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Rated: E · Book · Writing · #2044345
Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
For those of you who have been following, you will see that I moved my reading list into the body of the blog. I will be adding book commentary as new articles instead of listing. New entries will be the first thing you encounter. All book comments have BOOK in the title. The blog is organized chronologically. Please feel free to comment. I especially like challenging comments.

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May 24, 2021 at 5:56pm
May 24, 2021 at 5:56pm


It is a great honor to be invited to the pulpit on this day of all days. This is the celebration of the first harvest, the celebration of the birthday of Christianity, and the celebration of spiritual renewal. To me, this is the celebration of celebrations, the day of the great opening, the day we acknowledge what has always been and will always be true in all people in all places. There are many stories from many cultures that try to waken us or re-awaken us to the core truth of faith. Each of these stories is told from a cultural bias, and that cultural bias tends to limit understanding to that particular culture.
The story of Butterfly Maiden by Arvin Saufkie “Hopi”, (See photo below), which is known to me only through the Kachina, may be better understood inside the language of the Hopi people, an ancient people who continue to live and express their spirituality as the Hopi Nation in New Mexico. This Kachina came to me with no explanation so what I know of it is what is in front of me. It is a spiritual expression and I hope my faith opens my eyes to her spiritual wisdom.
Let’s review the events of the day we now call Pentecost. The apostles and their followers had gathered to celebrate the Festival of Weeks, a Jewish tradition established by Moses. In that climate, at that time, there was a minor harvest celebration called First Fruits around the time of the barley harvest. Then there were two major celebrations, the Festival of Weeks related to the wheat harvest and a fall harvest celebration. The wheat harvest always fell sometime during the middle of the month of May or sometimes in early June (rather like the first cutting of hay in the Ozarks.)
To determine the date of the Festival of Weeks, according to the Old Testament, you would go to the day of the celebration of First Fruits and begin with that day, you would count off 50 days. The fiftieth day would be the Festival of Weeks, the beginning of a three-day celebration of renewal. So, First Fruits is the beginning of the barley harvest, and The Festival of Weeks the celebration of the beginning of the wheat harvest which came to be known as Pentecost, literally the fiftieth day.
Peter and the other apostles and their followers had gathered in gratitude for another harvest as had been done since the beginning of agriculture. They were gathered in grief over the loss of Jesus, and in confusion over the news of the resurrection of Jesus and what that would mean, and what would they do next? Somehow, unexpectedly, something happened a great awakening. When they described it later, they used simile: it was like a rushing wind; it was like tongues of fire; it left us with the capacity to understand no matter what the language, no matter the cultural context, the gifts of the holy spirit. They remembered Jesus telling them he would send the Holy Spirit to them. As a consequence, they now had a cohesive set of basic ideas to share and the words came to them as new tools for sharing it. This is the day of Peter’s first sermon and the birthday of Christianity as a separate entity from Judaism.
Here, I would like to share an awakening I experienced, not on a holiday, not in the context of the church, but in a conversation with a child telling me about a difficult time in her life. She said, “The angels helped me. They are with me now. There is one right over there,” she said, pointing to the corner of the room. “Do you see it?” I told her I did not but that I believed her statement that the angel was there. She went on to tell me they were always with her and had been with her all her life. After that, she gave me gifts of angels so that I would be able to see them too.
That little child saw angels who came to help her. Angels came to Mary, pregnant at 14, to explain to her what she needed to know. There are many stories of angels arriving out of “the blue” with important information or resources. It didn’t come to the child because she had faith, or because she confessed her sins, or because she believed in Jesus. The angel came to her as an expression of goodness in a moment of need, as pure love that sustained her. It came with no conditions. It didn’t offer her help if only she would believe. It just came. I believe this is how it happened on the day the apostles gathered for the Festival of Weeks.
