time and are looking for a quick, easy read, seven hundred page story, then this one’s for you!!!

“Strong Delusion” includes all three Books of the End Time Trilogy for you, and is just as much about making right choices for parents and teens as it is about prophecy.

 

So, Merry Christmas!! I wish I could just give them to you, but… 🙂

 

There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book.

–Josh Jameson

 

Self-inflicted Deadline!

I have several posts started but have not finished them because I’m trying to get Thy Kingdom Come up and running by the end of the month.  I’m SO close, that I when I am at my computer, I want to proof, not write!

If you haven’t taken a look at the Strong Delusion Trilogy, let me take just a moment to encourage you to do so.  I will admit that these books are not for everyone; however, I keep hearing comments like:

“I fell in love with your characters!  I hated to see…” (Well, I can’t tell you what they said, or I’d give away the ending of Angel of Light! 🙂 ) 

“After reading Angel of Light,  I wanted to know more about the End Times and started reading my Bible and other resources.”

“I have to admit, these books hit too close to home, but I needed to read them!”

“After starting A Moment in Time, I ordered one for each of my granddaughters.”

I also heard other comments, like “I want my daughter to read these, but not until she’s older.” So please beware that the content is for older teens and adults.

Someone else BookCoverPreview Thy Kingdom Comechallenged me to write about what I had experienced: like the life of a country pastor’s wife. As I considered this, I realized that I was writing about what I had experienced.  I didn’t get saved until I was seventeen.  I went to a secular college, saved but certainly not sanctified.  I didn’t experience all that Carrie Spangler does, but much of it was right across the hallway!

Thy Kingdom Come … Do we really want His kingdom to come?  How much do we know about the details of His second coming?  Will He really reign for a thousand years here on earth and will we, born-again believers, be here with Him? 🙂  How will people survive the Great Tribulation? Time for me to get busy! (This is my try at the cover, my daughter is finessing it!)

What’s Missing?

I always loved these drawings that have subtle differences, and your task is to find them!  It reminds me of these two verses in Joshua, except the differences aren’t too subtle!

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you,

  • to love the LORD your God,
  • and to walk in all his ways,
  • and to keep his commandments,
  • and to cleave unto him,
  • and to serve him

with all your heart and with all your soul.:

Joshua 22:5

And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God

  • will we serve,
  • and his voice will we obey.

Joshua 24: 24

Do you see what is missing and what is added?  In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua is giving the Israelites his farewell speech. He’s old and he knows his time has ended.  We often quote Joshua 24:15 and hang on our walls:

…choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The question is not ARE we choosing to serve God, but HOW are we serving Him.  We want to be successful in our walk with the Lord.  We want to please Him, but so often, it just isn’t the case.  The world comes crashing in around us demanding our attention.  Good activities and programs seem impossible to ignore, even though we cringe and hate the fact that perfect attendance is required and their meetings push into Sunday and Wednesday night.

How can we do it?  How can we know that we are doing the right thing?  Well, I’m sharing this because it’s been so heavy on my heart, and the Lord has really been pounding me on it!

IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART!

Joshua is at the end of an incredible journey.  He knew slavery. He remembered the sting of the taskmaster’s whip! He SAW the Red Sea part and drank the sweetened waters of Marah.  He ate the manna and begged, cried, and wept when the other ten spies gave their evil report.  His heart ached for his leader as he watched him ascend Mt. Pisgah and gaze longingly into the Promised Land—a land he would never enter!

And now Joshua’s done.  Over and over, he urges the Israelites to do right, make right choices, have the right kind of heart.  And their response is this: We will serve. We will obey.  YIKES!  Something was missing!  Something very important: loving, walking, cleaving, and keeping!

Dear Christian, dear born-again believer, check your heart.  Without a whole-hearted love for God, service becomes drudgery and you may find yourself walking away from it.  Your walk becomes an uphill battle, and you don’t even understand cleaving.  Keeping the “law” becomes just that!  It turns into a bunch of “dos and don’ts” instead of a holy garment of praise.

Cleave – to cling closely, steadfastly, or faithfully to somebody or something.  If you have ever been a nursery worker, you understand cleaving, as you try to pry that child out of his mother’s arms!  He has a death grip on her clothing, and he’s not letting go—at least, not without a lot of kicking and crying!

How is my cleaving?  Am I holding on to God for dear life? It started with faith (Forsaking All I Trust Him). I may not have seen the yawning abyss at the edge of my cliff of pride or self-righteousness—the edge which dropped off into an eternal hell, but if I had, I would have clung or cleaved? or clove? or clave? to my precious Savior!

And am I still cleaving?  Is He so precious that I want Him more than anything else in this world?

Today, I offer you A Moment in Time for free.  What does that have to do with cleaving?  Well, I often shake my head in wonder and ask my daughter this question: Why did you and your brothers turn out?  Why do you love the Lord when so many pastors are losing their kids to the world?  She always says the same thing.  “Mom, you and Dad were genuine in your love for God and your service to Him.  It wasn’t just a show, but what Dad preached, you both lived at home.” Please know, it is not any credit to us, but all to the Lord!

The side-by-side drawings look so much alike, just like so many Christians.  They sit together in church, perhaps in the same class at the Christian school, but there’s something drastically different!  You may not be able to see the heart, but God does.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out A Moment in Time is all about “What’s Missing.” In it, you’ll find an all too realistic side-by-side-drawing:  One pastor’s daughter, Carrie Spangler, who looked the part, and another, Esther Fleming, who lived it.