Gotta Love The Dodgers


Dodgers_coach_Larry_Bowa_wearing_a_batting_helmet,_spring_training_2008No, there’s no metaphor here or any symbolism or spiritual lesson behind the scenes. I’m a sports nut, and I’m enjoying cheering for the Dodgers. They were the first major league team in any sport that I followed, so it’s fitting.

I admit, I went through a period after the latest strike and a series of steroid scandals in which I lost interest in baseball altogether. It didn’t help that the Dodgers experienced a change of ownership that could not uphold the proud tradition of the team.

Steroid scandals are still plaguing the sport, but at this point it seems the current crop of Dodgers are not connected with the ongoing league investigation. Most of them are too young. They’ve only been in the league for a few short years.

Well, “most of them” is probably an exaggeration. To be honest, I’m still getting to know who’s on the roster. I’ve only been following them for about six weeks–sort of that turn-around point when manager Don Mattingly said the season started anew for the guys in Dodger blue.

Don_Mattingly_(2011)The fact that Mattingly was still the manager was a minor miracle as the media pundits had him on the way out unless he had a particularly good series against . . . I forget which team. I think the Dodgers might have been swept.

But to the surprise of all those sports talkers, the new, new ownership–a group of sports lovers which includes Magic Johnson–stuck by their manager. They recognized that no one on the team had given up and that Mattingly hadn’t been playing with the line-up he expected due to a rash of early injuries.

As some of those players who had been on the DL (disabled list), returned to action, a new-comer burst on the scene, too–a raw talent with all kinds of enthusiasm named Yasiel Puig.

Those in the know call Yasiel a 5-point athlete. He is fast, has a strong arm, can hit for power, can hit for average, and plays defense. But he’s still a bit of a diamond in the rough, which is why he was in Triple-A. Sometimes he misses his cut-off man. Sometimes he tries too hard to hit home runs. Sometimes he makes base-running blunders. But he also gets key base hits and makes spectacular catches in right field. Sometimes he throws runners out or steals bases or stretches a single into a double.

He plays with abandon–at least he did until the All Star break. Now he’s settling in a little and seems aware that the world is watching. He’s a good human interest story, having come from Cuba by way of Mexico. His is a rags-to-riches story, and we still love to hear those.

But the Dodger success has more to do with the changes Don Mattingly made in the bullpen, so that the games the Dodgers had been losing in the late innings, they now are winning. And it has to do with improved defense, and key hitting.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has figured into both those last factors. He came off the DL days after Yasiel Puig joined the parent club. When was the last time a shortstop was a clean-up hitter? It’s new to me, but Hanley is managing to hit better than .380 in that spot. He’s either driving in runs or getting on base or moving runners over.

But from top to bottom the Dodger line-up can hit (in July the team batting average is .292). And now, after struggling through April and May and a good part of June, they are actualizing their potential. And they still have an ace up their sleeves.

Arguably their best player who isn’t a pitcher, Matt Kemp, is once again on the DL. After nursing a pulled hamstring for far too long, he finally sat down, healed, and had just come back. Oh, I forgot the shoulder thing. He re-injured the shoulder he’d had surgery on, so sat for a short while to heal that. Then he came back for a couple days and was smoking! I mean, home runs, key base hits, his usual outstanding defense.

Everyone was wondering how the Dodgers were going to juggle four outfielders who all deserved to start. And then Kemp slid into home. Well, he actually slid into the catcher’s shin-guard-covered leg blocking home plate, and broke his ankle.

But he’ll be back. And the Dodgers, full of confidence now, don’t look like they’ve got a mind to slow down. They just might be the best team in baseball. Since the All Star break they’ve won 10 of 11 games. Since the beginning of Don Mattingly’s season reboot, they’re winning 80% of their games. That’s unheard of in baseball.

The thing is, they’re winning in all the ways there is to win. They’ve dominated teams offensively, they’ve won pitching duels. They’ve even won ugly–ever heard of a team striking out 20 times in a game and WINNING? Yep, the Dodgers managed that just the other day. They’re winning at home. They’re winning away. They’re beating teams in their division and those outside. They’re beating AL teams as well as NL teams.

