Monday, March 31, 2008

Faith in Science

Last week I did a lot of reading of evolutionist and atheist viewpoints and came away from it rather surprised. We're always being told that science says this, and scientists say that, that their viewpoints are based upon facts, logic and a rigorous application of the scientific method. They are today's seekers of truth, we are told, and their conclusions are the result of rigorous and impartial investigation.

Years ago at a science fiction convention I attended a panel discussion wherein some scientists first expressed a different approach -- "You know how you get hit with an insight," one of them said, "and you just know what the truth is and what the answer to your hypothesis is going to be? Then you have to just make the data fit." I sat there agog. Did she really just say that? That went against everything I had always believed science to be. So strongly did I cling to my belief that science really was an honest endeavor to find the truth of the natural world and its functions, that I chalked the remarks up to one eccentric individual.

Apparently she's not as unusual as I believed.

My reading of last week included Richard Lewontin's review for The New York Review of Books of Carl Sagan's 1996 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. (Lewontin is Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Biology at Harvard University, and the author of several books.)

Sagan's book, from what I can tell, is basically a treatise on how people need to think right in order to know the truth. Not surprisingly, I agree! However his idea of "thinking right" and mine are not the same. He is trying to convince people to stop believing in "superstitious nonsense" and accept science as their new god and religion. Of course he doesn't use those words, but almost.

Here are some quotes of Lewontin's review (with my comments):

"First, no one can know and understand everything. Even individual scientists are ignorant about most of the body of scientific knowledge, and it is not simply that biologists do not understand quantum mechanics. If I were to ask my colleagues in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to explain the evolutionary importance of RNA editing in trypanosomes, they would be just as mystified by the question as the typical well-educated reader of this review."

(So then the implication is, we must take it on faith when Scientists assure us that this "proves" evolution)

"Second, to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads we must first get an incorrect view out. People believe a lot of nonsense about the world of phenomena, nonsense that is a consequence of a wrong way of thinking. The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of, for that vast project is, in its entirety, hopeless. Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.

"Sagan's argument is straightforward. We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities. The vast majority of us do not have control of the intellectual apparatus needed to explain manifest reality in material terms, so in place of scientific (i.e., correct material) explanations, we substitute demons.

"Most of the chapters of The Demon-Haunted World are taken up with exhortations to the reader to cease whoring after false gods and to accept the scientific method as the unique pathway to a correct understanding of the natural world. To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test."

And yet, in his earlier paragraph, Lewontin said that the vast majority of us lack the knowledge to really understand the specifics of whatever a discipline of science is telling us. Even scientists in other disciplines remain ignorant and must accept the claims of their fellows as fact purely on faith.

Again, he says himself, toward the end of his review:

"Carl Sagan ... has devoted extraordinary energy to bringing science to a mass public. In doing so, he is faced with a contradiction for which there is no clear resolution. On the one hand science is urged on us as a model of rational deduction from publicly verifiable facts, freed from the tyranny of unreasoning authority. On the other hand, given the immense extent, inherent complexity, and counterintuitive nature of scientific knowledge, it is impossible for anyone, including non-specialist scientists, to retrace the intellectual paths that lead to scientific conclusions about nature. In the end we must trust the experts and they, in turn, exploit their authority as experts and their rhetorical skills to secure our attention and our belief in things that we do not really understand.

And they denigrate Christians for having blind faith! Then turn around and say it's okay, so long as you're believing in "science." I don't think I've ever seen so clearly the spiritual aspect of the science belief system. Nor have I seen so clearly that it is indeed a belief system.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

The New Priests of Materialism

To continue my answer to the friend who asked me how I reconciled the natural record with the Biblical account of Creation...

On the one hand, I believe the Bible lays out a timeline in which the creation of the earth precedes the creation of man by an unknown, possibly very long time which could account, to some degree, for the geologic ages science hypothesizes. That's not to say I believe evolution was the mechanism by which the plants and animals have developed. Frankly I think that takes more faith than believing God's word.

My thought, and what I told my friend, is that ultimately it depends on what you are going to make your final authority for truth. Is it going to be the Word of God (rightly divided and taught from the original languages) or will it be the natural record?

