Life Lessons from the National Parks: Meeting God in America’s Most Glorious Places
Romans 1:20 says God’s “invisible attributes—His eternal power and divine nature” show themselves in what He has created. Our national parks are indeed our nation’s “best idea,” as historian, writer and environmentalist Wallace Stegner noted, but there were God’s idea first!
John Muir, the man often called the Father of our National Parks, unequivocally and unapologetically linked the beauty around him with its Creator:
“I am sitting here in a little shanty made of sugar pine shingles this Sabbath evening. I have not been at church a single time since leaving home. Yet this glorious valley Yosemite might well be called a church, for every lover of the great Creator who comes within the broad overwhelming influences of this place fails not to worship as he never did before. The glory of the Lord is upon all His works; it is written plainly upon all the fields of every clime, and upon every sky, but here in this place of surpassing glory the Lord has written in capitals.”
–from The Life and Letters of John Muir by William Frederic Badé
Life Lessons from the National Parks: Meeting God in America’s Most Glorious Places expands on Muir’s vision. The book’s inspirational stories chronicle remarkable lands, events and people, but more importantly, they reflect the God who superintends each one. It’s a four- season exploration of more than forty parks, memorials and historic sites, and includes tips for planning your own visits.
Today’s Wednesday’s Writer features Penny Musco. Thank you for being here, Penny.
When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?
I wrote a few things as a child—most notably, a short script a la “Man from U.N.C.L.E” in the sixth grade, which I still have—but never thought of it as a profession. It was just something creative and fun to do. Theatre was more my thing. In retrospect, I realize I had a lot of writing influences and perhaps even a genetic disposition toward putting pen to paper. My father composed short poems occasionally, mostly about my mother and his father. His mother, who died before I was born, wrote a column for her local paper for over a decade. I have copies of many of them, which I treasure.
Have you ever won any awards for your writing?
Yes, Life Lessons from the National Parks won an Excellence in Editing award from the Christian Editor Connection in 2017.
Have you ever received a rejection?
You’re joking, right? Rejection is part and parcel of the creative life. I first learned about it trying out for plays in high school. As a theatre major in college and in summer stock, I was fortunate to be cast in some great roles, but didn’t get others I wanted. I auditioned for about two years in New York City, and landed only one role way, way, way off-Broadway amid rejections too numerous to count. I worked in radio for several years, experiencing additional rebuffs. When I finally settled on freelance writing as my career, I got more noes than yeses. I received 17 rejections before Sonfire Media agreed to publish Life Lessons from the National Parks.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to an unpublished writer?
Persist! Keep at it through all the rejections you will definitely receive. Continue to learn from others and from your mistakes, but persevere. By the way, you don’t have to be published to get enjoyment from writing. Believe me, those who come after you will be thrilled to read what you write, especially if it’s about you and your life.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel, in particular to national park sites (obviously!), but family obligations, time and money don’t allow me to do as much as I’d like, at least right now. On a day to day basis, I love, love, love to read. I peruse at least one newspaper every day. My book list is over 35 pages long and I’m always adding to it. Non-fiction opens me up to the world with its different locations and issues; fiction relaxes me.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My husband says he doesn’t have to think because I think enough for the two of us (that’s just his excuse for not remembering anything). I do have an overactive imagination, I know, which sometimes means I have to rein in my thoughts when they go to dark places (see Psalm 94:19 if you have the same problem). The upside is that, combined with life experiences and what I read, I have a lot of material to draw on. But really, anyone who feels the urge to express him or herself in writing, who is curious about the world and others, and is at least somewhat self-aware, will always find something to write about.
What kinds of research do you do for your books?
In-person when I can, and also using reliable online sources and other peoples’ writings. Looking at old photos helps with descriptions when I write historical fiction (like my e-novella from Pelican Book Group, The Christmas Child). Your local library is your best friend!
Is there a message in your book you hope readers will relate to?
The ultimate lesson of Life Lessons from the National Parks is that God loves you, He died to forgive all the wrong things you’ve said and done and thought, and He’s calling you to accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life. After that what I hope my book will do is whet your appetite for our over 400 national parks sites. You’ll not only discover our country’s beautiful scenery, but experience our history in a way you never did in school. And—you’ll discover more about the God who’s Author of it all.
Here’s a tip to start your exploration: the vast majority of National Park Service sites charge no entrance fee. If you want to check out one that does, take advantage of an upcoming date when all park admissions are free. National Public Lands Day, this year on Saturday, September 28, is one of five annual no-cost dates.
Get your copy here!
Find Penny online: PennyMusco.com