The mystery is how did it get there? Where did it come from? How is it that it seemed not to be there and then seemed to be there? Over the years, I talked to many survivors of trauma who had depended on spiritual resources to survive. It always seemed to me that this was not so much about physical survival as about staying connected to goodness.
Jesus did not let the rage of his critics distract him from the spirit within him. He trusted the spirit and walked with it through his own reluctance, the lashings, the humiliation, and the torture of his death. As he was doing this, he also pointed the spirit out to those around him. His followers somehow got the idea that he was telling them he was the way to find this goodness. I think there is truth in this perspective, but I have never believed the Holy Spirit was that small, that inept or that limited that it is only available to believers. Jesus was showing us that the spirit comes to us unbidden and requires nothing of us. It required nothing of the child who taught me about her angels. It required nothing of the men crucified with Jesus. He didn’t say “today thou shall be with me in Paradise if. It was an unconditional promise: It will happen.
On the day of Pentecost, the spirit was salient to everyone at one time. No one was excluded from the experience and there is no record that anyone doubted they had indeed experienced the presence of God. Perhaps this is always true when people gather who need or desire connection to the spirit. Scripture says it is true. Buddhists that I know talk about the strengthening effect of meditating together. They experience greater spiritual awareness when together. Indigenous people that have given me glimpses of their experiences seem to find increased spiritual awareness in their connection with each other.
Jesus, however, experienced it when alone. The child who saw angels experienced it when no one present was in any way supporting or helping her or seeking spiritual presence or awareness. There is no greater aloneness than being a child with no one to care for you at a time of need. The spirit is there at all times and in all places for us to gather into our awareness.
When you gather it, how does it happen that at some point you still die? Well, it seems to me that Pentecost is when we celebrate that dying is not something that separates us from the spirit. It separates us from loved ones. It separates us from the earth and its resources. It does not separate us from the holy spirit.
In my work listening to survivors, I was acutely aware that not everyone who suffers survives. We all know of someone who has died and those around them said “they are no longer suffering.” Death ends suffering. Death does not end the life of the spirit. Equally important is the fact that the spirit comes to us of its own volition. The fact of our existence is a fact of the presence of the spirit. There is no “if-then” about the Holy Spirit.
Some theologians and faithful Christians disagree with me about this. They tell me we must believe; we must obey, we must work at the business of experiencing the Holy Spirit and it can only come to us if we invite it. This is true of community. We can only be part of a community if we deliberately choose to participate. This is not true of the Holy Spirit. The spirit sustains our efforts to enter into wonder and beauty in our daily life. The spirit brightens, increases in energy when we join in its existence. The experience of finding spirit inside ourselves moves us to do good. It does not, however, require anything of us. It never leaves our life. It functions like nutrition to power our actions. It functions like rest, to separate us from distress. It functions like nurturing to strengthen our goodness and give us direction. The Holy Spirit sustains us through birth, life, and death and beyond, unconditionally. Within its power is the power to discern goodness, to give and receive forgiveness, and to retain goodness in the face of evil.
The language we use to express our fear of separation from the Holy Spirit includes the words death, evil, hell, and rejection. Faith is understanding that none of these experiences has power over the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not afraid of these things and cannot be controlled by them. The Holy Spirit is in charge at all times and in all places. Suffering comes when we lose sight of this fact. We can shed suffering like a snake sheds its skin by reaching out to the Holy Spirit with our eager or hungry or suffering spirit and walk through ignorance into bliss no matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter what scripture we read or believe. When we do this, we are one with the spirit. Jesus showed us this. Pentecost is the awakening of this awareness. We celebrate Pentecost routinely on a certain day, but awakening is happening at all times in all places where spirits of living beings hold on to goodness.

