Monday, October 31, 2011

The Discipline of Hope: the true head-covering

More and more I'm realizing why Hoping is a virtue. By "virtue" I mean a spiritual skill one has acquired. Not a gift of the spirit, but a "fruit" of the spirit which one has tended and pruned and trimmed.

In one place in the Bible, we are told to use hope as a helmet. In another place we are told to put on the helmet of salvation. So -- combining the "helmet" precept verses... precept upon precept-- we have "putting on the helmet of hope of salvation."

Hope means a confident expectation of good. To believe we have a wished-for end, to believe the promise of all things ending well. Thus, when we put on the helmet of the hope of salvation, we have the hope to be saved. This is a brave hope.

But it is something one has to continually put on. (Although I suspect one can keep it on one's spiritual head all the time) Or at least, one has to be very aware of this head-covering.

It's a discipline, then, to remember. The Psalmist says when something bad happens, he will not be greatly shaken. Oh, sure he's shaken when something horrible happens. But then bingo, he remembers the Lord is his rock and he "decides" to choose to rejoice. He decides to choose to believe that God is working. This decision is where the discipline of hope comes in.

I've been thinking of this because I'm inclined to mulling over possible negative outcomes. And it really is not difficult to train one's self to simply trust that God is indeed doing something. And really, as Jesus said, "worrying is not gonna do anything creative."

In fact, more often than not...the psalmists and Bible writers (through the Holy spirit) tell us worrying leads us to do the wrong or desperate thing. We fret about evildoers and become like them. Psalm 137. Psalm 73. Psalm 79. And poor sweet confused Saul got into trouble and lost his kingdom because he worried. We have power to turn our eyes to the left or to the right. Therefore we have power to turn our minds to hope and our spiritual hearts to looking at the invisible but sure-to-come Salvation from our Lord.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Surprise Spiritual Pop Quiz

Okay, I understand that life is full of surprises but I so so so hate it when I'm blind-sided. Okay, if I had been prayed up and had listened to some good sermon on rejoicing no matter what or read some great book on dying to self, I would'e been prepared. Or if I had been singing psalms all day...maybe I wouldn't have been knocked for a loop and failed this sudden test so miserably. But alas I was caught off-guard and well, I'll just say the devil knows what buttons to push when he deals with Carole through some arrogant smug person.

Aiiish! I feel so angry with myself for allowing that person to get to me. Yes, i know..I'm sounding like those folks who say, "Why did you get me so angry that you forced me to be nasty to you?"

Life is so full of things that catch us off guard. Or catch us when we are weak.

Fact is: I really hate people being superior to me. Of course, if I didn't have an ego...if I were spiritually emptied of self yadda-yadda-yadda... I wouldn't have gotten so hurt at some patronizing white woman treating me like dirt. I would've let it roll off like water off a duck's - or a spiritually empty monk's-- back. But noooooooooo! I let this bitch have it. And she behaved all perfect and proper and patronizing! I could soooo scream!

This morning, if you had asked me if I were ready to die...if I was sure I would go off in the rapture... I would've said, "Why, yes. Died to self. Being really patient. Loving my neighbor. Not an ounce of unforgiveness in my heart or mind."  Well....uh.... that was this morning


So why am I feeling crappy?

Because that white lady "won" over me with her cool, cruel, superiority.
Because I said stuff in anger that I shouldn't have said...and WORSE...they had no power over little miss racist superior white lady.
Because I'm feeling I failed a spiritual surprise quiz...and did not give God the opportunity to be proud of me. And because, even now, I still want to wring that woman's neck.

Yes, the sin and anger is all within me. A person cannot bring out one's bad side if one has no bad side to bring out.... but aaargh! I hate losing. To the lady. To the devil. To my worst self.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Being unfaithful to the heavenly vision

So there is Peter on top of the roof when he gets this vision which God translates to mean, "Gentiles are okay now. God has cleansed them. Therefore you can now bring the gospel to them and not worry about connecting and communing with them." (Book of Acts, chapters ten and eleven.)

He repeats this testimony about three times. (And we also hear Paul's testimony about his own vision three times.)

Not to mention Peter's vision on the mountain when he saw Elias and Moses.

But back to the vision on the roof.

One would think that seeing this vision and seeing the impact on the disciples and the Gentiles, Peter would've stuck to being Peter. But he goes back to being his old Simon self and when certain disciples came from James, Peter --- uh, Simon-- goes back to avoiding the Gentiles. Paul had to call him out on this. (Galatians 2:12)

How can one have seen such a great vision and yet forget it? How can one not be obedient to such a heavenly vision?

