Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Secret Things

The fronticepiece for Part Four of Fossil Hunter quotes from Job 40: 1-5

Then the LORD said to Job,"Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it." Then Job answered the LORD and said, "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more."
Author Olson follows up this notion in his epilogue by reminding us that "the study of science shouldn't make us more arrogant; it should make us more humble. When it comes to the details of creation, we could all take a lesson from Job. Sometimes the best, most profound answer is to say that we don't know and put our hands over our mouths. Some things really are too wonderful for us to understand."

I couldn't agree more.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."

Some things just are not given to us to know. The future, for example. No matter how we strain and strive and struggle to predict, we just flat don't know the future. (Except as we believe pertinent promises of God)

Likewise, details of the past, and particularly of creation, are not given to us to know. Genesis 1:1 simply states, "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth." Given the magnitude of that accomplishment, that is an awfully spare account. God clearly didn't see it as something whose details we need to know. (Most likely we wouldn't be able to understand them anyway.)

God's word tells us that angels exist and that they pre-existed us. Clues scattered throughout the scriptures tell us they had some kind of history involving rebellion and reconciliation, but most of the details of that history have not been given to us.

We don't even know if the physical laws that govern the earth now were the same as what governed the earth in the distant past. Since the physical laws are actually God's laws and are maintained by Him in accordance with His will, it is possible there were different laws in times past. Angels are, after all, very different creatures from us, at least as we are right now, and would require a completely different environment.

How do we know if the rates of isotope decay have been consistently the same over 4 billion years? That light has always traveled at the same rate of speed? We don't know. And we have no way of determining the answer since we can't go back in time and measure things. Yet much of scientific thought today assumes all is now as it has pretty much always been.

The Scripture tells us that God alone is immutable, not His laws for the operation of the universe. He can break them (a miracle) or change them when He wills. In fact, He will change them at the end of human history.

Obviously finding out what those laws are and how they work has resulted in many wonderful improvements in our way of life. But trying to go back into the past when no man even lived and determine the details of what happened, and even more difficult, how and why, is overreaching into areas that don't concern us and is supposing that we can be like God, knowing all that He knows. Those matters are closed to us. He's told us what we need to know about such things: He made everything, and He restored the earth in six days so He could place man there to show something of His own glory to the angels and to men.

What happened to the dinosaurs, all the details of the prehistoric world, how exactly the angels fell and were restored is basically irrelevant. What a person thinks of Christ and of His word is crucial.

Next week: The fossil record that "proves" evolution is true.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day 2 - 6: The Renovation Continues

On the second day God made the atmosphere ("made" is the verb asah, which means to fashion, to make -- out of something that's already there) and divided the waters around it, the water below and the water vapor (clouds) above.

On the third day He told the the waters to gather into one place and the dry land appear ("one place" gives rise to the speculation that the land might have been one mass, the original single continent some have speculated once existed, which could have subsequently been split apart during the flood of Noah. Either way, the Bible doesn't say).

Also on the third day God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation... plants sprouting from the earth, producing seed after their own kind." After their own kind clearly indicates that they were not evolving into different forms, but each seed producing a new plant just like the old one. "And it was so" means instantaneously. So the plants were adults. Did they have an appearance of age as some claim? Well, they could. One of the oft used methods of dating archaeological finds is through tree rings, which are larger or smaller, lighter or darker depending on the conditions under which they grew each year. In really good conditions the rings are fat; in poorer conditions, they are thin. God could have made the trees with multiple rings, or just one large ring, to which more rings would be added in subsequent years. The Bible doesn't say. Only that they are mature plants ready to reproduce after their own kind.

On the fourth day, He made the sun and the moon as light bearers and also the stars. Previous to this time, God Himself furnished the light that shone upon the earth. The Hebrew word for "light" in verse 14 is maor, which is different from the word used in verse 3, or. Or refers to light itself, whereas maor refers to lightbearers -- sun, moon, stars, planets, etc.. Since these had already been created instantly in verse 1, but had been darkened as a result of the angelic rebellion and subsequent judgment of the fallen angels, the reference in vs 14 is to the restoration of their lights.

