Wednesday, September 27, 2006

When All Around has Fallen

A reader recently emailed to share these lyrics from When All Around Has Fallen, a song by Delirious?, suggesting they express the feelings and themes of the end of Shadow Over Kiriath. I think they do, and also touch on the beginning of Return of the Guardian-King:

When all around has fallen, your castle has been burned
You used to be a king here, now no one knows your name
You live your life for honour, defender of the faith
But you've been crushed to pieces and no one knows your pain

Come, come lay your weary head, be still my friend
Come, rise, I'll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, rise with me

When tomorrow has been stolen and you can't lift your head
And summer feels like winter, your heart is full of stone
Though all your hopes have fallen, your skin is now your only armour
You wear your scars like medals, defender of the faith

Come, come lay your weary head, be still my friend
Come, rise, I'll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, come lay your faithful head, be still my friend
Come rise with me
From the album Cutting Edge by Delirious?

Listen to a very small clip of it on Amazon here.

Well, I'm off to Oregon tomorrow. No more blogging until Monday...

Have a great weekend,


So... This is the problem of putting up one post referencing another post before you've put the second one up and you don't have enough brain cells active to keep things all together. After I posted here last night, I went over to Spec Faith and put up my post there about my early days of writing The Light of Eidon. And in the course of the final polishing and tweaking, I decided to change the title from "No More Hiding" to "My Writing Roots," reminding myself that I had to go change the title I'd referenced in the first post.

But then it was time to do fluids and I forgot. So, if you already tried to find the post at Spec Faith and couldn't, please try again. It is called "My Writing Roots" and if you click on that title it should take you to the right place.

I am really looking forward to the Oregon trip -- taking a few days off to be with dear friends, meet new ones, focus on God's word and not think about writing at all! (okay, I'll probably do some editing on the plane tomorrow but after that...)


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spec Faith and Christian Worldview

I'm putting this up Tuesday night to catch the Feedblitz delivery at 1am, but this post is really for Wednesday, when I'll be posting over at Speculative Faith. I'll be continuing the tale of my writing odyssey from the SF writer to Fantasy writer of hidden Christian fiction... or, as time went on, not so hidden Christian fiction.

One day till we leave for the Oregon conference! Bear is still hanging in there. The last couple of nights he's gone for three and four hour stretches so that's been really nice. Thanks for the prayers.

I thought I'd finished chapter 19 yesterday, but on glancing it through it today, large inconsistencies came popping out at me, so I am back to that, trying to resolve them all and as usual, it's not going easily. But I have been VERY distracted by life issues -- all the problems and self-esteem smashing things that typically descend in the week prior to a conference. That's why I was so heartened by Becky Miller's Tuesday post recommending The Light of Eidon. It was very kind of her, totally unexpected and gave me a great a lift in the midst of darkness when I very much needed it.

I'll keep this short so you can check it out, and then hop on over to Speculative Faith for my article on my experiences and conclusions in working with the Christian elements of Christian Fantasy, "My Writing Roots."


Monday, September 25, 2006

United 93

Last Friday we rented United 93, the movie we thought we were seeing when we rented Flight 93 last month. When we went through Blockbuster the week after the Flight 93 mess-up we asked the man at the counter about U-93 and he said that as good as F-93 was, U-93 was better -- definitely worth watching.

And it was. But the interesting thing to me is that I don't think it was in any way lessened by having seen the other one first. In fact, I think it may have been good. F-93 focused more on the passengers, introducing them, showing their loved ones on the ground, and all the character and personal interactions and grief and horror that happened in connection with that day. United 93, on the other hand, focused more on the Air Traffic controller aspect, both the civil and the military. In fact, the man who was chief of air-traffic-control operations at the FAA's command center in Herndon, Va that day, Ben Sliney -- the man who made the decision to ground all flights -- was played by himself, which I thought was amazing. He was ... excellent.

It really gave you a feel for the frustration and confusion the air traffic controllers were going through. For one thing, no one believed that, even if the planes had been hijacked, any American pilot would have flown their aircraft into the World Trade Center. Instead, they would have ditched it in the Hudson. So they couldn't figure out what was happening.

