Friday, March 20, 2009

Are You Seeing the New Posts?

Hey, Folks.

Just wanted to check and see if you've found the new blog. Also, if you've subscribed to Dimensions, are you getting your updates? We're posting regularly, so come take a look, or let me know if you're not getting your emails.

I don't want to lose touch with anyone. I've enjoyed getting to know all of you!

Here's how to contact me if you have questions: robing8300 at gmail dot com.

And here's the new URL: http://dimensionsartandeternity.blogspot.com/

Thanks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prizes and More Prizes!

One last reminder to come on over to the new blog, Dimensions: Art and Eternity, not only for the great content, but also for the prizes!

We'll be holding a prize drawing once a week for the first eight weeks or so for lots of cool stuff including hand-made jewelry and books. Then, at the end of April, we'll hold a grand prize drawing for a $50.00 amazon.com gift certificate.

You can join in the fun by posting comments or by subscribing. SUBSCRIBERS AUTOMATICALLY RECEIVE ONE ENTRY INTO EACH DRAWING!

If you want a reminder what the new blog is all about, just click here. Hope to see you at Dimensions!

Friday, March 6, 2009

It's Time to Make the Switch!

This is it, folks. Time to switch over to the new blog.

The new blog (Dimensions: Art and Eternity) is up and running, although not in its final form. But we plan to start regular posting there next week. Which means, I won't be posting here after this week, at least not in the near future.

So, I'd like to ask a couple of things of you. First, go over to the new blog and subscribe. There's a very easy subscription box on the right-hand side that you can use. (Just remember step two. After you receive an email about your subscription, you must open up the email message and click on the link to confirm!) After subscribing, you will not only receive notifications every time there's a new post, but you will be entered into EVERY PRIZE DRAWING ON THE SITE!

And there are going to be numerous prize drawings! We're planning to give away something fun every week for about eight weeks, culminating in a big, grand prize drawing at the end of April. You'll be able to get entries by leaving comments, and one automatic entry for being subscribed.

Second thing I'd like to ask of you: If you have your own blog, would you be willing to link to our new site? If you're already linking to The Queen, you can just substitute Dimensions. As an added bonus, if you go ahead and do this now, you won't hear from me about it again! No whining, begging emails showing up in your inbox. Think of the irritation you'll be saving yourself!

Anyway, all my regulars out there have become very special to me, so I hope you'll follow me over to the new site. We'll still talk about perseverance, and pirates, and the strange things that cats do. (I have a bizarre new Wendy story coming up.) There will just be far more variety and a wider range of topics with Kristi's input added in.

Hope to see you at Dimensions!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snow is Creepy

When you're a native Georgia girl, snow can be a little bit creepy. Especially when your husband is out of the country, you're all alone in the house, and the snow is falling so hard that you can barely see. I've read horror novels that begin that way.


This was the view of our back yard and shed from the doorway when the snow first started falling. It got more impressive over the next hour or so, but I only had my cell phone for taking pictures (my husband has the camera with him in Chile). So I never managed to capture how beautiful it was. And creepy.

It's been a strange weekend. Yesterday was warm with rain and thunder and tornado warnings all day long. Typical spring weather. When I got up this morning, it was still fairly warm, but then the temperature plummeted. Suddenly we're back to winter.

Dave is in Chile for six weeks, where they're reaching the end of their summer season. I teased him that he's missing the entire Georgia winter and that it will be spring when he gets back next weekend. I may have been right. Next weekend, the high is supposed to be 78 degrees.

That's Georgia for you!

We Have a Winner and a Name!

The winner of the drawing for the $15.00 gift certificate is...Brittany J. Brittany, I'll get your prize to you right away.

Thanks to everyone who gave input. We got some very good advice. Oddly enough, the last suggestion we received is the one that struck both Kristi and me as just right, and it's the one we're going to use. A new visitor to the blog, Lizzieswanhouse, suggested Dimensions: Art and Eternity. We love it! It sums up our concept nicely, is concise and (I think) easy to remember.

I'll let you know when we're up and running. Thanks again for all the help.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Chance: Between Worlds

The last idea I mentioned as a possible name for the new blog was Between Worlds.

