Today is Day Two of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


Jo took deep breaths, trying to still her pounding heart, and focused on the other side, just as she was taught. One foot in front of the other. Feel the beam underneath. Hold your arms steady. And keep your eyes looking straight ahead.

After four solid steps she allowed herself to smile, and faltered. She pulled herself over, only just managing to stay upright.

Eighteen… nineteen… twenty. The last step was onto solid ground.

Jo looked back across the chasm to her place of captivity, and the long thin branch she had crossed to escape; then ran for her life.

Come back tomorrow for C…



Today is Day One of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Click on the letter picture to the right for more information about this blog hop. Like last year, I’m writing 100-word flash fiction stories/poems/scenes for this year’s challenge. Today’s is:


I can’t say when the music started. It kind of drifted into my head, like a translucent whisper that gradually gains solid form, with words that hum distinct, definable tones. But as to the tune, I couldn’t say. It wasn’t one I’d heard before. Yet it sung to me, a melody of peace and quiet. Stillness and calm. It made me smile, deep in my soul. I might have got up, but I didn’t want to. The music rested my muscles, relaxed my mind. I just wanted to lie there and listen to it.

Besides, I’d stopped breathing hours ago.

Come back tomorrow for B…


Book Review: THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

This is a re-post of my Goodreads review for the benefit of my non-Goodreads readers.

What if the Earth’s rotation started to slow? That’s the basic premise of THE AGE OF MIRACLES, a novel that relates the life of an eleven-year-old girl, her family, friends, and neighbors, as their world is turned upside down by something as simple as the Earth slowing down. The days lengthen, causing long periods of light and darkness, increases in extreme temperatures, changes in gravity, and myriad spin-off effects. Ripples both in physics, and in life. Relationships turn, and the shape of society begins to change. It’s a lot for a young girl to cope with, especially when she’s only just learning to grapple with the changes going on in her personal life.

Let me start by warning prospective readers that this is not a light-hearted book. The premise is an interesting one to explore, and using the narrative of someone living through it gives meat and depth to what would otherwise be thought-provoking, and yet abstract speculation. The book is well-written, and really draws you into a world which is both familiar, and also frighteningly surreal. I’m no scientist, but the changes she describes are told with sufficient credibility that I’m willing to accept them, at least for the sake of the novel. They certainly work within the bounds of the narrative. Karen does a great job of showing the strained relationships, and the stresses that are caused by the daily increase of minutes. If you’re prone to being emotionally invested in a story, have a box of tissues handy.

I would almost give this five stars, but I was irritated by the depiction of religion. Clearly the author favors science, and there’s a very clear “rational science” vs. “irrational religion” undertone. The scientists are trying to find a solution, while the religious people are running around declaring the end of the world. Even the most reasonable religious character shuns her old friends and hangs out only with fellow Mormons. I’m not denying things like this would happen, but there would be as many Christian, Muslim, etc. scientists trying to help, and there would be many churches that would be opening their doors to those in need, not shouting “we told you so!” In all honesty, Karen could have left out any mention of religious groups and it wouldn’t have affected the story.

While the main character in the book is 11, this is definitely not a middle grade novel. The story is told by Julia, the girl, at a later date, looking back on these events. So the perspective and insight is that of a 20-something year old. I would say this is for YA and older. There are some instances of profanity, though not a lot. Mostly s-words with some f-words. Otherwise I would recommend this as a stimulating read.


Sunday School Notes: Revelation 6:5-6

5 And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and the one sitting upon it having balance scales in his hand. 6 And I heard as a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius and three quarts of barley for a denarius, but do not spoil the olive oil and the wine.”

After a brief recap of the previous two seals, we turned to the third seal, and the third of the Four Horsemen. The Lamb opens the seal and once again one of the creatures says, “Come!” I think we can assume the same type of thundering voice coming from the throne addressing the third rider, indicating that this is the Lord summoning and commissioning him.

