"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Election

      This is neither a review nor a recommendation. It is a statement of frustration over lack of available reading time. My reading is done aloud, to my wife, roughly one chapter at a time. At that rate it takes roughly a month to read most books. The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance reviews roughly one book a week. So how do I handle all the books I can't get around to reading? Read on to find out.
      The Election by Jerome Teel promises to be an exciting read. After looking at Kevin Lucia's excellent review at MySpace.com, I can hardly wait to read it ... eventually.
      There, I've done it. I've plugged a book based on a stranger's analysis. Does that make me so evil?

Burn Baby, Burn

      J. Stowell, in Fan The Flame, told of a Greek race where the contestants had to keep their torches lit to win.
      That's the kind of race God has set before us. As we let our lighted torch so shine before men that they might see our good works and glorify our Father, we must understand the challenge of running the course while bearing that light. If we sheltered it from the wind while running, it might still burn, but no one could see it to God's glory. If we stood still, proudly holding it aloft, the flame might grow dim and sputter out.
      Our challenge is to follow the course fast enough to keep the flame bright, while not blowing it out with our speed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Like Dandelion Dust

Karen Kingsbury somehow managed to strike the heart of fear with her domestic thriller, Like Dandelion Dust. Just because I said domestic thriller, doesn't mean this is simply a housewives' romance novel.
      Ask yourself what you'd do if the perfect little boy joined your family as an adopted infant, spent his first five years bonding himself to you deeper than you ever thought possible, and was then yanked out of your life by a potentially abusive biological father. So as not to spoil this emotional roller coaster novel, I'll just say, read it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Praying Machines

      Confession time: Though I love God with all my heart, I am not exactly a stalwart, prayer warrior. Yes, I believe God answers prayer. Even though I can't rationalize that with His foreknowledge and sovereignty over events in our lives, the Bible says in James 5:16, (15)And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (16)Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (17)Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.(Emphasis mine.)
      As the wise man stated, "God said it. I believe it. And that's that" Though my natural bent is to seek understanding of principles, where God's explicit commands are concerned, "That's that!"
      First Thessalonians 5:17 gives another prayer command: pray without ceasing, expanded a bit in Ephesians 6:18, With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
      God didn't create man as a machine to obey as programmed, without question or reservation. In creating us after His image, he gave us a key divine attribute: Personal Volition. He expects us to listen to His expectations, weigh the pros and cons, then use the brains he gave us to make our own choices. Then we get to either enjoy or suffer the consequences of those choices.
      Do I feel like my prayers "change" things? No, not at all. My belief in God's sovereign desire for my best overrules any desire on my part for circumstances or material possessions to come my way. If it's good for me, it will.
      Do I pray anyway? Of course I do. Though God didn't make me a programmable machine, by God's grace, I will use what self-control I have to become His "Praying Machine."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow

      This is not a review of Orson Scott Card's novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. Reviewing books published in the late '80s would be an exercise in futility. All that should be said about them has already been said, by commentators far more insightful than I. Instead, these are my personal reactions to the two novels by Card.
      I read Ender's Shadow first, and became acquainted with Bean, the young product of genetic manipulation. As I got to know him, Bean gave me a new sense of what childhood is, and how it can transcend both cognitive giftedness and maturation. Bean's inevitable inner conflict between the child that he was and his off-the-scale intelligence exploded into the worlds of men and aliens. And nothing that happened in his fictional world seemed implausible in our own.
      Somehow, Card's stories of special children and intra-galactic warfare avoid the trite theme of parallel evolution so common in Sci-Fi. And in a genre so crowded with, and dependent upon, technological innovation, the world of Battle School hit a fresh, clear note, in harmony with creation as it is, not as it would have to be for the fictional scenario to develop.
      Because of Bean, I now look into babies eyes with new wonder; what is going on behind that cool stare? What thoughts are taking shape? What potential could be developed?
      Perhaps one day I will write as well as Orson Scott Card.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Violette Between

      Violette Between was not an easy book to read. It is structured so unconventionally that, at first, I didn't think I'd like it. But Alison Strobel's deeply personal style captured my interest and imagination. She kept me reading by eliciting a sympathetic emotional reaction within me.
      Allison captured the essence of the setting with few words, placing me smack in the middle of the action. Her knowledge of the human mind and the defensive tricks it can play locked me into Violette's inner world, right along with her.
      The further I read the more involved I was in Violette's and Christian's lives. Yes, and even Violette's deceased husband Saul became a sympathetic character, clearly demonstrating her reason for the inner conflict that kept her from getting on with her life.
      Genre romance novels are a dime-a-peck, and literary novels are shunned for their multi-leveled, complex characterizations, and often bizarre use of language for artistic effect. But Violette Between combines convincing, fully developed characters with artistic-but-entertaining prose for a read you won't soon forget.

