Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Power of Blotch

I am working on a series of books about a boy called Blotch. He has a port wine colored birthmark on the side of his face. To get a feel for the experience I used face paint to put a birthmark on my face. It rather realistically looked like a birthmark or a bruise.

I realize I am sixty-two and my character is fifteen and that how people treat us, in general, is totally different but I think it was an important experience. Some people stared but tried not to and no one was overtly rude.

I did find I was at first self-conscious. When I moved past that I realized I could turn blotch into a positive. People would look at me a little longer. I would take this as an opportunity to smile and say hello. Or how's your day. One of my friends in men's group said this is natural for me because I'm from Texas and people there acknowledge each other as they pass. He said he spent a semester at Texas A & M and on campus, you are supposed to say hello or 'Howdy' to everyone you pass. He found it exhausting.

Overall I found for my character an arc that went from self-conscious to empowered.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A post Election Resurrection Hope

We live our faith, our own sainthood by being resurrection people. Resurrection people see life in even the darkest times. We are resurrection people when we fulfill the call to Love, our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
One aspect of being a resurrection person that I’m not so good at is living into my pain, sorrow, and suffering and yet it is the way of the cross the true way of resurrection. I may not be good at it because I’m very pain averse. Which may be why I didn’t play a lot of sports as a kid? Well, that and a total lack of eye-hand coordination.
But the physical, personal sufferings are part of life part of our journey, and by journeying through them, we can find new life a new help. But this is really about one's own personal coming to awareness. We don’t tell those in pain or grief or sorrow it will just make you better. And if someone says to “That which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, You have my permission to hit them in a non-violent way.
A resurrection view lifts all people. When we have a resurrection view, we see people, not labels. Labels say I know who you are but how you look, what you drive, what bumper stickers are on your car, where you live, the color of your skin. As resurrection people, we see people not labels.
One of the people who had been a contestant on Donald Trump’s Apprentice show said people had been calling her for some sort of quote they could use one way or another. She refused to give them one. But she’s a PR person and does focus groups. She gathered a group of people who shared Mr. Trump’s views on immigration. And she gathered a group of people of various immigration statuses, from undocumented to having newly become a citizen and everything in between. In the first phase, she had each group observe the other through a one-way mirror as the group discussed its point of view. Then she brought the two groups together.
First members of both groups said they normally had little or no conversation on this or other subjects with people they disagreed with. What followed was an honest conversation that was wonderfully boringly, civil and respectful.
As resurrection people we are called to see the humanity in people, we disagree with.
We as a nation have been through a very painful time. Things have been said by all parties that degrade the integrity of the other. The truth is as we hear this darkness it is in our nature to think the other side has said worse things and my side spoke the truth, but in reality, both sides share in a lack of civility.
Maybe things have gone so far this time that many of us will believe there needs to be a new way forward. I hope we can acknowledge the pain we have caused and the pain we have felt.

At the heart of the resurrection vision is the desire not to see labels but to see people.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mom, Dad, I killed a Man

So I see I haven't posted anything since last October. I am back looking at my blog because I just finished a story that started with the character I mentioned in my last post, but it went a totally different direction. When I'm writing I tend not to blog. I also don't walk and chew gum.

Synopsis: Mom, Dad, I Killed a Man  is a midgrade novel. In intensity it is somewhere between Pandemic and Boy in Tights. In part one Frank and Philip meet on seven school bus rides. Frank is a fearful kid lacking confidence. Philip is actually a ghost from thirty years prior. Philip gives Frank confidence. Frank gives him some joy. At the end of the week we learn that Philip committed suicide to escape bullies. In the second half of the novel Frank starts a successful baby sitting and children’s party business. He also starts implementing a plan to kill the three now forty five year old men who bullied Philip. In the end he saves Philip’s main bully from committing suicide. He realizes this was the real reason Philip came to him.

I am planning to send it out to publishers. I haven't done that since the first Henry book. So we will see what happens. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is It an Idea or a Plot

The Next lesson in the course was about shaping ideas into plots. I realize I have at times started a story with things other than plots and then had a hard time getting the story to come together or even making it into a story.

Examples might be a character trait that would sharply define a character such as a kid who in every scene he enters tells a joke. It definitely defines the character but it doesn’t go anywhere. I am actually giving this trait to a character in the new story I’m working on.

Another example would be a pivotal event. I actually had in my head the idea of the unicorn whose horn was cut off for many years before a plot to explain how this happened and the consequences of the event came together to form Henry on Fire.

So for my new story the plot as it is currently understood by me is:

When Frank goes to his neighbor’s door he is met by a man half his neighbor’s age. The man won’t answer Frank’s questions and shuts the door in his face. Frank is convinced the neighbor is being held against his will, but when the cops come its Frank who is in trouble.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting Going

Yesterday I completed and got off to the printers this year's book. It is a collection of 4 short stories. The first story is around sixty pages so it may qualify as a novella. As as a self reward for that I signed up for a self paced online course. taught by James Patterson.

So far I have completed the introduction and first lesson and though he is entertaining and enjoyable to listen to he hasn't said much yet except you need to enjoy writing if you are going to write, you need to have a passion for writing and you need to create a habit of when you write.

Fortunately have a block of time in the early morning before work that is my regular writing time on four mornings a week. My plan now with the course is to start a new middle grade novel not in the Henry series.

Watch here and I'll keep you posted.