There are two distinctive points about this horseman that John notes: his horse is black, and he’s holding a pair of scales. We normally associate black with death, and indeed in popular culture, it’s Death that rides a big black horse. But, as we’ll see in a moment, this rider represents famine. This isn’t inappropriate for a rider on a black horse since we tend to associate the color black with foreboding and evil. In John’s Gospel, he uses “night” to indicate more than the passage of time, but also a time when bad things happen (e.g., John 13:30, when Judas leaves to betray Jesus, “It was night”). So black certainly indicates bad things happening. But we mustn’t forget the Zechariah 6 background to this passage. The strongest reason for the horse colors in Revelation 6 is their correspondence to the horses pulling the chariots in Zechariah 6. Remember what we’re seeing in Revelation is at least clarification if not fulfillment of what we see in the Old Testament prophets, so we should expect to see these kinds of parallels.

Someone asked whether these four horsemen should be seen as following one another in some kind of chronological sequence. For example, often times of famine will follow a period of warfare. While one could certainly read the horsemen in that way, I think a couple of points speak against that view. First, if you look at all the seals, the first four are presented as a group, then with the fifth seal there’s a pause while the martyred saints cry out “how long?” Then with the sixth seal we have what I believe is the Final Judgment. So these first four appear to happen in close proximity, or even simultaneously. Then if you consider the Zechariah parallel, those charioteers are sent out at the same time to bring the Lord’s judgment. That further strengthens the idea that these seals represent the range of calamities that the Lord pours out upon the world between the Resurrection and the End Times.

John says this rider carries a pair of scales, or “balance scales” as I translate the Greek term. These generally consisted of a beam suspended on a rod in the middle, with two bowl hanging from it at each end. This was the common means of measuring dry goods for purchase, even in Old Testament times. Proverbs 11:1 and 16:11 refers to unjust and just balances, Isaiah 40:12 speaks of God weighing the mountains and hills, and Hosea 12:7 also uses “scales” in the context of wicked merchants oppressing people through unjust balances. Then, of course, there’s the famous scene in Daniel 5:27 when the Lord makes his presence known during the idolatry of Belshazzar’s feast by inscribing the words MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN. The Lord gives Daniel the interpretation, an indictment of Belshazzar saying that God has numbered his days (the Aramaic menê’ means to count or number), weighed him in scales and found him wanting (teqêl  = shekel, a dry weight measure), and his kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians (parsîn is a play on the word for a half-shekel and also the Aramaic word for the Persians). All this shows us not only were these kinds of balance scales in popular use, but they are used in Scripture both literally and metaphorically, both in the context of trade, and in the context of judgment. Perhaps this reminds us that these calamities serve as a means of God’s judgment on the godless, and also upon the church and those within the church who have sold out to the culture.

Perhaps more relevant to Revelation 6 is the use of scales and measurements to indicate famine. We see this particularly in Leviticus 26:23-26 where the rationing of bread is an indication of God’s punishment on the people for walking contrary to His ways. Also mentioned in this passage are the sending of pestilence and deliverance into the hands of enemies, which correspond to the first and fourth riders in Revelation 6. Ezekiel 4:10-16 also speaks of a famine as a result of the siege of Jerusalem. Food is so scarce that people have to weigh food to ration it out.

The words from the midst of the creatures, presumably the Lord or the Lamb, seem to indicate a similar kind of situation. A quart (Greek choinix) of wheat was enough for one person for one day, and three quarts of barley would feed a horse for a day, a typical family for a day, or a person for three days. The denarius was a laborer’s daily wage. Given that wheat and barley covered only the most basic food needs of the people, this is not a good situation. When your day’s wage can only feed yourself, and you have a family to care for, you’re in a desperate situation. You certainly wouldn’t be able to afford anything other than your wheat or barley supply, and you’d be having to make that stretch. We’ve already discussed the financial pressures felt by believers in John’s day, something alluded to in Jesus’ words to the church in Smyrna when he described them as rich even though they are poor (2:19). Clearly, those with more money were able to better feed their families. One of the restrictions on believers earning money would have been their unwillingness to participate in the guilds, given they would have had to worship idols as part of this. The kind of black-listing that went on as a result would have ensured that Christian tradesman and craftsmen remained poor, which would affect not only them but their families. This is why Christ reminds the churches that their home is not here, and they shouldn’t be looking to succeed materially. The true rewards, the things that really count, are the heavenly blessings promised to those who overcome.

