Honest Conversations: Revised, Expanded, and being GIVEN AWAY!

“There is a love that is so deep it surpasses understanding. It is so enormous and boundless it could utterly destroy you with its force. It is a love like the ocean. In the shallows it looks harmless, but caught in the undertow it will drag you away from everything you know and enjoy and bury you in a world you’d never imagined.”

“This is God.”

Honest Conversation.  As I wrote yesterday, revising it has been a strange journey for me.  I came across the above passage this morning and it was one of those moments where I forgot having written something that still grips at my chest now.  Passages like that remind me of the importance of this book just as much as the passages about being a gay Christian do.  Why?  Because there’s a side of God that many people in the Church too easily overlook, the violently affectionate God who longs for all of his children, even the ones we’d rather not have be a part of the family.  This is why I wrote that book, and it’s why I still believe in it and want it to be successful.  I want to share a taste of the God who changed my heart and my life and brought me back alive when I was dead in my life, the God who dragged me out to sea like the undertow and brought me back to shore a wholly new person.  The God whose love in me has allowed me to see and experience things I would have never been able to in my own power.

So I’m going to be doing a giveaway of Honest Conversation.  The giveaway will be twofold:  first, I’ll randomly give away copies to two people who review becoming. on Amazon or Goodreads before January 10th (the prospective release date for Honest Conversation).  People who review it on both sites (copy and paste, y’all) will get entered twice.  People who also paste a link of it being reviewed on their blog to my author fan page on Facebook will get entered THREE times.  I’ll also be giving free copies of Honest Conversation to trustworthy reviewers.  So if you know someone who book-blogs and would be interested in reading Honest Conversation, please send them the link to this post.

One of the additional blessings of my Kickstarter campaign having gone so well is that I’ve got enough money to be able to afford this giveaway- so a big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed.

Plus as an additional happy part of the giveaway, I’ll be adding in some as of now unnamed goodies, so stay tuned!

***(Anyone who already has Honest Conversation coming to them as a part of the Kickstarter campaign can request another book of their choice.)

Book Review: White Buffalo Gold

White Buffalo Gold is a book I had the pleasure of reading as part of the process for my good friend, Adam Fleming, to pursue publishing.  (Check out his Kickstarter project!)  White Buffalo Gold follows the lives of three girls as they come of age in a rural town.  Amy, Emily, and Melissa share a long history together.  Through the novel you see that history laid out through several decades.  You see how complex friendship can be, and the many faces people may wear as friends, but Adam dares to go deeper.  You see those three girl’s lives intertwined with other souls in the town and you see the interweaving of those souls as well.  Some people seem like the stereotypical “decent folks”. Other people betray the complexity of life through their actions, both good and bad.  Adam writes about how easy mistakes can be and how the repercussions can last throughout a lifetime.  Yet what resonates is not that there are “good” and “bad” people, but that we are more than the sum of what we do.

What I love the most about this novel is it’s honesty.  It never feels contrived, even when the spirit of a white buffalo starts haunting someone.  The characters all play out as very genuine, and the greater themes of small town identity, regret, aging, death, and starting over all get a fair shake.  You’ve got small town Nebraska, a gold rush mystery, and Native American spirituality all weaving into a coming of age story about the choices that make us leave and the choices that keep us close.  When I finished reading the novel I felt as if I’d just had tea with old friends and neighbors I hadn’t seen in a while, and I was so glad to have caught up on their lives.

If you like contemporary fiction that harks back to some of the great American narrative traditions, then this book is one you’ll enjoy reading.  It’s got small towns, rural America, big potential and simple dreams: all the Americana with none of the pretense or cloying sweetness that can make the genre turn sour.  I’m so proud and privileged to be a part of seeing it put into print.

***This review is not paid or coerced in any manner.  I volunteered it because I believe in Adam’s project.

Does God care that you are gay?