It is worth noting that even though many of them were millions of light years away, God made their light instantly visible on the earth, which messes up the evolutionists' speculation that since Andromeda is two million lights years from earth, the universe must be at least that old. (Although how they arrive at that age for something that far away is also something based on a number of assumptions we really can't verify)

On the fifth day, He created the animals, again, all of them after their kind. No evolving from a fish into a salamander into a lizard... and the verb here is bara again, not that He created them out of nothing as with the universe in vs 1, but to emphasize this was God's creative power at work and negating the idea that the earth somehow made its own animals through the evolutionary process from the plants already on its surface.

On the sixth day, God made (asah) man -- body, personality -- and created (bara) him -- soul. He did this only after He'd provided a home for him, complete in every detail, an action that clearly manifests God's character and love for those He creates.

Finally, on the seventh day, He rested. There is such spiritual significance here... God did all the work. God provided everything. God put the man in the place He had prepared for him. He did everything needful in the six days and nothing needed to change into something else, nothing needed to be improved or perfected. It was all perfect and complete. Thus He rested, not because He was tired, but because He had provided everything man would need and He wanted us to know that. Wanted us to remember that. This whole story sets the precedent for our lives: God does the work. We receive the blessing.

If that was God's policy when man and woman were perfect, how much more so now when we are not? After all, He created us knowing we would fall, even intending it, from the standpoint that He meant to use it to bring about something better than simple perfection. He has provided salvation through His son, and for those who believe in Him He has provided everything we need to live with Him forever. A fact He wants us to rest in every single day.

