Thursday, December 26, 2013

Proprietry, Acculturation, comic books, prayer, writing, denominationalism

So there I was working on "My life as an onion" (my current WIP) and suddenly three new plot points appeared. Actually, they weren't new, but they had been there all along, hidden in plain sight....ramifications of the theme and charaterizations of the plot. Suddenly, after all these years, the idea of propriety pops up...that is: how does one train a poor Jamaican girl to become the wife of a Korean chaebol prince?

Generally, I don't care much for propriety. Propriety is needed sometimes of course. One can't talk to the boss (or one's husband's boss) in any kinda way. One certainly cannot talk to God in any kind of way. Although we Christians can start a prayer by saying, "Oh, great Creator" or "Judge of the earth" or "Oh great king" the fact remains that the rules we were given is that we must begin our address to  Him as OUR FATHER. It shows our sense of community with all humans, and it shows our understanding of God's love for us. This is the highest honor. In addition, although this rule is fairly flexible and one can't always use it (especially if one is in a pinch or being mugged by some thug) we are SUPPOSED to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. So, yeah, propriety.

There is also the whole acculturation to the kingdom thing. Different cultures have different rules, different kinds of foods, different kinds of dialects, jargon, and accents. Christians eat different spiritual food than non-Christians. We follow the laws of the kingdom (The Beatitudes.) We have denominations based on human cultures and human priorities/preoccupations. Roman Catholicism has the whole roman empire thing happening at one extreme while Quakers --especially modern Quakers in some urban areas-- have gone almost New-Agey. That's why in all my fantasy stories people of the same general religion always have different ways of dealing with their religion. In Wind Follower, everyone approached their religion out of their own hearts (for good or bad, the theological idea of "scruples" apply) and the three different longhouses showed three different ways of dealing with the main Doreni religion. Plus there were cultural influences that affected the stories....and cross-religious pollination. Which is pretty much what happens in the real world. Islam has gotten even more affected by western Christianity. Nowadays, I've even hears my moslem friend say stuff like "God is our Father" and "God loves us" which would never have been said ages ago and which is still pretty much frowned on by Middle Eastern Moslems.

Acculturation happens outside of art as well...or at least it happens in how the art encounters the world. Back in the day when hubby worked at DC, he worked with Mark Verheiden on a comic book called The Phantom. Mark has gone on to other things -- executive producer of the updated Battlestar Gallactica, producer of Falling Skies, movies such as Timecop, etc. But I doubt he would ever write a Phantom movie. And why not? you ask. Because while comic book culture can accept a white guy running around the African jungle saving the black natives (and terrifying then in his purply-black leotard) Hollywood is not so racially-blind as to dare do something that ridiculous. So in this thing, comic book folks have a different culture. Comic book folks are by no means racist, but you know.... some cultures accept certain things.

Oh where was I? (Kinda got off on a tangent there)

Suddenly I get to this plot point which had been there all along in my Cinderella story. My focus all these years has been on how to change/save the hero and bring him into the (best of) the (truest part of the) Christian culture...and suddenly SUDDENLY rising to balance the plot, and countering my original theme: heroine also has to change -- she has to learn how to cook Korean meals which is all fine and good but she also has to learn how to be a rich wife or at the very least (if hero doesn't marry her) she has to learn how to be the girlfriend of a rich chaebol (spoiled) prince. Interesting turn of events, no? Let's see how this turns out.

Happy creativity, all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Self versus the Story

Aish! Am understanding more about the freedom that comes (to me) from writing epic fantasy. In epic fantasy, I can avoid specifics about my life which are rooted in circumstances, contemporary life, etc. Not so contemporary fiction.

So here I am, writing My Life as an Onion, which is a kind of wish-fulfillment novel. That means it's a bit of a romance with some of my issues but which has a good HEA conflict. Unfortunately, I've been messing up the story with too much of my grudges, grievances, hurts, etc.

Being a writer is a good thing, especially if you're a repressed Christian who never defended yourself although you had a really good comeback to a nasty comment because we didn't want to be "full of self" and we wanted to be nobly silently-forgiving. Incidentally, I've begun to realize how not speaking up for ourselves just leaves us emotionally-wounded and bitter. Whereas speaking our heart in the moment leaves us feeling safer. Anyway, while I've never been really good at defending myself the instance I'm being insulted, I kinda got way good at on-the-spot defending the Bible and the oppressed.

But the thing is: here is a good story and I keep messing up the plot by inserting my petty grievances. The plot (which is about a story just telling itself and finding itself while the writer just kinda listens) is battling my memories and my unsaid-but-dying-to-be-aired grievances. Aargh!

So, what's going on? Is this a lack of faith in self-justification going on here? Won't God justify me one day? Why do I need to do it?

In The Constant Tower, I let the story tell itself. I had no agenda. I basically just narrated whatever floated up to my fingers. I wrote, nypassing my brain. I didn't plot or outline. That's how I tend to write most of my stories. The result of all that was that Constant Tower had all my issues without having any agenda. The story has heavy issues of marriage, feminism, parental cruelty, racism, eugenics, religion, imperialism, entitlement, disability...but there are no parallels of events n my life. Is this because I didn't have any contemporary hook to hang my grievances on?

