Monday, May 29, 2006

Joining the Syndicate

I'm slowly getting the hang of this blogging thing (I think). At least I'm fooling some people, as I just signed up to help with the Christian Fiction Syndicate. What is this, you ask? Anything with the word "syndicate" in its name can't be good, right?

The CFS was the brainchild of TL Hines, and was created to boost a book's profile in the blogosphere. With multiple blogs linking to the same book, it bumps up the book's listing on all the uber-geeky sites like Technorati and what not. Brandilyn Collins was the focus of the last blog tour, and she describes what it did for her book Web of Lies here and here.

It is an awesome idea and I was excited to participate...except one little hitch. I signed up last week, and it turns out that the next tour is RIGHT NOW. It is for The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel. Since I had such little lead time, I unfortunately didn't get to read the book or find out much of anything about it. However, just by linking to it, I still fulfill the requirements of the Syndicate. Also, I unabashedly point to Becky Miller's post on this book to give some useful info on this book.

I should be able to be a full participant next time...should. :P

In Need of a Curse?

I just harkened to a website called Ship of Fools thanks to the Decompose blog by Mike Duran. Of course, the first thing that caught my eye was the "Biblical Curse Generator". Another random phrase maker on the internet, but one that is straight from the mouth of Old Testament Prophets. How can that not be as fun as turning into a pillar of salt? My favorite one was:
Harken, thou wayward winebibber, for you will have more mother-in-laws than King Solomon!

I don't know if the rest of the site is cool, but I couldn't resist that!

Friday, May 26, 2006

How to Get Spoiled

I've been waiting for a while to discuss the name of my blog: Spoiled for the Ordinary. What on earth does that mean? I can imagine that it sounds fairly strange. Sounds like a little kid who is terribly picky, doesn't it?

"Spoiled for the ordinary" was a phrase I first heard and experienced when I was with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). I went to their Discipleship Training School at their base in Lakeside, Montana when I was 18. I spent 3 months in Montana learning about who God is and what He is all about. I learned about His character and ways. I was with a group of 30+ people: men, women, singles, families, kids, and couples. Then we split into two teams and went on a 2 month outreach. My group went to Thailand, and the other group went to Taiwan.

These 5 months changed my life. I went there as an insecure boy, and left a renewed man. More than ever, my focus was on God's will for my life and being a disciple every day, with a special interest in reaching people for Him. I experienced a world greater than my own little niche, and saw the great need of people outside of America, and how blessed and over-indulged we are here.

YWAM was an awesome opportunity, and I would never trade it for anything else. However, to be spoiled for the ordinary, one does not specifically attend one of their numerous schools and outreachs (although it would be incredible if you could). Any program or time where you can spend devoted to God's purposes for an extended period of time ought to give a similar result.

The reason I was spoiled for the ordinary was that I walked with God every day. He wasn't someone I thought about only in a 15 minute devotion in the morning, or on a Sunday at church. He was real and alive to me. More than that, I depended on Him, along with my teammates, in making it through the day. We had a plan when we got to Thailand, but we quickly learned to follow His plan.

We depended on Him for guidance and provision. Half of my team did not have the funds 2 weeks before we left. All but one received the necessary funds and were able to make the trip. The one left behind? He joined us in 3 days, having his own particular journey with God that touched him where he needed it. We realized that life is an adventure in faith that Jesus calls us too. He says that He only does what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). We can do the same thing: listen to God each day and go where He directs us.

After living like this, "ordinary" life won't do. Sure, I have to go to work, pay bills, and have dental work done. But I know that there is so much more to this life. We can live this adventure. Once you've tasted God, REALLY walked with Him and see Him move on your behalf to provide, open doors, keep you safe, and make you victorious, then you won't want to live any other life. You walk in the same physical realm as everyone else, but you see another world as well. Your desire is to make that your reality.

You've been spoiled. Ruined for the ordinary.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Career Goals

My oldest is finishing up kindergarten, and today the local paper published "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up: Class of 2018". There were doctors, princesses, football players. My boy wanted to be a policeman, which was fairly common. The kids would also list what items they needed to do their job. Bandaids, dresses, badge, police car.