Tomorrow: Some things we're just not given to know.

~~~ Photo is from my friend Debbie from Kansas of a cloud formation called a gust front which she photographed near her home. I think it looks very "primordial"!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Days or Ages?

As I said yesterday, I believe that a gap of time existed between Gen 1:1 and 1:2, during which time the angels (which Job 38:4ff indicate were created before the material universe and definitely before man) followed Satan in his rebellion to be independent from God and in fact, take over His throne. Subsequent to this God offered them a form of salvation and reconciliation, which two thirds of them accepted. The remainder were then tried, found guilty and sentenced to the Lake of Fire, a sentence which has not yet been executed. Why? The logical conclusion is so they can appeal it.

That's an overview of what I believe, and all of it is supported by scripture, but not my subject now. The reason I bring it up is that this sequence allows for the earth to be of much greater age than if measured from Adam and Eve. We also do not know how long Adam lived with the woman in the garden in perfection. It could have been three years, thirty years or three thousand years. Scripture doesn't say.

From this view, then, Genesis 1 is a description not of God's original creation of the earth, but its renovation after having been ruined as a result of the angelic conflict. At this point He not only had to restore it, but make it suitable for a smaller, weaker creature to live in.

Some, like Fossil Hunter's Katie James, take the six days of Genesis One to mean ages rather than literal days, but I think even in the English it is pretty clearly laid out as occurring in six 24-hour intervals.

Gen 1:4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day."

Even in the English, if He wanted to tell us it was a single day, could He have written it any more clearly? Well, I suppose He could have added, "Yes, I mean a real day, morning and evening, one revolution of the earth, not an age or a millenium." Still sometimes in Scripture the word day does refer to something other than a 24-hour period, longer or shorter.

Thankfully, the Hebrew makes it crystal clear. A literal translation of the last part reads: "then it became dusk and then it became morning, day one."

Not only does this construction convey the fact that the earth is now revolving on its axis to produce one complete solar day, but whenever the word yom, "day," occurs in the Old Testament with a numeral, this grammatical construction always describes a 24-hour day.

Also, a reading of Ex 20:8-11 confirms this refers to a literal 24-hour day, since that is the context for the reference in verse 11 to God's work in Genesis. After telling the Jews they can work six days but the seventh is a sabbath of the Lord, they are reminded in vs 11 that "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them..."

So, it's days, not ages and on the first one, He returned the light and set the earth in motion, revolving on its axis.

Tomorrow... the rest of the days.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Old Earth Creationist?

In Fossil Hunter, the various "sides" of the evolution debate are depicted as being old earth or young earth. Old earthers, of course, accept the natural record and the view of "science" that the earth is billions of years old and has reached its present state over a long period of successive changes. It is a view allegedly supported by the natural record. Young earthers claim that the earth was created in the six days of Genesis 1, and that many of the means of dating it much older than the few thousands of years since then, are suspect in terms of accuracy.

Fossil Hunter's Christian protagonist, Katie James, believes that the earth is old, that things evolved but that God directed them. This can be called directed or theistic evolution.

As I have previously blogged here, I believe that a gap of time exists between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth...

The verb for created is bara, which means to create absolutely. It is used in the Bible exclusively with God as the subject and means "to create or to bring into existence by divine commnand." Twice it's used specifically to create out of nothing (the universe and the human soul).

Col 1:16 echoes this in, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth... all things have been created by Him and for Him..."

Again the verb forms indicate this creative act was instantaneous.

God is perfect and everything He does is perfect (Deut 32:4). He has purpose and meaning in all that He does. So the heavens and earth that He created must have been perfectly formed and useful from the get-go in Genesis 1:1.

But then Gen 1:2 says, And (or But) the earth was (or had become) formless and void.

In the Hebrew formless and void is tohu wa bohu which means "waste, desolation, a disorderly muddle."

If God's works are perfect, how could He have created the universe as a disorderly muddle?

Is 45:18 says He did not: For thus says the LORD, who created (bara) the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited)...

"Waste place" is the Hebrew tohu tohu, which means really, really empty, meaningless, vain, useless

So clearly between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1, something happened. What?

Well, as I said in that blog I did last year, this same term "formless and void" (tohu wa bohu) occurs only one other time in the scriptures, where Jeremiah describes his vision of the past:

Jer 4:23-26 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; And to the heavens, and they had no light. (and of course the earth in Gen 1:2 has no light)

I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, And all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, (no men indicates pre-human history)

And all the birds of the heavens had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities (angelic cities, not human) were pulled down
Before the LORD, before His fierce anger.

