Monday, April 30, 2007

Why Write Nonstops?

Writing Without Teachers
by Peter Elbow

I love this book. Its writer has related more to my system of writing and creative process than any I've yet encountered. The first time I read the book, I was crying "Yes! That's just how it is!" on almost every page. I had earlier read his Writing with Power and it was there I first encountered the nonstop (he calls it "freewriting") but it was in reading Writing without Teachers that I really began to accept the chaotic nature of my own writing process -- and to see it as something valuable.

Here's a quote I read today about nonstopping (freewriting) that I wanted to share:

(Note: Freewriting is where you set a timer for ten or so minutes and just write -- anything -- until the timer goes off. It is writing that is not intended to be read, evaluated or responded to. The only rule is that you cannot stop writing.)
"Freewriting may seem crazy but actually it makes simple sense. Think of the difference between speaking and writing. Writing has the advantage of permitting more editing. But that's its downfall too. Almost everybody interposes a massive and complicated series of editings between the time words start to be born into consciousness and when they finally come off the end of the pencil or typewriter onto the page. This is partly because schooling makes us obsessed with the "mistakes" we make in writing. Many people are constantly thinking about spelling and grammar as they try to write. I am always thinking about awkwardness, wordiness, and the general mushiness of my natural verbal product as I try to write down words."
[[I am thinking about the clunkiness, as well -- of the words, the dialog and often of the characters' actions and the plot...]]
"But it's not just "mistakes" or "bad writing" we edit as we write. We also edit unacceptable thoughts and feelings, as we do in speaking. In writing there is more time to do it so the editing is heavier: when speaking there's someone right there waiting for a reply and he'll get bored or think we're crazy if we don't come out with something. Most of the time in speaking, we settle for the catch-as-catch-can way in which the words tumble out. In writing, however, there's a chance to try to get them right. But the opportunity to get them right is a terrible burden: you can work for two hours trying to get a paragraph "right" and discover it's not right at all. And then give up.
"Editing, in itself, is not the problem. Editing is usually necessary if we want to end up with something satisfactory. The problem is that editing goes on at the same time as producing. The editor is, as it were, constantly looking over the shoulder of the producer and constantly fiddling with what he's doing while he's in the middle of trying to do it. No wonder the producer gets nervous, jumpy, inhibited, and finally can't be coherent. It's an unnecessary burden to try to think of words and also worry at the same time whether they're the right words."

As I typed the latter paragraph I suddenly saw in it a wonderful metaphor for us with God. He's the producer and we're trying to edit what He's doing (a position we've never been assigned or called to). In this case it's not the producer that gets nervous and jumpy, it's the silly person trying to edit what she has no business editing.

It also works in relationships, where the person waiting for that response provokes your internal editor into overdrive and even in speech you become nervous, jumpy, inhibited and incoherent...


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Crucified with Christ

Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...

An article from the Washington Post, dated Friday, April 6, 2007 reported on a bizarre ritual that is conducted every year on Good Friday in the village of San Pedro Cutud, Philippines. There a group of "devotees" have themselves nailed to a cross as part of a Lenten ritual re-enacting the crucifixion of our Lord.

Using 4 inch nails soaked in alcohol to prevent infection, seven men were attached by hands and feet to their crosses in this year's re-enactment, a rite that now draws thousands of tourists and spectators. It has been going on for at least 21 years, that being the number of times one of the men has been participating. Prior to their crucifixion, the men also beat themselves bloody with scourges, intending by that "to atone for sins."

Obviously, given the repeat participant, they do not take this rite all the way to its original model's conclusion -- ie, that the men so nailed die there.

The Roman Catholic church of the Pilippines officially opposes the ritual.

So would anyone who understands the Scriptures: the status of Christians having been crucified with Christ is clearly positional. None of us have ever been nailed to a cross, not even the apostle Paul who penned the words in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ..." We have no record of him ever having been nailed to a cross, but we do know that he died by decapitation, as was appropriate for his standing as a Roman citizen.

Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. "

Positionally our sin nature has been crucified -- when Jesus was on the cross and all our sins were poured out on Him and judged, that nature was overcome. Permanently. The sin it produces no longer can be held against us and no member of the human race will ever be judged for his sins (Revelation 20:12 says they will be judged for their deeds -- their ergon, not their sins) Its power over us was positionally nullified and we were given a new nature that is perfectly righteous, one that cannot sin.

When God looks at a believer, He sees His own perfect Righteousness, given to us at the moment we believe, on account of what Jesus did on the cross. Why is that important? Because there's nothing we did to earn it, nothing we can do to lose it and nothing we can do to make ourselves one bit better than we already are. In God's eyes we are perfectly righteous. And not because of anything we did or did not do (beyond believing in Christ).

I consider that to be pretty darned freeing. When one comes to the point of living in that as truth, there is no cause for condemnation, no cause for fear or worry or anxiety, no cause for guilt or remorse. We are members of the Royal Family of God, of His Church and of His Bride and we're never going to get out of that.

"But wait!" you may be saying. "If I'm so perfectly righteous, why don't I act like it? I have plenty of fear and impatience and worry and anger. I sin. Daily. What's up with that?"

What's up with that is that we have to make a distinction between our position in Christ (perfect Righteousness) and our condition on earth, which is something else again. Because even though we have a new nature, and possess a perfect righteousness which we can never lose, we're still living in the same old corrupt bodies we came into the world with. An outer man that is decaying day by day (2 Co 4:16). We've been promised eternity in heaven, but we're not there yet. We've been promised a new and perfect resurrection body, without sin, without decay, the perfect house for the new perfect nature. But we don't have it yet.

We're still in the old one, which has that sin nature that sets itself against the Spirit, the new nature and the things of God. The only difference now is that the thing no longer has to have power over us. We no longer have to obey it as we did when we were unbelievers. Now we can choose to live in the new nature under the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Or we can choose to go back to that dead thing, that corpse hanging on the cross, the old nature. We can give in to it, even though it's been crucified and is powerless. It's like we were married to a terrible scumbag husband who died. Afterward we remarried the greatest man in the world, king of the land, in fact: a new husband who loves us more than life itself and will never abandon us. But our ex has risen from the grave, a gruesome zombie who keeps hanging out at the back door of the palace, knocking and knocking in hopes we'll come out and spend some time with him. And sometimes we do.

Don't look at that analogy from the viewpoint of the new husband, look at it from the viewpoint of the adulterous wife. Because that's us every time we go slumming with the zombie ex-husband. And how stupid is that??

Gal 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

How do we crucify the flesh? We regard it as dead. Instead of going slumming with the zombie ex-husband when he comes to call, we live by means of the Spirit (Gal 5:25). How do we do that? Well, for one thing, we name, cite, or acknowledge our sins when we realize we've committed them (I Jn 1:9). And for another, we feed and strengthen our new nature by the daily renewing of our minds through the inculcation of His Word...


