Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Simply believe

There are many verses in the Bible which encourage the faithful believer to trust in God’s willingness to answer prayer.

John tells us that “we know we have what we pray for because we keep His commandments.” (1 John 3:22.) If we’re keeping God’s commandments, and are praying for the glory of God, and feeding our faith by studying God’s character and Jesus’ Great Finished Work on the cross, we should trust that our prayers have been answered. After all, Jesus Himself told us that when we pray we must believe that we HAVE received and we WILL receive whatever we ask for.

We are told to pray with thanksgiving. This means we must pray and give thanks for what we will receive as if we have already received it, seeing that which is invisible. Jesus gave us a wonderful example of this when he prayed for Lazarus to be brought back to life. Even before Lazarus came from the tomb, Jesus ended His prayer with the words, “I thank you, Lord, that you have heard my prayer.”

We pray every day using the word “Amen” which can be translated to mean as Surely, truthfully, verily, this is a true statement, or it’s done. Jesus told us to approach the throne of grace with boldness and courage. Our prayers end boldly, but although the world “Amen” is a bold ending to a prayer, we don’t really rise from prayer believing that our prayer has been answered. We tend to think that either God hasn’t heard our prayer or that He will spend the next few days mulling over a decision or that He wants to drag out the answer for a while in order to teach us a lesson. This is doublemindedness. We are not believing what God has said. As the apostle James said, “this kind of double-minded attitude is not going to get anything from the Lord.” Why? Because our unbelief vies with our faith.

If we use the sowing and reaping metaphors that Jesus and the apostles used to show how the kingdom of God works, we can readily see that we have more faith in the physical act of sowing and reaping than we do in the spiritual act. In the case of a physical seed, we actually believe there is a seed with the power within itself to germinate. Yet, even though Isaiah, Jesus, Paul and others told us that the word of God is active and alive and has power within it to germinate and flower, we hardly believe.

The Bible says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” (Rom 3:4) And yet, unbelief is a wonderful theologian. If we aren’t careful, we --or a really intelligent minister-- can convince ourselves that God will do the most heinous evil because he loves us. Some great religious writings can convince us that although Jesus came to heal those who were oppressed by the devil that somehow our particular oppression is not from the devil but from God.

St Paul tells us that “We are accepted in the Beloved Eph 1:6" This is the Greek word Charitoo which is translated as “full of grace” and “highly favoured” in Luke 1:28 when the angel spoke to Mary. It means freely bestowed overwhelming love. This means God loves us and has placed us in such a favored position that, like the loving Father He is, He wants to bless us more than we’re able to receive it. We’re adopted children who are His very special favorites. John says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has for us, that we should be called the Children of God.”

John states, “This is the confidence we have in God: that, if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.” I John 5:14. He writes earlier in the same chapter, “whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, even our faith.” Through Jesus’ name, and faith in that name, we are “more than conquerors.” And St Paul tells us that God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.

Yet in the face of all this overwhelming evidence of God’s love towards us, the ancient inability to trust God remains. From the day our first parents hearkened to Satan’s “Did God say?” to today’s modern taunts, we humans have found it difficult to believe that God means us well. We forget that He who freely gave us His life will also freely give us all things. Plain and simple, we love God but like unworthy friends we often believe what others say about our Dear Friend more often than what He says about Himself. If it’s through faith in God’s Love and Power that we conquer the world, how can we conquer our own Promised Land if we allow rumors of giants to make us feel like grasshoppers. (Numbers 13)

The Bible tells us, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (Rom 3:4) And we know better than to come right out and say that God is a liar. But we work around that by making Him way more inscrutable than He really wants to be. This is not to say that we understand everything about God. We don’t. But the Bible has made His personality clear to us. He doesn’t have some hidden secret plan which prevents Him from answering our prayers. The Bible states that God does nothing without revealing His will to His people. (Amos 3:7)

We also make God unpredictable and flighty. Instead of saying that God’s promises and spiritual laws work all the time, we say that God does heavy micro-managing and sits on His throne deciding which spiritual law will work in every case. We say that whatsoever a man sows he will reap, yet we often think that in this particular case – our own problem– that particular spiritual law will not work. God’s word is sure. God does not change. His word abides forever and He honors His word. God is aware of all His children, but He does not micro-manage. Spiritual laws are as dependable as physical laws. Unfortunately, like many physical laws some spiritual laws need a faithful heart to set them in motion. The law of gravity, for instance, tends to work all the time...unless one understands how to override it. As powerful and universal as gravity is, it is routinely conquered by pilots and birds all over the world. Yet, although gravity has its weak moments, it’s not a good idea to defy it. Seeds will grow into plants if we continue to water them and so we know that we should not cast away our confidence when a physical plant seems to be weakening. We should not be weary with well-doing: God is not mocked. In due time, we will reap if we don’t faint. We depend on physical laws. This attitude should be the same when we rely on spiritual laws.

