In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair

Christie at Whistling in the Dark is talking about her favorite character: Jo March. Jo March is my favorite second favorite character, second to, of course, Anne of Green Gables. Christie talks about stealing some of their magic, and I agree. We want part of their magic. That’s why we dream, why we read, why we act, why we watch movies or plays or musicals.

I want to be Anne because I love her whimsy and her candor. I love the child who wasn’t afraid and the woman who never lost her childlikeness. I love that she embraces life and always loves right where she is.

Let’s start a club, a what-character-do-you-want-to-be club. It could be like Halloween, except better.

Who do you want to be? 

March's Glimpses

March’s Glimpses will be going out soon! This month’s free giveaway is an audio book (mp3), At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald. From Hovel Christian Audio:

"In this Radio Theatre audio drama adaptation of George MacDonald’s
classic story, a beautiful woman known as the North Wind blows through
a small village in Victorian London, and everyday lives are
mysteriously enveloped by a power and a glory. Along the way, she
visits a poor stable boy named Diamond and takes him with her on her
journeys. At the Back of the North Wind explores the place of death in
our lives, social injustice, and our deep need for love and forgiveness.

"C. S. Lewis, author of the classic Chronicles of Narnia
series, said of MacDonald, ‘What he does best is fantasy–fantasy that
hovers between the allegorical and the mythopoeic. And this, in my
opinion, he does better than any man. MacDonald is the greatest genius
of this kind whom I know.’"

In addition, I have an interview with an eye doctor who spends his time
traipsing across poverty-stricken areas providing free eye care and
glasses, a short story by yours truly (that’d be me!), and a devotional
on the Church as a city on a hill.

If you haven’t signed up and would like to, you can do so with the
nifty form just to your right. Remember, when you sign up you get a
free Bible study tool.

Book Thoughts–Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

I just finished Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and needed to come get out some of these thoughts swirling around in my head. I started talking about it on Christianne’s blog because I see parallels in the book to so many ares of the Christian life. It’s one of those books that you could pick up a dozen times and get something different out of it because you’re in a different place in your life every time.

It’s not a simple allegory. It’s not even a metaphor. It’s a story rich with metaphors. It’s like Lewis held a prism up to Truth, and it shot colors and light all over the room. You don’t know which one to follow first.

Lewis takes the story of Psyche and Cupid and pulls out Truth–a god who fell in love with a woman and a woman who fell in love with a god and the suffering they endured to be reunited. Lewis recreates the story with who I think is his most sophisticated and well-developed character, Orual.

What can I say about Orual? She’s lovable, pitiable, hateful, jealous, loving, comforting, mothering, spiteful. I am her and yet I hate her and love her and understand her and beg for her to change.

And then there’s Psyche, so full of joy and yet so willing to give it up in order to redeem Orual.

The story is written from Orual’s perspective, who takes up her pen to lodge a complaint against the gods who took Psyche, her beloved sister, from her. She tells the story, and Lewis pulls us into her point of view–her love and her sorrow. And though there are times that you can see Orual’s fault and you want to yell at her and tell her no!, there are also times when you’re so ingrained in her head that you never see how she failed until she learns it herself in the end. Ah, the brilliance of the book.

Lewis weaves in elements from the original myth in surprising ways. You see them and you think, what are they doing here? They belong over there. And then when you come to the end, it all makes sense. Can I say it again? Brilliant.

It’s a story about love and redemption and the Christian life. You are in need of redemption, and then you are God’s conduit to redeem another. You are fighting those who tell you to walk by sight rather than by faith, and you are the voice that’s a stumbling block to your sister.

Right now in my life, I’m Psyche trekking up the hill to this unknown death. I’m scared. There was so much promise. So many people said so. But now I’m being tied to this cross. I don’t know what’s next. At the first of this year, I told you about my most difficult prayer. It’s a prayer of insignificance (there were all these lovely comments on it encouraging me, but alas, those are lost to my old blog). And this insignificance at it’s heart is a death-to-self. Deliver me from service of self alone, as the prayer goes (from The Book of Common Prayer).

I’ve posted discussion questions for this book that you can steal for your own book club or interact with on Intersection.

Genesis

Inspired by Debbie at Goodthoughts, who shares a little bit of her creative process, I started a discussion on Intersection about the creative process, especially the beginnings.