The military was just as hampered but in different ways: not being able to get good information, then unable to get clearance from the FAA to get their jets off the ground. And at the same time Sliney over at the FAA was trying to get the military to get their jets off the ground -- "I don't want an update! I want action!" he told the poor military liason whose job description apparently did not match anything he was being asked to do that day. They just didn't have the communication connection they needed for the problem. Which I suppose it the occupational hazard of large organizations. And when you think of how fast it all went down, it's not surprising. Everything was just too far out of the box for most people that day.

Flight 93 told you the names of the principal passengers, whereas United 93 only named Thomas Burkette. The rest you had to guess at. Flight 93 showed a lot of phone conversations and who was on the other end. United 93 only showed snippets, so having seen the first movie you knew more of what was happening in those snippets during the second.

I think United 93 was more believable, more realistic in some ways, less overtly dramatic. For one thing the people were not as attractive. They were more regular appearing. Another thing was that the passengers, especially the men, were shown as being more afraid and really in some cases nearly falling apart. Then they had to suck it up and do what needed to be done. I think the inconsistency worked well. Cause that's how we are. Wimps one minute, and then we pull it together and become heroes.

The terrorists were more believable too. Fascinating. Relying upon God to get them through, trusting in Him, etc. Which just goes to show that just because you are trusting God and relying on Him it doesn't mean you are actually in His plan.

Another difference: United 93 shows the passengers actually breaking into the cockpit at the end.

All in all, having seen both films -- plus the ABC miniseries The Path to 9-11 in the interim -- I felt as if all of it went together into one lengthy presentation that made the incidents of the day much clearer than they'd previously been for me. The things that happened, the choices that were made on 9-11 were difficult and far from clear. One thing I hadn't known was that they were tracking some dozen or so flights suspected of being hijacked which hadn't been. Which definitely justified the reluctance to give the order to fire on the airliners. Not that it was even an option from what the movies showed. When the military finally did get the jets airborne, they were unarmed. And going in the wrong direction!

All of which, to me, shows just how much we have been protected as a nation by the Lord's mighty hand.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

When is it Time?

Well, things are getting intense around here in terms of distractions. We're going to a Bible conference next weekend and that always brings out the attacks, but also I'm moving into the final month for revisions and that is usually a bad time, too. Right now things with the book do not look good. I am confident that God will work everything out as He always has before, but sometimes it's hard to remember that!

The photo, by the way, is Bear as a young dog. We had taken him on his first campout to Northern Arizona, only it snowed. We're in the van and I'm holding up my parka so my sister can take the picture without the bright background of the windshield. Of course, he's being a sweetie with his head on my shoulder.

Speaking of Bear, I'm getting up now at two or three hour intervals every night to let him out, because the kidney failure means he is producing copious quantities of urine in his body's attempt to get rid of the waste materials. He is virtually blind now in the dark, and senile, I think. He no longer barks or whines to be let out. He just gets up, walks in the general direction of the door and if you don't wake up and get to him in time, he just lets loose where he is. Then there is clean up and washing all the towels again and... So it cuts into sleep.

Sometimes, if you actually wake him up out of his night time sleep he stumbles and staggers around as if he's lost all control of his muscles. Sometimes he can't walk over the threshold of the door, trips and collapses and can hardly get up. We also suspect he has episodes of a balance disorder. And if he has the disorientation and lack of coordination from not being awake, plus being blind in the dark, and not knowing where he is or what's happening, he will snarl and act scary. Since most of the time he is completely docile, a very sweet and friendly dog, this is weird, too.

They say it's a symptom of aging, but I suspect it can be of kidney failure, too, since the unfiltered toxins running rampant through his body attack all his organs, including the brain and nervous system.

Anyway, he had a bad night last Thursday -- three episodes of snarling and disorientation -- and we decided it was time to put him to sleep. But then we couldn't get hold of the vet, and he's been sweet and fine every since. Fragile, a bit weak, skinny and not eating enough, but he is eating. Especially if it's food he likes. And he's been up and alert and he loves his walks. So... second thoughts have set in.

Which means we're on a kind of emotional roller coaster. Thinking, Okay, this is it, he's going to be gone. And then, oh... maybe not.

There is the question, too, of whether he is in pain or not, if his quality of life is really worth the other stuff. How do you answer questions like that? People tell us that we will know when it's time. But so far, we don't. He really was supposed to have died months ago. It's been almost a year since his acute kidney failure episode and at first the vet thought he'd die when she took him off the continuous intravenous fluids he'd been on when in the hospital. Even if he survived that, there was a good chance he'd not last the month.

