Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Should We Question?

I just read an interesting post at a blog called Christ and Pop Culture. I honestly don't listen to much contemporary music so I'm not familiar with the artist they're discussing, David Bazan. But apparently he has recently renounced his Christian faith and has released an album of songs that reflect anger with God and doubts about His motives.

The author of the article, Chase Livingston, goes on to say he wasn't surprised because 1) it seems to be happening to a number of his friends lately, when the questions and the doubts get to be too much, and 2) he had always heard questions and doubts in Bazan's music even when he was a confessed Christian. In fact, Livingston says he had liked Bazan's lyrics for that daring to pose realistic questions that a lot of Christians wouldn't admit to. He thought that posing questions could actually strengthen faith. Now, however, he's wondering about the difference between questioning that builds up or tears down.

I find this discussion to be really pertinent as I search for the kind of stories I want to read--and write. I sometimes feel like the Goldilocks of the literary world. This book over here is too sweet and unrealistic in the way all problems are explained and everything works out for the good guys who believe in God. No one has questions that can't be answered. Then this one over here is so full of questions and doubts that it leaves me feeling depressed and miserable. There are publishers whose lists of guidelines are unbelievably rigid--down to the point of not allowing Christian characters to say the word "darn" or play cards. Then there are groups espousing faith and literature who seem to believe that books just aren't any good unless they poke and prod at every belief.

I've noticed, even in the Bible, that sometimes those who question are rebuked by God--and sometimes He responds in a gentle manner and comforts them. So when should we swallow our doubts and keep them to ourselves, lest we hurt the faith of others or even offend the Lord? When should we share our questions and be transparent and discuss them openly?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stray Parrots?

Is there any such thing as a stray parrot?

This fellow was perched on a car in the parking lot of the restaurant we went to tonight. He was also calling "hello" to passers-by.

I figured no one would believe this if I didn't get a picture. Sorry it isn't clearer, but first, I took it with my cell phone. Second, when I tried to get close, he flapped his wings and squawked at me.

Maybe he was a low-tech car alarm.

Ah well. Rose McCauley recently commented that you never know what you'll find on this site. Apparently that's true!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Give-aways and this and that

Hi, all. A few juicy tidbits today.

First, Rose McCauley did a blog post today listing some of her favorite blogs that do frequent give-aways, particularly of books. So if you like free stuff, you might want to head over there and take a look. If you leave a comment, you'll also be eligible to win a copy of The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry, which you may remember received a glowing recommendation on this site.

Rose mentioned our blog as one that does give-aways, and I am thinking of starting one up very soon. Probably won't be a book give-away this time. Maybe something a little bigger. Does that intrigue you?

Third, I posted late last week, an entry called "Gods With a Small G," but since I had drafted it weeks before, it has the old date and may not have shown up in your updates. It did show up on my facebook account and generated some lively discussion there!

Speaking of which, are any of you other blog friends of mine on facebook--other than the ones I've already made connections with? (You know who you are.) My account is under Robin Johns Grant if you want to be friends. (Now I feel like I'm in kindergarten.)

Well, that was totally random today, but I'm a little under the weather, so that's about as coherent as I can be. Anyway, as Rose said on her post, you never know what you'll find at this site!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Aging Together

An interesting and cool element of social networking sites, such as Facebook, is finding those we went to school with or hung out with as kids or teenagers- specifically, those who are our age. One thing I was realizing today, after finding many friends recently who fit into this category, is that these people have a kinship with me that others don't. They know what I'm going through with this whole aging thing. I have many friends and family members who are closer to me than these old friends are now, as time and distance have estranged most of my old schoolmates. But though I have closer friendships with them, they may be quite far from my own age. Even if they are older and have been where I am now, they are not going through it at the same time.

Sometimes I feel a real connection to these old friends because of this, because, as I've recently found out, aging ain't easy. We hit the same milestones around the same time. We have varying degrees of the same wrinkles, and we have the same basic bodily challenges. Many of my old friends are raising their kids right now, and I see them commenting to each other about their kids and relating to what the others are going through. We'll be hitting our mid-life crises (is that the right word?) around the same time, theoretically. And then, I suppose, one by one, we'll drop off. Sorry- this isn't meant to be morbid, but that IS part of the point. We are on the road travelling at the same rate. We share a special knowledge of what each other is going through right now.

Thanks to the internet, we are able to connect in a way that previous generations of estranged childhood friends could not. And that connection can be helpful if we use it to support each other. What a fascinating age we live in, as the world continues to shrink!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Last week at church, I noticed two different mentions of "desires" in our church's order of worship, even though the sermon didn't specifically deal with that.

