Copyright © 2012-2015 J R Lankford
All rights reserved

(A novelist’s faith)


According to Wikipedia there are about 4,200 religions. How could this be if there’s only one God? One day the answer struck me like sight after long blindness.

Everyone’s familiar with the phenomenon of brand name and generic drugs. A company discovers or creates a combination of ingredients and markets it under a brand name. Only when the patent expires are competitors allowed to make generics.

Less obvious are the effects of the reverse practice: branding the already generic. Here’s an example. There is a product aggressively advertised on TV that claims fantastic results. I won’t say what results or you’ll know which product I mean. Well-known celebrities are employed to promote it. The claims are absolutely true. Hand over your credit card, place an initial order, let them refill it periodically and you will achieve the advertised result at an annual cost of about $120 a year.

Or …

Go to your corner drugstore and buy any of a number of products that have the same key ingredients and get the identical result for about seven dollars. Annual cost? Hugely less.

I discovered this when my granddaughter begged me for the advertised product. She’d tried it and it worked. She wasn’t wrong. It did work. The trick was convincing her that ANYthing with the key ingredients did.

What does this have to do with religion? Possibly a lot. Religious belief, and what it makes people do, has been an interest of mine since I was a seven-year-old Catholic girl, making my first confession. Knowing it was coming, and earnestly wanting God’s approval since my dad was up in heaven, I’d been scrupulously good for weeks. I learned all the prayers by heart, not realizing they had anything to do with me… “Bless me, father for I have sinned.” I hadn’t, not even once.

When I reported this to the priest, he questioned me closely. Finding my behavior blameless, he delved into my mind. Before sweeping the floor when my parents asked me to, had I ever thought I’d rather not? I replied honestly. Of course. He declared me sinful and made me cry, all hope lost that God would let me see my dad again.

That’s how I began to learn the importance of belief. A person with a firm belief will make a little girl cry.

Later I learned firm belief of a hateful kind will make a person firebomb little girls in church, make young girls strap explosives to their bodies and blow themselves up, make a grown man with a machine gun mow down little girls at the movies, make our country bomb whole cities of little girls to end a war, make a man destroy a building with a nursery school inside.

Why are people so convinced of the rightness of their beliefs? Why are religions? Are Catholics wrong when they say that going to confession and taking communion blesses their lives? Are Muslims wrong when they insist performing Salat facing Mecca five times a day does the same? Are Jews wrong when they find blessings in lighting the candles of Shabbat? Are Buddhists wrong when they chant the Metta Prayer?

Or …

Are they right? Every one of them? Do all (non-violent) religious practices work? Are all blessed? Are miracles delivered via all? Not because of the aggressive claims each religion makes, branding itself the only true one, but because of the key ingredient they share? Call it what you will: god or spirit or nature. The name doesn’t matter because, logically, all the names are wrong. The force we call God predates language! It must have existed before the Big Bang or no bang could have occurred. In religious terms, it had to predate the creation.

Will the day ever come when we accept the obvious truth: Protestantism works, Buddhism works, Scientology works, Islam works, Judaism works, Shaminism works — if practiced earnestly and with belief — not because of their special doctrines, but because of the key ingredient they share — a divine force that responds to us, however we call its name.

How do I know? Seeking, I’ve found it. In my abandoned Catholic faith, in a Jewish service in Turin, Italy, in a Buddhist retreat in France, on a street corner as I hailed a cab after my SATs when I was 16, on a plane next to a stranger who revealed my destiny, on the dance floor, in my living room over coffee with a friend.

What we call God exists everywhere. Without this omnipresent, loving force our hearts could not beat. Jesus pointed us to it when he said, “the kingdom of god is within you.” Taoism pointed us to it when Lao Tzu said, “You cannot know the Tao, but you can be it.” Islam pointed us to it when it said, “O Allah, create light in my heart.’ Judaism pointed us to it when it said, “Just as the soul fills the body, so God fills the world.” The Buddha pointed us to it when he said, “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

When will we listen to our prophets — stop hurting each other, killing each other, be silent and hear the voice of our in-dwelling God? When will we realize all 4,200 of our religions are, in their essence, completely right—-a basis for unity, not strife?

