Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Subverting the claptrap -- fierceness

Every once in a while -- much too often-- I just fall apart on my husband and burst into tears. The sweetie is so full of love but who can heal me? I have such a depth of woundedness, hurt, and trauma. "A wounded spirit who can bear?" I need God's love to pour into all my soul, heart, body, mind, spirit. And then there is this about the last days  In the last days mean shall be Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,... That's true in America now where being fierce and cold is considered hip. So I guess the day will come when all the world will be fierce.

I don't like fierceness and the world is fierce. It honors fierceness; in fact now it honors fierceness but it lacks the balancing honor. In fantasy, fierceness is always aligned with honor. But in the United States, fierceness -- whether passionate and uncontrolled, whether immature, whether studied, whether callous and cold, whether daring, whether humorous, whether done in gangs and collectively or done by one weak or strong individual-- is everywhere. And it is so kneejerk. Kneejerk disdain/hip disdain ... lacking kindness, politeness, forbearance, empathy, etiquette. One simply says to someone, "I'm on my way to church" and the person, for no good reason has to say in a snide dismissive way, "I don't believe in God." Or one is in church and someone one doesn't know has to come and say one should dress up for church. And don't even talk to me about the fierceness in the Black community where parenting and even well-meaning jokes can be cruel.

(I think this is why I hate cop shows. It's like the cops show their fierceness by being impolite. It's like... the tough female cop and all the cops have to show how tough they are by how much they can destroy the other person's soul. So much soul-annihilation going on.)

I don't know what happened to me. Yes, yes, I know what happened to me. I am really stressed by cruelty. I am really empowered by it. The fibromyalgia goes awry when the slightest cruelty comes my way. So of course I end up with a life and with novels where my characters are totally alienated from the rest of the world. Which I suppose is good. In these clannish times where one has to have backup -- racial clan backup, political backup, religious backup-- what happens? I don't fit easily into any camp. Quite the bother, but I remember that my lord Jesus was rejected and despised of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Fibromyalgia is an illness of woundedness, as is lupus. (Weirdly, lupus is really epidemic in the African-American community which makes me wonder if our immune system is so stressed by race, poverty, cruelty, weird families that it just breaks in a certain way.) Supposedly, those women with fibro have were assailed one time too many with feeling of being unloved and abandoned. The immune system just couldn't take it.

I don't believe in terminal or incurable illnesses. And in this case I believe that if I were to feel a super-dose of God's love that I would be healed.

My main female character in Constant Tower is Maharai. She lives in a fierce world within a fierce clan. She cannot deal with it but in the end she ends up with two husbands. I really like that. I really really really like that. Because there are victims of fierceness in fantasy novels and in the real world. A young Christian writer friend was upset with me that I had given Maharai two husbands. It bothered her because she felt one of the husbands would be wounded and plus it was just unChristian. But for was the desire of my soul. My character Maharai builds blanket fortresses in her room. She sleeps between her husbands, protected from the world. In my spirit, that's what I want. I can't have it in this world. It's not legal. Plus my husband is loving and in this world, I have God's love to heal and shield me from the world. But Maharai has nothing.

Sometimes I just cry out for the Lord. I just say "Continue to Love me." I sing and start crying while I listen to, "Come quickly, oh Lord. Even so hasten your return."

Because heaven is my home.

Last night, I was thinking of the angel who smiled so sweetly at me. What love there exists in heaven! Enough to heal me of all the hurts I've received. From family, foe, friend, stranger, social workers, teachers, racists, cops. Enough to heal my soul from trauma. Lord, let our lives on earth be like the lives of the blessed ones in heaven.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Sometimes I remember the cruelty that has been hurled at me by people. When I remember the pain, I remember the striking to my heart. I imagine those fiery darts are still in my back and soul and heart and flesh.I want God to pull them out.

Lord, heal my heart, please! And in the meantime, help me to show my heart in my stories. -C

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Too strange, too lovely, too good, too magical to believe

My sweet Psal in Constant Tower is an atheist. He's a tolerant atheist, however. (Well, tolerant enough.) He's certainly not as rude as the militant angry hateful atheist I've encountered in life and seen on TV or on the web. Loic, in Wind Follower, was a believer in the Creator but was very unclerical and hated the shaman of his people. In that way he was a prophet. But Psal is an atheist. Or rather, he is a secret believer. Except the secret is a strange one: the owner and keeper of the secret doesn't know his own secret: Psal is an agnostic who believes but who is unaware that he is a believer. Or maybe he fights against believing. What, then, will bring him to see that he might secretly want to have a Creator in the world? He becomes aware that there are things in the world that no kind or amount of science can fix: the evil in men's hearts, the evil in his own heart, the strange evil in the world. But really there's more. He discovers that something can be righted in the world...but that only the spiritual Creator can fix it. There is, one might say, a specific joy the Creator can bring to Psal which will prove the Creator's existence to Psal.

