Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"You have got to be kidding, God! Right?"

That's what I said.

See, it started with my friends. They started going all renegade on me, which just goes to show you. You really do have to watch who you hang around with. It's just like mama said. I'm in the Apple store the other day, minding my own business, just looking, mind you, at the iPhone I want when I grow up, and all I can hear, in said friend's nagging voice, is about how many children I can buy out of sex slavery for the same price.

No FAIR!!!!

Literally, no fair! She's all about justice these days in deed, not in word. Packed up her family and moved smack dab in the heart of the city to do justice, and when I say in the heart of the city, that's what I mean, because I've been there. It's the city. The kind of city people like me came from, and flee just as soon as they can to come to places like Ann Arbor, this wonderland of plenty I've lived in for the past eight years.

My friends are missional. And intentional. And relational. And devotional. And all kinds of stuff that I don't really understand that end with the letters "nal". I love that about them. They have deep, profound, Emergent conversations with lovely people and write amazing books. They take care of refugees, and love on homeless and crazy people. And embroider capris instead of buy new ones from Walmart. It's great, and I'm totally down with that stuff, as long as I can stay in Ann Arbor and say, "That's great." Because they are white and pretty much middle class. Black people who grew up ghetto don't do missional, unless that mission is never to go back to the ghetto. We are intentional about staying as far away as we can from da hood once we leave! And we don't have a problem being "relational" with inner city people because they're our family who didn't have the same run of luck, blessings, whatever you want to call it we had. We see them at the funerals we have to leave our Ann Arbor's--if we're blessed enough to have escaped--to go to.

So, I'm hanging around my friends. I don't mind changing my lightbulbs to energy efficient, sguiggly florescent ones. I don't mind buying a new HE washer. Darn it, I will brave a Michigan winter with considerably less gas usage so as not to rape Appalachia of her coal. I'll stop using plastic, and always say "Paper, please," when asked, or even start using reusable grocery bags. I'll think about where the clothes I buy come from and if kids sew their little hands off to make them for a dime. I'll get several sex slaves free before I buy my iPhone--yeah, I need some work! I admit it! But I want one! But I'll do all of this in Ann Arbor.


See, it's those things we cling hardest to that God seems to challenge. I don't know why He does that.

I read this book a few months ago, Schools of Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. I want to be part of a new monastic community. In my heart I want to be several things that end with "nal." I want to care about people, and the earth, and God. Heal racial schisms. All of that.

In Ann Arbor.

Then one day, I'm thinking about my budget, and how all the things we had that made it possible to live in Ann Arbor are gone. Big honkin' man truck drinks gallons and gallons and gallons and gallons of gas. Expensive gas. Big honkin' growing kids eat their weight in food. Measly, insignificant writer doesn't earn the kind of money to stay in Ann Arbor without the Section 8 housing subsidy she had in the good old days. I knew we'd have to move to some place we could afford.

But there was a problem. All the Ann Arboresque places were expensive. Even apartments, which pretty much weren't an option because my family is so large. Bad credit. Big family. Big problem. Finally I decided Co-op was the way to go. You might pay more to get in, but the rent is cheap, and controlled.

I called every Co-op in Ann Arbor. They all had waiting lists to the next century. Apparently, every other broke family clinging to Ann Arbor living thought of the same thing. I prayed. I despaired. I sent emails to my agent. I thought, prayed, searched the net, and prayed again, and then a still small voice--you know Who--said "Call your mother-in-law. Ask if they have any openings."

You'd think I'd have thought of that right away. Uh uhn. See, my mother-in-law lives in Inkster. That's where I grew up. That's where Ken grew up. Land of many housing projects, one of which I grew up across the street from. The wasteland where sirens and gunshots were the lullabyes that lay me down to sleep.

I fled Inkster to be with demon lover in the D.C. area, and fled him and went from pillar to post trying to find my feet. Ended up with my sister Carly in Detroit. Fell in love with Ken and went right back to Inkster. We lived across the street from a notorious crack haven. Left when our neighbor shot up the courtyard in a drunk, among other reasons. My brother was murdered by a 14 year old with and assault weapon around the corner from that place. The city is full of ghosts that haunt me. All my pleasant childhood memories are blunted by what cocaine brought our happy community, and my family. There wasn't enough mission in my entire soul to make me want to go back.

I called Mom and she said, "Oh yeah, a unit came available today. A four-bedroom, 2 bath, with a basement." She lives in a Co-op. She's on the board of directors.

Resisting the urge to primal scream I asked, "How much is it?"

"I think it's $570.00 a month."

It was. That's a heckuva lot less than the rent I pay here in Ann Arbor! And for A2 my rent is cheap! I'm talking almost $500 less.

I won't even say how much of a miracle I knew this was. Townhouses by my mom never come up, and this one was a 4 bedroom unit. It's bigger than the house I'm in. It's next door to her. And our other daughter. It isn't the Jesus community I craved, but it is community. It's family. It's a mother who's health is failing and who has no transportation. It's a daughter in her last year of high school who needs her daddy, maybe more than she did last year.

I cried when I got off the phone. "Please, Lord. Don't make me go back there." I cried every time I thought about all the places in Ann Arbor I will miss. The safety. The beauty. The parks that surround me in the way housing projects will in Inkster.

But I have to go.

I'm packing the last of my things. The book I was reading I told you about? The first chapter was called, "Relocation to Abandoned Places of Empire." The Empire I knew as a very small child is gone now, and what is left is a place I hardly recognize. The writer of that chapter talked about God calling the new monastic into the "desert". I knew months ago God was calling me to the desert, but God stunned me that it was this particular one.

