About Me

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I have discovered that walking a very narrow path leads to broad places of peace, contentment, and provision. I work as a freelance consultant in the areas of cultural heritage, public history and museums, From 2009-2016, I was the executive director of the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, (now called New France - the OTHER Colonial America, an eighteenth century French colonial historic site and National Historic Landmark.) My PhD is from the University of Leicester's (United Kingdom) Department of Museum Studies. My research looked at the interpretation of diversity at the American Historic House Museum. I also developed and facilitate an inspirational program for Christian grandparents, Gathering Grandparents.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Boomer Christians and the Next Revival: Personal Reflections and Opinion

I wrote this reflection and opinion piece in May 2016. I decided to publish it now because the first inklings of a new revival seem to have been flaring up in Bourbon County, Kentucky since mid-May.  As a person who came to the Christian faith through the Jesus Movement and the Charismatic Renewal, I believe my perspective and memory of those days may be useful to all of us who are involved in Christian revivalism today - whether as leaders, intercessors, spectators or prodigals coming home again to God.  I also believe that we Boomer Jesus People are still important to what God is doing and that as He manifests Himself to the generations of our children and grand-children, we must remember His goodness and His promises and awaken to His renewed call to stand up and tell the next generation in revival "the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done... so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands..." (Psalm 78:4, 6,7 NIV).

Boomer Christians and the Next Revival  by Lesley Barker c. 2016, 2018

Carlos Sarmiento, the director of the Orlando House of Prayer, was teaching. He described how
the younger generation is carrying a large portion of the work of the “prayer movement”. This
movement, in his opinion, constitutes light in what he thinks may be the deepest, most
precarious season of darkness ever experienced in the United States. He shared that this move
of God among young people corresponds to what happened after Jesus upended the tables in
the temple. He said that this kind of confrontation releases in this order: purity, prayer, power,
and praise.

As I listened to him, I again became aware that the period when I was saved and baptized with
the Holy Spirit was analogous. Many of us Baby Boomers who came into the Kingdom through
the combined streams of the Jesus Movement, the Charismatic Movement and the Catholic
Charismatic Movement have experienced expectation, calls, anointings, and disappointments.
Many of us dropped out of the church without dropping away from faith in Jesus. George
Barna’s demographic research aligns with this hypothesis. It finds that 61% of the 65 million
adult Americans who do not attend church claim to be Christians and at least 18% of them
report having had a genuine born again experience and continue to assert their faith to be
important to them. A majority of these people are Boomers and “their elders”. A significant
reason that they give for being “unchurched” is “painful experiences in the local church context.”

Others of us have become smoking wicks, so detached from our savior that we are in danger of losing all connection with the faith. Others have pushed deep into intimacy with the Lord with or without
anyone noticing. In my opinion there is a broken heart condition in the Boomer generation that
has been intensified by repeated hopes deferred and that continues to keep us spiritually in- or

In my opinion, the gifts, callings, anointings, maturity and spiritual understanding of the Boomer
Christians must be stirred up, our hearts softened and healed. I believe that a root cause for this
condition is that we may have succumbed to an orphan spirit in that we experienced a lack of
fathering and mothering at the revival time of our new birth. And, again, in my opinion, that we
did not have available to us in the late 1960s and early 1970s older men and women to teach,
father, and mother us into a place of maturity in Christ is part of why we quickly lost our passion
and purpose. If we arise again embraced in the Spirit of Adoption we can be positioned to come
alongside and nurture the grandchildren as they take up their spiritual mantles. In fact, I believe
that we may have been brought to the kingdom for such a time as this, that the sustainability of
the coming end-gathering revival will be strengthened as we take our rightful place as mature
believers for the sake of the next generation of Christians.

I decided to write my observations and recollections as an article. Here is an account and a
testimony of what I have observed personally about Boomers with God, starting with the political/cultural context in which we were raised to demonstrate how parallel our time was to now. I’ll describe the revival in which I was saved and discipled and what happened to many of us as it waned. My observations are taken mainly from what was happening in and around St. Louis, Missouri.  I’ll also talk about the church as I or my friends have experienced it to see if we can unpick the reasons for how a whole generation became so wounded that, as George Barna explains in his book Revolution, many have dropped out of church. I’ll connect this to how an “orphan spirit”, a condition that competes against the knowledge that a person is “accepted in the Beloved”, must be confronted and rooted out so that the Boomer Christians can be restored and released back into our gifts and callings. Finally, I’ll suggest some strategies for how to call forth the Boomers to arise again and take their rightful places in the Kingdom for such a time as this, called, as the Mordecais, to parent this Esther generation.

