Friday, August 12, 2016

Two Mysteries: Godliness versus Lawlessness

According to the Bible, most humans have it wrong about what godliness really is.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. John 16: 7-11

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now restrains it will continue until he is taken out of the way. 2 Thess 2:7


John 16:7-11 explains the mystery. But it's not a mystery that the carnal mind can fully grasp. The verse tells us that the prince of this world is already judged. What does that mean when we see Satan apparently running loose in the world? Among other meanings, the largest is that Jesus' sacrificial atoning death brought final condemnation and judgment onto Satan. The Holy Spirit's Work within the believer will prove to the world that Satan has been judged.

And yet, it looks to the world that lawlessness is in control. In fact, the world wants lawlessness and wants a king of lawlessness. Lawlessness will continue until it be taken away by God. But lawlessness must have its day.

I suspect the mystery of lawlessness will also have a satanic counterpoint to 1 Timothy 3:16. The Man of lawlessness will be manifested in the flesh, judged by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken down to hell.

The thing to remember is that the restrainer is a mystery and is supernatural. Who knows what it is? It is not limited to a specific time or culture. There is a mystery of godliness which is eternal and there has been the mystery of lawlessness for ages. And there has been a restraining of lawlessness for ages. We know what the mystery of godliness is because we have a verse that explains it: Christ. 1 Timothy 3:16. But we don't have a verse explaining the mystery of lawlessness.
No one government or law has ever been able to restrain lawlessness, but over the years some spiritual restrainer has held lawlessness in check. Lawlessness has not ended. It has yet to end. But it won't end without going out with a big bang. So lawlessness has to have its full fruition. That is one of the reasons why the restrainer stops restraining it in the last days and allows lawlessness to go on full blast. So the mystery of lawlessness and the Man of lawlessness will work together on the earth in the last days.
 
As Christians, what we can do now is allow the Holy Spirit to use us to show the world the mystery of godliness.
 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Poem: World Weary

The sun itself is filtered
through clouds
then wafting green leaves
window blinds
short-sighted eyes.
We live in shadows
because we cannot endure unapproachable light 
And some of us know that we live in shadows.
Others mistake the shadows for true light
and call themselves visionaries.

The artistic vision filters too.
A blinding flame
quickly unveils itself
like a flasher on a subway train
speeding through a dark tunnel.
We grasp what little spark we can reach
of the still-flickering idea.
Even so, it dims 
as it passes 
from spirit to mind
and from mind to the creating hand:
words and 
images and 
the elements of storytelling must be used.

Then, the work finished,
is filtered even more
in the mind
then the heart of the reader;
they believe they have caught the flame of our idea
but it is pale fire.

We must accept this:
The world is full of declension.
In this world, 
Everything bright is dimmed.
Everything filters down.

I am weary of all these shadows
of making them
of trying to see the light beyond them.

I am weary of these filters.
Oh to see the  clear sun
without blinking.
To see the heart and soul and joy and pain of another.
To spiritually, emotionally, intellectually
grasp the artistic vision
to perfect it
that all may read it
and understand it
and feel it perfectly.

To see God in all His brightness
the true brightness
from which all bright souls
and bright visions
and bright sunshines come

Monday, August 08, 2016

Poem: That Other World


I have lived long

in that other world

 

Not in this

Not in the one I should have

 

But in that other other

world of bright meaning

heart's ease

overflowing affection

and precious and beautiful loves

 

I'm old now

That world

must go

 

And this, too,

the world that has failed me

and I it.

 

It will fade soon enough

already has begun.

And I will fade away from it.

For I'm old now

 

And the only world that matters

is that other one

The world

I only half-walked in

only half-inhabited

 

that afterlife

that soon

one day

will be all my life

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The phrase in question: The Future is not Promised

I haven't written a blog post in a while, but last night as I lay in bed I got to thinking of two possible posts.

So the first is this one. And again it's about watching our words.

Bible-believing Christians are told that "Life and Death are in the power of the tongue." They understand that words have power to harm emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc. And yet, so often we use certain phrases that just should not be used. I think I wrote a post once about a neighbor who kept using the phrase "My poor son! If it wasn't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all!" Certainly not a thing to go declaring about one's son.


Watch your word phrase: THE FUTURE IS NOT PROMISED.