I thought He was just being metaphorical.

"Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt."

"In that day," declares the Lord,
"You will call me 'my husband';
you will no longer call me 'my master."

Sigh. That's what God is speaking to me. But as I sit here, bags of books, and clothes surrounding me, I still think, "I'm not quite there. I'm not feeling the love, Husband. And you know what? This really sucks."

But I've not known God to leave me. He surprises me, but He doesn't leave me. I've known hard days, but others in this world live harder ones. And I can move, while some are homeless. Some are starving. Some are dying.

So thank you God, because I'd rather go into desert, or wilderness, than live in Ann Arbor outside of your will, and your presence.

I'm going home.

There. I said it. And it almost feels good. Almost. I feel an odd sense of peace about it, and that has to be God. And you know what? As much as I've loved it here in A2, I've moved around so much nothing has felt more home than that little six square mile city where I grew up, thirteen miles west of Detroit.

I wonder who's still there. I wonder what adventures await me. I guess we'll see tomorrow. I know this. God lives there. He'd be around if I made my bed in hell.

I've got a feeling my life is about to radically change.

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One More Goodbye to Tammy Faye

So, me and and one of my b bff's, Lisa Samson, were continuing in our metaphorical sitting in sack cloth and ashes mourning--we're writers okay? And both of us are on deadline. We can't literally sit in sack cloth and ashes. Besides, that'd be really messy. We're still in our metaphorical sackcloth and ashes--in fabulous colors--for our girl, Tammy Faye.

Lisa gets the idea that we should do the eye make-up thing, really big, in her honor, and put the picchas on our blogs. I totally want to celebrate Tammy Faye. And play with make-up. Plus, I never wore false eyelashes. Heck yeah! For Tammy Faye! And you know I wanted to do my piccha in this, deep, brooding, moody, poetic, but only, like, visually poetic way. Poetic, but with mascara and stuff. You know. Like, um. That (see above deep, brooding, moody, visually poetic, but with mascara and stuff piccha). But you totally can't see the eye make-up good! But is that gold, gilded candle totally Tammy Faye, or what???

Anyway, I didn't even have any money for the falsies, but I think St. Tammy Faye was lookin' down from heaven at me, when she wasn't busy shopping with her new the-strip-malls-are-paved-with-gold-credit-card, with no limit. She must have interceeded for me--for that is what the saints in heaven do--and God made a way for me. I got groceries. And medication. And some false eyelashes! And that's all I needed for my daily bread, bless the Lord!

So, I got started tonight. Lemme tell ya, it takes work! It's quite a production for the eyeliner alone! And I think she may have used the liquid kind, beloved. Tremble. That takes skill. I think Catwoman used the liquid kind. I'm talking Julie Newmar/Eartha Kitt Catwoman, or Catwomen. From the Batman TV show. And they didn't play! The false eyelashes alone took a level of skill and mastery that I personally could not handle. Those babies tried to break me down after about half-hour. I soldiered on, however. It wasn't as bad as when I pierced my nose when I was in my early twenties. I was young. I was tough. And that took me HOURS. But I am not young. And God knows I am not tough. And I have been feeling decidedly unpretty. So those eyelashes were about to take a sistah down. But Tammy Faye had cancer and could do this. Surely, I said to myself, surely, I can put on some false eyelashes! I was not about to punk out now. And those things cost three dollars. Imagine if I'd sprung for the seven dollar ones.

Like I said, they were completely out of control before I even got out of the bathroom. Half of the left eyelash was inching precariously toward my brow. And the right eyelash was determined to blind me. I was going to be a blind martyr for the love of Tammy Faye though, darn it! And I was going to take a piccha! Even though I felt unpretty and spent the last two days crying incessantly, wearing the same funky pajamas, depressed, wishing I had chocolate--remember I said the groceries were low, and watching copious amounts of Joan of Arcadia on DVD instead of working. Even though I'm SO on deadline!

But I digress.

Then it was time to apply mascara to said out-of-control false eyelashes, that by now seemed pretty real to me. I don't know how she did this. Every day. Her eyelashes were big as tarantulas, God knows they were. I put on at least eight coats. I put on mascara until my completely cancer free body was worn out. I totally bow to Tammy Faye. I so can't keep up. I've got way more ragamuffin in me than diva. I could totally drop the diva part if Brennan and Rich didn't totally own the ragamuffin thing. I mean, really. But hey, I'm just gonna say this because I think I've earned it after tonight, but I think I probably look better in false eyelashes than Brennan. He's got those big, blue eyes. I'll give him that. But I just think I can take him when it comes to false eyelashes. I'm sticking to that.

After that there was layer after layer of coloring with eye shadow. And then more layers. And then a few more. I think I am five pounds heavier from the eye make up. I am wearing attack eyelashes, five pounds of eye make-up, and all of this for what???

Because I really did love her.

I watched a really long, very un-Joan of Arcadia like documentary tonight, called Tammy Faye: Defying Dying. It was about her cancer journey. I saw such moxie in her. And that same love I wrote about the other day. It was still there in spades! I saw her afraid, courageous, sick, dying, and yet still going out to other dying people to make them feel better. And I wanted to be just like her when I grow up.