Moving back to Onion....aaaaaaaaaaaargh! What I have --sadly-- done is list all the above issues WITH/ASIDE all the real-life incidents that caused them. Not good all that clutter and regurgitation. Gotta let it go...gotta let all bitterness and the need to "have my say" go. Aaargh! so stressful.

Gotta find the story, gotta find the story, gotta keep battling self throughout as it keeps rearing its head. Even when i think I've finally removed every inch of self-justification the next thing I've written a new scene filled with self and memories. This is a problem. Cause I'm thinking of writing contemporary novels from now on...instead of epic fantasies but it's beginning to look as if my fantasies are purer stories and fall from the sky more clearly than my contemporary stories. Quite the problem to ponder now.... will see.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Goal for 2014

As most of you all know, I'm a Korean drama addict. (I watch Japanese dramas sometimes and rarely Taiwanese and Chinese dramas.) But a comment from Julia on dramabeans

Julia the Berkshire Beanie 
I tried to find English subbed versions of Asi, but was disappointed.
Ever since I read about the London writer who read a book from every country in the world, I’ve been wanting to expand my own viewing to include more country’s dramas. Turkey is one I haven’t seen anything from.
Ethan Zuckerman did a TED talk about how we have the internet now, but that doesn’t mean we challenge ourselves to seek out exposure to new cultures and ideas. We tend to stay in our safety zones. KDramas opened my eyes so much to a world I didn’t know existed, and I just wonder what else is out there that I have never stumbled upon.
So yeah to all of us who have learned more about other parts of the world by watching dramas. Plus learned by meeting other posters here at Dramabeans. And of course thanks to javabeans, headsno2, gummimochi, and girlfriday for giving us this special place to chat with folks around the world.

has stirred my global spirit!

So I'm going to try to watch more dramas from other countries. Over-acting be damned, I shall venture forth.

The suggestions I'm considering so far are from a poster called Turkish Rose; and these are Turkish dramas:

Fatma gulun sucu ne (what is fatma’s sin) --  about a poor girl who was raped by four rich guys and how society and justice treated her after the incident.

ASI – (the most beautiful love story I’ve ever seen)

Ezel – the best retelling of the story “the count of Monte cresto” ever filmed, won so many awards, the acting and storyline were superb.

Adini Feriha koydum – the story of a poor girl who lied about her status in society in order to fit in, but her lies get the better of her when the wealthiest guy falls in love with her, and seeks revenge once he finds out the truth.

Calikusu (the falling bird) currently airing right now, based on a book about the diary of a Turkish orphan girl.

ASI is subbed on youtube so I may dive in.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The communally-agreed-upon ending

I have just endured yet another drama where the writer seemed to think he/she was wiser/hipper than the viewer and the viewer simply had to take what the writer wanted to give. Some of these k-drama endings lately seem almost to be thumbing their noses at the audience…and at the “old-fashioned” idea of a communally-agreed-upon ending. I find these endings very disrepectful and arrogant.

Okay, I understand a writer possibly planting hints all along as to what the ending is. And I understand the open-ending where there is a hint of Happy-Ever-After even if the story isn't finished. And I understand an up-in-the air static kinda ending.

What I do not like are endings where we the audience must choose the ending they would like. It feels like either the writer is lacking in moral courage and refuses to affirm her own choice for the ending because she doesn't want to alienate one part of her audience. Or that th writer herself didn't know how the story should end. 

I understand that something strange often happens when one writes a love triangle. I can attest to it as a writer. You see the virtue of both lovers and you, the writer, become somehow conflicted. This is often what makes the rivalry so believable, because while one is writing a chapter with the OTP, you totally feel that they are perfect for each other. Then when writing the chapters where the second lead and the heroine interact, you totally feel that THEY are perfect for each other. The reader/audience picks up on that and are as conflicted as you are. This is what I think happened to the writer of this particular drama I'm ranting about. She stuck to her guns by making her heroine "love" the fated hero. But at the same time she undermined the heroine’s love for the hero, sabotaging the written OTP. In addition, while there were moments when she should have begun turning the second lead’s heart toward the second lead female (after the second lead guy finally saw that perhaps he would never be loved), the writer did those moments half-heartedly..and she never allowed herself to give up on the second lead’s love for the heroine (no matter what the heroine did) because she/the writer did not want to cut the second lead loose and deprive the heroine of his love. This is something that happens with writers all the time. 

As a writer, I know this situation: the writer really likes both guys for her main character. But after a while, you have to man up; and if you still want to be piggy and to let the heroine keep the love of the two rivals, you kill off the girl’s rival so the second lead character can’t rebound to her. There are ways to do these things but this writer’s choice….is the least respectable way.

But what bothers me about this kind of open-ended pick-the-scenario-you-want endings is -- while it allows all kind of internet bantering about what the real ending was-- it deprives the viewer of a communally-agreed upon ending. And it shows cowardice.

