Thursday, May 31, 2007

Birds of a Different Feather

I took this photo last winter when we were walking on the beach in Long Beach. I think the bird is a Least Sandpiper, and I have been completely captivated by sandpipers for several years now, ever since I was walking along another California beach watching the different shore birds.

There were the sea gulls sitting in ranks along the surf, sleeping or else soaring overhead. There were the longer-legged sandpipers (Willets? Yellow-legged sandpipers?) who waded out into the water to probe with their long beaks and feed. And then there were the small sandpipers, who ran in little groups, hunched over like little old men, though I've never seen little old men move as fast as these fellows. Their little legs working like mad they would scurry away, just ahead of the incoming crest of a dying wave, then as it stopped and receded they would scurry back, stopping here and there to poke their beaks into the sand and scoop up whatever tasty treat had risen to the surface under the wave. Then the next wave would come in and off they'd go, running madly to stay ahead of it. Should it have caught them, they would have been set afloat, I think, for their legs were little longer than the water was deep. None of them did get caught, however, for they always flew away before they would let that happen.

I walked and I watched the birds, the two kinds of sandpipers, the gulls and even a flight of pelicans, and I thought how each kind was different. How each kind was specifically made to fit into the niche God had planned for it. Sandpipers could not dive into the ocean and scoop up fish in beak pouches like pelicans could. Pelicans would never be able to move their legs as fast as the little sandpipers to escape the waves. Neither of them needed to. Instead, they were precisely suited to the life and environment and activities that God had decreed for them.

So it is for us. Not quite so obvious, perhaps, but nevertheless true, and maybe even in a wider sense, I think. We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, inclinations and aversions. Part is genetic, part is learned. But we are all different and unique. The world too often tries to make us all alike -- as people, as Christians, as women, as writers -- but I believe it is God's plan for us to find out who we are in Him, and live joyously in that.

So once again, I'm looking at who God has made me to be, cycling back over old ground to have another look, seeing things I didn't before, and having the things I did see reinforced with time and added information. Yes, I really am the way I thought I was. And some things I thought were flaws, really aren't. They'd just characteristics, part of who I am. Recognizing that, as well as who and what I am not, is extremely useful in guiding me toward what I believe God is calling me to do. And not do.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Restorer

My friend Sharon Hinck's fantasy novel The Restorer, first in the Sword of Lyric series, released the fifteenth of May. I mentioned her book in a previous blog when I spoke of how I had "met" her. She wrote to me about Arena and attending the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference (of which I had a bit to say!). We started up an email correspondence and about six months later she asked me to read her as yet unpublished fantasy manuscript for possible endorsement -- this at the urging of her then-agent.

She sent me the ms with many apologies and the caveat that she would fully understand if I deleted it unread. Even so, I was afraid. By that time we'd become friends. What if I didn't like it? Then what would I say? What would I do? I hate telling anyone that I didn't love their book, especially a friend who has said very kind things about my own work, but I have never been able to bring myself to lie about such matters either. And this time it was about an endorsement. For days I let the manuscript languish in my inbox, unread. Finally, I ran out of excuses to put it off, printed the thing up and dived in.

And was delighted to discover I enjoyed it. Enough to be able to endorse it pre-publication. Here's what I had to say:

“A compelling adventure, an engaging heroine, a unique and fascinating other world—The Restorer satisfies on many levels. Skillfully incorporating themes of faith, sacrifice and the power of words to deceive or deliver, Sharon Hinck has crafted a tale that resonates in both soul and spirit. A welcome addition to the expanding genre of Christian fantasy. Don’t miss it!”

And here's the back cover blurb:

Susan Mitchell needed a change--any kind of change. Nearly twenty years of marriage to her college sweetheart, Mark, had given her two teenagers and two grade-schoolers, along with miles of unmatched socks, sticky countertops, and the ever-growing hum of sheer bedlam. When had she become so . . . insignificant? Hadn't God once had a plan for her?

Well, at least Mark had a plan: for an attic hideaway free of iPods and science projects and cookie crumbs. But before Susan can finish her first journal entry, she finds herself pulled through a portal into a world grappling for its soul and waiting for a promised Restorer. Someone does have a plan for her--one she never would have imagined. While she struggles to adapt to a foreign culture full of unfamiliar technologies and taboos, she faces unexpected battles, mind-poisoning enemies, and a profound spiritual journey. Her adventure will forever change her family, her faith, and how she experiences love--from the One.

Find out more at Sharon's webpage where you can read an excerpt from it, watch the trailer, find out what others have to say about it, and check out some interviews of Sharon.

There are even links that will take you straight to to buy it, though I recommend that first you try to find it in your local bookstores. If they don't have it, ask to order it. That way they will know that there are people in their community who are interested in Sharon's books and will be more likely to stock them next time -- like when book 2 is released in September. Also they will know there are people in their community who are interested in Christian fantasy and again, will be more likely to stock other books of the same genre. You also get the chance to talk to the people in the stores about her books.