As I sat here trying to take picchas that would be good, and fun for this little tribute, I thought about Ms. Tammy Faye. I thought about how I've been feeling, and all those tears I shed these past few days, and if she were here with me, I'll bet, from all I saw on that documentary, and from all I saw from years of watching PTL, that she would take me in her arms, and tell me it didn't matter what that guy I sent that email to thought, and it didn't even matter what my husband thought. She would tell me I was pretty. And that I was pretty to Jesus. And maybe she would sing, You Can Make It, just like she did on PTL.

Did you ever hear the story of why Tammy started wearing all that make up? It's really simple. She just wanted to feel pretty. Same as me. Same as many of you, even some of you guys. She said the first time she put make-up on she immediately took it off thinking it was the devil's work. That's what she'd been led to believe all her life. Then she thought about it, and said to herself, "But if it makes me feel pretty, why not? What's wrong with it?"

I don't know. I think she had a point. Now, everything pretty ain't right! If your grandmama didn't tell you that, I don't mind telling you, but everything pretty ain't wrong. Just think of buttercups, and butterflies, and the gardenia in Lady Day's hair. I think Tammy Faye knew that sometimes a girl needs to feel pretty, and she was here to tell us, God ain't mad at us for that.

Here's another thing she said, "There has to be mascara in Heaven. If there isn't, God won't know me!" Ha! Even if He does, nobody else will! There had better be! And I hope it's really, really good mascara.

So, one last time, I just want to give her a little love to send her off. I'm burning a candle for you, pretty girl. I'll bet you are looking pretty/awesome right now. And this last piccha is for you, because despite all my tears these last few days, while I was fighting with eyelashes, I had a respite from my sorrow. And when I was taking picchas for this silly tribute, which I mean with my whole heart, I had more fun that I've had for days, and you got a real smile and some happiness out of me. You were pretty good at that Tammy Faye. You made this sad, middle-aged, black woman, whose physical beauty is fading every day, and who was wearing a ridiculous amount of make-up, feel very, very pretty.

Thanks again. Hope to hug you in Heaven one day. Pray for me, Tammy Faye. I wore my angel wing earrings for you, but I wore the black ones, because, um, I'm still me, and I don't have hot pink ones. And will you do one thing for me? Tell Jesus I missed Him a whole lot this week, and there were moments when, just a little, I wished I were home with you and Him.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Summer Reading Meme

I got tagged for this cool summer reading meme by my pal and literary love, Lisa Samson. This one seems like a lot of fun, though it does make me feel horribly not well read. Feel free to join in.

* Bold the ones you’ve read.
* Italicize the ones you want to read.
* Leave in normal text the ones that don’t interest you.
* Put in ALL CAPS those you haven’t heard of.
* Put a couple of asterisks by the ones you recommend.

Like Lisa, I put a ++ by those I started but didn't finish.
and I'm totally cheating and bolding if I saw the movie, because most of the time I saw the movie and read the book, and most of the time the book was way better (although honestly, the first Harry Potter movie was about as magical as the book. Really.)

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)

2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

5. The Lord of the Rings:Return of the King (Tolkein) **

6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings (Tolkein) **

7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)

10. A FINE BALANCE (Rohinton Mistry)

11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)**

12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)

13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix** (Rowling)

14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)

16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)**

17. FALL ON YOUR KNEES (Ann-Marie MacDonald)

18. The Stand (Stephen King)

19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)**

20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)++

22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)**

23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)**

25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)**

27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)**

29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)**

31. Dune (Frank Herbert)

32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)

33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

34. 1984 (Orwell)**

35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)


37. THE POWER OF ONE (Bryce Courtenay)

38. I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)

39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)

42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) This one is on my to be read very soon list!

43.Confessions of a Shopahaulic (Sophie Kinsella)

44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) **

45. The Bible ** ++ ha! yeah, I know. It's a little confusing. But I've read it, and I haven't. I just got the Renovare Study Bible and The Jerusalem Bible. I plan to read those books that weren't in my bible before. Books like Judith! And Baruch! and Maccabees! I just love that word, Maccabees!

46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)**

48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)

51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)

52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)**

53. ENDER'S GAME (Orson Scott Card)

54. Great Expectations (Dickens)

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

56. THE STONE ANGEL (Margaret Laurence)

57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)**

58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) **

59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) I really want to read this.

62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)++ Okay, do all smart people read this, or what???

64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) I read this when I was shockingly young. There's a vampire named Claudia!

5. FIFTH BUSINESS (Robertson Davies)

66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) This has been on my must read list forever.

67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)**

68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) I so need to read this.

70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)** Loved this whimsical book.

71. Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding)**

72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) Another must read, why haven't I read this yet?

73. Shogun (James Clavell)

74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)

75. The Secret Garden(Frances Hodgson)

76. THE SUMMER TREE (Guy Gavriel Kay)

77. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith)**

78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)

79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)

80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)** I read this when I was about eleven. The first novel I read as a young child was called Whore Daughter. I must have been about seven years old. Why, I ask, oh why wasn't this lying around my house for me to read then????

81. NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE (Timothy Findley)

82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)**

83.Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

84. WIZARD'S FIRST RULE (Terry Goodkind)

85. Emma (Jane Austen)

86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)

87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)••

88. THE STONE DIARIES (Carol Shields)

89. BLINDNESS (Jose Saramago)

90. KANE AND ABEL (Jeffrey Archer)

91. IN THE SKIN OF A LION (Michael Ondaatje)

92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)**

93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)

94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)** I just read this a few months ago. Magnificent! Highly recommended. One of my favorite books ever.

