Category: Blog

My Favorite Character

My Favorite Character

After reading Part 1 of Phoebe’s Journey, one of my beta readers had a question for me. “Who’s your favorite character?” she asked.

That’s easy. My hands-down favorite is Ari, the Greek sailor working on the ship named the Zephyr.

At first, Ari seems to be a simple, minor character—just an uneducated, albeit skilled, deckhand. Ari doesn’t even make an appearance until Chapter 6, and then you might consider him forgettable. As the story develops we realize that Ari is far more and worth getting to know.

Without spoiling anything, Ari is a deeper thinker than he first seems. He’s multi-faceted–patient, until he can’t be anymore; a problem-solver; and loyal.

In Part 2 of Phoebe’s Journey, Ari has an expanded role where we’ll learn more intriguing aspects of Ari’s background and how he came to be one of Phoebe’s father’s most trusted friends.

The Corinthian Shortcut

The Corinthian Shortcut

In the first century, Corinth ranked with Ephesus, Alexandria, and Athens as one of the Roman empire’s greatest cities. Why? One of the main reasons was its geography. The southern half of mainland Greece connects to the northern half near Corinth. The connection is a narrow neck of land, called the Isthmus of Corinth, which is less than four miles wide. In ancient times, mariners traveling between Asia and Rome could avoid about 200 miles of dangerous seas by portaging through this isthmus.

A port was on each side of the Isthmus of Corinth. The eastern port was Cenchrae, Phoebe’s hometown in Phoebe’s Journey. Cenchrae is on the Saronic Gulf, leading to the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. The western port, just north of Corinth, was Lechaeum in the Corinthian Gulf leading to the Ionian Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Western Mediterranean.

The Isthmus of Corinth was often called the bridge of the sea. Small ships were guided by slaves across the four mile isthmus on rollers. Larger ships would be unloaded in one port, their goods transported across the Isthmus, then the ships would be reloaded in the other port.

For centuries there was one plan after another to create a canal from Lechaeum to Cenchrae. It wasn’t until 1893 that a canal was finished. Even though it’s an east/west connector, cutting off more than 400 miles, the canal is still of limited use because it’s only 58 feet wide—too narrow for modern ocean freighters which range from 100 feet to more than 200 feet in width. By contrast, the Panama Canal, was expanded in 2016 from 110 feet to 230 feet. Today, the Corinthian Canal is used mainly by small tourist ships.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. While I was at church this morning, my thoughts drifted [as they often do]. I reflected on the relationship I had with my father.

My father passed to his heavenly home more than twenty years ago. He was still a vibrant man, full of dreams and plans. His unexpected death had a profound effect on my life. My father was a giant in my life. We didn’t live in the same city, but I talked to him every night at 6:00pm. Twenty-one years later, I still sometimes reach for my phone at 5:55. He gave me support. He gave me encouragement. He gave me love. And, when he was gone there was a huge void in my life.

In Part 1 of Phoebe’s Journey, Of Passion and Pride the pivotal moment in Phoebe’s life is the death of her beloved father, Miklos. So, is any part of this book autobiographical? Not really. There are significant differences in my 21st century life from Phoebe’s 1st century life. But, I can certainly relate to Phoebe’s sorrow and aching heart at the death of her father. I can understand her desire to keep his memory alive. I can connect to Phoebe’s longing to maintain her father’s life’s work. These are all actions that will honor her father and keep him close to her, even as she grieves. Centuries separate us, but our humanity connects us.

As yesterday’s church service came to a close, the congregation stood and sang a closing hymn together. It was one of my father’s favorites: Our God, He Is Alive. Tears streamed from my eyes as I imagined hearing my father’s booming voice, singing with abandon.

There is a God

He is alive

In Him we live

And we survive

From dust our God

Created man

He is our God

The great I Am.

What a legacy.



Gallio’s Pedigree

Gallio’s Pedigree

In the book of Acts, we’re told about the Apostle Paul being brought before the Roman Proconsul Gallio by the Jewish synagogue leaders:

“But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.” (Acts 18:12-17)

Part 1 of Phoebe’s Journey, imagines a further meeting between Gallio and Paul with a fascinating series of exchanges between the two. Gallio arguing from his Stoic background, the Apostle Paul making his case as a Christian.

Gallio, the Proconsul of Achaia [Ancient Greece] when Paul was in Corinth, was the son of Seneca the Elder, and brother to Seneca the Younger. All three were prominent in Roman society.

Seneca and Gallio were born in Cordoba, Spain into a wealthy equestrian family, but moved with their father to Rome where he became a famed speaker and writer. Seneca the Elder oversaw his sons’ education in the Stoic school of philosophy. Gallio and Seneca the Younger rose in their careers to seats of power.