You can order it online, of course, from all the usual sources, but my preference is to try the local outlets first...

Finally be sure to check her blog for links to additional reviews, interviews and posts about the book and to find out about free bookmarks.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

What American Accent Do you Have?

This was fun. A friend sent it to me a few days ago and I only got around to taking it today. I love accents, even Northeast accents now that I've gotten used to them! But I always wondered what kind of accent others would think I had. I thought maybe I had no accent at all, and apparently, if you can believe this quiz... that's true.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Have a great day

P.S. The Kiriathan and King Fan Forum which has been temporarily offline, has been reopened.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Too Revealing Amazon Review?

Yesterday I discovered a new review for Return of the Guardian King on Amazon. It's a very nice review but unfortunately I think is a bit too revealing of major plot points. If you feel inclined, I'd welcome opinions on whether you agree with me. You may have noticed that I've turned off the comments (it's an experiment -- more on that later) but you can always reach me through the email address in my profile. Also there is a little button at the end of each review on Amazon called "Report this". I clicked it, but then a window opens with "Report this review as inappropriate" and another button to do so. That's as far as I went (I'm trying to get hold of the Internet Marketing manager at BHP but he is out of town for a week...)

Amazon's guidelines do ask reviewers not to reveal "crucial plot elements". If you believe this review does that, then I think it would be okay to report it as "inappropriate." Unfortunately, as I said, it is a very positive review overall. It's just better suited, I think, to discussions with friends or in book clubs where everyone has already read the book. I'm not sure if I'm overreacting or if it really would compromise a newcomer's reading experience.


Link Problems

Well, I just discovered the link to my All Time Favorite Books page didn't work. Funny, I thought I'd checked that. I guess not. I checked the html, and sure enough, it was cut off. So I completed the url of the webpage and republished. Still not working. Because it was cut off again.

Admittedly the names I gave my early webpages are not good ones -- unweildy and full of spaces which show up as %20 . Which means that link looks like this:'s%20

Yuck. But I make do. Until today, when I discovered that it kept cutting off at the apostrophe. I tried Karen Hancock's Writings. It still didn't like the apostrophe. Turns out even when it doesn't cut off at the apostrophe it won't take you to the webpage .. So I can't link directly to it.

As I said in the corrections of the last post, if you want to access my All Time Favorites Reading List from here (or, if you're on Feedblitz through the email you've gotten) you'll have to navigate through my site. Start at Click on Writings and then on All Time Favorite Books -- A List.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

All Time Favorite Books

Recently a reader asked me about doing a "top ten list of my favorite novels." Actually I've sort of done that on the All Time Favorite Books List posted on my website. Since Blogger does not like the name of my page and will not publish the link correctly, nor will it even publish the full, unembedded link you'll have to navigate through from the home page of my website. On the home page click on Writings and then click on All Time Favorite Books -- A List from there. (I really do need to redo my website...)

The reason I say "sort of" is because it doesn't include books I've read and enjoyed in the four years (or is it five?) that have passed since I posted that list.

Of course, part of the reason is that I haven't read as many books as I did before Life Under Deadlines. I've dropped from 30 books a year to about five. And it doesn't help that I like long books, so it may take me a month or more to finish one... by which time I've probably read the thing at least three times through on account of my weird way of reading books.

Fortunately, my all time favorites list includes books I've loved since adolescence, so there are quite a few to choose from. Not all of them are fiction, either.

I think I may devote this week to highlighting some of the books on that list and others that I've read and enjoyed since then.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

God's Timing

Recently I've been contemplating aspects of who and what God is... and the fact that, as Ephesians 1 tells us, He actually blessed us as His children even before he elected us. That means His first act toward me was to bless me, to give me the gift of His son, as well as many other blessings -- spiritual and temporal -- on deposit right now, waiting for me to acquire the capacity to receive them. Being perfectly just, He knows it wouldn't be fair to give me blessings I have no capacity for. Without capacity they wouldn't be blessings, they would be causes for misery and might even destroy my spiritual life. Or my life altogether.

But capacity or not, they are still there and that is very cool to consider: that there are incredible blessings I can't even imagine, incredible open doors just waiting ahead of me -- and ahead of every one of God's children -- to walk through.

Or how about the fact that God is outside of time, and so in eternity past He had an infinite amount of time to consider all the options and ramifications of those options and has chosen only what would be best for me specifically. And He's put all that into a perfect plan that is based on His perfect omniscience, His perfect love and justice and righteousness. And timing.