Even stranger, Jesus had told Peter he would be sifted. Jesus had told Simon not to be such a "simon" (reed, blown about my the wind) but to be a "Peter" (a rock.) And Jesus had even spoken the word of blessing by calling Simon by the new name of Peter. Obviously, we have to work with God. God can't make us into something if we don't work with it.

I wonder about heavenly visions as well. Getting a vision often incurs all kinds of temptations. Joseph and the patriarchs hear from God that they are to be great in some way and what do they do? It makes Abraham and Isaac assume God doesn't speak to the Gentiles (Pharoah and Abimelech). It makes Jacob covet his brother's birthright because obviously his mom told him it would be his anyway. It makes Joseph walk around snitching on his brothers.

How can we then be faithful to the vision without being jerks? And how can we not be faithful to the heavenly vision when God has clearly ordered it?Which reminds me... so many Christians were mad at me because they said Loic (in Wind Follower) shouldn't have gone against the vision God had given him. They don't know human nature, do they?

Dark Parable: Painting with sunlight and housewifery advice

i dreamed someone taught me how to make art with sunbeams. The artist would point at a sunbeam and with one's finger on the sunbeam, one moved it around in circles around and around. The sunbeam was like a string of light where one could take anywhere. But the one who taught me sunbeam art did this circular thing and when she had finished it was a big circle with varying shades of light, all made from one sunbeam string. So i started to draw with a sunbeam but i didn't stay in the circle mode. I did a little circle here then i'd move the string a bit and do a triangle or whatever. In the end i had created a big gigantic picture but it had different sections in it. Triangles, squares. onions, circles everywhere. Oooh, didn't mean to write onion but that's probably meaningful

It wasn't as orderly as the other sunbeam art fabric pattern made by the one who taught me but it had a beauty of its own. It just was a gathering of different things on the canvas all drawn from from my sunbeam string. Then i went to visit a friend and she wanted to put her husband on a diet. She told me i should drink water more, that i must be careful and always drink my water. Then a lady came down with a purple-mauve headcovering and she told me that i shouldn't wear white because white was too hard to clean, that black was as hard to clean as white almost, and that i should wear brown. She was wearing white, i think.

Then the lady i talked to said she was wondering about her husband's diet and i told her she sould eat a big salad every night and even in the day for lunch, that he wouldn't miss the meat at all if the salad was really wonderful. I'm thinking the advice i gave to her is one i should follow. So that was it. Interesting that i would have to get advice on housewifery from a woman in a headcovering. I so hope God isn't hinting that i do the head-covering thing.

It seems to me that these dreams are about color, guidelines, taste, conformity. The lady with the head-covering gave me advice that is pretty obvious. Of course white is hard to clean. But why have a problem with black? (The white dog hair?) And really, being black, I can't wear brown. It makes me look drab. I like bright colors. And in Onion, the book is what it is. My writing style is what it is. I'm still using the sunlight and sunbeam. People can still see the beauty in the canvas even if the painting is a bit different.

Sent at 8:44 AM on Tuesday
 Jessica:  I can't imagine that He is telling you to wear head-covering
the fact that she was the one giving it to you and the nonsense she was spouting at certain points causes me to agree that your advice is waht you should be taking
first, she was wrong: white is easy to clean with bleach but it takes work; black is solid and can absorb and hide even blood while still looking good
 me:  i kept thinking
 Jessica:  brown is an iffy color on a lot of folks
 me:  i already kjnow about white and black clothes
she was wearing white
and brown looks bad on me
 Jessica:  ooooh how interesting indeed
 me:  black skin and brown
it just looks blah
i'm so glad i hve you to talk to about this
 me:  there's a spirit of holiness in the land i guess
 Jessica:  she sounds like a busy body in a head covering

 me:  Ooh, suddenly realized something. Both dreams are about guidelines and color and taste and order or conformity!
 Sent at 9:15 AM on Tuesday
 Jessica:  oh my! you are right!
 Sent at 9:16 AM on Tuesday
 me:  but is it reassuring me about my stories? Or warning me against Christian conformity? Or both?
 Sent at 9:19 AM on Tuesday
 Jessica:  hmmm, I don't think you're at risk for Christian conformity
 me:  like you
 Jessica:  sunbeams are made of light and the refraction is always different as the light strikes
 me:  but i think we're at risk at questioning ourselves unduly sometimes when we don't conform
 Jessica:  so in that, you are learning how to master something which can never truly be tamed
conformity would be a crayon
not a sunbeam
 me:  so true
 Jessica:  a sunbeam is what it is and yet with the slightest change of perception, it is another beautiful color
unchanging but ever changing
 Sent at 9:35 AM on Tuesday
 Jessica:  true also that we question ourselves excessively but that's what friends are for; to help you realize what is true and what is fear
 Sent at 9:39 AM on Tuesday
you're so good for me
 Sent at 9:42 AM on Tuesday