This is a statement of my faith: Elizabeth Hykes

September 3, 2020 at 12:07am
September 3, 2020 at 12:07am
Watterson, Megan, Mary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminist Gospel, and the Christianity We Haven’t Tried Yet, Hay House, Audible, performed by the Author, 07/09/19.
Mary Magdalene, the much-maligned companion of Christ, wrote a gospel that was banned in the 4th century, hidden in the desert, and rediscovered in the late 20th century. Megan Watterson, a theologian, went to great lengths to learn all she could about Mary Magdalene and then to share what she learned in this inspiring book, as well as through preaching and teaching. Throughout the book, the author quotes from the Gospel of Mary and then applies what she learns from that to her search. Ms. Watterson traveled to France to learn all she could there and shares her experiences as she traced the steps and learned the traditions that developed around the person many believe is the post-crucifixion Mary Magdalene. Along the way, the author learns “the prayer of the heart,” a meditation technique that is compatible with, and that enriches the writing in the Book of Mary. Not the first person to say so, Ms. Watterson describes the inner process that leads to the deep and spiritual love Jesus taught us is the center of Christianity. I very much enjoyed this book and the author’s enthusiasm for the subject and hope to read it again.
August 31, 2020 at 11:56am
August 31, 2020 at 11:56am
BOOK: Morrison, Toni, The Origin of Others, Harvard University Press, 2017. This interesting content is from a series of lectures Ms. Morrison presented at Harvard as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series. It looks at racism in the context of the broader social phenomena she calls "othering," the tendency of humans to define themselves by defining who is other than them. The introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coats places it in history not only of racism in America but also among other writers on the subject. This is a short work that triggers and requires thought, so I read and reread chapters as I went along. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how we identify with and separate ourselves from others, especially but not exclusively in the form of racism.
June 12, 2020 at 11:49pm
June 12, 2020 at 11:49pm
Future Home of the Living God, Louise Erdrich, Harper Audio, 2017, narrated by the author, accessed on Audible.

This multilayered dystopian tale reminded me a tiny bit of A Handmaids Tale, only it did not lead to a simplistic ending. For this I am grateful. A young Ojibwe woman, who was raised by a white couple, is pregnant. The book is her journal written to her unborn child. The context is the USA with advanced global warming. This book looks at the situation of dramatic change from the complex perspective of this dual cultural woman. There are practical mysteries, like how did she come into the care of white parents, and spiritual mysteries including the young woman’s Ojibwe stepfather’s daily struggle with finding reasons to keep living. There is a threat to the child and the mother that she sees and knows nothing about. What she does know is that pregnancy has taken on a whole new meaning and she, with her unborn child, is in danger.

I read several reviews of this book. Reviewers either loved it or hated it with few in-between. The haters kept comparing it to A Handmaid’s Tale. This comparison seems to have totally undermined their enjoyment of the book. I don’t see much similarity except for the issue of reproduction in a collapsing society. I place myself in the category of a lover of this book. It never became simplistic or predictable, not even to the last ambiguous sentence. The characters have real depth. Relationships are complex and often surprising. It drew me in and kept me, but I wouldn’t call it a page-turner because taking time to savor this elegant prose and the underlying complexities make the reader want to stop and think. The narration was definitely an asset to enjoying this work.

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June 11, 2020 at 3:03pm
June 11, 2020 at 3:03pm
The Universal Christ: how a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for and believe, Richard Rohr, Random House Audio, 03/05/2019, accessed through Audible.

In this book, Richard Rohr redefines the first and second incarnations of Christ and supports his perspective with scripture and historical information about the development of Christianity. He presents some interesting thoughts about Eastern (Byzantine) Christianity and how it differs from the Western Church as well as discussing the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity. He states that Western Christianity has a lot to gain from learning more about and from both the Byzantine Church and Buddhism. In this context, he enters into an in-depth look at the role of contemplation in a rich spiritual life.

I read this book as part of a study group. This means, because my short-term memory is showing its age, that I read each chapter 3 times as I went along, taking notes and writing my own commentary. This was such an interesting process! I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to challenge their perspective and discover how it can make you grow. I loved this book and have two more, lent me by a friend, waiting to be read.

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June 7, 2020 at 11:33pm
June 7, 2020 at 11:33pm
Racked by a virus
I rest in God’s hand.
Fearful loved ones caught it from me
I rest in God’s hand.
Aggrieved by the death of George Floyd,
I rest in God’s hand.
Aggrieved by the death after death after death
of members of my human family,
century after century under the “protection”
of an organizing document that says none of this should happen
because all, all, all humans are created equal,
I rest in the palm of God’s hand.
Fearful for the Natives
who keep us all connected,
Earth and sky, life and land,
who practice peace,
who demonstrate what it means to be a people,
I cling to hope offered in God’s hand.
While living in God’s hand, I welcome George Floyd to this safe place.
I welcome the multitudes of COVID sufferers and victims
to the peace of God’s hand.
I invite the confused
the destitute of faith,
the pitiful who think themselves mighty,
and I invite those who think power and money
matter more than the people without whom the mighty cannot survive,
to rest and heal in the peace of God’s hand.
I welcome them to receive God’s grace,
to receive the love that fills the hearts of
all who choose to rest in God’s hand.

