St. John’s Abbey’s Bible: First Handwritten, Illuminated Bible Since the Printing Press

I remember reading about this Bible back when researching my novel Tojet (the character Merkit joined a monastery after his wife died).

St. John’s Abbey had a very informative website about the modern life of the monks living there.  One of the monks even responded to my e-mailed questions.  It was awesome.  🙂

Here’s their website now.  And they still have a section about their monastic life.

The St. John’s Bible is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned since the advent of the printing press.

It was commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota to “ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world and to illuminate the word of God for a new millennium,” said Kate Candee, vice president for missions and retention at Marian [University in Fond du Lac].

“It’s hard to describe the magnitude of this,” Candee said.

The Bible was created by a team of scribes, artists and craftspeople in a scriptorium in Wales under the artistic direction of Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and the Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in London, England. —Marian University Receives Fine Art Editions of St. John’s Bible

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Excerpt from “Tojet”

A fairy tale for adults.  A mysterious girl named Tojet appears in a convent-run school one day.  Two teachers, Sister Elizabeth and oddly-named Merkit Terjit, take her under their care.

But is she a lost, imaginative orphan or a time traveler with fairy powers?  How does she know who Merkit is and how he was named?

Tragedy drives her away, but she returns as a young, beautiful woman, far more mature than she should be.  She shows Merkit a world of obsession and dark fairies.

He can’t help falling in love with her, but what about the monastic vows he’s about to take?  Can he fight the temptations that surround him?

Available for book or e-book purchase here.  An excerpt:

 

The next morning, a Saturday, Merkit sat with Tojet in the kitchen after breakfast as Barb ran some light errands.  He talked with Tojet about school, but she kept yawning.

“Didn’t you get enough sleep last night?” he said with a grimace that was supposed to be a smile.

“Well, no,” she said.  “I came back too late in the night to get all my ten hours.  I came back when the fairies woke me up.  They said I’d fallen asleep, and should go to bed.”

“Fairies? You saw fairies?”  Merkit crossed his arms to block a sudden chill.

“I want you to be my friend, so I want you to know everything about me,” she said.  Her tone was matter-of-fact as she explained, as if every other child went to visit fairies across the ocean in another time every night.  Yet as he listened to her story, Merkit felt as if he himself had been there, had gone to dance with the fairies, had gone to a fairy ring on a hill in the forest around Silva at midnight, had seen a full moon. . . .

There, a full moon shone through the treetops.  Mushrooms sprouted up in the meadow in a ring large enough to fit a few human-sized fairies, if there were any.  Tojet looked like a fairy herself in her white lace dress, the same she’d worn at their first meeting, so yes, there was one.  Merkit leaned his arm against a tree trunk to watch.  His cloak billowed down from his arm and around his shoulders in the evening breeze.

The moonlight couldn’t penetrate the trees of the surrounding wood, and lit only the little ring.  Deer, squirrels, mice, and other animals crept up to the ring to watch the strange creatures, but moved no closer.  Powder-scented, naked elves and pixies of both sexes danced inside the ring on the mild, May night.  Their nakedness was no surprise: drawings and paintings often showed them that way.  The fairies were of various sizes, some tiny and with butterfly wings, some larger and without wings.  Fairy musicians with fairy flutes, lutes, panpipes, fiddles, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and jaw harps played reels and softer, sweeter melodies. Merkit wanted to join the leaping, spinning fairies, but Tojet called to him,

“Don’t come in the ring.  You’ll have to join in if you do, and then you’ll get a wasting sickness, like consumption, or you’ll find out a century has gone by the time you get out again.  Only I can join in, until you marry me–then you can, too.”

Some fairies left the dancing to find private spots in the darkness of the treetops and bushes.  Tojet saw them go, but looked away again, ignoring them. When Merkit cried out in surprise, she looked at him.