95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)

96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)**

97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)**

99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)

100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

The Unpretty Moment

I sinned.
And it had something to do with this piccha.

I love this piccha. I took it the day I bleached my hair. I bleached my hair for my husband. You may not be able to tell from this photo, but I was wretchedly miserable the day I took this picture. I had told Ken I was going to separate from him, and I hadn't made such a drastic decision in 10 years of our 11 year marriage.

Sometimes you change something on the outside because it just seems easier than all the stuff that needs repairing on the inside. I took the picture because Ken and I were barely speaking to each other. I wanted to stun him. I asked the girlfriends how it looked. I told them it was my last ditch effort to get his attention. I wanted to look pretty. I had to lie down in my bed and hold the computer just so to get the lighting effect right. The camera on my iMac is kinda crappy. The light in my bedroom is not so hot. I wanted the piccha to look good. The girlfriend's were all praying. They thought I did good.

Tonight, for whatever reason, after a long day of work, I had an unpretty moment. I thought of someone I should not think of. Ever. I sent this piccha to him. No text. Just this piccha. I have had my heart broken by this person more times that I like to think about. His foot print is imprinted on my heart. If I were capable of hating a human being, he and demon lover would be the very two humans I would hate, and he never laid a violent hand on me. But he did damage, lovies. A lot of damage to this woman's soul. I had this strange moment of anger and I sent him my one damned pretty picture. My best shot. Just to show him. I don't know what it was. Maybe for a moment I just wanted his approval. Something. But you know. I won't get it. And after I pushed that send button I knew it. He won't think I'm pretty. Not at all. And then I got so sad, and angry at myself for that moment of weakness. And even as I type this I feel so sad that I'm just crying for Mair because there are some people who don't deserve my attention and I just keep giving it to them anyway. And that's just tragic.

Yesterday, at Art Fair, I picked up this booklet about Padre Pio, and it had this wonderful prayer in it that touched my heart so much, and today, oddly, that same prayer came in the mail unexpectedtly, from a whole different source for me today. I don't think there are any coincidences in the kingdom of God. Not that kind. So, it has to be my prayer. It sure does work for me, especially in this very unpretty moment right now.

My brothers and sisters in Christ. Forgive me for such a silly, foolish error in my most unpretty moment.

Here's my, and Padre Pio's prayer:

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have you present so that I do not forget you. You know how easily I abandon you.

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need your strength that I may not fall so often.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without you, I am in darkness.

Stay with me Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow you.

Stay with me Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.

Stay with me Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.

Stay with me Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late, and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgment, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and forget that I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.

Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the Light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.

Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love.

Stay with me, Jesus. I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You!

Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.

With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. Amen.

And I'll say one more time, because I don't think you said it enough Padre Pio, STAY WITH ME JESUS.

Amen, Amen, Amen.

Thanks for listening, y'all.
silly, ridiculous, very human and frail Mair
p.s. I dyed my hair black again two days ago. I was so over being blonde.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Goodbye, Tammy Faye

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died today at the age of 65. I loved Tammy Faye. I remember watching her on the PTL club when I was young in the Lord and I believed everything the bore the name of Jesus was good and right just because it said so. I believed all televangelist and faith healers back then. And if you said you were a Christian you just were. I was innocent, in as much as I could be. It was just like God said of some things in the first few chapters of Genesis: good!

Tammy Faye made Jim look good! She wore too much make-up and she laughed too loud and said crazy things and made you love her. She was colorful and wild. I didn't appreciate her nearly as much then as I would now. Now I would cheer for her. I would raise my wine glass to her. I would buy copious amounts of Maybelline, the kind in the pink bottle, in her honor.

I didn't see the Larry King interview, but when I heard she'd died, I went back and read some news articles and saw some clips. There was a short clip on her on King and I couldn't believe the emaciated shell of her that remained. I cried when I saw that clip of her. I was so sorry to see her that way. And even at the end, she had her spunk. After all she had gone through, the scandal, the losses, the drug addiction, the messy divorce, the remarriage, she never lost who she was. She stayed Tammy Faye through it all. She kept wearing too much mascara, and she kept loving Jesus, and she kept loving people, too. For all the bad press she got, a little known fact is she is one of the first Christians who actively reached out to minister compassionately to victims of AIDS. We still need to step of to the plate there, both at home and abroad, Lord, have mercy! And may we, His followers, have mercy! And as she was dying, the message she left behind was this, "I'd like to say that I genuinely love you, and I genuinely care, and I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace. I want you to find joy." Even as she was dying she was still trying to give love. I think we can learn a little something from that. Here's to a heckuva broad, who lived authentically when it wasn't popular yet, a wild woman before her time, who loved joyfully, crazily, with wonderfully wacky abandon, kinda like you know Jesus did. They don't make 'em like you anymore, Tammy Faye. May your memory be eternal.

I found this piccha of her on the net. This is how I want to remember her. Looking amazing, with big hair and a big illuminated CROSS right behind her.

I pray that she is at rest. That Jesus is giving her big, crazy love. I pray that they have really good mascara in heaven, and fabulous lip liner. I'm going to put on mourning clothes for Tammy Faye, because she was a big part of my spiritual formation. But you can bet my eyes are gonna look fabulous. For our Tammy Faye.

She would have wanted it that way. I can just hear her singing with the PTL Club singers:

"I'm only human, I'm just a woman
Help me believe in what I could be
And all that I am.
Show me the stair way, I have to climb.
Lord for my sake, teach me to take
One day at a time."