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June 7, 2020 at 10:33am
June 7, 2020 at 10:33am
47.McCullough, David, John Adams. Kindle Audible Edition, read by Nelson Runger, Simon&Shuster Audio, 2005. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
This biography left me feeling very good about our second President, and not quite as good about the third. Though John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were close friends, they could not be more different. Adams is described here as well read, orderly, healthy, and devoted to his family. The biography focuses little on his childhood but provides an in-depth recounting of his very interesting adulthood. I found it very interesting and hard to put down. I hope you will read and find it equally interesting. It is well written and full of good stories.

48.Harmon, Amy, From Sand and Ash, Lake Union Publishing, 2016, Kindle Audible edition read by the author (I think), a historical novel set in WWII Italy. The two main characters grew up together and the story follows them through the war. I found this book to be very interesting with just the right balance between the best in the characters and the flaws in humanity. This is the first book I have read about the war in Italy. I found it gripping and well written and hope you will too.

49. Alvarez, Julia, In the Time of the Butterflies Algonquin Books, 2010, Kindle Audible Edition, Historical Fiction
Ms. Alvarez skillfully presents the story of 3 sisters who were murdered in 1960 for their activities in the underground resistance to the rule of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They are the butterflies. She has included facts that she has as a framework for the story and fictionalized the parts for which she has no evidence. The story is painful and fills the reader with admiration for these three brave young women. The news often talks about leaders of "banana republics" as an example of authoritarian regimes. This is one example. I hope you will enjoy time in this lovely setting.

50. Handler, Suzanne, The Secrets They Kept: the true story of a mercy killing that shocked a town and shamed a family, Lane Press, 2013, Kindle Audible Edition. Essentially biography with a memoir quality
Suzanne Handler, a mental health professional herself, went on a quest to untangle long-held family secrets related to her aunt. She gathered documents and photos and in this book, puts together the story of mental illness in the 1950s and some very interesting history, too, of the mental health delivery system. The focus is primarily on the family history, though. This is a fairly short book, but fascinating.

51. Daynard, Jodi "The Midwife Series" Lake Union Publishers, 2017, Kindle Audible edition, a trilogy, historical fiction, set in the time of the American Revolution. (The Midwife's Revolt, Our Own Country, and A More Perfect Union.)
I very much enjoyed these books. The heroine is truly admirable. The life and practices of a country midwife are clearly and carefully presented in writing that moves you through the difficulties and triumphs of rural women during a very difficult time in our history. This is something my mother would have enjoyed, just as I did.

52. Hanna, Kristin, The Nightengale 2015, Kindle Audible Edition read by Polly Stone, Historical Fiction
This is the story of two sisters coming of age at the start of WWII in France. It gives a clear picture of challenges and problems faced by citizens trying to survive the war. It also brings to life the true story of a true hero of the war who helped rescue downed allied pilots: The Nightengale. The story is gripping and at times distressing, as you would expect of a war story. I loved the characters and the writing brought the whole thing to life for me.

53. Wingate, Lisa, Before We Were Yours, Ballantine Books, 2017 Kindle Audible Edition, historical fiction
Based on a real incident of an "orphanage" that "sold" children in Tennessee, this is a fictional story of a family of siblings and their experience of being separated from their family and adopted. It is told from the perspective of one of the children as an adult looking for answers to her own history. Very sad situation told from a point of view of the strength of survivors and the power of the sibling bond.

54. Stevenson, Bryan, Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption, Speigle and Grau, 2014. Kindle Audible edition read by the author, Memoir
Bryan Stevenson completed his law degree and chose a practice in Alabama, fighting for people on death row. This is a gripping reminiscence of his work including stories of specific people he met and helped along the way, This is one of the most interesting books I have read in this list. I highly recommend it!

