Here's my struggle; I’m a writer and I think my words and stories should be shared. They were never intended for me. With the exception of diaries, I’ve always written with an audience in mind. After I had legitimate books, the idea of “sharing” my stories somehow morphed into “selling.” It seemed to me that if I had books, I needed to sell books. I started to daydream about winning the book lotto. I fantasized about each one, or just one, hitting it big! I dared to dream that writing could be a job that sustained me. I would say good-bye to whatever title I held and my profession would from then on be: “Author!” It was a dreamy dream and I was quite caught up in it... until I realized books don’t magically sell. Like any product they need to be marketed, and a salesman I am not! I will more often talk people out of something than into something. Selling makes me queasy and uneasy. I needed help!
I interviewed and researched marketing companies and chose one. Next thing I knew it was a whirlwind of money out, and things to do on my checklist, and projects to get done. It overwhelmed me, it confused me, and on Independence Day, it stopped me. This is nothing new. Other things have stopped me dead in my writing tracks. Other things other than writing. Always “something” gets in between me and creating things to share. Doubts arise: What am I doing all of this for anyway? What is the point, the purpose, the reason? Do I even have a right selling? Surely I’m not good enough, the stories aren’t good enough. But why? Why would these thoughts, ideas and stories come to me, if not to share?! Why, God why? I’ve prayed over it, agonized over it. I’m currently on a private spiritual journey that revolves around future writing. Yes, I’ve been here before, and since I’ve paid so much to have my website resurrected, really, rebranded, I might as well dissect and post my newest writing dilemma here!
Ugh! Marketing! First and foremost have I said that I hate selling?! I do. I can list off plenty of personal strengths, I’m not self-deprecating, but selling is not my strength. I am 43 and getting older every day. I’m not interested in pouring time into pursuits that do not give me pleasure or fulfill the call God’s given me. At this stage in life, I’d rather focus on and refine my strengths and honor the strengths of others by trusting (and paying) them to do things I do not want to do. I don’t want to “do” marketing or sales, so, I hired it out. In my head marketing is selling. Turns out it’s not! Marketing is a different beast, another one I’m not interested in pouring time into learning. Instead, I poured money into my marketing company. It was probably a laughable amount of money to them, but to me it was a lot of our household disposable income each month, honestly more than I could realistically justify. Rebranding was in full swing, but no sales were realized. Four months in, I started stressing about the money. I felt like a thief robbing my already financially strapped household to fund a fantasy that “my books will sell!” We needed that money for “real-life” and I was playing make-believe with it. I *thought* book marketing was like hiring an editor; you give them a manuscript, they correct your mistakes and send you a bill. I thought the job I was paying marketers for was making and posting ads. It’s not. It’s other stuff to get these darn seven books I’ve already created "ready" to sell, before actually selling them.
Some of these books have been published either as indie, or under my former publisher for over 6 years... I understand why one book isn't worth advertising, because there's nothing else to sell. I *thought* once I had an inventory of stories and series it would be time to sell. Unfortunately, right when my 7th book/second series was finished, the infringement lawsuit happened. I finally paid that off and *thought* again that it was time to sell. I really thought that's what I was buying. If I’ve learned anything out of this, it’s that marketing isn't putting a book up for sale and paying for ads... it's thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of prep work "first." The reality is I will not have that kind of time until I retire. Hopefully at some point in my life before retirement, I'll have enough of a disposable income to pay someone without hurting our household finances, but I don't right now.
What's more, and what's bigger, and what stopped me in my tracks on Independence Day is that I genuinely LOVE the process of writing and making up worlds and stories! It's therapeutic, it's refreshing, it's meaningful to me. Writing makes me feel good! Writing is my reprieve, my oasis, my confidence, my make-believe playground to run and be free and create in. It’s also a humbling honor. I know everyone can’t write. The fact that I can and that stories evolve in my head is an honor. I try not to sound all woojuu-y spiritual, but sometimes it feels like a Divine gift. I can create worlds and concepts with words! I don’t take it lightly. Writing is my calling. It gives me purpose. It helps me understand why I’m here. All of the sales and branding and marketing and hullabaloo turns something I adore and do for stress relief into drudgery, confusion, disappointment, stress, frustration and pain. No matter how much I'd like to see my books make money, I'd rather not sell or “market.” I just want to get back to writing for fun like I used to. I'm not "me" when I'm not writing. I feel like I have to have things "just so" with these seven before I can get back to being me, and they're never right! They’re never ready! They’re never enough!
