Monday, December 18, 2006

8 Weeks

Though I didn’t realize it until a few minutes ago, today marks the end of my 8-week journey (technically the end was last Friday, but who's counting?). I guess it's not exactly the end. There is much more to go, but it marks the end of the 8 chapters in The Creative Call. Another reason I love this book is that it provides a concluding chapter entitled, “An Artist’s Retreat,” which illuminates some methods for reflecting on what the Holy Spirit has wrought in me through the course of these past 8 weeks. Renee and I are going to be in Anacortes between Christmas and New Year’s and we’re going to have plenty of time for quiet and rest, which will provide the perfect opportunity for the retreat Elsheimer writes about.

So, by the time we’re home from Washington, I should have my thoughts organized and some reflections penned and ready for posting, but we’ll see. I make no guarantees :-)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Crown of Stars

On the recommendation of Orson Scott Card, I went to the library and picked up King's Dragon by Kate Elliott a few months ago, the first book in the seven volume series Crown of Stars. It was wonderful, and the rest of the series has proven to be just as enjoyable. I just finished book 5, The Gathering Storm, and have been having a huge internal debate over whether to start book 6, In the Ruins, immediately, or wait until closer to the early-January paperback release of book 7, Crown Of Stars. I decided to wait until Christmas break, because unlike the other books in the series, In the Ruins is only 550 pages, significantly shorter than the 990 pages of The Gathering Storm. And I don't really like the idea of finishing book 6 only to have to wait a few weeks to read book 7.

This series has been inspirational to me in the writing of my novel. I felt that I had kind of reached a sticking point in my writing, until I started reading these books and the story opened up for me again. Let me explain.

  1. Kate Elliott uses a real setting, complete with geography, people groups, rivalries, and religions. Now that I’ve said this, let me qualify the statement. None of the people, places, or religions have their “real world” names, though they are easily identifiable. This was a breakthrough for me because I had long been considering modeling the setting for my novel on a real world location, but hadn’t really considered using the actual geography of the place. Talk about an eye-opener.
  2. Because she has modeled her fictional world on our real world, she has a starting ground for the world’s history. She can use historical events as the basis for interactions, positive and negative, between people groups in her novels, and she does this beautifully. She acknowledges the conflicts and differences between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, fictionalizing them to great effect. Her history involves the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, preceded of course, by the Ancient Greeks. Using real-world cultures as models provides the opportunity for great depth in the development of their fictional counterparts. She doesn’t have to invent every detail of the cultures because the details are available to any willing researcher, and she certainly did her research.
  3. Despite the “real world” source of the history, religion, etc. it is very clearly a fantasy world of her own invention, and it is perhaps the most engrossing fantasy world I have yet read—more than Robert Jordan’s and George R.R. Martin’s, the acclaimed masters of modern epic fantasy. She has done beautifully what Orson Scott Card recommends in his excellent book Characters and Viewpoint—she has taken something familiar, and questioned it thoroughly until it became something both recognizable and altogether new, altogether her own. This is what I hope to do as well, and reading these books has reminded me that it is possible.

Another plus about this series—every volume has been published. There’s no more waiting for the next volume, hoping and praying nothing happens to the author that might prevent him from completing the series.

I’ll come back and update this post or write a new one in late January after I’ve finished the last two books to give my final thoughts on a series that has been a true joy for me to read.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Creative Call

Today I am embarking on an 8-week quest to breathe life into my writing and into myself as an artist. I have committed to doing the following 6 things:

  1. To read a chapter per week in the book The Creative Call: An Artist's Response to the Way of the Spirit and to complete the exercises in each chapter.
  2. To return to the habit and practice of scripture memorization.
  3. To write at least 5 days a week.
  4. To pray daily that the Lord would be in charge of the changes that will take place in my life as a result of seeking the Spirit’s movement in my creative life.
  5. Seek prayer support through my friends and family.
  6. To believe that a) God gave me artistic gifts, b) God gave me artistic gifts for a reason, c) that He wants me to use these gifts, and d) it’s not too late to steward these gifts well.

