What kind of reader are you?

As a writer of Chick Lit, I am so grateful that there are different kinds of readers.  Not everyone will get my humor, nor do they like first-person writing — and that’s okay, because there are plenty of people who do.  I remember, many years back, when writing “What a Girl Wants” there was a joke in the book about Deney Terrio.  My editor said to me, “I think that’s a very small audience who will get that reference.”

And she was right!  But I knew the readers who did would greatly appreciate it — and I was correct.  Sometimes, you have to listen to your instincts and create what you were meant to create.

The publishing industry is a fickle soul.  I am grateful to have stayed alive in this market for over 20 years — but now they tell me publishing is going deeper.  Readers aren’t into lighthearted romps — and the woman should save herself — a la “Frozen.”

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My heroines are modeled after my favorites in fiction — Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind;” Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice;” Bathsheba Everdene in “Far from the Madding Crowd;” and Meggie Cleary in “The Thorn Birds.”  These aren’t wilting violent heroines.  They are strong and very forward for their respective time periods.  However, I love a heroine who can laugh at herself. Life is too hard to not take it lightly.

As a reader, I would say I love a dramedy.  A book that takes one to dark places, but allows you to rejoice in the lighthearted parts of suffering.  Because the truth is, we all have to be grateful for the light when we are in the midst of darkness. This may sound odd, but that’s why I liked Ann Rule’s true crime books — because she didn’t concentrate on the evil — she focused on the victims and how their lives were forever changed by darkness.

So I honor that publishing is going to a deeper level.  I admire writers who can do that — but I have to protect my smooshy heart and my sensitive nature.  I can’t go to that place and I’m glad there are still readers out there who want to giggle and focus on the lighter side of life.  What about you?  What kind of adventure to you like to go on when reading?

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Cosmic Coincidence—or Calculated Design?

by Jim Denney, adapted from
ANSWERS TO SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

Analog-April1987Last week, I talked about the cosmic case for faith in God, which I first encountered in the April 1987 issue of Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact. In a science fact article, Richard Meisner wrote about a growing body of scientific evidence that the universe appears to be purposely designed and incredibly fine-tuned to produce life. Meisner quoted cosmologist Paul Davies: “It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.”

Carefully thought out by Whom? Well, by God, of course.

What is the scientific evidence for an intelligently fine-tuned universe? How do we know that the forces of the universe were precision-balanced to produce life?

Let me list just a few of the hundreds of “cosmic coincidences” that have produced our amazing just-so universe. Take, for example, the Big Bang.

At the moment the Big Bang began, everything that exists—matter, energy, the three dimensions of space, and the fourth dimension of time—emerged from a single geometric point, expanding at the speed of light. Scientists are amazed that the explosive violence of the creation event was as perfectly, delicately balanced as it was. Cosmologist Paul Davies wrote:

Had the Big Bang been weaker, the cosmos would have soon fallen back on itself in a big crunch. On the other hand, had it been stronger, the cosmic material would have dispersed so rapidly that galaxies would not have formed. . . . Had the explosion differed in strength at the outset by only one part in 1060, the universe we now perceive would not exist. To give some meaning to these numbers, suppose you wanted to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light-years away. Your aim would have to be accurate to that same part in 1060. . . . Channeling the explosive violence into such a regular and organized pattern of motion seems like a miracle.

If the explosive force of the Big Bang not been perfectly balanced and incredibly fine-tuned, life would be impossible—and you and I could not exist.

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At first, the laws and constants of the universe were simply accepted as a matter of fact—no one wondered why this or that force or constant of physics was not slightly stronger or weaker than it is. Eventually, physicists began to realize (as George Greenstein observed in The Symbiotic Universe) that the “laws of nature could have been laid down only in the very instant of the creation of the universe, if not before.”

Paul Davies recalled that when he was a student, the question of where the laws of physics come from was off-limits. A scientist was supposed to simply apply those laws, not inquire into their origin. Scientists would say that there’s no reason the laws of physics are what they are—they just are. Davies concluded, “The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. . . . It makes a mockery of science.”

As it became clear that the laws of nature might have been different than they are—that they appeared to have been deliberately selected to produce life—scientists began to look at these forces, laws, and constants with new sense of awe. The entire universe seemed to be constructed out of an incredibly unlikely series of cosmic coincidences. Some examples:

There are four forces governing the structure and behavior of subatomic particles—the electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. These forces determine everything from how an electron orbits the nucleus of an atom to how stars and galaxies are formed. Each force has a specific mathematical value called a constant (because its value never varies).

The gravitational force constant is finely tuned to permit life. Slightly greater, and stars would burn too hot, too quickly, and too unevenly to produce life-giving elements. Slightly smaller, and stars would be too cool, so that nuclear fusion could not take place and there would be no life-giving elements.

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The electromagnetic force is also fine-tuned. If its constant were slightly larger or smaller, the chemical bonding required for making living things could not take place.

