A Wonderful Tribute for Tree Singer

A wonderful book blogger did an interview with me about Tree Singer and I wanted to share it with you!

Heather:

If you know me, you know I love books. I always have a book I’m working my way through, and sometimes I have up to three going at once! There is something absolutely magical about books and I will advocate for people to read them as long as I live. 

Recently, I had the bookworm’s chance of a lifetime. A colleague and friend of mine also happens to be a fantastic author. She posted on social media looking for beta readers for her new book Tree Singer. Basically, a beta reader is someone who gets to read the book before it comes out then looks for grammar mistakes and gives feedback. I felt like I had won the book lottery!  

I instantly fell in love with Tree Singer because it transported me into a magical world that is completely detached from the pandemic and violence laden world we are currently living in. It gave me a chance to take a break from planet earth and to step into a world filled with harmony and connection. I am an outdoors type of girl, so the magical world and story centered around trees and connecting to them was right up my alley. The author’s ability to describe the spiritual connection between the main character and trees is so beautifully curated that I myself could almost feel the connection. The story is of a young girl named Mayten living in a fantastical place where she is training to become a tree singer, someone who is able to communicate with trees, when she is sent on a whirlwind journey to save her world and everyone in it. I found myself on the edge of my seat as the thrilling and mysterious plot unfolds with Mayten racing to restore the delicate balance of life as she knows it. I desperately want a sequel and I won’t stop petitioning for it. I am fully invested in Mayten’s life and well-being; have you ever read a book and felt the same? 

Since I couldn’t convince Jacci to start a sequel the moment she released Tree Singer, I got the next best thing, a Q&A! Let’s dive in: 

What inspired you to write this story?

Thanks for asking Heather,

One of my favorite spiritual practices is silence and solitude. Before the pandemic, I’d go to a retreat center in Auburn once a month for 24 hours of silence. I do a lot of my writing there. On one visit I had a view of the incredible redwood and oak trees from my window. Sitting and contemplating the trees I thought about how connected we are to the earth and I began to envision a girl who could help trees grow by singing to them. It was a whimsical thought but blossomed into the book Tree Singer.

To read the interview click here!

Spiritual Practice: Relearning History

If you’re confused about why the Asian community is calling out racism over the eight people murdered last week, it’s because you weren’t taught a full history in school. Neither was I.

If you’re white like me it can be hard to understand concepts like systemic injustice. When we went to school the history we studied left out important parts of our nation’s history that were less than flattering for white people.

Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt once described contemplation as taking a “long, loving look at the real.” If we are to grow as lovers of God, and of people, we must be willing to take a long, loving look at what really happened in our nation’s history to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Otherwise, we will never understand the outrage our brothers and sisters in the Asian community feel over the eight people murdered last week and how it is impossible not to see that event as a hate crime.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

For instance, we all know about the transcontinental railroad, right? There was a great race from the east and west to see who would get the railroad track to the center of the country first. Our history narrative features much talk about the rich guys who funded it and a mention of the 20,000 Chinese laborers who built the majority of it. But, did you also know that hundreds of those laborers died, and after the railroad was finished, the Chinese men who poured their blood sweat and tears into the railroad were denied citizenship?

To take a long, loving look at the real in regards to the Asian American experience, watch this PBS documentary.

In history class we learned about slavery, but there are stories we didn’t hear. Like the fact that some black women were imprisoned with white men. When they got pregnant from being raped by those men, or by their guards, their children were allowed to stay with them until they were ten years old,; then they were sold as slaves and the money went to fund white schools. Nope, I never heard that story in my history class. You can read more about that here.

And if you want a deeper dive into the problems with our prison system, how it is a racist system, and how that came to be, please watch the Netflix documentary, 13th. It is hard to watch but it deserves a long, loving look at the real.

Obviously, these are only two examples of the many ways BICOP have suffered. How do we deal with the truth that our privilege is based on other suffering of others? How do we deal with this kind of history?

  1. Face it. Take a long look. Don’t turn away. It really happened. Our ancestors did these things and our friends continue to suffer because of them.
  2. Lament. Grieve. Cry. Allow yourself to feel it. Mourn with those who mourn.
  3. Do something. Educate yourself, listen. When BICOP says something is racist, listen. Don’t argue, don’t dismiss. LISTEN. Believe them. Then act. Vote for their rights, run for office, write letters, call, march. Stand next to someone who is being harassed. Turn on your camera to film injustice.  Do whatever is in your wheelhouse so that your friends will know they are not alone in this pain.

What is the difference between Germany and the USA? After the Nazi era, Germany admitted their national shame and made reparations. They were able to heal and move forward. Until we admit our national  shame of racism and make reparations, we will not be able to move forward and begin to heal.

If we each do our part, perhaps the world can heal.

How have you been responding to the pain in our world around racism? In what ways are you learning, growing, trying to make a difference?

Photo at top of woman by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Finding Your Calling

Finding your spiritual “calling” can be confusing because of three misconceptions:

  1. The idea that a calling is to a specific thing, like a “call to the mission field.”
  2. The idea that a calling is for life and never changes.
  3. The idea that other people know what you are called to do in this world.

Let’s look at each misconception. First, the idea that a calling is a specific thing. I believe that our calling from God is to “be” not to “do.” God created each of us with a divine spark that can make the world a better place. The Quakers say that we are all born with “birthright gifts.” We bring these gifts, or that spark, into the world with who we ARE no matter what we DO with our lives. Whether we work in a call center or on a mission field, we are all equal and precious in God’s sight and worthy of using our unique calling to bring hope and healing to the world.

It always bothered me how there was a hierarchy of gifts in Christian circles. If you were a missionary, it was the top of the pile, followed closely by any kind of full-time ministry position. Then there was everybody else. This creates a false separation between sacred and secular work. God makes no distinction. ALL work is sacred.

Then there is the idea that a calling never changes. Well, if WE are our calling and we change and grow all the time, the places that benefit from our calling will also change over time. When we are young in faith, we might be trying to find our gift-set by broad experimentation. We try a lot of things — for instance we might work in the church nursery, or a campaign office, or with the homeless. Over time we learn where our true gifts lie by noticing what gives us joy and energy. We realize that working from our “flat-sides” drain us. We learn to surround ourselves with people whose gifts complement our flat-sides. In this way we hone the use of our gifts and apply them in less broad, more specific ways. We do higher quality work with less effort as we are working from our true selves, the selves we were created to be.

Third, a calling is not a conference call. There is a tendency in certain churches to have folks give “a word” or “a prophesy” over someone else’s life. This can be an encouragement and a blessing. It can also be dangerous. I caution people to take those words with a grain of salt, especially if they involve “greats,” “mates,” or “dates.” Who wouldn’t want to hear they were going to be a famous speaker, or marry a certain person, or have something specific happen on a certain date? But God doesn’t usually give us that kind of information to us in advance; hold it lightly and prayerfully. We can allow people we love and trust to speak into our lives and compare that to how God has made us and what we know of ourselves as we make decisions for our lives.

For me we are all called to the greatest commandment:

To love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as ourselves.

(Matthew 22:35-40)

THIS is our CALLING. To be who God has made us to be, gifted us to be, for the healing of the world. To LOVE others from a place of wholeness and not neediness, which takes some internal work as well. To be in relationship with God, to know and love ourselves, and give from the center of that love — that is our calling.

In what ways have you found God’s calling in your life?

Photo of water fall by Avery Nielsen-Webb on Pexels.com

Photo of sparkler by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Photo of conference call by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com