Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Psalmsinger

A Kudu horn shofar
A “modern” shofar, made from kudu horn.

I’ve got a novel idea (get it?) for a new book even as I’m still working on the current one. It is about an intelligent and inventive chief priest in the ancient Israelite temple who is always working to increase the loudness of the worship music. Why? Because they had no electronic amplification systems. I could probably find some support for this view in Scripture, i.e. the wish to produce loud music to please the Lord. There are references to shouting and detailed instructions from  God for the Levites to form large temple choirs. I’m still researching this. If he could only modify the shofar, the ram’s horn trumpet, to play a variety of notes …

Chronic pain is America’s greatest scourge

Originally posted on June 7, 2015

It’s official: chronic, under-treated pain is America’s greatest scourge. “Chronic pain affects about 100 million American adults — more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined,” report the Institute of Medicine on their website. “Pain also costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.” That’s the official figures and the public financial cost of this epidemic.

“If you’re affected by unrelenting pain,” he writes, “you’re not thinking of what your pain is costing the national economy. If you’re thinking about money at all, you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the mortgage if you should lose your job tomorrow, because you just cannot sit in that office chair and do a whole day’s work anymore.” Venter says that his book is for those who are still swaying on their feet after receiving the knockout news that their pain condition is not going to go away. “Your pain is here to stay,” the doctor said. “We can alleviate it with drugs and other therapies, but you’re going to have to live with this condition.” Now a whole lot of realizations begin to flood through your mind. Your job — in danger. Your sports activities — over. Swinging your kids around on the lawn — ain’t happening anymore. To be frank, putting on your pants can now begin to present a problem.

But the difficulty of movement and activity is not the only problem. The big issue is that parts of your body — and in many cases your entire body — now hurt all the time. And slowly some of the implications begin to announce themselves in your mind:

    1. You may be on new, powerful drugs. Some medications, for instance the family of pain killers called opioids are, if not necessarily addictive, at least dependency-forming. Even so, the severity of you pain may leave you no choice but to use them. Carefully.
    2. If your pain does not show up in MRI’, X-Rays or blood work, your health or disability insurance may renege on you (they did on the author).
    3. If your situation is not just right, Social Security benefits will refuse you one, two, three, four times. Maybe more. This becomes a major fight in your life (it’s been for the author).
    4. You may lose not only your job (and therefore your income) but also your mobility, your hobbies and family activities, and your intimate life.
    5. Your spiritual life will invariably hit a bump. You may be asking “Why, God?” “Why this?” “Why me?” “Do I really deserve this?” This is the area to which Venter gives the most attention, along with your family life and your relationships with your loved ones.
    6. Speaking of your loved ones: When you’re in severe pain; is it (A) OK to be mean or churlish – they’ll understand, or (B) Important to be extra loving and considerate, and to not treat your pain as an excuse to snap at them?

This is just small sample of the stuff coming your way once somebody has pronounced the “disabled” word over you. What’ worse is that your relationships with your loved ones could go south in a hurry if your don’t handle them right. Venter says: “I didn’t write all these things to try and scare my readers — I’m writing them to say: ‘It’ okay! You’re not the only one in this situation, and there are ways to deal with this.’ I try to give you some answers (obviously I don’t have them all) when you break down and pray, and say to God: ‘Lord, the sky is falling on my head. Everything is disintegrating around me. My life is going you-know-where in a hand basket. Please help me, because I cannot do this by myself.’ That is where God’ gracekicks in.”

Venter’s book on chronic pain walks you through this dark valley with honesty and humor as he reminds you of God’ immeasurable grace, while pointing out the pitfalls and potholes. Your journey together with the author builds up throughout the book, until you’re left with a feeling of awe and wonder at God’ goodness, and you once again have a road map for your future. “You do have a future, don’t you?” the author asks. Venter describes his book as somewhat like a parachute. He hopes that you don’t need it, but if you need it, he thinks you need it bad. If it provides some new hope in only one life, Venter says, writing this book would have been worthwhile.Through Pain to Victory – A Christian Guide through Chronic Pain

by Gerhard Venter is available from as a paperback or as a Kindle eBook.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

gods-grandchildren-morgan-tcboo-e1477275117220This is a very important day! Today, I’m going to plunge into NaNoWriMo. This means starting my Sci Fi novel, God’s Grandchildren. I have a sort of an outline ready, but it’s not the detailed outline that James Patterson does. That’s probably the reason why Patterson writes eight books per month and I don’t. But we’ll see. If you know me, please hold thumbs for me (or spit in your cat’s eye — whatever your culture demands).
If you want to know more about NaNoWriMo, click here:
And so — off to work!


Six Acres and Independence

Our piece of land is our Declaration of Independence. No more store-bought eggs. In summer, no more tomatoes from some farm in California. Soon – no more milk, cheese, butter, cream, half-and-half, or yoghurt from the store.  This is where we make our stand against man-made or natural disasters, economic collapses, or shortages and want.