Political/cultural Conditions During the Boomer Generation’s Formative Years
Beginning with the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, it was as if dusk
fell over the nation. The Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum and schools, stores,
and public transportation were becoming integrated as the Jim Crow laws were overturned. The
Cold War was serious even though the McCarthy era had largely passed but it had been
re-energized with a new wave of fear by the Bay of Pigs incident on April 17, 1961. I remember
air raid drills in school where we had to kneel under our desks with our heads under our arms to
prepare us for the prospect of an atomic bomb hitting my native New York City from the Soviet
Union or one of its satellite nations like Cuba. The US had troops stationed on the border
between North and South Korea and efforts to keep the Communists out of Vietnam begun in
1955 lasted until Saigon fell in 1975. This war was highly controversial and many young people
actively resisted the draft by moving out of the country or by certifying as conscientious
objectors. Others served proudly only to be neglected and disparaged when they returned
home, with many of them suffering from PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange poison.

Protest movements for Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, antiwar efforts and Peace
Now mobilized thousands. Artists and musicians served as advocates and activists who
motivated the youth-dominated protests assisted by free sex, thanks to new contraceptive
technologies, and by LSD. In general, the hippy movement was triggered by a wholesale
disillusionment with the government, a loss of future hope “where have all the flowers gone?”, and
by the emergence of a counter-cultural approach to life based on community and a return to
a more organic, self-sustainable lifestyle that replaced fashion and external markers of class
and success with patched blue jeans, beads, bare feet, long loose hair all in the name of peace
and freedom.

At the same time, more confrontational groups gained their voices like the Black Panthers and
the Youth International Party (Yippies). The August 1968 Republican Convention in Chicago
was violently challenged by the Yippies. It followed the shocking assassinations of Dr. Martin
Luther King on April 4, 1968 and of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968. Nixon was reelected
in 1968 for the term in which the world would be rocked by the Watergate scandal and the
resignation of Vice President Agnew on October 10, 1973 for money laundering, bribery and
embezzlement followed by the resignation of the president for Watergate on August 9, 1974 in
spite of his assertions a year earlier that “I am not a crook.”

Woodstock happened on August 15, 1969 and the Kent State University bombings happened
on May 2, 1970. Youth lost respect for authority. Natural consequences became meaningless
with the availability of birth control pills and legal abortion after Roe v. Wade passed the
Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. The same year saw the end of the War in Vietnam even
though Saigon did not fall until 1975. The Draft ended in 1973 and the Arab Oil Embargo
caused economic chaos and gas rationing in the US. In many ways it was as if the foundations
were being shaken and we did not know what to believe, how to act, or whether we would be
alive tomorrow. It was the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

Jesus Movement/Charismatic Renewal
As if running on a parallel track, the kingdom of God was pressing its light into that darkness but
much of its momentum was happening outside of the traditional church. In 1953 Demos
Shakarian received a vision that he was to take millions of men from around the world from
death to life. In response he started Full Gospel Businessmen, a parachurch organization that
today has over 7,000 chapters in 142 nations. Rev. Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian priest,
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues in his morning
shower on Easter in 1960. After sharing his experience from the pulpit, he was asked to resign.
His book, Nine O’clock In The Morning, became the catalyst for the charismatic renewal. Larry
Christenson served a similar function for the Lutherans until the charismatic message caused a
split in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s Concordia Seminary. For ten years, beginning in
1974, a “seminary in exile” functioned out of St. Louis University, nicknamed “Seminex.” Loren
Cunningham started Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in 1960 to get youth involved in missions.
Today that organization has 18000 staff members working in 180 nations. Jane Hansen Hoyt
started Aglow International in 1967 with a mission to “meet as Christians without denominational
boundaries” ( https://www.aglow.org/ ). By 1972 there were 60 chapters committed to spreading
the full gospel with the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the United States. Today Aglow has 4600
chapters in 170 nations of which 68% of the chapters are located outside of the United States.
Teen Challenge also started in 1960, another parachurch organization that continues to grow in
ministry today. The Catholic Charismatic movement also began in 1967 with an outpouring at
Duquesne University in Pittsburg. Moishe Rosen started Jews For Jesus in 1973 after so many
Jewish young people came to faith in Jesus the Messiah since the late 1960s. Like Full Gospel
Businessmen, Aglow International and YWAM, Jews For Jesus remains faithful, mission-driven,
active and growing today.

