WHEN HOPE IS NEEDED

You Never Know What Tomorrow Will Bring…

     Everyone feels lost many times throughout life.  Sometimes, even when in a crowded room, we can feel as alone as if we were castaway on a deserted island.

It can happen because we lost a loved one, or a friend betrayed us, a hard-earned career is lost, financial disaster strikes after years of careful planning, a struggling marriage just got worse, an addiction we thought we beat came roaring back, sickness invades our life, stealing needed energy like a thief in the night; in short–life just hammered us until we feel we can’t take it anymore.

On such occasions, emptiness may creep into our lives in what feels like a soul-crushing tide. Each wave of trouble crashes upon us tumbling us to the shore before mercilessly pulling us back into its current to smash us against the rocks with the next wave.

When hope is needed and you feel cast away, character Chuck Noland  recounts how hope kept him alive…

“I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow, I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass…

“And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

     Click on image and listen to the theme song of Cast Away starring Tom  Hanks:
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VENTURA HIGHWAY IN THE SUNSHINE

An experience I had along the highway haunts me now, but first…the sunshine.
 
“Ventura Highway in the sunshine… You’re gonna go, I know…” the song from 1970 begins. Even if the colorful lyrics of “alligator lizards in the air” weren’t anything but a drugged stupor the writer must have been in, listening to it seems fitting now.
 
It is called the “101 ” by locals and was unavoidable to all of us back then… After a lifetime goes by, hundreds of millions of other lives and their stories have intersected ours along the 101’s traffic lanes.

Growing up in a California in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s was truly in a Golden State of opportunity. Friends, beach days, school days, lazy summer days. First jobs like the one in LA taking Ventura Highway to the 405 to Wilshire to the Federal Building, and later the adult thing — jobs won and lost all along the 101.

Walking down the driveway and taking Ventura Highway to the airport where I said goodbye to family and friends for 2 years to give service in South America, just as brothers before me did to Southeast Asia during the hot days of Vietnam. Married and living our first years within miles of the famed Pacific coastal road.

Training within eyesight of the 101 under stress to become a COP at the Ventura Police and Sheriff’s Academy. Actually firing our weapons into the bunkers with Ventura Highway behind it a 1/2 mile away. The smells of agriculture wafting in the coastal breeze; oranges, lemons, and in Camarillo the scent of the ever-present celery filled our lungs. Life was golden and good.

And there is one memory now that haunts me. Wish I knew the ending…

Beautiful Carpenteria, Ca. There is a McDonalds which backs on to the 101 — Ventura Highway, and it was the end of a hard day in the building trades. Now a family man, and trying to rescue my business in a declining economy, I was taking any job I could get, and this was 90 miles from home. I just wanted to get back, see my little kids, and fuel my body and truck. I walked past the disheveled young man with pleading eyes sitting under the juniper bushes in the parking lot — trying to tell myself I couldn’t feed or help the world.

But — I had promised myself when a missionary with a breaking heart who could do nothing to feed the starving people by the many 1000’s who I saw in Peru — always with hands stretched towards the Gringos — that when I got home I’d never pass by a stretched out hand again.

I turned around and went to kneel down next to the boy, maybe 20 years old, and said, “Hungry? Come on. Let’s get something to eat.” He got up from his nightmare and followed me inside.

As he hesitantly ordered, my heart started to break, just like it had every day back in the 1970’s Peruvian government socialist experiment where life was cheap, food was scarce, and opportunities for the people more so.

I wondered how his life could come to this when so much opportunity was everywhere to be had compared to what I had witnessed once upon a time in countries to the south of us.

My memory is sketchy. I recall getting him a room for the night and after listening to his story about how he had burned his bridge with family and friends up Ventura Hwy in the Bay area saying, “I’ve hurt too many people. I can’t go home,” I left to go to my home, with a prayer in my heart that he’d find his way back. All the way home I fought my conscience wanting to turn around and do more for someone’s prodigal son.

What haunts me is that I don’t know what happened. I don’t know the end to that story from a 1993 day on Ventura Hwy.

But the time came when my own children would grow up, become confused, and I know this: I thank God for those who reached out when I didn’t know if they were alive and in spite of self-inflicted troubles saw them as valuable, and assured them that they could go home. Now my son lives and works for a brother Rex Pratt just off of Ventura Hwy, and he is a good man with compassion–working at becoming better each day.

This song reminds me 50 years after it was first recorded, how life may revolve around the heartbeat of certain highways that lead away from and towards home — day after day, month after month, and after years of those, an entire life.

I still wonder — did the boy from the juniper bush in Carpenteria, there at the McDonalds, ever take Ventura Hwy north and find himself safe at home again?