Friday, October 06, 2006


About the author:

      Ginger Garrett is an acclaimed novelist and expert in ancient women's history.
      Her first novel, Chosen, was recognized as one of the best five novels of the year by the Christian publishing industry. Ginger enjoys a diverse reader base and creates conversation between cultures.
      In addition to her 2006 and 2007 novels about the most evil women in biblical history, she will release Beauty Secrets of the Bible (published by Thomas Nelson) in Summer 2007.
      Ginger Garrett's Dark Hour delves into the biblical account of Jezebel's daughter and her attempt to end the line of David.

And now, a special Q&A with Ginger Garrett: 1.) First, tell us a bit about Dark Hour.
      I was praying about what book to write after Chosen, and accidentally left my open Bible on the kitchen table. (A dangerous thing, since in my house, small children and large dogs routinely scavenge with dirty hands and noses for snacks!) As I walked past it, I saw a caption about someone named Athaliah and a mass murder. I stopped cold. I knew it was my story.
      Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel--a real woman in history--who tried to destroy all the descendents of King David in a massacre. God made a promise that a descendent of King David would always sit on the throne, and one day a Messiah would come from this line. If Athaliah succeeded, she would break the promise between God and the people, and destroy all hope for a Messiah.
      One woman, her step-daughter, Jehoshebeth, defied her. She stole a baby during the massacre and hid him. Between them, the two women literally fought for the fate of the world. 2.) What drew you to write biblical fiction?
      The similarities between the lives of ancient women and our lives. We get distracted by their "packaging," the way they dressed and lived, but at heart, our stories are parallel. 3.) How much time is spent researching the novel versus writing the novel?
      Equal amounts, and I don't stop researching while I write. I have a historical expert, probably the best in the world in his field, review the manuscript and point out errors. The tough part is deciding when to ignore his advice. He pointed out that most everyone rode donkeys if they weren't in the military, but a key scene in the novel involves riding a horse to the rescue. It would have been anti-climatic to charge in on a donkey! :) So I ignored his advice on that one. 4.) Dark Hour takes its reader deep into the heart of palace intrigue and betrayals. Were parts of this book difficult to write?
      I left out much of the darkest material I uncovered in research. It was important to show how violent and treacherous these times and this woman (Athaliah) could be, but I tried to be cautious about how to do it. The story was so powerful and hopeful--how one woman's courage in the face of evil saved the world--but the evil was depressing. I tried to move quickly past it. I wanted balance. Our heroine suffers and some wounds are not completely healed in her lifetime. That's true for us, too. 5.) What would modern readers find surprising about ancient women?
      They had a powerful sense of the community of women. They also wore make-up: blush, glitter eyeshadow, lipstick, powder, and perfume! They drank beer with straws, and enjoyed "Fritos": ground grains, fried and salted. Many of our foods are the same today, but they loved to serve pate made from dried locusts, finely ground. Ugh!
(Special thanks to Bonnie Calhoun for the above interview. If you would like to become part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, and be on the inside of new Christian fiction releases, just click on the link to the left of this post.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"This is your last issue."