To this end, I write my novels. Unlike this article, they don’t preach. They are thrillers about people encountering the miraculous in ordinary life, in much the same way we all actually do … almost unnoticably, by sheer coincidence, as we are born, as we die, in our laughter, on our knees in desperation, softly on a moonlit night.
J R Lankford’s Amazon Page

Fire Obsession


Bitten by the perfume bug, scent now an obsession, I ‘ve experienced odd things in the past year.   Here’s the latest.  In 1982 the Sultan of Oman set out to restore the Arabian art of perfumery.  He hired the great French perfumer, Guy Robert, who did a fabulous job, as have the other perfumers who since collaborated with Amouage (I think it means wave or ground swell).  I happened to obtain a decant (sample) of one of their attars, called Tribute. It’s a smoky, woody, spicy, rose and jasmine dream. Unfortunately, it’s no longer produced, but luckily there’s a huge market in vintage and discontinued perfumes.  I searched and found an extremely rare bottle of the original formulation on sale in Dubai for $815.

However, my obsession is not that serious.

Still, I mourned the loss, now and then opening and sniffing my meager 1 ml decant.  Then I had an inspiration.  I went to the perfume site, looked up Tribute’s notes and typed them into the search engine.  Perhaps  an affordable smell-alike existed!  Sure enough, Mary Greenwell, a London perfumer, had a perfume called Fire, just out this year.  It contained all but one of Tribute’s notes (ingredients)!

I searched for a decant.  None available.  I searched for an FB (full bottle).  Turns out Harrod’s (London department store) sells Fire for a price I might pay for a blind buy.  Then tragedy.  As I tried to add Fire to my basket, I saw the dread sign:  “UK delivery only.”  Frantic, I searched Amazon, searched ebay, searched every outlet I could think of.  No Fire anywhere.

I imagine I’ll survive.  After all, this is better than my hypersensitive nose’s previous occupation: human canary for all things toxic in the air.  I do own other perfumes.  My nose can smell them at will.  There’s no reason for it to upset the rest of me like this.

I’m sure Mary Greenwell’s Fire will eventually show up somewhere.  Searching . . . searching.



Setting a Scene — Alain Ducasse


I’ve just revised a scene in my thriller, The Enemy Apostle, fifth and final in The Jesus Thief series.  It takes place in Paris at a real location, the incomparable restaurant, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée.  Alain Ducasse was the first chef in the world to hold three Michelin stars (the highest given) for each of three different restaurants he owned.  For much of my life, I longed to dine at his flagship, but the electrical engineer in me argued it was illogical to spend so much on a single meal.  Luckily, I wrested her slide rule from her for the sake of this novel and reserved lunch there for my grandson and me in 2011. At long last, I entered between the famous spoon and fork. Check out the video here to see the restaurant.  We sat by the window overlooking the garden and for more than two hours existed in the culinary heaven of Ducasse’s tasting menu. My young character, Peter, eats there too, but who is his dinner partner?  Does she have an ulterior motive?  Does he? Most of all, how will his actions affect the devoted mother he left behind, who is now desperately afraid for him?

Almost as much fun as having a splendid meal in this amazing place, is remembering and writing about it.  Insertion of book four, The Covert Messiah, in the series’ time sequence interrupted progress on The Enemy Apostle, which then became book five.  It’s great to be working on it again.

Back to the Writing

Encouraged by my sister’s shrieks when she read a revised chapter,  I resumed work on the final novel in The Jesus Thief series, The Enemy Apostle.  I think it’s going to be the last one because I had a dream about five books.  More about this later. They’re thrillers in a genre similar to The Da Vinci Code.

Thought you’d like to see the original trailer for the previous one, book 4, The Covert Messiah. Hubby made it. Also, here’s my own first try at a video, in which I read that first chapter.  Hope you enjoy them!


Today A Poem Will Have To Do

Copyright © 2014 J R Lankford
All rights reserved

What can it possibly
offer the vibrant world
to match
intense desire
The unquenchable urge to know,
to accomplish
Cheer and solace
from like companions
Adventures embarked upon
Fervent love
Betrayals born
of another’s wounds,
or our own
Grim desolation?
Seeing it I would help,
if I could, but
we navigate private inner seas
inaccessible to another’s oar.
Often I am beckoned from
life’s thrilling story
to a secret,
quieter shore.
Alone I sit
away from all of it
and find Glory.


This is today’s question.

About a year ago, something happened to me I can’t explain.  Out of nowhere, I developed an interest in perfume that swiftly became an obsession. Not logical, said my electrical engineer’s mind. My nose overrode and swiftly built a kit to teach me perfumery notes (see pic). In the process, I accumulated more than 687 perfume samples, most free from perfume houses or counters to encourage us to buy an FB (full bottle).