God always does the right thing in the right way at the right time. Always. He can never make a mistake and He has complete control over my life. There is not one detail that He does not know about and has not taken into account. In fact, many of the details -- the ones I enjoy and the ones I do not -- were specifically chosen to bring me to the place that I am now.

These are things a novelist can really understand. We do the same sorts of things -- though not perfectly, like He does -- with our characters!

And right now, these are things this novelist is really holding to her heart. Because I have become very aware of the fact that I am just a character in the novel of my life, the novel that God is writing. And like any character in a novel, I have no idea what is going to happen in the next chapter, the next scene, not even on the next page. Because unlike many human novelists, God is not a predictable plotter. We can't begin to guess what He has in store, only that it very likely won't be what we think it will be. Or even what we think it should be.

But that's because we have wormish little minds that don't really understand what life and reality and God Himself is all about. No matter. He will reveal this life and plan He has for me in His perfect timing, moment by moment, day by day. And all my anxiety and fussing and trying to force it is a total waste of time. Rather than try to peer into the future, I'll just relax and like a faithful reader, entrust myself to His very capable hands.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Being Idle

Weird. I found another nonstop written last year, just about this same time, that could have been written it yesterday. Or today...

"Okay, rather than just sit around staring out the window or at my notes, or getting caught up in yet another diversion/distraction... I will do this nonstop. I could go get coffee, but I won’t. I will do this. I have to be patient with myself. I know that. I recognize this stage. It’s the jittery, mind flitting everywhere stage. I have often wondered if I should use this time to work on something else, but I have never really been able to get myself to do that.

"Crocheting might be good. Or maybe just weird doodling, which I could do. Doodling and coloring in. But anything else? No. I don’t even want to read. And it disturbs me that the only things I can do are mindless, go-nowhere activities. If I try to clean house then I’ll start categorizing and organizing in my mind what else needs to be done and the order in which I’ll do it... and all thoughts of the book go out the window.

"I have read that one does need this time to do nothing. To be idle. Idle. I believe that means doing nothing. That was the word used. And here’s the dictionary definition:

"1) lacking worth or basis : VAIN, idle chatter, idle pleasure, 2) not occupied or employed. 3) not turned to normal or appropriate use, ie, idle funds; idle farmland 4) not scheduled to compete, eg, the team will be idle tomorrow.

"So yeah. If I’m doing housework, that’s not idle. If I’m crocheting that’s so mindless that it’s occupying, yet has no real value. Doodling, likewise. If I start trying to paint a picture, then I have direction, then my mind starts working hard... and it’s no good. It doesn’t work. Walking is okay. I don’t know about stretching. That’s not so good because there is a sequence I have to recall and then I’m no longer idle. I’m recalling and doing.

"That’s interesting. Sitting at the desk watching the birds is really and truly the kind of thing I need to be doing.

"But I've never been able to stand being idle. I always feel guilty about it. I guess I’m an achiever and I want to be achieving, and being idle is not achieving. But I obviously need it, because after the period of idleness when it seems that nothing is happening...the answers do emerge.

"So then what I'm saying is that I have a job where I’m supposed to be idle for some of the time?! Just drift around and be relaxed about that? Oh my.

"Well and here’s a thought from Bible class the other day: the Christian Way of Life is not about achieving and producing, but sitting and listening and submitting and letting the Lord do the work in His time. It is often about waiting through days upon days of small things. It is not about us doing great things for God or even seeking to “please” Him with our works and gifts and activities. It's about us using the power He’s given us through the filling of the Holy Spirit and the intake and applicaction of God's word so He can produce virtue in us and develop the capacity to receive the blessings He has for us. He is glorified when He gives to us, not when we "do" for Him.

"So... then... to sit idly; sheerly, completely, unabashedly idly... is not necessarily at odds with the concept of grace. I am very diligent and disciplined about taking in doctrine. And more, lately, about prayer. Also being filled with the Spirit. I am here, available to write, I’ve set up the schedule to do that. I’ve prepared myself... and I do tussle with the work.

"But I also often “squander” the time that I have doing idle things. And I know that I have always done this, all through my thirty-odd years of writing seriously. There are periods of time, sometimes days, when I cannot concentrate on the work itself for more than a few minutes and yet can’t seem to focus on anything else; when I often just sit and watch the birds. Maybe I should pay attention to this, note the consistent presence of this behavior and take it into account. I do it. Repeatedly. And at the end of the cycle, the new portion of the work always emerges.

"Pastor was also talking in that lesson about cycles. Highs and lows. Or in this case, productivity and non-productivity. Not really rest. Maybe partly rest and partly work beneath the surface. I’m in one now.

"I've just gone through a period of a lot of production, some related to writing, some related to life in general. And having come to the end of all that, I am inclined to be idle. To not go forward with any of the projects that I think are important – like cleaning the house, like getting this book written..."

