Monday, March 31, 2008


We are rapidly approaching the 7th WCGIP in Jerusalem. A number of travel agents have been added to the WCGIP website ( The number of people trying to visit Israel is at an all-time high. If possible please pre-register and pay your deposits quickly.

Native American Christian music CD's

Saw this in the wiconi newsletter.

A little over ten years ago there was virtually no Native-style music honoring Jesus that incorporated traditional drumming, chanting and other tribal styles and sounds. Today there are many dozens of such recordings. This reality is a refection of the spirit of Jesus at work in the lives of men and women who have been inspired to write new songs of prayer, celebration and honor to Jesus, born out of their identity as Native people. Accompanying every move of the spirit in a generation or people has been a “new sound” of celebration, or indigenous hymnody; from John Wesley, William Booth, The Jesus People Movement, to this current global Indigenous Jesus Movement. These new songs are helping bear the message of freedom in Jesus that you can be fully Native and fully embraced by God in your cultural world to people everywhere.

I want to recommend three new CD releases. They are Jonathan Maracle and Broken Walls “The Father’s Dance,” Michael Jacobs’, “Mystery,” and Cheryl Bear’s “The Good Road.” Jonathan is Mohawk, Michael is Cherokee and Cheryl is Nadleh Whut'en and while their music is different in style and sound, each share a message of freedom and hope in Jesus as native worshippers of Creator.

You can listen to sound-bytes of many of their songs on our website along with a few dozen more CD’s of powwow drumming music, flute music, praise music, instrumental stuff, etc., and then purchase them from wiconi's store shopping cart feature.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wow, my first really bad review!

I stand here amazed. I got my first really really really bad review. It's up at Neth Space.

He says it was so bad he could only make it through the first 100 pages.
I don't know if he actually read the book at all though because he says
"Much of the first hundred pages are told in a first person narration."
But ALL of the first 100 pages are told in the first person. So am not sure what he means?

Then he says the book lacks subtly with religious things and says things are
"a bit on the conservative side for me."
But there isn't any kind of Christian religiosity in the first 100 pages. There is nothing religious at all. It's a tribal culture. And there's definitely no "conservative side" going on. I mean...WTF? Someone on a forum he and I belong to stated to Neth that the book was heavy-handed in some areas. Okay, putting aside that my muslim buddhist friends and my atheist friends didn't find it heavy-handed, I'll just say that any Christian elements appear in the last 100 pages of Wind Follower. Not the first 100 pages.

He says my main female character goes from strong-willed to meek and subservient for no apparent reason. Apparently, those three scenes where her mother tells her that if her father's debt isn't paid off he will be sold into slavery weren't reason enough. I've been told by an Arabian friend that my story shows how many women feel when they realize they might have married a man who might be a bully. Apparently Satha's fears and the moments when she does challenge her husband is deemed subservient.

Then, a poster Charlotte Byrd, posted that the book contained sections that were anti-Gnostics. This was weird cause she too admits that she didn't finish reading the book and even weirder cause I wasn't even thinking of the gnostics when I wrote Wind Follower. Heck, Christianity has tons of denominations that have added their own texts and prophets: Mary Baker Eddy's Health and Science, The Seventh Day Adventists and the Writings of Miss White, Joseph Smith's Writings. And if one considers that Mohammed was connected to the early Christians, one might even wish to add him into the mix of books influenced by the Jewish and Christian Bibles. So I was pretty much making fun of all Christian denominationalism, including my own.

Then, Neth answered that if I was picking on gnosticism then he definitely wouldn't read Wind Follower. Totally odd! What's that about? Gossip and assumptions build and build on top of false foundations. Now Neth's going to go around saying Wind Follower has an anti-Gnostics swipe.....all based on his not finishing the book and his believing the comment from someone else who didn't finish reading the book.

In addition, he is on several of the forums I am on and he seems to delight in bringing up some comment about my reaction to his review. I keep my mouth shut while he behaves as if he is the prince of manners. But is it good manners for him to keep badmouthing me? Why does he bring me up all the time? By name, no less. What the heck is going on here?

But some folks did defend me and another blogger got so interested in the mini-storm in the mini-teapot that he wants to read it for himself. So maybe this is all good.

Well Wind Follower has gotten some great reviews. Publishers Weekly (September 07) gave it a good review and said,
her elegant, meticulous world-building shimmers with the ambience of an old-world folktale

Library Journal (October 07) recommended it as a book for Black History Month.
Other reviewers have also really liked it.
J Kaye's Book Blog, The long and short, John Ottinger's Grasping the Wind, Mir's Mind Flight and Karen McSpadden's Disturbing The Universe: Reviews And Rants

Then Carl Brandon Society chose me as one of their recommended books for Black History Month and Wind Follower was nominated for the Clive Staples Award and the Pluto Award
(I recently was watching The First 48, a crime reality cop show. On that particular episode one 18 year old killed another 18 year old because he had heard the kid was gonna kill him. But of course the kid wasn't. Also am thinking of the white kids in Long Island who went to beat up a black kid because they had "heard" the black kid was planning to rape a white girl. The stupidity of these kids' abilities to read the mind of a would-be killer aside, it's amazing this mindreading ability created such a fuel that they went to the black kids' house. The father of the black kid shot them in self-defense. And of course all this is based on suppositions, lies, and people talking sh*t. It really has me thinking about the cruelty and the sinfulness of people speaking about what they don't know anything about.)

Yeah, a bad review is nothing compared to the death of two people....but it's scary that this kind of gossiping and unfounded talk can go on. I, for one, have never been comfortable with talking too badly about a book I've never read.

So I really should let it all bounce off me because no book can please everyone. Still and all, that a book could be so liked in one area and so savaged in another.....well, it makes one wonder! It really shows that it's all a matter of taste.