Thursday, April 26, 2007


I've been distracted today. Did a bit of thinking on Black Box. It's going every which way. Suddenly decisions I'd thought were made are being rethought. Suddenly I have to go through one of my protagonists' backgrounds all over again and decide if that's really want I want to do. And after I decide that, how I am going to reveal it all and at what pace.

It seems weird to me that I've been allegedly working on this book for two months and don't seem to have really done any work. Of course, on the surface that's been entirely true with all the interruptions and distractions. Until this week, though, most were not of my making, or else were things I deemed important. Now I just seem to be avoiding.

It's a familiar place. I'm simmering. I know that. But it's been two months now that I've been simmering. Impatience swells...

I catch it. No. I'm trusting the Lord for this, remember? And when you trust someone, you don't try to figure out how to do things yourself, you let them do it. You don't think about it, you just wait patiently for them to work. When am I going to finally understand that? When am I finally going to just wait, confidently, knowingly and stop having these bursts of "Oh NO! I'm not making any progress! I HAVE to get going! I HAVE to get something done!"

Deep breath. Recall that it can be a slow process...

Ps 112:4 “Light rises in the darkness for the upright.” It may be a gradual thing, imperceptible at first as the coming of the dawn, but long before we see it, the cock crows and there are stirrings. There is no question the dawn will come. We have only to wait. ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Another deep breath. Yes. Like the dawning of a new day, it comes gradually, and maybe almost without my realizing it.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Which Outlet? Revisited

Wednesdays are often not good for serious blog posting, in part because it's my day for Royal Family Lunch. Today I also ran some errands in the morning, and then we went for a walk and out to a Vietnamese restaurant afterward for Fried Cornish Game Hen Broken Rice plate. It was pretty good, though I expected it not to be.

But anyway, I'm not inclined to try to write anything serious and thought-requiring tonight (besides, it's only 15 minutes until Lost is on).

So I thought I'd post the recap of who found their copy of Return of the Guardian King when and where:

March 28, 2007 - Ruth bought a copy from the LifeWay bookstore in Nashville, TN

March 29 -- David A in Pennsylvania received his copy ordered from BHP on March 26

March 30 -- Alicia found a copy at a LifeWay store (but I don't know where)

April 3 -- In Texas, Jessica M got her copy of Return of the Guardian King and devoured it, having preordered from

April 4 -- Phil C picked up a copy of RotGK at the local Christian book seller in Alpena, Michigan where it had just arrived.

April 4 -- Books available at local Christian bookstore in Tucson

April 5 -- Kim S ordered Return Of The Guardian King from Family Christian Books Stores in Merriville Indiana. on Tues April 3 & it came in on Thurs April 5

April 6 -- "Just picked up my copy of ROTGK 4 hours ago" (Sarah M)

April 6 -- RotGK found at the Ft Lauderdale Borders. "A staff member told me it was in but when I checked the shelves I couldn't find it. Further checking located it on a book truck to be shelved (which should indicate that it had just arrived/been unboxed. Another staffer told me that they have a way of 'batch-receiving' boxes of books which probably explains the delay."

April 7 -- Abby made a trip to B&N and found Arena on the shelf but no GK books. She ordered RotGK from them and suggested other books be ordered as well. Thank you Abby!

April 9 -- "As a librarian who orders a lot of the Christian fiction for our system, I have a password for our Ingram bookorder database. I noticed today that the order status grid for RotGK has an order of new copies now in their Indiana warehouse and still pending (as of early on 4/9/07) in the other three warehouses. Since they're starting to show up in the distributors' warehouse inventories, they should start showing up in the bookstores - at least one would assume so!! LOL"

And finally, sometime between April 11 and April 16, Abby B found her copy in Denver (this after previously visiting a Barnes and Noble on Apr 7, a Borders, a Family Christian store, and finally a Lifeway Christian store, none of which had the book). She was so excited to tell me about her reading experience she failed to say where she actually found the book.

(On the other hand on April 9 I received an email from the manager of a Christian bookstore in Colorado with the news that he had only one copy of the book left that day and was ordering more!)

Based on this very limited sample size, it does look like the east coast gets the books before those on the west...


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Sin Nature?

As I mentioned previously, last week's blog tour introduced me to the reality that some believe that we have no sin nature as Christians, and thus the ability to live sinless lives. The claim is made that the Scriptures do not support the idea of Christians continuing to have a sin nature after salvation, and I have set myself the challenge of refuting that -- not to persuade anyone, per se, but rather to attempt to lay it all out in a logical, coherent, supported argument as part of my own fulfillment of 1 Pe 3:18 (be ready to make a defense to all that ask you...) No, I've not been asked, but I do want to be ready and this exercise is part of that.

My first problem was not in trying to find a verse to support the assertion that the Bible does indeed teach we have a sin nature, but in trying to decide which one of MANY to start with. I think I'll pick 1 John 1:8, since it's quite straightforward:

"If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."

The Greek word for sin, hamartia, is in the singular and that use indicates it refers not to personal sins, but to a sin nature. (Another example of this usage is in John 16:8 -- the Holy Spirit convicts of sin -- singular; ie, the fact we are sinners by nature and in need of a savior. We are condemned not by the personal sins we commit, but because we are descended from Adam. Ro 6:18 says that "through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men...")

But back to 1 John 1:8 -- Further evidence that this verse is saying Christians have a sin nature lies in the fact that John is the writer, definitely a Christian, and is including himself in this "we".

"If we say we have no sin (nature), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we (himself and other Christians) confess (name, acknowledge, cite) our sins (and here it's plural, referring to personal sins) He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The verb of the greek word for confess, homologeo, is in the present tense, which is another thing that tells us this is not referring to something that happened at salvation. The present tense indicates ongoing, habitual action. Compare this to salvation verses, like Acts 16:30, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved... Believe is in the aorist tense, for a one time action with results that continue forever.

Of course 1 John is also the book that has the verse people quote as being the justification for the idea that we no longer have a sin nature, I John 3:9

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."

"Born of God" and "He cannot sin" seem to be the salient phrases... But you can't throw out the verses in chapter 1 for the sake of the verse in chapter 3... and I John 1:8 - 10 says we do sin. As Christians. So what's going on here? If we are lying if we say we have no sin nature, and need to confess personal sins on a habitual basis, how is it we "can't sin" if we're born of God?

Well, because we have two natures. We have the old nature and we have the new nature. "Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature." (2 Co 5:17) It is a divine nature (2 Pe 1:4) and thus cannot sin.

The new nature, which cannot sin is in the same body as the old nature, which can. The two are said in Galatians 5:17 to be at war with one another.

"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."

Being in a status of opposition to God, the flesh is by definition sinful. (Note also that Jesus came, not "in the flesh," but "in the likeness of sinful flesh." Ro 8:3 He was the only man ever born without a sin nature.)