Why not share with each other how we get started, what brings brush to canvas, words to page, fingers to piano?

Share how you get started

Where's Your Fudge?

I’ve taken to making my sundaes like McDonald’s. Do they still do that? Leave a thick layer of fudge at the bottom of the ice cream cup as a reward?

I spoon a tablespoon, maybe two, of Braum’s hot fudge into the bottom of my bowl, heat it up, and add Breyer’s natural vanilla bean ice cream.

The hot fudge mixes in with the ice cream. You can’t help but grab some in a spoonful, but the real treat comes at the bottom, when a gooey chocolate mess with a little bit of melted ice cream awaits you. Oh, how I love that gooey chocolate mess! I anticipate it and prolong it at the same time, the same way you do the end of a good book.

This got me thinking about the kingdom of God. It’s mixed in all around us–grace and love and beauty. But we’re not to the bottom of the bowl yet. When we get to the bottom of the bowl, now that will be a world full of grace and love and beauty. It will be the epitome of chocolatey gooey mess. A recreated, redeemed, revealed earth. Maybe God will fill a lake or two with hot fudge.

I think about this a lot–the future earth. After all, that’s where my hope is. But as much as I think about it, I forget that I only have tastes of the hot fudge now.

They say that men struggle with finding meaning in work and women struggle with finding meaning in relationships. I won’t deny that I sometimes look for ultimate fulfillment in relationships, but I struggle with wanting fulfillment in work, too. Ultimate fulfillment.

And it ain’t happening.

Not to say that God doesn’t give me a taste of fulfillment, that I don’t have beauty and grace and love now in what I do. But there’s still something missing. I can work and work and work and still not be where I want to be with my writing and speaking. Sometimes I want to be there because I want to see it glorify God, to see it further His kingdom. Sometimes I want to be there because wouldn’t that reflect well on me? Look at me, everyone. Look at what I did.

Disgusting, isn’t it?

I have these mixed motives because I’m not fully redeemed and recreated, just like the earth. We wait and groan together.

And someday we’ll reach the bottom of the bowl.

(Of course, this metaphor is imperfect because the whip cream goes on top–oh, wait. Maybe that was Eden. We finished that layer quickly. Or it melted away. Whichever.) 

Just like Christmas

It came this morning!

The dog barked and barked. Good dog, I said. Now stop. She didn’t stop. I went to the front door, and she was attempting to push her nose through the bottom corner to get at whoever was on the other side.

The mail lady.

Which means one thing! My book is here!

That’s right, folks, my copy of My Name Is Russell Fink, one of the funniest books on the planet, sits on my doorstep! I tore open the packaging and discovered arguably the best part–the acclaim on the back cover. Just get your copy and you’ll see what I mean.

You should buy it. Here. I’ll help you:

 

So I wanted to leave you with something fun for Friday. I searched and searched for the SNL cowbell skit with Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell. Funny stuff, people. But alas, NBC pulled it from YouTube (boo on them). If you search for it, you can find it on funnyhub or something like that.

Happy Friday anyway!

Book Thoughts–The Shack by William P. Young

There are several books on my mind that I’d like to talk about–Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (though I haven’t yet finished it–there’s so much in there that I may have to take it in chunks), and The Shack by William P. Young. 

I read this several weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it. I’ve made a habit of not saying much about books I don’t like because my parents taught me that if you can’t say anything nice about someone to not say anything at all, but I think here it’s worth looking at some of the strengths and weaknesses.

Couple of thoughts: someone told me that the book wasn’t published because it pushed some theology. After reading the first couple of pages, I suspected that it was more because of the quality of writing or lack thereof. It was very blah and kept me distant from the characters and the story itself until about a third (maybe more) of the way into it. The author wanted to get a lot of information out but doesn’t let us enter into that information. In other words, background informational dumping for a good bit. I think it would’ve been better had he weaved some of this background in throughout rather than unloading it all in the beginning. Or, if he chose to start where he did, to tell it as a story–show, in other words, rather than tell.

Which brings up the question: if someone has a good message, is it okay to skip over the form?

Of course, I think the answer to that is a resounding no! Writing is art. The message is important, but let’s not get lazy. Instead of taking the time and working to improve his writing, the author created his own channels. The writing gets better once Mack gets to the Shack (oy–did I just say that in rhyme?). The only reason I made it past the first few pages was because I was reading it for a friend. Would you build a haphazard house and then live in it? Preach a thrown-together sermon and expect others to respond? Invent a product that works only half the time and expect others to buy it?