Are we talking about a man-made famine due to the greed of the rulers, or a natural famine? It could be either, or even both, where a natural famine is perpetuated by lack of foresight, or hording on the part of the ruling authorities. We noted the example of Joseph in Egypt where his response to a seven year famine was to stock up and be prepared. Often we are too greedy, and live too much for the pleasures of the moment to be ready for tough times, even when we are forewarned that tough times are coming. And while Joseph did have Pharaoh’s dreams to tip him off about the famine to come, famines were not uncommon in John’s part of the world at that time, so it’s not as if this would be a surprise to the people.

But this famine situation is not restricted to John’s time. Famines happen today in many parts of the world, and the poorest of the land are the ones who suffer the worst. These are not always Christians, but in lands where Christians are persecuted, which might include being taxed and denied work on account of their faith, you can be sure they are not among the affluent, and hence liable to suffer for lack of adequate food.

The voice also says not to harm or ruin the oil and wine. This would suggest that oil and wine are in abundant supply, but the poor still wouldn’t be able to afford it. Some suggest this references an edict issued by the Emperor Domitian in AD 92 ordering half the vineyards in Asia Minor to be destroyed. No-one’s entirely sure why Domitian did this, but probably the best theory is that he was concerned about the imbalance of produce in the land–the people were making too much wine and not growing enough grain, so he did this to encourage more grain production. Whatever the reason, the edict was hugely unpopular and he later rescinded it. While it’s possible this is what Revelation 6:6 refers to, the problem is that Domitian’s edict said nothing about oil. Perhaps the main point to take from this is the fact that the price of necessities (wheat and barley) were so high that the poor couldn’t even afford produce that was unaffected by the famine, and, presumably relatively inexpensive. In Joel 1:10 a lack of grain, oil, and wine is associated with a severe famine, so oil and wine were probably not luxury items, though not as important as wheat and barley.

Most of us in the West have not known poverty and famine like this, where you can’t afford enough food to adequately feed your family. Imagine the struggle these Christians would have had knowing that a trip to the guild temple to worship the guild deity might have satisfied this need. No wonder Revelation is full of encouragement for believers to stay the course and overcome, and reminders that this world is fleeting, and our home is in heaven. There are places in the world today where this kind of poverty is real, and Christians face those kinds of tough decisions every day. Revelation warns us not to expect the situation to get any better before the Lord’s return. Until then, may we continue to pray for one another, and for the strength to set our hope on Christ’s promises, and not on earthly rewards.

Next time: The Fourth Horseman…


Music Monday: The Logical Song

TheLogicalSong-SingleThe first Supertramp song I remember hearing, liking, and knowing who sang it, was probably “Breakfast in America.” Their 1974 hit, “Dreamer,” was somewhere in my musical subconscious, but in 1979 I hadn’t made the connection that it was also a Supertramp song (I don’t know why; Roger Hodgson’s voice is pretty distinctive). “The Logical Song” would have been playing on the radio so I was aware of it, and I suppose that song more than “Breakfast” kept coming back to me. It has a haunting quality to it, memorable lines, and it’s strangely catchy. Not in the “hummable tune” way, but in the way the song just stays with you, that electric piano sound, the sax solo, the bass line, and the words… “At night, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep for such a simple man…” A raw, philosophical honesty that, frankly, was rare in popular music.

I think I’ve mentioned before that much of my music theory learning happened within a 4 or 5 year period in the mid 80s, where I read and played like my life depended on it. I played along with Beatles, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Joe Jackson, and a variety of other albums for hours on end. I borrowed records and sheet music from the library. Sometimes the sheet music would help me out with songs that were, at that time, a bit too complex for my developing ear. Often the sheet music confirmed what I had already figured out. On occasion, I would dispute the sheet music!

