~ SPRING ~
Seasons of life, like seasons of the earth flow predictably, though not necessarily peacefully, one to the other. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. There are seasons in life that souls, like the sun, must fatefully rise to meet whether they want to or not. There are circumstances that blow in on the wind and leave the landscape lastingly changed; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, and sometimes like a sweet spring breeze, simply marked for the memory of it all. What has been will be again, what was done will be done again. Every season has its own notable nuances and yet there is nothing truly new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.”? It was here already, long ago. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe all life, all story, all seasons are simply recycled from what once was. But within the cycle of same there is a season of new that always, inevitably comes. Like blossoms on orange trees after the visit of bumbling spring bees, something new always comes. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time when one must say goodbye to the old, dead and lifeless things of the past and greet new life and new experiences.
The time is spring. The season is new. Leaves, small, weak and timid at first, slowly stretch, reach and eventually emerge on the branches of their host. The temperature warms and daylight dawns earlier and lingers longer. They know not of the leaves and seasons before them, only that this is their life, their flower, their season to be fruitful. The bees buzz, the flowers bud and the leaves grow and explode into a springtime eruption of of lush, lively color that beautify and nourish the world.
It is in the springtime seasons of life that souls shed what once was, that dreams melt away and make way for new life. It is a time to be born and a time to die, it is a time to weep and a time to laugh, it is a time to search and a time to give up. It is in this strange season of new life and letting go that a sum of certain souls find themselves inexplicably intertwining. It is in the springtimes of their lives that this story begins….
~ SUMMER ~
Summer waxes hot and long in Central Washington parts and in sullen or smitten hearts. So hot it dries sticks and logs and grass until everything is ready and waiting to burst forth in fury and fire and flame. So long that everyone wonders if the heat will let up before a ground fire ignites the forest. Summertime on The Big Y is also known as fire season. Arid and dry, the threat of forest fire weighs heavy on the minds of ranchers, orchardists and residents alike. After every thunder and lightening storm wary eyes watch the horizon for the slightest hint, the faintest sign of smoke. Ranch hands scour the acreage for sleepers, the kind of fires that smolder in the needles for days or weeks after a strike before popping up and wasting countless acres of land.
As much as man fears the flame, he knows it also serves a purpose. Sometimes some fire is good. A scorching purification of the land, clearing out that which can erupt into a raging firestorm if not burned off gradually. What’s more, some seeds actually need the heat to come alive, to sprout and grow. Still the imminent danger that any summer fire can develop into something too large and unmanageable and devastate and destroy the land keeps all on edge. One spark lit on the dry grass of desperation or ember felled onto a heart of hope deferred and a firestorm may ensue. Once lit, field, forest or the fiery spirit of man can rage until there’s nothing more to consume, until all that’s left are charred remains and devastation.
It starts so small. A sneaky, low-flying fragment fallen to the ground still hot. At first nothing more than a hint of smoke, the impression that something more immense might emerge. It smolders; simmering, lurking, laying, ready for the right wind to blow in and set ablaze the fury waiting to ignite. Then the light and the heat will rage, demanding and devouring all that there is, filling the air full of foul fumes and insufferable smoke. The same heat that makes the coldest of nights more manageable, the same light that illuminates the darkest path, can utterly destroy, land, life or a dream. Summer simmers all the things that can take the idea of danger and make it real with all the things that life needs to thrive. Sometimes the fire smolders, sparks and sets the hearts and souls of men ablaze, to purify and cleanse, to bring seed to life, or to rage and ravage anything in its path...
~ FALL ~
With the coming of autumn to the Big Y Ranch comes also a grand and glorious battle between the living and that which will soon lay down to rest or to die. Some call it a miracle of transition, this shushing of the earth to sleep. Like a child resisting rest, the lively earth wages a futile war against its mother, Nature and father, Time. There is no hope and no way to stop that which must come to the animals and acres. The Big Y ranch spans eleven hundred acres of hearty and robust Cascade Mountain foothills, meadows and plateaus in Central Washington. A world unto itself. Nestled into the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the area is known for its sharp seasonal contrasts as much as it is for its orchards and apples, pears, cherries and wildlife. If spring is the season that takes the world from death to new life, and ushers in the warmth and vitality of summer, autumn is its inverse counterpart. The season comes to pull the world away from heat, light and life toward the dark, bone-chilling days of winter. The ranch knows well the turning of the seasons and of all of them, rages against the dimming of the light, the coming of the fall the most.