This time of year I’m normally getting excited about the start of football. But pardon me for staying focused on baseball a while longer. It’s pretty fun to be a Dodger fan these days. 😉

Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Connection Between Pride And Anxiety


Traffic_lights_red.svg1 Peter has some great “one liners” and lots of people quote various verses from the book, but I’ll admit, I never paid much attention to the context in which those verses appear. I’m talking about ones like “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (2:24). Or how about the last half of 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Then there is 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”

Just before that verse about the Christian’s enemy, though, come two other well known verses, and I realized for the first time how they relate to each other. The first one is this:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (5:6).

The thing is, the next verse continues the thought: “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (5:7).

The sentence construction, as I understand it, means that casting our anxieties on God is a working out of the previous command to humble ourselves. It would be like me saying, Drive to the store, stopping at all the red lights on the way. Stopping at the lights is a part of carrying out the command to drive to the store.

I never before saw casting anxieties on God as a working out of humbling myself under His mighty hand. Looking at 1 Peter as a letter from an evangelist to the churches he helped to start, however, rather than a collection of quotable Christian sayings, has changed my understanding.

I now think the two ideas fit really well. If I humble myself under God’s mighty hand, I have to let Him be God. I have to recognize Him as sovereign, but then I also have to trust Him, even when things are hard and don’t seem right. I have to be willing to relinquish my concerns and put them in His care. I have to stop worrying, in other words, and trust that He sees the big picture better than I do.

The problem I struggle with is knowing what part I am to play as I trust God. I don’t think it means I take my hands off the wheel (with all due respect to Kelly Clarkson). God has put believers on this earth and keeps us here to be His representatives. Therefore, I can’t sit back and say, I have to trust that God will bring people to Christ without also doing what I am capable of doing.

I can’t say, God will feed me, so I don’t have to worry about working. I need to give myself to my work, understanding that God is the provider, but that He is providing through my efforts and the doors He has opened up for me.

I think contentment is critical in understanding the interweaving of pride and anxiety. If we recognize that what we have is from God’s hand, that He is good and loving, then we can be content in His watch care. If we want more than He provides, we can ask Him for more. He may lead us to more or He may not.

Anxiety sets in, I believe, when we think we have to circumvent God to get the more we asked for. We know MORE is what we need, and God isn’t coming through or He’s too busy. So it’s up to us to figure out how to get MORE.

The problem is, we are the agents through which God works, so sometimes we really do need to do something to bring about the thing we’re asking. The trick is to know when to do and when to stand and watch God work.

Well, the real trick is to cast all the worry about the matter upon our good God because He cares for us. If we give Him the worry, I believe He’ll give us the understanding about what we’re to do.

I don’t think this principle is only applicable to money and jobs. It’s true about anything we humans tend to worry about. Over and over God promises us peace, and yet we seem to rush about so, trying to do and fix and change and make, when we need, first, to hand our worries over to God and trust that He’ll show us our part in due time.

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Unstoppable


KirkCameronByLuigiNovi
Was it a glitch in the automation or something more calculated?

After actor Kirk Cameron who happens to be an outspoken Christian had the links to the trailer of his upcoming movie, Unstoppable, removed from Facebook, he publicly took issue with the action, saying on his Facebook page

that links to the website for “Unstoppable” had been blocked by the social network for allegedly being “abusive,” “unsafe” and “spammy.” The following day, he announced YouTube had done the same and had blocked the “Unstoppable” trailer because it was considered “spam,” a “scam” and “deceptive.” (Huffington Post)

In his appeal to fans to support him against Facebook and YouTube, Cameron said his movie is about

“faith, hope and love, and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. What is ‘abusive’ or ‘unsafe’ about that?!” (Ibid.)

A day after Cameron went public with the issue, Facebook rescinded their block, saying that the address he was using for the movie site had previously been used by a spammer and therefore blocked by Facebook. Their automated system simply hadn’t caught up to the change.

Sounds reasonable.

But what about YouTube?

Apparently there’s an active attempt to have all Cameron’s YouTube videos removed, though they also retracted the “Unstoppable” block. Why would YouTube want Cameron’s videos taken down?

Without saying this is the reason, a USA Today article on the subject mentions that Cameron is “outspoken against gay marriage.”

Cameron himself addresses why people hate God in a new YouTube video, pointing first to the fact that they hate the moral standard.

So is all this a tempest in a teapot, a simple and understandable techno-glitch? Or is this a foreshadowing of what is to come for Christians who speak up for what they believe? I suppose only time will tell, but I find it sobering.

