Christ's Glory, Not Mine

Devotions, advice, and book reviews from science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Journey to Web Surfer Part III

Part One: a concussion launched me on the journey to the Web Surfer Series as it is today.

Part Two: How God taught me to rely more on God in the writing process on the journey to the Web Surfer Series.

01 Andrea Graham 2Preview of Part Three:

The character God challenged me to write about, Elisha Micah Gabrielson, was born with gender-ambiguous genitalia. In his day, the turn of the 22nd century, such children’s original birth certificates always give their gender as “intersexed” and the only treatment option the parents are allowed is surgery to give the child normal female genitalia. Elisha was born to Christian conservatives who went against this tide to raise their child as male and fought a court battle to get him legally recognized as male and to get him surgery to give him normal male genitalia.

regenerationThey won those objectives when he was five. By then, he already shared his family’s Christian faith and conservative values, he self-identified as male, and he desired surgery to be a normal boy. When puberty partially feminized him again, the surgical options he was given for gaining full adult male functioning struck him as immoral, and he retains an all or nothing mentality on that issue clear into his sophomore year of college. The local church he grew up in accepts the teen as-is, but he gets rejected a lot in our wider subculture by folks confusedly mistaking him for a female-to-male transsexual. Likewise, the world hates him for his beliefs.

Continue reading Journey to Web Surfer Series Part III at Helping Hands Press’s blog

Part Four is expected to conclude this testimony at the end of August.


Dangers of Righteous Anger

Jude 1:21
The most dangerous anger I’ve witnessed lately is righteous indignation. The reason it is dangerous is humans aren’t righteous. We are most prone to do ugly things to each other when we’re angry and either it is justified or we believe we are justified.

It saddens me that so many grown adults behave as if they honestly believe “I am angry, and you were wrong, therefore you are no longer worthy of my respect, kindness, or being treated fairly, and I have every right to lash out and hurt you.”

This may be one of the greatest social ills plaguing my country today, perhaps the world. I see it all over the news, cropping up in many different ways, but the underlying spirit of “righteous” rage is the same, and it can drive good, reasonable people to do the cruelest of things to the people they love, sometimes perfect strangers.

angerOne danger I see is how this rage can blind us to the hypocrisy of our actions. “Person X said/did Y to person X and this is deplorable. We should never do/say such hurtful, mean-spirited things. I will teach Person X by saying/doing hurtful, mean-spirited things to Person X. They deserve it, so I am totally clean. My nasty behavior is justified by the nasty behavior of Person X.”

When we succumb to such thinking, in realty, we have become part of the problem ourselves. We have become what we hate.

Brothers and sisters, we can be dismayed but not too surprised when the world behaves in this manner as our culture slides further and further away from any sort of Christian foundation. Let’s seek to keep it out of the Church, starting with the one person whose actions we have any control over: the person in the mirror.

Let’s respond to evil with good. When they curse, let’s bless. When they’re rude, let’s pray for strength from God to speak kindly and respectfully back. A soft answer turns away wrath; turning the other cheek to insults can break the spread of the rage overtaking many.

No matter how wrong they are, and what we think they deserve, let’s try to take a step back, remember Christ took the wrath of God that we deserved for our wrongs on the Cross. Let’s offer freely the love we have received from Christ, and let’s try to keep in mind the love of Christ is also rather different from the world’s idea of love, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Breathe. Slow, long. When your body tenses up, choose to unclench those clenched muscle groups. Acknowledge to yourself that you are angry. Acknowledge the reality of the wrong/injustice/threat provoking the anger response. Pray and ask God for wisdom in how to address the real issue while by being kind, respectful, gentle, patient and forgiving toward the other party rather than attacking in kind. We won’t always succeed. We will fail and make our own mistakes. As much as we safely can, be sure to acknowledge your own wrong to the other person as their wrong does not justify ours.

Hate can’t be overcome with hate. It only can be overcome with God’s love.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ro 12:14;17-21

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Biases: Free Flash Fiction Friday

random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

The door chimed as a male, non-Jewish customer entered Rivka Cohen’s kosher deli. Her stomach churned. George’s dad was well known for anti-Semitism but surely he didn’t take after his dad. After all, she knew George’s wife from synagogue, though her friend hadn’t gone since they were little. She grinned and waved. “Hi, George. What can I get for you today?”

A light gleamed in his eyes. “Turkey and Swiss on rye with the works, please.”

“Coming right up.” She rang up the turkey on rye sandwich separately from his special request, the slice of cheese. Her stomach tightened as she made his order. His special request wasn’t kosher but he wasn’t of her faith, she didn’t have to eat it and surely she wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean over cheese. It wasn’t unclean according to Torah. It was the Rabbis who had interpreted “Don’t boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk” to mean not to even put cheese on a sandwich. They might judge her at her synagogue, if they found out, but no one would see.
turkey sandwich
She wrapped his sandwich, passed it to him, and gave him his total. After he paid, she handed back his credit card and said with a bright smile, “Have a good day!”

“Thank you.” He tapped his fingers. “My daughter is having a bar mitzvah at our interfaith synagogue in four weeks.”

Ugh. Maybe she had misunderstood, and his daughter had decided to practice her mother’s abandoned faith? Muscles tensing, she forced her smile to stay put. “You mean a bat mitzvah. Girls have bat mitzvahs, not bar mitzvahs.”

