Sunday, 29 January 2012

fireplace: Raymond Feist's Macros and why God doesn't seem to act

In Raymond E. Feist’s The Darkness at Sethanon, Macros, Tomas and Pug are travelling the Hall between worlds, trying desperately to get back to their world in time to save it from the Dragon Host when Macros drops the bomb that bringing back the Valheru, Ashen-Shugar, as Tomas was a desperate risk - almost as dangerous as the Dragon Host itself. He goes on to say, “There is no single being, save the gods, who could oppose him.”
“Then,” said Pug, “why haven’t the gods acted?”
Macros laughed, a bitter sound, and waved at all four of them. “What do you think we’re doing here? That is the game. And we are the pieces.”



Isn’t that what we do all the time? Blame God because things aren’t working out? Saying there is no God because of the way the world is right now? 

Where is the evidence of God? If he were real, why are people sick, suffering, hurting, dying? Why are there earthquakes and disasters and tsunamis? Why is there war and genocide? Starvation and waste? Why doesn’t this world make sense? Why are there abused children? Why is there evil?
And yet at the same time, the reason we are here, the reason we remain is to be His hands and feet.

Interestingly, an echoing thought was quoted in church yesterday, from Blaise Pascal:

Through prayer God gives humankind the dignity of limited causality.
Why doesn’t God act?
Because we aren’t. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

#fridayflash: Matthew

I never liked Matt much. He was brash, cocky, insufferable. But he was Rob’s second. I guess that counted for a lot because that was probably why I consented to date him a couple of weeks before he died. I would have liked to think that he was being reckless because I dumped him, but that’s just crap. He was always reckless. Well, it definitely wasn’t depression or some secret death wish. Matt thought too much of himself for that. He was more likely trying to prove me wrong because I told him he was a spineless little idiot. Which he was.

Our little gang consisted of Robert, Matthew, Brian, Elizabeth and me. Frankly, in most cases you wouldn’t be far wrong to think that Matt was our leader. He was always the one out there making the statements, being obnoxious and, in some cases, getting us out of trouble with his fast talking. You could say he was our public face.

If you put Rob and Matt head-to-head, they’d probably come out pretty even, except that Rob had brains and used them. He was saucy, of course, but he knew when to keep his head down. That’s why he stayed in charge. Matt just liked to be the centre of attention, even if it got him into unnecessary trouble. He only did things he thought would impress the people he looked up to. I know. I dated him, remember? So what if it was only for a week? You learn a lot about a person in a week of close contact. He was always worrying about what Rob thought about him, checking out of the corner of his eye whether he had Rob’s approval. Hell, I was his girlfriend, he should have been looking for my approval. Ask him to do anything when no one was watching, he’d just scowl at you and say it wasn’t worth his time.

But anyway, Rob thought highly of him. So when Matt asked me out I said I’d give it a try. I figured the boss must have seen something in him to make him his second, right? I did warn him upfront that I didn’t like him much but he could give his best shot to persuade me otherwise. He started off by bragging about all himself. Like how he cheated on his tests to get his perfect scores. And how rich daddy was. And how he’d had just about every girl in our class already. Way to turn on the new girlfriend, no? We were fourteen. I told him to his face that he was lying. He asked me to prove him wrong. I pointed out that he barely talked to any of the girls in class and never had. “Don’t need to talk to have sex,” he said. “You need to talk to invite them out first,” I replied. He just brushed me off and went on about the fights he had won. I don’t know. You want a guy to be manly and macho, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into him picking fights, right? Especially since he was normally bigger than them.

So when Rob wanted to do something I didn’t want to, I thought why not just tell Matt to ask him to change his plans just once? I mean, they were tight, weren’t they? He stared at me as if my brains were oozing out of my ears and said, “I could never betray Rob.” I was thinking, betray? What were they - lovers? So I told him forget it. If he was such a loser I would be better off dating Rob than him, right? Why settle for second best? Dumped him.