Why is it said: It's used by some --mostly Black-- folks to show their gratefulness for still being alive, and it is used when someone unexpectedly dies. It becomes a habit. My mother used to say something similar: "I should make my will, God suffereth not." It was a habit with her but it is totally unbiblical. The Bible says God does suffer.

The (seeming) wisdom of the phrase:
When this phrase is spoken, it makes us aware of the work we still have to accomplish, the fleeting lives of ourselves and of those we love, of the sudden turns life might take...including sudden death. It brings God into the conversation by implying that He has plans for us that we know nothing about.

What the Bible actually says:
1) Don't say "I will go to such a town and make such and such money because we don't know what a day will bring forth."
2) Death and Life are in the power of the tongue
3) Wage war by the promises you received
4) He who hears my commandments will live by them
5) A Man may plan but God's plan succeeds.
6) God tells His prophets what He plans.
7) You will hear a voice which tells you walk in this way.
8) You shall be safe from sudden fear.
9) God's sheep hear His voice.
10) God guides us through dreams
11)  Psalm 91

What is the problem with this verse?
The problem is the word "promised" and the way the phrase definitely states what is or is not promised. You know my dislike of generalities. Generalities create laws. They create expectations, and non-expectations. Of course I know a few folks might say "You're making an awfully big stink about a phrase which even you admit is meant to be respectful; what's the big deal?" Well, that's the danger of certain phrases. Either we believe all our Bible or we don't. Either it's a manual for life or we can pick and choose what to believe.

My biggest complaint about this verse is that it makes God appear sneaky under the guise of saying he is mysterious. And it blames Him for deaths which He might not have ordained. Yes, there is such a thing as someone dying when God doesn't will for that person to die.

We must watch our words or we will curse our lives. Rachel cursed her life and Jacob cursed it as well when he cursed the one who stole Laban's gods. Elisha destroyed his own life when he spared the life of a king God had wanted to kill. Ananias and Saphira destroyed their lives by lying to the Holy Spirit and the church.

God has said that His sheep hear His voice. Is it possible that God warns us everyday about what we should do? Is it possible that God told people what not to eat, where not to go, which friends not to hang out with, what train not to take?

"So why are you bringing a charge against him?
Why say he does not respond to people’s complaints?
For God speaks again and again,
though people do not recognize it.
He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they lie in their beds.
He whispers in their ears
and terrifies them with warnings.
He makes them turn from doing wrong;
he keeps them from pride.
He protects them from the grave,
from crossing over the river of death." Job 33:13-18

I will focus only on God's promises, though. In the Bible, St Paul wrote this:

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord's battles. 1 Timothy 1:18

This is an important verse. It means there are certain promises God has made for us personally -- through dreams, the prophets in our church or in visions-- and generally through the Bible. These prophecies are promises. But they are conditional on us fighting for them. If God tells Joseph that his brothers, father, and mother will bow down before him...doesn't that give hope to Joseph that he will rise up out of the well, out of slavery, and out of the prison?

In the book of Acts, we are told that Moses supposed his people understood that he was their savior. Apparently Moses knew some prophecy about his life. Nevertheless, Moses left and lived I the wilderness and only returned when God called Him from the fire.

The place to where the Israelites were sent was called The Promised Land.
The Promised Land is conquered because we believe God promised it to us.
Even if Pharoah wants to keep our goods, our children, our possessions, our spouses, we must say what Moses said: "We will leave this slavery with everything that is ours."

This is the reason why we pray "Thy Will Be Done!" The will of God is not easily done. The devil comes against God's people because of the Word, because of the promises and prophecies of God. The promises must be fought for.

We may not all be promised a long life. God told Samuel that the descendants of Eli would all live short lives. Jeremiah was a descendant of Eli, some scholars have said. So even Jeremiah was fated for a short life.

The Bible doesn't say we are all fated to have 80 years. It was an observation: Most people live to seventy, and if we make it to eighty, we have sorrow and pain. So we can't use that psalm to say that we are promised a long life. But age is just a number. The young and the old can die. And some of the greatest deeds in the Bible were done by people who were very aged. (Caleb, etc.)

The important thing to do is to live as the Bible commands us to live, to hear God's voice, to listen to the guidance in our dreams, and to watch our tongues that we don't curse our lives.

So should we say this phrase?  No, I think not.