That brings me to this: We Christians find it hard to believe that the God who made heaven and earth, the taste buds (yeah, the tongue can discern about 10,000 different tastes, if I remember rightly...which amazes me because it shows God wants us to love food and not merely feed ourselves) and the eyes (tons of flowers and patterns out there) should care for us?

It's not as if we're Hindus who are caught in a kind of universal indifferent machinery. It's not as if we're Moslem who have a holy far-off God who rules and dispenses and whose will one must submit to. We have a God who is God-with-us who has put a ladder between heaven and earth, who has created for us a mediator who can put one hand on God's shoulder and one on ours, who has provided us with a high priest who is not untouched by compassion for us, who has given us an advocate to walk beside us. So then, why the difficulty in believing?

I'm thinking of St Thomas again. And as usual I'll state that St Thomas' problem with believing wasn't some was melancholy and pessimism. And that is the problem with many in the Christian world. We really aren't rationalistically unbelieving, we're just unable to believe that something good can happen to that Jesus is not here.

But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: Romans 10:6-8. 

We know if Jesus was here that all would be well, that He would heal us...that the healing He's placed in our spirit would transform our mortal bodies. But this God-with-us business, this Christ-in-us the hope of Glory stuff....that is a problem...because our rational minds want to see Jesus is here with us standing beside us in the flesh. 

Paul said this.
Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 
And I can say it as well.

Yet, although I have seen an angel with my very own eyes, and seen a demon with my very own eyes... I still find it hard to believe that the world operates in the way God says it operates.

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? John 3:12

The world doesn't work the way we've been taught. But to jump in -- with all one's heart, faith, mind, soul, will-- into the God machinery and to trust that other way as being the true way of! Difficult. Dar I believe that God has given his people dominion over disease, sin, demons? Can I be transformed by the renewing of my mind? We will see.

Evil and the Justice of God

Evil and the Justice of God by N T Wright

  • Hardcover: 176 pages

  • Publisher: IVP Books; 1ST edition (October 5, 2006)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 0830833986

  • ISBN-13: 978-0830833986

  • Friday, March 25, 2011

    Seemingly tiny spiritual stronghold, major healing obstacle

    Ooh, new insight into a strange little stronghold we Christians have. When we ask God to heal us we ask him to heal a specific area. We here people say, "a touch, Lord" as if when God heals someone He picks and chooses from among the person's illness which he will heal at that time. This of course leads us to only receiving healing in that area.

    It leads us to limiting God and not ascribing to him glory and strength. We start thinking, "But can God do it all?" And yet, if we think about it... God's normality is to do it all. This is the God who uses the words "all" "any" and "every" very easily. His arm is not straitened that it cannot save. This is the God who adds, "And because it is a small thing, I will also...."

    But what typically happens in healing services is that we see God as going about with a healing finger or hand and touching someone's knee or neck or lower disc or tooth. We don't see him as one whose healing purpose and power is so good that he makes someone every whit whole. We say to ourselves, "Such and such is wrong with me. This too, this as well. I will ask God to heal this, or this, or that. I will ask God to heal the worst of my problems." It's as if we think the power is meted out. As if God can only give a little of health here and there when it's really A) the church's tradition that has trained us to think this was and B) our limiting God.

    It seems to me that when we encounter God's power, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead should be able to to transform and heal our mortal bodies. ALL of it. That's what St Paul said, anyway. When the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of the Lord raises a standard against him.

    Strange that the God we have, who healed everyone of the Israelites on the Passover and there was no illness upon them, who caused their feet to not grow old on their feet for 40 years, who made his people rich when they left Egypt, who would not allow Pharoah to whittle away and wheedle down the full deliverance of all his people and their lands and the God we ask for a small touch.

    So someone who has tooth issues and foot issues and depression and weight issues and a combination of illnesses should not be questioning if God is able to heal ALL. When the power of God comes in at us, all our being should be opened to Him. Like light coming into a dark room, God's light should touch every part of our souls, spirit, minds, flesh. And the power of God's light is so powerful it should transform us entirely...not just the parts of our bodies we are begging Him to do. Just my 0.02 and yet, to me it's worth a million dollars because it makes me reframe the idea of God's healing power. It's not a finger-pointing, fine-tuning of healing power but a gusher and a tsunami of His love. When we reframe, we can see ourselves being entirely healed as we're overwhelmed with his loving power.

    The devil's deceptions are subtle and have been around for ages in many ways. And this is one of the most powerful, most subtle of these pseudo-spiritualities.

    Should children come to their heavenly loving Father thinking he will only give them the necessary little food?

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Story characters as an exploration of spiritual strongholds

    Okay, so there's King Nahas in Constant Tower.

    Last night Luke (beloved hubby)  and I were talking about God and King Nahas. Nahas represents the totality of his clan's traditions and belief about strength and suffering, and I was wondering if there is some stronghold in me which considers God a bit like Nahas.

