Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Imagine you agree to have yourself, your soul, your immaterial essence, all your thoughts and experiences and hard-won lessons, all your knowledge and vocabulary and understanding, all your memories -- to have all that put into the body of a newborn baby. To be raised by your own children, if you have them. Or maybe your younger siblings. You can't talk, you can't move, feed yourself. You must depend upon them utterly to feed you, clean you, keep you safe. You have to be taught things you already know, maybe even things you yourself invented or devised.... Imagine that and you have some vague inkling of what it was like for God the Son to take on the form of a man. Starting with babyhood.

It's not the best analogy because Jesus became fully human in his humanity and had to learn like any other baby, so it wasn't as if there was a fully mature "soul" in the baby Jesus. But the deity part of Him was still there, the power that holds the universe together, and He voluntarily put aside the use of it, and also the privileges of treatment and respect that go with deity to become a human baby. A creature that in those first few weeks couldn't even roll over! It's mind boggling what He did. For us.

I pray that as the Christmas season enfolds us, you’ll take time to reflect on the significance behind this. That He temporarily set aside his privileges as deity to take on the form of a baby, grow to manhood and lay down his life for us on a Roman cross some 2000 years ago. Jesus Christ, the only true celebrity, our hero and savior, born to die so we might live forever. May His love and life touch your heart in a special way this Christmas.

I'll be back blogging again sometime after the first of the new year. See you then.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Trigger Fingers

Based on the number of hits the writing parts of my body are taking, I'm beginning to think I must be writing something really important in Black Box. Now, just as my left arm is finally getting to the point of being useful and not too troublesome, I find I've developed tendonitis in my right hand, particularly my thumb. I think it's from too much housework, too fast.

It's not the first time I've developed tendonitis from housework -- scrubbing the tub is something I have to do in parts or I'll get it in my elbow. I've also developed painter's elbow when I painted the outside of the house a few years back. This is the first time I've gotten it in my hands (and I do have it in both of them, though it's much worse in the right hand)

Too much squeezing and scrubbing led to my fingers growing stiff and painful. I can't make a fist. In the morning they are especially stiff, and when I try flex them and straighten them out they lock and then suddenly spring open. I researched it last night and discovered this is called trigger finger or trigger thumb. And I have it in my thumb, as well as the fingers, and lately it's been worst of all, because when it "springs open" it sends a sharp pain through my thumb and palm. It's also visibly swollen.

It's officially called tenosynovitis and involves the inflammation of the tendons and sheath around the tendons, which prevents them from flexing open smoothly. The treatment? Advil. Ice and... of course... immobilization. They advise a splint. I'm just trying not to do anything. It's been going on for about a month, and seems to be getting worse, so finally I went to the Internet and realized I really have to stop doing everything. Which is what I've done today. I thought I'd give it a couple of days of the above treatment, and if it doesn't get better I guess I'll have to see a hand surgeon. I can't open bottles, turn faucets, door handles, locks, open the car door, or turn on the ignition. I can type, but I feel I need to do so on a limited basis because I can't always tell while I'm doing something if that's going to bother the thumb or not. Writing longhand is definitely problematic. (Does that mean I should just sit down and start typing out scenes and stop making notes?)

Sheesh! What a crazy year. But as with all the rest of it, I know this is the Lord's problem not mine. If He wants me to write, He'll have to work all this out.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

To Write a Good Book

Back when I was thinking about what makes a good goal, I asked myself what my goal was for writing, and the first thought that came to mind was "I want to write a good book." A few moments' thought led me to the conclusion that this is really not a good goal.

For one thing, what is a good book, anyway? Who gets to decide? Me? Other people? God? Well, yes, God, but how can I know if He thinks it's a good book? I suppose if He was intimately involved in its writing you'd have to conclude He thought it a "good book" but this whole concept just seems bizarre when you think of it as from God's viewpoint. He called me to write the thing. He's promised to provide me everything I need to do it. He's promised to enable me to do it, and I believe He does so. So... if all that is true, than "good book" just seems irrelevant. If it's what He wanted me to do, then it must be good.

And here's the corollary: If I am filled with the Spirit and writing from a soul prepared with doctrine and with craft (preparation He provided) then it would be impossible to write a bad book. That doesn't mean people will necessarily like it. Some might. The majority might not. Many, in fact, might reject it outright or with general disinterest. Is that a bad thing?
God had Jeremiah write some things that his "readers" didn't much like, either, and in fact, outright rejected. They made him a laughingstock, and sang mocking songs about him. Moses said things at God's leading that his congregation didn't like, either. A few of them tried to depose him. Paul said things in the power of the Spirit that people disliked so much they stoned him. And last we have Jesus, the only perfect man, who did only good, and the people rejected him, chose the criminal Barabbas over Him and crucified him. So you obviously cannot base the value of your work on its public reception.

That's hard stuff for a perfectionist mind that builds its worth on what others think. But it's true stuff and the perfectionist, as I've already established, is deluded and masochistic. So "writing a good book" is not a good goal, nor even an achievable goal. I must come up with another, better goal. How about, "write a book"? It's measurable, it's doable and you know exactly when you've accomplished it!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Plan Z

I love how the Lord is just pounding in the lesson that it's HIS plan, not mine. That He wants me to be flexible, not fuss when my plan gets demolished. Even when it's plan Z for the day (plans A - Y having previously been demolished).

This being a Monday after a very full three day weekend (my hubby gets every other Friday off), I shouldn't have expected to get much done writingwise, but having done nothing since Thursday I was hoping... Alas, it was one thing after another including a hail storm with lightning late in the afternoon. I finally got started writing around 4:45pm, planning to work until 7:30 or even 7:45 since my husband would not be home until late. I'd worked an hour when he suddenly appeared. The rain had canceled his pole vault practice. No problem though, because he would do his practice in the street. I went back to work and around 6:24, bam! The power went out and unlike last summer, this time I was plunged into total darkness.

I groped my way through the house to the flashlight, then went around trying to find our puck lights. Finally found one, but couldn't turn it on. Was it my hands, weakened from tendinitis? Or were the batteries out? It took me some time to figure out how to take the back off the thing, and when I did, I discovered one of the batteries had leaked all over it. So I gave up on that and went to candles and the petzl head lamp and sat down to read a book.

Then my husband came back and we went out to eat at the Mongolian Barbecue where you put together your own bowl of fresh/raw ingredients, and they cook it for you. It was fun and yummy. From there we cruised back toward home, but since the power was still off, we went shopping. I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts and some other things we've been needing. Then it was home again, and finally the power was back on. Just in time for bed!

You just never know what a day will bring.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Need for Blood

I recently read a book about a civilization set in a pre-Messianic times, and one of the things that struck me – bothered me, truth be told – was that there were no animal sacrifices. God was portrayed as powerful and loving, but His righteousness and justice were completely ignored.

There was one line where the stones of the demon temples were blood-stained from the rites of child sacrifice, whereas no blood stained the stones of God’s temple. And yet… and yet, it DID. Much blood stained the floor of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. When you consider the Levitical offerings of ram and bull and ox and goat and lamb, and the fact that the head of every family was to bring an offering to the Temple on the holy days, you realize that's going to result in lot of blood. The beast was tied on its back to the altar and its throat cut so that the blood spurted out. There would have been blood everywhere. On the priests, on the stones, on the altar. And it was supposed to be that way. The pure and helpless and unblemished and innocent white lamb, bright red blood spurting out with every beat of its heart. It’s a shocking picture for us. I suspect it was shocking for them…

And one thing was sure: it was very clear a creature was bleeding and dying for the sins of the person who had brought it. A death was required. Just as a death was required from the very beginning. The first thing God did after Adam and the woman fell was to give them the promise of a redeemer, and the second thing was to kill at least one animal and more likely two to provide for them the skins to cover the nakedness brought about by their sin.

Abel’s blood sacrifice of a lamb from his flocks was required and accepted while the work of Cain’s hands, even the best of his human efforts was rejected. We know because God is fair and because of the way he questioned Cain after his offering was rejected, that Cain had been instructed as to what sort of offering was needed. No doubt he resented having to go to Abel to get a lamb for his own sacrifice and thought God would like it better if he did a lot of work and offered something his own efforts had produced. He didn’t understand the point of the sacrifice at all – not to give something of ourselves, but to obey the command so we would understand that one day God was going to provide that ultimate sacrifice – the perfect seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head.

By blotting out all the blood-sacrifice imagery of the OT, we lose the impact of what Christ did. The life of the animal is in its blood, says , but the life of man is in his soul and spirit. Jesus didn’t have to have his throat cut like an OT lamb or ox, because he wasn’t dying physically for our sins. The blood spurting was to make a picture of the death. The substitutionary and spiritual death He would one day die for all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and unbeliever alike.