This idea came from an address by N.T. Wright on "The Bible and Christian Imagination." Here's the part I love:

..."We find worship offered God by the angels, who in Isaiah 6 sing day and night, without ceasing, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts, The whole earth is full of his glory.'
And we say, yes, it is — the whole earth is full of God's glory. I see it. I catch it on the sunrise and the sunset, the flight of a bird. . . Then we remind ourselves that it's also a place of violence and destruction, and of terror and shame and fear which invade our own souls. And then we move on in Isaiah and just a few chapters later in Isaiah chapter 11 we find there a vision, an extraordinary vision, of a world healed by the love of God, a world in which the lion and the lamb will lie down together. . . We, my friends, are called to live between the vision of the world which is already filled with the glory of God, and a world which is yet to be filled with the glory of God. . . .God's call to Christian artists [is] to have this unique vocation of enabling people to see what they can't otherwise see, to see that the world is already full of the glory of God, and that it will one day be filled yet fuller."

Let us know what you think of this idea. And remember--each comment gets you an entry into this weekend's drawing for a $15.00 amazon.com gift card. It's not too late to enter--but this is your last chance!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Story Quest

I recently started reading a book by Madeleine L'Engle called The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth. I was excited when I started the book because I found another book of hers--Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art--so inspiring.

Sadly, I've been disappointed in The Rock That is Higher. It just wasn't exactly what I expected. But the quote on the cover blew me away:

"If we open ourselves to story, to fairy tale, fantasy, myth, novel,we cannot help being aware of the ultimate unexplainableness of the deepest depths. We know we are on a quest, but we do not know the entire nature of the quest, nor where it is going to take us. . ."

Somewhere in that quote is the essence of why I read. Why I write. How the whole experience is in some mysterious way connected, for me, to God and Eternity. I'd love to find a name for the new blog somewhere in there, but all I could think of was Story Quest.

Any other ideas out there? And just in case you've forgotten, comments will get you an entry into this weekend's drawing for a $15.00 amazon.com gift card.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Easier Way to Enter the Contest

When I asked you to enter the drawing for a $15.00 amazon.com gift certificate by suggesting ideas and names for my upcoming blog, I obviously stunned you into silence. Things have never been so quiet around here. Never before have my attempts at bribery come up so empty-handed.

Okay, the drawing is going to be held in about a week, so I'm giving you another chance. I'm going to list the ideas that Kristi and I have been kicking around so far. You can just tell me which one(s) you like, and you'll get an entry in the drawing.

First, I have to tell you about the fish angle. Yes, you read that correctly.

When Kristi was thinking of starting her own blog, she was going to call herself "Little Fish," because she feels like such a tiny little fish about to tackle the huge pond of Hollywood. And then I often think of myself as a fish out of water, because my poor writing never seems to fit in. It's too commercial to be literary and too literary to be commercial. Too Christian to sell in the ABA and too secular for the CBA. Too much suspense for the romance genre, not enough to be pure suspense. You get the picture.

So last week I had a brainstorm. "Fiction, Faith, and Fish"! I loved it. I loved the way it sounds, and it's intriguing. Kristi could be Little Fish and I could be Fish Out of Water. Only trouble was that we're not just going to talk about fiction. Kristi's first interests are film and theater and acting. And Fiction, Film, Faith and Fish starts getting too long and complicated.

So I started looking for some other words that start with F that have something to do with the broader idea of telling a story. I got things like:

Fantasy
Fancy
Flight of Fancy
Fable
Figment
(And then there were Fib and Fabrication, but do we really want to go there?)

From that, I had an idea like: Figments, Faith and Fish. Under the title we could write:
Figments: Of the imagination, whether expressed as story, film, drama or image.
Faith: In a God who created us in His own image, so that we possess the desire to create worlds of our own.
Fish: One little fish about to try her luck in the big pond of Hollywood. One writer fish who always seems to be out of water ETC ETC YOU GET THE IDEA.

(Hmmm...from reading the above, I also like "In His Image.")

Other ideas being kicked around:

Flight of Faith, Fiction Fish
Flight of Fiction, Faithful Fish
Flight of Fantasy, Fish of Faith
Flight of Fiction, Fish of Faith.

Earlier, we suggested
The Joyous Journey (from Surprised by Joy, the C.S. Lewis book)
Story Quest
Between Two Worlds

What do you think?

Maybe you'll help us get this nailed down from this post. If not, I'll share some quotes that influenced some of these ideas and give you yet another chance to provide input. Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While His Wife is Making Up Stories...

While his wife is struggling to make up good adventures, my husband Dave is off having real ones in the wilds of Chile. He's working down there for six weeks. I'll let him tell you about his weekend:

The day started with me buying a cup of the strongest coffee I ever drank in my entire life. I learned that even though a company is a U.S. company, that doesn't mean the employees speak a word of English. I now know how to ask for a "cafe grande" at the Dunkin Donuts shop.