We buy a book or watch a story because for a little moment in time we want to hear someone else’s philosophy of life (dressed up in story form.) When a writer is confused about her plot or is lacking the moral courage to finish up with her theme, it is like listening to a philosophy or religious or spiritual lecture by a writer without hearing the writer's conclusion or resolution/resolve. Hell, if I disagreed with the ending, that would be better than enduring a writer who is unwilling to speak her conclusion about the subject she wrote upon...a subject which, I have to say, took away 16 hour of my life that I will never get back. What is storytelling except honestly telling your conclusion on some subject?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

On Endurance and "praying without ceasing"

Every once in a while I find my deepest self again. It's a kind of stalwart mlancholy that is quite distinct from the depression I've been enduring because of my illness and my son's illness. The melancholy is mixed with wanderlust, a desire for anarchy and the breakdown of the world systems, and a hatred for the suffering that is part of life.

So I'm writing a YA novel called "My Life as an Onion" I've been writing it for ages because I want it to say what I've always wanted to say in a a direct non-fantastical way: that life is a hard thing.

But Onion has always walked on a kind of sharp spiritual edge. The tone -- and the feelings of recollection and loss-- in the first-person narration urges me to be sad. Not only sad but nihilistic. For lack of an Anglo-American word, it contains "han." The Asian --primarily Korean-- concept of separation/loss

I'm listening to Korean OSTs right now. I know the meanings of the lyrics but the tunes have that sense of Han. There is something wonderful about listening to a sad song in another language -- because one doesn't know the words, one can pour all one's griefs and unspoken  deepest fears, sorrows, and loss into the song.

Check out this one: Isn't it haunting? Loss is written all over the tune. And this one: IF you listening without knowing the words, wow....grief, loss, sorrow.

But I digress.

This post is about: Praying without ceasing.
St Paul tells us to do this and in the past some extreme folks thought it meant never stop praying for a single moment. Others thought it meant to make it a habit to cultivate habitual daily prayer in a general sense. But I'm thinking it might mean never cease praying for what you want. Never give up on God.

Maybe it's just spiritual integrity, like people who must protest even though they feel nothing will come out of it. But maybe it's like Jesus' command: "Ask, keep on asking; seek, keep on seeking; knock, keep on knocking.

But why pray? At age 54 --yep, today is my birthday-- I feel I should come to the end of end--uring. I feel I should say "But the world says, but the statistics are against you, but what you're asking for is ridiculously accept that your son will never be healed, accept that although God is good and kind and Christ as conquered sickness, accept that although God is quite willing and able and ready to heal just ain't gonna happen. Although you have prayed, and fasted, and done good deeds, and affirmed, and given to the poor, and suffered, and loved your neighbors and written Bible studies, you will be like so many other countless Christians whose prayers were never answered and who died loving their Lord neverthelesss. And really, Carole, isn't that enough? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

DVD Review: Dark Girls

Produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke

       Dark Girls is a brief (just over an hour) documentary consisting primarily of snippets of conversation with various folks about the skin color of women of African descent in general and "colorism", the phenomena of preference for lighter skin that exists in the American black community, in particular. The preference for lighter skin in cultures around the globe is also explored.
It is produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke and consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1: THE HISTORY, Chapter 2: THE IMPACT, Chapter 3: FAMILY, Chapter 4: MEN: ON WOMEN, Chapter 5: WOMEN ON MEN, Chapter  6: GLOBAL, Chapter 7: THE  MEDIA, Chapter 8:

       The DVD begins with a pretty little dark-skinned black girl being asked what she thinks about being called  a "beautiful black girl", to which she replies "I don't like it". Why? "Because I'm not black'.  We then enter Chapter 1, "The History", wherein we see the background of American slavery promote the master/slave psychological dynamic that promulgated pathological inferiority.

       In Chapter  2,  "The Impact",  actress Viola Davis describes being called  a "black ugly nigger"  in her predominantly white neighborhood, and being called  the same thing by other black  kids when she went  to summer camp for lower-income children. On the other hand, another woman describes being affirmed by white people for her skin- an affirmation she doesn't get  from the black community.
         A tearful account of  a dark-skinned woman's (unidentified, as were others, though the notables- psychologist, actress, therapist- are named) visit with her friend, a new mother, who says to her that she's so glad her baby "didn't come out dark".  A lack of  unity, rather than racism, is named as the cause for the black community's colorism.
       In a heartbreaking scene a very young (dark) black girl is presented with a drawing of five dancing girls, identical except  that their color gradates from very light to very dark.  When asked to point to the smart child, she points to the lightest girl on the  left. "Why is she the smart  child"? "Because she's white." When asked to point to the dumb child, she points to the darkest girl on the right. "Why is she the dumb child?"  "Because she's black." Then she is asked to point to the ugly child. Again, she points to the darkest, and says she's ugly "Because she's black." "Show me the good-looking child." She points to the lightest and says it's "because she's light skinned".  We then see the girl from the preface with her lighter -skinned mother describing the battle she has getting her to think she's beautiful.

       In Chapter 3, "Family", random hurtful things said and attitudes held within families are recounted.

       4, Men: On Women presents  various black men voicing a preference for light-skinned women, some dark. A grandmother tells her grandson to find, in  kindergarten,  "a light-skinned girlfriend". One man at a subway stop says he prefers darker women. Two white men with black wives describe their attitudes to race and fair versus dark.

       Chapter 5, Women on Men:  darker women describe generally frustrating experiences being shunned by men for the fairer skinned. A brief clip of stampeding wildebeest is presented as the narration describes men making a bee-line for light-skinned women. (Graphic interpolations of this sort are sprinkled throughout.)

