Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

About What We Do

From the AMA bag of holding, Surface asks:
Not to only ask about Torment - Im genuinely curious about your involvement with that orphanage.

How did it happen, really - and so far away from home? Im imagining you were probably on a vacation and just happened to run into it and then just... felt the call? Am i correct?

And how do you finance it? Seems like an impossible task just for one guy and his wife.

Is it you who is keeping it all together or are you helping or... how does it all work really?

This might be the first question for which my new readers need the backstory. Or just the story, I guess.

Like it says next to my picture over there, my wife and I foster a bunch of kids in Thailand. We're not an orphanage (though we used to work at one). We don't even really like the term "children's home" (though that has more to do with certain connotations that has out here -- technically, we are a children's home). We prefer the term family, because that's what we try to be in every way.

We take in kids that have nowhere to go. We try as hard as we can to treat them like they were our biological children (we have 2 of those as well, which gives a good point of comparison). We currently have 10 kids -- 9 at home and 1 in college -- from all kinds of backgrounds: orphans, refugees, abused, abandoned, Thai, Burmese, Lisu, Karen. Our only real criteria is that we are their last stop. These kids have had it hard enough; the more stability we can give them, the better they will be able to heal.

So our "children's home" is just our house and our family. We're the parents. We have no employees except a house helper (who is, herself, more family than employee). We almost never both leave at the same time because (1) it's hard on the kids and (2) it's hard on us!

How did this happen? The simple answer is what you said: God called us. The run-on sentence is that Cindy's had a heart for orphans since she was young, so when we felt called to come here (it was a more gradual thing, culminating in a very strange moment at a pastor's conference where we both *knew* God was asking us to go), we had a vague idea of running an orphanage/planting a church in whatever country we ended up in. About a year after we got here, we had something of a reclarification, in which we realized we didn't want to manage an orphanage. We wanted to parent a family.

Financing our home has mostly come from friends and family who support our vision, as well as from our own savings. Over the last few years, our family has grown beyond our income from supporters, and our savings have been gradually exhausted. It was almost exactly two years ago when we were considering fundraising (blech), but then I got this job you might have heard of.

So yeah, your Kickstarter dollars help support orphans in Thailand. That's how awesome you are. Seriously.

You can't believe how grateful I am -- to you the backers, to Colin and Kevin and Brian, to God. I never, ever, ever, ever thought I'd get to be in game design again without quitting everything we do out here (which isn't going to happen). The fact that I get to work on this amazing game, without taking any time away from my amazing kids, has been blowing my mind for two years straight now.

Thank you for the question, too. I appreciate the opportunity to share my family a little bit.


Got a question? Ask me anything.

"Do you credit a Most High God?"

John Scalzi recently described himself as "an agnostic of the 'I'm almost certain God does not exist, but intellectual honesty requires me to admit I just don’t know' stripe." That's a belief I have a lot of respect for.

I'm both similar and opposite (yes, I can be both). I'm certain God exists and cares for us, but intellectual honesty requires me to admit I could be wrong.

I said I have a lot of respect for beliefs like Scalzi's, and that's because there isn't proof of a God -- not in the way we want there to be. If there were, the internet would have a lot less to argue about. And so of course I struggle with my own belief.

I'm certain God exists; I wouldn't be out here, doing what I'm doing, if I thought He didn't -- I'm just not that good. But why am I so certain? That's harder to quantify, and certainly I can't do it in a way that would irrefutably convince an atheist I am right.

But I don't believe blindly. As I said, I struggle constantly. I question why I believe what I do, and why others believe what they do. I question every word I teach my kids, refusing to teach the Sunday School lessons I was given unless I believe them myself. I frequently answer their questions with, "I don't know." I teach them what other people believe. Most importantly, I teach them that I won't ever make them follow God, that they have to make that choice for themselves.

To the point of this post, sci-fi/fantasy is usually so unabashedly atheistic, that I am always surprised -- quite pleasantly -- when it speaks directly to my own heart struggles. The passage below is from SFWA Grand Master Gene Wolfe's The Wizard. Sir Able, the narrator, is a knight more noble than any I have ever read about, who wrestles daily with what it means to be good and honorable. The sister of the king meets him in secret on an unrelated matter, but during the conversation, she asks him if he believes in God.

I'm sure it won't hit you the way it hit me, but I have to share it anyway, because I see a lot of truth in Sir Able's answer:

"Do you credit a Most High God?"

The question caught me by surprise. I said, "Why of course," stammering like the boy I pretended not to be.

"I do and don't." She smiled, and the smile became her laugh. It was music, but I never ached to hear it again as I did Disiri's. Even then, I thought her less than human, and that laugh was at the root of my opinion.

"I don't and I do." She cocked her head like a bird.

I bowed again. "Just so, My Lady. We can think only of creatures, of things He's made. Creatures are all we know, and can be all we know until we know Him. When we think of Him like that, we find we can't believe. He can't be like a creature any more than a carpenter is like a table."

