About Me

My photo
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 research for the University of Leicester (United Kingdom) is in the Department of Museum Studies and looks at the interpretation of diversity at the American Historic House Museum. I also developed and facilitate an inspirational program for Christian grandparents, Gathering Grandparents.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What do you notice when you walk into a church for the first time?

Last Saturday I went with some friends to hear a Christmas concert at a church because they had seen one of the soloists in a different performance context so when they heard a radio advertisement for this concert they thought it would be good. It was very good.

But as we pushed my friend's husband's wheelchair up the ramp that "could not have been designed for a handicapped person in mind because it is too steep" I remembered the crazy idea that became the novel, Pastor's Ex-Wife.

We were greeted nicely, not intrusively, at the door by a security guard and directed to the elevator to go DOWN to the sanctuary. After we got down we learned that the only restroom facilities are UP. So, I hung out in the large hall browsing the items on display tables and bulletin boards until my friends returned. We were escorted thanks to the wheelchair to a back row where we sat next to a woman who smiled nicely enough and had too much perfume on.

In the novel, Terry Soldan, the ex-wife of the abusive Pastor Ed, becomes an anonymous church critic. She travels incognito, disguised as a woman of color, to a different church each week. Then she writes her experience up as an article in the paper where she is the religion editor. Had Terry been at this concert she would not have been the only black woman there and she would also have enjoyed the mix of classical and jazz performance and the additional congregational worship led by an amazing musician from Malta.

The whole idea of an anonymous church critic came about when I decided that people looking for a church should be able to preview it before stepping inside. Other than the website or the service on local-access television or the radio, a potential visitor has to risk being hugged, snubbed, judged, cajoled, healed, saved, baptized, or bored once they decide to attend on a Sunday morning.

It's sad that walking into a church can be that threatening.

Last week's concert was excellent and the church looked like the "word of faith" church it promotes itself to be.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Glimpsing Jesus?

I got invited to return to Haiti next spring to attend and possibly speak at a Christian women's conference there. Why? Because, like my friend who shares a similar story of broken marriage and single mothering but who has remarried and travels the world with her missionary husband now, I have not always been perfect. Apparently that is a refreshing message for women in the churches around the world.

How tragic that we Christians have so twisted the message of redemption that we presume to be so perfect that we don't need a Savior anymore. How ridiculous that in our spiritual arrogance we miss the fact that many people just find us funny.

It is this sham along with the buy-in that is so prevalent among some of the most vocal and influential church leaders (like Pastor Ed and his congregation in the novel, Pastor's Ex-Wife) that makes so many people dismiss Christianity as worthless.

My hope is that by creating a fictional romp through the spectrum of American Protestantism today I have written a tragic-comedy that will perhaps provoke a reexamination of my readers' opinions.

Perhaps my readers will find themselves laughing in spite of pain and in the midst of cynicism.

Perhaps my readers can look up with fresh eyes, not yet seeing everything under his feet yet.

Perhaps - maybe for the first time, a few readers may glimpse

Jesus.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Enough

Sometimes things go terribly not the way you planned. Like today. I got to work early because a repairman was coming to fix the printer. He came. Then a few hours later when the paper smelled and looked like roasted marshmallows in the historic house built circa 1820 where our museum offices are located. In the meantime not much of what I had on my to do list was finished - it could have been if the printer had worked...Then the staffing fell apart for the weekend. Again, not my fault but my problem. Enough of these little things built up that by 2:30 I left work - no explanations - just "if you need me I'll come back." Granted, I am the director and I did work on both of my days off this week and now that the weekend staffing changed I'll put in at least a 20 hour one....so the dog and I went to the river where there were a large number of barges herded together at the bank chaperoned by one big river boat. But it was enough of a breather to somewhat calm my exasperation for a few minutes. Water does that - still waters....He leads me beside the still waters....

These are slight challenges compared to the pressure that builds in an abusive marriage over many decades sometimes. At some point someone just has had enough.

For the fictitious pastor's ex-wife in my novel, enough was when the last child graduated from high school and the still waters were at William's house, Terry's refuge from all of the church hurt that made everything that much more confusing because she couldn't untwist the lies about God enough to get a peek at His truth...pain does that.

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.