    Nahas will not relent until all the tests Psal goes through have been overcome, until Psal proves himself. He is absolutely merciless, even to his son....especially to his son. And I said to luke, "I hope to God I don't have that idea of God working and mixing in my faith in a kind of double-minded stronghold. Because it would mean that I won't allow myself to receive any blessing until i think I've "suffered enough" or "endured enough." 

    So am trying to take every thought captive. Trying to focus on God's love and on the quality of unearned love, of grace..unmerited favor.

    This is one of the blessings of fictions. They're fictive dreams and we see the argument our soul is having with our spirit when we look at our characters. 

    A stronghold is something within our minds that battles against faith. A stronghold is not doubt, per se. But it is a subtle belief or self-deception and it gets intermingled in our world view and it works against us getting our prayers answered or our growing closer to God.

    If Nahas is one of my mental images of God as king, then I need to explore that. This character kinda reminds me of a dream I had when I was young where I was shouting, "God, Father! God, Father!" When I woke up I realized that God was showing me in my dream that my idea of God was that he was like Mario Puzo's "godfather" -- someone to be feared.

    In Wind Follower, Loic's dad was loving but misunderstood. In some ways he was inscrutable and ineffectual. Yeah, the dads in a Carole McDonnell novel tend to be odd. 

    The interesting thing is I do not have a father. He disowned us when we were younger. And I've only seen him twice or thrice since the folks divorced. So I don't know what fathers are like. People talk about dads and I'm like... "uh, uh..okay." And so I have to wade through this God as Father thing.  But God is helping me. When I discover His true love for me and how He wants to give me so much and how freely His love is given...maybe I will be able to receive more answered prayers.

    Will see. Happy creating!

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Advent: the bit in Zechariah's mouth

    When the angel Gabriel was sent to Zechariah with the good news of John the Baptist's conception, Zechariah didn't believe. Luke 1:20 Gabriel made him immediately dumb and unable to speak his unbelief. This just wasn't Gabriel being antsy. He was putting a bit in his mouth James 1:26 -- as Psalm 32:9 tell us. This is someone taking away the rudder of Zechariah's life. Jesus tells us that we will give an account of every idle words Matthew 12:36 we speak. God has given us such wonderful promises to speak, wonderful words of life. So we have to commit to speaking properly. Why? Because as Christians, we do not walk in the dark. We know how the world operates. We do not stumble in the dark as those who have no light.

    I often wish I would have a bit put in my mouth Psalm 39:1 so I won't say anything negative about my life and put the ship on the wrong path. James 3:2 James 3:4

    It's tough but God has asked us to be mature and grown and to be adult about our authority, our power, our use of words.

    So, no matter what I will watch my words. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress

    Let the redeemed of the Lord say so Psalm 107:2and stop talking negatively or affirming the pathological truth.

    Oh God, set a watch before my lips.Psalm 141:3

    The Lord had prepared a blessing for the world, yet even in such a great situation there was the possibility that Zechariah's speaking lack of faith would cause the blessing to be destroyed. We Christians work in collaboration with God. God works with us, never without us. Speaking the word and not having a mouth that  speaks sweetness and bitterness is important.

    Think of the Wise woman whose son had died. Everyone kept asking her what the problem was with her son? She kept saying "All is well." SHALOM. The temptation to speak about the pathological situation is strong.

    2 Kings 4:18-35

    18And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.19And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.20And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. 22And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. 23And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. 24Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. 25So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: 26Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well. 27And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. 28Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?
    29Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. 30And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and asthy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her. 31And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

    32And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 33He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.34And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 35Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. 37Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    War on women, war on little boys, true witnessing and walking the borderlands

    I'm totally convinced that much of the war on women nowadays -- yes, there is a war on women!-- is a perverse response to the war against little boys and children.

    So, what am I not saying?
    I'm not saying that the war on women is unimportant compared to the war on boys.
    I'm not saying that all criminal men are emotionally wounded as boys.
    I'm not saying that all abusive men should be treated as wounded souls.
    I'm not saying that all bad guys are to be pitied.

    But a part of me gets very antsy when the media goes on about how bad men are. Often people take it up as a feminist issue, as if there is this evil genetic inclination toward abuse in the y-chromosome. They think men are bad simply because men are men.

    Little boys and little girls are unable to deal with abuse. When the abuse happens, they blame themselves most often. Especially if they have prudish blaming parents. The pain has to go the pain gets turned out against themselves or against someone else weaker than themselves. The weaker is often the woman in the relationship, but in same-sex relationships the weaker of the couple will be abused.

    I like fairness. This is probably one of the reasons why I get so antsy when I hear folks hating on all men. I imagine a little boy being raped and going to his mother and trying to tell her and his mother -- priggish and Christian and holy-- doesn't want to hear. (Actually, the friend I'm thinking about was raped by his dad from age four and their family was Jewish and his dad was a lawyer...but you know what I mean.)

