Wednesday, February 28, 2007
God is so good. We are having a great time up here at Glen Eyrie, and we're discovering some wonderful writers. Megan DiMaria (you'll be hearing from her real soon, I'm sure), told me about an organization called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." Wow--not only is this an incredible concept, but it was exactly what I needed for my novel-in-progress.
The idea is this--professional photographers volunteer to take pictures of babies who have either died or who will not live long. These are beautiful pictures that can stay with a family so a grieving mother and father will have a lovely remembrance of their child.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so why don't you check out their slide show at www.nowIlaymedowntosleep.org .
It's amazing. When an older person or child dies, the family has lots of memories and photographs . . . but when an infant dies, often the grief-stricken parents are too stunned to think about such things. Later, when they are asked how many children they have . . . well, you can see where I'm going. Parents need photos of these precious babies in their homes because those children, though they may have lived only an hour or a day or two, are part of that family.
My hat is off and my heart is humbled by these caring photographers. What an incredible service and thoughtful idea.
An aside--it's supposed to SNOW here today! The high is only thirty-something degrees, but the forecast calls for sun tomorrow. That's good--because my family is ready to see me again. :-)
Have a lovely day!
P.S. The photo is of Kathy Mackel, who writes "Christian chillers." Fitting, no? :-)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Good morning! Comin' at you live from beautiful Glen Eyrie, in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado! We've seen long horned sheep, wild turkeys, and all kinds of interesting wildlife--and . . . it's COLD here! Not bitterly, and we're not out in it much, but cold enough for this Florida girl to be glad she brought her gloves!
Photo: Al Gansky, the birthday boy. Nancy Rue, Kathy Mackel, and Al and Becky Gansky are staying in the "Pink House"--an older mansion that the Navigators uses as housing. It's lovely. Al and Becky are staying in the bedroom that Bill Graham favors. :-) We keep teasing Al about having to roll out of the Billy Graham bed every morning.
BTW--today is the Rev. Al's 57th birthday! You can drop him a happy birthday message at Alton@altongansky.com. (LOL--correction! 8:40 a.m. and Al has just informed me that it's his fifty-FOURTH birthday. I've aged him three additional years in a day.)
And thanks SO much for "shouting out!" on the blog! (You, too, Mom! Was that your first comment ever?) It's nice to know I'm not pontificating to an empty cyber abyss. :-)
We're having a grand old time up here in the mountains. Have a group of about 50 folks who are watching us do improvisation, and teach, and just generally talk about what we love--writing and reaching people.
And (confidential to BJ)--I actually got to watch the last half of 24 last night. What in the world is LOGAN doing back? Ack! It took me five minutes to recognize that grizzled old guy! (And where's Martha? Do you think he done her in, as they said in My Fair Lady?)
Well, enough rambling. I'm going to see if there's any hot water in the tank.
Thanks again for shouting out!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I could go into the computer innards and see how many "hits" this blog gets every day, but I'd rather hear from you. Won't you take a minute just to say "hi" or something?
For Mom and Aunt Irene: click on "add a comment," then type your comment in the box that opens up. You can type your name in the box, and then click "anonymous" in the options below the box. Hassle-free. :-)
Please take a minute to say "hello"!
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I love Allison Krauss. Her song "There's a Ghost in this House" has a lovely, lilting, melancholy quality that haunts.
Lately I've been thinking of that song a lot. You see, since Wednesday I've noticed a vague odor in my kitchen. I can't pinpoint it, and I've sniffed in every cupboard, in the trash compactor, and under the sink. I've looked under furniture and vaccumed up every little piece of everything.
And yet I keep singing, "There's a stink in this house." It's not a good smell--smells like something dead, and believe me, after the Month of the Rats, I know what dead smells like.
Reminds me of the first time I met cop writer Mark Mynheir--over dinner at a writer's conference, we spent the entire night talking about how to describe the smell of a dead body. (You had to be there.)
But I digress.
I'm heading to Colorado Springs tomorrow to be with gal pals Nancy Rue and Kathy Mackel, and guy pal Al Gansky and his lovely wife, Becky. Looking forward to meeting Susan, aka Accidental Poet, whose blog I've enjoyed for a long time now. Not sure how consistent I'll be in this space, but we have a Book of the Month coming up, so I'll try to at least get those posts up.
I heard--but haven't been able to confirm--that the state of Texas somehow overruled their governor's mandate that all schoolgirls be vaccinated against HPV. Anyone got the details on that?
