I’ve just released my first ever YouTube video, in response to what I see as part of America’s growing crisis of compassion: the appalling attacks made by Christians and non-Christians alike on the women and men brave enough to speak out of their own pain to try to halt the silent juggernaut of sexual abuse in our culture. The video is called Women’s Abuse Through a Forest Lens: #Metoo in the Voice of Trees. You can see it here. It speaks of sexual abuse as a tree might speak of human assaults on forests.
I chose to get involved with this divisive issue because it’s where I live: I’ve carried the scars of childhood sexual abuse through most of my life . . . although I’ve never spoken of it publicly before–partly because it’s intensely personal, and partly because of the kind of vilification sure to be aimed at those who do speak out.
How can it be that the old cliches still endure? She must have asked for it . . . it must be her fault . . . she tempted him . . . You know the words, although I hope you’ve never spoken them. How could people believe that human beings, male or female, would join their voices to the #metoo movement and invite such slander without cause?
No, the cause is there. It’s the scarlet elephant in the drawing room, the unspeakable secret, the sin shrouded in silence. It’s the enduring pain in the lives of men and women who’ve been sexually abused–pain as agonizing as any physical illness, and as destructive.
One piece of bedrock wisdom offered to people healing from sexual abuse is to bring their memories into the light and speak them aloud, refusing to accept the shame abusers ladle out to silence them. The voices flooding our media from #metoo are doing just that: coming into the light and speaking their truth. Why are the nation’s Christians not standing with them? “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be brought out into the open . . .” Even now light is shining into a place of cruel darkness. Why do we not join our light to theirs?
I’m sure that the #metoo phenomenon has its fakes and charlatans, but “babies” and “baths” come to mind here. More damning to me are the Christian voices that admit abuse is a reality but dismiss its importance. In their eyes we who suffer from such things are Other (lesser) humans: women, children, LGBT, non-white, poor. We don’t matter.
But even if we don’t matter to many of America’s powerful, we matter to the One Creator. We are among “the least of these” who look to our leaders with hope, and whose well-being the living Christ counts as his own.
You can see the images from Through a Forest Lens below. The video is posted on YouTube.
This weekend, in time for Thanksgiving,
all Yeshua’s Cats e-books $.99!
Fri, 11/17, 8 am thru Mon, 11/20, 8 am (EST)
Regular e-book price $5.99!
Buy them all this weekend for only $.99 each!
(click on any title below to go to the Amazon listing)
- The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat
- A Cat Out of Egypt
- The Cats of Rekem
- Cat Born to the Purple
- Yeshua’s Loom
I found myself more than usually burnt out after finishing the launch of Yeshua’s Loom, so I took an autumn break: hiking and photographing the changing forests in upstate NY. Luckily my brother Don came to visit, so we photographed the woods together!
One of my readers said that my photos looked as if I were trying to find windows into the One’s Spirit in the world. I mentioned that to Don, who said that was exactly what he did! Spending deep time with someone who’s known you all your life is incredibly nourishing. Here are some of my photos–taken by the writer at rest, with her brother. Click on individual photos to see a larger size.
The first album is from Ferncliff Nature Reserve in Duchess County:
The second album is from the Devil’s Peak Trail in the Indian Head Wilderness area above Woodstock:
This third album is from a very windy day along the Hudson River:
And finally, the Vanderbilt Estate on Halloween, after I took Don to the airport:
Yeshua’s Loom Kindle version is available for pre-order here!
Paperback & Kindle versions live on October 14
and reviews are coming in–here are some excerpts:
“A worthy sequel to Cat Born to the Purple! Francisco’s books have a lovely poetic style and a gentle spirituality that enlivens and inspires even if the reader does not share the writer’s Christian perspective. Her cats are distinctly cats, with thoroughly feline perspectives. Each location, each emotion, each happening is described with a vivid sensuality and an emotional richness that puts the reader directly into the action. The theology is generous, humane, and intelligent, with plenty of room for cats!“
“Highly recommended! A powerful story told by sentient cats of the woman who becomes Lydia, seller of purple, and offers the Apostle Paul wisdom destined to change the future of Christianity. Francisco’s evocative, lyrical descriptions bring to life a cat’s-eye view of the feelings, sights, and sounds of biblical times. Loom’s unique perspective—blending philosophy, spirituality, and astute observations on human faith—will intrigue any reader who enjoys thought-provoking accounts of biblical history.”
