Children of the Morning {Book Club}

Today we finish Shiloh by Helena Sorensen. Once again Helena offered such interesting answers to my questions I thought we would jump right in.

Let’s start off with another non-question :). So, clearly I am wrong about Simeon and Amos’s relationship; but I kept thinking about David and his mighty men who risked their lives to get him water from the well and then David poured it out. I juxtaposed it with the role of water in Shiloh — both the power and the symbol of water. And then honestly? Part way through this section I thought of my parallels with Frodo and Samwise (from LOTR).<

Don’t get me started on Tolkien. I could go all day.

I have four pages of notes from this section and as I review them, two of the themes that emerge are forgetting and remembering.  In our (real) lives, where do you see us wrestling with these themes?

The short answer to that question is “Everywhere.” We tend to live like materialists. We’re trained to rely on our five senses and on our experiences to answer our questions about God and the world and ourselves. It requires a great deal of energy and practice to look beyond the physical world and see the deeper realities. I think we’re hiding or denying or deadening ourselves in big and small ways all the time, because it’s exhausting to live fully in both worlds. Remember the ghosts who enter the borderlands of Heaven in Lewis’s The Great Divorce? They can hardly bear to walk on the grass. Every blade is hard as a diamond. The grass is infinitely more substantial than they are, and they have to gain substance in order for it to give way beneath their feet. It seems to me that whenever we see with spiritual eyes, whenever we cling to the unseen, we grow a bit more capable of walking in the fields of the kingdom of God. We grow a little more real.

Another theme was the importance—or value—of seeing. Neyla says, “You see yourself through the eyes of the Shadow. Do not be fooled.” How can seeing who we really are change the stories of our lives? I’m wondering here about the ripple effects of seeing our own value, the value in others, in creation, and even seeing God and His unending love for us. 

There are many times when I’ve wanted to go back and change that phrase. It’s tricksy. 🙂 Taken at face value, the reader might assume that the eyes of the Shadow see him/her as incapable or worthless. But I don’t believe that at all. It might have been better to call them “shadowed eyes.” In any case, it would be far more accurate to say that the Enemy, in whatever form he appears, sees us better than we see ourselves. He wouldn’t go to such great lengths to discourage and derail and defeat us if he was not terribly frightened of our beauty, our power, our worth, and our settled position in the kingdom. We are glorious, dangerous children of God. If we really understood that, we’d stop cowering in the dark. If we really understood that, there’s no telling what we could do.

Also, what we really believe about everything always becomes clear in the end. We can talk about God’s love all day long, but without a Spirit revelation of His love at a deep, personal level, nothing in our lives will give evidence to the love of God. I could wax eloquent about God’s goodness and provision, but I still have a major hang-up about my kids getting sick. It’s a serious panicky anxiety thing. Though the truth is that God is good, that He will care for my children (and me) no matter what physical illness finds its way into our home, I can only give lip service to that truth. I’m not yet mixed with it. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me. But when I’m set free from the deep-down lie, it’ll show, too. Every person with whom I come in contact will sense it. They’ll know the peace of it; they’ll long to experience it for themselves. And there is just no end to those ripple effects.

I took it the way I think you meant it. So often we DO see ourselves through the eyes of the Shadow. I think it breaks The One who knows our true identity’s heart. 

How long did you work on Shiloh? What’s your writing process like?

Shiloh took about 2 years to complete. My writing process looks something like this:

  a. Fill a cheap notebook with random thoughts (written longhand). Ask questions, scribble, ask more questions, circle important details, violently underline or cross out (as the need arises).
    b. Research basket weaving or proper archery technique or ancient Irish history and tree lore or nightshade plants or glass making or whatever the story requires. Continue to fill notebook.
    c. Assemble a Pinterest board of provocative images relating to the story. Find faces for characters.
    d. Descend into a deeply paralyzing fear that prevents me from starting a first draft.
    e. Declare by faith, many times over, that there is some purpose in all this. Pray. Weep. Wallow in self-doubt.
    f. Re-read my notes three or four times.
    g. Put on big-girl britches and write a first draft.
    h. Ignore the manuscript for 2 or 3 months.
    i. Print a hard copy of the manuscript and have it bound. Edit copiously, angrily. 
    j. Figure out what the book is actually about and create a 3-sided poster board with words and images that keep me on track. (No joke…I use one of those science project board thingies. I set it on the kitchen table in front of me, and that’s my office.) 
    k. Finish a second draft.
    l. Beg some friends and colleagues to read the second draft.
    m. Create a feedback questionnaire. Bite fingernails and wallow in self-doubt while friends/colleagues ignore the manuscript. (That’s unfair. Approximately half of them respond with helpful feedback within 2 to 3 months after the latest possible date I requested that they respond.)
    n. Compile feedback. Attempt to contain visceral reactions to opinions of friends/colleagues.
    o. Figure out what is still lacking in the manuscript. Write third draft to correct it. 
    p. Send to publisher.
   q. What follows is too dark and desperate to contain in words. 🙂

I never imagined I’d reach “q.” Sorry.

No need to say sorry! It’s interesting to hear about your process.

One last one, what are you working on now?

I’ve recently finished a stand-alone story called Half-Bald Hill. It’s about the inadequacy of “balance” and about conquering death. Now I’m trying my hand at a children’s book set in the town where I grew up: Fort Lonesome, Florida.

Helena, it has been so fun to have you with us this month and we look forward to reading Seeker later this year. 