For instance, Jesus commands us not to worry and in Mark 7:14-15, He gives us some insight into spiritual law when he tells us that evils within the heart are what defile the body. As American Christians we half believe Jesus was right about this. After all, the medical world has taught us all about the dangers of being a type A personality. But do we believe what Jesus says simply because Jesus said it? For instance, do we believe that adulterous thoughts can also affect our health? Other spiritual laws or insights include: the law of giving and receiving, the power of the tongue to steer a life towards good or ill, the evil that comes upon those who hate Israel or Jewish people.

In Mark 9:23-24, when the father of the demon-possessed boy asked Jesus to help him, Jesus said, “if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.” To which the distraught father replied, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” This, unfortunately, is the state most western Bible-believing Christians have found themselves in. We believe greatly, and we doubt greatly. At the exact same time. Let us search the Scriptures and learn to understand and love our God. John warns us that many antiChrists are out in the world and we should test every word we hear. And Jesus tells us that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit. (Luke 6:39) But Jesus warns us to “take heed how we hear.” (Luke 8:18) Let us learn to love our Father. As Jesus said, He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father. (John 14:6-20) If we know the love of Jesus, we cannot help but trust Him with our lives.

We have a great and high calling with many doors of opportunity opened to us and there are many adversaries who – wittingly or unwittingly– have set out to steal the word of truth from us or to mingle it with worldly philosophers. Let us not be removed from the simplicity of the gospel. (Gal 1:6; Rom 6:19; 2 Co 11:3 ) Let us arise and dream great dreams, let us hold onto the promises of God. Let us do great exploits and not cast away our confidence. Let us arise and shine, because our light has come. Is 60:1

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Free Promotion: My short story collection on kindle

Beginning Tuesday Sept 25th through the 29th my kindle short story collection will be free. Here's the link. Please pass it on.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Christianity, Culture and Writing: Polyamory in the Constant Tower.

In my upcoming novel, The Constant Tower, a character is suddenly faced with the possibilities of having two husbands. She thinks, "Yes, I can love them both. I am in their clan now. I can marry and love both of them." Something like that.

Although I'm a Christian, I must admit that there are times when being a Christian is restrictive. I understand the restrictions, mind you. I even assent to them. But, yes, I also acknowledge that there would be a different path to follow if I was not indoctrinated in Christianity.

Some cultures have some societal, spiritual, and cultural stuff one has to put aside. And although I would love to pick and choose what aspect of a culture or a religion I would want, such a buffet spirituality and buffet culture is very much like creating a Frankenstein creature. I think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein often. Although the creature is portrayed as ugly, in the novel he was not ugly. Just hard to bear, hard to look upon, strange, and eerie. Beautiful bits and parts culled together -- beautiful red lips here, pale skin there, raven-like flowing locks there-- he ended up strange, "monstrous" in the old sense of the word, weirdly bizarrely larger-than-life. Thus, a religion that picks and chooses what it likes from other religions and from various cultures and societal systems or traits, becomes an inorganic unliving religion.

In my novel, my character can validly marry two husbands from the Wheel Clan because she has now become a part of the Wheel Clan, despite all her efforts against assimilation. Yet, even so...the Wheel Clan husbands she marries are not "typical" of that Clan. They are the best of their clan but they also understand her clan as well. Moreover, she was not particularly passionately attached to the men of her own clans because they were abusive. Which is all to the good. People generally carry their own culture into the culture they assimilate. Thus, Christians who become converts to Islam will have a "friendlier" idea of God, even if they do not wish to accept God as "father" or as "love." And Christians who become Hindus also often go with a more westernized idea of reincarnation (they often look forward to reincarnation instead of trying to escape the karmic wheel entirely.) So, in my case, if I were to attempt to mix Christianity with some African cultures, I don't think I would accept the whole One-husband-Many wives situation. Although the idea of many women sharing communal work, and living together in a compound is attractive, I'm too American/western to accept a system where my husband would have the right to take on a new younger wife any time he wants to.

So in Constant Tower, my female character has the best of both cultures. Her husbands are not going to treat her as the men of her culture generally treat women, but they are not going to treat her the way men in their own culture generally treat women either. My female character is  now free to have two lovers instead of the requisite "one husband" her culture deems normal. Her heart readily assents to this because she loves both boys, and perhaps was resisting the love of one. Resistance now is unimportant. In fact, it would be the wrong course to take. Her only problem now is to love them differently. It's not about quantity, but about type. Her problem now is that she must love both husbands deeply but in different ways. She is, however, spared what other women of her culture have to endure when they enter the new clan. The other women are forced to accept the rules of the new clan without the cushion my main character has. My main character loves both her husbands. She is not being forced to bed two men  -- or even one man-- whom she does not love.

When American women speak of converting, they are generally converting to an Americanized form of Islam. For instance, although Sharia law allows Moslem men to rape or beat their wives or to marry additional wives, Moslem men in America live in a Christianized West. The religion is tempered by the culture. In the same way, I suspect Christianity in the Middle East is probably very affected by being surrounded by Islam. And Christianity in Africa is also affected by cultural traditions.

