Thursday, August 25, 2011

Conversation on Lewis

This is the transcript of a conversation I had with one of my Twitter followers. It started with me retweeting a quote from a favorite author of mine, C.S. Lewis.

Ted: Christianity if false is of no importance & if true is of infinite importance but it can't be moderately important-CSLewis

R: Lewis is wrong you know. Even if you find the "Christian" in Christianity false, it's still of infinite importance.

Normally, I wouldn’t have started a discussion based on a comment like that. I would have just let it go. But my pastor had just given a talk about having what he called ‘push back’ against the things that oppose us. It was time to put that teaching into action.

Ted: not sure I understand what you are getting at. I think the emphasis is in too many treating it like its moderately important. Christianity doesn't fit into our lives, it takes over our lives.

R: it doesn't have to. You can respect and adhere to the teachings of Christ and not see him as your savior. Good people of other religions (or no religion for that matter) can tell you they respect his word. And in that sense Christianity as a religion may be false to them, but it is still of significant importance.

Ted: Lewis himself answered you: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -‑ on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg ‑- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse."
Then Lewis adds: "You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

or as was said by Kenneth Scott Latourette, historian of Christianity at Yale University: "It is not His teachings which make Jesus so remarkable, although these would be enough to give Him distinction. It is a combination of the teachings with the man Himself. The two cannot be separated."
Jesus claimed to be God. He didn't leave any other option open. His claim must be either true or false, so it is something that should be given serious consideration."

Ted: it comes down to the very question Jesus asked his disciples (recorded in Matt 16:15) "But who do you say that I am?"

R: and that's not a flawed expectation? People can't be good or respectful of Jesus unless they choose to accept him as their lord and savior? You just pointed out why so many people fear Christianity. When the right cries of a war on Christian values, know it is because they chose to demand unconditional surrender and and inability to respect the views of other religions. A dangerous perspective to say the least when others might otherwise respect you and your beliefs. Lewis may have made a reasonable argument, but it doesn't make it right, at least not to someone who tolerates those who might disagree.

Ted: just so I'm clear in my response, tell me what 'respect' means to you in this context.

R: I mean that the guy next door can't admire how you live you're life and not agree with you on religion? I mean the guy next door can't read the bible not as gospel but as a part of a different view of society and choose to follow its teachings in context and that not be enough? When I say respect, I'm talking about both tolerance and a genuine interest in sharing your belief in serving a grander good. Many religions are not that different and yet we bicker on the details despite the messages being the same. Admiring your faith and how you exhibit it but deciding another is for him should be enough to prove Christianity can be seen as false (to him) yet important.

Ted: of course he can admire my life and not agree with me (I hope he does admire how I live my life and it gives me an opportunity to talk to him one day about why I live the way I do.) Of course he can read the Bible and not accept its message (many do, some even within the church.) But Christianity isn't about serving a grander good. It's about establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ himself.

Christianity can coexist and be tolerant with other belief systems. A key component of Christ's message was giving people the permission to reject him. But it will never fit into the pluralistic philosophy you described. Christianity makes two claims, and as far as I know it is the only religion to make them. That it's main guy (Jesus) was dead and rose again and that He and He alone is God and the only way to God. That's why it's so pivotal that its claims be true or not. If its claims are true, it is the only way to God and is of the utmost importance. If its claims are not true, then Jesus lied. While we can appreciate his moral teachings, appreciating the moral teachings of a pathological liar seems a little odd, and I would say that as a belief system it would have much importance.

R: it took me a while to think about this, but...If I concede that you are correct, YOU are the one telling those who don't believe what you believe must conclude YOUR savior must be a madman or a liar. Islam and other religions don't make that claim about Christ, but Lewis et al insist that must be the belief of non-believers. He et al have made victimized themselves and their savior while others refuse to do so. There is a terrible danger in such actions.