55. Greenfield, Ted, Lifemart: sweet narratives and others Two Scoops Press, 2017. Kindle edition Memoir was written in narrative poetry style.
I opened this little book with doubts, but, it was free, so why not? It grabbed my attention and I read it all in one day. An elderly man writes about his life in the nursing home and his memories of people important to him. I enjoyed every word. I suspect this is in response to his careful writing and the fact that this Mr. Greenfield is very optimistic and likable. If you have a Kindle, you can borrow it to read.

56. Alyan, Hala, Hijra, Crab Orchard Series, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016. Poetry
This poet has used beautiful language and imagery to share glimpses of the experience of migration due to natural disaster or war. Here you find survival and loss, confusion and wisdom, abiding faith, and heroism. This is a lovely volume you will want to read again and again.

57. Meacham, Jon, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Random House, 2012. Biography
This widely acclaimed book examines the political practices of Thomas Jefferson. The author spends less time on Jefferson's activities in Europe and his thoughts about the French Revolution than I would have liked. On the other hand, he looks in depth at some of Jefferson's major decisions and accomplishments as President. I must admit, I liked the Adams biography more than this one. It seemed as if the author glossed over a few things I would have liked to learn more about. However, one cannot do everything in one book, and I see that Mr. Meacham has another Jefferson biography out. Perhaps I should read it.

58. Warton, Edith, Glimpses of the Moon, Public Domain, 1922. Novel.
I love Edith Warton's writing! I have read 5 other of her books and had not heard of this one. It is short, 187 pages, and therefore a quick read. In this novel, the author explores the meaning of attachment and the downside of materialism. The setting is Europe and the characters are members of a class of people without resources of their own who live moving from one wealthy household to another, dependent on these wealthy patrons for their survival. The author examines their relationships with each other and with their children. I loved reading this and hope you will give it a try. I read it at no charge on Kindle.'

59. Middlebrook, Diane Wood, The Poetry of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, Stanford Audio, 1999 (Audible) Lecture
This is a 1.5-hour lecture with the question-and-answer session presented by the author of an Anne Sexton biography. In the lecture, the speaker discusses the backgrounds of the two poets. They met in a writing class with Robert Lowell. All three suffered from mental illness, so Ms. Middlebrook discusses the illness and it's relationship to their work. She also discusses the school of writing called confessional, which emerged along with the New York School. A review I read expressed disappointment that there was so little poetry involved in the lecture. The speaker uses two poems looking at them very carefully and using them to support and clarify her thesis. I very much enjoyed this as it connects things together for me and increased my understanding. It also motivated me to look into Robert Lowell.

60. Oliver, Mary, At Blackwater Pond, Beacon Press, 2011, Audible edition read by the Author. Poetry
I have and have read most of Mary Oliver's poetry. I had developed a feeling when reading more recent work that she was writing to please her fans with more of the same. This book, however, is different. First, listening to her voice reading it helps me see what she is saying. Second, this is a compilation of her favorites of all the poetry she has written, so, it is her best work. If you love Mary Oliver's work, you will love this. If you have not read her work, this might be a good place to start. Then, read Dream Work.

61. Daly-Ward, Yrsa, Bone, Penguin audio, 2017, read by the author. Audible. Poetry
This poet is a first generation African-English woman who writes confessional poetry about her life challenges and struggles. The writing is powerful, sometimes raw, and always compelling. Even though I would expect her perspective to be very different from my own, I easily identified with her voice and experience. Her reading of her work definitely enhanced my experience.

62. Lithgow, John, The Poet's Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family, Hachette Audio, 2007. Audible. Read by several familiar performers. Poetry.
I love collections of poetry that provide a wide range of styles and voices. I love this recording and have listened to it over and over. Here, Mr. Lithgow presents his history with poetry and a brief history of each poet. He also includes information about other things they have written and where you can find them. The poems are written in English and he draws from before and including Shakespear to the present in no particular order. I have a number of other collections from Audible, but so far, this is my favorite.