What could have made the Lord so angry that He pulled down angelic cites, laid waste to the earth and made the heavens dark? The logical conclusion is that it was Satan's rebellion referenced in Is 14, Ez 28, and Rev 12)

Is 24:1-3 seems to echo this: Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. (that is, all are equally destroyed; no one can hide or survive) The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word.

The earth will be completely laid waste... At what other time in history has the entire earth been laid completely waste with no light and no life? The only time that is mentioned is Genesis 1:2.

Also note that in Genesis 1:3 the first thing God said was, "Let there be light"; and there was light -- indicating there was no light in the formless and void earth of verse two, also referenced in Jer 4:23 ("the heavens will be dark")

The Hebrew for "moving over" the surface of the waters carries the connotation of brooding like a hen on her eggs -- ie, providing heat. I John tells us that God is light and in Him is no darkness, so obviously this act in verse 3 is not the beginning of light, but the return of it. The earth must have been flooded and frozen...

In addition, the use of the word "deep" (tehom or abyss) is frequently used throughout scripture in association with the judgment of angels. Both "darkness" and "deep" convey sinister events throughout the word; darkness especially connotes evil and spiritual darkness.

All of this and more have convinced me that the earth was here long before God made man, and could in prehistoric/angelic times have had different sorts of flora and fauna such as we've discovered in fossils. Personally, I think the huge plants and dinosaurs make a good fit for an angelic Garden of Eden (referenced in Ezekiel 28:13 in the description of Satan who had possessed the King of Tyre). It seems logical to me that the creatures on the earth could have changed in conjunction with the angelic fall in a way similar to the earth's fall along with Adam and the woman, so that the prehistoric animals of the angelic times changed from plant eaters to flesh eaters, as well -- though the Bible says nothing about this. Still it's fun to speculate)

How long all this was in existence I have no idea. I do think it's a show of hubris on the part of creatures who can't even leave the planet and live at most a century to go about claiming with absolute certainty that anything is a billion years old. Maybe it is, but to be certain about something so astronomically beyond all our ability to measure or validate seems ridiculous.

On the other hand, I don't think the Bible precludes an earth that is older than six thousand years, either. To me the six day account in Genesis seems pretty clearly an account of the restoration or renovation of the formerly trashed earth for its new occupants.

More on that tomorrow.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take God at His Word

In my last post I talked about the way that evolution figured into my salvation experience, and mentioned that I made the conscious decision to trust the claims of God's Word that He had created everything rather than the claims of man that things had evolved.

Katie James, the Christian heroine of Fossil Hunter, (the book I mentioned last week as having precipitated all these thoughts of mine on evolution) encounters a similar position when discussing the matter with her father, a Baptist pastor. He tells her "eventually you're going to have to learn to take God at his word. We're called to walk by faith, not by sight," and that God said He created the earth in six days so that's what she should believe.

She responds by saying that she'll take her cues from the passage and goes on about Genesis being written with obvious structure (the first three days he made the containers and the second three he filled them -- I'm not sure how that supports her position, though), how it's very poetic and full of puns, the example being Adam's name, which straight from the Hebrew means man of the earth... ie, he was made of earth. (Since this what the Bible says God used and what science agrees constitutes man's physical body, i.e., the elements of the earth, I don't see how that's really a pun either. Names have a lot of meaning in the word of God and must be examined with the expectation of gaining information about the thing so named.) She also says the six days could be literal days or geologic ages and that the passage doesn't make it clear, so she's going to pick the long view.

This brings up, of course, the matter of what the word of God actually says and obviously people disagree on that. Should Genesis 1 be taken literally or should it be taken figuratively? And what exactly does "day" mean there?
Ironically, I find part of the answer couched in a couple lines of dialogue that follow not too far on the above.

Katie's father says he's reading a book that "blows your 4-billion-year-old earth out of the water," and goes on to cite the radiometric dating technique as an example of age measurement systems not being accurate. Before he can finish his sentence, she interrupts to demand, "Is the author a geologist? Has he spent his whole career working on radiometric dating?"

To which I would have responded... "If that is to be your standard, then how can you, Katie James, paleontologist, presume to interpret what Genesis 1 says and how it should be taken? Do you have the gift of pastor-teacher? Have you been properly trained in the Greek and Hebrew, the history of the time of writing, the categorical study of comparing scripture with scripture? Do you know what the First Mention principle is? How about the difference between a qal stem and a piel stem? Have you spent your career studying and teaching the word of God on a daily basis?"

Why should science be put forth as a discipline that must be believed because the people in it are "experts" whereas these same people feel they are fully qualified to interpret the word of God based on their own ideas? It's no different. Even more ironically, shortly before she made this statement, she was talking about how complex God is, how difficult He is for us to comprehend. So difficult He can't do it "without using metaphors. So why do we think we could even begin to understand how he created the universe?"