Listen to one of the great songs from our youth:

VENTURA HIGHWAY by America

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnV7dTXlXxs&list=RDtRwYQgk05DY&index=25

 

 

 

AS A MAN THINKETH IN HIS HEART…

WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK ABOUT

James Allen’s “As a Man Thinketh” 1904 bestseller was given to me by my mother in my 19th year. The author proposed a simple idea: “Thoughts are things.”

I am far-from-perfect, but the small book changed my outlook forever. The biblical aphorism, “As a man thinketh…so is he” was used by Allen in his short 50-page treatise that has been a mega-bestseller for over 100 years now. BUT… He left something out. I will tell you in the end what that something is.

We all have something to deal with. That includes the issues people bring into our lives uninvited. Some things are not in our control no matter how hard we try to take a cowboy’s rope, lasso them, and reign them in. This includes physical ailments, employment, relationships, maturity, and even spiritual growth.

I have suffered from skull buster headaches since 18. I have pushed through them, been hospitalized by them, and yet they have, no doubt, moderated behavior in a way I don’t like. (Please, no sympathy, just an example being used here) Yet those unkind torments of the brain have pushed me to look for answers elsewhere…that place of peace and soul searching located south of the cranium.

The “A” type personalities preaching personal performance techniques of “win, win, win” have some good to share with their effervescent encouragement to overcome, look at the sunny side of life, and follow formulas for success. I recommend the gems these winners share.

But in the end, there is a powerful ally for our soul often over-looked by skilled trainers of perfecting our achievement and success, as it was over-looked by James Allen. What I am saying is, “We become what we think about–as we take it to heart.”

Super-charged thinking alone, fueled by a jet-fuel-like dose of positive attitude platitudes releasing dopamine chemicals that make us feel good, even resonate with our brains, isn’t enough.
 
The truths we learn through cognitive means must become internalized so that they continue to motivate us days, weeks, years, after the initial impact. Such was the impact of Allen’s little book on my “soul” 47 years ago.
 
“We become what we think about–as we take it to heart.” The teachings Allen imparted to me didn’t simply make me feel good, but went much much deeper than the speeding lane of the brain.
 
The good news is that the path we set through the initial process of thought can set us on the road to perfection, joy, and the nirvana we all crave.  
We really do become what we think about. The deficits we may feel after doing all we can do on a day by day basis and falling short, is made up in the brightness of “the perfect day” taught by the Master who also taught this — the complete phrase from biblical text:  “As a Man Thinketh — in His Heart — so is he.”
The master teacher from Nazareth taught about the soul, the life of the soul, and where the spirit of God dwells. It was a heart-driven focus. Death was not death to him, but it was Eternal Life.  So the “Perfect Day” was a promised future achievement.  And it was a gift, and it was a future glorious life, and it was to be striven and hoped for, but in the end, from the maker of all, a forever “perfect day” which would become a crowning reward from a life well lived through complete thought-power; a heart-minded alliance.

Thought proceeds action. Pure actions, noble actions, honorable actions, proceed from a unique area of the body unassociated with what scientists and practitioners of the mental arts consider “thinking.”

 The “Who” we become is a heart-centered growth personalized by who-we were-are-and-are-to-become, not by a “one size fits all” success paradigm or formula that requires a lot of brain power alone where winner’s win and losers go where losers belong. Don’t get me wrong…

I am not saying that mental processing of ideas, truths, and facts for higher achievement by our magnificent brain is not important. It all begins there.

What I am saying is that until ideas, truths, facts and formulas are internalized by and in the heart, they do not become “things.” If thoughts are things as Allen suggested, then the focus of Jesus’ saying cannot be left out of the processing.

I do not disrespect the mental toughness and attitudes of grit and determination taught by masters of success teachings. We sow in the mind through mental affirmations and proven success formulas the seeds of greatness. From those seeds trees of life grow. I just see those teachings as support for something more… something James Allen avoided–no doubt because the brain was and still is the focus of peak performance teachers. Very little was and still is known about heart-focused thought and power.

The heart is the center of the soul, its seat, and from it the life-giving blood flows in nourishment to every cell of the body. Now imagine the heart transporting our internalized thoughts into every one of 70 trillion human cells. The Brain may be a thinking machine, and it benefits us greatly, but if it fails us, the Heart goes on until God says, “enough.”

Young or old, we pass on to the “Perfect Day” even though we have not yet become perfect. And what our heart becomes, we become; Forever…

Still searching and still working on it — and the daily skull busters do not control me because: “As a Man Thinketh, In His Heart, So is He.”