I met up with William "Willy" Tang (grew up in San Francisco...works in Miami) and we were picked up by a local tour guide. We were told the night before someone would come around and pick us up and take us to the Maipo Valley and the cost would be 180,000 pesos, or 240 dollars. I wouldn't normally spend that kind of money, but after things worked out like they did, I was glad I did.

First we met the tour guide Natural (the closest we could come to his name in Spanish). He then introduced us to Jorge, the driver. And then if that wasn't enough, we met up with a "trekking guide" Rodrique (Rod). He was running late, so we did a little shopping (little tents set up for weekend selling) in San Jose de Maipo, the little town where we met the trekking guide. Once we connected with Rod, we started up into the mountains in the van. The road soon became something that only vaguely resembled a road. We were moving slowly up the mountain. Finally we made it up to a little open area where some kids and a dog were playing and parked. Rod went up to the house and apparently obtained permission for us to use the trail. When he returned, we started up the mountain.

Since Willy is an entomologist, he had an insect net and an aspirator and was collecting insects as we went. We would turn around and Willy would be nowhere in sight. Finally Rod said, through Natural, "We will have some really good collecting areas up ahead." Of course this really meant, "Hurry up...let's go!" So I think Willy caught on because he picked up his pace. We walked for a good hour and finally came to the most rickety bridge--really just a lot of small logs tied up side-by-side--across the creek.



Pretty soon Rod began to whistle really loud. He continued to do this several times and then finally crossed the creek and disappeared up the trail. After a couple of minutes he returned, but with an old man. We all crossed the creek and made it up the hill. We eventually learned that the old man was named Lalo. We walked up to his "house." He pulled some chairs around for us under the trees and we sat down. His dog stretched out on the ground near us and his extremely scraggly chickens, who were pretty much tame, walked around us.

The Chileans talked to Lalo at length and then as the conversation progressed, I noticed that Lalo started to drop some English words in here and there. Eventually he just straight out began to speak English. As it turned out he had lived in England for 5 years, and then went on to Germany, then to France, and finally to Spain. He worked in various jobs in all those countries. Some time ago, he returned to Chile and has been living up in the Andes in his shack for 23 years.

He had a black cook pot hanging over a fire pit, lots of fruit trees, and of course, his chickens. I asked him what the dog eats, and he said the dog has guardian angels who take care of him. Willy asked him if he had cable t.v. (a strange question to ask an old hermit living up in the Andes...but remember, Willy is an Entomologist). He said he only had a c.d. player he listens to sometimes. He also had his gun leaning up against the tree and he said he shoots rabbits from time to time for meat, but he doesn't want to overdo it because there are hunters that come up there and would be upset with him if he over-hunted the area. Rod mentioned through the interpreter that the first time he came up that trail Lalo met him with his gun and demanded, "Who are you and what do you want!!!" They have been friends ever since.

We talked for about an hour and finally got up to go. Lalo shook all our hands and gave us a hug. Well, anyway, maybe I had the honor and distinction of meeting the Ernest T. Bass of Chile. Or maybe what really happened is I saw a reflection of myself in Lalo. Maybe sometime in the future I will be sitting around telling anyone who happens by about all the places I have worked. Even if I don't, so far the highlight of coming to Chile has been meeting Lalo.


(Lalo and Dave outside Lalo's House)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Greetings from Kristi

Since Kristi will soon be sharing a blog with me, I thought I'd let her introduce (or reintroduce) herself to you:

Greetings! Some of you know me well, and some maybe not so much. But here I am anyway, writing to let you all know about a couple of awesome things that are going on in my life right now. So, patience, Grasshopper- this is a little long but quite informative!

Many of you may be aware that I finally finished my bachelor’s degree in May, graduating from Kennesaw State’s cutting-edge program with a Theatre and Performance Studies major, and a Film Studies minor. Before I graduated, I began to pray in earnest about what my next step should be after graduation.

I spent much of my twenties “gathering life experience”, or as some might call it, wasting time. Don’t get me wrong- there were some bright lights amidst the fog- not all of that decade was time and energy lost. But one day, during an extremely difficult period, I asked God to take over anything I was trying to hold onto, because that is the only way, I truly believe, to make the most out of every second- to really be who we are meant to be. I did not- do not- want to waste time anymore.

And now, thanks to God, here I am, a few years later, officially educated. But the question has still remained--or at least it had until a few months ago- what next? I tried a few different possibilities--sometimes the process of finding God’s way for us is by having doors closed in our faces, while others stay open, or are thrown open wide. Usually through this process, we learn a lot along the way, if we are open to it.