Check out this wonderful post called the book is not that interesting.

Kinda puts it all in perspective and ... I find myself in good company.

Pushing Envelopes

Who came up with this metaphor of "envelopes"?...and of "pushing envelopes"? It's an interesting metaphor. Up there with, "thinking outside the box" and "broadening the mind" and all those other catch-phrases which imply, for us writers, the fooling around with cross-genre stories.

Well, I'm working away on my current Work-in-progress, Inheritance.

When I start a novel, my aim is always to make it fully totally myself. Not because I'm so unique but because there are so many African-American Christian folks with First World issues....and I want to do my part in contributing to the emerging genre fantasy stories made for and by us. I can think of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi, Tobias Buckell's Science Fiction novels Ragamuffin and Crystal Rain, Robert Fleming's Havoc After Dark...among a few but honestly, considering there are so many Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and South east-Asian folks in the US, there really ought to be more contemporary fiction (of whatever genre) on bookshelves that speaks to these cultures. Add to the mix that some of these folks are very religious --Christian, Buddhist, African tribal, Taoist, Shintoist-- and the main religion in fantasy seems to be Wiccan or Druidic... well, there is a major envelope that needs pushing, I think.

So that's my main purpose in my stories: to be as real and as fully me as possible. To be brave and put as much of myself into a story, in spite of the fact that the reader might not be prepared for such a world. In Wind Follower I wanted to be as Christian, as folklorish, as First Peoples, as High fantasy as see what such a book would look like. Just enough of the Euro-fantasy world to make it fit into the envelope. But enough to push the envelope a bit.

So there I was working on Inheritance. Inheritance is a book I want to be as Christian, as demonic, and as erotic as possible. The same envelope pushing. I wanted a succubus but I wanted a succubus that was really connected to Christianity, a female demon whom you hated, a demon who so intoxicated the sense of my main (good and noble) character that he would be tempted to rape any woman to repeat that pleasure. In short, I wanted to take my succubus seriously and do a modern-day version of The Exorcist with Christians fighting demonic possession. IN ADDITION, --because I wanted to put all myself in this story-- I wanted to deal with sexual-woundedness and make the story erotically-charged. And of course, all this had to happen to a black female Christian character.

Wind Follower got certain Christians annoyed with me because of six small sex scenes. Would I be willing to include the sexuality and alienate those folks again? And then there were the core fantasy fans. Many fantasy readers really liked Wind Follower but others were upset at its Christian content. Was I willing again to challenge the separation of genres? Did I want to push another envelope when Wind Follower had yet to prove that folks actually would read a book with a pushed envelope?

And what if I wasn't skillful enough to bring that book to fruition? If one speaks to pentecostal Christians, Native American non-Christians, Native American Christians, or Christians from Latin America, Asia, of demons, spirits, and possession is fairly common. The problem is that although the demonic is ever present in the fantasy genre, most fantasy writers don't really really believe in demons. Heck! Some American Christians don't even believe in demons. Not to the extent that other folks do.

I've gotten some interesting correspondence re Wind Follower. Folks telling me that it connected them to their life in the old country, or that it reminded them of stories their grandparents told, or that it was a book that "didn't seem like a made-up book" because stuff like that happened to them in their old villages or in some weird town in Louisiana. I like that phrase: "didn't seem like a made-up book." So, for some folks, Wind Follower felt intensely real.

So, back to Inheritance: Can I write it? Can I ride on that edge again and cause the story not to fall flat? And if I do have the skill to write a story that is totally paranormal and totally sexual and totally ethnic, do I have the fearlessness to actually write it? The effect of bad reviews of Wind Follower (there have been about five, I think, that I know of. Five out of 23 isn't so bad but hey)can really make an author pull back from pushing that envelope.

When I read the Bible, I don't see it telling me to abandon my sin-stained culture to take on the European sin-stained culture. It wants me to be myself, a Christian of African-American descent. But when I read American fantasy, I feel as if I am called to abandon that culture and take on Elvish and Wicca. By the year 2057, the majority of citizens in the United States will be non-white. (The growth will be fueled by Latin American immigrants and their children. Most of these immigrants are Roman Catholic, Evangelical and even mormon.) Will fantasy books continue to call us to worlds of vampires, elves, wiccans? Worlds that have little to do with us? (I can deal with shapeshifters because shapeshifters such as werewolves occur in many ethnic cultures. I'd like to see less European shapeshifters, though.)

I'm hoping that writers of color and that my little book Wind Follower will help to push the envelope a create space on those fantasy bookshelves for books that reflect the ethnic and religious differences of the America that we are becoming.

Why does God have to swear?

Ever notice how many time God actually swears in the Bible?

What's that about?

St Paul tells us that he does it because he wants us to believe Him. Because God could swear by nothing higher, he swore by Himself, His name, His character.

Still, why do we have problems believing God?

How strange that the world is made of faith, and made by faith....and yet we who were made to have faith, made to be faithful,....are so unaccustomed to faithfulness?

Despair, doubt, discouragement (and all those d's) come so easily.

What joy and pleasure we would have if we woke up every morning with the Decision to simply believe God's word today!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Pedestal of Author

Yesterday, I received a sweet little e-missive from a fellow author. In it, she lovingly but firmly told me about the concept of The Pedestal of Author. Backstory: I've gotten mostly good reviews on Wind Follower. When I have gotten bad reviews, I let it slide. Everyone has an opinion. When I get a really, really, really bad review....where the reviewer obviously hasn't written the book....well, I actually try to defend myself. Which is a no-no in writing circles, I'm told.

Anyway, the concept of The Pedestal of Author now has me thinking. What do I as an author think an author should be? What do I as an author expect my readers to think of me? What do I as a reader expect an author to be?

