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.