River Jordan

River Jordan

2018.08.12

Literature and Life

 

The Jordan River, also known as the River Jordan, is a river in southwestern Asia, in the Middle East region. It lies in a structural depression and has the lowest elevation of any river in the world.  Flowing southward from its sources in the mountainous area where Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet, the Jordan River passes through the Sea of Galilee and ends in the Dead Sea.  The Jordan River’s geology and climate have contributed to its role in history as a political boundary and in biblical history writing as a site of community formation.

 

I’ve told this story before but in writing about one of my favorite authors, I must tell it again.  The first paragraph was not unknown to me so imagine my surprise when I see River Jordan on the spine of a book incorrectly shelved in the general reference, religious, philosophy and psychology sections of a local library.  Clever marketing, I thought; a bit too clever, in fact.  To pretend a religious or philosophical author’s name was the same as a well-known religious landmark was really rather trite.  I was in a hurry, however, so instead of taking the time to read the back cover ir inside flap of the book, I added it to my pile and proceeded to the self-checkout.

 

Later the next day I looked at the book I had no intention of reading and realized two things.  First, it was a book on prayer, a subject near and dear to me.  Secondly, the author’s name really was River Jordan.  River Jordan began her writing career as a playwright where her original works were produced, including “Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek”, ‘Soul, Rhythm and Blues”, and “Virga”.  Her first novel, “The Gin Girl” (Livingston Press, 2003), garnered high praise as “This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath.” Kirkus Reviews described her second novel, “The Messenger of Magnolia Street”, as “a beautifully written atmospheric tale.” It was applauded as “a tale of wonder” by Southern Living, who chose the novel as their Selects feature for March 2006, and described by other reviewers as “a riveting, magical mystery” and “a remarkable book.” Her third novel, “Saints In Limbo”, has been painted by some of the finest fiction voices of today as “a lyrical and relentlessly beautiful book,” and “a wise, funny, joyful and deadly serious book, written with a poet’s multilayered sense of metaphor and meter and a page-turning sense of urgency,” and reported by Paste Magazine as “a southern gothic masterpiece.”   Her fourth novel, The Miracle of Mercy Land, was published on September 7, 2010.

 

It was her first non-fiction work, “Praying for Strangers, An Adventure of the Human Spirit” that I had picked up.  It was published in 2011 and was a book that was happenstance and one River Jordan never intended to ever write.  This acclaimed author teaches and speaks around the country on “The Power of Story”, and produces and hosts the radio show Clearstory Radio from Nashville.   She can often be found traveling the back roads of America with her husband and their Great Pyrenees lap dog. 

 

I felt a bit ashamed I had doubted her name (and yes, it really is her name) and was surprised that she lived less than two hours from me and had the same breed of dog that I did.  We also had one other thing in common – we both had sons in the military of this country.  Hers had been deployed to a war zone about the time mine returned from the same area.  Her non-fiction book begins with the week before her son was to leave and the feelings she described I knew all too well.  However, she had very little acquaintance with praying for strangers while I had spent the past eight years doing just that.  Still, I felt compelled to read the book, more a diary than a novel or autobiography.

 

E. M. Bounds describes prayer as “power and strength, a power and strength that influences God, and is most salutary, widespread, and marvelous in its gracious benefits to man. Prayer influences God. The ability of God to do for man is the measure of the possibility of prayer.”  We tend to overlook what prayer does for the person doing the praying, though.  River Jordan addresses both in this book as she embarks upon her journey as the parent of a child walking into war.

 

There are many different types of wars we face, especially as parents.  First it is colic, then perhaps first day of school anxiety.  Regrettably, some parents must face their child having a life-threatening illness or developing an unhealthy addiction.  Sometimes it is peer pressure that creates the war zone with destructive behaviors or ill-planned escapes becoming the enemy.  Long before our children are of an age to defend their country, we as parents have faced many battles.  Every person confronts life’s issues but it seems to be most difficult when it is our children doing so once they have “grown up”.  The concerns and fears of our hearts grow also and never are diminished in spite of how accomplished we may believe our children to be.