The Lord moved on many young people in the Jesus Movement and He engaged multiple
others through the parachurch organizations that confronted the traditional churches. For a time,
the established Christians who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit remained in their
original church homes, finding “food” and like-minded fellowship with people from many different
denominations in meetings in homes and elsewhere on nights other than Wednesday or
Sunday. As the evangelical denominations became more entrenched against the baptism of the
Holy Spirit and elders signed documents repudiating the charismatic renewal and gifts as not
from God, many charismatic members left their churches for the newly founded soon to be on
track to become mega-churches patterned after David Yonggi Cho’s South Korean Yoida
Church which had 10,000 members in 1973. Other charismatic Christians remained in their
traditional churches but put their charismatic gifts and experiences on hold away in some private
closet, a choice assisted, perhaps, by the available ministry on television beginning with the 700
Club in 1966 and followed by the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 1973.

On a national level, much of the theological context for the charismatic renewal was led by Don
Basham, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Charles Simpson (known collectively as
the “Ft. Lauderdale Five”). Their teaching was delivered from 1975-1981 via New Wine
Magazine. At the same time, Hal Lindsay’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, published in
1970, inserted a doom and gloom prophetic imperative that influenced many to be born again in
order to escape the tribulation but that also made it difficult for some new believers to contend
for a future vision and hope.

Brief Personal Testimony
When I boarded a plane in August 1972 for my senior year of high school abroad in England, I
had yet to meet anyone in New York City, where I grew up, or anywhere I had traveled in the
US, for that matter, who spoke of having a personal faith in Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that
I attended a Lutheran elementary school and an Episcopalian high school, my spiritual life was
more informed about matters of the occult than of the kingdom of God. Having been confirmed,
against my will, in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church with vows of faithfulness to the Lord
Christ unto death and martyrdom, I had spent the previous five years searching. I knew that,
having taken vows without faith, I would be in serious eternal trouble if there really was a God. If
not, it did not matter, but I had to find out.

A series of events: Christmas in Cardiff, an Anglican nun, a scholarship for a study week with
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and an Anglican priest at a conference on the Holy Spirit all
converged in a midnight transformation in which, having counted the cost, including the very
real prospect of becoming ostracized by my family and friends at home, I pledged myself to
know and be known and walk in relationship with Jesus Christ. That happened in May 1973, the
same month that the Holy Spirit fell on the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at
Washington University in St. Louis which I was to attend in the Fall.

Because I did not understand the Bible to be anything other than a textbook, I shipped it to my
soon-to-be college address. Back in New York, I prayed all summer that if there were any
Christians in the US they would be found at Washington University in St. Louis. The Lutheran
pastor of the church in which I grew up heard my testimony and said he did not understand what
had happened to me. The summer was spent working and walking with Jesus, the only
scriptural input I received was hidden in the script of the movie, Godspell.

Arriving in St. Louis, I approached everyone around me to ask if they knew Jesus personally as
I did. Within two hours I had met 12 Christian students including the president of the campus
chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship which is the context in which I became discipled. My
early foundation was largely influenced by the anthropology professor, Dr. Robert Canfield,
newly returned from eleven years in Afghanistan, spirit-filled, who opened his office to Christian
students and staff members daily for prayer at noon and who loaned me biographies of the
great men and women of God in years gone by. Daily prayer meetings on the Washington
University campus have not stopped since 1972 according to Gerry Chapeau, a member of the
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship leadership staff.

This was the end of an era. The classes ahead of me and the next class below me were in the
boomer generation. We didn’t couple up, we didn’t dress up, we were a group, a community. In
contrast, the incoming freshmen in 1975, when I was a junior, were different. They dressed
preppy for class, wore makeup and perfume and were in school to get high-paying professional
jobs. We Boomers just wanted to explore what there was to learn and make a difference with
our lives.

The Charismatic Renewal in St. Louis, Missouri
Institutional churches, like campus ministries, were unprepared and ill equipped to disciple the
many new believers or to mentor the many traditional church members who had received the
baptism of the Holy Spirit. God took the old guard by surprise and many of them did not
recognize Him in the outpouring. A component of disgust probably accompanied this as many of
the new believers did not clean up to fit the dress code of the traditional church. We were still
hippies but now we were saved hippies. We also did not agree that we needed to be trained in
order to follow God. We were in a conversation with Him. We did what we thought He wanted us
to do. We made messes in our zeal. We worshipped with guitars and sang simple choruses like
the folk songs we used as social justice protest songs before we were saved. We still lived in a
group and shared food and housing and we did not conform to the old expected church patterns. Nevertheless we were looking for leadership and hoping for guidance in spite of the
“generation gap”.