Ted: Yes, it is Christianity that recognizes this issue with Jesus, because Jesus himself leaves us no other logical conclusions. What other option is there? We have a man here who has laid claim to being God. If that claim be false, what else can we call him? It's not dangerous, or victimizing Jesus. It's acknowledging what He said while He was here on earth. What I find so odd is that people of other belief systems are so willing to ignore the very claims Jesus made about himself.

And that was the end of the conversation. It was never my intention to try to win an argument. I wanted to learn something from someone who held a different belief than me, and I hoped to teach him a bit more about my beliefs. That is the essence of an exchange of ideas. It is rare to find someone else, especially on the interwebs with the same goal.

I do hope that this conversation may lead to others and that through my example, and my words, I can be an force that attracts people to Christ.

In retrospect, I regret not getting more into a discussion about 'good' people of other beliefs or religions. This is one of the pervasive myths I encounter as a follower of Christ. People have this idea that when they get to the end, all their 'good' will be weighed against all their 'bad' and if the 'good' comes out on top, they will be in heaven. It's so foreign to what Jesus taught while he was here on earth.

The teachings of Christ reveal that no person is good. It's like we are trying to jump from San Diego to Hawaii. Ain't nobody is going to make it. The sad thing is that Christians have decided to beat up on other people because they jumped a little farther. We have disobeyed Christ's own teachings to us about judging our fellow man, and done much harm. It's about to the point where I wish I could claim another word for what I believe. In my profile, I call myself a follower of Christ, which I like better than Christian.

(I also wanted to comment on the quote my twitter follower gave: “When the right cries of a war on Christian values…”  The right is something all together separate from Christianity. Some of my best Christian friends lean considerably left.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Think Sideways: Genre

I was working on my How to Think Sideways class last night. I'm massively behind, but I'm not letting that discourage me from continuing to plug away at the coursework. This week's lesson was about learning the market, and it left me uneasy on many levels.

I used to read voraciously, but I don't read nearly as much anymore. The lesson highlighted the need for me to read more, both in my genre and in others. Which brings me to the whole genre question. As I've talked about before, I've got book ideas that cover many different genres. I wanted the one I'm working on right now, Code Name: Dream Chaser, to be Adult fiction. The problem is, it really is Christian fiction. The main character is a Christian trying to break into professional ministry. Several scenes happen in churches. I love the idea of writing Christian fiction because Christianity is a big influence in my life. I'm surrounded by it culturally, and intellectually. I know it well, even if I don't live it out well all the time.

But I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I already feel stretched beyond my capacity to keep up, and now I need to add hours and hours of critical reading to my already over booked schedule. But this is part of becoming what I want to become. I want to be a published author. I'm not going to relish every part of the journey, but that doesn't mean I can skip the parts I don't like.

And come to find out I should have done all this genre and market research before I started writing. Oops. I took How to Think Sideways to try to improve as a writer, but it seems more and more that I should have taken it before I even got started. Scary thought, maybe I am just getting started. Maybe this first year of taking writing seriously has been little more than preparation (despite all I've written). I feel like I've gotten better, so I wouldn't call it a waste.

The next step would seem to be making a reading list. I've read the Left Behind series, and started the Circle trilogy (it actually now has a fourth book, but I guess its still a trilogy). I loved the Left Behind series. I didn't like the Circle trilogy as much. I need to figure out why. So far, I haven't read anything like my story, but my great fear is that when I start researching Christian fiction, I'll find my story has already been done, and done to death.

Then what do I do? I can't see stopping. I may fail, and fail greatly with this first story, but by Grabthar's hammer, I will not quit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blizzard World Writing Contest

sideimage Blizzard has announced the 2011 Short Story Writing Contest. The 2010 contest was part of what got me started back on writing again.

Last year, my entry didn’t win. I don’t know if it was in the last cut or the first cut. I only know it didn’t make the cut. I would have loved to have known where I placed. Blizzard never gave out numbers, but I estimated (based on total number of words read by their judges) thousands of entries.

I’ve learned much since then, and I’m ready to give it another go. I read over the winning entries from 2009 and 2010, and even beyond improving the writing, I feel like I’ve got a better sense of what these judges are looking for. I’ve even got the beginnings of an idea for a story, but I know it needs work.

