Tuesday, July 31, 2007


One of the first things I learned from the new Bible studies my husband had discovered through a fellow teacher back when I was a new Christian, was that the word translated "yield" in the KJV of Ro 6:13 is translated "present" in the New American Standard. "...present yourselves to God..." The actual Greek word is paristemi and it means, according to Strong's Hebrew & Greek Dictionaries, to stand beside, that is, (transitively -- where it requires a direct object, like "yourselves") to exhibit, proffer (which means to offer something to someone else to take)... Hence the NASV translation, "present".

Basically it says stop giving your body over to the control of the flesh or the sin nature, but give it over to the control of righteousness. Okay. But how do you do that?

I already knew, as I said, about the difference between the indwelling of the Spirit (every Believer is indwelt by the Spirit at the moment of salvation, a state that can never be lost, regardless of experiential failure) and the filling of the Spirit (a temporary state where the Spirit controls the soul of the believer, and by extension the body, which can be lost via grieving or quenching the Spirit).

Ephesians 5:18 tells us to "be filled with the Spirit," and the verb tense indicates that this is a repeated experience. We have to keep on being filled, which implies that the filling can and is repeatedly lost. How? By grieving and/or quenching the Spirit (Eph 4;30; I Th 5;19), that is, by sinning, or by abandoning God's plan and power system to operate in our own.

The flesh, I was shown, does more than sin. It can also produce good works. And through a decision, usually unawares, to function in our own power to do something that is not what God would have us do, even though it's generally regarded as a "good" thing, we lose the filling of the Spirit. God's a gentleman, and when we insist upon taking the wheel, He freely lets us do so. That is quenching the Spirit. And once the sin nature has control of our souls, it won't be long before we commit a personal sin.

Ironically, it's the sin that allows us to most easily get back into fellowship. Because God has made a perfect provision for us to recover from sin through 1Jn 1:9 ("If we name and cite our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (the ones we know of) and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (the ones we don't know of)." Once we're "cleansed," the Spirit can move into that cleansed vessel and control it again. Pastor Thieme called that "rebound."

Why rebound? That's for tomorrow.


Monday, July 30, 2007


My last post about power outages and the filling of the Holy Spirit reminds me of an incident early in my Christian life. I'd already been a year under some fairly academic teaching, going through Lewis Sperry Chafer's Major Bible Themes in our Baptist college kids Sunday School, along with a home Bible study on Monday nights (in addition to the usual Sunday Morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening meetings) so I understood -- or at least had been exposed to -- the concepts of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit vs the filling of the Spirit, as well as the problem of grieving and quenching Him. And I'd been introduced to 1 Jn 1:9 by then, as well.

I'd gotten married and moved away and we were attending a small rural church in northern Arizona where a visiting pastor addressed the problem of yielding. We needed to yield ourselves to God, and not to sin, he said. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin," he quoted from Ro 6:13 (KJV), "but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." I was all for that. The question was, how? I didn't think, from all the ways I was sinning, and the problems I was having that I was properly yielded, but I wanted to be. I just needed to know how.

He said we should go home and write all our sins on a piece of paper, confess them all to God and then burn the paper. Then we'd be yielded. So I did that, and... nothing whatever seemed to have changed. I didn't feel any more yielded than I'd felt before, and soon I found I was still struggling with the same bad attitudes and problems... So that was a wash. I pled with God to show me how I was supposed to do this!

I'd say it was within a month and maybe less when He did just that. We had in the interim moved and my husband had just gotten a job teaching high school. About a week into the school year he met another teacher who hosted a home Bible study and we went. That was where I was first introduced to the recorded messages of R.B. Thieme, Jr and the method of teaching the Scriptures line upon line, exegeting from the original languages, looking at the historical setting at the time of writing (isagogics) and comparing scripture with scripture. One of the first things I remember getting really excited about was yielding. Finally here was someone who taught something that made sense! Something I could actually understand and carry out.

To be continued...


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Power Outage

Well, the huge storm that I reported on last week was nothing compared to what we had on Saturday. This is a picture of the blowing gusts of rain. It looked like fog but wasn't. I've never seen anything like it.

That happened when the storm first blew through from the west. There's even a scrap of our car canopy (shredded by the storm on Tuesday) there, which no doubt was blown out of one of the trees. We keep finding bits of it in various places. Something like 11 power poles snapped along one of the roads in Tucson on Saturday. That day, though the rain started violently, the storm didn't move on like they usually do. It just rained and rained all afternoon. Streets filled up, intersections flooded, all our dry riverbeds became rushing muddy torrents. Not surprisingly, there have been nonstop power outages.

Speaking of those, after my rainbow post a friend from Texas emailed me with the most wonderful observation.

"Since my house is all electric," she said, "like you there is not much that one can accomplish without the flow of electric current."

