August 29, 2012

A Call for Christian Writers to be Bold with Their Message

I have a love/hate relationship with the TRON movie series.
I saw the original (1982) TRON and loved it. The thing about it that most impressed me was the scene where a bunch of characters (characters in this case being computer programs) are debating whether the Users (the humans who wrote them) exist or not. Users are viewed as gods of a sort, since they are the ones who created the programs and established the rules programs are supposed to follow. Some programs, however, have decided the Users don't really exist, or that they're just tyrants out to enslave everyone. So it's almost like an allegorical theist versus atheist debate.
At one point one of the programs is asked whether he believes in the Users or not.
"Of course I do," he replies. "If I don't have a User, then who wrote me?"
And at that point I'm ready to jump out of my seat and cheer. Yes! There! It's right there in front of you, people! You've got it!
And, over the course of the movie, it is established that the programs who believe in and obey the Users were right all along. What a message - and in a secular movie, no less!

Then I saw the 2010 sequel, TRON: Legacy. And while I give it very high marks for amazing graphics, great action scenes, wonderful characters, and a killer good soundtrack, I must admit I was disappointed in the moral of the story.
In Legacy, the rebellion against the Users is still going strong and gaining strength and momentum as the programs strive for a perfect computer system. Unfortunately their perception and understanding of perfection is skewed, and their pursuit of it results in violence, chaos, and oppression.
Into this mess walk the Isos, a type or 'race' of programs who are, essentially, perfect. But because the other programs' idea of perfection is inaccurate, they see the Isos as an imperfection and proceed to wipe them out in a digital version of the Holocaust.
When the main character learns about the existence of the Iso programs, he asks his father about them, wanting to know who wrote them.
His father's response is "No one wrote them. The conditions were right, and they just came into being."
Splat! A bucket of cold water, dumped on all my high hopes for more of the same great message as the prequel. We go from the 'creation must have a creator' message to 'things can just pop into existence all on their own, and look! they turn out better than the things that did have a creator!'
As my friend LoriAnn occasionally puts it: *head-desk, head-desk, head-desk*

I know, my hopes were probably a bit too high, but I was still disappointed... or perhaps infuriated would be a better word.
But in a way, that's good. Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham talks about visiting secular museums that promote the theory of evolution as being bad for him because it makes him furious, but good for him because it makes him even more bold in proclaiming the message of creation and the Gospel.
That's how I feel when I see things like this in movies and fiction. I'm furious at the kind of morals and messages being promoted, but I'm inspired to be that much more bold in delivering a Christian message through my own writing.
And that's what I would love to see more Christian writers doing: standing up and being bold with the message God has given them. Secular Humanist morals, messages, and agendas are woven into every secular piece of fiction or other entertainment out there. Christians, let's be bold, deliberate, and determined in declaring our own message through our writing.

What inspires you to be bold?

August 27, 2012

Update on the Wildfires

Thanks so much to all of you who prayed for my county and friends over the weekend. I'm blessed to report that both fires are now out. No firemen were injured, and our friends' property was safe. The severity of the drought actually turned out to be a blessing in that case, because what little grass there was the livestock had eaten down literally to bare dirt, so when the fire reached it there was nothing for it to burn and the firefighters were able to bring it back under control.
Lots of people have lost lots of their winter hay, which will create a struggle since the drought is forcing us to bring hay in from out of state, and many cars were destroyed in the fire, but everyone's livestock and homes were safe, and for that we are all very grateful.
And as a bonus... we got rain over the weekend! Not much - about 1/4 inch on Saturday and another 1/2 on Sunday - not nearly enough to break the drought, but enough to settle the dust and keep us going for a little while longer.
So thank you all very, very much for your prayers. They were answered, and they are appreciated. God is good.

August 23, 2012

Please Pray!