Good news this week from Foreword Magazine (a general market magazine that goes to bookstores and libraries. It features books from independent publishers). They have a "Book of the Year" contest every year, and three of my books are finalists: THE NOVELIST, MAGDALENE, and UNCHARTED. I like this contest because it puts Christian novels up against general market novels--Magdalene, for instance, was entered in the historical category, so it's competing against all entered historical novels. Years ago, when I first started entering this contest, there wasn't a specific category for religious fiction, so the first time my book won a medallion, it was right up there with a book in the gay and lesbian category. I like that--it speaks to me of salt getting out of the salt shaker. :-)
And about the Oscars--I'm not going to be watching (because I'll be at Glen Eyrie), but the Wall Street Journal offered an interesting perspective this week. All the actresses in the "Best Actress" category played roles that could be described as "women behaving badly." And three of the actresses are in the AARP range--Meryl Streep is 57, Helen Mirren is 61, and Dame Judi Dench is 72.
My hat's off to all of 'em. Long live mature women, and thank heaven the writers are giving us something other than twenty-something-women fighting over sixty-something men.
LOL. I haven't seen any of the nominated movies this year. No time to go . . .
One more thing, and I'll end this rambling post. A few days ago I mentioned my friend Jane Orcutt and asked you to pray for her. Jane's condition is not good, and several of my friends have set today aside to pray specifically for her. Will you please ask the Lord to strengthen, encourage, and heal Jane? Thank you for praying.
Friday, February 23, 2007
In Sunday's paper, I read an article that more than piqued my interest. As a fan of shows like The X-Files, I've always been interested in the inexplicable. This article more than qualifies.
Seems that a foot turned up in the landfill in Spotsylvania County, VA. At first deputies thought someone had committed a murder (or at the very least, a maiming), so they began to look for other body parts. Finding none, they went back to the foot. It's eight-inches long with five long toes . . . and now they've decided it's not human.
But what is it? Gorillas don't roam in Virginia (and, incidentally, I don't think Bigfoot does, either.)
The foot was cleanly sawed off, and authorities have sifted through another 127 tons of trash to make sure there weren't other limbs sawn asunder and recycled. Some say the appendage resembles a bear's skinned hind paw. Tim Biscardi, a bigfoot believer, posted an image ofthe foot on www.searchingforbigfoot.com . He's not sure this foot is a bigfoot's foot (try saying that a couple of times), but he believes in them. (You can go there if you want to see the picture. Ick.)
If the foot is a bigfoot/sasquatch/yenti, then it's small and probably from a child.
Bob Hagan, president of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, says the foot is a possible marketing tool for the area. "It might be a real pull for tourism," he toldl the Washington Post. "Minnesota has Paul Bunyan; we'd have to go with just Bunion."
Thursday, February 22, 2007
This week's Time Magazine (Feb. 26, 2007) features a cover story titled "The Abortion Campaign You Never Hear About: Crisis pregnancy centers are working to win over one woman at a time. But are they playing fair?
I've had only a few moments to skim the story, but the gist seems to be that by letting pregnant women hold life-sized plastic models of their unborn babies, crisis pregnancy counselors are extending an emotional appeal that is "unfair." By telling women that abortion increases the chance for breast cancer, CPCs are using scare tactics.
They quote Christopher Hollis, Planned Parenthood's vice president for governmental and political affairs in North Carolina. He says, "What is really tragic to me is that a woman goes into a center looking for information, looking to be able to make a better, healthy choice, and she doesn't get all the facts."
Excuuuuuse me? I'm sorry, but that's what we've felt about Planned Parenthood centers for YEARS. Women there are not told they're carrying a baby, but a lump of cells called a "zygote" or a "fetus." After hearing former NOW-president Patricia Ireland speak, an editor friend of mine remarked that he got the feeling she would rather call the unborn child a potato than a baby.
The Time article goes on to say that while counselors at crisis pregnancy centers lay out the physical and psychological risks associated with abortion, "they don't mention that the risk of death in childbirth is 12 times as high and that many women . . . experience only relief." The magazine clearly forgot one statistic--the risk of death in an abortion clinic is 100 percent. All the babies die.
And lately politicians have stopped trumpeting that abortion is a woman's right (an inherently selfish position) to making a bid for sympathy. Hillary Clinton has called abortion "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women . . ." People are reluctant to speak against abortion because to do so is to hurt the feelings of women who are already hurting, broken, and sad . . .
Isn't that like saying that it's okay to kill your elderly mother (who's inconvenient, whose appearance in your home was unplanned, and whose medicines you can't afford) as long as you feel bad about it? According to Time, many women who eliminate their babies feel nothing but relief. If some troubled, overworked, overburdened women eliminated their adolescents, they might feel relief, too. But not MOST women. Not women whose hearts are still tender and whose minds are still open to the truth.