And earlier in Galatians 5 (vs 11) where Paul addresses his readers as "brethren," makes it clear he's giving this instruction to Christians.

Galatians 5:16 commands us to "walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." In Ephesians we are commanded not to grieve or quench the Spirit, but to be filled with the Spirit. God wouldn't command us to a status that we already, permanently have, so being filled with the Spirit must not be a permanent condition. We choose whether it's going to be the Spirit ruling us or the flesh -- primarily through identifying the sin in our lives and executing the command in 1 Jn 1:9 to confess it to God.

In Romans 6 Paul laments the presence of his sin nature, a good twenty plus years after he was saved: the good he wants to do, he doesn't. The evil he wishes not to do, he does. He even says, flat out that "no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me." Who will deliver him from this wretched body of death?

That's pretty clear, too. He even repeats it in vs 20 "...I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me." (And again, note the singular usage of sin, meaning sin nature)

Though some claim this passage is referring to Paul's pre salvation state, I would disagree. The pre-salvation Saul of Tarsus did not think of himself as a wretched man. On the contrary, in Philippians 3 he described himself as one who had every reason to put great confidence in his flesh: "circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to righteousness which is in the law found blameless..." Oh. I forgot about the zeal. He thought he was hot stuff, in the Light, killing Christians for God. He didn't think he was wretched at all.

No I believe this lament in Romans is one he made as a Christian who had, in fact, come quite a ways along the road of spiritual growth. His very maturity no doubt made him much more aware of all the myriad ways he could and did fail, despite all that he knew.

My, I think I've run on too long. And I'm already thinking of more... positional and experiential truth, the nature of the original sin, the wicked going astray from the womb...

Maybe tomorrow. Or not. We'll see how the Lord leads.


Monday, April 23, 2007

A New Review and Answering Comments

Another Blog Tour review on Return of the Guardian King has come in from participant April Erwin. She's the one who didn't want to start the series at the end but had a friend who was already caught up and willing to read the book for a guest blogging stint. It's a great review, though it is very heavy on spoilers. If you've not read the book and don't want to know how it ends, you might take care to skip the parts she's marked off as spoiler-filled. If you have read it, enjoy the review en toto. I sure did. There are two parts and you can read them here: Part 1 and Part 2

Now for a few comments on yesterday's comments and the random musings they generated...

Rebecca said, "How do you say, "I loved it I loved it I loved it!" in a way that is both interesting and compelling?" She has a good point -- especially when you're trying not to give away important plot points in a review. I thought you did a fine job of doing it, though, Rebecca.

But I also wonder (and this is from looking at myself) why is it that all the specifics of what we don't like seem to come rushing up to the surface, whereas when we really like something it only seems to be emotion that rushes up. Maybe it's the emotion that makes us not really want to stop and pick the beloved apart. We don't want to think, we just want to revel in the feeling of being delighted. Hmm. Is that something like Love is Blind?

[Congratulations on your 100 rejection letters, Rebecca. I used to reward myself with a box of Sees with every 100 I collected -- papering the walls with them just did not seem that appealing. Now I think I've thrown them away. They were pretty repetitive anyway... "Dear Writer, thank you for your recent submission. Alas it did not suit our... "]

Shannon, the less than positives are really like cockatrice eggs for me. At first they have no effect. It's only when I go back to my work in progress that they hatch. Suddenly I can't write. "No one likes what I do anyway," moans the inner Eeyore voice, "so why try?" (Notice the instant switch there to global thinking: one person disliking one small aspect of something I'd written has ballooned into no one on the entire planet liking anything I've ever written and ever will. I understand this is a common writerly trait as well -- going instantly global in one's reaction. I'm learning to recognize it and put it aside.). I also get this reaction from reading negative comments about other writers' works.

Golden Fool... hmmm. Some of it I love. Some of it... I don't. The feminism. The gender issues with the Fool... Oh! Look! I'm being specific about the negatives... Hmph!

Okay, then, I shall set myself to be specific about the positives. I LOVE her writing. I love
"...when I drew the blade, it whispered death as it came free from the sheath and balanced like a bird on my fingers."
"... all of life chafed against me. Then the wolf would heave himself to his feet with a sigh and come to lean against me. A thrust of his muzzle would put his broad-skulled head under my hand."

(that last was from the first book in the Tawny Man trilogy, Fool's Errand) I love the tidbits of truth that are sprinkled through her work. Like what the aforementioned wolf says to the hero, Fitz, in response to his chafing:

"Stop longing. You poison today's ease, reaching always for tomorrow. The boy will come back when he comes back. What is there to grieve over in that?"
Or this, which actually came before the part about chafing:

"There was nothing wrong with my life. I worked in my garden, I finished the repairs to my long-neglected cottage, and in the early morning and summer twilight, I hunted with my wolf. I filled my days with good and simple things. The weather held fine. I had the warmth of the sun on my shoulders as I labored, the swiftness of the wind against my cheeks when I walked the sea cliffs in the evening, and the richness of the loamy earth in my garden. Peace but waited for me to give myself up to it. The fault was in me that I held back from it."

How dead-on is that a description of so many of us as believers? Always, in every circumstance, the peace of God but waits for us to give ourselves up to it. The fault is always in us that we hold back.

I love the complexity of her stories, her world, her characters. I love that Fitz is a prince, a should-be king, and no one can know his true identty save a few at the very top -- queen, official prince, queen's counselor. I love when various other characters finally figure out who he really is. (Hmm, that story line does sound familiar, doesn't it?)

His trials are immense, and while I don't love that, something about it does draw me. When his wolf died, I related FAR too strongly. And yet go back to reread that scene again and again because she carried it off so exquisitely... There are successes, too. Not as many, or as great as I'd like, but enough. And there are just a zillion other things about the way the characters relate to one another, love one another, cause problems for one another...

I see I will have to do an entire post on this matter...

Marci, thanks for restraining your thorns and best wishes on your new born book.

Becky... you're right, I don't think writers realize how valuable commenting on the blogs is. I don't think I did. It just seems polite to express my gratitude. After all, no one out there has to pay even a moment's worth of attention to me or my work if they choose not to, so I'm always grateful when they do. And yes, I do have a list and will get to those promised spin-off posts. Right now I'm thinking one may appear tomorrow... so check back if you're interested in my attempts to "give an answer for the hope that is within you." (Not that I've been asked, mind. This is just practice in case I ever am.)


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Post Tour Reflections & Other Things

Echinocereus flowers

It's spring in the desert: the blue, blue sky overhead, the purple mountains looming at the end of roads lined by brilliant yellow paloverde... The cactus are all blooming, as are my amaryllis -- a white and a red. A pair of flycatchers are making a nest in the paloverde across the street, and yesterday I found five lemons on my poor lemon tree -- which was hit very hard by the snow this winter. Five lemons! Hooray.