 

River Jordan has an encounter with a stranger, recognizing the pain of another similar to her own and offers to pray for this person.  To be certain she knows saying those words will not instantly change anything.  They are not a magic chant.  She is somewhat surprised, though, to see the calm they seem to give this stranger.  Within a few days, another incident occurs and again, she sees the power that offering to pray for a stranger can create.

 

It is very seldom – okay, never – that I will claim an author as one of my favorites when I have only read one book by said author, especially if said book is diametrically opposed to the rest of the volume of their writings.  And yet, it is that very fact that made me claim River Jordan as a favorite.  I have given this book to others, had a book club read it, shared it on this blog in years past, and still at least once a year reread it.  I could not leave her out of any list of influential writers.

 

Trying to get River Jordan to pin down a favorite writer, though, is difficult.  “Honey, I was raised by the tribe of Eeyore. I can worry about anything and everything….I want to read something that sets my soul on fire. I want to read words that tell me what it was to have been human and to set my feet on this planet for even just a little while. I want to carry some truth away about this life that I didn’t recognize before. To connect to another person’s life in the process. To cry, fight, laugh, love, and live more passionately than when I first turned that page.  I want the story to carry me somewhere wonderful whether it’s South America, or a riverboat, or even if it’s only a backyard on a summer night. And it doesn’t matter if it’s wonderful contemporary voices southern and otherwise, or the older voices of Mark Twain, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Conner, Harper Lee – the list goes on into eternity. Just give me that great story. Carry me away. The words can be soft or sharp, biting or butter, I just want the passion of the writer to be so intense that the words are like a white, hot light on the page.”

 

River Jordan has stated that “it is her deep belief that through our stories we discover the truth of our common ground and are able to celebrate our humanity, working together toward living at our highest potential.”  I hope you read “Praying with Strangers” but more importantly, I just you read.  By the way, River Jordan’s latest book, “Confessions of An American Mystic, Stories of Faith and Fiction” ( Jericho Books, Hachette) will arrive later this year.  Literature and life continue to reflect one another.

 

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

2018.08.09

Literature and Life

 

In 2014, writing for “The Guardian” Alison Flood reported that a survey reveals that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of go-it-alone writers made less than $1,000 a year.  Over nine thousand writers took part in the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, presented at the 2014 Digital Book World conference.   The survey group was composed of beginning writers to highly acclaimed, well-published authors and then divided the 9,210 respondents into four camps: aspiring, self-published only, traditionally-published only, and hybrid (both self-published and traditionally-published).  More than 65% of those who filled out the survey described themselves as aspiring authors, with 18% self-published, 8% traditionally-published and 6% saying they were pursuing hybrid careers.  Just over 77% of self-published writers acknowledged they made $1,000 or less a year, with “a startlingly high 53.9% of traditionally-published authors, and 43.6% of hybrid authors, reporting their earnings are below the same threshold.  A tiny proportion – 0.7% of self-published writers, 1.3% of traditionally-published, and 5.7% of hybrid writers – reported making more than $100,000 a year from their writing. The profile of the typical author in the sample was ‘a commercial fiction writer who might also write non-fiction and who had a project in the works that might soon be ready to publish’,” according to Flood’s report.

 

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite quotes about writing: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  It was said by today’s featured author, Jane Austen.   Jane Austen is a world- renowned English author who completed just six works during her time.  Few have such a small portfolio that have managed to command the legion of fans around the world that Jane Austen has. Her timeless stories have been turned into a plethora of movies, television shows, and modern adaptations in addition to being translated into multiple languages to cross cultural boundaries. Today she remains as popular as ever and is revered as much as any literary figure in the history of the English language.