The first was a line from a prayer from The Valley of Vision (p. 354): "I praise you for the throne of grace, that here free favor reigns; that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus; that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest and find You ready to hear, waiting to be gracious, inviting me to pour out my needs, encouraging my desires, promising to give more than I ask or think."

The next lines were in the hymn we sang, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty":

"Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what he ordaineth?"

I made a note at the time that the two views of our desires struck me as different. In the first, the Lord is "encouraging our desires." The picture from that prayer rather reminded me of going to see Santa Claus. (I know the Puritan who wrote it would be shocked, but I'm in confession mode here.) The Lord is sitting there on his throne, waiting for me to climb up on his knee and read out my list. Then he would pat me on the head and promise me to deliver, assuming I was a good girl. I doubted that view was right, but I have to admit there's a part of me that likes that picture.

But the lines from the hymn...well, those seem to say that God's in charge. He knows what's best and he ordains it. We're going to get what we need from him, even if it isn't necessarily what we want. That sounded more true to me, but did I like it as much?

I put the church bulletin aside for several days, then pulled it out again just now. And this time, I didn't see much of a contradiction. The other lines of the hymn that I didn't reproduce here also talk about spending time with the Lord, praising him, drawing near to him in his temple. In both cases, we're spending time with God, getting so close to him that we know him. We love him and praise him and want to please him. And through that process, we should arrive at a point that what we desire for ourselves is the same thing that he desires for us. Then our desires are "granted in what he ordaineth."

I wonder daily how close I am to that point. I have a lot of desires, I must confess. God answers one prayer and I immediately start whining for something else, like a spoiled child.

A lot of my desires have to do with accomplishments. I want those achievements bad! And when I seem to be stuck in place, I sometimes find it hard to be the person God wants me to be. So are those achievement goals what God wants for me? Do I really know his mind well enough that I only desire what he wants for me?

That's a tough journey. I want to be at that place, but I know I'm not that close to him yet.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Gem From Jim Hines

Does anyone know anything about Jim Hines? It looks like he's a fantasy writer. I may have to check out his stuff, although I'm not sure if stories about goblins as MAIN characters would interest me. I'm not THAT big of a geek, am I? I like my goblins where they belong- in supporting roles.

In any event, here's his blog address...

Check out his poem, Slush I Read.

Hope everyone is having a grand week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Strange and Wonderful Book: The Little Stranger

A friend recommended The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters a couple of weeks ago. Even though it's in our current fiction collection at the library, she said it was an old-fashioned gothic. She also said it scared her silly, even though it wasn't violent or gory. Well, that was enough for me. I dove right in, and oh my--what a book!

This is one of the few books I've read that left me thinking, this is the book that I want to write. This is the WAY I want to write.

On the surface, The Little Stranger might not sound all that different. It's a typical gothic-type story set in an old, creepy house in the English countryside. The time period is just after World War II, and though electricity and indoor plumbing are advancing throughout the country, Hundreds Hall is isolated enough to be missing out. It's still lit by candles, warmed by fires when the family can afford it. Because even though the Ayres family has been living at Hundreds for generations, like many aristocratic British families, they've fallen on hard times and in some ways live no better than the poorest people in the village. The Ayreses are not seen often anymore, keeping to themselves in their crumbling mansion, so Dr. Farraday is surprised when he is called out to Hundreds to see to the sick maid.

Farraday finds that the young maid is not so much sick as terrified. She swears that there's a frightening presence in the house. Farraday doesn't put much stock in her story, but this is the beginning of his relationship with the Ayres family, including the family matriarch and her son and daughter, who are both in their twenties. Farraday holds onto his scientific skepticism even when stranger and stranger tales come to him from first one, then the other of the family. Their gentle old dog suddenly turns savage and attacks a visitor. Strange noises are heard. Objects move themselves around. One by one, the family members begin to believe they're being persecuted by a strange presence, while Farraday believes there's a kind of hysteria in the house, partly brought on by the stress and isolation of their circumstances.

Of course, even though Farraday is supposedly the uninvolved narrator of the Ayres family's story, it soons become apparent that he, too, is connected in their bizarre situation. First because of his feelings for Caroline Ayres and Hundreds, and also because his mother was once a nursemaid at the Hall.

I don't want to say much more, because this is another of those books that has so many wonderful twists and turns. This is not one of those ghost stories that starts out with things going bump in the night and ends with an explanation of exactly what's been happening--and perhaps with a ghost or a demon popping out of a closet. Neither does it leave you frustrated because there are no answers. When you reach the end of the book, you'll know enough to draw your own conclusions, but you'll also have plenty to think about and discuss with other readers.