All this is just one tiny aspect of this whole thing. There are also the meds to be ordered, received/picked up, and administered in their schedules. (But there are also the times when he is terribly cute, the way he follows me around, his joy in the walks, his ongoing interest in his treats and finding the marro bone treats we put about the house.... So. That's been part of what's been going on since I last blogged.)

Amazingly, in spite of it all, I have finished chapters 15 and 17 and have moved on to 19. It is slowly taking shape, though I've not had a lot of time to work on it.

And, I have to say that our Bible classes for the last week have been incredibly enlightening and appropriate. Well, the sun is going down. Time for Bear's walk.

Pressing on,
P.S. If you feel inclined to pray for me, ask that I would have the energy and sleep that I need, and the ability to concentrate on the work at hand. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Friday Chat

Well, after the craziness of yesterday (in addition to the Internet weirdness I also had a visit from two Jehovah's Witnesses -- I've decided it is somewhat like opening your door and having someone attack you with a rapier. Suddenly you have to be on guard, parrying and feinting and lunging... very disconcerting! Especially when your knees start shaking and you have no idea why) and having done the two posts, this one's going to be brief. I want to get back to work on ch 17. I did want to note, though, that I will be taking part in another chat at the fan forum Kiriathan and King this Friday, Sept 22 from 8 to 9pm EST. At this time there are 107 registered members in the forum. We'd love to have you join us.

Okay, back to feeding Bear and ch 17 which I am rewriting from scratch.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More Edenstar

Final day for the Blog Tour during which we are featuring the Edenstar Books and Games website for Christian-themed SF/F. Wednesday is also my first day to post over on the team blog, Speculative Faith, a group of bloggers who write about all aspects of reading and writing Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, instead of working on that post this afternoon I've been wrestling with my computer and the Internet instead. I've been visiting that blog for weeks, no problem. Then, starting Sunday, I couldn't get on. I thought the page was down (since that's what the error message said). Turns out it's not. I tried removing and reinstalling the updates I got recently, cleaning out my caches... nothing. Then my son called and had me unplug and replug in the cable modem and router and voila. It works. How weird these computers are. He said sometimes the routers make decisions about things they shouldn't be making. Hmmm. Reminds me a bit of Prey.

So, since I've spent most of my post-writing time fooling with the computer, I decided to just give a bit of a commentary on my explorations of Edenstar today.

When I was growing up, I sure don't recall very many fantasy books. But looking through the site I was reminded of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. A combination of fantasy/sf, actually. I read all three of the books. I'm not sure when I read them, but I'm pretty sure I was too young for them, because the main thing I remember about them is that while I liked them... I don't think I had a clue what was going on. In fact, when I read the little blurb about it at Edenstar and then on Amazon I was amazed. I don't remember anything like the story they described! In fact, I couldn't have told you what it was about had you asked me. I see I shall have to read it again now that I may have a chance of actually understanding it.

I also read and liked The Phantom Tollbooth, which is not mentioned on Edenstar, owing, most likely to the fact it's not explicitly Christian. But I recall having liked it better than the L'Engle books. Maybe I need to reread that one as well...

When homeschooling my son, I discovered Five Children and It, by E. Nesbitt, which I think maybe deserves a place with the others on Edenstar. It's not explicitly Christian, but it is a wonderful story of what happens when you get what you wish for -- it's not usually what you expect, and often not at all what you like!

Hmm. George MacDonald's Lilith looks interesting. I've not read any of his work, and him being regarded as one of the classic fantasists, I feel that I should. Or maybe I should read Phantastes. Charles Williams looks kind of interesting, too, though I confess to being somewhat put off by occult stuff.

Turning to more contemporary authors -- I've already read Lawhead, Myers, Peretti, Dekker, Faller, Gansky, Graham... ah, but here's James Beausigneur. Haven't read any of his yet. Maybe I'll try one of those. And someone said that L.A. Kelly's Tahn was good... hmm. James Byron Huggins. I've heard about him, too... Leviathan looks interesting, given my fascination for komodo dragons. Cain, too, though. Well, here I am, already having more than I can read when I have my own book to finish writing and another to get started on... Best quit this now before I get really frustrated! Besides, I still have that Speculative Faith post to write.

