Thursday, June 22, 2006

I've been having a lot of trouble with my profile pic recently... so, in an attempt to make it stay, I'm posting this, one of the results of a recent photo shoot with my sister. I shall leave it up in the hopes that it won't keep disappearing from my profile. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

out of darkness

I was flipping through one of my many notebooks earlier and I came across this. I don't believe I've published it anywhere before, so I thought I'd share:

October 18, 2005

I went for a drive through my city the other day. It only takes one drive around Windsor to make me want to crawl under the bed for the rest of the week. Send me out to interact with society for an evening and I come home with a good case of the shudders. The state of our world at present is neither strange (it's a natural outgrowth of man's creation-wide rebellion against God) nor unforeseen. Paul told Timothy that it was coming: that in the last days men would be scoffers, disrespectful to their parents, lovers of self rather than lovers of God.

Dare I believe that in such a time as this, God might be doing something beautiful? Does He still work light in times and places? Jesus, in His humanness and vulnerability, shines forth as the One who was completely broken by evil, and yet overcame. His life began and ended in tragedy (from the Bethlehem massacre to the cross), yet He lived with a pure and joyous love of His Father and His human brothers and sisters. He was truly a Light shining in a dark place, entirely untainted by the world around Him. For three days His light was swallowed by darkness, but in His resurrection it shot up from the ground and lit the heavens eternally. It shines now.

I didn't finish it. It certainly reflects many of the things I've been thinking and writing about, though.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Of Books, Blurbs, and Travels: A Publisher's Update

Probably I am slightly insane; but that's okay... I'm having fun! Not many twenty-three year old girls get to say that they have their own publishing company, nor do they get to spend their time not only working with, but making books. It's a great feeling.

Of course, at some point this company needs to actually move beyond "hobby" stage and make some money. So I'm working on that.

Currently, I am completely redoing my book on the Lord's Prayer. The publication date is September 2006. The new title is Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer. I need to have a meeting today with my typesetter and cover designer to work out the new design and get that ball rolling.

In the meantime, I'll finish rewriting the chapter on "Thy Kingdom Come" and collect the addresses of various well-known names in Christendom. Yes, I am going to seek that paragon of publishing peaches: the endorsement, otherwise known as a "blurb." It's a little nerve-wracking for someone who really doesn't like to put herself forward, but do it I shall.

And then, when I have written blurb requests and mailed them out, when my new cover and design are in the works, when my manuscript is finished, then (at the end of this week) I shall leave home for four weeks and travel all over the country visiting. The only work I will do the whole time is spend four days in the Central Library of Vancouver researching reviewers.

Hopefully all the famous people I'm contacting about blurbs won't all decide that they should call me while I'm away. (Of course, I hate phones so much that if they DID, I would rather be in a van traveling across Canada with ten people, three dogs, and two cats than be near a phone. Which is in fact exactly where I'll be.)

Hearken! Even as I type, an email has come in from the Canadian ISBN service. My book has a number. In the world of publishing, it now officially exists.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Drunk on Worry (Sober and Free)

The apostle Peter, in his first letter to the saints, urged the people of God to "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

Many of us are well familiar with these verses, but we may not be so familiar with what comes next: "Be sober," Peter tells us, "be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

I had always seen these verses as slightly contradictory: when I "cast my cares," I am light-hearted and free. When I try to be "sober," I generally do it by taking my cares back and thus attempting to guard against the enemy's encroachment. But my understanding was wrong, and recently I gained a better.

To be sober, you see, is not to be serious and solemn. To be sober is to be in full command of our faculties: clear thinking, understanding, able to act wisely. It is the opposite of being drunk. Worry (what Peter calls "care") is the enemy of such sobriety.

Madame Jeanne Guyon once wrote,

"I entreat you, give no place to despondency. This is a dangerous temptation--a refined, not a gross temptation of the adversary. Melancholy contracts and withers the heart, and renders it unfit to receive the impressions of grace. It magnifies and gives a false colouring to objects, and thus renders your burdens too heavy to bear."

Worry is meditation on what might be if God was not in control or did not love us; to worry is to soak ourselves in falsehood and distrust. When we refuse to cast our cares on God, we cannot see clearly or understand what is happening to us, nor what God means to bring out of it. Pickled in anxiety, we leave our door wide open to the enemy.

* * *

The Scriptures quoted are in I Peter 5:6-8.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Review: Ancient History From Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline, by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

There's a lot of noise being made these days about revisionist history; it's hard to know who to trust. In such an era, the value of primary sources--documents by those who were there--is all the greater. I've always been a proponent of going straight to the source... the trouble is that, with thousands of years of documented history behind us, the paths to the sources can be hard to find.

That's what makes this book so valuable.

The Bluedorns' timeline stretches from Creation to the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 427, marking off important events and personalities along the way. Referenced all the way through the timeline are the primary documents that record these events, getting as close as possible to them. Not only that, but the book comes with a CD-ROM that contains these pieces of primary literature themselves!