There is a fine-tuned balance between the gravitational and electromagnetic forces. If the constant of the ratio between these two forces were larger, there would be no stars smaller than 1.4 solar masses, and the lifetime of stars would be too short to generate life-giving elements. If the constant were smaller, there would be no stars larger than 0.8 solar masses—and again, no production of life-giving elements.

If the strong nuclear force constant were slightly larger, there would be no hydrogen in the universe and no stars. If this constant were smaller, the universe would consist of nothing but hydrogen.

If the weak force constant were larger, most of the hydrogen in the universe would have converted to helium during the Big Bang. If it were smaller, there’d be too little hydrogen converted to helium—a roadblock to the production of life-giving elements such as carbon and oxygen.

The proton-to-electron mass ratio: A proton is 1,836 times more massive than an electron; if this ratio varied slightly in either direction, molecules could not form and life could not exist. The ratio of the number of protons to the number of electrons is also finely balanced to permit the electromagnetic force to dominate the gravitational force, allowing the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.

The unusual properties of water are also a fine-tuned condition for life. Water plays an essential role in almost every biological function. It is necessary to photosynthesis, which is the foundation of the food chain. In photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar, giving off oxygen as a “waste product.”

Water is one of the few liquids that expands when it freezes. Most substances contract and become more dense when they freeze, but frozen water is actually 9 percent less dense than liquid water. This is because, at freezing temperatures, the hydrogen bonds that connect water molecules make an adjustment to keep negatively charged oxygen atoms apart. This adjustment creates the crystal lattice that enables ice to float in liquid water.

If water didn’t have this extraordinary property, ice would sink, which would cause lakes and rivers to freeze solid. If ice did not float, wrote George Greenstein, life on Earth “would be confined to a narrow strip lying close to the equator.”

Earthrise

And the list goes on and on. It’s as if hundreds of completely unrelated laws and features of nature plotted together in a vast cosmic conspiracy to produce life. As Paul Davies observes:

It is tempting to believe, therefore, that a complex universe will emerge only if the laws of physics are very close to what they are. … The laws, which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously, seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.

And physicist Fred Hoyle said: “I do not believe that any scientist who examines the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed.”

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Is our life-giving universe the result of an inconceivably improbable series of cosmic accidents and coincidences—or the product of a calculated, deliberate design? Which possibility is easier to believe?

Is the universe evidence—even proof—of the existence of God?

I have my own opinion. What do you think?

_____________________________

Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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What I Learned from My Dog

I was thinking recently how smart my dog is. Ok so maybe I am a little biased. But Tucker really is smart. I actually have two dogs. Both are smart dogs and good dogs. However, Buddy’s main goal in life is to eat. You could say food is his love language. His second goal in life is to get back rubs. In his defense, he is older than Tucker and doesn’t have as much energy. Tucker, on the other hand, loves to please his parents and to spend time with his parents. As I was analyzing Tucker’s behavior and quirks, I learned a lot of good tips from him.

1 – Put all your effort into your work.

When Tucker sees anything or anyone that does not belong in his clique (such as a neighbor in their yard, a squirrel in our yard, or a Fed Ex truck out on the road), he immediately barks at and chases the offender. He continues until his job is done and the offender has left.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 NLT

2 – When you’re not working, enjoy life.

Tucker loves to play. He is over two years old, but still has a lot of puppy in him. And he tries his best to bully his parents, his big brother, or anyone he can find into playing as well.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”- John 10:10 NLT

3 – When you’re feeling down, seek comfort.

Tucker doesn’t like when we leave him at home alone. He gets anxious and sad. So he curls up in a comfortable place and stays there until we return. If only one parent leaves, then he might try to curl up in the lap of the parent who is still at home.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT

4 – When you’re tired, rest.

Tucker gets tired around midday and again at night. When he wants to sleep, he sleeps. And he doesn’t welcome interruptions. Around lunch time I often like to give him a treat, but he would prefer I didn’t. However if he absolutely must eat the treat, then he would like for us to hand it to him right where he is so the only thing he will have to move is his jaw.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’ “ – Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

Animals are smart. And pets in particular are a blessing. They soothe us when we don’t feel well. And they bring us joy in our daily lives. Isn’t it extraordinary how God thought of every little thing when He created the earth?

(Buddy and Tucker.)

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Who Do We Look Up To by Julie Arduini

As I mentioned in my last post, parenting is hard. We have a teen daughter who like most teens, enjoys YouTube and the new celebrities that are arising from that medium. If you aren’t aware, there’s a lot of drama and worldly situations going on with those celebrities, so I try to stay up on the content so we can talk about positive role models, body image, values, and what’s pleasing to Jesus.

Honestly, there aren’t a lot of young people with millions of followers that receive mainstream attention for the right reasons.

But, there’s my age group, the Gen X’ers. I remember my complete devastation when the books came out from the Little House on the Prairie actors. When I was growing up, TV “Pa” was my absolute vision of perfect fatherhood. He was present, strong, nurturing, funny, hard working, churchgoing. Well, that was a character. The reality was the actor, Michael Landon, lived a very different life full of excess. Not quite the role model I thought as a child.

