Monday, July 06, 2009

Writing From the Edge Has Moved

I have moved my blog to Wordpress. Please visit Writing from the Edge 2 for current blog posts:

Of course, you can always stay here and explore my older posts, too, which began back in 2006 and continue through May of 2009.


Monday, June 29, 2009

It Worked!

Well, my transfer of my Feedblitz subscribers to the blog at Wordpress was successful so I am now officially blogging over at Wordpress.

I don't think I'll be writing any more here, so please visit me at the above address and change your bookmarks to the new place. I'm working on getting the subscribe box for Feedblitz put in over at the WP blog. Thanks for following the blog!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hope and Change

Well, tonight I finally found the answer I was looking for regarding how to change blogging platforms without losing my feedblitz email subscribers. At least I think I have.

So the CHANGE is coming soon. Probably tomorrow. And I HOPE that, as the instructions say, those of you who get this blog through your email via Feedblitz will continue to get it uninterrupted, so that you will not even notice I've switched platforms.

This assumes that I actually understand all the stuff I've been reading but we shall see. I am going to wait to give this post a chance to get off from Blogger tonight. Then tomorrow I will make the necessary administrative changes and do a post from Wordpress to see if it's actually working, which Feedblitz subscribers should receive on Monday. If you don't, let me know through my email or you can go over to and leave me a comment, since the comments there are activated.

Thanks and let's HOPE this works!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dinking Around With Wordpress

Today I spent the afternoon dinking around over at Wordpress, trying out various themes, seeing if I could upload my header photo. Wordpress is cool in that it has so many options for themes. Maybe too many, because I don't want to spend months on this. And there is much for me to figure out and do.

But anyway, I've got the beginnings. If you are interested in seeing my very much under construction new blog and website you can go to and have a look. I have uploaded the header photo, played with the color of the text, made a start on the About page. I've also been over to Feedblitz to see about transferring the old blog's subscribers to the new one. I think I'll have to open a new account for the new blog and then import the existing subscribers. Or do I export them from the old account? Still need to do more reading.

Also, I'm almost caught up on my reader letters now and good thing since responses on The Enclave are starting to come in. They continue to be good. More than good, actually, and from the things people are seeing in the story and getting out of it I know that God really was at work in it. I might share some of those tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

His Plan, Not Mine. Again.

Well, I missed posting yesterday because... well, I'm not sure. Just wasn't moved with anything to say. Or maybe I used up all my words writing emails to various people. I was tired after the weekend and even though it seems that I shouldn't be, I find a pattern in Mondays where I struggle to do the things "I should do."

Actually I have so many things I "should" do, I could not possibly get them all done. I think I'd hoped for a few more weeks to clean my house before the urgency of The Enclave's release hit me. Now it seems almost to have passed me by. And I haven't done the video trailer, haven't created the author page at Amazon, haven't redesigned my website and blog, though I am pretty sure I'm going to be moving the blog to Wordpress and moving/redoing my website there. There are some other technical details I have to resolve, too, but I'm closer to doing that now as well. Soon I will have only to execute. I'm thinking perhaps next week.

Then there are doctor's appointments -- mine and my mothers. And various errands and reader mail which I still haven't caught up on, though I'm getting closer on that as well.

Then today in mid morning I caught myself doing the weird, tense, things-are-bad-and-wrong thing and sat down to figure out what exactly I was feeling. Turns out it was anxiety and condemnation. Again. Because, again, I had somehow started focusing on all the things I thought I had to do, plus the things I wanted to do, a list, as I said, far too long to ever complete. Knowing it unconsciously, I became tense and anxious, condemning myself because I wasn't working enough. Getting enough done.

Weird how subtly it sneaks in and the next thing you know you're in this weird place. I needed to recall that it's God's plan that matters, not mine, that there's always time to do the will of God, and that if I'm confused about what I shoudl be doing, since I have so many options, perhaps I should stop and ask Him what He wants me to do.

Peace returned. And then tonight in the basics class the pastor-in-training reminded us... the Christian life is about falling on our faces and getting up again, over and over and over. But it doesn't matter how many times we fail, only that we get up and keep on going. He talked, too, of how when faced with a problem or overwhelming circumstances we so easily revert to human viewpoint and start focusing on how we're going to solve the thing, rather than recalling that the problems aren't ours, but God's. So that was a nice affirmation of earlier conclusions.

And look! Now I even have a blog post. Not a long one, but a post, nevertheless.



Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good and Evil

Here's the continuation I promised on Friday of the thoughts prompted by my reading of Dean Koontz's One Door Away From Heaven, which hinge on the nature of good and evil. This question, this examination, this setting together for contrast of good and evil is something Koontz does often.

Unfortunately, the more I've come to understand about God's word, the more I see Koontz doesn't know what he's talking about. Thus it's no surprise that he's a best-selling author with 40 some books to his credit and a vast following of fans. And if he doesn't understand the difference between good and evil, he's certainly not alone. It is not in Satan's interest for people to understand and he works hard through his army of fallen angel-minions to see that they don't. One of his methods is to make people think the whole dichotomy doesn't exist -- there really isn't "evil" per se. It's just a perception. There really aren't demons and a devil, that's comic book stuff. (It's interesting to note that he never really goes for the argument that there isn't good, though perhaps with the rise of postmodernism he's moving in that direction -- but that's another subject).

One of the things I don't think people realize about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden was that the good was not divine good. This was not the difference between Satan's evil and God's goodness. Adam and the woman already knew about God's goodness. What they didn't know about was Satan's evil and his form of goodness.

Another thing I think many don't realize is that Satan and his followers really don't, as Koontz in his One Door Away from Heaven described, "seek only to serve entropy. They love chaos, destruction, death." Satan isn't trying to do away with God, he's trying to take God's place. He wants the power, he wants the worship, he wants to do good.
"I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God (other angels), I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (Is 14:13,14)
The Most High is not into destruction and death and entropy. The most High is into creation and order and stability.

Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer remarked in his Major Bible Themes,

"Satan is not aiming to promote sin in the world. He did not purpose to be a fiend, but rather to be "like the most High"; he is not aiming to destroy so much as he is to construct and to realize his own ambition for authority over this world-system with its culture, morality, and religion (2 Co 11:13-15). The impression that Satan is the direct cause of sin is not true because human sin is said to come directly from the fallen human heart (Gen 6:5; Mk 7:18-23; James 1:13-16)
It's this good on the part of people that Satan most wants to promote -- good performed by people, or human good. That's the knowledge that the woman gained: the idea of doing her own thing for good. Even Satan's invitation to her was to do a good thing: "Eat that fruit and it will make you wise. You will be as smart as God, and that would surely be a good thing. You could converse with Him better, know better what He wants from you, understand Him better. Be His friend better."

When she brought the fruit to the man, there's cause to think she might well have believed she was helping him out, for Paul tells Timothy she was "quite deceived." And if she'd realized she was naked, why didn't she hide from the man and cover herself with leaves before approaching him? Why did she bring him the fruit? Why only after he had eaten did they realize they were naked and go looking for leaves to cover themselves?

Human good, creature credit is what powers most religions. It's what powered the unbelieving Pharisees in Jesus' day and prevented them from seeing the truth of who He was. It is way worse than sin. Sin was dealt with on the cross. Human good blinds. Human good feels good to those who perform it. It feels right and keeps people from the truth, from freedom, from really knowing God.

Just like Cain bringing all that produce, the work of his hands, they think their good works will please God. Cain probably expected God to tell him he'd gone above and beyond, bringing an better offering than Abel's. He totally didn't get the point of the slain lamb as a picture of the offering God himself would eventually make to pay the penalty for man's sin. He didn't understand that he was depraved and that nothing he would ever do could come close to the perfect righteousness of God. He thought he could by his own actions please God.

Believers do this as well. Paul warns the Galatians about it: having come to Christ by faith, will you then be perfected by the flesh? Your own efforts? Your own good works? He warns the Corinthians of the ministers whom Satan sends out among the brethren to teach others how to be righteous. They look good. They look spiritual. They seem right. And they are not.

All of which is why the theme in Koontz's book so annoyed me. Here it is as he stated it:

"None of us can save himself; we are the instruments of one another's salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into light."
He did mention God in the book. In fact, it was by the savior-angel character's bonding with a dog that the character could perceive God. If this character touched a dog while it was sleeping, he would experience the peace and joy of knowing God as the Playful Presence perceived by dogs all the time. Moreover he could teach people to do the same and by this "save the world," because in perceiving the Playful Presence they would experience joy and peace and would know they were unconditionally loved.

