A Reluctant Writer

Archive for January, 2012

This Force of Love 1/2

David Lummis

PART 1: Spiritual Aspects

A friend asked me if I would be interested in writing about The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans. “The blog has a theme and the author would have to talk about his faith, beliefs and spirituality,” I replied. Csaba Lukacs, owner of River House Publishing, and David Lummis, the author of The Coffee Shop Chronicles, are life partners. I didn’t think they would be interested in talking to a Christian about God. I was wrong. Csaba called me. The main character in the novel, B. Sammy Singleton, is the agnostic son of a Baptist minister. Csaba thought addressing the spiritual aspect of the book was a good idea.

I read David’s book, impressed by his ability to paint vivid images with words. Mid-way through, the comedic tone of the novel took a sharp turn into the darkness of racism, specifically, the oppression of African-Americans. The latter half of the book appealed to me more than the beginning. Women are well acquainted with oppression. I have been crushed by the oppressive foot of inequality that continues to march through the church centuries after Jesus sent a woman to preach his resurrection to men hiding in an upper room (John 20:17). I share David’s passion for equality.

I thought we would sit at Café du Monde and sip coffee while we talked. The packed Café and noisy conversations from its patrons voided my plan. We found a shaded bench in Jackson Square being serenaded by jazz music. I turned on my recorder and slid it close to the gentle, soft spoken man sitting next to me.

“I went to church every Sunday with my parents,” began David. “I would not call my parents extremely religious, but they were committed. My experience in the Methodist church was a little different than that of Sammy, who was raised Baptist. I seldom if ever heard any talk of Hell. It was always about love and forgiveness and doing the right thing. There was never a punitive element for those who didn’t. I always felt like the church was very accepting of everyone including gay people, and that was very important to me.”

Thoughts of being gay are attached to David’s earliest memories, prompting him to make a conscious decision at eleven years of age. He was gay; he wasn’t going to fight it. The harsh reality that he would never father a child filled him with sadness, which he released in a poem:

I would like to have a son someday

but my path leads away.

I would like never to be alone

but sometimes no one’s home.

I would like to cry out all the tears

and be left with only smiles.

I would like to cross the inches

And be left with only miles.

© David Lummis

Around the same time David wrestled with his sexual identity, he visited an old house near the town high school that had been occupied by Maranatha, a religious group that preached the born again experience and practiced speaking in tongues.

David grew thoughtful as he recalled his experience at Maranatha. “I wanted to have the experience I kept hearing described to me, but I don’t think I did. I spoke in tongues, but I always felt like I was making it up. Honestly, I felt like I had to in order to be accepted by this group, so I just sort of jabbered something, and I don’t think I was the only one doing it. I definitely lean much more Christian than any other direction, but my experience at Maranatha left me angry and disillusioned. ”

David confessed to the leaders of the church that he was gay. They laid hands on him to cast out what they believed was a demon. His attraction to men remained. This experience left David without hope of ever fitting in at Maranatha as the pastor thundered from the pulpit, “Homosexuals go to Hell!”

Others who sought healing at Maranatha for various reasons also failed to receive. Watching people dragged around the church in an effort to make them to walk made David uncomfortable. Nor could he reconcile the constant supplications for money from a pastor who drove a Cadillac.

A few years after David left Maranatha, his life became a blur of drugs and drinking. By age twenty-five, he knew that he needed help to pull his life from the depression that refused to release him. Through a well-known 12-step program, which taught him to rely on a higher power, David returned to his spiritual roots. “I made a decision to turn my life over to God, as I understood God. Just look around,” conviction filled David’s voice. “Could all of this be an accident, it’s so obvious there is a higher power. I still believe in a more or less traditional form of a God, but I really believe more in this force of love. I remember people in recovery who didn’t have the degree of faith I did who had a much harder time overcoming alcoholism.”

The program also led David to an exploration of spiritual people. Deepak Chopra is an Indian medical doctor, public speaker, and writer on subjects such as spirituality, Ayurveda and mind-body medicine. Chopra taught one’s health can be improved by purging negative emotions and developing intuition by listening to signals from the body. David also studied the works of Louise L. Hay, internationally known leader in the self-help field and bestselling author of You Can Heal Your Life. Her message that anything can be healed if you are willing to do the mental work resonated with David. He revisited his more traditional Christians roots with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Schinn, which included quotes from the Bible and anecdotal explanations of the author’s understanding of God and man.

Applying spiritual principles to his life has kept David sober for twenty-five years, and more recently given him the courage to fulfill a lifelong dream – publish a novel.

Your Ministry

# 3 Passage to Purpose: Your Ministry

When I came to a financial impasse, I forgot about my manuscript and publishing until a friend sat next to me in church. We were listening to church announcements when Emma leaned over and stuck an offering envelope in my hand. Perplexed, I looked at the envelope and said, “Do you want me to put it in the offering basket?”

“No,” said Emma. “It’s for your ministry.”

“What ministry?”

“Your writing ministry,” she replied.

I shoved the envelope back into Emma’s hand. “Put that in the offering basket when it comes by. I don’t have a ministry.”

She shoved the envelope back into my hand. “No, it’s for you.”

I pointed to the name of the church on the offering envelope. “It’s not for me. It’s for the church. See the name on the offering envelope.” I shoved the envelope back into her hand. Emma glared at me and tried to shove the envelope into my hand now formed into a tight fist. “I’m not taking money in a churches offering envelope,” I whispered through clenched teeth.

Emma ripped open the envelope. Dropped the cash onto my lap and said, “It’s for your ministry.” The look in her eye threatened physical altercation if I dared give the money back.

Lest we start a World Wrestling Federation Smack Down in the middle of a church service, I put the cash in my Bible and said, “Fine.”

I didn’t know what to do with the money, so I put it in my file cabinet to await a burning bush experience or at least a voice from heaven offering direction.

The following Sunday, Emma donated more money to my non-existent ministry. I put the money in my file cabinet. After receiving donations for several months, Emma said, “So what are you doing with the money?”

I wasn’t doing anything with the money but I was reluctant to disappoint my benefactor with the truth. Then I remembered the editor’s discounted offer to fix the grammar in my manuscript. I smiled, “I’m paying an editor to prepare my manuscript for publishing.” Lest I burn in Hell for being a liar, I sent the editor an email as soon as I returned home from church. He was still interested in doing the work at the discounted price. I matched the money Emma had given me for my non-existent ministry and sent the editor my first chapter. When work on the manuscript concluded, the editor recommended a new publishing house called Publish America.

Publish America’s website said “traditional publisher” but used, at that time, a new technology called print-on-demand.  They did not charge authors to publish their book, but did little to help them market. I researched well know Christian publishing houses and found the same sign hanging on each of their doors. “Don’t call us, get an agent.” My paraphrase of, “We don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.”

Getting a manuscript published was not going to be easy, and “published author” was not on my list of things I most wanted to do in life. I filled out the information Publish America required and tossed the edited manuscript on the shelf thinking I’d come to the end of the road. My education in publishing had just begun, but I didn’t know that yet. More about that in my next post.

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