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.