Happy Reading (those of you blessed enough to have time for that sort of thing!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Edenstar Day 2

In years past, when the general market fantasy industry was taking off -- with The Sword of Shannara (LOTR Lite) leading the way -- there was a sense of embarrassment in admitting that you liked fantasy. It was okay for kids, but not for adults. If you did like it, there was something wrong with you: you needed to grow up. I don't suppose the SF conventions helped. Nor the covers on the books

Ursula LeGuin wondered why, years ago, in her essay "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" She suggested the aversion to fantasy was because as a culture we saw ourselves as being beyond that sort of thing. Reason had triumphed, we didn't believe in supernatural forces anymore, we knew what made things tick (I think that's mostly an illusion, myself, but that would take another post entirely) and so had no room for fairy tales about other worlds and supernatural powers and so forth.

I'm not so sure that's the case, since as time has gone on and we've developed even more technology and acquired more knowledge about what makes things tick, fantasy's appeal in the general market has only increased. In fact, I read recently that engineers and other technogeek types make up a large portion of readers of this kind of fiction.

So overall, I think this stigma has been erased where general market readers are concerned. Unfortunately it seems that some aspect of it still holds with the Christian market. The question of why has been debated at length among Christian SF/F fans. Maybe it's because when today's Christian adults were growing up there really wasn't much Christian fantasy to choose from, and so they never acquired a taste for it when they were young. Maybe it's because fantasy is a bit more difficult to read than your ordinary woman's fiction, romance, mystery, or suspense. Maybe it's because fantasy (and SF) is harder to write than the others and we writers don't always do it as well as it could be done.

Maybe it's because they don't really see how it can be relevant to their adult lives or their relationships with God. What do nonfantasy readers really think fantasies are about, anyway? What do they expect to find, that they dismiss out of hand as irrelevant, childish, boring or silly? Kings? Battles? Exploding things? Do they expect the protagonists all to be children or talking animals because Narnia is what they're most familiar with? (The lion is a Christ figure. Ho hum. What does that have to do with my life? Where are the relationship issues that really matter?) Do they expect great battles as in LOTR because they've seen the movies and the battle for Helm's Deep lasted nearly an hour, the one for Minis Tirith... even longer? Are they embarrassed to be seen reading it?

Maybe it's like broccoli for some people -- it looks weird and I know I won't like it and there's no point in my ever trying it. Or then, again, maybe it's that we're all just different, and fantasy (especially Christian fantasy) is for an odd few out there on the fringe.

I have no idea. As I write this I have the nagging suspicion it doesn't matter. Those of us who like fantasy, like it. Those who don't, don't. We can try to share with them what we love about it -- heros, for me; the element of the battle of good against evil, the obvious parallels to the unseen angelic conflict, the surprising, intriguing places or things; often the characters themselves -- but in the end they'll either be enticed and intrigued or they won't. What resonates with some, falls flat with others. And sometimes you just can't explain resonance. It's not something that can be shared or conveyed, just something that is.

God has made each of us different. We have widely differing ideas of what is good and fun and appealing, widely differing backgrounds and frames of reference. And we have to respect that about each other. I guess the bottom line of this rambling post is that I am extremely grateful there are actually enough others out there who like to read what I like to read (and write) that there can actually be a market. It might not be as vigorous a market as we'd like, but it is there. There are books out there, as the Edenstar website shows us. And that is cause for rejoicing.

And maybe there really are a lot more readers out there than have shown up yet, simply because they don't know that Christian fantasy (and SF) exists.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Edenstar Books & Games

Even though fantasy as a genre has its roots in Christianity with such authors as John Bunyon, Edmund Spencer, C.S. Lewis and JR.R. Tolkien, it has not yet really caught on with Christian readers in today's market, particularly adults. The last of the genres to find a place in the Christian publishing industry, speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction and horror) continues to struggle to find its readers. For one thing, those who love this kind of fiction often do not go into Christian bookstores or even the Christian fiction aisles of the general bookstores because they know the offerings will be slim to nonexistent.

In Feb 2003 Bill and Cheryl Bader opened their online store Edenstar Books & Games to provide a place for such readers to find and purchase the relatively limited number of books in this subgenre. And it is the Edenstarbooks website that will be the focus of our Christian SFF Blog Tour this month. There, classic fantasists like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald share the listings with contemporary big names like Frank Peretti, Stephen Lawhead and Bill Myers, as well as lesser known writers like, um, Karen Hancock! (smile) Also Donita Paul, Bryan Davis, Kathy Tyers, Randall Ingermanson, James Beausigneur, Michael Warden, Lara Lond, L.B Graham, F.W. Faller... slowly but surely, the list is growing longer.