We have been working this small piece of our Earth for almost 4 years now. It has resisted us and nourished us; hurt us and healed us. Now we are getting ready for the big push: The Cows. It may happen next month or next year. We’ll be working around obstacles, through them, under them, or over them. But we will get there. Our tools? Hard work and all the smarts we can muster.

All I can say is: watch this space . . .

Abelard and Héloïse – A Medieval Love Story

The Medieval Philosopher Who Was Attacked and Mutilated
According to Wikipedia, the savior of millions of students, quoting the Chamber Biographical Dictionary, Pierre Abelard (1079 – 21 April 1142) was “the keenest thinker and boldest theologian of the 12th Century.” He was perhaps one of the founders of Medieval scholastic philosophy. But for a personality trait and an indiscretion, his life would have been as boring as, say, that of Thomas Aquinas.

Zero People Skills
First the personality trait. Pierre Abelard was a jackass. The man was superbly intelligent, his mind was a steel trap, and he was an orator who could wipe the floor with the brightest minds of his time. And he did! And his opponents did not like that – powerful opponents. In debates, he belittled and offended his opponents. Eventually his impressive corpus of haters hit him where he was most vulnerable: heresy. But before that, he had another Achilles heel: a woman.

A Steamy Love Affair, And How He Lost You Know What
Abelard’s indiscretion was a steamy love affair with the niece of a powerful man, the secular canon Fulbert. Héloïse was one of those curious phenomena of the Middle Ages: a woman who was intelligent and well educated, but would write letters saying: “But what do I, a poor, simple woman know?” Think of Hildegard of Bingen, who was the first woman who was allowed to preach in Europe and who told kings how to run their kingdoms. She did the same thing in her letters. Anyway, Abelard and Héloïse fell desperately, hopelessly in love. It was not a love affair between a nun and a monk. They were both free to get married. But they didn’t. But finally, Abelard’s past caught up with him – a band of men hired by some of his powerful enemies burst into his room one night and castrated him. That put a brutal and sudden halt to his career as a lover.

An Enduring Love Story
Abelard’s other career, that of teacher and philosopher, dragged on through trials and tribulations until his death in 1142. Later, Héloïse was buried next to him. In spite of an obviously abrasive personality, he left behind not only a brilliant oeuvre of philosophical works but one of the most beautiful love stories in the collective consciousness of Europe. To this day, forlorn lovers place flowers at the graves of Abelard and Héloïse in Paris.

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Holy the Firm, by Annie Dillard

Book review: Holy the Firm, by Annie Dillard.

This little book ranks as probably the best I’ve ever read. In any case, it’s a close tie with Buechner’s Godric. Annie Dillard is a mystic who earnestly searches for answers and gets a mystery instead.

In the first chapter of the book, Newborn and Salted, she establishes critical concepts of gods of days, salt and fire. The gods of days not only represent nature, but also randomness in the world – a randomness that ranges from the whimsical (a god dragged in by the cat) to blind destruction (a punk with a match in a barn). These gods will later be overshadowed by thoughts about the true God when the discourse turns to questions of immanence/emanence, theodicy and finally mystery.

Salt will turn out to be connected to Holy the Firm, and also represent the way in which “we” – especially artists and particularly the author – dissolve ourselves into this world to connect to the Absolute.

And fire – ah, that cruel and unforgettable description of the burning of the moth. The fire theme is strong: some of the gods play with matches, Rimbaud burned his brain out in his poems, the winged godlet’s hair was on fire, even the cat’s tail had to be put out. And later, of course, Julie Norwich gets burned in a plane crash, and will have to spend the rest of her life disfigured. The fate of this little girl, and the mystical union between the author, God and Julie, are main themes in the book.

Altogether, as I have indicated, the five stars in the standard rating system are insufficient for this book. As the cliché goes: You have to read it.

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John Steinbeck’s Rules

Here are 6 rules I condensed from blogs and posts about his writing rules. You have to love his rule #1. Enjoy!

1.  Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.
Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps.

2.  Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper.
3. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm.

3.  Pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.


4.  If a scene gets the better of you—bypass it and go on.

5.  Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you

6.  If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it.

An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support. John Buchan

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The Writing Rules of Stephen King


In my blog series on the writing rules of some famous writers, I’m looking today at what Stephen King has to say.

I can safely say that we’re still in the territory of the big guns here! I’ve super-condensed his rules into 10 big ones:

1.  Be talented
2.  Be neat
3.  Remove every extraneous word
4.  Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
5.  Know the markets
6.  Write to entertain
7.  Evaluate criticism
8.  Observe all rules for proper submission
9.  An agent? Forget it. For now
10. If it’s bad, kill it

These rules are so straightforward and succinct that I don’t want to weigh them down with a huge blog post. They speak for themselves.

Now listening to Led Zeppelin: Kashmir (from Led Zeppelin [Disc 1])

To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best. Margaret Thatcher

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