I'm asking all of you to please, please pray for Polk County Missouri right now. As I write this, there are two active wildfires in the county and they have already burned hundreds of acres. I can see the smoke of one of them from my house. Firefighters from at least two neighboring counties have come in to help, but at this point one of the fires is completely out of control and uncontained, and our area is experiencing very high winds right now, which makes everything worse.
My family and I are out of the fire's path, thankfully, but we have friends whose home and land is directly in line with it, and other friends who are firemen, out there fighting on the front lines right now.
Please pray, first of all, for the safety of everyone involved in this disaster.
Please pray that God would stop the winds and bring the fires under control, and that He would send the rain we so desperately need.
Please pray for the recovery of everyone whose property has been destroyed (to my knowledge, no homes have been destroyed yet, but a lot of pastureland, winter hay, and a few barns have been lost).
Please pray that, whatever happens, the Christians involved in this circumstance would respond in a godly way and use this opportunity to help our neighbors and share Christ's love with them.
Lastly, please pray that we would all keep calm, level heads on our shoulders and take things in stride. We Missourians are used to dealing with tornadoes and hailstorms on a regular basis, but wildfires are a little outside our field of expertise.
Thank you in advance for your prayers. We need them badly right now.

Update, 10 pm:
The main fire has made it into the more rugged area in the northern part of the county and the firefighters are unable to reach it, so they've moved around to get ahead of it and are waiting on one of the roads to try and head it off. Hopefully the road will serve as a firebreak, but with this wind we can't count on that. If the fire continues on this path, the next farm it will reach is one belonging to some very dear friends of my family. Still no homes have been destroyed, thankfully, but over 20 cars have been, and countless bales of hay - a loss that will make this winter very hard for a lot of people.
Please continue praying, especially now that the darkness is making the firefighters' job harder and more dangerous.

August 21, 2012

Rethinking the Concept of Platform as Christian Writers

Writers, ever feel overwhelmed or confused or just plain lost when it comes to trying to build that mystical 'Platform' the experts are always telling us we need? Me too.

Yesterday I started reading a book called The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by Alan Jacobs. I'm only on Chapter 2, but so far it's amazing and I suspect you'll be hearing much more about it before I'm finished.
But while I was still reading the Introduction, something jumped out at me and really made me stop and think. The author, Jacobs, was talking about the "mixed bag" of material that C.S. Lewis wrote - science fiction, fantasy, literary history, literary criticism, apologetics, and theology.
For any author today - being hounded from every side by 'experts' to stick with a single theme and build a solid platform on that theme and whatever you do, don't step outside that theme - a repertoire like Lewis' looks like a big no-no.
But, as both Jacobs and Lewis point out, throughout all of Lewis' work "there is a guiding thread" (Lewis' words, quoted by Jacobs). That guiding thread is, at least in part, Lewis' desire to simply do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said. He became a novelist because no one wrote what he wanted to read, so he did it himself. He wrote a defense of John Milton's poetry simply because he cared about Milton's poetry. He defended and argued for and promoted Christianity because he was convinced of its truthfulness. He simply said what he felt God wanted him to say. Every time I read something by C.S. Lewis, whether for the first time or the fiftieth, I find connections to his other works - whether it's finding a connection between Mere Christianity and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or between The Silver Chair and a deep Biblical truth, that 'guiding thread' is everywhere.

What can we take away from this? Writers, I'm guessing most of you wouldn't want to face the challenge of trying to create a platform, according to today's guidelines, that encompassed all of C.S. Lewis' work to the experts' satisfaction. It would be murder! According to today's guidelines, Lewis didn't really have a platform. All he had was that guiding thread, that need to say what God had given him to say. When his message could be said best through a theological treatise, a theological treatise was what he wrote. When his message could be said best through a children's fantasy story, a children's fantasy story was what he wrote.
Writers, I know what the 'experts' say. I've heard it too. Platform, platform, platform. But what if our concept of platform became less about the genre/sub-genre/story-type we write, and more about just saying what God has given us to say in whatever way is best to say it?
Interestingly enough, literary agent and expert Rachelle Gardner has a post on her blog today that expresses a very similar idea. Click Here to read it. She encourages writers to write what they know - not just about experiences or circumstances they're familiar with, but about truths they know in their hearts. Isn't that what Christian writers are supposed to be doing anyway? Maybe God is trying to tell this generation of writers something.
Man-made rules and molds and cookie cutters were made to be broken (or stabbed by a spiky shoe). Let's not let them scare us into trying to confine our work inside a pre-made box. Instead, let's start looking for that guiding thread.

Do you struggle with the concept of platform as a writer? Do you know what your guiding thread is? How do you approach this issue? Feel free to share in the comments box.