I'm going to keep an eye on his classmate though. This little guy had a rather...ambitious goal.

He wants to be "King of the World".

  1. The whole world (Makes sense)
  2. Crown (Check)
  3. King's jacket (Check)
  4. Magic stick that throws fire at bad people (This kid is only SIX???)

So for all my friends out there who fancy themselves dictators, emporers, or evil overlords - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Just "Borrowing"

I was catching up on the Charis Connection blog (see links) when I came across a three-part interview with James Scott Bell on The Three Rules of Novel Writing. Under part 2, I came across this:

Some writers, like a James Michener, do a ton of research up front. Others, like Stephen King, wait until the first draft is done and then see what needs to be fleshed out.

I like a method in between. Enough research to write knowingly, then when I come to a place in my WIP that needs detail or depth, I'll leave a comment in my document and then pick a time to research it out more. I do this so I don't end up writing a long scene that is completely offbase.

I just thought that was an excellent suggestion. Thank you Mr. Bell, for sharing your little trick! If you don't already, check out the Charis Connection regularly - you'll be encouraged if you're a writer.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fantastic Finish

I thought I was done talking about fantasy, but I had a couple more thoughts bouncing around in my brain that needed release.

Why fantasy? It's not for everyone. My mom always said she had "no imagination", and had no interest in something like LOTR. However, there are people who crave this sort of thing. Their imagination is so strong that they almost need a whole new world to pour over, to immerse themselves in and become part of it. I can be this way - it's why I like Star Wars so much. My mind gets so busy that I can be all over the place if I don't have something to feed it to keep it satisfied.

Why Christian fantasy? First of all, there is a saying that you "feed the good dog". We have a noble and a base nature. If we feed the base nature, then that is what comes out. It is important that if we need something to feed our imagination, that we make good choices. I'm not advocating having picture perfect fantasy lands that are like a lousy Disney movie, where there is always a happy ending. I want stories that are gripping, that raise questions, that give me meat to chew on mentally through the day. It's just that books can do all that without having to glorify the base elements of mankind.

Also Christian fantasy can express the mysteries of God in a way that more "realistic" fiction can't. My feeling is that Western Christianity is like our culture - very rational, logical, and oriented toward lists and details and having a "box" to put everything in. We are scientific - we like to be able to explain things and have it make sense. Well, I don't know when the last time you read the Bible was, but God doesn't always make sense. He operates in a realm that is far above our own; He dwells in unfathomable glory, but keeps relationship with His fallen children here on Earth. Western Christianity can try to explain away the mystery and wonder in our faith (whereas our Eastern brethren can readily appreciate them because they live more in tune with the spiritual, but that's another post :D).

Fantasy can explore and appreciate it because it doesn't have to make sense. Fantasy operates in a world that is not our own, and doesn't have to play by our rules. It can then expose us to the transcendental, to the God whose ways are higher than our ways. He is not explained, but He can be experienced in a way that we can get - maybe just a little better than we do now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Song of Albion

Today on the Christian Fantasy literature tour, I wanted to talk about Stephen Lawhead (I feel like one of those PBS hosts). He is considered by many to be one of the premier fantasy writers in Christian fiction to be sure. He also has a following outside of the CBA from my understanding.

I read the Song of Albion series around 1998 or so. It starts with The Paradise War, and continues in The Silver Hand and The Endless Knot. It follows the adventures of a graduate student at Oxford who is drawn into a Celtic fantasy land and slowly over time becomes the hero and ultimately, its savior. It is a powerfully written narrative. The first and third books are written in the perspective of the hero Lewis/Llew, while the second book is written from the perspective of the trusted bard Tegid. The first two books really drew me in. I can still recall my own imaginings from these books, 8 years or so later. Unfortunately I found that the third book was more plodding in pace, but in pushing through to the end I was rewarded with the connection evident in all three books that was skillfully woven into the story the whole time.