“They’re fairies,” she said, shrugging, “not humans.  I don’t think they keep that stuff between a man and his wife.  They have totally different rules for what’s a sin and what’s not.  For example, if you step in the ring, they think it’s right to make you dance till you get sick, because you broke the rules.”  After unfastening and unbraiding her pigtails, she continued dancing.

Two blue cat-eyes appeared by a tree outside the ring, then the full-sized woman they belonged to.  She was several inches taller than Merkit.  Her middle-parted, blonde hair fell in both curls and tiny plaits to her knees.  Two braids circled her head below a wreath made of leaves and lilies of the valley.  Her slanted eyebrows, tiny nose, pointy ears, butterfly wings, and enchanting beauty showed her to be a fairy, probably the queen or princess of the fairies.  She was also the only fairy wearing clothing.  She wore a sleeveless, knee-length dress woven of gauzy, green spider silk, and only a small shift underneath.  Queen Anne’s lace circled her wrists.  She wore no shoes on her three-toed feet.  She smelled like violets.

A fog filled Merkit’s mind until he forgot his own name.  He forgot he was a married and God-fearing man.  Who was he?  What had he done, what had he been before this night?  He shook his head, but couldn’t clear it.  All he saw was the fairy queen.  He wanted her with a primitive, nature-worshiping lust.

He forgot all his objections to the fairy behavior.  The queen’s slight and perfect, small-breasted, curved figure beckoned to him.  He forgot he’d ever even had a wife.

He forgot he’d ever been anywhere else but there in the forest.  He forgot who Tojet was.  The fairy queen’s red, Cupid’s bow mouth curled up in a seductive grin.  He imagined taking her to the side of the ring and lying on the ground with her.  He forgot Tojet’s warning.  In his mind, he kissed every inch of her heart-shaped face and pointy chin, holding her tightly, but careful not to tear her delicate wings.

He shook off his fantasy.  He stepped around the ring and toward her to kiss her and act it out.  She put her arms around him, letting him kiss her and press his body against her.

“No!” blasted across the ring.

They both turned to Tojet.  She glared at them with her cat-eyes.  Her own childish beauty showed despite her frown, and perhaps because of it.  The fairy queen obeyed the human child and gently pushed Merkit away.  Merkit looked at her again, disappointed.  He saw the lust in her own eyes.

“It must not be,” she said in a voice like the tinkling of a dripping faucet, or a dewdrop splashing on the tin roof of a garden gnome’s house.  “You are to stay pure, and I am not the one who belongs to you.”

The fog cleared a little; the memory of his wife and Tojet now returned to him.  At first he thought the fairy queen meant his wife, but somehow he knew she meant Tojet.

“But Tojet’s only a child,” he said.

“Of course she’s not yours now, but she will not be a child forever.  She’s half grown-up already, and once she’s fully grown, she’s yours.”

“Don’t make him a slave with your kisses, please, Your Majesty,” Tojet said.  “He’s not meant to be your boyfriend.  You and your fairies promised him to me.”

Merkit blinked.  He now remembered where he came from.  “Why me?” he said. “Why not someone in her own time?”

The queen said, “Because you’re more likely to treat her as an equal, and be good enough for our favorite.  Tojet should never be treated as second best.  We sent scouts throughout the twentieth century and beyond to find a husband for her.  Your parents loved fairies, so we soon focused on you and decided to see what kind of man you’d be when you grew up.  We looked, and had the local fairies check on you.  We liked what we saw, and thought you’d make an excellent match for Tojet.  You’re kind, you’re passionate, and you treat women properly; you two also have similar interests.”

“Similar interests?  But she’s only nine.  I like classic novels and she likes Winnie the Pooh books, for example.”

“We know how she’ll turn out, what she’ll be interested in as she grows up.”

“But I have a wife.”

“We also know your future.”

The last traces of fog dissipated.  Unease jabbed his stomach.  What was in his future?  Why did she say this when he mentioned his wife?

