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 "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 "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."


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?