Over time, the Baders dropped the store part of their enterprise and transformed Edenstar into a database of over 600 items for "those who enjoy a good, clean science fiction or fantasy story in books, videos and games." Out of print and hard to find titles are included and each title is linked through for purchase. Originally the Baders planned to have reviews for each entry, but this proved to be more time-consuming than they could accomodate. So while a few books do have reviews specific to Edenstar, most come with links to other review sites for those who are interested.

You can find a list of books reviewed by Edenstar (which includes my own The Shadow Within) HERE.

In addition to reviews and booklistings. Edenstar also features a few interviews of contemporary Christian SF/F authors (including me) which you can find HERE.

I find the site very attractive and easy to use, and a great resource, though I would like to see them return to the effort of providing reviews specific to Edenstar of their titles.

Besides fiction, they also have listings for commentaries on Christian speculative fiction, biographies, and other non fiction related to the field. I invite you to investigate the great wealth of information they have gathered and organized with respect to what is available in the realm of Christian-themed science fiction and fantasy: Edenstar Books & Games.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Back Story

Yesterday I talked about how I had finally gotten the key to what I needed to do in Chapter 15 but had no time to implement. Well today I had time and began the day with visions of completing the chapter. Instead, I got completely hung up on how to get into it. I knew what I intended to do once I got it going, and I kept getting all kinds of good ideas for what was to come, but I couldn't figure out how to begin it.

I stared out the window. I walked around. I did nonstops by hand and then on the computer. I checked email a bunch of times. I did a lot of fooling around with Bear, but that's normal. I started to get frustrated and angsty and worried. So I sat down and confessed those sins. Prayed about it some more. About 3:30 the answers began to come.

The problem was, the last scene with Abramm has happened months previously to the one I'm working on now. If I were simply going to continue with the events that immediately followed that last scene it would have been easy. And I considered that: starting there and running forward narratively. But I don't have the space to do that, and I think that would be boring, anyway. Conclusion: the place where I thought the action should start is where I still think it should, and I'm just going to have to figure out a way to deliver the backstory as efficiently and interestingly as I can. And... silly me... that is ALWAYS difficult.

But at least I've gotten it started now, for which I am very grateful.

Okay, back to work!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Larger than Life

Well. Yesterday I started chapter 15, and soon realized it was all wrong. So was ch 17. Neither are appropriate now given the changes that I have made -- conversations rehash issues already discussed, attitudes are wrong, and there is a now major inconsistency in the actions as a result of changes upstream. What to do? I had no idea. At all. Every time I tried to engage with the material, my brain switched off.

Then I spent about an hour trying to print up some online postage (mostly because I thought I had an account for it, but couldn't remember the password, or the user name I'd picked, nor had I written it down. Eventually I realized I had not set up an account after all... SIGH... and so set one up.) Then I mailed the package, ate lunch, went back to the chapter... and it was time to go to the Y. Well, maybe exercise would help my brain.

I didn't know what to bring to read. I'm in the middle of Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel, and just was not in the mood to be further depressed by his suggestions of all the things I should be putting into my novel if I want it to be really successful and lack both the word count, wit, and time to incorporate. But...Freya Stark's adventures in Iran didn't appeal either, nor did I want to start reading the Writer's Guide to Fantasy, so I took the Maas book after all.

And it was just what I needed! I had forgotten about making your hero larger than life. I tend to get all tangled up in angst and problems (conflict!), but I saw after reading Maas that it's finally time to drop all that and move forward. As soon as I did, the lights went on and the brain started working again. I had hoped to make some significant progress today but alas... Bear had an allergy attack last night involving his ears after missing his Benadryl on account of throwing up. So I was up for several hours holding him still while the new dose kicked in. (Shaking his ears can lead to an aural hematoma, which he had a couple of years ago, or the ends getting all chewed up when they hit things and spraying/dripping blood everywhere, which he just healed up from a couple of days ago) So I didn't get up until late and had a foggy brain, and people over for Wednesday lunch... Maybe tomorrow.

Pressing On,

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This is our first hound, Grumpy, a black and tan/bloodhound cross. He's two years old in this picture and in his later years was the model for Trap's dog Newbold in The Light of Eidon. I've used Bear as a model too, but only an unpublished short story I've written called Fairy Toads.