That is the attitude I tried to take as I put in numerous applications for grad school last year, dragging members of my family around the Southeast with me as I auditioned for various MFA acting programs, as I wrote treatments for filmmaking programs, as I tried to demonstrate my ability to handle an MA/ PhD program, and as I failed to get into any of them. That is the attitude I tried to keep as I graduated, still working the same job I had before I started. I tried different paths in and around the Atlanta area, some resulting in failure, some in success. I had an amazing experience building a new show from scratch for the North Carolina Renaissance Festival. That collaboration and travel experience taught me so much about myself and working with others to make a production where before there had been none. My two partners in that process were wonderful, and I will never forget them!

And yet still, the question remained- where do I go from here (here being the Atlanta area), or do I stay here, and if so what do I do? I had been playing with the idea of moving to Los Angeles for a while (much to my sweet mother’s dismay). Over the last couple of years, a growing feeling- maybe even a calling- seemed to be settling in my heart for the West. Still though, that is a big move, and I just was not sure. Until probably 5 ½ - 6 months ago. I had been reading a series of fictional books which moved me so much, not only as a reader but as an artist--as a PERSON--that I knew I had to go for it. Do you ever have an experience like that, where one event in your life can have so much impact on a seemingly unrelated second event? I find this seems to happen a lot when God is involved. There was a peace inside me now about what I had to do that I had not known before. I had to follow my dreams, the dreams I believe God has laid on my heart to seek.

I have asked myself, what is it I am seeking? Fame? Money? A secure spot on Hollywood’s A-list? Not necessarily noble ventures. The main thing I have to seek is God’s glory. I want to explore through poetry of performance and writing, and hopefully eventually, my own filmmaking, God’s Truth and Beauty. Does that mean every venture I undertake will be puritanical in nature? Not necessarily. Sometimes to find Truth, ugly and uncomfortable elements must be exposed first. Does that mean I won’t have to do a few cracker or toilet paper commercials? Please. I hope I can get those gigs! But the glory of God is why I believe I am being led to go there, and God willing, I will be successful in following Him.

Now, on to the second exciting development in my life recently (and I will try to make this brief). I am starting a BLOG! Actually, I will be sharing a new blog with fellow artist and wonderful aunt of mine, Robin Johns Grant. She is a writer, and we are sharing many similar experiences in our walks as Christians and artists these days, and are both very interested in exploring the crossroads of the two. How does one stay true to God, and true to her calling as an artist? This is one of the questions which will be a recurring theme in our blog, but we’ll be delving into other important areas as well, such as will there be another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, or whether or not Rupert Grint is too young for me. Or where exactly is my position in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

I will also be giving updates on my progress as I ready for my move to the West, which is scheduled for late April. My dad and his wife are generously helping me relocate, and we will be viewing some of the West along the way. What an adventure! I will share my victories and losses once I get there, and of extreme importance- my celebrity sightings! Sometimes Robin will post, and other times I will, but I hope that everyone reading this will check it out, and keep in touch! I will strive to do the same.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Changes, Part 2

Last time, I gave some exciting news about upcoming changes to this blog—including its name. I announced we’re going to have a contest so you can help us name the new improved blog, and maybe win a $15.00 amazon gift certificate in the process.

So what’s going to be different about the new blog?

My niece Kristi will share it with me. So you’ll actually get a break from me every week!

The new blog will have a broader focus:

I write fiction. Kristi writes fiction, acts in theater, makes films. So hopefully we can talk about a lot more art forms.

Kristi will bring in new readers from theater and film. Should be interesting to get comments not just from writers and readers, but from actors and film-makers and lots of other creative folks.
I hope to write reviews of not just CBA fiction, but books published in the secular market, movies, classic books. And I’d love to connect with authors and artists you might not get to read about in the other blogs you follow. That’s my hope, anyway!

We’ll look at how Christianity and the world of the arts mesh—and how they might conflict.

We’ll still talk about perseverance, but I’d also like to focus on the creative journey of this upcoming year, for myself and for Kristi. Are we led to persevere and wait without moving? To make big changes? What surprises lie along the way?

We’ve had a few ideas for blog names, including:
The Joyous Journey
Story Quest
Between Two Worlds

All of those quotes were inspired by someone like C.S. Lewis or Madeleine L’Engel. I’ll share some quotes with you later.

In the meantime, start thinking!

I’ll announce the winner of the drawing on February 28.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Changes Coming to this Blog!

This blog is about to change!

Before I took my long blogging break a couple of months ago, I gave a hint that I would have an announcement about an upcoming change to the blog. I didn’t mention it again because the change has been slower in coming than I would have hoped, but I’d like to tell you a little bit about it now. Plus, you’ll want to keep reading, because there’s a contest and a chance to win goodies in it for you!

