Christ's Glory, Not Mine

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

Precious Memories

alzheimers blog tour

 

I joined the Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month Blog Tour due to personal experience. In my teens, my grandfather suffered a form of Alzheimer’s combined with dementia and ended up losing his home and much of his possessions before anyone realized he was unable to take care of them and defend himself from con artists. It was a terrible time and as he was living with my family we continued to be baffled by his odd behavior. Like many families who don’t understand the disease and/or don’t recognize the symptoms, my family operated under the mistaken idea that Grandpa could be persuaded to “buck up” and get his act together if we simply continued to expect more from him than he was capable of and gave him a hard enough time for letting us down.

It doesn’t work. It just makes everyone miserable. In fact, some of the persuasion methods used in my home were ill-advised for use on healthy people, too, but that’s a side issue. I want to send an “I really do get it” to everyone struggling with watching an aging relative lose the ability to take care of themselves and having memory problems.

Let’s try to imagine what it is like for our loved ones. You who have been an independent adult in many ways are losing adult functions and returning to a child state. You have a growing need for Mommy and Daddy to come take care of you. Mommy and Daddy are long gone. You’re also losing your memory and ability to understand this.

Memories are important. Good or ill, they shape us, mold our character. Each experience captured in our memories is a vital part of who we are, even our wounds, sometimes especially our wounds. This is, incidentally, a core problem in the Web Surfer series; the hero is a genetically modified boy-AI hybrid forced to be in multiple places at once in a cyberspace made of matrix-like digital worlds. Each version of him is subject to a user who can customize him as they please. He combats this vicious assault on the integrity of his person by separating his “human mind” from his “AI mind,” which frees his human mind to help with AI mind’s constant task of synchronizing his broken pieces’ lives and help him maintain a core true identity, one that feels eons old in his late teens.

Perhaps one of my greatest influences for such a scary fictional assault was Alzheimer’s scary real-life assault. There is no cure. We cannot save ourselves if we get it or our loved ones if they get it. All we can do is love the person we knew, be gracious about the new limits of who the disease makes them, and trust God. If we know him, if our loved ones know him, he will restore us/our loved one as good as new in His Kingdom Come.

To close, in case someone with an undiagnosed relative stumbles onto my blog before they find this information on WebMD, here are seven warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

 

  1.  Asking the same question over and over again.
  2. Repeating the same story, word for word, again and again.
  3.  Forgetting how to cook, or how to make repairs, or how to play cards – activities that were previously done with ease and regularity.
  1. Losing one’s ability to pay bills or balance one’s checkbook.
  1. Getting lost in familiar surroundings, or misplacing household objects.
  1. Neglecting to bathe, or wearing the same clothes over and over again, while insisting that they have taken a bath or that their clothes are still clean.
  1. Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions they previously would have handled themselves.

WebMD also notes, “If someone has several or even most of these symptoms, it does not mean they definitely have the disease. It does mean they should be thoroughly examined by a medical specialist trained in evaluating memory disorders, such as a neurologist or a psychiatrist, or by a comprehensive memory disorder clinic, with an entire team of expert knowledge about memory problems.”

You may also want to review this link from WebMD: Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Andrea  Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since age six, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. She’s signed a contract for her Web Surfer books with Helping Hands Press and has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. She encourages readers at christsglory.com and offers assistance to writers at povbootcamp.com. Andrea  and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.

Find me on:

facebook.com/alightchild           pinterest.com/alightchild/

twitter.com/povbootcamp         amazon.com/author/andreajoygraham

Good Reads


Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregivers Month Blog Tour

alzheimers blog tour

President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million (Alzheimer’s Association, 2014). The Author Community of Helping Hands Press is getting involved this month, and hopes to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.
Staring Nov. 3rd, with Anne Baxter Campbell’s blog post and Sue Badeau’s appearance on blogtalk radio, and finishing on Nov. 25th with Mark Venturini’s blog post, many of the authors in the Helping Hands Press Community will be sharing their personal stories.
Who are the authors, their blogs and what days?

