Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Weight of Shadows: A Weighty, Beautiful Novel

There are two reasons why I loved my bff-lovie Alison Strobel Morrow's newest novel, The Weight of Shadows before I ever read a word of it: first, it's dedicated to me! Yes, lovies, Ali loves me that much. Okay, seriously, it deals with a woman in an abusive relationship. She knows I've been there, done that, a wear the scars, some of them physical, but most of them on the deep soul level. What a wonderful honor to be remembered by such an amazing writer, and such an important work. The second reason I loved this book before I read it is because Alison Strobel Morrow is a writer to watch for years to come, a storyteller along the lines of another bff lovie of mine, Lisa Samson, and she wields the pen mightily in this novel.

Right away you like the characters, and I must say, immediately the tension begins. I just knew that darned Rick would be trouble! And oh boy, was he ever. Alison takes you right into the pain, but she also offers the way out for most battered women: through a community--albeit sometimes a surprising community--of people who care enough to want to see you through to the other side. And that's where the real work begins.

The Weight of Shadows is, quite simply, superlative Christian fiction that will grip, move, challenge and delight you. Alison, girlfriend, I'm so proud of you. Well done!

Here's the stuff from the back of the book:

After a difficult childhood, Kim has built a successful life for herself. She'd leave it all, though, if she could be rid of her guilt over a tragic mistake she made years ago. When she meets Rick, she finds everything she needs, even a way for her to pay for her sins.

Kim and Rick's new neighbor, Joshua, knows more than Kim realizes about Rick, but Joshua has battles of his own to fight. Having already lost his wife and his job, he risks giving his in-laws the ammunition they need to gain custody of his daughter if he gets involved.

Debbie, who has saved countless women through the shelter she runs, has the power to help, but she might be as desperate for love as the women she serves. Ultimately, Kim must decide if her penance is more important than protecting an innocent life - and if she should dare leave Rick when he has the power to bring her hidden crime to light.

A gripping novel, The Weight of Shadows explores how the choices we make - and the courage we find to forgive - can touch the lives of others forever.

Monday, June 28, 2010

No Ways Tired

"I don't feel no ways tired. I've come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me."

Even as I type these words tears sting my eyes. We began this evening with Mass, or what lead praise dancer, Judy Lagier, called a BIG celebration. Big celebration is also the name of the Malian dance the graceful young women did to worship. I wish you could have seen them in their kente cloth covered leotards, and Ms. Lagier had to be most elegant (at 62!). There were drummers, and a choir so powerful the angels must have paused to listen. I was home at last.

The priest told us in his homily that none of us were there by accident, but rarely have I believed such liberating words. I've worn mourning clothes since I left Raphael, but tonight my Father who rescued me from that situation, gave me back my color. Tonight I feel like I'm spinning around in a Kaleidoscope with color exploding in my soul. I didn't put on the garment of praise. Not myself. My Father gently held out his hand and I simply handed over the spirit of heaviness. It was he who cloaked me in the grace colored, brand new gear.

For the first time in a long time,as the beloved spiritual says, I don't feel no ways tired. The story behind me seems so much less compelling than the one before me, and I feel beautiful through and through.

I don't believe he bought me this far to leave me.

Thank you getting me here, friends. I am so very grateful.


mair francis

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Will You Join Me in My New Adventure?

Hey lovies,

Last time I wrote I told you about the incredible opportunity I got to get a scholarship from Xavier University's Institute for Black Catholic Studies. I asked if any of you would be interested in helping me get there. If I may lay out things for you for a moment, a few months ago, I had a check stolen and fraudulently cashed. The time that it took for the for the bank to investigate was rough on my family. We got far behind in bills--we were far behind even if the check had not be stolen. By the time it was replaced we had a lot of fires to put out. Fortunately, we are now fire free, and I have to admit, we did a few things we enjoyed, too. Just a few. I really didn't think I'd be accepted into the program this year. And be given a scholarship at that! So, I wasn't prepared for this, although I'm thrilled. My friend Alison said God's fingerprints are all over this one, and it's so true, but I still a little help.

