Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So which superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
The Flash
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

I'm such a sucker for quizzes.

Monday, February 27, 2006

New column

I've posted my March Notes from the Windowsill column. It's called Spirit and Truth, and if it sounds familiar, it's a slight reworking of a post I did a few weeks ago.

Friday, February 24, 2006

'Sneak Peaks' and other stories

A few weeks ago, I received my very own autographed copy of Forgiving Solomon Long, which I won in a contest at Novel Journey way back in January. And included in the package was a short story/excerpt from Chris Well's forthcoming novel, Deliver Us from Evelyn. "The Golden Age" was a delightful story featuring Charlie Pasch and came complete with a comic-book style cover drawn by Chris's wife, Erica. Very cool. And now, you can enjoy the same sneak peak because it's available for download at Infuze. Deliver Us from Evelyn will be arriving in bookstores in March, and this story should whet your appetite.

I got an e-mail today from Randy Mortenson, the author of Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle, which was on the blog tour back in November. The second book in the series, Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam, also comes out next month and Randy says he likes this one even better. Randy is the featured author on the Barbour Books Web site this month (lower right corner), so you can find out more about him there. Or can check it out at Amazon or Christian Book Distributors.

One more thing -- one of the conversion stories was selected for publication by the New Pantagruel and it's online now. T.S. Beckett's With Every Head Bowed was chosen from the finalists Dave Long submitted to the arts editor and it's truly a distinctive story -- strong voice and an interesting take on conversion. Congratulations!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

An anniversary worth noting

On this day in 1455, Johann Gutenberg began printing his Bible. The improved means of printing fostered a lot of changes and contributed to the Reformation. Thanks Mr. Gutenberg.

Writing tips galore

OK, maybe that's hyperbole, but I came across some good essays about writing today, so I'll share.

The Preacher talks about his own writing from time to time and today's entry is especially good: Comedy and Horror. (That could apply to what most of us write before it's edited.)

Jordon's blog directed me to this essay at whatever about writing, aimed at non-writers, but very good for writers, too, especially the admonition to clarity. Most of us get tangled up in our ideas and words and then our readers get tangled up too. I see regular examples of this in administrative writing and the effect is mind-numbing. Simplicity is good.

Jeanne Damoff's post today at The Master's Artist is about having fun with words and she gives examples. Check the comments for more fun (and forgive my poetic fumblings).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Cult of Personality -- Evangelical Style

I've been thinking about our tendency in the church to pay special attention to certain people because they're famous. You know the kind of people I mean -- they've written best-selling books, or recorded hit songs, or preach or teach at a mega-church and speak at national conferences. We equate this national spotlight with something that makes these people more worthy of our attention.

Of course, I have to admit that I certainly wouldn't complain if people knew who I was because of the stories I've written. And there's nothing inherently wrong with becoming famous -- it often happens in unexpected ways to people who weren't seeking fame in the first place. But it seems to me that we don't question this culture of celebrity that we've fostered in the church. We flock to conferences, we buy books written by well-known people, we buy CDs by our favorite groups.

The danger I fear, though, is that we start to assume, wrongly, that our "ordinary" brothers and sisters in Christ have nothing to teach us. We turn our critical ears away from our home church's worship leaders.

Paul chastises the Corinthian Christians for placing too much importance on the human teachers they learned from. It's good to remember that God uses all kinds of people to get his message across. Some of them are well-known, but most are not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's never too early to drop birthday hints

Here's something I would love to have: the two-disc special edition DVD of All the President's Men. It's available now. (A few years ago Bob Woodward gave a Landon Lecture and those of us in the School of Journalism got to meet him -- it was very interesting.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pointing one more out of the nest

My son Tim is a senior in high school this year, and he's interested in computer science. This is the boy who took other people's discarded computer parts and built a computer out of them -- one that worked pretty well. (He's also incredibly lucky -- he's won three TV's!) So today we're doing this. Of course, we would get the coldest day of the winter to be walking around campus. Fun times.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A matter of taste or something else?

Dave wrote about something interesting today at Faith in Fiction: the challenge of describing a book. He suggests that literary fiction is harder to describe, or at least to narrow down, than general or genre fiction. Read the whole post to get his point, which is a good one. Of course, I have trouble describing my novel, but I don't think it's because it's literary -- I'm not going to blame my own muddled themes on some pretension of being great art.

But as I read this I started thinking about music (one thing leads to another, you know). A lot of music that I like is hard to classify as any one particular genre. Case in point: at the moment the song I'm listening to is Low Spark of High-heeled Boys, by Traffic. Great song, not exactly rock, not exactly jazz. Most of my favorite songs blend disparate elements into a pleasing whole (at least it is for me). This is the music I come back to over and over again. (OK, Kickstart My Heart is pure straight-up rock and roll, but the exception proves the rule, right?) I like music that has a lot going on, which holds up better to repeated listenings.