Why is this needed? Why does it matter if a story left this out? I’m sure some readers wouldn't care, and others would even be grateful to have been spared such gruesome imagery. But for me, it circumvents the most vital aspect of salvation, the whole reason Jesus had to come. God does love us, and does want to give to us and have a relationship with all of us. He is love; it’s part of His essence. But He is also perfect righteousness and perfect justice and He cannot compromise any aspect of His essence or he would cease to be God.

So even though God loves us, if He were to ignore our sin, his righteousness would be compromised, His thwarted. So here we are, sinful people. He loves us and wants to give to us, be He cannot because His righteousness demands that sin be punished, destroyed, separated from Him… put to death. That’s what death is, really, a separation. We are born spiritually dead – spiritually cut off from God. We have no relationship with Him as sinners born and we cannot establish one with Him on our own. He has to do it.

So He sent His son, who put aside the powers and rights of his deity to take on the form of a man, walk this earth for 33 years and then die spiritually on the cross outside Jerusalem when the sins of every person that ever lived or ever will were poured out on him and judged. Righteousness was satisfied by this payment, and Justice declared God free to bless us – but only because of what Jesus had done. So yes, He loves us and he seeks us and draws us to Him, but only through Jesus’s work on the Cross. He offers us an eternal relationship with Him if we will acknowledge we are sinners in need of a savior and believe that Jesus is that savior, the perfect one who paid the debt we owed and couldn’t pay.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holy Days

When God became a man, He took a HUGE step down from where He was. He chose that humiliation because of His great love for us and because it was the only way to give us eternal life and bring us out of the darkness in which we were born. A darkness which was our total lack of relationship with Him, and our total helplessness to do anything about. It was the biggest problem any of us would ever face, and one God solved without any work on our part.

How ironic, then, that at this time of year, during the holidays that are devoted to recalling this great sacrifice on His part, this work of His on our behalf, is when we get most frantic about doing things. We go into overdrive -- gotta get this done, gotta get that done, gotta go here, do this, send that... In fact, on top of all our regular activities we add more -- holiday preparations, parties, activities, shopping, decorating, etc. At least, that's what I realized I had done today, even as I wondered why I didn't seem to have enough time for it all!

A holiday, though, is a Holy Day. A day set apart from the others as special -- to relax, to remember or to consider and honor something or someone. If anything we should stop doing at least some of our regular things so we can concentrate not just on preparing for the "holiday," but also on the reason. And of course, the reason for the Christmas season is the Lord. More than any other, this holiday should not be spent out of fellowship with Him as we enslave ourselves to the details of life.

Yet this special "set apart" time seems anything but set apart. We leap into frantic mode, buzzing from one task or activity to the next with hardly a breath between before falling into bed at night. Oh, and let's not leave out the tension, stress and frenzy of lashing ourselves as we try to get all this stuff done and inevitably fail.

This is not God's plan for us. Yet, it's become a confusing time. Routine is altered and compressed. Things don't happen according to plan. The weather intervenes. Needed items break at the most inopportune time. Worst of all, priorities get muddled. What is it that is really the most important thing to get done today?

I decided today that I didn't want my season to be one of frenzy, but of peace, quietness, and focus on the Lord. There's always time to do the Will of God, I just needed to know what that was. So midmorning, when nothing was going as I had planned -- starting with when I overslept by an hour -- I switched over to "step by step consultation mode." I recalled my basic priorities (Bible class, morning routine, exercise, sleep) and purposed to take things one day at a time, to make it a habit to go to the Lord when I got confused and ask Him what I should do next.

As a result, I got quite a bit done today, some of it what I'd planned, some not. But I maintained the peace and quietness of staying in fellowship, and that's really the only thing that matters.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Messiah Sing-In

Monday night we went to the annual Tucson Messiah Sing-In which, according to what they said, is the longest running community sing-in in the nation. In the sing-in Handel's Messiah is performed with a small orchestra and four soloists; the audience serves as the chorus. The Tucson Sing-In has about 1200 in the audience/chorus. Some of them have been going all 31 years of the Sing-In's history. I sang the Messiah first in college, then with a small town chorus up in Northern Arizona. When we returned to Tucson I attended the Tucson Sing-In when it was still in its infancy. Once I started home schooling, though, I didn't return until last year.

I love it. All the words are straight out of Scripture, much of it from the Old Testament: Isaiah, Haggai, Psalms, Malachi. It lays out the prophecies of Christ's coming, the promises to the Jews that a Savior would be sent and then it brings in the New Testament verses that confirm it. Ending with the fabulous Hallelujah chorus and then the shiver-producing Worthy is the Lamb (that was slain), it's awesome.

This morning when I woke up it occurred to me that in singing the Messiah, the chorus is like the Body of Christ. First there are four different parts designed for four different types of voices -- soprano, alto, tenor and bass. You need to find the part your voice is ranged to sing and sing with that group. That's where you're going to sound the best.

Once you get in your correct group, you have to sing the part you have been assigned. Of course first you have to know what the part is. Since I've been practicing my part by itself for a month or so, I've found that it wasn't always what I'd thought it was. Sometimes the notes weren't at all intuitive. And it didn't always sound as good or as fun as the soprano part. Still, alto is my part and it has a place in the whole. And the better I learned it the more I came to like it.

As a result of learning your part, when you get to the performance, you will be prepared to sing it. That may not be the case with everyone else who comes. In fact, though I did practice, I didn't do nearly enough to meet the challenges of singing in the big group. For one thing, there were others who didn't practice at all, and some who'd never been to the Sing-In before. They knew the Messiah from listening to it whole, which is a lot different from singing a part. Some people could read the music, while others had just muddled along, trying to guess what they should be singing. That means that when you are singing, those around may not sing because they don't know what they're supposed to sing. Others sing notes of their own choosing, feeling they have to sing something. Still others sing the wrong notes, thinking they are right. And of course some are the old pros who have it down pat and don't have to have a group of other singers to help them along the way.

I saw parallels to living the Christian life in all the above. One of the things that really hit me was how hard it is to sing when you're the only one doing it. You wonder if you have made a mistake and shouldn't be singing, even though you've prepared and are pretty sure you should be. In retrospect I realized that most of the people around me weren't singing because they didn't know what to sing, not because I was singing when I shouldn't be (though sometimes I was...) I learned also that you need to keep your own time and not depend on cues from other parts of the chorus because you might not be able to hear the cue you were listening for. Also, the director doesn't always tell you when to come in, so that's not something you can rely on either.

Sometimes I wasn't surrounded by silence. Sometimes the people around me, or a particular voice in my periphery would be sounding heartily -- just not the same notes I was singing. When that happened, I always felt a pull to match with it, even if I thought the notes I was singing were right. Sometimes my notes were right and sometimes they weren't. But even when I was certain I was on track, it was still hard to hold my own.

The solution to all of this? More practice. You really have to know what you are supposed to be singing, and you have to have it down. You have to be confident in what you've learned and practiced. In the confusion of the whole chorus, with people who are at all positions on the scale of knowledge and expertise, you can't afford to rely on others too much. And you have to be ready to sing out what you know to be right even if no one around you is singing with you. Though if you're lucky the voices of the old hands down in the front rows may come drifting back to comfort you and encourage you to stay the course...

Just like learning and applying doctrine in the spiritual life.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Unhurried Tinkering

"Good rewriting demands easy, unhurried tinkering with words. Each unsuccessful try eliminates another wrong solution and leads you to the right one. I can’t emphasize too strongly how important this is, the fact that writing leads to writing, that failed attempts lead to eventual success, that the solution to a rewriting problem is made up of all the attempts that led nowhere." - Dorothy Bryant, novelist (I made no note of where I got this quote from when I copied it into my journal).

And here's John Gardner again, whom I've quoted before...

"Fiction ... begins with a rough sketch. One gets down the characters and their behavior any way one can, knowing the sentences will have to be revised, knowing the characters’ actions may change. It makes no difference how clumsy the sketch is – sketches are not supposed to be polished and elegant. All that matters is that, going over and over the sketch as if one had all eternity for finishing one’s story, one improves now this sentence, now that..."

Just more examples of taking Baby steps.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Notes on the Process

Where did the week go? I don't know. Nor do I know why I kept forgetting to write a blog post until I was too tired, but... it went. And I forgot.

Last Thursday a storm blew in, the first in a long time. It rained in the morning and again in the evening. I enjoyed that -- I always enjoy the rain -- and I also had a bit of a breakthrough in my writing process. In the days before I'd set myself to get to work, using the timer and, eschewing perfectionism, determined that I would write out a sketch of the notes I'd come up with for a scene. I did it and was quite pleased with myself. What I wrote was bad, just as I'd said it could be.

So then the next day, Thursday, I got myself behind the computer at 9:30am (my new tentative time to get there - Flylady's routines are working splendidly) but instead of pressing on, I was just dismayed and confused, upset, hamstrung. The scenes I had written the day before weren't right. And I just had to get them right. I had to do that right then, on Thursday. But every time I looked at the work, my thoughts would snarl and I would run away.

