29 December 2006

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu

Here I sit snuggled in my Christmas pajamas and the blanket my mom made us for Christmas. Ralph stands noble in his blue-lit suit. My living room is ensconced in nativity scenes and nutcrackers and stocking hung by the chimney with care. Red and green and white lights wrap around the room. Christmas carols play from my computer. It is my last stand, my last effort. Because the truth is, it’s over. Family has all gone home. Christmas movies have been watched.
Post-Christmas partum. It’s the most depressing time of the year.
And I have absolutely no reason to be depressed. My husband and family and friends completely spoiled me this year from a misfit toy ornament to Pirate games to books to a popcorn maker (you have to understand how much of a popcorn fanatic I am) to another season of M*A*S*H on DVD to a brand new car. Yup, a brand new car complete with the new car smell.
My husband and I looked at cars this past summer. My car is getting up there in years, but it still runs. We just couldn’t afford a new car. Then my husband saw that someone in our church needed a new car. Five kids in one apartment. One car. The husband takes that one car to Oklahoma every week for his job. I would say they need a car. So my husband fast-forwarded some of our plans. Donated my car and bought me a new one. It was my grandmother’s car. Grandma, you’re legacy of generosity lives on. You’re still helping those in need.
Christmas morning we wake up bluebird early and trek to Chris’ mom’s house in our Christmas pajamas. Chris tells me to open my present from him last. Very last. It’s wrapped in three different papers, a washcloth, a leftover picture after his mom’s scrapbooking, tied with a bowtie made from the wrapping paper roll. That’s my husband for you. I tear open all this wrapping. A GPS system. (I get lost all the time.) At least the box for a GPS system. Where is it? I ask. Already in your car, he answers. Let’s go play with it. The crew runs out the door while I fumble with my shoes. Wait! I cry. It’s mine! I get to play with it first! I run out the door. Right in front of the house is a black Sonata with a red ribbon. Just like the movies. My mouth gapes like a baby bird waiting for his worm (and, might I add, like my niece, Cadie, whenever she’s in a 2 mile radius of food). I cry.
I’ve never had a brand new car.
And there inside is my GPS system.
I’m completely spoiled.
Oh, and my GPS system talks. You can set it to speak with a British accent. Love it.
It makes me sad that some people, when you ask about their holidays, they just say, “I got through it.” I don’t want to let go. And there were hard things about this Christmas, one of which being the fact that because it was the turn Chris’ side of the family, I missed out on my family’s Christmas traditions, even though my side was able to come up here for Christmas.
I love Christmas. And I love my life. I hate saying goodbye.

18 December 2006

Christmas and more Christmas

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
One in each fist. After all, I've perfected my hot chocolate recipe, but you can't go the holidays without some good egg nog.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
He wraps them - different wrapping paper for each family member. It saves him writing tags and us looking at tags. We can just tear in, and boy, do we ever tear in. Our goal: carpet the living room with wrapping paper. We have to rip faster than my dad can clean it up. Mainly, we're just trying to drive him crazy.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
We did just blue lights this year, and I'm pretty keen on that look.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Don't need it.
5. When do you put your decorations up?
Weekend after Thanksgiving if possible. We watch White Christmas on Thanksgiving night to initiate the season.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Do I have to pick just one? I love food! The stuffing and mashed potatoes - oh, the mashed potatoes. As the joke goes, our family eats enough mashed potatoes to set off the next Irish potato famine. And the cranberry sauce, and the pink stuff...
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
Waiting at the top of the steps with our chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast and favorite stuffed animal until Mom and Dad got everything together and music turned on and lights lit (and presents under the tree, which, of course, we didn't know at the time, cuz, after all, Santa left them there last night). Then there was the one present that Santa almost forgot one year. He left it by the garage door. My skateboard.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
It was in the summer at the lake for vacation. A sort of free for all - Santa, Easter Bunny, Toothfairy. Not sure how I figured it out. I was sad, but it wasn't traumitzing. I think I got over it in a matter of minutes, somewhere between bites of the juicy peach.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yup - ornament and Christmas pajamas. This year, we're celebrating with Chris' family, and my family is joining. We'll still do the ornament and pajamas from my side and something from his mom on his side.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Lots of lights - blue lights, as I mentioned above. Lots of ornaments. Not really a specific theme, although the little tree in our bedroom is red and gold with white lights.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love it - but I live in Texas now. Not too much of it. We had maybe half an inch a few weeks ago, before it went back up into the 80s.
12. Can you ice skate?
As long as I'm holding on to the rail.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
The painting chris did for me - two paintings that fit together. One represents me; one represents him.
14. What's your favorite thing(s) about the holidays?
All of it. Christmas music (the station that plays all Christmas music until Christmas); the cookies; the parties; the family; the traditions; the houses all decorated; mom in her kerchief; visions of sugar plums...
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Butter cookies made with the cookie press into fun Christmas shapes with red and green sugar splashed on top.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Christmas Eve candlelight service, followed by dashing through the lit streets to take in all the holiday lights. Then we go back and read Luke 2 and Twas a Night Before Christmas.
17. Did you ever see an angel?
Sorry, but no. I've heard they're pretty scary warriors with the glory of the Lord accompanying them sometimes, which always inspires fear. Either that, or they come to tell you your pregnant. So I'm okay with not seeing them for now.
18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
the giving part more and more (although I still like the receiving, so you can send gifts to...)
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Silent Night. Since I was a Christmas baby (remember the whole December birthday month thing - still accepting gifts), my mom sang it to me as a lullaby. Christmas ended; she still sang it. I must have been about 10 when I discovered that it's actually a Christmas carol. I still get sleepy when I hear it.
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
I give 'em to my hubby, who adores them.
21. Favorite Christmas movie?
White Christmas far and above. Followed by Rudolph for obvious reasons.
22. What do you have on your list this year?
Books. Big surprise there.

And one random Christmas question I have: Jesus was born as a human, died as a human, resurrected as a human (see the part of him eating food with his disciples), and ascended as a human, and will return as a human. He chose to become human for all eternity, although he is still fully God. However, as a human, does he still need to eat?

15 December 2006


Have I told you about my surprise party?
My husband threw me a surprise party. And let me tell you, I was surprised! He told me he had a guy’s night, which they have about once a month, and that it was at our house this time, so I needed to be outta there. Nothing out of the ord. So I went to sushi with friends (who, yes, folks, were in on the whole deal).
Strange thing #1: Chris told me that guy’s night would end at 8:30. I argued with him. Why so early? That’s dumb, I said. But that’s how it is, Chris replied. Fine.
Strange thing #2: He wanted the house clean for guy’s night. I mean really clean. Huh, I thought. I mean, he has been liking the house clean more and more for guests, but guy’s night? I’m not going to argue. He’s doing most of the work, and I get a clean house out of it.
Strange thing #3: My friends asked if they could go back to my house after dinner. Oh, they worked it in so well. I was talking about a dark chocolate cocoa I had found (yes, conversations often revolve around food, especially chocolate, especially dark chocolate) with which I couldn’t wait to try making hot chocolate. Let’s try it tonight! they suggested. Oh, okay. I called Chris. Although I could hear voices in the background, he very eagerly extended a welcome. Come on down!
**Still, I never suspected a thing. Sure there was extra wine bought and sodas and waters, but my husband does that normally, which is why I ban him from the grocery store.**
I walked in the house. First thought: why on earth did Chris put up decorations for his guy’s night?
She’s not too bright, folks.
Slowly, ever so slowly, my brained worked through the mist and found the explanation. These people are here for me (hence the shouting of Happy Birthday’s!). And my friends were in on it.
Chris said I stood there with mouth agape for almost five minutes.
I love surprises. We had a great time. And, there were gifts.
Sorry, no pics. Forgot to use the camera that night. Let's just say that bold colors flew everywhere in the house. I love bold colors. And a Pirates of the Carribean poster game. I love pirates and Pirates. And banners with flowers. I love flowers. I'm such a girl.
In the interest of security, I’m following Gina’s rule: my birthday is in December, but I will not tell you the day. Let’s just call it a birthday month.
Stay tuned Monday for a Christmas list.

13 December 2006

All those Christmas thoughts in one fruit cake…

“Do we have to celebrate Christmas?” someone asked the other day.
Even as Christians, we don’t have to celebrate Christmas?
No. The shepherds and the angels and the wise men did, though (although not in December, and the wise men weren’t there for about another two years). Other than that, Christmas is not in the Bible, nor was it celebrated by the early church. I guess meeting in catacombs (i.e. tombs) was not conducive to trees and presents and pies.
But Jesus is the reason for the season!
Technically, the Christmas we celebrate was adopted from a pagan winter solstice festival. The tree came from the Druids. Seriously. The cool thing is that Christians saw this as an opportunity to point to the kingdom of God.
So, no, we don’t have to celebrate the Christmas season.
But, for me, it’s a time to remember the God who did not spare His own Son because of His love for us, the God who executed a tough but wonderful plan in order to bring His Son greater glory. It’s a time to remember the Son, who humbled Himself by becoming a man. Kafka’s roach’s got nothing on Him. And more than that, the Advent season is a time of preparation, of anticipation of the second coming, of the time that the Kingdom of God will be fully realized, when peace on earth and goodwill toward men will reign, when evil and tears and pain will be wiped out.
Now don't get me wrong. I love the Christmas season, both for the advent reminder and the family time and all the traditions we've built. I love the carols and the lights and the decorations and the baking, and yes, I love the presents, the giving and the getting. (Let's leave the materialism rant for another day. Presents don't always mean HDTV's and XBox360's and diamonds. Sometimes presents are homemade fudge. Okay, so maybe I ranted just a little.) I didn't say we weren't allowed to celebrate Christmas. We just don't have to.
Prepare ye the way…