    I've often wondered why I seem to want to write more about the woundedness of boys rather than the woundedness of girls. Several of my feminist writer friends have chided me -- quite cruelly-- saying that I wasn't enlightened because I've fallen into the trap of writing about male fantasy heroes, which is par for the course. Shouldn't I -- they ask-- make a woman/girl a hero? I've really gotten a lot of tongue-lashings about this. But the way I see it is this: If feminism is about helping the outcast and seeing the world as equals, if being my truest self is feminism, then writing about emotionally-wounded males is the thing for me to do. These feminists often don't think I'm being my own true self at all. They think I've allowed the mythos of the patriarchal world to affect me.

    Which leads me to another weird thin: I often write more about the white culture (or white cultures) than I do about the black culture. In all my stories, some poor black girl/woman is in the middle of a white culture. And to make matters even sicker, the white culture is often a rich there's a lot of wish fulfillment mercenary romance thing happening. So, again, is this me being unenlightened? Or is this being myself?

    The Bible says: "a true witness delivers souls." This is what I try to be in life: true. I try to be transparent. If I am at heart an oreo, someone who has lost her femininity and her race along the way because of the society and culture I hung around in as a kid, shouldn't I just write from that imperfect place...until the time I get "racially sane and femininely enlightened" as my black and/or feminist friends would define it?

    I am also not saying that only the pain of abused little boys matter. I think there are many young girls being abused all over the world. Probably as much as young boys.
    I have had three close lesbian friends -- they were all raped by fathers or brothers.
    I have had some close gay male friends -- they were raped by fathers and uncles.

    I'm not pathologising all gay folks, btw. It's just that in my own own gay friends were terribly abused. I've personally never met anyone who was born gay, although I've met many people who were oriented toward homosexuality because they were adopted and had unloving dads or they were raped.

    To grow up with male friends who were brutally-raped by men or women and to A) say that they were born gay or B) say all men are victimizers...well, to me it would be dishonest to keep silent. And why should I silence myself? To have been bullied by both Christians and non-Christians, to have been slammed by whites and blacks, why should I silence myself? To have been hurt by men and by women, why should I silence myself? Aren't there many people who walk the borderlands as well as I?

    Something else: a minister once complimented me by saying my writing is ambassadorial Christianity. He meant that anyone can read my books and for the most part see me as part of their own society.
    My friend, Nick Wood, also says of me that as a writer I "walk the borderlands." In effect, when a white person reads my stories, they don't see it as a story written by a black person. True, they see a black main character, and they see black issues. Yet in some odd way, I do not write as they expect a black person to write. So, am I being unenlightened again? Did all that reading of Irish and British Romantic and Victorian literature (and way too much watching of PBS and Masterpiece Theater) screw me up? (Honestly, I still haven't read a lot of Black literature...compared with the Euro-books I've read.)

    I'm not saying one should aim to be an oreo. Or aim to straddle the borderlands. But heck, if one finds one's self in the borderlands...and if the borderlands is one's home...well, wouldn't it be a kind of dishonesty to pretend to be something one isn't?

    In Constant Tower, my main character Psal is abused. He's unpleasant, as many abused people are. But he's also my  hero. He's honey-colored in a clan of white-skinned people, and he's very emotional in a rational, warrior culture. I love him a lot. 

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Theme, Variations, Healing

    Okay, anyone who reads a Carole McDonnell novel will find the same themes:
    A married family within an extended family or clan
    Physical, sexual, and emotional violation

    There are more...but that's just to give you some examples.

    Now, Paul and St John both complained in their letters about people who had harmed them.
    Demetrius the coppersmith did Paul much evil and Diotrephes liked "having the preeminence" and didn't allow John -- Jesus' best friend!-- to visit.

    But those are letters, not really works of art.

    In the same way, we have King David with his deathbed vengeance list and his grief at his own treachery toward his friend whom he had betrayed.

    David manages to talk about his pain and the cruelty of his friends in the psalms. He uses his art to raise his pain to a high level.. Psalm 39, Psalm 37, Psalm 73, for instance, are not mere regurgitation of his pain. They are well-crafted.

    Some of my issues have reached a place of art where I can talk about them without being aware that I'm talking about them. I don't really think about the person who harmed me. The rape stuff for instance. I was beaten terribly by a white guy who wanted to sleep with me in college but I didn't want to sleep with him. (Good little Christian that I was.) He was quite handsome and a good friend so his appearing in my room one night and trying to rape me and beating me up was something of a surprise. Weirdly, he pops up a lot in many of my stories -- he's Noam in Wind Follower-- and I have no hatred for him although I think he definitely affected my attitude toward men and sex.