Why Do You Write in Your Genre?

Almost everything I write has some sort of fantasy element to it, something that defies understanding for the people in that world.

And I think the reason is my own faith. Part of my assembly code includes a belief that there's more to this world than we can see or understand. I feel like there must be.

So even when I write a story about a forgotten colony of Earth, something creeps in that is bigger than we are and beyond our understanding. Even when I try to set a story in modern-day Thailand, people start fires with their mind or something.

I'm not sure I could write a non-speculative, contemporary story even if I wanted to. Eventually, some character would discover unusual powers or receive visions of the future or at the very least witness something that may or may not be a miracle.

I can't help it.

What's your genre? And why do you write it?

The Thing No One's Supposed to Blog About

Welcome to Day 2 of Lurker Week here on Author's Echo. I really enjoyed reading your answers to Monday's random questions. I loved learning more about the regulars, and I'm so happy to see the poking heads of folks I've never met, or haven't heard from in a while. Hi, guys! Glad to meet you and/or see you again!

Today's topic is a little tougher than having tea with Gandalf though, but I think it's important. See, I'm aware that a lot of the blogs I read are written by quiet Christians, quiet Mormons, and more. Their faith is a large part of who they are, but they don't talk about it online, just like I don't. There are many, many good reasons for this, but just once I'd like to tell you what I believe, and hear what you believe, about this crazy existence we're all stuck together in. (For the purpose of this post, atheism totally counts by the way).

Some ground rules:
  • This is NOT about converting people. The point is to learn about each other, not to prove a point.
  • Likewise, this is NOT about who is right or wrong. Please don't put people on the defensive about their faith (and if I do so without realizing, please tell me).
  • DON'T be a meanie head. Nasty comments will be summarily destroyed.

Here are some questions to help voice your thoughts. Feel free to use them or skip them as you want.
  1. What is your religion (just the label here)?
  2. What's one important way your personal belief differs from what people normally think of when they think of that label?
  3. How does your personal belief impact your daily life?
  4. Most religions agree that the world sucks: people are hurt, get sick, die. How does your personal belief address that?
  5. Why do you believe what you believe?
  6. Anything else you'd like to share about your beliefs?

And my answers:
  1. Christian (non-denominational Protestant, I guess).
  2. I'm not your stereotypical conservative (not conservative at all, actually). I don't froth over the mouth about issues like gay marriage, for example. I tend to believe that loving people is more important than making them follow "the rules."
  3. Little ways: I go to church. I teach my kids to love Jesus. I read the Bible and pray most days. Big ways: I believe God called my wife and I here to Thailand to do what we do.
  4. Short, short answer is that I think it's a combination of sin and free will. That is, God gave us life and the ability to do what we want with it, and a lot of us (all of us, really) have screwed it up. I have a slightly more in-depth answer here, if you're interested.
  5. For years, I was Christian just because that's what I knew. I grew up in the church, a Christian family, everything. When I left home, I realized I had to decide for myself if this was my religion or just my parents'. Over the years since, I feel like God has proven himself to me in a number of ways, to the point where I trust him.
  6. I really think the most important thing is to love God and love people, not beat people over the head with their sin (nor make laws so we can punish them for it, for that matter). Beyond that, there's still a lot I'm trying to work out for myself.

I know this is scary (it is for me), but I do really, really want to both share what I believe and know what you believe. We put on these internet personas that are really only part of who we are. Sometimes I want to know the whole person, you know?

Likewise, I understand if you need to protect your internet persona by NOT talking about this. That's okay too. Feel free to say as much or as little as you like.

Believing in a World

Chapters Edited: 15
Scenes Edited: 47
Words Murdered: 2904 (5.2%)

Confirmed Kills: 1 (Geez, that's it?)
Mutinies: 1
Authority figures Sam has a problem with: All of them


A writer has to believe in their story. That's a given. A writer has to believe in their world - that's a corollary. But how far does that go? Tolkien wrote about immortal elves that left our world behind. Orson Scott Card described a future endangered by buglike aliens and saved by a pre-teen genius. But they didn't believe these things were really true.

Or did they?

When I was planning Air Pirates, I discovered that, while the worlds I created didn't have to be real, I needed to believe they could be.

The Air Pirates world sprung out of science fiction. I needed a world that was like Earth, but wasn't. At the same time, I didn't want to just take Earth and rename it. If names, cultures, and languages were going to be like Earth's, there should be a reason, I thought. I wanted the people of Air Pirates to be from Earth.

And so they are. They're distant descendants of Earth, whose ancestors arrived on the planet via a generation ship, though they don't know it. Nearly all of their knowledge was lost when the generation ship crashed into the sea.