August 18, 2012

Happy... Bad Poetry Reading Day... ?

Yesterday I was informed that today, August 18, is a holiday - Bad Poetry Reading Day. This puzzles me for a number of reasons.

1. I and, I assume, most relatively rational people do our best to avoid bad poetry. I mean really, bad prose is - well, bad enough. But let's be honest: bad poetry is way badder than bad prose. Why on Earth would anyone intentionally put his or herself through the kind of pain and suffering that truly bad poetry is capable of inflicting?
2. There is way too much good stuff out there to read. No matter how many books I manage to read in my lifetime, there will be thousands - if not millions - of good ones that I'll be leaving unread when I die, and quality reading time is hard to come by. Why waste the time that could be used to read something good on something you know from the get-go will be ranked among the sludge of literary craft?
3. Is this some kind of attempt to make the writers of said 'Bad Poetry' feel better? Because as a writer I can assure you that, as nice as the idea of having a holiday dedicated to the celebration of the kind of work I do is, if that holiday is called 'Bad Poetry Reading Day', I'm not going to feel better.

I have, however, managed to come up with one possible explanation/practical application for this holiday. My theory is that BPRD was invented by poets, for poets - for their own benefit and encouragement, no doubt. You see, poets (being a moody and emotionally unstable lot, generally speaking : P ) often struggle with feelings of depression over what they believe to be the inferior quality of whatever it is they happen to be working on at the moment. In an attempt to console themselves, they often turn back to samples of their work from earlier days, read it, and then assure themselves that whatever it is they're working on can't be as horrible as what they wrote that one time years ago. (It's amazing what a little strategic encouragement can do for a poet's psyche.)
No doubt, as word spread through the poetic community that reading one's own work from years back does wonders to ease depression, it was eventually decided that an entire day should be set aside for the practice. Thus, today's holiday was born. This must be how it happened. And, if you look at it correctly, it can also be used by writers to keep themselves humble. Trust me, there are few things as humbling as going back and reading that one thing that you were convinced was going to be a bestseller... so maybe this holiday isn't such a bad idea after all.
Alas, most of my earliest work has long since been lost to the ravages of life in a house with three siblings and multiple pets, and the time-space continuum warp that exists within the recesses of my closet. So in many ways, I am crippled to observe the holiday with complete propriety and due ceremony.
On the other hand, I do seem to recall a bit of my first poem - one that started with the lines "I have a simple plea / It says 'Oh woe is me!'" - and of course then there was the one that started off: "I am a mound on the ground, a caterpillar small..."
You know, maybe the ravages of a time-space continuum warp aren't all that tragic after all. They might have even saved me from a bout of retrospective depression and endless hours of questioning whether I really could have written something that terrible without aid from some outside source...

What do you think about Bad Poetry Reading Day?