The old nonstop ends here, but in reading through it I see that I'm at a stage in this book where again I have to do a lot of creating. What is the layout of the Institute? What does Lacey's room look like? What kind of relationship does she have with her roommate and her co-workers? What kind of schedule and organizational system does the Institute have with respect to who lives where and when? What about the service people? Where is the dining hall? Who all eats there?

Each question triggers more questions, all of which have to be considered with an eye to plot and character. It's not a small job. It's not even a linear job. So... I guess this weird, mind-flitting idleness is really not such a disaster after all. And the only thing I really needed to confess today was the self-condemnation for "letting myself" fall into it.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Trends of the Sin Nature

Last Friday night we watched Jet Li's Fearless, supposedly his final Chinese martial arts film. It's based on the true story of the legendary Chinese hero Huo Yuanjia, founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation. Watching Jet Li move is always fascinating, but the story, I thought, was a bit... heavy-handed, I guess. Nothing subtle about its themes or the moral it wanted to convey, but it did put me in mind of things I'd been learning in Bible class last week, and provided a good visual for the power of human good.

The concept of our sin nature has always been taught to me under the title "sin nature," perhaps to delineate it from the "flesh," which can refer to either the physical body alone or the nature within it that is set against God. In some ways, though, I think it's a misnomer, because sinning is not all the sin nature does. It can also produce good.

We know this because Isaiah 64:6 mentions our human good or righteous deeds as not only existing, but being utterly repulsive to God. It's difficult for us to imagine feeding the poor, being kind and compassionate to orphans (or anyone), giving generously to those in need, living a moral and outwardly sinless life, even throwing all one's emotions into "worshipping" God, as being repulsive, but that's what the verse says. All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags, or in a more direct translation of the Hebrew, stinky, gross menstrual rags. In other words, God is "grossed out" by our human good.

Revelation 20:12 says that all unbelievers will be judged not for their sins, but for their good works, their ergon, which will be set up against the perfect righteousness of God and found lacking.

2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us that all Christians' works will be evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ as to whether they are good or worthless. Will they turn out to be the highly combustible wood, haw and straw of I Corinthians 3:12-14 , or the gold, silver and precious stones? Fire will test the quality of each man's work -- quality determined by the power we used in performing them, either that of the Spirit and the word, or of our flesh. Works done in the flesh will be burned up, whereas works done in the power of the Spirit will be rewarded.

How can we know if we are performing human good or divine good? An excellent question. One not always easy to answer. I suspect there are many who are happily trucking along, believing they are doing great things for God when it's only human good. Because human good feels good and right. It is stimulating to operate in the strengths of the flesh, and to know that you have helped others out, or to believe that God is pleased with you.

Take self-discipline. It's a virtue that people admire. Supposed holy men of old renounced all their titles and possessions to take vows of poverty, depriving themselves of worldly pleasure and comfort in the quest to be "holy." People admired that because most would never do such things. The holy men could well have felt very good about themselves, about their great devotion, their commitment to God, their self-deprivation, the way they were so different from most people. They could also have enjoyed, perhaps somewhere deep in their hearts, the fact that others regarded them as holy and committed and spiritual, and they would have felt good and right about having fulfilled what they believed to be the standards for what is a holy and dedicated lifestyle.

But these are not things God requires of us. Self-discipline is part of the fruit of the Spirit, something God creates in us, not something we work at creating in ourselves. Though it is very definitely something many do work at improving -- Christians and non-Christians, both.

In fact, there are some who acted in a very similar way to these so called holy Christian monks: Gautama Buddha also gave up everything. At the age of 29 he renounced all his possessions, his titles and his family and went off in search of enlightenment. At one point he was only allowing himself to eat a nut or a leaf a day, and so collapsed from malnutrition. Eventually he adopted a more "balanced" form of self-denial and became "enlightened." Everyone regarded him as a holy man. As spiritual. He wasn't even a Christian.

It was all created solely by the strengths of his flesh.

Which brings me back to Fearless. Because the whole core of the "wushu" or fighting discipline that Jet Li's character pursued was seated in human good. The purpose is to make its practitioners better people. To discipline their minds, bodies and spirits. To bring them inner peace. To give them abilities which they should use to help others. It is a discipline, perhaps even a whole culture, based on the strengths of the flesh.

Which makes it very obvious that we have such strengths. And that they are perhaps an even greater temptation and distraction from the true Christian way of life than sin...


A Busy Weekend

We had a busy weekend, what with a young friend's graduation, a party afterward, church, Mother's Day celebrations and the weekend chores and other activities. By last night, having eaten a huge meal out at one of the Dude Ranches near Tucson, I was too tired to think of anything to post.