So I went back and reviewed earlier entries and recalled -- duh! -- I was taking BABY steps. When I wrote that draft, I was letting it be completely bad. Of course it would be flawed and grossly imperfect now. Nor was there time to let the perfectionism take over, either. Baby steps needed to be applied on subsequent drafts just as much as on the first draft. Every day, in every project, it seems. Just like I'm not going to get the house decluttered or completely cleaned in one day, so I'm not going to get the chapter, or even the scene right in one day. In fact, it almost never works that way. Whatever I do today, the work is better, clearer, closer to what it will be when it's done.

So I decided to set a specific, concrete goal for the day: I would go through the material I'd written paragraph by paragraph and note briefly what was there and any thoughts that occurred as I did so. When I began to do the work, though, I suddenly became aware of the awful negative, mocking tone of my thoughts as I analyzed. When I noted something illogical or out of the blue, my approach with myself was critical, dismissive and mocking. "What an idiotic development!" my inner voice would say. "WHY in the world would THAT happen?!" And so on. Since Flylady has addressed this aspect of the whole perfectionism syndrome -- be aware of the negative voices in your head and shut them down -- I think I was better able to be aware of them. And being aware of them helped me to tone them down.

Instead of heated denunciations, I was able to ask myself why such and such might have happened, or what could be the result of something that I'd written as occurring. I think that was very helpful, not least because you don't give yourself such a feeling that it's all horrible and there's absolutely no hope. The very language you use with yourself reminds you it's a process, a series of steps and adjustments and it's not all going to get done today.

Having done the analysis, I did a summary of it and discovered what the problems were: contradictions and/or nullifications in the dialog, no stakes, no goals, no consequences for any of the supposed threats and no specifics. Seeing all that was great because now I knew what I needed to do. Lay out the contradictions and decide which way I wanted to go. Set up some goals and stakes and consequences. And work on being specific.

Best of all, I did all that in 3 hours.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The local Reid Park Zoo, which is not far from our house, sponsors a zoolights program each year around the holidays. They decorate the zoo with lights, trees, blow up Santas, bears and snowmen and invite the public in to stroll about after dark. The animals, of course, are all in their beds.

On members' nights, they also provide entertainment -- quartets of singers, choirs, a jazz band, a harpist and, our favorite, a steel drum group. They serve hot chocolate and cookies, have a snow machine set up and the kids can visit Santa. My mother and I have gone every year for a long time. In years past when they sponsored group-decorated Christmas trees, our homeschool group participated, and I was the leader of that project. It was a lot of fun.

I took the camera tonight and got some not so great pictures, though they capture the feel of the event. At right is a picture of the long line of trees along one of the zoo's paths, their lights reflecting in the water of the elephants' pond in the foreground.

Today was the first since the Tuesday before Thanksgiving that I got any work at all in on Black Box. I don't know what happened, but though I tried Monday and Tuesday, I could not get myself to work. It was one thing distracting me after another.

But today was good, and I'm hoping tomorrow will be, too.


Monday, November 26, 2007


Recently I finished reading Michael Crichton's Next, another book on my list of novels for research. Like his previous book, State of Fear, this one takes on an emerging and increasingly political scientific problem, that of genetic engineering. Like State of Fear, this one has a significant bibliography of intriguing books in the back, as well as the author's conclusions as to what should be done about some of the problems raised in the book.

The first is that we stop patenting genes, which seems to me to have been a harebrained notion from the start. As Crichton points out, a gene is a fact of nature, not something someone invented. It's like patenting a disease or turtles. Or, noses, the examples he gives. If noses were to be patented then everything to do with noses would require a license from the patent holder -- glasses, cosmetics, breathe-right strips, medications, etc.

I didn't like this one quite as well as State of Fear, because it was much more focused on its technical subject and the potential consequences than the characters. And while I found the subject fascinating, there were a lot of characters -- at least fourteen viewpoint characters that I can recall off the top of my head. And in the end I rooted most for the transgenic chimpanzee and parrot. I especially enjoyed the parrot, Gerard, who could do math. He was very cool.

I made notes as I read, some directly applicable to Black Box, some just for personal interest. Like,

"Persistent hype lends unwarranted credulity to the wildest claims. For example, stem cell research is being touted as the coming miracle. Because of all the hype, people believe miraculous cures are just around the corner... and so do scientist." (Who are people, too, after all, and just as subject to hype as the next person; maybe even more subject to it if it happens to coincide with their own hopes and dreams of finding those cures)

"Scientific institutions love hype -- it brings grants. Yale, Stanford and Johns-Hopkins promote hype as much as Exxon or Ford. So do individual researchers at those institutions."

"Science is as corruptible a human activity as any other. Its practitioners aren't saints; they're human beings and they do what human beings do -- lie, cheat, steal from one another, sue, hide data, fake data, overstate their own importance and denigrate opposing views unfairly."

This latter makes me think of American Gangster, which ended with a note at the end to say that when Richie Roberts finally brought Frank Lucas to justice, Lucas agreed to help him root out the corruption in the New York Police force at the time -- in exchange for a lighter sentence, naturally. It turned out that they indicted something like two-thirds of the drug enforcement section of the police department. Of all people, you expect police -- and military personnel -- to be upright and have integrity. And I suppose you would expect it from doctors and pastors. And since scientists are allegedly on a quest to discover the truth about how things work, you would think they would be especially scrupulous about objectivity and honesty. But that's only if you forget that they, like all the rest of us, have sin natures and are vulnerable to greed, pressure, intimidation, and the prospect of becoming fabulously successful. Also arrogance, stubbornness, bias, subjectivity, blindness and delusion.

It was interesting to see Crichton mention this. Especially in light of the book I'm reading now, Intuition, also about science, and taking all this to a new and intriguing level. But more on that later.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wild Turkey and American Gangster

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday is over. We had a nice one. I cooked a wild turkey this year. I don't think I'll do it again for Thanksgiving. It tasted okay, and didn't have a lot of fat on it, but the meat was a little dry and a little tough, and the skin was just yucky. Not crispy and good, but thick and rubbery. Also the dark portions of the drumlegs and thighs were veined with tendons and connective tissue that made it harder to eat. Didn't taste bad, but not as good as a Butterball.

I read in today's paper that the reason chickens and turkeys have white breast meat but dark leg meat is because they hardly do any flying. Muscles that are used a lot are usually dark with blood. Muscles that are fast twitch muscles, used for sudden bursts -- like a chicken's quick flight away from the dog -- are white. So duck meat is all dark, because ducks fly and swim and move around a lot. Wild turkeys run and jump all over the place, which is why their leg meat is darker and tougher...

We also went out with our movie group on Friday night to see American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Excellent. I really liked it. The lead actors were fantastic. But the story, which is based on a true story -- the principles are still alive, in fact -- was fascinating. Frank Lucas, the Denzel Washington character, presented a chilling picture of the way Satan is. The one thing I dislike most about fantasy films is that they always portray the evil creatures/people as hideous, repulsive with bad teeth and overactive salivary glands. Of course, Satan's not like that at all, but rather the most beautiful creature ever to come from the hand of God. And though he is fallen, he still has that beauty. He is still incredibly attractive, charismatic, charming, wealthy and powerful. He values authority (as evidenced by Ephesians 6 where the run down of his organizational structure is given) -- so long as it's his own! -- and he has no compassion whatsoever for those under him. He uses them and casts them aside when their use runs out or they displease him.

I can't get over how well that was portrayed by Denzel Washington as he brought Frank Lucas to life. Right down to his ability to drag all his family into his corruption. Some of the reviewers I've read seem to struggle with his goodness -- he's always well dressed, poised, almost always in control and amiable, unless you cross him. He lives in luxury, beauty, order. He provides order to the streets, gives graciously to the poor, takes his elderly mother to church every Sunday... and can whack a guy at the drop of a hat. Put the gun to his forehead and pull the trigger without a blink. How can this be? some seem to ask.

Consider this quote from a review by Frank Wilkins for Reeltalk:

"We're disgusted at seeing small children wallow in the filth of their heroin-addicted parents, yet we can't help but be charmed by his aristocratic courtesy, amiable nature, and impeccable appearance. Washington is so convincing, we're forced into an uncomfortable struggle with our own moral beliefs. Is a crime-riddled world acceptable if it's kept neat and orderly by a man of wealth and integrity?"-- An American Godfather by Frank Wilkins, Reeltalk

No it's not acceptable. What is neat and orderly about addiction? About all the thousands of people who died from using the product Lucas was selling? The children left orphaned because of it? And how can he ever be regarded as a man of integrity given what he's doing? His facade was nice, but underneath was evil, arrogance, and self-absorption. Just like Satan, who goes forth as an angel of light and who wants to be like God. Not the opposite of God, but to take God's place, and in his very independence and self-will is the essence of what evil really is. Not sin. Not nastiness, but independence. And the kind that tries to be good -- apart from God -- is the worst of all.