    I suspect without quite realizing it I've forgiven him. So although the effect of the beating is still with me it just becomes a part of the terrain I travel in my writing. My characters have sexual issues and are not healed. Like me, they are too sickly or too sexually wounded to enjoy any kind of sex. Yet that brings a uniqueness and a gem of healing to my stories. I used to sit there freaking out that I couldn't write good sex scenes, then I realized that there is no way my characters could enjoy the crap in romance novels where folks have explosive passionate sex just wan't gonna happen in any of my books. There is too much woundedness in sex for me. Because of this guy in college beating me up, because of my preacher grandfather, because my mother didn't want any of her daughters coming home "with the belly like all these poor American Blacks."

    My treatment of the Wheel Clan in Constant Tower shows some healing as well. Really, there's this stockholm syndrome thing with my writings. I mean, on the one hand it's good for me that my writing is so... soo.. ambassadorial. As a black writer, I write in such a way that I deal with black issues in a way that whites can understand. I also tend to have a black character alone among whites and yet the story doesn't feel as if the black character belongs to her own tribe but to the white tribe. Ah, little oreo that I am!  But Constant Tower is so much about being wounded in the house of one's friends: whatever that house is -- race, religion, family, church, gender. I am very aware of the evil groups I belong to have done to me...and that awareness permeates my stories...yet.... I feel no need in Constant Tower to describe any particular instance.

    But there are other instances --as in My Life as an Onion-- where I go into post traumatic mode and want to put the entire event into the story.  It's obvious I haven't forgiven because when these themes pop up in my stories and my characters actually start telling the exact story of what happened to me the plot gets bogged down. I've ruined many stories by trying to write about a certain incident. It's as if I feel I've not had my say on that issue yet, or that the person(s) who wounded me still don't "get" it.

    So there is anger there. Or maybe not anger, but the need to have my say.  Which is human. But as a Christian, should I be human? And as a writer, can I afford the luxury of writing about certain things that affect my stories for the worst?

    God whines a lot about Israel and Judah. In Ezekiel, he even calls them sister/whores who were jonesing for the hottie Assyrian/Egyptian/Ethiopian armies. I think God understands our need -- my need-- to tell my heart.

    I think I'm creative enough to write about the variations of these same themes without boring folks to tears. I hope so anyway. Although there are moments where I say to myself: "Uhm, what would I be writing about if my in-laws hadn't rejected me? What would I be writing about if I had gotten along super-well with blacks? What would I be writing about if I had been a cookie-cutter Christian? Would I even be writing? Am I healed because I can write and walk the borderlands? After all, for all my annoyance with holier-than-thou smug Christians and judgmental smug atheists, racist whites and snobby blacks, I tend to be pretty even handed when I write about them. Stockholm Syndrome again? So maybe in some ways I am healed.

    And I also think God gave me art to heal me. Not everyone who is wounded becomes dedicated to writing.  Will I write in heaven? We need drama on earth to work through pain. Journaling is okay, mind you...but something about fiction forces the wounded to look into the heart of the abuser. Anyways...singing I can see in heaven. Painting, as well. But will Constant Tower last in the heavenly library? Will it even be applicable? Who knows? But it's applicable now, I guess. It's healing me.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    Jacob's third time leaving home

    So today, we opened the Bible to this verse:

    And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here [am] I. And he said, I [am] God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:  Genesis 46:1-3

    It dawned on me: Jacob left his "home" three times. True, they were "habiru" (wanderers) but there is wandering around in your general homeland and there is going away on a far journey. 

    The first time Jacob/Israel left home, he fled from his brother Esau and ended up in Laban's territory and found himself a wife. In this instance, trials at home and his own crime led him to up and leave. It was an utterly unplanned leaving. He found his although it was unplanned, it turned our well...kinda. Well, kinda well.

    Which leads to the second time he left home. This was somewhat planned but it had to be done sneakily. Here again, he was fleeing from family and he really had nowhere to go except that he was going somewhere else. And there was still the problem of the pesky brother Esau who was out there somewhere still waiting for him.  This leaving led to Rachel lying about the household gods and Jacob accidentally cursing his wife which led to her dying in childbirth. Before Jacob left he'd been talking to God and it was through God's help that he had increased. As he prepared to leave, he prayed to God and reminded God of God's promise. Then he sojourned there for a while, while his family grew.

    Then the third time he left home, he had a large family. This was not the usual wandering around but the big leap of going to live in Egypt. Interestingly -- and this is my opinion-- Jacob knew by now that leaving for big journeys always seemed to big major issues. One of Jacob's most telling words: 

    And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.  Genesis 47:9

    I suspect that Jacob is now incredibly tired and incredibly wary. He has seen that journeys can bring big trouble, great blessings, and a scary combination of both. Life is a scary, unpredictable thing. So now, although his son is finally found -- his beloved, favorite son-- he is utterly terrified. Also, he probably knew of the prophesy God had given to Abraham that his children would be slaves in Egypt. So now...he has to go down to Egypt. I can imagine the thoughts running about in his head. But God told him to "go" and to not be afraid. So he went.