When she said this I immediately thought of the spiritual life -- which she mentioned in the next line as well. What a perfect line to analogize getting back into fellowship after we sin! As believers our houses are "all electric" and there isn't a thing we could accomplish without the flow of the Holy Spirit... I love it!

And while during a power outage you give thanks for all the service people that jump to the task of getting the power back online, we in our spiritual life can give thanks that Jesus died on the cross for every sin we'd ever commit so that all we have to do is turn on the switch. We create our own power outages, reacting to circumstances or people in life, and Jesus already did the grueling work that allows the power to go back on as soon as we're ready to throw the switch. Without it, our souls are as dark and useless as an all-electric house without power.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Getting Chipped

Last Sunday's paper had a front page article about how a year ago "Americans had, for the first time, been injected with electronic identifiers to perform their jobs..." These identifiers were glass-encapsulated microchips with antennas about the size of two grains of rice end to end*, that were embedded into their forearms by means of a large-gauge hypodermic needle. Called RFID's -- radio frequency identification -- they were in this case, a high-tech way of restricting access to vaults holding sensitive data, a step beyond key cards and clearance codes, more akin to retina scanners or fingerprinting. To gain access, the chipped employee need only pass his arm before the reader and the door opens.

I have no idea why the paper felt it needed to put this story on the front page, seeing as it's a year old, but I'm glad they did. I have seen the email photos of the chip that looks like a grain of rice*, and contains your identification information, medical records, and even a small GPS. I've also read how in other countries (notably Brazil) the children of wealthy people are being chipped to aid in finding them if kidnapped. Others with certain medical conditions are chipped so that their medical records can be accessed in short order should an emergency arise and the person be away from their usual doctors. (VeriChip is the FDA's approved chip for implantation in humans) Of course they've been chipping pets for years now, also to help find them should they run away.

The gist of the article is that the chipping of the two surveillance equipment company employees set off a firestorm of debate over "the proliferation of ever-more-precise tracking technologies and their ability to erode privacy in the digital age." That's a valid concern. Though the article said that the technology doesn't yet exist for chips to have global positioning transceivers in them so the government can pinpoint a person's exact location, 24/7, it's clear the chips can be tracked. So perhaps the transceivers can be put into the chips, and the government can locate someone who's missing, it just doesn't have the wherewithal to keep tabs on every citizen, all the time -- yet. For one thing, every citizen would need a chip, and we're still a good way from that happening.

However, it did say that thieves could make their own readers, aim that at people and pluck out their personal information from the chip in their arm.

And what about the fact that with chips embedded in a great deal of merchandise ("unbeknownst to many consumers, on a host of individual items at Wal-Mart and Best Buy") along with credit cards we can just pass before a reader, the technology is here for us to walk through the store, collect our purchases, flash the credit card and walk out the door. Only instead of a credit card, how about just flashing our hand before the reader so it can scan the rice-sized chip embedded under the skin? Or maybe, alternatively, it could be placed, oh, along an eyebrow, which would make it even easier, because then you wouldn't have to fool with the hand-reader, you could just pick up what you needed and walk out of the store, leaving the readers over the exit to handle your transaction. It could scan both purchases and purchaser all at one swipe. Pretty convenient, huh? No more standing in line...

There'd probably be a slight lump though, both on hand and on the brow. One that could be seen if looked for... though with today's fixation with tattooing and piercing, perhaps people wouldn't care. It might even be a status symbol at the start, a sign of the hip and the cool, the bar placed on the forehead right above the bridge of the nose where, as everyone knows, the third eye is supposed to reside. If the glass encapsulating the chip were colored, I wonder if it might even show through the skin. And what if the chip had a small light in it? Would that show up as well...? I will definitely be using this in Black Box!

When in history have we ever, EVER had the technology to do such things as would obviously and thoroughly fulfill such passages as Rev 13:16 - 17?
"And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

We truly live in exciting times!


*Grains of rice is a nice visual, but when I look at the paper's picture of the chip in actual size, it really looks more like a meal worm, or a maggot than grains of rice. And maggots are probably a more appropriate comparison! Unless you're trying to get people to like the idea of having a chip in their arm. LOL

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rainbow After the Storm

Tuesday night we had another big storm. It blew threw around five pm while we were doing Bible Class. About twenty minutes into class, lightning struck close and loud and the power went off. By then the wind was blowing like crazy (60mph gusts, they said) and the rain was pouring down along with marble-sized hail that was battering all the front windows of the house so hard I thought it might break them. We went out into the dining room to discover that the car canopy had within ten minutes been totally shredded!

Wow. I love these storms! They are amazing.

In half an hour it was over, but the power didn't come on for three and a half more hours. I was amused to find how much of a hole no power makes in one's life. Suddenly all the things you were thinking of doing that night... you can't. And furthermore, everything you think of doing now, with the power off, you realize you can't do! (Which is why I had no post for Tuesday.)