“Francisco has woven a fascinating tapestry in Yeshua’s Loom with deftness and sensitivity. Animal lovers (and especially cat lovers) will respect the way she has made her cats a part of the divine creation and given them hidden wisdom. As a device for sharing the life of Jesus and his disciples, the feline observations are both charming and intellectually satisfying. A singularly unique fictional series which works well as fantasy fiction and Christian parable!”
Coming October 14th!
Yeshua’s Loom: A Tapestry of Cats is complete and entering the editing and review process! The target release date is October 15th, so mark your calendars!
Yeshua’s Loom is the fifth volume in the Yeshua’s Cats series and the conclusion of Cat Born to the Purple—as well as a continuation of the story of Paul the apostle begun in The Cats of Rekem. In Yeshua’s Loom, Aeliana, the gifted young weaver Yeshua healed in Yeshua’s Cat, journeys to Anatolia, where she marries the Roman merchant Chariton (from Purple), and moves with him to Thyateira, in the province of Lydia. Only later, when she flees to Philippi and changes her name to Lydia of Thyateira, does she enter history through the few cryptic lines in The Acts of the Apostles that link her with Paul. Yeshua’s Loom’s concluding chapters describe a relationship that could easily have grown up between these two brilliant but dissimilar followers of Yeshua when their paths cross briefly in Philippi.
Three cats take turns as guides and narrators: Aeliana’s cat Purple, who accompanies her throughout her travels, the powerful male Nightfire, who is drawn to Chariton by visionary dreams, and Yeshua’s own cat Mari (Wind on Water). Mari joins the family for several years as a wise guide sent by Yeshua, while Maryam of Magdala journeys abroad. Aeliana’s continued struggle to open her heart and allow the One to heal her old wounds brings her and her family into extraordinary encounters with both Yeshua and the dark evil stalking their paths.
Only after many years of tragedy and healing does Aeliana become the wise woman called Lydia, who meets Paul by a small stream near Philippi and changes the course of the Christian faith.
Want to read a sample? Go here to read the first three chapters!
Thank you all for making the Yeshua’s Cats Kindle sale such a success!
The new Yeshua’s Cats book,
working title Yeshua’s Loom: A Tapestry of Cats,
is scheduled for release this fall.
To read the prologue and first three chapters, click here, or on the Yeshua’s Loom tab at the top of the page.
“If the people were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40
The stones are speaking. Are we listening?
The memory of stone. People have spoken of it since humankind first wielded tools to chisel its surface. What stories might be locked in the smallest of river stones, the bedrock beneath the plains’ rich soil, the mountains crushed into gravel for our roads? Certainly we find there the record of the earth’s transformations, the bones and footprints of long-dead species, delicate traceries of plants, massive forests. But what about human lives? Have stones absorbed the fleeting touch of our lately-come species, the storms of blood, tears, laughter, prayer that accompany our kind wherever we wander? Do stones remember us?
I love stone. I have loved it from earliest childhood. I love the weight and feel of it in my hand, the warmth of it beneath me when I rest from walking, the magic of its kaleidoscopic patterns. When I can I travel to mountains and canyons and deserts to spend time in its company. Stone is alive, sentient in some way I can’t explain. I feel it most strongly in wilderness, where human busy-ness is limited—but it has also caught me unawares in urban alleys.
I am unlikely ever to hear a stone speak in human words, or a tree in propositions, or a dog in iambic pentameter. A stone communicates in the manner of stones, just as a dog communicates as dogs do. My experience of the speech of stones is deeply non-verbal, partly visceral and partly emotional, untranslatable. Sometimes I take a photograph or pick up a stone when I feel it; other times I simply let it be. The imagery comes later.