If He is so difficult to understand, why would you think any old person could just pick up His word, which is His mind, and understand it? Why would you believe the dicipline of paleontology requires years of study and expertise to understand, but the word of God does not?

Every true scientific discipline you can think of -- neurology, physics, biochemistry, genetics -- is nothing more than the examination of how God's things and laws work. It's basically the discovery and study of His design in all the multifarious areas in which He has designed things. Why should His word not then be taken with just as much seriousness as any other discipline? Why should those studies of how God designed the material world to work require a technical language, a systematic approach and years of study to master, but God's word not?

Well, I happen to believe that it should. And when I first said I would take God at His word, I had confidence that it made sense and that a detailed and consistent study of it would produce answers. Now, having spent a lot of time learning what it says from the prepared pastor-teachers God has assigned to me, I find that my confidence was not misplaced.

Tomorrow: Old Earth Creationist...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Guest Blogging at Valerie's

Wow, two posts in one day! Amazing.

I just wanted to announce that I did a guest post on nonstopping for Valerie Comer's Little Worlds Blog. Valerie's a writer with an interest in speculative fiction who I met through the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour . She is doing a series on the muse, and nonstopping is one way to connect with it. If you're interested, I invite you to check it out!


Evolution and Me

Continuing my line of posts sparked by the debate on evolution in the novel Fossil Hunter...

I first encountered the theory of evolution in the sixth grade, when I did a report on what was at the time deemed the missing link between reptiles and mammals, Cynognathus. (Picture at right is from Wikipedia) Now they only call it a mammal-like reptile (rather than a "missing link").

As a sixth-grader, I thought the notion of things evolving was a brilliant idea. It made perfect sense, and I could not imagine how anyone could believe otherwise. I was actually quite excited about it. It's one of my stronger memories of the sixth grade. (okay, is this proof I'm some kind of science nerd?)

All through high school I continued in this vein. I delighted in biology and worked as the high school biology teacher's aid for a couple of years. I also did volunteer work at a local junior museum amidst a group of fellow tree-hugging, nature-loving environmentalists. Evolution was never questioned. There was no "theory" about it. So far as I was concerned it was accepted fact.

In college I went on to pursue a Bachelor's degree in the double major of Biology and Wildlife Biology. My junior year we had to buy and read the Bible for my class in Humanities. We read the books of John and Job, of all things. I had no clue what they were talking about. It was all gibberish to me. And yet... there was something about the book as a whole that drew me, intrigued me, pulled me into looking further.

I argued ceaselessly with the middle-aged, Christian man who worked in the same office as I did at the Steward Observatory, doing illustration and maps for the publications of the astronomers there. I kept bringing up evolution, asking questions he couldn't answer. I even spent some time trying to align the idea of evolution with the Genesis account and felt quite self-congratulatory and intelligent when I discovered that God had blown it -- he'd made the plants before he made the sun. Ha! How ridiculous. Obviously you have to have the sun before the plants can live. Ha! (I guess I didn't note that He said "Let there be light" before He did any of the rest of it.)

Anyway, I kept pestering this poor man, who finally invited me to his home where I could meet with a friend of his who might be able to better answer my questions. As I've mentioned in the bio on my website, I clearly recall leaving my house the evening of the meeting, thinking smugly that the friend's answers would change nothing. No one could prove which side was right -- evolution or creation -- because no one could go back and see. I find that thought intriguing now, since I stand by it. Evolution is as unprovable as creation. Both must be taken on faith.

In the meeting we didn't talk of evolution at all that I recall, because the Holy Spirit knew that was not the issue. I remember asking a lot of questions, as the man with the answers sent me to scripture after scripture that supposedly answered them. I recall that none of it really made much sense to me, though I nodded and said "Oh, yes, I see..."

Then somehow Jesus came into the conversation (imagine that!) and the next thing I knew, I was overwhelmed with the desire to know Him. I didn't really understand much about sin -- I hadn't committed any of the blatant ones: I didn't drink or smoke or swear, didn't lie or steal or cheat, hadn't slept with my boyfriend or done drugs, I respected authority, was polite and hard-working, got excellent grades... I was goody two shoes. I didn't know then that fear is a sin. As is guilt, complaining, criticizing, anger, judging, self-righteousness, arrogance... No matter, if God said I was a sinner, I would admit it -- I wasn't perfect by a long shot -- and believed that Jesus had died for me on the cross.

Suddenly the scriptures began to make sense, at least in a rudimentary way. I was starving, dying of thirst, couldn't get enough of it. Starting with Lewis Sperry Chafer's Major Bible Themes under the tutelage of the man with the answers who'd led me to the Lord, I began to learn the core doctrines of the faith in the college Sunday school class at the church and also in a private Bible study on Monday nights. We asked questions, memorized verses for the basic doctrines, and learned a lot of theology. I ate it up.

