I've been busy getting my second Where True Love Is devotional ready for launch, and so you haven't seen much news from me on this blog. You can follow the status and read excerpts from Transfigured however on the Where True Love Is website!
Meanwhile, here's a peek at the cover:
It's a wonderful resource for all people who want to broaden their view of our limitless God.
I wrote this summary of our Ash Wednesday three years ago, and for some reason, never posted it. Posting now, because I still need to take to heart what we experienced.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and Dolce and I discussed the readings of the day over breakfast. We'd taken our time getting out of our warm bed and so breakfasted late. I sliced thick slabs form a lovely loaf of fresh sour dough bread and fried a couple of eggs each. I slathered butter over the crusty toast. Dolce made yummy sounds the whole time she at it. Toast is one of her favorite things. We compared how Jesus' instructions to keep pious actions on the down low seemed to be in contrast with the very public sign of a dark smear of ashes across the forehead. Dolce talked about the practice of giving up chocolate or other favorite vice, wondering if it would be more in keeping with Christ's instructions to just go out more fully into the world as carriers of God's love? And so off we went to our church's Wednesday fee lunch program for the hungry. We'd been planning to attend for months, to see if we might volunteer here as we have once a month at our previous church's meal program. When it is our night to cook we consider ourselves the hosts of an extended family dinner party. We choose a menu that is special, balanced, and contrasting in textures, colors, and flavors.
We walked in to the fellowship hall and saw full tables and faces of mixed complexions and ages. Most people were men. Two women were there with two girls who looked to be five to seven years old. We chose a table and sat between a group of three deaf men who stayed busily engaged in conversation through the meal, and a twinkling-eyed, middle-aged Hispanic guy with a service pit bull at his side. A smiling volunteer greeted us and quickly brought plates heaping with food. The air was redolent of fish and we saw a floppy brown rectangle, a mound of suspiciously glossy smooth mashed potatoes, a tiny bump of coleslaw, and a pile of grayish peas mixed with soft, soggy carrot rounds. A dense under cooked biscuit rested atop the whole thing, earning pride of place perhaps because it was homemade. I looked at the food and dug in, forcing my foodie proclivities down as I lifted fork after fork of the bland mush into my mouth. A young Hispanic man joined us a few minutes later, calling our neighbor Papi and chatting animatedly with him in Spanish. Papi entertained us throughout the meal with stories about the dog. Her toenails were painted bright red. He fed her from his fork, starting with a bite of coleslaw. He scrolled through photos of her on his phone. One showed her dressed in a camouflage tutu, in another she watched TV, and in a third she sported sunglasses. Her name was Tanya, and helps him when he has seizures. He said she was his wife.
A youngish man behind me stood up to take care of his garbage. For the next five minutes he berated the room at large. "Who threw that fish away? There's nothing wrong with that fish!" His dark eyes flashed as he looked around, while pulling up the sleeves of his snow coveralls, and pulling a knit cap down over his tousled black hair. His skin was sun and wind darkened, his lips chapped. "That fish is good food! Who would throw that away?" A female voice muttered in response, but he merely stomped away in disgust. Dolce hates fish but she'd dutifully eaten a few bites in solidarity with the group. I took the abandoned remainder, scraped off the soggy coating and ate the thin flakes of flesh that were revealed.
Papi continued chatting with us and with he newcomer. He told us about a place around the corner called Common Ground where you could get free donuts and coffee. He said you could hang out and watch TV, maybe watch a movie. He recommended it to us, explaining that it was open every day from 12:00-4:00.
By this time the moms were getting in motion. One said "Come on! It's time to go!" and a little voice responded "I want to stay a while and get really warm!" My heart clenched at the thought of the girl needing to stock up on heat calories, wondering if they'd be spending the afternoon outside. But mom didn't want to hear it and she bustled the girl to the bathroom, and eventually toward the door. As she passed by, the littler girl called out her friend "Come on! We're going to Common Ground!" And so I relaxed, picturing her continuing to be warm at least until 4:00.
I continued working at the pile of gluey food in front of me, hating to wast it but full to the point of nausea. Eventually it seemed like we'd stayed long enough and so I threw away our disposables and thanked the folks in the kitchen who had cooked and served us. They wished me a good and day and we went back out into the sparkling snow, saying goodbye to the woman we see on Sundays, who's face looks like it is caving in in the center, so eventually her forehead and chin will meet in the center. I'm not sure how she manages to push her walker through all that snow and slush outside. It must be exhausting.
As we drove home I thought about the contrast of the simple, beautiful breakfast we'd eaten and the Styrofoam pile of calories placed before us a lunch. I thought about the fasting called for as a Lenten practice, and wondered if becoming overly full during this meal could somehow be a form of that practice. I thought about how much we would like to bring our own style of serving into this setting once a month. How we would like to host a family party for this group of womenless men and single moms with kids and gumming old women and middle aged black ladies with red sequined hoodies, and half frozen young men who know the value of a flat greasy block of fish, and friendly, fatherly guys who want to help two middle class women know where to find free donuts.
So tomorrow I'll hunt down the contact information for the program's coordinator. Hopefully she'll let us throw that party once a month.