What are we doing? Abortion providers are disguising the truth with language and denying women the right to know that 1) they are carrying a human child and 2) they are increasing their risk of breast cancer and 3) help is available. People who fight for abortion rights at any cost are obviating the God-given desire to nurture. Women are becoming hardened through repeated denials . . . or, if they are unable to suppress their natural feelings, they are suffering post-abortion guilt.
We who are pro-life are often accused of not walking our talk, but those who say that aren't listening or looking. We do adopt these babies--there are more waiting adoptive parents than available infants and young children. We do provide financial, emotional, and career support for expectant mothers. The Time article, to its credit, points out that one clinic offers everything from emergency food and formula to strollers and baby clothes to help with the rent.
Last week I spoke at a Valentine's Day event sponsored by A Woman's Place Ministries in Tampa. (http://www.awpm.net . ) As I waited my turn to speak, I heard stories about how over 100 young women had seen their babies on the sonogram machine and had decided to give birth rather than have an abortion. There were about 100 women in the audience that day, and I looked around, amazed that so many precious lives had been saved . . . in part, because of technology. Once young mothers see that there's a real baby within their wombs, it's a struggle against nature to press ahead with the destruction of that precious life.
I stood to speak and was so choked up, I could barely manage it. I managed to say, "I'm an adoptive mother," and when I heard the murmur pass through the room, I knew they understood the reason for my tears. Fortunately, I'd brought my linen napkin from the table. :-)
I don't know . . . lately I've been reading about this HPV vaccine being rushed through states and required for girls as young as nine. Our society seems to have accepted that girls will be, must be, promiscuous, so we will do all we can to eradicate the natural results of promiscuity. Get an STD? We'll give you a vaccine. Get pregnant? Get an abortion.
Through it all, the unspoken message is this: life is all about pleasure, so do what you want, when you want, to whom you want.
That sort of selfishness is the antithesis of a Christian life. It used to be the opposite of a moral life, but morality is based on shifting stands these days . . .
At least there is good news on one front: Somewhere on my desk (madly shuffling through papers) is an article from today's paper that says the drug company Merck is pulling back on its efforts to push through the law that requires girls to have the HPV vaccine. Why? Because the vaccine needs more testing. It has NOT been effectively tested on children.
Shame on them for the psychological attack they've launched on the American public over the last few months. Shame on them for implying that their expensive vaccine will completely eradicate cervical cancer--or that it's the only answer for the HPV virus. Shame on them for shamelessly putting money into politicians pockets and then pushing for this vaccine's requirement. (Google for my past columns on this if you want details.)
And shame on us if we swallow those half-truths.
For more information on the link between abortion and breast cancer, go to http://www.abortionbreastcancer.com .
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
One of the most fun things about the new iMac is the tiny camera tucked into the top of the monitor. On its first night in the house, hubby and I were staring at it . . . and after we snapped the picture, we discovered that the Son was clowning in the background!
The transition has gone very smoothly, thanks to a couple of books recommended by Mac friend. SWITCHING TO THE MAC--I think I would have been lost without it.
My only problem to date is getting my accounting software, Mac version, to import my Windows version. I've done everything they told me to do, and it just won't work. Fortunately, a quick Google of the problem revealed that I'm not alone . . . a lot of people are struggling with this one. So tomorrow I suppose I'll be spending some time of the phone with a customer service representative . . . not a good thing when one is on deadline!
Yes, I have to have the second draft of the WIP finished this week because I leave for Colorado Springs on Sunday, for the workshop I'm holding with Nancy Rue, Al Gansky, and Kathryn Mackel. We're going to have a ball and we're planning some innovative things.
Better get to work now . . .
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Like thousands of other computer lovers, I upgraded to Vista and MS Office 2007 at the end of January. Vista worked fine, though it slowed down the computer, didn't recognize my printer, and didn't know how to run a couple of my programs. But there was a glitch in the Office program, so I called support.
And called again. In fact, I spent an average of three hours a day for a week on the phone with folks in India, Canada, and Washington state--I think. And I got so frustrated that I ordered a Mac.
Right now my mother is probably asking why--it's not because of the commercials, where the Mac is the cool guy and the PC guy is nice and nerdy. It's because Macs don't get viruses (yet), they don't give you the Blue Screen of Death, and they don't hang up like PCs do. And yes, they are cool. But mostly I was simply tired of messing with things.
While I waited for my Macs to arrive, I kept talking to the tech support people, who finally gave up. And--get this--they gave me a full refund on Office 2007, plus they're mailing me a full edition, gratis. Of course, I'm not sure I'll load it. The program is working fine on my laptop, but I never could get it reinstalled on my desktop. (They had me delete it to fix the glitch, and it would never get back on the computer.)