Now in the age of #metoo, so many stories are coming out that break my heart. Leaders from various stages allegedly taking advantage of their position to humiliate and scar others. Again, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. To hear the vile testimonies from victims that crossed paths with Bill Cosby, it’s sickening. Politicians. Preachers. It’s across society.

It leaves me with the question, who do we look up to? I admit I grew up naive. I thought people in the spotlight accepted a moral code that they were responsible for. Imagine my heartbreak as time and time again their humanity threw them off my pedestal, my place for idols.

And there it is.

Two things.

Humanity and idols.

As humans, we’re flawed. We are going to sin. I was wrong to look to people to fulfill perfection for me. They will let me down. The YouTubers are not going to show our daughter the absolute truths about who she is. I will let you down.

I also have no place taking humans and putting them on a fantasy shelf and worshiping them. But I did. I didn’t grow up hearing the gospel, I grew up basically in front of Family Ties and Little House. The answer now is clear.

We need to look up to Jesus, and Him alone.

Sure, we can admire how a boss communicates or how a leader is generous with their resources. But base who we are and who we want to be on Christ. He is sinless and carries all the traits we should ever want to possess. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. There’s no greater title than His.

As I prayed about what to write and I felt sad reading the allegations, I felt this message wasn’t just for me. If you struggle with who to follow, I have the answer.

Jesus.

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

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Wide Open Spaces (by Hannah Alexander)

If you don’t live in Wyoming, let me introduce you to one amazing highway. If you do live in Wyoming, you probably know what I’m talking about.

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This highway is called a two-track, and it’s quite honestly the style of highway that I love the very most because it takes us into some of the most fascinating and fun places I’ve ever seen. I first learned the term “two-track” by reading C.J. Box novels, which are all set in this sparsely populated state. These two-track highways criss-cross the Wyoming desert in very close proximity to one another, so that if the weather washes out one road, someone with an ATV, or with an all-wheel-drive, tricked-out Subaru with all-terrain truck tires, can switch lanes and take another track…and get lost. Being only a year in to this adventure, we try to keep a close eye on where we are relative to mountain ranges so we can find our way out of the desert maze.

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Above is an onramp to a Wyoming highway. This particular desert road runs between two mountain ranges–Green Mountain and Granite Mountain Range. Green Mountain is covered in evergreens and still dotted with drifts of snow. Granite Mountain Range is covered in…well…big rocks. Huge difference.

Two days ago Mel and I drove up to the Green Mountain Range to the winter gate, parked, and hiked on up the mountain. We hadn’t intended to drive so far from home–almost an hour–but the wind was so fierce, and I wanted to hike so badly, that we drove to the place most protected from the wind, where the trees and canyons would redirect the worst of the gusts. The place was empty of humans. We found evidence of elk tracks, some deer, the typical pronghorn (antelope,) which  is everywhere in our part of Wyoming. When we reached the end of our exploration I told Mel (knowing God would hear) that I hoped to see every wild animal that existed in our area.

Almost immediately, we heard an interesting cry-whine from above us in the mountain. We knew to be on the lookout for bear, mountain lion, moose, elk, coyote, and other larger animals.

I gasped. “Honey, did you hear that?”

“Yes. Not sure what it is.”

By this time I was winded and fighting the elevation, but was a sound we’d never heard before…except maybe on a nature documentary. Not a bear. Not a coyote. But we weren’t sure what it was at first.

I wanted to leave the trail and walk in that direction and investigate. Thankfully, Mel is the safety conscious adult in the family; he ambled away from the sounds and toward the road that would take us to the car. He knows far too well that when he’s with me, I’m fearless.

Before we were out of earshot, we heard yet another animal expression of what sounded like frustration. As if one of the hidden animals wanted to check us out and the wiser one disagreed. Sort of like us.

On the road we studied tracks, a habit I developed decades ago when hiking. We saw canine paw prints. Or were they? The claws were very prominent, but the tracks were too big for coyote, and whatever they were walked in too straight a line to be dogs. There were two or three sets. These tracks continued for several hundred feet before disappearing into the forest. We did find some other “evidence” that was not made by dog and was too big to be coyote. Mel and I both grew up on farms, and we knew coyote and dog tracks. This was different. Bear, perhaps? But the sounds we’d heard weren’t bear, and these weren’t bear tracks. Mountain lions don’t typically move in packs.

Instead of driving back home, we found another two-track–this one in the desert and quite challenging as winter had disintegrated much of the road to deep gullies and rocks. We were rewarded for our efforts by the beautiful vision of wild horses on the mountain above us. But there was another car there with visitors awe-struck by their find, so we drove on and found our own tiny herd of horses to ogle. We discovered, to our delight, that they were just as enchanted with us, and curious. They wouldn’t get too close, but just as they topped a hill and disappeared, they would then peer back over the rise to study us.

Exciting and fun!