"One day at a time sweet Jesus
That's all I'm asking from you.
Just give me the strength
To do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord help me today, show me the way
One day at a time."

Man, Tammy Faye, I'm gonna miss you, girl.

photo by Greg Gorman.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Prayer for Guidance

Tonight, or rather, this morning, because it's almost 4 am, I'm winding down from a long night of writing. And no, I don't write all night. I've been having migraines, and so I write, and then push the laptop to Ken's side of the bed (if he's not here) and I sleep, and then I wake up and pick it up again (if Ken's not here ::wink, wink::) and I write again.

It gets pretty exhausting to write book after book. I mean, Flannery O'Connery took three years to write a short story! Writing novels in mere weeks may have killed her. I think it's killing me sometimes. And writing a book that does any exposing the enemy of your soul is a guaranteed way to get on his hit list. And he don't give you no slack, lemme tell you. I wondered why suddenly I was sicker, more tired, irritable, wanted to do God only knows what sin, and my marriage was in the toilet all at the same time. And then it dawned on me, perhaps somebody is a little pissy at me for exposing his tricks. Yeah, well. Somebody's gotta do it.

But that doesn't make me any less human. I've tried to step up the prayers, but sometimes, especially when I'm all headachy and writing like a machine, a girl just gets tired. So here I am, it's almost 4 am, and I put on a little monk rock, heavy on the monk. Y'all know I'm a big St. Francis lover, and I got this way crazy hard to find Troubadour of the Great King CD by John Michael Talbot, Mr. Monk Rock, himself. I got this because the groovy movie Brother Sun Sister Moon doesn't have a soundtrack.

Now, there's the requisite skipping through the daisies fare you'd expect from any self-respecting St. Francis music CD. And I loved it. But then it goes to this other section called, in BOLD CAPS no less, THE CHURCH. I was already involved, so it was too late for me to stop the CD, plus it was way too early in the morning for my bold capped churchy censors to be on anyway. Thank God for that, because I heard this numinous--and it had to be good, because how often do you hear me use the word "numinous"--prayer that Talbot sang gracing my ears.

The words were, quite simply:

Most High and glorious God
Bring Light to the darkness of my heart
Give me right faith certain hope
And perfect charity

Lord give me insight and wisdom
So I might always discern
Your holy and true will

And then he sang it again, this time in harmony, and it sounded even more beautiful and heavenly in that lovely community spirit. I could just imagine Francis and his brothers, singing it in their utter poverty. I tried to envision how they had come to love sister poverty so, and you know what? I cannot even imagine it. I am still asking God what my life verse, blessed are the poor in spirit means. I've been asking for three years, and I still haven't began to know. Maybe this prayer of Francis will begin to unlock her secrets.

I don't know. I only know that I feel calmer now. Blessed by this lovely prayer. St. Augustine said , "He who sings his prayers prays twice." I am grateful to have doubly prayed before I lay me down to sleep.

Goodnight lovies. Or good morning. Good God morning.


Icon written by Eileen McGuckin

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One BIG happy Mair, or three

Okay, you asked for it. This is planet Mair. OY! It's big! And, uh, I'll have what she's having.

I'll have what she's having, too!
Here's me and The Ragamuffin, again. Okay, do I look happy on this photograph or what?

Thanks Terry, for the wonderful photos, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Adventures at ICRS

Okay, so I'm back from ICRS where I signed ARCs for Zora and Nicky: a Novel in Black and White. Cool cover, eh? And I'm happily exhausted and ready to dig in with The Exorsistah and finish it in like, 2 weeks before I move back to Inkster, and that's a whole different blog. We'll go there later, but for now, let me tell you my adventures.

I already told you I got to spend some time with The Ragamuffin himself. I got to spend even more time later, basking in his glow. And I heard ol' fancy pants speak. That's one powerful man o' God. He had a room full of people in tears. And I found out who makes those pants, Elysa. She's so my new best friend. And I'm so getting a pair. 'Cause I'm the girl Brennan, and I need me some patchy, wacky pants.

Oh, yeah, remember when I said I was going to let the Litany of Humility be my meditation? I so failed constantly, including just now. I mean, I wore a leopard dress and hooker heels to the Christy Awards. If that isn't a breech of humility I don't know what is. I believe I said on a few occasions, "I'm a RAWK STAR, but I mean that in the most humble, Christian way." You so can't be a humble, Christian RAWK STAR. But I felt so loved, I think God allowed me one or two rock star moments.

And I repent.

Girl Brennan Manning? I must be on drugs. Or need to be.

Now that my sins are taken care of, I can tell you that I met another literary love that I just got introduced to: Robert Benson. I just happened to notice he was sitting with my Scottish cousin Liz Higgs (she's my for-pretend cousin, though I really am of Irish/Scot heritage--of the blackalicous kind). He's a fabulous author, so funny, and winsome and terrific. I knew from his blog that he's very shy, so of course I tried to tone down the raga-d, though I gushed over him, me, this big ol' black, blonde in a leopard dress. He said, "I can only take about 25 minutes of it." What a peach! And his even more fabulous wife, literary agent Sara Fortenberry was next to him. He speaks about her with such love, grace, and admiration in his books. You feel like you know her and love her just as much. And she's amazing. She's a broad--a woman with power, grace, and strength, comfortable in her own skin. I just wanted to sit with her and learn. Later I saw Sara and she gave me tips for my television interview. She's AWESOME!

