Fishes and Loaves (Mark 6: 30-44)

Take the idea of abundance versus scarcity: how often do we see our cups as half-empty rather than half-full?   How much news is fear-based rather than love-based?   The nuclear crisis in Japan is no doubt horrific, but almost all the news I read, see or hear is about how bad things are, never about how brave are the people trying to contain the radioactivity, how amazing the world community is for trying to help.  It’s not that we ought to ignore the problems of the world, but rather we need to find balance and means to bring about positive change.

Parker Palmer, in his book, The Active Life, gave me fresh insight about the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6: 30-44).   I have always loved this Scripture.  Even before I became a Christian, it spoke to me of the abundance of God’s love, and the grace, and the mystery, but Parker Palmer, author of The Active Life, brings deeper meaning.

He says Jesus, who is the very one who refused to turn a stone into bread, is now creating abundance not simply of food, but of community.   When the disciples suggest the crowd be sent to villages, away from this gathering because it is getting late, and they have nothing to eat, they are acting out of scarcity.   They want to get rid of the crowd and let the crowd take care of themselves.   It never occurs to them they might do something more than direct the people.   When Jesus tells them “You give them something to eat,” they must have felt bewildered.   There were 5000 people on that hillside.   The disciple’s immediate response is to leave and buy food, but Jesus suggests they might want to see what abundance is already within the crowd:  “How many loaves have you?   Go and see.”

All the disciples can come up with is five loaves and two fishes.  I bet they felt stupefied.  They didn’t have a clue about the abundance of God’s grace because they were locked into a fear-based, scarcity-based world.  How on earth, they must have thought, are we going to take care of all these hungry people with so little bread?  Furthermore, they are acting out of us-versus-them mentality–which rarely gets people to cooperate.

What might the disciples have said to the people?  Jesus says for you to cough up whatever food you’ve got?  I imagine people hoarding their supplies–many may well have brought along their lunch, expecting to stay a while to hear and experience this marvelous teacher and healer.  They aren’t about to share their food because they want to take care of themselves first.  The disciples, in their defense, were a little further along.  They felt the heavy responsibility of the crowd weighing them down.  Silly people did not realize God’s abundance is always available and it is there for everyone all the time.

Palmer says Jesus teaches about community by dividing the people into groups, and then dividing the bread and fishes evenly, thus causing the people in each small group to start to talk to one another and become connected to one another, and perhaps produce and share their hidden resources with one another.  For Palmer, then, the mystery of the loaves and fishes is revealed as an act of explainable community action.  He makes the case of the importance of not merely spiritualizing Scripture, assuming God will feed everyone and therefore we need do nothing.  Rather, Palmer tells us, it is through human action that God’s grace enters the world and changes it.

Palmer quotes Black Elk, the Native American shaman, “Whether it happened so or not I do not know; but if you think about it you can see that it is true.”  Even as a child, I always knew this story was true and always believed it literally, but now I see it is a deeply layered myth resonating with meaning for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.  As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will come.

Amanda Hocking’s Trylle, book 1

I am reading Switched, Trylle, on my kindle.  Got to location 3556.

This story is so much fun, and so fresh.  I love the Trylle and can’t wait to see what Wendy does as a princess.

Amanda Hocking is a good writer and I am certainly learning from her example, both with prose and her caring attitude for her fans.

Amanda rocks and writes, rocks and writes  WELL!  How wonderful she went out of her way to figure out what people want to read and then wrote it–using her considerable creative and imaginative process…

Angels in America

I just finished watching Tony Kushner’ s Pulitzer prize winning play, made for HBO.  It is a brilliant depiction of the struggles of homosexual men in the 1980s at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

This play moved me deeply because of the truth it spoke at so many levels.  Brilliant writing, brilliant dialog, brilliant insight, disturbing and poignant.  It is an example of such fine writing, all those who aspire to speaking truth through their written words would benefit from watching this show.  It was six hours in length. 

One of the characters is a closet homosexual lawyer with a wife.  He does not admit his true feelings, and his wife, cheated of the intimacy and connectedness she expects from her husband, is a valium addict.

Ultimately it brings up the question for all people:  what do we hide that separates us from others, and what do we deny within ourselves which is the reality of who we actually are?

Often, it seems to me, since we are in a state of becoming, we plain don’t know who we are, we lack deep awareness, and yet the seeds of our nature are deeply planted, waiting to be watered by compassionate choices.