In some cultures certain kinds of vocation and work are considered important or honorable or "great." Nice job if you can get it. For instance, teachers are generally honored in many cultures. Doctors and Actors are honored in the United States.

In the black community, there is always so much pride and joy in great achievers. When I used to work in the high school I thought this pride in greatness was a bit dangerous. Kind of like an ethnic Cinderella Complex. Poor kids didn't want to be regular folks with normal jobs. They wanted to be famous rappers, great singers, sportscasters. It was as if their lives had been so bad that they only way they could overcome it would be to be in-your-face-famous with tons of bling, ho's, boy-toys, etc. I totally understand that. (And yeah, I'm actually cool with all those women wanting to hook up with Flavor Flav or Bret on VH1. You gotta do what you gotta do to get by. And hey, nice job if you can get it. But most people aren't gonna be famous. Fame is so important in our society. The nature of fame is that some folks simply are....and some folks aren't.

But I'm an author. Plodding work, a work of endurance, a work that revolves around ideas. I'm not particularly famous, though. Although you'd think from the way some folks in the hood behave, I'm the hottest thing since Vanilla Chai.

Hey, I don’t mind representing. What really makes my day at signings, etc is the love and appreciation my people have for me. They’re glad that I – a Black Woman– succeeded. If they are little old ladies, they ask where they can buy my book. When I tell them “from any bookstore!” they just smile and rejoice with me. Yes, I'm in a bookstore! When I say it's not self-published, it's from a traditional publisher, they really smile. When I say the book has so many religious stuff in it and so many racial stuff in it, but a secular publisher published it, they shout, "Praise the Lord! HE is able!" As a culture we have seen so many failures and struggles, that many of us still have a genuine joy and appreciation for those in our culture who have succeeded. Poor folks in the hood -- even the white ones-- love the idea that I'm an author.

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I get all teary-eyed when some Public Service Announcement pops up which states, “A black man created this…” “A black scientist discovered that…” And, yeah, I’m glad when I enter a room of little old Black ladies and they get teary-eyed over me.

Should we try to keep the mystique of Author Greatness? Do I OWE it to my people to behave like a real author, someone who symbolizes wisdom, persevereance, polish....and uh, maturity? If I DO try, how long can I keep up with it? Will I be able to be that other person long enough until it becomes second nature? When it become second-nature, will I become a pill, a know-it-all, or an object of pride and a help to all who know me?

Lord, help my people to continue to do great things. I'm trusting you to help me write this new WIP. Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

allies, kinda

This was an article sent to the black SF list by a white Jewish girl who is on that list. I want you to think about that for a second. Okay, got it? Because that's important. It shows a lot about who we are, about racial identity and political identity and religion and government.

So this is the article.

A great one....One which totally told so much about what I feel about being black in America, being a black Christian among white Christians and yet it's an article that I cannot entirely endorse. Why because I am neither the perfect progressive Christian nor the perfect Democrat nor the perfect liberal nor the perfect modern women. (By "perfect" I don't mean "without flaw" I mean "cookie-cutter.")

I'm a Bible-believing Christian. I DO believe people go to hell. The writer of the article seems to believe that God puts people in hell. I believe the Bible says hell is kinda the default when we die. Jesus takes us from the default, he doesn't condemn. I generally am not too sure who's going to hell, though. Not as sure as some people are. Can't get into theological discussion about that one. So the guy goes on about how crappy white televangelist ministers are. I can't really agree totally with that one either. Some white televangelists are actually quite honorable. Some black televangelists are honorable. And yes, Some white and black televangelists and ministers are questionable. So once again, I'm in a fix...feeling like Loic.... Religion versus race. Allies. What side do I want to be on? Which ally do I put on the back-burner for the nonce?

We live in a country of either-or...but people aren't either-or. Our party lines are either-or. And honestly, there is no true middle. So here I am trying to make myself understand this middle.

I HATE when this happens. I hate when I have to decide if an article suits the black me or the Christian me. So here I am wanting to send the article around. But now I have to decide. Do I send it to my Christian black friends? my christian white friends? my non-christian black friends? my non-christian white friends?

I'm way too bothered by stuff like this, I think. I sooo wish life had made me in such a way that I fell in very neatly along party lines. Nah, no such luck. The good thing about it, though, is that many Black Christian people feel as I do. ..... And many white Christians too.


How strange and hard it is to be corrected!

Just look in the book of Proverbs for all those verses with: instruction, refuse instruction, corrections, rebuke, etc. So many things to learn, so little time.

As Christians we read so much about how to behave when corrected! And yet...Okay, I won't pull in other Christians. (All this talk of 'WE'!) I'll only talk about myself. Other Christians are great when corrected. Me, well... I only make matters worse by defending myself.

Why do we defend ourselves? Er,...uh...why do I defend myself?

First, ego, I think. The self...the emotion...the work...the word...the action... That's all we have. And the self --whether right or wrong-- doesn't like to be wounded, misunderstood, insulted. So yeah, right or wrong, I have to die to self.....and learn not to care what the self feels. Become like Christ basically.

But the most important I think is this: we defend ourselves because we feel others will not defend us. Or we think others will not defend us well enough. Some of us know what it's like to be undefended. Some of us are so emotionally wounded that even when people defend us we somehow feel it's not enough. That's all emotional.

The spiritual part is this: we don't think God will defend us. Or we think that if God defends us, the one who offends us will not see or recognize that God is defending us.

I'll tell you something. It's not a secret really because everyone who knows me is aware of this: I wish I were rich, powerful, with rich powerful friends. A kind of Christian Cinderella complex. I want to make up for my life as it it once was.

But I am only rich in God's love -- which I often don't recognize.
I am only powerful in a very small sphere -- which is no real power at all.
And the only rich and powerful friend I have is God -- whose power the world generally does not recognize.