Antagonists protest that the word of God was "written by men". I would respectfully submit that the natural record has been observed and recorded by men, as well, the facts that comprise it having been observed, assembled and evaluated by men. If the word of God is not to be trusted or believed because it was "written by men," why should we trust or believe the natural record which has also been written by men?

Furthermore, while the Bible claims to be the word of God communicated through men who were believers filled with the Holy Spirit, the natural record makes no such claim. Yet I am being asked to believe, by faith, that it is true. In fact, I'm being asked to believe a number of things by faith:

1) That all the pertinent data needed to answer the question of where we came from can be gathered by men -- souls in fragile bodies of water with such severe limitations we not only can't leave the planet without dying, we can't even live on the greater part of its surface area. Men who are subject to disease, dementia, aging, etc, limited in their five senses and who live only a century at most, yet presume to make assumptions and draw dogmatic conclusions about events that occurred billennia ago.

2) That all the pertinent data has indeed been gathered.

3) That that data was gathered in accordance with proper technique and scientific method.

4) That man is able to correctly evaluate that data because he has the necessary frame of reference and understanding to do so.

5) That the men who have assembled the information and have evaluated it and come to conclusions, have done so from a totally unbiased desire to know the truth, whatever that may be.

6) And that they have arrived at their conclusions from an honest review of data that is actually there, not just that which they wish was there. Or believe one day will be there.

Even without considering any of the so-called "evidence" this seems like a lot of things to take on faith, especially coming from a discipline that denigrates faith and likes to put forth the deception that everything they say is based on hard fact. Well, even if it is -- and I don't believe so -- much of what they claim "proves" evolution, makes no sense to me. I really don't know what they are talking about, and cannot follow their justifications.

For example, scientists have calculated the precise moment of the Big Bang, we read, down to the very second. This is an event they say occurred BILLIONS of years ago. Common sense resists the claim that because some man manipulated a bunch of numbers, this now "proves" not only that the Big Bang occurred, but when. And how.

The mathematician/physicist may believe the accuracy of his calculations, and others of his discipline may agree, but not being a mathematician or physicist myself, it's all gobbledygook to me. Thus I can only take their word for it. I have to believe, by faith, that they know what they're talking about and that they're right, because I have no ability to determine the soundness and accuracy of their calculations for myself.

Ditto paleontologists' assessments and claims regarding the fossil record. I'm not a paleontologist, so I don't know what the fossil record really has to say. I can only believe that those people who are experts in the matter, have done everything right and are therefore correct.

Which draws a very neat parallel with the insiders of a religion -- eg, the temple priests who served the pagan gods. Or the oracles who would tell people what would happen or what did happen as they supposedly heard from the gods. The people couldn't prove otherwise. They had to take it on faith.

We're in the same position today, only now it's scientists and "experts" who have become the priests of the new religion of materialism. And evolution is a part of that religion. Which many of its proponents freely admit.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evolution and Creation

A fellow believer called me awhile back, one who also has a degree in the Life Sciences, and asked how I reconciled the natural record of science with the biblical account of Creation.

Let me state my view on the world's origins first. I believe the seven day account in Genesis to be a literal account, not of creation but of the renovation or rehabilitation of the earth. I believe that God the Son created the heavens and the earth in the blink of an eye long before the account that begins in Genesis 1:2. Some call this the Gap "Theory". I don't consider it a theory since it's been demonstrated through scripture quite satisfactorily for me.

My timeline then is that in an instant of time God created the heavens and the earth as stated in Col 1:16. Some time previous to that He had already created the angels, inferred from Job 38 where it says, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth...when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of god shouted for joy?"

The greatest of those angels, Lucifer, son of the dawn, the morning star, was the Lord's right hand man, guardian of the throne of God (Eze 28). He was and is the most beautiful, talented, clever, personable and intelligent creature ever to come from God's hand. That was not enough for him, though, and even though everything he had came from God, even his place above the other angels, arrogance crept into his heart. He wanted more. He wanted to take God's place, says Isaiah 14:12. He started a revolt and the scriptures indicate that he persuaded not just a third of the angels but all of them, to follow him.

