You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine


This is a crazy, spur-of-the-moment list, just for fun. Tell me your picks — as many as you like, and I’ll post all mine … some time … somewhere. :-D How’s that for specific?

Ready? Which is your preference?

    a Mac or PC

    Narnia or Lord of the Rings

    science fiction or fantasy

    classical or country

    books or ereaders

    Facebook or Twitter

    LinkedIn or Pinterest

    YA books or adult

    mystery or suspense

    Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance

    The Voice or American Idol

    Survivor or Amazing Race

    Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum

    Old Testament or New Testament

    Apostle Paul or Apostle Peter

    Elijah or Daniel

    Tom Sawyer or Lord of the Flies

    Denver Broncos or Oakland Raiders

    Tim Tebow or Jeremy Linn

    Corrie ten Boom or Elizabeth Elliot

    iPad or Kindle Fire

    grace or mercy

    Christian fiction or general market fiction

    New York Times or Wall Street Journal

    hymns or choruses

I’ll stop at 25. Pick any you’d like to answer and if you want to elaborate and explain your pick, I’d love to hear that, too.

I might put mine in a comment or maybe I’ll answer in another post. Some of these I wish I could turn into a poll because I’d be curious to see what the consensus is. But as it stands, this is just for fun. No insidious ulterior motive on my part. Looking forward to seeing what you think.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Comments (14)  
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Forgiveness Is Not An Option


New cars come with options. When I bought my car, it didn’t have a lot of perks. Those I could add if I chose. In most cases, I decided to go with the basics because the options cost extra.

Today I heard another sermon on forgiveness, and it drove home a point I have learned and re-learned: forgiving others is not optional. It’s a product of having been forgiven. It’s not a means to forgiveness and it’s not an accessory that can be dispensed with at will. It’s part of the basic package.

This is one of the areas that flies in the face of all other religions and anything the secular culture believes. As a matter of fact, it flies in the face of us Christians, too. It is not natural to forgive — but being forgiven makes it possible.

Once you’ve experienced the weight of guilt inexplicably removed through no effort of your own, two things happen. One is a sense of relief and gratitude. The second is a sense of kinship. You see someone else in the throes of justified condemnation, you see yourself and you understand, that was you once upon a time.

Interesting that the Apostle Paul, from time to time, reminded the people he wrote to of just this fact. Take his letter to the Colossians, for example, in which he wrote

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you once walked when you were living in them. (3:5-7 – emphasis mine)

It’s good that Scripture reminds us to look at what we were — exactly what people without Christ are. We were the prodigal, squandering our inheritance, we were the eldest brother, too jealous and judgmental to go inside and welcome his brother home.

But those two brothers illustrate the difference between being forgiven and not. The prodigal was a mess and knew it. He came to his father with nothing but the hope that he could serve because he had no way of making amends. When his father ran to him, hugged him (before he’d had a bath), restored him to his place as son, and set in motion a celebration, he knew he didn’t deserve any of it.

The brother coming in from the field, however, thought he deserved better than he got. He should have a celebration thrown for him, he reasoned, because he’d earned it. What’s more, he wasn’t about to join in a celebration for a wayward brother.

One son, contrite and humble, the other son, bitter and condemning. Which one had experienced the father’s forgiveness?

Jesus’s story doesn’t say that the prodigal son forgave his brother for not coming to his celebration, or anything like that. But it does tell us that the stay-at-home brother had an angry heart toward his brother and toward his father.

So who did he hurt by holding onto his anger? His brother? His father? They, I suspect, had a great time at the welcome-home feast. Only the bitter brother was left out.

So it is with us. Those who have experienced forgiveness aren’t in a position to shake our finger in anyone else’s face, reciting all their misbehaviors. Our eyes are downcast, or closed in worship, or fixed on the face of Jesus.

Those who have not experienced forgiveness feed their anger and jealousy, and end up missing out on the joy and rejoicing they could be a part of.

It’s a nasty thing, unforgivingness. It eats away at joy, contentment, gratitude. Certain names, we don’t want to hear; certain pictures, we tear up and throw away; certain places we no longer visit; certain days, we dread.

Can a forgiven person act that way? Only until the Holy Spirit comes along and says, And you once walked in those same sins when you were living in them. At that point, we realize forgiveness isn’t an option.