Russell Crowe's character was, on the other hand, not neat and orderly. His Richie Roberts was slovenly, and his personal life a mess -- divorce, custody case, promiscuity -- even as he maintained the highest level of integrity when it came to his job as a police detective. I enjoyed the contrasts, and the way the two men were set against each other. The good vs the evil, but done in a way that makes you sort through what things really matter, and what things don't.

The acting was awesome, the sets fascinating, the whole cast fit together well. There was violence, yes, but not the gross out, blood and brains spraying everywhere every five minutes of some gangster films -- this was more subdued and did not happen that often. There were also yucky scenes of needles going into arms, legs, whatever; naked girls processing the drugs in the slum lab (naked so they couldn't steal anything); the ravages of drug addiction shown pretty clearly; quite a few bad words; and some rather active dogs-on-the-street-corner sorts of sex scenes. Not for children, as its R rating indicates. But it's a movie that fascinates, that held my attention, mostly riveted, for the entire two hours and 40 minutes, and left me with much to think about. I think I might like to see it again.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Long Way

"Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element..."

Yet, "this poor people's present condition..." was hardly promising. " friends to welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies, no houses, or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour..."

With winter storms howling around the tip of Cape Cod, "whichever way they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects. For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face; and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild ad savage yhue. If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world... Let it also be considered what weak hope of supply and succor they left behind them... What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?"

~William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, Wright and Potter Edition (Bradford's History of the Plymoth Settlement 1608 - 1647)

Oh, how far we’ve come!

This season may we take time to reflect on all the blessings, security and comforts we too often take for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Perfectionism is Nasty

There are SOOO many doctrines against perfectionism! Or maybe I should say so many of the elements (ways of thinking) that combine to produce perfectionism are so wrong!

Like, Perfectionists focus on the end result instead of the process. They tend to live in fear and doubt (out of the innate knowledge that they're very unlikely to produce the perfect product their warped standards demand). And guilt (which comes from the inevitable failure to attain their unrealistic goals). They live in "shoulds": "Oh, I should've worked on Box today! I didn't. I'm baaad..."

Except on the day that I wrote this, I did work on it. I got the notes for the next scene out and pulled together all the info on the viewpoint character forit. But no, that's not enough. I should've done more. Now I'm going to be behind and might not finish in time.

What is that last line? It's worry. What is worry? A SIN! Stop worrying about anything, says Phil 4:6.

"I am not behind." (A Flylady saying) "And God is not interested in me catching up." (a paraphrase of a Flylady saying) He doesn't need me to catch up. He just wants me to stop beating myself up with guilt, confess it and get back in the plan.

Perfectionism is just innately wrong. It's arrogance. It's thinking you are something when you're nothing. It's thinking you can do things perfectly, which is a lie, or that things depend on your performance, which is a lie. It's setting up your own standards and believing that if you fulfill them, then you are good and God is pleased. Total legalism.

The idea that you must do things perfectly to win approval of other people or even yourself is completely against grace and the word, which says we're all dust and we can do nothing apart from Him. Everything done in the power of the Spirit has worth. Everything done in the power of the flesh is utterly without worth. And things done for the wrong reasons = things done in the power of the flesh. Like desiring the favor of men; like wanting to feel approved and worthwhile because of your accomplishments when the Bible says you're already approved and worthwhile in God's eyes because of HIS accomplishments; like thinking that blessing and success and whatever it is you want actually comes from your efforts rather than the grace of God. Perfectionism is a terrible insult to God and His grace.

But I realize it's not going to be easily set aside. Mental habits don't change overnight, or because you want them to. You have to confront them daily and replace them with truth, over time. In some cases you have to turn to a different way of thinking entirely. (Like how do you focus on the process and not the end result? but that's for another post)


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Goal Work

I'm pleased to report that I finished Chapter 10 on Friday! Hooray. On Saturday I pulled out all my notes on the next possible scene. I'm still wrestling with how to assign myself good, attainable goals, especially when things are as amorphous as they are now. One thing I've thought is that I will try to work for three hours every day on the book.

Another thought I've had is to break the book down into sections, like Flylady's zones, where you work on each room/chapter for a specified period of time (say a week) and when the time is up you move on, knowing you'll come back to it later. In the case of the house zones, they repeat every month. In the case of the book's chapters... well, coming back to them could be when I go through the next draft. Probably in a couple of months.

It sounds good on paper. I'm not sure I can do it, though. I'm pretty sure I could start out writing something and making myself stop at week's end. What I'm not sure of is whether I could keep going with it. When I've tried this in the past I've eventually run into a wall where no matter what I did I couldn't write. Or if I wrote it bored me to tears.

I see I shall have to work on this...

Oh, and I touched base with my editors at Bethany House on Friday and I have a new deadline: March 31, 2008 with a planned release in the Spring of '09. That's a whole year and a half away. Which is nice -- it gives me time to work, where I haven't had that in awhile!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back to the Biofreeze

Today I saw Dr. Meaney, my orthopedic surgeon, for what I hope is the last time. My arm is doing well, and I should have full recovery of my range of motion by the first of the year. To celebrate I came home, worked a bit on chapter 10 -- I think it's very close to done -- then went to the Y. My arm was doing so well there, when I got home again, I decided to do the set of arm exercises I'd forgotten to do at lunch time. I was quite vigorous in my pushing, figuring, I suppose, that I wouldn't wait for the first of the year to get that range of motion back, but regin it all today.

For that idiocy, my hand is now throbbing for the first time in a couple of weeks. And my right hand has been sore for days from too much housework after next to none for way too long! So, I'm walking about with two flippers again <<>> and am now going to go and put on some Biofreeze and ice the thing in search of relief.

Which is why this post is so short. Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mopping the Ceiling

I'm really tired tonight. Had a big day, with lots of things in it. I had to do my morning routine, including arm exercises, then get in some writing time, then more arm exercises, so I could leave at 11:30 to get the car washed and then take my mother and sister to an art show. From there it was off to my physical therapy appointment, hurry home to walk around the park and get back in time for Bible class... With little time to spare between activities.

I had it all mapped out. Not surprisingly, God had other plans. I'd just finished my routine, was on the verge of going to the office to start writing when I accidentally dislodged a bottle of root beer from its six-pack carton in the laundry room and it fell to the floor. Amazingly it didn't break, but the fall built so much internal pressure it popped the lid off and sprayed the kitchen. Root beer shot across the floor to the opposite side of the room, doused the stove, the fridge, the cabinets, the walls... It also puddled into the doormat beneath the bottle and spattered the carpet in the adjoining bedroom. what a mess!

I cleaned it up, hosed off the mat, then found root beer on TOP of the microwave. How did it get up there? I wondered. Then I looked up. My white kitchen ceiling had transformed itself into something out of Carlsbad Caverns -- a brown wash, gathering itself into an array of stalagtite drops, which looked as if they'd fall to my newly cleaned floor/microwave, etc, at any moment. Aaack! I grabbed the mop I'd just used on the floor, rinsed out the head and mopped my ceiling. I've never done that before. It works rather well.

Since I had to move the dog crate to get the mat out so I could take it outside to hose it down, I decided I should use the opportunity to clean under that as well, even though it was root beer free. Then about two hours later, when the mat had dried, I had to put it all back.

I lost about an hour to all that, but the rest of the day went more or less as scheduled. I'm starting not to be so bothered by things like that. Even though it undoes a lot of what I'd just done, or puts me back on my schedule, I'm realizing that it doesn't matter what kind of obstacles come up. The system is solid and if I just keep with it, all will get back to normal eventually.

And as it turned out, I did get in some work on chapter 10, despite it all. I'm doing revisions right now, changing the direction I was going with the scene, and got about half way through it before I had to stop. And I have the next few scenes after this outlined. The 15 minutes on the timer method is working well (for writing and decluttering!). In addition to getting me started I use the timer to remind myself to get up, stretch a bit, walk around, and then come back -- which is good for my hands. I don't always do that after the first 15 minutes, but always after the second.

Sometimes I even use it to write a blog post! And now, the time is nearly up and I need to get ready for bed. I have high hopes that tomorrow morning will proceed more smoothly than today, and I will get at least 2 hours of work in. Maybe even three. But I don't want to get unrealistic in my goal-setting. LOL.


Monday, November 12, 2007


Last year (2006) when we went to the Oregon conference, we took a trip to the beach, which was very different from the one we took this year. Then it was cold, windy, so misty it fogged your glasses. We left much sooner than we expected because everyone was freezing. But one of us managed to catch this picture of Sasquatch!

Well... maybe not. But we were in the Pacific Northwest.

I've followed the Sasquatch saga off and on since I was a teen and the film footage captured by Roger Patterson on October 20th, 1967, of a bigfoot in Northern California had just come out. I went through a period of being intensely interested in all things weird -- UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch and Yeti.

On the one hand I think maybe they do exist. The habitat they are said to live in is rugged and remote for the most part. And it's not as if they're never seen, just not seen at the right time to prove their existence. And proving their existence would only come through actually capturing or killing one of them. If they are as smart as some suggest, maybe this would be difficult enough that it's not happened yet.