 

During her lifetime Austen wrote approximately 3,000 letters but only about 160 survive.[6] Many of the letters were written to Austen’s older sister Cassandra, who in 1843 burned the greater part of them and cut pieces out of those she kept. Ostensibly Cassandra destroyed or censored her sister’s letters to prevent their falling into the hands of relatives and ensuring that “younger nieces did not read any of Jane Austen’s sometimes acid or forthright comments on neighbors or family members”.  Cassandra believed that in the interest of tact and Jane’s penchant for forthrightness, these details should be destroyed.   Ironically it is the humor and wit of Austen’s characters that have made her writings so popular and timeless.

 

Austen lived a relatively short life, even for the time period and yet, she read many books, volumes of poetry, and plays.  Some of her favorites included “The Corsair” by Lord Byron and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Anne Radcliffe.  Her all-time favorite was reportedly said to have been “Sir Charles Grandison” by Samuel Richardson.  Austen endeavored to incorporate Richardson’s epistolary style in her own writing, but found the flexibility of narrative more conducive to her realism, a realism in which each conversation and gesture carries a weight of significance. This narrative style utilized free indirect speech – she was the first English novelist to do so extensively – through which she had the ability to present a character’s thoughts directly to the reader and yet still retain narrative control. The style allowed her to vary discourse between the narrator’s voice and values and those of the story’s characters.  Jane Austen is considered one of the best authors to have used syntax and tone in the presentation of not only the characters but also the plot and storyline progression.

 

Critic Robert Polhemus once said “To appreciate the drama and achievement of [Jane] Austen, we need to realize how deep was her passion for both reverence and ridicule … and her comic imagination reveals both the harmonies and the telling contradictions of her mind and vision as she tries to reconcile her satirical bias with her sense of the good.”  Austen herself proclaimed:  “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!  How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! … but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”

 

 

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

2018.08.08

Literature and Life

 

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.”  This was not an easy lesson for Marguerite Annie Johnson to learn.  A child raised in part by her grandmother, raped by a boyfriend of her mother’s, she was traumatically mute for five years.  Her brother called her “Mya sister”, and that was the basis for her pen name “Maya”.  Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors who would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset.

 

Maya Angelou would be a dancer, a singer, and San Francisco’s first black female street car driver before settling in as the noted and acclaimed author that we know and love today.  She would go on to become only the second poet (and first black female) ever to read at a presidential inauguration.  When Maya Angelou wrote and recited “On the Pulse of Morning”, she was already well known as a writer and poet. She had written five of the seven of her series of autobiographies, including the first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  African-American literature scholar Mary Jane Lupton describes the poem:  “On the Pulse of Morning” is an autobiographical poem, one that emerges from her conflicts as an American; her experiences as traveler; her achievements in public speaking and acting; and her wisdom, gleaned from years of self-exploration”.  Angelou herself considered the poem good but not great. 

 

“On the Pulse of Morning” was full of contemporary references, including toxic waste and pollution. Angelou’s poem was influenced by the African-American oral tradition of spirituals, by poets such as James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, and by modern African poets and folk artists such as Kwesi Brew and Efua Sutherland, which also influenced her autobiographies.  Si it might surprise you that Angelou held that her favorite author was the one that most influenced her as a child – Louise May Alcott.  “When I read Alcott, I knew that these girls she was talking about were all white.  But they were nice girls and I understood them.  I felt like I was almost there with them in their living room and their kitchen.”

 

The BBC had an article regarding Maya Angelou and I think it illustrates the impact an author can have.  The article listed fourteen people that were influenced by Angelou.  “American icon Maya Angelou was a celebrated writer, poet, activist, singer, actress and speaker. During her long and varied career she worked as a journalist in Africa, toured the world as an opera singer, authored the international bestseller I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, worked alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and recited one of her poems at a US presidential inauguration. But more than that, Maya’s life, work and wisdom inspired some of today’s most famous names to achieve great things too.”  Those listed included Nelson Mandela, Tupac Shakur, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Serena Williams, Bill Clinton (at whose presidential election she spoke), Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Barack Obama, Rochard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock.