Jesus was mentioned in only one conversation and that mockingly. When one of the heroines is trying to get a PI to help her, she is quite pushy and he remarks at one point,
"You ought to sell Jesus door-to-door. The whole world would be saved by Tuesday."
Later in that same conversation, she says, again echoing the book's theme,
"Sometimes a person's life can change for the better in one moment of grace, like a miracle almost. Someone so special can come along, all unexpected, and pivot you in a new direction, change you forever. You ever had that experience, Mr. Farrel?"

He grimaced. "You ARE peddling Jesus door-to-door."
So weird, so close to truth. Yes, your life does change for the better in one moment of grace, and it is a miracle when you believe in Christ and are made new, given eternal life right then and there. He, Jesus Christ, is the one so special who comes along and can pivot you in a new direction, change you forever... It seems amazing the words uttered by this character can be so close to the truth and yet, be derailed by focusing on the wrong object.

But this is what Satan's cosmic system and deception is all about. A little bit of truth, maybe even a LOT of truth, and a little bit of lie, and it's all distorted.

So that's why this wonderfully written book annoyed me. Because the author used truth to cloak a dreadful lie, because he even used it to slight the Lord. Instead of seeking God through his Word, through believing in Christ we are advised to find a sleeping dog. This sounds absurd as I set it down, but because Koontz is so good at what he does, it is not nearly so laughable in the story. And truth distorted by one little lie, the whole cloaked in a wonderfully appealing cloak of "rightness", has always been Satan's best work for deceiving people.
"And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world..." ~ Rev 12:9


Friday, June 19, 2009

One Door Away From Heaven

I said Wednesday I would blog on my thoughts about One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz, one of the two books he graciously autographed to me. Because he did autograph it, I felt that I should only have good things to say about it. And mostly I do. But there was an element -- the theme -- that greatly annoyed me. In fact I was all ready to write about that and then went to Amazon to check out what other reviewers had to say and...

That was most beneficial, both in instructing me not to take those reviews at all seriously (some people do not seem to actually know how to read, given the things they see or don't see in a book) and in getting me to take another look at my reaction, which overall was far more positive than that of the people grousing at Amazon. (The teacher of English was especially out to lunch, giving the book one star, railing at it for its horrible writing and its terrible use of metaphor. And even transcribing one of his horrible sentences, which was -- Heaven forbid! -- 84 words long! Horrors! How can this be?! She would have given his work an F were he in her class.)

What's funny about this is that he doesn't have a lot of respect for English teachers and their effects on those with a talent for creative writing, and he devotes a fair amount of discussion to this in his How to Write Best-selling Fiction. In his opinion they don't have the first idea what writing fiction is about and generally will squelch and derail any creative impulses on the part of their students should they happen to manifest.

It's also funny because I seem to recall from one of William Faulkner's novels a sentence that went on unobstructed for over a page, but none of my English teachers were calling him a horrible writer for doing this. So not only does Koontz not have the corner on long sentences, his being maligned for it is inconsistent with what English teachers accept from someone else, now dead and held as a Great Writer.

Finally, it's funny because in HTWBSF, Koontz also discusses his penchant for experimenting with form and technique to get the best effect for what he is trying to convey in a book. That's why he chose to use the present tense for one of his points of view in this story (which appalled the teacher) (though it's not the first book by any means where he's done it) and why he chose to create a sentence 84 words long. I believe he was in that sentence trying to convey a smoothness of chaotic motion. The words and their form mimic the image he is communicating and I think he did a good job.

So, having read some of the reviews, instead of complaining about the theme, I end up defending him! LOL.

Despite my complaint, I did not find this book boring at all, nor did I find the writing tiresome, or the metaphors overdone. I enjoyed most of them. For example (relating to a brewing storm):
As dark as iron in places, the sky at last grew heavy enough to press an anxious breath from the still afternoon. The pleasantly warm day began to cool. All around Micky, trees shivered and whispered to the wind.

Birds like black arrows, singly and in volleys, returned to their quivers in the pine branches, with flap and flutter, vanishing among the layered boughs: a reliable prediction that the storm would soon break.
Here's another one:

The first bolt of lightning, thrown open with a crash, had not unlocked the rain. The longer part of a minute passed before another bolt, brighter than the first, slammed out of the hasp of the heavens and opened a door in the storm.

Scattered drops of rain, as fat as grapes, snapped into the oiled lane that served the many campsites, striking with such force that sprays of smaller droplets bounced a foot high from each point of impact.
I also liked the characters, and unlike some (was it that teacher again?) did not find them unbelievable at all (especially since I am now reading Hollywood Interrupted, which examines the behind-the-scenes lives and culture of the elites of the entertainment industry; some of those people are VERY much like Koontz's villains here). I'm always amazed at how he creates likable, believable, flawed but very quirky -- and thus interesting -- characters. They can have somewhat lengthy conversations that remain amusing and interesting and just pull you easily through them.

His openings are always immediately gripping. Here's One Door's:

The world is full of broken people. Splints, casts, miracle drugs, and time can't mend fractured hearts, wounded minds, torn spirits.

Currently, sunshine was Micky Bellsong's medication of choice, and southern California in late August was an apothecary with a deep supply of this prescription.
Another metaphor there, which I also enjoyed. That first line is also part of the book's theme, which concerns what actually will heal those broken people. Of course, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I know the answer. I know the man, the One True Healer. It's only through believing in Him that anyone can be "healed."

This was not Koontz's answer however, which is hardly surprising. And because it is not, as you have probably guessed, that is partly what annoyed me. The other part of what annoyed me is that he presented his faulty solution so darned well. It seems so good, so nice, so "true" from the human perspective. The words, the story, the characters all work together to make you feel so good about it, when it is a lie. In fact, it is the worst kind of lie and the worst kind of evil. For how great is your darkness when you believe you are in the light?

I find it ironic that the Publisher's Weekly review of this book, which was on the whole favorable, concluded with this statement:
"For all that, the novel is surprisingly focused on its inspirational message "we are the instruments of one another's salvation and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into light" and conveys it with such conviction that only the most critical will demur."
So that makes me one of the minority "most critical," but yes, I do indeed demur ("to object mildly to something") (what is it about PW that I keep having to look up the words they use in their reviews?) Except I don't object mildly. I strongly and strenuously object. In fact, it makes me want to gag. But I'll save that for my next post.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Me and Dean Koontz

As I mentioned in a post back in 2007, the only published author I ever wrote a fan letter to was Dean Koontz. I may have told bits and pieces of this story over time, but today I'll put it all together. I can't recall when I first read his book Watchers. It was probably a good twenty-five years ago. I loved it. I was amazed by it. I immediately began reading others of his books, including his Writer's Digest book, How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, now out of print. (Or maybe I read that first, seeing as my Berkeley edition of Watchers is dated 1988, whereas my Writer's Digest edition of HTW Best-selling Fiction is 1981) Anyway, my copy of the latter is highlighted and worn. It became my central text on learning to write, and his books my illustrations.

Later, I used several of his openings as comparisons with my own (an unpublished opening for The Light of Eidon), in a process I describe in an article on my website entitled "Mentoring without Meeting." I pulled out the first paragraphs and set them side by side, examining and comparing each sentence to see what his did in comparison to mine did. I learned a lot from that and I've now
read at least 32 of his books.

Thus, when The Light of Eidon came out, I marshaled my courage and sent him a copy of it along with a letter explaining my indebtedness to him and my appreciation for his work. I figured he surely didn't have time to look at reader mail, let alone read the published book of some fan, but you never know and possibly one of those staff members might read Eidon, even if Koontz did not. I have no idea if he read it -- mostly likely not -- but a month or so later I received a box from him, containing two hardcover books autographed to me (see the pic above for one example) from him and Trixie, his dog, since I'd mentioned myself as a longtime dog lover.

There was also a wonderful personal letter from Mr. Koontz, along with the form letter that usually goes out and a copy of his newsletter, Useless News which was quite funny as well as being enlightening and encouraging. (I'm still on the mailing list, just as the newsletter warned: "'re on our mailing list , and there's nowhere to hide." So I'm doomed forever to receive Useless News! Fortunately I enjoy them immensely.) I was overwhelmed with his graciousness and his generosity.

The first of the books that he sent me was From the Corner of His Eye (2000), which I finally got around to reading in June of 2007 and blogged about in the same post I mentioned above.

The second was One Door Away From Heaven (2001), which I finally read last week and will blog about tomorrow. As I mentioned the other day, my thoughts about it, on balance were not positive, but that's not because of anything regarding the writing, the characters, the plot (I read it in less than a week, after all, and it's a 607 page book) but rather because my theological/doctrinal viewpoint clashed strongly with the viewpoint he was putting forth in the book. A clash that many in the world would probably find surprising...