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Pollen


I was a hay fever kid. Every spring, especially during recess or P.E. class, newly mowed grass gave me fits. I was allergic to ragweed, too, but apart from those two plants, I managed just fine.

Unlike others, I neither out-grew the condition nor became worse, though I discovered one more thing I’m allergic to — more than anything else I’ve ever encountered. And it so happens I am living right next to it.

Just beyond the fence is a beautiful tall, full tree that offers wonderful shade in the summer. In the fall, which is usually in December here in SoCal, the tree begins to lose its leaves. Sometime after the first winter rain, it starts growing little blossoms which eventually produce new leaves. In the process those tiny yellow flowers release a fine yellow pollen, visible on our car windshields, porch, stairs.

It is that pollen I am allergic to.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, though some times I fall into a bit of a grumble. Except, I don’t want that tree gone. How many people live in the Los Angeles basin and can look out a window without seeing another apartment building or house? Plus there’s that extra shade which makes a ten to fifteen degree difference in the summer temperatures. I like this tree. I just don’t like its pollen.

Except, of course, the tree would have no leaves if there were no pollen. And Science 101 says pollen is important for bees and such — the whole eco-system. I’ll have to take the word of the experts on that one. I just know, I have to take the bad if I want the good. And I do.

This whole pollen thing seems a bit like an illustration of all of life. Things happen — a broken wrist, a rejection notice from an agent, a promotion that goes to someone else, a fender bender on the way home from work. All such things are much like the pollen — those are not things anyone wants. Except without them, we don’t have the growth needed that can get us through the days when the temperature rises. The tough things train us.

“Consider it all joy,” James says, “when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

Peter says positive things about hard times too:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)

For a little while things might be hard, but rejoicing is still possible because there will be a reveal.

Writers like reveals. It’s something we need to put into our novels to create those A-ha moments for readers. And of course the biggest and the best reveal is saved for last. So too in real life.

Now the days of pollen (which are almost over — we had some rain today, which clears the air) will serve as more than a reminder that new leaves are coming on the wonderful shade tree that will cool my place in the summer. Now I have one more reminder that God makes joy and rejoicing out of the various trials He allows because the great A-ha is coming!

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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CSFF Tour Wrap – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead


Another great CSFF tour wrapped up, this one for Ross Lawhead’s debut novel, The Realms Thereunder. In all thirty-nine bloggers participated, with two more due to post in the near future. In total the participants wrote sixty-six articles and countless comments. Now that, my friends, is buzz.

Not that we all agreed, mind you. This book in particular had split reviews, but I guess that just leaves it up to the reader to get a copy and decide for himself/herself! ;-)

Gold star for committed participation has to go to Steve Trower who is a science fiction guy and who received the book the same day his wife gave birth. Still, he managed to post three times during the tour, including his now famous Tuesday Tunes.

All this brings us to the final tour event — the vote for this month’s top tour blogger. Those who posted at least three times during the tour are eligible. And the nominees, with the links to their posts, are

And now, there is nothing left but for you to vote. Poll will remain open through Thursday, March 8, giving you ample time to check out the articles before you make your selection.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Comments Off  

Wisdom, Correction, And False Teaching


I haven’t been a part of the Christian Carnival in a while, but jumped in last week. The post linking to all the articles went up yesterday during the CSFF Blog Tour, so I didn’t get a chance to mention it. But you can find the modest collection of links at Who Am I?

One in particular caught my eye — Ridge Burns’s article “Wisdom and Correction.” I’m currently reading in the book of Proverbs and thought this post might relate. As it turned out I got a two-fer. Not only did Ridge base his thoughts on Proverbs, but his remarks fit with several things on my mind.

First, Ridge anchors his article on Proverbs 12:1.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Ridge used the NIV which says “correction” instead of “reproof,” but regardless, the thought is just as pointed, if not more so, in this translation.

I couldn’t help but think about how important “correction” is to a writer. Without input from readers/critique partners and eventually from an editor, a writer’s work will rarely be as good as it could be.

