This First Friday (for me) is in conjunction with my favorite conference of all time: Mo*Con. When I started writing with publication in mind, I was betwixt and between genres. At that time, a Christian who wrote horror was the devil and needed prayer and healing and hands-laid-upon, and maybe it’s still that way a little, but it is far more accepted today than it was back then (what was that, 2007?)
One of my writing critique partners at the time, Dan Keohane, suggested I look up some horror conference held in a church in Indianapolis. One of his friends was a guest of honor and he thought I’d enjoy meeting him (Brian Keene) Also in attendance was Gary Braunbeck. So I went and I met the Indiana Horror Writers, THE most amazing family of writers (and trust me, we ARE family at this point!!)
All that to say, on top of the exciting First Friday news: For the second year in a row, I’m bringing my Visual Prayer supplies and we’re doing a workshop at Mo*Con Saturday May 4 at around 3pm!! Guests of Mo*Con will enjoy this session as part of the ticket price.
If you’re in the area and would like to join us for the workshop only, please email me and make arrangements. Cost of the Visual Prayer workshop only will be $25 (all supplies included. Just show up! You’ll take home two 8×10 canvas boards with your own creation on them. I will guide you through the process!)
Following Mo*Con’s theme this year: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist, the workshop will be centered around using visual arts to calm and free the mind allowing the spirit to open into a relaxing realm of worship.
When asked to review this DVD, I jumped on it. I mean, with my focus on Visual Prayers and my Art Scripture Journal how could I resist taking the time to study another artist’s work?
And wow. I liked this.
Debby Topliff was intimidated by the book of Revelation and issued herself a challenge–to study it. She came away with notes and drawings–and put paint to canvas. A 5-foot by 7-foot canvas to be exact. (OH what fun that would be!!)
Her DVD, Painting Revelation is broken into easy to watch sections that can be done as weekly studies or watched all at once (as Zane and I did.) Debby narrates the DVD and starts in her woodsy yard talking about what the Bible says and then moves to zooming in on the portion of her painting while she explains her interpretation.
This is such an incredible experience.
As I’ve been doing my Scripture Journal and Visual Prayers, I’ve been basically doodling, drawing or painting or whatever I feel led to do. I haven’t ever set out to do something, interpret something. So this process was very interesting to me.
In addition to what I’ve already talked about, there is bonus material…
I met Jeanne Damoff (pronounced DAM-off) a few years ago on a message board. Yep, she’s one of those friends. I have a lot of them, but Jeanne is a bit different.
At first, I thought she didn’t like me. She might not know that, but she does now. But seriously, now I understand it was my overactive imagination and nothing more.
We first met at the ACFW conference in Dallas in 2006. I remember laughing with her in the lobby, but what I remember most is feeling overwhelmingly sad when she got a call that someone close passed on. I felt the need to pray and she doesn’t know but I was praying silently when I hugged her. I had also signed up to take a shift in the prayer room, I prayed for her family then, as well.
I really got to “know” Jeanne reading her blog and her every-other-Thursday posts at The Master’s Artist. Then I found out she takes photographs (like really outanding ones!) And though Jeanne’s words are phenomenal, down to earth, and always seem to leave you with an unexpected sense of hope and peace, her photography spoke its silent language to my heart.
This picture of Natalie, Jacob, and baby Lawson Jacob touched me deeper than I realized at first. When I saw it, all I knew was that Jeanne was a great writer, a funny gal who gave points to people who made her laugh, a great photographer, and a woman who loved her family deeply. I sort of knew that Jacob had brain damage, but I didn’t know the story and I was didn’t want to appear rude by asking. Little by little, the pieces came together. Jacob had an accident, he nearly drowned. He lived. He has brain damage. The photos of him are always stunning, there’s so much in his eyes, they speak that silent language, too.
This was my first chapter in the story that is Jacob Damoff.
In August of 2007, I found out that Natalie was Jacob’s best friend. I found out she named her baby Lawson Jacob. Soon after, Relief published selections from Parting the Waters.
And this photo then meant more…look at Natalie. I know that feeling of–what do you call it? Blessed pain? Or as Jeanne appropriately called it: Beauty in Brokenness?
Those moments in life, we all have them, or maybe not everyone does?
I have had them. When my grandma died. It was so hard to watch her go, yet knowing she was finally in peace was peace for me. When my uncle committed suicide. The single most painful event in my life, yet knowing the demons no longer could taunt him and that he’s resting in Jesus now–overwhelming pain and relief simultaneously.
Is that a taste of what Jesus felt when he commanded His spirit to His Father?
My mind captures images and holds them, the first photo is one that comes to the forefront of my mind often. This is the other one. There’s something in Jacob’s smile that commands attention.
I often find myself wondering what it’s like to be that happy. Then I remember I am, I have only let life drag me down.
Parting the Waters is so brutally honest. The reality of it all is bitter and heartbreaking, yet through it all there is a hope bigger than explanation.