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Walls of Jericho and "sound" warfare

So, today I'm thinking about the power of sound. I wish I was a scientist. But I'm wondering. What is the effect of sound in the Jericho battle?

The way the story shows it:

Multitudes of people are commanded to walk silently around the city. They are to do this seven days. SILENTLY. They are not to say a word. On the seventh day they are to do it seven times. Then suddenly they are to blow the shofars/trumpet.

What is the effect of the daily slow ponderous (is that the right word) echoing footsteps? I really think some kind of effect was taking place under that ground....getting the ground around Jericho prepared to fall at a sudden change of sound.

I don't have much to go on but I feel that something is going on there. Not that it isn't a miracle, but that it's a miracle of science in some way. I'm wondering if someone has written on this. A scientist of sound or a geologist who studies avanlanches or some such thing.

I know humans are daily grinded down by little stressors and then something big comes into their lives (like a big shofar blowing ) and suddenly the humans crash and are overwhelmed. 

Writing stuff: Surprises, Suspense, Thwartings, Anticipations

So, the editor at Wildside is looking at Constant Tower this weekend. Knowing this, I've been spending my days and nights wondering how "exciting" or page-turning the story is. That got me thinking about surprises, suspense, thwartings, and anticipation in my novel ...and of course what might seem like dull stretches.

Some definitions needed:

Knowledge in a story can be broken down into:
A) Backstory and/or future events only the writer knows
B) Backstory or future events the reader knows about but which the main character is unaware of
C) Backstory or future events the main character knows about but which the reader is unaware of

Anticipations include:
A) Backstory or future events the readers are aware of  but which the main characters are unaware of. Thus the readers are anticipating the main character discovering the backstory and greatly desiring the characters success in the future event.
B) Backstory or future goals which both the readers and the main characters are aware of. The reader is then waiting to see how things will pan out. (Usually the reader is on the MC's side.)
C) The main character's declared main goal..usually the main goal of the entire novel.
D) The main character's declared intermediate goals or adjusted goals. (Those incremental plans that cropped up along the way because the main character had to adjust his plans.)
E) Kneejerk, cliched reactions the reader has been taught to expect
F) Stuff the reader's mouth is watering for. These are generally unspecified goals involving the main character which the reader wishes will happen (The reader might be wanting the main character to fall in love with another particular character whom the main character has not met or is not interested in "in that way." Or the reader might want a specific bad guy to get his comeuppance. Or the reader might want the father to acknowledge his son, or for a lost son to find a lost mother.) The writer should be aware of these prelibrations because if the writer doesn't "feel" what her reader wants, she could make a grave error.

Suspense occurs when the reader is waiting for the anticipated event or planned goal. These goals can seem momentarily thwarted when:
A) The reader knows the main character's personality enough to suspect the main character isn't going to get his goal anyway.
B) The main character didn't know something the reader knows.
C) Both the main character and the reader don't know something the writer knows (which may or may not be a good thing.)
D) the kneejerk reaction the reader has been taught to anticipate does not happen because the writer consciously chose to do something else.

Thwartings can be good suspense or good frustration or bad frustration. The effect of a thwarting depends on whether the reader:
A) can see the necessity of the thwarting
B) Likes/Dislikes the main character
C) Trusts/Distrusts the writer
D) will put his/her rigidity or kneejerk expections aside. (This involves the reader learning to distrust himself and be a bit more open-minded.)

And there are surprises.
A surprise occurs when the writer has laid the groundwork in a subtle foreshadowing but the reader missed the hint. The reader will rebound from the surprise and rethinks the situation (and look back over a few pages) then will see that she missed a clue and should have anticipated such an outcome

A surprise can also occur when the writer knew something and did not tell the reader. (This is not a surprising outcome but a plot surprise. There is no way the reader could have anticipated this.  This kind of surprise is dangerous to play with.)