Social media has given every person a voice and an audience, but how quickly it could be snatched away. What if “religious topics” are one day considered too divisive, too inflammatory to be allowed?

After what happened with Kirk Cameron, that possibility doesn’t seem so far fetched any more.

I suppose for too long we Christians in the United States have felt protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech, doesn’t it? It guarantees freedom of religion.

Amazingly, the very clause that was put into the Bill of Rights to ensure that people could speak their mind and practice their religion, is being turned against people of faith. No “establishment of religion” has come to mean no allowance of religion.

First this was in schools, then government buildings. Now there are attempts to extend this to government property–like public parks and beaches.

While the shift is startling, it simply reminds me that government was never the guarantor for our freedoms. God is.

Should Christians face a period of persecution here in the US, we’d only be joining the millions of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the same around the world. It’s not something I look forward to, but it’s something I expect. Could it be that the vitriol aimed at Kirk Cameron (see comments such as “Kirk Cameron is a sanctimonious, obnoxious f***knut and a washed-up former
child T.V. star…”), is an indication of what lies ahead for all believers? What do you think?

Reviewing The CSA Final Five


Final Five

Curious about what other readers are saying about this year’s CSA final five? As part of the ongoing introduction of the finalists, today we offer additional excerpts from readers posting on their blogs or reviewing for online organizations.

* Liberator by Bryan Davis

I found myself highlighting great quotes throughout the book, as the characters struggled to free the slaves, cure disease, live up to their individual callings, determine who could be trusted, and ultimately, reconcile their worlds with the Creator who designed them. This is a complicated series with a lot happening on different levels, and this last book will keep you on your toes as you follow the exciting adventures.
Hammock Librarian

    The most compelling aspect of Liberator is the way in which Davis uses the tropes of high fantasy literature – crystals, swords, shape-shifting, and, yes, even those dragons – to deal with universal themes in a symbolic way. . . Though the language is advanced and the mythology complicated, it’s a sure bet that young readers with an appetite for these sorts of stories will hunger for more of Davis’ dragon tales.
    Crosswalk.com

Davis has written a fast-paced, action-packed novel with a pinch of romance that is sure to capture the interest of teens who love fantasy. Mythological characters such as dragons, Diviners, and starlighters fill the pages and pull the reader into the world of Starlight. Plot driven, this book reveals each character more through their actions than their inner thoughts. There is a clear theme of good versus evil as those who serve the Creator fight to free those enslaved by the evil dragon forces.
Christian Library Journal

* A Throne Of Bones by Vox Day

    I enjoyed it immensely. Vox Day isn’t the prose stylist George R. R. Martin is, but he’s not bad. On the plus side we have a complicated, complex story with interesting and sympathetic, fully rounded characters. There are few out-and-out villains – everybody is doing what they think right. And unlike Martin’s stories, the fact that someone is virtuous and noble does not guarantee them a painful and ignominious death. In terms of pure story, Vox Day’s book is much more rewarding. And Christianity is treated not only with respect, but as a true part of the cosmos.

But overall this is a very readable book that made me want to keep on reading. It is, in turn, humorous, shocking and exciting. There are beautiful moments, there is clever dialogue, there is deep mystery. It took some level of genius to write it. I recommend you read it.
The Responsible Puppet

    What makes this book both an entertaining and fascinating read is that Vox draws on his rather tremendous depth of knowledge and literary theory to create a world that is quite imaginative and “realistic,” which is in turn populated with characters that are interesting, sympathetic, and multi-dimensional.
    Allusions of Grandeur

* Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

The duo of Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee have pooled their talents once again to build a story world reminiscent of another Dekker hit, The Circle. Dekker’s zealous and sometimes nearing maniacal emphasis on the themes of darkness and light is evident in full force and Lee’s power of prose paints word pictures to be remembered (emphasis in the original).
t.e. George

    The world Dekker and Lee created when they wrote this series is compelling and symbolic in a number of ways. I found myself pondering the redemptive meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and the use of His blood for our atonement in a deeper way because of this book. I also saw in the story how deception hardens the heart and at the same time how intense and overwhelming our Savior’s love is for mankind despite our many flaws.
    Michelle’s book review blog

What I love about Dekker’s and Lee’s books is not that they are gripping and intense reading, although they are, nor is it the great writing. It’s the fact that I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, and my relationship to my Savior, and others when I finish them. Their books are the best fictional allegories to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the life of being a true follower of Christ that I have ever read.
Reading Reviews

* Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

    My Thoughts: This had to have been my favorite of the [Tales of Goldstone Wood] series so far. I absolutely loved it. The imagery is amazing, the setting so detailed, and the characters are a hilarious. I could barely put this book down for wanting to know what would happen next.
    Like a lot of fans, I absolutely love Sir Eanrin and was so glad to find out that he would be a main character in this story. Usually I don’t like cats, but he is an exception. 🙂
    Backing Books

Here are the things I did in fact enjoy about the book:
1. The world building was excellent, far better than I thought it would have been. I really got the sense of being there right along side of the characters.
2. The story itself. I really enjoyed the plot, mystery, and how the story unfolded with each PART within the book. The book was written in three parts, one in the present day, one the past (part 2), and then once again back to the present where there the story as a whole begins to make complete sense. The ending was beautiful and I dare say I cried a bit. *tissues may be needed*
3. Starflower. She was a real and believable character. I found her to be very kind, and self-sacrificing for the ones she loved. Her jounany [sic] and hardships made her stronger, not bitter.
Bittersweet Enchantment

    the story is not driven by action. Instead, it delves into character–not simply the beings, whether mortal or Faerie, but the very lands in which they dwell, as well. One could practically smell the lushness of the jungle-type atmosphere Starflower grows up in; the Merry Halls of Rudiobus become ingrained in one’s mind. And the fallen city of Etalpalli IS a character–a very wrathful, dangerous creature. The way Stengl wrote the scenes in which the very streets do not stay still…. it gave me shivers.
    And if you’re the type of reader who wants action in a novel, well, it’s definitely here. Whether it’s facing demonic wolves, running from a giant hound, or leaping off bridges, there is something there for everyone. But the action is not the sort that precedes and overwhelms the substance. Starflower is a novel to be savoured for the layers it weaves.
    The Other World

* Prophet by R. J. Larson

Its YA tone will likely make Prophet most engaging to teen readers, but all ages will be able to relate to the spiritual themes. As a historical fantasy, this has the potential to engage a wider range of readers, especially those with an interest in Biblical history. And if you’re looking for something unique in the Christian fantasy market, you may want to give this a try.
Sarah Sawyer

    Truly, the “Infinite” of Ela of Parne is the Lord I love and serve as well. I found some of the parallels and words of wisdom presented in a way that touched my spirit and really spoke to my heart.
    I thought this story was well thought out, believable and yet still held that fantasy element to it that drew me in. I can’t wait to pick up book two [of the Books of the Infinite series]!
    A Simply Enchanted Life

R. J. Larson brings the biblical stories to the present and makes it easy for a younger reader to relate to. The author has an excellent use of concise prose, and draws the reader in with her multifaceted characters. The cover is beautiful, and the story of a young girl who deals with her unworthiness of being called as a prophet is believable and not overdone. Personally, I loved this book and will be reading the rest of the series as they are released.
Readers’ Realm

Don’t forget, voting ends on Sunday at midnight (Pacific time).

Cross posted at CSA.

Royal Family Kids


Royal Family Kids CampAll the buzz today is about the new royal born into the British Royalty–His Royal Highness, Prince Yet-to-be-named of Cambridge. But there’s a different Royal Family and the kids being ministered by a handful of them.

I’m referring to a Christian ministry that’s been in existence since 1985 called Royal Family Kids. This non-profit aims to provide camping, clubs, and mentoring for foster kids aged 7 to 12 while at the same time raising the awareness of the “faith community” to the needs of abused children.

The founders, Wayne and Diane Tesch, emphasize working with local churches. Their hope is for people to

* Encourage their church to launch a Royal Family KIDS Camp
* Volunteer at their local camp
* Become a faithful supporter
* Pray for the work and the volunteers of Royal Family KIDS Camp

My church has been a supporter of Royal Family Kids for some years, and we are currently holding our camp. The congregation was invited to take the name of a camper and pray faithfully for that child. It’s a great way for all of us to be involved, and I believe the most important way we can support the ministry.

Frankly, the numbers about abused kids in the US are staggering. According to the RFK web site,
“Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America.”

Ironically, one of the early justifications for abortion was to eliminate unwanted children, and by extension, abused, neglected, and abandoned children. How’s that strategy working out for us!