The bottom line is, The Queen of Perseverance is going to fade away, to be replaced with a new blog that I share with my niece.

Three or four months ago, Kristi (the aforementioned niece) told me she would like to start a blog and asked my advice. I was excited to hear this, because I’d been wanting to ask her for some time to share a blog with me. Over the past couple of years, Kristi’s and my interests have really meshed. We’ve done a lot of talking about our creative dreams, story ideas, ambitions—and how all that fits into God’s plan for our lives. We’ve both read a lot of C.S. Lewis and been inspired by his ideas about Christianity and the imagination, about our longing for something beyond ourselves that is ultimately a longing for God.

Beyond our interests, Kristi and I are both searching, trying to find where our creative interests fit in our service to God. It’s something we’ve both been trying to work out for a long time. (Okay, I’ve been at it a lot longer than Kristi has, but still, she feels a little weary at times, too.) Even so, we both have a feeling that the upcoming year will be pivotal, that we’re both going to be on a journey that will lead us to some answers one way or another.

I, for one, just finished up up a romance novel geared toward the CBA (Christian Booksellers’ Association). My agent advised me to write it to try to help me break into publishing. I’ve been doing a lot of things like that over the last few years, trying to reach that publishing goal. I haven’t gotten published and haven’t been terribly happy with my writing, either. I’ve been talking to God about all this, and my intention is that, if this manuscript goes nowhere, I’m going to take a whole different path. I’m going to start working on a couple of projects purely because I’m excited about them—not because I can figure out what market they will fit into, or because they will pigeon hole tidily into a particular genre. I may even pursue self-publishing or small presses. I daily pray for God to show me which fork in the road to take, and I’m willing to be flexible.

And if it does sell—well, my journey this year will definitely be different! So I’m excited to see where things are going.

As for Kristi, she graduated a few months ago with a degree in theater and film studies. She’s been acting locally on the stage, writing plays, and making some short films, but she’s wondering where her career is going, too. She feels God is calling her to go to L.A. and try to break into the industry there. Talk about a journey!

So…one way or another, it’s going to be an interesting year. I’m hoping all of you will share that with us. And now…this is where you come in.

We would like your help in naming our blog. Also, if you have any ideas for a tagline, or a pertinent quote we could use on the mast—any suggestions like that would be helpful. And for each suggestion you leave, you’ll receive an entry into a drawing for a $15.00 amazon.com gift certificate. (You can also email me your thoughts, if you don’t want to post. Just use the “Contact me” button in the right-hand column of this page.)

I’ll give more information about the upcoming blog next time, so you might want to wait until then to send your suggestions.
Until then, start thinking!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Very, Very Good Excuse

My excuse for not blogging so far this week? I FINALLY finished my manuscript! Yes!!

Or at least, I'm finished as far as I'm concerned. I just hit the "send" button and shot it off to Janet, my agent. Now I'll just have to wait and see if she thinks I'm finished. If you would like to say a little prayer for me on that score, please feel free. I want her to have wisdom and guide me in the right direction, but I'd also like to be finished up with this project. At least unless someone gives me a contract and then wants changes. I'll be quite happy to work on it some more then.

But if not...well, I'm ready to move on. Those of you who have put up with my whining and dragging my feet know that this manuscript has been a struggle for me. On a happy note, I have some new ideas I'm excited about, so no matter what happens, I'm looking forward to writing this year.

Anyway, I just wanted you all to celebrate this milestone with me. I'll try to write something more substantial soon. But not tonight. It's fairly late already, and I have to get up at 5 a.m. to drive to an out-of-town work meeting. That may be fairly normal for a lot of you, but I don't do 5 a.m. I'm also dreading the drive because I not only have to drive to Atlanta, but all the way through it and about an hour beyond. All in morning rush hour traffic.

I'm hoping GPS Lady will find me a way around Atlanta. But I've told you how snitty she can be.

Like I said, pray for me!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fascinating Research Site

In one of my library journals recently, I read about a new digital collection called Slavery and Abolition in the U.S., which was put together by Millersville University and Dickinson College from their library's holdings. If you enjoy reading first-person accounts of life in other times, or if your fiction is set in the 19th century in America, this site could possibly be a gold mine.

With support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the two institutions have digitized and put online for the public approximately 15,000 pages of first-person narratives, legal proceedings, anti-slavery tracts, religious sermons, and more. Through these readings, you can get a glimpse of the debates and ideologies of the time.

