Who’s your god?

The bulk of today’s post is about Christianity. But if you follow me for writing, I highly recommend reading this long, but informative piece: Publishing’s Parallel Universe by Louise Merrington, which talks about her experience with both traditional and indie publishing.

Now onto faith… To highlight the point I’ll be making in this post, a passage from The Heavenly Man which I gushed about earlier. This is a section written by Deling, Yun’s husband:

God helped us greatly while my husband was in prison. There are two special miracles that I’d like to share with you from this time.

With only Yun’s mother and me left to run the farm, things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didn’t know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart!

All summer long our neighbours who heard about my foolishness mocked us and made fun of us! The news spread rapidly and I was the butt of many jokes.

Then in autumn, all our neighbours started cursing because they had very poor yields from their harvest. Their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls.

When we pulled up our sweet potatoes, we found they were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us. Our neighbours respected us more from that moment on and they didn’t view my husband as a cursed criminal any more, but as a man who’d been unjustly incarcerated.

Our neighbours saw “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Malachi 3:18.

The second miracle took place when Isaac was three. We had to exchange a portion of whatever crops we produced because we owned no animals or fertiliser. Therefore it was imperative we had a good harvest, or we would not be able to buy food to eat or the other items we needed to survive.

This time I didn’t know how to plant wheat seeds. I placed them so close together that they carpeted the soil!

Just a week before the wheat harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell from the sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and could already see that some of our neighbours’ wheat fields had been completely flattened by the storm. Yun’s mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, “God, have mercy on us!”

A great miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else’s fields in the whole area had been obliterated.

People came out of their homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to them.

While we enjoyed thick, healthy wheat that year, our neighbours had no harvest and were forced to use what was left of their crops as food for their animals.

Looking back, despite the hard times, the Lord was faithful to us!

As most Christians understand, knowing God doesn’t mean your life is suddenly gold. It is fantastic in many ways, but it doesn’t spare you all of the hardships like some kind of mystical genie. As was the case for Deling above – her husband was still in prison, and she still struggled to survive. (The majority of us in the affluent West don’t understand what it means to literally be desperate. [Desperation is not waiting for your internet to buffer]).

Thinking that you’ll suddenly be prosperous and have everything you need is at the far end of the scale. But the other end of the scale is equally wrong: thinking of God with a little ‘g’. God doesn’t confer a small advantage in life, he’s the only advantage you’ll ever need.

It also shows that he’s a God who cares about the individual, and our earthly circumstances. Not only does he want to protect us from the ravages and consequences of sin (e.g. the woman caught in adultery), and pain but he knows us intimately even down to how many hairs are on our head.

Deling and her mother-in-law couldn’t just sit back and wait for rescue – they did what they can, and asked God to help. Note that God came through at the end which is so typically God. He didn’t have someone helpful come along and explain how to farm, but instead worked a miracle to show his power.

If we are being obedient to his call in our lives, then we can be confident that he will look after us. That doesn’t mean we will be saved from incredible hardship, but that he will help us through the hardship. It is, after all, what we’re called to do.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

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A Treasure of a Book

As I begin rereading The Heavenly Man, the story of Chinese Christian “Brother Yun” I am deeply stirred.

heavenly manWithin the pages is a man who has experienced the power and miracles of God in modern-day. He has been faithful under incredible persecution and his continuous joy is proof of a deep relationship with God. Expressed clearly is his motivation: an abiding love for God and people.

As his co-worker acknowledges:

Yun’s testimony is written with blood and tears; his journey has been one that encountered many bitter struggles. Instead of complaining and grumbling, he learned to tackle all obstacles prayerfully, on his knees with God. … In the Chinese church I have seen many of God’s servants come with great power and authority, but with brother Yun I saw a servant of Jesus who always came in humility and meekness, reflecting the heart of the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.

The words of his testimony are like being touched by a red hot coal. Instantly it grabs your attention and calls for a response.

Honestly, with all of the distractions in the Western world I could ignore the call. The safest route for “self” would be to discard the book. However I began the book knowing it would light a spiritual fire under me. I want that fire, I crave it’s heat. Yes, it will burn and at times be uncomfortable, but it is also a purifying flame. It will burn away that which does not belong.