The events in Charlottesville, VA and the response out of the Oval Office have left me feeling angry, helpless, and emotionally fraught. It’s hard to get work done, and I’m snippy and less compassionate than those close to me deserve. I woke up this morning hoping I could shake it off and buckle down to the job of trying to make the world a better place, but not having a lot of confidence in my ability to make a difference.
Then came a private Facebook message from a woman named Judy who bought my book Rumplepimple for her grand children. Some months ago she sent video of the kids reading it, and she’s kept in touch since then. We accidentally sent her an extra copy of the book recently, and she’d planned to send it back.
A few months ago, we moved across country to be near our eldest daughter's family. This means that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, initiating the grandkids in the tradition of potato peeling and fruit salad mixing. We feasted on Wednesday rather than Thursday to accommodate the schedule of our daughter's father.
We are renovating our new/old house, or at least making it livable, and so on Thanksgiving Day itself, Dolce worked on the tub while I cleaned kitchen cabinets. When I stopped to rinse a rag, I glanced out the window above the sink and watched a car pull up. This isn't particularly unusual; our home is next to a church, and the alley that leads to our driveway is adjacent to the church parking lot. People come and go all the time. The position of the car was a bit odd because it was so close to our house, but I didn't give it a lot of thought. I had things to do. The grandkids were coming later on, and I needed to get some work done before they arrived.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a young woman standing on the steps. She said "Excuse me, but does Leadessia still live here?"
Her voice was hesitant, as if she already knew the answer.
I told her I was sorry, but that she no longer lived here. I told her the story we heard when we bought the house. We were told that the house had been the home of a woman for many years. We were told she had a husband, and he died. We were told she had another husband, and he also died. We were told that after that, she'd moved into a nursing home here in town.
That is all we knew.
The girl said "She was my grandmother." Her eyes filled with tears, and her speech was halting. "We never talked. She was my stepgrandmother, and the family was estranged. No one talks to that side, but I really loved her. I used to come here all the time when I was little. I thought I'd see if she was here. I had a project I wanted to do with her."
I told her how sorry I was, and that maybe she could find her at one of the nursing homes. I told her we have been marveling about the obvious love the family put into the house through the decades; installing Z-Brick on the walls, paneling over crumbling plaster, puzzling together pieces of trim to cover the top edges of the paneling.
The old place contains several lifetimes of family memories. Now we are hard at work creating our own.
Intending kindness, I asked if she'd like to come in to see what we've done with the house. She declined. Perhaps it was unfeeling to invite her. She came to be with her grandmother. Seeing the house so changed would have underscored what she has lost.
She left, still crying. My heart is still sad.
I hope she is in town for a few days, and can find her grandmother. I hope Leadessia is aware enough to experience the joy of such a visit. I hope for healing and restoration within her family.
The house belongs to Dolce and I now. We are undertaking our own projects, transforming it to fit our tastes and our needs. It is our turn to play with grandchildren on the scarred wooden floors, just as Leadessia did.
Like Leadessia, I am a stepgrandmother. Like that young woman, the children love me.
This Thanksgiving, I am potently aware of being part of history. We are but one page of a huge book of stories that move from generation to generation. I pray for Leadessia, for this young woman, and for our own grandchildren. May the pattern of disruption come to an end.
This week, if Dolce is willing, we will also go in search of Leadessia. And we will tell her this story.
I'm way behind in uploading Merrimack Valley Magazine articles, but several author friends have done me BIG favors this week, and the very least I can do to say thank you is post my reviews of their books here.
This is the first of two.
Thanks Lorrie Thomson; not only for your generosity in helping move my debut novel forward, but also for writing books so worth reading.
Bucket list item achieved! In early May, this piece appeared on the wonderful and inspiring Cognoscenti website. Here's how it opens. Click on the link at the end to continue reading.
A few months ago I cut back the rose bush we planted two years ago. It was bleak midwinter and the spiky branches were dark brown and menacing, twisting high against the porch uprights where I’d wired them in place, hoping to create an arbor of red once summer comes. But prospective buyers wouldn’t understand the potential beauty of the prickly beast reaching toward the front door, and we won’t be here to see summer. We are moving from New England to Missouri, where our four grandchildren live. Life can be hard and grandmothers can help, so we are...
When my wife Diane turned 50 in 2012, we celebrated by going to a baseball park. In the eyes of the world it would have been a historic game. The park was Fenway. The teams were the Red Sox and the Yankees. The game would have been their first match in Fenway’s 100th year.
I’ve never been a sports fan, so normally this wouldn’t mean much to me. But there I was, living in Massachusetts where the Sox logo shows up on everything from license plates to ice cream boxes. A place where the Sox are not a team so much as they are a...
My last HuffPost piece, Refrocked and Ready: Franklyn Schaefer, LGBTQ Faith Hero, provoked debate on a Facebook Christian Blogger group, which isn’t much of a surprise. A goodly number of Christians refuse to include the handful of scriptures which mention same sex behaviors in the huge batch of Bible verses they discard when making decisions about their own affairs. Some of the debaters were respectful, others disparaging and nasty, proclaiming that my marriage is an abomination, that my soul has been twisted by Satan, and that I use Christ as a puppet.