There are several expenses the scholarship doesn't cover, as well what it will cost for me to travel there and back. They're out of reach right now. I know God will provide, but most likely he will use people to do so. So, I'm inviting you, if you feel so led, to be one of those people. I'm getting a Master of Theology degree, with the hopes of being able to serve you, and my sweet Lord Jesus, even more, and hopefully better. If you'd like to join me in my new adventure, please click on the Chipin Widgit to the right. You'll be investing in my ministry by helping me get to Xavier, and to pay some fees I couldn't handle with out you. I'm soooo grateful.

Another option is you can buy an autographed copy of God Alone is Enough from me for $15.00 plus $5.00 shipping. You can send a check (quickly!) or pay via paypal. Email me for details at claudia.mair.burney@gmail.com

I have one more option, lovies. My friend Alison also suggested that I offer Sunshine Abbey soulcare appointments by phone or chat. They'd regularly be $40.00 for an hour, but you can get one for half-price, or two for the price of one. I'd have to schedule you after I return in mid July, but if you can wait til then, I certainly can.

Some of you will help me simply through prayer. Lovies, I sure do need it. I am totally grateful for any love-soaked contribution, especially if it's prayer you're offering.

Many thanks. I'm packing as if God is already doing it, for surely he is.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BIG NEWS!!! In all caps!!! With lots of !!!s Make that VERY BIG NEWS!!!!!

OMGosh, y'all! On ZZ's birthday I found out I was accepted into Xavier University's Institute for Black Catholic Studies. I's about to get me some edumacation y'all, and start on my Master of Theology degree, going three weeks each summer for about five years. Let me tell you what a hail Mary pass this was. About three weeks ago, I was in session with my spiritual director. I was going on and on about the awful stuff from my past that keeps showing up in my present. Lordy mercy things are a little (a lot) messy now in a sistah's soul. I love that he didn't tell me to "get over it." Of course, I totally need to get over it, but the fact is, that isn't particularly easy. So what he did was give me an assignment. Fr. Thul is a Jesuit, so his spirituality is firmly Ignatian. Those of you who are reading God Alone is Enough may have seen the endorsement of another Jesuit I know and love, Fr. James Martin. I'd started reading Fr. Jim's book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. The book is about Ignatian spirituality, which the faithful to see God's action in everything. God IS in everything, and even before I read Fr. Jim's book, he'd told me on Facebook to follow my desire to do the Spiritual Exercises. So I got myself a spiritual director he recommended, and we began. Only I had all this crap in my head. So I had to start very small. Not get over it, but do one thing, and one thing alone.

Fr. Thul told me that I had to narrow my field of vision so that I could only see this one spectacular thing. I expected that to be the beautiful face of my Beloved. Fr. Thul pulled a fast one on me, however. The one spectacular person I was to look at was not Jesus, but myself. He said to only look at what is good about me.

Uhhhhh. Right. But I began. I'm still working on it, and it ain't easy!

Fr. Thul also told me, as an aside, to follow my desire. I want to work for Jesus. I have ever since I met him, and cried when I read Paul's words, "Let your women keep silent in the church." I want to work at my church and for my Church, and I want to study the things of God. I also want to be me, and see myself in the story of God, as authentically as possible. It's like my book cover. It could cause some people (poor, misguided souls) to think my book is "black", meaning that only black people will like it. But Thea Bowman taught me to embrace who I am--black and Catholic. She ditched her nuns habit for a dashiki dress. My daily habit is more like a black t-shirt and jeans, with a tattoo prominently (and permanently) scrolling across my arm announcing, "Christ still sends me roses." And too many bracelets. Let's not forget the saint bracelets. My publishing house put a black woman on the cover, because I, a black author, wrote it. They thought it suited me, and it isn't a "black" book, it's a book about prayer for anyone who wants to practice Christian prayer. Anyway, I left that spiritual direction session, and made two phone calls. One was to Lexington's seminary. Slam! The door closed so fast it almost blew my hair back. Then I called Xavier's IBCS's office. It was past the deadline. For everything. But oddly, my new guardian angel said, "Submit your paperwork anyway." I did, and against all odds, I'm in, and even got a scholarship. A good one. I start in eight days. My friends, THIS IS CRAZY.