Anyway, I like the idea that they're out there, and while I think Patterson's footage doesn't look very realistic, despite the claims of some "experts" that it does (there's no zipper, they couldn't have made a costume like that in those days and some people claim to see muscle movement), the legend is fun to contemplate. For example, maybe they're descended from the Nephilim!

Okay, true, we have no record of Nephilim being hairy and living like animals, but ... perhaps it's a result of inbreeding! LOL.

If you want to see stills from the footage and maybe read a little bit (or a whole lot) about the Bigfoot case, check out the Crypto-Bipedal-Primatology website, which offers a "Study of Unclassified Bipedal Primates: SASQUATCH"

It think the thing that I find most interesting is the whole attempt to prove it's true, when proponents really don't have the one thing that would nail it all down: a body. Which, of course, doesn't mean it's not true. We only just got actual footage of a giant squid in action, so it's possible -- likely -- there's still quite a bit about the world and its creatures we don't know.

Have fun!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Realistic Goals

The perfectionist sets standards and goals that are unrealistic and unreachable. A good goal is specific (so you'll know when you reached it) and attainable -- that is, some action you can actually to to attain a certain result.

The goal of emptying out the closet and throwing away the things I no longer want is specific and something I can do. However, Flylady would say that goal is still too big. Better is, 'I'm going to work on the left side of the shelf in the closet for 15 minutes.'

I think I understand that, but now I want to translate that to writing. I was noticing last week (before I was struck with this realization of perfectionism) that my writing goals for the day had gotten vague and grandiose: "Work on Chapter 10." That could be anything from writing ten pages of prose to staring out the window to finishing the chapter entirely. (In fact, I think much of the time that was the hope that lurked at the back of my mind when I set that very poor goal.)

The reason you make the goal specific is so you'll know when you've completed it. "Work on Chapter Ten" could conceivably be considered finished after giving it one second of thought. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, only when the chapter is finally completed to my liking, which could take weeks. On any given day I could work all day and still not complete the goal. Which is probably why I so often feel like I'd accomplished nothing, even though I'd worked for hours. Because I've set the wrong goal. Or set no conscious goal at all, relying merely on that "work on Chapter 10" thing.

So this week, I'm going to set more specific and reachable goals. "Work on chapter 10 for 3 hours." That can be broken down into 15 minute increments: "During this 15 minutes I will read through the beginning of Ch 10 which I wrote on Friday and make whatever notes or changes as occur to me." Or, "I will address the notes I've made, one by one." Or, "I will make the changes I've proposed," or "write one paragraph of description of this place."

Small achievable goals. And with the timer going off every fifteen minutes, I will also remember to stop and stretch!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Perfectionism Revisited

"Perfectionists tell themselves that their determination to be
perfect will win success..." (From Perfectionism: A Double-Edged Sword)

I know that I cannot personally be perfect, and don't try to be. I know that in much of my life I'm not going to do things perfectly and I'm fine with that. I try to do the best I can, but hey, we're not perfect. Even in the Christian life, I'm well aware of how weak and stupid I am, and how easily I fall and fail and have to get back up again. There's freedom in all that.

But there was one little spot... maybe one of those little rooms that Eph 4:27 references in "do not give the devil and opportunity" ("opportunity" translated from topos which means a spot, a location, a room). A place in your thinking where you are blind to what you're doing. Those motivations we don't always know we have, or that we've slipped back into.

One of those little areas where I was operating in full blown perfectionism and didn't even know it. If I could just come up with the most scintillating plot, exciting, compelling, profound, why then the book would be successful. If I fail to do that, of course the book would not be successful. It all depends on me. I have to do it.

I thought I had already jettisoned that nonsense from my thinking and yet, here it was, back again. Like those nasty spirits in Poltergeist. "They're ba-ack..." Ick.

Of course all this is a battle of thoughts. Thoughts like that must be confronted and brought into captivity to the mind of Christ. And the mind of Christ says I am already accepted by the only one who matters -- God, Himself -- and that God is fully able to bless me with adundant success if He chooses, success that would have nothing to do with my striving for the perfect plot. One look at the industry would show me books I don't think have good plots being wildly successful while books I think have good plots fade into the background. So... the whole thing is just nutty. Especially when I let it push me into procrastinating and then into guilt and fear and all the rest of it.

** I wrote the preceding paragraphs on Tuesday, figuring that Wednesday and Thursday I would proceed in dealing smoothly with this newly identified relapse into perfectionism. Of course, that approach is perfectionistic in itself. And there were so many things that happened in these last two days that... I didn't really have the chance. One thing I did realize is the importance of babysteps, as Flylady says. Babysteps in the writing as well as in all the other things. But how can I apply the concept of BabySteps to writing?

That's for next week, by which time, hopefully, I'll have figured it out.

Have a great weekend,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Perfectionism: A double edged sword

I know I have perfectionistic tendencies, and I've fought with them before, but mostly I thought I'd overcome them. Then I started reading the Flylady essays, and she mentions perfectionism and its ugly head quite often. Perfectionism is why we start decluttering the closet for fifteen minutes and then can't stop. Why we wait so long for things to get dirty, because we need the satisfaction we get from the big contrast our efforts make -- nasty transformed to nice.

And I'll admit, I have had a lot of trouble stopping after my timer goes off. Yesterday I went through some stuff, the timer went off and it took me more than double that time just to get all the stuff thrown away, bagged up, etc. I should have just stopped and done all that throwing and bagging the next day but I didn't. I felt compelled to get it gone because it felt so good.

It just didn't feel so good later when I'd used up much of my time for writing. Using up much of my time for writing has been happening a lot. I've not been overly concerned most of the time, but I have noticed it. I have noticed that I'd rather clean or dejunk the closet than get down to business. Or research. Or make birthday cards. Or, lately, get organized. For awhile I told myself it was nothing. But more and more I've been thinking it was something I should address.

Today I did it again. Used up my time on this and that (all worthwhile pursuits) and then sat down about an hour before lunchtime. I finished up chapter 9 and then was faced with 10 and a bunch of questions I had no answers to and ... kept thinking of other things to do. Finally I stopped and went to the Lord because I was pretty sure I was sinning, but I wasn't sure how.

He showed me right away: fear I wouldn't write a good enough book, self-condemnation because I wasn't getting anything down, implacability toward every idea that I came up with. They were all bad. They were all mundane. They weren't special and I needed special.

This immediately reminded me of a testimony that just came through the Flylady email loop where the woman couldn't seem to get down to the business of establishing her daily routines because she was spending all her time researching on the net, trying to find a better/the best calendar to keep track of her activities. Finally realizing that was wasted effort she stopped... only to get sidetracked again trying to find a better/the best feather duster...

Instead of calendars and feather dusters, I was trying to come up with a better/best event, string of events, etc, for my plotline! Well, yes, I know I already have a plotline. One that the Lord gave me when I was writing the proposal. One my agent actually got excited about and Bethany House contracted me for. But it was no good. I needed something better. Was this not... perfectionism rearing its "ugly head" yet again?

It was. I googled perfectionism then, and found a couple of sites, which I read. Right on. One of them was at the University of Texas site here. I especially liked what this article said regarding the myths about perfectionism. Like "I wouldn't be the success I am today if I weren't such a perfectionist." Actually "there is no evidence that perfectionists are more successful than their non-perfectionistic counterparts," whereas "there IS evidence that given similar levels of talent, skill or intellect, perfectionists perform less successfully than non-perfectionists."

Whoa. And that leads right into the realization that perfectionism is all screwed up from the get-go because it's the striving to do something perfect, in hopes it'll be accepted/approved by people, thus earning success from one's own efforts and shoving God right out of the picture.

God's called me to write this book and promised that He will provide me with everything I need to do it. So... why not just take Him at His word, stop searching for the perfect sequence and just sit down and do the best I can in the time I have? In fact, give myself a specific time period to come up with a solid outline, with chapters and scenes and linkages and all that. Not a perfect outline, not a thrilling outline, not a spectacular outline, not even an outline I think is splendid. Just an outline. Okay, a coherent outline. Or, maybe not even that.

So that's what I think I'm going to do tomorrow.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Progress, not perfection

Time for a picture.

This is a shot of a canyon tree frog taken by a friend of mine on her travels through the riparian areas of our desert. I think he's pretty cute.

Well, it was a busy weekend, and promises to be a busy week with doctor's appointments, rehab appointments, birthday celebrations, and Thanksgiving already looming in the near future. We're going to use a wild turkey this year; the one that's already in our freezer. Should be interesting.

We have just discovered the return of the termites -- they build little exploratory mud tubes down from the ceiling in the living and dining rooms. Last night (after I'd just finished decluttering the bed in the office/bedroom) we had to take everything out of the closet and put it on the bed so my hubby could climb (literally) up into the attic and see what was going on. He replaced some boards, but still needs to treat the area with termaticide, so the stuff is staying on the bed for now. But! I am using this opportunity to start decluttering the closet.