August 16, 2012

A Website for Book Lovers

It recently occurred to me that I have never shared one of my absolute favorite websites with all you loyal blog followers. It's one that my friend Caitria shared with me last fall, and that I have since fallen absolutely in love with... but I've never yet shared it! My goodness, where are my manners? I feel like I've had company in my little hobbit hole for hours and am just now getting around to offering them a spot of tea! So, as long as there are no Sackville Bagginses among you, here goes without further ado:
If you have never heard of or checked out, then friends, you must do so. Immediately, if not sooner. Here's the gist of it:
PBS is an online book club that allows members to swap books (and not just paperbacks - hardbacks are welcome too) with each other. Membership is free, and it's a great way to get books that are expensive or hard to find elsewhere, or to get rid of books you don't want. All you do is sign up (you're required to give them your mailing address for obvious reasons) following their simple form. Once you have an account set up, you can post books you'd like to get rid of (they'll walk you through the process, and it's super easy), order books you want that are available, or make a wish list of books you want but that aren't available at the moment.
If another member wants a book you've posted, they send you a request. Your job then is to package the book up (once again, instructions and guidelines are provided) and mail it to whoever has ordered it. Obviously, the heavier the book the more it costs to mail it, but I've mailed dozens and have found that it averages about $2.47 per book, if you use the cheaper Media Mail rates.
Once the book arrives at its destination and the receiver marks it as 'received' in their account, you'll receive 1 PBS credit - good for ordering one book in return. Pick out the book you want, request it from the member who posted it, and they'll send it to you in exchange for your 1 credit, which they can use to order a book from someone else... and the story continues from there. As a 'welcome' bonus, when you post your first ten books for trade on your account, PBS will automatically give you 2 free credits to help you get started. So you get to start off with a bit of a shopping spree. Be warned - it is amazingly easy to get lost in the hundreds and thousands of books that are out there waiting to be read! Granted, there's a lot of dreck out there, and for that matter a lot of plain old filth... but there are a lot of amazing books too, and the layout of PBS's website makes it very easy to completely avoid anything distasteful.
Now, if you're like me (i.e. paranoid, skeptical, and suspicious of everyone) then you'll be a bit antsy about posting your mailing address online. I was more than a little nervous, but after sending and receiving dozens of books through this system, I have never had the first sign of a problem due to my address being posted (and it's only available to the person you've ordered a book from, so it's not like just anyone can access it). And if you ever do have a problem, the PBS system is set up to deal with them quickly and effectively. That goes for other problems too - I once had a book sent to me that was in absolutely horrible shape, so bad as to not even be readable. I filed a complaint in the system, and within a day the problem was taken care of and my credit had been refunded. So don't worry, the system really does work well to take care of its members.
And, aside from the sheer joy of trading and acquiring new books at an amazingly low price, I've had several wonderful experiences with other members of the club. Last year around Christmas I ordered a book about the Marine Corps for my brother. The lady I ordered it from sent me a message asking why I wanted it, and mentioned that her husband was a Marine. I told her that the book was for my brother, who had dreams of also being a Marine one day. She sent me the book, but refunded my credit - her gift, she said, to a future Marine.
I've also had the joy of being able to help out several home-schooling families with books and curriculum. I just mailed a package of 5 homeschooling books today, in fact. The family who ordered them from me saw from my profile that I was a Christian, and sent double the number of credits owed for the books as a gift, just because they are Believers also. Friends, that's something special.
So, all you book lovers out there, get yourselves over to with all haste, and give it a look. Like I said, they make it very easy, but if you do have questions, they have answers. And if you stop by and sign up, why, pay me a visit! I'm theflyinglibrarian (one word) and you'll find me in the Member Directory. I look forward to seeing your there!

August 14, 2012

Tagged - again.

Well, once again I've been tagged, this time by James, who was tagged by Anna (Do we ApricotPie-ers really have nothing better to do with our time?). So here goes. First, the rules as established by James:

If you are tagged:  You don't have to do anything!  However, here are some suggestions:
Follow Anna's rules, but loosely.  Feel free to tag back.  Feel free to tag Anna.
If you don't feel up to continuing the storm of blogger-tagging, you can always just leave a comment instead.

Anna's rules state that the tagged person must state eleven facts about his or herself. So...

1. I've never eaten cantaloupe. I don't dare, since touching them makes my skin blister and smelling them makes me break out in hives.
2. I've only fallen off of a horse once in my life... and he wasn't even moving at the time.
3. Since James brought up the ancestry thing - I'm Scottish, Welsh, and Cherokee.
4. The best thing about being Scottish is that you can blame the Irish for everything. (Like getting tagged on Blogger, for instance...) : P
5. I collect Webster's dictionaries. I would like to get one from every year they've been printed.
6. I've memorized the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, and I'm working on the second.
7. Somewhere in my medical records there is an x-ray of my ribcage with a goat's hoof print in the middle of it.
8. I'm CPR certified and a trained First Responder.
9. I love a good western - book or movie, either one. My favorite western movie is Silverado and my favorite western book is Utah Blaine by Louis L'Amour.
10. I tried sushi for the first time last fall.
11. I'm slightly obsessed with the 1920s - 40s. In fact, half my wardrobe looks like it came from that era, and I love watching documentaries and reading books about it.