 

“She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace”, Oprah Winfrey once said of Maya Angelou.  Controversy did follow Maya Angelou but nothing illustrates the unifying goals of her writing more than these remarks from President Barack Obama.  Although Angelou supported Hillary Clinton in the race to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2008, she became a strong advocate for Obama during his time as US President. He awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. When she died, Obama described her as an inspiration to all Americans. “A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking,” he said, “but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.” 

 

Inspired by the writing of a girl from another time and of a different race, Maya Angelou herself overcame the unimaginably horrible to do unimaginably great things.  She herself said quite simply:  “We are more alike than unalike.”  Hear her reading her poem “On the Pulse of Morning”:  https://youtu.be/59xGmHzxtZ4

Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat

2018.08.07

Literature and Life

 

This series about authors and their favorite books began by my reading a quote about if someone really wanted to be a good writer, they first had to be a good reader.  John Cheever, a celebrated writer of novels and short stories from New England once remarked “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”  One can, of course, write, but without it being read, it often seems like wasted energy.  There is the old adage that the difference between a good writer and a bad writer is that the good writer perseveres and the bad writer simply quits but one still does hope, at some point, to have their work read. 

 

Cheever also defined art as the triumph over chaos.  I think perhaps this is one of the reasons our featured author today began to write although she described it this way:  “Whole interaction between the storyteller and the listeners had a very powerful influence on me.”  Born on the island of Haiti, Edwidge had a life that was a bit chaotic.  Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 only to see itself sold to Americans.  It has a history of tyranny and neglect and many seem to have forgotten it most of the time.  Edwidge moved to New York at the start of her teen years after being raised for ten years by an aunt and uncle.  French is the national language of Haiti but at home she spoke Haitian Creole, a conglomeration of words from 18th century French with influences from Portuguese, Spanish, English, Taíno, and West African languages.  Moving to be with her parent in New York was nice but also very isolating.  Literature became her escape and comfort.

 

Edwidge Danticat wrote a story about her immigration experience for New Youth Connections, a citywide magazine written by teenagers entitled “A New World Full of Strangers”. In the introduction to “Starting With I”, an anthology of stories from the magazine, Danticat wrote, “When I was done with the [immigration] piece, I felt that my story was unfinished, so I wrote a short story, which later became a book, my first novel: Breath, Eyes, Memory…Writing for New Youth Connections had given me a voice. My silence was destroyed completely, indefinitely.”  Danticat went on to graduate from Bernard College in NYC and then receive masters’ degree in creative writing from Brown University.

 

It is therefore not surprising that she lists Marie Vieus-Chauvet’s book “Love, Anger, Madness” as a favored and influential book on her writing.  Written by an exiled Haitian writer one year before Danticat was born, the book is actually a trilogy – three stories that reflect the American invasion and economic control of Haiti, Haitis troubles from the occupation, and its own internal struggles. Each story has a character that finds refuge in art, struggles to overthrow dominant forces, and battles for integrity against the devastation of war in a corrupt state. Oppression cuts across class and race lines. The dramas are large and small, and the villains are not always who you think they are.  It is easy to understand the book’s appeal to Edwidge Danticat who once remarked “The past is like the hair on our head …You always have this feeling that wherever you come from, you physically leave it, but it doesn’t leave you.”

 

Three themes are prominent in the writing of Edwidge Danticat: national identity, mother-daughter relationships, and diasporic politics.   It might seem like this are applicable to only her native land but diasporic politics affected the African slave trade as well as that of the Sephardic Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 ACE.  Great literature crosses time and space, uniting us all and both Danticat and her influencing Marie Vieus-Chauvet write such literature. 

 

Edwidge Danticat has given us a picture book, a young adult novel, and five other books in addition to her short stories, essays, and work as an anthology editor and guest contributor for such publications as “The New Yorker” and “The Washington Post”.  The busy mother of two daughters has been known to say the greatest gift one can give a writer is time and she eagerly seeks to connect literature and life.   “We need literature because we wouldn’t fully know ourselves without it.  We need good literature to be fully human.”