As a Christian I made a commitment that Jesus Christ would be Lord of my life. He’s in control, not me. And yet, as a human, I often wrestle for control, in varying degrees. Or like a woefully out-dated navigation system, I offer ludicrous suggestions on which way to go.

What burns most is the knowledge that my relationship and experience of God isn’t as strong as Brother Yun’s. And that’s on me. The truth is my relationship with God is only as good as I want it to be. The Bible is clear: God wants a relationship with us, and has done all of the necessary work. And yet he will not impose himself. If I give him a fraction of my day and then shut my heart – intentionally or not – I’ll enjoy only a fraction of what the relationship could be.

It’s like this… The King has adopted me. Not because of who I am or what I’ve done but because of his nature of love. Not only do I have a relationship with him, but he also has appointed me as an ambassador on his behalf. As son and ambassador I have unparalleled advantage; wealth and purpose.

None of that potential is fulfilled if I choose to stay locked in my room, or act in a way that doesn’t represent the King.

[Marie] Monsen told the Christians it wasn’t enough to study the lives of born-again believers, but that they must themselves be radically born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. With such teaching, she took the emphasis off head knowledge and showed each individual that they were personally responsible before God for their own inner spiritual life.

Just as I am personally responsible, as are you.

If you haven’t read Heavenly Man I strongly urge you to do so. Why not read along with me, and let me know your thoughts on it?

The Sacred Flame

This came to me the other morning. I haven’t spent long on it, so it could probably use some polish… but I have a synopsis to do.

I guess it’s a poem… of sorts? (My apologies to the real poets).

 

As Initiates we watched in wonder the Sacred Flame

Intrigued by its subtle dance, its warmth and its glow

We longed and hoped one day to receive

Our own flame springing forth

 

My wife and I are Keepers of the Sacred Flame

Priest and Priestess, dedicated to its care

Sanctified to keep it burning at all times

It’s a job for two; one cannot do it alone

 

Studying it, we learn to read its mood

To sense its movement, anticipate its need

Oak to burn long, spruce to burn fast, hickory for heat and aroma

There is a time for each, to keep it burning bright

 

We must learn to love the flame

To tend it always, through the long watches of the night

Protecting it from breeze and strong gale

Guarding always its purity and beauty

 

We have become accustomed to its presence

It is for us, a cherished Friend

That warms the body, and makes glad the heart

A flame reaching upwards, toward its Creator.

A Great Reason for Optimism

As a young lad, my natural tendency was towards optimism. The experience of being a disabled adolescent crushed the optimism and gave birth to the foul taint of pessimism. It wasn’t always visible, but pessimism lurked like a dark reflex-action in my heart. 

Like a broken but long-held habit it occasionally reappears, offering it’s cynical view on everything. It’s about as helpful as water to a drowning person.But praise be to God and my patient wife for righting my attitude with a thousand well-earned admonishments.

Sure, there are things I could be worried about, or sad about, but there is so much more to be thankful about. A bitter heart never warms or blesses anyone.

Chief among the things I have to be happy about is my relationship with Jesus Christ. On Easter Friday we celebrate the death of Jesus, crucified upon a cross. It is through this undeserved death, prophesied throughout history, man can re-enter relationship with God. And so we celebrate on Easter Friday redemption, followed by complete victory when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Monday. 

It is from this future hope, and a growing knowledge of the character of God, that life has meaning, purpose and endless amounts of joy. Life doesn’t become magically easy but it does take in a deep richness. 

Mind Blowing

Developing a Writing Tool

A quick blog post to announce what I’ve been working on. Some might call it procrastination and not writing, but I prefer to think of it as tool development for myself and for you.

I’m working up an Excel workbook which can be used to keep statistics, plot information and whatever else I think of adding to aid in the writing process. I’m actually pretty close to finishing v1.0, but I really should do some writing so I will try to shelve it for today.

As a taster, here is the Character Point-Of-View chart which can be used to visually display how often a character is getting a turn. This chart is automatically generated based off information entered into a table. Using the drop-down list next to “Select Character” you can highlight an individual character. (This is an evolutionary improvement on my earlier visualisation).