But more on that tomorrow...


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Well, the Lord seems to be leading me to move my blog to another hosting service, and to consolidate my website along with it. I know I have to redesign the website, and in fact have been thinking about that for several years. Unfortunately, that's about as far as my thinking went on it -- one more project to add to my to-do list.

But now, things seem to be happening. I spent many hours today perusing Wordpress, and tomorrow may look into Typepad, which someone recommended as another option. Plus I've finally gotten access to my actual name as a domain name: Every time I went to see if it was available, it was only to find that someone else had gotten to it before me, the most recent being some sort of used bookselling company. But then a reader and occasional correspondent happened to notice when it came up for renewal and snagged it. Now that I have it, I have to figure out how I'm going to use it. All that computer stuff with domain name servers and email servers and so forth. It's been almost ten years since I worked my way through all that. And now there is feedblitz to consider and my old website address which is also my email address...

I was starting to get overwhelmed about it. In fact, I spent a couple of days avoiding the whole thing because it seemed like such a huge, impossible task. But then, today I recalled -- this is the Lord's problem, not mine. Also, responses are coming in to The Enclave and they are good! Beyond good, actually. So, remembering how overwhelmed and confused and uncertain I was during the writing of that, and how I had to trust God to see it done, I can now do the same thing with this new project of mine. Something on the Wordpress beginner's site echoed this in a reassuring way: yes, there's a lot of material, but just take it slowly (step by step) and you'll get it figured out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Updating Mundanity

Having read Matt Labosh's article about Facebook, I decided to give one of its functions a try here on my blog, just to see what it would be like. This would be a combination of FB and Twitter I guess... A running update that will keep readers, um, up to date, on all the thrilling events of my life...

9:40am Karen is typing at her computer about how she is typing at her computer for a silly post on the minutia of what she is doing...

9:50am Karen is waiting, quite a loong time, for her very slow computer to show her the save window.. tick tock, tick tock... It's up and she is now saving her post...

10:30am Karen is again waiting for her very slow computer to open the um... well, she's been waiting so long, she's forgotten what she's waiting for it to open... ah. The email...

10:40am Karen is so frustrated with waiting for her very slow computer to do ANYTHING, she is deleting the temporary files and cookies and going out to turn off the sprinkler.

1:08pm Karen just finished reading Dean Koontz's One Door Away from Heaven and writing up her thoughts about it, which on balance were not positive. To make matters, worse, the book is autographed specifically to her! She feels like an ingrate.

2:22pm Karen is figuring out the postage to mail a copy of Arena to someone and checking her email.

3:39pm Karen is again checking her email and turning to that earlier task of figuring the postage after being distracted by reading news-sites and political blogs. She is not sure how this rather lengthy distraction occurred.

5:27pm Karen is updating her website to show The Enclave as her latest release instead of Return of the Guardian-King. She is amazed to find her ancient FTP program works on Vista.

6:40pm Karen is tired of noting the "mind-numblingly dull" things she is doing and is going to stop. After which she will fix dinner, eat it, then walk Quigley around the park.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Down with Facebook!

Recently, yet another acquaintance recommended I join Facebook, reminding me that there is a Facebook page for Arena (while other friends recently suggested I could do a page for The Enclave, as well). I considered it. Then in processing my mail the other day I noted on a flyer urging me to resubscribe to the political magazine The Weekly Standard (only $1 an issue!) was a cover which pictured a man sitting at his workstation, a deluge of junk and garbage pouring out of his computer onto his desk and lap. The accompanying caption was "Down with Facebook!"

I wondered if since it was obviously not a new cover, the article might be available online. It was:

Down with Facebook!
What nobody bothers to mention about the social-networking site is that it's really dull--mind-numbingly dull.

Written by Weekly Standard editor Matt Labash back in March of 09 (03/16/2009, Volume 014, Issue 25), I found it quite amusing. It starts like this:

Look at the outer shell--the parachute pants, the piano-key tie, the fake tuxedo T-shirt--and you might mistake me for a slave to fashion. Do not be deceived. Early adoption isn't my thing. I much prefer late adoption, that moment when the trend-worshipping sheeple who have early-adopted drive the unsustainable way of life I so stubbornly cling to ever so close to the edge of obsolescence, that I've no choice but to follow. This explains why I bought cassette tapes until 1999, why I wouldn't purchase a DVD player until Blockbuster cashiered their VHS stock. Toothpaste? I use it now that it's clear it's here to stay.

So I'm not inflexible. But there is one promise I've made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society.

He goes on to chronicle his wife's experiences with Facebook and how it changed her, and has some interesting observations on the phenomenon. I think I agree with most of them. And I was amazed at how much I parallel his description of himself: "I procrastinate, shirk responsibilities, and spend much time peppering a fairly wide circle of friends with an incessant barrage of individually tailored emails, many of them lengthy.(as opposed to the abbreviated, promiscuously generic, group-blog like messages left on Facebook)." You can read the rest of the article Here.

Like Mr. Labash, I'm not a joiner. Like the Amish he mentioned, I don't have a cellphone. And I just took a lot of my cassette tapes off to the used book and music store, a couple of years after I'd gotten rid of my last tape player. We do still have VHS tapes, though, and a machine that plays both VHS and DVD.

People say I should get on to market. But frankly I'm just not sure I want to interact with that many people. I remember reading about a theoretical limiting number of people with which one can maintain stable social relationships -- Dunbar's number. This is the size of a group where you know everyone, and they all relate to each other. It's posited as being around 150. After that the group tends to split and more formal rules and norms must be established to keep it stable.

Is it really possible to 600 or 800 or a 1000 "friends"? Of course, if it's about marketing, they aren't really friends, more like contacts, potential readers... I don't know. It might not be a bad thing, but I see no reason to think I would be any different than Mr. Labash's wife in my ability to resist the lure of constant Facebook checking and poking. I've already gone through the constant Amazon numbers/reviews checking, the constant email checking, the constant blog comment checking and reading... why would this be any different?

No, I think for now I'll continue to hold firm and refrain from joining. And when I do, if I ever do, it will no doubt be just as the whole thing is starting to fold...


Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Shipping!

I heard from a reader that Amazon has begun shipping the pre-orders of The Enclave. So it's now officially out. Probably not in regular bookstores yet, but available.

Guess I'd better change the title of the widget in the sidebar from "Coming Soon" to "My Latest Release." And I'd better get my website updated as well...


Thursday, June 11, 2009

What You Think

I had something of an epiphany today relative to the notion that our happiness really dis about what we think and that we really do have the power to think correctly. It was triggered by my consideration of this quote from one of my pastor's lessons, delivered years ago but saved into one of my little books of quotes:
"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. So guard the type of thoughts you allow in. Let you mind dwell on whatever is honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, virtuous, worthy of praise."
For some reason I've always thought that list pertained to people, to the honorableness of their actions, the purity of their words, to good things in the world. Maybe because when I was first introduced to this verse no one told me otherwise and what else would a worldly minded person think? Or maybe they did tell me and since it didn't mean a whole lot, I forgot. The trouble with that view was that by trying to focus on the good things in people and in the world, I was almost always dragged away from that line of thinking and back to the not-so-good things.

Today I realized: it's talked about principles of God's word, about Jesus, about God's plan and essence, about who He's made me to be and the 40 things He gave me at salvation. Those are the things I'm supposed to be thinking about. Not, as Pastor McLaughlin suggested,
"whatever is a lie, whatever makes you angry or jealous or fearful or resentful or discouraged or miserable."
Which is what we generally tend to think, even when we know we shouldn't. But by focusing on the right and pure and honor and virtue in God... that He's perfect, that His plan is perfect, that Jesus is seated at His right hand, that He's made me a priest and I can go to Him whenever I want...

I think that in particular is something we take for granted. In the age of Israel, people just couldn't go to God whenever they wanted. Though sometimes God came to them, like with Gideon, usually they had to go to the priest and ask him to talk to God for them. Or if God had said anything to the priest that the person needed to know. Or they had to confess their sins to him and ask him to sacrifice an animal for them.

We don't have to do that and I know that I, for one, do not accord this nearly as much awe and appreciation as I should. We live in a time when priests aren't particularly lauded. I have never even known one, at least so far as the world is concerned. So being a priest doesn't have the significance it must have had to the early Jewish Christians. But if you just sit and consider that as a believer in Jesus Christ you have the right and freedom to go directly to God yourself, in your thoughts and confess your sins, or ask for your needs, or just talk to Him... that's really pretty mind-boggling.

And certainly a much better subject for contemplating that what some person is like or doing, or has done...


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Beginning...