I am not a professional photographer, or even educated in photography. In the past I saw the images in a camera’s eye as an imagined canvas, in terms of shape and balance, tension and flow, light and dark. Now I find myself photographing scenes that pulse with the energy of subtle presence, and I let the rest take care of itself. Sometimes my pictures absorb a hint of that power, sometimes not.
What is a photograph? At its simplest it is a record of objects seen, events observed, people known. But like history, a photograph participates in the awareness of the one who watches and records. And like a scientific experiment, the photographer’s participation is a variable that must be considered. The same scene taken by different people with identical cameras at roughly the same time may be distinctly different—based on something I call “soul,” for lack of any better term. At times the camera’s eye appears to mediate an exchange of understanding? meaning? relationship? being? between photographer and subject, and this fleeting touch (or lack of it) marks the photo.
What are the stones saying with their images? I believe they are communicating their presence, no more. “Look at us!” they cry. “We are alive, in ways you have forgotten you ever knew. We are—as the trees are, and the waters, and the atmosphere that shields the Earth from the extremes of space. Truly see us—see all of creation—we who have been dismissed by your arrogance as mere commodities. See us, before only stones remain to see the sunrise.”
Slipping unseen along the fringes of consciousness, the temptation is always there—to “clean up” the images, make them perfect, adjust their proportions to fit more neatly into Western ideas of beauty. Sometimes I make changes without thinking, and then I have to destroy the image if I can’t undo the edits. We have an implicit understanding, the stones and I—that their images will remain as I find them, removed only from their matrix, and, at most, adjusted for contrast. After all, they are the language of stone, and much is inevitably lost in translation.
Many years ago I discovered a new word: panentheism. Not pantheism (many gods), not theism (usually one god separate from creation), but pan-en-theism—one Spirit present in all creation, without the great divide between spirit and flesh that seems unavoidable in most Western traditions. Perhaps this word can suggest a way to bridge the gulf between stones that speak and a planet of dead rock.
In Christian scripture the apostle Paul describes the perceptions of ordinary people: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly . . . .” These words could describe any human being who has lost her sense of kinship with the web of life in which she lives. We see the world distorted in a bit of poorly polished metal—and ourselves more prominently than all else. But unlike Longfellow’s Lady of Shallot, we have no curse to excuse our stubborn avoidance of the Earth’s true face.
Stone is patient. Stone does not envy or boast, and is neither arrogant nor rude. Stone simply is, demanding nothing. Stone is not false, but embodies the truth of creation. Stone accepts human abuse and awaits our healing. Stone endures all things, is always being transformed, yet is ever the same.
All the photos in The Stones of Easter series* were taken on my brother Don’s mountain during Easter week, 2010, when I was deeply immersed in writing the final chapters of The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat. Starting on the morning of Maundy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday, each day I packed a lunch and water flask and set off up the mountain with my camera. In a very literal sense, I went in search of a vision.
The result of the vision that met me there is Yeshua’s Cat.
And, of course, one of Wendy’s cats.
* Sixteen photos in The Stones of Easter series are available for sale at http://www.zazzle.com/moon_seasons. The original series included 24.
This post was originally published in April, 2014.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how This Madness of the Heart (and all the following Miranda Lamden Mysteries) fit together with my Yeshua’s Cats series–and why I feel certain the two series can coexist as books by the same author. But since my reasons are more feelings and instincts than logic, I’ve had trouble putting them into words.
So I did what I often do when I need to make sense of something: I created a piece of art (below). After all, what good is an art therapy degree if you can’t use it to clarify your own confusion? If I’m lucky, by explaining the image I’ll be opening up what lies behind it!
So, what are you looking at here?
First, I chose a Hubble image for the background: “Interacting Spiral Galaxies” . . . surely ideal for this project, since galaxies don’t often interact–anymore than churchfolk and professor-sleuths! It felt like a propitious beginning.