Writers learn from rejection letters that sting and maybe even carve away a pound of flesh, but they have the potential of pushing him on to better writing. Those of us who are pre-published also learn from contests or exercises like the Spec Faith “Shredding” held a couple weeks ago. Any objective opinion can serve as correction from which we can learn and which we would be “stupid” to ignore.

The second thing that came to mind when I read Ridge’s article fit with something I was praying about this morning. It seems to me that false teaching which so often stems from inside the Church and has its origins in Scripture develops in large part because the one who diverges from the truth does not, will not, receive correction.

I thought first of Solomon himself. Unlike his father David when he was caught in sin and repented, Solomon hardened his heart and drifted further from God. Because Solomon took up the idol worship of his foreign wives, God sent a prophet to him telling him He planned to divide the kingdom, taking all but the tribe of Judah from his descendants. Instead of getting on his knees and repenting, Solomon acted like Saul had in regard to David and went after the man anointed to take the throne, intent to kill him.

God said? So what, Solomon seems to say, I say I can do what I want.

And isn’t that what false teachers do? The Bible says, No one knows the day or hour when Christ will return, but the false teacher says, I know.

All have sinned, our righteousness is like filthy rags, and even Peter had to confess his hypocrisy toward the Gentile Christians, but the false teachers says, I no longer sin.

And what about the one who ignores the clear counsel of Scripture to love our brothers, our enemies, our neighbors, and justifies mean-spirited, judgmental attitudes and behavior?

Or how about the universalists who are so sure they know better than God that Mankind is just too deserving of “fair” treatment than they are of punishment?

I could go on and on. So many different false teachings, and the people behind them claim Scripture. Except, not the verses that contradict their position. Those they explain away.

For example, I’ve had a discussion with someone in the Holiness crowd (those who claim they no longer sin because in Christ they have a new nature). I pointed to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians about the brother who was living in an incestuous relationship and the church that was divided by bickering and greed.

Look how Paul addresses them:

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling (1 Cor. 1:2a)

Yet just a few verses later, Paul confronts and reproves them for the quarrels in the church. Then in chapter three he says

for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:3)

But in the very same chapter he says

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)

You’d think such a clear example would demonstrate that Christians in fact do sin (and need to repent). And if not this example, then surely Paul’s clear statements in Romans 7 that the things he doesn’t want to do he does, and the things he wants to do, he ends up not doing. He concludes, Oh wretched man that I am, but thanks be to God.

Clear. Unequivocal, right? Yet those I’ve held this discussion with have ways around each of those verses. They do not accept the correction of the Word of God, saying instead that they understand more fully what these passages intended, all so that they can hammer Scripture into the shape of their theology.

It is no different than the emerging conversationalists who style themselves as Christians, but to do so they must “re-image” Christ (see for example the discussion that would not die – “Attacks On God From Within”). In the end, they are no different than those of the liberal persuasion who bowed to higher criticism to determine what they would or would not accept of the Bible. Since the presupposition was based on rationalism, anything supernatural had to go. Out went the virgin birth, healing the sick, raising the dead, Christ’s resurrection itself, and all you were left with was a milquetoast Christ who sat around saying platitudes that have formed the basis of today’s “tolerant” society — stand for nothing and accept everything.

Well, well, well. I could keep going, but I think the point is clear. Scripture itself is the corrective, but if someone rejects it … what was it Proverbs said about him?

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm  Comments Off  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead, Day 3


My Review

Reviews are never easy for me and this one, less so. There’s much to like about The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead, but why am I not enthusiastic? I think I’ve figured it out, thanks to a number of posts by my fellow CSFF Blog Tour participants. But let’s start at the beginning.

General Comments. The Realms Thereunder, labeled general fantasy fiction, though published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing house, is perhaps best suited to a young adult audience, though adults may get the most out of it — there’s a lot here to think about. It’s important to note that this is the first in The Ancient Earth Trilogy. Clearly, this book is the beginning of a larger story, though it reads somewhat as a stand-alone. There is a logical end point, though many of the story questions remain unanswered.

The Story. Protagonists Daniel and Freya are on divergent paths, yet they share a unique link from their early teens. While on a school field trip, they “went missing.” For days the world was in a panic looking for them, but they were in a realm beneath, engaged in adventure and the attempt to find the way home.