Sometime after that, as I ran around telling everyone about my salvation and how this wonderfully exciting thing had happened to me, one of my old friends from the college hiking club, also a Biology major, asked me how I reconciled the theory of evolution with the Bible's claim that God created everything. By that time I had decided that if I was going to serve God, then His word better be the primary source of my beliefs, and anything man drummed up would have to come second. Into this category went evolution. The Bible said God created the heavens and the earth and that's what I would believe. I might not understand all the details of that, or how evolution fit into it (if, in fact, it did at all), but for the time being that was where I would stand.

Besides, in the big picture evolution didn't really matter. What mattered was "What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?" I was confident that in time I would be able to answer my friend's question, and I believe now that I have a come a long way toward doing that, at least for myself.

If you want to label me (that seems to be the thing that everyone wants to do in this debate, put people in categories -- maybe it's a biologist thing) I am an old earth creationist and I believe that the Gap theory is the most logical explanation of the various relevant Scriptures -- in addition to accomodating some of the observations made of the natural record. In the next few posts I hope to set down some of the reasons why I've come to that conclusion.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fossil Hunter

It's been a year since I've read a book. Actually more than a year if you're talking about a book I've actually been able to finish. Last June, I started reading Fossil Hunter by John B. Olson, a book which was released a year ago April. Before I could finish it, though, I got the editor's response on The Enclave and had to stop reading to focus on the rewrite... which, as anyone who reads this blog knows, took me a LOT longer than I'd anticipated.

But, having finished that last week, one of the first things I did was pick up Fossil Hunter again. It had been so long, I had to start over, which was fine since I'd pretty much forgotten what I'd read previously. This time I was able to sit down and much read it more or less straight through. What a pleasure to be able to do that! What a difference it makes in the coherence of a story!

From the back cover :

In the desolate Iraqi desert, a lone shepherd stumbles across a whale fossil. Initial analysis indicates that it could be a new species -- a discovery that might shed light on the evolution debate.

Paleontologist Dr. Katie James is asked to lead an expedition to recover the rest of the fossil before her archrival, Nick Murad, can find it first.

But while she's there, Katie also uncovers the unexpected -- a human fossil so controversial she's forced to collaborate with Nick to analyze the find before it can be destroyed by a fundamentalist faction of the Iraqi government. Their initial results fly in the face of current scientific theory, and it seems the whole world turns against them,including those they thought they could trust.

Then the fossil disappears, sending Nick and Katie on a chase that could cost them their reputations, their careers -- even their lives.

I enjoyed it! It was an easy read, and I think I like stories about groveling around in the desert. Dirt, heat, thirst... fossils... And of course the debate regarding evolution versus intelligent design versus creationism has long been a subject of high interest for me.

And while I don't agree with the evolutionary stance of his protagonist ("directed evolution" is the term, I think) the various discussions he presented were quite thought provoking. So much so that I've decided to do a few posts out of the wealth of thoughts I wrote down. (Okay, and because The Enclave also deals with this debate, albeit peripherally.) Tomorrow I'll post about my background with regard to evolution, and next week I'll set down some of the observations, agreements and objections I had while reading. At least... that's the plan...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Last week, right as I was finishing up the galleys, the neighbor came over to ask if we had a bunch of dead bees in the yard. No, we had no dead bees that I knew of. I went out and looked, but no dead bees. She, however, had a bunch of them on the ground near the fence that separates our properties. We looked at the bees, most of them dead, some dying, and speculated what might have happened. Maybe they'd gotten into poison...

Afterward I went in and called my husband at work. He called a friend who knew about bees, and from him learned that the temperature the night before -- in the low 40s as I recall -- was cold enough to kill bees when they are swarming. No doubt there was a swarm, and when they stopped for the night, balling up in a tree somewhere, the outside layer of bees had perished in the cold and fallen to the ground.

Well, that was interesting. If it was so, then maybe the swarm was still there, because at the time it was still pretty cold. So I went out for another look. There were only a few bees buzzing around, but nothing obvious... Wait. What was that dark blob way up there on one of the pine tree's branches? I peered at it, walked around trying to find a better vantage, thinking it looked an awful lot like wood or some sort of deformed growth of pine cones. Could it be the swarm? It looked completely solid. And nothing was moving. Suddenly I thought of the camera. I could use the telephoto to get a better look at it. So I did. And it was the swarm:

At left is the mass of bees. It was about the size of a basketball. It stayed just like this until about 3 pm when the bees began to stir. About that point the neighbor freaked because this was right above her back patio. Even though I told her I didn't think the bees would hurt anyone (they don't sting when they are swarming, only when they have a hive to guard) and that we could just wait for them to move on she wasn't interested in waiting. She called some bee removal people, who came a few hours later and dispatched them.