At first I went outside where it was still light, and also cool, fresh and still sprinkling. I wrote in my journal for awhile as the rain stopped and that's I saw the rainbow (above) -- it was a full rainbow arcing over our street, so perfectly the street seemed to be heading straight into it. Unfortunately I couldn't get both the street and the rainbow in the camera's viewfinder, so I opted for the rainbow and took two pictures (see above) You can see the light pole on the right side of the left picture and it's light fixture protruding from the left side of the right picture. Pretty cool.

Later, when it got dark, I went inside and listened to Bible class on my Mp3 player, and realized... I can't cook my dinner! The microwave doesn't work. LOL. We are SOOO spoiled! Anyway, I put on a headlamp, ate peanut butter and jelly and started reading Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which is partly relaxation and partly research.

Speaking of, I've gotten stuck on the second scene in Chapter 7, working my way through it very slowly. Today everything just went blank, so finally I gave up and did other things... Maybe tomorrow I'll move it to the point I can at least leave it. Crichton's book is actually quite timely in its descriptions of a couple of things.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Huge Storm

All the highs and lows and moisture pulls have lined up and our monsoon is now in full swing. We had a huge storm last night (Saturday). The wind was blowing like crazy and the rain was coming down fast. They said our area got 1.23 inches in twenty minutes. "Coming down" is a bit of a misnomer, though, since the rain was blowing horizontally. I'd have taken a picture but all the windows were streaming with water and the visibility wasn't too great even apart from that. The back and front yards became lakes and the street was a river.

My husband was flying in from LA, due to arrive at 8pm with the storm in progress at our place at 7:45 and moving directly for the airport. Our county was under a severe thunderstorm watch, and also an urban and small stream flooding advisory. As it turned out, the plane was diverted to a holding pattern over the Tucson Mountains to the west and didn't land for half an hour. When my husband finally got on the ground and back in the car -- all the power was out. That means there were no stoplights, and not enough police to cover them all.

He had thought to stop at a fast food place to pick up dinner on the way home, but all the places he'd had in mind were dark and powerless. Finally he found an El Paso, northeast of our house and got carry-out. Turns out about 18,000 customers lost power in the storm. Our house seemed to be part of an island where the power had not been knocked out. Most likely because I was in the middle of listening to Bible class when the storm hit. LOL!


PS. The picture is from today, not part of the storm on Saturday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Seven Lost Wonders

Yesterday I wrote about how no work of man lasts forever save what Jesus did on the cross.

Today I present an example of that reality. Recently an online poll to select the new seven wonders of the world was held and on July 7 the winners were announced. The reason seven new wonders of the world had to be chosen is because of the old seven wonders, only one of them remains.

Now called the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, they are, in chronological order...

The Great Pyramid of Giza in Memphis Egypt, tomb of the Pharoah Khufu (see photo above) This was built around 2650-2500 BC

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- built by Nebuchadnezzar on the banks of the Euphrates

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia -- a statue of gold and ivory forty feet tall housed in a temple (amusingly, the sculptor Pheidias, had to contend with critics. They disliked that he'd sculpted Zeus seated with his head so close to the roof because it gave "the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple.")

The Temple of Artimis at Ephesus - renowned as the most beautiful structure on earth, built to honor the Greek goddess of hunting, wild nature, and fertility

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus -- a wonder of architecture and sculpture in Bodrum, Turkey

The Colossus of Rhodes -- a 100 foot tall statue of the Greek God Helios made of iron and bronze (about 3/4's the height of the Statue of Liberty) and once guarding the entrance to the harbor of the Greek island of Rhodes.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria -- A tower on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt. At 383 - 450 ft "it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries."

Ironically it's the oldest of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza,that still remains. The other six have been destroyed, all but one by earthquakes. The Temple of Artemis was destroyed by a fire.

To see some pictures and learn more about the old wonders, check out this page of paintings by Mario Larrinaga.

Have a great weekend

P.S. To see what the 7 New Wonders of the World are, click HERE.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Grace and Peace

Recently I mentioned our Pastor has been speaking on God's laws for prosperity and keeping Him first. Well, last Sunday our lesson was taught by a man who has recently come to the realization that he has the gift of pastor teacher and will be going up for ordination next year. He continued on the theme of God's Laws for Prosperity, and one thing that stuck in my mind is that His laws are unlike the way we've always done things. We fixate, for example, on the need for money, for supporting our family, for working hard because it's "right," for success, for material things, all at the expense of time with the Lord or fulfilling His calling on our lives.

Yet the Bible says we have to put Him first. He has promised to provide for the family. Food, shelter and clothing are guaranteed to the believer who is living and advancing in God's plan for his life. If we are to live in that truth, we have to change the way we do things. We have to do things, handle our finances and our lives in ways we've never done it before.

So as I was reflecting on writing and also on my new hobby of making hand-stamped greeting cards, it occurred to me that as a Royal Ambassador, part of my calling is to bring beauty and blessing into other's lives. That's what art does. And yet for a long time I've believed that to do something like that for pleasure -- others' pleasure and my own -- is not enough.