11 December 2006

Happy Feet

I know a lot of people have been down on this movie, but to be honest, I liked it! Lots of music, lots of dancing. Who could ask for anything more? Oh, and don’t forget Robin Williams, who’s always good for a laugh. “Let me tell to you something.” Laugh-out-loud jokes. A tad bit of sexual innuendo inappropriate for children’s movies, I thought, such as the Lovelace character. A friend of mine expressed a problem with the violence, but I didn’t think the violence any scarier than any Disney movie, really, with their villains. We took my six-year-old niece. She seemed to be fine.
Two annoying factors: Nicole Kidman. Her voice reminds me of the drip that won’t stop dropping or the fly that won’t shew. And I can’t stand her (for those of you in the audience not familiar with classics, Singing in the Rain).
Second, the seal. They led me to believe that the seal factor would be this danger in the future. Every time a penguin dove into the water, I expected the teeth of the seal. But then the seal never came back. A McGuffin, perhaps. (How do you like them apples? Hey, mom! Look! No hands!) The chasing seal forced Mumble out of his ordinary world then was useful no longer.
Now, to the Christianity factor, the writer obviously had a bad experience. (Man, I’m just full of those movie references today.) The leadership of the tall penguins resemble some stoic puritan leadership with their disdain of the “pagan dancing” that leads others down some sort of slippery slope (they didn’t actually use that term, but used another favored by Christian leaders afraid of the world influences – I just can’t remember the exact term) away from the unity that will save them. The first time we see the destructive wasteland of the humans that steals away the fish of the penguins, the camera focuses on a church, steeple and all, then pans down to the crusty rusty boats reminiscent of Monet’s industrial trains. Apparently, the guy just doesn’t have a high opinion of Christianity. Here’s the ironic thing: in all honesty, Christians are the ones who have to keep dancing when the rest of the world demands something else. If you live in the Bible belt, it means living a risky Christianity when your neighbors want the Sunday-morning-I’m-seen-at-church-experience-and-let-nothing-else-touch-me-just-keep-me-safe-for-the-whole-family. If you live pretty much anywhere in the Western world, it is being dangerously Christian instead of materialistic (and by that, I don’t mean enjoying God’s creation but an instant gratification lifestyle with the gimme-gimme line). If you live in the Muslim world, it means reaping the shame of your family and banishment if not physical suffering. As Christians, we know the source of evil, and as the Body of Christ, incarnating Him everyday, we can bring healing in this world.
So there you have it folks. Dance with happy feet. Share the healing and hope of Christ.

08 December 2006

Publishing articles

Thought some of you might appreciate these articles about publishing. This one is from Forbes and is a collection of articles. I have not read them all.
This is a review of the Forbes articles.
Also, Michelle at Just a Minute has found some great online coupons and this online audible book site that has a couple of freebies. If you're still shopping (and if you're anything like me, you have barely begun to shop!), these might come in handy.

07 December 2006

Meet Ralph

Ralph is our Christmas tree this year. Beautiful, ain’t he? Also very high maintenance. We put Ralph up in our living room on Monday night and filled him up with water with plans to decorate Tuesday night. Tuesday evening, less than 24 hours from the first watering, the base was completely dry, all the water sucked up. Not a drop was stirring. I put more water in. No luck. The tree had sapped up. Wednesday night, we took old Ralphie out of the base, laid him down, and sawed off about an inch or so, maybe two inches, from the bottom, put back up, filled him back up, and set out to decorating. So now we have a beautiful, full, and decorated Christmas tree. Ralph. And he took a sip of water overnight. Just a sip.
All blue lights. Yup. Tried something new this year. And you know what? I like it!
Footnote on the Christmas stake stake-out (Erin’s pun): forgot to take pictures. Sorry. Today I had to go back to Elliot’s to get more stakes. Can I just tell you that I love this place? You walk in the door and are greeted by a group of older men who can’t wait to help you. Not like the Wal-Mart model: can I help you? Oh, no, we don’t have that. You don’t have paper? Anywhere in the store? No, we don’t carry that. Yes, folks, that is their standard answer. Drives me crazy. But back to Elliot’s. They have all sorts of odds and ends. Tea pots, slinkies, and sleds. (Sleds in Texas? Who knows.) So I asked if they have jump ropes. No, ma’am, but we’ll be happy to make one for you. And make one they did! Love this place!
So, yes, Jeanne, it’s too cold to run, so I want to start jump-roping rather than getting flabby, but I need tips. I haven’t jumped a rope since I was a wee little girl (no comments, from the peanut gallery, thank you – what are the guys names in the Muppets that always made the snide remarks? Loved those guys.). Any suggestions, Jeanne?

05 December 2006

Christmas Light Stakes

I found ‘em! I found ‘em! That’s right, folks. After two long years of painful searching high and low (literally the high shelves and the low shelves and every shelf in between), I found those Christmas light stake thingies. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those stakes you put in the ground outside to line your sidewalk with bright lights. Santa’s runway. Just to help him out, you know. Make sure he has a safe sleigh landing at our house. We had searched at Home Depot and Lowe’s and Wal-Mart and CVS and Big Lots. No stakes to be found. Then, today on the way to the library from my morning flute lessons, a road I drive almost daily, I noticed an Elliot’s Hardware. Hm, I thought. That’s new. Maybe they’ll have the stakes. Fat chance, my cynical side sneered. No one has them. Still, a quick stop, a quick prayer, and I sludged out of the car into the cold on the never-ending search for the stakes. (Note: when in line all holly and jolly with my find, I asked the cashier when they opened. “Seven years ago,” he answered. Hm. Who knew?)
I walked into the store. Christmas decorations everywhere. It looked like an elf threw-up in there. Maybe, I thought, just maybe. And there, lit up with a Madonna halo, there were the Christmas stakes. Not just the plastic ones, but metal ones, too. Different shapes and sizes. I picked up the plastic ones. Cheaper, you know. But, after two long years of waiting and searching, after two years of migraines and broken hearts, why deny myself the longevity and stability of the metal stakes? Heck, I’m splurging. I’m paying the extra 2 bucks for the metal stakes.
I’m the happy elf.
I’m so happy, if I were Texan, which I’m not, I would spit.
Seeing as how I do not spit for any reason, I did the happy dance instead (can you hear me, Balki?). Then I called my husband to share the magnanimous news. Christmas light stakes! I got his voicemail. Sharing with the voicemail was not nearly as exciting as sharing with a live person. Still, my humor could not be squelched. I got in line. A bit slow, but undaunting. (Stop editing me. It is my prerogative to create new words.) We customers laughed together, full of jocularity.
Out the door with my new Christmas light stakes, I did a leprechaun sidekick and broke into Silver Bells. It was enough to put my in the Christmas spirit. Of course, it is the most wonderful time of the year, and we got our tree last night, a fat Douglas fir named Ralph. You’ll meet Ralph later this week. So Christmas spirit lurks in my very essence. Still, the Christmas light stakes brought out the Christmas spirit like the scent of brownies when you open that oven door.
I skipped all the way to the car then rushed home to tell you all my good news.
I still happened to notice at the red light that the car behind me didn’t have a driver. Oh, wait. The driver hid behind the steering wheel. I didn’t know that actually happened. Thought it was one of those hyperbolic granny jokes. Nope. Now I’ve seen a real live wheel-hider.
Merry Christmas!

04 December 2006

Reading Quiz

I loved this quiz! Anything that has to do with reading catches me like a fly fisher.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

01 December 2006

Leah's Eyes

I constantly learn from my Dad. This Thanksgiving was no exception. In the middle of some meal together (although not the Thanksgiving meal), my Dad asked me, “What do you think about Leah?” Now, this sounds out of context, but I know my Dad, and I know that he loves to talk about the Bible. I know only one Leah in the Bible, so I answered, “With her tender or nice or fine eyes?” Bingo! And we were off.
You see, several translations of the Bible call her eyes weak, giving the impression that she was homely or needed Coke bottle glasses, as my Dad said. But, with all of the newer lexicon tools and studies, the translations are changing to call them tender or delicate or pretty. Gentle eyes. (Cf. Gen. 18:7; 33:13)
This is where my Dad took it even further, did his own studies with the Hebrew and how it is used other places in the Bible. The Hebrews often used body parts to symbolize inner features or character. (A familiar one: the heart = will.) Here, my Dad said, the eyes show mental qualities like anger, arrogance, humility, pity, etc (cf. Deut. 7:16; 15:9; 28:54, 56). Rachel was outwardly beautiful; Leah held inner beauty. Jacob chose on outward beauty. Here’s where it gets really interesting, and scary. It seems that Leah was God’s choice for Jacob, and God used Laban’s manipulation and deceit to accomplish that much as God used Jacob’s manipulation and deceit in previous stories with Esau and Isaac. Remember, Leah mothered Judah, the line of David and Jesus, the son of the promise. And, if it is true the polygamy is indeed wrong (which, I think, we all would affirm – although, technically the Bible never explicitly says it’s wrong), then Rachel should have never been Jacob’s wife.
This messes with my Western romance sensibilities. Jacob worked seven years in love with this woman. What do you mean, she should have never been the wife?
Look at the literary clues, my Dad said. (My Dad loves literary clues. Hmm. Do you think that’s where I got it?) Moses points out that Leah was buried with Jacob and Isaac and Rebekah and Abraham and Sarah. Rachel was buried somewhere else entirely. She didn’t belong.
But what about Joseph and how he saved his family from famine?
God uses even our mess-ups for His glory.
But, but, but. This just doesn’t feel right. (Aren’t we glad that God’s character is not based on how we feel something should go?)
Then I remembered a story from my life. I had a first love in college. He broke my heart. Now I am married to the most incredible man in the world. Isn’t that similar to Jacob’s story? Could he not have chosen to love Leah? And, yes, things could have gone down differently. Laban could have tried honesty.
Some thoughts to think about courtesy my Dad, a wise man.

