Saturday, October 30, 2004

my friend Fran

NEWS FLASH

My friend Fran Howell from Kentucky has just received word her story, The Professor (entered in the latest toowrite contest), will be featured in a soon-issue of the Lincolnshire Echo.

WAY TO GO FRAN!!!

analyze this

A while ago, in my online travels, I stumbled across the Jung Typology Test. I find this kind of thing fascinating. So, because it was easy and free, I filled out the form and submitted it. Seconds later, I was analyzed, categorized as an INFJ - which meant nothing to me (will mean nothing to anyone not familiar with the categories of Jung’s classification: Extroversion vs. Introversion; Sensing vs. Intuition; Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving added by someone else).

But the handy website also had documents which described each type. On reading the description of the INFJ, I was surprised at how bang-on it was in many areas. "INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication," says one article. "Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills" says another. I hope this is true about me. It would be a good thing, because I spend a lot of time each day, writing for one reason or another

"INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally ‘doers as well as dreamers.’" This is too is reassuring, although I must admit, I’ve shelved my share of incomplete projects. Maybe the tension between my idealism (could never attain what I think it should be anyway, so give up) and that ‘judging’ voice in my head is why I feel so guilty about them.

Finally, this comforted me: "INFJs are true introverts, who ....at intervals will suddenly withdraw into themselves....it is a necessary escape valve for them providing both time to rebuild depleted resources and a filter to prevent emotional overload..." I’ve often wondered what’s wrong with me that, when given a choice, I sometimes prefer my own company to the company of others. It’s not that I dislike people. I like them. A lot. In fact, there have been times of isolation when I’ve felt if I don’t make contact with someone soon, neurosis will blossom. But, on the other hand, being with others for long periods of time exhausts me. Now I discover that’s normal for me. It’s the way I was made.

My husband also took the test. The article describing him was uncannily accurate.

So, if you’re reading this, consider taking the test for yourself. In addition shedding some light on your perceived messed-uppedness, it may point out areas of strength for you to develop. At the very least, it could help you stop trying to be the person you were never meant to be anyway.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Writer's Edge listing

Yikes - my manuscript, Bible Drive-Thru is listed in The Writer's Edge - October bulletin. (It isn't as boring as it looks - really!!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

eyes

My niece, her husband and two-month-old baby stayed the night with us Monday to Tuesday. They were down from Fort St. John to have baby Adele checked out at Children’s Hospital.

She has already spent ten days there - just after birth. She was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and the day after was flown to Vancouver for surgery. They put in a shunt to drain the fluid into her abdomen. The shunt will be her lifelong companion.

She wasn’t due for another checkup until December. But they came down early because of Adele’s eyes. They don’t seem to be able to focus.

It’s the most curious thing. You hold her, talk to her, look her full in the face expecting that eye-to-eye connection. But she never quite makes it. Those dark little orbs circle around, shiver, stop momentarily in the place of eye contact, and then zig-zag on.

I never gave much thought to how important eye contact is. The expression "shifty-eyed," describing a person who refuses to look you in the eye, gives the connotation of guilt and sneakiness. But when a baby can’t look at you, it’s a different thing entirely.

I think about what that would do to mom-baby bonding. Even though you would know it’s something she can’t help, wouldn't it be hard to shake the feeling she’s snubbing or ignoring you? I think about what a challenge it will be to care for, understand and raise her. Uncharted territory for most of us. And then I think about what a gift I had in my sighted babies. I never appreciated. Now I say ‘thank-You.’

Her prognosis is uncertain. The doctors said she might suddenly turn the corner and begin to develop vision normally. Or she might not. It’s wait and see.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Contradictory -BibleMinute3

Samson - what a study in contradictions (Judges 13-16)

1. The fact he wanted to get a Philistine wife was a God-thing (14:4).

2. God’s Spirit was on him despite his questionable lifestyle (13:24, 25; 14:19; 15:14).

3. Even God-touched-from-the-womb Samson was not above God’s fairness. After he cut his hair (something he as a Nazirite had been commanded never to do), the Lord left him.

4. In his suicidal death, he continued to fulfill God’s life purpose for him - to wreak judgement on the Philistines - by killing more in that one act than he had in his entire life.

What I learn from this:

1. I think I have God figured out but I never really do. He will do as He pleases using means I, from my sanctimonious stance, would never imagine - or perhaps even approve of. How unlikely is the Spirit living in a lush who can’t rein in his impetuousness, has a temper problem, a lustful bent (and, perhaps worst of all, a penchant for making up those dreadful riddles [14:14; 15:16]).