       Chapter  6, Global, describes through more interviews the world-wide trend of fairer skin being desirable. A Korean-American girl speaks about discrimination in Korea. Skin-lightening ingredients can be found in many products that ostensibly have nothing to do with lightening one's skin.  The pervasive images of western culture that are disseminated throughout the world is seen as the likely culprit, though Tsehaie from Ethiopia says because her country never went through colonization, chocolate is seen as the highest standard of female beauty.

       Segue to Chapter 7, The (aforementioned) Media, and Beyonce is probably getting her skin brightened up by corporates who wish not  to offend. Dr. Cheryl Grills, The president  of the National Association of Black Psychologists qotes her favorite African proverb: "Until the lion has a historian, the  hunter will always be the  hero" , meaning that the stereotypes of the minority will be perpetuated until they have a voice at least as strong as that of the purveyors of the saturating images emanating from the majority fair-skinned west.

       Chapter 8, Healing, finishes with hopes: of forgiveness, enlightenment,  affirmation. We visit Poughkeepsie for some wise words from another unidentified woman (Bill Duke's mom?). It ends with the pretty little chocolate girl from the the prologue saying,  "My mommy and daddy say I'm beautiful." The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

When defensiveness devolves into offensiveness

Of late, I've committed to not challenging folks on the internet. First, and most importantly, I'mnot doing it because the human mind is a hard-wired cage. Folks are not gonna change their minds. Even Christians, who really should not be so in love with their opinions and their self-ing (yeah, i just invented that word) seem to forget all the admonitions about loving to debate or esteeming others more than ourselves.

I have a couple friends who are in love with their denominations. I really do take the verse about not being "of apollos or of paul or of Cephas" seriously. St Paul said if folks argue or praise their own little sub-sets they are not truly spiritual. They are still carnal. But these folks not only love their denominations, they get incredibly defensive about it...even when no one has really gone on the offense against them. Basically, they're always in a kind of seige mentality. They often have stuff to post that brings up some issue no one else is even thinking about. They post stuff so often that they just irk folks by putting folks on the defensive.

I have one friend who is childless who writes so many posts about how horrible the christian world is about childlessness that any compassion I have about her plight is fast dwindling. I actually find myself wanting to challenge her because in some weird way she is egging folks on (without quite knowing it) and she is simply causing folks to dislike her POV. On Mother's day, she never once -- NEVER ONCE-- said a thank you post to her own mother. She was so bitter and hurt about what other Christians have said about her childlessness that she spent the entire day saying how blessed she was not to have been a mother. Okay, she does this all the time...but could she not for one day "refrained" and forbare pulling down other folks' joy?

That's where the issue of how am I to respond enters the picture. I seem to feel I was born to respond to people who are totally wrong AND proud AND deluded. It's the trifecta that sounds "attack" to my ears. Apparently I can deal with someone who is wrong by ignoring them but when someone is wrong and proud and deluded about his/her own need to "speak" I am tempted to rebuke. So then, what to do when the person is wrong and proud and deluded and hurt? Ay me! And what to do when the person is wrong and proud and deluded and hurt and hurting my feelings? Ayyyyyyyyyyy me!

Yep, life is a beyotch! And the Christian walk of perservering is a total bitch.

I understand that others are tolerating me. So it's only fair tht I tolerate others.
I understand that defensiveness devolves into offensiveness if the defensive person has so reached a level of pain or supposed pain that they just can't help but spew out their defensive hurtful comments.

Hey, lately, Oprah said something that sounded sooo racist. And all I could think was, "Seriously, woman, when was the last time anyone treated you like a 'poor' Black woman?" But obviously, the pain and the memory is still there.

I wanted to say to the Catholic poster, "Ah puhleze, cut the crap! Do you know how many times Catholics have treated me like crap and said nasty things out of the blue to me because I'm not Catholic? And stop saying you're the first church. And that you were built on St Peter. The first church was Jewish and it was St Paul who was given the anointing to speak to the Gentiles. St Peter was the apostle of the Jews. And the rock the church was built on was the word of God, not a human named Peter. And the second church was Greek Orthodox. And, most importantly, Catholics have done their share of cruelty to other folks...even now." Ah, but I digress. (I didn't challenge her because I really am not good at listening to folks indoctrinated in their supposed pain.)

Okay, so once again am thinking of the whole turning the other cheek thing. The momentum of the original hurt has to stop. Christian physics. The velocity, the momentum, the cycle of defensiveness and offensiveness must be stopped. When someone is totally caught up in their pain and utterly unable to see their own wrong, it might be best to just say nothing. Even if one feels and knows the defensive person is utterly wrong. Because the human mind is hard to convince...especially if it thinks it's hurt. The human ego holds painfully, shamelessly, unerringly to its own opinion.  

I am trying to be loving. I'm trying to have a loving heart. But wow, dealing with defensiveness is hard because I want to defend myself against the hurt their defensiveness causes me. What to do? As a Christian, why should I suck it up...when the other Christian isn't sucking it up at all? What is the fine line between defending the "self" and allowing the "self" to be walked over?