Ancient History From Primary Sources is a great reference book, laying out the history of the ancient world in easy-to-follow format. It includes the Bible throughout the timeline, helping connect the sometimes disjointed view of history that those of us who've grown up with the Scriptures are prone to. Moreover, the book contains lengthy chapters overviewing the Bible, the literature of Egypt, the Hebrews, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.

As is the case with the rest of their books, the Bluedorns write from a conservative Christian viewpoint. Folks who share their worldview will appreciate the head's-up they give on various moral issues in ancient literature, and the heavy attention they give to understanding all things through the framework of Scripture.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Anemia Meets Its Match in a Brown Bottle

I saw a picture recently of a young woman asleep over her ironing board. I can relate! Until recently I was one of those people who was perpetually tuckered out. As I dragged myself off to bed one night I thought, "I wish I could sleep forever." I could hardly stand to think about getting up in the morning.

Then I realized that something was ridiculous about the situation. I am a healthy twenty-three year old with a lifestyle that is only mildly stressful. I was eating reasonably and sleeping more than eight hours a night.

I asked a wise aunt if she thought I might be anemic. She said "yep" (well, that's sort of what she said) and prescribed an all-natural remedy. I started taking it, and three days later, "BOING!" I have life again!

What made the difference? This stuff:

Floradix. It's a liquid iron supplement. It doesn't cause any of the nastiness that iron tablets tend to bring, and it's amazing how much better I feel since I've been taking it. It tastes like mildly rotten fruit, which may have something to do with the other ingredients they put in there... a lot of fruits, roots, seeds, and other stuff like that. There are no preservatives, so it starts to ferment after a month or two, but if you take the recommended dose that won't be a problem.

Just thought I'd let the blog world know about one of the most specific answers to pray God has brought into my life lately.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nice People: Thoughts On the Homeschool Counter-Culture

There is nothing quite like being surrounded by six hundred or so homeschool families and their newly graduated college students. It reminds me that we who were homeschooled are part of something bigger than ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a graduation at a very unusual institution. My sister Becky graduated from Verity Education in 2005 (I wrote this article about the ceremony and the program itself). She spent another year on staff, building excellent relationships with the people there, so when graduation rolled around this year, Mom and I went to see some of our new friends-by-osmosis receive their honours.

Verity is, in its essence, a study center where homeschool graduates come to study and earn fully accredited college degrees by taking CLEP tests. They have the highest passing average of any testing center in the U.S., and they provide an atmosphere of excellence and spiritual discipline that is a joy to see.

After the ceremony everyone adjourned to the amphitheatre out back, to take pictures and shake hands and cry tears and everything else that goes with graduations. I feasted my eyes on all of the love and sweetness, on little children who look, act, and dress like little children; on young men who look, act, and dress like young men; on young women who... well, you get the idea. In these circles most families really are families. Most parents had far more to do with the education of their children than dropping them off at school every day. Most fathers are respected. Most mothers are honoured. It's a different world.

I grinned and told Mom, "It's so great to be surrounded by nice people." Out in the world, and very often in the church, nice people are a rarity. It's difficult to find people whose mouths aren't full of irreverance, disrespect, complaining, or vulgarity.

Of course, homeschoolers are not perfect. Nor are they "better" Christians just because they don't send their children to school. They are, however, doing something of extreme importance. They are building a new and different culture in the midst of a culture that has cut most of its ties with God and thus with everything that makes humanity decent. They are building a culture of respect, intelligence, godliness, family.

I think they are doing it because it's something God wants done. Homeschoolers are not just "pulling out" of the world. They are building a new one. I pray they will continue to do it, and the influence of this "other" culture will impact the church and the world.

It reminds me of the charge Pastor Woody Shoemaker, director of Verity, gave to his students from the podium. He told them to go, and be "loving and humble reformers of the church and of the world."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Digital Publishing: Barbarians at the Gate?

I had some interesting stuff come through my email this morning, in particular this article from the NY Times: "Digital Publishing Is Scrambling the Industry."

In an industry where five big companies rule the roost, I love the way digital publishing allows authors, small presses, and self-publishers to speak directly to their readers and do some unconventional business. And by "digital publishing," I mean Web sites, blogs, ebooks, and Print-On-Demand.

The article compares the trade houses to a huge fortress, locking its doors up tight while the barbarians at the gate (digital publishers) laugh. After all, the barbarians aren't such bad guys. If we all just work together, we can build a better industry. Enough of this war-and-destruction stuff. Let's have tea.

Shel Horowitz posted an overview of BEA this year that caught my interest as well, particularly the bit on how many subsidy press authors were book award finalists, and of course the section on child prodigies. I wrote my first publishable novel when I was thirteen, but some of these kids have me beaten.

