Archive for the 'Musing' Category

Helping the Time to Go By

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So here I am, it’s April 14th, two weeks since my last post. I really had intended to get more regular in posting but somehow… it didn’t happen.  I can hardly believe we’re already halfway through April.

Reminds me of the young man the car repair shop got to bring me home last week and then bring my car back to the shop (I’d arrived too late to catch the shuttle home and was going to have to wait a really long time for it to come back again). That was on a Monday. As I drove, he asked me how my weekend had gone, what I’d done. I told him it had been Communion Sunday and we’d had a pot luck, as we always do the first Sunday of the month, which was a lot of fun. We did a Chinese theme this month which turned out quite successful.

Anyway, he nodded and agreed that sounded nice. “Helps to make the time go by faster,” he said.

I blurted something about already having the time go by so fast, the last thing I want to do is make it go any faster! But for him, that was not the case. He apparently was chronically in search of things to make time pass.

The last time I can recall really feeling that way was in elementary school when I was certain there was something wrong with the clock because for those last twenty-five minutes before school was out it seemed the hands stood still.

Now it seems they twirl madly about the central axis as if I’m in some sort of time machine. If I didn’t have a glorious reunion with my Lord and Savior to look forward to in heaven — and the fact I’ll never again have to concern myself with time’s passage, fast or slow — I might be alarmed at the speed at which it’s passing.

But I canNOT imagine being in a situation where I’m desperately searching for something to just “fill the hours.”  I may not make the best use of my hours, but I have no dirth of things I’d like to do with them. In fact, my problem is having waaay too many things I’d like to do. Far more than I can possibly do in this lifetime.

That used to bother me, but I’ve begun to see it as a sort of idol. Or if not that, then a desire that doesn’t necessarily spring from the mind of Christ. We live in an incredibly rich environment when it comes to things we can do and have.  And we’re constantly being bombarded with advertising about them all. With new ones  appearing every day.

TV. Radio. The Internet. Even if you try not to look for things, those blankety-blank windows rise up before you whenever you click to a new page. They pop up, slide up, drift from the side, drop down from the top, pop up some more and even if “Internet Explorer has blocked XYZ pop-up” you still get the pop-up that tells you the other pop-up was blocked… Who thought that was a good idea?

Finding the “close” icons and clicking on them is rather like swatting a bunch of flies before you can sit down to eat…

I have stacks of books to read, yet new ones are constantly being released. I have a wish list of clear and rubber stamps I’d like to get, yet new stamps are constantly being released. I was determined to stick with my regular TV shows this year, yet new ones are constantly being introduced, and done in such a way as to take advantage of one’s tendency to just sit there when an old favorite concludes until you’re hooked. (I knew I was going to be hooked by Elementary, but tried to avoid Golden Boy. I failed. I’m now hooked on that one, too. At least I’ve decided that Hawaii 5-0 is too annoying to watch anymore and that has dropped off my list…)

(Whoa! I can’t believe I’m writing about TV shows.) Anyway, it just seems that any area you choose there’s always new stuff, and it’s emerging at such a rapid rate I don’t see how anyone could keep up. Unless that was all they did…

I think I’ve complained about this before. Which is weird because I like all the stuff I’m complaining about. I just don’t like that there’s more of it than I can possibly enjoy.

But that’s one of the curses of mankind — the soul of (fleshly) man, says Solomon, is never satisfied, no matter how much it has. Even if it has no more time or room or energy for more, it wants more all the same…

1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

I came across the following video on Power Line, as part of a poll asking whether it or footage of the explosion of the Hindenburg Blimp best capture the sense of the Obama administration’s coming apart. I vote for this one.   If it does, indeed, come apart.

But that’s another matter. I have to say I found this video, which I’d never seen before, fascinating. My husband, as an engineer, had seen it before, early on in his engineering studies. It’s used now as a study case for what happens when you fail to take into account resonance.

I think it’s a study case for what happens when you think you know everything and are trying to save money.

According the Wikipedia, the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the US, following number two, the George Washington Bridge in New York City and number one, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at the time of its completion. Tacoma Narrows was designed by a man, Leon Moisseiff, who had worked on the other two bridges, but in this case had an eye to cutting costs. The original design projected costs at $11 million whereas Moisseiff’s was projected to cost $8 million. It would be “slimmer and more elegant” as well.