Last week I received my hot off the press copy of The Enclave. That was something of a thrill and a bemusement. It's finally book. After all that... it's finally done and in print. After all those months when it seemed as if I would never reach the end. Cool.

This last Monday, I got my box of author's copies, and on Tuesday, I got the first word back from one of my "influencers" who had just received her copy. She could hardly wait to start reading it. Today came more emails from those who had gotten their books. More excitement and enthusiasm. And all the while I can't help but wonder if all their anticipation will be rewarded with a satisfying reading experience? I have no idea one way or the other.

My dear friend Kelli says she cannot foresee being disappointed. Others have offered similar assurances. I can only sit back and wait to see what the Lord has done in all this. And what He will continue to do, though whatever it is, I know it will be for my highest and best.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cycle of Civilizaton

My former pastor, now retired, Col R.B. Thieme, Jr., preached a sermon on Jan 20, 1993 wherein he related the following story:

Clarence Manion, the dean of the Notre Dame law school from 1941-1952, boarded a plane sometime during the early 1950's. One of the passengers recognized him and went over and sat down next to him. Dean Manion was doing some work but he had to put it all away as this man began asking questions. He told Professor Manion that he was one of the greatest thinkers in our country at that time. He wanted to talk with the professor about the unfortunate condition of our country. So Dean Manion listened patiently, conversed with him, and began making notes while the man was speaking.

As the plan landed he got up, shook hands with the man, who again told Dean Manion what a wonderful privilege it was to talk with a man of his caliber of mentality. Dean Manion smiled, thanked him and handed him a slip of paper on which he had written these words:

Man begins his existence in bondage,
and rises from bondage through spiritual faith,
from spiritual faith to courage,
from courage to liberty,
from liberty to abundance,
from abundance to selfishness,
from selfishness to complacency,
from complacency to apathy,
from apathy to dependency,
from dependency back into bondage.
This is the cycle of civilization. The only hope of breaking this cycle is the believer who gives his attention to the Word of God. (Proverbs 16:20)

(Taken from the booklet In Whom Do You Trust? by R.B. Thieme, Jr, a transcription of the January 20, 1993 sermon)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Movie Night: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others -- "Before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's Secret Police Listened to Your Secrets"

I picked this movie a couple of weeks ago for our movie night because Rush Limbaugh recently recommended it as something for everyone to see, especially younger people (but not too young since it's rated R) If you've reached a certain age you remember all the stuff about communism/socialism, the movies, the stories, the books that were around during the Cold War. But today's young people, apparently, don't have anything like that so they don't really have a good sense of what it would be like to live under socialism. That's why Rush recommended the film.

It's a German film, in German with subtitles. Mostly I don't like subtitles, because they're distracting, but in this movie they worked okay for me. The Lives of Others won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2006 (so you'll have to look for it in the foreign films section of your local Blockbuster). It's about living in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall. It's about how the people are watched all the time and monitored and how if you don't toe the party line, they will ruin you. It was very well done.

Internet Movie Database summarizes the plot thus: "In the early 1980s, the successful dramatist Georg Dreyman and his longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland, a popular actress, are big intellectual stars in the socialist state, although they secretly don't always think loyal to the party line. One day, the Minister of Culture becomes interested in Christa, so the secret service agent Wiesler is instructed to observe and sound out the couple, but their life fascinates him more and more..." Except it was really Georg the Minister of Culture wanted observed, in hopes of finding something incriminating so he could have Christa to himself. And part of the reason their life fascinates Wiesler is because his own is so dry and sterile.

I liked it quite a bit. It was very thought provoking. In some ways it reminded me of Equilibrium (Christian Bale), but without the action -- though that lack did not make it any less engrossing. It shares with Equilibrium the theme of one of the enforcers coming to see the evil of the system he's supposed to enforce and the value of freedom. In fact, one of the movie's claims is that Socialist East Germany had the second highest suicide rate in Europe the year the government decided to stop counting suicides. I don't know if that's true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.

The film reminded me that people are sinners and sinners who have ultimate power are going to abuse it. It reminded me of how awful it would be live under such a system, precisely at a time when it seems with each passing day our country draws closer and closer to doing just that. A recent commentary in Pravda, which offers Russian news and analysis, observed, "the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people." The writer has some interesting, if crudely expressed, ideas on why, including a dumbed-down educational system, self-absorption and loss of religious standards.

One additional reason I've recently been given cause to consider (in Bible class, actually) is the fact that some people don't really want freedom. They prefer being told what to do, because then they don't have to worry about failing. They have security and that's all they want. To eat and drink and watch their TV or movies or play their games. And that seems like enough.

But of course it's not.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I just finished answering an email from a reader who enjoyed the GK books so much she's read them four times. Nevertheless, she felt a fifth book is in order. She's not the only one to write me with this request. (In fact the next one in my queue is also asking if there's a fifth book).

So, is a fifth book in order? And if it is, why hasn't God allowed me to write it? Because He hasn't. No question about that. When I submitted the proposal for The Enclave, if it had been rejected, I might have gone on with the GK series, but since it wasn't and I had a contract for it, that was the direction I was led to go. And I have yet another standalone to write for them as it stands.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall that I dealt with this question back in July of 2007, as I answered various questions I'd received from readers and reviewers. (You can find it here. Just scroll down to "A Sequel, Time and Word Count" which is the final entry in that series.

Rereading those posts myself, I found the words oddly echoing concepts God is showing me right now: How you have these expectations of what a book should be about and how it should end, what kind of confrontations should occur, etc, and if they don't, if certain questions that were raised in your mind are not answered right out, then you are discomfited. Dissatisfied. Not exactly what a writer has in mind for a reader's reaction to her story...

Ideally everyone would be tremendously satisfied with the journey she's taken them on and eager for more. Which, in my case, seems to have been the case. Many of the readers professed to have loved the books and were indeed eager for more -- more details regarding elements that were really side issues, not the main thrust of the story. I've been there, myself, getting hung up on some issue in a tale that wasn't adequately resolved in my view, and because of that not enjoying the story as much as I think I would if things were the way I thought they should be. (One of the reasons I started writing my own stories!)

It occurs to me as I'm writing this to wonder how often we do this in our lives -- not with respect to stories, but with respect to our personal story? We think we know how it should progress in what are, basically, side issues, we get all fixated on them, and when they don't go as we expected or wanted or hoped, we are disappointed. Disgruntled. Think that things need a "rewrite."

God's been doing that a lot with me lately. Showing me how I'm off on the side issues and have lost track of what matters. And what matters is His word. His grace. His truth.

That we are here at His pleasure, by His grace, bought with a price. That every day is a gift from Him that we are to treasure. Yes, it might be filled with mundanity (if that's not a word, it should be) but so what? Mundanity can be enjoyed. You could be living in a war zone where a bomb could come flying through your window at any moment! You could be having to sneak around, fearing the Nazi's or communists might come bursting through your door at any moment to search your house, find your Bible and haul you off to prison. Mundanity is a time of rest, of being able to turn our thoughts to God, and who He is and all He's provided. A time to enjoy everything He's placed around us.

Or maybe things aren't "going right." That's really an arrogant, whiny viewpoint when you get right down to it. That's your view, not God's because He's made the plan and it's perfect so by definition none of it can be going wrong. No, wait, there is one thing that can go wrong and that's our attitude in it... that previously mentioned arrogant, whiny perspective that we (or at least I) so often fall into. Worse than that is the take over mentality. The lust to control things -- my environment, my time, the things I'm going to do. I devise my agenda, even when it's what I think God is directing me to do and then I run with that.

And God, in His humor, slides in little tripwires to slow me down and wake me up. It's not my will, it's His. I don't have a clue what any particular day in my life is going to look like and even though there is a plan, of sorts, flexibility and the acknowledgement that God is in control of the details, not me, seems to be more and more the operating priority for my days. Whatever is happening today, whether mundanity or tripwires, it's God's perfect plan for my life. And that's where the focus has to be.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Devaluing Diversity

One recent morning as I sat at the breakfast table eating half a sticky bun and drinking my coffee, my eye was caught by a pen my husband had picked up at his work, which was lying on the table. "Valuing Diversity" was printed on its side in bold purple letters. Not too far from it a cube of notepaper, also picked up at work, read "Diversity: Building an Inclusive Culture."

It got me thinking. Those ideas are everywhere, not just on pens and posters and message cubes, but spilling from the tongues of people. I've been scolded on more than a few occasions for giving the impression that I'd like everyone to think like me. That's bad, I've been told, both directly and indirectly. Very BAD. I, rebuked and dismayed, rarely stood up to the indictment, but slunk away, feeling chastised, suitably bad, and at the same time uneasy.