I'm tired of these stories! Don't get me wrong, I love them all for what they are and where I was in life when I created them, but I'm ready to move on. I have so many other thoughts, ideas and stories bubbling inside me or drafted and waiting for revision and polishing. Even if I only write for myself, I want to get back to writing. But there’s that struggle again, it’s not only for me. Writing has never been only for me. That, to me seems selfish. Spending money on marketing also seems selfish. I’m depleting our finances for my silly dream. Equity is somewhere between stroking my ego and hiding the stories away from the world because someone has deemed them “not ready.” It's fair that these seven stories have space on an Amazon shelf. I can give them that honor and move forward with my writing. And... who knows... if God wills, and the wind blows the right way, maybe those who are meant to read them will happen upon them, forgive the covers, and the unknown author with no newsletter or platform, and slide into a world I've created for them!
Marketing isn't for me, not any of it! It stresses me out, confuses me and takes time away from the loves and joys in my life. If you tell me I can pay someone or some company money and not have to do anything BUT write... I'm in! I thought that’s what I was paying for, but it turned out I had to do so much "other" than writing and paying (and I over estimated what I could pay). So, I’m out! Maybe I'm lazy, or ignorant, or stubborn, but I don't want to learn the skill of marketing. I just want to get back to writing for joy. I need this escape back in my life; reality is too much!
Now, three days later, I'm embarrassed that I misunderstood what I was buying into and what writing is to me. I'm mortified because I made a fool of myself to a reputable marketing company and highlighted my ignorance. I’ve been surly and sour with my husband and my grandmother because I’m embarrassed about spending so much without realizing what I was paying for. I've agonized over all of this BUT I learned some things. I figured some things out. I processed, I refreshed, I accepted… all in written words. I got dirty, dug deep down to the roots. At the core, I am a wrtier! If all of this is good for anything, it’s that I’ve worked up fresh new words to share. This is my first blog post in over a year! THAT makes me happy!
I'll never “give up” writing. The truth is I can’t! Writing is part of me. I do think I’ll give up “marketing.” No more “please oh please buy my book,” no more embarrassing launch parties, no more ego stroking. I'll just write. I’ll share the words and stories that God, whimsy, the muse, or life prompt. I’ll hire an editor, hire a formatter, hire a cover designer, share on social media, pay for ads I can easily understand, release what I’ve created, and write some more (with pictures I know are royalty free haha). Whatever will be will be and at least this way peace can return to my soul because I can get back to the craft that calls to me. May you too find your calling and your peace!
And so it begins...
On May 14th 1804 a Corps of Discoverers set out on an overwhelming expedition to chart and map the newly acquired western United States of America and see if there was a singular water route from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. We know this band of merry men primarily by the two main voyagers, Lewis & Clark.
These men, well, actually President Thomas Jefferson and explorer Meriwether Lewis, had their plan in place and assembled a crew of able bodied men to join and assist them. Along the way Lewis and Clark got up close and personal with, the flora, fauna, geography and the Natives of the land, they talked to foreigners who had found their way to hunt and live in the land. They used a volley of interpreters to communicate with the Natives and were diligent in mapping and identifying the land they explored. My exploration of sex and Jesus will intentionally parallel their epic journey. A mapping, a searching, an asking and discovering of what’s out there. I’ll observe and immerse myself into the lay of the land. I’ll take celestial calculations, I’ll collect specimens, I’ll measure the peaks and valleys, the length of the rivers and heights of the mountains and all the miles from here, my St. Louis, to there, the Pacific Ocean. Just as many spaces and places within the territory they traveled through are still largely unpeopled, undeveloped and unexplored, my trek will, of course not be exhaustive. I have no idea what lies before me, I imagine I’ll marvel and wonder and discover things that take my breath away. I’m sure I’ll brave dangerous rapids and shiver through snow and rain and probably have to unload my boats and maybe trudge because the way was quite unexpectedly impassable. And at the end of the journey, if I don’t have any answers, at least I’ll have a better map of how sexuality relates to Christian spirituality.