Dull stretches occur when the reader:

A) Isn't anticipating anything.
B) Doesn't know what they should be anticipating
C) Doesn't understand why some present event is important
D) Doesn't care about the anticipated event
E) Has lost all love/care/trust for the character
F) Is brainwashed to like certain tropes/cliches/patterns and is not open to challenging changes
G) Is wondering if the writer should be trusted

I think I did well in Constant Tower. The suspense, surprise, thwartings, anticipations....all... work in all these page-turning requirements.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Decisions, decisions: To Mammo or not to Mammo

Okay, so last year was the great year of breast drama. It started with a breast examination. As usual, for twenty-five years, my left breast had been leaking milk. A lump I had had for 20 years -- in my nipple and called a papilloma-- a lump which previous mammos had never picked up and which was not discovered in my last mammo but only got discovered after I returned home and my nipple bled terribly....caused me to get 5 diagnostic bouts of radiation (MRI, mammo, some other weird machine, X-ray for the lumpectomy operation.)

It was all very traumatic and --I REPEAT-- the mammo did not find the lump! It only caused my breasts to bleed because the papilloma was being squeezed.

And so, here we are... National Breast History Month! And the Dept of Health wants me to have a mammo again.

Now, let me say that breast cancer prevention is not breast cancer scanning.
In the meantime I've been working hard on breast cancer prevention.

I no longer eat any cold cuts.
I have worked out my bitterness and forgiveness and unloving-heart issues.
I rarely eat anything processed.
I take tons of Vitamin D and hang out in the sun.
I exercize more.
I no longer eat sugary stuff (okay, I do once in a while..but I'm working on it.)
I'm drinking more water (with a little sea salt and a little baking soda in it.)
I'm trying to lose weight.

And I went to the manual breast examination...and they found no lumps.

So why do I have to go to the radiation place to get the mammo? Can't I wait until I get some money and get a thermograph? Is it really a matter of life and death for me to do the mammo now?

Note, I have gotten very convinced that mammos are responsible for some fast-growing inflammatory cancers. So why can't I simply say no to the DOH on this? Why can't I simply base a decision on the peace it brings me? Why can't I trust my own heart and suspicions? Seriously, more and more as the world continues its media-brainwashed ways, there will be times when something in our hearts and minds will balk at what the herd is doing... even if they say it's a life and death matter. And this is the very first time I feel as if ...well... "What if I'm a fool for going against the herd?"

Can i be conceited enough to trust myself against what all others say? One must be conceited enough to survive.

Seriously, what if God gives me a dream to go north when some government advisory is saying "go north?" Will I be able to stand alone and trust myself?

Let God be true, but every man a liar (Rom 3:4)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well, that was a surprise: did i write a non-interracial story at last?

Okay, so there I was in bed, pondering a possible new story. No plot yet but ya know...pondering. The two main characters are a Korean-American soldier returning home from Iraq or wherever to his wife who is African-American. Yeah, i know... another interracial story.

Okay, some backstory on why all my characters are interracial with usual a black woman and an Asian or white guy. There are two basic reasons.

The first: I have never had a black boyfriend so I pretty much didn't want to mess it up.
The second: I wanted to write my own kind of love stories. Not enough interracial love stories.
The third: I'm going through a terrible case of "yellow fever" and I might as well create a written fantasy
The fourth: I was told in a dream by an Asian-American actor to write stories for Asian actors
The fifth, my mother-in-law issues. I have yet to write a story that adequate deals with all that.
And the sixth, the most important: A White woman, a feminist and a minister's wife once told me in church that she didn't like her race tainted and she hated my stories or any story where a black person and a white person are lovers. Yes, you heard that right. When I asked her about  Asians and Latinos (light-skinned latinos) and Native Americans tainting her race, she went on to say that she had heard that objection before and she didn't mind those ethnic groups because they weren't tainting her race. She was very proud and defiant. Yep, very old school about her racism and very stalwart about it. Anyway, from that day, I tried to stop writing interracial relationships with black women and white men. Thus I have mostly written interracial relationships between black women and Asian or Native American men. To this day, when and if I write a story with a white man in an interracial relationship, I always have a racist religious white woman nearby.

Anyway, there I was pondering The Constant Tower and it suddenly dawned on me that the relationship between Psal and Maharai is my very first relationship I have ever written about a black boy and a black girl. Who knew? I didn't really realize it. And weirdly enough I didn't think of Psal as black, because he is the bi-racial prince in a white clan with a white king as his father.