In such a state, what is a mere human to do? Sit back and accept corrections humbly? Retain no bitterness if one is not defended. Move on. As St Paul says, "This one thing I do.... Forgetting that which is behind, I press toward the high mark."

Monday, March 24, 2008

From the rising of the sun (the son)

I love praise and worship music. So ever since I got DSL I’ve been going wild downloading sermons and inspirational music of all genres and types. Plus, because I can watch youtube now, my youtube list includes Christian songs from all tribes, ethnic groups etc.

I’ve always liked music. I like to think of myself as the Top Forty music lover. I love the top forty rap songs, the top forty country songs, the top forty blues songs, the top forty classical music, the top forty.... well, you have the idea. I’m eclectic and if a song lingers near my ear long enough, I’m going to end up liking it.

Having had a long and flaky history of church attendance, I’ve grown to love all kinds of music.

The episcopal church taught me the old hymns. Those hymns are holy, reverent, wonderful. They bring tears to my eyes and make me bow my knee in wonder to the Lord of the whole universe. But they are from the English tradition of worship and English worship services – let’s face it-- are pretty restrained and upper-lipped. So there was all my Jamaican capacity for wild joy being squelched.

I’ve also been to charismatic churches. Charismatic services of all denominations. I’ve attended regularly the monastery at Graymoor where guitar-playing fat old monks played some of the worship songs which are common to all charismatic groups. But even here, things were just a little too controlled. And I’m not talking about the fact that everyone else in the group was Irish, Italian, or Polish. I’m talking about the music. I could praise God and even though those worship songs brought tears of devotion to my eyes, I couldn’t quite go wild with joy about Jesus as I could, say, when I was in my own house.

The black Baptist/Pentecostal worship music was always good. It touched my soul. Deeply. Because the history of African-Americans is one which --like Jesus the man of sorrows– is acquainted with grief, these songs are often imbued with grief, storytelling. They are full of glory, trial, and triumph. Edged with world weariness and existentialism, they are often like something out of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Again...those worship songs brought tears of joy to my eyes.

But who knew there was a part of me that wanted to dance? God, I suspect.

One night out of the blue I had a dream of walking into this church. In the dream, the entire congregation turned to kiss me. When I woke up I was terrified. I hadn’t even thought about this dream and now I was being told to join it. I figured God had ordered me to join this church. When He tells you to do something, well you gotta obey. Despite the racial tension in town, I plucked up courage and attended the church to get a look-see at what God was getting me into. Everyone, EVERYONE, was friendly but distant. I mean...what was this overweight extremely tall black woman who spoke no Spanish doing in their church? When the minister asked me why I was visiting, I said, “I dreamt God wants me here.”

He nodded, totally understanding it. (I was to find out that folks in this church have no qualms about standing in front of the rest of the congregation telling their dreams if they consider the dream prophetic. Yep, a place after my own Jamaican heart!) I took note that the church was made up of Spanish-speaking short non-black Hispanics who were all in shape. I towered over everyone. But then the music began. And I’ve been attending Iglesia Mar de Galilea –Sea of Galilee church-- ever since. Four years now.

The church is 90% Ecuadorean and I am the only black person and the only English speaker, but I’ve gotten into Hispanic worship.

The interesting thing about Hispanic Evangelical music is that it’s so “allegre.” Even though many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have folks dancing in the aisle, the typical American church song is just not danceable. I honestly can’t think of a Maranatha song that was made specifically for folks to dance to.

Whether inside the church service or during our fiestas (of which we have way too many) these evangelical Hispanic worship songs can fit anywhere. Which is a good thing because we are always dancing. We dance around and inside the sanctuary when someone gets her “papel” (immigration papers.) We have dances in the church dining hall to celebrate folks’ compleanos. The Latin-American evangelical church culture has infused God into everything and everything into it’s nothing peculiar for me now to think of a church song as both a great praise song and also a really wonderful dance song. Hey, I learned how to dance my first paso doble to a Danilo Montero song.

I know all the names of the famous Evangelical Hispanic singers: Marcos Witt, Marco Barientos, Danilo Montero, Giovanni Rios, to name a few. I can tell a meringue from a salsa from a mariachi from an evangelical reggaeton. I know the difference between Guatemalan worship music, Sephardic ladino Latino praise, and Ecuadorean Andes worship. I am telling you: I have become a font of Hispanic evangelical musical knowledge.

When I stand in church and listen to Danilo Montero’s “Tengo Un Nuevo Amor” I imagine every tribe, every tongue, every nation praising God. So, yes, I still listen to other Christian songs. I’ve fallen in love with a Korean hymn called Lamb of God and several Christian Arabic tunes. I can pretty much understand some of the contemporary French worship songs. There is no place in the earth where the Lord’s glory is not sung about. In languages I understand, languages I don’t understand, and in languages I just muddle through.

Which reminds me. I have to commit to actually learning Spanish.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Well, I'm still seething about this annoying neighbor but I am also well past the point where I could fall into unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is pretty ugly in God's eyes. And as it is written, "Forgive us as we forgive."

Most folks seem to have this weird idea that if we simply ask God to forgive us, he has to forgive us. Not true. He may forgive us but he doesn't have to. And as the parable of the unforgiving steward showed us...if we can't forgive our enemy, there is no way God can forgive us. Blood of Jesus or not.

Yes, yes, I hear some folks saying, "The blood of Jesus covers all sins." Ah, does it now? Do you really want to hold onto your unforgiveness on the off-chance that the blood of Jesus will prevent you from going to hell? Heck, the book of Revelations tells us that outside the gate are "pimps, cowards, etc." No word said about whether those cowards are believers or not. John tells us, "he that hates his brother hasn't got eternal life in him."