Merkit turned and saw Tojet, who was curled up on the side of the ring, asleep.  He felt more like a father who must get his sleeping child to bed than a predestined husband of a fairy child.

“What did you do to me?  Why did I forget everything about myself?  Who will you do this to next?”

The fairy queen only smiled.  “I’ll turn to the king of the goblins.  Of all the local kings, he is the handsomest.  After the dance, I will go to meet him; he needs no spells.  Your heart is so loyal that trying to charm you has given me a headache.  Now go, take your betrothed maiden home.”

Merkit picked Tojet up, but she disappeared, along with everything else.  He jerked his head back and forward again.  There she sat at the kitchen table in front of him.  She finished her tale.  He must have imagined the scene with the fairy ring, but it had seemed so real.  Even his lustful fantasy seemed real, and now it shamed him.

What business did he, a married man and a Christian, have fantasizing about a fairy queen?  He had to find something else to do to chase the fantasy from his mind.  Why would he even want to fantasize about a fairy queen?  Barb was everything he’d ever wanted in a wife; they had many of the same thoughts and liked many of the same things.  When they met in a Christian group at college as sophomores, they fell for each other right away.  After a few months of obsessing, Merkit worked up the courage to ask her out, only to find that she had also been obsessing.  The Christian group was new, and Merkit and Barb worked together to help make it more visible on campus.  They worked side by side for the group to make and put up posters around the campus, plan parties and trips to see Christian rock bands, and lead (Barb) or go to (Merkit) small groups.  They fought hard against many temptations to sleep together, their biggest struggle of all.  Their friends called them the perfect couple.

When they got engaged in their senior year, no one was surprised.  He had no reason to want a stranger, even a fairy queen, instead.

“A nice little tale, Tojet,” he said, “but we can’t spend all our time dancing with fairies.  I have to go grade some papers now.”  He jumped up and trotted off to find his briefcase.  He later hurried off to the church for Saturday morning confessions, to purge himself of the fairy queen fantasy.

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Buy My Books! Buy My Books!

My books are available for purchase here.  E-book downloads are only $3.  You can see text previews at the links for the print versions.  Descriptions:

Tojet:

A fairy tale for adults.  A mysterious girl named Tojet appears in a convent-run school one day.  Two teachers, Sister Elizabeth and oddly-named Merkit Terjit, take her under their care.

But is she a lost, imaginative orphan or a time traveler with fairy powers?  How does she know who Merkit is and how he was named?

Tragedy drives her away, but she returns as a young, beautiful woman, far more mature than she should be.  She shows Merkit a world of obsession and dark fairies.

He can’t help falling in love with her, but what about the monastic vows he’s about to take?  Can he fight the temptations that surround him?

—Preview available here.  So far, this book has been given the highest rating by four readers.  Also see professional reviews here and here[Update: Last link was to Wayback Machine, but doesn’t work anymore for some reason.]

 

The Lighthouse:

Enter the world of the Lighthouse, a club for supernatural beings and social misfits.  In this Gothic story collection you will find castles, ghosts, vampires, romance and terror:

 

Bedlam Castle–An American college girl loses herself in the hallways of a 900-year-old castle.  Eccentric characters invite her to dinner.  One is a genie, one is an undine, and most of the others are ghosts.  One man intrigues her the most–but is he a mortal man or a supernatural creature like the rest?

 

Jarkin–Becky Stevens falls in love against her will with Archibald Jarkin, an eccentric, austere and charismatic preacher.  Their passionate marriage is tested when Jarkin’s TV ministry turns into a witch hunt.  When Becky discovers the Lighthouse, their life together takes a startling new path.

 

Alexander Boa: Or, I was a co-ed vampire slave–When a young woman’s college is taken over by a vampire, she becomes his secret mistress.  Will she be torn apart when her friends decide to kill him?