The journey, as all good journeys do, will start at the beginning. Lewis and Clark’s journey started years before the 1804 embarking. Jefferson and Lewis dreamed of the exploration for years as I have dreamed of and prepared for this one. Lewis invited Clark along well after the dreaming and planning was afoot. There was training and teaching and prepping and building and packing. I have planned and prepared for this journey. I’ve used the The One Year Chronological Bible in the New Living Translation, published by Tyndale as my jumping off point. I admit this is not my favorite translation of the Bible but I had a lofty idea of having the whole thing read through again in a year and its daily sections were a great motivator. This biblical translation has been generously supplemented with clarifying readings from my favorite translations; the old NIV, ESV and NKJ. I’ve sprinkled in translation clarification from studylight.org, and looked at the good King James version of the Bible itself because it has my respect even if its English is outdated. From this beginning point (the Bible in chronological order) I’ve done my best to document and note each sexual, sexualized, or intimate interaction so that they can be classified, explored and weighed against God’s biblical commands, the church’s historical and popular teachings and modern society. Like Lewis and Clark were focused on finding a water route from the Missouri to the Pacific, I’m fixed on sex and sexuality, but understand that gender, feminism, misogyny, birth and birth control and similar strands of exploration will likely surface along the way. I’m ok with that, I’m just going to see where the river and the exploration takes me.
Each chapter will be separated into three sections; His, mine, and ours. MINE, of course, will be my own unique take on the sexual subject at hand, shaped and formed from the early, untreated sexual abuse I experienced, my teen and young adult sexual explorations and the culture shock I stepped into when I got “saved,” and my current notions and ideas, largely influenced by my study on the subject. I will admit up front, this section may just be a cathartic exploration, good only for me, and possibly most of the books metaphorical analogies but hey… this is a journey of discovery, so it works for me, and if anyone doesn’t want my own opinions, it’ll be easy to identify and skip over.
Ours will be what “we” think, where “we” includes a presentation of thoughts, ideas and opinions of the Corps of discovers. This is where YOU come in, if you so choose! I will present topics and questions and will gladly welcome your feedback. I will also be consulting with the others I mentioned before: Natives, foreigners and fellow sojourners, or in real life: the experts in the field, those from different cultures and others who have written or spoken on the subject at hand, sex and sexuality. I will explore what “we” say and have said about sex. What is, if there is such a thing, as normal or acceptable sex. What is deviant and what is cultural? Are there common beliefs “we” all agree on? How do we react to the topics at hand.
The final say on each subject will be HIS. God gets the final say. This section will be my best effort at scouring the Bible, taking the measurements, mapping the territory and doing my best to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and know God’s heart on any sexual matter. I am no fool, I know it’s impossible, but I will do my best to honor God and the Word and present the God’s honest truth about sex and sexuality with as much fear, respect, integrity and honor as I can. I will also endeavor to provide global church perspectives on the sexual topic addressed in each chapter and present the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the God’s honest truth according to the Bible and generally agreed upon sexual rules within the historical and modern “church” where the church is described as the body of believers who claim to be followers of Christ and subscribe to the Apostle’s Creed, irrespective of denomination or nationality.
The plan is to research, record, explore and dissect the Bible, to find out what questions arise from my personal Biblical study and to ask others what they want to know, or have always wondered about in order to to assemble a list of questions to investigate.
This is the journey I’m embarking on, a great expanse of known and unknown territory filled with story, legend, folklore and preconceived notions. I am excited to begin. I have built my boat, I have packed my bags, I have assembled my crew and venture on into a great adventure! Come with me if you will!
From this setting off point I'll be honest. I have NO idea what I'm doing. I've never written non-fiction like this and it's proving to be a challenge. I have so many cares, concerns and responsibilities in life that always seem to jump, push or sneak in line ahead of my writing. I ask for your patience with me as I trek along, but definitely welcome you to keep me accountable!