Monday, November 18, 2013

open letter to my atheist friend

To say religious claims have not met their burden of proof is too general a statement. It's better to say religious claims have not met their burden of proof with you. Proof is individualistic because other people have had some burden of proof met. In addition, to define something as a burden of proof it's necessary to have a standard...and your standard being are saying that others are more easily deceived or deluded than you are..

Understandable, but in other matters, your standard of proof have probably not been yourself because in all things, there is some moment when one decides to accept external proof outside of self. Of course one can "study" one's way out of the book but from what is evident in church circles, most Chritians don't understand enough of the book to study their way in it much less out of it. The many people who lost their faith because of higher criticism, for instance, would probably not have lost it if they had read the right books to help them understand the book. Or if they were living in a time after some of the linguistic, archeological challenges of higher criticism were solved. So the basic admission is..God did not prove himself to you specifically, since he has apparently proven himself to other people. And much of accepting one's own view is to consciously decide everytime one is given proof (by someone else's testimony) to declare within one's own mind: "This person giving this testimony is deluded." Whether it's about angels, healing, inner deliverance, there has to be a committment to the believer's supposed delusion. There is a consistent unkindness and lack of esteem in others' opinion that the unbeliever must uphold.

Now what follows is questioning of the notion of validating "proof" and whether A can not see proof, or whether God didn't care to prove himself on A's terms or whether A lacks no insight into a certain kind of "sense." Your definition of an argument from ignorance is how you have subtly described yourself. Ignorance and Agnostic both have the same meaning...there is a not knowing. Which is honest. Except we should also be honest in how we frme the debate.

As for "atheism is not a religion":
A religion is a system of thought that has tenets, professors, teachers, "sainted" believers, books and doctrines. Whether the believer is aware of all the tenets of a particular religion doesn't matter. The tenets are there and one must accept them in order to be an atheist. If you don't think atheism has certain tenets, then you are as woefully uneducated about atheism as you are about Christianity. For the most part, most Christians hold to the same basic tenet. In the same way, most atheists hold much of the similar tenets...all culled together from the writings of their great teachers. Just as most Christians often say the same thing, so do most atheists.

1) the lack of a belief in spirit 2) the belief that life can only be viewed through the rational 3) the belief that people who believe in God are deluded. 4) The belief that people who believe in God are weak and need God for strength. 5The belief in evolution and progressivism, that humans are getting better as science advances 6) The belief that religion has caused most war while incidents of non-religious cruelty such as Stalin's, Mao's and the French Revolution were just flukes because atheism is peaceful 7) The belief that humanity creates God  The belief that the noble savage is an ideal and religion judges unfairly. 9) The belief that religious books are not timeless but are rooted in the superstition of the past whereas the secular philosophies of the past (Greek philosophy etc) are the beginning of wisdom. 10) That the belief in atheism precludes believing in anything else but atheism. There are a few subsets for the most part. 11) That a religion should be evangelical thus the world should be saved from the wrong religion (in this case, the belief in God.) 12) that there is such a thing as an atheist culture just as there is a religious culture 13) that one should meet frequently with others in one's religion to reinforce one's belief so one doesn't fall from the true path.

I could go on but the upshot is that all these tenets were slowly built up by different "saints" of atheism and are believed. So yes, atheism is a religion.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company; Rev Upd Su edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824521153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824521158

  • In this gem of a book, Richard Rohr introduces us to the vision of the Franciscan way of living, where joy, not dry theology, helps us build relationships and find peace in ourselves.


    Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation ( in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard's teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy--practices of contemplation and lived kenosis (self-emptying), expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

    Fr. Richard is author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam's Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, and Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.

    CAC is home to the Rohr Institute where Fr. Richard is Academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity's place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Rohr Institute is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings. Learn more at

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    All that pesky societal meaningfulness and religious preachiness

    If you're a minority or a Christian fiction writer or BOTH, you have to be aware of the need to show minorityness or Christianness in your fiction.

    Some Christians say they want to write Christian fiction.

    Some Christians say they just want to write what they write and they don't need to bring Christ or some Christian doctrine into every story. They want to be free and different and unique. Trouble is when they write like other people, they really "write like other people." Seriously, a lot of writing by Christians "not writing as Christians" is as bland as any other non-specific fiction. This just makes me wonder what so many evngelical American Christians are reading that they are writing such stuff. I'm totally convinced that the types of movies you watch and the types of books you read contribute to the kind of stories one writes and the way one writes it.

    It's as if one is carving an axe and the axe one is carving is modelled after the axe one is using. <--not a="" about="" an="" ancient="" and="" are="" because="" being="" but="" chinese="" christian="" creativity="" don="" fictions="" from="" generalizations="" generalizing.="" generally="" have="" hey....i="" i="" it="" kind="" long="" m="" many="" metaphor="" my="" of="" on="" p="" poem="" read="" s="" some="" t="" that="" they="" thing.="" think="" true.="" unfair="" very="" writers="" yes="">
    Now about minority and Black writers.

    Black writers also kinda have the same issues...

    Some say they are just writers and they don't want folks to think of them as "Black writers."
    Others want to show the Black experience, even if we're outta space. Above all, there is that conscious desire to share one's heart. This often leads to stories that feel preachy and teacherly.

    So what's the problem?

    I think the problem is first
    1) the reading of the same general stuff. Christian folks who have read too many Christian books and are influenced by them, and Black fiction written by folks who have read way too much Black fiction.