It was completed and opened to traffic in July of 1940 and collapsed 4 months later on November 7. There was no loss of life in the collapse save that of a three-legged cocker spaniel named Tubby, who was so terrified he refused to leave the car he was in, which the driver had abandoned.

I could try to describe the undulations, but since I have the video, I’ll just let you watch it. It’s only about 3 minutes long. I especially like this version with the eerie music of Christopher Payne. They say you could walk along the center line and not be moved up or down, even as the sides were roiling about you.

What this says to me, though is that Man is fallible and always will be, but never more than when he thinks he is not.

Is Fantasy Only for Kids? No Way!

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure where this idea that fantasy is only for kids came from. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since middle school. I started with Madeline L’Engle and Andre Norton, progressed to Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert. I read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy as a teen, and unbeliever, and had no idea they were allegorical (I found Perelandra to be boring, and That Hideous Strength incomprehensible – they were better when I reread them ten years later as a believer).

Anyway, I never would have thought any of those were “for children,” not even Lord of the Rings which I devoured in high school. Yes, it has dwarves and hobbits and some funny bits, but the devotion to fantastical histories, the density of the prose and the sheer expanse of the tale was unlike any kids’ books I was familiar with.

From there it was Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Watership Down, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Katherine Kurtz, Stephen Donaldson, and more recently, Robert Jordan and Robin Hobb.

With the exception of Watership Down, I would never have considered any of these writers or books as being for children. Thus it never even entered my mind when I began writing fantasies of my own, that they should be written for children. As I detail in my article Why I Write Fantasy (see the tab above), my intent in part was to analogize the angelic conflict all Christians have been entered in at the moment of new birth after believing in Christ. And I didn’t wish to do it in a simplistic manner. It was also, particularly with Legends of the Guardian King, to trace the trajectory of a man’s spiritual life from unbelief to salvation and on through the various stages of spiritual growth.

Clearly the issues on my radar would be issues faced by an adult, not a child. The spiritual precepts would include those wrestled with by adults, not children.

It was not until I entered the field of Christian Fantasy, that I discovered — to my great dismay — the assumption that all fantasy is for children or young adults and should therefore be “clean” and free of sex or “gruesome” or “extreme” violence. I had well-meaning acquaintances tell me how they had given or recommended my books to the eleven-year-old boy next door, or their nine-year-old nephew.

It’s possible an eleven-year-old could follow the main line of the action, but much of the meat of the story I would think would go right over his head. Not that that’s a bad thing. I read my own share of books just that way – following the action, or certain story lines while the bulk of what was going on remained out of my grasp… (Lord of the Rings comes to mind in that regard – my perception of it as a 40+ year old was far different than when I was 16). It’s just… middle school kids were never my primary audience, and here I was facing a mindset that assumed they were not just my primary audience but my only audience!

And since I was writing for kids… how dare I insert into my book the heresy of having my – adult, male, spiritually disillusioned and until-then-celibate – hero commit a sexual sin! I received irate letters from grandmothers who bought the novel for their grandsons, forced to tear the offending two pages from the book before they could pass it on.

Outraged reviews turned up from mothers on Amazon and Christian Book dot com who, having read the book to make sure it was suitable for their young sons, had discovered it wasn’t. How dare I try to trick them like that and put such a thing in a Christian fantasy!

I remain bemused. I know in time past the entire field of speculative fiction was regarded as juvenile and struggled to gain legitimacy as acceptable reading material for American adults. The reason, supposedly was because none of it was “real.”

This objection has been nullified for science fiction for the most part as more and more of what went for science fiction in the old days has become science fact in ours.

So that leaves fantasy, the last bastion of the “make believe” and the “not real” and only children believe in such … well… fantasies.

As if many romances today are not “fantasy”; or many detective and spy novels! And what about Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Most of what they write about is “not real,” but somehow their books are not seen as “only for children.” In fact they are not seen as being for children at all. (Particularly King’s).

So why does fantasy still have the bad rap of being kidstuff?

The only answer I can think of is that it really does provide an excellent vehicle for portraying truths of the Christian life related to the angelic conflict. And since part of the intent of the opposition force in that conflict is to hide the fact that it exists… well then…. The one genre that people should pay the least attention to is the one that can actually reveal the most about what is really going on… and historically has.

Which makes the whole kidstuff thing almost… acceptable.  Almost.

