Monthly Archives: April 2016

The People I Write For

Now that I am down from my chocolate high, I can take a moment to reflect on my experience at the Martinsburg Chocolate Fest.

Writing is somewhat of an introvert activity. An author is fortunate if she or he has an extroverted personality or a flair for marketing. I have neither. I enjoy people, places and things as much as I am able, but I get my energy from quiet endeavors. Needless to say, the Chocolate Fest was not something I actually wanted to do.

Besides being a great opportunity to get some visibility for my book, it is an annual community event people enjoy. Chocolate, books and kid-friendly activities. What’s not to like? (That was the argument I used after I talked myself out of it twice.) I applied late, yet the sponsors went out of their way to fit me in. As a local author, they wanted to help me in spite of my best self-sabotaging efforts.

So, what did I get for stepping out of my comfort zone? Lots and lots. Elsewhere, I mentioned the special visits, the support, the networking and the sales – a surplus of the things a writer hopes to accomplish. Beyond that, I have two memories that are mine to treasure. Two moments of personal awe.

The first was gifted to me by a young lady I guess to be about fourteen or so. She and her mom came in to get their chocolate and chat. Her mom chatted. She picked up my book, read the front, read the back, and started reading the book. Having secured the candy and paid her greeting-dues, mom was ready to move on. I watched the hesitation in her daughter’s movement. The wistful longing. Her mom saw it too. Mother’s eyes darted to the price signage.

I suddenly knew things I had no business knowing. I knew this was not a greedy person who got everything she wanted or asked for very much. I knew her mom would give her the world if she could afford it. I knew two minutes was not enough time for any sensible mother to gauge the value of an impulse buy.

I offered the printed-out first page. A stack of which, I had on hand to tempt readers. My young friend informed me she had already read beyond the first page. (That fast, she was five pages in!) Our kindred spirits clicked and I said, “Well, then you should have it.”

Her mom agreed and with a sigh reached for her purse. I shook my head and said it was a gift. There were squeals of gratitude and excited appreciation, and look of sheer joy when I handed E— her very own signed copy.

I came to the Chocolate Fest for her. I wrote my novel for her. During that short exchange, accomplishments didn’t matter. Jobs didn’t matter. The next president didn’t matter. All that mattered was a story and a beautiful, bright mind to fall into it.

My other treasured pleasure came from a sister who was unafraid of herself and who loved me for me.

We were stationed at a restaurant. My girl came in looking for lunch but paused when she saw me. In her mind, I am a black success story. I wrote a book. I accomplished something. I am a point for the underdog. In her excitement, she left me to hold her things while she rounded up her crew. A few minutes later she returned with two brothers who had to see me for themselves before they became true believers. All three purchased books in a show of solidarity and support. One gentleman even gave me a tip because he was so proud to have me there. Another teared up when he asked me to write something encouraging for his granddaughter because she likes to write too. My girl showed everyone in the room the inscription because I signed it: to my girl, G—. You made my day! She wanted people to know she was My Girl. They shook my hand again as they were leaving the restaurant and promised to ‘show me off’ to everybody.

It felt like undeserved star-treatment, to me. For them, it was a chance to celebrate life.

I wrote my story for them. I write all my stories for them. I grew up in the inner city without basic necessities. Last Saturday, I ate chocolate and signed books. Of course, I write for them.

As introverted as I am, and as much as I like my house, I can honestly say, I am glad I chose to participate in this year’s Chocolate Fest. I wanted to sell books and I did. But I received more than just money. I had more than just fun. I was fortunate enough to meet the people I write for.

A Tale of Two Bakeries

After the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, I thought my little story would not be necessary. I was wrong. Mississippi showed me how wrong I was. So, now you get a story. It’s a retelling of the never-ending battle of a Christian vs another Christian.

My little story is called: Cupcakes for all… or not.

Once upon a time (storytellers use that phrase so you know it’s a story) there were two Christian Bakeries owned and operated by two Christians, Tina and Tanya. The bakeries had Christian-sounding names, something like First Fruits or Finest Wheat or Bread from Heaven to prove their owners read the bible.