 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Poem: On the Deaths of Alan Rickman and David Bowie

Close My Eyes.
Then, Closetland.
And of course Stardust was always there.
Not sure when it entered my mental world.


And yet, strangely,
I am not devastated.
Not sure why the lack of devastation.
Not that I want to be devastated..
but yeah, wondering


I'm at peace.
Perhaps it's age
the now-common death of close friends and older celebs
normal occurrences now.


Younger folks wonder
why the grief for Bowie:
they've never heard of him.


At the same time, other actors much older
are dying or have died
--90 year olds etc--
whom those now mourning Bowie
never heard of.


So yes a daily occurrence,
at my age.
At my age, death is numbing.


Once in a great while
there is this terrifying squeal
a strange overflow of grief
from my own mouth
from my own heart
which leaves me amazed.


And I think:
how strange this grief!
I didn't know this death
would devastate me so much.
I cried so much when Orson Welles died
I thought my heart would break.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lesson Learned

The desperate can be charming;
I'll say that for them.


The homeless desperate for home
The unloved desperate for love
The poor, desperate for money.


And, perhaps,
at the back of my mind I always knew that.


Knew that I was being used
by someone poor, homeless, and desperate.


And I forgave the little hidings
The squirreling away of self
The curious carving out of personal space
although my family had freely given her
all our home and heart to roam in.


She kept her heart free of us, though.
And when
her own home, her own life, her own ...her own...
had finally arrived.


She stepped out of our lives
and forgot us
as if we had never existed at all.


Worse than a thief;
If robbers came,
they would have left something.
But she stole our hearts.
And then betrayed.


My heart has become quite cynical.
There is no healing it.
I cannot dream
of being kind again.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wattpad Block Party - Winter Edition II


I'll be doing the Wattpad Block Party -- Winter edition. And yes, I'll be doing a giveaway of one of my ebooks. If you want to be included in the giveaway, please subscribe to this blog (by feed or by email) and write something in the comment section below.

https://www.wattpad.com/user/CaroleMcDonnell

Post Title: What Writers can learn from a Writing Contest Judge by Carole McDonnell
Username: CaroleMcDonnell
POST:
I recently became a judge for a flash fiction short story competition. It was an interesting experience. Note, I do not say "fun experience" because there were moments which were decidedly not "fun." Especially when I had to (gently) critique a story or reject it entirely. So, I thought it'd be a good idea to share some of the writing advice I gave to some of the contestants.
The genres I judged were scifi, fantasy, ghost stories, and fairy tales.  