A recent review of my book in Harlot’s Sauce magazine pointed out something interesting.  Throughout the book there is the implication that if God cares about someone’s sexuality and wants them to change it, that through acceptance and knowledge of God they will be convicted and change.  Thus, of course, the book also implies to just leave it up to God.

There is an unasked question in that scenario:

DOES GOD CARE?

I neither ask the question, nor do I answer it.  I never really answer it.   I felt a twinge of sadness when I read the review of my novel, because I would never want to imply that I feel that gay people ought to change.  My book was written with as careful a stance as this blog is, not seeking to betray the confidences of people on either side of the aisle.  Often I am accused, therefore, of betraying both.

I get asked these questions:  “why aren’t you honest with your gay readers about what the Bible says?”  and “why don’t you tell your fellow Christians if you don’t feel it’s a sin?” I’m t0ld, “I feel as if you’re betraying yourself by not saying it is a sin if you’re convicted that it is,” and “It hurts to think that you may think I’m a sinner, because you never really truly say otherwise.”

And it hurts, constantly, because I feel like I’m being pulled in two, I feel as if no matter what I do I will inevitably hurt my voice with either one set of loved ones or another.

But I will try, for the sake of goodness, to be as sincere as possible.

Does God care that people are gay?

Well, he certainly cares about gay people.  And in one sense, that question can always be answered “yes”, just as God cares that people are happy, that they are sad, that they sin, that they don’t, that they find love, that they won’t.  God always cares.

But does God want gay people to change?  That question CANNOT be answered by me, and I can’t possibly be emphatic enough about that point.  It’s simply not my place.  Each person on this planet must answer for their own state, their own position with God.  God may care about the young man who is gay not because he finds love in it but because he is trying to fix something inside himself that is broken.  God may very much want for that young man to change- but is that EVERY gay man?  To assume so would be absurd.  We don’t know the answer- I don’t know the answer.  I have spoken with some gay people who have chosen to model a heterosexual lifestyle out of a desire to please God, some who have felt that God takes pleasure in their homosexual union and families.  Who has found truth?

That’s simply not my story to tell or my question to answer.  It’s as simple as this:  I know who I am.  I am a writer, an artist, a friend, a mother.  I know that I was created to be these things and live this life.  But I have other friends that are called to other lives.  Some people feel that by taking pleasure in things such as television and movies they are able to expand their lives and others feel called away.  Some people feel a social drink or two is a pleasure, others feel God condemn it.  Some feel that smoking is wrong, others don’t, some feel that sexual imagery of any kind is wrong, others don’t.   Each person has, in their heart, their own set of rules, their own set of beliefs.  Sometimes these are soft and moldable and sometimes they are hard and unchanging.  But I do believe that each unique person has their own way of being, and God created them that way for a reason.

I don’t know why some are gay and some are not, why some find peace and some do not, why we are not able to come to a happy conclusion.

But I do know one thing, with absolute certainty:  it is not my question to answer.  I am to love and embrace, to help and protect, to applaud and celebrate each on their way.

Does God care that you are gay?

What do you think?

The Bible is a Book.

The Bible is a book.  It is words on paper.  In and of itself, aside from the presence or essence of God or true revelation, it is only a tool.  It is incredibly dangerous to think otherwise.  Perhaps by saying that straight off and not giving context I’m doing my readers a disservice, but when trying to decide how to write this particular stream of thought I just kept coming back to starting with what I really believe.

I really believe that the Bible is a book.  It is a divinely inspired book, and it is capable of giving life and truth and hope, but simply because something is capable of doing another thing does not mean that it does it all the time.  Water is capable of preserving your life but can also take it.  Many things can be one way but are also another way in another context- and likewise the Bible can be used to give life but has also been used as a defense for taking it.  It can be used to share truth but has been twisted into lies.  The Bible can be used to find God- but that doesn’t mean that the essence of God is always found there.

Maybe I should talk about this another way.  I write.  And as a writer I know that no matter how carefully chosen my words are, I have no control over the way people interpret them.  There’s what I mean, there’s what I write, and there’s what you read.  And the Bible is like that: there is what God inspired, there is what men wrote, and there’s what the reader interprets.  And just because God inspired the original text doesn’t mean that He meant for you to interpret it the way you did.