I don’t know the author’s background, but he comes across as a preacher, and the book itself sounds like an extended sermon illustration. Genre-wise, I suppose it would fit into allegory or apologetical fiction, neither of which are my favorites. I’m not into overt metaphors in fiction. I want to work at them, think about them, discover them.

Regarding the message and theology: the author, I believe, does an excellent job with what he intends to do–deal with the question of evil and suffering balanced with God’s power and love. He approaches it differently than the Book of Job but still theologically on.

The book highlights the relational aspect of God and skips over the glory/transcendence of God. Most often in the Bible, often we see humans responding with worship and awe (and conviction!) when they come into contact with God (i.e. Isaiah and Job). But characters in the Bible also respond with friendship: the three men who meet Abraham, Jesus and his disciples, the Bride and the Bridegroom in Revelation. So I don’t believe this was wrong.

There are some theologically questionable areas, but I feel like he danced around them rather than coming down on a side. Honestly, a lot of the areas (although not all) are in line with C.S. Lewis’ beliefs, not that that makes them inherently right or wrong. It appears that his beliefs are on the moderate side of Inclusivism (some are saved by Christ that don’t yet know it), but again, he never specifically says this. He makes a comment in one part that the point is not to make people Christians but to get them into right-relation with God. I don’t like this wording, though I see what he’s saying. His point, I believe, is that it’s not religion that matters but relationship. This follows the trend of those who don’t like to call themselves Christians but Christ-followers. My belief: instead of abandoning a name that has a heritage of both good and bad, let’s redeem it. This name has been with us since the beginning (Antioch, to be specific), and I’m not ready to give it up. It means "little Christs."

Regarding problems with the Trinity: A lot has to do with the fact that we, as fallen humans, cannot perfectly imagine or depict the Trinity. Any metaphor or picture will be limited. I’m willing to give some leeway in allegory.

However, some direct problems: the Christology he presents in the book is Jesus is the perfect man who perfectly depended on the Father. While this is true, he emphasizes this to the degree that there’s no room for Christ’s divinity. In fact, I get the impression in the book that the author doesn’t believe Christ is divine or has power.

Second, he veers on modalism. In the book, God the Father has the same wounds Christ has. God the Father was present with Christ on the cross. This is modalism. Christ was abandoned by God the Father–that was our punishment that Christ took on. God the Father, while He sacrificed much by sending His Son, did not have the same role as Christ.

I’d love to get some of your thoughts about the book if you’ve read it. 

Before You Die

Loyal friends and readers, I need your help. In my WIP, my protag has a list: "50 Things To Do Before I Turn 30." She made it when she was 16.

Except I’m having trouble coming up with a full list (and keeping it interesting).

So tell me, what are some things you want to do before you die? 

Cyber-flying

Hi, my name is Heather. And I’m an addict.

Blame Bard Barkat. She told me about all these cool new online communities, and I had to check them out. One thing led to another, and here I am.

I became a member of Helium. You can write articles and post them. I posted an article on Early Christian Art (Exploring the Mind, Body, and Soul Connection: Early Christian Art) on what I learned at an exhibit I went to this past weekend and how it inspired me. Their art revealed their theology of the resurrection, of the body, and of their hope. They took common and even pagan forms and infused them with Christian meaning, which I think we can learn from.

Then there’s Squidoo. I created two pages, both as resource rooms. The first is Memoirs of an Imaginative Theologian, which has links and resources for getting involved in social justice endeavors, for finding arts stuff when you need some inspiration, and for writerly articles and sites I’ve found helpful. It’s my way of fitting together the pieces of me, of who God created me to be. If you have any suggestions for any of the areas (links you know of that I’m missing), leave a note, and I’ll add them.

The second page is Book Club 101. In it, I collect tips from my experience, discussion questions from past Books of the Month, and highlight a book each month. (By the way, you can also discuss the Book of the Month as well as past Books of the Month at Intersection.) It’s a space for people who want to start a book club and need some helps or who have a book club and need discussion questions to steal (both general questions and questions for specific books). If you don’t have one near you and don’t have time to start one but want to share your reading, I’d suggest the Intersection forums.