The splendor of summer shakes itself off, stripping away the layers of bounty and beauty, leaving the world with hardly a trace of what once was. Naked trees rob the animals of fall of their easy camouflaged covering. That which once fed on the summer’s nourishment become the hunter’s prey as a bounty of a different kind is stealthily sought. The calendar marks the days and the ranch fills with eager sportsmen, looking to fill their tags and claim their trophies. There is a time for everything, a time to live and a time to die. Dying comes to the ranch with raucous celebration of sought after rewards. Maybe there is nothing more to the melancholy season than one lost battle after another. Or maybe it’s simply nature’s reminder that all things change and all things die. Nothing, no matter how glorious or grotesque, will remain forever, save God. As the leaves fall to the earth, as the animals fall to the ground, as the fires finally take their rest and die out, so everything that has breath will come to an end. Not all change is fresh and new. Not all death is mourned.
And so their stories, like the land and the leaves, transition; each life losing and letting go of what once was whether they want to or not…
~ WINTER ~
Within the snow blown acres of the Big Y Ranch, winter’s wonder abounds. Furry ground squirrels that scurried to store their stashes all summer long, chirp, chirp a comical alarm if anyone or anything ventures too close to their secret stores. Little brown snowshoe hares slough off their earthen coats in exchange for white ones in time to blend in to their new white world. Still cautious and careful, they forage for the fruits and berries that refused to be taken to the ground at season’s change. Always at the ready, they flee with lightning quickness from hungry predators not prone to hibernation. Their scuttle, like the flutter of winter birds’ wings, is muted by the snow’s acoustical magic. Needing no camouflage from the hungry coyotes, the big, burly bison bundle up inside dark woolly undercoats that began to grow in timely response to the first of autumn’s winds. Neither the coyote, nor the cold will be their undoing.
Even more than the animals, the land itself sings a wonderful winter song. Snow falls in the night or from white day-light skies. A frigid frozen glitter shaken out onto everything that once was, covering it and making it clean. Its weight blankets the land shushing and settling the madness of autumn’s melee. Its covering puts the confusion and chaos of change to rest. The ragged, ravaged worn out land becomes a bare and blank canvas that, when painted by the sun, flashes its cold, quiet glory in a million pinpoints of splendid sparkling light. A landscape that ought to be dreary and dead bursts forth in beautiful brilliance.
In spite of autumn’s assault and despite the darkness of winter there is yet hope. Winter is unmistakably an end, but also a promise of a fresh start. Once the old has been cleansed, purified and washed with white snow, the days begin to stretch themselves awake earlier and earlier. The sleeping things rouse and rise up from their rest. The cycle begins again. All the hushed wonders of winter promise that though everything changes and every living thing eventually comes to an end, all ends are not necessarily bad, and life still finds a way even in the darkest, coldest of nights.
It was in the dark and dismal, yet hopeful winter of 2014 that the souls aforementioned in the preceding seasons finally collided. Their paths, already crossed, suddenly intertwined and fused together. On this night the time was right and the season was upon them to begin to understand the unanswered questions, to walk out of the past and to look into a future that could bring the hope and healing each of them craved. And the night went something like this…
That’s the thing about summertime romances…” she mused out loud to herself as they sat wrapped up together on a ridiculously large, lush lime green beach towel. She sat between his outstretched legs, toes in the sand, tracing her hands up over his hairy knees and back down to his shins in time with the cerulean ocean waves. Cerulean, with a “c” not an “s” and deep blue like the color of her heart knowing he was going to leave again. She watched them gobble up the beach before their retreat into the burnt orange horizon. As the waves pulled back into the water, her fingertips slid up his legs, languidly, repetitively, occasionally flicking sand from her fingers or his leg hairs.
She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t need to. She knew this part of the summertime too well already. The thing about them was that the page turned, or the credits rolled, and the guy or girl left with well-meaning promises, but the two words, the end, sealed it all into a melancholy memory of what had been and will be no more. Evidently he did not remember how this part of summertime romances went.