There was a big battle, God won and offered a form of salvation to them all. Two thirds of them came back. (Jesus is said in Rev 4 to be the only holy one in heaven. If any of the angels hadn't fallen, wouldn't they be holy, too?) Those who refused were tried for their rebellion, found guilty and sentenced to the Lake of Fire. (Mt 25:41)

At that point Satan appealed his sentence and God fixed the ruined earth as a place for his new but lower creation, man. Using man God would reproduce the entire conflict on this theater we call earth, and demonstrate to all the angels that He was indeed just in his actions. This is inferred in part from the fact that the sentence has already been pronounced (see above) and yet will not be carried out until the end of human history. (Rev 20:10)

(This is a vastly oversimplified summary of the doctrine of the angelic conflict and all the scriptures that point to it. If you are interested in a more rigorous -- and convicting! -- study, I recommend the 57 hours of teaching my pastor has given on the subject, which you can find here.)

All this to say, on the one hand, that since there was a time when there was no man on the earth, yet there were cities, and a time when the earth was perfect before it became tohu wa bohu ("without form and void," the phrase found only one other place in the Bible and that's Jeremiah 4:23 describing a ruined battlefield) there is plenty of room for a lengthy natural history predating man's entrance on the scene.

To be continued...

Have a great weekend

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creative Brains

I came accross this article in Science Daily the other day on creative brains, and how there may be a biological basis for linking creativity to mental illness. Not that I'm excited about that sort of linkage but there was another aspect in the article that fascinated me and that's the notion that we have differing levels of "latent inhibition".

The Harvard University study, which appeared in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, said the brains of creative people appear to be more open to stimuli from the surrounding environment than other people's, whose brains shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition". Latent inhibition is "an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs." According to the researchers, creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," said one. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Low levels of latent inhibition may be a good thing if the person has the capacity to think about many things at once. "If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you'll get swamped."

And getting swamped, obviously would not be a good thing. Apparently having many things tumbling through your mind at once is also a precursor to schizophrenia, among other things. (Which is the aforementioned link to mental illness.... but we won't go there.)

I think I might be able to classify myself as a creative individual. I know that I relate strongly to this idea of latent inhibition. I do tend to struggle with all the things that come into my periphery -- in the sense that I am aware of them and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them. They are all interesting and I want to think them out, or they bug me and then I really want to think them through. Or maybe it's not that I'm so open, just that there's a lot of stuff out there bombarding all of us all the time.

I have 100s of ideas for Enclave, but I'm definitely experiencing overload and the sense of being swamped when it comes to discriminating. At least if that discrimination must be performed right away. If I give myself time to niggle it, as one of my son's English teachers put it, then it's not really overwhelming at all.

But it just shows, again, how different we all are, and what different paths we take through life and thus, the specifically different plan God has designed for each of us.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Puppy We Wanted

It's been awhile since I said anything about Quigley. How's he doing? He's improved A LOT. In fact, since the weekend when I truly gave it over to God, and quit thinking this was something I had to figure out and do right, much has changed. My husband said after the first week that he thought we'd finally gotten the puppy we wanted rather than the tasmanian devil doggie we got. (Sorry, Aussie Fletchers, but really, it fits.) He still wants to bite things, and he goes through phases where he gets REALLY excited and falls into shark mode -- or is it tassie devil mode? -- his gaping mouth darting wildly back and forth... Here is a picture of a real tasmanian devil and its mouth looks just like Quigley's! Except it's still, of course.

But he's controlling himself more and more. Many times he confines himself to licks rather than the teeth.

For the most part he does fine in the crate, and we've started taking him on evening walks. Stu holds the leash, because we haven't yet taught him not to pull on it as he forges ahead. Though as the walk progresses he does that less and less. I've taught him to sit, lie down, stay (30 seconds is his tops) come and most recently, shake.

He's still absolutely horrid when people come over. He goes completely bananas, dribbles pee in his excitement and throws himself at the end of the leash if he's on one (or against the fence or barrier if he's behind one), trying to get at the person. Stu and I are using the knee trick when he hurls himself at us, but you have to get the timing right because he does it fast and hard, and guests can't be expected to have to do that. From there he goes into the flying mouth stage, and eventually, if the person stays long enough, calms down enough they can pet him.