I've read more of Stephen Lawhead's books, including book one of the Pendragon cycle that chronicles the legend of Arthur (these books would also appeal to the fantasy reader as well). It seems that Lawhead can be spotty - I eagerly jumped into the 2nd of the Pendragon cycle only to really lose steam from the previous narrative. I noticed this pattern in a historical trilogy he wrote as well. However, he remains an excellent fantasy author, and I do recommend the Albion series.

Like I said earlier, I haven't read much in the genre of fantasy. I don't know why, as I've enjoyed all my forays into them. I really admire those writers of fantasy and science fiction, because it takes so much imagination to conjure up whole worlds and mythologies associated with them. I have trouble enough keeping my own real world plot threads from tangling! I have appreciated being part of the Christian Fantasy tour, and there are several books that have been highlighted through other tour participants that are now on my radar (where I'll find time to actually read them is another matter). Be sure to check out the other participants listed in the preceeding couple of posts. I noticed one more blog I haven't linked to so far:
Sharon Hinck's blog
And we also had Karen Hincock join in with a post (unofficially).

Unless I get any other bright, fantastical ideas, it will be back to normal in the next post. Whatever that means...

Monday, May 15, 2006


The first Christian fantasy book I read as an adult was Oneprince. It was a very gripping tale, with a young prince thrust into the kingship and trying to save his kingdom from darkness. It had talking animals, an amazing escape, and the search for an unlikely ally. Unfortunately, I didn't get to read the ending!!! Apparently it was meant to be a two or three part story, but it must not have sold enough to justify continuing. So the lousy publisher let people hang out there with a serious cliff-hanger. Boy, it was a good ending. I waited and waited for the next book, seemingly in vain...

The good news is, from the looks of things the version on Amazon has is the "full edition". I hope to get it some time and finish the adventure I started back in the early 90's. Has anyone read the full version? I'd like to hear from you if you have!

Looks like we have a couple of new additions to the tour:
The Jerkrenak's Den (of course!)
Jim Black
I can't believe I didn't highlight Becky Miller's blog (although I did link there)
Becky Miller's A Christian Worldview of Fiction
LaShaunda's See You on the Net

Tomorrow I will look at a prolific writer in the fantasy genre.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Tour of Christian Fantasy

I hang out at a blog and discussion board called faith * in * fiction, oh, about daily! This weekend I was priveleged to join in a "blog tour" promoting a focus on Christian fantasy literature.

Say what?

There are a group of us spending a few posts this week discussing Christian fantasy. This genre may seem to be the realm of wizards, dragons, elves, and magic, and some may argue that it is not an "appropriate" read for Christians. Well, we have all probably heard of a couple of little books: you know, Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. As Becky Miller writes in an introduction to fantasy,
In most fantasy types—classic or high fantasy, adventure fantasy, even fairy-tale fantasy—good and evil are defined in rather stark, unyielding terms, based on what the author believes.

She goes on to say:
Fantasy’s first value, therefore, is that it can give voice to a Christian’s deepest held beliefs.
I honestly haven't read much fantasy of any kind recently, besides reading Narnia to my boys. However, I have enjoyed several books in the genre in the past, and I look forward to reading some of the other books that will be discussed in this tour.

The inspiration for this tour is Tim Frankovich's Christian Fiction Review, where he provides a very helpful service in reviewing books to help sift out the must reads from the others out there. Specifically, he did a fantasy focus that is the subject of this week. To be honest, I haven't read any of the books that Tim highlights. *blush* Sorry, but I'm too busy reading suspense to help me with my own sooper sekrit...

I've said too much ;)

ANYWAY, I will discuss a couple of fantasy books that DIDN'T make Tim's list in the next couple of days. In the meantime, please check out the following sites and see what they have to say on this topic!

Insights from Beth Goddard
Marci’s Writer Lee blog
Sally Apokedak’s All About Children’s Books blog
Steve Trower’s Old Testament Space Opera blog
Cheryl Russel Unseen Worlds
Shannon McNear Shannon's Eclectic Musings
For Monday only: Chris Well’s blog

Camel Not Required

You've gotta love the things they come up with.