But still, it made my day to realize this. I suppose I kinda was aware that this was a non-interracial romance because I knew Psal was partly black. But still... wow! One grows without knowing it.

Still don't know if I'll be able to do this in a contemporary novel/romance though.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Love Written in Stone: Finding God's Grace in the Boundaries He Sets

Love Written in Stone: Finding God's Grace in the Boundaries He Sets

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 208
Vendor: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2011
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0764208470
ISBN-13: 9780764208478
Availability: In Stock

Publisher's Description

Many Christians don't know what to think of the Bible's commands, as they often seem legalistic and burdensome. But medical doctor Philip Carlson reveals that God instructs us because he loves us as a father loves his children. Recent research in the health sciences demonstrates that following God's guidelines produces wellness and wholeness in our lives. Readers will be encouraged to learn that the sciences are catching up to what God has been saying all along about family relationships, nutrition, sexuality, rest, and more.

Author Bio

Philip Carlson, MD, (ThM, Fuller; MD, University of Southern California) is senior pastor of Bethany Church of Sierra Madre and practices family medicine in Pasadena. He also teaches at the college level and is a conference speaker. His first book, You Were Made for Love, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He lives in Sierra Madre, California, with his wife, Carole, and their four children.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Imagination, the desire, the will

Was thinking this morning about Desire and the Will, and Imagination and Impossibilities.  How can we have Will Power? IF we see that the thing willed for is worthy, we can strengthen our will to do it. If we question the validity of the thing we desire, or we think the thing we desire is impossible to get, or not worth the effort, we will not have a strong will. 

So strong will depends on strong desire.

Desire isn't something folks talk about much. They talk about the will in a kind of spiritual will-worshiping way. But when they talk about desire, they often talk about "carnal concupiscence" as if desiring is a bad thing. For instance there are bad desires and good desires. "The Leech has two daughters. Their names are "Give" and "Give."  So just because our heart desires a thing strongly doesn't mean that thing is something we should desire.

But desire is also a lovely thing. Desire is a hopeful thing. We have to desire the things of God in our life. The king of heaven is taken by force. Force of the spirit, force of belief, force of desire. If we want something spiritual, physical, emotional, we have to desire it. We have to ask and keep on asking, and seek and keep on seeking. When we endure, we know we are strengthening our desire to have the thing. 

So desire is the strength of the will. We have to put on the helmet of hope which protects our mind's imaginings. It has to be the helmet of the hope of salvation because mere hope is okay only with possible things. The helmet of the hope of salvation makes us remember that God is able to do the impossible. We need to cover our minds with the believe in God's ability to do impossible things. We have to renew our minds, stop limiting God, and ascribe great power to God. We have to learn to believe the good can happen in our lives. The exception on earth is heaven's rule. We have to be conceited enough to believe that good will happen to us even if it doesn't happen to anyone else. Let God be true and every man a liar. Romans 3:4

Imagination is the the power behind desire.

We have to have true and fruitful imaginings, not vain imaginings. 

But we have to have a good idea of what is right and wrong in the world, we have to be fully persuaded of what should not be happening in the world. We have to look at what others consider normal and understand that there is something very very very deeply demonically wrong with the world. 

On this earth, people die. People get sick. People starve. People murder each other. People don't understand each other. This is what some folks look at and  see as "normal." An atheist sees this kind of thing as part of how the world has evolved. A Hindu sees this kind of thing as part of the world's spiritual battle to evolve toward nirvana. Buddhist see this as the yin and yang of the world working out. 

I remember a New Age friend who laughed at me when I said there was something terribly wrong in the world. I said that whether it was the Garden of Eden story or any other folklore story, the world knows there is something  very wrong in the world. The world needs to be righted. The animals of the world, and the whole creation is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God. 

I mean there is something seriously wrong with the world. Therefore there is something seriously with a religion that acclimates us to it. A Christianity that doesn't fight the world, the flesh, and the devil is not the full gospel of the kingdom. A film or story or novel that tells us that death is good, that mayhem is normal, that human cruelty is normal.... is not a true story. 

I write about worlds in which something is seriously wrong. I wrote about people who are aware that something is seriously wrong with their lives. There is no compromise in my novels about accepting the wrong. In my stories, the world must be righted. In Wind Follower, the demons had to be routed from the land (FULLY.) In Constant Tower, the power of the night has to be conquered. In Cry for Hire, the people from the confused world must be enlightened or at least brought out into the real world.  The desired goal must be seen and the person who wills to see the desired goal must believe that the impossible is possible, that they themselves will be able to attain to the impossible with God's help.