“What’s the thing?” he asked, tightening his embrace around her shoulders, drawing her back further into him. He shifted forward suddenly and grabbed the other towel still folded neatly beside her and wedged it between his back and the abrasive volcanic rock he was leaning against. He wiggled a little to find the right position, and she wiggled a little to tease him, then remembered his injury.
“Oh, sorry. Are you OK? Is your leg OK?” she asked, finding and tracing the still-fresh rigid scar that ran the length of his knee.
“So OK,” he said into her ear in his sexy lover’s voice before nibbling at her neck.
“Mmmm!” she sighed, closing her eyes and exposing more of her neck to him. She couldn’t put a finger on what made that tone more arousing than his normal voice. It wasn’t deeper, it was maybe almost higher but with a want in it that melted her. She leaned her head back onto his shoulder basking in the bliss of the moment, letting out another audible sigh of delight. She arched her head back a bit more and looked up at him wistfully. She stared, wishing, hoping, willing this to be anything more than what it was always fated to be. He stared back caught up in the passion of the moment. She knew what they had was special. There was definitely some kind of love that passed between them. They couldn’t have spent all these summers for all these years together without it meaning something… even if it was only ten or fourteen days of each year. She was probably still too young to know what true love was, but maybe this was it.
She turned her face into his cologne and neck. She breathed every bit of his essence into her soul, stealing some of who he was right then and there. Keeping it just for herself. She wanted to remember him, here and now, mixed in with the color of the sunset. Not the water. He was too much like the earth to mix with the water. He was warm and hard and bold. Orange, yes, orange like the fading sun in front of them, leaving so beautifully she almost forgot to be sad about it even though she feared their summertime romance would end once and for all this summer. She worried about it every year but his letters always promised he’d return and so far he always did. But things were changing for them both and something inside told her the sun was setting for them. She feared more than ever before, even more than that first summer, that this would be their last summertime romance.
He was gorgeous. A ripped, stacked and muscled guy from a far away place, and to the place he belonged he would return. He was here, now, with her on a beach in paradise. They shared so much history together in their brief summer visits. It was a bittersweet but true, honest connection and in all truth and honesty, she knew their lives were nothing alike. He was too old and idealistic for her, she was too realistic to see how it could ever be more than this. He was away from home and real-life for two weeks and she was home. This was her real-life. He found a lovely distraction in her like a lot of guys found in the local girls and vice versa. She didn’t mind being a summertime escape, but he was lying to himself and her when he said it could last longer. He told her that their love could conquer all the obstacles they faced and overcome all the odds. He promised that one day, some way, they’d live happily ever after… or maybe he was only telling her that because he thought it was the right thing to do.
She supposed, as she mused over telling him the thing about summertime romances, that he could really think this would last. She remembered their first summer together, oh how magical that summer had been, fresh and new and full of fun and exploration. For all his big tough football exterior, he was a pure romantic. She knew he’d fallen hard and fast for her. Maybe she helped him notice her at first but she didn’t have to work very hard to keep his attention. Maybe she lied about how old she actually was at first but she couldn’t help it, he was great and she wanted to be with him. If he’d known the truth upfront, maybe he wouldn’t have pursued her, but it didn’t matter now. Here they were years of summers later and in some kind of love that made sense to them both every time they reunited.
This time they’d spent ten glorious days of the summer together. They were nowhere close to inseparable because of her work and his play, but as often as they could be together they were. This was his last night in paradise, so she snuck away from home and responsibility and brought him here… to do it! They were miles away from the mountain village she called home, and cuddled up together at the edge of the ocean for one last long good-bye and her first time.
He had never pushed her, though it was obvious he wanted her. She had never been ready before. She hated her parents and preacher’s talks about waiting to have sex and her being too young to even think about it, but still they sunk in. She always kept him at bay each summer, not quite ready to go all the way. All those times before she was afraid he’d either never come back, or find some other girl that put out. But he kept writing her letters promising his return. He kept coming back summer after summer to this mountain place… and to her. Even after he found out her real age he stuck around. This time, though, she was sure he’d never come back and just as sure that she was finally ready and she wanted her first time to be with him. She might be young but she was old enough for that and she wanted it to be with him even if this was the end.