I thought it was weird of me to be sad that the bees died. But...obviously there were many bees around or they wouldn't be swarming and the likelihood was great that having been stressed by the cold they would look for a permanent home very close to where they'd swarmed. Like in our yard. All our bees in Arizona are Africanized now, and so you don't want them setting up house on your property, especially not in a place close to the neighbor's door or patio, so I couldn't feel that badly about their demise. As I said that was about a week ago.

Then, late yesterday, the neighbor called to tell me the bees were back. So I went out again, and this time the swarm was making its way into one of the tires in a stack of three we have out in a side yard. A carpet of bees covered portions of the tread of the tire and was moving slowly upward through the crack between where two tires were stacked. Others buzzed wildly about the area. Exactly what we were told to beware of...

Well, my husband took care of them after dark. He said even when he took the tire away, they didn't fly much, didn't try to sting, just bunched together. He thinks they might have been remnants of the earlier swarm. Could be, since there weren't nearly as many.

But... weird.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marley and Me

We watched Marley and Me last Friday. It was very funny and very close to home in many ways. I think Quigley might give Marley a run for his money on World's Worst Dog, though he's calmed down a lot in recent months. And the only reason Quigley didn't do all the things Marley did was that we never gave him the chance. He is our seventh dog, after all, and Marley was the Grogans's first. We'd be pretty pathetic if we'd learned nothing in all those years of raising dogs.

We'd never let Quigley sit in the front seat of the car with us for one, and never open the window while he was doing it for another. He'd be out an open window at the first opportunity... or at least the first time he spied a dog on the side of the road. And putting him in the garage during a thunderstorm while we go away? I think not. Big enough mistake to leave him in the house while we went out to dinner. At least now he's learned how to be in the crate peaceably, and that's been a huge help. He likes it in there, and goes in on his own accord almost every afternoon.

Another similiarity is that one of our dogs -- Grumpy, the big black and tan/bloodhound cross the dog in Light of Eidon was based on -- also suffered from gastric torsion and almost had to be put down because of it. He was young enough they could do the surgery to turn his stomach back over, but while he was on the operating table, the emergency vet came and told us that the stomach could turn back over again the very next day and it would be better if we just put him to sleep then. Fortunately our vet called the emergency room at that moment and told them she'd recently learned a new technique whereby the stomach could be permanently attached to the side of the abdominal wall to keep it from turning over again. So they sewed him up and within a month she did the surgery and we never had another problem with it. He ended up dying of cancer at 12, I think.

And yes, we've been through the loss of way too many dogs, not to cry streams of crocodile tears at the movie's end. It's funny how my attitude toward that grieving has changed over the years. It's no longer a bad thing to be avoided at all costs, but something deep and significant. The pain is there but so is the appreciation. You grieve precisely because the animal has meant so much to you, has become so interwoven in your life... has been such a tremendous blessing and companion over so many years and in so many small and constant ways -- happy, funny, pleasurable and sometimes intensely annoying. But still, dogs truly do enrich a person's life.
Marley and Me was a tribute to that. It's a funny story, but it's also the story of a dog's life, how he changes his owners, how he shares in so many of their really important life moments, the way he drove them nuts, but was there when the tough times came as well, his unquenchable exuberance for life... I loved the scene toward the end, when Grogan finally lets him off the leash at the beach and he just revels in his freedom, the water, the other dogs. They filmed it really well.

And it made us realize Quigley's not quite as unusual as he seems. My husband is always saying he doesn't think Quig's all dog, so that was another close-to-home part because Grogan said he didn't think Marley was all dog either. Or maybe not even a dog at all, but something entirely different. He actually ate a phone, and lived. Which Quigley has not done.



Friday, April 17, 2009

To Live in Him

It's Friday. I spent Tuesday resting, Wednesday and Thursday morning working on those Media Interview questions and answers, in case some print or broadcast journalist might want to interview me. Ahem (even after all this time, that still makes me want to laugh.) Anyway, I tried to make them a little more, um, interesting than in the past. I put in stuff about science as religion, evolution, Nephilim, and the person who asked for the Q&A's was happy.

I also heard from my editor by phone on Thursday -- she was working on the galleys which she'd received Wednesday, along with the proofreader's input (there were two that I know of) and expected to have the whole thing sent off to the typesetters by quitting time yesterday (Thursday). So. It's really and truly out of my hair.

And from the proofreaders, we have the first two responses from people who have read the whole manuscript straight through and for the first time. The first said she loved the story, the second said, "Another great Karen Hancock story." I'm thrilled. Delighted.

Despite all the times it was so hopeless and blank, all the deadline extensions, I trusted God to see it done and He did it. It seems to still be on schedule for the July release and for the end cap merchandising plan they have for it. So, all is well.