I think this is definitely something that is put forth by the world's system of thinking, and one that many hold, or at least behave as if they hold, whether they claim it as a belief or not. You can't just make a card and send it to someone and through it give them only a moment's worth of pleasure. You can't just write a book and have someone enjoy several days worth of pleasure from it. No. That's not enough. The world system (at least part of it) says that you must acquire money or fame or approbation. You have to 'impact' lots of people. Not just twenty or ten or one. It has to be in the hundreds of thousands or you are viewed as a failure, by others and perhaps by yourself as well. Your books have to stay around for decades. Centuries even, not go out of print in five years.

This is a viewpoint I have held to for a long time. One the Lord has slowly been clearing out, a piece at a time. I think that's why I like the cards.

Before when I painted watercolors, I felt they had to be saved. They had to be matted, framed, displayed in a gallery and sold. They should be exhibited in shows. But cards, why...you just make them, as pieces of art, and you send them to someone, and the someone enjoys them and if they think no more of it than that, if they throw it away, it will have done its work. I like that. There's a great freedom in it. And I especially like it because it reminds me that everything we do in this life on earth is temporary. No work will ever last save that which was done on the cross.

I actually felt guilty for awhile over the time I was spending on something so ephemeral. It tended to translate over to the book as well, where I've always struggled with doubts as to the worth of what I'm doing (something I think a lot of writers struggle with). But it was in stopping to examine that guilt that I realized why I was feeling it, and that it was wrong. Card-making is something artistic, fun and wordless that I can do to rest from writing. It's something that is for others, even if on a very small scale. But as I said yesterday, little things are important. Life is made up of small things.

And happiness is not to be found in achievement nor acquisition of riches and materialism, but in knowing God, as a Father and as an intimate friend. Keep Him first and He gives to His beloved even in his (her) sleep. (Ps 127:2) Keep Him first and goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. Blessed -- happy -- is the one who keeps Him -- his commands... His word -- first.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Small Things

I finished chapter 6 of Black Box today! Hooray! And since I added a scene to the material I already had, I took half of the second scene in the chapter and put it into chapter 7. Which I'll start tomorrow. So once again I've experienced the phenomenon of the doors opening after a period of emptiness and frustration, and suddenly I have a chapter.

Yes, I did go over and over 6a, where first it was scattered and disjointed and full of questions, then slowly I moved different pieces around, and kept going through it, word by word it seemed. Then today when I did one more pass, I found myself rather pleased with how it was turning out. There are still many questions, both about it and about ch 5, details of the setting and the setup still need to be decided, but those, too are solidifying. Little by little.

So much of life, it seems, comes in small steps. Tiny changes that are nearly imperceptible. The growth of a book. The growth of a child. Spiritual growth is like that, too. We take in the word every day from our pastor and slowly the changes are wrought in our souls. Old ideas are challenged, often repeatedly until they are shaken free. New ideas take shape and are also repeated. Each time you hear it, the concept acquires more weight and substance, begins to link to other concepts...filling holes vacated by the old wrong notiong. And then there is the matter of application.

Another incremental process. I remember my problems with temper. First I would blow up and only afterward, maybe half an hour later, realize I was sinning and out of fellowship. Even then it might take me awhile to get to the point where I could really confess it -- rebound, we like to call it -- and leave it alone without taking up the anger again. Gradually I began to catch myself sooner and sooner after the blowup.

One day I realized in the middle of the argument that I was totally out of line, and just shut up. I was still angry, but at least I didn't have to add angry words to my already out of whack mental attitude. From there I moved to the point of becoming aware of the fact that I was reacting to something, and to cut it off right then, removing myself from the conversation before it could devolve into an argument.

The most startling event however, was the day when something was said and I just thought, "That's foolish talk. I don't even care about arguing over it." And then I thought, "WHERE did that come from?!" Because it sure wasn't me.

No, it was the mind of Christ very slowly taking shape in me. In that area, at least.

Those little things, we are not supposed to take lightly. The minutes of our days, the days of our lives. All numbered. All precious. Filled with small things, yes, but life is much more about the small things than it is the large ones.

Do not despise the day of small things ... He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. (Zec 4:10; Lk 16:10)


Monday, July 16, 2007

Wordless Recreation

Well, after being so tired last night, I didn't expect to have a lot of energy or get much done on the book today, and I was right. I woke up still tired and when it came to thinking about Black Box, my brain had reverted to its turnip state. I've been wondering for awhile why Mondays keep being down days, and I think at least one reason may be that usually on the weekends I have a lot of social contact and do a lot of talking.

I think I’ve posted before about the writer’s supposed need for solitude and long periods of idleness or leisure, mentioned by Dorothea Brande in her classic book Becoming a Writer. I’ve never been totally sure I believed that, though more and more it does seem to be true. At least for me. She also mentions a need to spend recreational time not engaged in activities that involve words.