But it was getting later in the afternoon by then, and we weren’t sure how it would take us to find our way back out to the paved highway (those are few and far between in Wyoming.) I found another two-track that seemed to head back to civilization, and took it. Suddenly, a female pronghorn (antelope) jumped up from the sage with her teensy reddish baby under her, wobbling as it tried to keep up. And then just as we expected to see mama race off and lead baby away from us, the baby disappeared. Mother raced away alone.

I knew something was up, but I wasn’t sure what. After all, last week, on a drive to one of the few scattered towns in Wyoming, we were treated to a show of a mama pronghorn attacking a coyote, right there beside the road in front of God and everybody. So we figured that if she would attack a coyote, she might very well attack us.

Mel grabbed his camera and, paying close attention to my directions and watching carefully for mama to return, he scurried up the hill in search of the baby. He finally found it. This sweetheart was clinging to the ground and frozen as if dead–though we knew it wasn’t. Mel thought it was a rock at first, but no, it was a newborn pronghorn following protocol, as newborns are taught to hide.

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Mel rushed back to the car after taking the picture, and then of course I had to see. Who knew when I would next have this opportunity? I looked, fell in love, checked for mama, looked again, and ran back to the car. We got away in a hurry so as not to disrupt the natural flow of life. Multiple pronghorn bucks and does attended us the rest of the way to the paved highway while I wondered how many other babies were nestled in amongst the sage bushes. We passed a cattle drive alongside the paved road on our way home. We see those a lot around here–cowboys on horses working a huge herd of cattle with their newborn calves.

Once we got home, I researched the tracks and scat we’d found and the noises we’d heard, and spoke to a local friend who is knowledgable. We’d been within speaking distance of a pack of wolves in those mountains.  I hadn’t realized wolves were so prevalent this far south in Wyoming, but apparently I was wrong.  I want to go back today and check out those prints again. I want to wait until evening and listen to them howl. But I don’t want to consider the reason those wolves are there.

It’s the cycle of life, wolves searching for food, newborns hiding, cattle dropping their young in the briefly-green desert.

My request to God was granted. I knew it would be in one way or another. Here in Wyoming I’m amazed by the overly generous grace of God, the beauty of His creation despite the curse on the earth brought by man’s first sin.

Someday the lion will not harm the lamb, the wolves will not hunt the baby animals, the pronghorn won’t have to battle coyote for their babies. Someday we won’t have to carry bear spray and protection from a charging animals. I cannot imagine how much more wonderful someday will be!

 

 

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The Reason for My Convictions by Nancy J. Farrier

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my experience with a difficult pregnancy and the pressure to have an abortion. You can read that blog post here. I keep thinking about the reason I stood strong against tremendous pressure, and I wanted to share that part of my story with you today.

Summer 1972 – A few months prior to the Roe vs. Wade decision

Denver, Colorado

I remember standing at the stove in our teensy apartment, cooking chili and getting ready for dinner. My husband was home from Lowry Air Force Base where he attended school before we shipped to another base. We had been married less than a year. I was pregnant for the second time—the first ended in a miscarriage. We were so excited and looking forward to having this baby.

As I stirred the chili cramps hit, doubling me over. The suddenness took my breath away. I dropped the spoon to the floor scattering droplets of sauce and meat everywhere. Then the bleeding started. Not a little, but a lot. A scary amount.

Because my husband was in the Air Force we had to go to the hospital on the nearby Army base. It was a huge building, and I was whisked into a room. I don’t recall much about the next few hours. Examinations. Intense pain. A doctor who epitomized every bad joke about Army doctors. Cold. Cruel. Uncaring. An intern who showed me kindness.

I woke up before dawn the next morning and found myself in a ward. My bed was closest to the door, but the room seemed to extend forever in the other direction with bed after bed facing a long section of windows. I was so groggy I couldn’t focus on anything. The doctor came in with some other men, who must have been in training. The doctor didn’t say a word to me but threw the sheet off of me and discussed what he’d done as all the men stared at my nakedness. All I could think was their clinical talk meant the death of my baby. The baby I wanted so much. I tried to remain stoic and strong in the face of my grief and humiliation.

After they left, I drifted back to sleep but woke again to hear voices. Two of the women in the beds close to mine were standing at the bank of windows looking out at the city as the early morning light brightened the room. They were so close I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.

At this time, the Army hospital in Denver was one of the few places in the country where abortion was legal. These two women had come to the hospital to end their pregnancies. They chatted in light-hearted tones about how they had all the children they wanted and this was such a relief to not have more. They talked about how much easier life would be without the an extra to worry about.

I began to cry. I tried to hide my tears and sobs in my pillow. I wanted my baby so much and these women threw theirs away like yesterday’s trash. They didn’t care about the life of that child. In fact, they didn’t refer to them as babies. Not once. 

But the child of mine that died that night was a baby. For the first time in my life, I had to fill out a death certificate for a baby I wouldn’t get to hold. My heart ached and I wept again as I penciled in answers in those blanks. Not quite nineteen, I was unprepared for this harsh life lesson.

