I first went to Sri Lanka in 1993, and my most recent trip (so far) was in 2007. During those many years, I have worked closely with Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, son of Sarvodaya founder Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne. Dr. Vinya is an intelligent, devoted, kind, and compassionate man, and one of the most dedicated workers for peace in Sri Lanka.
Two recent articles about him appeared in the U.S. press. Both written by Katherine Marchall, the first is an interview that appeared on Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center blog. The second is an article that appeared on Huffington Post, called “Portrait of a Peacebuilder.”
Congratulations to Dr. Vinya for recognition that he is surely due!
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
So reads the King James version of the Bible. There has been enormous controversy over the last word in the first verse (6:9). What are “abusers of themselves with mankind”? The word is commonly translated as “homosexuals.” The New Revised Standard Version renders the list as “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, [and] sodomites…” while the New International Version lists “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men…”
The original word used by Paul for that fourth term was arsenkoitai, a word he appears to have created. Some scholars argue that if he had meant “homosexual,” he would have used the word in common use, paideraaste. Others argue that this second word refers specifically to pederasty, and that there was no word for homosexuality in Greek, so Paul had to make one up. Still others note that the word arsenkoitai is feminine, and thus unlikely to refer to a male person at all.
Even more interesting is the previous word in the list, which KJV renders as “effeminate,” NRSV translates as “male prostitutes,” and NIV combines with arsenkotai into “men who have sex with men.”
This word, malakoi, appears twice in the Gospels, both times in its adjective form meaning “soft” or “luxurious” (as in cloth). When used as an characteristic of people, it means “softness or weakness,” and its opposite is “perseverance.” Aristotle is quoted as saying, “One who is deficient in resistance to pains that most men withstand with success, is soft (malakos) or luxurious, for luxury is a kind of softness (malakia)…”
With respect to its use in Paul’s letter, the 18th century Wesley’s Notes on the Bible says of malakoi that it includes people
“Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good-natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.”
Interestingly, one argument that arsenkoitai must refer to a sexual act is that it ends a list of sexual acts. Yet it would seem that malakoi has no sexual connotation, but rather refers to lazy Christians!
My son, Samuel, was born May 29, 2014. I was 54 years old and, until then, childless. I have a ten-year-old stepson who came into my life when he was six, and whom I love as my own. But having a baby, and now a toddler, is a whole new world.
My wife lost a baby two years before, so the first sound of Sam’s heartbeat during the ultrasound was thrilling. Then I got to see him born, and watch him take his first breath. His head was smaller than the palm of my hand!
He’s a year old now. He’s starting to make words like Mama, Dada, and Tiger. He can stand while holding on to something, and has stood without support for a few seconds at a time. I have no doubt he’ll be walking soon. But he’s still at the “everything goes in the mouth” stage. One day, he tried to eat the TV remote and shocked his mouth. Another day, he chewed the label off a water bottle and choked on it. He is fascinated with electrical cords, cell phones, computers, and anything electronic. This demands constant supervision. And he wants more attention now. He’s less satisfied playing by himself.
I love my son. But fifty-odd years of being childless has made me selfish and set in my ways. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. When I’m inspired to write, I want to write.
Having a child has been a huge adjustment. I can no longer write while I watch him. Which means that sometimes when I am inspired, I can’t write down my thoughts. And often, when I have the time to write, I find myself with nothing to say.
Sometimes I wonder how people with children keep their jobs. But mine is a unique situation. I work at home, so I’m always available but never quite off duty.
I’m told that these things work out over time. I hope so, because my writing has continued to improve, and I look forward to finishing the projects I’m working on. But during this period of adjustment, I still wouldn’t give up my son for anything!
When I read the first draft of Benji’s Portal to my wife and son, they demanded a sequel. So did my proofreaders, Kim and Candy. The story demands it, really. I had a vague idea for the next one, but wasn’t able to come up with a plot line.
After weeks of pondering, I think I finally have a plot! As of today, the second book in the Travelers series is officially underway. It’s called Madarach’s Secret, and it’s set two years later. I’m not ready to divulge too many details yet, but Benji, Lisa, and Madarach come to the aid of the kids on the planet Zeblack.
By their fruits you shall know them. Do they gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? (Mt 7:16)
In the four Gospels, Jesus says many things. The most common of these is, “love,” and second is “follow me.” He feeds the poor, and instructs us to do likewise. He blesses peacemakers, and compliments heathens on their faith. He tells his disciples that to follow Jesus is to become a servant of all.
