Larry Moffitt's review of...
MIRACLE MOTORS: A Pert Near True Story
By Peggy Senger Morrison
By way of full disclosure, I used to be Peggy Senger Morrison’s editor
at ReligionAndSpirituality.com, the religion news service of United
Press International. Editors are real bastards. We change people’s
perfectly good prose. We mess up art. Occasionally an editor will get a
truly exceptional writer about whom he/she recognizes they are unworthy
to edit, aside from delousing for typos and changing every instance of
“that” to “which” and every instance of “which” to “that.” Peggy is a
truly exceptional writer.
Miracle Motors is way more than a
motorcycle travelogue seen through the prism of a Quaker pastor, raised
by straight-arrow parents, who tried to be a good girl and mostly
succeeded. She comes with a few quirks acquired from having an
extraordinary ability to really see people and the flaw of giving a crap
about what happens to them. A good girl she is, but not exactly the
pastor’s wife her parent’s envisioned.
It is precisely those
quirks that make Peggy Senger Morrison, storyteller and self-described
“provacatuer of grace,” such a readable writer. She is a fully realized
human being endowed with a set of empathetic feelings and the jaundiced
shields required for survival and humor. She is a biker. Not a biker
chick. A biker. Think of finding yourself in line next to a leather-clad
motorcyclist at the Starbucks in a truck stop. The two of you sit down
with your mocha fraps and she proceeds to make your jaw drop telling
your about her newly adopted congregation being struck by a quadruple
homicide. Or the conversations she has with God.
Reading her book
is like that. Along the way, we also learn a few things about the
Quakers. They’re not Amish and they don’t manufacture oatmeal.
She writes eloquently about the motorcycling experience and the rest of
her life that transpires in and around her ministry. The bike saddle is
her prayer room. Riding is where she gets most of her talking with God
Regarding the book’s subtitle, “A Pert Near True Story,”
she quotes a cowboy poet she knew who told her “pert near true" is
defined as "something that is so full of truth it doesn't matter whether
it actually happened or not.” Every few pages has that kind of workable
truth, often rendered with great humor, and things I wish I had thought
She is a woman of deep and practical faith who chats
up God frequently with the expectation that the conversation will not be
one-sided. God’s voice doesn’t come to her through burning bushes or
booming out of an offstage sub-woofer. She has trained herself to
recognize the voice via her own intuition and in the words of others. A
medical student from Central Africa asked her out of the blue, “When are
you coming to Burundi? I need your help.” In those brief words Peggy
heard God’s unique voiceprint, or the “Present Christ,” or whatever you
want to call it. It was all she needed to motivate her for three trips
to an African country that hadn’t seen many straight-talking,
motorcycle-riding preacher women. Like maybe none.
enough about herself to indicate she has been has honest in telling her
story as it’s possible to be in such a book. She’s clearly not your
father’s Quaker pastor.
The world is full of people who can write
well but have nothing to say. Conversely, there are those who see what
goes on but can’t articulate it worth diddly. Peggy observes and
describes life with clear eloquence. Unforced wisdom, useful and
harvestable, abounds throughout. Peggy Senger Morrison is a gifted
storyteller who knows jack, and has given us a book of true-life
adventures tuned to a frequency appreciated, not by theologians, but by
you, me and joe sixpack.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Sunday, September 14, 2014
The Sidecar – A Companion to Miracle Motors
This photo of Drs. Indiana and Henry Jones can stand for so many things in my life: the loving but fraught parental relationship, my relationship with my God, even my relationship with my own belief system. Sometimes my world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket, and there sits my faith in the sidecar – all smug and self-contained. Its suitcase is packed; somehow it still has an umbrella. My faith is supposed to help me, but I am not sure that it is doing anything but weighing me down. It certainly can be critical at times. Yet, I know I can’t afford to lose it, and then, just when the bad gets worse, my faith can bail me out in unexpected ways.
This study guide is an exploration of the sidecar. Miracle Motors: A Pert Near True Story, is a rollicking tale, but it raises many more questions than it answers. There are problems of consistency and heresy in there. If you take what I am saying seriously, you either have to do some interior re-arranging or get out the torches and pitchforks.
