All Things Bright and Beautiful

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“All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

This was a song I learned as a child, and believed the words. I still do.

Something has been resting heavily on my heart for the past several days that I feel like I need to address in my writing. It has to do with this little song, whose words keep playing and replaying in my mind, and about God and God’s creation.

Last week I read that the United Methodist Church, the church I have been affiliated with all my life, ordained a transgender person as a deacon. I read with great interest the article about the ordination of M Barklay, one of God’s bright and beautiful creations. I read about the struggles this person has gone through in reaching this important point within the organized church, and the devotion and dedication to God and God’s work M is so passionate about. I am proud of my church for taking this step of inclusion and acceptance of people who don’t quite fit into the male / female mold, one that many of us hold onto so tightly.

What disturbs me about this were the many comments I read from Christian people condemning the church for this action and for labeling M as a child of the devil (the worst that I read) or a person not worthy of representing the church as an ordained deacon, according to scripture. I was amazed at the hatred, fear, despising, and condemnation that littered the comment section of the online articles that I read.

It makes me sad.

The Lord God made us all, as we teach our children in Sunday School. It is a miracle that any one of us is alive and walking on Planet Earth. I look at my own life and marvel that I am here at all. At any one point in the history of the world, one small thing could have happened to keep a baby from being conceived, and thus, I wouldn’t be here. In my imagination, I can just see my caveman ancestor returning to his cave after a long day of hunting and gathering, wanting a little affection from his cavewoman. She had a busy day, as well, and was exhausted. I can imagine in my mind her hugging her caveman mate, and saying in cave language, “Not tonight, Honey. I have a terrible headache.” But she didn’t. A cavebaby’s life was begun, and here I am, along with a long line of other ancestors, my siblings, and my two sons. And whether any of us are heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, or something in between really doesn’t matter. We have been given the gift of life, which is beyond any labeling that may be tacked onto our backs by others.

God created all things bright and beautiful. To those Christians who condemn homosexuality, gender differences, the concept of “two spirit” people (a Native American term. Read about it!), and anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow belief about God and God’s creation, I feel very sorry for them. I don’t believe that gender differences are a sin. What constitutes sin is us missing the mark of God’s intention for our lives. Who’s to say that God’s desire can’t be fulfilled in people who are a little bit different from us.

I think it is time for Christians, and all people who believe in God, to look at every person as God’s creation. I realize that things happen as a part of being human that make people different from one another, and can certainly make some people evil and dangerous. But we are all God’s children, even the very worst of us. And God is alive in us, even when we shut God into a dark closet and ignore the creator within us.

I wish M Barklay the very best in ministry and in reaching out and touching the people who need M the most to show God’s love to all. I look at the life of Jesus, and can see him reflected in this ministry.

I’m sure there are many who read this who won’t agree with me, and that’s OK. I am content and satisfied with my beliefs, which include believing that God is love, and that God loves everything and everyone that God has created.

“And that’s all I have to say about that” (thank you Forrest Gump for this quote).

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I Can Do It Myself, Said The Little Red Hen…

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And she did.

In March, 2009, I was laid off from a job I loved and had hoped to have until retirement. The economic downturn changed my plans with a single visit in my office from my boss. I was a librarian without a library, a writer without an assignment, and an awards manager without an awards program. Needless to say, I was shocked and hurt that this had happened to me.

I went home, nursed my damaged ego for a few days, and then began thinking about what I wanted to do. I began applying for jobs, but it seemed as if nobody was hiring. The unemployment rate was growing by the day, and I was among the downturn’s victims. I began looking at something to occupy my brain and body until a job came my way.

I had always said that I wanted to write a novel some day, and as the thought began taking shape in my brain, I decided that this might be the time to actually do what I had been talking about for years. I got busy, spending a few hours each day developing my story and writing my book. It took about six months for me to write it, and when I was done, I worked up all the courage I could muster, and asked a few friends to read it. I was petrified of what they would have to say. But, wonder of wonders, they liked it!

That was the beginning of Fishbowls and Birdcages. Later that year, I sent the first 40 pages to a literary agent that Brian knew, and with fingers crossed, waited to hear what she had to say. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. She liked what she read, but told me that as a first-time author, my chances of getting published were remote. She couldn’t take the chance on me. I was disappointed, of course, but I told myself that I had done what I said I would do – write a novel. I’d just have to figure out a way to get it published.

I had loved the Stephen King novel, The Green Mile, especially the way he released the book in serial fashion, making his readers wait on pins and needles for the next installment. I could do the same thing! But I would release my story as a blog. I created a blog specifically for my book. Using Facebook as my marketing tool, I posted a blog link every few days – one or two chapters at a time – to entice people to read it. I think that probably about 20 people read the book, and a few were kind enough to tell me that they liked it. I was satisfied. I had accomplished my goal in writing a novel. I let go of the idea of publishing it, and tucked it away in the recesses of my computer.

Time passed, life happened, and my story sat silent until last year, when I decided to pick it up and read it again. As I read, I made notes, marked some changes that I wanted to make, highlighted stuff to be deleted, and found what I called a Fatal Flaw in the story. None of my readers had ever mentioned this to me. I wondered how I had missed it and how they could have missed it, too. – maybe they were too kind to say anything. I plotted the story’s timeline, re-worked it, deleted parts that weren’t necessary to the story, corrected the Fatal Flaw, added a couple of bridge chapters to make the story flow more smoothly, and began thinking again about the possibility of publishing.

The problem was that I didn’t have any money. I knew I would have to do it myself if I wanted my book published, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when my son, Brian, got into the act. One night while talking to him on the phone about writing in general, and about his writing more specifically, I mentioned to him that I sure would love to publish my book. He told me about CreateSpace, a website he was using to publish his novel, and he encouraged me to take a look at it. I asked him to read my manuscript and tell me if he thought it was worthy of the publishing effort. A few days after I emailed him the story, he phoned me and said, “Go for it, Mom.” That was all I needed to hear!

Knowing Brian and his DIYDS motto for so many of his creative projects, I began thinking, “I can do it myself!” And with his help and encouragement, I can now announce that my novel, Fishbowls and Birdcages is now available for sale on Amazon.com.

Drawing on the 17 years of my life that I was a preacher’s wife, I created a fictional memoir of Fran, who found herself in a similar role as the one I had for those years. The story is not an autobiography, and the characters are not real. A few of them are inspired by people I knew, and some of the events are similar to those I encountered during those years. But Fran’s story is not my story, and Fran’s husband’s story is fictional, as well. While there might be a little of me in Fran, she is not me. Many of her thoughts and beliefs mirror mine after a fashion, but we are different and separate, and our faith journeys, while somewhat similar, are not the same.

It has been quite a journey for me. I am excited and terrified. I hope that people will like my book, and I am afraid they won’t. I don’t expect it to be a bestseller – my aim is not unrealistically high. My hope is that Fran’s story may touch someone’s heart, help someone through a difficult time, or cause someone to stop and think about faith in God and God’s calling.

I invite my blog readers to check out my novel on Amazon.com. I’d love for you to read it!

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