The tour is over. Return of the Guardian King has been officially launched (as far as I'm concerned, anyway), and I want to say thanks again to all who participated. The praise was by turns extravagant, gratifying, embarrassing, hard to believe, heart warming, giggle-producing and sobering.

The complaints were... difficult. They're always difficult, and bring out my very human tendancy to put way more emphasis on the negative than on the positive. I could get twenty reader letters praising my work to the skies, but the one that tells me all the things the reader thought I'd done wrong -- that's the one I take to heart. For awhile anyway. It's weird how that is. We do the same thing in contemplating the future. A weird medical test comes back and we fear the worst instead of focusing on the best. We submit our book to an editor and it seems much more likely the editor will NOT like it, than it does that he (or she) will.

Or maybe some people are just like that -- those with a tendancy toward pessimism. The optimists are on the other side, always, and, sometimes even delusionally, assuming the best.

Delusions aside, I have to say that optimism in general is much more suitable for members of God's Royal Family than pessimism. We all know how our story ends, after all -- in heaven with our Loving Father forever. If God is for us, if He loves us with a perfect, intimate, never faltering love, how can we be pessimistic? We can't, and I have gotten away from the pessimism as I've grown. But taking negative comments too seriously is still a weakness I cave in to far too often.

On the other hand, the complaints do make you think. Do I agree with what's been said? Is this perceived fault actually a fault? Or just a preference? Or perhaps -- and I'm seeing this more and more -- the result of a reader bringing a different frame of reference to the work than I did. Change the frame of reference, change the template with which you view the events of the story and perhaps the fault will disappear. It might even become a strength. I have some things to say about that with respect to one of Dean Koontz's books as well as my own... But not tonight.

The vast majority of tour posts, though, were not complaints but fun, interesting, creative, instructive, enlightening and funny. I am so grateful that people took time out of their busy days to read my book(s) and then blog about them. And I learned many things from it all. I learned to sit back, relax and watch things unfold rather than jump to hasty conclusions. I learned that some readers came to my books in the first volume, struggled with elements they saw as flaws and faults and later, when their perception changed, looked at it all differently. I learned that people prefer to comment on thorns than rosebuds , and that some thorns can be quite amusing. I learned how bizarre it is to have one's work analyzed as some kind of standard for others to learn from. I learned that there are more typos in the book than just on page 185. (And participant Heather Hunt finally has her review of RotGK posted over at Title Trakk. Thanks Heather!)

John Otte's post on my depiction of Christianity in RotGK was particularly gratifying and his final Wednesday post, Sin Boldly, was great. If you've not read that one, I encourage you to do so.

I also learned through this tour that there really are Christians who do not believe that we have a sin nature, and do not believe the Scriptures teach that. I read those words with my mouth hanging open. Then I closed my mouth and decided I would challenge myself to lay out some of the reasons I do believe the Scripture teaches we have a sin nature, even as Christians.

But not tonight. Tonight I'm tired. I've stayed up way too late the last too nights reading Golden Fool (Robin Hobb), so I'm not going to strain my brain here. I want to be ready to work on Black Box tomorrow, after not spending even one minute on it in the last two weeks. Tomorrow I'll need to find a way to get back into it. My hubby helped me get started tonight on our walk around the park as we discussed electromagnetic pulses and how they might affect a vehicle going at a high rate of speed along a curvy desert road... I'm hoping if I don't push things too hard now I will have more energy for working tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And the Winner Is...

.....................................Drum roll.............................

Out of twenty-five entries (23 in the comments, 2 in the email) the winner of the autographed, four-book set of The Legends of the Guardian King is

also known as

Congratulations, Becki. If you would email me through the address given in my profile that'd be great. I need a snail mail address to send the books to, and also confirmation of who you want me to sign them to.

Condolences and thanks to the rest of you who entered the contest. And thanks to everyone for all the wonderful comments, reviews, mention, discussions, complaints (okay, maybe those weren't so wonderful...) etc, that made up this blog tour. It's been great, and spawned at least two and maybe three Blog Tour Spinoff ideas for posts that should show up in coming days. I hope some of you have been encouraged to read the books by all the interesting, informative and enthusiastic posts.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Making the Invisible Visible

Though my books are often termed allegory, I have never really thought of what I do as allegory. According to the Encarta dictionary’s definition, allegory is “a work in which the characters and events are to be understood as representing other things and symbolically expressing a deeper, often spiritual, moral, or political meaning.” As I mentioned elsewhere you’re not supposed to blend the two. On the surface the thing that’s being allegorized should not actually show up in the work.

So, if I want to portray God in allegorical fashion, it’s okay if He shows up as a human father (or animal father) in a story, but not if he shows up as… well… God. The problem is, I know God exists. I believe that Jesus Christ is the second person of the trinity, took on the form of a man and came to earth to die for my sins. I love that. But that’s not really want I want to analogize. Those seem to me to be obvious, basic truths. I want to go farther than that. I want to analogize elements of the Christian life in order to get more at the truths embodied there. And to do that, it’s much easier on everyone if you just start out with God as God, or Eidon, in this case, and go from there.

So maybe I don't write allegory at all. Maybe what I do, as one of my friends suggested, is make the invisible visible.

The Christian life is largely invisible, since the most important aspects of it reside in the mind. Motivation matters more than what is actually done. Do good things in the wrong power system and it turns out to be wood, hay, straw. We can’t see what’s in each other’s hearts… so what looks to us like good might actually be failure and often what looks like failure (I’m thinking of the cross in particular) is great victory. The battle we face as Christians is also largely invisible. It’s not against people, “but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” It's really hard to fight a battle when you can't see the enemy and don't know where he's coming from.

So here is what I do. I study the principles of the Christian life on a day by day basis. This is a vast amount of information, of which I retain a pathetically small amount, but nevertheless quite a body of material from which to draw. This I assimilate into my thinking and then try to apply to my life, usually a process akin to learning to ride bicycle: there’s lots of wobbling, falling down and messing up. It’s an ongoing process wherein I learn about myself, the principles, how exactly they apply, and God – who He is, how He operates, and how He deals with me.

As part of that process I find myself making analogies of how a certain principle in God's word is like some physical aspect of life. Eg, the believer at salvation is to be like a caterpillar upon hatching – it eats and eats and eats until one day it’s eaten enough that its body can form a cocoon or chrysalis. Thus protected, its insides turn to mush and then reform into a butterfly…. (Lately I’ve been relating a lot to the mush part). I do this a lot as part of my own way of understanding truth, life and how it all fits together.

My stories are an outworking of this function. Fantasy is full of great analogous tropes, and so I’ve chosen it for the foundation of my work. The essay, In Defense of Fantasy on my website goes into this in detail so I won’t here. I enjoy using those stock elements in building a story that can fairly directly communicate what I’ve learned and what I value.