Instead, what we’ve ended up with is a devaluation of human life which leads to parents mistreating the very people they are responsible to protect and nurture.

Not that child abuse didn’t exist before abortion, but clearly terminating life is not connected in a positive way to terminating abuse.

The thing is, God can heal and help even when a child suffers at the hands of the adults in his life. Earlier this month I wrote about apologist and author Josh McDowell who opened up recently in his latest book Undaunted about the abuse he experienced in his childhood.

Seeing the way in which God has used Josh McDowell, how He has turned the ashes of a crushed life into flourishing, fruitful newness makes me realize that this same transformation is possible for all the Royal Family Kids we’re praying for.

So if you think of it, join with me this week in praying for my girl Destiny. May God do amazing things in the lives of children others have looked past or hurt or deserted.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)

For more information about Royal Family Kids camp, check out the movie trailer created for the documentary last year.

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 9:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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Reverence – An Overview


My alma mater’s semi-annual magazine that goes out to alumni featured an article by communications studies professor Gregory Spencer taken from his book Awakening the Quieter Virtues (InterVarsity Press). I know of Professor Spencer because he also has written a couple fantasy novels; consequently I was particularly interested in reading his article entitled “Reverence: The Church Without Shoes.”

Professor Spencer quickly moved from his introduction, to Scripture—specifically the account of Moses’s encounter and reaction to God speaking to him from a flaming shrub. Remove the shoes, God said, as if the shoes were somehow less clean than the feet. And Moses was quick to do so. While we may not understand the whys and wherefores of God’s command, there’s still much we can learn, by metaphor if not by principle. And Professor Spencer did a wonderful job drawing out those lessons.

In contrast to Moses’s position—standing barefoot on holy ground—Jesus and Paul knelt in prayer and four others who encountered Christ knelt before him. Others in Scripture fell on their faces. So how do the two reactions to the holy relate?

This is where Professor Spencer uses the physical posture of people in reverent communication with God as metaphors to explain what reverence actually means. The concept has two prongs, he points out. One aspect is what we often think of—kneeling before the sacred:

Noticing the sacred is noticing all of God that we can see, especially his holiness. Sometimes the sacred is found because it is searched for. Sometimes it seems to crash upon us unannounced. Either way, reverence increases as we cultivate eyes and ears for the God who is there.

The second aspect of reverence, the part we too often miss or mistakenly practice, is standing up to the profane:

The profane is that which intentionally dismisses, ridicules or destroys the sacred. When our loved ones are attacked or defiled, don’t we bristle and seek to defend them? Aren’t we saddened when they are misrepresented, ostracized or harmed? And so it is in our life with the Lover of our souls. Who cares about sacrilege these days? The reverent do.

Professor Spencer closes this section with a good reminder that not everything offensive to us is offensive to God, and vice versa. The standard we must use is that which grieves His heart.

The article did not elaborate on this point (perhaps the book does), but I’d add that Scripture is the source we can rely upon to know what moves God’s heart. For example, Jesus mourned for Jerusalem because He longed to gather its people like a hen gathers its chicks, but they would not. It’s safe to say, then, that people rejecting Christ grieves God’s heart.

The books of prophecy are filled with things that grieved God’s heart. At one point He said He wanted justice and mercy rather than sacrifice. He chastised His people for idol worship, for neglecting the Sabbath, for profaning His house, for mistreating widows and orphans, and on and on.

Anyway, I thought these two points were good starting places to understand reverence—kneel before the sacred and stand against the profane.

Re-posted with minor revisions from an article by this same title posted here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

Published in: on July 22, 2013 at 7:09 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Friday – News You Can Use


SpecFaith announcement 2There are a few tidbits pertaining to Christian speculative fiction that visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction might be interested in.

First, the opening round of the CSA concluded, with the top five books moving on to the finals. The voting was razor-thin close. In fact we had to resort to second and third choices to break a tie. Here are the books that made the cut (listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name):

    Liberator by Bryan Davis
    A Throne of Bones by Vox Day
    Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
    Prophet by R. J. Larson
    Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Voting started yesterday and will last until midnight, July 28.

In conjunction with the award, I’m happy to announce that author Robert Treskillard agreed to design the CSA e-medallion which the winning author may display. I’ll need to check with the other sponsors about when we’ll have the unveiling of it.