    2) The consciousness of sharing one's experience. The consciousness of the idea to be shared is the problem. Somehow we have to let go of that consciousness. If we can do that, the story will feel more multicultural and less aimed at Black readers or white readers who are into Black sociology.

     I so want a Christian book that is truly totally deeply Christian and yet which doesn't feel normal and generic to me. But whether being totally Christian or being "I'm a Christian but that doesn't mean I'm a Christian writer" Christian fiction always feels so generic to me. Because of what Christians allow themselves to read and watch I think. The same American concerns, the same American fictional patterns, formulas, and ideas

    Not that I want Christian writers to go off the deep end and watch porn or atheist movies or flicks but I don't like reading a book which feels as if the author has seen only ten indie flicks in her life -- and those ten are the indie films everyone sees. And I don't want Black writers to stop reading Black fiction...I just want more multiculturalism and less ya know..."societal" meaning...and less fictional discussion of black oppression.

    Another favorite poem to reassess

    A few years ago I wrote a blog about the power of certain songs and poems to affect the soul. I think I wrote it on the song "I am a rock" and how because I wasn't careful, I made the song (and others like it) my inner vow.  Yes, songs like "I stand alone."

    These songs have power to affect the soul and certainly affected my life. So we really have to be careful about the songs/poems that healed us or our childhood selves.

    So today...I thought of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems.

    The soul selects her own society,
    Then shuts the door;
    On her divine majority
    Obtrude no more.
    Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
    At her low gate;
    Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
    Upon her mat.
    I've known her from an ample nation
    Choose one;
    Then close the valves of her attention
    Like stone.

    I realized to my deep grief and sorrow that the power described in this poem is not one I want to indulge in anymore. As a kid and a teen and as an adult in some churches I was rejected. Mostly racial issues. Or folks who thought I was just plain too uneducated or poor for them to befriend.

    I realized that in my fantasies (sexual or otherwise) there is a cruel power lingering, one I no longer which to have. I liked the idea of saying, "This is my friend and I will treat him/her gently and sweetly. But you are not my friend and so I will be impatient and cruel to you." I do this with a lot of people online and in the real world. It is a formof iniquity, i think. Because I will forgive my friends anything, ANYTHING, ANYTHING. But I will not easily forgive a non-friend even the smallest slight. It's an interesting kind of power to play the childhood kindergarten game of "He's my friend but you're not." But I want to grow in love and I don't want Holy Spirit to leaveme. It will mean risking being disliked by folks but I think I would rather not upset the Holy Spirit by having an unloving defensive heart that likes knowing it can be cruel to some people and not cruel to others.

    So there...another favorite poem has been analyzed and cast off with the old man that produced it.
    With Jesus helping me, I can do it. Thank you, Holy Spirit

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    Beginner's Luck-- yet another phrase from the pit of hell

    Yes, now I'm on the rampage against "beginnger's luck" and "lucky in cards, unlucky in love."

    And once again it's about this:

    My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
    Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
    For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
    Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

    Proverbs, dichus, etc all have the power to affect us and to create mental and spiritual strongholds. 
    So what does the concept of "Beginner's Luck" do?

    Well, let's say you've decided to do sweepstakesing. Let's say you win some wonderful stuff. Yep, this happened to me so I'm speaking from experience. When I first began sweepstakesing, I won $10K for a friend's wedding. (I'd entered his nme several times.) I won a box of 12 broderbund educational software one week and the next week won another box of educational software from another company. In a letter from one of the sponsors, i was told there were 600,000 entries. So, assuming both software contests had about the same amount of entries, I had won 2 out of 1,200,000 entries. I won other things as well, including roller blades for my son from E! Entertainment channel.

    Then someone says to you: "Oh, you're so lucky! it's beginner's luck." Suddenly I stopped winning. Your mind incorporates this idea -- very subtly, without you being aware of it-- and you start thinking there is a cut-off mark for luck. I'm telling you this really happens and it's an example of how strongholds affect our ability to receive from God or to be blessed by the spiritual laws of the universe. I used to be weirdly lucky when it came to knowing which horse would win in  race. It was just uncanny. Then someone said to me, "Lucky in cards, unlucky in love." And I suppose some part of me believed that, and because I didn't want to be unlucky inlove....voila, the ability left.

    I had not guarded my heart against that particular proverb. The world brainwashes us. That's why we have to keep in God's word to have our minds washed and cleaned up by God's view of reality. 

    But it also reaches past the idea of luck. It also has to do with our ability to receive answers to prayers. We develop this quota mindset and start thinking we have received "enough good" and maybe heaven's gonna shut down on us.  Without realizing it, we develop this subconcious belief in a God who has limits. The word of God only works in a heart that is ready for it. We have to break up our fallow ground. Folks who have finally managed to get past the false truth of "earning" God's kindness, but who still are believing that God's kindness have a quota, are not able to receive, wish or imagine certain blessings.

    When my husband's sister was dying, his father prayed this prayer to God: "God, you know I've never asked you for anything unimportant. But I'm asking you now. And if you hear this prayer I will never ask again."