      Today I received my last subscription issue of Writer's Digest. They're sorry to see me go, but they'll get over it. As will I.
      I can think of another "last issue," one that I won't get over so easily. That will be the issue raised when I stand before humankind's Judge on that terrible day. He will ask me whose righteousness earned me the right to spend eternity with Him. If my answer outlines all the good things I've done with my life, His countenance will darken and His eyes will pierce to the center of my soul, digging out every single action, thought and motive that brought shame and guilt into my life. Every eye will see the disgraceful actions I did in private, the horrible fantasies that I allowed my imagination to entertain, every "little, white" lie that passed over my tongue, and each pen, pencil or paper clip that wound up in my possession without having been bought. The cloak of good that I did throughout my life will become the most filthy, putrid covering imaginable, and I won't be able to strip it off. I will realize, with the billions of souls standing around me, that I had ignored the only One who could remove the wretched filth covering me. But despite the vastness of my company, I will stand completely isolated from any pity or compassion. I alone, with the billions of other isolated souls, will turn away from the Judge and march into the eternal fire-pit reserved for Satan and his minions.
      If, however, I answer the Judge's penetrating question with one Name, my last issue will not be an issue at all. If I say only, "Jesus," my Savior will slowly smile at me with the radiance of uncounted suns. His eyes will sparkle at me with the stars of millions of galaxies. And I will find myself clothed with the perfect, white cloak of His righteousness. He will reach out his scarred hands to me and say, "Come." And I will.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

History's Alarm Clock is Ringing

      A 53-year-old homeless man, Michael Roberts, is dead in Florida. Four teenage boys allegedly beat the decrepit, reprobate to death in May 2005 with fists, sticks and logs. My first question upon hearing that news report was, "Why?" The quick answer, from the youths' own mouths, is they did it for fun, excitement, and entertainment.
      When I try to think about it from their perspective, I can understand their motivation. Beating an old man might indeed be exciting. Just think of the adrenalin rush. And since the guy wasn't a viable, productive human being, their fun and entertainment might have done the state a favor. They did, after all, take one more bum off the welfare rolls. So, why are they being prosecuted for doing the state a favor?
      There is one small hole in that reasoning: Our culture places inherent value on human life. That explains why cruelly killing an animal is not murder. It's a dirty, rotten shame, but not murder. Killing a human being with malice of forethought, however, is murder. Our laws protect human life by assigning severe penalties for wantonly taking a life. Negating that inherent value ultimately places all human life at risk.
      Not too long ago, abortion was illegal and considered barbaric, rather like murder is today. But today's law allows pre-born human beings to be killed at the mother's convenience. In view of that "advance" in western mores, I wonder when society will declare reprobate human beings to be less-than human, or profoundly disabled human beings, or even those unwanted by someone with enough money to legally remove their viability status.
      Yes, it sounds far fetched, but legally killing pre-born humans also sounded far fetched just yesterday, by history's clock.
      Do I detect an alarm going off?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why does God allow tragedy?

      This ODB is just plain cool. I smiled as I read it, because it felt like a hug from God. His plan, of course, is perfect for each of us, as it is for His entire creation.
      Lots of folks forget that nothing happens without God's foreknowledge. Adam didn't surprise God when he took that fateful bite, or when he hid because of shame for it, compounding his disobedience with deception. When the Gestapo burst into the ten Boom home and carted most of the family away to their deaths, God didn't wring His hands and say, "Oh, wow! I didn't see that coming." And on September eleventh, 2001, God allowed those thousands of people to die, not because He couldn't stop it, but because thousands of years ago, a man "Did it my way," to quote Frankie's song.
      As a race, we're enjoying the harvest of our own sowing. No one, from Adam to I, can claim we weren't warned about the law of sowing and reaping. When "innocents" are harmed, they are simply collateral damage in the sin-war raging around them.
      Tragic? Of course! Wrong? No! Because the only law God must obey is to be true to Himself, though in His love and compassion, such tragedies must break His heart. That's why He sent His divine Son to bear the punishment for my sin. God's perfect justice must be, and was fulfilled in the horrible death of the only true Innocent ever born.

The Little Things

      Today a friend was busily working in the Jewelry Service Center across from the check lanes where I stand vigil when business is light at Target. I stood there staring at her for a few moments, then began waving my arms around in large circles. Well, for the longest time she just kept working, but when she finally noticed the movement and glanced up, I gave her a demure, little hand-wave. I couldn't have wanted a better reaction, as she smiled radiantly and laughed at my visual joke.
      It is indeed the little things that make life worth living. The little prayers that draw me closer to my Lord. The little praises that keep me in His Spirit. It's hard to imagine, though, how little praises could possibly please such a humongous God, but they do, like tiny puffs of incense rising to give Him pleasure.