The Stoking and the Stranger
Once upon a time, while on a lonely wilderness hike, a sojourner came upon a band of merry souls (or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story). They were a joyful and proud lot and danced around a sacred fire. They heartily welcomed the stranger in to listen to their tales of the eternal fire, stoked long ago by their very hands. It burned with warmth and fury. The fire kept them, sustained them and guided them with its light. This fire was indeed warm and seemed friendly, so long the sojourner stayed listening to their tales of the fire. The embers waxed and waned red, gold and sometimes even a glorious blue while they shared their stories of the bygone days of the fire. Then there was a stirring, a waking, and everyone knew it was time again to stoke the fire, to keep it burning. While the sojourner was permitted to watch the gathering, the preparation, the cutting of branches and falling of trees, they were not permitted to actually stoke the fire. It was a sacred right and no matter how merry the gathering, and inviting the stories, the lore and legend wouldn’t permit a stranger’s participation.
The stoking began! Wood and wonder crashed into the red-hot fire ring from all permitted hands, from all sides, with whoops and hollers of utter satisfaction! The flames rose high into the night, fiery flakes fell around the stranger, and the people, or creatures, or whatever they were danced and swayed in the ecstasy of the stoking. It was grand and glorious monstrosity of heat and sacredness, and the interloper wanted so badly to be one of them, but was at least grateful for the warmth and the invitation to sit in and watch the magnificent procession. The men roared, the women cheered, and somewhere deep, down in the depths of the dirt, a delicious drumming of delight rumbled underfoot blending into the melee, as if even the earth itself approved of their fire and festival.
Then one of the revelers came to the weary sojourner with all kindness and sincerity in an attempt to somehow include the stranger into the stoking. The warmth and smoke of the fire enveloped the reveler and the stranger, mesmerized by the sights, sounds and smells agreed, quickly, without a moment’s hesitation, to participate. The stranger could not by rite stoke the fire, but they all insisted wholeheartedly that there was space for the stranger to participate in the celebration. If the stranger loved the band enough and chose to remain in the group there was a simple, albeit painful role that the stranger could join in. All the sojourner had to do, to stay with the merry men (or women or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story) was insert a hand into the fire for a brief moment, long enough to let the flames lick at bare flesh and season the smoke with the flavor of the pain. The pain, the stranger was told, would only last a moment, and certainly there were others who participated in order to belong. Many souls willingly inserted their hands into the fire and their scents melded and mingled with the burning wood.
The stranger wondered how the others endured the burns, and asked if the fire hurt them as badly. They all carefully, thoughtfully, one might even say lovingly inspected the sojourner’s wounds. They compared it to other revelers, consulted with each other and concluded that the injury was minimal. The sojourner loved them for their care and concern and trusted their assessment. The pain afforded the stranger admission into the group, and the group was so, so good and welcoming and fun that the draw to be with them far outweighed the pain. The stranger stayed, the blisters did eventually scab over, the scars were reminders, as much as anything else, of the great stoking and eternal flames. The healing was slow but came in time so the stranger stayed with them, around the fire, watching and waiting for the next stoking.
As time drew near for another stoking, and always and ever with this band there would be a stoking, for the fire could never die, the sojourner knew this time what to do to participate. The stranger loved the band of revelers very much and enjoyed their company so much more than lonely wilderness travels and so foolishly hoped that maybe this time it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe the scars from before had somehow strengthened or shielded the skin. Maybe the revelers had another way for sensitive souls to participate, or a magical elixir that could keep the burns from blistering, maybe the burning didn’t have to be so bad. The gathering began, the stoking was near and the stranger’s anxiety rose; but the wilderness was cold so flesh was again plunged into the fire as the men roared and women cheered and the earth resounded in triumph.
The blisters this time festered and infection set in deep. Not everyone had this trouble with the fire, and the stranger’s sensitivity perplexed everyone. Some arms passed through like a hand over a candle flame without so much as even singe mark of black, they were perfectly content to play their part in the procession. Others licked their wounds but recovered quickly, or at least seemed to. Not so much for the strange sojourner, the pain was devastating and was causing quite an uproar within the once merry band. The revelry, comradery and company couldn’t quite sooth the stranger’ pain and dimmed the glory of the stoking. The healing scars that time didn’t remind anyone of a glorious tradition nor help to honor those who kept the flame alive with the stoking, they only reminded everyone of the awkward, awful pain of the stranger. The stranger, aware of the bands efforts at inclusion, looked long at the scars and pondered the fire, the wilderness, the sacred ritual and all those sorts of philosophical musings that occur in the midst of pain and confusion.