    Now, whether she would have been healed or not, there really is something very unBiblical and very wordly about tht prayer. We are all taught that God the big CEO in the sky helps only those who helps themselves and only cares for important things. Yet the Bible says, "Cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for you." The Scripture doesn't say, "Cast all your important care, cast all your care after you have carried them appropriately long enough, cast all your tried and true valid care after you have tried to help yourself."

    I remember once i was sooo soo thirsty. I'd gone for a long walk without drinking any water. So I sid to God, "I'm so thirsty. I want some coconut water.But i have no money. Could you drop  dollar for me on the road so i can go to the deli two blocks down the road to buy some?" After I sked this, i felt a joy and a total assurance that i would get the dollar. I felt i should walk a block out of my way along a certain road. I went down that road and kept looking on the ground. Bingo: a dollar bill was on the ground. Someone had dropped it. I giggled wildly and went to get the coconut water.

    The next day i also forgot to drink some water and was walking again. But try as i could I kept thinking, "God won't let me find money again. Not again. He thinks I should know better than to repeat the same mistake again. And even if he isn't mad at me for making the same mistake again, He doesn't do miracles twice in a row." Of course none of this is Biblicl. But my objections are stuff one picks up in the air, crappy seeds put in the ground that stand up as strongholds in our mind against God's extreme kindness and goodness.  

    So hubby and i were lying in bed pondering and discussing the many proverbs, sayings, platitudes that we have allowed to affect our hearts...and thus affect the spiritual ground God's seed is planted in. 

    Leaving you with this:

    Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13: 18-23

    Tuesday, November 05, 2013

    Pondering: Fantasy, daydreaming, hope

    Hope imagines. But it imagines things it believes is good for itself. Based on one's knowledge of Scripture or one's own ethics, one's hope can be morally questionable -- but even so it's daydreams are geared toward some wished-for situation.

    Despair imagines. But it imagines and meditates on what it fears. Based on one's knowledge and trust (or distrust) of Scripture, the images one meditates on in one's despair is either seen as the only possible future one could dream of (when one finds one's self in a bad situation.)

    There is imagining impossibilities that may happen, and imagining improbabilities, and imagining miracles.

    Both imagining impossibilities and imagining improbabilities have to do with attempts to heal. But imagining impossibilites involve back-tracking -- daydreaming about the past, woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing. In those daydreams, we often are attempting to heal our past soul wounds and so it's vain imaginings.  We are often not our own age, and yet we somehow are in the current era/year...which is always a bad sign. So daydreaming of being our twenty year old selves in 2013 with some famous young hottie.....nah, not gonna happen.

    Imagining improbabilities is a step higher toward true hope. We are at least in the present, we are our own age, we are doing wonderful things or engaging with wonderful people. But the things, the people are slightly improbable...and again there is a need to heal our wounded soul. Thus we may daydream about being our real age but we put ourselves in such improbable situations. If our souls and spirits are being healed by imagining ourselves with some rich,powerful, famous person....well chances are this is not a true hope.

    Imagining miracles. Well, this is true hope. It is setting the mind on the thing desired, imagining a good outcome based on a promise of God. This is the hardest daydream to enter because we have to know Scripture, we have to imagine Jesus or some holy Biblical person doing the miracle, and then we have to imagine God in us (the hope of glory) or some other Christian doing the miracle. Or we can just imagine a sovereign move of God without any human agency.

    This kind of daydreaming is also difficult because when we reach a point in life where we need a miracle, our minds have often already become washed with negative images. So we're battling the vain negtive images the doctors, memory, time or habit have put in our minds and hearts...while at the same time trying to trust God's word and the images the Scripture wants to put into our minds. Plus, our daydreaming habits have usually not been creative or hopeful. So it's difficult to picture good things happening.

    True hope is not vain or depressing or impossible imaginations; it is hope of salvation. I'm not saying our thoughts create our reality. Because God is able to give us more than we are able to ask or wish. I'm saying that we should at least keep tabs on our wishing. We should at least put as much conscious effort into imagining what life will be like when (not what life might be like if) our prayers come true. We should at least consciously imagine the looked-for end with the same gusto that we put into a sexual fantasy. We should walk around in our future hope knowing every nook and corner of it.

    So there I was...realizing I am age 54. This means ...many of the daydreams and fantasies I have been indulging in for the past 34 years must now be put to rest. There is really no way that many of these fantasies will come true. Rich Korean young hottie will not arrive and bring my younger self or my current self happiness. But really, these daydreams are my second homes. What to do with them? Make stories out of them. I know those worlds so well. And in letting go of them and training my mind to lose past them...I can have my cake and eat it too. My mind will let them go but they will forever be engraved in story form.

    Will see how it works. Sad...but some dreams have to be let go. 

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Black Speculative Fiction Month posts on Suspensemysteryhorrorandthrillersinblack

    Thanks a bunch for joining in on the fun!