When I think about it, I realize that much of what I does involve words, particularly the generating of them -- either in writing my work in progress (WIP), or doing the blog or the newsletter or in answering emails. I tend to think of the blog and emails as "recreation," things I do when I'm done writing for the day, but more and more I find it difficult to that. They all pull words out of me. So does conversation. I’d read from other writers about the dangers of talking about your work in progress to others – how it tends to suck away the impetus to write it down. I just end up feeling like I am empty. That all the words have been spilled out, like water from a desert well and must somehow be replaced before I can continue.

Ms Brande addresses this in her book:

"If you want to stimulate yourself into writing, amuse yourself in wordless ways. Instead of going to a theater, hear a symphony orchestra or go by yourself to a museum; go alone for long walks or ride by yourself on a bus. If you will conscientiously refuse to talk or read, you will find yourself compensating for it to your great advantage."

I'm not sure what I think about the reading part. In the past reading has not been a problem and often stimulates me back into writing. But it's definitely true about the talking and if I do too much writing of any kind I seem to require times of not writing.

Today almost all I did was wordless -- housework, making a birthday card, shopping... I didn't try to force anything, just did what I felt like doing. It seemed to work. Even though it's late, I feel less tired now than I did when I woke up.

I'm hoping tomorrow to see more progress on the WIP.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Too Tired for a Sunday Night...

Well, it's late Sunday night, and I'm too tired to think of anything to write. Too tired to decide if any of the half-written "ideas" I've got in my blog file might actually work. Too tired to make them work even if I did decide if they might work...

Tiredness is a weird thing for me. I don't always recognize it as tiredness because, unlike other folks, I don't tend to want to nap. Usually I read when I'm tired. That's what I'm starting to notice -- I'm very passive when I'm tired. I can read email, but not answer it. I can read books, but not write them. And if the book requires too much thinking, I can't even read. Tonight, though, I've been even more tired to the point where I'm staring out the windows at the storm, reading meaningless articles in the Parade and generally doing nothing constructive. Though I could go unload the dishwasher... that just seems way too hard.

And I find it fascinating how difficult it is to decide to do anything when I'm like this.

All of which seems strange since Sunday is supposed to be my day of rest and somehow I have drained out my energy rather than replenished it. I shall have to think about why this might be.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Sequel, Time and Word Count

Q: "I need more answers than you gave! Will there be a sequel to provide them?"

I would like to do a second series from the viewpoints of the children as they near adulthood. There are a number of things I didn't get to do in the final book that I'd originally wanted to, but that I see now are far more complicated than would have been right for Legends of the Guardian King. Whether that is something the Lord will ever open the doors for me to write remains to be seen.

For now, I have my hands more than full with Black Box! Which continues to crawl along, as I research janitors, maintenance men, laboratory procedure, routine and layout... Today I finally got chapter 5 to a point I can leave it and started in on chapter 6.

And now for one last question, one that came in recently through the email...





Q: "Why didn't you have the professor at the monastery at the end recognize that Abramm was in fact king, and why didn't you mention Rolland reuniting with his wife...at long last?"

Those two omissions can definitely be ascribed to word count, time and energy limits. Mostly word count and no more time, though. As it turned out Return of the Guardian King ended up being about 180,000 words (as a measuring standard, most Christian fiction runs about 100,000 to 120,000 words). In fact, I was told that after the typesetters had put in the corrections I'd made to the galleys, the book ran four pages too long. They had to squeeze up the formatting to make it fit in the 464 pages they'd allotted for it.

Also, to gracefully slide either of those matters (Laud acknowledging who Abramm really was, Rolland reunited with his wife) into the already complicated scenes at the book's end was more of a challenge than I was up to given the time I had to do it in. I didn't deliberately decide to exclude them -- time and word count pretty much did it for me.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From the Corner of His Eye

Yesterday I wrote about why I dealt with Gillard the way that I did in Return of the Guardian King, how I ...

*** more spoilers ***




... more or less phased him out of the narrative, both in terms of words addressed to him and in terms of his importance to the plot. When I was done, and encountered the objections of some readers who wanted to see more of him, I was reminded of a similar phenomenon in one of Dean Koontz's books.

A few years ago I read Koontz's From the Corner of His Eye, one of the two autographed hardbound books he sent me in response to a letter I'd written to him (the only letter I've ever written to an author!). I enjoyed it, of course, because I enjoy all of his books. I like his characters, I love his use of language, and I'm intrigued by some of the things that he does as a writer -- the names he gives his characters, the different allegorical elements in his stories, the plots, etc. In this book one of the themes was that evil is really empty and ultimately ineffectual. I'm not sure he intended this, but it's a beautiful truth relative to Satan and the Kingdom of Darkness. Satan's a lion and a hunter, but in the end, he has no teeth. Jesus has already defeated him. We just have to believe that and act accordingly.