Of course life and especially the spiritual life is far too vast, complex and mysterious to be able to codify all the elements in a tidy, coherent one for one pattern. Even assuming I could understand it all, which I can’t. So I set up a few general parameters for the world and the magic, parameters that reflect essential truths in our real world, and go from there.

In Legends of the Guardian King, these include Eidon, Tersius, Moroq, the Light, the golden shield, rhu’ema, rhu’ema spawn and spore. This is my playground, as it were, and from there I start to build my story and world. At this point all the things I’ve chosen now have to be developed into something visible. Fleshed out, given background, interconnections, logical ramifications… Which is pretty standard world building/plotting practice.

That’s mostly a side issue though, because what I’m really interested in are the characters and their relationships with each other and with God. Most of the things I portray and struggles I deal with are reminiscent of struggles I’ve gone through and of the ways I’ve resolved them. Or else the ways I think I would resolve them.

And even all of this sounds way more cognizant that it seems in practice. (I feel like that caterpillar trying to explain how it walks.) Here’s what happens when I sit down to write. I know that the world of Eidon is different from ours, and yet for me, somehow, it’s the same. I’m made a different world, with creatures, physical laws, histories and spiritual aspects that are not our world. But similar to it. So I write it, and it relates and yet it doesn’t. I’m making visible what is invisible in our world. By that token it’s one for one. But I don’t sit down and plan it all out. More times than I wish things just appear in the story and I sit back and ask “What’s up with this? Where is this supposed to go?” Usually I think it’s cool, whatever it is, and conclude that the Lord has some purpose in it, so I let it stay and move on, trusting that eventually its place and purpose will become clear.

And eventually, for the most part, it does all come together. At least sufficiently to satisfy me, if not all my readers. :-)


Monday, April 16, 2007

Highlights from the RotGK Blog Tour

Rebecca Luella Miller has started a three-part series discussing something very unusual when it comes to discussions of this sort -- what she thinks was done right in the Legends of the Guardian King series. I find that immensely refreshing and advise you to check it out on her Speculative Faith post for Monday, with follow ups Tuesday (today for those of you reading through Feedblitz) and Wednesday on her own blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

Rebecca Grabill has posted a very clever and endearing "Review that... Wasn't." Thanks, Rebecca. I'm still chuckling. And lest anyone think she is all rosebuds with regard to reviewing the book (heaven forbid!), she has promised to present the thorns on Day Two. I can only hope it will be something along the lines of "The Thorns that...Weren't." ;-)

Beth Goddard is hoping to repost links to reviews of the earlier books in the series on Tuesday and is offering a contest of sorts for those who drop by and comment on "which of Karen's books, specifically which scene, affected you most in spiritual terms." She'll choose one of the commenters to win a free copy of any of my books they desire. I've really enjoyed the different scenes people are noting as having stood out for them. Why am I not surprised that they're all different?

Sharon Hinck also has a lovely review up of LOE, and offers a bit of retrospective as to how we became friends.

Gene Curtis has posted a very interesting piece on sales rankings, and has thrown out the suggestion of starting a targeted buying campaign to see if people can get Return of the Guardian King onto Amazon's best-selling list. I admit to skepticism, but I'd be fascinated to see if it really would make any difference. Check his blog for the details.

Kameron M. Franklin has posted a his take on the strengths and weaknesses of RotGK with regard to literary/craft aspects. While overall he enjoyed the book and would recommend it, he was nevertheless disappointed with it on account of some of those weaknesses and also some theological issues which he will discuss Tuesday.

(Kameron, let me thank you here for taking the time to read and review the book. I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but wordpress wouldn't let me. I appreciate the opportunity to get a glimpse of your viewpoint, and have to say I even agree with you on some of the weaknesses you cited.)

Likewise blogger John W. Otte, a Lutheran pastor, enjoyed the book overall, but found the ending less than he'd hoped for. "A good ending," he pronounced it, "but not a perfect one." In his opinion. (And I loved that he made a point of saying that!) He, too plans to discuss on Tuesday the theology or, as he puts it, the "depiction of Christianity in the series."

Other bloggers who promised reviews on Tuesday were Tina Kulesa, Chawna Schroeder, April Erwin, Wayne Thomas Batson (who has been all over with his fun and enthusiastic comments -- thanks Wayne!), Dawn King, and Karri Compton. Heather R. Hunt reviewed the book for Title Trakk and will be posting her review on her blog as soon as it is up on Title Trakk.

Also check back with Chris Deanne's and Shannon McNear's blogs for the completion of both the interviews each of them did with me. Shannon's interview questions were particularly challenging to answer because they were so different. (What did you learn through writing this book, spiritually as well as writingwise or any other way? How do you feel you've grown since Arena and Light of Eidon? How was the writing process different for RotGk than the others?) I hope you'll enjoy the results.

And please note, the recommendation for Blog tour participants is that they post all three days. If they can't do that, then they're to put up at least one post relating to the featured subject sometime during the tour. So if you have cycled through all the names on the list Monday and found some bloggers who have not yet posted anything, check back Tuesday or Wednesday.

Enjoy the Tour and if you haven't signed up for the giveaway I'm sponsoring (an autographed set of all four of the Legends of the Guardian King books) please leave a comment telling me you'd like to be entered, or send me an email if Blogger won't let you comment. I'll announce the winner Wednesday evening (or Thursday through Feedblitz)

Here are the rest of the bloggers participating in this tour:

Nissa Annakindt; Jim Black; Grace Bridges; Jackie Castle; Valerie Comer; Frank Creed; CSFF Blog Tour; D. G. D. Davidson; Janey DeMeo; Linda Gilmore; Marcus Goodyear; Andrea Graham; Jill Hart; Katie Hart;Sherrie Hibbs; Christopher Hopper; Becca Johnson; Jason Joyner; Karen;
Lost Genre Guild; Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium; Rachel Marks; Caleb Newell; Nicole; Eve Nielsen; Robin Parrish; Rachelle; Cheryl Russel; Hanna Sandvig; Mirtika Schultz; James Somers; Tsaba House Authors; Steve Trower; Daniel I. Weaver


Sunday, April 15, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: Return of the Guardian King

Monday (or today, depending on when you are reading this) marks the first day of the April Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour featuring the final volume in my Legends of the Guardian-King Series, Return of the Guardian King.

I have done interviews for both Chris Deanne's and Shannon McNear's blogs, and those should be up, if not Monday, then sometime during the tour. Check out other participants for reviews, commentary and discussion. Shannon is heading up the tour, so you can start with her blog for a list of participants or scroll on down for the list here.

It's an amazing thing for me to see this book released and in print. As I mentioned in the interview on Chris's blog, when I arrived at Mt. Hermon with Arena in proposal form in 1999, no one was doing fantasy. In fact, I was told that fantasy was a bad word and shouldn't even be used. The moment you said you were doing fantasy, you would immediately be compared to Tolkien or Eddings and no one can stand up to that. So, as I think some of you know, I called it "Speculative Historical Fiction."