Switching back to the present off and on, the story follows the adult Daniel as he’s sent into yet another realm — Elfland — then Freya, as she’s duped and deluded, and finally a third person who doesn’t seem to fit into the picture until the end — Alex, the policeman turned mythical-creatures hunter.

Strengths. In my day one and day two posts, I’ve touched on some of the things I consider to be strengths of The Realms Thereunder. Ross has courageously stepped out of the standard linear story structure and told his tale using a change of time perspective as well as a change of the storyline.

In addition, he weaves Anglo-Saxon mythology generously, with a dab of history, into the contemporary story. It’s an interesting mix. Further, he has a section — Daniel in Elfland — that reminded me a great deal of C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet. Whether this is intentional or not, I can’t say. But I liked it in Lewis’s work, and I liked it equally so in The Realms Thereunder.

Another positive worth noting, there’s little overt reference to God or religion, but there is much that appears to work as symbolism. As an illustration, three different blog tour participants independently selected the same quote that held spiritual significance for each. For a more detailed look at this aspect of the story see Thomas Clayton Booher‘s day three post.

In short, The Realms Thereunder is a layered story that gives the reader much to think about. It’s also unique and creative in its concept and execution. What’s more, I think all of these innovative things work, and they make the story well worth reading.

Weaknesses. A quick check around the tour, and you’ll find a number of reviews that are positive without being enthusiastic, and a few that point blank say they had high expectations that weren’t met. To balance those are another few that are supportive from start to finish — they liked the prologue, the story structure, the characters, the wrap, all of it.

So why the mixed bag? I have been asking myself this same question because while I read, I continued to put the book down for long stretches and felt no compunction to get back to it. I think various members of the blog tour have helped me put it all together.

1. The omniscient point of view, always more distant than first person or third person limited, did not help me to know the characters well.

In addition, in a section of the story when Freya has been duped and is delusional, the story slips into her point of view, but there’s no clue that this has happened and that the reader should not rely on what she’s experiencing. Hence, I began to cast about, trying to make sense of what was happening. Was the story now entering a third, future, time period? By the time I realized what was happening, I’d been pulled from the story.

The greater issue, however, was that I never felt closely attached to the characters.

2. While the primary characters are unique and believable, they don’t have goals or needs they are trying to meet. In the past portion of the story, Freya has wanted to go home from the moment she arrived in the underworld realm, but she made no plans to achieve this goal. After some time Daniel and Freya have a goal at last, but they seem to wander along with the two knights in a rather haphazard search for something others believe is necessary.

3. In addition to the wandering factor, the personal stakes for Daniel, Freya, and the extraneous Alex — a policeman who also has an apparently unrelated storyline — seem low. The reader already knows that Daniel and Freya survive their teen adventures, or there would be no adult thread, so whatever dangers they encounter carry little or no threat.

And the adult threads don’t seem to have high stakes because in these segments the characters seem to be moving wherever greater forces dictate, as if they have little or no say about where they go.

There’s actually one conversation about this very subject which makes me think there is much happening that will be revealed in the next book, but in this one, their manipulated wanderings didn’t make for compelling reading, I didn’t feel.

4. No one else brought this up, so this just might be me, but I found the prose to be off-putting. Well, that’s too strong. For the most part I knew what was taking place, but there were segments that confused me, others that seemed slow (written in passive voice, for example), and still others that told rather than showed. Here’s an example of the latter: “Swi∂gar pulled his spear back and lunged for another attack, but it was the worst thing he could have done” (p 347, emphasis mine).

Recommendation. So what did I think? I think Ross undertook an ambitious project for his debut novel. I admire him for the effort and am glad I read it for all the thought-provoking material it provided. And the fact is, there are people who loved it and breezed through it. I labored, but it’s not time I regret.

So how do I sum it up? I recommend this one if you love Anglo-Saxon history and/or mythology. That alone will make the book worthwhile. I recommend it for those who enjoy a unique take on fantasy tropes — not a portal to another world, but a passage to another realm in this world, and that realm (those realms?) is beginning to bleed back the other way. Lots of promise for the next two books in the trilogy.

Disclaimer posted in compliance with FAA regulations: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, though quite obviously that fact had no bearing on my review.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead, Day 2



Day one of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead produced some good posts. I recommend, in particular, Keanan Brand‘s where you’ll find the reaction to The Realms Thereunder by Keanan’s teen niece who happens to be in this book’s target audience.