In its simplest form a story is a character, who wants something, and has to overcome obstacles to get it. Well, I’ve got a character, and I know what she wants. But right now, I don’t have much in the way of obstacles or conflict. That’s what I’m missing.

The deadline is September 20th, and I’ve still got my NaNo first draft to finish, as well the rewrites on the Unicorn story.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday Six: Work Environment

1. Other than your computer or anything connected to it, what object is closest to you now?

That would be my fireproof box.

2. Extend your right arm all the way to the side: what object is your hand closest to at that moment?

The small trash can I keep near the computer. I mainly use it for bills.

3. Same exercise with your left arm: what object is your left hand closest to at that moment?

That would be a bookshelf filled with books and the boxes my computer games game in.

4. What book is closest to you now?

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Great book, I highly recommend it.

5. Other than your computer, what electronic gadget is closest to you now?

My smart phone. Droid does, don’t you know.

6. And now, an old-school writing question: how many pencils and pens are within reaching distance of you right this minute?

Zero. There’s a container on my wife’s desk about 7 feet away with some, but it’s not within arms reach.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Radical Approach to Prisons

175731utlejljemThis is one of those random posts about the crazy ideas I get in my head sometimes. This one is about prisons.

My home state spends approximately $60,000 a year per inmate in our severely overcrowded penal system. I wonder if we couldn't save some money, while also improving conditions.

My idea is that we take the non-violent, lesser criminals in our jails and offer them a deal. We will pay them $18,000 a year to live outside of prison. The only caveat is, they have to keep their nose clean. They wouldn't have to do anything else. It would be sort of like a welfare check. But break the law again and the $18,000 goes away, and their butt is back in prison. If it worked, it would save my home state $42,000 per inmate.

Would they take it?

I know $18,000 isn't a lot of money to make in a year. It's about half of the median income in my state. It's also approximately what a person on welfare gets in a year.

I'm confident people could find a way to live on it.

Actually, I'd put one more condition in place. I'd give them $15,000 the first year and use the other $3,000 to relocate them. They would need to relocate to a new city. Many people get into trouble because of the influence of their peer group. Getting  them away from that peer group would give them an opportunity to start over, and the $18,000 a year would give them time to reacclimatize.

I don't know if it would work or not, but I would love to see it tried.

Image: Courtsey of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

About Page

Headshot Continue reading at your own risk.

My blog doesn’t have an about page. Time to correct that. I'm going to open up a little bit today, and tell you about the guy at the keyboard.

I grew up and still live in a part of the country affectionately known as the Bible Belt. Raised in a traditional denomination, we were in church every time the doors opened. It was little surprise that I was baptized before my 8th birthday.

As I got towards the end of high school, my view towards church had started to change. It was more chore and tradition than anything real or meaningful in my life. There was no more acceptance, or feeling of belonging at church than there was at school. It was basically just another extracurricular activity.

Around this time, a friend gave me a book called Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This is not a small novel, but I burned through it over the summer. Many of the ideas resonated with me. Ayn Rand was a staunch conservative in most things (free market, taxes bad) but way left on others (marijuana should be legal, abortions legal), and without a doubt, she hated God.

I became intrigued by her writing and eventually read everything Ayn Rand had written. She was an avowed Atheist. I liked her ideas and I wanted to integrate them into my World View, but I was struggling with the whole Atheist thing. I began to research. I discovered many solid intellectual arguments against God and the Christian faith.

When it came time to finally go to college, I had abandoned the faith, church or even calling myself a Christian. I claimed Deism, then Agnosticism, and then full on Atheism.

I found the social life in college that I had missed in High School and partied my way right out after two years. Around this time I started exploring New Age, and Eastern Mysticism. Fascinating stuff, really, Ying Yang, the great Brahma.

I wound up in a Tech School back home and eventually dropped out of that too. I rented a run down little apartment, got a minimum wage job at a Video Rental store, and basically started just living life.