When I sat at the tables with various editors and agents and it was my turn to say what I was writing, some of them literally shrank away. The lights went off, the shades were drawn and they went quickly on to the next person. Several editors were kinder -- they told me that they themselves loved the genre, but they'd never be able to get it past their editorial board. The result was the same... on to the next person

When Bethany House did buy the Guardian-King series -- solely on the basis of the reviews for Arena, not on any hard sales figures at that point -- they gave me a descending advance structure as I've mentioned. The signing advance for Return of the Guardian King was about 10% of the total advance, which was a pretty good indication the publishers thought it might not ever leave the nest. I'm so glad the Lord has seen fit to allow it to do just that.

In celebration of RotGK's release, the completion of the series, and of this blog tour, I'm holding a giveaway drawing. If you would like to be in the drawing for a complete autographed set of Legends of the Guardian-King, please leave a comment for me today through Wednesday saying so. I'll choose from the entrants' names Wednesday evening and post the winner Thursday. You only need to leave one comment telling me you want to be in the drawing. If Blogger won't let you comment, you can send me an email through the address given in the profile. Be sure you put something like Blog giveaway in the subject line so it won't get lost in the junk mail.

Coming tomorrow -- highlights of the tour and part one of my two part article, "Making the Invisible Visible."

Here are the other participants (If you checked earlier, links have been fixed now; sorry about that):

Nissa Annakindt
Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Rebecca Grabill
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Shannon McNear
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Availability

Mark your calendars! The Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour featuring Return of the Guardian-King is coming up NEXT Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16, 17 and 18. There'll be reviews, book giveaways, commentary and at least a couple of interviews. Should be fun.

On to today's subject. I've been hearing from a few readers who've gone to various bookstores in their area looking for Return of the Guardian King only to leave empty-handed. I'm not sure if they asked the sales staff for the book/s or not, but if you do go to a store and don't find it, please do ask.

Some readers have reported that after asking, the sales person goes looking and finds the books arrived but still in a box in the back. Or on a book truck waiting to be shelved. Asking will also let you know if the store has the books on order and when they might be coming. At the least you can order one if they don't have any coming. All the Guardian King books are still in print, and should be available at the least by special order from any of your local bookstores. And if not that, there's always Amazon!

It's only with the huge sellers that publishers announce a release date, then force every bookstore who gets a shipment to wait until that date to make the books available for sale. They also make sure that all the stores have the books, sometimes for days in advance, and of course there is a great deal of publicity and hooplah to let everyone know when the books will be available. Then all the fans line up for hours to buy their books and maybe even get them signed by the author.

For lesser selling titles, this doesn't happen. The books don't burst out on the scene, they trickle. I've had experiences here in Tucson where one of my books was supposed to release August 1 and a friend went in to the local Christian bookstore to order it. First she was told they couldn't order it and to come back later. She did, and was able to order it then, but then the books didn't come and didn't come and finally she went to Barnes and Noble sometime toward the end of August and found a copy there. Two weeks later the Christian bookstore's copies had arrived. Their loss, I guess. (I'm sure they're crushed.)

I was in the store one day talking to the woman who does the ordering and she tried to explain their rather bizarre system. They all work through distributors. The distributors order a certain number of copies from the publisher. When they get the books into their warehouse then the smaller bookstores who do business with them can order the books. The distributor for our local store had four regions it serviced. Even though the other three regions had listings of my books available, the region that serviced Arizona did not. She had to wait until that region had books before she could order anything.

It seems very inefficient to me, but what do I know about running a bookstore? I know it is a difficult business. Also, they have only a limited amount of shelf space. And I've heard that publishers even pay for a certain amount of guaranteed space. I don't know how widespread this is, if all publishers do it, if they only do it for certain titles, or what, but the fact remains shelf space is a valued commodity. There are always new books coming out, so if the old books haven't yet sold, they will be pushed away to make way for the new. This is at the publisher's request, I'm told (I believe I've written about that here before.

Since my last release was in November of 2005, it's no surprise there might not be any copies of my books on the shelves in late March or even early April 2007. (One reason why publishers want writers to hurry up and turn out their successive series books swiftly; though I'm also told series books, once in demand, no longer are so desirable.)

Finally, there might be one other explanation for some of the difficulty readers have expressed in finding my books and that's because they've been sold out. I've heard from at least one bookstore manager where this was indeed the case, and they are ordering more. That was happy news!

But the biggest most helpful thing you can do as a reader in search of the book is to ask the salespeople about it. Do they have it somewhere? Have they ordered it? Have they sold out? Have they ordered any of the preceding volumes? Even if you don't end up buying the book there, you will have let the bookstore know that there is some interest in it. If they get enough requests, they might even start carrying it.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lady in the Water

Last weekend, on Saturday night, we watched The Lady in the Water. I tend to like M. Night Shyamalan's movies and this was no exception, though I thought at the beginning I might not. It starts with a goofy little story about sea people trying to reach out to humans to help them, if only the humans would listen. There is fear that the humans have perhaps lost the ability to hear...

The term "sea people" makes me think of demons, incarcerated under the sea, and I didn't the like the idea of them reaching out to help us, nor the little pictographs they used to illustrate the story. Humph. I don't know about this...

Then the first person you see is Paul Giamatti, who I really liked in The Illusionist, so I stayed with it. It is a bizarre little movie, about the manager of an apartment complex who rescues a woman from the complex's pool only to discover she is a character in a Chinese bedtime story (one of the aforementioned sea people) trying to complete the mission she was sent on and go home. Only trouble is, she has very little information as to the specifics of that mission, and there are nasty creatures trying to stop her from fulfilling it.

There were times when I noticed that it was moving a bit slowly, as I did in The Village, but I didn't particularly mind because I was intrigued. It has suspense, weirdness, off the wall, even whimsical moments, and when it was all over I found myself rather pleased. My first notion was that it was a wonderful metaphor for the body of Christ. For us trying to figure out what we're to do, where we fit, and who we are. Concepts of "not many mighty are called" came to mind.

The next morning I woke up and realized it's also an extended metaphor for writing a story. Complete with a critic. You'd think I'd have seen that part first since the girl's name is Story. But...I didn't. Once the doors opened, though, all kinds of things fell into place and I loved it. I think I might have to own it and see it again.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blog Tour Preparations

Yesterday I wrote my newsletter and got it set up and sent. I also think I rested after a very busy weekend, though I wasn't aware of it at the time. Instead I was dismayed to find myself with no motivation or initiative, and slipped into condemnation/frenzy mode. That is a weird and irrational state of mind wherein I fret and feel anxious while trying to decide if I should write the newsletter or work on Black Box, both seeming equally urgent. Finally, unable to decide, I leave them both undone and go off to talk on the phone or read a book, during which time I am completely relaxed. What's up with that? Actually, I think the real problem, as I said, was that I was more tired than I realized because when I woke up this morning I had no problem getting to work.