63. Hughes, Kathryn, The Letter, Headline Digital, 2015, Audible, novel
The publisher notes assert that this is a best seller. I loved it, so perhaps you will also. The story begins with a young woman in a very bad marriage. She discovers a letter written in the 1930's in a thrift shop donated jacket pocket and decides to find the author. This changes her life, and the lives of others encountered along the way. The premise is intriguing and the author skillfully pulls it off.

64. Nguyen, Viet Thanh, The Refugees, Audible Studios, 2017, A Short Story Collection read by the author.
Because I enjoyed Mr. Nguyen's novel, The Sympathizer, I figured this would be good too. I was not disappointed. Each story presents a close look at the lives of Vietnamese refugees in their daily activities and close relationships. The stories are well crafted, interesting, and very much enhanced by the voice of the author.

65. Jordan-Lake, Joy, A Tangled Mercy: A Novel, narrated by JD Jackson, Angela Dawe, Brilliance Audio, 2017.
I enjoyed this interesting novel about race relations, and its impact on families both white and black, in 1822 and 2015 America. It is easy to identify with the characters and has some qualities found in a good mystery. The writing is pretty good. This is not the great novel of the century, but it is an interesting read.

66. Jamison, Kay Redfield, Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: a study of genius, mania, and character, narrated by Jefferson James, Random House Audio, 2017. biography
This biography of the poet, Robert Lowell, is written by the author of An Unquiet Mind. The first half of the book provides the biographical information and the second half discusses the relationship between Mr. Lowell's bipolar illness and his creativity. She expands her thinking beyond Robert Lowell and talks about the relationship between the illness and creativity in the lives of other well known creative people who suffered from bipolar disorder. The story is poignant and interesting. Within is discussion of the "confessional" school of poetic writing, I very much enjoyed the content and spent time reading one of Robert Lowell's books, reviewed next.

67. Lowell, Robert, Brief Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. poetry
I could not remember reading any of Robert Lowell. Now I will remember his rhythmic, rhymed, confessional poetry. I especially liked "For the Union Dead," a meditation on the Augustus St. Gaudens relief sculpture in Boston Commons. I love the work itself, and I loved reading Mr. Lowell's take on it. This book collects what the editor thinks is Lowell's best writing. He was a wonderful writer and I'm glad I finally read my way to him. I hope you do, too. I am currently reading a biography of Elizabeth Bishop and one of her books because she was a close friend of Robert Lowell and they strongly influenced each other's writing.

68. Gay, Ross, Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. poetry
I happened on this when cruising Amazon poetry. The author writes a confessional style with some lyricism about his life and emotions in a positive, hopeful voice. The book has won three awards for poetry and very much deserves it. The poems begin with a focus on an ordinary thing and work their way around, every time, to something extraordinary or important. I will be looking for more of Mr. Gay's work.

69. Toibin, Colm, On Elizabeth Bishop Narrated by John Keating, Audible Studios, 2015. Biograpy with literary criticism
If you are unacquainted with the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, you are missing some fabulous writing. I came across her poem "The Filling Station" in a collection and was immediately hooked. So I found this biography, which also has qualities of literary criticism and memoir of the author, and read it. Between this and the biography of Robert Lowell, I have been in a very happy space for a few weeks. Neither of these writers has an easy life. Yet, their poetry is clear of any pessimism that I can see in what I have read. Another favorite Bishop poem is "The Man-moth." Neither of these is quoted in its entirety in this volume, but both are discussed at some length. I highly recommend this biography and the following book of Bishop poetry.

70. Bishop, Elizabeth, Poems, Macmillan, 2011. Poetry
This is a complete collection of Elizabeth Bishop's writing including translations and 4 previously unpublished poems. It is a wonder to read! I hope, if you don't feel up to buying the book, or getting it from the library, you will go to the Poetry Foundation website and read some of her work there.