They stoked again, the sojourner burned again but that time with pain fresh and furious, the sojourner retreated knowing the new festering blisters, over too many scars were the last that could be endured. The pain was too great but the stranger has come to truly love the group, and yet couldn’t continue to burn. So the stranger sat at the edge of the camp, on the precipice of a decision, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone, knowing without a doubt that something must change.
And that is the story of the stoking and the stranger.
Like Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition in the early 1800s, Sex and Jesus is a journey of exploration. The territory, like the newly acquired western United States were, is vast and mysterious. I want to map, if I can, sexuality and spirituality and perceptions on both as they interconnect for typical American citizens of diverse ages, genders, weights, sizes and religious or non-religious affiliation. I’m asking a lot of questions about a lot of different things, some easy to talk about, some taboo and some, quite honestly, deplorable. I’m not necessarily seeking to answer questions as much as to explore different thoughts, preferences and rules (written and unwritten) about sexuality and God so that I can chart the land. Where are the fault lines we all ought to avoid building on? Where are the waters we gather around for life and gratification? What are the highest peaks of orgasmic pleasure and the lowest valleys of sexual depravity? What is the shape of sex on God’s canvas of humanity? I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’ve got my bags packed and now I’m out to assemble a crew… and I want YOU!
Of course, I’ll be the captain of this grand adventure. I will be as honest as I can possibly be in sharing what I find, but I’m far from objective. I’m admittedly and unashamedly a conservative Christian. I’m comfortable and confident in my faith in Jesus Christ. This is the cornerstone of my life and also, obviously, the catalyst for this expedition. Additionally, I’m a fitness fanatic, a small town woman with minimalist tendencies and a dark past. I’m an advocate for abused and neglected children because I’m an adult survivor of sexual abuse. All of these “hats” and so many more influence me and leave me less than neutral.
I want more than my own paradigm and voice. I would like to collaborate with some of my dearest companions as I make this journey, and do so hope a few will volunteer to join me. I respect and value their opinions more than anyone’s… that’s why they’re closest to me; but I also want to supplement their input with the opinions of others I might not be as familiar with. I need more than the perspectives of a handful of select individuals I know well. If I only ask and trust my friends for data I don’t think I’ll see the true topography with all the gritty bits that may be left out as they shape their answers because of the complexity of human interaction and our personal relationships. In order to fully explore the territory, I need the rest of my crew to be a trustworthy but diverse mix.
That’s why I’m coming to you!
I have a vague vision for this project that resembles the Lewis & Clark expedition. My core team will be small enough for me to listen to with focused intensity but large enough to provide a broad view of the landscape. I’ll be asking a sexual question of the day several times a week as well as a lot of survey questions. These will help me define the forum topics and questions I’ll ask others along the way. Ideally we’ll meet a number of times this year in one-on-one or forum type settings (either online or in person where time and distance permit). I hope to talk openly and candidly about sex and religion.
Of course ‘along the way’ I’ll interview the natives, foreigners and fellow sojourners on their own adventures. From this group of people I’ll explore different cultures, traditions, beliefs, perceptions and mindsets than what may be the accepted norm within the corp. As different as these perspectives are, they have a right to be heard and I want to listen.
So today I’m asking for brave volunteers to join my Corp of Explorers or honestly represent the natives and fellow sojourners. There will be lots of sex and Jesus talking and definitely some exploration along the way. I promise, all data and feedback will be treated with the utmost respect, and information within the book will be presented anonymously. If you want to participate completely anonymously you can, I’ll respect your privacy, but I need you to be honest no matter what! If you are intrigued and want to actively participate in this adventure with me, will you please email me at: LucyHDelaney@gmail.com
Some but not all of the topics I plan to cover are:
Climax and multiple orgasm
Biblical history of sex
Libido, sexual appetite and dysfunction
Monogamy and multiple partners
Church traditions, rules and taboos
Purity and depravity
Breast and penis envy and size
Pornography and artistic nudity
Biblical laws regarding sexual practices
He told me to trust him...
