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Reflections in the Silver Cup


I rarely read with my ears. Audio is just not my thing, which is a bit strange, since for many years I made my living listening to people's stories. Or maybe that's why--I needed a vacation from listening when I sat down to read.


After To Drink from the Silver Cup was published, folks kept asking if there was going to be an audio version, especially people who do most of their reading that way. "I doubt it," was my usual reply. I didn't think my publisher would invest in having an audiobook made, and that pretty much ruled it out for me.


Then came a day when I changed my tune, when I began to actively want an audio version to happen. I was in Bellingham, Washington, on the second leg of my tour with Silver Cup. I was in sudden, tremendous pain that I mistakenly thought originated in my shoulder and would later turn out to be caused by herniated discs in my cervical spine. The second form of treatment I sought was massage, which brought relief for about twenty minutes, through no fault of the massage therapist. In fact, she was gifted, perhaps the best I'd ever been to. She was a young woman who was legally blind, due to juvenile macular degeneration. I learned from her about living with blindness proactively, including her choice of profession. At some point we talked about why I was in Bellingham, and she became very interested in my book. At the time, she still could read visually with an assistive device, but it was a great strain for her to do so, and she could only read a little at a time. Also, she had a boyfriend who'd had a similar religious upbringing to mine and was still struggling with the aftereffects. She wanted him to be able to read it. That was when I began to want to make an audio version, but the financial wherewithal didn't exist.


Enter two very good friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of whom continued to gently poke at me about making an audiobook. Moreover, she offered to help with the cost. I procrastinated and procrastinated, thinking there would still be a cost to me and dreading dealing with the contract with my publisher--silly of me because that turned out to be a piece of cake.


Another author published by Terra Nova had done an audiobook, and I got the names of a couple of producers from her. Finally, the day after Thanksgiving I called the one who had the most experience with ACX, the online distributor for Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. We set recording dates for early in January, and the two women in Grand Rapids sent me a check for what would cover all or most of the costs. The producer told me his charges--$40 an hour to record and $20/hour for mixing and editing.


Even though I'd read many excerpts from Silver Cup on my tours, I had never read the whole book since publication. Chris, who would become my producer, recommended practicing, which naturally made perfect sense. I ended up reading a little more than the first third right away, in my enthusiasm, then abruptly stopped for no apparent reason. I picked back up a few weeks later, and found myself marking up the copy much more than I had in the beginning--where to emphasize certain words, where to pause, commas to ignore and ones to pay attention to, inserting phrases like "she said" where the visual cues for a quotation would not be present, and adding pronunciation guides I hadn't needed when I wasn't reading words like "Guarani" aloud. I decided I needed practice reading the begininning of the book once more, making additional notations and refreshing my familiarity with the text.


After that it was a matter of waiting and repeatedly checking weather predictions.



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Photo by Catherine Robinson

First published in the Gallup Independent on 12/15/18

Reprinted with permission


During the 2012 election I served as a poll worker. I enjoyed meeting and engaging with voters from every walk of life. There were young people and new citizens voting for the very first time. There were people much older than I—some walking with a light step, others barely able to make it from my table to the booth. There were Native people, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, whites.


There was one man I will never forget. He was clearly living on the edge. If he was not homeless, he was close to it. He was obviously working hard to hold his agitated mental state in check. He arrived at my station and said with great urgency, "I came to vote." I printed his ballot and handed it to him. He said, "I need to know the Democrats." I showed him how to figure that out. He took his time with the ballot, and once he came back to me. He seemed overwhelmed when he asked, "Do I have to vote for everything, the judges and everything?" The answer was no, and he was relieved. It plainly took a great deal of effort for him to fulfill this civic right and responsibility. He left carrying two handfuls of plastic bags after turning in his ballot. I was so deeply touched by the man's commitment to vote, especially because it took so much out of him.


Later I told my cousin the story of this voter. My cousin said, "Jesus came to vote that day."


People often ask the question, "If Jesus came to see us today, would we recognize him?" Chances are, he wouldn't come looking like the Jesus we've seen in artists' portraits. He would be more likely to look like the scruffy, plastic-bag-carrying man who came to my station to vote. Or like the homeless people we see on the streets.


Several years ago, my friend's son received the gift of a toy Playmobil Nativity Scene. The scene included the usual suspects—Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, a manger, a cow, a donkey, angels, wise men, camels, and fancy gold gifts for the baby. Young George also owned other Playmobil sets—among them knights in armor with horses, and a tent to sleep in; garbage collectors with a garbage truck, dumpsters, and brooms to sweep the street. He creatively arranged the usual Nativity Scene with all his other Playmobil people and items. Every Christmas. Over time George's mother would come upon the Nativity Scene and find the baby Jesus in many different places—sometimes among Playmobil police officers, other times with the garbage collectors, or sometimes with a motorcycle gang.

In the book of John, we read, "The Word [another name for Jesus] became flesh and lived among us." In the Christian tradition, this is what Christmas is about. It's about Jesus coming to Earth as a human being, experiencing the things we experience. I've often said to students of mine, "It's hard being a human being." That's what Jesus did—came and took on the hard things that we live with as human beings.

Now, living in the twenty-first century, Jesus still shows up in our lives—just like the Playmobil baby Jesus—anywhere, when we least expect him. With the garbage collectors. With the motorcycle gang. With the sheepherders. With the wise men. At the voting booth. In the worst streets but also in the banks and in the high places in government.

The question is, will we recognize Jesus when we see him? Will we know to honor Jesus when he is drunk or scruffy and homeless? Will we know to welcome him when he is a garbage collector instead of a college professor? Will we feed her when she's homeless and hungry? Will we visit her in prison or write him letters there?

Maybe this is really what Christmas is about—recognizing Jesus whether we find him in a manger or a garbage dumpster—needing to be rescued, warmed, and cared for. Jesus is among us all the time. He said himself, "I was hungry, and you fed me; naked and you gave me something to wear; in prison and you visited me. Because if you do these things for other people, you're doing them to me."

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