I've been hiding treats for him to find in the yard and throwing the ball for him daily, plus bringing him into the house midday to give him practice lying on his bed quietly or with a chew rather than attacking and humping it. (I put away the new fleece bed, and brought out an old, but still in good shape twill bed and that seems to work better)

I have no new wounds today, and have had very few for a couple of weeks. Those I have sustained, I got when I was doing weird things with him -- throwing a ball, working with the grooming glove (which for some reason he is convinced he must attack and bite), etc. So, overall things are settling down. But he is still a huge distraction to my simply focusing on writing Black Box... er... The Enclave...

He is, as my husband says, "a whole lot of dog." I found an article on redbone coonhounds on Wikipedia that agreed. It said redbones "are very affectionate, but can be overwhelming to small children or even adults if not properly trained." Also, "young coonhounds are energetic (ROTFL) and need lots of activity, or they will become destructive. This can lead to acting out in the form of chewing and baying. They take a longer time to train than some other breeds, because they mature more slowly both physically and mentally."

"Like many hunting dogs, they have an independent intelligence especially well suited for problem solving. This can be an issue if the problem they want to solve is their backyard fence or the dog-proof garbage."

And finally, "They are all loud, loud barkers."

Oh, amen to that. Now that we have Quigley I think I might have to attribute some of my hearing loss to living with Bear. And Quigley's not helping. And to think I worried about having a silent coonhound. If you want to read more about the breed, the link to the article is HERE.


Monday, March 24, 2008

10 Proofs of the Resurrection

The body of evidence for the actuality of the Resurrrection of our Lord can be grouped into 14 categories of proof. Below are ten of them:

1. Jesus Christ predicted it would happen.

2. He really died and was buried in a known, accessible tomb (He was put to death by professional executioners who knew what they were doing and were expert in making sure their charges were dead. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea certainly thought He was dead and spent a lot of time preparing His body for burial. His enemies in Mt 27:62-64 believed he was dead, and feared that the disciples would take away the body, thus they established elaborate security measures to guard it.

3. The facts of the empty tomb (known and accessible) and the condition of the grave clothes.

4. The post Resurrection appearances of Christ. He appeared for a period of 40 days to many different people. On one occasion to at least 500.

5. The tacit recognition of the resurrection by His enemies. Powerful people in Jerusalem had participated in His execution and certainly would not want stories of His resurrection getting out. They had the ability to take action, to access to the tomb, the witnesses, etc. If it was a hoax, surely they'd have been able to prove that.

6. The character of the witnesses to the resurrection.

7. The dramatic change in disciples after the resurrection. Peter went from denying the Lord and hiding in the upper room, to literally getting in Pharisee's faces: "Let it be known to all of you (Annas and Caiaphas and others), and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead...He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very cornerstone. And there is salvation in no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved". Acts 2:10-12

8. The origin and perpetuation of the Christian church. (ie that it was started in hostile territory, Jerusalem, where everyone would know if the resurrection was a hoax.)

9. The persecution of the disciples (why continue to proclaim a lie in the face of continued persecution? And if the persecuting authorities had any evidence this was a lie, why not just produce it?)

10. None of the apostles recanted their claim the resurrection was true, though most of them died violent deaths for their beliefs. And they died alone, when they could have recanted without the others' knowledge and lived. None did.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unexpected Research

Tuesday I applied the principles I've been posting about this week. I came into the office, rebounded, asked for guidance, thought maybe I'd start by tidying up my desk and then reading what I'd written the day before. And somehow, I'm not sure how, I ended up going through my collected articles on evolution, then reading some material online and...I spent pretty much all day on it. Not at all what I thought I'd be doing, but it's changed the direction in which I was planning on going with the scene I'm facing. I'm not sure exactly where I'm headed now, just not where I had planned. I am confident, however, that the book will be better for it.

I am also pretty blown away by some of the things I read. But more on that next week.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Disciplined

So what, I wonder, does the "more disciplined" I harangued myself with yesterday look like?

Not reading blogs? Not playing with the dog? Not… what? No housecleaning? No writing in the journal? No Bible class? That’s ridiculous.

There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Am I condemning myself here? Or is this the Holy Spirit? I think it’s my sin nature because there’s fear and urgency connected to it:

You’ve GOT to get more work done! That deadline is approaching and you’re nowhere near done. You have been undisciplined and bad and you need to work harder and stop being so distracted. This all depends on you. Yeah, fine to trust God, but you have to set your behind down in the chair and write.

