About Me

My photo
I have discovered that walking a very narrow path leads to broad places of peace, contentment, and provision. Besides being a serious writer (writing is my retirement income plan), I currently work with Glorious Praise World Outreach to promote its Christian Eden Haus Retreat in Millersville, Missouri. Previously I was the executive director of the Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, an eighteenth century French colonial historic site and National Historic Landmark.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pastor Ed failed servant school....

On April 21, 2011, Chuck Balsamo tweeted this: "A dictator is a leader who failed servant school but graduated anyway." This pretty much sums up the pastor in Pastor's Ex-Wife. I really think that abusers tend to exhibit a combination of a hyper-inflated ego with a personality which is terribly rule-bound and inflexible. Another friend of mine might call the way Pastor Ed managed his family "a sociopathic style of relationship." One of the most devastating factors in this kind of marriage is that they tend to look normal and even happy to people watching from outside the home.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

TAPF - Planning to write Pastor's Ex-Wife

When I taught elementary school students writing I helped them begin every project by filling out a form to identify a few standard parameters. It asked for the Topic, Audience, Purpose, and Format. You can't write a successful piece without knowing these from the beginning unless you are just journaling - Virginia Wolff style using stream of conscious free writing. I do that but I usually do not share that stuff with anyone kind of like my painter daughter keeps her sketchbooks very private.

I did not use the actual form but I did think through the parameters from the very beginning. The only thing that really shifted away from my original plan while I was writing Pastor's Ex-Wife was the format.

Originally I planned to write just a short story to get the idea to stop dominating my imagination because I did not want to summon the personal courage to actually work on it. Read the earlier blogs to see more of what I mean...

So here is how I would have filled out that simple 4th grade writing planner.
Topic:  the clergy abuse scandal/issue from the American Protestant side through the perspective of a wife of an abusive pastor
Audience: people who have been wounded by the American Protestant church and who are conflicted about their faith as a result - especially women who have been victimized or sexually violated by pastors
Purpose: expose the problem of clergy spouse and sexual abuse, show how it manifests in a variety of church and denominational contexts, help victims delineate between abusers who, like all humans, are deceitfully wicked, and God, who is good but who gets redefined through the lens of every authority figure
Format: fiction - this is the biggest problem for getting the book noticed by a publisher, since it does not fit nicely into any of the publishing categories not being a Christian book nor a romance nor any other readily definable anything except perhaps contemporary women's fiction. But I believe that the format, a novel,  is also the best way to reach the intended audience and fulfill its purpose effectively.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.     

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boxes and other symbols

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to structure the Pastor's Ex-Wife before I wrote the main part of the book. As I explained in an earlier blog, I spent a day merging two very different ideas for writing projects in a simple story basically to get the project out of my mind, not wanting to write a book that would require this much courage, chicken that I tend to be. The result turned out to be the first and last chapters in which Terry and William, in costume, of course, return to Ed's church so that Terry can use her observations in the next week's syndicated "Anonymous Church Critique" article. As William says, the purpose is to "close the door" on a very bad season of Terry's life as the abused wife of a pastor.

When I realized that the main part of the novel had to show the series of events that combined to provide Terry with the resolve, resiliency, and courage she needed to face and finish her past, next I had to structure the chapters.

Each chapter is written around a central metaphor. One metaphor is a door, another a box....Each chapter portrays a different church building peopled with another church's congregation and led by a third church's pastor. Each chapter contains a story based on something that actually happened in the inner city music classroom where I taught for real and each chapter moves the linear time-line forward while making sure that there is both flashback and foreshadowing in the pages. 

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.     

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Job's Erstwhile Comforters

I spoke this evening with a friend who has known me since before I was married. That makes our relationship stretch back to more than 35 years when we attended the same church - a good one, for the most part - then- although it was led by a bully pastor who ended up disgracing himself without room to recover from his demise since he killed himself. But as my friend and I reminisced over the various shared griefs and triumphs that make up the fabric of our relationship, I realized anew that we Christians have a terrible penchant for abusing each other in the name of love. In my friend's case, she had what many in her circle of friends considered too many children too close together beginning when she and her husband were too young and, probably even more problematic for most of them, she was a strong woman who contributed what many consider the man's role in the marriage. The critics' solution was to equate their criticism of my friend with God's. Unfortunately, like Job's erstwhile "comforters" they forgot to get God's opinion before presuming to articulate it. It reminds me of what happened in the story, Pastor's Ex-Wife, to Terry when the members of the congregation she had served for decades decided to agree with the authoritative but abusively twisted opinion of Pastor Ed. So she was discarded as a heretic, anathema. Unfortunately, I have suffered that treatment and witnessed it being served to numerous victims from more than one pastor endorsed by many more ignorant bystanders who unknowingly bought into the unfounded opinions of the same just because it was the opinion of the pastor.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.    

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unique Horror/Common Terror

 Terry's story includes an anecdote about how her pastor ex-husband, Ed, became enraged when their teenage daughter dyed her hair. One pastor's ex-wife real-life friend of mine emailed me after reading this chapter to ask how I knew that this had happened to HER. I did not know it had happened to her but I find it remarkable that abusers share so many petty triggers to rage. I first discovered this when I worked in a shelter for battered women and their children in eastern Illinois in the early 1980s. Every victim of domestic violence told her personally horrific story upon arriving (usually late in the evening or the middle of the night, her children in disarray, distress, and pajamas) but each of us had already heard most of the details from slightly different angles hundreds of times. There is a community of victims each of whom is convinced that hers is a unique tale and situation. And so it is. Unique horror experienced behind closed doors generally without witnesses - perhaps including violence - but a common terror. Shame and fear combine to strengthen the silence. It takes a brave woman or a desperate one who, like Terry, has used up all her resilience over decades, to change the status quo.