I'm thinking of all this because I've been trying to lose weight. I have been trying to imagine what it is like to be skinnier. I am trying to believe that that is possible. I'm trying to be strong of "will" against eating the wrong thing. This means I have to believe that there is a good desired end awaiting me if I avoid gluten. This means I have to believe in a good future, and that I have to believe the impossible...that at age 51 I can still do wonderful things. I'm trying to tell my imagination that it must see that losing weight will be good for me. I try imagining myself  traveling to different countries as a Christian writer. Don't I want to be skinny as I do that? Don't I believe what God told me that I had six great works to do? Can I imagining myself writing six great works?

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim

Yep, it's that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I'd do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that...the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I'm not gonna talk about demons either. True, they're living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in fact they live in God's throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat...which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other's bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. " (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.
10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don't ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in they don't miss anything. And then there's that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can't even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this...and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelations?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:
The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel's vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They're still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures "Cherubim" and John calls them "living creatures."

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.
Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what's interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can't begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns....but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really "look" like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a "person" is can understand? 

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim -- especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column D ---and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called "The man Gabriel." He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth. 

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Imagination: With the heart one believes

The heart is where one believes so we have to take care of our hearts. Jesus Himself told us to guard our hearts.
The heart is the place of knowing God loves us, the place of knowing we can rest and trust God, the place of knowing Someone knows all our hopes, sins, and quirks, and yet loves us.

I'm not talking about the mind. I'm talking about us trusting God in our heart as a good friend and knowing he loves me. I'm talking about believing not as a mental assent but as a restful happy trust in Someone. The heart is the place of imagination. The heart is the place where we despair. Faith is about emotion and emotion is the tangible currency of the heart. A despairing lonely heart cannot truly enter fully into faith because faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is not a mental assent that God loves us but living in a joyful imagining where our hearts are capable of trusting an image and a hope to God.

Can we imagine ourselves resting in God's hand and lying back in his arms and trusting him? This is not about studying God and intelligent design or making a mental assent to theological doctrines. That kind of faith gives us nothing. Faith is knowing God is love. Faith is very much like love. Faith works by love. Faith works by imagining the invisible because faith looks at the unseen. But if a heart hasn't practised seeing the unseen, or if it is full of feeling unloved or despair or bitterness or if that heart cannot join itself in an emotional way to God, that heart cannot get its heartfelt  prayers answered because that heart doesn't have God inside the heart. The faithful heart has a picture of loving, powerful, kind God within it. Such a heart meditates on that image. 

It really is about meditating. The Bible tells us to meditate on the word. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to study the Word of God. Some folks will say that the Bible tells us to "study to show ourselves approved." But only the KJV has that translation and the real meaning is "be diligent to." The Bible however tells us everywhere to meditate on the word. So the Word of God is not a thing to be studied and argued about. It's not a thing to be understood or mentally taken apart. To be effective, the Word of God must not live in our mind but in our hearts. The word is sowed in our hearts, not our minds. Break up your fallow ground means break up your hearts. Lift up your heart to God means just that: lift up your heart. 

We are to ponder the words in our hearts. Mary pondered the words in her heart. We are not to ponder them in our minds. We are to let the Word of God stay in the imagination of our hearts. Mentally, we don't know what it is to dwell in the secret place of the most high. We cannot by our minds understand "The Lord is our Shepherd." But we can ponder and meditate on the images God has given us. That is when the word grows. That is when our prayers are answered. That is when the word of God transforms us. The word doesn't transform our mind. The mind is only changed when the heart has been transformed. Reason is in the heart. Even anatomy tells us that. When someone gets damaged in the part of the brain that deals with emotions, their "reasoning" ability goes. So scientists are saying that reason is created from emotion.

If we love God in our hearts, our minds will follow. If we meditate on God's words in our heart and ponder His promises in our hearts, the promises will manifest because the seeds planted in those promises will have found good ground.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

May December romances and Loving Peter Pan tropes

I saw a japanese drama which annoyed the heck out of me. IIt was about an adulterous relationship between an older woman and a wounded younger man. He was 19 and she was maybe 34. He was very like Ben in my WIP “My Life as an Onion.” . I keep finding Ben all the time.  I think there is a kind of eternal youth that women and girls (and gay guys) like. Maybe this person has always existed or maybe it is what we all wish we were. Don’t know but it’s so common, perhaps more common than the fair young girl trope.