The gospel writer said that “Jesus never spoke to the crowds without using parable, but when alone with his disciples – he explained everything.” If that is what you are hoping for in this sidecar study guide, you are going to be disappointed. And when you think about it, even with the explanations, the disciples with an all-access back stage pass to the Son of God, didn’t really appear to get it.
I don’t either.
But I don’t think that should stop us from wrestling with the realities.
Sometimes you wrestle a blessing out of the process.
So the goal of this study guide is two-fold. First, to lay out some of these very messy ideas – just to wrestle with. Maybe you will find some answers - maybe you won’t. I bet you will have some stories of your own to share. Eventually there will be a section of exercises. Real world suggestions for activities you can do to encourage your own inner hero. Because nobody else is going to do it for you.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 6:40 PM
Sunday, September 7, 2014
I am aware that I am lucky to live when and where I do. In any other age and in many other places, my brand of uppity women don't tend to last long.
Above and beyond my tendency to mouth off, and not do as I am told, there is the fact that some people take offensive offense about the loving relationship that I keep. And yet we live with expansive liberty and joy. Mostly unharassed.
And just to push my luck I have freely published a book that would get me burned in any decent inquisition.
Now to top it off I can put onto the world wide web a brazen list of the heresies contained or implied in Miracle Motors: A Pert Near True Story.
Here they are, not complete, just the Top Ten.
10. God doesn't get mad, or even sad, when you reject God.
9. Humans are not fallen - We do not inherit sin as a birthright.
8. God speaks to me directly and often contradicts religious authorities and their interpretations of the Bible.
7. It is not possible to be disconnected from God.
6. Subverting the dominant paradigm is often a very good and Godly idea.
5. The death and resurrection of Christ had nothing to do with punishment.
4. God is often closer during sin than during righteousness.
3. Hell as a place of eternal punishment is a false construct.
2. Salvation is a transformation from good to better , not a reprieve from doom.
1. The Bible contains the best pert near true stories that I know.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 5:01 PM
Friday, August 22, 2014
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
August 13th is St Orville's Day.
I believe deeply in keeping your own calendar.
It should be populated with saints and commemorations.
Orville was my father. In his youth he was wild and reckless. It is a multiple miracle that he lived to procreate. As an adult he was steady, and funny, and observant. He had no cusswords that anyone else would recognize. He never hit a child, or a woman. In the 48 years I knew him I never heard him raise his voice, or use a racial slur, or treat any human as anything less than fully human. He was crazy about our mother. In old age he liked to prank nurses. He was musical and painted. He was an amateur botanist, geologist and astronomer. He was thrifty, but never cheap.
Appropriate ways to celebrate St Orville's Day.
- Go out and watch the Perseid meteor shower that comes for his name day.
- plant something, anything - especially a tree
- eat a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich, but only if you grow the tomato
- Indulge in a Green River Float.
- Paint in watercolors
- enjoy some bluegrass
- pull a good but harmless prank
- tell a tall tale
- read the funnies (or anything) to a child
- repair something rather than throw it out
- Tell someone you love them
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 6:57 PM
Sunday, August 10, 2014
My writing career is now old enough to get a driver's license...
In the Spring of 1998 I took a little motorcycle ride. To San Antonio, Texas and back. It was fun. I had some interesting experiences there and back again. I did not have the good sense to shut up about it.
My friend Marge Abbott started pestering me about writing the stories down. As Christmas rolled around I decided to write the story and make a few copies for my nearest and dearest as Christmas presents. My daughter Emily, a senior in high school, did the interior design and the cover for what became Extreme Unction: Christ and the lure of the open road. I was fond of the cover then and and still am today. I made the books at LazerQuick. The first run was about 20. The recipients were not discreet enough to keep it to themselves.
I made a batch of a hundred, and asked for money. I figured that would dry things up. Then I made another hundred, or two. Then I got tired of that and refused to make any more.
Barclay Press publisher, Dan McCracken, and one of his board members took me to breakfast at the Donald Cafe, and told me that it was good. And with work, publishable. But not by Barclay Press, because motorcycle travelogues were not really their thing.