Another post not to miss is new member Rebekah Loper‘s thoughtful comments about the spiritual implications of a particular passage in Ross’s story. I love the way Rebekah made the spiritual connection and I love the way Ross resisted any urge he might have had to connect dots for his readers.

Interestingly, Thomas Clayton Booher, in his day two post, cites the exact same passage Rebekah did and elaborates on the Christian’s responsibility to share the gospel even with those who would rather not “have their bubble burst.”

The fact that both these readers had spiritual insights stemming from the same passage that was not overtly addressing spiritual issues, shows the power of implicit writing, I believe. Too often we writers feel the need to spell out what we want readers to see, but how much better to let the readers discover truth on their own.

Which brings me back to the particulars I wish to discuss about The Realms Thereunder. Ross Lawhead, as you may have guessed, is the son of highly accomplished novelist Stephen Lawhead, and therefore is familiar with the work of a novelist. Tim Hicks, who did some research about Ross for his day one post, points out that Ross c0-authored several books with his father and has had a number of other writing projects. This, however, is his first solo novel. And what an ambitious undertaking. I have to admire Ross simply for his effort.

First, he adopted an advanced story structure, which I mentioned in my day one post.

In addition, Ross does something few others have attempted — he closely weaves mythology (in this case, Anglo-Saxon mythology) into a present-day story. It’s sort of Once Upon A Time (the current ABC TV series) in reverse.

Third, he tells a story that mostly happens underground — not an easy thing to accomplish even for short sections of a story.

Fourth, he writes Christian fiction with a light hand, much the way J. R. R. Tolkien did. Any reader would feel comfortable reading this story, yet as I mentioned above, those alert to spiritual implications will find material with which to work.

Fifth, Ross is telling a story that is larger than just this one book. The Realms Thereunder is the first of The Ancient Earth Trilogy, so his scope is big. Epic, you might say.

Sixth, he is developing his characters backwards. Because of the story structure, he is showing character development in the adult characters that resulted from the portion of the story that happened to the younger versions of those characters.

It’s an interesting aspect of the story, and vital if this past/present back-and-forth was to work. How had the events that took place eight years earlier changed these people? It’s something we may not think about much when we read stories like Narnia.

Stephen Donaldson in his trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever touched on this aspect of character development, as I recall. And C. S. Lewis hinted at some repercussions of the other-world adventures in Narnia. But Ross is able to do more because he actually tells part of his story from these scarred and changed characters’ point of view.

All in all, I’m impressed that anyone would tackle so much in a debut novel. Tomorrow, if things go as planned, I’ll give you my reaction to the book and my recommendation. In the meantime, you might be interested in some of the other reviews:

  • Jeff Chapman has an excellent plot summary.
  • Chawna Schroeder questioned the characters’ goals and how that affected the story.
  • Gillian Adams gave her reaction to the innovative story structure.
  • Steve Trower gave the best reason I’ve heard for not having his review ready for the tour.
  • Sarah Sawyer is holding a book-give-away contest.
  • Nissa is cooking up some kind of special scavenger hunt-ish type of thing at her site. No details yet, but she’s “hiding” things along the tour route. ;-)

Lots more to come, so be sure to get in on the fun.

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm  Comments (5)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead


I’m a writer, so no matter how much I want to look at books the way readers do, and to convey information I think readers care about, I can’t help but notice things like story structure, especially when story structure plays a big part in the reading experience.

Some while ago I read a novel I’d heard many good things about, but no one had warned me about the … creative story structure. It was told from two points of view — nothing special there. The thing was, in following one character, the story was moving forward, from “the beginning” to “the end.” In the other character’s point of view, however, the story was traveling backward, from end to the beginning. Creative, yes, but I felt confused for at least half of the book, and I didn’t care for it in the end (or the beginning … which ever! :roll: )

On the other hand, I read George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon with its story within a story within a story approach, and I loved it. It was innovative and took a little getting used to. For stretches I didn’t know for sure what was happening on the outermost layer of the story, but that was OK. I was sure I would know and in fact kept reading in large part because I wanted to know.

I mention these two experiences to point out that I don’t think innovative story structure is a make or break deal. I don’t hate or love a book based on its structure. That it’s creative in how the scenes fit together doesn’t make a story better or worse to me. I don’t, however, want to be confused — at least not for long stretches.

And why am I starting the CSFF blog tour for Ross Lawhead‘s The Realms Thereunder with a discussion of story structure? Surely you’ve guessed it. This Christian fantasy for young adults and up is not your standard journey-quest story structure. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of his father Stephen’s latest, the Bright Empires series, with its ley lines and travel from one time/dimension to another, Ross tells his story from the front end and the back end, with some realm shifting in between.

Forewarned is forearmed, I figure. It’s undoubtedly better to know going in that the story you’re about to read is going to be a little different than a “Once upon a time … the end” sort of tale. Did it work? Abundantly so, in my opinion.

I’ve never been a fan of large numbers of point of view shifts, and the shifting from story past to story present added a dimension to those shifts, but not in a distracting way. Yes, there was more to keep track of, but all in all, I thought the unique story structure worked in the book’s favor.

Now we’ll have to see what others reading the book as part of the CSFF tour thought.

Here are this month’s participants with the check marks linking to specific Tour articles:

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm  Comments (8)  
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Suvivor!


Yes, it’s back. I’m a fan. I saw the very first show of Survivor some ten or so years ago when it was a summer fill-in that broke out as one of the most popular game shows of all time. Yes, game shows. It isn’t “reality” TV by any stretch of the imagination. It is all about competing against a group of strangers by trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast them.

The twist, of course, is that you are also living side-by-side with these same people, and to a certain extend, are dependent upon them for food, shelter, fire, water, and victories so you don’t have to face the dreaded “Tribal Council” where you might be voted out of the game.

This new season that started Wednesday pits the men against the women, but both teams are camping on the same beach, so they are neighbors. Because of an accident that sent one of the women out of the game with a broken wrist, the men were declared the winners of the first challenge, winning the reward — flint so they could start fire. They had been given a choice. They were in the lead when the girl hurt herself and the game was stopped, hence, by rule they were the winners, but they could choose to play it out and win “fair and square.” They chose to take the win in hand.

But here’s the amazing thing: the women were shocked by this! They thought for sure the men would do the gentlemanly thing and let the game play out.

As if!! My first thought was, Do none of those women have brothers? Are they so clueless about the competitive nature of the men who sign up to play Survivor? I also thought, How entitled of them. Not only did they think the men should have let the game play, they then thought the guys should share fire with them when they got back to camp. They even tried to steal some embers during the night but couldn’t keep the coals alive.

Lest you think too badly of the women, the men pulled the first unethical trick. When they reached their launch spot, they had 60 seconds to unload a truck of whatever gear they thought they could use. One of the women grabbed an ax, and one of the guys preceded to steal it. Let’s say the guys showed their true colors right there — they were playing a no-holds-barred game. But later in camp the women were still expecting chivalry. :roll:

During nearly every season, someone makes a point of playing the game with integrity and someone else gets their feelings hurt when they get stabbed in the back — betrayed by tribe mates who promised to take them all the way to the end. Some years the one who engineers the betrayals is considered a mastermind and ends up winning the million dollar prize. Other seasons, the leader of all the manipulation is considered a villain and despised for using those he betrayed.

The whole thing is an interesting study in human nature. Who believes whom, who leads, who follows, who works, who whines. One thing I noticed in the last season: when a leader talks “trust” and “honor,” then pulls the strings to betray someone, the contempt others feel for him is greater.

Which makes me think of the Church and today’s society. When we broadcast the good news of God’s love and forgiveness, people will listen — who, after all, doesn’t want love and forgiveness? But when we who lift high the banner of Christ, turn around and behave in an unloving, unforgiving manner to our fellow Christians in front of the watching world, to our neighbors, co-workers, even our enemies, the contempt spewed upon us is great.

Deservedly so. Christ Himself told the parable of the forgiven servant who turned around and would not forgive, and He concluded by giving a dire warning.

And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:34-35)

Not that our forgiving others earns us forgiveness, but our having been forgiven causes us to be so grateful, we want to pass on what we have received.