Week after that, he goes off on some crazy dare and dashed across the busiest road in town. I think he likely gave the poor truck driver a heart attack. He survived that one. I started to think it was high time I stopped hanging out with these nut jobs. A week later, while I’m still figuring out how to make my grand exit, he climbs up to the roof of our four-storey school building because Rob says he’s chicken. The boy doesn’t have sense. He just took the dare, slipped off and it’s lights out.

For a while after that everyone was tip-toeing about Rob as if he was so fragile because his best friend had died in a freak accident. You know the craziest part? Rob never shed a tear for him. 


---

So there's progress on the musical script, still tentatively named "Daniel". We really need a better name, but I suck at names. Meh. Played around with Stage32 and put up the project just for the heck of it. Check it out here. Status is, I've fleshed out the adoptive parents a little bit, and worked on Scene 3 where Daniel gets sent to the dead boy's elite, rich kid school. Couldn't keep calling him "dead boy" or "ex son" so I christened him Matthew, or Matt. This works out into a song and dance about what Matt used to be like and why Daniel doesn't measure up and because they're a rowdy bunch of kids, Daniel gets roughed up, leading to Scene 4 where Dad goes, this never happened with MY son. Or something like that.
Then I figured, I really have no idea who Matt is (not like I know that much about Daniel either), so I got one of the girls in the gang, Diane, to pick him apart. Diane sounds likely to be sympathetic to Daniel because he stands up for what he believes in, which is the opposite of what she hated about Matt. Maybe will work that out a wee bit in Scene 5. Scene 5 will be the closure for the first act, I hope, with some kind of truce between who he's supposed to be and who they want him to be. I don't know how much resolution I should put in yet. You kind of want something of a cliff hanger or a touching thing right before intermission, right?

Now if Daniel Chan Sr, our wonderful songwriter, will get round to giving me some music and lyrics, that might really help the progress of the script. I currently have blocks of areas that go "Cue song: [random title]. This should talk about xxxxx and lead up to xxxxx". *cue major HINT here* I'm thinking of penning some lyric ideas in, but I don't really know how to work that out.

Monday, 23 January 2012

tong terongtong chiang! Revealing... Oracle!


Hoookay. So first of all! Happy Chinese New Year! A pleasant reminder *ahem* to those of you who are married *ahem* to give me angpow!

Explanations? Well... it's the first day of the Chinese calendar (self-evident, right?) and tradition is that married couples will give children, including unmarried juniors (I'm younger than you, definitely), an angpow (red packet) containing money. YES MONEY. Give me your email address, I will give you my paypal account for you to transfer me some cash. ;)

So ANYWAY, not really in line with CNY (the above was a side-track), I present to you...

The ORACLE Cover Reveal Mystery Tour!

As the countdown begins, the body count rises.

With London gearing up to host the Olympics, the city doesn’t need a serial killer stalking the streets. They’ve got one anyway.

Leaving a trail of brutal and bizarre murders, the police are no closer to finding their latest murderer than Detective Inspector Kurt Lancer is in finding a solution for his daughter’s disability.

Thrust into the pressure cooker of a high profile case, the struggling single parent is wound tight as he tries to balance care of his own family with the safety of a growing population of potential next victims.
 

One of whom could be his own daughter.

Fingers point in every direction as the public relations nightmare grows, and Lancer’s only answer comes in the form of a single oak leaf left at each crime scene.


So, it's a mystery story, right? And it's a mystery tour, right? SO there's a mystery attached to this very special cover reveal, one that YOU, the reader, must solve - in return for a $20 Amazon voucher! Head on over to the Mystery Tour headquarters here to find out more...