In St. Louis five pastors can be credited in hindsight for providing oversight and context for what
was happening: Gaylon Vinson, Bob Heil, Rolland Smith, Father Francis McNutt, and Bob
Beckett. Each of them influenced a different segment of the new charismatic community in St.
Louis. Gaylon Vinson was a young pastor in the Assemblies of God Church. His church became
a meeting place for people who realized that that denomination had an understanding and
history with the Holy Spirit’s baptism and gifts. Both Randy Clark and Mike Bickle were
influenced by this ministry. Bob Heil, unwelcome after receiving the Baptism of the Spirit in his
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod started a charismatic fellowship and school of ministry just an
hour south of St. Louis. There, for about ten years, he held a summer bible camp on the
grounds. Teachers were men of national and international reputation like Bob Mumford and Mel
Tari, for example. Bob’s main contribution to the new charismatic community in St. Louis was to
bring and expose the region to national and international charismatic leadership and teaching.
Rolland Smith was a pioneer in the area of prayer and strategic intercession. He had a breaker
anointing for prayer and used it to provide a path of service for many new charismatic believers
who did not feel called to the pastorate. The Catholic Charismatic movement in St. Louis was
largely due to the work of Fr. Francis McNutt whose books on healing and deliverance were
helpful to Catholics and Protestants alike. Bob Beckett started a charismatic congregation in St. Louis
County where many mainline, now spirit-filled Christians who did not want to leave their home
congregations, gathered on Thursday nights to experience the worship and learn more about
the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Kent Henry’s Integrity Music MInistry came out of this fellowship
where he was involved as a young person leading Thursday night worship. Most of the current
pastors of the larger charismatic congregations in St. Louis today attended worship in that
“Sheep Shed”.

Life Happened
So many of the new believers were new adults who had not yet married or begun their careers
that change was inevitable. Most of us were determined to follow the Lord’s leading to the next
thing. Naturally, with graduation, our close-knit fellowship-based communities disappeared and
without the luxuries of free long distance calling or electronic instant access to each other, this
meant an immediate cessation of relationships that had characterized our daily routines. For us
women, the new opportunities afforded (thanks somewhat to the Feminist movement) made the
next decisions more complicated. Were we meant to marry and start a family and if so, what did
that imply for the efforts we had made towards a degree and career? Was there any point, if Hal
Lindsay was correct, in bringing children into a world on the brink of tribulation?

Ministry was not a viable career option for women at all then. It was not that available for the men either especially because there was very limited training available for people who already had degrees. The seminaries that offered advanced degrees did not tend to accept charismatic students. Our peers who were advancing within the ministry tended to be the ones who had chosen not to go
to college and who also had preexisting relationships with those leaders who served as
gatekeepers for positions within the churches and parachurch organizations. Unfortunately there
was less respect for marketplace ministry than there is now and many of us conflated being
“used” by God with being “in” ministry. It caused confusion and a conflict at an identity level. We
idolized the ministry and ministers but, at the same time, we often held a snobbishly
disrespectful attitude about our peers who had managed to join that group. Many of us expected
that there would be room made for us within the churches for our gifts and callings.

These beliefs that viewed having a position in the church as a prerequisite to being active in ministry
contradicted how we had functioned to date. Our campus priorities had been to save our fellow
students by inviting them to evangelistic Bible studies that we led intentionally and prayerfully
to introduce our faith in our classes and assignments. We charismatic and soon-to-be professional Boomers did not fit church anywhere or so it seemed. We were more comfortable in the cell group than the sanctuary. We continued to be involved with para-church organizations like Aglow. Perhaps we eventually tended to assign the charismatic experiences as a series of wonderfully interesting college memories and relationships. Perhaps an important correlative of our disappointment and transition away from active participation in fellowships and churches was the under-fulfilled,
probably naive anticipation that Jimmy Carter would be a voice for Jesus in the White House.

Shepherding and Submission
Pendulums swing. In an effort to bring balance to the many charismatics without traditional
church memberships, Don Basham, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter, Charles Simpson and Bob
Mumford began to teach about submission in what became known as the Shepherding (or
Discipleship) Movement. This was an attempt to keep the charismatic renewal from fragmenting
begun in around 1972. It privileged pastoral leadership with the responsibility to confirm and
even determine decisions for the people who had “submitted” to them. It quickly became
overstated and a place of bondage for many. It caused a dependency between the pastor and
the parishioner that did not charge the lay Christian with the responsibility to seek and respond
to the Lord for the decisions that would determine their future and hope. There were not clearly
stated boundaries between what decisions warranted pastoral counsel and confirmation and
those that pertained to a more private domain.