Unlike Samson, I can choose to cooperate with God and find a meaningful, joyful place in His plan. Or I can do as Samson did, step over God’s boundaries and find myself destroyed in the process. Either way, God’s plans won’t be thwarted.

2. Even the most favored person can lose God’s touch. I think these are the saddest words of Samson’s story: "But he did not know that the Lord had left him. (16:20).

God, help me to play a willing part in Your story. Fill me with Your Spirit. Should I begin walking away from You, please activate some amber or red flashers, warning me I’m heading down a dangerous God-forsaken path.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Who? BibleMinute2

Bible trivia:

Q. What do Tola, Jair, Ibzan and Abdor have in common?

I’m sure if someone had asked me that before today, I wouldn’t have known. Reading Judges 10-12 shows they were all judges in Israel.

Which shows again, there are a lot of insignificant, unexceptional people (except in their ability to have kids: Jair - 30 sons; Ibzan - 30 sons and 30 daughters; Abdor - 40 sons and 30 grandsons) in the Bible.

One wonders why certain judges are showcased. It isn’t for length of reign, because there are only two verses about Tola, who was in charge 23 years, while Jephthah, who led Israel for six, has two plus chapters. I guess it isn’t hard, though, to know why the writer’s interest is snagged by him (heartbreaking picture of his one and only child, skip-dancing to welcome daddy home - only to find her first-out-the-door welcome doomed her to a nunnery! Now there’s a lesson in making rash promises to God!). Gideon and Samson are also pretty colorful.

But, back to the insignificant judges. I think I’ll probably end up like them. Nothing exceptional. A mere punctuation mark in God’s story. Did they (I) miss something? Should they have been (should I be) more? I don’t know. In a building, each nail, screw, post, beam, insulation, and wiring is necessary to the finished structure.

God, help me to be content to be a staple, a light switch, a keyhole in Your house.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

where it begins

Today on our noon-hour walk (dyke around Nico Wynd golf course), we caught sight of a bald eagle in one of the top branches of the tall grizzled tree that holds the nest we first noticed in spring. A few minutes later, he flew to a branch a little further down to join another eagle we hadn't seen. The branch could hardly hold the two as they snuggled close - like a couple of love birds.

When we got home, hubby googled them. Here's what he found (on a gov't of Ohio website):

"Pair bonding activity for both new and established pairs begins in the fall.Courtship behavior and nest building can occur anytime between October and early December. As winter begins and daylight hours are reduced, the bonding activities wind down. ... Beginning in early February, the male bald eagle will put on an aerial display of ritualized movements showing his mate his readiness.If receptive, the female will join him in flight. This activity is then followed by more ritual movements and gestures before actual mating occurs. As outstanding as this display is, scientists credit the activity that occurs during nest building as the most important element in cementing the pair bond." (emphasis mine)

See, Dr. Dobson was right. Good sex does begin long before the bedroom.

the power of naming


"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words (or names) will never hurt me."

Yeah, right. And with a name, Adam doomed the anteater to a life of groveling, and God changed a man from a cheater to a father of nations (Jacob - Israel)

I’m thinking brand names in our own time - Hershey, Cadbury or Nestle = chocolate. Starbucks = the lifestyle of a whole generation. Martha Stewart Living = how the mighty have fallen.

Often, naming is the impetus behind writing. Rick DeMarinis in his book The Art and Craft of the Short Story says, "Something happens to people destined for a life of writing that has nothing to do with Literature. It happens early in life and is probably the psychological equivalent of scarlet fever. It has to do with pain....Unhappy children (unhappy for whatever reasons – from physical abuse to psychological abandonment) grow up with the potentially destructive feeling that they have to seize the right to
exist.... Then something else happens. We find that words can be an escape from the pain of social impotence. Words became, for me, a bright mantle of power" (pp. 2,3).

Letter to the editor writers prove this. I found these in two recent local rags: policies - "short-sighted," a political leader - "a simpleton and puppet," his aides - "puppeteers," notions - "perverted," rallying cries - "disgusting," an action "reflex" and "program-induced."

All that to say, the names I choose for things - from characters, to places, to story, poem and book titles - deserve a lot of thought. So does the way I name (and here I mean, not literal name, but label) my family member, friend, neighbor, and the stranger. As a writer - a person who makes a life work of naming things - I want people who read my name in the by-line to think love, redemption, hope.

______________________________________________


A Bible Minute

I was thinking along the lines of ‘naming’ above, this morning when I came across the following in my Quiet Time: "When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The Lord is with you mighty warrior.'" (Judges 6:12).

And so a destiny was spoken into being.

I ask myself - what would I wish the Lord to call me? "The Lord is with you - tender mother? loyal friend? woman of wisdom?" Hey, I like that latter. What if He actually came into my room, here, and audibly spoke those words over me? I wonder, would my life change to the extent Gideon’s did - transforming him from someone cautious, tentative and fearful to an actual mighty warrior - whose reputation preceded him (Judges 7:14,15)?

God, what is Your name for me? I’d like to know. You don’t have to appear in person and say it out loud - a whisper will be fine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

promptings

The name "promptings" came to me and with it the inspiration and courage to start my blog.

So I have decided to do a blog based on writing from prompts - whatever those prompts turn out to be - from things that happen in my life, to things from the news, to memories, to using pre-packaged prompts from books.

This idea pleases me because when I’ve written from prompts in the past, I’ve found it’s a subtle means of self-disclosure – fulfilling the writer’s saw "show don’t tell." It puts the onus on the reader (yikes - what reader?!) to fit the pieces together. (Plus, my day-to-day life isn’t exactly page-turning material. When I write from prompts, I get to write all kinds of things - fiction, conversation, description, vignettes - material for which I plan on inventing to my heart’s content).

And then, like a parent, who gets around to checking the meaning of the name they’ve just given their newborn, I started thinking about all the meanings of "prompt."

A person can be prompted to action. Someone who is prompt is on time. When you prompt someone in theater, you remind them of their lines. A prompt can also help you recall an event or the thing that’s next in order. And we talk of being aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I hope this blog will prod me to write and rejuvenate my writing. I hope it will be on time. I hope it will help me dredge up memories, thoughts and reactions. But I hope the most this blog will be the last thing - written under the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Jim Coggins & murder mystery

I attended the monthly meeting of the Fraser Valley Christian Writer's Group last night. Jim Coggins, writer of Who's Grace and newly released Desolation Highway - both published by Moody Press - was the main feature.

Coggins was right at home. After all, he lives in Abbotsford and edited the M. B. Herald from there for years. His quips re: what's a good Mennonite boy doing writing about murder, went over well. Most of us there were either of Mennonite stock or knew well their anti-killing, peacenik proclivities - as Abbotsford is a Mennonite retirement Mecca.

Two angles of his talk fascinated me:

1. How he got into writing murder mysteries:

He's an academic, a historian and was (when he started his fiction writing jag) the editor of a very straight-laced periodical. But long before he tried his hand at writing murder mysteries, he and his wife Jacky read them regularly (out loud, to each other, till one or the other fell asleep) before bed. They went through a variety of writers - good, bad, and indifferent. After one particularly bad beginning, Jim tossed the book aside and declared, "I could do better than that?"

"Then why don't you," said Jacky.

Another catalyst was a garrulous bus driver (more interested in talking to people than driving the bus, Jim was sure) on whose bus Jim often rode to work. When she found out he was a writer, she said, "What do you write? I'd like to read one of your books sometime."

Yikes, Jim thought, there's my thesis - not exactly something she'd be interested in, and the magazine - too much christianese. He determined, then, he'd like to try his hand at writing something he could hand to a person like her - unchurched, non-religious, a good read but something that would get her thinking along Christian lines as well.

2. Why murder mystery is a good genre for a Christian writer:

Now I don't like reading mysteries all that much - although I'm addicted to my weekly Saturday afternoon helping of warmed over "Cold Case Files" and "City Confidential." But Coggins pointed out some inherently Christian worldview aspects of the traditional murder mystery that I'd never thought of before:

- The world is portrayed as black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. There are good people and the bad guy who dunnit.

- Murder mysteries model in microcosm what happened to humanity in Eden. Everything's going along fine. Then someone is found dead. Chaos! From then on the book is dedicated to restoring order to its world.

- The murder mystery projects values.

MMs uphold the value of justice - we feel unsatisfied if the crime doesn't get solved and the bad guy doesn't get caught.
MMs uphold the value of human life. As Coggins pointed out, you can have a mystery about anything - about, say, lost socks. But who cares? However, when someone is murdered, we care. Why? Because human life matters.

I bought Desolation Highway and Coggins signed it for me. So I'll read another murder mystery. Who knows, maybe hubby and I will start reading them as bedtime stories. And maybe one of us will start writing them. I'm pretty sure, though, it won't be me.

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