“What’s the thing about summertime romances?” he whispered, lips on her hair, rocking her a little, snapping her out of her forlorn conclusions. He scooped her even closer, nestling her head under his chin. Ever attentive, he wouldn’t let the musing go ignored. He wouldn’t make her bring it back up, he would draw her out. Yeah, it was definitely some kind of love. Should she tell him or let him live in a make believe land of “this-will-last-once-I-leave” mumbo jumbo.
“They don’t last.”
“Why do you always have to be such a downer? Ours can last.”
“Are you going to give up everything you have and come down here?” she asked, “Because I can’t leave.”
She heard him breathe in, felt his shoulders sag. There she went, Miss Realistic, killing his sweet summer fantasy along with the sexy vibe they had going on. That’s not what she meant to do this time. She meant to make it the most amazing memory ever, better even than that very first summer. She turned around quickly, kneeling right into his face, leaning closer and closer and closer until their noses touched.
“Never mind,” she said playfully nipping at his lips, “I didn’t mean to say it out loud. We’re here now and I want it to be perfect. I want to remember you just the way you are right now.” Wispy, straight strands of her thick dark hair shrouded their kiss, though there was no one on this beach to hide from. The tourist beaches were elsewhere. This one was too remote to find easily, locals made sure of that. She knew this beach, this time of night would probably be deserted, or close to it. It was too tricky to amble out of in the dark. Considering his leg, she wondered if it was the best idea but ignored the caution and moved on with the plan. Her mouth covered his. Their kiss, more than familiar to the both of them, tasted different mixed with the salty brine of the ocean on their lips. She willed him to know she was ready without her having to say it and make the moment awkward.
His hands cradled both sides of her face for moments of delicious tasting and teasing, but then he pushed back her face ever so slightly and looked at her with all the love and sincerity she’d ever seen come from him, or anyone. Gorgeous brown eyes searching, penetrating her, willing her to love him, to want him forever.
“I don’t think this has to end.”
She knew the truth but she wanted the moment so she smiled and made him lie to her, “Promise me Preston.”
“I promise,” he answered and bucked her backward deftly and laid her down on the towel and sand under them. She giggled at the maneuver and their kisses deepened. She loved feeling the weight of him press her down and into the sand under the towel. She was smothered in all that was him and she pulled him into her soul. Maybe he could keep the promise and there would be more summers and moments, but just in case not she gave herself to him this time fully and completely.
“Are you sure?” he asked when she didn’t resist. He looked at her in the dusky dimming light, gauging her movements and response.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” and she was pretty positive she was sure. No matter what preachers or parents said, she needed this memory with him. As the sun went down and the orange darkened to twilight, she promised herself she would never regret this moment no matter how it ended.
It was a chore to amble up and out of the rocky local beach, but their kisses and giggles and half caught stumbles kept them amused along their way. Neither wanted to say goodbye, but it had to happen. Ever the romantic, he fished a letter out of the back pocket of his soft surfer shorts and gave it to her at the smooth wrought iron and stone gate to his opulent hotel.
“Do not open this until next week,” he demanded, holding it up between them and whipping it out of the way when she tried to swipe it.
“Give it to me,” she smiled.
“Not until you promise. Don’t open it until next week.
“I promise. Not until next week.”
He relinquished it to her eager grasp and pulled her into his bare chest, his big broad arms enveloping her, one hand threaded into her hair. She was in heaven, at least for a few more seconds. She wrapped her arms around his waist and they stood in the light of the entrance amidst the muted evening bustle of the other tourists and town. His heart beat slow and steady in her right ear and she could actually hear the air enter and exit his lungs. It sounded hollow-ish and reverberated through him. It was an interesting sound she doubted could ever be visually represented or reproduced. She refused to let go and evidently so did he; but it had to end, all of it had to end and so reluctantly she eased back out of his embrace to look up at him. One last perfect kiss on his lips. One last kiss on the letter as she walked backward away from him promising again to wait until next week to open it and then she was gone. Page turned. Credits rolled. Summer ended.
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!
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!
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.
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