I'm always fascinated reading first-hand accounts from "regular" people who lived in explosive times. I was amazed when I went to look on this site and clicked on a book of letters written by a Virginia man. I discovered the first letter was dated 1858 and was written when he visited my home town! It gave me an odd feeling to read his description of the fort and the cemetery on the river--which I still frequently drive by. But reading his description of a slave auction held in my own city was just downright bizarre.

Also interesting was the preface to the book, written by someone other than the author, who decried the tendency of fiction books to write social issues into their plots and try to effect change through their stories. He mentioned not only Uncle Tom's Cabin on the one side, but also the novels written as "answers" to it from the other side of the debate. This editor despised them all and said such issues had no place in fiction. Hmm...sounds like a debate that's still going on today, about the place of religion or issues in novels. Only the issues themselves have changed.

I've only checked out the one book, so don't have deep knowledge of this site. But it looks promising. I haven't tackled a historical novel yet, but I do know from my writing that I love reading first-person narratives on any subject that touches on my novel's background or plot. I don't know a better way to add color and accuracy.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thank you, thank you!

I want to thank all of you who went over to Romance Writers on the Journey and left a comment. I was afraid no one would visit and I would let Keli down. Plus be humiliated. Kind of like giving a party and being afraid no one will show up. But Keli says I've already had more page views than a lot of the debut authors she's featured. I'm sure that's thanks to all of you.

I was also impressed that, judging by your comments, you actually read the interview. Wow! That's dedication.

I intended to email and thank you all personally, but I got slammed at work right about then and got sort of sidetracked. Please know I read each and every comment and really enjoyed them. Plus I got a lot of new ideas.

So...have a great weekend, and thanks again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Help Me Look Important and Maybe Win a Prize!

I feel like a star! Keli Gwyn is featuring me on her blog called Romance Writers on the Journey. Well, that's appropriate. If anyone has been on a writing journey--a long, long writing journey--it's me.

So if you can't get enough of me talking about myself here, come on over to Keli's blog and check it out. Even if you feel you know more about me than you ever wanted to, I'd love it if you'd still visit the blog and leave a comment, so I won't appear boring and friendless. As incentive, Keli is holding a drawing with some cool prizes involved, and you only have to leave a comment to enter.

Good luck--and thanks!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Glimpses of Heaven

Back during the Christmas season, I mentioned discovering some new authors and books that the rest of you have probably been enjoying for years. I asked what else I might be missing, and several of you mentioned Randy Alcorn, particularly his book on Heaven.

It was interesting that several of you brought up this particular book, because my niece, Kristi, and I had been discussing it.

We've been talking a lot about Heaven, particularly how we Americans don't seem to be all that excited about it. Maybe it's because our lives are relatively easy in comparison to the rest of the world. Maybe because we're so grounded in materialism.

I've heard missionaries say that in lots of countries, particularly where there is persecution, Christians focus on Heaven. It's the promise that keeps them going. They picture it vividly and ponder it in their hearts.

I think we need to do more of that, ourselves, to keep up from getting so bogged down in the cares of this world. We need that reminder that the story is going to have a "happily ever after" no matter how bleak things are right now. But to do that, picturing some vague cloudy place where we sit around strumming harps all day isn't what we need.

The Bible is the best place to start, of course, to get the right foundation. But are there other authors and books out there than can help fire our imaginations, help us picture the world to come?

Lots of you mentioned Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. I have read this book, but it was years ago. I was interested to discover a companion book called 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light. Here's the description from amazon.com: "The devotional provides an easy-to-follow, 50-day program that reveals the biblical information on what a Christian's life will be like in heaven. Throughout this journey, the reader will learn and meditate upon the promises, rewards, and expectations that a believer in Christ will enjoy for eternity."

I also remember reading Heaven: Your Real Home, by Joni Eareckson Tada, several years ago. Particularly poignant was a dream she had at one point--which she was convinced was a true vision of heaven--in which she is swimming in a beautiful pool. (As most of you probably know, in this life, Joni is paralyzed.) A man is close by, watching, and she's struck by the complete harmony they feel as they look at one another. No distrust, no disharmony, no sin. (I hope I'm recounting the scene accurately. As I said, I read it years ago.)

Last year I picked up two books, one of which was 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, who was pronounced dead at the scene of a car accident and had an amazing experience during those 90 minutes. The other was called Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories of Hope and Peace at the End of Life's Journey by Trudy Harris. I found this one to be a little disappointing. Harris is (or was) a Hospice nurse and recounts experiences of patients and family as they reach the end of life, but the few stories I read didn't particularly inspire me about Heaven. Maybe if some of you have read it, you had a different experience you can relate.