Because I think deep down I've always thought maybe it's not really all that bad, and especially not deviant. It's not bad to want people to agree with you. We are social creatures, made to interact and we have a certain need for people to affirm our likes and dislikes, to share our passions and interests. The reality, of course is that we all have free will and we're created with different personalities and not everyone is going to agree. The biggest divider of all, though, is our volition with respect to spiritual things and our old sin natures. And in matters spiritual, the Bible explicitly says that we are to seek to have the same mind. Not as each other, but as Christ.

What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He? That's one area where we cannot possibly be remiss in wanting everyone to think like we do about Him. The alternative is to be cast into outer darkness and spend eternity in torment.

Once you've decided that He's the son of God who died for your sins, other questions arise. What is the Christian way of life about? What is our relationship with God about? Us or Him? Us serving Him, or Him working in us, blessing us and in so doing, bringing glory to Himself.

These are core issues that govern where your priorities are, how you view life in general, your relationship with God, what you're supposed to be doing, etc. We can't make everyone agree, and aren't supposed to, since God has granted each of us the freedom to think like Him, or think like someone else (and there's really only one someone who is the source of all the faulty, false thinking that is independent of God's and that's Satan). But we're going to have a hard time walking together and encouraging each other, if we're walking on different paths.

If I believe the Christian way of life is to be walked by means of grace, that God is already pleased with me in Christ as much as He ever will be, how can I embrace and value an opinion that says we have to work hard to please Him? If I believe that the key to the Christian way of life is to stay alert to my spiritual state, rebound when I sin and make my top priority the perception and application of His word, how can I encourage or even walk with another who thinks Bible study is onerous, a waste of time, refuses to submit to a pastor and just wants to give their opinion of what they think Bible says today? As Amos says, "How can two walk together except they be agreed (about the direction they're going to go)? They can't.

We are told to "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus," and we're also told to avoid those who come to you with a different doctrine. The Jews were told not to intermarry with the Canaanite women, not to follow their religious practices and where disciplined when they did so. In fact, the Jews were told to kill and drive out the Canaanites when they first entered the land, not create an "inclusive culture". You either converted to Judaism or you went somewhere else.

Things are different now, which is what Dispensations is all about -- the recognition of the differences in how we relate to God and how He deals with us. Much of what was overt in the Old Testament is invisible in the Church age. Everything is more subtle now. The overt conflicts in the OT are equated with mental and spiritual conflicts in the New. Hating is the same as murder. Lusting is the same as adultery. We don't offer sacrifices to golden cows. But we very definitely offer the sacrifice of our time, treasure, talent and thoughts to idols. Idols like physical health and beauty, worldly success, wealth, the good opinions of others, making sure everyone is getting along.

Israel was a picture of the Church age believer's soul and as it was warned as a nation not to mix with the Canaanites, we are warned not to mix with those who serve the world. God is the one who set up the nations and the cultures and the languages as a means of dividing us. He did it on purpose because He knew that was the best way to ensure our freedom. Our natural lack of inclusivity, our natural suspicion of those who are different, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but a good thing, keeping us from the one world unity that Satan is working for.

Now, that is being eroded. Technology has brought us closer to one another than ever before. We can see things on the other side of the world as they happen. We can travel to foreign lands and have foreign people coming to our land. And we have this vaunted concept of "Valuing Diversity."

Even in America, which has long stood as a place of freedom, where the people govern themselves, where you have the freedom to believe whatever you wish without worry of being killed, harassed, etc. We were always "American" a melting pot of common ideas and goals and freedoms, not a collection of disparate enclaves each with their own culture, language, beliefs, etc. But now that's changing, and there are strong, loud voices in favor of valuing all those differences, even though historically those very differences have consistently ripped apart all the nations that incorporate them. But to say otherwise is regarded as evil. Bad. A cause of war and prejudice, and it's true that those abuses have arisen from it.

But at the same time, what is arising from the culture of inclusivity? There can be no absolute truth. God's views, God's ways are no longer allowed to be followed as the right way. We must allow all sorts of things as legal and governmentally sanctioned that He considers abominations. Ironically, it reduces our freedoms, rather than increases it. It increases pain and suffering. Because God blesses those who follow His laws for nations and life. And He curses those who do not.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movie Night: Taken

A couple of weeks ago, when it first came out on DVD, we saw the Liam Neeson action film, Taken. I really liked it! I liked it so much I watched it twice. It's the story of a father trying to recover his daughter when she goes abroad with a friend and is kidnapped in Paris. Or, as Imdb summarizes, a former spy tries to save his estranged daughter.

He's initially portrayed as a somewhat down and out middle-aged dad, the cast off husband and father replaced by this "successful" rich guy who can provide wife and daughter everything. Then little by little you learn about his spy activities and the fact that he was/is very good at them. I love that kind of storyline. Beyond that, the plot is fairly straightforward as these things go, you just don't know the details of where things are going to go. Some reviews complained it was predictable or had plot holes, but I didn't really notice and probably don't care, either.

What I liked, especially, is that Neeson's Bryan Mills seemed to be more Bond than Bond was in Quantum of Solace. Maybe it's just because I cut my teeth on Sean Connery, and almost all the others have seemed like imposters (well, except for Pierce Brosnan). What I loved about Connery's Bond was the way he always seemed to be one step ahead of his adversaries. He thought things out, he noticed things, he prepared. And he was very good at what he did. So you're sitting there thinking, "Oh no! This is terrible. How will he ever deal with this?" Only to find out he had it all in hand.

That's the way Bryan Mills was.

I also couldn't help thinking that the movie was a great metaphor for God and His children. The lengths He'll go to save us... and I don't mean just initial salvation, but to deliver us from our own stupid decisions. The focus, the determination, the fact that overall the daughter really doesn't appreciate Him -- she says she does, but it's clearly superficial. She has no understanding of who he is really, and yet he comes through for her. In fact, in the end

*** SPOILER!***




In the end she marvels,"You came for me." And he says, "I said I would."

And isn't that how it is for us waaay too many times? We get all worried and concerned and anxious and then He always comes through. And we're amazed. And then, not long after... it's back to our worldly toys and focus. But it doesn't change His love. Or His faithfulness.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Hunt for Bin Laden

Over the weekend, I finally finished Robin Moore's The Hunt for Bin Laden -- Task Force Dagger (2003), which I bought in hard cover not long after it came out because it not only looked interesting (I'd read a review) but because I thought it might be a fun source of light research for The Enclave. Moore, "the first and only civilian ever allowed to go through the grueling Special Forces qualification course at Fort Bragg" is the author of The Green Berets.

The book covers the first engagement in American's War on Terror: the special forces twelve-man teams that infiltrated into different strategic areas of Afghanistan shortly after Sept 11, 2001 and aided the Northern Alliance in its battle against the Taliban. Sixty-two days later, with the liberation of Kabul, the campaign was over and won. A group of only a few hundred men had decisively defeated an enemy force of one hundred thousand. The book takes you right into the heat of battle, from the eyes of the Green Berets who fought it, and shares the successes and the foibles of their effort.

Unfortunately, it was only as I was looking up the Amazon url for this review that I discovered some of it was made up. Not by Robin Moore, but by one of his sources, Jack Idema (refered to in the book sometimes as the mysterious Jack and others as Keith Idema) who apparently did extensive editing on the ms Moore and his co-writer produced. This Jack claimed to be a Green Beret, and while he was apparently accepted into the program, he ended up being kicked out. There are all sorts of one-star reviews at Amazon, decrying the book, including one which claimed Moore has since disavowed the book. Not wanting to rely solely on Amazon reviewers, I investigated further...

Wikipedia confirms the controversy and also that Moore has disavowed the book. Citing Robert Young Pelton's book, Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, the article states, "Though [the Special Forces soldiers] never met or talked to Idema, and despite the fact that almost ten members had carefully detailed their actions to Moore at K2, the first chapter puts forth an account of the team's infill into Afghanistan that the men tell me has been entirely fabricated."

Nor was it just Moore he snookered. Apparently he spent a good deal of time conning a lot of people in the press as the Wikipedia article documents, including Dan Rather (that probably wasn't all that hard). Idema was convicted in 2004 of running a private Afghan prison and torturing Afghani's, but even before that he had a long history of crime.

That'll teach me to buy a book and take years to get around to reading it. Now I'm wondering if any of it is valid.

Probably some of it is, at least on the general level. One of the things that I was most struck by was how the SF guys would get into position on the ground and then call in the air support -- bombers, fighters, gunships, etc -- is probably ... Since I have a few friends who work on various weapons systems (as does my hubby) it was cool to see how it all works in action.