Here is the list:

Nov.3rd–Anne Baxter Campbell

Nov.4th–Doris Gaines Rapp

Nov.5th–Marcia Lee Laycock

Nov. 6th–Ruth L. Snyder

Nov. 7th–Sheila Seiler Lagrand

Nov. 8th–Giovanni Gelati

Nov. 10th –Cindy Noonan

Nov. 11th–Sue Badeau

Nov. 12th–Peggy Blann Phifer

Nov. 13th–Sandy Sieber

Nov. 13th–Joy Ross Davis

Nov.14th–Karen Gass

Nov. 17th–Patti J. Smith

Nov. 18th–Tracy Krauss

Nov.19th–Melanie M. Jeschke

Nov. 20th–Richard L. Allen

Nov.21st–Andrea J. Graham 

Nov.22nd–Linda Wood Rondeau

Nov.24th–Diane Huff Pitts

Nov.25th–Mark Venturini


Subtle Evangelists v. Explicit Christ-Followers

As a Christian writer, I want to make a positive spiritual impact on my readers. Some insist the best way to do this is to hide my beliefs while trying to subtly influence the reader’s beliefs. As I understand the Bible, a faith that is hidden can’t touch anyone in a way that will draw them closer to God. What can touch people is a plain-spoken, humble faith that is neither fake nor forced but lived out naturally. When we do that in any setting, the only non-Christians we’ll offend are folks too hardened for the Holy Spirit to draw them by any means. In my experience, aside from those guys, it’s Christians you most have to worry about offending.

That said, the Bible does present one potentially subtle form of Christian story telling known as the parable, which is an allegory with a religious symbolic meaning. My Web Surfer books have at their core a modern version of Christ’s parable, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” which were familiar and common place to a first century audience.

In modern times, computer networking and blood-borne retroviruses are handy models to show what God is like in an entertaining fashion. I went beyond what is available now to co-opt the Singularity, an artificial intelligence that humanists expect to build and place messianic hopes in. In the Web Surfer universe, this entity is an AI-Human, fully AI and fully Human, who rejects being worshiped to follow Christ. Sander is a flawed model of the Trinity who struggles to be faithful to his calling to reign over cyberspace as Christ’s ambassador, since he knows the price: persecution and tragedy. These are touched on in Users of Web Surfer, a collection of ten shorter works, and fully played out in the novels.

Parables aren’t necessarily always subtle. The God that Sander serves is explicitly a real presence in the Web Surfer books, one I’ve sought to represent as faithfully as possible.

Further, even when they are subtle, parables are for people with ears to hear. Before a parable can touch an unbeliever, they have to be able to figure out what it means. The atheists I’ve heard from feel like Christians who write subtle are trying to trick them. No one likes to be tricked. If we don’t want to rudely cross that boundary, it’s best to be direct, respectful, and to wait until they indicate interest in hearing our logical, rational case for Christ’s existence with an open mind.

In fact, most humans prefer it to be made clear up front what philosophical, political, or religious perspective a media item takes. This lets us make an informed decision whether we’re interested in being “reached,” persuaded to switch to an opposing viewpoint. If we’re not interested, with a few vocal exceptions, the question becomes whether the story is good enough to merit overlooking that. If it is, we will read to the end, then we will go on with their lives with what we’ve read having made little or no impact on our beliefs.

Christians know this when we’re evaluating materials advocating non-Christian beliefs, but we seem to forget it when we’re producing materials advocating Christian beliefs. I suspect this is because it pokes holes in our “evangelism” excuse for writing to please a market where we’ll make more money.

If God has called someone to write fiction for evangelism purposes, that fiction’s target audience is open-minded unbelievers. It’s only a bonus if anyone else tolerates or enjoys the religious content. This is most effective if it organically arises due to the POV characters being “seekers of Truth” who find Christ near the end of their full story lines and convert for believable reasons in a non-canned way. It’s also wise to have an external conflict that can be enjoyed by anyone who reads the book’s genre. This audience seeks Truth from non-fiction and reads fiction for sheer pleasure. However, everyone appreciates a hero we can personally relate to who is doing cool stuff.

Of course, there is another option: pre-evangelism fiction.