Then there’s Zimbio. You take your blog posts or write new articles and post them to wikizines. You can add to wikizines already created or start a new one. I’ve found a couple of interesting wikizines there, for example Relevant Christianity and For Writers. Here’s my stuff.

You may have also noticed some new buttons on the sidebar (or you may not have, but I’m telling you about them now). Many of you have been wishing and hoping and dreaming about a L’Chaim widget that you can add to your website or blog to show that you are a loyal fan and share the greatness that is Heather Goodman with the world. Clap your hands three times, and here it is! Click the "Add L’Chaim" button and all your dreams will come true.

Besides that, there’s the Socialize It button. This will add me to your favorite social bookmarking tool–Technorati (although I think I’ll leave the Technorati button up for a little while too), Digg It, Del.ic.ious (or wherever you’re supposed to put the periods), and a hundred others. If it exists, it’s included in Socialize It, and with one click (okay, two, one on this page and one to choose which social bookmark you prefer), you can add me.

And you know you want to add me.

Now can I get my present for the most links in a post ever?

Just another manic Monday

Some of the authors of the Bible used a writing technique called chiasm. It’s where the outside statements work in parallel to each other, coming together and pointing to the center statement as the crux of it all. Like a cross. A1, B1, C1, D, C2, B2, A2.

Or sometimes the middle will be two statements reflecting each other (a D1 or D2).

I like writing techniques.

***

I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I started thinking about the cruise Chris and I are going to take. Then I started thinking what if I fall off the side, and what if I’m saved but in the process am knocked unconscious and have amnesia.

Wouldn’t that be fun? If you have amnesia, you get to live each moment brand new. You wouldn’t know who to hold a grudge against, which regret to mourn, which foods you didn’t like.

But then I thought, no, I’d forget the good things like how much I love my husband’s arms around me, or how to dance, or I’d forget to have my afternoon tea. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to live as if I had amnesia with the bad stuff and a grudge’s memory with the good stuff?

***

We’ve had squirrels in our attic for a long, long time. Chris fills holes he finds where they sneak in. He sets up humane traps with all sorts of fun foods like popcorn with maple syrup. And I pray that God will guide the squrrel into the trap so that the squirrel won’t die but can be set free. But two weeks later, the trap is empty and noises fill the world above our heads. How could they be surviving with no food or water? Then we found a new hole.

One night, I braced myself for the squirrels to come crashing through our ceiling above our bed. They were nesting, I think.

Chris saw one once when he was checking the trap. They startled each other.

Chris keeps filling the holes, but they keep making new ones.

I think the squirrels are winning.

***

My church put together a devotional to go with the Lenten readings. Last Wednesday, we read Mark :29-45 where Jesus heals people like crazy–disease, demon-possession, handicaps. Everywhere he goes they follow. Just when he builds a congregation, he leaves for the next place. It’s a mad Billy Graham crusade. And then Jesus goes off in a monastic corner to pray. The commentary says:

  • "It appears Jesus could learn a thing or two about church growth. At a time of growing crowds and highly effective ministry, Jesus disappears. Rather than pressing forward with a building campaign or organizing small groups or making His sermons available on the Internet, Jesus seeks out solitude to pray."

That stuck with me.

***

Jesus told us to live in community with each other. Communities are messy. They mean mud tracked on your carpet, a glass bowl smashed, a hand printed on your wall.

But that can be lovely too.

***

I get in musical moods. Last week, I was in an 80s mood: Depeche Mode, Erasure, The Clash, The Cure, Guns N Roses, Poison. So I created a youtube playlist. 80s Rock Bands. Every so often, I’d click over to watch a snippet of the video. Guns N Roses had videos from their early days to present. It made me wonder, when did they get old?

***

Did you know that in Greek stauros means "cross" and staurao (with a long o at the last) means "to crucify"? Stauros for the Christians than came to mean specifically the cross of Jesus Christ and then "the suffering/death which believers endure in following the crucified Lord," which means that staurao meant not only "to fasten to a cross, or crucify" but also "destroy through connection with the crucifixion of Christ." As in, our passion for worldly things has been crucified (Romans 7:2). Someone wrote in my Greek lexicon, "the believer who is inseparably united to the Lord has died on the cross to the kind of life that belongs to this world" (c.f. Galatians 6:14).

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