* * *

Buy my unconventionally published book! "Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer" is available here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

St. Ursula and the Only Thing Worth Living For

There's a song playing as I write. It's called "Sigma". The lyrics are in Gaelic, and translated they read,

I search for the sign
That will set my soul free
My heart must be pure
So that I can find peace

The wind is your voice
The rain is your tears
Your burning heart
And spirit is my salvation

The song has interesting memories for me. Some time ago I came across a legend, dating back to the Dark Ages, about a young woman named Ursula, daughter of a pagan king, who became a Christian through the missionary work of the Celtic church. Her story is one of fleeing the world and seeking a place of safety and peace in which to freely worship the Lord. In the end, her love for God resulted in martyrdom: along with several companions, she was murdered by one of Europe's marauding tribes. It is a legend, likely without much basis in fact, but the idea of a love for Christ so personal and pure that it would cause a person to "reject all the world and gaze straight into the sun, crying out to her beloved," as one old song says, is captivating.

Last February I had the chance to spend a week with some dear family on the west coast, and my cousin and I spent quite a bit of time talking about Ursula and fleshing out the story for ourselves. The Scriptures we'd been reading placed great emphasis on the high value we ought to give Jesus Christ... the high value so few of us truly give Him. Inspired by Scriptural example and legendary devotion, we made something of a production out of the story, using music and ballet to illustrate it. "Sigma" was the first song we used. It expressed something of the longing for Christ that is part of conversion and part of living a holy life with its end in a beautiful eternity.

There's an old saying that goes, "If you don't have something worth dying for, you're not really living." I would amend that and say that if Christ is to us not worth dying for, we're not really living. Causes will pass away with every other earthly thing, but the Lord Jesus Christ, victorious in glory, remains forever.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

March for Life Ottawa

A few weeks ago I accompanied my friend Alexis and three of my sisters northeast: a ten hour drive to Canada's capital city, Ottawa, for the annual March for Life and rally on Parliament Hill. Alexis had the opportunity to speak at the rally, which was our main reason for making the trip. We were able to stay with some very good friends, seven of whom accompanied us on the March.

Alexis works with a group called Silent No More (more on them, and on a more controversial group, in a minute), so we were all able to carry Silent No More signs. To our surprise, the folks who were organizing the event pulled us up on the makeshift stage, to hold our signs high so the entire crowd of six thousand people could see. I felt extraordinarily blessed to be up there. It certainly was a far cry from standing outside the hospital every Friday morning with five or six other people! God was allowing us, a bunch of part-time protesters from Canada's deep south, to be a very visible part of the event. I tend to be a dry-eyed person, but somehow, standing up there with all those brave people made the importance of what we were doing hit home all the harder, and when I wasn't fighting the wind to keep my sign aloft, I was swallowing the lump in my throat and blinking back tears.

Many of the protesters held signs with the slogan for 2006: "Abortion is Killing Canada's Future." In a very practical way, this is true. By choosing death over life we are unnaturally shrinking our population and limiting our future. But it also true in a very personal way, for thousands upon thousands of people.

Silent No More is made up of post-abortive people and those who support them. They carry signs that, with understated eloquence, reveal the pain behind the lies: "I Regret My Abortion" and "I Regret Lost Fatherhood" are the most common. These courageous women and men testify to the hurt, the self-hatred, the depression, the physical side effects, and the spiritual devastation caused by abortion. It's interesting to note that every person who speaks with Silent No More testifies to the forgiveness they've found in God. "No one who doesn't know they're forgiven has the guts to get up there and say that," a local Silent No More representative told me. And she's right.

These people bring the "Killing Canada's Future" slogan into the real world of our personal lives. Thousands of families, whether they realize it or not, have lost their futures. They have lost their children and grandchildren. They have lost their moral freedom and strength of conscience. They have lost a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a family, a mother, a father, a living being made in the image of God. And though God and will restore those who turn to Him, the damage done to individuals and to society is almost immeasurable.

In her speech, Alexis reminded listeners that this is a spiritual battle. Indeed, it's hard to look at the faces of those who have suffered so much over this issue and not hear Jesus' words ringing in your ears: "The thief cometh to steal, to kill, and to destroy." As it is a spiritual battle, we must fight it with spiritual weapons: one of those weapons is truth.

There was another group in Ottawa that weekend who caught my interest. They did not march with us. Instead, they lined up on both sides of the street in front of Henry Morgentaler's clinic. The march took us through their corridor, and they faced us with the silent power of a truth so horrible it's hard to look it in the face. The organization is known as "Show the Truth," and they produce and carry large, graphic signs. They show children. Some living: beautiful faces. Some dead: destroyed by this thing we call "abortion."

Show the Truth is often opposed, even within pro-life circles, for their use of graphic images. Yet I know that their signs were the most powerful thing I saw on the Hill. The incontestable message of Silent No More, "I Regret My Abortion," and the unforgettable images of Show the Truth, are waging a spiritual warfare on abortion. If you've read this far, I ask you to join us in entreating the Father for power to defeat abortion: at the point of destruction in so many hospitals and clinics, and before that, at the root of deception, fear, and selfishness in the hearts of our people.

I know that God can restore our lives, and our futures, for Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."