So, I'll be gone for three weeks. I'm so excited I'm a little sick about it. And all pride aside, I'm taking donations from anybody who feels inclined to help me get to NOLA, and have the joy of actually eating. Things happened so fast, I could hardly prepare financially, but surely, if God has done all this, he'll provide.

I'd have told you about this yesterday, but my son got hit by a car. I know that sounds ridiculously awful, but the truth is, Kamau is fine. He's great lovies, and only ended up with a sprained ankle, and some body aches and pains. The Lord really is astounding in his goodness. His mercy endures forever. I wanted to tell you that I'm going to be going a little nuts getting ready to go to New Orleans, so bear with me. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, enjoy the blog tour. See the post below this one, or click here.

I love y'all so much!
And T., I still haven't made it to the post office! :(

Monday, June 14, 2010

Goodness Me! Where Did the Time Go!

Today was my baby's birthday, and we've been partying all afternoon. I totally forgot to tell you about the blog tour for God Alone is Enough. I've got a line up of fine folks, some of them among my favorite people. They'll be taking the book chapter by chapter. Think of this as the beginning of your journey with me and Teresa, whether or not you have the book (but do get the book!). Terry, your autographed copy will be mailed out on tomorrow.

Here are my tour stops:

June 15th – Chapter One
1. Katherine Bolger Hyde http://kbhyde.wordpress.com/
June 16th – Chapter Two
1. Amy Hackett www.wesuckatlife.com
June 17th – Chapter Three
1. Letitia Damron (facebook note)
June 18th – Chapter Four
June 19th – Chapter Five
1. Christy Lockstein http://christysbookblog.com
June 20th – Chapter Six
2. Alana Sheldahl  www.morningcoffee.blogspot.com 
June 21st – Chapter Seven
1. Linda Leigh Hargrove http://bookcookcraft.com
June 22nd – Chapter Eight
2. Kelly Hawkins www.khawkins.blogspot.com
June 23rd – Chapter Nine
June 24th – Chapter Ten
1. Melody  Rose Sproule  http://lovelilacs.blogspot.com/
June 25th – Chapter Eleven
2. Tracey Michae’l Lewis http://www.traceymlewis.com
June 26th – Chapter Twelve
June 27th – Chapter Thirteen
2. Paula Moldenhauer http://gracereign.blogspot.com/

See ya tomorrow!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Adventures in RBTE

 Okay, so I told you today I'd tell you about my time at RBTE, right? Well, I'll back up a bit first, and tell you that although good God things were happening, such as my announcing The Sunshine Abbey, I also felt the requisite jitters one feels when starting a new endeavor. Okay, so I felt craven fear. I was hoping I wouldn't have to admit that. Add to that the fact that I had few resources I had at the time, and a bout of epic self-pity colored my view until it looked like all my lovies were taking giant leaps while I was moving like molasses, I had all the makings of some soul drama. I felt so very unaccomplished, but the irony of this false feeling struck me as I was rushing to my parish one day, galley in hand, to set a date for my book signing. Um... people with books so fresh I had to give a galley to my deacon because my own copies were still at the printer are not "doing nothing." To say little of people who are setting up multiple book signings. But self-pity makes you think "poor me," no matter what you're doing. 

The fact is, and this is always true for me. I want to be loved. I don't mind getting love from you for writing you good books, and for awhile, I felt like I hadn't done much of that at all and, Lord, have mercy, I thought I'd lose you. So I needed to get away from the ordinary, to see it more clearly.

RBTE was new for me. Just before I went, my stray check FINALLY arrived. I made an investment in some much needed urban abbess(y) type gear. Inexpensive things, but lovely ones. Lovies, I may have spent the winter and spring raggedy, but I was a fine, fine thing in Chicago. I had my girl, Michelle Pendergrass, writer and editor extraordinaire, with me. Nothing like having a bff with you when you need one most. And bffs have a way of making you feel beautiful. (Mich suffered a terrible loss after we returned to our homes. Her mother passed away. Please pray for my dear friend, and the peaceful repose of her mom).

My signing was on Wednesday evening, and my day started with meeting my editor, Jon Sweeney. He'd lost an AMAZING 100 lbs since I saw him last. I'd gained a heckuva lot of tattoos. We were an interesting pair visually, Jon and me. Later, I met a couple of Community of Jesus monks who were working the booth for Paraclete Press. I LOVED these guys. Brother Richard and Brother Benedict. They were so good to me.