So--most of last week I was working a little and learning a lot. The Mac, as you know, is completely different, so I'm dealing with new language, new icons, and new ways of doing things. I keep looking for the control/alt/delete thing even though I haven't needed it. :-0
So far I've fried one external hard drive (my fault), and filled another hard drive, but by the middle of next week I hope to have a handle on everything.
And I'm a happy Mac mama . . . though still learning. (Oh--and the new computer is why the picture of my daughter is crooked. It's right-side up in iPhoto, but not when I insert it. Hmm.)
Monday, February 19, 2007
I know the Super Bowl has come and gone, but hubby just came home with a souvenir t-shirt. I love it, and I especially agree with the sentiment.
Thank you, Tony Dungy, for what you built in Tampa Bay!
And thank you for showing that Christian men are steadfast and strong. You are a true champion.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
LOL! My friend Jeff Gerke, who writes Christian novels as Jefferson Scott, has a major role in this short film, produced for a short film competition. If you like the old sci fi movies--think Plan Nine from Outer Space--you'll find this a HOOT.
Congratulations, Jeff! (He's the tall one who tells the radar operator to ignore the blip on the screen.)
Just thought I'd spread the word about a service you may not have heard of--the Christian fiction Chapter A Week program.
If you'd like to receive a sample excerpt from some of the best writers of Christian fiction, simply send an email to this address:
That's it! Every Friday morning, Lord willing, you'll receive a new chapter from an author--one you may not have heard of. What a great way to discover new books and new writers!
So subscribe today--your inbox will not be flooded, I promise.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Another one of my articles for the TAMPA TRIBUNE:
A column in the February 5th Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Cynthia Crossen explained the history of dog catchers—an unpleasant occupation that became necessary when unclaimed dogs roamed city streets. One man’s pet, apparently, was another man’s pest.
In 1877, Crossen reported, New York City passed a dog ordinance, built a dog pound, and hired dog catchers. After stray canines were rounded up, owners were given 48 hours to claim their pets. Unclaimed animals, up to 100 at a time, were placed in a large iron cage and lowered into the East River by a derrick. After several minutes, during which the poor animals struggled and clawed each other in a fruitless effort to survive, the cage was hoisted up and the dead dogs removed.
Can you imagine the outcry if that scenario were repeated today? Animal lovers, including myself, would be incensed. Yet history is filled with similar cruelties.
A few years ago I read Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, an oral history of the Holocaust. I shuddered as I read the testimony of a Jewish man who had to help open a mass grave—the Nazis intended to burn the bodies and eradicate traces of the death camp at Vilna.
“When we first opened the graves,” the survivor said, “we couldn’t help it, we all burst out sobbing. . . . The Germans even forbade us to use the words ‘corpse’ or ‘victim.’ The dead were blocks of wood . . . with absolutely no importance. . . . The Germans made us refer to the bodies as Figuren, that is, as puppets, as dolls, or as Schmattes, which means ‘rags.’”
Once again, language is used to disguise a terrible truth.
In March 1857, in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, the United States Supreme Court ruled that all blacks—slaves as well as free--were not and could never be citizens of the United States. As to the Constitution, which declares that all men are created equal, Justice Taney wrote that “it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration . . . .”
The members of the court who ruled against the African-American Dred Scott—along with the dog catchers and the Nazis at Vilna--apparently bought into Hamlet’s argument that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Hamlet would have no problem justifying the disintegration of pets to pests, of prisoners to puppets, of people to property.
But Hamlet’s argument is false. Some acts violate moral decency and divine laws.
I have been following the case of Dr. Anna Pou of New Orleans, who is accused of killing elderly patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her supporters say she did her best to make her patients comfortable under horrendous conditions. The state of Louisiana alleges that she killed patients who were too ill too evacuate.
I have no opinion about Dr. Pou’s guilt or innocence, but I am glad that the state of Louisiana is willing to prosecute anyone who would murder elderly people who have become an inconvenience. An inconvenient patient, you see, is probably someone’s grandmother.
While I was researching my novel-in-progress, I stumbled across a website featuring stories from women who had aborted their babies. One woman, after discovering that her baby had severe hydrocephalus, wrote, “He was a perfect little soul in a damaged body. It was our job as his parents to send him up to heaven.”
I felt a chill as I read that comment. My heart breaks for mothers and fathers who discover that their children have a medical problem, but who are we to decide which problems are acceptable and which are not? How is thinking of a child as “damaged” and disposable different from labeling elderly people “inconvenient” or the 1857 Supreme Court decision that African Americans are “non-citizens” and undeserving of protection under the Constitution? The logic with which we condemn damaged, inconvenient, or problematic preborn babies would also condemn the elderly, the infirm, and the imprisoned.
Preborn babies are fully deserving of life and protection . . . especially those who are weak.
My friend, Judy Miller, recently emailed me about her daughter, Michelle. If Judy had had access to modern ultrasound scanning when she was pregnant, most doctors would have advised an abortion, for Michelle was microcephalic (small-brained) and would be profoundly retarded. But that special child taught Judy and her husband about love.
“The doctors said she wouldn't live beyond the age of five,” writes Judy. “But though she could never talk, walk, or feed herself, her sweet smile and loving spirit shone with unbelievable radiance for thirty years. Early in her life, we had 100 volunteers coming to our home each week to help us pattern her. Some had never been around a child with mental retardation and she opened a door to shed light into their unenlightened world. Her funeral was attended by many of those same people.
“Was it difficult? You bet! Did we receive more than we gave by having her in our lives? You bet.”
Judy sums up her experience this way: “I'd do it all again. Having a child who is profoundly handicapped helps you experience a depth of love unlike any other. You love without the expectation of anything in return.”
Sometimes we reach the limit of what medical science can accomplish. But if we consistently choose life, we can console ourselves by knowing that we did all we could for the child we love.
So let’s take a closer look at the neutral and often pleasant phrases we use to cloak moral wrongs. We have steeped in denial for too long.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I remember watching the excellent Chinese movie, "Raise the Red Lantern." The translator who did the subtitles obviously didn't speak English as his first language, but most of the translations were understandable. One of them, though, made me chuckle. One wife was speaking to another wife, and the second wife was pouting. I think the first wife meant to say, "Don't be so moody," but in the subtitles she said, "Don't be so groovy."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007
Second, God created man body and soul. We are bipartite creatures. And I think lovingly tucking the body away in a "casket" (definition: a container for treasured things) shows more respect that burning something up.
Third, burial is a metaphor. Just as we are baptized under the water and brought up as a picture of Christ's death and resurrection, so our burial is a picture of us "sleeping" and waiting for the resurrection . . . and there's nothing metaphorical about that.
Burial conveys the image of sleep, the metaphor Jesus and his apostles used repeatedly for the believing dead (John 11:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13–14). It conveys a message, a message quite different from that of a body already speed-decayed, a body consumed by fire.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Did you see this photo of Tony Dungy and the Colts thanking God after their Super Bowl victory? (HT to Randy Alcorn at http://www.epm.org for the photo!)
I don't think God cares as much about who won that game as He does about the effect testimonies like this have on the world. As a friend told me once, God cares more about our reactions than our actions . . . there's a lot of truth in that.
How do we react to victory? To defeat? Are we willing to praise and thank Him no matter what comes?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
The other picture is of a HOUSECOAT. If you don't know what a housecoat is, may I gently suggest that you are missing out on the finer things in life.
There once was a time when women got dressed up to go out of the house--yes, even to the grocery store. When they got home, rather than get their nice clothes dirty, they took them off and put on a house coat. Simple. Elegant. Useful.
Some friends and I got into a fervent discussion of housecoats the other day. I had a 39-year-old character look at her mother wearing one, and my editor suggested that a thirty-nine year old might not use the word "housecoat." So I started polling my friends, of all ages, to determine the prevalence of the word.
I'm sorry to say it, but lately I've discovered that the younger generation doesn't know the same words I know--and yes, I know what BLING is and what MOS means (Mom over shoulder). I can even use "poser" correctly. I think.
So I think it's only fair that the younger folks learn what a housecoat is. A housecoat is not a robe. Some folks might call it a duster, but most people just call it a housecoat. You don't sleep in it, you wear it around the house. Or your grandmother does.
I'm thinking of opening a housecoat museum. (I don't actually own one, but I think my mom has a closet full.) And maybe start an apron collection. You know, from back in the days when moms (including me) used to cook.
By the way, you can find housecoats--summer and winter versions--in the Vermont Country Store catalog.
Slacks? Trousers? Dress pants? What you call them tells us a lot about how old you are.
And please, will somebody tell me where the expression "Me love me some (fill in the blank)" comes from? I first heard it from Quentin Tarentino's lips on Alias, and now I'm hearing it everywhere. Let's find out where it's from . . . and send it back. :-)
Okay, rant over. For now. Drop me a note if you're looking for America's next top designer . . . just don't call that denim jacket a housecoat.
Friday, February 09, 2007
It’s easier to label than to love.