So yeah, there is something about hatred that somehow destroys the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus. Again, I don't want to push it too far and say that Jesus' blood doesn't cover ALL sins, but you honestly WANT to be in the throes of unforgiveness when you die?

I'm remembering all this because back in the day someone had hurt me so bad...and had caused me such terrible grief...that I developed a hatred for her. A hatred so bad I simply was wracked with it. (Okay, you all know I have a terrible temper, but temper is one thing and unforgiveness quite another. I get p*ssed and scream but I generally stop disliking the person by the next day. Unforgiveness, well, that baby takes over.)

So anyway, there I the terrible pain of hurt and simply hating this horrendous person...when suddenly -- i mean just like that!-- I was someplace else. I was in my room on my bed at the beginning, mind you. Then the next thing I knew I was in hell. Falling, falling, falling. No end of the falling. Yep, the bottomless pit. All around me were all kinds of creatures -- very filthy creatures. And all sorts of sewage and refuse. And I was just falling, and falling, and falling, and falling. Endlessly falling. I cannot describe to you how terrible this all was.

Okay, some of you might not believe me. But some of you have. You too have had glimpses of hell or demons or whatever. But even if you haven't, I'm giving you my testimony and my testimony is true. Keeping unforgiveness in your heart just isn't worth going to hell.

At the end of the vision, I had returned to my room and the hatred against the person who had hurt me was mysteriously gone --after about two weeks of overwhelming me-- and my life was forever changed. Heck, I'd love to sit here hating my creepy neighbor...but certain things....well, let's just say I remember my short little stay in hell. And I DO not want to make that stay permanent. God bless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fave film: Rope

So there I was...waiting for the schoolbus to arrive when I start playing around with the remote and what do I see? One of my favorite movies, Rope, is on at 5 pm Eastern Time. TCM Turner Classic Movies. Talk about the intense joy I feel. I LOOOOVE this movie

Ah the joys of favorite movies! If I try to figure out what I like about the movie, I guess I could talk about Aristotle and the three unities but dang, that's not it. Sure all the action is scrunched up in one little night in one little place but that's not really it. The entire film feels scrunched. The actors seem squeezed together to fit into the scene, the actors are flustered as they rush to fit all their words into Hitchcock's articial "one take" and there is all that panning and all that sooming into and stopping the camera onto the back of a suit to change the reel.

But what really gets me about this film -- and yes, I have a major Farley Granger crush and have had it all my life it seems-- is how jumpy and stressed the film makes the viewer. I've seen modern flicks try to tighten the screws on characters and make a film which leaves the viewer on the edge of his/her chair unable to breathe. DOA, Torque.

But somehow they don't quite work as this one does. Because what makes it really work, i think, is the relentlessness of it all. There is a deep desire in the viewer to let the bad guys get away with their crime. The minute they do it, we know their personalities will be the downfall of them. Guilt is gonna get one of them, arrogance the other. Even then, although they are utterly unheroic characters, we want them to ...get away unpunished. Because they are human.

But our desire is thwarted, and it's like watching one's friends do something stupid ....and one simply cannot stop them in time...or save them. This, i think, is one of the things that makes this story essentially Christian. Watching one guy make a really bad arrogant decision and watching his stressed-out wimpy friend be dragged along for the ride. ...and thinking..."oh my god, oh my god, there is no way out for them now..... unless a miracle occurs." And all the time wanting the bad guys to succeed, not because they are such nice people, but because they are so like us sometimes...on a train with no turning back... and the only thing we can do is to beg and pray and hope that they get away with evil. Perverse joy, i know...but joy nevertheless.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jesus' question: faith

Jesus said to his disciples: "When the son of man returns, will he find faith in the earth?"

Still an important question. I think he WILL find it. But faith won't be the major thing he finds. It'll be a pearl of great price.

Jesus will find doctrine. Christians consider this very important. They judge each other by doctrine. Although Jesus said people will know us by our love, people try to know if we are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ by what folks believe.

Not that love is missing. I think Jesus will definitely find love when he comes back to earth in bodily form. Many Christians are pretty loving toward each other ...and their fellow humans.

Jesus will find submission. He'll find a whole lotta submission. Submission that never learned to endure, submission that stopped hoping and stopped dreaming and made a theology of suffering to disguise bad teaching that steals our faith.

Jesus will find Moral behavior. Christians like good moral behavior. We judge and condemn others by how moral we think those others are. We not only judge the bad works of fellow Christians, we judge good works too.

Jesus told us to do good works and to occupy til he come. But look at those parable of works...these good works often have to do with investing faith. The occupation Jesus calls for is an occupation and invasion of the devil's territory: our minds. Sure, we must destroy the devil's works in society and do exploits -- but this doesn't mean bombing abortion clinics (as one -and only one-- person did). Nor does it mean cruelly persecuting people who are sinners.

But Jesus will not find faith. Faith comes from loving and reading and trusting that everything Jesus said was verily, verily, TRUE...was verily, verily, true. We are called to live a life of faith....where the unspiritual strongholds in our mind are destroyed by our faith in God's love, care, and miraculous power. Let Jesus find overcoming faith when he comes to earth. LEt him find overcoming faith even before he comes...that we may conquer Satanic strongholds of discouragement, diseases, doubt, grief, sorrow..... Let us truly occupy the enemy's territory and heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons.......til Jesus comes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Striving and Resting

It's such a tough balance, isn't it?

On the one hand, we are called to strive for the faith, strive to enter in...but at the same time we are told to rest in Christ's finished work and to rely on his spirit and his word to do the work.

Am kinda attempting to do both at this point. Trying to simply trust that God's healing word is working in us...which means that I STRIVE to read the word for about a hour a day, STRIVE to remember to speak in tongues, STRIVE to remember to sing praises.