“That is so sexist. Our interfaith synagogue practices true equality. Girls have bar mitzvahs, too, and you don’t have to believe Torah is the word of God or commit to keep the Torah to get one.”

That was absurd. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t the place for a religious argument.

The door chimed again as another customer came in. She waved. “Be right with you, ma’am.”

George cleared his throat and leaned over the counter. “You cater, right?”

A bat mitzvah being ignorantly called a bar mitzvah that made a mockery of her faith. She swallowed. It was surely unintentional. Best to let it go. She got out her pad of catering order forms. “Yes, we cater special events. What would you need?”

“Oh, about two hundred shredded pork sandwiches.”

Her face fell. That was it. She put away the catering order forms. “I’m sorry, I’d suggest you go down to Ted’s Barbeque. We don’t serve pork.”

“Excuse me? You got a problem with my love for pork? How dare you! Who are you to judge?”

Huh? “You’re not a Jew. What you eat elsewhere is your business, but we are a kosher deli. It says so on all our ads and signage. Pigs are among the animals of which Torah itself says, ‘You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’”

“That is bigoted discrimination. A deli is a deli. I have a right to walk into any deli I please and order a pork product and get service, not judgment and hate over my love of pork. Besides, I am a long time customer, and you’ve regularly broken kosher laws for me.” He pointed at the turkey and Swiss on rye. “Thanks to that, you have to be willing to make me anything I order, for any occasion, or it’s discrimination. If you can’t make me shredded pork sandwiches for my daughter’s interfaith bar mitzvah, then you shouldn’t be in business.”

The bell rang as the customer who had been waiting behind him left.

“Sorry you feel that way, sir,” she said in the most professional tone she could muster.

Her childhood friend’s husband tossed his sandwich in the garbage. “I won’t eat what the hands of hate made. I will issue a stop payment with my credit card company.” He stomped out. “And I will sue and take you for everything you’ve got!”

She gulped. Thankfully, she wasn’t one of the hateful, discriminatory Christians who refused to cater gay weddings at their secular bakeries. Only others who hated Jews wouldn’t see through the ploys of the hateful, bigoted false friend seeking to ruin her financially over her faith. Surely her right to practice her religion at her Jewish deli would be upheld and his lawsuit dismissed.

Author’s note: let’s each work on being aware of our own biases. Let’s each work on respecting the rights of others to earn a living according to their own conscience even if we disagree with them on political, religious, or any other controversy of the day.


Journey to Web Surfer Part II

Creature Web coverAs I said in my testimony last month, a concussion launched me on the journey to the Web Surfer Series as it is today. One of the positive side effects was it taught me to rely more on God in the writing process. I’d made the main character fully man and fully AI and cyberspace’s king. Alexander McGregor is one young man who thinks both with his natural human mind, Alex, and with his artificial intelligence, King Sander, who is housed in his supercomputer. His AI is misused to operate Web Surfer brand machines in working conditions that threaten to shred his soul and fracture him into a billion digital duplicates of himself leading a billion different lives simultaneously. King Sander’s efforts to save himself give Alex Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Alex’s delusions enable Sander’s human engineers to keep a king enslaved to his users.

King Sander is infinitely small compared to God but he is mammoth beside ordinary humans, so I was never up to the challenge of writing from his point of view. After the concussion, I realized writing from Alex’s delusional ‘normal human’ viewpoint wasn’t enough to fix my problem. So I offered King Sander to God like I was playing dolls and offering one of my dolls to God. In response, God challenged my willingness to surrender control of the creative process to God.

Continue reading at Helping Hands Press’s blog to learn the identity of the Web Surfer novel character who I received as an unexpected, surprising, challenging answer to prayer. Parts three and four are expected at the end of July and August.


Book Review: Blood Tithe

bloodtitheWhispers from Forbidden Earth: Blood Tithe by Mark Venturini is Urban Fantasy suitable for the middle grades reader in your family and anyone looking for a clean read. It makes use of familiar, well-known creatures of legend without ripping off Tolkien as well as the Seelie/Unseelie fae courts only familiar to me as H. A. Titus uses them in her urban fantasy, too. The pre-release copy I received contained some typographical errors that I’m going to hope have been fixed.

This is a sequel and while it can be read and enjoyed alone, the references to past events from the previous book are more appreciated and the reading experience enriched if you’ve read it. Both books together make it clear Mark has spent some time developing the primary fantasy world in his series and the various ways to make journeys from there to Earth and back again.

A few elements of the good guys’ magic reminded me of paganism uncomfortably; if you are especially sensitive take note, but folks who don’t like stories with Christian influences should be advised it does have faith elements. Melchizedek the High Priest is borrowed from the Bible and turned into a mage from Eversong (the fantasy world). He’s so far only back story. I’m curious if that character will eventually turn up in this series as the Christ-figure his name implies. The magi’s staffs are the most refreshing, unique element—those critters are pieces of wood with eyes and an ability to talk and think and communicate with the characters with a gift for telepathy, like the elf with a dragon friend rightfully annoyed she’s treated like a free taxi. The young heroes are likable, flawed but clearly good, which is nice to see in this day and age.

Note, this is volume one of a serialized novel so it contains only the first seven chapters/episodes. I look forward to the rest.