A book I'm curious about right now is called The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth by Ted Dekker, who usually writes thriller fiction. Here's what it says at amazon.com: "Dekker exhorts Christians to wake up and find genuine happiness in cultivating a deep desire for heaven. Although he argues that Christians should enjoy the pleasures of earth as a 'foretaste' of heaven, he cautions that these pleasures should not be mistaken for the real thing. Relying heavily on C.S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul, he makes a case for hope as the 'engine of life.' Satan, he says, has redirected our obsession away from God and heaven by filling our minds with earthly things."

Bingo!

Do you have other books or readings to suggest? Have you read any of the books mentioned and want to chime in? I think this is an important topic, and I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cat Imagination


I've come to the conclusion that not only do I have a runaway imagination, but so do my cats.

When I was a little girl, my family always had cats running around in the yard and the woods behind the house, mostly strays my mother took pity on. And of course they had babies. I often heard a mother cat coming back from a hunting trip and calling her kittens, so I know the sound. My cat Tegan lived for twenty years. She never had babies, but almost every night she would pick up one of her toys, carry it around in her mouth and make that mother cat noise. Some of my family said she was pretending the toy was her kitten. I always thought she was pretending it was some fearsome creature she had killed, and that she was calling her pretend babies to come see what she had brought them. Either way, the cat version of playing with dolls.

My current cat, Wendy, is just plain goofy. I've seen her suddenly glance at the ceiling and jump away, as though startled. Then she creeps back, staring upward the whole time. When I go to investigate, I find that all the commotion is about two tiny spots on the ceiling. Is she pretending they're tarantulas?

Wendy frequently gets excited over nothing. She can watch a ceiling fan for an hour, with her little head rotating the whole time. I've tried playing with her with bubbles and laser pointers--things normal cats do with their owners. But she becomes so hysterical that when the bubbles pop or the laser light disappears, she's beside herself. She cries, she searches, she paces. It's too upsetting for both of us.

Lately, she's gotten into shadow puppets. I never put pictures back on my bedroom wall after we painted, and for awhile I tried to figure out why she was sitting on the bed and staring at the blank wall. Then I realized that when I sit in bed and read, the shadows on that big expanse of wall are amazing. I started making shadow puppets for her. She's enthralled. She could watch for hours, although she eventually gets too intense about that, too. Sort of like the laser pointer. Sort of like me with a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.


I wonder what's in her little mind while she's watching. But I figure her life is pretty boring, since she's a pampered house cat. Her meals are provided, she has a cushy bed and a warm house. I guess all of us need a little escapism, huh?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bible and Christian Imagination, part 2

For generations now, many Christians have really believed, and acted on the belief, that the arts, the imagination, are the pretty bits around the edge, the kind of decorative border, whereas the middle bit, the main bit, whatever it is, is the kind of solid, stodgy, chunky bit in the middle which is Christian truth, dogma, belief, and ethics, and all that stuff, and then you can kind of go away and play sometimes around the edge if you're lucky. H.T. Wright

H.T. Wright spoke the above words in an address called The Bible and Christian Imagination at Seattle Pacific University. He could have been talking about me. I struggled for years, realizing on the one hand that my imagination was one of the most important parts of my being--the thing that made me uniquely me. On the other hand, I thought it couldn't be important to anyone else. It felt like a gift from God, but not one I could make any real use of for his kingdom. Not like being able to go out as a missionary doctor or engineer, or even a great teacher.

But Wright speaks of "God's call to Christian artists to have this unique vocation of enabling people to see what they can't otherwise see, to see that the world is already full of the glory of God, and that it will one day be filled yet fuller. " Earlier in his address, Wright spoke of how we live in a world that is on the one hand incredibly beautiful and good, but also filled with ugliness. It's already filled with God's glory, but not in the way that the world to come will be, when God heals all hurts and the lion will lie down with the lamb. The Christian artist, through their works, can help erect signposts, helping them imagine the world to come. Helping them to see the glory of God when they feel surrounded by ugliness.

Wright mentions that, once, when he was speaking of this calling, a woman in the audience broke down into tears. Later she told him that she was a Christian artist who never felt as if she belonged with the others in her congregation. "I've always thought that I just had to do this stuff and that nobody really understood why and didn't want it in the middle of what they were doing."