I recall borrowing Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” album a few times, and while I listened to the whole thing at least once or twice, I always came back to three songs: “Breakfast in America,” “Take the Long Way Home” (which is worthy of a Music Monday article of its own), and “The Logical Song.” And to this day, “The Logical Song” remains one of my all-time favorites.

The song is in C-Minor (or Eb-Major), and is really not terribly complex. The introduction is simply a C-Minor chord, but it’s the bass underneath along with the electric piano sound that makes it instantly recognizable:


The main chords are all based around a C-Minor. The AbΔ7 (Ab Major 7) is just a C-Minor with an Ab in the bass. The Aº (A half-diminished, or Am7b5) is simply a C-Minor with an A in the bass. Here’s the lyric/chord sheet for the whole song (click to enlarge):


If you’re playing on guitar, I think it sounds best if you capo the third fret and play in A-Minor. Here’s a conversion chart for you:

Original Transposed
Cm Am
Abmaj7 Fmaj7
Gm7 Em7
Bb G
Ab F
Eb C
Aº/Eb Am/F#
Abmaj7/Eb Fmaj7
Db Bb
Fm/C Dm
Bbm7 Gm7
Db/Ab Bb
C7 A7
Fm Dm
Ab/F Dm7

You’ll notice I’ve pretty much ignored the piano bass notes for the guitar. I think that works better for the guitar, and if you have a bass guitarist, let him or her worry about those notes. That’s their job after all!

The ending to the song has that groovy bass riff that, as a young starting-out musician, I was not only really pleased to figure out, but also to learn how to play. Keeping that right hand rhythm going while playing the somewhat syncopated bass line is a challenge to untrained fingers. Try it for yourself!:


I have a video of Supertramp performing “The Logical Song” which I would love to upload to YouTube for your enjoyment. However, it seems Roger Hodgson and/or Supertramp’s copyright holders are quite militantly policing YouTube, as Richie Castellano found out. If you’re regular to the blog, you might remember Richie as being the guy who made the “Split-Screen Bohemian Rhapsody” video (if you haven’t seen this, check it out–it’s OSSUM!). Well he and his Band Geek buddies recorded a cover of “The Logical Song” which they posted on YouTube. Not long after, the copyright holders contacted him demanding he take it down. This wasn’t even the original Supertramp track–it was Richie, his wife, and some musician friends playing the song for the love of the song, not even for profit. We all scratch our heads. So, needless to say, I won’t risk the ire of Supertramp by posting the video I have. Instead I’ll go with the “official,” non-performance video that’s on YouTube:

The video may be a bit dull, but it’s still a great song!

Program Note: Music Monday will be taking a break through the month of April while I participate in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. It will return on Monday, May 4th!


Flash Fiction Friday

This week, the Random Word Generator has given me:

  • fall
  • day
  • pharmacy
  • bishop
  • goose

And here’s my attempt at a 100-word story from that list:

“So, Susan, what’s your day job?”

Susan shifted in her bar stool.

“I work at the pharmacy on the corner of 10th and Bishop.”

“You’re a checkout girl?”

“No, actually—“ She felt his hand on her leg and frowned.

“Oh, come on, you know you want it.”

Susan forced a smile and handed the man his glass.

“A drink first?”

The man eagerly gulped the last of his vodka. Susan watched his face fall as he got down from his seat and waddled away like a constipated goose.

“I’m the pharmacist actually,” she said, tossing the empty laxative sachet.

Don’t forget, starting next Wednesday, April 1, I’ll be posting a 100-word story for each day of the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. See the banner on the right sidebar for more details.

Have a great weekend!


10 Years Later…


And with that single word, Rose Tyler’s life was changed forever, as Doctor Who came storming back onto British TV screens. The first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who, “Rose,” first aired on BBC1, 7:00 pm, Saturday March 26th. Over the last 10 years, the Doctor has regenerated three times, and the show’s audience has grown exponentially. At the time, no-one knew if it would last beyond 13 episodes. With Series 9 currently being filmed, it seems the Doctor’s future is assured.