One of Flylady's sayings is "Progress, not perfection." I'm adopting it in my cleaning (whatever I do, it's cleaner than it was if I'd done nothing) and also in my writing. It's a nice little mantra to head off the, "But I don't know if this is the best/perfect way to do this scene." Instead, I just plow ahead, shoehorning the stuff in as I can and moving forward. I'm on chapter 9 now, having redone parts of 4 and 8. I had thought last week that I would be radically changing the second scene of ch 9, but now I think I'm going to leave the flow of events more or less as they are, and tweak them a bit. That's for tomorrow.

Have a great day

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Last Friday we finally saw Transformers, a film I wanted to see when I first saw the trailers for it -- and was thwarted first by my broken leg and then my broken arm.

I'd always loved the way my son's transformers worked and the way the ones in the movie changed looked even cooler. It is a kid's movie, and in my opinion, walks a fine line between too kid-oriented to watch and pretty good. It does a lot of things right. Shia LaBeouf, who plays the lead, is an intriguing actor, reminding me vaguely at times of a very young Russell Crowe. I love the soundtrack. There are some very funny parts. And the transformers were very cool to watch as they shifted forms and engaged in their battles.

Even more interesting to me were the places where the film touched on elements of the real angelic conflict. A friend suggested it provided a cool visual aid for spiritual concepts in that you are watching these huge, powerful superbeings engaging in violent conflict over the right of humans to be free to live their lives. One is even assigned as a personal guardian of the hero. (Though I admit, I had some believability issues when the guardian's name was revealed. "But that was one of the transformers real names, Mom," my son informed me. Still... Bumblebee????)

Other things that struck my fancy:

At the end, the bodies of these huge robot warriors are dropped into a deep trench in the ocean, where pressure and frigid temps would immobilize them -- reminiscent of Bible's mention of an abyss under the sea, place of imprisonment of angels following their defeat in battle.

The main transformer villain was found frozen in the arctic, and was kept frozen as he was studied -- the secrets taken from him allegedly sparking our human "discoveries" of the microchip, and other things I can't recall. The Bible says that in the end times it will be like the days of Noah. In those days fallen angels walked the earth in physical form, and according to the Book of Enoch (an extrabiblical writing classified as pseudapigrapha but useful in learning what people thought about such things at various times) were said to have given men technological information like fire, medicine, astronomy, astrology, metalworking, etc.

The transformers' ability to take on form of common machines/electronic instruments and move amongst people unnoticed (the good and evil ones) also echoes angelic operation. Since they go among us unseen. The Bible even says (Heb 13:2) we are to be hospitable to strangers, because by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

So I guess overall I'd recommend it. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and I came away with some cool images and also, fabulous writing music roaming through my brain.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Flylady Report

Well, my week has flown by, as I suppose is no surprise with all the things I'm suddenly doing. I remain very pleased with the guidance, encouragement and ideas I've gotten from It's all about establishing routines -- habits, really, but in "baby steps" as they like to say. You work on one at a time for a month.

Well, as it turns out, a number of the small habits and routines she's advising people to establish I've already established. When I get up in the morning, I automatically get dressed and make the bed. Hardly even have to think about it. As for the sink -- I've been doing that almost a month now and I found myself at a friend's wiping her sink down after I'd finished washing my hands. Seems like maybe that habit is already taking.

I've also made a habit of using a calendar (though the degree to which I consult it varies -- Flylady's emails are helping me with that). What I haven't made a habit of is putting things away when I'm done. No. That's not exactly right. I don't put away the projects I'm working on that I intend to come back to later. When she suggested that I do so, I was stunned. Well... yeah. Especially in a small house this makes sense. And it's not like it takes all that much time. A whole minute maybe.

So putting things away when I'm done for the day or even moment, is a new thing I'm developing. I like the lack of clutter this produces. In a small house leaving things out really does make a significant difference.

The other thing that has just blown me away (besides the effects of the sink, which are ongoing) is her use of the timer. "You can do anything for 15 minutes" is one of her sayings. Using it has made a huge difference. I use it for different household tasks but also for writing. I've started working 10 minutes a day on fan mail. The key to timer use, it turns out, is not so much getting you going (which it definitely does) but STOPPING when it goes off. I still don't do this very well, but it's a big part of the system. Whether you're done or not, you stop. And that's the big help because my tendency, once I get on a roll with something, is not to stop. And then I don't get the other things done that I really needed to do that day. Resulting in not doing the first thing (like the email) at all the next day, and then many days afterward, for fear of falling into the two-hour time trap.

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that I continue to stick with Flylady, am more comfortable with all the emails as I understand the intention, and am delighted with the difference in my life they are making. If you're interested, the website is

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The 9-11 Myths

Recently I heard about an online article at Popular Mechanics that debunked all the myths regarding the events of 9-11. Since I've encountered a few folks (even some who stand on street corners with signs) who try to convince me that it was all a hoax, a conspiracy, a government planned operation, I wanted to see what Popular Mechanics had to say about it. It's a fascinating article and well worth the time to read, even if you have to do it in installments as I did.

One of the conspiracy theorists' claims is that the WTC towers were not brought down by planes as we have seen on video but by explosions planted by government and military officials at the base of the buildings and timed to go off when the planes hit them. (uh huh. And what about all the people on the planes who never came home and were never seen again? What about all the people who were on their cell phones while they were being hijacked telling people, family and friends what was happening?)

One reason some believe there was a bomb is because of all the dust and smoke that came out of the buildings as they collapsed. The PM article answers this. Another support for this weird contention (of government planted explosives) is that there was fire in the lobby minutes after the planes crashed. How could this be unless there were explosives set off at the bottom?

This too is answered. And what's cool is that my recent inquiry into the construction of skyscrapers gave me the perfect frame of reference to understand what they were talking about. I now know what a skyscraper's core is -- a hollow tube in the middle formed by strong weight bearing columns. It is there that the elevators run, and also where the ducts and wiring and so forth are placed. When the jets hit, burning jet fuel barrelled down those shafts all the way to the bottom in a matter of seconds, thus causing the fires there.

From this article I also learned that steel doesn't melt until 2750 degrees F, a temperature burning jet fuel cannot reach. (another piece of info the conspiracists use for their arguments) However, it does lose 50% of its strength when it reaches about 1100 degrees F, well within the range of temps for burning jet fuel. And at 1800 degrees, which is about hot hot they figured the fires got, it's down to 10% of its original strength. Hardly enough to hold up those buildings...

Another question I've had people pose me is "Where's the plane in the Pentagon? Why is there no evidence of a passenger plane having crashed there?" (there is). "Why did a 275 ft wide plane make only a 75 foot hole?" PM answers these questions as well.

As I said, it's somewhat long, but a fascinating article, as much for how misstatements and misinformation are seized upon and distorted into an entire network of speculations, as for all the answers that are presented as to why exactly the towers collapsed, why there are no signs of wings in the damage to the Pentagon, and what the explanation is for that engine from Flight 99 in PA that supposedly ended up miles from the wreckage site with "with damage comparable to that which a heat-seeking missile would do to an airliner."

If you'd like to read it, you can find it by clicking here.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Review at Christian Library Journal

Recently a reviewer for Christian Library Journal, Donna Bowling, emailed to share with me the events that surrounded her efforts to review my Guardian King series and in particular Return of the Guardian King for publication in the journal. Having already reviewed The Light of Eidon for this journal in 2004, she planned to review the last three books in conjunction with the release of RotGk.

When she learned that the journal would cease publication this summer, she told the publisher that she really wanted to get the series into the last issue. But time was short by then, and she was given a deadline of only a week to do so -- at the same time as she was to be out of town for 5 days. Nevertheless she persevered, submitted her review of the series, then opened an email that informed her she was 15 hours late. The September issue had already been published.

All was not lost, though. Agreeing with her that the series was very significant, the publisher decided to post it separately. (She even included a note to that effect in the separate mailing, and a link to the series is listed on the site's homepage here.) So, as Donna suggested to me, her own embarrassment and difficulties may well have given the series added attention that it might not have received had she gotten the review in on time. A circumstance which very nicely illustrates one of the points I wanted to make in the GK series.

The review is great, and I especially loved some of the "important truths" she highlighted in her series conclusion. Unfortunately, the review is available only to those who have subscribed to Christian Library Journal, so I can't send you to it, or even reproduce it en toto here, but Donna's given me permission to quote the bit that I especially liked:

"This fantasy series with frequent allegorical elements includes supernatural events produced by both the forces of Light and those of the Shadow. (Hancock) illustrates several important truths.True religion can be twisted and used by evil forces. The love and forgiveness of the Lord, at great cost to Himself, prompt fallible believers to awe and worship. True believers, indwelt by both Light and Shadow, may give leeway to the Shadow within by their fear, anger, jealousy, pride, and efforts to defeat evil by their own natural abilities. True victory only comes through total submission to the Lord and His ways and timing. Relationship and submission to the Lord takes precedence over human relationships and personal desires. With its allegorical elements, this powerful series can stimulate a sense of worship in mature Christians."
~Bowling, Donna W. 'Legends of the Guardian King,' Christian Library Journal, Sept. 27, 2007. Used by permission.