Grumpy was as much a character as Bear. He used to pull the socks off the clothesline when no one was looking. And if I waited in hiding for him to do it again so I could catch him in the act, he would wait until I left. Then pull them off.

We lived in an apple orchard at the time, and in the fall people would come to buy apples. He seemed to have a thing for scaring little old ladies who came up the walk. He didn't bark at them, he'd just quietly come up, the mild mannered hound, circle gradually around behind them and then, when they thought he was long gone, stick his nose in their, um, posterior. Upon which they would jump and shriek and turn and he would back away and bay. Okay, I know, you're not supposed to laugh. But it was funny. Especially when he kept doing it to new and unsuspecting victims!

Another time a lady came for apples and went with me off to pick a bunch for her from one of the trees. When we came back to the porch where she had left her purse, it was gone. She looked all around. Where was her purse?! She had set it right there and now it was gone! I suggested perhaps she'd brought it out the tree, but investigation proved otherwise. Then I thought, Where's Grumpy?

Sure enough he was out in the back of the orchard with the purse, which he'd taken off the porch. Somehow he'd dumped it out and was lying there in the tall grass, its contents spread around him. Why? I have no idea. But he did it more than once. Probably the smells were just more than he could bear to leave alone. Really, I assured the lady, we did not teach him to do this!


Monday, September 11, 2006


Finished chapter 13 today! (Technically it's only 13A since I'm just focusing on Abramm's plot thread, but still, a few days to finish is better than a week) On to 15B...

I have been meaning to mention for awhile now that I've signed up with Feedblitz so that readers can have this blog sent directly to their email Inbox if desired. The service sends out the blog posts for any given day at 1am the next day(morning?) and it's taken me awhile to figure out when the best time to post is so that the delivery won't be days after the initial post is made. Sometimes 9:55pm is fine. Sometimes 9:15 is too late. But over all I think I've got it down so that if I post late in the day it will show up in readers' Inboxes the next morning. (I've also learned that if you fool around with the date function on a particular post -- pre date it or post date it -- this so confuses Feedblitz that it won't send out the post at all.)

Anyway, if you are interested in this service, you have only to enter your email in the box on the sidebar and respond to the "Are you sure?" confirmation email to be signed up. The emails come with all graphics and links in place, and you can easily click back from it to the online blog itself if you wish to comment.


PS. The sketch in the last post is of aspen and spruce in the White Mountains of northern Arizona where we used to take a yearly camping trip each fall. The golden aspen leaves falling around us like rain was an experience I gave to Carissa in The Shadow Within.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

His Great Things vs Ours

Recently I read a question posed by Shannon McNear on her blog (here) asking "Where does one draw the line between Believing God for Great Things, and setting oneself up for disappointment?”

Well, having asked this question myself many times, I have some thoughts about that and thought I'd share them.

I don’t think there is a line. I think the problem isn't how much to believe but what. It's the failure to realize that His idea of great things and ours are not the same. We know He loves us. We know He wants to do great things for us. We know that He is far more concerned with our happiness and blessing even than we are... but we don’t think about that.

Instead, we think, "Ah, a great thing would be to see God prosper me in the area of being published. Or causing my books to become best-sellers. Or (fill in the blank). I want this thing so badly! I've asked him for it because I’m certain that if I had it, I would be happy, satisfied and fulfilled. I’m certain because I have thought about it at length. I have dreamed about how if I had it, all my insecurities and doubts and lack of confidence would be gone. Everything would be wonderful. I have looked at others’ lives and seen how confident and secure and happy they are with this particular blessing... I know that having this thing would feel good, not least because I would have seen God come through with a wonderful blessing in accordance with his promises to do great things for us."

So we ask for what we are so certain would be the best thing, the great thing for us. And maybe He doesn’t give us that. And instead of realizing at once that we are wrong, and that being published or having best selling books or whatever would not be a great thing at all for us at this time – would, in fact, be a total disaster for our spiritual life and our happiness -- we think He doesn’t care. We think He doesn’t have great things for us after all. We think He can’t be trusted. When His very refusal to give us right now what we want and strain for, is actually part of the great things He has promised to do for us.

Yes, He does want to bless us with prosperity, success, wealth, health, etc. Maybe He even wants to bless us with the things we think we want. But if we get them when we lack the capacity to receive them, they will be as disastrous for us as giving a ten year old the keys to a Porsche. Or giving a fourteen year old free access to his million dollar inheritance. They will not bless us, they will consume us.