NT Wright has a really intriguing article about Biblical Authority in which he basically says that when Christians talk about the Bible as an authoritative work they rarely mean what they say.  Either they mean to say that their interpretation of it is authoritative, or Christian belief is Authoritative, or actually that God is authoritative.  But you can’t sincerely say that the Bible, in and of itself, is authoritative.  Now, back to my own opinion: the Bible is a narrative.  It’s not a set of rules, regulations, or formulas that can be plastered across everyone’s life to the same affect.  While all of those things can be found in the Bible, I must say (with fear and trembling) that they have little intrinsic worth.  And I mean that sincerely.  The law, absent the revelation of God’s love, will bring only death.  That is why Christ came to the earth to die- to free us from the law of sin and death.

And it’s really a shame that we’ve taken that sacrifice as an opportunity to institute more of the same.

But I’m losing myself.  I came to talk about the worth of the Biblical text.  And what I want to say is this: It is worth little without the revelation of God’s love for you.  If you read it looking for God’s love, you’ll find it.  If you read it with God’s love in your heart, it will give you life.  Otherwise it’s just words.  Because, as NT Wright so brilliantly stated in his article, the Bible doesn’t turn to itself as an authority.  The Bible turns to God and revelation of God as the final Authority.

We as Christians should do the same.

Honest Conversation: for sale now!

coverfinal

40 days ago I embarked on a strange journey.  Given the content of the story, I find it ironic that my artificial deadline of 35 days ended up turning into a forty day journey… but that’s a story for another time.

Today I want to talk about my novel- my brave little book that is finally written.  It has all of the things that a novel should have- a start, a middle, an end.  It has them in the right order, as well as being possessed of a single cohesive storyline and a subplot that involves kissing.

I’ve discovered something.  Fiction is dangerous- it’s dangerous because you don’t always notice that you are being taught a lesson when you’re reading a story.  When someone is simply schooling you, you notice immediately.  And if they tell you something you don’t want to hear, you get defensive.  But when reading a story it feels safer to allow yourself to be questioned.  So while I was working on this book and realizing how many things I was saying that some Christians might find offensive, or flat out wrong, I decided I would change things up a little.  I’d say all of the words that I wanted to say, but I’d cleverly hide them in a story that forced them to look at the humanity about which the words are intended.

So instead of me, as the author, saying that I find it hard to believe that God would reject the service of a gay man who honestly believed that God had created him to love other men, those words are spoken by a character.  And throughout the story there are moments of revelation, tenderness and tolerance.  All of it to forward a single message:

The big question isn’t one of sin, it’s one of mission.  It’s one of God’s love.

So pop this subversive little story of gay acceptance and hetero romance on your coffee shop trade table, slide a few editions into your local church’s resources library…  You never know.

A good book can save a life.

Available on CafePress

::For people who want a personalized copy, contact me at linkees@gmail.com- the price for a single book will be $16, including shipping.  Bulk discounts and discounts for books that are to be donated can also be negotiated through me::

A confession:

I’m not writing materials to teach your church about homosexuality.  Well, not as such.  After a three week long struggle with the format of my book and the flow of my book and the tone of my book I went to a few friends in desperation to see if what was coming out of me was the least bit worthwile.  I found myself facing a common dilemma:  people who agreed with me would agree with me, and people who disagreed with me would likely feel poked in the eye.

So what to do?  Because the audiences I want to write for are 1) people who disagree with me and 2) gay people so they know I don’t think they are the enemy.

And a friend of mine very wisely said, “write it as a conversation.”  Because in a conversation you can show as many points of views as you can have participants.  In a conversation each point of view can be defended by the holder.  In a conversation you can allow people to identify with the speaker they agree with, and thus act as a mirror when things go somewhere that the reader wouldn’t want to go.

So I’m not writing a dissertation on homosexuality anymore.