However, this revelation does explain the sometimes almost incoherent writing, and the weird episodes with "Jack". Though I'm told that Jack rewrote the manuscript in order to give himself a greater role, he failed in that attempt. The parts that centered on him seemed out of left field, having nothing to do with the rest of what was going on. He's the incredible young recruit who loved Moore's ballad The Green Beret and read the book which led him into becoming a Green Beret himself. Later, as "Keith Idema," he appears as the "retired" Green Beret savior of the National Geographic documentary maker Gary Scurka (with whom he'd actually entered the country); still later, he's the legendary superspy/soldier/advisor to the NA in Afghanistan... "Are there many men who call themselves Jack?" Moore supposedly muses, "Or is there only one incredible guy?" There's even an Epilog, all about Jack, which is really out of left field. I read it wondering, "Who is this guy? Why are you telling me about him sitting around in this bar lamenting the loss of the war and ruminating on how great he is? I don't recall him doing anything to speak off in the rest of the narrative..."

So, it's too bad. Lies infiltrate truth and the whole is tainted. After the controversy, publisher Random House quietly let it go out of print and the whole book died into obscurity. But it's also an excellent illustration of how the cosmic system works. Satan loves to take the truths of God and infiltrate them with lies. Just a few and then you don't know what is true and what is not, or you've gotten pointed off in the wrong direction, operating on assumptions that are false, while they seem true...

There are some other books to read about the war, and I may, but right now I still have some books on my shelf. But maybe I'd better check their Amazon entries before I start reading...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fallen, Not Forgotten

The song leader at Grace Bible Church has for some years sung a song for occasions like Memorial Day that I absolutely love. It always brings tears to my eyes, so I thought it would be a good one to put up this year. I went looking and found a YouTube video performed by the writer of the song, Ray Boltz. It's embedded below (for Feedblitz subscribers, you'll have to go to the website to access it. Just click on the title of this this post "Fallen, Not Forgotten" or "Writing from the Edge") Here are the Lyrics:

Fallen Not Forgotten
Words by Ray Boltz

He stood beside his daddy
And watched the solders marching by
It was Veteran's Day and he wondered
Why there were tears in daddy's eyes
Later they laid flowers
Beside a monument of stone
He said, My daddy went to fight
And didn't make it home

Fallen, not forgotten
He was a hero
He stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
He gave his all

They left behind their families
And the towns where they were born
For the rice paddies of Vietnam
And the sands of Desert Storm
They were soldiers in Korea
And World War One
And World War Two
They paid the price
Some gave their lives
And they fought for me and you

Fallen, not forgotten
They were the heroes
Who stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
They gave their all

Now freedom is a blessing
But freedom has a price
And we must remember those
Who paid it with their lives

Remember the
Fallen, not forgotten
They were the heroes
Who stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
They gave their all


1998 Shepherd Boy MusicASCAP (adm. by Word, Inc., a division of Word Music) and Weedom

If this isn't working, try this link.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biblical Literalism

Wikipedia defines Biblical literalism as
"the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal, Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and is used by most conservative Christians today. The essence of this approach focuses upon the author's intent as the primary meaning of the text. Literal interpretation does place emphasis upon the referential aspect of the words or terms in the text. It does not, however, mean a complete denial of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor). Also literalism does not necessarily lead to total and complete agreement upon one single interpretation for any given passage."

"...Sociologists also use the term in reference to conservative Christian beliefs which include not just literalism but also inerrancy."
Yup. That's what I believe and how I approach the Bible. In fact, I don't know why you would approach it any other way. Either it's the Word of God to us and meant to be taken seriously, or it's not. And if it's not, why waste your time with it?

The Wikipedia article also says that,
"Often the term Biblical literalism is used as a pejorative to describe or ridicule the interpretative approaches of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians."
Which I didn't know. I do know that when I was writing The Enclave, particularly when I was in Reinhardt's viewpoint, I kept thinking how in literature the voices of particular groups of people are prized. The voice of a person growing up poor and black. The voice of an Asian immigrant. The voice of a Muslim, of a Jew, of an immigrant Irishman. These are prized. Why not the voice of a Christian who takes the Bible seriously and literally and builds his life upon it, then? Isn't that another, different voice? Well, it may be different, but I'm pretty sure it's not prized.

Given who runs this world today, and forms the general world view of our culture, that's no surprise. Even in Jesus's day, He warned us:

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:18,19
That final line of the PW review says, "Visionary fiction is a narrow niche, and the Christian biblical literalism driving key action in the plot won’t do much to enlarge the audience."

In other words, don't say what you really think and what you really believe if you want to have any readers. Well, then, maybe I won't have any, because what would be the point of writing at all if I didn't proclaim God's Truth as I understand and believe it? What would be the point of writing if I sought to hide my light under a bushel for fear of turning someone off? If you write about God, about Jesus, about the Truth, you are going to turn someone off. Guaranteed.

We are told as writers to write what we know, what we're passionate about, what we believe to be true, to write from our experience and from our own souls. To set down what we really think and stop trying to hide it, stop trying to beat around the bush for fear of being criticized or of offending someone. I agree with that. But I also know that if you do that, you may pay a price. A number of writers have. Salman Rushdie comes to mind. Solzhenitsyn. Watchman Nee. They paid a lot heftier of a price than just failing to build their readership (and for that I can give thanks that I live in America!). Still, I have to go back to why I'm doing this at all, and it's because God's called me to do it. Come what may.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Enclave - A Review

The Enclave received its first review on Monday, from Publisher's Weekly. This is a big deal, I guess. I'm not exactly sure why, because I don't think many readers read Publisher's Weekly, or PW as it's known. But I guess booksellers do and reviewers and such, so if your book gets reviewed -- well or poorly -- it's regarded as a good thing. Arena's mostly favorable review in PW prompted Bethany House to ask if I had any more books in the works and led to them buying the Legends of the Guardian King series before Arena itself had ever even released to the general public.

The Enclave's review, alas, was mostly negative, as you can see:

The Enclave Karen Hancock. Bethany House, $14.99 paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7642-0328-2

Hancock has cleaned up at the Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction with four previous visionary novels (most recently, Shadow over Kiriath), but this one falls short. Researcher Lacey McHenry has a lowly position at the cutting edge Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute, where a peculiar intruder sets off a complex chain of events that draws together McHenry and researcher Cameron Reinhardt— a man with a powder keg of a past—as the two try to solve the riddles that keep cropping up in their workplace. Hancock has a plot so complicated that a lot of elements are unsatisfactorily resolved or are simple red herrings: Lacey’s abusive ex-husband, a host of intriguing but underdeveloped secondary characters, military action in Afghanistan that is part of Reinhardt’s past. Narrative energy instead goes to didacticism: Reinhardt, an evangelical Christian, argues with his fellow scientists about evolution in an episode that’s more polemic than dramatic. Visionary fiction is a narrow niche, and the Christian biblical literalism driving key action in the plot won’t do much to enlarge the audience. (July)"

I had to look up "didacticism" and "polemic." Though I had a general idea what they meant, I wasn't sure in the specific. Didacticism means "the instructional quality of something, such as a piece of writing," which I'm not sure is a bad thing, really. Not that I ever sit down intending to instruct my readers. I mostly try to express the thoughts of my characters as they come to me...

Polemic means "containing or expressing passionate and strongly worded argument against or in favor of somebody or something." Its usage in the review I found simply odd, since the only people who were fired up in that relatively brief scene between Reinhardt and his fellow scientists, were the fellow scientists. Reinhardt was nervous and distracted... So I'm not sure where that comment is coming from.

But then the PW reviewer of Arena worried that the book's "many rapes" and "occasional stomach turning descriptions" (one, which was provided there in the review) were going to put off Christian readers. It took me some time to figure out they meant the rapes of secondary characters which happened offstage, far from the protagonist in place and time...

I hesitated in posting this. What if it makes readers of my blog leery of reading the book? At the same time, I'm kind of amazed at how much it's not bothering me. It has, however, prompted a couple of lines of thought, which I'll pursue tomorrow and next week.

That last line about "the Christian biblical literalism driving key action in the plot" not building the audience for visionary fiction (or, assumedly, for The Enclave) was of particular interest, especially after I looked up "Biblical Literalism." But more on that tomorrow.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Quote of Note: Admiration and Liars

"The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth." ~H.L. Mencken


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Islam -- war, peace and deceit

As I was writing the last post on torture, specifically the part about how the (3) detainees who were waterboarded were told beforehand that they would not be drowned yet still gave up valuable information about planned terrorist attacks, it occurred to me that maybe they did so because they didn't believe their interrogators. That is, they didn't believe the part about not being killed.