 

 

 

A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

2018.07.20

Pentecost 134

 

“There is just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone.  Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”  This second verse of one of Disney’s most recognizable songs worldwide really hit home to me yesterday.  The world of laughter and a somber world of tears came together as two friends and I realized just how small a world it really is.

 

A friend posted that a much loved spouse had returned home from a business trip to a small country halfway around the world.  After my first “Wow!”, I realized I knew someone in that small country so different from my own.  The population of this planet is growing.  At the turn of the century the population stood at 1.65 billion.  Today we are seven billion, seven hundred and forty-five million and growing.  Agriculture came into being around 8000 BCE and the world census was an estimated five million strong.  By the first year of the new common era (1 AD or ACE), the growth rate of people on earth was .05% per year.  Today it is 1.13% with over one million births expected during 2016.  In spite of all this, it is still a small world.  Insignificant me realized that I knew someone halfway around the world living in a small nation where another friend’s husband just spent a week – a connection between four people, four out of seven billion.  It is a small world.

 

Two years ago I wrote about the New York City Fire Department helping police investigate a suspected drug laboratory at a house in Yonkers.  Battalion Chief Michael Fahy led his men into the structure which exploded.  Michael Fahy was born and raised in New York City and became an attorney.  He had one brother and two sisters, one of whom was his twin.  They were not surprised when Michael left his law practice to answer what he described as a “higher calling” and became a NYC firefighter. This past week the world became aware of this heroic man who lived every day in an extraordinary way when he died in that explosion.  I became aware of Michael Fahy when a friend realized she had purchased her home last year from his parents. This friend lost her own mother two years ago due to a distracted driver who took his eyes off the road and stared at his mobile phone for just five seconds.  In that five seconds he took a life almost as quickly as the explosion from the illegal drug activity ended the life of Michael Fahy.  My friend is a college professor and native of Colorado but she knows too well the grief of losing a family member in an instant.  “A world of laughter, a world of tears’…It’s a small world after all.

 

It is election season in the United States and volunteers are trying to help register people to vote.  Few states automatically do this when people obtain driver’s licenses or state sponsored Identification cards and often people fail to make that extra trip to register.  A year ago another friend was helping register people and found himself volunteering to do so at a homeless shelter.  Suddenly he saw a familiar face, someone with whom he had worshipped.  This friend is a humanitarian and yet even he was surprised to realize that the theory of “Anyone can become homeless” was now a reality in this woman standing in front of him.

 

The world of economics is not just for a chosen few and the effects of financial woes can and do happen to anyone.  “It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears” and being unable to maintain a certain lifestyle will probably be experienced by many, especially those who are female in gender.  Until there is euity in payroll, it’s a small and unfair world after all for women.

 

“There’s so much that we share” the lyric goes but I wonder…Do we really share?  Are we really living with a thought making and seeing the connections we all have or do we simply go about our lives getting as much as we ourselves can personally garner?  “That it’s time we’re aware” is perhaps the most telling way to describe this past week for me.  I realized awareness that even though I myself have never traveled to some exotic locale, I know people in many such settings and we are connected.

 

Death, finances, and inequality are unfortunately a part of life.  “A world of laughter and a world of tears” describes one’s overall living for almost all of us.  What makes it extraordinary and even bearable is that we share both the good times and the bad.  We need to create connections in a positive way so that we make our living count for something. Whether someone is an attorney, a firefighter, or a volunteer, we all have the opportunity to make the ordinary process of living extraordinary.

 

Pentecost is called the “Ordinary Time” but it really is not so ordinary after all.  No single day is.  They may all blur into a sort of oneness or sameness but they shouldn’t.  We can make them count for something but showing kindness, concern, and realizing that “There’s so much that we share”.  We have the power to make these ordinary times spectacular and meaning and by doing that, we gain strength to get through the tough times.  We are in this thing called life together and we need to connect and help each other.  Community makes heroes out of all of us when we participate and honors those for whom life is a struggle they meet as best they can.