In addition, I will try to post my thoughts and reflections on this process on my blog to catalogue what the Spirit is revealing to me about Himself, myself, and His plans for me. Please pray that the Lord would do a great work in me, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

R.A. Salvatore


Tonight I met one of my favorite authors, R.A. Salvatore, author of the Drizzt books and others. We went to meet him and hear him speak at Barnes and Noble at Bella Terra in
Huntington Beach with our friends John and Renée. Quite a few things came up as I listened to him talk and as I debriefed with John afterward.
  • Salvatore said that if I can stop writing, do it. If I can actually stop writing, I’m not a writer. A writer will have stories bubbling up inside and will have to find a way to let them out. Can I stop writing? Have I already, or is the constant feeling that I should be writing what he was talking about? He also said that you can’t be lazy and be a writer, which is something I’ve been wrestling with for quite a while now—I lack discipline in many areas of my life, discipline in writing being one of the most glaring weaknesses in my life.
  • Salvatore said that being told by editors that he couldn’t be a writer was what motivated him to become a writer, which left me with the question, “If feeling the Lord’s leading to write isn’t enough motivation for me, what would be?” What greater motivator exists for me? This seems intimately connected to the dark night of the soul John Coe spoke about two weeks ago. The Spirit is working through a time of desolation in my life, revealing some of my deep places and asking me to let Him in to them.
  • Elements of Salvatore’s life story are similar to mine and I wonder if that is part of the reason his books appeal to me so strongly, that I can see in him a kindred spirit. His view of kids and reading is similar to mine because we both avoided reading until the right books were placed in front of us—fantasy books. In his case they were Tolkien’s books, in my case they were his books.
  • In talking with John regarding the dark night of the soul and the areas the Lord is showing me I’m lacking in discipline, I told him that I’ve learned the truth of Jesus’ words when he says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s true. I want to write and I believe that not only has God gifted me with the ability to do so, but He has called me to do it, yet I can’t and I don’t. Why? Because apart from Him I can do nothing, not even what I want to do, not even what I have a real and strong desire to do. The only thing I am capable of doing on my own apart from Him, and I’m very good at it, is sinning.
  • Part of our freedom in Christ is the freedom to create out of His creation, to participate with Him in His work, just as Adam did when naming the animals. That was not work done on his own, but rather it was work done in Christ.
  • John and I were discussing the value of a writing community like the Inklings for developing ideas and having a springboard to bounce ideas off of. He asked me who I could send my stories to and receive some good feedback from. I hope that Salvatore might be one I can build a lasting relationship with and even have him mentor him as a writer, but the person who stood out in my mind was my dad. I was floored just thinking about how much he would appreciate being invited into this area of my life. He would love it, and he would think it was the coolest thing ever. Now I just need to find a Christian author whose work I truly admire and pursue a closer relationship with him—it seems the only ones I can picture having that kind of relationship with are already dead.

Friday, October 06, 2006


So, over a span of two weeks I had multiple experiences that reminded me that my time here on earth is limited. I will not be here forever, and possibly, I may not be here five or ten years from now. I won’t go into detail on the experiences, but basically they consisted of waking dreams (you know, the ones that are so vivid you’re not sure if you’re awake or asleep) and conversations with people.

All of which I hoped and prayed would serve as motivation to keep me writing. So far, I haven’t seen a dramatic shift, but I continue to pray that I will. I pray that I will move into flurry-mode, writing in any spare moments I can find. I want to develop the habits of life and mind that will allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through my writing, enabling me to write regularly.

However, it is entirely possible that I will be here for many years to come, whatever the Lord wills. I read an article at Wired Magazine, What Kind of Genius Are You? and, while I'm not claiming to be a genius mind you, one of the two forms fits me pretty well. I fit into the mold of the "experimental innovator," who takes a little longer to hit his stride. Galenson, the man being interviewed in the article, says, "But from very early in my career, I knew I could do really good work. I didn't know exactly how, and I didn't know when. I just had this vague feeling that my work was going to improve." Those words resonated deep within me, and I felt they could have been torn straight from my heart and mind.

The article says that if Jackson Pollock, who was a slow-starting experimental innovator, had died at 31, no one ever would have heard of him. I wonder if anyone will ever hear of me.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Psalm 118

Saturday morning I read Psalm 118, and verses 22-29 jumped out at me in a powerful way. In reading them, I saw clearly that they are all about Christ. The most famous is verse 22 which reads, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” Jesus uses this verse and verse 23 to refer to himself in Mark 12. This is not the part that stood out to me though; it is the following verses.