The reason I thought this is because back in March I'd read an article by Raymond Ibrahim at Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers entitled War and Peace — and Deceit — in Islam. In 2001/2002 my pastor did a series on Islam, quoting liberally from the Koran so I was aware of the passages allowing Muslims to lie to Christians and Jews if need be (Sura 4:29) and breaking a treaty with Infidels if the situation warrants. Dr. Ibrahim's article expounded on this subject, adding greater insight into just how much lying is interwoven into their worldview and their politics. Using not only the words of Allah (Koran) and the Prophet (the Hadith) he also consults Islam's greatest theologians (the ulema) for their assessment.

All of this revolves around the doctrine of taqiyya. Ibrahim cites the "authoritative Arabic text, Al-Taqiyya fi Al-Islam:

"Taqiyya [deception] is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it. We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream. … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era,"
The Koran forbids a Muslim making friends with Christians or Jews, unless if he is in a position of weakness or minority, in which case it's okay to pretend to be friends, just as long as he continues to harbor animosity in his heart.

Muhammad, who is regarded by his followers as the most perfect human of all and worthy of emulation, lied when it served him. And, in fact, Ibrahim says,

"it bears mentioning that the entire sequence of Koranic revelations is a testimony to taqiyya; and since Allah is believed to be the revealer of these verses, he ultimately is seen as the perpetrator of deceit — which is not surprising since Allah himself is described in the Koran as the best "deceiver" or "schemer" (3:54, 8:30, 10:21)."

Which I think gives a great clue as to "Allah's" true identity:
John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies"
It's a longish article, substantial portions of which were part of Mr. Ibrahim's written testimony to Congress this last February (2009). I found it easy to read and compelling, because it made me realize that the Muslim mind and the western mind -- particularly the western Christian mind -- are radically different. How can you ever enter into a treaty with a people whose god instructs them to lie to you if you're an Infidel, and whose central goal is not simply to live their lives and worship as they choose, but to fight all non-Muslims until everyone in the world either converts or submits to Islam? (Sura 8:39, 9:5, 9:29)

Here's the link again: War and Peace — and Deceit — in Islam . Read it!


Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time taking this whole torture kerfluffle seriously. Slapping someone's face? Putting them in a small space with an insect? (and interrogators weren't even allowed to make them think it was a stinging insect). The attention grasp? Simulating drowning after telling the terrorist prisoner that they aren't going to actually be drowned? Please. Anyone who's watched 24 knows what torture is.

House Speaker Pelosi admits to having been briefed that waterboarding was a technique that was used, and had been approved by the "Bush (Boo! Hiss! Yowl! Shriek!) Administration" lawyers, but said she didn't know anyone had actually used it! Um... so why did she think they were briefing her, then? Why did she think they wanted her to know they were approved in doing this to gain important intelligence about upcoming plots from high level terrorists? She was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and she doesn't know what's going on with the interrogations? (I wrote this post last week, and it's come out now from the CIA briefers that they told her specifically her about procedures that had already been used on Abu Zubaydah...And she's still denying it...)

In reading The Hunt for Bin Laden yesterday, I happened to come across a definition of actual torture. (leave aside the beheadings and all that which the Taliban were perpetrating on the Afghani's) After several successful campaigns wherein the Taliban fighters had surrendered in the thousands, they were being held in a place called Qala-i-Jagi or "Fortress of War." Robin Moore, the author, describes it as something that "could have been a huge castle and its defenses transplanted from central Europe...surrounded by mud-brick walls up to ten meters thick, [with] moats, ramparts and walls almost twenty feet high with parapets across the top."

Two undercover CIA operatives were sorting through the various "detainees," many of whom unbeknownst to the operatives had been able to smuggle weapons into their prison situation on account of the fact that the Northern Alliance victors did not like to touch their enemies and thus didn't search them very well. They also expected them to follow the cultural protocol of not fighting back once they'd given up. But the al Quaida terrorists held allegiance to a standard that superseded local cultural norms and there was an uprising. One of the CIA guys, Mike Spann, was captured.

Moore describes his death thus:

Spann's body would bear out the worst of the rumors -- he had been captured alive and tortured by the AQ. Both of his legs had been broken below the knees in a typical al-Qaida torture method. What was not reported was that he had been alive for quite some time after. Two bullets had been placed in the small of his back, on either side of his spine. A final bullet, which killed him, had been inflicted some time later, in the back of his neck, probably as he knelt down with his hands tied behind his back.

That was al-Qaida. Power Line blog posted a link to a Times Online article about a video of an Abu Dhabi Prince (one of 22 royal princes) shown
"mercilessly and repeatedly beating a man with a cattle prod and a nailed board, burning his genitals and driving his Mercedes over him several times."
He did this because he thought the man had cheated him in a grain deal.

People who would do these sorts of things can only be laughing at us for our handwringing over the benign activities we've engaged in to extract valuable information from vicious, violent men. Ann Coulter's two columns, here and here, discuss our "terrible" deeds in amusing detail. As PowerLine blogger John Hinderaker concluded in his post on the Abu Dhabi prince,
"These are the people Barack Obama thinks will be impressed by his repudiation of one of the most effective terrorism-fighting tactics used by the Bush administration. I think, rather, that they'll conclude he's a fool."


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Well, I was going to post something coherent, but I've just finished watching the season finale to Lost and my brain feels a bit like the final screen: white and blank. As my husband said, like all the season finales we once again have no idea what happened. Where they all blown up? Or was it another time shift?

I vote for a time shift. I want Daniel Faraday back! I want Juliette and Sawyer together... I'm loving all the ambiguity, the elements that parallel divine decrees, the talk of destiny, the way everyone is so woven into each others' lives in ways they don't even begin to understand. The relationship between Jack and his dad, whose name is Christian... is that accidental? I don't think so. I love whatever's going on with Jacob and that other guy... the beach guy, whoever he is. And how Jacob went about more or less sowing corruption. Except for the time when he brought Locke back to life... or did he? I love what they're doing with Ben. And Locke!

And I especially love that next season is the last and everyone knows it and it's part of the plan...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is the Last Evolution Post

For awhile at least. Really. I mean it this time. I don't care what comes up to entice me to go on, I am done with this subject.

But... I keep feeling led to post this one last bit of reflection relative to the whole evolution thing. It's something I wrote after reading Fossil Hunter, but wasn't going to put up, seeing as I'd already put up enough. But then... I found this article in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker on An Evolution for Evangelicals.

It tells about Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian, home-schooled until the sixth grade and the physician-geneticist in charge of the Human Genome Project for the NIH. Though later in the article he is also said to have been an atheist, believing only what science could prove, so I would guess he was one of those to leave the home school environment only to be shocked to discover that the world is far older than they were taught, encounter the theory of evolution and lose his faith. Subsequent wrestling with various life questions brought him back to God, his "mission" now to let people know that one can believe in science and God, but that belief in God doesn't preclude believing in evolution. "[h]aving earned a PhD and a medical degree, Collins is nonetheless a scientist with little patience for those who insist that evolution is just a theory that one may take or leave. Most human genes, he points out, are similar to genes in other mammals, "which indicates a common ancestry."

I would note 1) he's a physician/geneticist, not a paleontologist.

And 2) the fact that human genes are similar to genes in other mammals doesn't necessarily indicate a common ancestry. Mammals are similar. We have hair, four limbs, skin, warm blood, produce live births, feed our young with breast milk... why wouldn't the information for those characteristics be similar? The similarity of genetics between forms is no different than the similarity of observable physical (phenotypical) characteristics. Neither prove anything about ancestry.

But enough of Collins. He was only the prod that got me thinking about the whole thought process involved here... to wit:

You have a collection of items, creatures. They may be radically different. A modern whale, say, and also a “putative” or alleged ancestor, the pakicetid, which was a carnivorous land animal. You have only the skeletons to work with. If the task is to determine the order in which they are related, then it seems to me that you have to already have the idea in place that these all “evolved” not the other way around.

But what if they aren’t related? What if they didn’t lead one to another? Then you are going to be looking at them and seeing similarities and reach a false conclusion.

Instead of seeing the incredible variety of God’s creation, instead of seeing the amazing design involved, instead of seeing how each organism has its own unique habitat and ecology, you instead see only what you are trying to see.

Furthermore, you want this to be true for many reasons: everyone around you that you respect say that it’s true; you will be impugned and cast out if you don’t agree; the force of all these people over a couple hundred years having looked at the data and agreeing that it’s true must make it so; you desire to look intelligent, not like an ignoramus; you need for grant money if you are to continue working; you see no reasonable alternative; you have no desire to really believe what God’s word says over what the world and man’s reason says… Therefore, you insist upon evaluating the data from the accepted, preconceived standpoint.