We don’t think that will happen because in our daydreams we don’t see it that way. We think we have capacity. But the truth is, we don’t know squat. About ourselves, about what is good for us and about what things will be like should we receive this thing we so desire.

God, on the other hand, knows all of that with perfect accuracy. More than that, He, as our loving Father, is waiting to pour out blessings upon us. He will withhold no good thing to them who walk uprightly (Ps 84:11) But first we must be prepared (by God, not us) to receive them without being destroyed by them.

So yes, believe God for great things, but don't necessarily try to pin Him down on some specific item that may not be a great thing for you right now. If you ask for publication, recognition and/or success and do not receive it, count that a greater thing than if you did. For His ultimate goal is to conform us to the image of His son. And that happens most during the hard times, the times of suffering, not in the times of blessing and everything going right.

Ask, but focus on who He is, on the fact that His glory is in His goodness and that, if you are a believer in Christ He is FOR you. (Ro 8:31) If He sees fit not to give you what you want right now, know that is absolutely the best thing for you. Because if the desired thing was good for you, you can rest assured you'd already have it.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Happen vs Have Happen

Finished chapter 11 today.

Sometimes during the writing of the first draft you don't always know the things you want to happen in your story and the things you want to have happened, the things you can just mention as happening, versus the things you have to show. Not surprisingly then, I tend to have a lot of things happening that I only want to have happened in my first drafts. Which means I'm cutting a lot of those kinds of things and slowly pulling out the central elements that I want to actually show, and then developing those in greater depth and detail. I'm feeling fairly decent about it all today. This is the part I like -- where the Lord seems to be pulling the waters away from the dry land and at last the true story starts to appear!

On to chapter 13 tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Michael Crichton
Harper Collins 2002
From the inside cover:

"In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nano-particles -- microrobots -- has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive. It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour. Every attempt to destroy it has failed. And we are the prey.

Drawing on up-to-the-minute scientific fact, Prey takes us into the emerging realms of nanotechnology and artificial distributed intelligence -- in a story of breathtaking suspense."

As I said yesterday, I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, heavy on concept and plot, light on characterization and setting. Not surprisingly there was quite a bit of exposition on artificial distributed intelligence/computer programming and evolution. What intrigued me, I guess, were the concepts of evolution as applied here. I don't believe there's much empirical or rational justification for the notion of species evolving into other species, and even when they use the term for viruses, "evolve" seems a misnomer. It's not like viruses are turning into cats or even into bacteria. They remain viruses and merely have different effects on the organisms they invade. However, reading this book it occurred to me that perhaps one place where evolution might truly apply is in the area of thought.

Now I'll freely admit that I don't know much at all about computer programs, and I hardly feel that reading this book has done much to change that. But it seemed to me that he was talking about something that was originally programmed to do a certain thing, including innovate in the attempt to achieve its goals, but because it was self-organizing and self-reproducing, at some point it went beyond the original program and began to program itself. With each successive generation the swarm upgraded its appearance and mode of operation to an increasing level of sophistication and complexity.

Computer programs are systems of commands, assumptions and instructions, some of which can, as a result of outside stimuli, "evolve." Or at least that was the impression Prey gave me. As such it struck me as an excellent metaphor for the system of false thinking with which Satan has deceived the world.

Likewise, the worldly thought system contains commands, assumptions and instructions. With each new truth that God reveals, it shifts and adapts, reorganizing itself to a greater level of complexity, subtlety and sophistication. You can see this over time in the history of ideas, particularly religious/theological concepts (among which I consider evolution itself). Science, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is constantly changing its view of what is true. Ditto Psychology. Education. Medicine. Today, philosophies and various religious viewpoints abound, the result of a constant shifting of perspectives and priorities, the acquisition of "new" information, and the changing view of what truth is and how it can be perceived.

All of which is quite interesting when you consider the Bible says there is an agent at work, a grand creature of great genius who is said to be the prince of the power of the air and the ruler of the world. One who has schemes and plans to continue in his deceptions, evolving them as old concepts prove false and new truths emerge for him to combat. In some cases he brings back old ideas in more complex forms -- gnosticism, for example. Environmentalism. The old phallic cult of ancient times (and if you don't think that isn't present, even rampant in our sex-crazed society of today...better think again. You don't have to have a temple or a grove to worship something.) And the evolution is the result of what he does relative to what God does.