---

About J.C. Martin 
J.C. Martin is a butt-kicking bookworm: when she isn’t reading or writing, she teaches martial arts and self-defence to adults and children.
After working in pharmaceutical research, then in education as a schoolteacher, she decided to put the following to good use: one, her 2nd degree black belt in Wing Chun kung fu; and two, her overwhelming need to write dark mysteries and gripping thrillers with a psychological slant.
Her short stories have won various prizes and have been published in several anthologies. Her debut novel, Oracle, will be released by J. Taylor Publishing on July 30th, 2012.
Born and raised in Malaysia, J.C. now lives in south London with her husband and three dogs.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

#fridayflash: Water dragon

It was smaller than she expected, roughly about the size of a big dog. It stared at her with liquid eyes, a deep blue against its baby blue form.

“You… are a dragon?” she asked.

“Yes,” it seemed to bristle.

“But, you’re so small, and… transparent.”

It heaved a great sigh, “It’s not my fault I’m a dwarf.”

The statement refused to wrap itself around Cassandra’s brain. “You’re a dragon, aren’t you? Not a dwarf? Those have beards, right?”

“Yes. I’m a dragon. Something went wrong with my genes somewhere, so I can’t get any bigger. It’s called dwarfism.”

“You’re not a baby dragon?”

“I am eight hundred and eighty eight years old,” it grumbled, “and you ask me this? To answer the rest of your unspoken questions, I am male, as far as you humans understand it, and I am semi-transparent because of my nature.”

“Nature?”

“I am a water dragon,” he said, shaking his mane a little, “and as water goes, it’s never entirely solid. Well - except when it turns into ice, which will only happen when I’m dead.”

“When you die you turn into ice? Like a sculpture?”

“Kids these days…” the dragon mumbled to himself. “Get on with it then.”

“Get on with what?”

“Whatever it was you summoned me for. Or do you mean to say that you made me come all the way here for nothing?”

“I didn’t… exactly… well. Oh, I did, didn’t I? I… I don’t know what I did.”

“Did you or didn’t you?”

“I’m not entirely sure. How did I summon you?”

“You wished me into existence.”

“I - I was only dreaming.”

“Fine. So if you need nothing from me, I’ll be going then. A lot of things to do back home you know, with this new year coming and all that.”

“Oh yes, I know. It’s - it’s your year, isn’t it?”

He seemed to shrug irritably; impatiently.

“Sorry to have disturbed you then. Really sorry.”

“There is something you want, isn’t there? Ask. I don’t have all day.”

“May I touch you?” she said, immediately following her question with “what’s your name?”

“Yes, and no, I won’t tell you.”

Cassandra stretched out her tiny chubby fingers towards the dragon, touching the cold, slippery scales. He was beginning to fade out of her sight, but with a sudden glance at her, he shrugged a little, allowing the scale she was touching to slide down.

“Keep it. It may bring you luck.”

She caught the shiny thing in her hand, gazing at it in wonder. By the time she looked up, he was gone.

“Thank you, dragon!” she called into the emptiness before her. The sky seemed to wink.

---

Well, this was meant to be Fridayflash, except that by the time I got the time to sit down and write past the first paragraph, it was already Saturday. Night. (No fever).
I find dragons fascinating, especially the fact that there are so many different kinds of them.
There's the dragons, called up by imagination, from Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Light. Well, I think it was that one, or at least the next. Also, the fire-breathing ones that Sam Vimes' wife (I forget her name? Lady something) breeds.
There are the dragons in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series, who straddle between two worlds, where their name summons them, where the Word is Power.
There is Smaug from Tolkien's The Hobbit, drawing on old lore of fire-breathing dragons who hoard gold, protecting their soft underbellies with a coat of jewels and gold.
And there are the dragons in Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, bonded to humans and elves, almost wiped out. Murdered.
And there are the dragons in Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles, contrasting with the stone dragons in the Farseer trilogy.
And in older lore still, the slaying of the dragon, a feat for the knights in shining armour.