Today I also realized that I was once again trying to change time. I had the idea that I should do all my normal things in the new little routine I've made up -- housework, write, exercise, Bible class -- and in addition, compose the newsletter, sign, package and mail books, and write out the answers to one blogger's interview questions for the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour coming up next week (the one that's featuring Return of the Guardian King) all in the same amount of time.

I have this weird problem with time skewing. I remember once when we were driving up to Greer, AZ. We had a set amount of miles to go and we were traveling a constant rate of speed. Simple math proved it would take us a full hour yet I kept hoping -- fervently -- that it would only take us half an hour. I was doing that yesterday with all my "To Do's". I stopped doing it today. Obviously I cannot do double the work in the same time, so that meant I had to cut out some of the work. Black Box, the least urgent, is now "simmering" while I work on next week's interview.

The questions are good. They take a lot of thought and then, once I've answered, more thought and revision. I've also come up with two ideas and a good deal of text for my own posts next week. We'll see if they actually get posted.

I've also been getting some phenomenal responses to Return of the Guardian King as readers begin to contact me after having finished it. Not just simple "I loved it!" emails, but fairly lengthy missives detailing the reader's reactions. After months of not too much of this, and more months of wondering if the book was ever going to work, this is sweet, and I am very grateful.

A part of me is also giving the other part of me a stern shake and saying, "See what an idiot you were to doubt your Father? He knew all along, and you had no reason to lose your confidence in Him for even one moment." I know, I know. And every time this kind of thing happens, it's that much more of a store of things I have to fall back on when things get dicey again, as I know they will. I remember reading through my journals for previous books while I was writing RotGK and finding the same fears. But every time I sidestepped the truth with the claim that "this one is different." Well, it may be the book itself is different, and it may be that I am different, and the time is different, but the gift is the same and so is my Lord. Maybe on this next time I will really remember that.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Passion of the Christ

Over the weekend a group of us gathered together to watch The Passion of the Christ as a prelude to our Resurrection Day celebration. Afterward we talked about it, and agreed that the whole time you're watching it, you're thinking doctrine. ("Doctrine" referring to the principles of the word of God that we have learned.) In celebrating Communion, part of the purpose is to bring into remembrance Jesus's spiritual death on the cross, His victory over Satan, and His Resurrection. Even though I wish every time that the movie would have brought in the deep supernatural darkness that covered the hill from noon to three when He was actually bearing the world's sins, it still does a phenomenal job of bringing what He did to remembrance. It gives you a visual picture, a taste of the fact that this was a real event, that this person was a real person, a real man who, because I have believed in Him, now lives inside me. Even as He's seated at the Father's right hand in heaven.

To think that it really happened, and that He did it for me is worthy of extended contemplation. As is the fact that everything in the movie still isn't as bad as it actually was (his face totally disfigured beyond even looking human, his clothing stripped away, his beard plucked out) or as bad as the last three hours of the ordeal, when he was being made sin for us on that cross.

To think He went through all that using the same power available to me now as a church age believer (the power of the Holy spirit, the power of the word...) is mind-boggling. It shouts of the need to take our spiritual lives very seriously, and not to squander the power we've been given.

To ask yourself if, after someone pays that kind of price to buy you out of a slave market, would you, the moment you stepped out of that market and into his possession, then run off on your own initiative gathering flowers to give him as thanks? Or rush about telling others what he's done? You're a slave. You aren't supposed to be running around. You're supposed to be with your master, whom you barely even know at that point.

Shouldn't you, if you are truly grateful for what He's done and aware that you are a slave, bought at a terrible price - shouldn't you want to focus on him intently to see what kind of man he is? What his likes and dislikes are? What he wants you to do? And only then go off to do his bidding?

Since He's invisible to us now, and we have only His word as our visible means of contact, doesn't it make sense to focus on what He said in it? All of it? If He is the creator and ruler of the Universe, and all other areas of study and inquiry into the workings of that Universe (physics, astronomy, biology, mathematics, etc.) are complex, big and full of hidden truth, doesn't it seem logical that the Bible is even more so? Something more worthy of greater study than any other discipline known to man? Indeed, how could there be any area more complex, more mysterious, more difficult to grasp, yet more vital to our lives, than the study of who God is and what He'd done for us?

And, no matter how excited or grateful one might feel, to run off immediately after salvation with the intent of doing great things for Him puts the cart before the horse. His thoughts are not ours, after all. What if your great things not what He wants?

In fact, I don't believe that is what He wants. He is the one who does the great things. We are the ones who receive them. We have to have the humility to realize that we don't know very much about Him, especially right after salvation. And just relying on what we think or what others might tell us, without looking to see if His word agrees seems a dangerous course of action to me. It presumes much that should not be presumed.

Hence the need to sit down and study His word from someone who can teach you -- your pastor who was given to equip the saints for the work of service. You study and wait until the Lord decides you're ready and moves you out into whatever area of service He has for you. And even then, it's Him who does the great things. Not us. As we are saved so we walk -- by faith, not by sight, not by the law, not by works.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Resurrection Sunday

It's interesting how much attention Christmas gets compared to how much is given to the celebration of our Lord's Death and Resurrection. Is it truly more amazing that God the son, creator and ruler of the universe left his throne to come to earth to take on the form of a man -- a baby, no less -- than it is He should, as a man grown, allow other men, fallen men to distort laws He had given them, unjustly arrest and try Him, then beat Him until He no longer even looked human and finally nail Him to a cross like a common criminal? He knew exactly what He was getting into. He knew who He was and who they were. He didn't have to do it. He could have refused, could have refused in eternity past when the plan was drawn up. But He didn't.

He came, He lived and He died a horrible death, naked before everyone, and like a lamb before his shearers is dumb he opened not his mouth -- until those last three hours on the cross when darkness covered Calvary and the sins of the world were poured out on Him and judged by the Father. It wasn't His physical death that saved us, it was His spiritual death there on that cross in those three hours, when he was made sin for us and separated from His Father for the first time ever.

How do I know that? Becuase after all the torture He'd endured that day, it was the first time He screamed and the original language says He kept on screaming. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Because when it was over, while he was still on the cross and he was still physically alive, He said "Tetelestai!" It is finished, with the result that it keeps on being finished forever.

What He suffered for us we can't really even comprehend, save that it was worse than any suffering any man has ever endured. With it, He bought our freedom from sin and our entry into eternal life with Him, while we were still His enemies. If only we'll believe in Him.

That's the promise of the Resurrection.

Happy Resurrection Sunday to all of you!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Adventures in Computering

Yesterday I signed and packed up books, took them to the post office, dropped bookmarks off at the Christian bookstore and met my friends for lunch. Today I hoped to get back to work on Black Box, right after I wrote a quick first draft of my long overdue newsletter, and answered a bit of my once again lengthy backlog of emails. Alas...