Second, the team site featuring a discussion of speculative fiction from a Christian viewpoint, Speculative Faith, has been experiencing constant problems. Some weeks ago a hacker successfully shut the site down and ever since there have been problems. After trying one thing and then another, our patient and persistent webmaster, Stephen Burnett, decided it was time to move. Consequently, as part of the process of changing servers, Spec Faith has a new address. It’s actually in keeping with the nickname we use most often. So tell your friends to change their bookmarks from http://www.speculativefaith to http://www.specfaith.com

I wish I had good news for the CSFF Blog Tour. BOTH books we were planning to tour in July are snagged somewhere. None of us have received one and only half of us have received the other. And reading is such fun during the summer months! Here’s hoping.

At least I got a fantasy in the mail today–Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The cover is beautiful, and I met the title character in the last book I read in the Tales of Goldstone Woods series, so I’m eager to dive into this one.

Dark Halo RT ReviewGood news from author Shannon Dittemore about the third book in her Angel Eyes trilogy. The highly regarded Romantic Times Book Review journal gave Dark Halo a 4-star review. Most authors would agree this is much-desired recognition from an influential publication.

Speaking of review periodicals, Facebook friend and fellow author Carole McDonnell reported that three of her short fiction works have been recognized by the noteworthy online review magazine, Tangent. They made the Tangent 2012 recommended reading list.

And finally, I learned of yet another Christian speculative author: Krista McGee. Her latest, Anomaly, which released July 9, has been touted as science fiction, but it could just as easily be categorized as post-apocalyptic fantasy. Here’s the teaser–see what you think.

Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.

Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world ended in a nuclear war. But life went on deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. Since then, they have genetically engineered humans to be free from emotions in the hopes that war won’t threaten their lives again.

But Thalli was born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far thanks to her ability to hide those differences. But Thalli’s secret is discovered when she is overwhelmed by the emotion in an ancient piece of music.

She is quickly scheduled for annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk, convinces The Ten to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the scientists’ Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance in the pods.

As her life ticks away, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer—someone even more powerful than The Ten. What’s more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she’s been looking for all along.

Thalli must sort out what to believe and who she can trust, before her time runs out…

There you have it, friends–voting, blog visiting, book buying. It’s a busy summer in the Christian speculative fiction world. 😀

Published in: on July 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday – News You Can Use  
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So Who’s Right?


Which is right?As I was editing yesterday’s post about “The Lady or the Tiger?” I realized the story posed an ethical question. It’s a test of values really, challenging us to ask what we would do if we were faced with the dilemma the young princess in the story faced.

No matter what she chose, she was not going to be with her young man. But did she love him enough to let him go, enabling him to find happiness even if she could not? In other words, did she love him enough that she would sacrifice for him or would she demand that he sacrificed for her?

Is there a right answer? Clearly, yes. Someone who loves, gives sacrificially.

The Bible actually sets up a two-tier standard of right. Tier one–love God with all our being. Tier two–love other people in the same way we love ourselves.

Jesus said that’s the whole law in a nutshell.

But what happens when there’s a collision of values, when loving God and loving people seem to be mutually exclusive? I think, for example, of the story Corrie ten Boom told about one of her sisters during a Nazi raid of their home.

They were hiding a handful of young men in a space accessed through a trapdoor under their table so that they wouldn’t be conscripted into the Nazi military. When the soldiers stormed into the room, they asked, Where are the young men? Corrie’s sister had a firm conviction about not lying. Put on the spot like this, she nervously laughed, and said, “They’re under the table.” When the soldiers looked under the table and saw no one, they thought she was making fun of them and stormed off rather than searching the house.

Interestingly, others in the house didn’t think she’d done the right thing. They felt she’d put the men in jeopardy by telling the truth.

In a similar circumstance, with two Israelite spies hiding on her roof, Rahab lied to the men looking for them. Nowhere in Scripture is she reprimanded for the lie. In fact, in the book of James she’s commended for hiding the spies and sending them out another way.

The midwives in Egypt similarly lied, it would seem, when they explained to Pharaoh why they weren’t killing the Israelite baby boys.

Jonathan lied to his dad in order to help David escape Saul by saying that David wasn’t eating at the king’s table because he’d asked permission to go visit his family.

These three examples from Scripture seem to suggest that the higher law of protecting life supersedes that of telling the truth. This would be consistent with what Jesus said to the Pharisees about His healing people on the Sabbath. Quoting Scripture, He made a case that it was right to do good even if it meant breaking the Sabbath.