    Hubby and I have been praying for guidance....and I keep feeling God wants us to move. So...must become brave...and  must also ask Him to tell us where to go. Like Jacob, we've ended up in a bit of a mess in our lives because we didn't ask God what to do. So now... 

    Monday, March 07, 2011

    Life, Spirituality, and Character Torture

    I've been accused sometimes of indulging in character torture. It was a nice reviewer who accused me so it's okay. Besides, she was being honest. I like exploring how much suffering a person can endure and what happens to them when they are under life's onslaught. Poor Satha, Poor Psal, Poor Denise.

    Okay, everyone has trials, and most people suffer. But there is a kind of horrible enduring that few people have to deal with in life. As Americans we like democratizing pain. We say, "be kind because everyone is fighting a battle." Or we say, "everyone suffers." But those platitudes aren't true. We should be kind because everyone is probably fighting a battle but that battle may not be about longterm, relentless, mixed, piled-on suffering. After all, a woman in Ethiopia who has lost eight children to starvation suffers a bit more than someone whose father has died. First because the woman in Ethiopia is suffering a thing few parents should experience and she has suffered it eight times. And secondly because the person whose father has died is experiencing what is common to all men. The death of a parent is terrible but it is normal and par for the course. It is a suffering we all have to face in life.

    Although pain should not be democratized, some suffering is still hard to evaluate. A woman who is raped by six men and beaten to within a minute of her life has suffered but has she suffered more than a woman who is date-raped by one guy who raped her when she was out of it? Yes, all things being equal, I think so. The woman who was date-raped has suffered yes, and will be scarred for life. But she did not hear the verbal taunts and feel the powerful. strikes against her body as the woman raped by the six men. And although the once-raped girl will live in fear of any man she sees, the six-times raped girl will be devastated in that way and much more. It offends the American heart to hear such things but's true.  But then, other things could enter the mix. The girl who had been raped by one guy might have been raped by her father or might have lost her baby a few years back and might be in financial crises. So yes, we cannot truly quantify or qualify...but all things being equal cannot democratize all pain and put all suffering on an equal level. And when pain and suffering begins to be piled on...then we enter the realm of extraordinary suffering and...character torture.

    As Americans, those who want to democratize pain want to

    A) show that the whining sufferer isn't as strong as other sufferers and therefore should stop whining
    B) believe that people are able to handle their own suffering by themselves
    C) trust that the universe just isn't gonna treat one person worse than another
    D) believe that if someone has a life where many aspects of their life is going terribly wrong...then that sufferer must be partly to blame.

    But all this is not true. Suffering is often a slippery slope. One bad bit of luck or wrong action is often repaired. But sometimes one bit of bad luck can lead to more devastation which leads to more devastation which leads to more.

    For instance, a kid could buy a car with tints. He drives it in an areas where tinted cars are not allowed. He is given a ticket by the cops. The kid doesn't have the money to pay the ticket so ends up in court with a warrant. Meanwhile, kid also ends up with other cops in other areas of the county and because of that warrant ends up with another ticket. Soon kid has tickets for $500 or so all based on that. Then car is taken away and kid can't drive to his job. See what I mean. I wouldn't call that melodrama but it could become like it.

    I bring up "melodrama" because Maya Angelou once said that she didn't write too much about the bad things that happened in her life because if she wrote about all that happened at any one time that folks would consider the work melodramatic. The woman knows whereof she speaks. But as a writer, one attempts to share one's heart and one's idea of life anyway. It's difficult, because the shallow human mind either balks at hearing about the pain of others, starts comparing and democratizing pain, or is irked at life and love being pushed upon it.

    Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. Proverbs 14:10

    In the Bible, St Peter writes:
    Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

    And the prophet Isaiah writes about the enemy coming in like a flood.
    When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19

    The promise is that God will help. In a story, this is difficult to do. Sadly, weirdly, the evolution of stories aims toward humanism: no deus ex-machinas allowed. Either a person is helped by human agencies (in that case the person is seen as a victim and (if a woman) as pandering to the helpless woman stereotype. Or the person is overwhelmed by the cruelties of life and remains undefeated, or the person is overwhelmed by the cruelties of life but is defeated in soul, mind, and body. (Nihilism or human persevereance) But God cannot help. Nor can help be proferred by a fairy, or other magical forces. Very difficult in even a speculative-fiction story.  And yet, this is the point of Christianity: that God is a present help in trouble. So story affects our faith and faith affects our story...and it's a hard road for a writer and a Christian human being to walk. Especially a Christian. Because Christianity is about God being helpful. It's not Islam where one submits to fatalism and the power of God, and it's not Buddhism where one surrenders to fate, and it's not Hinduism where reincarnation gets into the mix.