Follow the Rules
The very first advice that comes to mind is this: Follow the rules, submit your story to the appropriate genre, try to understand all the elements of a particular genre.  
One story, especially, had me quite torn. It was the best story I'd read in the entire competition, probably one of the best stories I'd read in years. But I had to disqualify it. The author had put it in the wrong category, the scifi category.  I suppose the author thought the story was scifi, but having a sprinkling of scifi catchphrases does not a science fiction story make. 
Other authors were rejected either because their stories did not have all the elements of a genre or the authors decided to go meta wink-wink nudge-nudge and parody a traditional scifi, fairy tale, or fantasy story.  It's best to create your own original fairy tale than to play with a well-known one. I cannot tell you how many "not your mother's fairytale" stories I saw. Worse, these "new" twists on traditional fairytales were not so new at all. Competition judges have read a lot; few "twists" are new to us.    
Know when to begin a story
Knowing when to begin a story is difficult. It is not necessary to start the story with guns blazing. A story that begins too close to the action might confuse the reader if it is badly-executed. So, should we start a story a second, an hour, a day, a month, a year, three hundred years before the event in the opening scene? Infodumping background and backstory at the beginning of a story is problematical. Most readers will not remember names, places, and dates, presented to them at the beginning of a story. Those captains, kings, nations you dumped on them in the opening prologue will have to be interwoven into the story again. Remember that people generally don't care about facts unless emotion is involved, and they don't care about a character's history until they've lived a few hours with the main character in the present.  Some writers use flashback scenes and others sprinkle backstory into a story, interweaving past events into the present. One warning about flashbacks: it's best not to use flashbacks too early in a story. In a novel, wait a few chapters or you will halt the forward thrust of the story. It's best not to use flashbacks in a short story unless one can get away with it. (And never assume you are so skilled that you can get away with breaking the rules.)
Know how many characters are needed
A failed story sometimes has too many characters; this just leads to confusion and a list of names the reader cannot connect to. Sometimes a story has one main character in the beginning then changes to another main character toward the end. Sometimes there is a missing character. Just as there can be a missing line in a story that pulls certain thoughts together, or a missing scene or a missing chapter, the missing character is the hardest character to "see." The writer has to step back and see if everyone present in the story is necessary, and if any essential person is absent. 
Talking heads
Narrative beats are not always necessary but long sections of dialog only punctuated by "he said" or "she said" is a lost opportunity to show aspects of the story, characterization, even subtextual metaphors.
Filtering words
Words such as "I looked," "I saw," "I glanced," "I heard," "I felt," or "I smelled" are filter words. They put a distance between the reader and the story's narrator. If one isn't careful, these words can overwhelm a manuscript, at every sentence. Instead of writing, "She saw him that morning wearing a blue-colored shirt," tweak the story to make it more active. "The blue shirt he wore" or "That morning, he wore a blue shirt." Instead of "She listened to the sounds of a bird singing in the woods," write "The caw of a raven echoed through the pine barrens." Avoid words such as "seemed," "appeared," "felt," "had the feeling," and "realized." They are often a sign that the writer is telling. Don't write "She seemed happy" or "I realized he was holding his breath" or "he looked scared." Try instead, "A smile flickered on her face" or "His shoulders relaxed and a silent sigh escaped his mouth" or "His hands shook."
Vagueness never helps
Use the perfect word. Why use "car" or "sound" when you can use Lexus or hooptie? Or splashing or gurgling? 
Lack of Voice
One of the worst problems I encountered was the lack of voice in the stories. Voice is not difficult, and yet it is one of the hardest things for new writers to master. I wil only say that "voice" reveals the narrator's heart. Sometimes it reveals more, such as the author's culture, obsessions, or preoccupations. But at its basic level, voice reveals the narrator's personality and heart.In the same way that a visual artist chooses a particular palette, medium, or subject, a writer chooses --or allows-- voice. Voice is often found in description. The way a character washes laundry can be conveyed in different way depending on the narrator's backstory, present situation, emotional state, age, rank, wealth, hopes. The description of an abandoned house depends on who is describing it. If the description of the abandoned house in your story could fit into any genre or could be done by any author, that description lacks voice. The writer doesn't have to be over-the-top, but merely himself.   
A story is not a summary
Know what a story is, how to tell it, and how to end it. A story is not a synopsis or a memo. Stories have elements of fiction, which include characterization, description, action, a story arc, a geographical or chronological setting. Many of the stories I read seemed to have characters hanging in space. The season, time of day, locations, were absent or had no effect on the character. Some stories were more like descriptions of situations; there was no beginning, no middle, no end. And some stories felt as if the author thought the twist ending would make up for the lack of plot.  
Watch the coarse language
Coarseness doesn't imply honesty, truth, passion, edginess, or anger, especially if a writer uses the coarse word repeatedly. Also, you never know if the judge is religious or easily offended. If you're going to use a coarse word, make sure it's absolutely needed.  
Be careful when attempting versimilitude
Fiction reflects life but in order to work, it can't reflect life too much. The dialog must feel real, have verisimilitude, but it must also be crafted. If two characters are arguing, don't write every word of the argument in order to show how stressed both characters are. Real-life arguments go on forever...but dialog is perfected conversation.  Have you ever seen a movie where characters are having a boring conversation? The boring conversation lasts just long enough for the viewer to understand that it is a boring conversation. Then the scene ends. The writer doesn't give us the full extent of the conversation but manages to cut away after the plot point is achieved. Consider also good dialogs, which are fictionally styled and carefully-crafted but somehow feel real, natural, and free-flowing.  
Pronoun Referrents
When using pronouns such as "it," "its," "she," "her," "this," "of them," "these," "those," "that," "there," or "which," always remember that the reader is not inside your head. Always ask yourself if the reader will understand what "it" is referring to. 
Watch for overly-long sentences 
Some of the sentences I saw in some stories were doing much too much work.  There is just so much information a sentence can hold. And some sentences work so hard they should be paid overtime. Watch, also, if you overdo it with commas, prepositions, clauses, phrases, etc. 
I hope this helps you. And happy creativity, all!

Carole McDonnell 

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