Do I? This all sounds more like the legalistic, old sin nature-taskmaster than the grace and mercy of God. The Holy Spirit convicts rather than condemns. When He’s done, you feel good, you know what you’ve done wrong clearly and what to do about it. Condemnation from the sin nature just leaves you feeling rotten.

And what about that dead, blank-headed time when the creative part is working behind the scenes?

What about God revealing the story in His timing and not mine? What about me waiting on Him? Being patient. Not striving, just confident that He will move me as I need moving. Sometimes reading blogs and such sparks an idea… so it’s not always bad.

Striving, self-condemnation, anxiety, getting all afroth with impatience and worry… It doesn’t look by sight that I will ever finish on time, that this will ever work out… But that’s just the kind of situation God likes to put His children in, because we’re not supposed to be walking by sight but by faith. I think this must be a really hard lesson for me to get, because I keep going back over and over it.

It really is diametrically opposed to the world’s way and to the sin nature’s way -- to just relax and rest and trust God to move me at the appropriate time and in the appropriate ways to get the work done He wants done. His plan, not mine. His work, not mine.

There’s always time to do the Will of God.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Undicsiplined Lout

From a Nonstop I did a couple weeks ago, in the throes of blankness:

Lord, I need your help! I’m totally confused, I don’t know where to go, I’m starting to get antsy and uneasy because time is passing faster than pages are accruing and even though yes, it’s come together before, the last time was so hard and so bad and I hate having to do that to my editor and everyone else. I want to be responsible and reliable, not the temperamental, undisciplined artiste who can’t meet her deadlines.

If I can't, then I gain a reputation as a sluggard and a person with no discipline which could well be the truth. It may be I don’t have discipline. But if I need discipline, what am I to do about it? Why can’t I make myself… hmmm...

Make myself. Lord, do you even want me to make myself set a time and get my butt in here at that time and write nonstops? I could do that. To a point. Until my shoulder starts hurting, which it is starting to now. So I just can’t go on and on and on.

And now I wonder, is all this idleness and distraction part of the process? After all it’s always been like this. For thirty years of writing it's been like this. Of course, maybe I’ve always been undisciplined. Or maybe… the whole creative function won't be controlled. I wish I knew what I was to do.

Don’t compare yourself.
In whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.

Okay, yeah, I get that. But… how do I do that with this? What does "heartily" look like? Reading a bunch of stuff, making a bunch of notes, then making an outline from the notes, based on which event follows which, and finally sitting down and just writing it out from the notes? That’s the way I learned to write papers for school.

But this isn’t like that. I don’t really know how all the pieces of this book fit together. I don't think I even have all the pieces yet. And I can’t just go read and collect a bunch of facts to put into my book.

Furthermore, if I stop and look back, I see that there are lots of reasons why I am where I am right now. I have had a lot of distractions.

In March last year, when I began writing this book, my hard drive crashed and I had to get a new computer. Simultaneously, my glasses didn’t work for about three weeks and I kept having to drive across town to the eye doctor.

In April I had the blog tour for RotGK, where there were interviews and blog posts to write and comment on. All told, it took about three weeks of my time.

In May… I got the royalty statement and realized that Legends of the Guardian King was not going to be the wild success I’d hoped and dreamed for.

In June I broke my leg.

In July I recovered, sitting about with my leg elevated (which is not easy to do while at the computer).

August 1, I broke my arm and lay around on the couch with my arm elevated for six weeks straight. I read a lot but did no real writing.

In September I went to a Bible conference, got my cast off, and started therapy.

In October I continued therapy and tried to start functioning again – catching up on all the dirt and dust and mildew that had taken over the house during the summer when I was lying on the couch with my arm elevated.

In November the trigger finger problem began, and troubles with my shoulder. I had to learn keyboard techniques to avoid the mouse.

In December it's always crazy, we were out of town for a week and my shoulder really started hurting whenever I tried to use the computer.

In January we had our Arizona Bible Conference and got Quigley, the Tasmanian devil doggie. And my car broke.

In February I was still dealing with Quigley, while the trigger finger worsened.