It makes sense that with the beginning of this section focusing on Christ that the rest would too, but for some reason that never registered until this morning. So, when the psalmist writes, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” he is referring to Christ. The context of the verses points specifically to the death of Christ—the day of His crucifixion at the hands of the people He came to save. Christ acknowledges that the day of his death is the right time. In John 17:1 he says, “The hour has come.” We should rejoice in this day—the day of Christ’s crucifixion—because it is the day that our salvation was won. The psalmist continues to say, “O Lord, do save, we beseech you” in verse 25. And that is just what he is doing; He is saving us through the blood of Christ—He is saving us today.

Verse 26 is shouted by the people on the day Christ enters into Jerusalem and Christ says that if the people had not shouted it the stones would have.

Verse 27 is where the message really hit home. “The Lord is God, and He has given us light; bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” He has given us light as John 1 so beautifully says. The Light walked amongst us and yet we didn’t recognize it—we didn’t want it. So what did we do with the Light? We nailed it to a cross. Christ was the festival sacrifice, the necessary sacrifice to atone for sin and cleanse the people from their wickedness. The sacrifice was made, not by us, by God, by the Light Himself. The sacrifice was not one that needed to be repeated, it was sufficient for all eternity. And through that sacrifice we have life.

Verses 28 and 29 are shouts of praise to the God who would sacrifice His own Son that we might have life and have it abundantly. It records for us the only fitting response to this great act: worship. Heart-felt, uninhibited worship. “You are my God and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” And that everlasting lovingkindness purchased our salvation, proving His goodness to a people who deserve only wrath.

You are my God, and I worship you. You are my king and I praise your glorious name. Great are your works and great is your power to save. You have redeemed me from the pit, and you have done it for your name’s sake. Thank you Lord that I am a recipient of your grace. Thank you that you have called me to yourself, so that I, unlike so many, have not rejected the chief cornerstone. Thank you that even when I did not call to you for salvation, you gave it. I did not beseech, but still you saved me, and there is nothing I did to deserve it. Thank you Lord God. Thank you.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Walking on Water

In her book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Madeleine L’Engle writes that we “are coauthors with God in the writing of our own story.” And proceeds to quote Laurens Van Der Post’s writing about the Kalahari Bushman: “The story was his most sacred possession. Without a story of your own to live, you haven’t got a life of your own” (165).

This is why I am so thankful our Grace Group is doing life stories every week. Not only does it help us to know each other better, it helps us to know ourselves and the role we have played in coauthoring our own life story. Certainly God is in control, but he has also given us free will to make decisions, whether to follow his will and plan or to reject them and forge our own misguided way. But regardless of how misguided we are (or how onboard we are with God’s plans) we are coauthors—cocreators—with God in this life.

L’Engle writes that cocreation is our God-given purpose. We were made—fearfully and wonderfully made—to cocreate with our creator. We were made to be makers ourselves, but never were we intended to make and create on our own, but always to partner in the act of creation with the one whose creativity sparked this world, this universe—existence itself—into existence.

But is cocreation possible if we don’t know the creator? Yes. I have been deeply moved by images of the eternal in the works of artists and authors whose lives do not reflect obedience to Christ, whose works do not reflect the eternal, except in those few places where the transcendent overshadows and permeates the temporal, bringing reality where only illusion was intended. It is a testimony of God’s sovereignty when I can only sit and wonder if the artist knew what he accomplished, what he tapped into. Though, to be honest, he is only partially responsible, since he was not the only author but rather the cocreator, though he likely never even knew it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Myth and Reality

I’ve been reading a book by Rolland Hein called Christian Mythmakers and it has been a true blessing as it has confirmed a lot of what I have been thinking over the course of the past 9 months. One of the more powerful passages I read was something from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. In it Chesterton writes:

“My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery . . . The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticized elfland, but elfland that criticized earth.”

The nature of myth as Tolkien and Lewis defined it is a story that has at its core eternal realities and truths. It allows the eternal to break through into the temporal, just as it does in reality every day. Reality is not simply what we see around us, it is the eternal present within the temporal. Any other view presents something other than reality—it presents fiction.