Sometimes I want to write stories that are like my favorite music. Whether I'll attain that goal or not is another question.

Knocking down grammatical towers

I've become a fairly regular reader of John McIntyre's blog, You Don't Say. He's the assistant managing editor for the copy desk at the Baltimore Sun and his musings on grammar and usage are pithy and interesting. So this post caught my attention: Not a dime's worth of difference. Using more than instead of over, and such as instead of like, was pretty firmly ingrained. But he makes a good point about getting over these editorial tics in the interest of better editing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Respect and tolerance

Mark Bertrand has been posting on this theme some lately and I really like what he says today about how we develop real tolerance.
Contact, not isolation, leads to tolerance. If our goal is to be a society that tolerates a variety of religious expressions, then we have to respect the free practice of other religions -- including their attempts to proselytize -- in the public square. That doesn't mean instituting a state religion. In fact, it's the only thing that can prevent such an institution. A vacuum is easy to fill, but occupied territory isn't.
It reminds me of what my media law professor said several years ago about free speech -- the fringes define what is acceptable for most of us. If we aren't willing to allow free expression for ideas we vehemently disagree with, or even find repugnant, we may find our own rights limited. In other words, what goes around, comes around, folks.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Discovering things that have been around a while

Thanks to a friend's kindness, I've discovered The Choir. Oh my goodness, where have these guys been all my life?! Awesome musicianship, excellent lyrics, infectious and inventive tunes -- they're the whole package. I wish I'd found them sooner -- they've been around about 20 years. But there were many many years when I had absolutely no budget for new music and I was dependent on the radio. Not a good way to find new stuff, believe me.

Then yesterday, our pastor used a good quote from a book in his sermon and I remembered that I had the book, but had never read it. The book: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene Peterson. I picked up a copy of it at a garage sale a few years ago, but never got around to reading it. So last night I found it and started reading it and am thinking I should have read it a lot sooner. The book was written in 1980, but it seems even more relevant today, with it's call to patience on the Christian journey. This is an excellent, challenging meditation on the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), not a Christian self-help book. What I've read so far reminds me that there is joy in walking with God, but no promises of ease and comfort. But when troubles come, and they will, I have the assurance of knowing my God is with me. Peterson is a good writer, and a sound scholar, and this book is worth your time.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It's about time

Buck O'Neil is up for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The panel decides later this month and I hope they vote him in.

A couple of things

I'm rather snowed under at work, with a big project deadline looming and several others needing attention, as well. And I'm still writing my next Adam Caldwell story -- I had some good ideas for it and am trying to get it done when I have a few spare moments at lunch time or at home. All this to say that my blogging time is limited.

But I still try to ready my favorites and today I liked something Jordon said about churches and accentuating the positive:
I wish there was more local church weblogs. Telling stories and posting some pictures of the church in action, discussion in community, and just showing what communities of Christ followers are actually doing in the world, rather than ranting about it. ... Stories are so important and need to be told. I don't think that our ranting about what is wrong will change that much but telling stories of hope, joy, and engagement in our communities just may.

What he says makes a lot of sense to me. It's too easy to focus on the negative, which often leads to a sense of helplessness.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My hierarchy of sports

Yesterday on the way home from church I said to my husband that when we got home KU would probably be playing basketball on TV. I said this with a tone of eager expectation. Bob replied that there would also be golf on TV, as if that was something to look forward to. This led to a brief discussion (because it's a short drive from church) about sports I do, and do not, look forward to watching. College basketball is a sport I will anticipate watching, even plan to watch. (I go a little nuts during the NCAA tournament.)

Golf is not a sport that I ever plan on watching, which is not to say that I never watch it. I do, sort of. But I don't usually stay riveted to the TV. I get up and put clothes in the washer, go out to the kitchen, cook something, come back and watch a little, take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer, watch a little more golf, take a nap, watch more golf -- and realize I haven't really missed a whole lot. So golf is not high on my hierarchy of sports.

I will anticipate watching football, too, especially if it's the Chiefs, or the Super Bowl. I was the only woman at our small group's Super Bowl party last night who actually watched the game. I even got a little excited, but that's me.