 

 

If You Love Me – Lizzie Chantree

“If You Love Me…” – Lizzie Chantree

2018.07.09

Pentecost 2018

 

Doing a series on women who have made a difference often becomes a historical exercise in biography.  Today’s featured woman, though, is alive and well and living in 21st century England.  Moreover, she qualifies for this series on several levels.  Her name is Lizzie Chantree.

 

Today is the world launch of Lizzie Chantree’s novel “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”.  I received an ARC – advanced reader’s copy – and found it to be a delightful read.  In fact, I plan to order several copies for a local book club.  Chantree’s newest novel is a great book with relatable characters.  Love’s course seldom runs smoothly and we all have our own baggage that we bring to any relationship.  This book acknowledges both of those facts in a delightful yet meaningful way without being pedantic.

 

Lizzie Chantree is an award-winning inventor and author who started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000.  [Her invention was a spray that stopped hosiery runs, often called ladders.]  Chantree discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little.  Her titles include “Babe Driven”, “Love’s Child”, “Finding Gina”, “Ninja School Mum”, and today’s release with Crooked Cat Books, “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”. 

 

Chantree is a Creative Mentor and as mentioned before, an award winning inventor (BFiY), as chosen by Fair Play London and The Patent Office.  Her paintings have been exhibited and sold across the U.K.  She is also a judge of Shell LiveWIRE’s Grand Ideas Award.  Additionally, she is the host of a creative networking hour on Twitter: #creativebizhour Monday evenings 8-9pm (GMT). Her Twitter handle is @Lizzie Chantree.  Creative businesses, writers, photographers, and designers share and offer advice and support to each other.

 

When asked about the hardest thing in becoming a published writer, Chantree responded:  “The hardest thing is how much time promoting your work takes.  It’s sometimes difficult to fit in writing hours alongside marketing commitments. I am lucky that I really enjoy talking to readers, but giving author talks and having book launches makes me quake! Standing in front of people and talking about my work is not my natural environment. I’m happiest with a pen in hand and notebook on the table.”

 

Chantree considers an optimistic nature to be paramount in achieving success.  Readers of this blog will know I agree with that!  “I’m a very positive person who is full of ideas. I write books to hopefully make people smile, as I became an author after my own child was unwell for seven years and I needed a career change to be at home with her. From this dark time blossomed a completely new career, so it’s never too late to try something different. I’m also fascinated by people and love to hear about their lives and experiences.”

 

Life often throws us a curveball or two or twenty.  How we respond is the key to personal and professional success.  This is reflected in Chantree’s new book.  The characters are not perfect and how they navigate around their curveballs and imperfections makes for a delightful and satisfying story, complete with a surprise twist at the end. 

 

Chantree follows the advice she writes for her characters.  “The best piece of writing advice I was given was that you can’t edit a blank page. Get those words onto paper and you can change them later. If the page is empty, there is nowhere to go. With life in general, I would say try and be kind to yourself. Everyone gives so much of themselves to others, but if you don’t look after yourself, there will be nothing left to give.”

 

A cancer survivor herself, Lizzie Chantree lives with her family on the coast in Essex and spends her creative time in her rooftop studio. Her energy and creativity are proof that, although women often wear many hats in the 21st century, one really can live life to the fullest and share their energy with others, making the world a delightfully better place for all.  After all, if you want to love your life, you’ve got to own it.  The universe is speaking to us and echoing the title of Chantree’s new release:  “If You Love Me, I’m Yours!”

 

Preview of this book:

‘If you love me, I’m yours…’

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fit in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down.

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?

 

 

No Limits

No Limits

2018.07.06

Pentecost 2018

 

“Power, as human beings exercise power, to me means the ability to change: the ability to change oneself, the ability to change one’s community.  And the positive use of power is transformation of self and community toward a high ideal, toward a healed world.”  This quote by Katherine Jefferts Schori speaks to the topic we are exploring this month of personal power and to the needs of the world today.