So yeah, there’ve been a lot of distractions. That tells me this book is important spiritually speaking, but that doesn’t tell me if I’m out of line for not being more disciplined, even if I don’t know what “more disciplined” looks like.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Peace and contentment

Continuation of the early March journal entry I posted in Constantly Vigilant, this part written at the end of the same day:

Quigley had another great day. I just decided to stop trying to figure out all the timing and arrange everything around him, and just put him in the crate when I needed to go somewhere. If he howled, oh well. So I went to the store and to the Y. And it was fine...

Bible class was great -- echoes and refinements of my conclusions this morning (see Constantly Vigilant below). Pastor is teaching on Abram and how he had to go "to a land which I will show you." He was given a general direction, but no specifics, and especially no specifics of blessing. "There are many commands we must obey without God telling us what type of blessings we'll receive if we do."

We desire happiness, peace and contentment. We think success (or marriage or a nice house or good kids or a well-behaved dog or...?) will provide it. So we want success (or the other things). We pray for it, strive for it. But success doesn't give happiness, peace and contentment. Nor do any of those other things. They're all time-oriented and therefore transitory. None are things we can control, but things God gives or takes.

Success can be taken. (Shaken?) So by definition, it cannot give peace and contentment because at the back of your mind will always be the sense that you could lose it. And if circumstances come where it appears you will lose it, goodbye peace.

Peace and contementment have to come from something stable and eternal and unchanging. Like God. Like His word. Like the fact that He is for me, not because of me, but because I received His perfect righteousness at salvation and will never lose it. When He looks at me, that's what He sees. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will provide my needs, because He has promised and He cannot lie. He loves me. He blessed me in eternity past. I can't begin to imagine the blessings that he has for me. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He's omnipotent, wise, cannot make a mistake, never wavers, never wanders, never for a moment loses control of the situation. All my problems have perfect solutions.

Let me say that again: ALL my problems have PERFECT solutions. In Him. I am nothing. I can do nothing. But so what? He does it all.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Constantly Vigilant

From an early March journal entry:

10:30 am Today, so far, I've been constantly upset by things not going as I'd like them to go. Then I stop and think... but it's God's will and God's plan that matters. I serve Him, not myself. I'm here to bring glory to Him, not achieve my goals.

I think of Autumn Lightning (The Education of an American Samurai" by Dave Lowry), which I read some years ago. The samurai student had to constantly be on the alert, never knowing when the master would attack or set someone upon him -- in bed, walking down the hall, even on the toilet. No place was out of bounds. This is how you must be when at war, when you are a man-at-arms. You're trained to use your weapon for defense, thus you must always be ready to use it.

How like the Christian Way of Life, where we are soldiers in a war, too. (2 Ti 2:4) The weapon, of course, is God's word. And the attacks come at the master's behest for our benefit, to train us and make us stronger, quicker and more solid in our use of our weapon. They mostly are the small things in life. Things not going your way. The dog steals a sock when you're hanging out the laundry, then rips it in the ensuing tug of war as you try to get it back. People change schedule without notice and now all the things you'd planned to do, you can't. Distractions pile up until the morning's gone and you didn't get a lick of writing done...

But it's always your plan that's being thwarted, never God's. And this stuff isn't even suffering for His sake (Phil 1:29). It's just things not going your way. The kingdom of darkness will set up situations to get you out of fellowship. To get you to worry, to feel condemned and guilty and now, in my case... to get me mad and frustrated. For so long it's been fear and approbation lust I've had to deal with. Now we're moving into power lust as God probes ever deeper, challenging and grinding and stripping away the layers of arrogance.

So again, the thing to focus on is that it's God's plan, not mine. His plan moves on. My plan is nothing. My goals for the day don't matter at all in comparison to me staying in fellowship. And His goals for my day are unknown when I start out. I don't know what His plan is until I see it unfold. Because of that, I must trust Him continually, moment by moment, always getting my thoughts off myself and my situation and bringing them back to Him.

Which is exactly where He wants them.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Title is Official (I think)

My work in progress, Black Box, now has a new title, courtesy of Bethany House's Vice President of Marketing.