As an adult, Seneca the Younger was an essayist, a playwright, and Stoic philosopher. He also was a tutor and adviser to the evil emperor Nero. Seneca the Younger was one of the wealthiest men of his time.

Seneca’s life was one of opposites: Great wealth, ambition, and power vs. introspection, self-examination, and a philosophy advocating humility, civil obligation, and self-denial.

Seneca wrote several essays, one was a treatise on The Happy Life that he wrote to his brother, Gallio. Following are some of Seneca’s observations and suggestions:

  • Find a role model.
  • Never be a slave to your riches.
  • Fight your ego.

I pondered whether we find similar admonitions in the New Testament:

  • Find a role model: Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.”
  • Never be a slave to your riches: Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
  • Fight your ego: I Peter 5:5 “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”

In Phoebe’s Journey, Gallio and the Apostle Paul are educated and wise men. They come from similar, but different backgrounds. They don’t agree about everything, but they find common ground and form a mutually respectful relationship proving that even in our differences, we have similarities.

If you’d like to read more about the philosophy of stoicism, here are three recommended books:



What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Nancy, one of my beta readers for Part 1 of Phoebe’s Journey commented that there were a lot of unfamiliar names that sounded similar and that was confusing and distracting. As an example, in the first drafts, Phoebe’s mother’s name is Demetra, which is very similar to another main character’s name–Demarus. Nancy’s advice was spot on and I changed a few character’s names. Phoebe’s mother is now Sophia.

Character names should never get in the way of a reader’s enjoyment. Roman and Greek names often have a similar sound to our unfamiliar ears, so Nancy’s criticism was certainly valid. Beta readers give valuable input and their comments always make the finished product better.

When I was thinking about names for the characters in Phoebe’s Journey, I went through the New Testament and made a list of the Corinthian Christians. What a melting pot of rich ethnicities this early church was:

Roman (Latin) Names

  • Gaius
  • Fortunatua
  • Crispus
  • Titius Justus
 Greek Names
  • Stephanas
  • Achalcus
  • Erastus 
  • Phoebe

Jewish Names 

  • Aquila
  • Priscilla
  • Sosthenes


The Apostle Paul’s Postal Service

The Apostle Paul’s Postal Service

Ancient Papyrus Letter

For good reason, Christians focus most of their  attention on the content of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. But, considering how important this letter was to further Paul’s mission, he no doubt spent as much effort on ensuring its delivery as he did writing it.

So exactly how did Paul’s letter get from Greece to Rome? We can’t be certain about the details, but we can make some plausible conjectures.

During this era there were three ways to send a letter: 1) official material was transmitted through the postal service, known as the cursus publicus; 2) wealthy people often used a tabellarius, a slave acting as a courier, to carry their mail; and 3) the majority of mail was carried by anyone–even a stranger–headed to the same destination as the letter. You can imagine that in this case it was never a sure thing that the letter would actually be delivered safely.

Our first supposition, which is clearly supported by Paul’s own writings, is that he put his letters in the hands of people he knew and trusted. In the case of the letter to the Romans, Paul indicates he chose Phoebe to carry his letter.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her with anything she may need from you.” Acts 16:1-2

What were Phoebe’s responsibilities?

Most importantly, Phoebe had to get Paul’s letter to the Romans from Corinth, Greece to Rome, Italy safely. By sea the trip was about 700 miles and could take 5-10 days in good weather. With a combination sea/land route following the Adriatic Sea, the distance was about 800 miles. There were paved roads and travelers often rode donkeys and stayed in inns along the way. This route took considerably more time–3 to 4 weeks–but in the winter months it was the only open route for travelers.

Phoebe was also most likely responsible for paying her travel expenses, including sea passage for her and any travel companions, food and wine for her journey, etc.

Importantly, Phoebe needed to physically protect Paul’s letter. The biggest threat was from moisture from the sea and from rain.  The letter could have been wrapped in a parchment wrapper, then stored in a box. Was Phoebe able to book an enclosed cabin for the sea portion of her voyage? We have no way of knowing, but if she did, Paul’s letter would have even been safer.

Once Phoebe arrived safely in Rome, her next responsibility was to deliver the letter to the Christian community on Paul’s behalf.


Corinthian Columns

Corinthian Columns

You’ve heard of Corinthian columns, but do you know what they look like?

The ancient Greeks invented three types of columns: the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian.




The Parthenon

Of the three, Doric columns are the simplest. A Doric column has a top–called the capital–made of a circle topped by a square. The tall part of the column is called the shaft. The shaft of a Doric column is actually quite plain, but very powerful looking. They are especially impressive when they are lined up along the front of a rectangular structure.