James Allen’s book is included for free in “As a Man Thinketh…In His Heart” the Novel @ Amazon

MOM, The Woman Who (Still) Made Oatmeal Stick to My Ribs

So many things still affect me from growing up years, and those years as an adult where Mom was always there.  The “Golden Rule” was one of those things. Gently hammered into me whenever I left the nest, and even as an adult I still hear Mom’s voice.

The value of a mother cannot be underestimated. They are the nurturers of the world, the caretakers of the homes, the providers along with fathers of nourishment, clothing, and a safe place to live.

I include the final chapter to a book being revised for republishing, but available from Amazon online in eBook and used copies in hard and soft cover format. I include an audio link here of the nearly complete audiobook for those who wish to listen to an excerpt:  http://www.jamesmichaelpratt.com/.

   Though we age, and though we become the surviving members of a generation of people from slower, less complicated times, we all in our later years give thanks, credit, love from our hearts to our Mom, who gave us life, and in some cases even saved us.

With a smile as I close my eyes, I can see her call out to me as I run out the front door, “Remember Jimmy, do unto others as you would have them to do to you.”

Thanks for the unnumbered prayers for me. Thanks for all the tireless efforts when I didn’t notice. And thanks for the unseen tears. Still trying to behave Mom.  Still trying to live the Golden Rule… But whatever else may be, or however far short I have fallen from your expectations, I announce to the world this: “I love you, Mom.

 

 

LETTERS YELLOWED IN TIME

  

Ink. Paper. Love…

People don’t write “Letters” anymore; the stuff of personal history stored on pages aged through time.  I’m a romantic from slower times with a couple boxes of time colored letters. If you have lived as an adult before the advent of the internet, you will have saved some of those letters.

Do you recall the excitement of receiving a postal-stamped letter from a love, from Mom, Dad, family, or friend? It wasn’t public like this, but a secret, sacred sort of thing; just for you!

They were sent before electronic communications available now to every man, woman, and child on the planet. Phones didn’t have answering machines and long distance was expensive, so we wrote people we loved a letter hoping the postal mail would treat it kindly and get it to them in days, not weeks.

Handwritten letters are history coming alive. It is paper the person you loved touched, or maybe even kissed before sealing it up. Now more precious, though “yellowed” by time, many of those letters have a ghostly quality because, after all, your loved ones, in some cases, have passed on.

But now, here in your hand, is a personal letter written to you; an investment of time by someone who loved you very much, and for a brief moment you can talk to them again…

I’m in the reminiscing mode this week — listening to music that puts me at 19, 20 and 21 in Latin America where a letter from home was like air to breathe. Sometimes I wouldn’t get one for weeks. Sometimes I would get 2 or 3 in one week. And a telephone call with spotty service if at all, or faxing and texting — which didn’t exist –was not an option.

To put it mildly, getting a letter from home, and especially from a girl, was 10 times a feeling you now get when someone hits “LIKE” on FB or Twitter, except you could touch the paper they touched, then re-read it again as you savored every thoughtful ink-spelled word.

All soldiers from those days understand even more than others. Your life is on hold, and suddenly someone from home unlocks the door and you walk through a portal to be with them for a few minutes again. And the bonus? If you are reading it, it means you are still alive!

I recall getting a single letter from my Dad of three pages. I wept. It took him days to write. Now it is a treasure beyond price. Others still with the fragrance of perfume from some nice girls, and those faithful letters from Mom are stored in an ammo box which I need to unload, read once again, and put into plastic pages for someone else to enjoy.

We should hand-write again, especially to Mom or Dad if alive. Can you imagine the shock, pleasure, joy they would receive? Is there a missionary, a soldier, some classmate you could text message, but want to actually touch them but can’t? That’s called a “letter.”

Should natural or manmade disasters cause it, FB and other social networking phenomenons of the past 20 years will all go away one day. And then, that one day you will find your yellowed letters, and a tear will fall, and a smile will crease your face as a sigh comes from deep within. You will also whisper this to the name of the person who sent it: “I love you…”

ENJOY A SONG:

Here’s a link to a beautiful song called “Yellow Letters” by Nino Bravo, a singer from Spain 1973, who died that year in a tragic accident. You may not understand the words, but the emotion is all about the love found in the “Cartas Amarillas”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZvFrWToECk

IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

August 11, 2018

In a Christmas tale for the present day and set in the vast open ranch country of the high plains in Wyoming, a family story develops that ultimately rescues three lost souls.  Here is the “Prologue” to a story written straight from the heart; now represented for book and film development.

PROLOGUE

Christmas had been unusually good to the ranch this year, he considered. Now past, he welcomed the chance to relax but somehow also know for certain that the Love legacy would be safe and continue.

