"But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection.
And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were.
He was a man of no reputation."
~Rich Mullins, The Man of No Reputation

Hi all,

Firstly, some business.  After I send this newsletter out, I'll be sending a second email to everyone who I've not heard from in a few months.  Recently, I received an email from JABB's web host that this email address was flagged for spamming.  The "spam" was a JABB newsletter.  So... I don't know if 1. it was a fluke, 2. someone accidentally reported the newsletter as spam, or 3. someone no longer wants to receive JABB newsletters and instead of unsubscribing, reported my email as spam.  The problem with the latter is when that happens, my email address gets locked.  I then have to take the time to get it unlocked.  It wasn't much of an ordeal the first time but my concern is, if it keeps happening, they'll crack down more and I'll have to jump through more hoops.  So...  I'll be asking everyone (unless I've already heard from you recently) to reply to that email and let me know if you want to continue receiving the JABB newsletter.  If I don't hear from you in two weeks, I'll remove you from the distribution list.  If someone happens to have been offline for two weeks and misses the deadline, I will happily add them back once I hear from them.  I don't do this because I want to lose members.  It actually makes me sad to see the list of members dwindle each time I do this.  However, not doing anything isn't an option, especially in light of this latest hiccup.  Thanks for your understanding!  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Now... as for this newsletter...  This isn't the type of story I'd usually put in a newsletter because Andrew barely appears in it.  However, this is a very unusual summer!   I decided to go ahead and send this story as a newsletter because, well, I didn't have anything else to send.  But I also think it deals with some important and timely issues. 

And I think that's about it.  I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

God bless,

Relentless Affection

Summer 2019

"It's such a beautiful day!" JenniAnn exclaimed as she exited Lily's Loot along with Joshua and Belle.  She smiled at the former.  "Good job!"

Joshua chuckled.

"Thanks!  And I'm very glad I get to spend it with both of you."  He lifted Belle up and kissed her cheek, causing her to giggle... and claim her opportunity.

"Can we get ice cream?" she asked, her eyes huge and pleading.

"Belle!  It's been barely two hours since we had breakfast!" JenniAnn pointed out.

Belle let out a little, forlorn sigh.

Joshua's eyes were alight with amusement as he smiled at JenniAnn.

"There is a new froyo place I've been wanting to try...  Yogurt is an entirely appropriate mid-morning snack."

Realizing she was defeated, JenniAnn rolled her eyes and laughed.

"Like I can argue with you!  All right...  Which way is this..."

Joshua gently steered JenniAnn to the north as Belle cheered.  Mindful of the crowded sidewalks, he kept the five-year-old in his arms.

"If our errands are over, we could take some cartons home for Andrew and everyone else," Joshua suggested.

"And Avi?" Belle inquired.

JenniAnn looked to Joshua who nodded.

"He can have frozen yogurt."

"That'll be fun!  I love the lil faces he makes when he tries something new."  JenniAnn smiled at the memory of some of her baby's most recent culinary adventures.

"Me too.  And I'm glad I've been around to witness so many of them in person."

JenniAnn smiled at Joshua and hugged his free arm.  She was silent for the rest of the walk, content to listen to Belle's and Joshua's happy chatter.

After a few minutes, Joshua pointed ahead.

"It's just up there."

"Aww.  It's cute!" JenniAnn complimented.  She was about to say more when a voice rose above the din of passersby. 

"Look!  It's coming out of the store!"

Though she had no idea what was going on, something in the voice made JenniAnn's blood run cold... snideness, cruelty. 

A moment later, a black woman stepped out of a clothing store a few feet in front of Joshua, JenniAnn, and Belle.  She looked around furtively then shrunk back.

JenniAnn followed her gaze to three young men who had been lounging on a nearby bench.  They were approaching; smug, vicious smiles on their faces.

Joshua tapped JenniAnn's arm to alert her and hurried towards the woman.

"Hey!  Fancy running into you, Loreena!" Joshua exclaimed.

The woman turned and relief washed over her face.


"We were just getting some frozen yogurt.  Come with us?" Joshua invited.

Loreena nodded vigorously.

JenniAnn noticed the three men had stalled and were looking at them in confusion.  They continued to stare as the quartet made their way to the froyo shop.  Then one, seemingly the ringleader, stepped towards them.

"Don't worry.  We'll keep waiting for you, tran..."

"Don't say it!" Joshua snapped at the intruder.

Belle jolted.

Joshua kissed her hair and smiled gently then handed her to JenniAnn.

"Don't worry, baby girl," he murmured.

JenniAnn snuggled her daughter then glanced over at Loreena who had tears streaming down her face.

"You ladies can go inside," Joshua invited.  "I'll be right in."

JenniAnn was torn, worried for Belle but not wanting to leave Joshua outside. 

"Let's go," Loreena whispered, directing JenniAnn into the shop.  "Josh can handle himself."

JenniAnn nodded mutely, comforted by the fact that she'd be able to watch through the shop's large glass windows.

Once he saw the three girls enter the shop, Joshua focused all of his attention on the trio of men.

"What are you doing?" he demanded.

"Man, mind your own business," the ringleader replied.  "I mean... if you are a man... with friends like that, who knows?"

One of his cronies laughed.

"He's too ugly to be any sort of woman."