Which, since we are fallen people living in the midst of a world of deception, isn't always so easy.

Anyway, in From the Corner of His Eye, Koontz introduces a perfectly awful villain in Enoch "Junior" Cain (and the name, of course, is no accident). [As an example of interesting things Koontz does with names, the hero, Bartholomew, starts out as a baby born to Agnes and Joseph, whose uncles are Jacob and Edom (where Esau lived) Isaacson... The co-hero, an ex-priest turned cop is Thomas Vanadium, vanadium being one of the elements on the periodic table, often used as a catalyst or in alloys. The "Thomas" harkens back to Doubting Thomas, as does the character.]

Anyway, back to Junior Cain. In the first few pages Koontz takes you from the beauty and wonder of a hike in the lush Oregon woods ("The primeval forests of the Oregon coast raised a great green cathedral across the hills, and the land was as hushed as any place of worship...") to the complete arrogance and self-delusion of this psychopath. He kills his wife, whom he tells himself he loves deeply and thoroughly, by shoving her off a lookout tower, for reasons I can no longer recall -- money, I believe. He derives a great feeling of power and life from doing it. And also remorse...

The self-delusion is fascinating and the journey is one where gradually you -- and Junior -- realize that he's hollow. He has nothing inside himself, no real capacity to enjoy anything, even though he has everything -- money, good looks, charming personality, the ability to commit a heinous crime and get away with it (which gives him great pleasure for a time). Eventually, as he sinks deeper into delusion and depravity, imagining himself to be greater than any other man, his disgusting insides begin to manifest on the outside. At the end, he is no longer handsome, but bald, pocked and burned, his life unraveling around him as his deeds come back to bite him.

And in the end, when you are expecting a big confrontation between him and Thomas...

**Spoilers here, too ***

*** Also some bad words***

*** Beware!***

...when you are expecting a big confrontation between him and Thomas, you don't get it. Cain is dispatched in a suprising and almost casual way that is completely anticlimactic. At first I was mildly put off, even a bit puzzled and disappointed. But then I thought about it and realized it was exactly right. Remember the point that Koontz kept making through the narrative? One of the walk-on characters encapsulates it well midway through the book:

"The problem with movies and books is they make evil look glamorous, exciting, when it's no such thing. It's boring and it's depressing and it's stupid. Criminals are after cheap thrills and easy money, and when they get them, all they want is more of the same, over and over. They're shallow, empty, boring people who couldn't give you five minutes of interesting conversation if you had the piss-poor luck to be at a party full of them. Maybe some can be monkey-clever some of the time, but they aren't hardly ever smart. God must surely want us to laugh at these fools, because if we don't laugh at 'em, then one way or another, we give 'em respect. If you don't mock a bastard like Cain, if you fear him too much or even if you just look at him in an all-solemn sort of way, then you're paying him more respect than I ever intend to."

I kinda think that's a good way to regard Satan, too.

Anyway, I saw it as perfectly right to have Cain eliminated by the weakest characters (physically, anyway) in the book, in an almost comical way to boot. If you go to the Amazon reviews, though, many readers were extremely distressed by the ending. Those who were didn't seem to understand at all what Koontz was doing. They were looking for something that wasn't there. They wanted Watchers or Intensity, and it wasn't that.

All of which I find interesting. Our frame of reference as well as our willingness to see what is actually being presented (rather than what we want to be presented) affects how we perceive things. If you don't see all the things he's putting in, don't make the connections between what's happening to Junior and statements like the above, then when you get to the end, you won't get what you're expecting and disappointment is in store.

Hmmm. I think this concept relates to our relationship with God, too. If we don't really know what His plan is about, then when we get to the end, we're going to expect something that isn't part of it, something entirely different than what He has in store.

Tomorrow, the last two questions...


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What about Gillard and Simon, Sr?

Q: What about Gillard and Simon, Sr?

More spoilers....




Originally, I had planned to do subplots following Simon, Sr and Gillard in Kiriath, their plotlines woven together as the realm fell apart and rumors of Abramm's alleged reappearance (spawned by all the false Abramms that preceded the real one) spread among the people. But when I ended the first draft at 211,000 words, already over my prescribed word count by 40,000 words, with maybe half the book needing a lot more development, my editor suggested I eliminate those still-sketchy subplots.

Though I'd already written a couple of scenes detailing Gillard's descent into madness that were kinda fun, I saw the need to cut. Since I also knew by then that this story was to be primarily about Abramm, that seemed a good section to cut. In retrospect, I think the decision was a good one. To do all I'd originally intended would have swollen the book to at least 200,000 words, which might have been fun, and might have worked and readers might even have liked it... but that wasn't what Bethany House wanted or could handle. Plus I don't think it's what the Lord intended.

Q:And why wasn't there a big showdown between Gillard and Abramm?