You might remember that I submitted 14 possible alternative titles to BHP a week or so ago. The editors and others batted those titles around and came up with a short list for me to review. From that list I sent back the ones I liked best in order of preference. They were:

This Dark Illusion
The Institute
The Enclave
The Longevity Code

I said I'd go with any of them. Because This Dark Illusion had been the one the editors thought sounded best and fit the story best, and because I agreed, I'd kinda settled into that being the final choice. Which shows the foolishness of settling on anything until it's settled.

After input from the head of marketing, Black Box will henceforth be known as

The Enclave

I think I can see why. This Dark Illusion is kind of vague. More artsy than The Enclave. The Institute is really pretty generic. There are probably a lot of other books, or at least places in books called "The Institute". The Longevity Gene is something that would get lost in other longevity books. It also sounds like it could be a science text. Of them all The Enclave is the most accessible and visual, while being somewhat intriguing as well. At least that's my assessment. But really, what do I know? Only that readers do indeed judge books both by their covers and their titles!

P.S. Oh, my goodness. There really are a lot of Longevity books when you look it up on Amazon. Most are health books and one is even called The Longevity Code: Your Personal Prescription for a Longer, Sweeter Life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Masdar -- Dharma

Yesterday's blog included an embedded YouTube video -- first time I ever tried it on Blogger and while it worked online, I wasn't sure what would happen when it went out through the Feedblitz email. Sure enough, the email I got this morning did not include the video because I don't have Active X something or other installed or functioning (and don't want to). If that happened to you and you'd like to see the creepy promo video for "The Masdar Initiative," you'll have to go to the blog itself.

This morning I figured out one of the reasons the name "The Masdar Initiative" and logo are so creepy to me. To any Lost fans out there: Isn't it an awful lot like "The Dharma Initiative?" Just add an s and switch the syllables and you've got "Masdar." (okay and take away the h, but you don't pronounce that) The Masdar logo is even vaguely reminiscent of the Dharma one. Is this a coincidence?

I doubt the Masdar people copied Lost, but maybe the Lost people copied Masdar... nah, probably not. (though I just read of two actual incidents in the non fiction book I'm reading now (The Biotech Century) which Michael Crichton used to model plot elements in his genetics gone awry novel Next after.) Anyway, according to Wikipedia, Dharma means the "underlying order in nature and life (human or other)...which makes the cosmos and the harmonious complexity of the natural world possible."

Spiritually it's said to refer to the 'right way of living', 'proper conduct', 'duty' or 'righteousness'. Which really kind of fits with the whole Masdar thing, especially if you look at it from the "environmentalism as religion standpoint." Living in Masdar will save the world, save mankind, be the pure and pious thing to do. Yuck. Masdar, by the way, is Arabic for "source." That's creepy, too. Especially as it echoes the "order that makes the natural world possible" part of dharma.

And since the source of all things is God, who is the source and orderer who makes the natural world possible... these both seem like words that express kingdom of darkness sorts of concepts.

Enough of the creepiness. I am working on chapter 19 of my newly titled book today (having skipped over chapter 18). Didn't get very far. Lots of sitting and staring and shuffling of notes. Or maybe I did get far, I just can't tell.

Tomorrow: the new title.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Masdar Initiative

Oh my. The following video about Abu Dhabi's planned supercity, The Masdar Initiative, is SO CREEPY! Such a clear indication of living in the end times. Remember the Anti-Christ is supposed to rule out of Babylon, which is not all that far away. Of course there's all the global warming stuff, and the international cooperation stuff, and the glory of man stuff... but even beyond that everything about this city and its plans just screams enslavement. Think about living in such a place, think about the rules there would HAVE to be. Think about the capacity to be watched and how well the mark of the Beast would fit into the whole thing...

Even the name and the music accompaniment are creepy!


Sunday, March 09, 2008

A New Interview

Well, I've been seriously remiss in keeping up to date with Interviews, reviews, etc. Perhaps that's because the notice that this interview had been posted came during Christmas when I was caught up in the delusion that any day I was going to have time to deal with it, because after all, we didn't have the puppy yet, I wasn't up against a close deadline and... who knows? But it slipped out of the frame on my inbox into dreaded out of sight/out of mind land.

Recently I've been culling emails and it fell back into view.