Interestingly most of the people commenting on the site, hated the ending where she returned to her saintly perfect boring husband. A lot of the girls were annoyed because they were tired of older women young men stories. They think such stories are icky and gross apparently. Teenagers are conservative that way. Add that to Asian conservativeness and this is pretty normal. Especially since young girls don’t want to think older women can give boys something they (younger girls) can’t.

But while watching it I realized what the problem was. Although almost EVERYONE who commented hated the ending, they couldn’t really state the reason the way a writer could. They basically said the story’s ending was sucky. But as a writer, I think the problem is that the ending  doesn't ring true. The morality seems tacked on.

I can't say where exactly the story went wrong and what the writers or as actors did or what in all the tons of tropes in the story went off the reality grid

But first here goes:

First, although it was YAMAPI who played the boy and he is one of my favorite Japanese actors, there was no chemistry. Of course, that doesn't say much. There is rarely chemistry in these stories. Especially a story of forbidden love. Because the actors all tend to incorporate the Japanese conservativeness. So either they look like they are being very brave and daring or they look uncomfortable or they look like they don’t believe in what they’re doing or they look distant from the story because they’re fighting humility and shame and propriety (even though they’re actors and should have lost themselves in the characters.) Basically, most Asian actors I’ve seen don't allow their souls to shine out in their stories as much as they should. There seems to be more of a battle (for the Asian actors than the western actors) to find and stay in the character they are playing. As a Christian writer, and a fat black woman writer, I also have the battle of really letting certain stories roam free out of me. I keep falling into self-consciousness and audience-fear/audience awareness. 

Might as well digress here and say that most Asian film main characters tend to be tropes. Recognizable characters, honorable, and by all means normal. When one finds a character who is abnormal, and who is played by a wonderful actor who has freed himself, there is a wonderful greatness in the performance. But that is all very rare.

Anyways, when a Japanese actor has to make his character laugh, it doesn't sound like real laughter. And when they cry there is a feeling that some part of the emotion is being held back. And when the women cry in these movies there is a feeling that they are to be seen as tragic “beauties” who are crying.

So we’re dealing with a culture where people hide themselves and which attempts always to put its best foot forward and to be seen in the best light. So it takes a lot for an actor to really let his/her soul fly free when acting in an unconventional role. We westerners can see this very clearly.

Then there is the basic thematic issue which is that society’s rules must be obeyed. I know Americans had the Hays Code and even now we do flinch if the bad guy gets away (if the bad guy has been too bad. For instance, we don’t mind bad guys getting away in a heist if the bad guy hasn’t shot anyone. We figure the banks are evil and the bad guy needs the money.)

We must also remember that J-dramas are done on TV for a conservative audience. And oftentimes these dramas are changed according to viewer wishes and reactions. So the ending must be approved of. So it’s expected that there will be a traditional moral conservative ending. But when the woman smiles and returns to her husband and leaves the wounded talented young Peter Pan not-quite-dying boy "dancer" who teaches dance scnool and who won the biggest championship in social dancing in England and is kinda gonna live and the woman returns to her flowershop (although she does not have a child and could have left her marriage to her sainly boring husband without too much damage) there was in this case a feeling of utter dissatisfaction.

The ending did not feel real. True, the relationship between her and the boy was weirdly maternal. I could accept that. Love is love and there are weird relationships out there. And Japanese movies have succeeded in portraying them well.

But the sudden moral ending did not work and came as a kind of horrible moral hammer.

I suspect they were saying she can’t find her youth again and I understand that the idea that one finds one's youth again when one finds a young lover…is not a good reason to give up a marriage. But… ah, I wish I could explain why this just didn’t work.

Okay, many of us want our youthful carefree days back. As a culture we like youth. As married women of a certain age we want joy and no responsibilities. But let’s get this straight. People who fall in love younger folks simply because they love youthfulness would probably not have loved a flake when they were young themselves. The question is: Would the flaky youth love boy toy person in this story have been loved by this woman when she was younger?

This is what bothers me about those tropes. I may be sounding vain here, but those who have had sad childhoods and who were flakes would be more likely lovers for these youthful Peter Pans than the saner normal older type who "suddenly" see and regain their youths with these young boys. So this is what bothers me: the normalcy of these people who find love with the abnormal. It just isn't something i can buy. And when the woman returns to her husband, there is the question: Is she returning to her age (because she feels she should)? Or is she going away from her real self? And this is why the ending is so sucky. There is this feeling that she may think she is happy to return to her husband, but the audience feels she might be returning to the hiding of her self, that she might have found her flaky self again (age not important) but now she has left her true self behind.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Self-silencing: Japanese and American tropes

I've noticed a particular trope in Japanese films: a character is silent and doesn't explain himself...but soon the character, backstory, emotional pain, of these people become known. Either because someone "tells" their story. Or someone accidentally discovers something about the person. The character is then seen and understood. After death, after all the sorrows, AFTER. Then (if the person is alive) love deepens. And (if the person is dead) understanding is made. True love is often achieved in these stories because one person sees the heart of the self-silenced (or culturally-silenced) person: the kind intelligent surmising heart of character B sees the hidden silent heart of character A.

Japan is a culture where humility (or seeming humility) is important. Humility is shown as silent.  The shy lover who can't speak up for himself. The quiet person who is secretly a great teacher, a great warrior, a great, artist.This humility shows up in so many stories that we westerners have to take it for granted. Of course as a westerner, I have to wonder. Sometimes the silencing looks like repression. Sometimes the silencing -- especially when it's a scientist/warrior/cop etc-- looks smug.  ("I'm really great but no one really knows it" kinda thing.)

The west also has its laconic heroes. For instance there are the silent gunmen in westerns. Power in restraint. This person has seen so much  of the evil in the world (and has had to respond in kind so many times) that life has left him somewhat speechless. (Think Clint Eastwood's no-name characters or John Wayne's Ethan in The Searchers). With them it's a kind of "Action speaks louder than words" thing. Plus it balances out the heroes: macho gunman who can't talk to a girl. Or, macho gunman who can only be healed by an understanding girl.

There is also the "Silent as a lamb to the slaughter" mode. This is often found in stories where the character is too noble or too out-numbered or too repressed to defend herself. We find this in Jane Austen's Persuasion and in Johnny Belinda. (of course if one is not really up to all that forgiving lamb thing, one ends up with major bitterness. So I do wonder about Japan and whether the Japanese, like many Christians, have this woundedness thing happening.

Thinking about this trope got me thinking about certain incidents in my own life. One of these occurred with the City Clerk. I used to be a voting clerk, a job I got whenever there was a general national voting. I (and other folks) was paid $150 for sitting in the voting place and signing in voters before they voted for president etc. This all went very well and I could pick up an extra $150 every couple of years for working all day at some election. BUT THEN

One November.

I was working with four ladies. We had worked all day in a  national election. After the polls closed, we were supposed to go home at 9:30 after counting the votes in the machines and reporting it. The other four ladies decided to do something shady. I forgot what exactly they decided to do. Either they didn't want to count the write-in-ballots or they didn't want to double-check the count or some such thing. But I thought the entire thing was unethical and I said so. So I said I wasn't going to do it. At 9:30 we all left the school where the voting had occurred.

The next morning decided to thank my friend, the City Clerk, for the gig and I called her. I dialled her secretary who put me on hold and then passed me on to my friend. My friend, the City Clerk, picked up the phone with the words, "Carole, you shouldn't have left before 9:30 and I won't accept your apology or excuses."

That was the first I heard of it. It was also the first time I saw that side of this friend. From what I could surmise after this verbal slap-down accusation, the ladies I had worked with had all agreed to this lie after I left them outside the school door. They had told my city clerk friend I left early because they wanted to cover their butts. And they had headed me off at the pass by telling her this thing about me. The funny thing was I had totally forgotten about the argument and I had no intention of telling on them, but they had decided to save their own asses by coming up with this story. And my friend had believed them. There was nothing I could say to convince her.

Some years later, I loaned a really expensive book to this friend. About $34.00. I called about three months later for it and she said, "I gave it to you." I waited another two years and asked for it again. She said, "Oh, yes, I have that. Why didn't you ask? All these years you could have asked." ::SIGH::  I said, "I'm sorry I didn't ask." She responded, "You can come and get it anytime."

Stuff like this stays on the mind a long time. So I understand that in a Japanese Culture where hierarchy and external communal peace is necessary, there should be this trope of the person who "becomes understood" after much trial. I also see that the repressed and beaten down person in the west, especially if that person is a Christian, would await the day when all secrets are known. When we ourselves are known.

Lord, help me to forgive those who thought they knew me. Help me to defend myself and to speak up if necessary. Don't let me ruin my stories by putting these incidents in them in a need to "finally have my say" or "finally speak up." Heal my heart, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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