You may have noticed, though, that I now have a banner photo for my blog! On Saturday, I got the idea to check Blogger's layout page to see if I might put up an image and lo and behold it was as easy as uploading a photo to the posts themselves. So I fooled around with cropping one of the storm-cloud pictures I'd taken in my front yard last summer and that's the origin of the banner photo. I like it a lot.

And last night, while in stupor-mode, I also rewatched at last Wednesday's episode of Lost to see the face/person that shows up briefly in one of the later scenes. I thought I wouldn't like watching the show on my computer screen but it was really good. The picture was clear and once I get engaged in the story, my environs seem to fade from awareness. And the face... well, we froze it and fiddled around with it in powerpoint, making it a bit clearer and lighter, but we still can't agree on who it is. Is it Richard? A stranger? Guess we'll just have to wait til next week.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Muddled Phase

Photo by Noel Lee

Today I came across several nonstops that I'd done when I started Black Box several years ago. These quotes perfectly nail how I'm feeling now and it always seems to help when I reread about how I felt before:

“Gah! I hate all this muddled thinking I'm doing. Just completely mushed up and tangled. Nothing clear, nothing right. A mess. Ideas float in and out. Who knows if they're any good? They sort of fit, but then need modification. I just don't know what I'm doing. It all feels like a stupid idea, I should just give it up and go write something simpler. But . . . I do recall feeling this way about Arena. And about Eidon, for that matter. So. Again, I must walk by faith. And again I am in the fog. Where I can't tell if I'm going forward or backward, where I'm going, if I'm actually going anywhere, or just in a circle.

“In fact, it's hard to even think about any of it. As I start to grope for it mentally, it seems to recede and fall into a jumble. I want to wrest it all into order, and yet there's nothing to hold onto. Not even a direction to head in.

“... urk and urk. Swirling again. Maybe I should just try and write it. I don't know. I guess I need to lie down or iron or something. Something constructive. Something besides just sitting here staring at the wall having half-formed thoughts flit in and out. It's maddening. Maybe I should just paint. Or clean or . . . but I don't want to do any of those. I want some order. I want a map. I want it now. I have to make it myself. My brain won't cooperate. "

[... and then my mind flits to something that is completely irrelevant but bothering me at the time.]

“Where was I? Trying to distract myself? Is this avoidance behavior? I don't know what to do. Sit and wait, or just try to make something emerge...

“Oh this is a waste. My brain is dust. Ash. Urk and urk. And urk. So many distractions. I am becalmed again. There seems to be an awful lot of that. I need to rebound and ask for guidance because there doesn't seem to be any... Maybe I shouldn't be waiting for some great surge of "it's right!" Maybe I should just look at what I've got and go with it, whether I feel good about it, or not. Just do the plan I have.”


“Okay, I was frustrated, angry. I have need of patience. I need to trust Him to provide and to be content in whatever state I find myself. And if that state is in not finding the lost object --AGAIN -- then that is what I will be content with. Or not finding the answer. That's what it is. It's not an object, it's an answer. An understanding. And I haven't found it. And I feel as if I should be able to find it now. Immediately. But I can't. I look inside and only incoherent thoughts fly by. Not even floating anymore, more like whirling, breaking apart, joining with others and breaking apart. Maybe that's what's going on. I don't know. Maybe I should just give it up and iron. But I feel that I must get busy on this book. That I must be professional and work. That I must use my time wisely, when it seems all I do is write endless, worthless nonstops that get me nowhere.”

Well, maybe not worthless in retrospect. Repeatedly rediscovering them and then going through the same process again is starting to beat the fact into my thick head that maybe this muddled experience REALLY is a part of the process, just like the books say and my experience indicates. And that trying to force things isn't going to work so I might as well give that up and relax.

I did finish up the scene in Ch 1 I was working on and move on to reading and editing Ch 3.

Have a great weekend and Happy Mother's Day to all the readers out there who are moms.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thoughts on Time

I came to Blogger tonight having no idea what I should write. Today went weirdly. I made a small bit of progress on Black Box, organizing my notes, thinking about the next step, etc. I even typed up a page of culled notes -- and then was called away from the computer. When I returned hours later, I was in a hurry to close all my files and ended up deleting the new one without saving.... Oh well..

Anyway, here I sat blankly, praying about what to post tonight and I got the idea to look through some of the files I've made of potential blog posts and came upon these notes on time from one of my Bible Classes. They represent a lot of where I am right now, and it was helpful to me to reread them, so I thought I'd share...

Many things we do in life are monotonous, wearisome, frustrating and difficult. They're exhausting and seem to be a waste of time. 'What am I doing for God in this?' We wonder. But we develop character and virtue and become better people when we accept the monotonous, frustrating and difficult and realize every day is a day God has given us and that everything we do can have meaning, purpose and definition.

Points about Time

1. Being rightly related to time means looking at time as a gift from the Lord. Every day God's saying, "I'm giving you another day."