Sometimes life is like a treasure hunt. You set out to find one thing and go on this convoluted trip through all sorts of other stops you never envisioned. I did indeed get down a rough draft of the newsletter, though first I had to download Textpad since it hadn't made the jump from my old computer to my new one.

That went off fine, but then, since my newsletter was going to link to an excerpt of Return of the Guardian King, I thought I'd better find one and get it posted on my website. But first I needed to compose a webpage for that book, which I hadn't done yet. So I got those done, no problem and then realized that in addition to Textpad, I also hadn't installed my ftp uploading software on the new computer.

The old program was on a disk, but for some reason wouldn't install on the new computer. So I went looking for another program, downloaded it, and began the task of trying to figure out how to use it. That's the experience that makes you feel something like a chimpanzee, pushing buttons here and there and suddenly something works but you have no idea what exactly, or why. I got the relevant pages uploaded (there were about five in the end) only to discover that the two most important ones had all their links corrupted. And after I painstakingly corrected them all, the excerpt refused to upload...

Frustrated, I finally went back to the disk with the old familiar program again, clicked on something I didn't think would lead to anything and discovered I could actually use it right off the disk, without having to install it. So that's what I did. I had to go back and fix all the corrupted links but once done, the old, familiar ftp program uploaded them just fine. After that it was time to go to the Y.

Oh, and for some reason Feedblitz is not sending out my posts this week, so I also spent some time trying to figure out why. I never did. And when I clicked the Feedblitz link to "contact us" I found myself faced with yet another wizard wanting to help me set up Windows Outlook on my computer so I could email Feedblitz. I don't use Windows Outlook, and didn't know the answers to the questions the wizard was asking me, so I just closed it and wrote to them through Windows Mail. Naturally there has been no response, and the irrational part of me fears it's because I refused to use Outlook.

So, after all that, I got no work done on Black Box. Oh well... There's always tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Scientific Study of the Sin Nature?

Awhile back my friend Ed Willett did a column on why people resist doing what they are told. No one, it seems, likes to be told what to do. Especially if they don't see any good reason to do it. On the other hand, I do think sometimes people do like being told what to do, because then they don't have to think about what they're doing. But it doesn't take much to get them not to want to do what they're told.

Psycologists, says Ed, call this "reactance," and it generally happens when we perceive a rule or restriction as unfair. Recent research at Duke University shows this emotional and sometimes irrational "reactance" can be triggered even when we're unaware of it. But rather than quote from Ed's article, I'll simply send you over to it:

Why Won't You do what You're told?

I think it's endemic to our nature. The original sin of the original sinner was not eating fruit, but going off on a course independent from God's. I speak of Satan, of course, though basically that's what the woman did as well. And the man. All three decided that God's plan stunk and their own was much better. To a large degree that same mindset plagues us all, still, though we are very good at hiding it, camouflaging it, rationalizing it, or maybe, as in the experiment mentioned in Ed's article, not even realizing it. We have sick heads, deceitful hearts, we don't know our own motives half the time, and we are more than capable of carrying a lie in our right hand (the hand of power) and without even knowing it. Look at the Laodicean believers: they thought themselves were rich and wealthy and in need of nothing and did not know they were poor and wretched and miserable and naked. That's quite an indictment of self-evaluation! At least self-evaluation apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit and the truths of God's word.

Something to think about...


Monday, April 02, 2007

True Wealth

One of the things that struck me on the Garden Tour last weekend as we were driving amongst the foothills mansions on Tucson's north side, was that as a child of the king I really wasn't as out of place there as might appear. The mansions' owners, on account of their great wealth, had surrounded themselves with beauty, luxury, security and ease. Whether I ever have that kind of lifestyle in my life on earth or not doesn't really matter, because I know that in not too many years I will have it forever. What is heaven but the ultimate in being surrounded by beauty, luxury, security and ease?

And in heaven we can be assured of enjoying it, while on earth, now in these fallen bodies, that is often not the case. Even if we were given a mansion and all the beautiful things that go with it -- fine furniture, koi ponds, soaring windows, cactus gardens full of exotic African plants -- after awhile we'd become familiar with them, and would gain little more pleasure than I get from finding new buds on my lemon tree after it froze so hard this winter, or from settling into my very comfortable bed at night, or curling up on the not-so-lavish -- but comfy -- couch with a good book.

Those wonderful things are pleasurable, but really only for a season and only in a limited manner. When troubles come, as they always do , all that luxury and beauty really won't bring peace or happiness. But as children of the ruler and creator of the universe, the Papa who owns all the gold and all the silver and the cattle on a thousand hills, we can have something far greater -- the mind of Christ. A mental attitude that finds beauty, luxury and peace in every day that comes along, and that's better than any wealth the world can offer.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

2007 Garden Tour

Every year about this time, my mother and I spend a Saturday attending the Tucson Botanical Gardens Home Garden Tour. There are usually from 7 to 8 homes sprinkled about the city that have been selected as part of the self-guiding tour, and they span the gamut from low cost to high, whimsical to contemporary, low-water use to lush and tropical. It's always a fun time, seeing all the different ways people have designed their gardens, both for beauty and for food.

The picture above is from the first house we visited which boasted an incredible cactus garden on a patio/veranda overlooking spectacular views of the city and the mountains. You can get a partial sense of that view from the picture at right.

This year's tour was one of the best we've been on. In fact, because of a usage conflict I had to bring a regular film camera and ran out of film in the front yard of the third house. Unfortunately that was also the one whose owners had transformed the back yard swimming pool and spa into a koi pond.

I had no idea how mesmerized I would be with those fish. They were huge! At least two feet long -- about 17 of them, many of them award winning fish -- and obviously quite weighty. They were drawn to people standing at the pool's edge, weaving back and forth through the water in an intricate dance with a powerful, even regal sort of grace. Mostly they were red-orange and white but there was also among them a golden one. I've read enough about the magical and rare golden carp that it had to have been added on purpose. After I'd stood there awhile, the owner came up and offered me a couple of handfuls of food to feed them with. Boy was that a kick, watching them rise out of the water with gaping, toothless mouths to shovel up food and water both.

I got no pictures of the koi, but I did get at least get a couple of the hedgehog type cactus (echinocereus) blooming near their front driveway. (The huge pink and yellow flowers in the shot at left)

At a different house, I got a big kick out of this entryway with a bright red gate and bright blue post foundations (there has to be a better name for those -- pilons?) Inside is a quiet courtyard with chairs, fountain and flowers. Oh, and the front door, too.

The weather was beautiful (as must be obvious from these pictures), and we had a fine time. You'll be seeing more shots from the various gardens from time to time in this blog. For now I'll end with this shot of the mountains to the north of Tucson, the Santa Catalina's (where a 40 minute drive takes you from saguaros and paloverde trees to aspen and spruce). Note, in particular the cloudless blue sky!