And remember that Big Honkin' Piccha I told you I had so much anxiety about? The one where I asked you to vote on what I should do with my hair. Braids or 'fro? And then I ended up going with a "braid 'fro"? Well, it turns out that I had plenty of reason to be anxious. That was not a picture. It was a planet! It was a jumbotron. It was an existential nightmare. And I'm laughing hysterically on the picture. I'm not even calm and restrained and normal. I'm having like, a seizure on that picture. And it's almost as big as Canada. I will be traumatized for the rest of my life by it.

No, really.

Let me give you an idea of the scale of it. And no, I didn't take a picture of it, or by it. Ken didn't like that either. He thought I totally dropped the ball on something historic. But I didn't have the heart to go near it. I'll show you a picture of the booth and Tom Davis' handsome picture. My piccha is behind his. You won't see much of me from this angle, Thank God. But the scale? Check out the size of humans. And the size of planet big honkin' frightening piccha:

People kept going up to the booth and saying, "Who is that woman?" And let me tell you, probably more than a few thought, "I'll have what she's having." God help us. Enormous piccha of me laughing in my braid 'fro? Another humility failure, just on principle.

I met Kathy Helmers, someone who I've wanted to meet for almost a year. She's even better than I imagined she'd be. I can't WAIT to see what God does with our friendship. And I saw my local pal Donna Kehoe. She put together a magnificent Christy Awards program where I got to cheer for one of my best buds Lisa Samson, who is always a winner to me. Wow! This year's banquet was even better than last year. Lauren Winner was guest speaker. And my dear literary love Phyllis Tickle got the Inaugural Christy Lifetime Achievement Award. Go, mama Phyllis!

Again, I didn't take picchas. So just, like, imagine photos going with the excessive, completely lacking in humility name dropping I'm doing here.

I also met some other big time literary loves, namely, the fabulous Debbie Macomber. In another conspiracy of grace my friend Wendy made sure I was strategically placed in chatting distance from The Queen of Popular Beloved Fiction. I got to tell her how much I loved her book Changing Habits and read it several times. Of course, that would be her least successful book, but I loved it ANYWAY! And Wendy laughed and said "That book would be your favorite." Which just goes to show you. But I also loved the Shirley, Goodness and Mercy books and Knitting books, and so many others. I love that she just does what she does and makes readers so very happy. She's made me happy many a day. And I love her Christmas books. Debbie is fun, and funny. And sassy! She's totally my new best friend!

Then I met total RAWK STAR humanitarian writer pure, undefiled religion practitioner Tom Davis. He's the author of the must read, The Red Letters. For us, a journey of several thousand miles begins at... Starbucks. Tom, Matt Monberg and I, and had a fantastic chat full of laughter and passion. Tom gave me the commission to be one voice among what he hopes will be many for orphans and widows. And I am on my way to Swaziland! And the Lord, my great and wonderful Lover, touched the heart of an anonymous donor and I'm GOING with my trip paid for in advance by someone who know something about doing one's alms in secret! Teach me, Jesus! I'll tell you the story about my desire to go to Africa and how... Well, that story for later. But I promise I'll tell it one day.

My agent Chip Macgregor and I had dinner. He suggested a fabulous meal of melt in your mouth baked halibut and fried shrimp on a bed of rice and veggies. And told the servers he was my DAD! We kept the illusion going, 'cause who wouldn't want to be his kid? We talked shop and I felt renewed in my passion to write the message God gave me. My own, ragamuffin diva brand Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for me.

I also got to sit with my pal Siri Mitchell and chat over some huge cheese danishes. I am a huge Siri fan. We only got to pass by one another last year. It was a pleasure to be with her.

I got to spend time with diva extraordinaire Dr. Gail Hayes. What a powerhouse! And my good buddy and shoe rescuer Marilynn Griffith keep me up all night with laughter and too much trouble. Mary tells about my prophetic shoe adventures here. We saw Dee Steward at the Christy Awards, while I still had my shoes. She looked lovely as ever, and the fine gentleman accompanying her walked us to Mary's rental car on the dark side.

Other pals I saw include Kim Stuart, Melody Carlson, Ginger Garrett, Anita Renfroe, Mary DeMuth, Camy Tang, Gina Holmes, Ane Mulligan, Rachelle Gardner, Colleen Coble and Kris Billerbeck, Brandilyn Collins, and that editor who never, ever buys my work, Dave Long and his lovely wife Sarah. I got to chat with Neta Jackson and the Rock Stars at The Design Works Group who truly Rawk HARD and designed the fabulous cover for Zora and Nicky. Ain't it grand, y'all? <---- ginormous lack of humility.

I had more adventures. Too many to tell. Didn't mean to leave anybody out, but I'm sure I did. Sorry.

Oh, Lord. I need to shut up now.

Anyway, I had a great time. If anybody sends pictures I'll share some. For now, just go with the imaginary ones.

God was so good to me, even though I wasn't very humble. I haven't laughed so much or loved so much or been so loved in a long time. No awfulizing before this trip. I knew I'd be butterflying, but I soared higher than I could have imagined, by that grace of Jesus Christ.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Unspeakably Amazing Incredible Ginormous Gift

Who is Mair smooching on this piccha???

Yesterday my good friends and publishing family members Don Pape and Terry Behimer surprised me with a conspiracy of grace. They orchestrated to pick me up at the airport in a big honkin' black stretch limo. My plane was supposed to arrive before theirs and according to my schedule I had to wait a bit before I would meet them, but Don and Terry would be worth the wait.