Even if the data doesn’t really support it. Pakicetids are believed to be the ancestors of modern whales based on three things unique to whales: 1) peculiarities in the positioning of the ear bones in the skulls, 2) the folding in a bone in the middle ear, and 3) the arrangement of cusps on the molar teeth. (Wikipedia)

“The current theory is that modern whales evolved from archaic whales such as the basilosaurids which in turn evolved from something like the amphibious ambulocetids, which themselves evolved from something like the land-dwelling pakicetids.” (Wikipedia) (But look at the language used in that sentence: “such as,” “something like,” “which themselves evolved from something like.” Could it be more hypothetical?)

These are based on I don’t know how many finds in particular locations … dated by the geologic or radio carbon metric…. on, of course, the assumptions that carbon has always decayed at the same rate as it does today.

So first you assume that the dating method that arrives at an age of billions of years is accurate, though no one has any way of proving that it is. No way of confirming it, watching it real time. No way of knowing if things were very different than they are now, but assuming they were not.

Then you assume that these creatures lead one to the other because they occur in different strata that are assigned to particular dates and if one is earlier than the other then you fill in the blanks of how the earlier changed into the later, using computers modeling a gradual line of genetic change based on rate of mutation. [They use computer models to predict global warming, too…]

Even though the fossil record shows no intermediaries, but rather sudden explosions of new organisms. Never mind about that, they say. The intermediaries just didn’t leave any fossils. But they were there. Believe us. We are experts…We are Scientists and Scientists know.

So everyone dutifully assumes these all lead one to the other and they just have to figure out what order they’re in. So they strive and scrape and bend and ignore the actual evidence to come up with “supposed” evolutionary patterns that “prove” it’s true.

How can a “supposed” anything prove something?

Because people want it to, because other people say loudly, forcibly and frequently that it does and denigrate any that say otherwise. In Expelled, Richard Dawkins said, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution is either stupid, ignorant or insane.” (There. Now he doesn’t have to grapple with the actual issues because he’s destroyed the credibility of those who advance them by calling them names.) Lots of different scientists throw different scientific talk and jargon at the subject of evolution, that are actually irrelevant if you consider it, calling their beliefs “objective” while any other viewpoint is not. Especially one that includes God in the picture.

I so clearly see the great Deceiver in all this. The arrogance of man in it… It’s a grand deceit. Masterful, really, getting people all involved in did God really say that He created things in seven days? That seems a bit ridiculous. Given what we know, and we are so wise. We are clever. God just doesn’t want us to think that, because He’s afraid we’ll get to the truth and the truth is, He doesn’t exist. Or He does, but He can’t make himself clear in His word.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Movie Night: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Well, I thought my evolution posts were completed, but apparently not. I've been wanting to see Ben Stein's Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed ever since I heard about it. (It's plugged on the back of Fossil Hunter). This is a documentary in which the comedian Ben Stein investigates the closed mindedness of academia with regard to the proposition that there was an Intelligent Designer behind the workings of nature. It started when he learned of respected scientists in academia losing their jobs and their careers because they happened to mention Intelligent Design in the course of a slide show, an article, or a paper. Not promoting it per se, just entertaining the idea.

Darwin Forbid that anyone should do such a thing! Everyone knows that, as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says in the movie, anyone who don't believe in evolution is either stupid, ignorant or insane. The case is closed. There is no debate because there's nothing to debate.

It was fascinating to see and hear some of the people I've read quotes from, like Dawkins, to see their close-mindedness, their absolute confidence in the correctness of their opinion even when it is ridiculous. Pressed to provide an explanation for how life came to be Dawkins skittered about, hemmed and hawed and settled on the possibility of panspermia -- that is, that aliens brought it here. Which, of course, just pushes the question back to how did the aliens acquire life. "And this," Stein asked, "you find more reasonable than the possibility of an intelligent designer?"

And he did. Although I think at one point in his floundering around, he came around to half agreeing that there probably was an intelligent designer, even as he denied there was. His agenda was obvious. He read from his most recent book The God Delusion, a description of the God of the Old Testament that was worthy of Satan himself. How he was incapable of seeing the very great mercy and grace of God toward his constantly rebellious people is ... evidence of the truth of 2Co 4:3,4 "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

It's a very interesting movie and they make it entertaining by interspersing old movie footage of relevant actions into the interviewing. It also draws a correlation between Darwinism and the Nazi's which has a number of critics all hot and bothered. In addition to the fact that it not only proposes an alternative to evolution but dares to accuse the evolutionists in academia of not allowing debate on the matter...

"A shameful antievolution film tries to blame Darwin for the Holocaust," says a reviewer for Scientific American.

An entire website devoted to disparaging the movie called Expelled Exposed says that Ben Stein flunks and that he doesn't tell you that Intelligent Design is really creationism and therefore not science. (I think there might be such a thing as Creationism Derangement Syndrome, because apparently all you have to do is assign someone the label of Creationist and they cease to matter.)

Human Events uses the release of the movie to raise the question of whether Intelligent Design is really a scientific theory.

Michael Shermer, a renowned skeptic and one of the interviewees for the film, addressed this accusation in an article in Scientific American, stating "Anyone who thinks that scientists do not question Darwinism has never been to an evolutionary conference. ... It is perfectly okay to question Darwinism (or any other ism in science), as long as there is a way to test your challenge. Intelligent Design creationists, by contrast, have no interest in doing science at all." (And once again, they don't have to engage with the ideas because they can just say the ID creationists aren't doing science. And the evolutionists are???)
The Wikipedia entry seems to have been written by the same crowd, with the overview of the article listing such sub-sections as:

Promotion of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution

Claims that intelligent design advocates are persecuted

Portrayal of science as atheistic (It didn't -- there were plenty of dedicated scientists who were not atheists -- but it did show direct evidence of how Darwinism supposedly led some people to lose their faith)

Claims that Nazism was inspired by acceptance of evolution

The "Expelled" (with quotation marks so you'll know they weren't really... except they were)

Claims that film producers misled interviewees

Copyright controversies


Unlike the Wiki entry on Evolution where there are no criticisms or alternative ideas noted, on this entry it's almost all criticism. Why am I not surprised?

Here's the trailer.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Evolution Posts Wrap Up

Well, finally I've come to the end of the words that reading Fossil Hunter inspired in me. It's been an interesting journey.

In the course of looking up sources and answering some email questions, I learned that it's not that the Young Earth creationists (those who believe that there was no sin before Adam and the earth and heavens were created, rather than renovated, in the six days of Genesis) don't know about the Gap between verse 1 and verse 2, it's that they don't agree with it.

In fact, someone sent me a link to a guy giving a presentation on Young Earth creationism who early on in his talk just threw the Gap "theory" out the window as both "unscriptural and unscientific." Having spent the morning going through all the scriptures in support of the notion of a Gap of time between "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" and "And the earth was formless and void" and thus more convinced than ever that it is the only thing that makes sense of the different verses, I was not impressed. And even annoyed. I didn't like his tone either. And hey, I don't have a lot of time so I decided to turn him off right then. Maybe I'll listen later, because apparently he does have some interesting things to say.

Curiosity sent me Googling him, and then the Gap Theory, the latter quite interesting. For one, I had no idea that us Gap Theorists' main reason for supporting it is because science says the earth is old and we are trying to make the Bible fit with what science said. I also didn't know that it was, in the 19th and early 20th centuries a very common interpretation of Genesis and prehistoric events. Even more interesting was the fact that the Wikipedia article cited Donald Barnhouse, C.I. Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer as its chief proponents -- all of whom were also proponents of Dispensations.

But then those two subjects do intersect quite closely. Anyway, from there I went on to Answers in Genesis, a website that purports to explain beginnings and is very disparaging of the Gap theory. I read a bit of that, but found their objections to be based on faulty premise after faulty premise that eventually I just gave up on that as well. When someone starts out with their very first objection and you don't agree with the first sentence they write... you're in trouble.

Anyway, I might do a blog post or two on it, if the Lord leads in that direction. But not tonight...

It's been a busy week. I've taken my mother to doctor's appointments for three mornings straight. And I've been focusing on getting home tasks done as a priority -- back to using Flylady's system, more or less. Mending things, cleaning out the refrigerator, taking my wedding ring to get the prongs put back in place so I can wear it again, starting back up at the Y, washing mini blinds and trimming the edges of the grass...

I've been reading another book, too: The Hunt for Bin Laden by Robin Moore. This one's nonfiction, about the the invasion of Afghanistan right after 911. That's been very interesting.

So tomorrow our three-day weekend begins. Hope yours is a good one! And Happy Mother's Day to all my readers who are Moms!

The painting is mine...