For a more detailed treatise on all the ways fantasy does what it does, see my aforementioned article in the tabs above: “Why I Write Fantasy.” And if you want to know more about the angelic conflict, check out the tab called “The Angelic Conflict.”

The Plague of Busy-ness

Recently I’ve been going through old computer files and came across the following article which I wrote in August 2002 for the newsletter I was putting out then. This was about three months after Arena’s release, during which time I was busy making  trepidatious trips into local bookstores (“Who did you say you were? And why are you here, exactly?”), designing and ordering bookmarks, mailing out postcard announcements, putting together press kits and having a book signing.

In addition to a family related vacation to the east coast that summer, followed by a trip to the west coast for the 2002 CBA conference in LA, I also finished up the final touches on The Light of Eidon before turning it in to Bethany House, then began the rewrite of The Shadow Within to bring it into line with changes I’d made in Eidon.  All this in addition to updating my website, and writing the newsletter in which the following appeared.  Hence the reference to “activity and folderol.” The ideas expressed seem as applicable to me today as ten years ago, so I thought I’d share it again, this time in a different venue.

***

“Let your occupations be few if you would lead a tranquil life.” ~ Democritus

THE PLAGUE OF BUSY-NESS

With all this activity and folderol, I’ve seen how easy it is to lose one’s focus on the things that really matter — that is, the things above, rather than the things on earth. In fact, in some research I was doing recently I learned that one of the techniques used by cults to suck in their new recruits is to keep them busy all the time, to tire them out and to never let them be alone.

If they are constantly occupied with some task or engaged with some person, they’ll have no opportunity to stop and think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they’re coming to accept as truth simply by default.

I believe this plague of busy-ness is one of the main assaults Satan’s world system is deploying upon Christians today, particularly in the United States with all of its prosperity and corresponding options.

Daily we are bombarded with things to do and be and have. With people to listen to and do things with (and for). It can get overwhelming, to the point we’re just like the newly-snagged pre-cultist. Run ragged by all the demands, opportunities and perceived obligations, by all the people who come into our lives (have you ever stopped to count how many?) we can end up losing track of who we are and what we really want.

Worse, we end up losing track of the One who’s put us here and for whose glory we’ve been created. We sell ourselves out for the “stuff” of the world.

We may say we haven’t, but in the measure of our hours spent, how many are devoted solely to concentrating on and communing with the One we claim to love above all others? Even one out of twenty-four hours is only 1/24th of our day.

Doesn’t seem like very much, looked at that way, does it? Especially when you consider that none of us could even live were it not for our Lord who holds the very atoms of our bodies together.

Nor when you remember that time is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that eventually all these things that seem so important today will be destroyed and utterly forgotten…

 “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”         ~ Colossians 3:1-2

 

 

 

I’m In Rebellion – Sort of…

Yesterday I was supposed to … planned to … write about the Olympics, since that was the prompt that the Daily Post had provided this week. I even wrote some thoughts about the subject, that basically my attitude toward the Olympics was … meh. In fact, that was the title I’d selected: “Olympics… Meh”

Then I more or less ranted about various elements of hypocrisy and political correctness that I observed… like the rule in the all around for the gymnastics competition that says each country can only have two athletes in that competition even if a country has five that would blow most of the athletes from the other countries away. Doesn’t matter. Only the top two from each country can enter the competition.

Which mean’s they’re merely being politically correct, not interested, for all the trumpeting otherwise, in who is actually the best. They just want to give everyone a chance to play.

Which is even weirder when you consider how many athletes from other countries move to the US to train, use US equipment, US coaches, train with US athletes… then go back to represent their own country (which did nothing for them in this regard) and maybe win a medal for their ‘homeland.’

So… what does all that mean anyway?  And when they tally up the medals should they count the athletes that trained in Country X using Country X’s coaches, techniques, food, fellow athletes, living conditions… should they count their medals alongside those of athletes actually representing Country X? Oh, but then countries A-Z minus X would feel bad… They might stop coming. And then where would we be?

So then the Olympics and medal counts aren’t about which country has the better athletes, training, coaches etc, but … really… making everyone feel like a participant. Making everyone feel good.  Making everyone feel like “we are the world.”

The commercials were the worst… but no, I will not go off on a riff about the commercials, and all the worldly, rah-rah viewpoints they were continuously spewing.