As I pressed my face to the pillow and sobbed, one of the women who had been rejoicing the end of her pregnancy came over to see if she could do anything for me. I know I was rude as I told her not to touch me. I do feel bad about that. Knowing what I do now I realize those women weren’t as carefree over their decision as they sounded. But, at the time, their attitude caused me more pain than I thought I could endure.

Prior to my experience in that hospital, I had no real convictions about abortion. After that night and the following morning, I knew abortion meant killing babies. Bottom line. The baby died.

At this time, I was not a Christian. A few years later, when I became a Christian, I understood another reason why abortion is wrong. Killing is not something we should do. Giving and taking life are in God’s hands, not ours. Children are a gift from Him. (Ps. 127:3)

After the death of my first husband, I remarried. My second husband planned for us to have three children. Two years after our third was born, I got pregnant again. Our fourth was a surprise. Two years later, I became pregnant again. This pregnancy, I joked, was a shock. 

Did I ever consider ending either of those pregnancies because we already had enough children? No. Not once. Did we have to make sacrifices because of our larger family? Yes, many times. Not once did I regret that. I can’t imagine what would bring me to the point of killing my baby simply because I had enough children.

As I write this, I am thinking of those women who made that choice to end the life of their child. I may not understand why, but the fact is that many have had abortions. Studies have been done on the negative mental health aspects that come from killing your child. I want you to understand that I forgive those women. They did not truly understand the enormity of what they were doing. If I were to meet them today, I would encourage them to ask forgiveness and to forgive themselves. 

What I experienced was beyond difficult. That wouldn’t be my last miscarriage. But the lesson I learned helped to prepare me to be strong when I needed to be. I am thankful for that.

For [God} formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works. And that my soul knows very well. Ps. 139:13,14 

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A Cosmic Case for Faith?

by Jim Denney, adapted from
ANSWERS TO SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

LongestTrek

I got to know Grace Lee Whitney when I worked with her on her Star Trek memoir, The Longest Trek.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was a confirmed atheist.

I never met him, but my good friend, actress Grace Lee Whitney (author of The Longest Trek), knew him well. She had worked with Roddenberry on two TV series, The Lieutenant (with Gary Lockwood and Robert Vaughn) and Star Trek (with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy).

Grace told me, “I had many philosophical conversations with Gene in the studio commissary or in his office in 1966, as Star Trek was moving into production. We talked a lot about the show—but we also talked about politics and social issues, about equality between the sexes, and about religion. I was a Jewish atheist at the time—I loved the traditions of Judaism but I had no faith in God.”

Midway through the first season of Star Trek, Grace was sexually assaulted by a studio executive and subsequently fired from the series. That attack and the firing sent her into a tailspin of alcoholism, drug addiction, and sex addiction that nearly killed her. She was rescued by a Twelve Step recovery program. To keep her sobriety, she had to rely on a Power greater than herself. In time, the Power she relied on was Jesus Christ.

GeneRoddenberryAustinTXCopyr1976LarryDMoore

Gene Roddenberry in Austin, Texas, 1976. Photo: Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0Wikimedia Commons.

Gene Roddenberry, by contrast, remained an atheist until his death in October 1991. In an interview with The Humanist, published shortly before his death, he recalled:

In my early teens, I decided to listen to the sermon. I guess I was around 14 and emerging as a personality. I had never really paid much attention to the sermon before. I was more interested in the deacon’s daughter and what we might be doing between services.

I listened to the sermon, and I remember complete astonishment because what they were talking about were things that were just crazy. . . . I guess from that time it was clear to me that religion was largely nonsense—largely magical, superstitious things. In my own teen life, I just couldn’t see any point in adopting something based on magic, which was obviously phony and superstitious.

Gene Roddenberry saw belief in God as illogical and unscientific. Atheism, he believed, was the only enlightened, scientific world view. At the time of his death, Roddenberry had already been proven wrong. But he didn’t know it.

In the mid-1980s, I went through an internal crisis of belief. I was troubled by doubts about God, yet I also believed in following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (such as the Sermon on the Mount). I decided to claim the promise Jesus made in John 8:31-32: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I wanted to know the truth, so I prayed to the God I doubted and I asked him to reveal the truth to me—wherever the evidence might lead, whatever the truth might be.

Weeks or months later, a magazine arrived in my mailbox, the April 1987 issue of Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact. It featured a nonfiction article by Richard Meisner, “Universe—the Ultimate Artifact?” The title intrigued me, and I started reading. I was amazed by what I read. Was this the answer to the prayer I’d been praying?

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A year or so later, I bought a book with an intriguing title, though I didn’t know what the book was about: The Symbiotic Universe by astrophysicist George Greenstein. It was a detailed discussion of the scientific evidence I had first discovered in Richard Meisner’s article in Analog. Around that time, a friend lent me a copy of God and the New Physics by physicist Paul Davies—more information on the same subject.