Because, as I said above, the story was about Abramm and Eidon, and Abramm's spiritual journey, which involved being prepared to face his true enemy.

One of my intents in writing this four-book story arc was to show the growing Believer's gradual realization of who his true enemies are. In the first book it seemed that all Abramm's enemies were human -- Raynen, Gillard, Belthre'gar. In the second book, he -- and the reader -- become increasingly aware of another, hidden level of enemies -- the rhu'ema, though Gillard is still a large obstacle he must overcome.

At the end of The Shadow Within, when Abramm defeated his brother decisively on the steps of the ruined dragon temple, and then saved him from being consumed by the morwhol, Gillard ceased being a credible enemy.

In Shadow Over Kiriath, the true enemies emerged even more clearly, given a voice through the rhu'ema warhast, Hazmul, who plots Abramm's downfall in secret: Our battle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the powers, against the orld forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. (Eph 6:12) Gillard is nothing more than a tool in their hands, deluded with regard to his own power and importance, and ultimately surrendering himself into their posession.

Meanwhile Abramm goes on in Return of the Guardian-King to meet the ultimate enemy, the one behind all those rulers and spiritual forces: the Prince of the power of the air. The showdown, then, had to be between Abramm and Tiris, not in a physical battle, but in a battle over who Abramm was going to rely upon -- himself and the world, or Eidon.

Gillard, the one who had held such a huge and threatening place in Abramm's life at the beginning of the story, no longer mattered at the end. He was a has-been, a man broken by madness and pain and arrogance, a shell to be pitied, forgiven and resisted so far as he was used as a pawn, but nothing more than that.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Why all the action in Chesedh?

Q: Why did you focus so much on Chesedh in Return of the Guardian King and so little on Kiriath? I would think there'd be much more to write about in Kiriath.

Warning: Spoilers ahead...




When I began writing Return of the Guardian King, I thought I was going to do much more with Kiriath. Then the story went off in ways I didn't anticipate. Now that it's done and I can sit back and consider, I see that it's because the story is not about Abramm's relationship with Kiriath (which had rejected him, remember) or with Chesedh, but with Eidon. It's part of the testing that comes to mature believers, such as Job, who lost all he had and then gained back double. So Abramm lost all he had, as well, including his kingdom, then gained back two kingdoms...

Also much of what happened to Leyton and to Ronesca and to Gillard and the Kiriathans, had to do with 1) the fact that both Leyton and Ronesca really had rejected Eidon and His ways and were being disciplined for that, 2) Gillard was even more hard-hearted in regards to his rejection of Eidon and 3) the principle expressed in Is 41:11,12 "Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them. Those who war with you will be as nothing, and non-existent."

The Kiriathans had rejected their king and his Terstan beliefs and accepted the false religion of the Mataio instead. As a result, they came under discipline. The neighboring country, Chesedh, had not accepted the Mataio and so was still protecting truth. Eventually they even accepted Maddie as queen, and finally Abramm.

An interesting (to me, at least) side story to all this is that I came up with the name for Chesedh when I started The Light of Eidon, years ago. It's a Hebrew word which I chose deliberately at the time. But then I forgot the meaning and, as years passed, came to mistakeningly believe that it meant wisdom (which is actually chokmah). So I wrote the book and only at the end did I find out that Chesedh actually means grace. I love that, because it is so right that Abramm's story should have ended in "Grace."


Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Boot is Gone

I'm free of the Boot! Last Tuesday I went to see the Orthopedic surgeon and he said that I can stop wearing my boot (which as served as a removable cast) unless I'm going to walk a long distance or over uneven ground. Which means I've pretty much ditched it. There's almost no pain now in the ankle, just twinges now and then if I move wrong, catch my foot on something and pull it wrong, sit with it down too long or stand too long.
Since I can drive now, too, I feel pretty much back to normal. The only thing left now is to regain full range of motion and work my way back up to my three mile walks. Hooray!

Meanwhile I continue to crawl through chapter 5 and 6 of Black Box. I spent Saturday looking through floor plans of various genetics and biology laboratories because suddenly I needed to make up a floor plan in order to choreograph the current scene. Then I spent a couple of hours coming up with the external shape of my "Ziggurat" shaped Institute.

And I'm continuing to read The Human Experiment by Jane Poynter, ("Two years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2) -- a behind the scenes account 0f life in Biosphere 2, and all that led up to it, as well. It's fascinating and giving me much grist for the mill. Since I'd followed the whole Biosphere 2 story as it was unfolding at the time, and have since been to the place a few years ago, it's been especially intriguing.

My plan for the blog this week is to address several questions about Return of the Guardian King that have come in from readers. I'll try to leave spoiler space (I'm thinking about making the words invisible unless you click and drag to highlight them...) for any who haven't read the book yet. The questions include one that relates to my focus on Chesedh vs Kiriath. What about Gillard and Simon Sr? Why did I choose to resolve the conflict between Abramm and Gillard as I did? Will there be a sequel?