This isn’t unique to the Gospels. The Old Testament is filled with instructions to love justice, help the poor, and be kind to those in need. Ministry is a Christian word, but the concept of service to others is common also to Judaism and Islam. In Hinduism, Vivekenanda founded a school of yoga based on finding God through serving those in need. It is a universal concept.
There is so much need in the world, and many ways of providing service. From helping an infirm person get groceries, to feeding people in our communities or around the world, to working to right injustice, to protecting this planet that sustains us all, to making peace, there is no shortage of ways to help.
There was a time when I tried to do all of these at once. Needless to say, I did none of them well.
I also realized that, for me, it was not enough to pay for someone else to do the work. For me, writing a check does not qualify as God’s work.
That led me to Sri Lanka in 1993, and into two war zones in 1998 and 1999. It led me to become a member of a team that worked for peace, and which helped stop the shooting for a four year cease-fire.
We didn’t know how to end a war. Traditional methods had failed. One team member said, in 1999, “The guerrilla playbook was written forty years ago; the peace playbook hasn’t been written yet.” We made it up as we went along, looking at what worked and what didn’t.
Later this year, I will return to Sri Lanka to write about what we did there. We did not end the war, but we did enable the only cease-fire to last more than three months in that 26-year conflict. Now it’s time to let others know what we did, what worked, what didn’t, and why peace didn’t last. There are far too many conflicts in the world that have not been ended for us to “hide our light under a bushel.”
I hid from that work for ten years, tormented by nightmares of the things I had seen. I can’t hide from it anymore. We did something amazing, and it’s my job to tell the story.
If I may be so bold, my soul aches with the need to explore how what we did can be applied elsewhere. This is my ministry.
My wife’s ministry is to help people, one at a time, with physical and emotional pain. Hers is a ministry to individuals. It is just as important as mine.
Ministry simply means doing for others what we are called or led to do. It means listening to our hearts and risking doing what we think we can’t. It means practicing faith by putting Jesus’ instruction into our daily lives.
I’m told it happens to every writer. You’re sitting at the keyboard, typing away, and the flow just stops. There are no more words.
I was writing a story called Steve’s Grace. Steve is an accountant with a wife and two kids. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not a good guy either. He loves his family, but he also cheats on his wife. Then a four-day “conference” in Las Vegas turns into a five-day debauch, most of which he doesn’t remember. What he does remember shakes his confidence and threatens his self-identity. For one thing, there’s no way to hide it from his wife. Even as he realizes that getting caught is his greatest concern, he realizes how selfish that is. For the first time in his adult life, he begins to seek a moral compass other than his own. He hides a Bible under the seat of his car and reads it when he’s alone. But the message he reads there is that he has strayed far from God’s intended path.
What follows is a slow slide into psychosis that lands him in a hospital with no memory of the past few weeks. he recovers slowly at first, until treatment causes him to remember everything– including the shocking events that took place in Vegas, which his mind blocked in order to protect him.
That’s where it stopped, about two-thirds of the way through the story. I know what needs to happen next. I just can’t get it there.
This has happened before. That’s why I have a half dozen partially-completed novels in my computer.
This one is particularly frustrating. I worked on it for weeks. I think the writing is good. I think the story and the message are good. I just can’t seem to finish it right now.
What does one do when they run out of words? For now, I’ll put the story aside and work on something else.
I wrote Benji’s Portal for my ten-year-old son. He loved it! So did my wife, my mother-in-law, and two adult friends.
Benji Haight comes from a gifted family. His parents intuitively know things, and his sister Lisa can sometimes read minds. Benji doesn’t seem to have a gift. But when he discovers an ancient well near their new home, he finds it is a portal to the universe that only he can access. As Benji and Lisa begin to explore, they make friends across the galaxy. They also uncover a family mystery: Are they related to a boy that used the portal a century earlier? Was the boy’s death an accident, or the result of a family feud as old as the town they live in? As the centuries-old feud threatens tragedy once again, Benji and Lisa turn to their parents for help, and exploration becomes a family adventure.
Benji’s Portal is now available in paperback on CreateSpace and Amazon, and in ebook on Smashwords and Kindle. It’s been approved for wider distribution, and should be on other retailers soon.
P.S. Everyone is asking for a sequel, and I plan to oblige.