I had already met the person who would become my wife. We actually met while I was at college and we were both seeing other people at the time. But I was immediately attracted to her and would flirt with her constantly. It was so bad we had to be separated into different work areas at one point.

We had kept in contact over the years, and when she discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her, I let her know I would be there for her when she was ready to date again.

She was a Christian and in order to spend time with her, I started going to her church. I knew all the intellectual arguments, being in the building wasn't going to hurt me or affect me any, or so I thought. As we grew closer, I was amazed at how God worked in her life. I started to look around me. The
people I knew who I liked and respected were all active Christians. I said to myself, I still don't know if its true or not, but regardless, it makes 'good people'.

God kept working on me. It came to the point that I wanted in my life what these people seem to have in theirs. But I was pretty sure that once you renounced the faith, that was it, you were done, thanks for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

I talked to people I trusted who assured me that I hadn't done anything that God couldn't forgive. Apparently, he was ready and willingly to forgive me, even for my Atheism, denying he even existed.

I hadn't had all my intellectual arguments satisfied. When I was honest with myself, it was never really about those anyway. It was about control of my life, being able to do what I felt like doing guilt free. Ultimately, it was more about people who I respected and who took an interest in me as a person that convinced me there was something to this Christianity thing.

I made the decision to return to Christ, if He would have me. If not, at least I would try to keep people from making my same mistakes.

I eventually found some great Christian Apologetics authors. Christian Apologetics is the intellectual defense of the Christian faith. My favorite was probably C.S. Lewis. In time, all my intellectual a arguments were satisfied. Each one that I found the answer for only solidified a faith that was already in me.

I've wondered sometimes if my conversion at 8 years old was real, but ultimately that doesn't matter. Today, I claim to be a follower of Christ, and I pray that my life both online and offline reflects that. I'm continuing to grow and learn.

I'm far from perfect, and I mess up more times than I can count. But I know that God loves me and he sent His Son to die for me, and that if I ask, he is faithful and true to forgive my mistakes. He sees me as he sees his own Son, perfectly acceptable to him.

That same opportunity is there for you. God loves you. The Bible says that he doesn't want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to him. No amount of good deeds, or being a 'good person' will do it. He offers the free gift of His Son to you. I know it isn't popular to say, but really it all comes down to your decision. Get on the journey.

If you'd like to talk to someone, my email is on this page or you can 1-888-Need-Him.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saturday Six: Social Media

1. How many social media networks do you belong to at the moment?

Currently, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

2. How many social media networks have you joined, then stopped using because you didn’t care for their setup or operation?

I can’t think of any I joined and then stopped using. Well, I don’t use ICQ or IRC much anymore but those were really before ‘social network’ was even a word. I was never into MySpace. I don’t think I was its target demographic. FourSquare has never appealed to me. If you need to know my location that badly, just call me. Any of the others are just too small for me to be overly concerned with.

3. Which social media network do you use the most?

Twitter. I get most of my news in my Twitter feed now, and it allows me follow celebrities easily without encroaching on their privacy. They chose what and when to post. I can connect to people with similiar interests and still keep a relatively low profile.

4. ?Take the quiz: Are You Facebook, MySpace or Twitter?

I’m a Twitter. Who knew?

5. How do you feel about geotagging networks like FourSquare, where users can post their current locations: cool idea or security risk?

I think it depends on your situation in life. I can’t see it being much of a security risk to me, yet I still don’t use it. If you think your friends really want to trace your every move, let me know where you live, I’m sure we can find a good consoler in your area.

6. If you know a company that you do a lot of business with is on a social network that you belong to, are you more likely to “friend” or “like” them?

Sure. Many times companies will give deals or coupons to their Facebook or Twitter followers. I don’t really consider it spam because I’m asking for it, and there’s a solid chance it’ll be useful to me because these are companies I already do business with.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Developing a Presence

It's good to have friends.