And in almost all these stories, varied by the ways the writers have imagined them, these dragons are huge, immense, vast. They breathe fire, and their morality is not our own. They are wise and crafty. Sometimes they are beyond morality, living past the human limitations of good and evil. And you never, ever gaze a dragon in the eye.
Lore, how I love thee.
And I much prefer Western Dragons to Chinese ones, because they have huge impressive wings. Shallow, I know.
Waiting for this to come out in Feb. Not sure when it will hit our shores. And another long wait for the paperback. Sigh.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Malaysian Girls - how ugly can it get?

I managed to catch Malaysian Girls while it was showing at Penangpac last Sunday.

Blurb from the KLPac site:
MALAYSIAN GIRLS lures you into the exciting world of a beauty pageant. The heady mix of glamour and talent is enticing in itself. Throw in the drama that unfolds when there is such a coveted title to be won and such differing notions of beauty together with Mark Beau de Silva’s humorous writing, you are in for an absolute treat.
The musical pits two camps against each other. On one side you have Serenity Billion – the person who started the Malaysian Girls pageant to seek and define a uniquely Malaysian ideal of beauty. On the other side you have the flashy Ray Sanjay and the go-getting Jasmin Hibiscus who have bigger and bolder ideas. Just how ugly can it get?




[Hmm, now I know what's missing from the programme book. The storyline. I mean, like the detailed storyline, not the promotional blurb/writeup that's on the webpage and the flyers.]

The story:
The musical started with a slowish scene "The Runway Funeral" - where Serenity Billion (Tabitha Kong) and the girls mourn the death of the founder of Malaysian Girls, Cikgu Samsara (I think that's how it's spelt? Because it doesn't appear anywhere). Okay - straight off, this wasn't the brilliantest of ideas. Most musicals start with a fast number because you really want to capture your audience and dazzle them before they get restless. If you need to start with a slow one, it has to be something that really packs a punch. So the girls mourn the Cikgu's death, you have a sad scene, touching really, but it doesn't grip you because you don't know who the heck anyone is yet and why this matters. Then the Cikgu's brother, Ray (Aanantha), turns up along with his go-getter PA, Jasmin (Siti Farrah), and her two sidekicks, Gucci Lim (Freddy Tan) and Bata Tan (Alvin Looi). Ray and Jasmin offer to buy over Malaysian Girls from Serenity, and she refuses to sell. Conflict #1.
Serenity rouses herself and continues to train the girls.. Ray and Jasmin (more of Jasmin, really), trying to impose her idea onto the whole thing, imports in an Australian to train the girls. Sydney Belle (Zoe Taylor) is the quintessential supremist white chick, as evidenced by her song (in a later scene), "If Your Mama Ain't White". She does impress with her aria, "O Mio Babbino Caro", though. The girls soon split into two groups - Serenity's "Malaysians, remember your traditions" group and Jasmin's "you must try to be white" group. Conflict #2.
The competition heats up and Serenity's main supporter, Lin Lin (Anrie Too), switches camp all of a sudden. There was totally no build up to this, or if there was, it was just too unnoticeable. Actually, the divide of the girls into the two camps was rather fuzzy as well. You don't see it happening until suddenly they are led off in two different directions.
There's a hilarious Q&A scene, Serenity gets into another upset (she's always just upset, isn't she?) and berates everybody. The story ends with everyone declaring how Malaysian they are and everybody is reconciled with everybody else. (Okay, I glossed over some parts, but then again, if they ever stage this show again or sell the DVD, you don't want to know all the details, right?)