 

Candida–A young man is stricken with a girl who falls under a vampire’s spell.  Soon married and pregnant with the vampire’s baby, she has no idea what danger she’ll be in if the baby is a boy.

 

All Together Now–This story combines characters and settings from the other four stories.  Jenny, a social misfit, is introduced to the Lighthouse, supernatural creatures, and a deceptive man.  When he leaves her and then accuses her of stalking him, she can only vindicate herself by facing the horrors of a haunted cave.  Will she survive?  Will she fall in love again?

–Preview available here.

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Whether and when to forgive an abuser

Wednesday night, All-Merciful Saviour Monastery posted a link on Facebook: The Morning Offering.  They were referring to the blog for Tuesday, February 28, 2012, “Rejected: When People Don’t Forgive.”  [Also on their new site here.] 

I need to print this out because it refers to abusive people who live their lives with a chip on their shoulders, taking it out on you–but neither do they forgive you for your “offenses” against them, whether real or imagined, but they refuse to apologize themselves.

Apparently three of the things I did were correct according to the Church, even though counselors may disagree:

  1. apologizing for what offended Tracy, even though it was only in her own head and she was the actual abuser
  2. walking away when she not only did not forgive (at least, not without an ultimatum that required me to submit to even more of her abuse and control), but did not apologize for her own abusive behavior
  3. and praying that she come to repentance.

The thing I haven’t done yet is forgive.  It’s a lot harder to do that without an apology, and I’ve still been using anger to distance myself from her and Richard so it doesn’t hurt as much to give up Richard’s friendship.

I still keep wishing he would apologize and we would be friends again, and this disturbs me because I know very well now that he has a violent, scary side.

I don’t intend to go forever without forgiving.  But I have also come across blogs and blog commenters who have been abused, and say that forgiveness is impossible until you’ve healed; otherwise, it’s premature and false forgiveness.  But I do want to come to forgiveness eventually.

This monk’s blog says that if I forgive the abuser, I will be justified before God, and I am only responsible for my own response, not the abuser’s.  It also says that forgiveness is only possible through Christ: It’s not something humans just naturally do.

Reconciliation is a different thing from forgiveness, and is only possible if Richard and Tracy apologize and end their abusive and violent ways–not just to me, but to each other, the children and other people as well.

Currently, I’m going through this blog and its many comments, when I have time: Forgive the Abusers: A Bit of a Rant

I keep going back and forth about whether or not to blog about these things publicly.  But I see all sorts of other blogs on the Net about personal abuse stories.  It’s one way people are using these days to deal with it.  It’s part of that “if you’re silent, the abusers will get away with it” way of thinking.

And songwriters and poets have always done this in their own way as well (i.e., Linkin Park, Adele, Eminem, Carly Simon, Alannis Morissette, etc.).

I do like reading such blogs and finding I’m not alone, whether it’s reading a story of a narcissistic friend, or a note about how hard it is to forgive any kind of abuser, or forum posts about seeing the abuser again at a restaurant or in family get-togethers.  It’s far more real than, say, reading some magazine article about what you’re supposed to do to forgive/get over abuse.

And if such a writer can talk about some horrible abuse story and how she was able to get through the pain and forgive her abuser, then I know it’s possible for anyone.

Because while the anger is necessary for a time, if you hold onto it for too long, it can begin to twist you into an abuser yourself.

There’s no way I want to be like Tracy.  I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANOTHER TRACY.  I must not let her poison work its way through my system until I become like her. 

I want to continue keeping my husband happy, and help my son grow up healthy and happy. 

And I want that salvation that leads to eternity going from one level of bliss to another, getting ever closer to God–not an eternity of self-imposed darkness as the bitterness consumes me.

As you can see from reading my posts on Richard and Tracy, I have a lot of crap to get out of my system and deal with.

It’s a lot harder when the perpetrators act like their treatment of you was somehow deserved by you, that you just need to “GROW UP” and “stop feeling hurt over the consequences of YOUR behavior.”