What were Meisner, Greenstein, and Davies talking about? According to the scientific evidence, the universe appears to be an artifact—an object designed by an intelligent entity for an intelligent purpose. Meisner went on to quote several distinguished scientists—and what they said made them sound more like theologians than scientists.

Astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle: “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

Paul Davies: “It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.”

Richard Meisner: “One may feel inclined to apply the word ‘God’ in this context. This is justifiable, although I tend to avoid the word simply because I’ve found almost without exception that it triggers an immediate positive or negative emotional response in the listener—most inconducive to good scientific thinking.”

What made George Greenstein’s book so compelling was that he spent more than 200 pages laying out the case that the universe was designed by God—yet Greenstein himself was an atheist. The more he examined the evidence for God in the universe, the more he felt “an intense revulsion, and at times it was almost physical in nature. I would positively squirm with discomfort. The very thought that the fitness of the cosmos for life might be a mystery requiring solution struck me as ludicrous, absurd. I found it difficult to entertain the notion without grimacing in disgust.”

Pondering the evidence, Greenstein said, “the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”

Then he answered his own question: “It is a matter of taste how one deals with [the scientific evidence for God]. . . . Those who wish are free to accept it, and I have no way to prove them wrong. But I know where I stand. . . . I reject it utterly. I will have nothing to do with it.”

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Having rejected God as an explanation for the cosmic evidence, Greenstein offers his own explanation for the evidence: The universe mysteriously “bootstrapped” itself into existence. In other words, the universe needs intelligent life in order to become “real,” and intelligent life needs a universe in which to live. So, according to Greenstein, the universe and life mutually brought each other into existence. How does that work? Greenstein is a bit vague on the details.

It saddens me that Gene Roddenberry died thinking that belief in God is nothing but unscientific superstition. He apparently never knew about the persuasive, scientific case for God. The evidence is so strong and convincing it made George Greenstein, an atheist scientist, “squirm with discomfort” and “grimace in disgust.”

To me, that evidence was an answer to a prayer I prayed—a prayer in which I asked to know the truth about God’s existence. What is the evidence that Richard Meisner, George Greenstein, Paul Davies and other astonished scientists were writing about?

More on that in weeks to come.

_____________________________

Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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God is in Everything

I was recently talking to a friend about one of his mother-in-law‘s favorite sayings. “God was in that,” she will say when something good happens. But my friend asked, “Isn’t God in everything?” My friend has a good point. After all, we can see in the Bible that God allowed Satan to test Job.

When something we don’t like occurs, we might blame God or we might question why God didn’t stop it. But we can’t see the whole picture. God can see the beginning and the end. Something that is uncomfortable, might have a purpose.

I often enjoy listening to Dr. Charles Stanley’s radio program. He recently mentioned that when we are faced with adversity, we should (1) Look at it as though it is from God and (2) Ask God what He wants us to learn from the trial we are going through.

This can be difficult for us to do because initially we might feel blindsided by the adversity. Also, we just want to find a quick, easy, and painless way out of the adversity. Most of us aren’t going to rub our hands together with excitement about walking through a difficult season, all for the sake of learning something.

No matter what difficulty you are facing, the Bible does make a bold promise. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28. God can and will use whatever you are facing for good.

One example that my friend and I discussed in the same conversation that I mentioned above comes from the movie “I Can Only Imagine.” (If you haven’t seen the movie, please do!) Bart Millard, the leader singer of Mercy Me, went through a lot of pain in his life. I am not saying that those things were from God. But I do believe God used them for good.

I am sure we can all look back on trials in our lives and see the hand of God, if we try to have an open mind. Unfortunately, I do know some people who have become too bitter in life and therefore they don’t even want to see how God has been in everything. Basically it comes down to trust. Either we trust God or we don’t. I choose to trust Him. How about you?

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Boom and Busted

A couple pf weeks ago, my son-in-law was mowing our lawn when our lawn mower suddenly stopped working, for no discernible reason. I was puzzled, so I sent the attached picture to my brother, who is much more mechanically inclined than I am. (I am a writer and not much good for anything else.)

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Along with the photo, I sent my brother the following message:

     I don’t know a lot about motors. Since you know more about these things than I do, can you answer some questions:

  1. Is there supposed to be a hole like this in the side of the motor?
  2. Could this be why the mower stopped working?
  3. Can it be fixed?

My brother answered:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. Yes.
  4. No.

I was still confused. So I wrote my brother again:

     I asked you three questions, but you gave me four answers. Please elucidate.

My brother answered:

  1. Yes, you know very little about motors.
  2. No, there is not supposed to be a hole.
  3. Yes, this is why the motor stopped.
  4. No, this cannot be fixed.

Then he added:

     Many companies have full-time employees who do nothing but answer silly questions like the ones you asked.

I didn’t find these answers very satisfactory. I decided to seek another opinion, one that would at least be less insulting. So, I asked some of my writer friends the same questions. Two of them provided the same answer to the last question:

     Yes. Use duct tape.