29 November 2006

The man at the Windsor Inn

I have to tell you about a man I met while I was in D.C. He’s the owner and/or manager of the Windsor Inn, a renovated house, small and old but accommodating. No elevator. Armida stayed there.
The man has an eastern European accent, which makes him instantly charming, of course. His hair is graying and thinning. It looks like a self-cut job with that Einstein every-which-way look. That particular evening, he wore a black and white plaid shirt with a burlap tie and a corduroy jacket. You know, the kind with the patched elbows. He always held his glasses, which dove and flew through the air, occasionally subject to a good sucking while he thought. He sensed when his boarders needed something and jumped up to help with that smile that at least looks genuinely pleased that we needed him. You can’t really tell where he is looking because his eyes go different directions, but eventually his smile hides that.
This man looks like the sort of man with whom you want to be friends. He looks as if he has hidden tales, stories that twinkle in his eyes, and it’s your job to prod him along, just enough to get the once upon a time.
I tell you about this man because I want to go back and meet him again. I lost, you see, because I only spent the two minutes with him, asking about how to get to the White House. Oh, that I had spent more time, that I had gotten the once upon a time.
I tell you about this man because he just might show up in my next book. Not my current WIP, but my next book. The ideas are simmering, and this man is jumping up, pleased to help.

27 November 2006

Review - Straight Up by Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson wrote a book about the could have beens and should have beens of life.
Georgia Ella, a should have been jazz great throws away opportunity after opportunity in order to grip more tightly to the bottle. Her cousin, Fairly, mourns her dead past in a sideways manner with the young and the restless in upscale New York. The two come together in Lexington for new starts. But the question is, are there any new starts left?
This book broke my heart from beginning to end. I learned that sometimes hope is not where you think it is. For example, I wondered how the little girl fits in, and when I figured it out, or rather, figured out how the girl should have fit in, my heart cried.
The strength in this book lies in the amazing characterization. Lisa uses first person for two of the characters, and yet is able to make the distinct and real. I morphed into Georgia. I know others that read the same book will become Fairly or Clarissa or UG or Sean, which makes this book powerful for so many people and so many mistakes. Each character is flawed, man are they flawed – no wonder woman or superman heroes here – and loveable, loveable, that is, by God.
This book portrays the communal aspect of life in its negative and positive aspects. It shows that no matter how much we isolate ourselves and tell ourselves that we are only hurting ourselves, everything we do changes something for good or bad about the world. Straight Up also paints the landscape of the beautiful communion of the Christian life.
Straight Up encourages me to use every opportunity as to the glory of God, to reach out to every passing person, to practice more, to write more, to eat more, to laugh more, to serve more, and to get out of my pity parties.
As much as I loved Samson’s The Living End, I think Straight Up has passed it on my favorites list. I’ve mentioned Lisa’s metaphors before, but I’ll take the time to highlight them again. Wow, this girl is good. And you know what I think? I think her rich writing comes from a rich life, fully lived, fully involved in people and passion and art and God.
Can I be Lisa Samson?

Carnival of Christian Writers

Today is another fun carnival! Check out all the contributers!

22 November 2006

My wisdom teeth

So today I thought I’d tell you about the day I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Chris and I had been dating for about nine months, I think. My mom wanted to come up and take care of me, but I wanted my beau to spoil me. Surgery was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon. I would stay the weekend at Chris’ house to make it easier for him.
I took some pill a half hour before my surgery. I didn’t really know what the pill was supposed to do. Apparently, it was supposed to relax me. Chris had never been to the office before. Let me tell you, taking directions from someone in a drunken stupor must have been trying for him.
“Um, that was the turn.”
“Right back there somewhere,” with a very wimpy pointy type gesture.
I don’t remember them taking me from the chair to some bed. I remember a nurse asking if I could get up. I said yes and fell right back to sleep. I have a vague memory of leaving the office. I believe I was half carried out. And then there was the car ride out.
“Did you call my mom?”
“Did you call Jana?”
A minute or two of silence.
“Did you call my mom?”
“Did you call Jana?”
Pete and Repeat sat on a boat. Pete jumped out. Who was left?
Pete and Repeat sat on a boat.
And so it went.
We got back to Chris’ house. My throat felt like a Texas summer (have you seen the lakes after this year’s draught? Or rather, the cracked land where once a lake stood?).
“Are you sure you can drink water?”
“Mm-hmm. I need some.” I proceeded to put the full glass to my lips and dribble it down the front of me.
“Okay. Do you have another shirt?”
“No.” I don’t know why I told him that. I had packed a bag for the weekend with clothes. Yet, at that moment, I believed I had no other clothes in the world. My dear Chris got one of his shirts.
Now, keep in mind that we are not married at this point.
I begin to pull the wet T-shirt over my head. With Chris standing directly in front of me.
Chris: Uh, okay. I can’t just stand here and watch, but if I leave, she may fall over at the rate she’s going.
So my dear Chris turned his back to me and listened for a thud. The thud never came, and I successfully maneuvered out of the old tee and into the new.
The rest of the weekend was fairly uneventful. Chris fed me applesauce, easing each spoonful into my creaky mouth.
That’s how I lost my four wisdom teeth.
Kindly refrain from the bathetic jokes of my loss of wisdom. Trust me, it was never there.

20 November 2006

The Theology Conference

I'm back! Didya miss me? Huh? Huh?
Some great things about the conference:
1. Seeing my best friend, Armida, and drinking lots of pumpkin spice lattes with her. Man, I miss that girl.
2. Meeting a blogging friend. Erin has a creative sense of humor and a creative bent on raising children. Armida and I tried to convince her to write a book on child-rearing (such a funny word, don't you think? makes me think of butts). I'll need her ideas someday. Oh, we met at Cheesecake Factory where they currently have this amazing pumpkin cheesecake. Can ya see a theme here?
3. Discovering new favorite theologians, like John Franke. This guy has some great ideas. Can't wait to dig into the new book I just bought, which brings me to point 4...
4. New books at half the price. You heard right, folks, half the price. Publishing houses galore in the exhibition room. My eyes went starry. My heart went pitter-patter. My throat begin to constrict in excitement. And my husband put me on a budget. (Well, he threatened to.) So I bought all these smarty-pants nonfiction books so that I can use big words like prologomena.
5. Walking down to the White House at night and discovering that it is exactly how I described it in my book (wshoo!).
I had a great time. It was good to be back in that theological world. Thankfully, Armida was there. She's brilliant, and I kept bugging her with, "What does that mean again?" Man, you're out of the system for a couple of years and who knows what's going on.

13 November 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

You have to see this movie. I don't know who "you" might be, but whoever "you" are, "you" need to see this movie. If you are a writer, you will laugh with the "that's exactly how I think!" moments. Like - and I am censoring myself so that I don't give anything away - like the author trying to figure out the ending. An assistant comes in, sent by the publishing house, ready to use whatever method necessary to bring on the ending, but the author knows that the ending isn't up to her. She has to find it. Or how the writer researches her books. Or when a character gives a manuscript to a literary prof to read, and the prof says yes, I'd love to read it, while throwing down the mss and returning to his book. But, but - you could see this in the character's eyes, in his stop ready to turn back and beg - please read this now. Tell me what you think. Tell me now. This is exactly how I feel every time I give anyone anything of mine to read.
If you aren't a writer, this will give you a glimpse into our lives (and shows us writers that not everyone thinks like us - hard to believe, I know). One of the best scenes (in the beginning, so I'm not really giving anything away): the writer stands on the edge of her desk, on the edge of a skyscraper in her mind's eye, to know what it feels like to jump to your death from a very tall building. The assistant walks in bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. What on earth is this writer doing? "Doesn't everyone image what this is like?" the writer asks. "No!" the assistant says. "No!" my husband repeats. "What?" I think. Of course everyone does. What does the free fall feel like? What are your last thoughts? Are you still alive when you hit the bottom? How do you overcome that fear right before jumping? Do you pee yourself mid-air? Do you change your mind and want to live when it's already too late? But, my husband says in agreement with the assistant, not everyone thinks this way.
I loved this movie. My husband enjoyed this movie but says I can't be a writer anymore. Too weird. Many laughs. Great cast - Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Queen Latifah. Very funny.
Typically, when I talk about movies, I talk theology or philosophy or something. So here you go: This movie demonstrates the power of story. Careful, writers, you possess heavy responsibility (which reminds me of James' warning to teachers in his letter). That whole mightier-than-the-sword pen. And, the movie is existential. Can't say anything more than that without giving away the ending.

Another good movie? The Prestige. I recommend that as well. Great acting. Stellar acting. Good twists. A good flick all around.

I'll be gone this week at a theology conference to exercise those theological chops. As an added bonus, I get to see my best friend, who lives many, many miles away.