I loved the last bit of the acknowledgments: To “Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of seat into the morning.” (Amos 5:8)

Book clubbers, what did you think of this section? As I read, I kept thinking of how much we get the Shadow because we see it every day. We see people in bondage. We see darkness. And we also get to see people set free. How did reading this section either challenge or bolster your view of yourself? This calling?

See you in the comments!

Amy

P.S. Next week Kimberlee will be here sharing with us about XX from XX. The following week will start our spring break Invitations From God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Giveaway next week!)

9 Comments

  1. Ruth February 27, 2017

    This was my favorite section–it was the saddest and most beautiful. I finished reading on a crowded Beijing subway and had to work hard not to cry. Thank you, Helena, for writing and for discussing it with us. I also really appreciate seeinv into your writing process!
    I also really liked this passage: “In my kingdom,” Ulff said, “there is no one who fears the night.” Man and Woman were awed by his glory, and they longed to be free from their fear. “Ram has abandoned you,” Ulff continued. “There is nothing for you here.”
    It is so easy to see how Ulff twists things, when it can be so much harder to see the ways our own perspectives are twisted.

    Amy, can you clarify what we’re reading for next week? I’m assuming the Lent chapter.

    1. Amy Young February 27, 2017

      Sorry I forgot to mention reading plan! Yes we will read Lent section in Kimberlee’s book:)

    2. Helena February 28, 2017

      Ruth, I’m so glad! I feel thoroughly encouraged by the fact that you guys are connecting with the book, and it’s my joy to get to discuss it with you. There have been quite a few years in which people asked me what I do, then what kind of thing I write, then, when they receive my answer about wolves and such, they give me this blank, pitying stare. Sometimes I imagine Lewis sitting down with the Inklings and trying to explain his idea for the The Chronicles of Narnia. “Okay,” Lewis says, “so there’s this lion.” I picture Tolkien and Co. peering over their mugs at dear old Jack and wondering if he’s gone off his rocker. This little daydream gives me comfort.

      Anyway, yes, the twisting! I can’t think how many sermons I’ve heard and read on the topic of the Garden of Eden and what exactly it was that was going on in Eve’s heart and mind when Satan tempted her. There are seemingly endless ways to look at that scenario. But it always comes back to the idea of there being just enough truth to make the lie dangerous. We can rage about her choice, but it made sense to her at the time. The lie was dazzling.

  2. Michele February 28, 2017

    I loved this section too, and love the discussion in this post! Helena, I really appreciate the way you talk about having a heart revelation with an example of where you don’t yet have it. It makes me pause to think about where I still need that kind of revelation, knowing that if I continue to ask for it, I’ll get it, and it will have those beautiful ripple effects. One area I recently got that kind of revelation is actually this authority we have in the spirit, this power to participate in setting people free. That’s likely one of the greatest reasons I loved this book so much. Even after receiving that deeper, heart revelation, I can feel the fight, the opposition that just tries everything to make me forget, and how I have to keep remembering.

    I am finding these stories hard to put down! I finished Seeker this past weekend, and since I was at home alone and not on a subway, I went ahead and cried! I think it was even more beautiful than Shiloh. And once again I immediately hit the ‘buy now’ button and have started Songbird. Thanks for giving us stories we can get lost in that actually stir up hunger and draw us nearer to the heart of God!

    1. Helena February 28, 2017

      Michele, what a cool revelation! Isn’t it a shame that we spend so much time telling ourselves that we’re small and weak and insignificant while God is saying, “I’m in you! You’re big and strong and significant because I made you and I’m the One empowering you! Let’s do this together!”

      I’m so thrilled to hear you’re enjoying the stories! It sounds like you guys are spending a lot of time on subways holding back tears. That sounds awful. I’m glad you finally found a time and space for a good cry, though. And I hope you find Songbird satisfying. You’ll get to spend time with characters from both the other books along with a handful of new ones.

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  3. Elizabeth February 28, 2017

    Several thoughts!

    1. I love that we will read Seeker together later!

    2. I will try to read the Invitations book! I remember Amy recommending it a couple years back, and I bought it on kindle, but never got around to reading it. Reading in community can sometimes help 🙂

    3. The Great Divorce! I really have to read that now. After I read Till We Have Faces and raved and raved about it, another Lewis fan told me I HAD to read Great Divorce, even gave me a copy of it. I haven’t gotten to it yet though!

    4. I also understood what you really meant by “the eyes of the shadow” and that was a super important part of the story to me, the lenses through which we see ourselves and a greater reality..

    5. Without an experiential knowledge of God’s love, we don’t really understand it. That is so totally my story.

    6. Also loved reading about Helena’s writing process! Thanks for letting us “see” the real you who’s scared to go on, because we all are, too, when we write, and we’re not even writing books (well, Amy is!).

    7. There is no seven. Thanks for listening to my numbered list 🙂

  4. Helena February 28, 2017

    Thanks, Elizabeth! The writing process is SO much fun, but it’s also a major battle. I don’t know anyone who just cranks out great work without an enormous struggle behind the scenes.

    And The Great Divorce is second only to Till We Have Faces in my book…my Lewis book. I go back to TGD more often than any of his other books. When you let go of the idea that he’s trying to set down rules about the afterlife and just follow his imagination, his “supposal,” you just eat it up. The wisdom, the stunning insight, the beauty of it. Gosh. You’ll love it.

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