And if we don’t? Chances are we’ve missed the essence of forgiveness. Like the Survivor contestants who turn against one who talks honor but plays a disreputable game, those who watch a professing Christian proclaim forgiveness, only to turn around and withhold it, will despise him and what he stands for. Apparently God will side with them.

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm  Comments Off  
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Backwards Thinking


A couple days ago, I wrote about the PETA lawsuit, quickly dismissed, brought against Sea World on behalf of five Orca whales because of their “enslavement.” This extreme desire to treat animals with the same care and respect as humans has the effect of degrading humans. We are, the thinking goes, not more special than the whale or gorilla or titmouse.

The Bible makes it clear that humans are special because we, of all creation, have uniquely been made in the image of God. Our Creator Himself breathed into Man the breath of life and he became a living being — a soul, a self, a person.

But the PETA folks would have us be less.

What’s ironic, at the same time, our culture has weighed Man morally and found us to be good. Ask anyone. Man, according to the majority of people in Western society, anyway, believes Man to be innately good. I suppose some might say dogs are good, and cats, horses, dolphins. But at some point, I think most people would hold back on calling mosquitoes good, or fleas or cockroaches or termites.

The truth is, animals aren’t acting out of a moral nature. We call some animals good because we find them to be beautiful or useful or companionable or admirable. Others we find to be a nuisance, destructive, harmful, disease-carrying, and suddenly the brotherhood of all living beings seems a little less desirable.

If fact, Man alone is a moral being, and sadly, we are not good. Yes, we bear the image of God, but we act out of the flaw in our character — the very flaw that fiction writers know they must include in those that people their stories if they are to seem realistic. All we have to do is look around us, and we see the flaws of Mankind. Corporate greed? That’s Man acting from his flawed nature. Welfare fraud? That’s Man acting from his flawed nature. Illegal immigration? Same problem, as is pornography, sex trafficking, adultery, extortion, murder, burglary … Need I go on?

Man is not good. Those who ignore all of the above and insist Mankind is too, good, prove by their stubbornness and willingness to lie to themselves, that all of us are flawed.

So we have this upside down thinking going when it comes to the most basic question — who are we? Man is just another animal, some say. But Man is good, some of the same people say.

But there’s more. While those lawyers were suing Sea World on behalf of the whales, another group were doing all they could to keep “a woman’s right to choose” in place. In simple terms, they work overtime against any effort to chip away at the Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion legal.

Back in 1973, of course, the argument centered on the issue of when life begins. Pregnancy, the women’s rights movement taught, was at the sole prerogative of the woman, because at stake was her body, and hers alone. Inside her was tissue, a fetus, certainly not a separate life. To be alive, that embryo would have to be viable. Until abortion doctors wanted to finish a botched job outside the womb. Then it didn’t matter if the squirmy tissue was living and breathing. Abortion was legal, so there. Partial birth abortions — keep those legal. States that didn’t want abortion within their borders — out of luck. No bending on this issue even though now virtually everyone understands that the fetus is alive, that this is a separate person growing in the womb. An unprotected person, stripped of all rights, without a voice or any chance to do his or her own choosing.

But the irony doesn’t stop. Medical science has determined that certain things a women does when she is pregnant can have harmful effects on the baby she is carrying — things like smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol. Other things are helpful like exercise and playing certain music or talking to the unborn baby. Pregnant women, then, are expected to do all the right things to as part of prenatal care and have been held for child abuse for doing the things that jeopardize the health and well-being of the unborn. That’s right. A woman can kill the child but not injure it by smoking.

Our thinking is backwards. We make these laws asking the wrong questions — most often, what do I want or what will benefit me? Some people might even go so far as to think, what will benefit society? Few, it seems, are asking, what is morally right?

Is it morally right to cheat on your income taxes? Is it morally right to steal from your employer? Is it morally right for CEOs of failed businesses to take millions of dollars in bonuses? Is it morally right for a congressman to receive thousands of dollars from a lobbyist he will be working with to fashion upcoming legislation?

But no. We won’t create law that way because we have backwards thinking. Man is good … though an animal … with no right to be born should his mother choose to terminate his life while he’s completely helpless and dependent on her.

In the process the image of God is being so marred it’s hardly recognizable.

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (7)  
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