The new collection is published as Tales of the Mountain Boy and Other Stories

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Believe in Evolution and I Don’t Believe in Original Sin

Trinity Sunday
I Believe in Evolution and I Don’t Believe in Original Sin

If I was picking the readings for Trinity Sunday I would start with the first chapter of Genesis.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters. 

 We then go through each of the six days of creation and at the end of each day God sees the work of creation and it is good.

For the New Testament reading I would read from the end of the book of Revelation where the New Jerusalem descends to earth. St John speaks of it saying,

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

We started with the beautiful creation of God and we end with a vision of dwelling in perfect harmony with God, not only for ourselves but for all the nations of the world.

For a gospel reading I would choose the opening of St. John’s gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This celebrates the eternal reality of the Trinity. The Trinity did not begin with the birth of Jesus and was not completed with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but it has always been there even before the beginning.

These passages also note the dynamic relationship between the Trinity and creation. The spirit moves over the face of the waters and all things are created though the word. So that leads me to my first confession of the morning.

I am an evolutionist.

Now in the Episcopal Church you don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to be right. And even if one of us is wrong we only get charged with heresy for things related to the Trinity or the creeds and then pretty much only if you’ve been elected bishop and someone doesn’t like you. So we are safe.

I believe creation began some 14 plus billion years ago. For a reason unknowable to us the Trinity chose to be expressed in the particular of matter and form. And when that happened it does not surprise me that there was a Big Bang. In fact I think Big Bang understates the moment when the infinite and eternal choose to be expressed also in the realm of the finite and the particular.

I believe from that moment on creation has been becoming the fullness of the expression of the reality of God. And as we come to us God has raised up people like Abraham, Moses, the prophets and ultimately Jesus to raise us to new levels of relationship with God and one another. I believe creation  will continue this trajectory until we arrive at that point expressed by the vision of the heavenly city the New Jerusalem where we live in perfect harmony with God and with one another.

Because creation is a manifestation of God it is filled with God’s goodness, therefore all of creation and every person shares in the potential to be a sacramental expression. A sacrament is “the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” So water at baptism is the outward sign of the washing away of sin and of the inpouring of the Spirit of God.  And the bread and wine of communion are the outward and visible signs of our spiritual communion and union with God. All of creation is good. All of creation is an expression of the loving God.

Its time for a second confession. I don’t believe in original sin. Original sin is a doctrine from St Augustine in the fifth century and embraced throughout much of the western world for years to come.  (Note it is not embraced by the eastern or Orthodox Church and it was not embraced by Celtic Christianity, nor by Judaism. Also St. Francis and many of the mystics such as Hildegard and Julian rejected it also. Not to mention many theologians of the modern age.) It is a belief that we are born in sin and cannot escape it. It becomes interpreted that humanity and creation at its foundation is corrupted or fallen. It was a doctrine that was great for church business. Protestant and Catholic alike convinced the people that they didn’t stand a chance apart from the rites and rituals of their church. I just don’t think its true.

When I was around six, I was having lunch at my aunt’s house. She sent me to wash up. When I returned she didn’t think I had done a very good job and she went to scrubbing on me at the kitchen sink until she had to admit that I was just very tan. The truth is, as a child in Texas in the summers I was about as brown as a white boy could be.

Well I think we have spent a lot of time trying to scrub away the stain of original sin, a stain that was never there.

Letting go of both these doctrines is actually bad for the church business because we have used them to bind the people to the church, but in truth letting go of them frees us to discover the real work of the church, the building of communion with one another and God.

Once everything has the potential to be a sacramental expression of the divine then someone can legitimately say, ‘I find God in my garden, or in a walk in the woods, or kayaking down the river’, but what they are missing is what we call the communion of the saints. They miss the ability to go back to a community and share their encounters, the opportunity to strengthen others and be strengthened.  The discipline and habit of returning again and again to seek the divine even when at times it seems absent, and the chance in those times to be reassured by the certainty of others. They miss the chance to grow and learn from the spirituality of those who have gone before and those who seek God now.

In the beginning there was a very big bang as God brought forth the heavens and the Earth. And creation has continued to become and it will continue to become until it is the reality expressed by the vision of the New Jerusalem. A city with no temple, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Future is an Adventure we have not yet Imagined

So a few weeks ago I published a blog that was rather dismissive of books people recommend or give me to read. At about the same time Jason recommended I read Eragon by Christopher Paolini. It is about 700 pages long and the first of a four volume series; each volume slightly longer than the one before. I was honest with Jason that I didn’t do well with long books. I gave up after the third or fourth volume of Harry Potter as each volume got longer and longer.

However he spoke eloquently enough about the merits of Eragon that I was moved to immediately seek out the book. However possibly as an expression of my commitment my first stop was McKay’s Used Books, unfortunately McKay’s did not have a copy. I was already near Barnes and Nobles so I headed over and picked up Eragon.

This is a story about dragons and dragon riders, Elves, Dwarves and Urgals (A tame sort of Orc.) as well as humans all battling the evil empire lead by a misguided former dragon rider. It is full of magic and magicians and spells as well as various other sinister creatures. There is a tremendous amount of lore and back story as well as battles and dragon fights. It was strongly reminiscent of and probably influenced by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Well at times it was as if a spell had been cast over me. When I would start reading I couldn’t stop until at least whatever danger or conflict had befallen the heroes had been overcome. I sped through the four volumes in a month and enjoyed each thoroughly.

So once again I am confronted by the reality that the past is no predictor of the future. And the future is an adventure we have not yet imagined.