Now, to answer the questions James posed:
1.  Who is your favorite well-known figure from American history who (a) never held office, (b) did not write any significant works and (c) died before the year 1850?
 I'm going to have to go with Chief Pathkiller, I guess (1749 - 1827). He was acknowledged by the US government as the last king of the Cherokee Nation... and he happens to be my great-great-great grandfather. So I'm a little biased.
2.  If you could imitate any accent perfectly, which one would you enjoy imitating the most?
A Scottish brogue.
3.  Tau Ceti is the second closest star to the sun, and very similar to it in size, temperature and stability.  If if you had to write a work of science fiction centered on an earth-like planet around Tau Ceti, what would be the name of the book, and in two or more mid-length paragraphs, the basic gist of the story?  (Include names of characters.)
Well, that's actually quite similar to my current work in progress, a novel based in the world of Avenir Eclectia. So, if it isn't cheating, I'll just use that to answer the question. The name of the book is Empathia's Hope. It's about a girl, Celeste, who works as a tomb raider of sorts, finding and selling artifacts from the early days of the Earth-established colony on Eclectia, in order to pay her younger sister's way through boarding school to give her a shot at a decent life (not something that comes easy on that planet). Her sister Celia, though, just wants the two of them to be together.
When Celia meets Robin, an archaeologist who does basically the same thing Celeste does, but with way more security, a much bigger paycheck, and less physical danger and misery, she omits a few truths and stretches a few facts to get him to help Celeste get into a bit better position. But when Robin meets Celeste, he realizes right away that something's up and she's no archaeologist. He's then caught in a struggle to decide what to do with this girl who's selling artifacts he wants for their historical value. Can he really rob her of her livelihood like that? He also begins to suspect that she may be able to help him with something else he cares very much about - something that could be a matter of life and death for him.
4.  If you were an Ent from Fangorn, what kind of tree would you resemble?
Hmm... Interesting thought. Some kind of maple, maybe?
5.  If you had to travel through a dangerous wood, and you were allowed to carry a sword, a bow and quiver of arrows, and one other weapon of your choice, what weapon would you choose?
Well, in reality I'd say a rifle. But in keeping with the fantasy theme of the question, I'll go with a good hunting knife.
6.  See the question above.  What kind of sword would you take? (Rapier, broadsword, etc.)
A hand-and-a-half sword... or a cutlass. I love them both.
7.  If you could go back in time and assist one of the Old Testament prophets with his ministry, which one would you choose?
8.  If you were given command of a captured foreign enemy ship, and the privilege was yours to rename the ship, what would you name her?
Well, that would depend a good deal on what kind of ship she was. I like the name Sword o' the Sea, though.
9.  What is your favorite poem?  By whom?
'October's Bright Blue Weather', by Helen Hunt Jackson.
10.  What is the best knock-knock joke you've ever heard?
I despise knock-knock jokes as a rule, but I have to admit the one James shared in his own tag post was pretty funny. Knock-knock. Who's there? To. To who? No, to WHOM.
11.  Finally, choose any acoustic stringed instrument (besides the 6 string guitar) and do a character sketch.
I'm a violinist who spends the bulk of her practice time playing Celtic tunes, so I'll write a sketch of a Celtic fiddle: It would be a fiery, deeply spirited soul, as suited to dancing and singing and celebrating today's joys as to quietly, reverently, perhaps even mournfully remembering yesterday's sorrows and sacrifices - the things that made today's joy possible.

Now, I get to ask my own questions!
1. You wake up early in the morning to discover that a friend or family member has already been up for hours and has made you a fantastic breakfast. What kind of breakfast would you be most excited about?
2. Your employer tells you that as a reward for a job well done, he'll buy you a plane ticket and pay all expenses for a one-week trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go and what would you do there?
3. The Sugar Creek Gang or The Boxcar Children?
4. Your house is burning down and you only have time to grab three books before running outside. (Your Bible is already outside and safe.) Which three do you grab?
5. Gondor or Rohan?
6. Do you speak a foreign language? What foreign language would you most like to learn?
7. Your town is being attacked by a barbarian horde! Which would you rather face: the Vikings or the Huns?
8. H.M. Stanley's line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is often cited as the greatest understatement of the 19th century. Had you been in Stanley's place in that situation, what would you have said?
9. Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes?
10. Let's continue the family heritage theme: What's your heritage?
11. What's your favorite constellation?