So, yesterday ended up being a very good sports day for me: KU beat Oklahoma, overcoming a 16-point deficit; the Steelers won the Super Bowl, which I was very happy about; and I did watch a little golf and saw a kid named J.B. Holmes get his first PGA tour win in an impressive fashion.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spirit and Truth

John 4:23-24
"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

I've been quiet lately, at least on the blog, but I've been thinking. Over the last few months, I've come to wonder more and more about the the tension between reason and faith, the contrast of our American self-sufficiency with total reliance on God, the balance of the mystical with the rational. And it seems that I'm not the only one. I've been reading a lot of things lately that address these issues. But two things in particular lately have helped me clarify my thoughts.

I re-read Chaim Potok's books The Chosen and The Promise last week. If you've never read these two novels, set during the period at the end of WWII through the early 1950s in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I recommend them. The novels follow two boys, who grow to manhood -- Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders. Reuven is an Orthodox Jew and the son of a scholar in textual criticism. Reuven and his father are devout, obedient, observant Jews. Danny Saunders, however, is the son of a Hasidic rebbe and meant to follow in his father's footsteps as the leader of their community. They are more orthodox than the Orthodox and suspicious of anyone who doesn't subscribe to their version of Jewish fundamentalism. But Danny is also a genius and his intense curiosity and intellect lead him to the writings of Freud and others his father would not approve of.

I first read these books when I was in college, but in re-reading them something new really jumped out at me. One of the themes of these novels revolves around the contrast between scholarship and mysticism, between science and faith. For many of the characters, those are concepts not easily reconciled, and Potok doesn't give the reader any easy answers. I think he leans toward the faith end, but he also doesn't shrink from showing the narrow-mindedness of both sides. When I finished, though, I came away with a sense that we've left something behind in our embrace of all things rational. There are mysteries of God that cannot be explained by our modern scientific method.

I've been reading some things by Donald Miller, too: Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What. He makes some good points about a a relational approach to understanding the Gospel. I'm not suggesting one build one's theology around the writings of Donald Miller, but he looks at faith in a different way and it can quite illuminating. Here's something from Searching for God Knows What that jumped out at me:
"When the church began to doubt its own integrity after the Darwinian attack on Genesis 1 and 2, we began to answer science, not by appealing to something greater, the realm of beauty and art and spirituality, but by attempting to translate spiritual realities through scientific equations, thus justifying ourselves to culture, as if culture had some kind of authority to redeem us in the first place."
He goes on to talk about how relationships -- with each other and with God -- can't be translated into bullet points or formulas. He suggests we have become too results-oriented. We ask "How can God help me get what I want?" instead of "Who is God and how can I know Him?"

Before I go on, let me make it clear that I'm not suggesting some sort of relativistic, mushy, it-doesn't-matter-what-you-believe-as-long-as-you-believe-something approach to faith. I'm pretty orthodox in my doctrine and I believe we are called to apply our minds as well as our hearts to understanding what God wants of us. But we're missing an important aspect of understanding God when we try to boil the Gospel down to a few steps to be followed by rote.

The scripture I quote above I think addresses this balance between mystery and reason. We are to worship in spirit -- with our hearts -- and in truth -- with our minds. I don't think it's an impossible balance.

And what does this have to do with writing? I think it has a lot. Dave Long has been discussing the conversion stories at Faith in Fiction this week and his posts and the comments are well worth your time. The discussion board is interesting too.

I'm still chewing over these ideas and what they might look like in my writing, but it's exciting to know I'm not the only one.

Here's my Super Bowl pick

When I was laying out sports pages all the time, I learned to like football better. I even wrote a column about it. So I pay more attention to the game now and I'm feeling a little torn about who to root for. Mike Holmgren is a Covenanter and an all-around decent guy. There's been some good coverage of his wife's trip to Africa and the role faith plays in their lives. (Brad linked to a couple of good stories here and here.) But I like the Steelers, too, maybe because I've seen more of their games, but I like their approach and determination. And Troy Polomalu is just awesome. So I'm hoping the Steelers win, but I won't be terribly upset if they lose. How's that for wishy-washiness?

(By the way, if you read my column, I comment about quarterbacks having short names. That obviously won't fly this year since I can't even spell Ben's and Matt's last names and it's a wonder the uniform makers get them on the back of their jerseys. I'm still rooting for Ben.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Blog Tour

This month's entry in the Christian Fiction Blog Tour is Marilynn Griffith's Pink. I have to admit I haven't had a chance to read it, but here's a bit about it about from Marilynn's Web site:

High fashion meets romance in the Big Apple for a fresh, funky designer!

"...Pink exposes a basic truth: when we hide our true selves from others because we don't want to get hurt, we get hurt anyway--and others do too..."--Neta Jackson, author, The Yada Yada Prayer Group

If you want to know some more, Chris Well has been posting an interview with Marilynn this week. More bloggers are talking about it, too, so follow the links at the blog alliance, too.