If you have other questions related to RotGK you'd like to see answered in the blog, remember you can always email me through the profile on the right.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Is God First?

Tonight's Bible Class was a continuation of teaching begun last week on God's laws for prosperity. The first law is, "Always keep God First." You should test yourself to see if that is the case, because many times we can tell ourselves He is, but the reality of our lives might say something entirely different.

How can we know if God is first in our lives? Well, Pastor Bob listed several questions we can use to "examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith":

1. Do I start each day by first spending some time with Him -- talking to Him, thanking Him for all He's provided, asking for guidance throughout the day?

2. Do I set definite goals of studying God's word on a daily basis, preferably from my right pastor teacher live or same day, but also through personal study?

3. Do I actually place God ahead of each member of my family?

4. Is God always more important to me than my friends? Or do I let them take me way from my time with Him and my study of His word?

5. Do I spend more time seeking God each day than watching TV or pursuing hobbies -- reading, surfing the Internet, playing games, etc?

6. Is God more important to me than any possession that I have? Or possessions that I'd like to have? Am I willing to spend time driving around shopping at night, but too tired to do Bible Class?

7. Is seeking God through his Word on a day to day basis more important to me than seeking financial prosperity? Am I too busy working at the the world's way of gathering prosperity to spend time on my relationship with God?

Good questions to put somewhere handy to remind ourselves of who should be first. Because there is an entire system out there determined that anything should come first for us but God.

Have a great weekend,

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fourth of July, 2007

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence...

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another

and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,

a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,

and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;

and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Here follows a list of twenty seven grievances, among which are:

...He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

...protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

...cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

...imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

...depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury

...transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people...

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,

that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

— And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

John Hancock

For the entire text and all the signators, see The Declaration of Independence.

Let Freedom Ring!

Happy Fourth,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Last Friday we saw Live Free or Die Hard, first time to see a movie in the theater on opening weekend in a long time.

There were nine of us from our church, all Die Hard/Bruce Willis fans. We met first for dinner at a nearby eatery, then some hurried over to save seats as the rest of us trooped more slowly after. I was wearing my boot, and the day before had briefly entertained all kinds of worries about the logistics and decisions and how things would ever fall together. I envisioned the possibly very long line, and what it would be like to stand in it, worried about the prospect of getting seats, and having to sit too close to the screen and other negative things. Then I put it all in the Lord's hands and refused to worry about it further. He would put it altogether...

Well, it was a very organic process, that putting together: Calls back and forth, decisions made incrementally, the plan gathering momentum the closer we got to the time we had to act. Finally we were all at the restaurant where we enjoyed a couple of hours of food, conversation and fellowship before heading off to the theater.

Because I had my boot on, I rode the elevator with one of our friends who's in a wheelchair and his wife. On the second floor where we would normally get off, she suggested we go up to the third floor just to see if our theater might be one of those you could access from the top instead of the bottom. Turned out it was, and the next thing you know we're entering the theater itself -- no lines, no ticket taker, just walk in and there's the handicapped spot to sit, second from the top row, and an entire empty row beside it. Most of the other people were down in the lower rows where the regular entrance was. The seat savers from our party apparently had arrived not too long before us and were still in the process of staking out a place, so we waved them up and soon we were all in our places, perfect location to see the screen, just like it was all laid out and waiting for us.

And we all really enjoyed the movie. Some critics call it preposterous and it's true that Bruce Willis is a graduate in good standing of the Chuck Norris School of Dodging Bullets. In fact he has taken the supplemental courses of dodging cars, trucks, falling debris, freeways and other hazards. But, hey, it's Bruce Willis. He's Unbreakable, right. Even when he dies he comes back, though only those with a Sixth Sense can see him!

I thought Live Free or Die Hard was great fun. You can check out reviews at Rotten Tomatoes for more on the story itself, and yes, the stunts are definitely a bit beyond the line of believable. But fun, nonetheless.

What I especially enjoyed was the way they paired hard-nosed, down and dirty, get the job done no matter what, middle aged John McClane (Willis) with young, asthmatic, computer nerd Matthew Faller (Justin Long of Mac Guy fame). They worked exceedingly well off each other, adding a pleasing contrast (Old vs young, high tech vs low tech, physical vs intellectual) and a good bit of humor to the flick, as well. Both had their areas of expertise, so it wasn't like McClane was hauling around a bag of potatoes. Young Faller was integral to solving the problem. And, I suppose in the end, I just plain liked 'em both.

No great spiritual concepts, no heavy moral ideas (though the notion of computer/technology terrorism was intriguingly played out in this movie) just some good summer fun with friends. And okay, a lot of bad guys died and much property was damaged. But I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. And we were in an air conditioned theater which, since it's been around 107 degrees around here lately, was very welcome. I could definitely see this movie again.