09 November 2006

Exploring Postmodern Literature

This is a blog of random thoughts as I try to make my way in this pomo lit world.
Some characteristics listed in different sources:
- exploring subjectivism (turning from omniscient 3rd person narrative to inner states of consciousness)
- fragmentariness in narrative and character construction
- many similarities to existential crisis and literature, but seen more in a society than in an individual
- emphasis on pastiche, parody, magic realism
- deconstruction
- breaking down of distinct between high and low culture
- emphasize metaphor and symbol
Overall, they all relate to doubt, which is the reason for any worldview change. (Note: I use the term “worldview” as cultural anthropologists do, not as some churches have been in the habit of using. So I would see an Asian worldview, a Western worldview, an African worldview, etc.) For example, Descartes doubted that the physics handed down via the authority of Aristotle was correct, so he proposed knowing by our own experience. He meant an “objective” experience found in empirical data instead of the subjective way of knowing truth from authority that had been used in the Middle Ages.
So here we have doubt again. The stories past down, at the very least, our biased, if not persuasive of a particular agenda. Who can blame these questions? Scientific progress, which was supposed to improve human life (which, according to Enlightenment, always progresses and gets better) produced things like the atomic bomb and 9/11. So how exactly are we better? Trusted corporations such as Enron and politicians can’t be trusted. The church falls in shambles around us. Who can we trust?
What is real?
And the literature reflects this.
Apart from the literature side, I have been studying postmodernism as a cultural anthropologist. In many ways, we are reading to pre-modernism with a twist. We have questions that modernism can no longer answer. The world just doesn’t fit anymore. It seems to me that postmodern literature is an attempt to deal with these questions. Maybe some of the literature is poorly written. Maybe some of it answers questions in ways that I would not answer the questions, or even asks questions that I would not ask. Maybe some of it has a structure that is different than our traditional novels, like the changing structure of architecture and music.
Some examples of postmodern literature (I’m including films as a literature):
Toni Morrison, Beloved
D. DeLillo, White Noise
Stephen King, The Stand
Pulp Fiction
The Matrix
Fight Club
Run, Lola, Run

**addendum: Since posting this, I would like to add two books to the list. Straight Up by Lisa Samson, and a book coming soon to a bookstore near you by an up-and-coming author, My Name Is Russell Fink (tentatively titled) by Mike Snyder.

So these are my beginning musings on a long trek. Any thoughts?

07 November 2006

The Glory of Love

Last week, my husband brought me roses just to make me feel special, roses and the makings for a favorite drink. I basked in my husband’s love.
Then we got in a huge fight. Hurt and anger on all sides. But in the midst of this hurt and anger, my husband wrapped his arms around me and told me that he loves me. I told him not to hug me if he didn’t mean it. He held me tighter.
That night my husband showed me both sides of his love, the romance that makes me feel special, and the unconditional love that holds me close even when we have both said hurtful things.
How many times have I stomped on God’s foot and He held me even closer?
I’m teaching at a retreat in February about the bride and bridegroom, about the Church and Christ, about our hope of the wedding feast, the kick-off to an eternity of peace and joy and harmony (and melody and rhythm…), about our responsibilities while waiting for our bridegroom, who has gone to prepare a place for us. Meanwhile, God continues to send us gifts to make us feel special, gifts in the form of springtime roses and winter sledding snow and backdoor friendships. And He continues to love us when I spit in His face, when, as the betrothed, I set my eyes on another groom, on the groom of a comfortable life or writing or music. This is our love story.
That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.

02 November 2006

Random thoughts and questions

So this is really a trailor for upcoming posts (cue the music).
Postmodern literature. Charis Connection did this post on postmodern literature. This is something that I would like to learn more about. What are your thoughts on postmodern literature? (Note: in the comments, the issue took a detour to the emerging church. I do not wish to discuss that issue here. Of course, you are always free to post whatever you like, even if the comment has nothing to do with the subject of the post but everything to do with, say, the genius that is Heather. My preference, let's save the emerging church discussion for another day.) I'm cheating really. I'll post an official post on this subject hopefully next week, but for now, I'd like to learn from your thoughts on the matter. So fill-er up!

Random observation: I went to a Christian bookstore yesterday and roamed the fiction shelves. I've read more Christian fiction these past two months than I have my entire lifetime. But that's not my observation. Here's my observation: this particular store shelved Dostoyevsky's The Brother's Karamazov under historical fiction. I found this amusing. I think of this work as a classic, not as a book written today but set in the past.

Coming up: Jeanne Damoff at The Master's Artist did a piece on romance fiction v. love stories. In light of um, some, well, "learning experiences" in marriage, my mind whirls with these concepts, so next week (when my eye is hopefully better and can take more computer time), I will enlighten you all with these thoughts. Aren't you just in a tizzy to here my words of wisdom?

31 October 2006

Happy Halloween

29 October 2006

The Words We Use

I love words. What writer doesn’t? What reader doesn’t? Sometimes, when I remember, I go to Miriam Webster online for the word of the day just to experience a shiny new word. I love how words feel. They are like incense that fills the room. After a while, you don’t realize that incense is burning. It’s part of the room, part of the atmosphere. When I am reading or writing a book, that book becomes my reality, and the words create the world.
More than words, I adore metaphors. They connect seemingly at odds ideas. I love the way the words twist together in a metaphor. Like Lisa Samson. She is the queen of metaphors. “As messy as a presidential impeachment.” She was talking about a closet.
I’ve learned something new about myself and words recently. You see, I’m tutoring through an ESL program. Sometimes my student asks me what a word means. I have a hard time telling her a definition. I want to tell her how the word feels. Friday, we were reading Nancy Drew and encountered “looming.” “I don’t know this word,” she told me. Hmm, looming. It means looming. It feels intimidating. I wanted to show her the meaning by looking with wide eyes at a larger than life object half hidden by the midst in the beyond. Looming. Yeah, I’m great at this job.
The words we use and how we use them fit and shape the genre. I just finished a Kathy Reichs novel. Forensics. Short, choppy sentences. Just the facts. The words fit the character.
Lisa Samson’s novel: metaphors, descriptions. Fit the character.
You can tell a person by the words they use. What kind of words do you use?

26 October 2006

Incarnational Theology

Unfortunately, what the world knows of Christ, she knows through Christ followers, Christians. What a great model we make. Mel Gibson with his Passion movie on one hand and his alcohol-induced Jew bashing on the other. Memories of the Inquisition wafting through Europe and the Muslim countries. TV evangelists who are naming it and claiming it, namely claiming our moolah. And then there’s me. My temper tantrums (for those of you still clinging to a pure and innocent Heather with pious head bowed on her pedestal, I refer you to My Evil). My tight hands holding my wants close rather than being generous with myself.
Am I incarnating Christ? Christ, the ultimate missionary. He left His home, left His glory, left His comfort. He became human, fully human. He took on our struggles. He ate with the stink of sinners marring his meal. Like a man becoming a roach. And the whole time, He loved. He served. He made God known in a way that we, as finite, limited, meager humans could understand.
And do I do the same?
Thank God, some do. Like Mother Theresa, whose worn and wrinkled hands mimic the hands of God. Like a missionary I know who thanked God for a few straight hours of electricity in the morning – a miracle. Like a North American missionary becoming French. (Hush, now, don’t speak of such unpatriotic ideas.) Like a friend of mine who moved to urban Philadelphia with her husband to live with the poorest of the poor. Like Bach, whose music sang of God’s glory with or without words.
Am I incarnational?

25 October 2006

Happy Wednesday!

We're taking a break today to laugh. I received an email on Tuesday with this:
The top 10 {unintentionally} worst company URLs
Attn: Entrepreneurs
Everyone knows that if you are going to operate a business in today"s world you need a domain name. It is advisable to look at the domain name selected as other see it and not just as you think it looks. Failure to do this may result in situations such as the following (legitimate) companies who deal in everyday humdrum products and services but clearly didn"t give their domain names enough consideration: (check them out ... they are real)
**Heather's Warning: some (most) are of a graphic nature**
1. A site called "Who Represents" where you can find the name of the agent that represents a celebrity. Their domain name is www.whorepresents.com
2. Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at www.expertsexchange.com
3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at www.penisland.net
4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at www.therapistfinder.com
5. Then of course, there"s the Italian Power Generator company. www.powergenitalia.com
6. And now, we have the Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales: www.molestationnursery.com
7. If you"re looking for computer software, there"s always www.ipanywhere.com
8. Welcome to the First Cumming Methodist Church. Their website is www.cummingfirst.com
9. Then, of course, there"s these brainless art designers, and their whacky website: www.speedofart.com
10. Want to holiday in Lake Tahoe? Try their brochure website at http://www.gotahoe.com/

23 October 2006

The Theology of Chocolat

A black and white morally straight town is hit with a splash of red when single-mom Binoche moves in with her daughter to open a chocolate shop. In the end, an elderly woman remembers what it means to live, the town learns to crave chocolate and love, and the heroine learns to trade her nomadic lifestyle for the dangerous commitment of love.
This movie follows the philosophies of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard with their themes of truly living life (and for Kierkegaard, the Christian life specifically) rather than following the cold rules. The town enjoys a nice life. The people follow a strict set of rules and live safe lives. But the boy never learns to play. And the battered woman goes unnoticed. Just keep following the rules. The townspeople miss the music of the “river rats,” fearing their “immorality.”
Enter Binoche. This is a woman generous of herself. She knows the joy of living and of loving, and she wants to share that secret with the town. She takes risks. She faces rejection. She befriends the outcasts, and she changes the town. The townspeople learn to laugh and love and play and dance. They learn to enjoy life.
I love the use of color in this movie: the contrast of the gray, stone town to the color of Binoche, her chocolate shop, and the river rats. And what female could deny the association of chocolate and love and life?
It saddens me that in this movie, the dreary grays and harsh rules represent Christianity rather than Binoche representing Christianity, for we, as Christians, know the secret of the joy of living and loving. Binoche turns mourning into laughter. Too often, though, we as Christians hide the secret of life in rules and safe grays. Now, I am not advocating complete anarchy. I agree that rules are a necessary. No one wants murder and burglary and adultery. No one wants a life of hurting others. But we do want a life of love.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I think we forget the life. I think we forget that we are about true life and freedom and joy. Maybe truth is not so much in the rules, in the do’s and don’ts but in the life and love. It means taking horrible risks, I know. It means throwing away what is “safe.”
But isn’t this more fun?