71. Holmberg, Charlie N., The Fifth Doll, Brilliance Audio, 2017. novel
If you have read my list, you will see that I really enjoy Charlie Holmberg's writing. I also love nesting dolls. Here, the two come together. Ms. Holmberg writes tales with female protagonists facing magic and very challenging situations. As they work through the challenge, they must learn the magic, master it, and they always need help from someone else. In this book, it is a young man. There are overtones of romance, but the relationship develops more realistically in Ms. Holmberg's fantasy than more "realistic" books often are. These books would be great reading for middle school-aged kids.

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June 7, 2020 at 2:02am
June 7, 2020 at 2:02am
It isn’t fair that some of us are more adept at self-expression than others.

It isn’t fair that one person’s expression of their freedom as guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America is another person’s barrier to freedom.

It isn’t fair that the impact of one choice that I make has consequences beyond my experience.

It isn’t fair that I sometimes happen upon other people’s discussions and those discussions get me wanting to talk.

It isn’t fair that this new virus is one of the most democratic life forms in existence attacking with no regard for race, religion, ethnicity, class, status, sexual orientation, or personal preference.

It isn’t fair that today, three days after experiencing a temperature of 102.3 F some woman I don’t know chose to expound to one of my Facebook friends virtually in front of me on her right to go about without a mask.

It isn’t fair that a half dozen or so of my Facebook friend’s patient explanations about the value of wearing masks to protect others from our germs were not well received by the woman claiming she did not have to wear a mask.

And so, it wasn’t fair for me to ask her “was it you that made me sick?” and then to say “you will never know if it was you or not. Live with it. You didn’t even try to protect others from contagion.”

And when she responded with “so now I’m a selfish bitch” it isn’t fair that I thought to myself “if you think so, then it might be so.”

None of this is fair. None of this has much to do with freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States of America. But by golly, dear reader, not fair does not mean not real.

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June 2, 2020 at 5:40pm
June 2, 2020 at 5:40pm
I have a headache to top all headaches, a fever and I have been tested for COVID-19. So, I want to blog about the experience. When I developed symptoms yesterday promptly at 3:00 PM. I felt like someone could bend my bones. I couldn’t stay awake. I was sitting in the car waiting for someone at the ophthalmologist. When she returned, I told her I felt like I couldn’t waken. Later, around suppertime, I started to have chills. By 10:30 or 11:00 PM, I had a temperature of 99.3. My blood pressure was 117 over 80, odd. I went to bed and couldn’t sleep because I ached all over. I checked my temp about every two hours and saw it rise to 99.8F. I have been drinking water, and more water, and more water. Right now, I am drinking chamomile tea.

I thought about possible diagnoses. I am allergic to flu shots and have never had one. However, it has been nearly 20 years since I experienced the flu. So, that was on the list, but low. I experienced three tick bites about two weeks ago. I didn’t have a rash or anything that looked like it might lead to illness, but one never knows. Then there is COVID. I have been careful, wearing a mask every time I went out, using sanitizer, washing carefully, and going out only once a week. However, my symptoms are consistent with COVID. I should find out by Friday.

I stick to the sheets when I want to turn over. This hurts because of all the muscle pain. I asked a friend to get me two new sets of sheets that are more slippery. She will have them mailed to me. The headache included feeling as if I have hot coals behind my eyes. It is hard to eat with a mask on. I unfasten the bottom and lift the mask to take a bite or a sip, then drop it back down. It feels as if my lymph nodes are hot or swollen or something. I am not alone but worry that my companion will get sick too. I went to church Sunday. I was the worship leader which put me at a good distance from everyone. I kept my best mask on tight. I am worried about the vulnerable people in the congregation. I am worried about the people I have encountered and about their health. Where did I get this? I just don’t know.

My greatest hope right now is that it is tick-born. I am taking anti-biotics for that which usually works. Going back to bed now. I expect to keep posting daily. I am thinking it might be helpful to people who read this to know about this experience in case they or someone they care about gets sick. Stay clean everyone, and stay home.
May 22, 2020 at 11:54pm
May 22, 2020 at 11:54pm
This was a post on Facebook today, 5/22/2020. The article, as you can see, was published in 2017. I went to Huff Post and searched to find it there, but the search was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, because I have been thinking about this, it became a stimulus for me to write my thinking down. I have no way to send this to the author, but if someone who reads this can tell me how, I would very much like to send it to him.