Good friends. Good writers. Like me, sadly, not much good for anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

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Embracing the Chaos…

This is not a time for writing. That’s hard for me because writing is my happy place.  I’m keeping a toe in the water by helping a screenplay writer turn her screenplay into a book.  But otherwise, it’s not a time for creating.  The other day, I heard this on “America’s Got Talent” — the singer, Michael Ketterer, had adopted several kids out of the foster system because he said, “When you’re always surviving, you can’t dream.”

That’s how I feel right now about writing.  Creativity must go away because I’m in survival mode, but I don’t want to miss the moment. When God has you in a spot, you have to stop and ask why.  What can I learn from this experience?  I don’t want to miss the joy in it! And there has to be some joy.  Right?

My daughter is graduating high school this week.  She’s my baby and she had a lot of learning disabilities growing up.  She came home with all her work since kindergarten in a thick brown folder.  In it there were all the letters I’d written to teachers, administrators, doctors etc., to force an IEP (individualized education plan) for her.  Without that IEP and the help she’s gotten, my daughter wouldn’t be graduating.

As she read through some of the letters out loud, I said, “Don’t read anymore.  I don’t want to go back there.” During that time, I was just surviving.  I had four young children and a daughter who required a lot of energy.  Some of the paperwork said things like, “She finally turned her homework folder in, but none of the homework was in it.”

That’s because I was at home choosing my battles.  Getting Elle to school was the priority.  It took everything in her to make it though a school day and she came home most days and just exploded from holding it together all day.  Fast-forward 12 years and many amazing teachers later and my daughter is a star!

She has a job that she loves at Petco working with animals (socializing the chameleons to make them great pets was her favorite part of the job.) She’s moving to another state to attend a hair academy and be in her beloved nature. And she has a lovely boyfriend for going on four years. And she is a HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE!!!

60589639_10156952638736251_404739554558345216_oSo it hasn’t been my time to write.  Currently, I’m living in 600 square feet with 2 adult children and a dog (who is wearing the cone of shame for a leg injury.) One child is moving in for the summer so he can lifeguard while home from college.  The other is moving out for her next phase of life and my place is a disaster and full of boxes and chaos!

Yet, I don’t want to miss any of it.  This is what it’s all about.  As a family, we survived some really tough times and we thrived.  That stuffed folder from Elle’s school proves it.  We made it! Of course, my goal is to get back to the keyboard and finish my current book (The Wentworth Heiresses) but until then, I’m going to embrace the chaos.

Saint Paul took 11 years to study before God sent him out to preach the Gospel.  If God can hold up Paul, I think I can deal with my own life pause.  So this is my reminder to embrace the chaos.  It won’t disrupt God’s plans for your life either!

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Living in a Post-Truth Age

by Jim Denney, adapted from
ANSWERS TO SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

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“Labyrinth 28,” etching engraved by Toni Pecoraro 2007, with colors altered from the original, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay tells the story of a Duke University chemistry professor named Professor Bonk (his course was widely known as “Bonkistry”). One semester, as finals week approached, two of Professor Bonk’s male students were so confident of their straight-A averages that they decided to drive up to the University of Virginia to party with friends.

They partied hard over the weekend. Sunday morning found them nursing the worst hangovers of their lives. They were so sick, they didn’t start back for the Duke campus until early Monday morning, the day of the test. They arrived at Professor Bonk’s room a few minutes before class and gave him a story that was part truth—and  part “deconstructed truth.”

“Professor,” they said, “we were planning to be back from Virginia in time to study, but on the way we got a flat tire. We didn’t have a spare, and it took hours to fix, so we didn’t get back to the dorm until late last night. By then it was too late to study.”

Professor Bonk considered their story—then agreed to let them make up the test the following day. The two young men breathed a sigh of relief, then went back to the dorm to study.

The next morning, Professor Bonk put the two students in separate rooms across the hall from each other, each with a copy of the test booklet. From the hall, he checked his watch and said, “Begin.” Then he closed the doors of the two rooms.

In seclusion, each student opened his test booklet. On the first page was a simple chemistry problem involving molarity and solutions. The problem was worth five points. “Cool!” each young man said to himself. “This’ll be a cinch!”

It only took a couple minutes to answer the problem, and turn the page, then—

Gulp! The next page had just one question—the only other question on the exam:

Which tire? (95 points)

That day, two college students learned an expensive lesson in the importance of truth.

We live in a post-truth age, surrounded by lies, spin, hyperbole, bias, and fraud. That doesn’t mean that truth is any less important now than it was in the past. The truth, being such a rare commodity, is more important now than ever. Truth is not a relative thing. Truth is absolute. There is no pluralism of truths, no “your truth,” no “my truth.” Truth is reality itself.

I challenge you to swim against the cultural current of this post-truth age.

Challenge lies. Embrace the truth. Speak the truth. Live the truth.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” —Jesus of Nazareth, John 8:31-32

_____________________________

Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
SATISFY THE SOUL:
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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The Power of Prayer

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Have you ever thought about what a privilege it is for us to be able to speak to the King of Kings anytime we want to? And He is always there. He will never tell us He is busy. He will never ignore us. He will never say to come back another time. His door is always open. He is just waiting for us to come to Him.