Since James sort of made up his own rules, I'm going to do the same.
I'm not tagging anyone (somebody has to put a lid on this tagging epidemic), but anyone who reads this has to pick at least one of the questions I asked and answer it in a comment. You can answer all of them if you wish. If you wish to repost the questions on your own blog and continue the epidemic from there, well... I don't suppose there's anything I can do to stop you.
Have fun!

August 13, 2012

Favorite Quotes About Books

"Books, pocket-size jewels, open up like doors to worlds you never knew existed."
~ Antonio D'alfonso

"Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you'd most like not to lose."
~ Neil Gaiman

"To a bibliophile, there is but one thing better than a box of new books, and that is a box of old ones."
~ Will Thomas

"All good and true book lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed. No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over."
~ Eugene Field

"When I step into this library, I cannot understand why I ever step out of it."
~ Marie de Sevigne

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."
~ Paul Sweeney

"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."
~ Mason Cooley

"Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier."
~ Kathleen Norris

"Any man with a moderate income can afford to buy more books that he can read in a lifetime."
~ Henry Holt

"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled 'This could change your life.'"
~ Helen Exley

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."
~ Frederick Douglas

What is your favorite book-related quote?

August 10, 2012

Book Review: Giants in the Land

Author: Clark Rich Burbidge
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy/Allegory
Publisher: WinePress Publishing
Pages: 125

Although I had no idea what to expect from this book when it arrived in the mail, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. The premise of the story and the plot itself were both good, but the way in which they were executed was less than satisfactory. A huge percentage of the book was taken up with description and explanation, and many times while reading it I found myself thinking "Just get to the point already!".
There was plenty of action in the story - dangerous quests, encounters with with vicious wolves, multiple near-drownings, scaling mountains, and of course encounters with giants - but somehow it failed to capture my interest and arouse any excitement. Each plot point was delivered more like a straightforward statement of fact rather than a dramatic, in-the-moment experience.
There were also a few instances where the author gave details that I happen to know are not accurate. For instance, he mentions that the fireplace in the main character's house is made of 'river stones'. But if there is one thing anybody who's used to building fires knows, it's that you never ever build a fireplace or fire pit or fire ring out of river stones, unless you want to risk blowing yourself to pieces. Most readers probably wouldn't know that, but I can't help finding it annoying when a book contains inaccurate details like that.
I know the book is intended for younger readers, but I feel safe saying that that isn't the reason I found it bland. Some of my favorite books of all time are juvenile fiction, and I've read plenty of books in the genre that have kept me riveted to my seat. This just wasn't one of those books.
I was also a little unsure about the overall message of the story: namely, the importance of learning not to depend too much on others for help and confidence, and of not becoming cowed or bitter when the giants in our lives are taken away (giants in this case being a good thing). The importance of unlocking your own potential and growing to 'become something more' was heavily emphasized. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with utilizing your full potential, but I felt like this story almost turned it more towards self-reliance and didn't emphasize growth in Christ explicitly enough.
Overall, I felt like this book could have been trimmed into a more concise short story, or expanded into a novel, which would have made it possible to deliver the same message naturally, without having to explain and describe so much. Instead, it just fell somewhere in the awkward middle.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my review.

August 9, 2012

Working Title Chosen for My New Novel Project!

As you're probably aware, my new project since finishing Son of the Shield is a science fiction novel set in the world of Avenir Eclectia and based off of the short story series I've been publishing there.
While obviously each individual short story had a title, the novel project as a whole has just been referred to as 'my Avenir Eclectia novel'... until now! The project is now named:

Empathia's Hope

As the post title says, this is just a working title and subject to potential change in the future, but for now I think it's a perfect fit for the events and character arcs that form the theme of the story. And I'm starting to really get into this project, finally. It's been a bit of a struggle shifting gears after finishing SotS, but I think I've managed to do it and I'm excited to see where this new project goes.
Be watching for updates to that effect! : )

August 7, 2012

Humanist Themes in Fiction

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the way in which the religion of Secular Humanism is pervading our culture - specifically, books and movies. Secular Humanism, you'll recall, is the belief that man is the ultimate authority (God, essentially), and when it comes to books and movies, I've found that it usually manifests itself using one of two themes:
The Believe-in-Yourself theme
The Follow-Your-Heart theme
In this post, I'm going to talk a little bit about both of these.