Three interlocking circles fill the foreground. The center circle pulses with a glowing gold and green light; the Christian Chi Rho emerges from its heart.
What is the Chi Rho? Like most symbols, it has different meanings across cultures, but for me it’s a symbol used by early Christians in the first three centuries after Yeshua’s birth–before Constantine transformed it into an imperial banner (the cross didn’t emerge as a Christian symbol until after the year 500).
The Chi Rho gets its name from the two Greek letters that overlap to create the symbol: Chi and Rho, the first two letters of the Greek word Christos, or Christ. In the image above, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega are added. I did experiment with using a cross in the center circle, but I like the visual effect of the Chi Rho better, probably because it has “rays” like the sunburst. Anyway, the central circle is meant to be the Christian faith–not the organized religion–but the living faith of all the individuals who hold themselves to be Christian.
The circle to the right is Mari, from Yeshua’s Cat, turning aside from a path in a green forest to investigate the central circle. In her circle she represents all of the natural universe. Creation. Everything that exists naturally, apart from the intervention of humankind. This natural order also includes human beings, since they’re part of the created universe–but not their civilizations.
The totality of the created world–as we know it on Earth–is flowing back from Mari’s search like the tail of a comet.
The circle on the left is where Miranda, my detective, lives. Her circle is the world of human civilization–urban, complex, multi-cultural, and often unsure exactly what they believe. Many, like Miranda, have their roots in Christianity, but have turned away from the church. Spinning out from her circle is a spiral of different world religions. But in her circle she, like Mari, has paused to examine something about the Christian faith that has caught her eye.
Both Mari and Miranda live outside the Christian fold, and they approach it from opposite directions. Mari moves from the non-human, natural environment, Miranda from a detached, urban, academic world. Still, both find themselves intrigued by the light in the center circle. Mari has the easier approach: Yeshua introduces himself by saving her life, and she joins him as a friend. But Miranda has been scarred by her Christian experience; she mistrusts the church and its agendas. As a professor, she sees all religions as examples of the human yearning toward the divine. Truth claims don’t enter the picture. She simply records what she observes, without making judgments. Her methods are catlike: she steps cautiously toward anything new, not committing herself, poised to slip back into the shadows if conflict threatens.
I knew a number of women like Miranda in my years apart from the church. Their worlds were full and rich, but they didn’t screen their experiences through a Christian worldview. Yet they were sometimes attracted by a light shining out from this tradition many of them had left behind.
. . . maybe the light shone through a person
a man like Elmus
or as comfort in the midst of evil
perhaps through the One’s presence in some crisis of their own
or simply in prayer and meditation.
But today we live in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to say, “I believe.” The language is lost. What does it mean to believe? Who are we believing in? People who live in the secular world can’t respond to most Christian overtures–because they don’t understand the words anymore. God-talk is becoming literal non-sense to those outside the churches.
People like Miranda are who they are, just as cats are cats. Each responds to life according to their gifts . . . but for some reason those inside and outside the churches are drawing further apart.
Perhaps we might learn from the effort, and love, we put into cross-species communication with our cats (and dogs, gerbils, birds, and ferrets) . . . and look at the incomprehensible human beings around us as if they concealed inner selves as delightful, unique, and full of surprises as a cat’s. It’s not really such a stretch.
I happen to find the lives of alienated Christians intriguing, perhaps because I’ve been there myself. And if the polls are right, their numbers are growing. Their honesty is often fierce, like their determination never to be taken in again by faux-Christianity and self-serving lies. Sadly we don’t have to look far to find the lurking predators they’re avoiding. And that’s what This Madness of the Heart is about.
Miranda peers into the light of Christian faith–but she looks from a place apart. Her own experiences haven’t shown Christianity to be that promised “light to the gentiles.” So she watches, examines, records, and considers. In the meantime, I feel privileged to narrate her journey.
Click here to visit my Miranda Lamden Mysteries site.