2. Your attitude toward time should be one of respect. Not cynicism or carelessness. We're to number our days and redeem the time. Every day when you wake up you should thank God for giving you another day to be alive. We DON'T deserve it. It's grace that any of us live.

3. Life has no meaning if we mock and make light of the details of life. You get up, make the bed, shower... if you don't realize God has a Plan for you and He is allowing you to live on this earth to fulfill it, you will disregard the small things, the details of life.

Remember, angels are watching us. Are we contented people? When we are content with what we have, we reveal to the angels that we love God, that we trust God and even though we don't have everything that everyone else has, we still honor Him and respect Him.

God is observing how you do your job. In it you glorify Him by your attitude. He's not interested in how much we're doing for Him, how grand and glorious it is, but in our attitude as we do it.
There's more, but I'll save it for tomorrow. (Plus I need to go retype those lost notes.)


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thinking Blog Award

I wrote yesterday's blog entry a little too late in the evening, and as a result was a bit too silly with it in that I gave the wrong idea. Rebecca's selection of my blog as one of the five she was giving a Thinking Blog Award to, had nothing to do with how much my blog thinks, but rather that its contents often made her think. And I count that a high honor. Being amusing and entertaining is good, but causing someone to think is more important.

I say that because while I would never deny that emotions are an important and rich part of our experience here on earth, our lives should as a first priority be about thinking. Especially our spiritual lives. In fact, that's the whole point of our being left here after salvation for however many years: to bring our thinking around so that it reflects God's rather than the world's. His thoughts are not our thoughts, after all, His ways not our ways. But He's written the Bible so that we might see what His thoughts are, and that through learning them and making them our own, we might come to think like He does

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what the will of God is...

The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus Himself is said to be the Word, as well. It can't be an accident that the Bible and Jesus are given the same designation: "Word." Words represent thought. Truth is actually thought. (Though, to be sure, lies are thoughts and words as well...)

Proverbs 23:7 says "As a man thinks in his heart, so He is."

Jesus told us that where a man's treasure is, there his heart is also -- whatever is the thing he focuses on, spends the most time thinking about, spends his time and talent and treasure on, directs his energies toward... that's what his true treasure is.

The heart (kardia) in the New Testament is not the pump of the cardio vascular system, nor is it the seat of emotion. Rather it is the place where you do your thinking. The mind (nous), is the place where you understand things, but don't necessarily believe them. The kardia is where the thinking that matters occurs. This is where you act on what you believe. This is the real you -- your memory, your vocabulary, your standards, your conscience, your frame of reference, your deepest desires, your will. And this is the part of us that God wants to infuse with His thinking, His view of life and reality.

If you abide in My Word, then you are truly students of mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free... John 8:31, 32

Abide (meno) means abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand. It's a lifestyle. A lifestyle of thinking which then produces word and action, and to which emotion responds.

Thought is what brings a person to salvation. Thought is, at base, what life is all about.

So I am truly honored that at least one person out there finds that on occasion this blog causes her to think.


Monday, May 07, 2007

I've Been Tagged ... Twice

Today (It'll be "yesterday" by the time many of you read this) in the comments section on my last post, I learned that blogger Heather Hunt, (who wrote a very kind review of Return of the Guardian King for Title Trakk, parts of which have been used by Bethany House at their site and also on Amazon and CBD) had tagged me for Eight Random Facts about Myself.

Tagging is a phenomenon where a blogger writes up a list of some sort like "Eight Random Facts About Me" and then tags eight other bloggers to write up their own lists on that subject. They each then tag eight more bloggers. Kinda like those email forwards that tell you to forward this to ten friends or else your computer will blow up, a dog will come out to pee on it (my most recent experience with those) or you will have bad luck forever -- but without the threats. This is the first time I've ever been tagged...

Oh, wait, I was tagged before, but it was only in the process of looking around at the others who were tagged with me today that I discovered Rebecca Grabill had tagged me a week ago Sunday. Or, should I say -- ahem -- bestowed upon my blog a "Thinking Blog Award." I think that could be a post in itself. I didn't know my blog thought. Why doesn't it write itself then? I'm going to have to look into this, because really, when I have those hard days and end up with the turnip head, I think it would be very helpful if my blog could carry some of the load...

But nevermind about that. I discovered this very nice nomination/award/tag and through that learned that all this tagging activity is, in fact, a result of blog memes. Or maybe it is a blog meme. Or blog meme-ing

Or something.

The word meme, though, caught my eye because I'd been reading about it in an article on Richard Dawkins a few weeks ago in Wired Magazine on the New Atheists (out to do away with religion -- yet another post.) It also caught my eye because it linked to Wikipedia where I could read more about these memes. (For some reason in the US the word meme is pronounced "mem") The word "refers to a unit of cultural information which can propagate from one mind to another in a manner analogous to genes. Examples would be tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothes fashions, ways of making pots, or of building arches. A meme, [said Dawkins], propagates itself as a unit of cultural evolution and diffusion -- analogous in many ways to the behavior of the gene.