Sunday, October 28, 2007


Recently I've been going over some old notes from The Idiot's Guide To Genetics, which I read a number of years ago, and came across the following:

"In 1952 Alfred Hershey and his assistant Martha Chase studied bacteriophages -- viruses which attack and infiltrate bodies of living bacteria and genetically instruct them to make new phages out of the bacterias' own material. Numerous phages are made, then burst out, killing the host.

"Hershey and Chase mixed phages and bacteria in a blender so as to separate the bacteria from the phages and learned it was only the phage's DNA that got into the bacteria to reprogram them. This led to the conclusion that DNA is responsible for hereditary instructions."

Here's a graphic:

(Cartoon From Molecular nanomachines at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Zurich)

The bacteriophage has a little cell puncturing device which stabs down into the cell and delivers the viral DNA from the "head". Once inside the cell the viral DNA goes to work.

What has always struck me about the whole function of viruses is the excellent analogy they are to what happens when the cosmic system attacks a soul. Say, for the sake of this analogy, the believer has a soul full of doctrine -- God's truth. That doctrine acts like the DNA in a normal cell, basically as the command center and instruction guide for the cell's proper function. Along comes the "cosmic system phage," with a totally different set of instructions (the CS-DNA) which it inserts into the soul. The soul's old, proper instructions are immediately corrupted and begin to produce replications of the cosmic lies it has just been infected with, that tell it to do -- and think -- things entirely different from the original instructions. (Which is why we can be tooling along, perfectly fine one day, and, should we be hit by a cosmic system phage, be thinking like a different person the next.) If that goes on long enough, the soul becomes a veritable factory of cosmic system phages until they finally burst it apart. (There's even a doctrinal analogy for that: fragmentation of the soul.)

In fact, as I pursue this analogy I see that when our bodies are infected by a virus, they do exactly the same thing. Our noses start to run, we begin coughing and sneezing, and soon we are virus factories ourselves. I especially like it that we take in the virus by breathing or eating, both Biblical metaphors for perception of spiritual (or cosmic) truth.

By the way, "virus" is Latin for poison, and "bacteriophage" comes from the Greek phagein, "to eat."

Here's another picture, this one an electron micrograph of an actual T4 bacteriophage infecting a bacterium. You can see its little cell puncturing device penetrating the bacterium:

From An Introduction to the Bacteriophage T4 Virus at dFORM.

Pretty cool the way God puts those illustrations all around us!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

About three weeks ago, at our Communion Sunday, one of my friends mentioned in passing a website that would help you get your house in order and your act together. "," she called it, though I didn't write it down.

But later, being me, I Googled it ( ) and went to look around. I thought it was kind of cool, and probably helpful, but at the time it also seemed overwhelming. As my hubby would say, TMI! (Too much information). Too much of a program. They have a free email group where they send out reminders and motivational essays and testimonials. I didn't think I wanted that much management. Or that much email! But there were bits that made sense -- that it takes a month to develop a new habit, so you should choose just one and go with it. For an entire month. Nothing else, just that.

So I thought, well, mine could be to get the dishes in the dishwasher, wash them and get them out again. To keep the sink empty. I have a tendency to keep waiting to run the dishwasher until I've filled up every last nook and cranny. The trouble is, by the time that happens I usually have more dishes than I can fit into the dishwasher, which means I have to leave some in the sink while I run it. Then start the process over. I've also tended to drag my feet about unloading it. So it just seemed nice to keep the sink empty and try to get my few weekly chores done on the day I've planned to do them.

So that's what I did. Of course with the arm exercises and visits to the therapist and having the neighbor's dog over and trying to make up for the months I spent not cleaning or doing anything... I didn't get nearly as much done as I'd hoped. Or needed to do. And there were so many things... A gazillion thoughts of all the possible tasks buzzed about in my head like flies. Not just with the ordinary maintenance of the home, but with simplifying, decluttering, fixing, deep cleaning. Add to that some weddings and birthdays coming up, with cards to make for those, and Thanksgiving and Christmas already on the horizon.

And then there is Black Box, which I wasn't seeming to get any work done on to speak of. I spent the week doing research, but no writing. I'd go into the office and the next next thing you know I'd be doing something else. Surfing the web, or not even in the room. The situation with the book was the same as with the rest of my life. A ton of thoughts, ideas of what I needed to do, books stacked up needing to be read, plotlines to develop, characters, world building, all buzzing around, with no way to decide which I should do first, and so all too often I'd just do the old avoidance behavior -- I'd go make a card, or ... frankly I can't recall what all I did, but it wasn't write.

So last Saturday I was sitting in my office, once again facing the cloud of buzzing fly-thoughts, having no clue what to do -- housework? Book? Worldbuild? Plot? Continue with Chapter 8? I didn't know. It was all chaos. I ended up going to the Lord in desperation. "I'm just a stupid sheep, Lord. I'm confused, weak, distractable... I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to do something... I need your help!"

Shortly after that I was moved to check out Flylady again. This time I read the essay about why you need to get the email reminders. Just going to the website isn't enough. You need to have the daily reminders, encouragement and motivation. So I thought, what the heck, I can always unsubscribe or delete the emails if I don't like it. And I signed up. And just the handful of emails and articles I read that day SO nailed where I was, that it lifted me completely out of my funk. They have thirty-one baby steps for those who are just joining, and step number one is "Go Shine Your Sink". Well, I'd more or less been doing that one for the month so I was already started.

I can say, too, that it's amazing what a difference just keeping your sink shining makes. I've gotten lots of other things done too, and even used some of the principles to help me in my writing.

But it's only been a week since I've been an active recipient of the email program. So far I'm very excited about it -- the principles, the methods, her understanding of the root causes and her solutions. I think they're really going to work. Because it's a matter of daily inculcation, and from Bible class I know the importance of that. It's the matter of tiny increments of progress NOT perfection, and I know from Bible class the importance of that. That helps a lot with the writing, too. It's the identification of hot spots and the use of the timer... but I can see I'm going to go on way too long about this right now, so I'll save it for subsequent posts.

I'm a veteran of many organization books and systems, and am not totally in chaos. I already have many habits in place, so I know the habit system works. But I also know how you can get all excited about some new thing and then after a week or two the emotional element fades and pretty soon you're back to your same old ways. I'm still not to the 28 days she says you must practice a new habit before it will stick, and won't be for another week. I'll let you know how it goes.

I do have to say I love having the shiny sink and somehow emptying the dishwasher has become... fun.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

State of Fear - 2

Okay, I thought I was done with State of Fear, but there is one more element that I really enjoyed: seeing the various techniques of argument set against each other in a situation where I wasn't personally emotionally involved. I've been reading off and on recently about techniques of debate, recognizing some of them as things I've encountered without even realizing what they were (like the "say it enough times with great authority and you'll be believed" technique) and this book had some more examples.

What I'm seeing is that just because the listener reacts and won't listen or completely dismisses what the speaker says, doesn't make the speaker wrong or remiss.

In one sequence Evans, the main pov character and global warming advocate, has just been shown a page of fully documented references to scientific studies -- hard data showing that Antarctica, after 6000 years of warming is now actually cooling. Only a small localized portion of it is warming. Overall, it's the other way around. Evans ignores the information Kenner has given him, so Kenner says,

"You thought the Antarctic melting was something new?"

"I thought it was melting faster than previously," Evans said.

"Maybe we won't bother any more," Kenner said.

(His assistant) nodded and started to put the computer away.

"No, no," Evans said. "I'm interested in what you have to say. I'm not close-minded. I'm ready to hear new information."

"You just did," Kenner said.

So he looks over the references they gave him a little more closely and...

... folded the sheet carefully. "These studies are probably financed by the coal industry."

"Probably,"Kenner said. "I'm sure that explains it. But then everybody's paid by somebody. Who pays your salary?"

Kenner goes on from there to lead Evans into admitting that he works for an environmentalist firm, and inquires if it would be fair to say that his opinions are what they are because of it. Evans hotly denies this, but Kenner pushes him a bit more until he's really irritated. At which point Kenner says,

"Now you know how legitimate scientists feel when their integrity is impugned by slimy characterizations such as the one you just made. We gave you a careful, peer-reviewed interpretation of the data... Your response was first to ignore it, and then to make an ad hominen attack. You didn't answer the data. You didn't provide counter evidence. You just smeared by innuendo."

Evans's response to this to to swear at him, insult him further and conclude that "Nobody agrees with you." Another non-argument. When Kenner points out that the scientists who wrote the papers cited on his list of references do agree with him, Evans throws up his hands and with one final expletive, walks away.