I love a good debate, particularly on issues related to theology and sexuality. It’s been a passion for some years. But people rarely want to...
In 2013 Methodist Pastor Frank Schaeffer was removed from ministry for performing his gay son’s wedding six years prior. His book Defrocked was published in 2014. The story is also told in the film An Act of Love, which began screening this month. Frank’s story has particular significance for me as my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary in October. Without ministers who dare to make a difference as he did, Rumplepimple‘s two moms couldn’t be married....
A while back I was called “a special kind of stupid” for sharing the screenshot above in response to a conservative evangelical Christian’s post about the Caitlyn Jenner hype.
In the same thread, another person said I was preaching “the Gospel according to Suzanne” because I suggested that when the Bible doesn’t speak of an issue (in this case, transgender individuals), we must always approach it with love.
Over the same time frame, my children’s picture book, Rumplepimple was launched. This tore open the wound that my relationship with my wife Diane has created with her beloved sister. Rumplepimple is a dog who’s family structure mirrors ours; he has a sister cat and two moms. Diane’s heart has been sick over...
Yesterday I witnessed a five minute diatribe about why ‘Merica needs Donald Trump as president, from a soft-spoken elderly southern gent. I tried to listen with as open a mind as possible, but that didn’t last long.
The poor dude was essentially in mourning, saying that Trump can’t win the election because women (“wimmin”) control the vote. According to him, the only thing wimmin are concerned about is...
Meet Juno the Facebook sensation, and her inspiring mom Deborah Young. The duo’s online and real-world work supports Kane’s Krusade, Pet Rock Festival, the Cold Noses Foundation, Sweetpea Animal Shelter, Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog, Paws for a Cause, ending Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) and many other causes.
Tell us about Juno and the work you do together.
As far as Juno knows, she’s a little person, not a dog. During a visit to grandma in the hospital, I quickly realized that...
I live in Massachusetts, and I sometimes wonder what it is about the region that makes it such a fertile place for writers. The first year I lived here I went to dinner in my small town and was seated next to Andre Dubus III for crying out loud. I’ve been blessed to become friends with a number of local authors, such as the generous and wickedly funny Holly Robinson. Being a dog lover herself, she sweetly agreed to write a blurb for Rumplepimple‘s back cover. Holly’s latest book came out October 6, and she was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with me about it.
Given all the Kim Davis hoopla, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “traditional marriage,” and wondering how the concept of “traditional” is being applied. Normally the term is related to time and frequency of a practice. If something has been around a long time and repeated over and over again, it becomes a tradition.
And so I decided to look at the Christian “one man, one woman” argument, commonly known as “traditional marriage,” from this perspective. And oops! I immediately found that...
Sarah Bennett, Waffle’s mom, has grown used to the dog’s preternatural skill at finding abandoned balls, but last year a friend had a great idea. Fellow terrier mom Sally Grist suggested asking Waffle fans to donate £1 to Terrier SOS for every ball Waffle found in a single week. The contest resulted in an amazing worldwide response and the duo (plus canine companions) raised £4,575. This year Grist and Bennett put their heads together to come up with another way to help abused, abandoned, or neglected terriers, and Waffle and Barley’s Sponsored Treshur Hunt was born.
For several years, I’ve been collecting materials for a book which offers a Biblical defense of same sex relationships. As part of that process, my wife and I have met many interesting people, including Kathy Baldock, founder of Canyonwalker Connections and author of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community.
We connected with Kathy recently in hope that she would review my children’s illustrated story book Rumplepimple, because it features two moms. I listened to Kathy on a radio interview, and found myself mesmerized by...
My wife and I have been thinking a lot about gender lately.
An article my daughter posted pointed out the layers of complexity of the issue which Caitlyn Jenner brought to America’s door step. Women have been working for generations to not be labeled as simply soft, vulnerable, lipstick-slathered corset wearers. For over a century we’ve been trying to get society to accept that having the equipment necessary to grow babies doesn’t mean women should be prevented from voting, or get paid less, or be kept out of scientific circles because of our emotional mushiness and our distracting sexiness.
Meanwhile, here comes Caitlyn, posing in undergarments and talking about...
Writers write to be read, and hearing about people who enjoy their work makes all the days of questioning and doubt absolutely worth it.
Most of us don't get to see a warthog listening to a reading. But I'm special.
We've been following the antics of Wallace the Warthog, Toby the Wire Fox Terrier, and their animal friends on Facebook for a few months, and today this post showed up. (You can follow them too by clicking here.)
Advent is the season of Mary, when we wait with her as the child forming in her womb readies for his unveiling. And each year a number of questions come up, such as: Is Mary the mother of God? Is she without sin?
These are enigmas shrouded in mystery, and lead to confusion on multiple fronts.
There is the chicken and egg problem: how could someone be the mother of the person who created her? There is the time and space problem: how could the infinite be “born” of the finite? There are multiple theological problems: how could the holiness of God be present within the confines of a sinful nature? How could a mere human presume to claim such an important role over God Himself? Excerpted from the Huffington Post. Click here to read more.