So these little cultural units -- blogger lists -- are now propogating themselves about the blogosphere. Thank you to Rebecca for the kind notice that my blog thinks, and also to Heather for the prompting to post Eight Random Facts about Myself. Eager to play, I wrote out my list before I realized I hardly read any other blogs (which is why I missed out for a week on the Thinking Blog post). Of those I do, most were also tagged along with me. Which means I can't tag them.

So that means I can't play, unless I start randomly tagging folks who comment here and that doesn't seem the thing to do (especially since there's a curious corrolation between them and the others who have already been tagged). But I do have this list I made, so I guess I will content myself with posting it without further tags (this, alas is the same fate that meets many of those threatening, cajoling, bribing emails that find their way into my inbox. They almost never get forwarded, I don't copy out all the names into a new message and add mine to the end and send it to ten friends and I don't care what threat an email hangs over me, I probably won't pass it on.

Do you have to post the tagging rules if you're playing outside the bounds? No.

Thus, without further ado, Eight Random Facts About Me:

1. I share my office with a bearskin (complete with head and claws) and a rattlesnake skin.

2. I've hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and up again all in one day (Kaibab down, Bright Angel up -- something like 21 miles. I've forgotten the exact figure).

3. I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and love it! My dream car. In fact, driving a Jeep was one of my criterion for a mate! My husband actually drove a Toyota Land Cruiser at the time. I decided that would do, but now that we've moved on to Jeeps, I'm happy.

4. I've had one of my favorite paintings accepted into the Rocky Mountain National Watercolor Exhibition in Denver and it sold. A bittersweet blessing, since I got the prestige of getting in but lost the painting itself.

5. I've been bitten by a grebe. Also a seagull and a scoter...

6. While we were homeschooling, my son and I dissected a cow's eyeball. The retina is really cool -- opalescent like abalone shell! I was quite excited, but he thought the whole thing was slimy and gross.

7. I once lived in an apple orchard and sold apples. Also made apple pie, apple butter, applesauce, apple bars, apple jelly, dried apples, apple bread, apple salad, apple crisp and during one very long day, gallons and gallons of apple cider.

8. I used to think mothering was the hardest job I ever did but now I think it's writing. I don't remember ever getting as drained from mothering and homeschooling as I do from writing. Or maybe I'm just getting old...

9. (Yes, I know it said 8, but I'm not following the rules, remember?) I think I have a broken toe. The fourth one on my left foot which I jammed full speed into the doorjamb about three weeks ago and is still red and swollen and hurts far more than it ought to when I move it wrong.

So much for that. But if any of you are inclined to post 8 Random Things About Yourself on your own blogs, even without being tagged, leave a comment so we can go read it!


Sunday, May 06, 2007


Well, though I had hoped to write a rough draft of the end of the second scene in Chapter 1 over the weekend, I didn't. But I got the laundry done, and went to the Y, and read Golden Fool (stayed up way too late last night doing it, too. Again.). Today was Communion Sunday (great message on forgiveness) and the pot luck. We had friends show up that we hadn't seen in ages so it was pretty exciting.

After that I came home to... deep breath... download the Norton Removal Tool, remove all the Symantec products currently installed on my computer and then reinstall the full program that I bought three months ago after I had that lengthy conversation with the tech support people at HP. My virus update subscription had expired and it was time.

It took me about six hours all together, I think (largely because I decided to try installing it without removing everything first, which was a waste of time.) But it's done. Next will be to tackle the switch to a new newsletter service.

I also made chocolate chip cookies. And did the ironing. And finished up some Mother's Day cards. Tomorrow I have a couple of routine lab tests that will take up the afternoon, but I'm hoping to make some good progress in the morning. I have the scene mapped out and only intend to write a rough sketch of it -- I'm not even sure I'll keep it. It might only be that I need to write it, to see how the story is going, and that once it's written I can delete it. We'll see.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Coming Together

After several seemingly disjointed days, where it appeared I was making no progress and being very undisciplined, things began to come together a little today on Black Box. I have two sequences of backstory in my hero's life to get worked out and I feel like they're very close to being there. It's weird how for several days I just felt blank, and everytime I tried to work, the next thing you know I'd be doing something else. Then, today, snatches of scenes and ideas began to emerge.

At least for the most part my "something else" was reading and researching. My topics have been varied and weird, one of them the Nazca lines in Peru. I didn't even know what they were called two days ago and had to Google "ancient lines in South America." Turns out they're actually "geoglyphs" made by the Nazca peoples between 200 BC and 700 AD.