Fascinating. I have been on the receiving end of this. I will express an opinion, and people will ignore it, belittle it, then make ad hominen attacks. Press them and they get madder, say "to heck with you," and walk away. The really bad thing is that I know that on occasion I have done the same thing when someone else says something I don't agree with.

It's because we get emotional. And when that happens we stop thinking. It seems enough to just say "That's ridiculous! Nobody agrees with you! Everyone knows the Bible is true!" (or whatever). But it's not. You have to keep thinking and leave the emotion out of it. Emotion has no thoughts, no standards. It just sputters and shrieks. Instead of thinking about the issue, it attacks the person who is not agreeing.

Which, strangely enough, is exactly the subject we started studying in Bible class tonight. The doctrine of emotion... Though when I sat down to write this blog, I had no idea I was going to make this connection... :-) Really!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

State of Fear

During my convalescence from the broken arm, one of the books I read (way back in August, now) was State of Fear by Michael Crichton. It was a quick, effortless read, and I really enjoyed it. Crichton has a lot of swift dialogue exchanges so the book isn't as long as the pages make it look.

Making his main viewpoint character a global warming believer was the perfect way to handle the material he wanted to deal with. The hero, John Kenner (a professor of environmental science who was not the viewpoint character), really knew his stuff and when he encountered a global warming fanatic, he'd ask them questions. Like could they back up their beliefs with facts? Usually they couldn't. It was just, "everyone knows this is true!" but no specific data. No familiarity with the texts, the actual studies, or with the fact that many of the conclusions about global warming have been drawn from computer models - which are only guesses - and not hard data.

Here's an amusing sequence:

"So," Kenner said, "Global warming represents a threat to the world."

"Absolutely," Bradley said. "A threat to the whole world."

"What sort of threat are we talking about?"

"Crop failures, spreading deserts, new diseases, species extinctions, all the glaciers melting, sea levels rising, extreme weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, El Nino events - "

"That sounds extremely serious," Kenner said.

"It is," Bradley said. "It really is."

"Are you sure of your facts? You can back up your claims with references to the scientific literature?"

"Well, I can't personally, but scientists can."

"Actually, scientific studies do not support your claim. For example, crop failure -if anything increased CO2 stimulates plant growth."

I love how Creighton pulls you through such exchanges with action. The exchanges themselves are always brief and somewhat contentious, salted in between the action sequences. The story is based on understanding all this, but it's slid in well.

This exchange and others like it made me think of the Bible and being ready to make a defense and maybe even being able to go on offense with Bible information. Kenner was completely relaxed and utterly confident of his facts. He knew what the studies were, had the references, and also realized what the media/world system was doing in terms of deception. How by simply claiming a thing was true enough times, they could bring people to believe it, whether it was true or not.

He didn't argue or get angry, he'd just question people. Eventually he'd cite the facts, complete with references to actual studies. When they responded with ridiculous claims in the face of that evidence, he simply stopped talking about it. In fact, more often than not he just said a little bit and moved on to another more immediate or practical concern. Or left entirely.

Crichton was also good at portraying people who knew nothing, but were very emotional and didn't want to consider facts or change their minds. They knew because it was "obvious" or because "everyone" knew that. I know people like that. I've had conversations with them. I always thought the problem was something in me, but now I'm seeing through this book that it might not be.

I'm also seeing the importance of being prepared with your references -- in my case historical, archaeological or scholarly facts, verses, etc). It's inspired me to move in the direction of preparing a defense... first of the Bible's credibility. Second of the claims of Christ. Not that someone who rejects the Bible as a legitimate authority can't still be swayed by its words. The Word of God is alive and powerful. Alive. It does things to people like no other written material or words can. But logically, defending the Bible -- which in the past is where I've fallen down -- is the best place for me to start.

Back to State of Fear... As I said I really enjoyed the character interactions, the action and the information. Crichton includes a substantial bibliography at the end, listing books he used to prepare for writing his novel. I only went through half of it and came up with a list of books I'd like to read that is probably twice as long as what I would ever be able to. But that aside, the book really moves and has a lot of intriguing, "different" elements. For all he wants to inform about global warming as a scam, Crichton never forgets that he's writing a thriller, either.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Suffering Servant

One of the reasons it is said the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah is because they were expecting Him to come back as the conquering king, not the suffering servant. But scripture paints the picture of both, as evidenced by the belief of some rabbis in two messiahs, Messiah ben Joseph, the suffering messiah, and Messiah ben David, the victorious king. I suppose, human nature being what it is, it's not hard to imagine how they could have lost sight of the suffering servant, even if Old Testament sacrifices do scream of it: the slain lambs and rams and birds and goats... Jewish temples were filled with the blood of animals, all of them pictures of the bleeding and dying the messiah would do. Pictures of a messiah that had to be human, because God cannot bleed, and angels don't bleed nor, so far as we know, suffer physical pain.

Bleeding and pain are for humans.

That realization seems to me profound. It suggests that part of being human is suffering pain. That, in a sense, humans were made to suffer. Yes, Adam and the woman were made perfect and placed in a perfect environment, but that was done with God's full knowledge that they would eventually fall and be kicked out of the Garden. In fact, I believe the Bible teaches that was His intent. (Not that He made Adam sin, just that He knew He would and decided to use that in His plan.)

When God the Son took on the form of a man it was in order that He could suffer what He never could suffer as God. That's a concept sharply at odds with today's society which seems on a mission to wipe out all suffering. We cringe at the thought of anyone having to suffer, make all kinds of laws to protect ourselves from it, try to pretend we can avoid it if we follow those laws and do all the right things. We act like it's the worst thing ever should we encounter some (and most of what we do encounter is trivial, and certainly far less than what our Lord endured).

I think many times Christianity is sold with the notion that it will end suffering. "Come to Jesus and have peace. Come to Jesus and have happiness and blessing." Yes. There is peace, happiness and blessing in a life lived in Christ. But the world's definition and perhaps many Christians' definition of those terms is not the same as God's. The world's idea means no suffering. Peace comes when all the circumstances are good and right and comfortable. That's not God's definition.

I submit that suffering is a big part of what it means to be human. And that the way a Christian views suffering has a lot to do with how he views the Christian life, and his purpose on earth after salvation.

Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology, has this to say on the subject:

"If the end of redemption as well as of creation and of providence, is the production of the greatest amount of happiness, then Christianity is one thing; if the end be the glory of God, then Christianity is another thing. The whole character of our theology and religion depends on the answer to that question."
It's a question worth pondering.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Son of Man

Recently we've been studying in our Bible lessons about the humanity of Christ. One area of indication of His humanity is found in the names He is given or gives Himself.

Jesus (Yeshua) is the name provided for his humanity, one shared by four other Israelites, including Joshua the son of Nun, who took over from Moses and led the Jews in taking the promised land.

Son of David is a title that linked Him to His ancestor David (a man) and to the royal promises that would be fulfilled by the Messiah (as a man -- a descendant of David who would sit on the throne of Israel forever).

One name in the New Testament is especially meaningful because it was the name He often gave Himself: Son of Man. This was the title that linked him to the earth, His mission and His humanity, even as it focused on his lowliness and humanity.

The Son of Man has no place to lay his head. (Mt 8:20)

The Son of Man came eating and drinking = human activity.(Mt 11:19)

This name also focused on his suffering and death. "The Son of Man must be delivered over to sinful men...and be crucified and die and rise again..." (Lk 24:7) Any focus on suffering and death has to refer to His humanity, since God can do neither.

The name "Son of Man" is used more than 80 times, and in fact, is used two times more than "Son of God" in the New Testament.

That's interesting. You'd think Jesus would be more concerned with identifying Himself as the son of God, rather than the son of man. After all, few around him had any trouble recognizing him as human and in fact, many thought that was all He was. Why would he use the term Son of Man for Himself more than Son of God?

Well one reason is because of the angels. This was such a cool revelation for me. The Bible teaches we are all a on a stage (see my article What is the Angelic Conflict under Writings on my webpage) where angels watch us and God's dealings with us. They were especially watching during the time that Jesus was on earth, and there are all sorts of references in the Bible to angelic appearances during that time.

And why not? It had to be absolutely mind blowing to them to see the God of the universe, the one they had worshiped in the throne room of heaven come down to earth and literally become a man. A being lower than themselves, a being that could be hurt, that could bleed, that had needs, that was so incredibly fragile. A being whose need for air would tie him to the dust of the earth, even if gravity did not. Mind boggling. It must have been almost impossible for them to believe He'd really done it, thus their need to hear, over and over: he really was God and man, united in one person, forever.

The fact He lowered Himself to do that, makes Him a God worth worshiping. Worth everything. It's mind boggling even for us to think about what God was willing to become and to sacrifice for the sake of people, His creatures, most of whom would want nothing to do with Him... Even so, He reached out and gave it all for us who believe and those who don't. Seen in the full context of the angelic conflict and how the human race figures in resolving it, the Incarnation is a stunning demonstration of God's love and fairness and wisdom. And, above all, His grace.