    So yeah, there are times in some lives where the enemy comes in like a flood. And there are lives which are so flooded, they live a water-logged life. Not to mention the powers that be -- legal authorities, and other abusers of power such as social services, schools, banks, etc. But unlike anarchical folks who blame everything on politics or other looming social powers and who think all will be well with better politicians in power, I cannot think of the world's mess being changed by any human entity (in short, humanism.)

    Quite simply, the world, the flesh, and the devil exist; humanism/socialism/religion/spirituality etc cannot repair anything once and forever. Of course, kindness goes a long way. And much of human pain can be eased by folks just learning to keep their mouth closed. Without a know-it-all philosopher/social worker/minister/neighbor a person can breathe easily. And religion and spirituality without a true faith in Christ won't help matters either. This leads to the spiritual question: We all know folks who we simply cannot comfort because their lives are just so horribly unfair and so horribly bad that one feels the devil must be out to get them. Mercifully, sometimes folks are pulled out of such lives without losing their faith. As one of the Biblical proverbs states:

    First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. Proverbs 30: 8,9

    I keep trying to get my older son to understand that Life is real. I don't th ink the young are aware of how badly a life can go. One has to build one's boat before the storm hits.

    So yeah, I want to write about the hardness of life...and I want to write about people who encounter the hardness of life -- the storms of life, if you will-- in a ricketty boat. But I don't want it to be melodrama if fiction and/or if a Memoir...piling it on or whining.

    Endurance is a trait that is rarely understood and rarely done well in a novel. But when it is done well...with all the storytelling elements required of this modern generation of fiction-lovers... it works. Am trusting God to help me write well, to help me speak of suffering not only convincingly but also with hope. Will see. 

    Fairytales: Getting the mode right

    Once again, am trying to write a fairytale for fairytale review. This time their issue is the gray issue -- the lost child/lost girl/lost lost boy issue.

    I'm trying to get into the right mode for fairytales. The last time I submitted something to FTR, they said the story was good but it was really a ghost story. A folklore ghost story, but a ghost story. Aaargh! True, many fairytales have dead folks in them (okay not so much) but the world I had created wasn't a fairytale world. It was more folklore...perhaps because it was a fairytale based in Africa.

    I tend to merge genres...not that i have control over the way I merge different genres. I'm pretty useless at differentiation. I mean.. "what the heck kind of novel was wind follower?" And what is Night Wife? or
    Onion? So yeah my blessing is my curse. ..i do a heck of a lot of cross-genre. So I have to see clear.

    So... the story I'm writing could be a dream, could be surreal, could be folklore, could be Pilgrim's Progress-esque, could be Biblical, Which is not what I want. I want fairytale.

    So I've got to get  a grip on what makes something a fairytale and what doesn't.

    First, there has to be magic. Magic used against good folks by bad people, magic used to help folks escape evil. So far I'm kinda missing this because I have deadly flower people... which feels almost corpselike. So...uhm...have I stepped into horror?

    Secondly, there has to be a family. I got that down.

    Thirdly, there's a goal. Usually one person's goal. Uhm, in's a family goal. Will have to work on that.

    Fourthly, a person returns to his/her family and eden is restored at the end of the story. far the story starts with the family together and they are trying to get somewhere else. They don't have a home really. Uhm...gotta work on this.

    Fifth: A trial of some kind. Sometimes a persecutor/adversary causes the trial. Sometimes a small thing causes the protag to meet the persecutor/adversary.

    Sixth: Requests (usually made by someone in need or in power or both) that sets the hero/heroine on a journey. Somehow the person making the request cannot or will not go on the journey beause of illness, old age, poverty, or plain old self-servingness.

    Seventh: A very good person. (Or a trickster. But I don't want to get too into trickster mode.) The very good person wins the day through his intelligence or her beauty and goodness. Once in a while the beautiful girl is intelligent but for the most part, it's her morality and kind heart that wins the day.

    What else? What else? What else? Gotta think. 

    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    Spirituality, Pride, Being Myself

    Okay, there really is a lot to be said about choosing the appropriate time to hear a sermon. So here I am, mad as heck at the smug Peekskill police and the equally smug social services person and what do I listen to?

    Okay... it's a great sermon. And that's just the problem. When one's pride has been hurt -- and the weak, sick, wounded, poor and outcast in society are bound to have hurt pride-- it's just the worst time to hear a sermon on one's lack of holiness, the goodness of humility, etc. Hearing such sermons at such times just makes one feel even more hammered and then one starts thinking...."Uhm, so my son won't be healed and delivered of his sickness because I'm being a proud bitch?" It's all so stressing.