Let me give you a little history about Don and Terry. Don and I go waaaaaaaay back to Ancient Days in 2004, back when I was stealing Today's Christian Woman from the hospital surgical waiting room--thought I'm inclined to think stealing is a strong word for the conspiracy of grace of the person who left those there for me to take home with me freely. As in free! Anyway, it was that Teddy Bear who nudged by Lisa Samson took a peek over here in raga-land and sent me an email asking me if I'd be interested in writing a novel for his publishing house. He ended up becoming a literary agent three weeks after I finished the novel and represented it instead of publishing it. When he became publisher again and my career appeared to have imploded, Don Pape, the day after that awful call, emailed me and with the second best offer of my career, and that is how Zora and Nicky was born.

Terry has been one of the strongest allies I could have in the publishing business. Not only does she proclaim Mair wheresoeever she goes, she is both a mentor and friend. There are few people in this world I love more, and when I don't hear her voice and too much time has passed I genuinely crave her. I could go on and on about Terry, but in true girlfriend fashion, well, you just keep some girlfriend stuff between girlfriends.

We also waited for Andrea Christian. She is a young powerhouse, and daughter of another Christian book industry powerhouse Rick Christian. I love Andrea, too. We always have fun together and it's been a joy to work with her on Zora and Nicky. So thinking I'd share the limo with just these three was plenty cool with me. And then Terry mentions there's just one more person. She hopes I don't mind...

It's the guy I'm smooching there. I'm sure some of you recognize him already, that rascal. He was wearing a pink shirt, and what Terry called "wacky pants." They were some throwbacks: a pair of windowpane pants that matched the shirt. They were a plaidesque pink and green and yellow and light blue and white. His suit case was black and I had a pink laptop bag. I was wearing black pants and a zebra top, so of course I asked if we could switch outfits. He said those pants were 15 years old! And somebody offered him five hundred bucks for them! I told them I couldn't afford that because Terry didn't give me big enough advances. And that made him laugh. Then Andrea started in on feeding him peanut butter ice-cream--you all missed that story--to distract him and get the pants off of him. Now that was Andrea talking about getting the man out of his pants. It was not me this time.

Anyway, he's working on a memoir for David C. Cook, and I asked him how it was going. He said he thought it would be pretty boring. He said that his friend is Francis McNutt, and I know McNutt's writings. He said told me about the miracles. And he doesn't have miracles. And I was astounded, not because he doesn't have miracles, but because this man's writing has infused every word that I write here. EVERY WORD. So I took a few moments to tell him how much he meant to me. And how The Ragamuffin Gospel came to me when I was so messed up. And I told him how hard life was for me, and how other peoples expectations for a 16-year-old missionary had me so beat down by the time I was 30 I felt like I my title was "God's Biggest Disappointment." I wanted to cry as I told him this, but I stayed strong to tell my story better.

I told him that it is the ordinary messes he touches. People who don't need to read about a miracle, but who need to know that God loves them just as they are. I couldn't even hold my head up in my Heavenly Father's House. And that is tragic. It is a shame to feel too a weary to be loved on by God in what should be your spiritual home. I told that man he taught me that I was okay with God. More than okay really. Loved.

Isn't that a kind of miracle if you truly don't believe it?

Isn't that the Gospel? To me, that God loved me, even though I'd messed up like a dog returning to it's own vomit, and God still LOVED ME... that was GOOD NEWS.

I told him these things, and it was one of the best times of my life. And I think it blessed him. When I finished he said, "Holy mackerel."

When we got to the hotel I asked if I could take a piccha on my computer. I knew it would be a wacky picture because it's hard to hold the computer and smooch. Andrea had to hold the computer, but she couldn't see the image and we had to try a couple of times--poor me. I had to kiss that man, like at least twice! (wink) But this was how I wanted it. Right on my own computer. Because I love my computer. And I love my friends. And I love that they knew I'm his biggest fan. And I mean it's a LEGEND how much I'm his biggest fan. I even got to tell him about putting "my cheese has fallen off it's cracker" on my header. For those who haven't read the book, that's from the introduction to The Ragamuffin Gospel. And of course you all should know by now that the name Ragamuffin Diva itself is a tribute of sorts to my hero.

Yes, ma'am. Yes sir. You see it right here. On a historic day, an Amazing Day, 7/7/07 God let his ragamuffin diva, a seventh born child, at long last meet her hero, the one and only:

Mr. Brennan Manning.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Time To Be Humble

Today I'm going to Hotlanta for the Internation Christian Retail Show. Lots of exciting events are going to be happening, and honestly, I'm glad I'll be attending this year.

But it wasn't always so.

If you had told me in say, November of 2006 I'd be there, you may have gotten a can of whoop--ahem, opened on you. Let's just say I was a little sensitive back then. Weeks before my second Amanda Bell Brown mystery was suppose to hit the shelves, I found out it wouldn't be hitting the shelves. Without going into the painful details, I'll just say something happened. It was bad for me. I don't think I've ever taken such a hard hit to my self-esteem as a writer. One particular sad fall morning I told Jesus I would never write fiction, or professionally again. It hurt too much. And I meant it. It took some serious wooing on His part to draw me back to what He knew I loved. And I truly believed only He could have talked me into at the time. It was that hard for me. I was that hurt, and that finished with it.

What was worse is that I couldn't really talk about it here where I talk about so much of my life. People thought they were ordering my book, and they waited, and I could say nothing to them here knowing they wouldn't get it. And then I started getting the flood of emails asking why Amazon said they couldn't fulfill the orders. Why wasn't I talking about my books? Why no posts on my Amazon blog? Just silence. And slowly I begin to tell a little, but mostly I told I was moving to somewhere else. And by God's grace, that's exactly what I did.