First, the Believe-in-Yourself theme. This theme most often appears in movies geared towards children, no doubt with the intent of filling them with confidence and self-esteem. If you're a secular humanist (and can overlook the fact that the Believe-in-Yourself concept makes absolutely no logical sense), that's just great.
Speaking first from a purely artistic standpoint, who wants to cheer for a hero whose abilities and strength are all the result of a belief in his own epicness? I mean, really? That's hardly inspiring. In fact it seems pretty vain to me.
But furthermore, as Christians, we are called to believe not in ourselves ("...lean not on your own understanding...") but in Someone infinitely greater and higher than we. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes human weakness and fallibility, thereby emphasizing our need for that higher Someone. The Believe-in-Yourself theme stands in clear opposition to this.

Second, the Follow-Your-Heart theme. This one is as rampant in children's literature and movies as the Believe-in-Yourself theme, but it also spills over into adult-oriented entertainment too. And while it's slightly more romantic-sounding than the Believe-in-Yourself theme, it still has problems.
Christians, if there is one thing we know from Scripture about the human heart, it is what? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..."
Only humanist doctrine has that kind of faith in the idea of man being basically good. Following your heart is not a Christian concept in any sense. Rather, we are called to follow the One who has redeemed our hearts to His own purposes.

As Christians, we have to be alert, focused, and committed to standing against this kind of humanist doctrine. We have to be vigilant in protecting our children from these cleverly disguised lies. Remember, the enemy is subtle and will exploit any and every weak point he finds.
As Christian writers, we need to be aware of humanist concepts (the ones I've discussed here as well as others) and take careful steps to avoid incorporating them into the stories we craft.
As Christian readers, we need to be staying alert, watching for concepts like these and taking care to see them for the lies they are.

What are your thoughts?

August 4, 2012

Vacation Chaos and Photos, Part 3

This will be the final installment of the photos and tales of chaos and mishaps from my vacation. I can't believe it's already been a week ago!
First off, a few more pictures from the museum:

 Honestly, I think this triceratops was my favorite of all the dinosaurs in the Dinosaur den.
As a fantasy writer I'm standing there thinking 'Now if you were to make some kind of armor for that big plate on his head and rig up some kind of saddle...'

'... and if I was being attacked by something like this and all I had was a sword...'

These are 'zebroids' - a cross between zebras and domestic equine breeds. The pale one is a 'zedonk' and the darker one is a 'zorse'. They were both so cute and so beautiful!

And of course, as a writer, I'm thinking 'So, how could I create a fantasy culture that rides zebroids?'

And the grand finale of our time at the museum - we brought chaos with us! This photo was taken from inside the lobby of the museum a few minutes after closing time. We were on our way to our vehicle when this ominous-looking cloud came up and the security guard herded everyone back inside. Just a few seconds after this picture was taken, a nice little funnel cloud started thrashing around right above the museum! Fortunately, it fizzled out in just a few seconds. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get  picture of the funnel itself.

The main feature of our vacation was over, so we packed it in and headed out. On the way home we were able to attend my great-grandmother's 95th birthday party, which was a special treat... though my mom was very explicit in the warning she gave me not to get into any fistfights. (Seventeen years ago, at my great-grandfather's 80th birthday party, I got into a fistfight with my cousin and no one will let me live it down. For the record: he started it. I just finished it. And I was only seven at the time.) Well, I didn't get into any fistfights at this party... but I did get into a lively Creation/Evolution debate with another one of the guests. Rather fitting, the day after leaving the Creation Museum!

After that it was homeward bound for us. We had planned to stop in Paducah again for the night, but apparently half the state's population had the same idea. We stopped at nine different hotels in Paducah, but there was no room for us at the inn. So we ended up making the entire drive home in one night and arrived home at five Sunday morning. Needless to say, we slept for most of the day and enjoyed a very laid-back family day for the rest of the day.
Apparently, the mishaps didn't abate at home while we were away. Monday morning we discovered that our house had become infested with ants (and Dad has been having way too much fun warring against them with the vacuum this week) and our congregation's pastor had resigned.
So at the end of the day the Pursselleys are back, and things are carrying on pretty much as normal... whatever that is.
Next week I'll get back to normal posting here at the Lair. There's lots to talk about and share! So once again I hope you've enjoyed these pics and snippets from my vacation, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

August 2, 2012

Vacation Chaos and Photos, Part 2

As promised, here are more photos from my fabulous vacation to the Creation Museum! Without further ado...