    1 Oct The Importance of Black Speculative Fiction by Balogun Ojetade

    2 Oct The Laroarian Conflict by A. Jarrell Hayes

    3 Oct Iniko by Alicia McCalla

    4 Oct The Constant Tower by Carole McDonnell

    7 Oct Between Dusk and Dawn by Lynn Emery

    8 Oct Taurus Moon Relic Hunter by D K Gaston

    9 Oct The Other Realm by Deatri King-Bey

    10 Oct The Serpent Cult by Howard Night

    11 Oct Sin Eaters-Devotion Book One by Kai Leakes

    14 Oct The Seedbearing Prince: Part I by DaVaun Sanders

    15 Oct Spell by Janell

    16 Oct

    17 Oct Woman of the Woods by Milton Davis

    18 Oct

    21 Oct Masoth The Journey Beyond by Ehav Ever

    22 Oct Hayward's Reach by Thaddeus Howze

    23 Oct Order of the Seers (Book I in the Order of the Seers Trilogy) by Cerece Rennie Murphy

    24 Oct

    25 Oct  The Switch II: Clockwork by Valjeanne Jeffers

    28 Oct The Temptation of John Haynes by Shawn James

    29 Oct Mamaluke Bath  by Andrew Asibong

    30 Oct
    31 Oct

    My halloween post --yeah, another post about the hi-jacking of the possible

    In my last post I talked about natural supernaturalism and magical realism and I kinda mentioned the hi-jacking of reality but didn't really get into it.

    But since it's Halloween, I figured...why not?

    So once again I say, those who believe in a rationalistic closed universe have hijacked the possible away from us. I for one have no problem believing there was a time when the universe didn't have to prove how incredibly supernatural and magical it all is. People saw the magical, accepted it, and didn't have the need to train their minds not to see it.

    So yeah, an example of modern reality-hijacking and impossibility-thinking: The various medical books have described "hallucinations" of seeing the deceased person speaking to us is part of the mind's way of dealing with death. Okay, I didn't see hallucinations of my mother when she died but I know folks who have seen their dead children return to say goodbye or who have seen their parents after death. Now, because reality --and those in charge of how we see reality-- have decided this is all hallucinatory...then folks are trained to believe their minds re playing tricks on them. Because, after all, something impossible can't be happening to them.

    So now it's Halloween. A creepy holiday definitely, and one that celebrates mostly death, dying, and killing things. Easter, which celebrates life and resurrection is not so famous among other cultures as our Halloween is.  Because although Halloween celebrates death, it also celebrates and tries to reclaim the impossible. Nature abhors a vacuum. You pull the magical and the mystical and the numinous and the unexplainable from the human possible of reality and the magical must make itself known.

    I remember reading of a kid who murdered someone just to see if God would stop him, just to see if the human conscience really had power over self, just to see if ghosts and demons would haunt him. Sad old world that people have to go to such extremes to see if something other than reality exists. And of course it's all about faith isn't it? If one has trained a kid not to see God, not to see the numinous power in conscience, not to see the magic of retribution in the world, not to see ghosts....then even if God were standing in front of him telling him not to do it..he would not see God. Because the kid's eyes have been trained not to see. He would only think it was all an hallucintion.

    And then there is the other side of the mysterious and the magical -- miracles. When you have folks saying miracles don't exist or saying that flowers are magical...they demean the word. They fall into the hijacker's hand, they raid the glories of the possible.  

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Travelling Fantasy Blog Tour: Fantasy and What It Means to be Human

    From the beginning of time (and perhaps before time began) the question has always existed: what does it mean to be human?

    Humanity lives/exists within a prescribed setting which limits knowledge, age, joy, the body, sexuality, tribe, power, authority, dominion, physical movement, movement in time.

    As a writer of Christian fiction I grew up with the story of Adam and Eve which is the first encounter most Christians have with the question of What does it mean to be human. In that story, man is created but not yet settled into a specific kind of being. (And in the Christian mythos, man will not find his true "self" and "being" until the end of time when time is no more.

    Adam and Eve are beings who do not die. Yet they are not really immortal. They're in a strange nexus of creation where they are like god with (some) dominion and some knowledge. But they lack something, something God apparently thinks is not particularly important. They do not understand right and wrong.
    They have consciousness but are without law or conscience. They have a blissful ignorance of evil and cannot judge/blame either themselves, others, God, or the world. For them, it is a world which is neither immoral or moral.

    Despite God's desire that they remain outside of the realm of guilt or consciousness of evil, God did make them moral beings. Their one morality: the freedom to obey or not to obey. They are aware of one thing that they lack: they do not fully understand the ramifications of evil: disease, death, cruelty, hunger, toil, meaninglessness, and the thousand ills flesh is heir to. This knowledge of death is what separates them from God, what makes them less than God.

    But  third agency enters the picture and challenges them to be like God. The agency tempts them with knowledge of evil, law, conscience, guilt. The humans take a wager upon themselves. It is possible that humans can understand evil and not fall into guilt.  Their first response to eyes opened to evil: shame. Shme about what? Shame in their comparison to  perfect God. Thus humanity falls from its own perfection as it aimed for God's perfection.

    There is so much in this story, myth, history. And all fantasy stories echo it. All these elements are found in fantasy: Humans who wish to put side emotions and become, robots who wish to be humans, humans locked way from Eden, humans betrayed by a God, humans betraying their gods, humans casting off their gods, intrusive deceiving godlike figures, humans battling death, humans defying death, humans conquering time, humans failing a task, humans striving, humans ignorant of evil, humans being dominated by the world, humans dominating the world. All the echoes are found in fantasy stories and will apparently continue until the end of time.

    Other discussions on fantasy and what it means to be human can be found here

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