Trust: A firm believe in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something
Her voice was melodic and well worn. I could tell, even without seeing her, she was at least a septuagenarian (in her seventies). She left a simple voice mail but her closing statement gave me pause...
“I trust I’ll hear from you soon.”
She trusted me. I know it was, like she is, an antiquated relic from bygone days, but it struck me. She trusted me.
With ADHD, simple things like calls are difficult. There’s nothing to “pin” the moment to. Fact exchanging phone calls are the worst… post-it and paper at my desk, notes app on my phone, Subway napkin on my counter, never sear the facts in my brain quite right.
But she trusted she would hear from me. What was it about the phrase?
Ahhhh, it was Jesse Collver in eleventh grade. Trust flooded back, setting my heart to beat wildly and calming my anxieties all in the same sweet memory. Full disclosure, I had a high school boyfriend and Jesse was not him. Also, I think it’s safe to say almost every girl in high school pined for Jesse – these facts may come in handy later, so hang on to them and follow me on a journey into trust.
The year was 1994 and the high school boyfriend (I later found out) rigged a survey allowing me to become a Natural Helper. I remember little about the group except for the retreat where Jesse became the definition of trust for the rest of my life.
All new Natural Helpers went on a weekend getaway to a lodge, in the middle of nowhere, to learn how to be better helpers. There was a bus ride and other workshops and food and girls like the gregarious Gwen giggling in bunks far too late into the night, but I only remember Jesse... and trust.
I trusted few people back then (or now if I’m completely honest). I knew people meant well but rarely followed through. Bad things had happened to me and people let me down. I trusted few, but I watched everyone. Words and actions, over time, could eventually transfer a person into my “safe” category. That didn’t necessarily translate to “trusting” them, but at least I felt a measure of safety around them.
Jesse was safe, probably because he was precisely my definition of handsome and had never said or done anything to me to make me doubt the quality of his teenaged character. And there we were, a bus full of kids, in a wooden lodge in the forest… and we had to play a trust game.
It was simple; one person steps into the middle of a human circle and falls backward with arms across chest and eyes closed, the others catch. It was all fun and games to catch. I was well acquainted with catching what falls and trying to manage it. But when my turn came; I couldn’t fall back. I don’t know how many times I couldn’t fall but I remember the instructor coaching me to trust, prompting the kids to assure me they were trustworthy and still I couldn’t. Then Jesse made trust real.
He walked up behind me, this big, strong, safe young man; his heat, at my back, blocked out the noise and giggles and frustration building inside me. His nearness, his presence thrilled me. HE was at my back! HE whom I had admired from a far for a year and a half of high school days, which was pretty much forever at sixteen. He was with me. And he spoke…
Lips pressed gently to my ear; two hushed, warm words whispered… “Trust me.” His breath tickled and teased and pulled at my insides. My breath caught somewhere between in and exhale. In that moment, everything in me belonged to him. HE was trustworthy. I knew there was absolutely, 100% no way he would be there, if he intended to let me hit the ground. Heart beating wildly; I nodded. I would trust him. I crossed my arms, closed my eyes and fell… into arms at the ready.
That was trust. That is trust. To this day, when I think of trusting someone, I go back to falling into his arms. I don’t know how it would have played out had a girlfriend or boy with whom I had no secret affection or attraction to whispered to me. But it happened the way it did, and I know trust because of it.
My sweet septuagenarian trusted that she’d hear back from me, and though the facts of that call-back conversation lay scribbled on a bright yellow post-it I may soon forget, I didn’t break her trust.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” From the moment I read this verse in Isaiah (30:21), I thought of Jesse at my back, strong and warm behind me, gentle and safe beside me, completely assuring inside me. I’m so grateful for this picture of trust and humbled to say I honestly trust the LORD this much. I don’t understand the circumstances of my life, but… I trust Him. He is my strength and my hope and my confidence. I trust the LORD with all my heart, mind, soul and spirit. May you also come to know something so trustworthy in your own life. If ever you want to talk about trusting Christ, I would be honored to speak with you!
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