Wednesday, 25 May 2016

#bookreview: Tesla Gate by John D. Mimms

The Tesla GateThe Tesla Gate by John D. Mimms
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If I had known what this story really was about, I would never have downloaded it for review from Edelweiss.

Some baffling science stuff happens at the beginning of the book - never really explained because protagonist Thomas Pendleton is all broken up about the death of his wife and son [also, there are better ways to start off a book than with a dream sequence, even if it was an "aware" dream sequence, and then going back and forth and being all cagey and strange before telling people, okay they died] - which makes ghosts (or spirits) visible. Okay, the making spirits visible part was evident in the book description, at least, but at any rate, I was expecting a father-son road trip with sci-fi elements of maybe alien-type, strange new tech and happenings encounters, instead of...

Man trying to adjust to living with dead son, going on a very long road trip, skirmishes with notable dead people including Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, being chased by the military and finally finding a way of killing himself without being a suicide in order to walk into the Tesla Gate (oh look, the title suddenly makes an appearance!) together with his son so they will never be alone again.


I also possibly did not like it because I hated the writing style. I am not a huge fan of first-person narratives, though I have made exceptions. This is not one of them.
Meh.

1.2 stars with the additional 0.2 stars because I actually felt invested enough to finish the book, and maybe that little semi-twist near the end with Patrick was slightly gut-wrenching, but most likely because I got a free copy for review purposes so I needed to finish it anyway. I was thinking of pushing it to a two, but nah.

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Monday, 23 May 2016

#musicmonday: You make me brave | Amanda Cook



Because I would totally do a worship set segue from:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour


directly into:

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made

---

I tie myself up in conundrums. 
If you are somewhere out on the waves and pray for faith, does that mean you get stuck further out on the waves for longer? Or does that mean a ship comes to take you home to shore?
Or does that mean the waves become home?

Do you find certainty in uncertainty?
Or do you find assurance in the midst of uncertainty?

Maybe I shouldn't pray for faith.
Maybe I should pray for results. 
Maybe it's time to pray for tides to turn. 
Because I'm already out here anyway. The faith part is pretty much a done deal. It's holding on until something changes.

Friday, 20 May 2016

#fridayflash: On John Donne (Fleshing Susie Monahan #3)

Thou hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
So I looked up John Donne. It’s all Vivian and Jace talk about. It’s dark. Darker than I thought poetry could be. I mean, you always think of these dreamy, floaty stuff when you talk about poems, don’t you? But John Donne talks about death. Death and God.
I run to death, and Death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday.
When you think about it, that’s true, isn’t it? Death meets us all. I don’t run to it, but I can’t run away either. It’s coming quick for Vivian. A frightening thought. I don’t think Jace thinks of it at all. Sometimes it’s like he thinks he’s as immortal as those cancer cells of his.
I dare not move my dim eyes any way;
Despair behind, and Death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
Jace calls it Salvation Anxiety and treats it as an eternal puzzle to solve without any resolution. Vivian liked it enough to give him an A minus, so I suppose they think alike in some ways. I don’t know. He calls it that “meaning of life garbage” but it isn’t that. There has to be meaning, doesn’t there? I mean, I don’t know if my sin weighs my flesh towards hell (if I’m even understanding this right), but…
Death doesn’t terrify me. It’s just another rite of life. But the road to it can be terrifying, especially with cancer. Which, I suppose, is why I’m here. Why I do what I do.
Only Thou art above, and when towards Thee
By Thy leave I can look, I rise again;
I don’t know why Donne needs God’s permission to look at Him. Doesn’t He call us all to seek His face anyway? Maybe it means something that I don’t get. Maybe it’s something you’ll only understand if you study more of his poems.
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour myself I can sustain.
And maybe that’s why Jace thinks I’m stupid. I mean, he’s never said it directly, but sometimes… Subtle foe? I’m guessing he means the devil. I admit, I’m not the best at reading this sort of stuff. Like I said, I never took literature. Poetry is hard. Which is why Vivian studied it, I guess. But at least I treat people like people, not like… research.
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.
I had to look up ‘adamant’. I thought I knew what it meant, but it didn’t make sense. Even then, there were so many meanings, that I’m guessing the one he wants is the one meaning “magnet”. Because that makes sense, to me at least. God being a magnet, drawing my heart to him.

Oh, I don’t know.

---

John Donne's Holy Sonnet I, quoted from http://www.bartleby.com/357/91.html

---




Wednesday, 18 May 2016

#bookreview: Queer Virtue by Elizabeth Edman

This... will be an interesting book review.
I picked this up from Edelweiss for review because... well, because it looked interesting. Then I kind of forgot about it until it came up in my queue. And then, I was all, now, what did I get myself into?

Well, at any rate, here are my thoughts. For better or worse.

Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize ChristianityQueer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity by Elizabeth M. Edman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an inherently difficult book to review. Whatever I say, for or against, will probably upset someone in either camp. And I use"camp" instead of a mere divide, because this is an intensely polarising issue with people who would want to build trenches and throw bombs and sing fighting songs and the like. Whatever I rate it will also be a problem, so that remains squarely in the middle, a 2.5, because there are many things she says that I agree with, but there are also many vague areas - either due to my lack of ability to understand, or her lack of clarity in writing - which shall remain question marks.

So, on to the content.

As a professing lesbian and ordained Episcopal priest, Edman comes from the viewpoint that being queer is simply who she is. She argues that the binaries that we adhere to (male/female; right/wrong; good/bad) are overly simplistic, especially when defined in relation to current cultural norms, i.e. you're Christian, therefore you're good. You're not Christian, therefore you're bad. You're LGBT, therefore you're bad. You're heterosexual, therefore normal, therefore good. You're white - good; you're not, no good, and so on.
Throughout the book, she posits that being Christian is to be "queer" - which makes it terribly easy to dismiss the book offhand and declare her a heretic, unless you understand how she understands the term, which is:
something that has at its centre an impulse to disrupt any and all efforts to reduce into simplistic dualisms our experience of life, of God.
This spoke to me because at the core of my experience, my Christianity, is the need to continually break the barriers of the sacred and secular divide, being able to live a life that is whole, no matter who is watching or what I'm doing. She also quotes, early on, Paul's passage on neither male/female, Jew/Greek, slave/free - mainly to say that these are false, temporary binaries, both then and now.

If you expect her to continue quoting scripture to explain why it's Biblically justified to be LGBT+ (or queer, the umbrella term she uses), you'll be sorely disappointed. Instead, she uses her life and her experience, the reality of her lived life as a Christian and as a lesbian, to point and say that this is who I am, this is my identity, and God loves me. Which is true. You cannot deny that.

She also redefines "Pride," acknowledging the traditional Christian definition of pride as a destructive sin, an excessive self-esteem and self-sufficiency, but using instead the queer definition, which is about "healthy relationship with Self, Other... and transcendent reality," and involves "a reciprocal dynamic in which one's sense of self-worth feeds and is fed by relationships with others." In many ways, what Edman does in this book is translate basic Biblical theology and knowledge into queer terms, most of which are usually misunderstood because we are not part of that community, drawing parallels between progressive Christianity and queer community experiences.

Edman doesn't go into specifics of how a queer should live as a Christian - frustratingly and admirably - because, in the end, Christianity is a path - a pilgrimage, if you will - into the arms of God. Urging her to do so would feel rather voyeuristic, and falls into the trap of defining people only via their sexual expression. It comes back to that problematic system we have made of grading sins, as if one were worse than the other. The reader can guess, though - her casual references to sex and partners, her celebration of casual grinding, her final story of breaking up a community due to her own failure and affair - that she is much more on the liberal end of things; I am much more conservative in these matters so I would disagree on this point. And yet, as I said, she does not give any firm answer on these questions (pressing questions to the heterosexual, I suppose, rather than to the queer community) so I cannot catch her out in any explicit fallacy or heresy, if I were so inclined.

But I am not.

I am no stranger to self-hatred, and if the gradual opening of the Church to accept queers into their communities to tell them that they are loved is a help, I am all for that. In Chapter 5 - Scandal, Edman says this:
Pointing to that cross wasn't an accident, or an odd literary choice. [Paul] was telling his audiences, the people in his churches, that it was impossible to ignore the cross - and very specifically the scandal of the cross - and fully understand what Jesus was up to.
Again and again, she comes back to that central point that most of us have forgotten, in our comfortable Christianity and our simplistic, dualistic view of the world: the cross itself, in its day, was a scandal, not a pretty bling-bling or badge of honourable membership. This draws me back to what Craig Greenfield says in Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness in a Broken World, that:
Jesus Himself was a friend of the broken... not just an occasional visitor.
Whether queerness is something you're born with, whether it is a genetic aberration, a mental disorder, or just a quirk of nature - we don't know. I don't know if we'll ever know. It's not our place to judge. Throughout this book, Edman is calling us - Christians - to remember the scandal of the cross and the Jesus of the Bible who ate with the sinners and who did not throw the first stone. She opens up a doorway, a bridge, into understanding the lives of the people we've branded as queer, as abnormal, showing us that they are just like us. Human. Fallible. Broken. Desperately wanting love. She ends by inviting authenticity and hospitality, asking us once again to ponder what it truly means to do justice.

Our mission in life is not to maintain the status quo. It's not to protect the sanctity of Us the Church from the evil of Them the Other. It's to stand in the gap for those on the outside and to help them reach sanctuary. It's
From a list of laws
seeing all our flaws
To the blind, the lame,
we are all the same
Our High Priest has come
to make us all as one in Him
- 6 - Inside His Presence; Question Mark; Neal Morse
You may ultimately disagree with her stance. I don't know. I think that I do not want to definitively decide one way or another because I would rather have someone come to God because of the existence of this community - the ability to find like-minded people who will fight the fight of faith with him/her/hir - than to turn them away "until they repent". Because if God had done that to us, none of us would be saved.

I'll just leave you with this last quote:
Be the priest, who simply by standing in a place of vulnerability, invites someone else to enter the sacred.

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Monday, 16 May 2016

#musicmonday: Jealous Kind | Jars of Clay

So this came up on my playlist.



I built another temple to a stranger
I gave away my heart to the rushing wind
I set my course to run right into danger
Sought the company of fools instead of friends

You know I've been unfaithful
Lovers in lines
While you're turning over tables with the rage of a jealous kind
I chose the gallows to the aisle
Thought that love would never find
Hanging ropes will never keep you
And your love of a jealous kind
Love of a jealous kind

Trying to jump away from rock that keeps on spreading
For solace in the shift of the sinking sand
I'd rather feel the pain all too familiar
Than to be broken by a lover I don't understand
'Cause I don't understand

One hundred other lovers, more, one hundred other altars
If I should slow my pace and finally subject me to grace
And love that shames the wise, betrays the heart's deceit and lies
And breaks the back of foolish pride

---

I haven't thought about this for a long time.

But God's love is jealous.

It wants you. ALL of you.

Not the 50% you're willing to give, or the 80% you think you could maybe afford.

But all of it.

And we don't understand that.

Because we always need to keep something back for ourselves.

Friday, 13 May 2016

#fridayflash: Oh, Jace (Fleshing Susie Monahan #2)

I trusted you once. Looked up to you. You were so smart, so good-looking. Focused. I could see that you would go far. I listened to your dreams, the things that you wanted to achieve, the illnesses you would cure. When you spoke, I soared with you. You do that, you know.

And then she came and all she was to you was research. Nothing more.
Not a person. Not a soul.
Just research. Data.
Even when she was breaking down, even when her body failed her and all we could do was give her comfort – you didn’t care, did you? All you cared for was what she gave you. Those precious numbers on your graphs, the symptoms, the problem areas, the side effects. She was all that, but not a person. Not to you.

But you can’t live on dreams, can you? I can’t. Maybe you can. I don’t know. I think you’ve kind of lost the forest for the trees.
I get that maybe you don’t believe in God… in that "meaning of life garbage". I get that you don't have salvation anxiety, for all that she taught you about it.
You don’t have to.


But I wish you’d listen to your heart for once. 

If you still have one.

---


Thursday, 12 May 2016

The #atozchallenge reflection post

Eh, I thought of not doing this, but oh well.

Posting was not a problem this year because I pre-wrote everything by mid-March. During the month of April, I even revised everything to be included in a booklet to be released later this month (still working on formatting and proofing).

I started off well with visiting and commenting and all, but mid-month, practices for W;T started, and work on the ArtsEd archives kicked off and there was the ChargeUp Conference and then I went off on my vacation to England... so yeah. I pretty much failed on the visiting part, though I'll try to get on to it soon. (sigh)

So goal 1 achieved, goal 2.... failed. I somewhat survived the a to z challenge!