I believe that there was a void left because so many charismatics had been unparented and not mentored when we were first born again and I think that our desperation for guidance allowed this Shepherding Movement to overtake and dominate us. It caused churches to fracture. It discouraged
Christians from following God for themselves. It continued to elevate the ministry over any other
life choice and, in so doing, it allowed ministers without maturity and wisdom to consider
themselves to be “God’s men of faith and power” which was a favorite saying among and about
the students at the local Bible college my ex-husband attended. By 1981 the Shepherding Movement had lost its momentum and the pendulum swung again.

What needs to be healed and stirred up for the Boomers to arise again?
In my opinion it is possible that God’s intent from the very beginning of the Jesus Movement,
Charismatic Renewal and Catholic Charismatic Movement was to prepare a generation to
parent the promised last and greatest revival. I also believe that the enemy’s strategy has been
to allow discouragement and confusion about what it means to live knowing, loving, and
following Jesus and that this combination of discouragement and confusion has characterized
the spiritual mindsets of many in the Boomer generation. In other words, repeated
discouragement and confusion has become entrenched in the minds of many Boomers and
interferes with the exercise of both violence (as in the “kingdom of God suffereth violence”) and
the kind of zeal that accompanied our first experiences with God.

We, Boomers, received our gifts and callings with excitement and imagination, but many of us
subdued them when the church attempted to impose limitations and regulations on us. We need
to revisit our gifts and callings. Dare we call them back, first as the dreams of the older men and
women we have become and then to place flesh and bones on these dreams to result in a fresh
impact on the earth today?

Can the church catalog the many ways it may have sabotaged the Boomer Christians by so
frequently dangling a ministry carrot just out of reach? Will the church have the courage to make
the identificational repentance happen that could bring healing to this condition and restoration
to the Boomer Christians who left their God-sent dreams behind? If so, the church may be used
in this next season to restore the Boomer generation to its fearful and wonderful unique purpose, future and hope. Could this be possible?

Can we Boomer Christians find grace to forgive, to hope again, and to return to our first love
and passion? Are we willing to be stirred up and called out and to give up our early retirement
for the sake of God’s kingdom?

Will the church and its leaders receive the Boomers who have become mature believers and
who have gifts and wisdom needed now even though they have lived their faith largely outside
of the church doors and may still fail to pass religious litmus tests for position and ministry? Will
there be jealousy or acceptance on both sides?

The orphan spirit, that lying stronghold that masquerades as a pitiful, harmless little child to
keep us sympathetic and to prevent us from approaching it with the kind of violence required,
must be confronted and demolished. It strengthens as “bondage again unto fear” (Romans
8:18). It reduces expectation from God and is in direct opposition to the “spirit of adoption”. It
prevents us from agreeing with the Holy Spirit about our identity and purpose as sons and
daughters of the High King. We must be set free from this orphan spirit in order not to pass it on.
We will know that this condition has been healed when the Boomer Christians bear witness with
the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children. Only then will we be able to parent the next
generation of believers from a mature place of sonship with love and grace and truth. We,
Boomers, must be set free from this orphan spirit in order to embrace our purposes, gifts, and
callings with authority and confidence.

Finally, for the Boomer Christians to arise and function effectively in the next move of God, we
must address any betrayals from the church, from the generation that did not receive us when
God poured His Spirit on us, as well as from within our marriages and families. Our hearts have
to be healed through a combination of repentance and forgiveness. Our marriages need to
reflect the relationship between Christ and His church so that there is an observable authentic
mutual love, respect and submission between husbands and wives. Our marriages are
designed to portray a mystery as well as to bring a stability to the next generation of believers.
This will demonstrate that the Bride of Christ, the church, has “made herself ready” for the
Lord’s return.