Character POV chart

Mind Blowing Reading

I’ve been reading through Weird Life by David Toomey. Here are two quotes that describe how cells work (page 86 and 87 respectively).

To take one example, when a cell somewhere in your body needs insulin, certain proteins inside the cell pull apart a section of the DNA molecule pairs, exposing the particular sequence of base pairs that signifies one of the many amino acids needed to make an insulin molecule. Other proteins read the sequence and make an ad hoc and temporary copy called messenger RNA. Then, still other proteins work over the messenger RNA, slicing and splicing until they’ve fashioned the amino acid needed. Finally, the molecules of protein and DNA called ribosomes (the structure that, you may recall, may set the lower size limit of a cell) pull the newly formed amino acid together with others made the same way by other proteins, and coordinate with other ribosomes, all now pulling and pushing their own amino acids to assemble a molecule of insulin.

And then

As complex as chores necessary to maintaining a metabolism are, they are in some ways mere prelude and preparations for the main event: reproduction. Familiar life can reproduce, of course, because cells divide. For cells with nuclei, it all begins inside the nucleus, when proteins don’t pull apart merely a section of the DNA molecule; they unwind and unzip the entire molecule along one strand, make a copy, correct and repair proofreading errors, and, from material in the surrounding cytoplasm, fashion a matching strand that winds together with the copy, base locking neatly to a base. Then the parent DNA, its own strands zipped up and rewound, is pulled to one side of the nucleus, the child DNA is pulled to the other, and the nucleus itself is squeezed in the middle until it splits into halves. Shortly thereafter the cell does likewise, with each half holding a nucleus. Where there was one cell, now there are two.

I don’t know about you but to me, that is absolutely mind-blowing.

The irony is, even with talk of having nanobots in the future, all they will be doing is replicating (and improving on) to what our body already does.

Personally I think it takes more faith to believe in creation big-bang style than it does to believe that God’s hand and mind were at work.

Improving ‘Escape from Hell’

My favourite piece of writing that I have done so far is my faith-based novelette Escape from Hell.

Whether you attribute it to God (as I do) or the muses, I was definitely under the weight of inspiration when I was writing it. The creative juices were flowing and I had a sense that it was coming together perfectly.

I’ve decided that I am going to re-release the novelette as a free PDF (with a few bonus additions) and hopefully some great cover art. My purpose for doing this is simple: I think it’s a great story that I want as many people to read it as possible. Providing it as a PDF makes it easier to share. (URLs are easy, but they’re also easier to lose than files, in my experience).

So now I’m asking, dear and generous reader, if you would help contribute to this goal. I’d really appreciate some:

  • Constructive criticism to help me hone it even further
  • Little testimonials about your impression of the story
  • For the artistically inclined, any related art which I could use as cover and/or illustrations in the PDF.

If you’re going to help here is a handy Microsoft Word format so you can make changes/comments with Track Changes on (please).

I don’t intend on this being a long-term project, so I’ll stop accepting submissions after Friday October 23rd. That will give me a week to put the finishing touches on, and release the PDF by Saturday October 31.

After release you could then help me by:

  • Sending it to anyone who likes to read
  • Reviewing it on your blog

(Contribution disclaimer: I’m giving the story away for free, and so will not be making any money off of it now or in the future. I’m asking for these contributions to be generously donated; I’m not paying for them. By contributing you’re giving me the right to include it in the PDF, or display it on http://benezard.com but you retain all other rights etc. Please only submit content to which you are the owner of).

Many thanks!

Novelette: Escape from Hell

I was dead and I knew it.

The realisation was profoundly shocking and it was some time before I could process anything beyond that bare fact.

I was dead. I had always assumed I would live into my 70’s or 80’s. I saw myself dying from a heart attack while gardening or best-case scenario drifting off to sleep and never waking up. I had never imagined that death from a long-term ailment or tragic circumstances. I would live, I would grow old and then one day I would die. I accepted that death was inevitable, I just didn’t expect it to be so soon; today.

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