Then after I've done my daily worth of STRIVING, then I just have to tell myself to rest...that the word is working...even if i don't see it. That the praises are conquering worlds I don't quite understand, that the speaking in tongues is helping to edify me. Tough to rest in trust and faith, but hey....we're called to do it.

God bless.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jesus' Failures

Last night I was thinking about Jesus' failures at his hometown. "He could not to any miracles there, except that he healed a few sick folk, because of their unbelief."

Imagine this:

Jesus heals a few stomach aches, a fever here, a headache there. But in his hometown when he said to the deaf, the blind, people with withered arms, paralyzed people, etc he couldn't heal them. Because in his hometown he couldn't do any mighty miracles because they thought they knew all about him. "Isn't this Jesus whose father and mother we know?" I wonder how Jesus felt when he knew he had the power to heal but the lack of faith was making miracles impossible. The Bible doesn't really say anything about his personal disappointment but he did say, "no prophet is accepted in his own country."

Now another city: Bethsaida were so filled with unbelief and yet many miracles were done in them. Bethsaida was so bad that Jesus had to take a man a long way from the city in order to heal him. JEsus had to pray for the man twice. And Jesus had to tell the man NOT to return to the city after he was healed. And yet he said, Woe to you, Bethsaida and Chorazin! IF the miracles that had been done in your had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah they would have repented.

So one city saw miracles and didn't believe enough to repent. The other city, his hometown, didn't even believe enough to see any miracles. I've got to think about this.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Kneejerk Disdain

Back in the day when I was an Episcopalian-bor-and-bred I had a gay priest who hated Bible-believing Christians. His hatred was visceral and his unequal treatment of his parishioners based on their beliefs was all too obvious. He was like night and day. He'd get bright red and he'd get very distant whenever a Bible-believing Christian approached him whether in or outside the churchyard. It was as if he was always ready to be hurt by them.

Well, I understood exactly how he felt. I've had my share of Christian cruelty. I remember the Assembly of God minister, Pastor Glickert, the white minister in a 99.9999% white congregation who decided to drag me up to the front of the conversation to talk about me living with my soon-to-be husband. (Other young folks had boyfriends too and were into extramarital sex but they were white young folks and their parents were in the congregation. I suspected he did this in order to make himself appear to the white congregation as hard on sin....and I, being alone, was a great tool for that purpose.)

I remember the white minister's wife who stood beside me at coffee hour telling me she didn't like seeing my white husband and me together because she didn't like seeing her race muddied.

I remember the Christian reviewers who toured Wind Follower who wildly emailed each other offlist about the sex and violence in my book. And I remember the Christian fiction group, Xianscribblers, which all ganged up on me and once again were emailing each other offlist about me. (That trouble started because I didn't like the idea of invading Iraq and because I said people should not judge homosexuals because some --by no means all-- of my homosexual friends had had sexual abuse as children.) Of course something always happens with all that gossiping and I always end up being told...Christians are good at herd-mind cruelty but never good at hiding their gosiping.

So as I think back upon that former minister of mine -- who is quite the Christian gay theologian revolutionary-- I tell myself, "I don't want to develop a kneejerk disdain toward Christians. I don't want to write stories where Christians are harpies who pride themselves on how kind and good and mature they are...when they are really nothing more than cruel beings. Those are the stories non-Christians and Christian-haters write."

Yet, the depiction of Christians is often true. At least American Christians. And let's face it: much of the most blatant racism comes from Christians in the Bible Belt. The Bible tells us: a true witness delivers souls. But can I write the passionate accurate story without being mean-spirited and kneejerk about it?

God alone knows.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Stepping up my game

Ecclesiastes 10:10 states that if your tool is blunt, you gotta whet it and/or put to more strength.

Well, that's what I'm doing. I'll be the first to admit that my spiritual tools are a might blunted. Sure, I read my Bible every day for about an hour. I speak in tongues at night. I command and speak the words. I sing praises to God for things I know he's doing although I don't see it with myphysical eyes. I listen to tapes and sermons during the day and at bedtime. I talk to God all day. Hey, I'll do anything to have my son's healing manifest.

But the problem of the matter is... I am seriously p*ssed with some Christians -- of all colors, but mostly christians who are racist and white-- and I have to forgive folks for what they have done to me in the past. What a bummer! If only, if only, if only, if only I could get what I want, get my son healed, go to heaven...without forgiving my enemies. But honestly, as Jesus said, if the righteous scarcely enter the kingdom, how will evil folks get in?

And truly, my bros and sistahs in Christ, we cannot afford the luxury of a hateful thought.

Holy Spirit, heal my heart. I'd like to pray for these idiots before I see healing in my heart...but honestly, I'm not in the mood to try that hard. Maybe you can heal me first. Then I can manage it. I ask all this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Strange bliss, flaky joy

When one has been ill a long time, real life crumbles away. The veneer of it at least. One reaches a point where one doesn't really care...and that not caring either leads to great despair, great indifference, or great joy. On Sunday while i was cleaning (yeah, yeah, i know. I shouldn't be cleaning on a sunday) I suddenly got an overwhelming sense of joy about my solitariness. Of course I'm not as solitary as most reclusives. I have a hubby and two sons and some lovely friends -- who are also solitary reclisive types-- and my email friends.

But for the most part I live without seeing people and I rarely encounter people. So there I was kinda bewailing my illness and the way my life has turned out....and cleaning the best of my ability.....when this flaky joy comes into my heart. I'll try to explain what the joy was saying to me. (yes, joys can speak). It said something like: "Look how happy and free you are! You know what it's like to not be bounded by all those rules and expectations of a normal life. Because your family hasn't got the tiniest semblance of an ordinary life, you are so free!" (Trust me, life in this house is very strange and grief-stuck most times.)