I believe that the Boomer Christians are a generation that is destined to arise and to take a
strategic and specific place in the next move of God as mentors and parents. I believe that what
the enemy meant to harm and displace this generation will only serve as grit to guard and as
determination for us to travail in prayer until the last generation is fully birthed, nourished and matured. It will bring a double rejoicing throughout God’s kingdom as when the plow overtakes the harvester, the Boomers restored and the next generation arising.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What makes me happy by Lesley Barker c. 2015

Feathers, flowers, flavors, textures
birds, butterflies, cows and other creatures
Even bugs armored and glistening in the grass
when the sun strikes and iridescence replies
These accompanied by thrumming and the drumming
beat of beak against tree supporting song bird melodies
pierced by staccato bark moo shriek
Wind wafted fragrances cedar and sea salts
wrapping wind releasing rainbow skies
This is what makes me happy.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Writing After a Stroke

I tried to write a few notes but all that happened was scribbling. I tried to talk but my words were as scribbled. I could not move my fingers to the buttons on my cell phone to text without garbling that as well. It was very difficult to move the light switch in the bathroom. I cut myself instead of an orange. Not sure what was happening to me, my friend took me to the emergency room where I told the receptionist I was there to be evaluated for a possible stroke. That got action fast. I was put in a wheelchair, taken quickly around multiple corners, through various doors, to the first of four CT scans which confirmed I was having a brain bleed, a hemorrhagic stroke- the kind that only 35% of whose victims survive and recover. Three days later, I was discharged from the hospital with three blood pressure medicines, two follow-up doctor's appointments and referrals for OT and speech therapy. I pretty much slept for the next month between therapies. A fourth blood pressure medicine was added at a doctor's appointment where what I said was discounted and where no one touched me other than to take my blood pressure, which I already knew, having taken it at home, and where I was charged $420 for a fifteen minute encounter before they applied the discount thanks to my atypical insurance arrangements. Now, eleven weeks into recovery, I am pretty much back to normal.

Except for a few things. I still cannot write legibly for long enough to utilize journaling, my decades-honed and preferred meta-cognitive tool now discarded. I get food stuck between my cheeks and my teeth. My taste buds are unreliable - salty and sweet flavors disappoint. When I am tired, multi-syllable words blur. Sometimes when I walk more than a block or so, my right foot drags so I have befriended a cane. Unless I pay attention, I get confused about mental sequencing. Is this date past or future? If I want to find Psalm 23 and I am at Psalm 100, do I look left or right in the book? And, I get fatigued easily and dramatically, which for someone who has always been able to push past the walls, is unsettling but seemingly not negotiable. There is nearly always some bearable discomfort in my face and head. I may also have lost the momentum of the new year that started with the successful attainment of my PhD as of January 30.

The stroke disrupted everything. I had to find new ways of getting attention since neither speech nor writing worked at first. I had to pay closer attention to details. I had to rely on new supports. I had to navigate uncomfortable losses and learn to deal with new boundaries. I became visible in new, more invasive ways. I was faced with new challenges and the need to find new approaches to time. It is the same with writing, speaking, consulting, working after the stroke.

New ways of getting attention: I'm working on marketing what I have already written - Pastor's Ex-Wife, Faith Wise Faith Ways, Called to Write? Don't Know How?, Grandparents in Genesis, etc. see my books on Amazon - because I am convinced that these are worth reading. They were written carefully and, I think, are important contributions. Each of them reveals my heart and, hopefully calls new places in the readers' hearts to open. Each of them wrestles with some aspect of faith. Unless the audience connects with these works, I will be like so many creators who are undiscovered in their lifetimes. New supports and new discomforts: So, I am blogging with more intentionality, posting on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, raising the flags trying to say "Look at me. Look at me", which is uncomfortable because I have spent much of my life trying to learn humility and wisdom, which do not call attention to themselves.

New challenges: I'm also writing a chapter for a book, Slavery, Literature and Memory, that will be published by the University of Aarhus in Denmark, assuming what I submit passes the peer review process. It deals with three ways to change the narrative about the memory of slavery: performance, preservation and protest. It follows directly from my dissertation and, in many ways, I am unqualified to attempt it. New courage required: The book by the late James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, is pushing me into a new space that requires new courage about faith and that will probably inform what the chapter says.

New approaches to time & sequencing and new boundaries: Three other fiction projects have been on the shelf for the past four years while I did my doctorate. I find myself picking them up in my imagination. Each is at a different stage. Each deals with the problems of understanding authentic faith in dysfunctional, hurtful families. I wonder if it is time to rework them now and in what sequence I should attempt them. Curse of Kaskaskia is a young adult historical novel about 14 year old Auguste Chouteau. I wrote it before I served as the executive director of the Bolduc House Museum so the reworking of it implies scrutinizing it for details about material culture and more. Isabelle is another historical novel about Isabelle Edwards, the wife of Ben Edwards (a son in AG Edwards & Sons). It is based on the letters I have between Isabelle and Ben written before they were actually courting and is set in the last seven days of her life. It is fully researched and moves, in my mind, choreographed like a ballet. Stuck in the Mud is a murder mystery set in Ste. Genevieve at the museum I used to direct. It, too, is begun. The first few chapters are written. I know how it ends.