I’m writing a novel.  I’m telling the story of an associate pastor who feels deeply convicted when a gay couple starts to attend her church, and one of the elders screams for them to be sent away.  The associate pastor threatens to tender her resignation if any action is taken against the gay couple- which is where our story begins.  The pastor asks her to wait, so they can talk things through.

Everyone starts talking.  The associate pastor (Zoe) talks to the pastor (John).  Zoe talks to the gay couple, Kyle and Evan.  Zoe talks to an ex-gay minister who is a friend of hers, who encourages her to be Christ to Kyle and Evan even if it costs her everything.  That minister then talks to John, who talks to the elders, who still want Kyle and Evan gone.

Then things get very, very interesting, as by this point the pastor has come around and sees that if Kyle and Evan are sent away it will be at the cost of their love for God.  So what should he do?  Appease the Elders, who are “strong enough in faith” to take care of themselves, or show mercy to the gays?

More talking commences.

And thus the story goes.  It still has all of the material my original book was going to cover, just in a more easily digestable format.  I would still strongly suggest giving it to anyone who has questions about how a good Christian should feel about homosexuality, or even to give it to someone who strongly opposes allowing gay people to be active in the church as an admonition that such a stance likely comes at the cost of a few souls.  And, while we’re handing it out, give it to your gay friends, too.  Show them that there are committed heterosexual Christians who aren’t afraid of poking a few hypocrites in the eye when it comes to the issue of sexuality.

Right now I’m 3/4 of the way through writing the thing, the first draft will be done this weekend.

It’s been a wild and wonderful journey.  (And it’s not over yet)

Love First- “the most important question”

because I’m a hideous tease.  (And very proud of my work.)

“The most important question here is whether or not you think homosexuality is sin”, the comment read.

I’d written an ‘open letter’ to the Church on my blog. In that letter I described a few things I’d witnessed as a Christian and how I felt that Christianity’s ostracizing homosexuals was hindering Jesus’s work. Throughout the entire body of the letter I never once said that homosexual acts were not sinful- just that having the sexual orientation in and of itself could not be seen as sinful.

Forty or so of the people who commented agreed with me wholeheartedly- many of them Christians of an “aberrant sexual orientation” who were blessedly relieved to hear a heterosexual Christian girl take up their defense.

Ten or so of the people who commented were so vehemently opposed to the idea of taking a more accepting stance towards homosexuals that they accused me- a devoted Christian- of being blindingly deceived by the devil. What I found the most interesting about this exchange was that the gays who commented didn’t seem the least bit put off by the fact that I didn’t say that homosexual acts weren’t sinful. All they cared about was the fact that I said that sin didn’t bar you from knowing God’s love or otherwise Christ’s sacrifice was for naught. I treated them as an equal, and that evoked a very warm and positive response. Even from atheists! (Or, perhaps, especially from atheists and agnostics, who lauded my “lack of Christian hypocrisy”.)

What really, really dug into me was the fact that my fellow Christians seemed to think that because I didn’t rail against homosexuals, I must not have faith. Or I must not have the right kind of faith. Or, at the very least, that the issue of my own faith was now open for discussion. But I could take that with a grain of salt, as none of them knew me personally.

So what I took issue with the most was the opening statement of this book- “the most important thing here is whether or not you think homosexuality is sin.”

So, dear readers, let me tell you- the least important thing here is whether or not you think homosexuality is sin. The most important thing here is whether or not you think that people who fall out of the type of mainstream Christianity I’ve heard jokingly referred to as the “straight, white and narrow” are still people whom God loves. Does God love the gays? Does he want to have a relationship with transvestites and cross-dressers? Does he see punks and rockers as people he wants to redeem? When you go into the seedy underbelly of our world and see all of the people whom are farthest removed from our cozy suburbs and Sunday morning faith- are these people with whom we are still called to mission?

That is the most important question here. And just so we are as absolutely clear on it as we can be- I believe the answer is a gong-like resounding “YES.”