17 October 2006

God Is Dead

Because of those three little words, the church proclaimed Nietzsche her nemesis. Gladys, keep away from that Nietzsche. He’s bad news. Ptooey. Root of everything evil, including that postmodern devil thing.
While I don’t agree with all of Nietzsche’s conclusions, I can certainly understand his claustrophobia. Stuck. Trapped. What a nice, safe, little world you have there, Nietzsche would say. Everything wrapped up in neat boxes. What’s that you have there? The search for the historical Jesus? Huh. Some faith. Just put on a pair of clean clothes, stay out of the mud, and you’ll be happy. Except Nietzsche wasn’t happy. The little minister, as he was nicknamed as a child, went crazy instead.
The institution of the church, the empty virtue of her people, her reasonable faith that explained away all miracles, that did away the need for faith, all this disillusioned Nietzsche. So Nietzsche chunked it all.
Live, Nietzsche commanded. Live with the pain. Through away the medications. But live. Forget those rules and do nots. It doesn’t work. Find the standard in yourself. Just as long as you live.
And as far as all the reason mumbo-jumbo, who sees objectively on this earth, without the filters of their tradition and culture? The whole elephant story with the three blind men. Each described something disparate. Same elephant. So who’s perspective is correct? Maybe we don’t all have the whole perspective. So, Nietzsche said, experience becomes the priority. Your experience.
He’s right, you know. Mostly. The church he saw with her long list of rules and clean clothes and reason that cut the Bible to pieces (i.e. Jefferson) doesn’t work. She forgot how to live, forgot how to love. Kierkegaard saw that, too.
And the different perspectives: I don’t see God fully. In fact, you may see a different aspect of God that I has been in my blind spot. My understanding of the world and of God comes trickled down through filters and blinders. But Nietzsche didn’t account for the Holy Spirit, and he forgot about the universal church, this historical and global body that has the opportunity to learn from one another, to listen to one another. Where Nietzsche gave up, we can hope.
I pity Nietzsche. He struggled with the same frustrations of most Christians and non-Christians. I don’t care if you are modern or postmodern or black or white or Italian or African or North American or Taiwanese. If you have been involved in the Christian life with Christian people, at some point in time, you have encountered some form of Nietzsche’s doubts and hurts.
As far as the whole “God is dead” thing. Maybe it wasn’t this great ontological statement. Maybe he jeered at this empty church. You have killed God.
I can’t argue with him there.

16 October 2006

The Power of Story

My husband and I have been reading through Genesis. Here’s the thing about Genesis: Moses is telling this story to the Israelites, who are about to enter this scary land of Canaan with “giants” and all sorts of warriors. Moses can’t go with them. He’s staying behind, so he tells them this story to encourage them, something to take with them to remember about their God and their history. Some of those “what on earth?” passages begin to make sense.
Take, for example, the Nephilim and the whole bout with “sons of God” having sex with the “daughters of humankind” and producing offspring. These sons of God were most likely some sort of spiritual being, whether demon possessed men or angelic beings (compare with the usage of this phrase in Job). The text makes it very clear that this was not a good thing. A horrible thing, actually, that causes God to shorten lifespans of these immoral mortal humans. These “biblical relations,” shall we call them, produced offspring. The text implies, although it does not actually say, that these Nephilim, these giants who became mighty warriors, were a product of this horrid event. And then the text continues to talk about God’s disappointment with wicked human and the flood.
Here’s the deal: Canaanite leaders (the Canaanite leaders whom Israel would fight) claimed to be divine because they were descended from Nephilim, whom they believed to be divine. Intimidating.
Not so much, Moses said. Not so much divine as wicked. Yes, they may have been great warriors, Moses concedes, but just mortal, and wicked mortal at that. Caused things like shorten lifespans and the flood. No reason to fear them. Our God is greater.
Than there’s the story of Noah’s drunken stupor. He goes to bed naked. His youngest son, Ham, walks in on him and goes out making fun of him. Shames his dad, disgraces him. Bad son. Shem and Japheth, however go through great pains to make sure they cover their father and preserve his honor while averting their eyes. (It’s a middle east shame-honor thing. We westerners don’t always get these things.) Noah cursed Ham and his descendents but blessed Shem and his descendents. (Whatever happened to poor forgotten Japheth?)
So from Ham, we learn in begets, comes Canaan. From Shem comes Israelites. You, Moses tells the Israelites, are the blessed ones. Those Canaanites? Cursed. You’re good to go.
Love how Moses weaves these stories.

13 October 2006


I was thinking of calling this post “Confessions of a …” but we all know that that is overdone. Cuz, you know, just “Confessions” is so original.
Confession #1: I don’t think David Sedaris is “razor sharp witty” as the cover raves. I’ve wanted to read his books for the past couple of years. Finally, finally, I made it to his name on my booklist and checked out two of his books from the library. I started Me Talk Pretty One Day yesterday. Nothing. I was generally amused, even laughed out loud once. But “razor sharp”? Nah. I feel like less of an artist. This is supposed to be a defining book for me. Oh, yes, so right on. I’m a musician, a philosopher-theologian, and a writer. And don’t forget drama queen. Nothing. This calls into question my identity. Maybe it was just a bad day. Rainy, cold, wanted to sleep all day.
Confession #2: I am needy. I hate being needy. Whine, whine, whine. Writing is work. I don’t wanna work. I want to be inspired. Boo-hoo. The middle of my book is boring. Whatta I do? Boo-hoo-hoo. Ah, shat ap, sitya butt down an’ write. I refer you to exhibit A. Drama queen.
Confession #3: These past two days have been odd eating days. Instead of regular meals, I’m having popcorn, an apple, and hot chocolate for dinner. (I do make a great hot chocolate, if I say so myself.) This morning, I want hot dogs for breakfast. No, Mom, I’m not pregnant. Ooh, Erin, will you send me one of those hair muffins?

11 October 2006

Working 9 to 5

Sometimes I get in the zone. I love being in the zone. Words pour out like the Thousand Island dressing from the bottle after it gathers momentum. I can’t keep up with the words.
This week, the door to the zone is blocked by bright yellow police “Caution: Do Not Cross” tape. And flanked by two officers with oozies. There ain’t no way no how gettin in. Which means that I have to work for each word. Say nice things, make promises I have no intention of keeping, and hold out candy in front of the doorway hoping a word will fall for it. Brick by brick, slopping on the mortar, lining it up, cleaning up the mess. Work.
I don’t like it. I want to play in the zone. I want to skip and do cartwheels (if I knew how to do cartwheels). Please, please, can I go back inside the zone? Mother may I?

09 October 2006

Review - Wishing on Dandelions

In Wishing on Dandelions, old ghosts haunt Maranatha as she struggles with feelings of purity and trust. But now she’s a teenager with all the teenage angst, the shifting world of friends, and the confusion of love. Natha wishes on dandelions, a desperate cry to God to show her love. Instead, God strips her of the only family she knows and gives her another villain or two, and through this, Natha searches for her identity and place.
This sequel to Watching the Tree Limbs is as amazing as the first. I am not reading Mary DeMuth. I’m reading Maranatha. Mary draws you into this small East Texas town of Burl, and into the hurts and struggles of Natha. At times I want to shake this delicate heroine, shake some sense into her. But I am confronted with her fears and insecurities, and I want to hide her and protect her. This book portrays the lasting effects of rape, of how the evil sinks its tendrils into a girl and grows with her, continuing to rip her apart and hurt those she loves.
Here is what I learned from this book:
As a writer, don't be nice to your characters. Mary's characters are loveable and fallen. But above all, she doesn't let them traipse through life. I found myself pleading for this girl. No, no, please don't let her go through that. No, not that, too. But if we have to go through these things in real life, why should we excuse our characters in books?
As a human, presumptions bring pain. Some of the pain Natha underwent was because of her own presumptions, seemingly reasonable assumptions, granted, but if she had just communicated, she could have healed pain much faster. I am learning this with my husband. This weekend, I made an assumption. I thought it was a reasonable assumption. But it was a wrong one. It hurt me. Then I learned the truth, and voila! All was right with the world.
Again, a five star book. Please, please, please, do yourself a favor, and read this book.

06 October 2006

Healthy Goodness

I consider myself a fairly healthy person. I make sure I get fruits and vegetables and protein and fiber. I cut out partially hydrogenated oils completely and stay away from corn syrup as much as possible. I eat desserts in moderation (although this week has been an exception).
But this morning's smoothies. They were a whole different ballgame.
My husband likes to drink his vegetables and vitamins and health so that he can spend his lunches at Taco Bell and save room for ice cream. He buys those crazy carrot juices with beet and celery. So I don't know why I didn't suspect a thing this morning.
I saw him pull out the raspberries and the blueberries. I saw him take the Acai from the freezer. Mmmm. Looks fruity delicious. My mouth watered. I unloaded the dishwasher while he blended away, practically whistling while he worked.
Chris held out a spoon with his concoction like you taste spaghetti sauce. With anticipation, I took that first sip. What? What is that strange taste?
"Do you like it?" Like a little boy who just made his mom a turkey sandwich for breakfast in bed on mother's day (which my niece did last year).
"Um, I guess. Is that the Acai that tastes weird?"
"Maybe." He started pouring. "I added carrot juice and broccoli." Ugh. Do you think that could be the strange flavor?
I suffered through half a glass. He loved it. A blend of berry earthy goodness, he called it. Whatever. If it makes him happy. I'll stick to chewing my broccoli and carrots, thank you very much. Well, except for V8. Especially if it's mixed with Vodka.