Contemplative prayer and meditation are ways we get deeper understanding of our nature, our motivations and our  attachments with the ultimate goal of becoming free to make wholistic choices of benefit not only to ourselves, but to others also.  Spiritual direction is one way to deepen understanding.

It takes courage to write as honestly as Kushner did.  His wisdom surely comes from a life truly examined at the deepest of levels.

Thirsty

 This is a love story of sorts, but not the traditional boy meets girl, they get hot for one another, they eventually tumble into the bed and live happily ever after.  Such a beautiful fairytale, we all know, does not exist in real life, especially in relationships which, in order to deepen, take work, persistence, insight, and time.

So it is with the writing life, at least so it has been with mine.  Writing seemed a way I might quench a longing I couldn’t even name.  When I was at my father’s funeral in England, I began telling stories to my small nephews.  It seemed to me perhaps I could turn this interest in story-telling into a refreshing way of living.  How hard could it be?  I became convinced my words would be worthwhile enough for people to pay me money, enabling me to live freely, roam the world, and never again have to work in a nine-to-five job.  Success would surely come.

My first children’s novels, I wrote feverishly, full of excitement.  I studied the genre, I attended workshops, I went to writers’ conferences, I joined the SCBWI, I constantly read the best in children’s literature.  I sent out my manuscripts time and time again.  The result was hardly any affirmation, and certainly no novels accepted for publication by major publishers.  I did get a monetary award for a YA historical fiction novel, which convinced me my novel would sell.  It did not.

Yeah, well–I can see other writers nodding their heads…

My thirst did not abate, but after twenty years of effort, I was ready to throw in the writer’s towel, heartbroken at all the rejections, convinced of the utter futility of continuing.  Along came a writer friend, Eddy Pendarvis, who, like me, was a big fan of Pearl Buck’s work.  It aggravated us that Buck never received sufficient acclaim for her writing achievements.  In spite of winning a Nobel Prize in literature, her work was strongly criticized by the literary establishment, and still is today.  We wanted to find ways to promote her best works, to acclaim this woman of high achievement and high principled altruism.  Doesn’t that make you think of children’s literature writers?  We little knew where our ideas would lead, but we wrote a children’s story.

Eddy led the way.  She knew a Chinese scholar, Berlin Fang, who’d helped translate Peter Conn’s Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography into Chinese.  Berlin suggested we send our work to the Chinese publisher.  It seemed an unlikely hope, but we gave it a try.  We were offered a contract to complete the work: no royalty agreements, no definite yes to publication, merely an agreement the book might be something this publisher could use if we got it to them on time in the length they wanted.  No money, friends said, for all that work.  Don’t do it!  When you have hardly made a penny for your work for years, it didn’t seem a big deal to decide we weren’t in this for the big bucks, but for the Buck book (forgive the pun).  We had nothing to lose.

While we sipped tea at Tim Horton’s, we talked about what to write, nurturing each other’s suggestions, eventually coming up with twenty chapter ideas.  A lot of reading and research ensued.  If ever I love to do something, it is looking up facts, and letting them blossom into who knows what.  It was pure nectar following leads, trying to get facts straight, writing something tailored for Chinese students.

Our deadline loomed: we met in Hillsboro, WV, where Pearl S. Buck was born, to participate in the Pearl S. Buck International Writers’ Conference.  Eddy orchestrated our participation, and Eddy insisted I come along.  What a good friend!  Others too ( Kitty Griffin, Marie Manilla, Laura Bentley, Kathy Combs to name a few), have turned my writing life from arid desert to crystal waters.  Eddy had obligations to fulfill at the event, but in between, we worked feverishly, putting our chapters together, smoothing out the writing, trying to get rid of the overlapping ideas we’d both used.  As I recall, at the end of the evening before we retired to our tiny room in a B & B, we sipped on fruit wine (Yes, Kathy, I am still drinking wine).

Eddy fed our completed chapters to Berlin who, with great mastery of both languages, translated them into Chinese.  We agreed on a three-way split of royalties.

Before long, we sent the best version we could manage to the publisherIt seemed to take forever, but eventually a contract arrived.  We signed it.  The book we co-authored, Between Two Worlds: a Biography of Pearl S. Buck, was eventually released by the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press in China as an English/Chinese reader.

The published book, beautifully illustrated on good stock, filled us with satisfaction.  We three (two writers and one translator) received royalty checks for about $200 each–not a huge sum, but a reminder of the power of friendship, persistence, connectedness.  For me, as well, this book gave hope for other writing projects.