New momentum needed: Should I mention that I would very much love to land an academic teaching position in the area of public history, museum studies or cultural heritage leadership? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Courage, Faith, Fiction and Martyrdom

So often I think that we isolate our personal experience and commitment to our Christian faith from the historical Judeo-Christian community of faith which has accumulated some 4,000 years of written testimony. The stories of early Christians are not idealistic metaphors of martyrdom from which we are supposed to gain resolve. They are gruesome, traumatic accounts of violence and rage akin to today's honor killings. They are amazing accounts of triumph and joy tinged with love and celebration in the expectation of an eternal future in God's company. We align ourselves with the potential to join the company of those saints and martyrs when we emerge from baptism's plunge into death clothed in the resurrection power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in the redemptive declarations of His blood.

But, then, familiar rhythms of the work-a-day world resound louder again to our ears than His heartbeat and we tend to return to some lesser normal. Lesser, at least if the portraits of His kingdom and glory destined to cover our earth are to be believed. Normal, but not wiser through what can only be gained by stepping into a divine folly.

I was reading Bryan Liftin's book review for Alan Kreider's The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. Liftin references the "counter-imperialist" activism of such men as Tertullian, Cyprian and Lactantius. He calls them courageously patient. He concludes that it takes "courage to wait on God's timing" and contrasts that courage with an "impatient taking of matters into one's own hands". He characterizes the early Christian church as having had that courageous patience but that, once it relinquished that counter-cultural position, in the days of Constantine and Augustine, Christians became impatient and self-reliant. Taking matters into their own hands, the likelihood of martydom also diminished. 

This may be the first time I am satisfied with a definition of patience. Patience waits. Patience requires courage. Patience does not take matters into one's own hands while the judge of the whole earth is deliberating. Patience is positioned to move when God's timing and decrees arrive, and patience is most likely to be counter-imperialist, counter-cultural and ready to both articulate and die for a higher cause which we could name social justice.

What does any of this philosophizing have to do with writing fiction or with how any of us might choose to live our lives?

When the pastor's ex-wife and protagonist of my novel, Terry Soldan, found the courage to leave her abusive husband, she lost everything - her identity, her reputation, her friends, her children, her grandchildren and her sense of normal. It may look as if she had taken matters into her own hands on the surface but, in actuality, she gambled everything, not even knowing for sure if her faith would be found to have been built on sand or rock. The book is about her courageous patience when nothing was guaranteed and everything seemed shifting.

Abuse, whether perpetrated against a people by a Nero or a Hitler or against an individual by an abusive husband or sex offender, injects a pervasive trauma into the victim's status quo that takes a kind of all-or-nothing martyrdom to oppose and escape.

Without the glimmer of something far surpassing the normal, this kind of trauma is a hard shell and an inescapable dungeon. The risk is only taken when it is deemed to be worth courageous waiting. Each example of courageous patience waiting on God adds new voices to Job's original anthem and protest song against the normal - though He slay me yet will I trust Him. This is what happens when authentic faith encounters trauma and has to wrestle with unimaginable risks. This is what my fiction is dedicated to unpack even as such courageous patience persistently serves to disentangle my heart from its various traumas until I make the next risky decision to wait on God's timing rather than to take matters into my own hands...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Who reads and writes fiction anyway?

Yesterday, a Twitter post challenged writers to describe their readers as a step towards finding and engaging with them and to marketing their books. Of course, I understand how to write for a specific audience - when it comes to non-fiction, especially. The audience determines how much background is needed, the type and level of vocabulary, the length of the piece as well as the assumptions and goals. Again, at least for non-fiction, which I have written a lot. But I took this challenge for Pastor's Ex-Wife, which is fiction.

Perhaps the first time I realized that I love fiction was in 1964 when I was in the fourth grade. Roald Dahl's book, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, had just been released. Each afternoon another chapter was read aloud on an FM radio station in New York City, so I hurried home from school to listen. I became fully engaged with the characters. As the spoken words turned to images in my mind, I found myself inside the story. Already an avid reader, this experience solidified for me that fiction is magic, that fiction conjures imagination.

I knew I, too, would someday write fiction...

... And continue to read it...

Kipling and Dostoevsky, Tolkein and Carolyn Keene, C.S. Lewis and Dickens, Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Sayers, Dan Brown and Steve Berry, Verne and Austin (although I hate Emma), Alcott and L'Engle, Stevenson and Swift, Chaucer and Hemingway, Sartre and Joel Chandler Harris, Konigsburg and Kingsolver - the list could go on and on from chick lit for pure escape to young adult books to mysteries, thrillers, and serious literature: both contemporary and classic.