04 October 2006

It's all about context

Taking verses out of context. Bad habit.
Pet peeve: memorizing a verse out of Job only to find out it was from one of Job’s “comforting” friends. God chided them. Said they were wrong. Yet here we are, committing their words to memory as a testimony to the character of God. Sometimes using their very words to comfort hurting friends. Not so good, if you ask me.
What about the “God’s word will not return void”? That verse is from Isaiah where God is prophesying destruction. His word, or His promise as to the fulfillment of this destruction, will be accomplished. Is this what we really want? Yup. His word will not return void. Mayhem. Destruction. Can’t wait. Sometimes I think we use it as an excuse. Well, I quoted the verse. My job in evangelism is done. God’s word will not return void. Not up to me anymore. Don’t have to worry about being loving or sensitive to that person’s situation or culture. God’s word will not return void. I just have to say it exactly how I see fit.
Or the "where two or more are gathered" section? That’s in the middle of church discipline. When carrying out church discipline, the people of God represent God. It’s risky business, this church discipline, so God wants a gathering of His people. I think sometimes we use this verse to mean this feel good, yeah, man, snaps all around in beatnik fashion, we’re in church. And we forget the verse when we want to correct someone in their ways. It’s up to me. They need help. Good thing I’m here to save their day.
And Jeremiah: I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you, etc., etc., etc. Insert name here. God wants to prosper me. God knew the plans he had for Jeremiah, like to leave him at the bottom of a cistern or run naked through the street. Personally, I’m not really into the whole cistern thing. But, I know the plans I have for Heather, to prosper her with a publisher and astronomical book sales. Now that, I like.
But to be honest, my theology covers most of this. Like the two or more or gathered. Side note: I do think we need to take more seriously “correcting others,” as in with much prayer and the wisdom of gathered people, not something to be done lightly. Back to point: I also think that the church is the people of God. Where God’s people are gathered, there His presence is. Of course, I also happen to believe that God is omniscient and His presence happens to be everywhere, whether we’re there or not.
And the Jeremiah thing. I believe in God’s sovereignty (those He predestined, He called). I believe that for those who love God, he works everything to good. As C.S. Lewis said, we’re a little afraid of how painful that process will be. The good may not look how I want it to look.
And then there’s the whole free will question and the intricacies of these two ideas working together, free will and God’s sovereignty. How does that effect God's plan for me and my responsibility?
Don’t even get me started on praying to be “in the center of God’s will.” So being in God’s will is different than being in the center of God’s will? How much more stress can you add to my Christian walk? Is it okay for me to serve God here or there? Do I have to pinpoint everything? Or just love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself no matter where I am or what I'm doing? But that’s a different rant for a different day.
A lot of mixed up ideas. All from a pet peeve.

03 October 2006


Reading through Chapter Three of my novel. Clarifying, proofing, etc., etc., etc. Came across: "Her mother instinctively put her hair on Felice's." It's supposed to say, "Her mother instinctively put her hand on Felice's." Had me in hysterics. Had to share with someone.

02 October 2006

Going Tribal

My husband TVoed a couple of episodes of Going Tribal. I love studying other culturals, how they work, what makes them tick, etc., etc., etc. This particular show is about a guy who travels via foot (I feel for the poor camera-man who has to go on foot shooting all the while and heaving all that equipment) to different tribes in Africa. The episodes we saw were in Ethiopia.
Here are a couple of things I learned:
1) In the first episode, the host participated in a coming-of-age ceremony. The boy-about-to-become-man has to jump over a slew of cows in a row (I think about ten). He jumps and runs across their backs. The cows are painted with their own dung. Mmm. Pleasant. He does this back and forth twice. If he succeeds, he is considered a man. He is able to tend the flocks and marry in a few months. The host used terms to describe this such as "death" and "rebirth."
Sounds like a great metaphor to me. We go through a similar ceremony that requires death and rebirth (and sometimes involves a lot of cow bleep). On the other side, we are expected to tend the flocks (Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.) and look forward to wedding ceremony when we will be gathered with Christ into the new earth.
2) Ancillary to this, the women are whipped as part of the ceremony. Yes, whipped. They want to be whipped. Any woman who refuses the whip is shunned and considered a coward. This is especially poignant for the sisters. If they are whipped as part of their brother’s ceremony, they are considered protected and provided for by the brother if they fall into hard times. While I can’t find the whole inflicting pain a good thing, the scars that tie them to their brother and his protection reflect our wounds that tie us to Christ. Instead of being afraid of dealing with hatred in this world, as Christ promised us, we should bear these scars proudly as the women in the tribe did.
3) Each of the tribes loved being who they are. Both tribes, when showing off their best, either ceremony or fresh croc meat, made the comment that the host will never want to go back home now. He'll, of course, want to stay with their tribe. We sit here thinking, oh, those poor Africans who are not advanced. We need to bring them technology so that their lives will be good. Now don’t get me wrong. Many are dealing with malnutrition and starvation because of drought, and I think we should be involved with feeding the poor. But that doesn’t mean taking them from their lives to our lives. They love their lives.
4) It doesn’t matter where you are, boys love their farting jokes. In both tribes, the men farted and laughed at it. Big joke. Ha-ha.

29 September 2006


Makes me think of U2.
I was going to write a profound post about how writing confronts my pride in all forms, how my motivations are never truly pure (and hopefully never truly selfish). I was going to write to you about George. George is how I describe myself when my pride inverts to self-doubt. I compare, compare, compare. Let's be honest, I want to look good. Nothing against the name George. We have a fish named George. Chris calls him Blue Fish #1, but his name is George. My George is the "Which way did he go, which way did he go, George?" Dazed and confused. Downright scared that someone will think awful thoughts of me, like, man, what made her think she can write? Which means I'm focusing on pats on the back rather than following God and serving Him and loving others.
Good thing I'm not writing about that today.
Instead, I'm going to give you my October goals list. I've actually never had a montly goals list. Heck, I don't think I've ever had a goals list period. But here it is.
1. Finish my novel (which means putting the sheetrock on the frame and painting it; I'm okay if I still need to hang pictures and set-up furniture).
2. Polish a flash fiction entry for ACFW newsletter submission.
3. Send a short story to a journal.
4. Memorize all the words to La Vie Boheme from Rent. I'm about 95% of the way there. This is perhaps the most important goal on the list.
5. To learn Chopin's Grand Valse Brilliante on piano.

There you have it. You know, I don't like lists. In fact, looking at this makes me nervous. What if I can't do one or the other? And putting this here for all the world to see makes me feel naked. What if I submit and they say, yucky, yucky, yucky. Then someone asks, hey, did you submit? Then I have to lie. No, I didn't.
But I also want you to ask me about these things. Because I like to sit at my computer and write. I don't like to submit. Takes too much work.

27 September 2006

Lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Dentist Elf

Long post today, guys. Sorry. I wrote this about a year ago. Something Michelle said Monday reminded me of this. I still feel this way.

I feel like Rudolph and the dentist elf. They didn’t fit in because either they were born different or they strove to be something unexpected. Whoever heard of a red-nosed reindeer or an elf dentist? Even those who loved them most tried to change these anomalies, tried to hide them, or just flat out rejected them. So they ran away. To be honest, most days I want to runaway.
I grew up in a conservative church with strong, faithful parents. I grew up with Bible verses singing in my head, never knowing what it meant to not believe in Christ. And when I say I grew up in the church, I mean I grew up in the church. I lived and breathed the church. My closest friends were from my church. My family was the church.
Perhaps because of this strong foundation I have, I am free to question. Not question God or Who He is. Not question my salvation, my peace and joy, my hope in Christ. But I question how we understand this. How we understand the Bible. How we understand the world around us. How we are in the world but not of it. How we do this whole spirituality thing. And because of this questioning, sometimes I don’t feel accepted by my church family. Sometimes I feel pushed out. Sometimes I feel like this church family sees me as lost. Sometimes I feel unloved. Sometimes I feel like a misfit.
What do you do when you feel knocked down? Especially when the slaps and jeers come from the church, from your own “body”? Sometimes I feel beaten to a bloody pulp by the church – never mind the Levites and priests that pass by on the other side of the road. At least they don’t kick you while you’re down! Where do you go when you feel outside the wall? And if I, who grew up inside the wall, talking the language, laughing at the “why did the Christian cross the road” jokes, understanding the ritual, if I feel outside the wall, how much more so those who aren’t believers or who are new believers?
So most of the time I fight. But that is my community. I live one way. They live another way. Both of us are trying to live according to our understanding of God’s Story. Somehow both fit into that proverbial “gray area,” so perhaps it’s not about right v. wrong. Perhaps it is about love and acceptance, about trust and authenticity. I love U2. So many of their songs speak to me about Christian life and our hope. One tells me about the Christian community, the hopelessly-flawed but chosen by God Church. U2 says that we can’t live with or without each other. U2 says that we give, and we give, and we give ourselves away. That’s what being in community is. It means that struggle of frustration and love with the Church. It means giving ourselves away to the Church. These are my decisions. I may be constantly hurt by the Church. I may feel that my life is easier without the Church, but to act on those selfish – yes, selfish – feelings would be to go against God’s Truth told in the letter to the Ephesians. The Church should be about unity, love, compassion. Somehow, God wants me to be unified to a group of people I feel little to no natural inkling toward in order that together, we can incarnate God’s love in the world. For some reason, this is how God chose to do it. I don’t like it. Oh, I want authenticity, but I want it with my chosen people rather than God’s chosen people. How many times was Christ hurt by His intimate group of friends, even by the three that seemed to be His best friends? But He devoted His life to them. He gave Himself away. I’m to have the same attitude as Christ. Yuck. I want my time, my space, my choosing. But I have to love. I’m not called to seek acceptance in this Church that views some of me as borderline heretical. I’m to love.
I know how the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer ends. They find a whole Misfit Kingdom. They want to live in this misfit kingdom where they know they will be accepted, but the Misfit Lion King (is Jesus a misfit, too?) asks them to go back in the world to find a place for all of the misfits. They do. They risk their lives to go back. They found that a few who truly loved them went after them. They saved the day by pulling the teeth of a threatening enemy and breaking through a dark storm with the only reliable light. And they found a place for all of the other misfits. I know I have to go into the uncomfortable. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to fix some painful teeth when I ensconce myself in the world, in the church, in a seemingly meaningless job. Maybe I’ll find a loyal Cornelius in my travels who will understand me and accept me. Maybe I’ll find that those in the church do truly love me. Maybe even some of them need me, just as I need them. Maybe I’ll find other misfits looking for their place. Besides, I cannot hypocritically rant and rave diatribes against the church for creating their own alternate reality and then myself hide away with only those who like me.
I want to love, truly love and accept people without holding rules or my expectations over their head.