I was getting wrapped around the axle (where did THAT expression come from) about my internet presence. I don't have a very big one, and certainly not as big of one as I used to have in my alter ego as Honorshammer the Paladin tank. Publishers look at a prospective author's internet presence. You need one. I started getting worried that my relatively small presence would be a hindrance when I started seeking publication, but I could tell I was putting way too much pressure on myself in regards to this issue.

That's when I turned to my Writer's Group. This is a group of people from all across the country (and world) that I’m sharing with, learning with and growing with. I posted on our message boards with the issues I was having and a got a couple of responses that were both thoughtful and helpful.

It's tough going from a 1000 hits a day blog like Tami had with Ego or I had with Honors Code to low double digits in our writers blog. But Tami is right. I knew it was time to move on from Honors Code.

Then Maz lifted my spirits when she replied she enjoyed reading about my writing journey on here. I know that comments like that shouldn't have so much impact on me, but at this stage in my journey, a positive comment like that is treasured.

The resolution, for me, came through my twitter feed. I follow @AdviceToWriters. They will send out quotes and links to articles. This quote came from Neil Gaiman, who has written episodes for both Babylon 5 and Dr. Who. That gives him major cool points in my book.

"Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don't 'network' or 'promote'. Just talk.”

Just talk. I can do that. Thanks for stopping by today to listen!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Critiqued!

I put my Unicorn story up this morning and by mid-afternoon the critiques were rolling in. I came home and saw a sea of comments.

I’ve run a gamut of emotions.

First off, I can’t believe some of the mistakes they found. I must have read over this story a dozen times, yet there were obvious typos like ‘the’ when I meant to write ‘they’. How did I miss that?

I feel like an adolescent learning how to drive. I'm swerving from too much description of minutia to too little description of important emotions. I can't seem to find the lane.

My main character didn’t come off quite the way I had hoped and the unicorn stole the show. Ironic that in my initial planning she was little more than a prop.

I’ve dealt with some negative emotions. The critiques have shown me that I still have a long journey ahead of me. Sometimes the path ahead looks so long that I wonder if I’ll ever get there. The temptation to give in, throw my hands, and say to *bleep* with the whole idea was something I struggled with.

But I’ve also had some incredibly positive and encouraging emotions. "

“Overall, the story has great bones.” and “This story has a LOT of potential” were exciting critiques to read. I treasured comments that certain parts were “Fantastic!” and “Wonderfully done!”

The critiques loved my unicorn character. “I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading her!”

I can write a character people love. That’s a positive step. I just need to strengthen my main character and make him as enjoyable as my unicorn.

I am grateful for the detailed critiques these people have taken the time to give me, and I’m learning from every comment. It bummed that I’m only going to get one bite at the apple at this. I’d love to see what they think of the rewrites.

This also gives me a real sense of concern over my NaNo (which has become more of  a NaNoWriYEAR). But I’ll finish that project before I start worrying about that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

WIP and Unicorn Update

Another milestone cleared in my current Work In Progress. This weekend I passed the 40k word mark. My hero has had his whole world collapse on him, and now he's got to try to put the pieces back together and see if he can salvage his dream.

I've also been tinkering with my Unicorn story. The drafting is done and now we have moved to the next stage in the Unicorn short stories. Critiquing. Each of us will submit our stories to the rest of the group for critique. I'm both excited and nervous about this.

It's exciting that it's going to be read. Writing is such a shared art form. The writer is only half the equation. We need the reader to have our art come fully alive. I'm thrilled to be able to share my story with this group.
But I'm also nervous. What will they say? What will they think of this short story I've written. I know I need the critiques. I know its the only way I'm going to get better. But it's still nerve wracking to put yourself out there. I need practice getting critiqued, too.

I really want my story to be good. I just know everyone else is going to write an amazing story. I just want mine to be able to stand up and not look completely out of place. The critiques will help that happen, and I'm ready to learn.

Whatever they have to say, I'm going to take it and apply it and do my level best to learn from it. Thick skin activate. This is going to be hard, but this is the path that leads to my goal. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.