Temple of Athena Nike

Ionic columns have taller shafts than Doric columns. Because of their height, they also look more slender than Doric columns. Ionic columns have a unique characteristic, a sort of optical illusion. There is a slight bulge in the columns, called an entasis, that makes the columns look straight, even at a distance. Without the entasis, your eyes would pick up that Ionic columns get narrower as they rise. An Ionic column’s base is large and looks like a set of stacked rings. At the top, the capitals consist of scrolls above the shaft.




Temple of Olympian Zeus

Corinthian columns are the most decorative and the one that most modern people like the best. Corinthian columns also use an entasis to make the columns look straight. The shaft has slender flutes and the base is like the Doric. The capitals are very ornate with elaborate flowers and acanthus leaves below a small scroll. Ironically, the Romans used the Corinthian column much more often than the Greeks did.

So why is it called a Corinthian column?

De Architectura is commonly accepted as the world’s very first architecture manual. Written in about 30 B.C., De Architectura’s author, Vitruvius, tells the story of a young girl’s death in Corinth. “A free-born maiden of Corinth, just of marriageable age, was attached by an illness and passed away,” he writes.

Vitruvius says the girl was buried near the root of an acanthus tree, with a basket of her favorite things. The next spring, leaves and stalks grew up through the basket. Callimachus, a Corinthian sculptor, walked past the tomb and was so impressed with the beauty he began to incorporate the intricate design onto column capitals. And, so (at least according to this story), the Corinthian column was born.

My Calendar

My Calendar

I started using a new calendar system in January that has literally changed my life. I’m not one to give faint praise, so I really urge you to check it out. This planner is far more than a simple calendar. It’s a guidebook that has helped me articulate my goals–short-term and long-range. It keeps me on track and accountable with a series of questions to answer each morning and, again, at night. There is space for visualization boards, my vision statement and mission statement.  Each month I enter my personal and professional goals, and create a roadmap to reach them. The calendar has weekly pages for my daily tasks, plus plenty of space to keep track of priorities. One thing I really love is the end of month reflection pages. This is where I can celebrate my accomplishments, track what I’ve learned and who inspired me, and make a note of where I fell short and why. There’s a reason they call it a “weekly success and life planner.” Believe me, I’ll be reordering for 2018.

Corinth–Rebuilt Bigger & Better

Corinth–Rebuilt Bigger & Better

Did you know that in the time-setting of Phoebe’s Journey, beginning around 51-53 AD, Corinth was five times larger than Athens?

This was actually Corinth’s second go-around. In 146 BCE, Corinth was completely destroyed by the Romans. The citizens were either killed or taken into slavery. Seems the Roman occupiers were not too happy with the citizenry when some Corinthians dared to pour the waste from their homes onto Roman officials passing by. The officials sent an army and the city was razed.

Corinth was deserted for nearly one hundred years until Julius Caesar rebuilt the city as a colony in 44 BCE. By the middle of the first century AD, Phoebe’s era, Corinth was bigger and better than ever. In fact, it was the largest city in Greece. A hustling metropolitan area, Corinth was known for its diversity, its great wealth, and yes, its immorality.

Two Sentences

Two Sentences

Phoebe was only mentioned one time in the New Testament. In Romans 16:1-2 the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.”

Those two sentences are jam-packed with information about our leading lady. Let’s dig deeper.

It seems obvious that in the first century A.D., most letter writers didn’t carry their own letters. Why would Paul write a letter if he was going to see the recipients in person? Much like letter writers today use the post office, in ancient times, emissaries carried letters on behalf of their writers. It was common for letter writers to include an introduction of the person(s) who brought the letter on their behalf. When Paul introduces `Phoebe, from Cenchrea,’ it’s logical to assume that Phoebe was person who brought Paul’s letter nearly 1000 miles from Corinth, Greece all the way to Rome.

What else can we super-sleuth from this one verse? Well, when Paul says “Welcome her [Phoebe] in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people,” we know that Phoebe was a Christian. We also hear that Paul expects brothers and sisters united in Christianity to treat each other with respect and Christian love–whether or not we have ever met before. Paul wants Phoebe to be honored and to be warmly welcomed into their lives.

Paul goes on to tell his friends in Rome, “…give her any help she may need from you…” There are so many possibilities as to what kind of help Phoebe may have needed while in Rome. In the third book of the Phoebe’s Journey series, you’ll read all about the work I’ve imagined Phoebe doing in Rome. Of course, Paul doesn’t specify any business reason for Phoebe to have traveled to Rome, but we can use our imaginations.

Paul wraps up his introduction of Phoebe, “…she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.” Phoebe was obviously special in Paul’s eyes. Doesn’t that sentence make you wonder about the kindnesses she showed to her fellow Christians, and especially the Apostle Paul?

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