When one of the perpetrators even posted on her Facebook wall that she was having a “GREAT day” because she was yelling and screaming at you.

When these perpetrators occasionally show up at your church and, instead of trying to make peace with you and apologize as you had hoped, they freeze you out as if you were scum who still needs to “GROW UP” and apologize to them, and then leave without saying a word of kindness or apology to you.

When one of them was a very close, very dear friend whom you trusted with your darkest secrets.

It doesn’t just go away, and I fear the pain that would grip me if I let go of the anger too soon.

Certain religions, cults and spiritual practices encourage you to avoid emotions, particularly anger. They stress forgiveness and are not likely to support you in confronting your abuser.

These attitudes do not promote healing. If you are involved in a practice that denies your needs as a survivor in an active healing process, you are not helping yourself. —What AA Does for Survivors of Abuse or Trauma

Therapy for abuse survivors will guide them to experience feelings which are 180 degrees the opposite of the ones promoted by the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. (namely anger & rage to name a few) As an example, here’s a checklist of healing stages for survivors of sexual abuse. Note how many feelings run counter to the AA way!

  • anger
  • rage
  • discarding the wrongful belief that the abuse was somehow the survivors fault (instead of “looking at one’s part! -which is entirely inappropriate!)
  • confronting the abuser (if the survivor wishes to); holding the abuser accountable for his/her behavior
  • forgiveness at the END of the healing process (NOT the beginning!), and as an option rather than a requirement! Note that forgiveness makes sense in cases where perpetrators have made restitution, have expressed remorse and have demonstrated rehabilitation, otherwise, forgiveness simply excuses perpetrators for harms done. An exception, in the absence of these criteria, is if s/he is dead.

For battered women (or men) who need to break the cycle of domestic violence, counselors will advise them to feel these “forbidden” feelings, which will impel them to leave the dangerous scenario.  Acceptance is the WORST advice they could be getting.

They will be guided to feel angry at the abuse and to work toward “rebellion” which will be the motivator for leaving. These feelings and behaviors are temporary, and they serve to HEAL FROM OR TO GET THE INDIVIDUAL OUT OF THE PATTERN OF ABUSE.

Only after s/he has worked through the abuse, or has gotten out of the pattern itself, can a more relaxed personality can be adopted.

It is those individuals who do not respond to mistreatment with the “forbidden feelings” that act in a psychologically unsound way. Sadly, this is the ideal set before the recovering alcoholic by the program itself.  Deviation from this ideal is regarded as “not working the program”. —Anger, Rebelliousness and Other Forbidden Feelings

I don’t think those people who tried to sell me forgiveness were trying to hurt me. I’m sure they were only trying to help and were speaking from their own fears. They may not have intended harm, but it was harmful.

Forgiveness is a personal issue and one of the most sensitive in dealing with abuse. Forgiving my parents was one product of my healing, not the means to it. –Christina Enevoldsen, What About Forgiveness?

This post is about discussing the issues of forgiveness within the context of abuse. There is no need to define the type of abuse because all forms of abuse cause the same issues and damage.

It also discusses forgiveness within the contexts of no confession; no repentance; no admission of fault; betrayal; defiance; lies; denials and injustice….

As a victim of crime and a survivor of the most appalling sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and religious abuse I find myself grappling with issues to do with deliberate cruelty, betrayal, lies, denial, play-acting, justice, injustice, defiance and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard at the best of times, but is certainly easier if the person admits their fault, confesses and repents, maybe even apologises.

Forgiveness becomes virtually impossible when the guilty are faced with the truth, faced with the legal consequences, but do not respond with humility but with defiance, denials, play-acting and lies.

By doing so they evaded justice. By doing so they evaded exposure of their crimes. By doing so they stuck 2-fingers in front of my face and in front of the face of God. By doing so they showed no comprehension of the way their actions, lies and denials when confronted with the truth tore my life apart.