    I remember once when I was falling apart and I heard a sermon on protocol, that we should "enter God's gates with thanksgiving" that God was a king and above us and we should be aware of that. So I told myself to praise because that is what one does when meeting a king. But at the same time I thought.."But he's my father too! He's my friend too!" And I decided that I would accept the truth of the sermon but that at that moment, I needed to be a bit more myself.

    At such times one almost has to make a conscious decision to simply say: "This particular sermon does not apply to me." A dangerous thing to do but eh. Hey, unlike the minister in this sermon, I have incredible human insight, great spiritual discernment, a tendency toward terribly morbid introspection, and a hefty dose of generalized paranoia. It is VERY hard for my sin to catch me off-guard. So I'm not going to be falling apart because His Father God told him something about his own sin that he wishes to share with everyone. Heck, I'm always falling apart because of my sin.

    At times like this I have to remind myself that God is my own father as well. Really! One wants to ask God, "Father, can I please make this personal and not some sort of granite communal God who wants us all to learn the same lesson from what he's doing in some other person's life?" Trust me, if one has morbid introspection up the wazoo ...EVERY sermon one hears feels like a hammer.

    Anyway, considering I am battling bitterness because my illness and son's illness has allowed others to consider themselves superior to me, the sermon was very stressing. I want to say to God, "Father, please! I'm your daughter! Honor my pride, please! How can I continue to be humble when the powers that be are so unrelenting?" (I mean, one tells the social worker that there are medical exams which prove the kid has stomach troubles and that one's child was put in a psychiatric facility and tested for aggressiveness and the psychiatrist says he is fine... AND YET the social worker keeps telling you your son needs meds instead of believing you? It is very difficult to deal with. Especially when everyone else like the cops and the school join in. They totally forget that the child is wonderfully behaved the other 360 days of the year.)

    I suppose the nearest I can ask God is for justice. Which is what the poor ask for in the Bible. Justice. Justice. Mercy. And Justice.

    Dark Parables: Where the corpses are, there the vultures gather.

    Was lying in bed when I had this vision:

    I saw a beach or seashore. At first I was looking at only one little section where I saw tons of birds. Looked like dead birds. Then the camera panned across from the sea toward land and began to pull away for a larger view. It was then I saw hundreds maybe thousands of dead people on the beach and birds picking at their bodies. Then the camera (or viewpoint) went in closer and I saw a little girl with long very blond hair lying on her face in the sand. She had on a pink blouse and a bird was standing on her neck pecking at her skull and face.

    The blondeness of the little girl's hair made me think it was in some Scandinavian country.

    General Update on novels

    Sent Constant Tower to the publisher and am waiting to hear. I really like Psal, its main character. In Wind Follower, Loic likes his society and fits into it for the most part (he really only has two axes to grind: he hates the spirits and he thinks his father should've challenged them.) Loic is also noble, handsome, and has the physical body his society and clan honors. Although folks think he's a pain, he is somewhat spoiled, treats all with equality, and has the noblesse oblige thing down. Loic is the kinda rich guy who would be really concerned with making his wife know what fork to use when they have a feast. He has a couple of foils as well. His younger brother Sio behaves quite honorably. But do i care about the ones who behave honorably? No! I like the nuttier ones. I guess I just want to see how much I can get away with when I write. In Wind Follower I got away with talking about Christianity as folklore. Love, also. I got away with discussing love which can be a problem to folks who want a lot of buckling of swash. In Constant Tower, I'm trying to get away with talking about emotional wounds in a fantasy.

    Psal is not what his society wants of him. He is the firstborn son of the king yet because he is born with congenital defects his birthright is given to his younger brother. Psal is also spoiled but not pampered. He gets away with a lot because he's the king's son but he is not treated with kid gloves. He is continually mocked and sneered at and raped at one point. He treats all with equality but he's not above using the rank he should have had to get what he wants. He desperately wants folks to remember he is the firstborn. He also  has father issues. He tries to please his father but we're never sure if he actually likes his father. He probably does but the idea of being loved by his father is so far from his reality that he doesn't allow himself to think of it. He whines too. A lot. Even more than Loic. And whereas Loic wants to leave his clan and live alone by himself and his wife, Psal wants to create a clan within his clan. He likes his father's enemies more than he likes his own clan and yet he doesn't want to leave his  clan. Of course, there's also Ephan. Also damaged. Also a prince. And he behaves much differently toward his lot in life.

    Anyways, now am trying to work on My Life as an Onion with main character, Ben. Ben also has the noblesse oblige thing down. (Yep he's rich as well and his love is a poor dark girl. Yeah, well, at least I'm consistent.) But Ben is also manipulative. He doesn't care much about what his money will do for him but he cares a great deal about what his money will cause his friends to do. He isn't whiny. He likes thinking he's cold so we are trying to see behind that mask of coldness he affects. He's funny too, and as he calls himself "a bit of a coquette" and is so petted that he will destroy himself with his power if he isn't careful. Love that book as well. 

    Blog Archive

    Popular Posts