My mind captured an image from the book and will not let go. Jeanne and George had just brought Jacob home after a lengthy period of rehabilitation. Jacob, at this point, was not able to speak. They were at a special chapel service and the pastor, “…at one point said ‘God,’ Jacob pointed first to his own heart and then straight up in the air. “
Jeanne continues, “After that day, when someone mentioned the Lord, Jacob pointed. Always to his heart first, then to the sky. He hadn’t uttered a single word, but his actions preached a thousand sermons.”
* * *
Another aspect of Jacob’s story that I appreciate, one that helps me in my own life, is hearing everything the family and community did with Jacob while he was in a coma. I mentioned above that my grandma’s recent death has affected me. She was not conscious for a week or more towards the end. I posted the story of the last minutes I was blessed with sharing with her. As Jeanne put it, “What a precious memory you’ll always have of singing her into eternity.” I still struggle with the last breath she took, at such a meaningful moment. I feel like God gave me a piece of this Beauty in Brokenness we’re talking about.
My friend Elaina, said this to me, “Reading Parting the Waters reminded me that we understand so little of the way our brains work and to presume that someone doesn’t comprehend is not a good plan. Even in dementia and Alzheimer’s, they’re still themselves. They just have trouble piecing everything together. I believe she heard you, Michelle.”
Jacob has given me so many gifts, I can only imagine the crowns in heaven adorning his head, and I bet he’ll have that big smile each time another is placed for the blessing he’s been to a number so great, only God can know.
Order Parting the Waters here. Join Parting the Waters on Facebook (and send Parting the Waters Flair!)
I haven’t had many deep, introspective thoughts in quite some time. (Does this mean I’m getting better?)
Something’s been brewing though. I’d like to give it a shot, ease back into things.
This thought is about the word “Christian” as a modifier.
Christian writer Christian music Christian books Christian artist Christian horror (Egads! What’s that?!)
Modifier= A word, phrase, or clause that limits or qualifies the sense of another word or word group.
And so it has come to pass that I’ve figured out why I don’t like it as a modifier. It limits. Limits imply rules. Rules imply a maker of rules–and here’s where I have problems. I can handle, say, speed limits. Seat belt laws. Things that, for all intent and purpose, are for the common good of society.
But where does that fit in when we’re talking about this idea of “Christian fiction?” Heather Goodman said,
“In an interview I posted yesterday (or was it the day before?), we decided that what people mean by “Christian novel” is it’s written by Christians, marketed by Christians, and bought by Christians, which means it may or may not have anything to do with the themes or theology in the book below a surface level.”
“Labels were invented to sell the music. You had to know what to call it to sell it. So they called the blues the blues, and the jazz the jazz, and the bluegrass, gospel. But some music encompasses it all. So what do you call that? And that’s pretty much what I like to play.”–Willie Nelson
They’re saying the same thing. My take: labels exist for people who need rules. People who want to be kept. Kept what? I don’t know. For people who read “Christian” fiction, maybe they need to be kept safe. At least their version of safe. Because it can’t fully reconcile itself to Jesus.
Christian radio stations around here tout themselves as “family friendly” and “safe for the whole family.”
Sorry! The search criteria that you entered, Jesus safe, does not yield any results…
I wonder, then. How are authors limiting their fiction by subjecting themselves to modifiers that are inadequate? And yes, I’m fully aware that some people are comfortable within limitations. And some people are meant to break free.
While some people thought Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and other non-fiction, fiction, and children’s books was hoity-toity, ostentatious, and smug, I have to say I thought she was the most honest person I had the pleasure of listening to. Well, Michael Chabon ran a very close second. They’re very different.
When Haven addressed the fake memoir issues of the publishing world, I wanted to jump up and yell “Amen Sister!” She was asked something like, “How could James Fry and Margaret B. Jones fool all those editors?” To which she answered with a brilliant flip of her hand, roll of her eye, and yes, a smug laugh, “Oh. They knew,” as she nodded her head slowly, “they all knew.”
If telling the truth makes one smug, rock on girl!
As refreshing as it was to hear her candid remarks in that first session, I was even more smitten with her second session entitled How Life as a Quaker Prepared Me for Life as a Novelist: More Than Just Sitting Still for Long Periods of Time.
She told the story of her first novel in the hands of her editor. Haven had just returned from seminary and apparently infused her book with many words her “pet-theologians” spoke. Her editor said (paraphrasing) that every time she came to a paragraph with something from one of those pet-theologians, she would send it to her mother in South Dakota. Who lived in a trailer park. And if mother didn’t understand it, Haven had to rewrite it. Haven hung her head a bit and talked softer, “She read the novel about forty-five times.”
Then she said the words that resonated in my heart, “Intelligence does not eliminate, it invites.”
That sentence might be the one that sticks with me throughout my endeavors as an author.