When you step back and think about it, the magnitude of falsehood and deception is immense. Mind-boggling. And apart from knowing God's word, we have no hope at all of escaping deception. Even knowing it, we are at risk because some of Satan's greatest lies -- some of his best work -- relate to the Bible and Christians. Satan knows the word of God, after all. He tempted Jesus with it in the desert. He presents himself as an angel of light; his ministers come to us claiming to teach us how to be righteous. He has another Jesus, another Gospel, another communion table... And just like the swarm in Prey, his lies are constantly shifting form, adapting, attacking, imitating truth and seeking a way to live symbiotically with it. Which, of course, is ultimately impossible.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Weekend

No fun stuff or traveling for us this holiday, just a stay at home time where we got caught up, rested, etc.

I finished Chapter 9 on Saturday, then decided late in the day that I had to read some fiction. I'd not been allowing that since I'd started the revisions on account of not having the time -- and the fact that when I start reading a book I almost always have a couple of reading sprees where I just can't stop, won't stop, not to eat, not to go to the bathroom, and sometimes not even to turn on the light until it's too dark to see the page. But I started Michael Crichton's Prey which I borrowed from my son. I read it in two evenings, and yes last night was one of those don't-stop-for-anything-until-it's-done sprees.

I enjoyed it on several levels -- the concepts, the suspense and the observations of how he was presenting the story -- first person pov (which meant only one), minimal characterization and setting description, with the story's primary focus on the idea. The theme is a familiar one for Crichton -- technology (nanotechnology and computer programming, in this case) runs amok in an out of the way scientific installation. I enjoyed the first half of the story better than the second half when he started explaining things and my suspension of disbelief collapsed in a number of places, though not so much I couldn't enjoy it. It moved fast and since BHP wants me to try to keep things shorter in the next book, I thought it would be a good study.

Sunday we had our monthly communion service and potluck which lasted nearly all day, and then another party out to the south of town. I'm a introvert and at my first Mt. Hermon conference someone told me that while extroverts are energized by social interaction, introverts are drained. Even if you really, really enjoy the socializing, which I did. I always knew that, but had never really acknowledged it, and had I done so wouldn't have believed it. But the miniute the person at Mt. Hermon told me that, I realized it was definitely my experience.

Thus today I was a total blob. Slept in (which was probably also related to the reading spree that lasted until past midnight last night) and just never could quite get anything going. I wrote about Prey (that'll be up tomorrow, maybe) organized some of my papers and looked at ch 11, which is the next one for me to tackle, and hopefully the last of the really hard ones. Alas, my brain sat inertly, quiescently -- like those cells resting before they go about the division process again -- and no ideas stirred. I wasn't terribly surprised.

Later we took a walk in the rain around the park, then took Bear out around the block, which he loved. He even ate some dinner, after having gone about two days not eating anything. Tonight he was excited about canned chicken and ate that with about half a cup of his special kidney diet dog food. We've run though just about everything now -- he'll still eat chicken, hamburger and venison, but not with the gusto he once showed. Eventually nothing will appeal and he'll stop eating altogether. Then we'll be faced with the hard decision as to when to end it. Ugh.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Coonhound Bear -- 2

At left is a photo of the beginning of the swimming race at the Trailing Hound Trials we attended with Bear. Note the raccoon in the cage on the cable to the right. He is just above the water and to the left of the woman in the pink shirt. His name was Ralph and he was there every year we attended and for many years before then. Bear is to the left in the picture. He has a green leash and is on the bank behind the other two redbones, under the man in the blue shirt with the cowboy hat.

The objective in this race is for all the dogs on the shore to see the raccoon and get all excited. When the gun goes off they are to leap into the water and swim across the lake as someone pulls the raccoon along over their heads to a tree on the far side. First dog to the tree wins.

All was going well -- Bear was straining at the end of the leash, barking his head off with the rest of them. My son let him go, he ran into the water with the other dogs... and stopped. You could almost see the lightbulb go on: "Phooey on this swimming stuff! Aren't we supposed to get to that raccoon as fast as we can?" So he whirled, left the water and raced around the lake. He was indeed the first hound to the tree. But, once again, he had broken the rules and was... disqualified!

So... he never quite made it as a coonhound, but we love him anyway!