Of course, we in the US didn’t get Doctor Who until later. Some PBS stations picked up Series 1 (as did ours), but didn’t re-run the episodes, nor take any further shows. Then the Sci-Fi channel picked it up about a year later and showed the first couple of seasons until BBC America finally took the show (as it should have done in the first place–but hindsight is 20/20). It is now the flagship drama of the BBC on both sides of the Atlantic. A far cry from the show’s status when it went off the air in 1989.

Thankfully, the Doctor Who team are not making a big fuss of this anniversary. They celebrated the show’s 50th not long ago, and I much prefer to see the show as a continuous series spanning five decades, rather than draw a line in the sand between 1989 (or 1996 to include the TV Movie) and 2005. But it is good to note that ten years since it came back, Doctor Who is still going strong and is in good hands. Here’s to many more years to come!

(Trailer made by YouTuber VG934)


Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge

Novelist, Screenwriter, Game Designer, and all-around funny dude Chuck Wendig is running a flash fiction challenge this week (ending on Friday). The challenge is to write a 100-word piece of flash fiction. Since I’ve written one or two of these “drabbles” in my time, I thought I might give it a go.

I found out about this from my blog friend and fellow North Carolinian Donna Everhart, who dipped into her archives of Janet Reid Contest entries for her submission. Since this is my first go around at one of Chuck’s challenges, I figure I should do likewise and put my best foot forward. So, if you’ve frequented Janet’s writing contests over the past six months, then you’ll recognize this one. Otherwise, enjoy what I consider one of my best (so far):

Jessica picked up the bottle of baby oil, one of six in a gift box. The card attached read: “From one mother to another. Congratulations! Love, Mom.” A flip of her thumb released the top and she inhaled deeply the scent of newborn, flooding her with memories. The heartbeat booming through the ultrasound device. Grainy images on the screen. The kicks.

Jessica wiped her eyes and replaced the bottle with the other shower gifts: diapers, onesies, toys, all carefully arranged on the dining room table. In the middle, a pair of booties. A reminder of the day the kicking stopped.


Another Year Older

Today is my birthday. I won’t say how old I am, but suffice to say that by anyone’s standards (and there are some differing opinions on this) I am in that period of life called “middle age.” This means I am within a particular age range, my hair is greying and thinning, my mental reflexes are not as sharp, and I can expect to gain weight. In other words, if you think I’m fat and stupid, too bad. It’s my age!

Seriously, though, I don’t mind getting older. Sure, it means my time on earth is that much closer to being over, but I wouldn’t trade all I’ve learned over the years I’ve been alive to go back and relive that time. No disrespect intended, but young people think and do some pretty stupid things. I know that from first-hand experience. And part of the reason for this is that many young people are so convinced they know all there is to know, they ignore the sage wisdom from their parents and grandparents. That’s not to say all old people are wise, and all young people are idiots. But with age comes experience, and those that have learned from experience have much to pass on to the next generation if they’d only listen.

Sermon over. Now to some fun stuff. I’m not going to tell you explicitly what year I was born, but here are some artifacts from my birth year. First, some novels that were published the year I was born:

(okay, so the Dr. Seuss book is not really a novel, but it was my oldest daughter’s favorite book when she was little, so I could hardly not include it!)

And here is the number one song in the UK the week I was born:

And the number one song on the US Billboard Hot 100:

Some TV shows that debuted in the US and the UK that year (click the pictures to watch!):

And some people I share a birthday with:

Harry Houdini

Sir Alan Sugar
(English business magnate)

Steve Ballmer
(Former Microsoft CEO)

Lara Flynn Boyle

Do you share a birthday with a celebrity? Or did something significant happen on the day you were born (other than you being born)?


Sunday School Notes: Revelation 6:3-4

3 And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4 And another horse came out, fiery red, and to the one sitting upon it was given to him to take peace from the earth, even so that [people] will slaughter one another. And a great sword was given to him.