Other notes:
- Gucci sings this really ridiculous Hokkien/English rap-song thing, "My Name is Gucci" in Scene 5, "Here to Stay". Well, I found it funny even if I didn't quite understand everything he said - I couldn't help wondering how this caught on with the KL audience whose Hokkien knowledge is generally even more non-existent than mine (as pointed out by Yuin-Y). The problem with this was - it didn't really lead anywhere. You would expect a slightly bigger role in the plot to be played by Gucci, since he has this song all to himself, but he doesn't do much anywhere else. It felt as if this song was put in specifically to garner local Malaysian crowd support (hey, give them something really local) in a Namewee-type copy/parody.
- The little love-scene thing in "The 7th Day" with the song "What is this feeling" was also a little put on. There hadn't been any chemistry between Serenity and Ray before that - Ray was always just flashily flirting with all the girls or being led around by Jasmin and Serenity was almost always upset/angry at something - so it seemed rather cheesy to put in this love scene. It felt like a prerequisite scene, just because you HAVE to have a love scene. At least there was a semi-resolution to this in the end.
- Thumbs up to the Jai Ho sequence. That was pretty. :)
- It was great that they used songs written by local singer/songwriters. The music was nice, but it wasn't quite catchy or memorable enough to get stuck in your head. Also, some of the lyrics were just a little confusing. None of us really got what Lin Lin was trying to sing in "Beautiful to me" right before she jumped ship - we had the feeling that she was actually trying to console Serenity, but then right after that, she betrays her. It also felt as if the songs were picked for musical, rather than being written for it, if you get what I mean.
- I suppose it was partially intentional, but the constant switch between  Malaysian English and more formal English (in sentence structures as well as accents) was a little annoying.(Gah, too many Yasmin Ahmad wannabes? Just because it works in her films doesn't mean it works everywhere else)
-Siti Farrah did an awesome job as Jasmin. She was the most real character (and consistent) in the whole musical. Alvin's Bata Tan was one of the attention-grabbing ones as well, though I'm not too sure if it was for a good reason!

I kind of get where they were going with this musical, what with all this I Am Malaysian sentiment going around and I liked it. The ending was really touching. I could've cried. It just felt that little bit too disjointed, between the beginning and the end. 

But overall a great effort all around. Despite all my gripings, I did enjoy the show.

Read Yuin-Y's review here

Sunday, 15 January 2012

fireplace: and who are you to judge, really?

If you put sin out of your hand and far away from you and let not evil dwell in your tents; then can you lift up your face to Him without stain [of sin, and unashamed]; yes, you shall be steadfast and secure; you shall not fear.
Job 11: 14-15 (Amplified)
The question we always ask is why good things happen to bad people and why bad things happen to good people. It’s understood that good things are supposed to happen to good people. You’re supposed to be rewarded for your faithfulness, for your good deeds, for your righteousness. So if you’ve suddenly faced a spate of bad luck it would seem that you must have messed up somewhere.

In a way, whilst what Job’s friends say to him aren’t wrong in itself, it begs the question: if my conscience is clear, who are you to judge and point fingers at me, saying that I am cursed because I have sinned? Are you any more righteous than me? Do you claim to know the mind of God? [And yet, many times, Christians claim just that. I don’t know how. Maybe I’m just not *spiritual* enough.]

It’s said that God causes the sun to shine on both the righteous and the wicked… and the rain to fall too. Shit happens. It does. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. And yet, you get these sanctimonious, religious people, coming around to say “Repent! You’ve sinned!” [Or worse, “you don’t have enough faith!”] If Job, having been known to be a righteous man, has sinned, wouldn’t you think he would be the first to admit it and repent? But that’s the way we are - something bad happens, so we claim the right to judge and say “it must have been your fault!” But face it anyway. Judging by God’s standards, none of us can claim any form of righteousness, no matter how much good you’ve done, how much karma you’ve accumulated, or how much people praise your godliness.

Maybe I’m patch-working stuff together here, but doesn’t it also say that God only allows trials He knows you can withstand? He knew the depth of Job’s faithfulness, the strength of his faith and He also knew the right time to step in and show up. I think I’d like to believe in this God; the one who’s big enough to let you question him, the one who says great, “you have questions? Let’s talk about it.” I’m not in the camp that says that every thing that’s bad is a test or trial of your faith either. That’s really implying that life is a huge exam you have to suffer through and you may fail at any time. Which is sad. And stressful.

What I think is - we’ll never really know for sure here. Sometimes it could be a test. Sometimes it could be the the natural outworking of things you’ve done in the past. Sometimes… sometimes things happen to show you who you’ve really become. Or who knows? It might really be God’s judgement on you. But in admitting that we do not know [the whys and wherefores], we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, and then we are truly in a better place to help, rather than hinder, our fellow man.

Friday, 13 January 2012

#Fridayflash: Daniel

He watched them, the couple he was to call his parents. His adoptive parents. He had been adopted. He almost pinched himself again, just to make sure he was real, breathing. What were the odds? A fourteen year old boy, two years orphaned, and suddenly adopted. They had told him, when he first stepped into the orphanage that no one, no one, ever adopted any kid older than twelve. Don’t you have any other relatives who would take you in? That would be better than here, surely. Parents liked toddlers. Babies. Nobody wanted a young man, almost full grown, with a mind of his own, a life that they couldn’t understand and didn’t want to, probably. But here he was.

He exhaled, realising that he had been holding his breath. You’re answering my prayers aren’t you? Or is this a new hell?
“Don’t you want to go up and rest, dear?”
Mom. He was supposed to call her mom. “Okay, mom.”
“Siti will take you up,” she smiled at his uncertainty. “Don’t worry, you’ll fit in in no time.”

He followed the maid up the stairs (with banisters!) into a room as large as the orphanage’s sitting room. He was still inspecting the posters on the wall when she came into the room with a soft knock.
“This used to be his room,” Mrs Lee said.
“I…”
“You looked so much like him, I couldn’t help it.”
“Oh.”
“You like it, don’t you?”
He nodded mutely, even though he hadn’t heard of half the bands on the walls.
“Well. I… I better let you have a rest. You’ve had a long day. Good night.”

She left the room almost as abruptly as she had entered it, leaving a bewildered Daniel still staring at the spot where she had been standing.
What have I gotten myself into?

---

I'm (supposed to be) working on a script for a musical theatre piece my church wants to put up in August. We've already hashed out the story line, except for the ending - the one we have still doesn't seem strong enough (to me, at least). I wrote about 2 scenes for it about two weeks ago (when I was free) and figured I still don't know enough about the characters to be able to flesh it out properly, so I wrote this very short short. Which makes the mother seem a little delusional and creepy, but she's not supposed to be.

I'll expand on it a little later when I have more time.
Except time is something I don't seem to have anymore.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Getting confused over time zones

Some time last night I received an e-mail from a triberr mate, saying their e-book - The Prophecy (An Estilorian Short Story) - was free on Amazon for a day. It was late, I was tired, I ignored it until the next morning when I woke up and started wondering - is it still "today"? (It turned out it was, thankfully.)

The song Jet Lag by Simple Plan featuring Natasha Bedingfield comes to mind...

This song has been banging around in my head for a while now, expecially the chorus:
You say good morning
When it's midnight
Going out of my head
Alone in this bed
I wake up to your sunset
And it's driving me mad
I miss you so bad
And my heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged

I'm not specifically missing anyone, just to be clear. I'm just merely jetlagged from trying to figure out the timezones when I communicate with people. It's just one of the peculiarities of my blog and my twitter feed where majority of my tweeter/blogger friends are from the US, who are generally something like 12 - 16 hours behind where I am in Malaysia. And I get confused.
I don't know if I confuse people, either, by posting say, a Friday Flash on Friday morning, when it's Thursday evening elsewhere. This did become a bit sticky for Susan's Open Minds launch. There was a tiny bit of confusion as to when I should post... 1st Nov my time or 1st Nov hers? Or... Oh well, it was sorted out so no biggie.  
On an aside, I was also wondering, do the dates of my posts appear according to my time or according to the reader's time? Hm.... 