Maybe I’ve watched too many Olympics over the years… Maybe I’m getting old and seeing how the young wonders of yesteryear, like Greg Louganis, now stand in the bleachers and watch, gray-haired, far past their prime… poor guy. All that glory and now it’s gone… Which is the way of the world, of course, but you’d never know it from all the hooplah.

The focus for me is just all wrong. Unless you use the general idea of it all — training for the games  — as an analogy for the Christian life… it does take the dedication the athletes demonstrate, in order to eventually finish the race, fight the good fight, run so as to win, win the crown… But as far as the world… it just seems sort of meaningless.

Wait a minute! I started this post intending to write about how I was NOT going to write about the Olympics. How I  just couldn’t bring myself to follow the five posts a week plan any more. How I was too tired, too chafing against the requirements, not interested…

Yet somehow… I ended up writing about them anyway.  😦

Hmph. I think I liked the clip they played in the opening ceremonies of Chariots of Fire best (minus the nonsense with Rowan Atkinson). I still remember the thrill of seeing that movie on the big screen for the first time, that wonderful running on the beach scene, hearing that now-familiar theme…one of my all time favorites.  Maybe you loved it, too. If so… enjoy…

Life Needs Death

Believe it or not, I am still getting snail mail for my mother. Recently I received yet another missive from PETA, one of the organizations she supported, pleading with her to renew her membership, as they are in dire need of her funds. To guilt her into submitting, they sent along several sheets of cute mailing labels and a complimentary copy of their quarterly magazine informing her that while she should have gotten it last month, she apparently did not, and maybe she didn’t notice, so they are sending it to her in a special envelope along with the letter badgering her to re-subscribe. If they had included an SASE I might have sent them notice that she’s deceased and they should remove her from their mailing list.

Hmm… come to think of it I believe I already did that.

Anyway, when it comes I always take a moment to peruse the magazine. I’m not sure why. It’s so stupid. They make such a big deal out of nothing. I read the articles and always feel like I’m only getting a third of the story, along with a good dollop of hysteria.

This issue was particularly provoking to me. Mind you, I’m only skimming, but here are some of the titles, bullets and side notes that hit my eyes:

 “Did my meal have a mother?”

“Where did veal come from? Baby cows. Waaah!”

“How about the turkey? The steak? That succulent piece of lamb?”

Oooh. Those were once living creatures… a nice, feathery turkey, a sweet, lovable, innocent cow, a cute woolly lamb. How can anyone eat such things! Only because they haven’t really thought about what it is they’re actually eating — or they happen to be a horrid, cruel and vicious barbarian!

You are urged to always “Try to relate to who’s on your plate!” This statement was accompanied by an illustration of a plate with vegetables, potatoes and a tiny naked person… (Which turned out to be a photograph of an actual person lying on a huge plate at one of their “events” of the same name.)

It’s all emotional, overwrought and rife with anthropomorphizing the animals — ie, giving them human feelings and attributes they do not possess. I’m sorry, but turkeys do not have the attachment to their young that human mothers do. I’ve raised turkeys and was not impressed with their intelligence or their demeanor.

I’ve worked with cows, which are one of my favorite animals, but they are still animals — beasts. Kinda dumb ones at that.

I’ve never worked with sheep, but the Bible consistently uses them as an illustration of how stupid and herd-bound the people of God can be when they are out of His plan and following their own ways.

The authors even agonize over the plight of fish as they are “impaled and pulled into an environment where they cannot breathe”.

The Dalai Lama is quoted as having been “particularly concerned with the sufferings of chickens for many years.”

SIGH…

I think a lot of this comes from living in an affluent society where we are more and more divorced from the actual realities of what it means to survive. We, as a society, are so removed from our food sources now, we can afford to indulge such absurd ideas.

I say absurd, because if you get down to it, life requires death in order to continue.

All life. If you look at the entire ecological system, it is, as that silly Lion King song trumpets, a circle. The grass grows, the cow eats it, makes a baby cow, dies, decomposes, feeds the grass which the now-grown baby cow eats as it makes a new cow, which feeds new grass… etc.

Right there, in front of everyone’s eyes to see.

I would also like to point out that when one eats the grass, the grass dies, as well. So too, the spinach, the onion, the lettuce that vegans are so fond of replacing their animal foods with. Worse, when you crunch into that fresh spinach leaf you are in the process of crushing and bursting and killing living cells.