The most shocking example of all is when Jesus cites David’s lie to the priests about needing food because he was on an urgent errand for the king. The truth was, he was running for his life away from the king. The priest gave him the bread set out as part of their worship ceremony–bread only the priests were to eat according to Levitical Law established during the exodus–in other words, the law God gave them.

Jesus acknowledged the law but that David’s need trumped it. The shocking part is that as a result of his lie, the priest helped him. Saul then used that fact to accuse all the priests of siding with David in rebellion against him, and had them killed.

We’re talking seventy men. Killed because of David’s lie. And Jesus said the priests were right to help him, to give him what was not lawful to give.

You can see the dilemmas. In some instances, the lie seemed to save people. In the Ten Boom sister’s case, the truth saved people. And in David’s case the lie cost people their lives, though he and his men were saved.

What’s the right thing to do? Lie to save lives? Trust God as Corrie’s sister did and tell the truth? Is there a moral right? Or is there only a moral “it depends”?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a moral right. The problem is in the execution. We are to love God, then love people. When the two seem to be in contradiction, we are to do good.

But what does “good” mean? Sometimes “good” is discipline, as in the case of a naughty child who sneaks into the kitchen and steals cookies right before dinner. Good requires that the child learns, though undoubtedly she thinks good means letting her have cookies any time of the day or night, whenever she wants them.

All this philosophical pondering actually has an impact on how we view our government and our part in it. If there is a moral right, then we should be advocates for it in our democracy.

No system of government will establish God’s rule on earth. Only Jesus returning as King to take His throne will establish God’s governmental rule on earth.

Nevertheless, if “we the people” are behind the government, then it seems to me we, the people of God, should be making our choices as citizens based on moral right. We may be outvoted, but that doesn’t change our responsibility to advocate for moral right and to choose it whenever we can.

Published in: on July 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off on So Who’s Right?  
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The Lady Or The Tiger?


TigerI was going to save this post for my editing blog this Saturday, but honestly this is what I’m thinking about, so this is what I’m writing.

Last week at Rewrite, Reword, Rework I wrote an article about story structure entitled “A Story’s Bare Bones.” I needed to do some tweaking to it and in the process came to this line:

Most stories resolve in a more hopeful or positive way, but certainly not all. But “resolve” they must.

My mind immediately went to a short story I read when I was in school and which I later taught: “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton. It’s a story that does not resolve. The ending is wide open and the author actually turns the question back onto the readers: “And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door – the lady, or the tiger?”

When I read it as a kid, I hated the story for the very reason that it did not resolve. What was the point of reading it, I thought, if you don’t get to find out what happens.

But as a teacher, I sussed out the only possible ending. Sure, the author undoubtedly believed he was creating an unanswerable, unresolvable dilemma. But I don’t think so.

Here’s the story in a nutshell (it’s online in its entirety, so you can read the whole thing for yourself if you prefer).

A certain princess fell in love with a young man of “low station,” and “she loved him with an ardor that … [made] it exceedingly warm and strong.” After several months her father the king, a semi-barbaric ruler, discovered the affair and had the young man cast into prison.

This particular king had devised a system of justice that left the sentence of guilt or innocence to chance. He built an arena much like the Coliseum in Rome, but his had a quirk.

When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king, surrounded by his court, sat high up on his throne of royal state on one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheater. Directly opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed space, were two doors, exactly alike and side by side.

Behind one door was a tiger that would immediately pounce, kill, and devour the subject. If the accused opened this door he would be considered guilty of his crime.

ladyBehind the other door was a beautiful woman most suited to his age and station in life–no matter whether he was already married or enamored with someone else or not. Should he choose this door, he would be declared innocent.

The princess’s young man was doomed to the arena where he would either die or instantly be given in marriage to someone else.

She was a determined young woman, with “a soul as fervent and imperious” as her father’s. Hence, she went about learning behind which door stood the tiger and which, the lady.

Not only did she succeed, she also learned the identity of the young woman. “It was one of the fairest and loveliest of the damsels of the court . . . and the princess hated her.” She was actually jealous of her because she’d seen this lady talk with her young man and sneak a peek at him now and then. She’d even suspected he’d met her gaze.

So, the day of trial-by-chance arrived. The princess’s young man knew her well. He was certain she would not stop until she had learned the secret: behind which door stood the tiger and which, the lady?