Embarrassment! But better late than never and we are just about at the the one year anniversary of the release of Return of the Guardian King. So, without further ado, there's an Interview up at Australian Narelle Mollet's blog, Relz Reviewz Her questions include Why Christian Fiction? Why Christian Fantasy? If the series was made into a movie, who would you cast? What impact do you hope these books have upon the reader? And, Would you taste Vegemite if given the opportunity? Stop by for a read, and unlike with my blog, you can leave a comment if you wish. (And thanks, Rel, for putting the Interview up)

I believe I have a couple more interviews to do, and I'm afraid to look at how long it's been since I was asked to do them. Did you know that the closer you get to death, the faster time flies? LOL It's true, though.


Thursday, March 06, 2008


The poppies are blooming! In some places, they carpet the desert with orange. Our skies are blue and clear. The breezes are gentle. The temps are in the mid to high 70s... It's dry and just wonderful to be outside. As one of my friends says, we live in paradise!
Have a great weekend

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dispatches from Iraq

I came across this essay from Victor Davis Hansen the other day called Dispatches from the Front, "a synopsis of dispatches from Iraq that appeared October 6-9, 2007, in Hansen's blog Works and Days." Hansen is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor emeritus at California University, Fresno, and holds numerous other academic positions and accolades. He's also a prolific writer of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, newspaper editorials and 16 nonfiction books on matters ranging from Greek and military history to contemporary politics and culture to farming. The latter because he was also once a full time farmer before heading up the classics department at Fresno.

These dispatches are very well written, with lots of information gleaned from Hansen's trip to Iraq last year, covering not only what is really going on over there, but what our fighting men are really like. For example, "Three weeks after I heard a formal lecture on the history of Vietnam presented by Col. H.R. McMaster, a Hoover research fellow, at Hillsdale College, I found myself being led by him in full combat gear through Anbar."

It's a long essay as Internet pieces go, but rich and worth the time. You might want to read it in two or three parts (which is what I did).

Here's how it starts:

From Ramadi to Taji and in various hot spots in Baghdad and Diyala province, almost all the Marine and Army units I visited expressed the belief that there has been a sudden, almost inexplicable shift in the pulse of the battlefield. Sometimes, with little warning, thousands of once-disgruntled Sunnis have turned against al Qaeda, ceased most resistance, and begun flocking to government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.
Read More


Monday, March 03, 2008

A New Title

Last week my editor emailed to let me know that the title of my WIP (that's Work In Progress) could no longer be Black Box. Apparently another novel called Black Box was published by a Christian publisher in 2004. It didn't do so well (it had to do with airplane black boxes) and marketing is afraid booksellers and readers will get my new book confused with this older one. So I've spent the last few days coming up with some alternate titles.

As I did so I realized that Black Box really isn't a very good title. For one thing, your title should use fresh and lively words. "Black" and "box" are not exactly either. In fact, there are several other books named Black Box out there besides the one I just mentioned and I have to admit, looking at them the title seems rather dull. If you have no frame of reference... well, a black box is just not that interesting.

Yes, it works perfectly for my story if you actually know which black box I'm talking about -- not the one in an airplane, but the concept of a black box, which is a thing whose actions or output are known but the mechanics behind them are not. "Something that is mysterious, especially as to function." So many things in life are like that, from living cells at one time, to genetics, to aging, to the human soul, to many aspects of the spiritual life. It's a perfect concept, but...alas, since for most people this concept is not going to be the first thing they think of when they see Black Box on the cover of a book, not the perfect title.

But coming up with something better? I don't know. I made a list and sent it off. Perhaps nothing on it will be the actual title, but hopefully one of the titles I brainstormed will generate the one that ends up on the book. We'll see.

Wanna see the list?

Here is some of my suggested titles:

Illusions in Twilight
Veils of the Soul
A Storm of Darkness

Once There be Giants

I actually sent 14 titles, many of them variations on the above. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I'm really kind of hoping that one of these will spark something in someone else that will lead to an eventual title that I really like. Not to say that if one of the ones I submitted is chosen I won't end up liking it just fine. That's kind of what happened with Return of the Guardian-King. Where at first I was disturbed by the similarity to Tolkien's Return of the King, as time passed I grew more comfortable with it and it really seemed like the right title to end the series with.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Quote of Note: Man in the Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worse, if he fails, fails while daring greatly.

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." -- Teddy Roosevelt