At their insistence I put together a book proposal, which was ignored by many. I was relieved.
I was doing more preaching, and I never write sermons down before the speaking of them - very bad juju. But people thought I did, and kept asking for the messages. Bob Rodriguez, editor of a small town newspaper, offered to edit them if I would try and write them down after the fact. Marge thought this was a good idea. Alivia helped me print and mail them out.
Then I ran off to Africa, which generated a couple more stories.
I tried the blogging thing, which had the advantage of not involving late night runs to LazerQuick.
In the winter of '06 Pamela Calvert forwarded me a call for writers. United Press International wanted a broad spectrum of weekly religion writers for a spirituality page to appear on line. I sent them a column-length piece, expecting to be ignored. Within 24 hours I heard from Larry Moffitt, VP UPI. I had a gig.
I tried running off to Africa again, but Larry just sent me off with press creds, and I posted from the field.
When I had two years of columns done, I quit. But 100 columns makes a pretty good book, so I had it printed up by a real printer. Batches now came 250 at a time. I think I did it three times.
People said they wanted more about Africa - so I did one about that.
I tried making a book of ten years of sermons. Alvia painted me a very pretty cover for that. But people like motorcycle and war zone stories better than Gospel sermons and that one did not sell as well.
So I ran off to Africa Again.
When the 15 year anniversary of the Texas ride rolled around, I thought I might re-issue it. Now I had a day job, and some spare change, so I hired and editor and a designer. Kathy Hyzy, is pretty good at the double-dare-ya thing. She challenged me to make it much bigger than a one-ride-story. She dared me not just to write about weird stuff and my courage in face of it, but to actually tell the truth about the source of my courage. The whole thing got out of control.
Now I have a Summa Theologica Motorcyclica on my hands.
And yeah, its got the 1998 story, and a bunch of those columns and blog posts. But it has a whole lot of stuff I have never had the nerve to write before. And now it seems to have a story line under and through all the other stories that is much more important than the stories. Its got subtext - geez, when did that start to happen?
And now I can do it print-on-demand, and you can get it at any real bookstore, if you know what to ask for, or that under-cutting, on-line, behemoth that starts with an A.
And it makes me a little nervous.
But the cover's pretty, don't you think?
(I still like Emily's)
If it gets too big, I'll be picking up my mail in Bujumura.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 2:24 PM
Saturday, August 9, 2014
This very impressive line of bikes was out in front of Chapters Books on August first for the release of Miracle Motors. We also visited NPYM. Rosie and I would be happy to visit your local Oregon Book store, church, or book group. Dates have to be arranged around my day job, but the rains won't start till November. Message me if you are curious.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 9:52 AM
Friday, August 8, 2014
photo credit Brandon Buerkle at brandonbuerkle.com
Miracle Motors: a Pert Near True Story
This book is the culmination of Peggy's writing to date. Part memoir, part free-lance theology, part page-turning travelogue, you will enjoy the ride! Long time readers of Peggy's writing will remember some of the stories, but there is a great deal that is new, and some that is stunning! It's got God, Texas, Africa, and heresy, what could go wrong?
How to get it:
First Choice - Walk into, or call, your local bookstore and ask them to order you a copy. When you pick it up - ask them to stock a few. The ISBN is 978-0981998930. They can look it up on Ingram if you have the title and author. It will cost 15.00
The print on demand people have a printer in the UK - it should be orderable over there. Maybe even Australia.
Chapters Books in Newberg, Oregon is stocking this book.
Second choice - use the paypal button on this site and order one from me. $15 plus $2.50 for postage. Or see me if you are local.
Third choice - It is up on Barnes and Noble - print and ebook.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 10:40 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 8:33 PM
This is Alivia Biko's Third CD. With Brilliant instrumentation by Christopher Buckley, this collection will set your holiday mood. The mood is rich, acoustic and more than a bit Celtic.
A wonderful Christmas gift for any music lover.
$10 dollars and 2 dollars postage. Use the Paypal button on this site. Make sure to name the CDs you want and give a full mailing address. They will be shipped out within three days.
Posted by Peggy Senger Morrison at 8:27 PM