When he entered the arena, he looked up at her and she, having weighed the consequences of her decision over many anguished days and nights, indicated the door on the right. Without hesitation, he marched up to the door.

And then, Mr. Stockton’s ending:

The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door – the lady, or the tiger?

Seems unsolvable, doesn’t it. But the answer actually lies in the story. She loved him. He trusted her.

Which would you point to if you were the princess and the person you loved were on the arena floor?

Published in: on July 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Tragedy Of Trayvon Martin And George Zimmerman


May_Day_Immigration_March_LA68There are so many things wrong with the scenario that led to demonstrators in the streets yesterday. First I find it sad that a neighborhood could be targeted for break-ins and petty theft–repeatedly–without some kind of intervention by law enforcement. (In little over a year, police were called over 400 times; there were dozens of attempted break-ins, eight burglaries, nine thefts, and a shooting).

I also find it unsurprising that in a state that has a stand-your-ground law like Florida’s, there was a tragic shooting. Yes, tragic. No matter who thinks which party or what government agency or media handling or lawyer errors were at fault, the fact is that a seventeen-year-old young man died. That’s the worst part of all these events.

Yet I’m also disturbed by the way the media tried and convicted George Zimmerman before he’d been arrested–before anyone knew that his head had been bloodied; in other words, before all the facts came out. People had already taken sides, drawn their lines in the sand, and had made this a case of race.

That’s another thing that is sad about the events surrounding Trayvon’s death–race has once again been trumpeted as an endemic disease in America. This, after we elected an African-American, twice, to the office of President. Fact: not every confrontation between people of different races has something to do with race.

Add to all the sad events, the fact that most people apparently don’t understand how the legal system works in the US–that it has less to do with uncovering truth than it does with winning by playing according to a specified set of rules.

Another sad part of this saga is that people disregarded Trayvon’s parents’ wishes in the name of defending Trayvon. They ignored President Obama, too. But in the end, a number of them seized the opportunity to get their faces on TV and to have a good time parading in front of the media. I can’t help wondering how many demonstrators would have showed up if the cameras hadn’t been rolling. Be that as it may, the actions of a part of the demonstrators was nothing short of self-serving and criminal.

Yet a media person who had just reported about a group of people wandering onto a California freeway and stopping traffic, had the gall to say that the demonstration was law abiding. Behind her were approximately fifty to a hundred people walking down the middle of a downtown street.

This is how our media sees law abiding.

The media also reported “dozens of cities” where people were demonstrating, and “all across the country” people were protesting. Interestingly, the “dozens” was changed in the next news hour to “half a dozen,” with no admission of the incorrect number reported earlier.

In all, I never saw on the news shots, a group larger than a hundred to two hundred in any one place. I also never heard of a place where demonstrations were being held other than New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and … I’m leaving one out, I’m sure.

Somehow small groups can capture the attention of the media, which then blows up the event out of proportion by interviewing person after person who is part of the demonstration. Who was interviewing the people that thought George Zimmerman got a fair trial, that he had acted in self defense? Who was rallying Hispanic-Americans to defend the rights of one of their minority? Who was crying “racism” on his behalf?

Yes, Trayvon’s death was terrible. No one can deny that–even if he turned and attacked George Zimmerman. I can see that happening. In this same troubled neighborhood, why wouldn’t Trayvon think that he was being stalked by someone, perhaps with the intent to rob him? Why wouldn’t he take the initiative to protect himself? In a troubled area, it’s hard to imagine he’d do otherwise.

Is there a solution to this mess?

We need an overhaul of police procedures in high crime areas. We need a criminal justice system that is bent on getting to the truth (so no lingering suspicions and allegations can continue to haunt an innocent man). We need a media that is interested in truth more than in hype or in their own skewed way of looking at the world. We need people who are willing to forgive rather than seek revenge.

In short, we need changes in people’s hearts–from the criminal element that started the snowball rolling, right on down to the demonstrators who, in their efforts to get noticed, jeopardized the safety of countless people. No institutional fix is going to bring about the radical changes that need to take place. PEOPLE need to change, but sociology will tell you the odds are long for that happening.

Ah, but there is good news! There is a God in Heaven who longs to make a difference in people’s lives, who heals the brokenhearted, who sets the captive free, who saves and forgives and restores. Perhaps His Church needs to be about the Father’s business in a more pro-active way.