The virtually windless Nazca Desert where they lie is one of the driest on earth and maintains a temperature of 77 degrees year round. Which is the only reason they've survived since they are just dug a few feet down into the sand and would have been long gone by now in any other environment. There are hundreds of figures, some of them geometric shapes and lines, some, like the monkey above, fanciful figures. They are huge -- some as much as 900 feet in length -- and none can be recognized as anything coherent except from the air.

The biggest question about them is why they were made and the article on them at Wikipedia gives the various theories -- from labyrinth-walking religious paths to landing strips for alien space craft to designs to delight the eye of God (full solar eclipse) that appeared in the sky over that portion of the world a number of times during the lines' creation.

And that's only one topic of those I've been reading. Others have been Cimmerians, Dolichocephaloids, Tihuanca, Army Special Forces, Genetic diseases, and methods of collecting DNA from a crime scene... No wonder I've felt somewhat fragmented of late...

Have a Great Weekend,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I am what I am

More from Peter Elbow's Writing Without Teachers:

"The habit of compulsive, premature editing doesn't just make writing hard. It also makes writing dead. Your voice is damped out by all the interruptions, changes and hesitations between the consciousness and the page. In your natural way of producing words there is a sound, a texture, a rhythm -- a voice -- which is the main source of power in your writing. I don't know how it works, but this voice is the force that will make a reader listen to you, the energy that drives the meanings through his thick skull. Maybe you don't like your voice; maybe people have made fun of it. But it's the only voice you've got. It's your only source of power. You better get back into it, no matter what you think of it. If you keep writing in it, it may change into something you like better. But if you abandon it, you'll likely never have a voice and never be heard.

Freewritings are vaccuums. Gradually you will begin to carry over into your regular writing some of the voice, force and connectedness that creep into those vacuums."
For some time God has been dealing with me in regard to issues of self-esteem. We cannot love our neighbor until we love ourselves. But what it means to love self is something that I'm only gradually coming to understand. It is a love that is independent of how others see us or treat us, and also independent of our performance.

One image that I picked up along the way is that of my dog. When he was out in the park, running, sniffing, peeing... just glorying in being alive and wholly unconcerned with what others thought of him. He was jubilantly being himself.

We are too often concerned with how others see us (and others too often make a point of informing us). Instead of just being who we are and doing what we do, we worry that there will be those who will not like it. But God's word says I am what I am by His grace. My voice, my personality, my likes and dislikes, my opinions... they are mine, and they are such by His grace. They are, at core, what He's made me to be.

Yes, sin distorts who we are, but so does the cosmic system. So does the bondage that others force upon us. It's weird how on one hand we all want to be special. But on the other, special means different, and different is often very hard, especially if we're with others who don't like "different." How many people cave with regard to speech, dress, activities, likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc, because they just don't want to be different? Being different often means being alone. Having opinions that are not widely embraced, means having them alone.

I see I'm getting off track from what I originally meant to say. Which was that we must accept ourselves for who we are as God made us to be -- in the way we speak or act or talk, in how we look, in how we dress, in what we like to read or write or do -- regardless of others' opinion of that. To be able to respect others and love them and still hold on to yourself for who you are, still be comfortable in who you are, is part of maturity -- both natural and spiritual. Maybe especially spiritual.

One time my pastor had just given his opinion on some matter I no longer recall, then said, "And please don't come up to me after service and give me your opinion. I value my opinion over yours." It shocked me because I think almost all my life I've lived in bondage to others' opinions. They were regarded practically as sacrosanct. One was not allowed to ignore them! And certainly you couldn't value your own opinion more than that of others! But when he said that, and all those thoughts poured into my head, for the first time I questioned them. Why can't I value mine more than others? In fact, isn't it just logical and even necessary that I do? I'm not going to be held accountable at the judgment seat before my Lord for anyone's opinion but my own...


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fountain of Sales

From Victoria Strauss & A. C. Crispin's blog, Writer Beware , commenting a week ago Sunday on the demise of the Amazon plog (publicity blogs). I just found this portion particularly amusing, which, if you have read my blog for long, will not be surprising. (With thanks to Ed Willett for steering me to this post)

"There's no true way to know if this stuff works--because these days, who's going to volunteer to be the test case, the writer who eschews the self-promotion rat race, the writer who doesn't cultivate a public persona, the writer who simply writes? (God, that sounds attractive.) In the harsh world of self-promotion, we're all snatching at straws, reading runes, casting spells, and chasing our own tails, hoping that each new opportunity--websites! Blogs! Plogs! MySpace! Podcasting!--will be the one that will absolutely, indisputably, undeniably work. We're all Ponce de León, tramping alien territory in search of the Fountain of Sales--and those who enjoy the process are just as lost as those who despise it (though no doubt they would say otherwise)."