Perfume Samples

Some so delighted my enraptured nose that  it raided my alarmed pocketbook to do just that.  This happened more than once.

I learned my favorite notes are Jasmine, Rose, Bergamot, Neroli, Amber, Sandalwood and Musk.  The next time I make soap, I’m going to use that combo for scent. (Tip: homemade soap doesn’t have its glycerin spun out to make lotion for softening dry skin the altered soap creates!)

I learned perfumes can take us faraway and write stories in our minds.  However, I’m a novelist now.  I’m supposed to write stories in actual books. Logically, I had no time to linger over any other obsession. Sometimes I wonder, though. Did  my body conspire to give me the time by making me too sick to write? (See Not Afraid of Ebola posts)

Now I am well, though!  Nothing prevents my return to The Enemy Apostle, final thriller in The Jesus Thief series.  It’s a third draft — i.e., readable, but not yet what it can become.  In sum, a young boy named Peter gets in an incredible mess in Milan, Paris and New York, trying to educate himself about life. Beautiful vistas, a moment of bliss followed by heartbreak, danger, a betrayal, love that willingly risks its life all await draft four.

“All right, I’m coming!” I promise the characters, distracted, “but what perfume will I wear?”  One sits suggestively amid my desktop’s menagerie. Named after the twilight period when the sun, just below the horizon, gives off a blue hue, L’Heure Bleue is my newest arrival. When I first smelled a sample, I couldn’t believe anything could be this beautiful.  I spray it on  and once again am lost.


Hmmm. Morning twilight is usually when I start my writing day. It’s past that now. “Hang on, Peter,” I say.  “In l’heure bleue tomorrow I’ll be back.”

If you have a signature scent or favorite notes–if you’re a perfume addict, too, and it’s threatening to take over your life–do tell us about it.





Inexpensive Zapper

Hubby found this one on ebay and thinks it looks good.  He built mine himself.  See Not Afraid of Ebola, Part 2 for how it helped me.

Update: it’s a nifty little unit that works perfectly.  Just install a 9 V battery then clip the leads onto the end of the copper hand holds.

Not Afraid of Ebola, p.s. (Tea for Diabetes, High Blood Pressure)


Forgot to mention the tea I mixed daily consisting of  Hibiscus flowers and Rooibos leaves.  I added loose peppermint leaves (clears the lungs) and Jasmine Pearls, my favorite way of consuming green tea because of the added taste of Jasmine, my favorite scent. (More about this when I get to perfumes). They’re all organic and I buy them in bulk from Davidson’s at great prices, e.g., $16 or so for a 16 oz bag of Hibiscus flowers.  This tea was especially helpful after meals that happened to stray from a 1500 calorie veggie/fruit-heavy  diet. Pop a small strainer into a large cup of hot water, drop in the flowers and leaves and in 5-8 minutes, tea!

Green tea is also an immune-system booster to help ward off any scary viruses that come around.

Not Afraid of Ebola, Part 3 (Cured Diabetes)

In this final installment, I’ll discuss the three other things that helped swiftly rid me of hypertension, diabetes, etc.  All are useful for any ailment. Then, having done my duty for the health of humankind, this blog turns to books, writing, food, travel, perfume and general fun.


Until I found Tabata, a short version of interval training, I believed effective exercise meant hours of work.  Instead, this 4-minute program (12 minutes including warm-up and cool down) delivered remarkable health benefits.  This link explains the background and how, in a six-week test, people who did Tabata improved their fitness more than a group that “cycled, swam, skipped or jogged” 5 times a week for an hour at normal speed.  Following is the program I still use almost daily:

-4 minute warmup
(arm circles, waist swivels, side stretches, leg lifts, leg stretches, toe touches — the kind of thing we did in high school gym)

-4 minute Tabata
20 secs high intensity exercise (walking, biking, skipping, running in place — anything that you can do fast)
10 secs slow down
(repeat both for 4 minutes)

-4 minute cool down
keep moving but go slow for 4 minutes

I’d been so sick, I couldn’t get to the gym or even walk on my treadmill.  Because of zapping (see previous post), I was able to start this program in June. Tabata woke up my muscles and my metabolism and gave me real strength while other things were busy curing my insides. I credit it  and fasting as big contributors to my early progress.