The meeting of culture, emotions, and religion is not only present in matters of love, marriage, and sex. (In this case, polyamory, which occurs rarely and only in cultures where land is scarce and inherited land must be protected, thereby brothers marry the same woman) but it occurs in other matters as well. In my novel, Wind Follower, characters who became Christians had to give up the ancient tradition of speaking to their dead. Now that Christianity had popped into their lives, they had to now discern if the dead person speaking to them was truly a dead relative or a demon bent on deception. Those who are comforted by speaking to their departed relatives through shaman, etc, have to put that aside.

Of course, we Christians who live in the West are also Christians within a culture. We also do not have a "pure" form of Christianity. American Christianity is affected by the culture at large. Jesus Christ warned His followers to beware of the yeast of the king and the yeast of the religious legalists. Those to forms of yeast are very much present in modern Christianity. For some Christians, Christianity is mixed in with patriotism and the desire to rule. For some, the gospel of the kingdom is watered down and legalism abounds. Others have allowed the "progressive" ideas of the world or the desire of their flesh to color/change/taint the Christian Scripture.

The Creator of Odunao (the name of the planet in my novel The Constant Tower) has different rules about marriage than the Creator of the Earth does. When Christians read the novel, I hope they will be able to accept that god as they find him. I hope they will leave their American Christian ideas about marriage behind and live in that world without judging the polyamory laws. (Often Christians seem to be able to understand one man with two wives but seem to balk at the other configuration.) In addition the social laws of the many clans on Odunao are different from American social laws. In many novels, the king is expected to fall in love with the most beautiful woman. That doesn't happen. The men in Odunao have different ideas of beauty.

Anyway, my novel will come out one of these days. But even before it sees print, I want to remind everyone that in this day, mindfulness is necessary. Just as we are mindful as to what a character allows to become acceptable in her world -- because of her culture-- so we Christian writers, we Black writers, must be aware of the subtle societal influences that taint our stories. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children

Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Childrenby Alice ShabecoffPhilip Shabecoff

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: August 2008
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Format: Hardcover, 368pp
  • Sales Rank: 340,363


In this shocking and sobering book, two fearless journalists directly and definitively link industrial toxins to the current rise in childhood disease and death. In the tradition of Silent Spring, Poisoned Profits is a landmark investigation, an eye-opening account of a country that prizes money over children’s health.

With indisputable data, Philip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff reveal that the children of baby boomers–the first to be raised in a truly “toxified” world–have higher rates of birth defects, asthma, cancer, autism, and other serious illnesses than previous generations. In piercing case histories, the authors identify the culprit as corporate pollution. Here are the stories of such places as Dickson, Tennessee, where babies were born with cleft lips and palates after landfill chemicals seeped into the water, and Port Neches, Texas, where so many graduates of a high school near synthetic rubber and chemical plants contracted cancer that the school was nicknamed “Leukemia High.”

The danger to our children isn’t just in the outside world, though. The Shabecoffs provide evidence that our homes are now infested with everything from dangerous flame retardants in crib mattresses to harmful plastic softeners in teething rings to antibiotics and arsenic in chicken–additives that are absorbed by growing and physically vulnerable kids as well as by pregnant women. Compounding the problem are chemical corporations that sabotage investigations and regulations, a government that refuses to police these companies, and corporate-hired scientists who keep pertinent secrets massaged with skewed data of theirown.

Poisoned Profits also demonstrates how people are fighting back, whether through grassroots parents’ groups putting pressure on politicians, the rise of “ecotheology” in the pulpits of formerly indifferent churches, or the new “green chemistry” being practiced in labs to replace bad elements with good. The Shabecoffs also include helpful tips on reducing risks to children in how they eat and play, and in how parents clean and maintain their homes.

Powerful, unflinching, and eminently readable, Poisoned Profits is a wake-up call that is bound to inspire talk and force change.

Authors' website

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet

Here's a bit of the blurb:

Daniel Tammet captivated readers and won worldwide critical acclaim with the 2007 New York Times bestselling memoir, Born On A Blue Day, and its vivid depiction of a life with autistic savant syndrome. ...
Tammet explains that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated; his astonishing capacities in memory, math and language are neither due to a cerebral supercomputer nor any genetic quirk, but are rather the results of a highly rich and complex associative form of thinking and imagination. Autistic thought, he argues, is an extreme variation of a kind that we all do, from daydreaming to the use of puns and metaphors.
Embracing the Wide Sky combines meticulous scientific research with Tammet's detailed descriptions of how his mind works to demonstrate the immense potential within us all. He explains how our natural intuitions can help us to learn a foreign language, why his memories are like symphonies, and what numbers and giraffes have in common. ...
Embracing the Wide Sky is a unique and brilliantly imaginative portrait of how we think, learn, remember and create, brimming with personal insights and anecdotes, and explanations of the most up-to-date, mind-bending discoveries from fields ranging from neuroscience to psychology and linguistics. This is a profound and provocative book that will transform our understanding and respect for every kind of mind.

This is his website

This is his blog.

Here's an interview in New Scientist in their January edition. You can read it in full online here:

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