I believe it’s important to pray for help, direction, and wisdom in our lives. We also have the opportunity to do the same for our loved ones. In our prayers we tend to ask for things, which is fine. But I believe thanking God and praising God is also a wonderful thing to do in our prayers. Some people like keeping a prayer journal. This helps to keep prayers focused. It also helps to look back and see all the prayers that God has answered.

Prayer is so very powerful. A couple of years ago I spoke to a loved one on the phone who was in the hospital. She was scared, depressed, anxious, lonely, and confused. It hurt my heart that I could not go to her since she was in another state. So I posted on Facebook an unspoken prayer request.

The next morning I called this person again and she sounded like a different person. She was upbeat, positive, and optimistic. Prayer transformed this situation. I almost couldn’t believe it myself, seeing this miracle occur. But I know how awesome God is!

There are times when we might not even know what words we should express in our prayers. Perhaps we are in too much pain or too confused about what we are facing. Or as in the story I shared above, many of my friends who prayed did not know exactly what they were praying for because I did not share the details. But the good news is that God knows it all! He knows exactly what we need. He knows better than we do how we are feeling and what we are facing. And the Bible says: “But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27) How astounding is that!

Whatever you might be going through today, remember how amazing God is and hand it over to Him!

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The Heart of a King (review by Hannah Alexander

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I recently received a copy of The Heart of a King, written by a friend of mine, Jill Eileen Smith. #TheHeartofaKing

I’ve followed Jill’s writing career since it began, and have always enjoyed her highly readable writing style, which does not call attention to itself, but draws all of my attention to the subjects of her novels. Her special insights into her characters have helped bring so many of the Bible stories alive for me.

This most recent novel addresses Solomon’s true love for God and his struggle to manage the generous gift of wisdom he was given, and the kingdom he was tasked to manage, the peace he was charged to keep. What an overwhelming charge that must have been, especially when he chose to carry the responsibility on his own shoulders in a desire to remain pleasing to God.

With in-depth research, Jill fleshes out several possibilities about some of Solomon’s wives. She includes a story about the queen of Sheba and a connection they might have shared when she visited his lands.

Jill creates a world that helps us imagine what life in the days of King Solomon might have been like, and with her, we can experience a taste of such a life. I’m sure glad to be a woman today and not in the days of King Solomon, when daughters were traded away to foreign lands to keep the peace.

Check out this fascinating book for yourself, and see if Jill Eileen Smith might become one of your new favorite authors.

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Memorial Day 2019 by Tara Randel

God Bless the USA

Popping in from a much needed time off to wish you a happy Memorial Day. This is such a wonderful day to remember those in service who risked or gave their lives to the country we Americans have the privilege of calling home. I hope none of us ever takes their sacrifice for granted. You probably have relatives or friends who have served in the military. Let them know what they mean to you.

First, to the veterans, Thank You. You certainly deserve a day dedicated to honoring you.

To our readers, take this day to reflect the blessings in your life. Your family, health, job, church. We are fortunate to live in a place where we have many freedoms, including the ability to worship without fear of imprisonment or death. From east to west, we have a beautiful country to visit, from mountains to plains, deserts and the beach, large cities and small towns. We’re all connected by one thing; living in this great nation.

So if you’re cooking out, staying home to put your feet up or visiting with friends, enjoy the day.

And never forget.

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, Trusting Her Heart, available August 2019. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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What Would Walt Disney think of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?

by Jim Denney

A change of pace today. Instead of a blog post, I’m going to link you to two blog posts I’ve written this week on other sites, both related to Disneyland and Star Wars.

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Walt Disney died in December 1966, more than a decade before the first Star Wars movie was released. What would he think of Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s new 14-acre “Star Wars”-themed land? The answer might surprise you. In an op-ed piece I wrote for the Fox News website, I explored Walt’s own words about the future of Disneyland — and the future of human society.  Read more at the Fox News opinion site: “Would Walt Disney Approve of ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?”

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And here’s a piece I wrote for my Walt’s Disneyland blogsite. Disneyland is getting a makeover in preparation for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge this Friday. That makeover includes a bold new color scheme for Sleeping Beauty Castle. Read more at “Disneyland is Getting Neat and Pretty for the Opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.”

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ABOUT JIM DENNEY AND WALT’S DISNEYLAND: Jim Denney has more than 120 books to his credit, and has co-written books with sports stars and Hollywood celebrities. His previous book on Walt Disney, How To Be Like Walt (co-written with Orlando Magic founder Pat Williams) has remained in print for a dozen years, and has garnered 4.8 out of 5 stars in 185 customer reviews on Amazon.com. Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There If You Know Where to Look by Jim Denney (Anaheim, CA: Writing in Overdrive Books, May 2017) is available at Amazon.com; Paperback $15.99; Ebook $5.99.

 

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