I moved to two somewhere else's in fact, and one of those publishers, David C. Cook is sharing me this weekend at ICRS. I'll be signing ridiculously advanced copies of Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. And as much as I didn't want to be, I'm excited. And I'm scared. I wrote it in a blaze, and when I was done I felt rode hard and hung up wet. There were parts that were painful to write, and God knows I had to be brave to face the ugliness of some of that story, but oh, lovies, there is beauty there, too. At least I tried to put some there. I failed some. But I tried. There is a little loveliness there.

And that brings me back to another painful thing. Awards. I'm going to The Christy Awards Banquet. I went last year, and my friend Donna Kehoe introduced me as a BRAND NEW NOVELIST. I stood, shaking, but trying not to show it, and I thought to myself, next year they'll be judging my book. Next year maybe I'll be here with my friends. And some of us will get honors. Maybe even me. Claudia Mair Burney, Christy Award Winning Author!

That won't happen this year. My book won't get honors because no Christy Award judges read it--not officially. It couldn't be entered because it was as if it was never published at the other publishing house. In some way it was just...erased. And the copies that already sold, they are like what David C. Cook will be giving away on Monday. Advanced reader copies, even though they weren't advanced reader copies. They were null and voided so to speak. But there's something to be said about fresh starts. I could change somethings. Maybe they'll be better. Or not. It's really hard for me to see that clearly. Maybe I'll have my day in 2009. Maybe not. By 2009, I doubt if I'll care if Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man gets an award. I've written 5 books now. I'm writing the sixth. The first one seems so far away from me. I did edits on it recently, and it was odd. It felt like an antique in my soul.

But there was this day, when I saw the nominees for the Christy Awards this year. There was that flash of jealousy. That unrighteous thought that my book was good enough. That clawing thought that in some cases my book was better, and I'm ashamed that I thought it, even for a moment. Every writer in the category I would have been placed in has been writing longer than I have. Those writers paid their dues. They're good at what they do, deserving the honor they got. And who I am? For a moment I believed my own press. And beloved that's never prudent or wise. It will take me years to develop as a writer. I saw that when I wrote this last book. I'm not the writer I want to be. All I can do is work and pray that one day I will grow to be a better writer. That will take a lot of praying and a lot of working and writing. A LOT! I may not see a Christy or any other award, y'all. I think I should count myself blessed that people read my books. Or even this ridiculous blog.

So, I am going to Hotlanta deferring to my sisters and brothers who God saw fit to exhalt, worthily, no doubt, even as He humbled me. And I needed to be humbled. And I will count it joy to be where God wants me to be, because though I couldn't see it then, it's clear to me now that God orchestrated all things for my good. He never left me. He asked for my obedience before the bad thing happened, and I joyfully gave it to Him. He never said I would not suffer. But His rewards after the suffering... Oh my, they are immeasurable. And besides, I'm a BRAND NEW NOVELIST. I have yet to learn, or earn my chops. If God is with me, and I believe He is, He'll give me the grace to grow a career. And it will take time. Lots of time. Work. Prayer.

And love and humility.

Check out this Litany of Humility. It will be my constant meditation on this journey:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

      - Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

P.S. I totally had to look up the word calumniated! Talk about being humbled!


Hey, if you're at ICRS consider stopping by the David C. Cook Booth #1547 on Monday, July 9, at 2:30 pm. Come and let me give you a hug. I'd love to see you.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Go Blondie!

My blog is so lame.

Hey y'all. I know I've been quiet. I left y'all hanging with my marriage "healing". Yeah. That's still, uh, "healing." And I'm busy wishing I was actually writing my new WIP (work-in-progress) The Exorsistah. I have no words for anything else, including this blog, so I'll guess I'll just tell you something kinda fun.

I RAWK! So sez one of my BFF's Heather Diane Tipton. She nominated me for Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. Woo hoo! Thanks, pumpkin.

I'd like to thank the Rockin' Girl Academy for this award. And Heather. And Jesus! Thank you, Lord, for this esteemed award. I'd like to thank my family. And my first English teacher. And my last English teacher. And my agent, Chip. And both my publishers Howard Books/Simon and Schuster and David C. Cook. And all my friends and supporters. You like me. You really, really like me!

Now I have to nominate five Rockin' Girl Bloggers. Now, many of my fav bloggers have already been nominated, so it wasn't easy to come up with 5, but I had to go with bloggers I love and visit most. Here goes. I nominate:

My favorite writers and BFF's Marilynn Griffith, Lisa Samson, and Alison Strobel.

And these next ladies? These are some seriously crafty chica's and lovies. They make me feel my creative best. And they love God, too!

Shanna Philipson
Erin Wilson
Kristine Mays

My sister and spiritual twin, and brand new blogger Carlean "Carly" Smith. She is a lioness that teaches me how to be brave. Go give her some big ragamuffin love y'all.

And finally, my favorite girlfriend who isn't a girl. He just loves me so well! Don't be offended, Steve. I'm giving you big kudos here. You know we are crazy cool! And you know we are crazy. And you know we just... are.
His writing is astounding, and lovely, and magnificent. So do check him out.

And yeah, I also know that was more than five. And that Steve isn't a girl.
What an insurrectionist I am! But you all knew that.

Love you, and talk to you in a few days when I'll write my angst filled post about going to ICRS.