You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.   

Friday, April 08, 2011

No Stretch to find Diversity

Multiculturalism is a big theme in education these days but when I was teaching in an inner city elementary school we did not have to stretch to find diversity. My students spoke 13 different languages and came from more countries. So, as you can imagine, the classroom anecdotes in the Pastor's Ex-Wife are totally based on what happened when I taught music and reading. The identities of the kids have been changed but the stories are all true.


You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.     

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Disappointed by surprise

It is amazing to me how politics work in the small town I live in now after growing up in New York City and living my adult life in other major metropolitan areas for the most part. Yesterday was election day. The alderman I hoped to re-elect is a man I know on a first name basis. He was outside the polling station when I arrived to vote- we chatted. He lost the race to a younger guy whom I have never met but whose platform seems out of touch - not that I am necessarily in touch. Already I have bumped into and given my regrets to the loser, alas.

But it is a similar emotion to what must have happened in William's living room election headquarters when he ran for the school board and lost in Pastor's Ex-Wife.

When I was teaching in an inner city school district which was impacted in a way somewhat parallel to the district in the novel, the principal who features as William's partial prototype did not run for the school board but the actual election was as lost to those of us who shared my perspective as my friend's unsuccessful re-election campaign for alderman.

It is interesting how the important passions we prioritize in our lives lead us to make big choices and sacrificial moves which sometimes end in disappointment.

For Terry, her biggest choice was to leave the abusive pastor-her ex-husband, Ed. It resulted in pain, of course. Loss, absolutely. Disappointment, yes, but not because of the failure of the marriage. The marriage had been a continual disappointment. It was a constant disruption of mis-placed but genuine hope. Disappointment came because, like when the constituents chose a different candidate, the consequences of other people's opinions about the choice itself cost our protagonist, Terry Soldan, surprising losses where none had been calculated.

The worst disappointments, in my opinion, are the ones that take us by surprise.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.     

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Layers of loss

Even when there is no viable alternative to a divorce and it improves one's ability to face every day with courage, divorce brings layers of loss. I rediscovered this tonight looking for some items that used to be very meaningful to me but stung the memories enough that I put them away. I guess I put them too far away because they are irretrievable now. And these are just things - small porcelain pieces - drek....One of the main issues that Terry Soldan, the pastor's ex-wife in my story, has to face is the loss. Of course loss is calculated in comparison to gain...like Paul said: "For me to live is Christ but to die is gain...."

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.    

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Link

A friend of mine tweeted the link to this blog by Kimberly Kinrade: http://lifarre.com/socialnetwork/pg/blog/read/1181/my-unbreakable-heart-why-we-stay. My fictional pastor's ex-wife would totally empathize.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.   

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Wisdom from a failed marriage

Have I personally gained any wisdom through a failed marriage that can be passed on to my children, or other people who tend to ask me for advice? Yes, I think so.

First, for a marriage to work long-term, each partner has to make the other person more than he or she could be alone.

Second, marriage is for grown-ups who know who they are and what their commitments entail so that neither partner can get away with defining the other person's preferences, desires, or decisions absent an invitation from that person.

It is demeaning when the person who has vowed to love and protect you fiercely protests against what you have expressed as when one says, "you do not want/feel/believe/think such and so" after you have stated that you do want/feel/believe/think it passionately, in fact.

I attended a wedding yesterday. The couple wrote their own vows. They each stated something like: "You can never command me because I am a free person but I commit to serve you in every way possible...." This kind of mutual respect and preference was not even an inkling in the imagination of either Pastor Ed nor his soon to be ex-wife, Terry, even though, as I mention repeatedly, they are both fictional constructs. 


I don't think any abuser makes or tolerates free space for his or her victim. It does not matter what form the abuse takes, either. Respect, freedom, love, and honor don't really feature in these marriages no matter how loudly they may be touted or demanded.


You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.   

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Sane Man in a Mad World

In his book of essays, "Orthodoxy", G.K. Chesterton wrote: ...new novels die so quickly, and ...old fairy tales endure forever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the center is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world...."

For women married to men who are religious bullies like the Pastor Ed to whom the fictional Terry Soldan was married, the very real torment is about sanity. It takes a faithful friend to look such a wounded woman in the eyes and declare that yes, she is sane. This healing word contradicts every message that her God-fraudulent husband has sent over the course of the whole premarital, nuptial, and marital unbliss. It probably also counters the default self-doubt, Christians must die (to themselves) thinking that has kept her in the marriage boistered by bunches of somewhat mis-applied but well-intended Bible verses that she has beaten herself with after being bloodied by the ones her husband levied against her first.

For women who are married to abusive clergymen, the "mad world" that Chesterton referenced is the church itself and the sane man is the God-less William who offers sanctuary, not asylum, to his childhood friend so she can heal.

Again, while the novel is not autobiographical, and while it most certainly is a fictional construct, I promise that I understand both G.K. Chesterton's allusions and Terry's choices.

You can read Pastor's Ex-Wife by Lesley Barker on the Kindle. If you don't own a kindle, you can download the kindle ap for free to your computer desktop or smart phone and then you can buy the book in the Amazon Kindle Store here.