Ohhhh noooooooo. And should you cook the spinach leaf beforehand, you are subjecting those cells to lethal levels of heat and again the cell walls burst, the cells die…

Animal or plant, the stuff we eat is living either as we eat it, or prior to preparation for eating. We don’t eat rocks. And after we eat this living stuff it is no longer living. Thus, life requires death to be sustained.

A perfect, everywhere present, three times a day reminder of the Cross, and the fact that there is no spiritual life for fallen man apart from death — the death of the son of God, which provides true life — eternal life — for all who believe in Him.

 

Focus on the Promises

I’ve been writing about my attempts to get my head around the notion that the problems I’m having with writing Sky — ie, actually getting myself to go into the office and attend to the book as opposed to any number of other things that are available to do — do not call for me to seek to discipline myself better, but to turn the problem over to the Lord who lives in me and has promised to do the work. Both the work of my calling to write this book, and also the work of conforming me to His image.

The past two posts have been an exploration of thoughts leading up to the ideas in this one, which is an excerpt from a journal entry from last week (this blog is subtitled as my “writing diary,” after all, so I can’t feel too out-of-bounds when I insert sections of my actual diary… 🙂  )

These first two are quotes I selected from Pastor John’s message from Sunday Feb 19, 2012:

“Abraham teaches us there’ll be many tests of our faith. He continued to get up after every defeat (and there were many) and have faith in the Lord who called him….

“There’ll be many times when our faith will come under evaluation. When that happens, it’s really the doctrine we already learned/believed that gets tested.”

So when he says turn it over to Christ and trust Him to do what He says, that means the word and the promises and principles I’m to be believing. Do I really believe He is at work in me? Do I really believe He’ll get the book done through me without my help?

I think that’s the issue for me. Can I believe He will do it — is able to do it — without my schemes and self-condemnation and ‘How can I do it better?’ and ‘I will do better…’ No. See, I do believe He can handle situations over which I have no control. But making myself get down to work — isn’t that my responsibility? Well, how can it be if I’m dead (crucified in Christ) and Christ lives in me? That makes it His responsiblity. So then instead of focusing on me, and what I’m doing or not doing, or hope to be doing, I should be focusing on Him. His character, His work, His purpose, His promises.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all-sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed,.” ~2 Co 9:8

“Faithful is He who calls you and HE will bring it to pass.” ~ I Th 5:24

Even in just writing these two verses I realize if I concentrated on them (rather than self or distractions) why would I want to avoid going to work on the book and seeing Him work?

“For the Lord GOD helps me, therefore I am not disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint. And I know that I will not be ashamed.” ~ Is 50:7

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and he went out NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING [!!!]” ~Heb 11:8

Abraham had to get up and go out. But the focus wasn’t to be on what he was going to do, where he was going, but just one step at a time, trusting God to guide his steps.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ~Ps 119:105

When that last verse was written, they didn’t have very good lamps: candles, torches, oil lamps. And if you’re carrying any of those as you stand in the darkness, you wouldn’t be able to see very far. But as you walk forward, more is revealed. If you stand still you will never see beyond the present circle of light. No matter how you strain, you must MOVE to see more. So you take a step… into the office, up to the desk. The focus is not to be on the book, or on my lack of ability, or the blankness I have about it but on what I know and believe about HIM. That he’s given me a gift and a calling and a contract for a specific book and promised not just to help but to do it. Why am I afraid? That makes no sense.

Am I more occupied with the Giver or the Gift? The book or the Lord who is giving me the book? Myself and my lack of ability or the Lord who has given and will continue to give me the ability?

Faith is hearing the word and keeping it. Then realizing that we turn more and more of our lives over to Jesus Christ. “I live by faith in the Son of God” (who is the Word of God) and that will be tested. And when it is, and you keep on believing, God reveals Himself to you.

Like how He comes through, no matter what the difficulty every time.

So now in writing this book, He’s right inside me, probably trapping His foot waiting for me to believe Him when He says those things — ie, He will do it, I will NOT be ashamed. I have to go into that office, get in fellowship, trust Him to guide me and show me and get to work. If that is only a nonstop or go over stuff I did before or the notes, let Him guide me.

And that will be tested. Sometimes I’ll have to wait. But wait believing. Wait expecting.

“Unbelief looks at the thing in God’s hand and says, “I wish I had that.”  Belief looks and says, “God has promised me that — I WILL have it.”  ~ Pastor John Farley, paraphrasing Dwight L. Moody,


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