My urge to write had definitely been encouraged.  I rewrote, reformatted, revised and sent out tighter versions of two young adult novels.  I gave up worrying about the outcome, I stopped needing anyone to tell me my work was good enough, and I accepted whatever happened.  At last, two publishers offered me contracts.  Instead of Harper Collins or Holt (do they even exist anymore?), my books got taken on by Bloodmoon and Rogue Phoenix.

The big publishers didn’t want my novels, which certainly humbled me, but these e-publishers with funky names said yes.  At first, I felt despondent:  Blood moon, I muttered to myself, Rogue Phoenix?  But, you know, it’s been a wonderful experience.  The editor and publisher, Christine Young (RoguePhoenix), has given me insightful suggestions greatly improving my historical fiction novel.  Marlene Satter (aka Lee Barwood), my editor at Bloodmoon, whose supernatural novels inspire me, is a psychic soul mate.  Her book, Some Cost a Passing Bell, available on Amazon, is a book about mystical gifts used for love of Mother Earth.

I believe I can hear the universe chuckling.  I am laughing too, no longer concerned about money or recognition, simply enjoying the process, whether good and bad, for no doubt I have become a better writer, and hopefully I am a deeper person.  I feel as if I am drinking sweet water from a freshly dug well.

Everlasting Light

This week, we said goodbye to a beloved pet, Princess Izabella Pinki. She was nineteen-years-old and always the ham who posed for pictures.  This photo was taken only a few months ago at Christmas.   It was hard letting her go, but though I am sad, I am peaceful too.

If you’ve ever lost someone you loved, be she or he a cat, or a dog, or a mom or dad, or sister or brother, friend or lover to the transition some call crossing the Jordan, or being grabbed by the Grim Reaper, or simply dying, then you’ll understand how much we need comfort at such times.  

For me comfort comes with the knowledge Philip and I loved this cat and treated her with absolute kindness.  She was loved, well-fed, free, and pampered.  Her long life is a comfort.

But something else gives me peace too, something more powerful than what we did or even how she lived.  This something can offer us comfort when our own treatment of the dead has been less than perfect.

Eknath Easwaran offered this comfort and spiritual wisdom.  He explained our physical lives, our conscious awareness is so much greater than our dreaming state which often seems confused and crazy.  So it will be, he says, when we or any of God’s cherished ones (which is all life) die, for they will look back at their physical existence with everlasting light and clarity, amazed at the confusion and the jumble of their past existence in the physical plane.

Blessed be the everlasting light, the kingdom of heaven.

Another Paranormal Book and Amanda Hocking

I’m working on another book in the trilogy that starts with Emily’s Shadow.  This one is called Blue Caravan.  It’s got Romany who I love, Emily, of course, and Merlin is about to make an appearance.   I don’t yet know what he’s up to, but I am about to have a conversation with him.  

Also wanted to mention Amanda Hocking–I have yet to read her books, but I will, because her enthusiasm is so much fun.

Will Evil Win

I sent out a blurb about my newest book, Emily’s Shadow, and asked Will Evil Win?

I don’t want to give the story away, and am not going to say anything more about the novel.

The question is for many of us:  does evil really exist?  I used to think not, but now I think it does, and it arises from within our hearts and minds and is perpetrated within the world.

Will evil win?  The Bible, in Revelation, says not.  There will be a new Jerusalem etc which is a metaphor for a wholeness of life for all creation.  This includes animals and plants, and rocks. 

Is this merely a myth written by John back in ancient times in Israel?  I don’t know, but it is a wonderful hope, something to sustain us when we look at all the troubles in the world.  My heart goes out to the Libyans and all those in the Middle East, including those who are the oppressors.   We create our reality with our words and actions.  We create evil or good in the world.

It heartens me to know I can pray and meditate and somehow, even out of enormous struggle, good can arise. 

What does anyone think about the problem of evil?  Is there evil?  Is there evil in your life?  Does Satan exist, or is Satan a word to describe some aspect of ourselves?  You know, the devil made me do it–escaping responsibility, or the demon, alcohol…

Tell me what you think.  I’d love a discussion about this issue.

Hello Friends!

I am so excited that my book Emily’s Shadow has been released by Blood Moon Publishing.  It was a long time in the works, years, but persistence paid off.  Of course, I never can give up on my manuscripts.  I dust them off, revise, rewrite, rethink, and keep on trying. 

Now I have to learn how to promote this book which is fun.  

I’d love to hear from anyone who has comments about the characters of the story.

I’m curious what people think of e-books?