As Wright says, "We've got something which is a signpost pointing us to something further which has yet to be discovered. That is what the beauty of this earth is like. It is a true signpost. God has put us in a beautiful world, and wants us to celebrate it, but he wants us then to use our imaginations to write those other parts. We'll get it wrong, we will imagine it wrong, but then we'll get glimmers which are getting it right, and the music will grow, and swell, and we will teach one another, and enlarge one another's horizons so that we can actually glimpse and see that there is to be a yet fuller beauty, a beauty in which the ugliness of this world is redeemed, in which the violence is rebuked, in which the possibilities of this world are finally fulfilled."

If you'd like to read this address in full, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is Imagination Christian?

Last night I came across something by accident that really excited me. I think it was one of those divine "accidents," something that God sent because I needed to hear it right about now. Let me back up a bit.

I got hooked using an iPod a couple of years ago, but I bought a little refurbished one without much memory. Which was fine for awhile, but then I filled it up and had to stop acquiring new music. Since I've started listening to audiobooks of late, I particularly wanted more memory so I could download books to the player and not lug CD's and tapes around.

For Christmas, my wonderful hubby and sister both gave me amazon gift cards which bought me a new iPod with 120 GB of memory. Yep, I decided that this time, I'd buy one I couldn't fill up any time soon. (Now the problem, of course, is that my computer doesn't have enough storage space. But that's another issue.)

Anyway, with all that space to fill up, I went crazy on iTunes, and discovered all this free stuff you could download, including podcasts of people reading portions of the Bible daily. I can't even explain what search terms I put in or how exactly I stumbled across a little gem called "The Bible and Christian Imagination," but I had to check it out when I saw the title. My niece and I have been having all kinds of discussions lately about what it means to be a Christian artist, and how we integrate faith and imagination.

This selection turned out to be a speech given by H.T. Wright at Seattle Pacific University's President's Forum (in 2005, I believe), and it addressed those very issues. Wright has such a poetic way of phrasing things that I want to quote half the speech. As a good librarian who respects copyright issues, however, I won't do that.

Today, I'll just tell you how to find it if you'd like to read or listen to it yourself.
If you use iTunes, just search the store for "The Bible and Christian Imagination," and you should be able to find it.

You can also locate a written transcript by clicking here. (It sounds a little clunkier when you read it, because it is a transcript of a person speaking, with run-on sentences and all. Not like the beautiful, polished prose you consistently find in this blog, of course.)

Next blog, I'll tell you more about the points from the lecture that intrigued me. In the meantime, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Strange Thing About Time

Time is an odd thing. At least for me. I've heard it said that the job will always expand to fill the time you have, and I've found that to be true. Give me a deadline in about an hour and I'll do amazing things. Give me a two-paragraph letter to write and eight hours to do it--and it will somehow take eight hours. No more, no less.

Apparently I need structure. Or pressure. You know, all those things I rebel against and hate.
I had all those wonderful days off from work and basically accomplished nothing. I'm on my third day back to the old grind, and I've accomplished more than in my entire vacation.

But it's reassuring to know what God can accomplish through me even when I think there isn't enough. Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. But he multiplies it all and makes it come out right somehow.

Maybe that was the problem with all that vacation time, anyway. When I think I have plenty of time I just rely on me and my disastrous organizational skills. The results aren't pretty. But when I'm squeezed and under pressure, I have to go to God. Works out much better, doesn't it?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to Normal

I really intended to blog at least once or twice during the Christmas/New Year's holidays, but that didn't happen. Of course, a lot of things I intended to do didn't happen.

No calamities like last year, I'm pleased to report. Although it was sort of funny. We had sort of a weak echo of last year's traumas. Last Christmas, my sister's dog almost died from a gastric ailment. This year, my niece's dog appeared to have the same thing but recovered within hours. Last year we had major flooding from our plumbing. This time we had a stopped-up kitchen sink and a leaky shower head that spit water at the ceiling. Instead of pneumonia, we had colds. All in all, a definite improvement.

Still, I found myself getting a little stressed because of all those days off from work and no accomplishments. Not only did I not clean out the basement or the year's worth of junk mail and magazines that have collected in my bedroom, I didn't even fulfill my heart's desire of lounging in Barnes & Noble with a cup of Godiva hot chocolate and a good book. Only I could put pressure on myself because I'm not accomplishing the fun things on my to-do list!

I guess my expectations are too high for the end of a year--or the beginning of one. I sometimes think that the cycle of school years ruined me when I was young. I grew so accustomed to getting caught up and coming to a definite ending at the close of a term. Next term, everything was fresh and new, a blank slate. Of course, adult life isn't like that.

Oh well. Back to the routine today, and that's okay. Tonight I will start polishing the last draft of my manuscript. Because of course, I let that job spill over into the new year, too.

How about all of you? How is your new year starting off?