Of course He did it in the nick of time. I think He likes doing things that way. I think He likes drama and stories, likes bringing things to the screaming edge because it's more exciting that way. We have to trust Him. The angels get to wonder what's going to happen. And well, we are part of a a theatron (I Co 4:9) a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. So it only makes sense He'd be good at the story-telling and drama part.

I liked the lessons we got last night, not exactly on that but relating. How when everything seems to be going wrong, and I have no idea what God's doing in my life, when nothing makes sense, it's then that I have the opportunity to trust in His character and nature. Trust in the fact that He's sovereign and all His decisions and choices for my life are perfect. The things He's allowed and is doing, are the right things for me.

And the key is, that's as far as I need to go. I don't need to figure out how they are right. In time, I can be confident I'll see that. I don't need to try to figure out what He is doing, or even what He wants me to learn. Because what He really wants me to learn is to focus on Him. To see and trust Him. Which is to say believe and live in, think in what and who He says He is. That's all. That's it. To live in who He is.

Sovereign. Righteous. Just. Wise. Full of Grace.

Full of compasson.

Full of mercy. Toward me.

Because if I'm truly seeing Him and living/thinking in who He is, I won't care about any of the other things. I'll know He has everything in hand and whatever I receive from my loving Father, it is ultimately grace and blessing .


Monday, April 13, 2009

It's Off!

Today, at 2:43pm I sent off the completed galleys of The Enclave to Bethany House. Now I really am done with it. Hooray! Hallelujah! The book that seemed as if it would never get finished is finished.

It would be nice to just kick back and take a day or two to do nothing but... I have to clean my house for one, and work on media interview questions and answers for another. 7 to 10 of them. Due Wednesday. I know I'm supposed to think of questions that will generate answers that provide interesting aspects about the book to readers/listeners so they can decide if they might like to read it. But...for some reason I have a hard time with that.

There are some writers who, when finished with a book think -- and say -- it's the best book they've ever written. There are others, like me, who have no clue. If anything, every book I write seems like the worst book I've ever written. I don't trust those feelings because I know they're inaccurate, but at this point all I can think of are the things that seem wrong, or not good enough, or that people are going to laugh at or be bored by...

Just goes to show how utterly unreliable emotions are. It will take me some time to see just what has been done, but we are on such a time line, I'm not sure I'll have enough distance to really evaluate for months. I seem to remember too much too easily, so it takes a long time for some writing of mine to "cool" enough I can't recall all the options and all the supposed problems.

Right now, I'm just tired. And hoping to sleep in tomorrow.


Sunday, April 12, 2009


Did I say something about rest in my last post? "Now I can rest?" [Insert long riff of hysterical laughter here] That was almost exactly three weeks ago. The day after posting the last entry, I did rest. And also prepared to travel to Oregon on the next day (Thursday) for the Oregon Bible Conference in Salem, Oregon.

Thursday we were up early and off to Portland by air, then Salem by land. Lots of rainy weather, a trip to the beach, a feast of fellowshipping and talking with royal family, and some amazing, life changing doctrinal teaching about the Christian Stand when it comes to relationships. I got answers and validation for things I'd been uncertainly applying over the last few years... More on that later.

After five days of all kinds of stimulating, encouraging and substantive conversations about the Christian life and application of doctrine, as well as getting to spend about three hours a day concentrating on the teaching of God's word, we returned home. Tuesday, Mar 31, I was wasted. A shell. All my words used up. I did get the laundry done. And started juicing and zesting lemons to freeze before they all go bad.

Thursday, April 2, I was beginning to get back to normal. That evening, at 7pm, the galleys of The Enclave were delivered to my door. The book turned out to be about 500 pages long, and they gave me 10 days to go through it. Which is why there have been no blog posts since March 24. Everything since the trip has been consumed in working through the galleys.

Galleys are like page proofs of what the book will look like in final form, only on separate 8 1/2 x 11 pages. It's my last chance to make any changes, and in this case was my first chance to actually read through the entire book from start to finish and see what was there. I'm pretty pleased with it.

I opened this post with a picture of the entire stack. Here's what one of the pages looks like:

This one has some of my corrections on it, and shows the little post-it tabs I use to mark places that need extra thinking.

In order to get them back by the deadline they gave me, I'd have to pack the whole thing up tomorrow morning and send it off. Alas...

Does this sound at all familiar? Here I am again, not done, not able to make the deadline. In this case, I pretty much have to get it there by Thursday, so I may upgrade the return postage envelope from second day air to overnight or something. Actually I have the whole thing done except for a series of flashbacks that I've scattered throughout the story. There are some inconsistencies and contradictions in them that I need to deal with, and some of those pesky questions that drive me bats that must be answered.

But after all this time, I figure I will be a pretty big idiot if I haven't learned to just trust the Lord to do what He's going to do in His timing. It would be awfully nice though if things could clarify tomorrow and I could get this thing out of my house before Wednesday! Especially since I am soooo very close to being completely finished.