Tina prayed every day for the lost souls who need to come to Jesus. She also prayed God would protect her from the persecution affecting so many Christian businesses. But, seemingly, her prayers went unheard.

One day, Linda, a regular customer, announced her engagement and asked if Tina would make the wedding cake. Upon hearing Linda was going to marry Michelle, Tina –as gently and humbly as possible- informed Linda that she would be unable to make the wedding cake as she could not participate in the ceremony because gay marriage was against her religious beliefs.

As you can imagine, Linda did not take the news well. She felt assaulted, wounded and discriminated against. (Not to mention, insulted by Tina’s assumption that she and her cake were part of the ceremony rather than the after party.)

Linda and Michelle told all their friends who fed their outrage. Boycotting, counter boycotting and legal battles ensued. Tina and by extension, the church, received a lot of negative attention.  The hit her business took forced Tina to release members of her staff. A few had no other income. Many Christians reacted by helping Tina with her mounting legal fees. They showed their support by donating money- lots of money to Tina’s cause. Because Tina is a Christian, standing up for Christian values, and persecuting Christians for their beliefs is wrong.

Meanwhile, Tanya ran her little cutesy-Christian-named bakery according to her regular routine. She too prayed every day for God to bring her the people He wanted her to serve. (She capitalizes the H in he because it’s a Christian-duty to disregard the rules of grammar when it comes to God.)

When Tanya received a visit from Bob and Todd, she didn’t think anything of it. She believed they were in her bakery because God heard her prayers. She showed them her designs and discussed their theme. She baked them a beautiful prayer-filled cake (she prayed over all the ingredients and the utensils too) and hoped it was big enough. To her way of thinking, Christ was in the cake; getting the cake into sinners was a win for everyone. Then she went about her life, not giving Bob or Todd anther thought.

But here’s what happened: Later, at a rally supporting Linda and Michelle, Todd could be heard commenting that not all Christians were hypocrites. He knew Tanya to be a devout Bible-believer, whose actions mirrored her beliefs. In fact, the cake Tanya made was so wonderful, several of his friends now frequent her establishment. They like the environment –say, there is a welcoming peace when they step through the door. They can’t get enough of her cinnamon muffins. They feel safe asking her religious questions because she sells cookies, not judgment.

Tanya isn’t aware of these details. What she does know is her business is booming. So much so, she added two people to her staff (blessing those families from her increase). She also increased her charitable giving, pulling all kinds of money from the world and depositing it into furthering God’s kingdom.

The only people who have a problem with Tanya’s cutesy-Christian-named bakery are other Christians who believe she is not a true Christian (and possibly Ariana Grande). But, Tanya prays for them too. And, although she never made the news, all was well in her little world.

The end.

In case you missed it, the moral of the story is Freewill is God’s Will. Our God-given free will gives us the right to make our own choices in life. Even poor choices. God doesn’t like sin, but he (I know, I didn’t capitalize the h. Pray for me.) allows it because we have free will. I don’t think he wants people to go to hell but he doesn’t force anyone to be or do anything (good or otherwise).

Christians who impose their beliefs on others think they are doing God’s will, but more often than not, they are violating God-given free will.

If God doesn’t violate free will, why should you?

You may think you are standing up for Christian values, but in reality, you are punishing people for not living according to your beliefs.

You may believe you are protecting yourself or mimicking Christ. But, he taught us to love our neighbors. He ate with sinners and tax collectors. He gave Judas communion.

Let me repeat that. He gave Judas communion.

Betraying the Son of God is pretty high on the ‘things you shouldn’t do’ list. (Certainly higher than Todd and Bob ordering a cake). Yet, he didn’t tell Judas, he couldn’t feed him because betrayal was against his religious beliefs. The Son of God shared with the betrayer (and the denier) the same bread and wine he gave his ‘good’ Apostles.

Serving the Kingdom of God isn’t about forcing compliance or imposing your will. It’s about being of service in God’s Kingdom. But I guess you can call yourself a Christian and not serve in God’s Kingdom.

That is how Free Will works.