25 September 2006

ACFW Conference

"You're funny." Yes. I'm in. With the cool group. I use the word cool loosely, as in gangs of New York.
So the "you're funny" guy and the nail polish girl are going to visit my blog. Lil ole me. Or at least they said they would. Tommy, can you hear me?
And now I have to be funny.
Good thing I took the "Art of Writing Comedy" class.
A priest walks into a bar. No, wait, a horse. Yes, it was definitely a horse. A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Why the long face?" Get it? Long face? Sigh.
Why do people sigh after they laugh?
The best thing about the ACFW conference was the orange ginger shampoo and lotion. Can I get a witness? Bam! That'll wake you up in the morning.
Just kidding.
In all seriousness, the best thing were the people that made a rookie feel accepted. Like Marilyn. I met Marilyn once when she offered to let me stay in her hotel room free of charge. And Jennifer. Jennifer saw me standing in the back of the main room biting my nails (well, I would have been biting my nails if I bite my nails, which I don't) with my eyes "biggish and whitish" from fright. She got up from her table, came back to me, and took me by the hand to a seat at her table.
Then there's the toad-lickin' warped crew. Finally, I found my family.

And meeting blogging buddies for the first time, like Michelle, Dineen, and Gina. Love it.
And getting encouragement to keep writing when I felt like blubbering my lips with my finger. Uh, which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?
And, drum roll please, I am an ACFW winner. Yes, folks, because I shot my hand up first at a late night chat, I won a free bottle of OPI nail polish. Thank you, thank you.
Today feels odd and normal. It feels odd because it is normal. Back to life, back to reality.

19 September 2006

A Short Story

Chad stepped onto the Metro and folded up his map. Every seat was occupied, so he grabbed a strap. The sent of body odor mixed with perfume. Chad learned not to crinkle his nose at this combination. The woman sitting across from Chad raised her arm to hold the bar. Tufts of hair escaped the sleeveless shirt at her armpit. A woman in a business suit delicately crossed her pantyhosed legs under her skirt in the next seat. The arm-hair woman probably came from one of the first stops, where some suburban homes kept donkeys and chickens in their backyards. Maybe she took the train from a small town outside of Prague. Dickens would have a field day with this earthy peasant and business city girl side by side.
“Prištne štanize, I.P. Pavlova,” the woman’s voice announced over the speakers in Czech. Chad looked at the map over the doors and counted how many stops until Muzeum, his stop. He knew the number by heart. An older man with a cane read in the seat next to him and a woman cooed a baby next to the old man. Chad leaned on his back leg as the Metro stopped. The brakes screeched, and people pored in and out, playing musical chairs. The Metro started again, and the woman made her announcement. Next stop. Chad prepared early to disembark.
“Muzeum,” the woman announced, and the Metro stopped, and the doors slid open. As Chad stepped over the gap, a man in a leather jacket brushed against him running with a baby in his arms. The woman sitting next to the old man screamed and ran after him, tripping over her bag. She crossed the door just as it began to close. The woman yelled a slew of Czech words, none of which Chad understood. But he understood panic and chased the man with the leather jacket and the baby. The crowd moved aside like a vaudeville line, pointing and murmuring. The man looked back as he reached the steps. Chad panted only two steps behind him. The man threw the baby high in the air to make his getaway and scuttled up the stairs.
Chad stretched his arms out. The baby bounced against his biceps, and he closed his forearms tightly. The mother bumped hard behind him. He laid the baby in her arms. Tears streamed down mother’s and baby’s faces.
“Thank you,” she cried, half bowing. “Thank you. Thank you.” She kissed her baby and sang softly, touching the baby’s face, then hugging the baby close. Mother and baby walked away safely and waited for the next Metro.
Chad watched her until she stepped onto the train, then walked up the stairs.
Wondering down Václavské náměstí, Chad observed the nationality of the tourists. After two weeks in Prague, he was beginning to understand why the Czechs easily picked him out as American. He chuckled and made his way to the Cream ‘N’ Dream ice cream shop this side of Charles Bridge. Trying to choose flavors, the woman and her baby and the man in the leather jacket melted away.
“Mint chocolate chip, please,” he said, thankful that most Czechs spoke fluent English. His hand pushed into his back pocket for his wallet, but his wallet was not there.

17 September 2006

Interview with Mary DeMuth

Today we get a glimpse of Mary DeMuth's new book, Wishing on Dandelions, the sequel to Watching the Tree Limbs (see review of book here). Here is the back cover copy:
God says I love you in many ways, some of which are hard to hear. Maranatha needs to hear God’s voice. At seventeen, Natha admittedly has some trust issues. Though the abuse by a neighbor boy has stopped, Natha is anything but healed. Now her best friend has left for college, the trials of dating have begun, and God, ever since he spoke to her underneath the pecan tree years ago, has remained elusive. So when brash Georgeanne Peach blows in to take over the only place that’s ever felt like home, leaving a trail of peach fabric swatches and cloying perfume, it’s easy to understand how something like a little ol’ tornado might not be a big deal. Like every teenager, Natha tries to sort out the confusing layers of love—of friends, of family, of suitors, and, desperately, of God. Natha struggles to find herself before she gives in to the shadow of a girl she used to be in this moving follow-up to the critically praised Watching the Tree Limbs.
I was able to interview Mary DeMuth about this new release.

What is your vision with this book? What inspired you to sit down and write this story?
Maranatha kept talking to me!!! She wanted her story to be told beyond her nine years. So when I started writing the book, I knew she'd be seventeen. I wanted to show how an abuse victim deals with life as an adolescent. And I wanted the reader to know she had grown up a bit. When I sat down to write the story, I had a picture in my head of Maranatha riding her bike down this long Farm to Market road away from Burl toward a burned out house. She was riding with a frenzy. You can read the first chapter of the book here.

How did you go about researching both the character and the setting for this series?
There's a little bit of Maranatha in me (I think all our characters have bits and pieces of us inside them), so I pulled from myself as well as watched other girls her age. The setting came from an experience my husband and I had in East Texas. We moved from Seattle to East Texas, where he was going to set up a department in a hospital. And it was a cross-cultural move for us. At my first church potluck, someone asked if my ham and bean soup was possum stew! Oh my! So, as a detached observer, I absorbed a lot of the culture of East Texas. That served me well when I decided to write the book.Anything special you would like to say about Wishing on Dandelions?It's a love story, on many levels. A love story with a romantic twist as well as a love story between Maranatha and God. I feel it's a better written book than Watching the Tree Limbs, and I pray its impact would be far-reaching.

Tell us a little about your publishing journey.
I've written since 1992, mostly in obscurity. I got my start writing a for-profit newsletter for several years, which branched into formatting and editing several church newsletters. After doing that about ten years, I started working toward real publication. I started selling articles here and there. I found a writing mentor. I attended conferences. I went to monthly critique groups. I became a newspaper columnist. All that happened within two years. Then I went to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference after I'd completed my first novel. By God's surprise, I met the person who would eventually become my agent. I sold two parenting books (Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God, Building the Christian Family You Never Had) before selling my fiction. I still believe it's a bit miraculous that my fiction ever sold.

Has being published conquered writing insecurities or do you still struggle at times (if you struggled at all)?
It certainly does help. The thing that gave me the most confidence was reading the Publisher's Weekly review of my first novel-a starred review! I cried! Publisher's Weekly is the industry standard for recognizing good writing, so to hear them say lovely things about it made me realize that I actually am a writer and that there's something to this gift God has given me. I still have insecurities. Writing fiction is just plain hard. Selling it is even harder. I write edgy stuff, and publishers are a bit freaked out by me. So, I'm also venturing out to the ABA, hoping my books will reach a wider audience. I still get rejected all the time...

What is the hardest part about writing (or being a writer)?
The extra time it takes to become a marketer and a publicist. It takes so much time. And having three books out in one year nearly killed me! (Just kidding, but it was a LOT of work!)

What is your main piece of advice for aspiring writers?
BOC. Bottom on chair. Stick your hiney in the chair and write, write, write. You won't improve if you don't do the time.

What are your favorite books or authors?
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

14 September 2006

Review - Last Bite by Nancy Verde Barr

If you love food and the Italian American culture, you’ll like this book. It’s just plain fun. And it made me hungry.
Casey Costillo is the executive chef for a morning television show. In other words, she does all the behind scenes prep work for the 3 and ½ minute cooking slot. And the author loves to describe the foods Casey prepares. Hence, my hunger throughout the book. Casey is also Italian American, my favorite subculture.
Casey comes off of a messy break-up in the beginning of the book and is soon the recipient of some heavy whipping cream flirting from one of the guest talents of the morning show. He also happens to be the chef with whom everyone is in love. She faces whether or not to risk another relationship, especially with someone whom she suspects is a womanizer.
The book is down-to-earth and everyday. Down to earth, that is, except for the Russian mob subplot. But I won’t go into that. The author may have not given us a gourmet “the American novel,” but she has given us an engaging and entertaining book. In fact, I forgot the name of the main character. After all, I’m the main character. I loved going to Italy, by the way, Nancy, and living the life of a chef. Pick this up for a fast and fun vacation read.
With all of this food talk, I need some lunch.