The other thing about living on the wrong side of the world, is not being able to buy e-books off Amazon. Sigh. Especially when they're being "sold" at "Free" for a day or two. Well, for those of you who can, The Kayson Cycle is free for 3 days from since erm... yesterday. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

fireplace: lessons from Terry Pratchett

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God - the free life! - even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. [James 1:25 - The Message]
It's only the first week of the year, and I have to admit that I haven't been very successful in keeping my resolutions. On top of a predicted extremely busy week at work and falling sick, I had this sudden urge to re-read all four of the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A hat full of sky, Wintersmith, I shall wear midnight). I love the way Pratchett defines his witches, especially Granny Weatherwax, in terms of doing Right and giving people what they need. He talks about responsibility, especially for those who have the ability. Responsibility and Right isn’t what we normally talk about these days.
In “The Wee Free Men,” when Tiffany is facing the Queen, and is almost losing, she remembers that the Fairy Queen had said that all witches are selfish. It seemed to be a little bit of a hopeless, depressing situation,
But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts’ said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine! I have a duty!
In “A hat full of sky”, Tiffany is starting to grumble about the endless things she needs to do for people who can’t help themselves, which have nothing, in her opinion, to do with witchcraft. Granny Weatherwax sets her right with this:
"Now that's what I call magic - seein' all that, dealin' with all that, and still goin' on. It's sittin' up all night with some poor old man who's leavin' the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin' their terror, seein' 'em safely on their way... and then cleanin' them up, layin' them out, making 'em neat for the funeral, and helpin' the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets - which is, let me tell you, no errand for the faint-hearted - and stayin' up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin' on your door 'cos his wife's havin' difficulty givin' birth to their first child and the midwife's at her wits' end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again... That is the root and heart and soul and centre of witchcraft, that is."
The thing is, sometimes following Jesus should be that way. We read James 1 in Cley today, and verses 21 - 27 talks about being doers of the Word, and not merely listeners. It talks about taking action on what we know, what believe, saying that pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep yourself unspotted from the world. It’s talking about being fruitful, in attitude first which leads to action. It’s not the action itself that saves us - the saving has already been done - but sometimes it’s the action that centres us, that reminds us that this world is not all about us.
We are selfish people, but not quite selfish enough. We think in terms of our own comforts, our own needs our own wants, and we forget that the world is ours. It’s not ours to play with and discard, but it’s ours for us to be responsible over. It’s ours to own, to say that all these, all these who seem lesser than us, who seem smaller, poorer, weaker than us ARE ours. Their lives and dreams and hopes are also ours, and whilst we do not save them ourselves, we help them to the saviour. If each of us were to feel the tiniest bit of this kind of ownership, this kind of selfishness, our offices would be a better place to work at, our country would be a better place to live in, our world would be a better place to be.
---
On an aside, I've also been thinking about generations and how they affect the family and society. If you look at it, families have been breaking down. Children don't really know their family history, or their grandparents as much as they used to. Life is not as knit as it used to be, where legacies were passed down from generation to generation, attitudes are not being passed down adequately. People use to know what their family stood for, they used to care about a family name, about doing things right, and doing things well.
An interesting thing I stumbled across while reading the Bible, was this whole passage in Genesis 5, where the genealogy of Adam is laid out all the way until Ham, Shem and Japheth. And being the numbers person that I am, I randomly started counting the ages and when each person was born, and came to this astounding realisation: Adam possibly lived up until the time that Methuselah was born
That's Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahlalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah. Eight generations. I may be wrong, of course. I could have counted it wrong, because I was counting in my head whilst lying on my bed, and of course you don't really know how accurate these years are.
You do know that "Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him home with Him", and this is purely conjecture, of course, but I was thinking - what if, it was because of little Enoch, sitting at great-grandpappy Adam's feet and learning about actually physically walking with God in the garden of Eden that brought him close enough to God to make that possible?
I'm probably the worse person possible to talk about family and generations. But it was just such an insightful moment. Imagine, if you were able to see the lives of your relatives for eight generations - to see the full impact of God in their lives, when you were old enough to understand and relate, to have gone through the same cycles they have gone through and still be able to sit down and talk about it over dinner, and not have to conjecture, I wonder what mom/dad would have done - how would that change your life?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