As he had each morning at sun-up, cattle boss and ranch manager Dan Echohawk walked down the long drive from the main family home and unlocked the ranch-run café managed by Phil Jensen’s wife, Doris. He would have his first cup of a hot wake-up drink, and then return to manage the dying cattle spread.

He sat on the red bar stool and swirled the black liquid in his coffee mug as if an answer waited for him in it. Dan mentally measured how the two-generation old cattle business didn’t need to die as so many other family ranches had. It was financially sound but just needed a good man and woman at the reigns again; someone who loved the ranch as much as he did.

“Rachel,” he sighed hopefully. “I think Jake…” he muttered, and then realized he was talking to himself again. “You have a nice day, Doris,” Dan finally offered with a heavy cough, as he took one more swallow and prepared to leave.

Dan suddenly realized how much harder every movement was becoming. His cloaked illness was becoming less likely to stay hidden each passing day. Hope Rachel and Jake return early today, he posed in silent reverie. Best we finish this story while I can.

Doris waved from the other end of the room as she dialed the heater up and began her preparations for the regulars who would be coming through the doors any minute.

“How do you do?” the younger man said as he took a seat next to Dan at the counter. He seemed to appear without making any sound upon entering.

“Doing well; thank you,” Dan lied. “What brings you to Love so early, stranger?” Dan quizzed.

“Just enjoying being out at this hour” he replied. The visitor offered a few other particulars about himself, but with a pleasant demeanor kept his focus upon Dan.

One thing led to another and soon Dan found himself considering how this day’s early morning walk down to the Love Diner had offered a new twist. Someone returned back up the gentle hill with him.

Dan built a fire from the pile of pine logs stacked in the brass cradle, and now sat in his favorite easy chair positioned near the stone hearth in the Great Room. He and Missy had enjoyed many hours here after the sun went down; right up to her final day on earth last year.

He invited his friendly guest to take the lounger opposite him. A roaring fire soon crackled and took a winter chill off the one hundred-year-old lonely ranch house main floor.

There was something interesting, and even wise about the inquisitive man who had entered the diner at opening hour; a man who simply called himself “William.” He guessed the well-groomed man fitted in typical Wyoming western wear, was in his mid-thirties, though his energy seemed more like a college athlete.

For some unearthly reason William just seemed to open Dan up, like no one had ever before done. With few close friends, he was busting to share some of his secrets about this place folks simply called the Love Ranch but had little confidence in how to go about it. Dan’s visitor urged him on and he decided to trust William. He began to tell his story as honestly as he knew how:

     Few folks take the lonely stretch of road from I-80 north, then another due west past Eden, where a whole lot of nothin’ greets the eye until you reach a sharp bend before a long drive at a sign post marked ‘Love, Wyoming – Population 50.’ Our small diner and gift shop, the last of the one gas pump country cafes that served the occasional passersby and local cattle folks since the 1920’s, marks downtown.

Up the drive leading to the diner and then the ranch house are three more signs welcoming strangers. Each one was placed there by an original member of the Love family who settled this land. In a family tradition, of sorts, every generation was expected to add their own sign upon marriage. The first of three signs welcoming a visitor up the drive was placed by the original ranch owner, ‘Old Man’ Jack Love. It reads:

 If you are going to fall, you might as well fall in Love.

 

 

 

 

GREATEST GENERATION and FRIENDS

    

 

Have had several dreams of my father. Always in his early thirties–half my present age. Grew up hearing the stories, in bits and pieces of World War Two soldiers: Dad, neighbors, friends, family.

They are almost entirely gone — in fact I don’t think one who was close to me remains. I look forward to seeing them again, laughing with them, thanking them, but not in dreams. Why I wrote the love stories celebrating them in the war years 1941 –1945:

The Last Valentine, The Lighthouse Keeper, Ticket Home,
and, “When the Last Leaf Falls” (unpublished)

Like a soliloquy to the lost but not forgotten, tender music like this pays tribute to these old-young men who fought so valiantly for their loved ones. From “The Pacific.”

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

Sneak Peek — In a Wonderland Called Love

Sharing a synopsis for reading fans of my latest work in progress for both book and film.  Hope you enjoy!

 

A Wonderland Called Love

by

James Michael Pratt

 

Christmas Eve – Present Day

Jake Monson is a lost soul shattered by 15 years of war. As he ponders upon the dark thoughts invading every waking moment, Jake pushes through a snowstorm on a lonely highway somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. He joined the Army at 18, earned elite Army Ranger status, and served as a Special Forces operator in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a dozen other countries. Now disabled, he is unsure how to reconcile a past of violence with a new one of peace.