That's not exactly what the joy-grief (greif-joy?) said but it was close. I can't really explain it but instead of feeling as if my neighbors and my church brothers had abandoned me...and instead of feeling that normality and life had abandoned us... I felt the joys the desert hermits must have felt....a total freedom from the world's cares, rules, judgment....a realization that I was a bit like those folks who had willingly (or unwillingly) turned their back on normal life. It was wonderful. Strange, but wonderful. God must've been in it. It certainly is making me indifferent to stuff the world considers important. Which may or may not be a good thing. Dead to the world, and the world is dead to me.

Perhaps it's the nature of the situation...being ill for so long. I DO believe that God's word is working mightily and powerfully in me, though. But illness does make a person indifferent to life as others live it. In some ways i DO think that this indifference is good for my particular soul. Since my childhood, I was always so pleasant and repressed...and I'm sure the root cause of this too-long-endured illness was me repressing my emotions. Now, the indifference separates me from people...from my old desire to be liked by people....from the fear of man, from my worries about the stuff the world worries about. I think that's a good thing. Because the Christian community has been pretty harsh to me... and it's good to be free from them..and to neither love nor hate them. And it's good to live a stripped kind of life....especially when one is aware that YOU GOD SEE ME.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I'm always amazed at how we Christians tend to use jargon when we try to preach the gospel....even when we are trying our best not to. Did I just hear a person witnessing to some stranger say, "Jesus came to save you from your sin and to bring us his glorious gospel that you may enter into His body?" Oh, where does one start with a declaration such as this?

Well, for the innocent non-believer out there, here are the basics of the as non-jargonal terms as I can make it. I'm sure some jargon might have slipped in. But at least I'm trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of my faith. I tried this with Wind Follower too. Just to get down the basic folkloric aspect of Christianity. So here goes:

Gospel is a word often used by Christians when they speak. It is a word that has two meanings and these two meanings are closely related.

The meaning of the word gospel :

• The word “Gospel” is an old English word which means good news. It is related to another old currently used old English word: gossip. But “gossip” means rumors and bad news about other people, the word gospel is used of news that is true and so wonderful it sounds unbelievable but which is nevertheless very, very true. This leads to the second meaning: something which tells the wonderful unbelievable truth about Jesus Christ.
• The second meaning of the word gospel refers to four books in the Bible which tells about the life of Jesus Christ. There are four gospels
• The gospel according to Matthew
• The gospel according to Mark
• The gospel according to Luke
• The gospel according to John
These gospel writers are called “evangelists” which is a Greek word which means “Messengers who tell the good news.” Three of the four writers (Matthew, Mark, and John) were friends, followers (sometimes called an “apostle”) and eyewitnesses of Jesus when he lived on earth. The fourth (Luke) was a friend who met them later. He was also a researcher and a doctor and he wrote another book in the Bible called “The Acts of the Apostles” which tells about how Jesus’ followers taught the gospel and what they did as they preached the good news.

All the gospels were written to tell about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ lived more than 2000 years ago in Israel. At that time the country was called Palestine and the Romans had invaded the country. The gospels show Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, and telling people about God’s love. But for Christians, Jesus is more than a mere historical figure. Christians believe Jesus is:
• The Pure and Ultimate sacrifice for a person’s sins
• The Love of God made visible
• The One and only mediator between God and humans, someone who is equal to both God and humans and so he can speak to both.
• The uncreated Son of God who co-created the world with God the Father
• The Prophet who spoke the ultimate truth and mysteries about God, God’s love, Faith, Evil and the Devil, Truth, Life, Death, Spiritual Laws, and the spiritual world.
• The True Example of what a real human being should be.
• The Living Word of God in human flesh.
• The Way to God and to heaven
• The revealer of certain mysteries such as how the world really works.

What is the good news of Jesus Christ?

The good news of Jesus Christ is based on the following beliefs:

• God loved humanity and saw that humanity had forgotten how loved they were.
• God wanted humans to know him yet he knew they could not understand his goodness or his essence because the way humans thought was different from the way God thought because God is good and God is spirit
how hard people tried, they could never be as good as God wished them to be. Nor did they wish to be.
• God’s holiness required justice and required that all sins – bad things we do, think, or say such as murder, lying, pride, or sexual immorality—be punished. But God’s mercy wanted to provide a way to help people come to Him.
people couldn’t be good without His help, yet people did not understand that they needed to understand what goodness, justice, and love were.
• God sent Jesus Christ, who is the representation of everything God is, to be born on earth as a Savior, Teacher, and Sacrifice on earth
• God put the punishment for all the sins humans would ever commit onto Jesus.
• Jesus perfectly did everything God sent Him to do.
• Jesus lived a perfect life, and died for all the sins that sinners had ever and would ever commit in order to pay for their sins
• Jesus gave his life to free humans from death, hell, and the power of sin.
• Jesus sends God’s Holy Spirit to live within those who believe what the gospel writers say about Jesus.
• T
hat anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus and asks Jesus to died for his sin have power over sin and sickness and conquers the world through their faith in all that Jesus did.

What the gospel is not

The gospel is not
• A system of laws -- although those who believe in the gospel should be good.
• The gospel is not aesthetics – although those who believe in Jesus often worship God in many kinds of beautiful settings and church services
• The gospel is not political correctness – although those who believe in Jesus are commanded to be kind and good to all people
• The gospel is not etiquette – although good behavior is always a good thing.

How do you become friends with God?
If you want to be reconciled to God and feel that something is separating you from him, say this prayer:
God, some people are so sure that you exist. Some people are so sure that you love them. They say that if we ask you for anything and mention Jesus to you, you will answer our prayer. Please God please let me know you in the way your son Jesus Christ does. Please let me understand everything about the Bible and about you and about Jesus. Please help me see that you have destroyed even the most powerful sin and that if you live in me that I will be able to conquer sin and all that sin does to my body, mind, and soul. Please let me understand your love, your care, and your power. Help me to trust in you and for the sake of Jesus and all Jesus did for humans, please forgive me of all my sins, free my soul and spirit from the damage sin has caused in my life and make me your true and obedient child. Amen. It's done.

Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online. She lives with her husband, their two sons in upstate New York

He did me much evil

“O Lord, if you mark iniquities, who shall stand?” Psalm 130:3

“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we.” James 5:17

“For God sends rain on the just and unjust.”

These are two of my favorite verses in the Bible. I have many favorite Bible verses – and for many reasons, but these verses always make me smile. Why?

“Alexander the Coppersmith did me much evil.” 2 Ti 4:14

“But Diotrephes who loves to have the pre-eminence among them.” 3 John 9

First and foremost, the epistle writers are finger-pointing. And they are so human about it. As a Christian growing up in North America, I was taught to turn the other cheek when someone wounded me or destroyed me. It was pretty evident that turning the other cheek meant no finger-pointing. This means that if someone made you lose your job, took away your spouse, stole your money, etc that you were supposed to keep your mouth shut, forgive them, and silently keep the pain to one’s self.

But here we have John the beloved disciple and Paul both indulging in finger-pointing. Hey, if Paul was the only one to whine about someone, I’d let it slide. But John the Beloved Disciple? The guy who talks about “love” in almost every verse?

It’s curious to see this. Jesus is loving and he complained about bad guys. If one reads the Book of Acts, one can see that Alexander the Coppersmith is not particularly nice either. A worshiper of Diana, he started a riot when Paul preached about Jesus in Ephesus. Likewise, Diotrephes doesn’t sound like a particularly nice person. He refused to allow his small church to care for or help traveling missionaries. So John’s assessment of the guy is valid to me. And yet, in my oh so proper heart and my pseud-upper-class snootiness, and my cultural idea of classiness and stoic behavior, I just feel a bit uncomfortable about this finger-pointing. Alexander was a pagan, and Diotrephes was a believer, probably a least he thought he had power.

I don’t know where I got the idea that we should not complain about another person. The Bible tells us to turn the other cheek when an enemy harms us, but often we assume that this means not saying anything to those who have harmed us. Some Christians will tell everyone how they have been misused, cut others do not even complain to the one who harmed them.

I’m not going to create a theology about the fact that the Holy Spirit shows the flaws of these writers. The Bible repeatedly tells us that complaining is a sin, and that we should rejoice in all things. I am not sure if we should complain about other people only when the church is threatened. But what is interesting about these two verses is that they were human enough to complain and their hurt and anger is apparent. Paul doesn’t sound too forgiving, and John tells Gaius that he’s going to give Diotrephes a good talking-to.

This leads me to Elias. James tells us that he was a man who was subject to like passions as we are and yet he prayed and God heard him. “Subject to?” Interesting phrase. According to Vine’s, it means “bound by.” It could also mean “in danger of being penalized for a misdeed” or “controlled by” Imagine that? Remember Elias? He battled Jezebel. He was burned out. He wanted to die so much and was so tired of living that he actually asked God to take him. And God answered him by letting him die.

Elias was moody, depressed, beaten. And God answered his prayer. John and Paul were none-too-perfect either. Although God had said “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Although the writers of the book of Proverbs had said, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing,” Paul’s attitude was “if you marry you’re going to be in trouble: don’t do it.” As for John, it’s pretty difficult to find something bad to say about him. After all, he was the one disciple who was manly enough to align himself with Jesus when Jesus was suffering. But...yes, there is this little matter of finger-pointing. He’s talking behind someone’s back here, and probably Diotrephes deserved it. But it’s not something we perfectionist Christians would be happy about. So, yes, John is not perfect. And, frankly, that makes me incredibly happy.

Often we think that God will only answer our prayers if we are perfect. While it is good to have a pure heart, a clean soul, and a holy mind when we pray, we have a loving God who remembers that we are human. Jesus told us that God sends sun and rain on both the just and the unjust. God is so loving and good that both the evil farmer and the good farmer can depend on him for rain and sunshine.

Jesus is a wonderful high priest -- not because he was good, but because he knows how hard it is to be good. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God for healing. Ask God for blessings. He loves you. You may be surprised that He will bless you even if you are not perfect enough for him to answer your prayer.

You, God, see me

The God Who Sees Me

Hagar, a favorite Bible character, was the first single mother in the Bible, the first woman “put away” or abandoned by her man. When she realized that God loved and cared for her, she gave Him a new name: “The God who sees me.”
Hagar represents the unseen of earth. The poor, the divorced, the outcast, the discarded, the foreign, the poor, the hungry, the rejected. Even now she is unseen or “wrongly seen” by many Christians. Yet, her life in many ways mirrors another slave’s: Joseph.
Both Joseph and Hagar were owned by foreigners, faced possible death because of the jealousy of others, were seen as mere objects by female owners because of sex and their youth. Both learned obedience through suffering, were honored and demoted, were enslaved because God needed them to preserve His people, suffered in order to help their master’s nation, and were saved by divine intervention.
“You, God, see me” encompasses all the names of God:
Jehovah-jireh – God provides – He sees your needs.
Jehovah-rapha – God heals – He sees your sickness because he was afflicted as we were and was wounded for our healing.
The Lord our shepherd – He is not a hireling who pays no attention to the sheep.
The Lord our light – He sees our path although we know it not.
The Lord our Comforter – He sees the pain in the heart of the rejected and unseen ones.
“You, God, see me.”
The name’s meaning can be understood by the most innocent child and by the most guilt-wracked adult. It is a name that the wounded and the powerful, Christians and non-Christians can be enlightened by. It is a name that shows that God is immediate and intimate, yet omniscient, awesome, and eternally loving.

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