This is a life-size figure of Beowulf, the dragon slayer of legend.
He stands over the entrance of Dragon Hall Bookstore.

This dragon stands in the Palm Plaza, over the entrance to the Dragon Theater.

This is one wall of the Palm Plaza. The two inset lines in the wall behind me are actually fountains that flow down into a pool behind the barrier I'm sitting on.

This is another one from the bookstore - a bas relief telling the story of St. George and the dragon.
I so want one like this in my house now!

This is the Spitz A3P star and planet planetarium projector that was used up until the year 2000 to train NASA'a Mercury astronauts. Hmm... might make a cool author photo for the backs of my future sci-fi novels, what say?

And, hands down, the highlight of the trip: I met Ken Ham!!!!!
He was at the museum for just a short while on our first day there, so I was able to get my picture with him. I was so excited, I could have screamed! For me, this ranks right up there with meeting Martin Luther (not just the wax figure) or William Tyndale, no joke. After meeting Jason Lisle this spring, and now this, I'm running out of names on my 'people-to-meet-before-I-die' list!

Alright, that's all the pics for now. I've got one more batch to post, as well as a few more Pursselley mishaps to relate, so be watching. In the meantime, hope you've enjoyed these!

August 1, 2012

Random Vacation Chaos and Photos, Part 1

*Warning: Extremely Random Post Ahead*
Our vacation got off to a bit of a rough start, true to Pursselley form. The plan was to leave home Wednesday at 8AM and stop at Big Spring on our way to Paducah Kentucky for the night. All that needed to be done at the house was to load the luggage, give shots to a few cows who had come down with pinkeye, and move them into a new pasture so our friend who was taking care of them while we were gone wouldn't have to feed hay. All that should have taken maybe two hours.
But, bovines being the charming and delightful creatures that they are, it ended up being 4 o'clock in the afternoon before we finally rolled out. Yes, our poor guys spent eight miserable hours fighting with the cows in the heat (it got to 106 degrees that day).
Due to the delay, we cut Big Spring out of the itinerary and went straight on to Paducah. I've seen the Mississippi and Ohio rivers both in daylight many times, but this time when we crossed them I got to see them by moonlight. So gorgeous! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture.
When we reached our destination for the night, Mom realized that she had left her purse at home - the first time she's ever forgotten her purse since she was twelve years old. So she was without her ID, her keys, and her wallet for the entire trip.
Thursday we arrived at the Creation Museum. We never travel with cash, so when we went to buy our passes Dad used his card. But the machine kept denying it, so he tried another one. That one was also denied. We finally ended up calling the company to see what the problem was. Come to find out, they had spotted out-of-state charges and assumed that the card had been stolen, so they'd locked it down. *shakes head* Nothing like someone trying to save you from yourself, is there?
Once we got that whole ordeal straightened out, it was on to the museum itself - the real adventure!
I have so many photos that I want to share. Unfortunately, at the moment my computer is being moody and refusing to let me post certain ones, so I'll have to post them in rather random order.

A fountain in the botanical gardens.

Me on a bridge in the gardens.

My hero!
This is one of the displays in the Biblical Authority room of the museum... or maybe the Biblical Relevance room. I don't remember for sure. I just remember thinking 'Whoah! I can almost say I've met Martin Luther!'  : P

One of the may cool beasts in the Dinosaur Den! I don't remember what this one was called, though.

And my favorite photo from the entire vacation. This magnificent creature is perched over one of the doors of the Dragon Hall Bookstore (many more pictures of that to follow), reading a book of Dragon Legends. How totally awesome is that?! I wonder how many Christian Fantasy writers have keeled over in the AiG bookstore just because they were overwhelmed with awesomeness. Surely I can't be the only one. ; )

That's all for now, until I get these issues with my computer figured out. But there will be more - many more, from the gardens, the dinosaur den, and of course, Dragon Hall Bookstore (where, by the way, I could probably take up residence and be perfectly content for the rest of my life. Just sayin'.)
Until then!