As long as the story pulls me into its own Narnian space and time, I will read it, no matter who wrote it. As long as it produces an emotional response in me and, even without me putting forth any effort, I see the mind-movie that makes me unlikely to enjoy most movie versions, it is likely that I will keep reading late into the night and early in the morning until the last page forces me to resume living in the normal. Gratuitous sex, explicit violence that is only titillating and adds nought to the story other than to make the reader a voyeur, not a companion on a kind of voyage, will make me stop reading. Usually books that are psychological thrillers, like Gone Girl (which I read all the way through) terrify me because they push me out of the story into my own that I have often read to escape, do not entice me to even start - not because they are not well written, but because of my own frailty.

So, does any of this reflection assist in creating a picture of my target market of readers for Pastor's Ex-Wife? It is not chick lit but the protagonist, Terry Soldan, is a woman. It is not a cozy Christian read but it is about how wounded people wrestle genuinely with issues of faith. It is not a romance but it is about how friendships fail and also endure and deepen. It is not a psychological thriller but it shows what abuse does to distort emotions, decision making and memories. It is not explicitly about race in America but it constantly navigates that issue. It is not about the #metoo clergy sexual abuse scandal in the American Protestant church but it wouldn't be written except for that trauma. It's a story that touches big ideas and opens hearts that may have been scarred over before the pus has been drained out. The story includes pain and laughter, fear and courage, gourmet meals and gardens, and it is filled with people to love, hate and try to understand.

How does any of this predict who the readers should be? I think I wrote it well - filled with sensory detail and authenticity that can and should be critiqued. I guess I am looking for readers who are readers like me - who taste a book's first few pages and have to continue. There is a good sample on Amazon - please taste it and let me know if, in your opinion, it needs more salt. If you decide to keep reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon when you are finished.

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Fiction is Like a Spider's Web"

An acquaintance messaged me after reading a short promo about Pastor's Ex-Wife, asking if it was my story or just one I made up. Then she divulged that she had been married to an abusive church leader - had escaped, is happily remarried but that reading about my book made her tears flow. She said, "One never knows the pain hid under a smile." I wrote Pastor's Ex-Wife because too many women have pain hidden under their smiles and do not think there is anyone who might be safe enough to trust to walk back through the pain with them until it is healed.

Like Virginia Woolf wrote, “Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.” So, I will not answer explicitly if the story is mine. Terry Soldan shares aspects of my story, but like all believable characters, she is herself, incarnate on paper but not to be found in any earthly address. However, hers is a powerful voice that shouts #MeToo to any who find the curiosity and the courage to listen. 

Another friend criticized the story for ending unresolved. One thing is resolved. Terry faced her own past and was able to move forward in a way that turned years of abuse into a positive mission - to serve as the anonymous church critic - visiting and reporting on churches so that people could have a sense of whether they might fit in before going for the first time. Yes, her pain leaks into her reviews but her experience allows for an authentic critique of various common experiences across the spectrum of the American Protestant Church.

Will there be a sequel? I've toyed with writing one using letters to the anonymous church critic but I have some other stories I'd like to write first. Pastor's Ex-Wife is written to confront an issue that forces its victims into shame and conflict and to provide hope that there are ways of escape and that all that is asserted to be correct Christian behavior and beliefs is not necessarily so without watering down the love of God, His act to separate our sins as far from us as east is from west and the power of His resurrection. Like Terry Soldan, my life does not always conform to what people think I should do or not do and I have discovered that God does not respect anyone's boxes much less allow Himself to remain confined in one.

I would really like Pastor's Ex-Wife to be made into a movie.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Why I Write Fiction or Faith & Cotton Malone

Recently I encountered Steve Berry's books and have read the first three in the Cotton Malone series. I like them. They utilize fiction to explore emotional and current political themes which is what I did in Pastor's Ex-Wife and #whyIwritefiction anyway. I plan to work my way through the series because they are fun. However, I would love to engage with Berry on the topic of faith, which has a consistent role in his books. It seems that, for Berry, faith is a default position that people persist in without any objective, rational evidence or independent verification process. I would love for him to read and respond to my book Faith Wise Faith Ways (available on Amazon). It looks at my experiences of faith and faithlessness over more than forty years walking in active relationship with the personal God who created the universe and who is the best Rewarder. I think most people have a false definition of faith that matches Berry's assumptions. Just an opinion and a challenge.