Caffeine dipsticks

Friday, May 12, 2006

Roamin' through Romans

Some weeks just don't go as planned. Maybe that is why the admonition, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for today has its own troubles" was given. Anyway, doing anything here took a little hit.

I've got some ideas for what to do here. I see some amazing blogs (check out the always growing links on the right!) and what they do. I can't recreate that, and don't particularly want to. I will talk about life, writing, having some fun, and where faith can fit into all of that.

Sometimes I will just talk about faith. I happen to be the adult Sunday school teacher at my church, and we are beginning a series on the book of Romans. Reformation here we come! ;)

I basically am studying the book of Romans in depth for myself, and from that I intend to teach the class. I plan on posting once a week or so just on what I'm getting out of this book. So check back in the future and we can do a little on-line walk through Romans together.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Busted blog

OK, so today was not my day to mess with this thing.

1. My phone line was down all morning, so I couldn't access the net on my DSL line.

2. I finally get on, and realize that the last major post I did totally mucked up the formatting and knocked out my whole right side. Well, I spent my last half hour trying to fix that without success. Grrr. So now the post is in purgatory until I can figure out how to fix the formatting.

(Oh, I did also spend a few minutes there watching the new Halo 3 trailer online. Wow...)

Anyway, hopefully I'm back to regular programming tomorrow.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Proverbs 14:26

He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
And for his children it will be a refuge.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dare You to Move

I dare you to move 
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before
- Dare You to Move

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Stars looking at a planet, watching entropy and pain
And maybe start to wonder
How the chaos in our lives could pass as sane
I've been thinking about the meaning of resistance
Of a hope beyond my own
And suddenly the infinite and penitent begin to look like home


First of all, what can you say about a rock group that can get words like "entropy" and "penitent" in the same verse? Wow! :P

The chorus talks about everyone being so lonely, but when the author looks at the stars he sees "someone else". I suppose that this could be any 'higher power' out there, but anyone from a Christian viewpoint can see that what is out there speaks of a true Creator. Really anyone should be able to do that. This context helps us understand the 2nd stanza here.

How often do we resist what is the best for us? I have a toddler, and he can be quite stubborn - even when I'm trying to do something for him. But if he has it in his head that things aren't going just right, then watch out! Looking beyond ourselves so often lifts us up out of the rubble we muck around in and helps us to get up and walk with a little dignity.

I get excited just thinking about these lyrics. How many times have we heard the same message, but this comes across so fresh! If only I could write with such tightness and imagery.


That is the process though. We keep on keepin' on, looking at the stars.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Beautiful Letdown

I mention "writing" in the title of this blog. I have an interest in writing and have been working on improving my skill in that craft. I was thinking about how hard it can be to get the message you want across in an artful, meaningful way that doesn't come across as hitting people over the head with it.

I think songwriting may be one of the hardest things to write well, because you have to combine the lyrics with good music and get your heart poured into about 3 1/2 minutes of song. I want to look a little bit at the lyrics of Switchfoot, since I was recently at their concert (see below). These guys are amazing in what they pack into their songs.

We are a beautiful letdown
Painfully uncool
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures, and the fools
What a beautiful letdown
Are we salt in the wound
Hey, let us sing one true tune

This is a stanza from The Beautiful Letdown. This speaks so much in such few words. (Of course, we're looking out of them out of complete context, which is always important.) As the kingdom of God, we have a dual nature of being redeemed creatures that are beautiful to our Creator, but we are sinners who aren't able to live up to our high calling. I often hear it said that we put the nails in the hands of Jesus each time we sin. That's hard to get across in a song, but "are we salt in the wound" just sums it up in an image we can all relate to. We've all fallen flat in our attempts to succeed, to be holy, or just to try and make it through the day without totally blowing it. It is a paradox that God sees us beautiful in all the ways we let Him down. But the wonderful thing for us is, we can still pick ourselves out of the dust and lend our voices to the "one true tune".