Inspired by this study’s claim that fasting renews the immune system, I decided to try it, using the advice on this excellent site,  Another way of putting it is that when digestion stops, the body’s energy is freed for self-healing. If you decide to fast, be sure to read the guidelines there or somewhere else. Naturally, my blood sugar was lowest during periods of fasting.

June 10-13  –  Fasting blood sugar range: 132-203

Jul 31-Aug 3 – Fasting blood sugar range: 94-142 [prior to this ate 1500 calories a day]

Sep 25-29 –  Fasting blood sugar range: 87-129 [prior to this ate normal diet]

Note: The key to avoiding weakness and and nausea on the first days of a water fast is to take a good laxative (preferably herbal; I use Swiss Kriss) the night before; or have an enema first thing in the morning of day one. Long ago for good reason, enemas were routinely given to those entering a hospital.


What does meditation do that helps combat disease?  An incurable ponderer of things, I eventually became obsessed with understanding why so many health centers like the Mayo Clinic are suggesting it.

I first learned mantra meditation in 2006 at a Deepak Chopra seminar and have since tried other methods, including the simplest: sit still, close eyes, and follow my breath (without changing it).  However, busy with life,  I’d stopped doing it regularly.  When I got sick, I scooted right back to my meditation cushion for at least 15-20 minutes each day, often longer at first.

As background to what I’m about to write, I need to share something.  I could serve as a human canary. Not kidding. My senses are weirdly acute.  Mind you, this is not always a pleasant experience! If there’s something bad in the air, I pick it up and get headaches or have trouble breathing. Something off in the food or water?  My taste buds and stomach know. Hang a picture slightly out of line and my eyes keep returning to it. I have to remind myself not to adjust things in museums and people’s homes. Depending on what my ears hear, I’m blessed or cursed with keen reaction to the sound and an inability to tolerate even low level noise for long.

Therefore, as soon as I picked up the handholds of the zapper described in Not Afraid of Ebola, Part 2, I felt the low current vibrate in my hands and through my body.  Hubby felt absolutely nothing when he tried it, perhaps because his hands are muscular and mine are thin.  Since my lungs were congested and my heart not pumping right, my body didn’t love love this feeling, but I persevered, sure the current couldn’t hurt me, and tried to make friends with the vibration.

Here’s the zinger.  Since I hadn’t meditated in so long, I’d forgotten what it felt like.  It took  a while for the old sensations to resume and, for me, they usually range from pleasant to blissful.  Why had I ever stopped?  After a few days of meditation with occasional zapping, I suddenly realized something.  The vibration of  zapping and the vibration in the deep stage of meditation felt virtually the same!

It made me reassess what I thought I knew.  Dr. Clark, inventor of the zapper, said low level current kills pathogens.  Does deep meditation do the same by inducing a similar vibration in the body?   Is that what medical research is detecting?

For me, this was a thrilling discovery.   I’d read eastern meditation theory that said “cosmic energy”  heals when allowed to flow, not suspecting this could really be a fact.

Believe me, I’ll be doing a lot more pondering and reading about this now.  Meanwhile every morning I rise, visit the bathroom, then meditate before I do anything else, including shower. At the Chopra center, one instructor called it RPM (rise, pee, and mediate).  My day goes better as a result.  Now I realize my health could, too.


I added this because of repeated advice from almost everywhere that water is good for what ails us.  Lots of water.  More than most of us normally drink.  Plain water.  Not counting teas, coffee or other drinks.  During most of my recovery I drank 8-12 cups a day.


Other conditions that have improved are kidney function (urine stream back to normal; before OLE I used Dr. Clark’s Kidney Cleanse Tea which worked) painful joints (not so painful), overall stamina (I can stand at a perfume counter for hours now, if I choose, indulging in the positive application I discovered for a hypersensitive nose).  Ah bliss!


WebMd – Great for both medical and herbal info, including interactions

VitaCost – Where I buy most of my supplements and natural products (high quality, low price)

HerbalRemedies – where I discovered Dr. Clark’s book.

BetterHealthHerbs –  He’s a master herbalist.

Supplements  – An online friend just pointed me to this gem

EatTheWeeds – and this gem for wild sources

NCCAM – What the NIH says about alternative medicine


The cardiologist’s already told me my heart’s okay now. All that remains is to return to my doctor for an exam, though I know the result: I’m not diabetic and don’t have high blood pressure anymore.