#bookreview: In Her Name: Empire by Michael R. Hicks

In Her NameIn Her Name by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reza Gard, an orphan from House 48, is captured by the Kreelans, a race of female warriors with blue skin, fangs, and razor sharp talons, as part of a grand experiment to discover if humans have souls. Immersed in the brutal conditions of Kreelan life, Reza forms a new Kreelan identity in his struggle to survive, slowly gaining the grudging acceptance of his captors. However, time is running out and Reza must prove that he has a soul or be killed after his seventh and final Challenge.

The book started off pretty slow - whilst much of this back story is important to the novel as a whole, most of these could probably have been dealt with as a flashback within the story proper. As it was, the first few chapters dealing with Reza’s life as a human felt rather like a prolonged prologue, with the real ‘meat’ only starting with his wary dealings with his guard and tresh, Esah-Zhurah.

Despite the rocky start, I was captured by Hick’s writing as he navigated the fragile teen through the complex, rigid, and unforgiving Kreelan society. Within the 491 pages (on iBooks), he fleshes out realistically a harsh and yet beautiful world, a culture so alien from our own - one trying to survive an ancient curse and pursuing release through an ancient prophecy.

This is a story of a boy growing into manhood on a world not his own, a society that doesn’t understand or accept him, and how he survives through sheer determination, grit, and guts. This is also a story of learning to understand different cultures, not just by knowing the way they do things, but to understand the reasons behind them.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, Confederation.

View all my reviews

You can get a free copy of In Her Name: Empire from Michael R. Hicks' website or you can buy it from Amazon.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

fireplace: keep me from falling

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Jude 1:24-25
Isn’t it great to remember that even as we step into a new year we step into it knowing that we know the ending? Doesn’t it resonate with you that no matter what challenges this new year brings, He can and will keep you from falling?
It doesn’t matter what 2011 has been to you. It doesn’t matter even if you felt that it was a bitter defeat, even if you know that you failed to achieve everything you wanted to. Because we know that in the end, there is victory. These dreams He has put in you does not just die alone, unless you let it. Unless you tell Him that it is impossible. Because with Him all things are possible.
Opening a new book implies trust. It says I’m ready for a new adventure. I’ve read the blurb, I’ve previewed some chapters, and I’m ready to jump right into it, right now. You trust the author to give you something fresh, something new, something exciting. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, but you can’t enjoy a new book to its fullest if you’re still thinking about what the old one says. And this new year is a new book for you. It’s when you stand on the edge and say, “I trust in God’s promises”.
Saying this isn’t easy. It would be easy if all I was looking forward to was the same ol’ same ol’. But it’s not. I don’t want to stay the same. I don’t want to linger where His presence has passed by. I want to stop living in the place where we complain about what used to happen, or what it’s supposed to be like, without actually moving to make it happen. And I’m not saying “make it happen again” because I don’t want an again. I don’t want to be stuck searching for the same old anointing when there’s a fresh one waiting. I want to dive into the future, into the adventure, into the streams of life.
And the beginning of it all, is surely, to let go. But I have a fear of falling, of free falls, except that falling is where He catches you. Because faith, the only condition of our hearts that is capable of receiving the grace of God, goes by these words “against all hope, in hope believed”. And when you reach your lowest point, you remember the father who cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
It’s a new year. And I believe, for me, it’s a year of pushing on, of stretching, of becoming. I don’t know exactly what the road will look like, though I believe there will be some trust falls required. It’s scary, really, until I keep in mind that He is able to keep me from falling.