Here's where it gets weird (or where I get weird - take your pick). The survivors lost everything - technology, history, even theology... and that was my problem. I'm a committed Christian, and so believe that God created us for a purpose, with an end in mind. The traditional end being, of course, the horrors and glories found in Revelation, when Jesus returns and God ends this world.

But I've read lots of stories that don't fit - and in many cases, outright reject - this worldview, and I've never had a problem with it. My capacity for belief-suspension is pretty dang high. But for some reason, I couldn't write about a world where clearly the Bible was wrong. My heart wasn't in it.

So I included God in my world. Not just by giving them religion, but by imagining how a forgotten colony could fit into God's plan. If a remnant of humanity left Earth, wouldn't God send his Word with them too, somehow? Though all their history was lost?

Enter the Brothers and Sisters of Saint Jude. Decades after the crash, when civilization had stabilized and the first generation had almost passed away, a group of people came together and tried to reconstruct the Bible. Knowing their project to be imperfect, they named the result the Incommensurate Word of God.

Air Pirates isn't about all this stuff. The monks only show up in one chapter, and their history is only briefly mentioned as world candy. The origins of the world aren't even touched on (in this book).

But they're there. They have to be, for me.

Anyone else get weird about their world building like this? Or maybe you have your own (less weird) world building stories to share?

Elements of Fiction: Why?

I've been reading this book, Blue Like Jazz, where Donald Miller talks about his Christian journey in decidedly non-religious terms. It's refreshing, and I highly recommend it, whatever your beliefs.

At one point, he talks about a lecture he went to on the elements of literature - setting, character, conflict, climax, and resolution - and he (and I) began to wonder why? Why do stories have to have these elements? Nobody invented them. Nobody said, "This is how it shall be done," and so we all do it that way. These elements are in the core of our being. Humans of all cultures identify with stories that contain these elements and have trouble with stories that do not (literary fiction, I'm looking at you).

The real reason (and this isn't my idea, but Miller's) is that these elements speak to things inherent in the human condition. Let's take a look at them.

Setting. This one is obvious. The fact that we exist means we exist somewhere. We cannot experience life without a setting in which to experience it.

Character. Likewise, there is no life but it has characters in it. Even the most secluded hermit has himself in his own story.

Conflict. Life sucks; it has hard things in it from the beginning. Pain. Loss. We want something, but there are always obstacles. There is no life without conflict.

Climax. As we face more conflict and more obstacles, eventually things come to a make-or-break point. Will I ask her out? Will I try out for the team? Will I propose? Will I win the contest? Will I have a baby? We must make a choice, we must act out that choice, and the experiences and decisions we've made up to that point all play a part in determining how each climax plays out.

Resolution. Whether the climax was a success or failure, the resolution is what happens as a result. Questions are answered. Loose ends are closed. Cliffs are left hanging towards the next climax.

The fact that these are inherent to life suggests some things too. Perhaps our lives build towards a climax and have resolution - maybe death is not an abrupt end to the story, but some kind of climax itself. Perhaps also there is something after death, with conflict and climax of its own (though of what kind, I cannot possibly imagine).

Because if there is one thing that is true about all stories, it's that they never end. After one scene reaches its climax, the conflict-climax-resolution cycle starts again in the next one. A few such scenes, and you've got a chapter. Many chapters, each with their own climax, make a book. Many books make a saga. Sagas make life.

And then it all starts again.

Why Do I Want To Be Published?

Bit of a God post. You've been warned.

In the last couple of weeks, I've repeatedly come against the question:* why do you want to get published? It's forced me to think, especially in light of the fact that writing is not, and can never be (at least for the foreseeable future) my main priority.

It's a hard question, because I won't deny that I like the feeling of being mini-famous,** but that's hardly a Christian attitude and certainly not a good thing to prioritize over my family.

* See Tip #88
** That is, famous only within small circles.

So I did what I always do when I'm in doubt. I went to the balcony and prayed. God didn't talk to me, but he opened my eyes. Or maybe by opening my heart and being quiet, I was able to see. I looked at our lawn - the lawn that only a couple months ago was a barren wasteland - and a bunch of birds flew onto the lawn, hopping around looking for bugs, and I thought, "That's cool. They couldn't do that before. Those birds are enjoying the lawn we made."

That's what hit me. I liked that the birds were enjoying something I made. I felt satisfied in my work. That's why I want to be published.

See, I already know that I love to - no, I have to - create. Writing is just my current outlet for that. And I'm completely convinced it's because I was made in the image of a creative God.*** And even God wasn't content with creating for himself. He needed someone who would get his Creation. Someone who could enjoy it.

I realized I create so that I and others can enjoy what I've created. Even though I do want to be mini-famous and make some money, my writing ultimately isn't about me. I could make it so pretty easily (and I'm sure I do in my mind all the time), but it's liberating to know the basic drive is much more pure than that.

*** That's essentially what "Author's Echo" means. We are echoes of the Author, images of him, children trying almost pathetically, yet purposefully, to emulate our Father in the things we do.