Anyway, for most of the morning I floated around oogling books, until lunch time when we all filed into a ballroom to hear Sr. Joan Chittister's speech. OMGosh, my friends. Her quotes have graced my Facebook page many times, but hearing her speak was as good as hearing Phyllis Tickle. Such a commanding presence! And honestly, I felt a foot taller after hearing her. I got in line for her to sign two of her recent releases, The Liturgical Year, and Uncommon Gratitude. When I reached Sr. Joan I said to her, "I love your work so much. I subscribe to your email newsletter, and I always quote you on Facebook." She lit up when I said that.

"I love it when I meet my Facebook people!"

I told her that I too, struggle to find my place in the Catholic Church, being a woman, black, and tattooed.

She nodded, wisdom and experience as a lifelong Catholic--one who has been known to get in trouble about women's issues--shining in her eyes. "Any one of those could cause a problem." She scribbled her autograph in Uncommon Gratitude.

"I hope I see you again," she said. My heart rejoiced. "Before the Resurrection," she clarified.

I laughed, hoping so myself, and praying that God would make it happen. What Sr. Joan wrote in my book was, "To Claudia, in whose allelujah eyes, true faith shines." I totally almost cried right then and there.

We all have are heroes and sheroes, old and new. She is a newer one, and oh, what a pleasure it was to tell her what her words and work have meant to me. And what a grace to receive such kindness in return. It was more than enough, but God was good to me. I'll have to tell you more tomorrow, however. Aziza turns eleven tomorrow. My baby will go to middle school in the fall. My BABY!!! She's so LITTLE!!! Party stuff only Mama will be bothered to do calls.

At least it's cool. We've been roasting in our own juices, and today my parish priest, sneaky Fr. Norman, and his co conspirators Frank and Robert, somehow made a couple of window air conditioners appear at my door, onlyt two hours after he'd dropped me off from the signing and noticed the house was hot and stuff.

"God is good," he said when I thanked him.

"All the time," I said. And I mean that, dear ones.

More tomorrow. Until then! Grace!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hello!!! I'm Back!

I know. Long time no post, right? But I've been traveling (to Chicago) and doing deep, brooding things, including deciding on a new look for raga-d. Like it? I picked it to match my cover. LOL.

I've applied for graduate school, y'all. Yepper, I'm begging the fine people at XULA like a rhythm and blues singer to be let into Xavier's Institute of Black Catholic Studies in beautiful NOLA. I'm begging God with equal fervor. Oh, man. I want this so, so much. If all goes well, I'll be working on a Masters of Theology in a few short weeks. We shall see!

I've also been hatching a business, and the almost born Sunshine Abbey is looking be-you-tiful so far! I've ordered business cards, and even given it it's own blog page, but don't look for any content yet. I'm still working on that, but soon you can look for details, Ebooks and courses, and REGULAR blog content at thesunshineabbey.blogspot.com. Seriously!!!

I'm just popping in to tell you that you can order copies of God Alone is Enough on Amazon,  and a whole bunch of other places online now. Or you can pick it up it at your local bookstore (special order it if they don't have it. Please, please, please!). If you happen to be in Lexington, KY tomorrow, June 13th, pop in at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, my home parish, after Mass, and get yourself a copy from me. I'll even sign it for you, lovey.

On the 2nd of June I did a signing at RBTE: the Religious Book Trade Expo. It's sorta the liturgical church version of ICRS, where I will not be this year, a first since I've been published. Sigh. I'll miss it, and the friends I usually see there, but I made new friends at RBTE, a few of which I'll tell you about tomorrow, along with some other fun things. Soon you can expect to see info about my chapter by chapter blog tour, and a blog tour stop featuring books by a few of my friends. Also look for some other exciting blog love, a black nun doll, and picchas of my new garden. Finally (finally!), I'll be posting work-in-progress chapters of Take This and Eat: A Memoir. Hopefully, with all that content I can get back on track blog-wise.

That's all for now. I love you much, and pray for me, as I pray for you.