Effective pre-evangelism fiction would feature a non-Christian POV character with a problem they solve with the help of a Christian who is quietly living his or her faith in front of them. Alternately, the Christian could be the POV character’s adversary. Either way, due to the Christian character showing the POV character love and respect while living out his/her faith, the POV character changes from being indifferent or hostile to Christians to respecting them without changing his or her own beliefs. Christianity isn’t even on the POV character’s radar as a possibility until the end. Fiction may be more suited for pre-evangelism than evangelism, but if God has called anyone to that, do it.

Andrea  Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since age six, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. She’s signed a contract for her Web Surfer books with Helping Hands Press and has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. She encourages readers at christsglory.com and offers assistance to writers at povbootcamp.com. Andrea  and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.

Find me on:

facebook.com/alightchild           pinterest.com/alightchild/

twitter.com/povbootcamp         amazon.com/author/andreajoygraham


Web Surfer Series

Helping Hands Press will be releasing the 1st novel in The Web Surfer Series in Mid-December. I have two covers to choose from. Which one do you like and why? Thank you!

Cyberspace’s enslaved king assists users from around the world, but freedom’s call could shake the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

(The first was a group effort with contributions from Cindy Koepp, Heather A Titus, and Travis Perry)


Finding Roses Amist Thorns

Christians like to argue over the nature of the thorn in the flesh, whether it’s physical disease or a demonic assault. My response: who says we can only have one thorn in our flesh? I have several of the chronic illness sort.

Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormone problem that can cause depressive moods. On top of that, I have inattentive-type ADD, which can cause meltdowns, especially if I get over-stimulated, and I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which again has triggers that can cause me to regress back to the way I thought as a child. When that happens, I’m stuck thinking like an ADD child/teen in meltdown, while also under the influence of the imbalanced hormones of an adult woman with PCOS.

These storms never hit me as a freak, random accident of biology. We have an enemy who knows our flesh’s weaknesses and how to attack us in ways that exploit those flaws. We further ultimately inherited them from Adam and Eve, who’d been corrupted by eating fruit the enemy sold them. So, yes, my thorns can be described in medical terms, but there is a spiritual war going on, too. With God fighting on our side, if we take refuge in the Lord, the enemy is little more than a thorn in our sides.

Rather than talk down to you, I’m going to assume you already know about the full armor of God. Even strong Christians can struggle with “thorns in the flesh” they’ve asked God to remove and God hasn’t. Some can’t understand why God would ever refuse to heal his child for any reason but that the child lacks enough faith. These folks tend to mind what the devil’s doing too much and mind what God’s doing too little. The reverse is possible, too, as it can be hard for the human mind to see affliction as simultaneously both the enemy out to kill, steal, and destroy and God testing us with fire. Any time God doesn’t deliver us from the fire, God is with us in the fire. When God doesn’t heal us, he means to use it for good every bit as much as the enemy means to use it for evil.

Sometimes, it is really hard to see how any good at all can come out of affliction. What comes out of me in a meltdown is dark, it’s terrible, it’s painful. In a word, it’s toxic. Some of that toxic waste had been locked in a corner of my heart, out of my reach, where it can’t be healed, where it can be gotten out of me. The devil attacks me for my harm, to use against me what he’d planted in my life long ago, but God means this for my good, to get it out of me, to get it healed, to get the good stuff of God’s word down in deeper. I am the one who must choose whether to sorrow unto death or unto life—and the devil’s strategy of attack in these meltdowns does often include suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Truth is my first line of defense. Only I put on Truth by going before God and pouring out all of that stuff before him, confessing what I’m thinking and feeling. If the attack is severe enough, and I am longing for Heaven, I ask Daddy right out to take his daughter home to be with him, but then I submit to God’s will and God’s plan for my life, whatever it is. That takes a lot of faith, and trusting God in my darkest hour is coming easier and easier, as I experience the Lord’s faithfulness to hold me in his sheltering arms through the storm—or gradually, gently lift me up out of the miry pit if you will. Further, God uses such trials to keep us humble and to remind us to stay close and reliant upon him.

So God doesn’t always heal us physically on this side of eternity, and this isn’t always due to a lack of faith. However, he always is at work on us spiritually through every trial. We can’t control God “by faith” and get him to do what we want. We can ask of our Father, hold our hands out, and follow wherever he leads us—or accept whatever he freely gives.