 

Of Irish ancestry, Katherine Jefferts Schori was born in Pensacola to Keith Jefferts and his wife Elaine Ryan. Jefferts Schori was first raised in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1963, her parents brought her, at the age of eight, into the Episcopal Church (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Providence, New Jersey) with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. Her mother converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years later and died in 1998.  She attended school in New Jersey, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in oceanography in 1977, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She is an instrument-rated pilot.  Both her parents were pilots.  She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979. Their daughter Katharine is a captain and pilot in the United States Air Force, continuing the family tradition.

 

Jefferts Schori earned her Master of Divinity in 1994 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific[3] and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector at the Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community as a fluent Spanish communicator, and was in charge of adult education programs.  In 2001, Jefferts Schori was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. The Church Divinity School of the Pacific gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois awarded her an honorary degree in 2007, as did The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee the following year. (Most Episcopal seminaries award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.)

 

The Episcopal Church met in General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006.  Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops’ election later that day. She was the first woman primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the 963rd bishop of the Episcopal Church.

 

For the past thirty years, Presiding Bishops have traditionally served a fifteen year term, presiding over three General Conventions which are held every three years.  Jefferts Schori announced on September 23, 2014, that she would not seek another term as Presiding Bishop. On June 27, 2015, the General Convention elected Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  In 2017, Bishop Katherine began serving as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

 

Diana Butler Bass, an independent scholar and expert on U.S. religion and author of eight books, including “Christianity After Religion” wrote of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori:  “In the 21st century, with declining numbers who identify as part of mainline religion, church elections are mostly a matter of inside baseball and of no great consequence to American society. Yet this cannot be fairly said of Jefferts Schori’s tenure as the head of the Episcopal Church. In the last decade, the denomination became a sort of a laboratory in which to observe cultural and religious change.

 

“The first and most obvious fact about Jefferts Schori’s tenure is that she is a she. As the only female head of an Anglican national church, she was subjected to innumerable indignities, the most noteworthy of which was a 2010 order by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that she not wear a mitre (the hat worn by Christian bishops to symbolize their spiritual authority) when preaching in an English cathedral.”  [It should be noted that most recently when giving the homily at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel, the current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did not wear a mitre.]

 

Bass continues:  “Jefferts Schori proved a tough leader, determined to protect the church, employing her resources to quell dissent and maintain church law. As a result, the Episcopal Church lost far fewer members than had been predicted and won almost every court case brought against it.”  It should be noted that the Episcopal Church is one of the oldest religious institutions in the U.S.A.

 

The basis for the gospels included within the book known as the Holy Bible is that love has no limits.  The tenure of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori proves, as Bass concludes, that finding such on earth is difficult.  “Jefferts Schori’s tenure also points to the complex and intertwined realities of women’s and LGBTQ rights. Her opponents exercised the same tactics of discrimination against both her and Gene Robinson. Each was (often grudgingly) recognized as a bishop, but faced constant challenges to their leadership on the basis of gender or sexual identity. They were excluded from meetings whenever possible, sometimes forced to sit separate from groups, forbidden to wear symbols of their rank in certain places, and disallowed from performing the sacraments – practices of segregation resembling those often employed against African Americans – and functionally intimating that Jefferts Schori and Robinson were somehow unclean or spiritually unacceptable.

 

“Such overt discrimination demonstrates that while sexism, homophobia and racism are not identical, they prompt the same response from those who fear losing power or privilege, including within the religious community. In a comment that applies to too many American organizations, Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia said the Episcopal Church continues to suffer from “deeply ingrained structural and institutional sexism.”  Having a woman presiding bishop does not eliminate sexism – and electing a bishop who happens to be gay does not end homophobia. The Gordian knot of equal rights for all has to be untied as a whole, not as its individual threads.”

 

As we move forward we need to see the world as “we” and not a competition between “them” and “us”.  There can be no limits to our efforts to make the world a better place for all.  To quote Bishop Katherine once said:  “See the encounters of Jesus’ life as windows into possibilities for yours.  Accept the invitation to go or strive to go through the narrow door.  Choose between life and fear, for the unengaged life is truly not worth living, and has no possibility of salvation or abundance.”