I’m left wondering how on earth can I forgive when my abusers deny any wrongdoing, carry on their lives hard faced, glorying in their win, going about as if cruelty is normal and as if it is normal to have nothing to do with your daughter?

I’m left wondering how God who hates injustice can allow such injustice to happen on top of all the injustices of all the other abuses. I’m left feeling that my life is just injustice piled on injustice until there is nothing left but injustice and devastation….

Speaking the truth of what they did helps to put the blame and guilt where it lies and that is on the shoulders of the person who did the wrong not on the person who is struggling to forgive and honestly grappling with the hurt and lack of closure. …

It’s very hard when people are deliberately and defiantly non repentant and hard faced – turning up in church as if nothing is wrong and nothing has happened.

Having to cope with your abusers turning up in church whilst deliberately sticking 2 fingers up at God is beyond the capacity of describe.

Having to cope with your abusers continuing to use the church as their cover story is beyond awful and beyond hypocrisy. Having them do all of that on that back of having lied and denied to prevent justice and to prevent exposure is disgusting and distasteful at the very least.

It is utterly appalling for me as a victim, for those who gave evidence against them to the police and for the church leadership who now know the truth about them. It’s totally ghastly and repulsive to be brutally honest.

It is as if they have no conscience at all. Sometimes when people have lied and denied for long enough they actually believe their lies and denials to be absolute truth regardless of evidence to the contrary. Thus they worm their way out of it and can be incredibly and frighteningly convincing in their true lies…

Without confession, repentance, admission of guilt or other things which lead to closure surely it will always be there at the back of your mind.

Having to watch your abusers behaving as if nothing untoward happened and all is normal fuels the fire. When people have been so deliberately cruel to you and are so defiant when faced with the truth where can you go?

How can such defiance be coped with, processed and gotten out of your mind. It is in reality and in all truth extremely difficult.

It’s almost impossible to forgive cruel people who lie, pretend all is normal and do all they can legally to silence you and keep their evil deeds secret. –Princess Fi, BETRAYAL, DEFIANCE, LIES, DENIAL, INJUSTICE, FORGIVENESS ISSUES

Why is it that so many Christians don’t get that you can be a Christian and be in such a mess. Why is that?

Instead of coming alongside me, giving me space to tell my story and helping, it was oh just forgive, forget, move on, it happened so long ago, stop harping on about it, stop dragging it up from the past. WHY IS THAT?

How can I ever forget 20 years of abuse and torture? It may have happened a long time ago, but I live with it every minute I’m awake and then in my nightmares when I do sleep. For me it’s not in the past but very much in the present.

How can I forgive when my abusers deny anything ever happened? How can I forgive when my abusers say anything bad that ‘might’ have happened was because I such a bad person, they did nothing wrong?

Why are churches and so many Christians so closed minded about the realities of living with past sexual abuse? Why are churches and so many Christians so closed minded about the realities of the deep damage of childhood abuse and the complexities of the healing processes?

Why do so many churches have systems in place to prevent abuse happening, but provide little or no support to REALLY help victims heal? Why is it that so many Christians tell you that as you are a Christian, you are a new person so your past is gone, so all the stuff from your past abuse should be gone too?

Why is it that so many Christians tell you that you are doing something wrong if you aren’t healing from the damage of the abuse or if you don’t have joy etc?

Why do so many Christians tell you that if you read your bible enough and pray enough you should be fine? Thereby implying that you cannot be reading your bible or praying enough because you are a screwed up mess!

Why is it that so many Christians think you don’t need counseling or anything; you just need to get over it, forgive your abusers and forget it? WHY IS THAT?” –Princess Fi, Spiritual + Religious Abuse

Also see: What About Forgiveness?
Forgiveness: Some of My Conclusions
Blogs That Helped Me As I’ve Grappled With Forgiveness
A Thought On Forgiveness

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