Rachel Love Strong lost her dreams of the perfect man and never-ending high plain sunsets long ago. Christmas Eves were the last magical memories for Rachel, who as a child hadn’t known anyone lived a life larger than in Love, Wyoming; population 50. Single with one child, Rachel wasn’t planning on making this family ranch and one horse-stop café her life when she eagerly left for culinary school on the coast years ago. With parents recently deceased, she desperately wants to wrap up the sale, get back to her successful L.A. catering business, and a busy perfection-obsessed life.     Hypnotized by both the blizzard and deep thought, Jake loses sight of the road before him. Suddenly swerving to avoid a deer, he finds himself crawling out from under his over-turned truck, bleeding and limping toward some distant lights.

With a winter white-out, Rachel didn’t expect many guests for the annual Love Family Christmas Eve meal, but with dogs barking she also didn’t expect to find a stranger staggering toward the porch, falling headlong into a snow drift.

Over the course of a holiday week, Rachel finds an injured man in need of more than bandages and rest, and that sometimes home is where you find what you went out into the world in search of. Jake forgets his past long enough to discover magic and innocence isn’t lost after all. They both come to find that unfulfilled dreams and unexpected miracles can happen in a winter wonderland called Love.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

Photo courtesy Alan Day of Heber, Utah

A Christmas season tale of redemption and filling inner emptiness with what matters most is offered when two strangers find the meaning of life over quiet weeks of giving. They learn that the unexpected can happen if you are willing to slow down and look for it.  This short excerpt is from the narrator voice found in the manuscript in progress:

“Love, Wyoming, Population 50, exists only in the heart of every person who calls it home, or who stays for a week or two. But there’s the rub–the one thing that most won’t do. That is, most folks won’t ever visit Love; not on purpose anyway.

“It is a place without cell phones, cable TV, and internet, yet holds the magic everyone longs for. It is that intimate connection where face to face is all that’s needed to make a person feel important and needed.

“I didn’t get this wisdom from my Cheyenne ancestors, but from plain old observation.  Now this truth be told — you are all welcome to Love. Will you actually make your way here?”

Uncle Dan Echohawk, from In a Wonderland Called Love, a Christmas story now in progress.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

 

The Making of Dickens “A Christmas Carol”

Author at Santa Claus Lane in Carpenteria, CA. 2001

We owe alot about the evolution of our present Christmas Day to a novelist.

In fact a novelist has kept his bestseller on the shelves, on stage,  and on the big screen — turned into no less than six different movie versions — for 174 years because he was able to take quintessential values about love and attach them to a largely uncelebrated date.

This holiday season a delightful family film, The Man Who Invented Christmas  presents the story of Charles Dickens writing of A Christmas Carol.  It offers insight on how Christmas became the sacred and family fun filled holiday that it now is.

Christmas has become so beloved since 1843’s arrival of Dickens A Christmas Carol that fun park villages and lanes across America have been dedicated to the annual event.  One such lane is shown in the photo above. It was near my hometown in Ventura County off the 101 Highway on the California coast in Carpenteria, California. The famous “Date Shakes” — among other novelties — called many travelers to tap the brakes on their north and south bound drives and indulge their inner child for a few moments.

The American celebration of Christmas combined imported traditions from our cousins in Europe.  My Dutch immigrant grandparents brought theirs, and our English, German, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian cousins (among many others) also imported theirs to make the American holiday a unique mix of Christ, Santa, Christmas trees, sleighs, parades, lights, candies, music, carols, gift and a card giving event.

As an author continually in search of the next inspiration for a novel, I find the story of Charles Dickens 1843 inspiration for the perennial classic “A Christmas Carol” compelling and worthy of every reader’s time.

Written in just a six weeks, Dickens’ self-published novel has given us the Ebeneezer Scrooge character which informs us of the cost that a cold heart really is. But it is more than that. It is a story of love lost and refound in a “it’s-never-too-late” plot that is timeless.

Writes Kate Samuelson of Time.com:

When Dickens pitched a Christmas book to his publishers, they couldn’t understand why anyone would be interested in the idea. But the author had predicted a turn in the yuletide. Queen Victoria had recently married the German Prince Albert, who brought the Christmas tree over from Germany, and the idea of the festival being a time for family and celebration was gradually seeping back into public consciousness…

I have included a link to the full background article and review of the movie celebrating Dickens creation — The Man Who Invented Christmas  — here:

http://time.com/5017067/a-christmas-carol-charles-dickens-movie/

BTW:  I give the movie a “10 Star” out of 5 rating;  a must see for every lover of the Dickens tale.