Tim Rymel, M.Ed., Contributor
Author | Educator | Dad
Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?
05/11/2017 05:08 pm ET Updated May 11, 2017

Dear Mr. Rymel,
Thank you for your concerned ponderings on the state of Evangelical Christianity. I share your concern. I think about it a little differently.
I don’t think the “church” took over or invaded politics. I think politics started using religion and has done so all of my life, which from looking at your photo, is somewhat longer than yours. When Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, he signed into law the bill making “In God, we Trust” the motto of the US and adding the motto to all US currency, as well as adding “one nation under God” to the pledge of allegiance. This broke the barrier between church and state that is in the Constitution and that had stood 175 years. This was not the church. It was the politicians who voted and signed the bill into law. The church may have wanted it, but politicians do things for their own reasons and knew, as the made this law, what they were doing to weaken, probably end, protection of religion from the state.

The politicians saw a segment of America they thought they could manipulate. Christians did not see themselves as being used. They thought they were improving the country, bringing faith to the masses, etc. This is antithetical to Christianity. Using and being used is unhealthy for both sides. Faith does not come from money, advertising slogans or political manipulation and it doesn’t take a lot of reading in the Bible before you realize, Jesus made no effort to control the state, and when the state and religion alike tried to control him, they lost. They couldn’t even kill him.

Both the state and the Evangelical movement are very sick right now. Growing up in a church with the first name “Evangelical,” I was taught this meant reaching out, welcoming, loving unconditionally, and bringing the Love of Christ to my neighbors through my actions as well as teaching. Today’s Evangelicals draw ridged lines, like the Catholics of the middle ages, welcoming only those that will follow their rules. Jesus never did this.

Some politicians have lied, claiming Christian affiliation when they knew nothing of Christianity. The Christians that choose to believe those politicians are led by people participating in religion like the scribes and Pharisees to enhance their own riches and power. They are exclusionary, judgmental, and the love they share is very much conditional, as in your example of the mother who used the Bible to justify abandoning her son. She isn’t loyal to scripture. She shows no evidence of understanding scripture. She is the pawn of politicians like McConnell and Trump who have twisted the tenets of faith to their advantage and who use the issues of gay marriage and abortion to distract followers from the political activities that lead to the disenfranchisement of Christians everywhere.

Further, you may have noticed that the “Christians” causing all the trouble are more than 90% white and are often referred to as “white evangelical Christians.” The people who oppose integration started infiltrating and gaining power among those Christians by promoting the “white is right” ideology that emerged to support slavery. This tendency among White evangelicals has deep, deep roots in slavery and racism. The Bible was interpreted to support the separation of the races, even though Jesus and his apostles never made any “racial” distinctions. Christianity came to open and remove barriers, not to shut people into a box, or into slavery. In the long history of Christianity, the major gatherings to clarify and define the faith were not organized by the church, but instead, by the heads of state. From the very beginning, Christianity has had to resist the state and has not always succeeded. At first, the state tried to destroy Christianity, then to join and control from within. Hitler had a state church. He simply re-wrote the Bible and had his version taught to children to support his power, authority, and interpretation of what is "right."

Finally, these people call themselves Christians and call people who practice inclusivity based on the teachings of Jesus “secular humanists.” I have encountered many who had never even heard that the progressive movement in politics is firmly rooted in scripture. When that historical detail is presented to them, they argue with it, say it isn’t so, say “you have been brainwashed” and swear on their Papa’s grave they know for a fact that “liberals” hate them and wish all manner of evil upon them. They don’t question the origins of their own thinking. Do you question the origins of your thinking Tim Rymel? Do you think questioning is a path to a deeper faith? They seem to think questioning is the devil’s work.

Summary: Yes, there is something deeply troubled in Evangelical Christianity. A good part of it comes from being used by politicians to achieve their economic and power goals, and from evangelical unwillingness to question what they are being taught. They say we would all be better off if we just agreed with them and they will keep working at that until they make us all agree. This is neither Christian nor democratic. It is pathological and on the verge of destroying our country.

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