We briefly reviewed the first seal, and then began our discussion of the second. The way John describes the opening of the second seal has parallels to the opening of the first seal, but some details are omitted that I think we can add. For a start, the Lamb is clearly the one opening the seals. This seems an obvious point, but we mustn’t forget the significance of that: it is the Lamb who executes the contents of the seal. The things that happen come about at his initiation, in accordance with the will and decree of the Lord. These things are as the Lord intends them to be. Also, there’s no mention of a voice like thunder with the second creature. But I think we can assume the command to come takes its authority from the same place–the throne upon which the Lord sits. We spent some time talking about this, and how the fact that God is in sovereign control of the evil in the world should give us comfort. Remember, God is not holding a gun to sinful people telling them to sin against their will. They sin because that is the inclination of their hearts. The Lord commissions their sinful acts but He himself is not guilty of sin. Unlike sinful men, the Lord is without sin, and His intentions are always holy, righteous, just, and always in accordance with what is best for His people. We might want to question God’s motives and His purity, but since we have no concept of what it is like to be holy, pure, and righteous, we are in no place to judge the Lord. We don’t know what is best, or what is truly good. He does. So the believer needs to rest in that, even though it seems as if evil surrounds us, and all is lost.

John describes the horse as “fiery red.” Some translations may simply say “red.” I prefer “fiery red” because the Greek adjective used here, purros, has its root in the word for fire, pur. Why red? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that red is associated with bloodshed and slaughter. It’s also the color we ascribe to anger, lust, and other sins. However, red doesn’t have this sense in other cultures (apparently, in China it signifies goodness). So it may simply be derived from the horse colors in Zechariah 6:1-8, which seems to be one of the Old Testament passages in the background of Revelation 6.

The rider is given the commission to remove peace from the earth. We noted the fact that there are two passive verbs used here, the first with the commission (“it was given to him to take peace…”), and the second to do with the sword by which the rider would, presumably, execute that commission (“a great sword was given…”). These are known as “divine passives” and they are a way of saying God did something without actually using God’s name. John is implying that the Lord gave the rider the commission and the sword. Again, it’s important we have a solid, Biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty, and what that means for us.

Jesus already forewarned his disciples (and us) about the removal of peace in Matthew 10:34-39. In this passage, Jesus is sending out his twelve disciples, and he is exhorting them not to fear persecution. He reminds them that he hasn’t come to bring peace but “a sword” (the same Greek word, machaira, as in Revelation 6:4) that will set family members against one another. Certainly in the context of Matthew, that sword could well refer to the gospel, the Word of God. But there is a literal sword implied, since the gospel, and the steadfast allegiance of God’s people to Christ as a result of gospel convictions, has resulted in the persecution of believers, often at the edge of a sword.

That same word for sword is used by Paul in Romans 13:4 in reference to the life-and-death power given by the Lord to all ruling authorities. Once more we noted that it is God who gives the authorities their power, and they are responsible for using it for good. To the extent that they pursue their own agenda and persecute God’s people, those authorities will be judged by the Lord.

Along with the Zechariah 6 backdrop, I think we see a multifaceted purpose to the “sword” here. One is to bring the judgment to bear upon unbelievers in the form of warfare and the setting of people against one another. There is also the very real likelihood that the church will suffer persecution as a result of the gospel, and the Lord commissions the sword to bring purity to the church, and to demonstrate the full depravity of men. In this, the Lord’s justice in judging the sinful acts of wicked men is evident. And this persecution is not simply on the level of one man against another (though that is certainly stated), but as judicial acts of government, whereby Christians are threatened if they don’t comply with the godless demands of evil rulers.

The fact that we have seen such things happening throughout the world since Christ’s resurrection, and there seems to be no abating in the amount of conflict in the world, demonstrates that this is not something we’re waiting to see. The rider on the red horse has been out doing his work for the past two thousand years, and will continue to bring strife and bloodshed until the Lord returns. But the church needs to take comfort from the fact that this rider is operating under the Lord’s command. His deeds are evil, but the one who commissioned him is pure and holy. If our focus is truly on the Lord, and we remember that our home is not here, and we are not building a kingdom on earth, then we have nothing to fear.

Next week: The Third Seal and the Third Horseman

Go to top
%d bloggers like this: