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  • Writer's pictureCJ Murphy

The cracks

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Leonard Cohen wrote a song called “The Anthem” with the following lyrics. “There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything). That's how the light gets in.” That same sentiment is in Stowegood’s Beautiful Brokenness, one of the songs I mention in my latest release, Redemption’s Road. If you’ve ever sat in complete darkness, you’ll notice that your eye will be drawn to any crack of light. Today’s PCT’s are all about allowing the light in through the cracks in our soul, in our life, and in our world.

With COVID-19 affecting all aspects of our lives, it’s hard to find the positive. So many have died and there are over a million people around the globe who have tested positive. Unemployment is rampant and many are wondering how they’ll pay for basic needs like shelter, food, and even their health insurance. I don’t have all the answers to what we need to do. I can say that I’m extremely grateful for the virtual happy hours that allow me to see and talk with my friends, the phone calls, and the internet to connect with all of you. Even the silly filters brighten my day.

I’m grateful to have a job, I can pay my bills and put food on my table. Being an essential employee is a double-edged sword. I have to go to work because we provide fire service and rapid emergency stabilization.

That means there is no working from home for me. I do my best to not become exposed by wearing my mask when I’m out in public and I’ve washed my hands so many times I’m starting to see the Belmont carnival stamp from 1986 on my hand.

I’m running groceries for our family and I volunteered to go shopping for the church food baskets since I’m the most likely to be exposed anyway.

On the other edge, of the sword, we’ve made plans for what will happen if I come down with this. My awesome wife has the bedrooms and bathroom finished in our basement.

Our whole married life has been about preparing for one disaster after another because of our occupations. We’re fortunate that she’s out of it now. I can’t imagine not being able to help her with her duties as mine would require me to be at the fire department instead.

Her days are much the same as they were before COVID-19. She works in our basement building shelving units, cutting next year's firewood, planting lettuce for the farm, and working on my book cover projects.

My newest release has her first cover design. Personally, I think she did an outstanding job for never having used the software before. She learned how to do it from scratch by watching YouTube.

The base picture was an actual photograph of our driveway one night as we were coming in to work on the house during its construction. We were pushing snow with our bumper.

The sky held that twilight blue and black against the deep snow. One perfect moment captured in time that turned into the cover of Redemption’s Road.

As I’ve told you, this story became an obsession right in the middle of writing Forever Chance. The story wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d gotten it down. This story is so personal to me. The background for Rhebekka closely resembles my own. I grew up as one of those people that interrupted your Saturday morning as I knocked on your door to try and talk about God and sell you a magazine.

February ushered in something I wasn’t expecting. There was a documentary released that rocked me to my core. The expose was about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the cover-up of decades of sexual abuse claims.

Even now just thinking about it turns my stomach into knots and makes me more anxious than I could ever have imagined for someone who has been out of it for nearly thirty years. I can thankfully say I was not sexually abused by anyone from the organization, but I credit my mother with that. I think she knew who to keep me away from. Call it mother’s instinct. Sadly, there were others that weren’t so fortunate.

The global pandemic has also added stress beyond being infected. It harkens back to my childhood that was filled with apocalyptic rhetoric. We were constantly kept in a state of readiness for judgment day when everyone but Jehovah’s Witnesses would be wiped from the earth. The only way they could keep us in line was to constantly bombard us with messages of what falling out of line would cost us on that day. They’ve three times predicted the end of times and, yet, we’re still here. It has my mother all stirred up with messages to me about coming back and being protected. I have to constantly remind her that coming back would mean I’d have to divorce my wife, I could no longer vote, or write lesbian fiction. In short, I'd have to change and betray everything about who I truly am.

It would also mean I’d have to refuse blood and blood products. Think about the COVID-19 treatment in development that uses antibodies from the plasma of recovered patients. That would be a no go and one of the deadly sins. Rest assured, I’d rather die than return to their version of “the truth.”

My wife was surprised at how I portrayed the mother figure in Redemption’s Road. My own mother is so different than the fictional Irene McNally in how she treats her children. I told her that I wanted the reader to understand how the majority of disfellowshipped or shunned children are treated by their parents. My mother is the exception and not the norm. The portrayal of my father isn’t far off the mark.

I have plans for the mother figure in the story because, yes, there will be a follow up to Redemption’s Road. Tentatively titled, ‘House of Refuge’, you will see that Rhebekka and Naomi’s love is big enough for all. They’ll also help guide Chance and Jax through some very difficult times.

For now, I hope you’ll believe me that only part of Redemption’s Road is about a spiritual journey. She is a pastor after all and having no mention of religion or spirituality would not have been true to the character. The story is so much more than that. It's a story of lost love, of self-examination, and finally redemption. Enjoy the trailer I created with this YouTube link.

Here’s a small excerpt from Redemption's Road for you. The passage is about Rhebekka’s after school program at The House of the Rising Sun.

The bell over the door chimed and the herd poured in. I looked at my watch. “Right on time.”

Seven bedraggled teenagers, laden with bookbags of every shape, made their way to the snacks. I high-fived, hugged, and fist-bumped each with their chosen greeting.

“Get something to eat, then get that homework out.” That was the rule, no games until the schoolwork was done. With the prospect of ArchAngel on the horizon, it was easy to convince them to finish up. “If you need help, shout hallelujah, and I’ll be around.”

“Pastor, I have an essay I need help with.” Alton Britton opened his bookbag.

“And how do we ask?” I smiled at the gangly teen with hair in his eyes.

A sigh left his lips. “Hallelujah?”

“Are you asking or telling me?” I quirked my mouth as if I was puzzled. Every meeting, one or more of the participants did their best to get under my skin. If they knew that only my parents or Naomi could accomplish that, they’d realize how futile the effort was. For everyone else, I had infinite patience.

Alton smiled and shouted, “Hallelujah,” with his hand in the air.

“Excellent.” I made my way to him, as he opened a jug of chocolate milk and poured a generous glass.

“I have to write an essay about something.” Alton drained the glass before filling it again.

I straddled a backward chair to sit beside him in our recreation room. “Tell me something you feel strongly about.”

He ran his hands through his hair in deep thought. “I don’t know.”

“Okay, let’s look at it another way. What’s something that pisses you off?”

Titters went around the room at my language. I was dealing with kids who had issues, and I connected with them on their level. I’d sat down with the parents of the participants, and they knew who and what I was. They knew how I interacted with the kids, and I respected their parental limits. I could see the wheels spinning in Alton’s head. He cracked his knuckles.

“It pisses me off how people treat my brother.”

“Okay, that’s something we could work with. What do you want people to know about Darren?”

“He has autism; he’s not stupid. He knows when people make fun of him. People hear the word autistic and think they can catch it or something. That’s stupid. Darren’s just different. He’s really smart. He can do math problems that I can’t, and he’s nine.”

“Then I think you’ve found your subject. Myths and facts about autism.” I waited and watched the idea take form in Alton’s mind. When he let out a small smile, I knew he had it.

Alton pulled a notebook from his bag. “My mom did tons of research after he was diagnosed. She still does. I could talk to his doctor. This will be easy.”

“Get on it.” I held my fist up. We touched and pulled back with the explosion motion.

Five tables were set up around the room. Each had at least one or two of the kids ensconced in a chair, most with some form of homework out. My job was to walk around and see if anyone needed help or to validate an answer. In the process, I also evaluated the mood and attitude of each. I had my sensitive kids and my tough ones. A motley crew of emotional hurricanes—my hurricanes.

If you go to Smashwords you can also download a 25% sample to review before you decide to buy.

Redemption’s Road is a story about the cracks in our soul and how those cracks can lead to very positive things. Those cracks are how the light gets in. Remember that we are all fractured in one way or another. May our love and concern for each other be that light. Be kind to yourself, learn to forgive yourself, and realize that you are more than worthy, exactly as you are.

Redemption’s Road is the third book in the Five Points Series. In the first two books, Chance and Jax are the main characters, but in this offering, the main characters are Rhebekka and Naomi. I hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as you have the others in the series. The next book out will be Sovereign Chance. The plan is to have it released this fall. All of my books are available at Desert Palm Press who has graciously extended their sale prices for another year.

Any of my eBooks are available for $5.85 and you can even check out some of the free story offerings on that same link. Of course, Redemption’s Road is available on Amazon.

And soon Bella Books.

I am a believer that there are things in life that happen at a certain time for a particular purpose. The fact that Redemption’s Road interrupted another story I was writing AND was due for publication during this COVID-19 pandemic, tells me that the story was meant to be out right now to remind me and other former JW’s, that we made it through all that and can make it through this. We are not alone in our thoughts and together, we can block out the noise from our former religion and let the light fill up every part of us.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and remember that you are worthy exactly as you are.

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Beautiful Story

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