13 September 2006

Writer's Block

All morning, nothing. I couldn't think of anything to say to you. My opinions on something? Nah. I've done that too much lately, and I'm opinioned out. Some fun vignette? Go nuttin. So here is my poem on writer's block (cue horror music).

a blank glaring computer screen smacks
of Writer’s Block
so i write something
feigning creativity
to find creativity
pretending diligence
to produce diligence

a mask, a ruse, a veneer
not quite the philosopher,
not quite the poet,
not quite the playwright
floundering in futility
feeling fake

rebelling to belong
or belonging by rebelling?
playing twenty questions
never victorious
always plaguing
who am i?

11 September 2006

The Vineyard

While we were in California, we visited the Firestone vineyard. (Yes, this is the same family that owns the tire, and yes, for those of you who followed The Bachelor, I learned that the single son is the Firestone bachelor. For any of you single gals out there, his bachelorette did not work out. He is still single.)
The vines may be 500 years old. The gnarled vines are as thick as small tree trunks, much thicker than I expected. They sustain life for thousands of grapes. The gardeners graft the grapes into these older and wiser vines. They prune the grapes so that the grapes do not sneak any vines to the earth and try to suckle life on their own. You see, on their own, the grapes cannot provide themselves with the nourishment they need. They need the nourishment to come from the old vines, the thick, hearty vines of 500 years so that the grapes may be succulent and juicy and sweet.
This is what makes a good grape.

Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and participated in the richness of the olive root, do not boast over the branches. But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Romans 11:17-18

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. John 15:1-5

08 September 2006

Review - Reconstructing Natalie by Laura Jenson Walker

Reconstructing Natalie by Laura Jenson Walker depicts a twenty-something’s struggle with cancer, especially poignant because of the author’s cancer history. The story shows Natalie’s heartache over losing her hair and her tennis match between hope and despair at the thought of death. She walks with old friends, family, and new cancer-surviving friends. She loses her boyfriend, her boobs, and new friends to death. This strife is balanced with trendy language and TV and actor references that make for a light read. In fact, the a la mode style may render the book irrelevant in a year or two, but the book is an encouragement for those living with cancer and it is insightful for those who have friends and family with cancer.
By the way guys, it is chicklit all the way.

06 September 2006

California Beaches

I love California. I was born to live in California. Too bad I don't live there now. My husband tells me that if we were to move there, it would be to a cardboard shack. I'm okay with that. When you have the ocean and mountains, what else matters? After a weekend wedding, we spent a couple of days with family on a mini vacation.
Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway with me for a moment. The ocean is on the left in constant motion, crashing and thrashing with dangerous and life-giving vitality. The mist plays peek-a-boo with ships, oil rigs, and islands. The mountains, crumpled up like a blanket on an unmade bed, are on the right. They loom with ancient wisdom but also threaten skittish rock slides at times. They protect like a stalwart from the world on the other side like that wizened and wrinkled grandfather whom you fear but also protrects his family. Surfers speckle the water and Malibu Barbie houses line the shore. Surprisingly, none of the beaches are crowded, even on a labor day weekend. I guess when you have hundreds of miles bordering the long side of a state, there is plenty of sand to go round. We pass organic markets and flower shops and furniture flea markets on the other side. Peak up the streets leading up to mountain villas to get a glimpse of the lives of princes and princesses in their castles. A carnival pops up in the middle of nowhere (where all carnivals pop up) with bright kid colors of teal, cotton candy, and sunshine.
Come now with me to Venice Beach. Shops of flowy clothes, Henna tattoos, piercings of all body parts, and T-shirts run up and down the walk way. Musicians in dreadlocks play, a break dancer with a drug recovery story gathers a crowd, and homeless people wander with their suitcases and shopping carts full of cans and bottles. A large umbrella sits against the grass advertising “Slum Art Skool” with a childlike drawing (and a promise of better quality drawings for donations). We cross over the grass onto the sand, run toward the water until our breaths can’t capture enough oxygen to keep our legs pumping against the sand. To our right, mountains float on the water. To our left, waves crash against the rock jetty. Only a few people are scattered on the sand. Tears build up in our eyes rolling up like the waves in front of us. The ocean expands further than we can imagine, seemingly untouched by the craziness and panics of human existence. The bums and the store owners and the hippie wannabees and the druggies and the tourists disappear behind us. Salt water washes up to our ankles, and our feet sink deeper in the sand. It’s just us and the ocean.

30 August 2006

Going Political

I don’t like politics. I’m one of those who really doesn’t like to vote (although I did in the last presidential election) because I’m not always on top of all the issues, and, hey, what does one vote mean, anyway? But, I’ve been thinking about this whole middle east war thing a lot lately. Agonizing over it is more like it.
I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I long to be a pacifist. It just feels right considering the pray for your enemies, blessed are the peacemakers, and turn the other cheek passages. How is building bigger weapons and shooting terrorists supposed to propagate peace? It just deepens anger and escalates. Aren’t we playing right into their hands? Aren’t we giving them exactly what they want? And who exactly are we fighting for and fighting against? Are we fighting the Iraqis? Are we trying to help the Iraqis? Are we fighting for oil?
On the other hand (I realize I sound like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, a great musical, by the way), I see and hear things about the terrorists and the extremist Muslims about them burning tourists alive in cars, about them drafting and brainwashing children to wield automatic weapons and commit suicide (while the leaders remain safely hidden in dark undergrounds). If I was alive during WWII, wouldn’t I want to stop Hitler? If someone had a gun pointed at my sister’s head, wouldn’t I want to stop them? Is this the same thing?
But how many Christians have died for peace knowing that it would be wrong to fight rather than to love? What about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Peter and Paul and Jesus?
And here’s another weird factor: the Muslims view this as a holy war, a continuation of the crusades. The United States is a poor representation of Christianity. And the Crusades were wrong the first time around. Even if politically we don’t view this religiously, they do. Shouldn’t we want to represent Christianity as something different from fighting?
What would it look like if the United States as a political force pulled the troops out and let the Iraqis settle their political issues? What if, instead, the church sent more and more Christians to the middle east (and I realize that if I say this, I would have to be willing to go) to incarnate Christ’s love? What if we focused on being disciples of Christ rather than defenders of our country? What if I loved my neighbor, the Muslims in my literal neighborhood?
But I don't know. I don't know what to think of the situation. Can't we all just get along? The answer, truthfully, is no, because I am selfish and my neighbor is selfish. And why doesn't the Bible just tell us how to handle war? The Church's position before Constantine was pacifistic. War was wrong, and Christians shouldn't participate. After Constantine came "just war theory." What does that mean for me? For the Church today? Oy vey.
And yes, here’s my hypocrisy: I’m not volunteering to move to Iraq. And how does my view of the situation change the way I act in my daily life? Just call me Janus.

28 August 2006

Review - Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth

Wow. If you have not read Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth, get thee to a bookstore! This book portrays the emotional pain and spiritual journey of an unwanted nine year old orphan. Unwanted, that is, except for a teenage boy. Mara watches the tree limbs as this teenage boy rapes her numerous times, threatening her life and the lives of those she loves. Spurred by the death of Aunt Elma, Mara’s caretaker, Mara searches for her family and for a place to belong. The language and colloquialisms employed by the author drew me in to the East Texas childhood of Mara, to her painful experiences, her friendship with Camilla, and her only child compensations and attic adventures. The characters are a mix of hope, victims of darkness, and old fashioned selfishness, creating an ensemble of empathetic, flawed, yet lovable East Texas folks. Through the evil of the book, Mary DeMuth weaves healing and redemption. I look forward to getting my hands on her next book in the series, Wishing on Dandelions, coming out in September.

25 August 2006

Booze 'N' Blues Show

My husband and I attended the “Booze’N’Blues” art show at a gallery in the downtown of a subarb north of us. We went for the free wine tasting as much as the art. Influenced by Warhol and Lichtenstein, the artist pasted newspaper clippings together to act as a canvas for his caricatures of famous jazz musicians. As far as I could tell, the clippings themselves were insignificant. (One of the headings showed promise announcing “the end of an era” across the musician’s forehead, but it was joined by what looked to be random selections.) The pieces chosen for this show demonstrated skill but not much imagination with a few exceptions in the back room (i.e. “Street Spirit,” a window piece combining ancient themes of Christ with city-scapes and street artists). Still, it was enjoyable art. It may not be life-changing art-altering work, but it was good for a date night. Home the following day, I googled the artist, Justin Hunt. His webpage exhibited talent and eye appeal, pop art swayed by pop music of the twentieth century, fun stuff for the trendy home looking for something more than Pier One. His flair, if he pursues challenges rather than quick-sells, has possibilities of developing art.
Back at the show, I was generally unimpressed until the woman standing next to me pointed out the artist, a young twenty-something (and by twenty-something, I mean pushing twenty) with designer jeans and trendy (i.e. expensive) shoes. In my opinion, no artist should be shown and selling until they have learned the craft of starving. This young man obviously had it too easy. I moved from generally unimpressed to bitter and gulped down more wine.
The gallery is small, so we made our way through the two rooms in a short amount of time, pushing our way through folks who seemed to attend the event for chit-chat as well as art. This show was the social event of the town. A blues band wept outside in keeping with the theme of the show. Other art galleries, antique shops, and wineries on the square participated in this small town affair, reminiscent of a Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow event. All shops, by the way, offered wine and cheese at the least with some adding a spread of coffee, vegetables and dip, and desserts. The local Art Institute, a few steps down the block from the gallery, served a chocolate cake on par with any groom’s cake. I highly recommend the cake.
The gallery hosts an up and coming local artist every month, complete with wine, appetizers, and quaint town life. My husband and I plan on making the drive up again in September’s.