"I'd rather be ugly on the outside than ugly on the inside," Joshua retorted. 

"Do you have any idea what your friend in there is?" the third man questioned.

Joshua nodded.

"Very much so.  She's a kind woman who would give her last penny to someone in need."

"Man, she's not even a woman!  She's one of those God damn..."

"Are you God?" Joshua interrupted.  "Because only God can say who is damned.  And I think He has very different ideas than you do."

"I don't need to be God to know it's wrong for a man to pretend to be a woman... tricking other men into doing... gay stuff."

"And you know, for a fact, that she's done that?" Joshua questioned. 

"Well, I mean... no but..."

"Exodus 23:1: 'You shall not spread a false report.  Do not join the wicked by being a malicious witness,'" Joshua recited.  "You've broken a commandment."

The three men shuffled uncomfortably.  The instigator was the first to recover.

"Still doesn't change the fact that it was born male.  God doesn't make mistakes."

Joshua let out a weary sigh.

"You were born a sweet, loving child who would never refer to another human being as 'it.'"

The man's face turned red. 

Joshua glanced into the shop where Belle, JenniAnn, and Loreena were all peering at him.

"Listen, boys, I could stand here and give you a biology lesson on how XX and XY chromosomes aren't the only games in town and how gender and sex are two different things.  But I would really love to sit down and enjoy some frozen yogurt with my friends.  So I'm going to let you get back to your day.  But I better not hear about you harassing Loreena or anyone else."

"Like you'd hear about it!  Big city, lots of people.  And what would you do about it, anyway, Superman?" one of the men taunted.

Joshua smiled breezily. 

"Oh, trust me.  I would hear.  Oh... and you asked me earlier if I knew what my friend is.  I do, of course.  And I also know more than a little about each of you."

The ringleader scoffed.

"Oh, yeah?  What do you know?"

Joshua waved him closer and whispered in his ear.

The other two watched, shuffling uneasily, as the color drained from their friend's face.

Joshua released the man.

"So I would suggest you take that SD card... you know... the one hidden in your sock drawer... and smash it into the tiniest bits you can manage.  And then do the same with your sneaky, little camera.  And maybe before you falsely accuse someone else of being a deviant, take a good, long look in the mirror and remember what you did to those women.  Got it?"

Mutely, the man nodded and stumbled backwards.

"Wonderful!  Now you all have..."

Before Joshua could finish speaking, the three turned and high-tailed it into an alley.

"A wonderful day!" Joshua chirped loudly.  He smiled at the few people who were gathered around then stepped into the froyo shop.

"Joshua!"  JenniAnn rushed forward and hugged him.

"Hey there."  He kissed her hair.  "I'm just fine.  No worries."

Once JenniAnn had stepped away, Loreena took her place and hugged Joshua.

"Thank you... for whatever you did.  And such perfect timing...  I was so relieved to see you, Josh."

Joshua kissed her hair, too, then waved to the counter.

"I'm glad I was there, too.  Now, let's get some froyo, my treat, and then sit down, make some proper introductions, and, if you want, you can tell us about... that."

Loreena nodded.

"Thank you, Josh."

"Thank you, Joshua!" Belle echoed as she anxiously eyed the shop's offerings.

JenniAnn hung back for a moment.

"She's... trans."

Joshua nodded.

"I... I always assumed you'd be supportive but..."  JenniAnn's eyes welled.  "Oh, Joshua...  I love you."

Joshua hugged her tightly.

"I love you, too, little bird."

"Does... does she know?  Who you are, I mean?"

Joshua shook his head.

JenniAnn frowned.

"I wish she did..."

Joshua smiled in a way that told JenniAnn that door was not yet closed.

"Go get some froyo, JenniAnn," he encouraged.

Returning his smile, she did so.

Given the odd hour, the four were soon served and settled at a table in a corner of the shop.

"So... proper introductions!" Joshua began.  "Loreena, please meet JenniAnn and Belle.  JenniAnn and her partner, Andrew, are putting me up."

"Joshua lives with us!" Belle piped up.

Loreena smiled.

"Lucky girl!  Josh used to live with me... well, I mean... sort of.  Of course not, like... you know."

Joshua chuckled.

"Loreena lives in the same apartment building as Mason and Roger.  Just down the hall.  So, yeah, we saw each other pretty frequently while I was there."

"Such good fellows...  They've... also helped me out a time or two," Loreena informed with a sigh.

"They are great guys," JenniAnn agreed.  "And I'm so glad we got to meet.  I'm just... sorry for the circumstances."

"I'm glad we met, too."  Loreena smiled at JenniAnn then stirred her yogurt.  "The circumstances..." 

"You don't have to talk about it if..."

Loreena patted Joshua's hand and shook her head.

"No, it's fine.  Really.  So... I went out for coffee this morning... like I usually do.  Everyone there is usually so friendly... and accepting.  I've never had a bad encounter there.  But today...  Those three were behind me in line and something must have tipped them off.  Probably my voice... oh, for a time machine and puberty blockers!  Anyway...  Timothy... he's one of the baristas... tried to stick up for me but I just wanted to get away.  So I left.  Unfortunately, so did they.  Trailing me.  That's when I ran into the ladies clothing store.  I felt safe there.  But... I also knew I couldn't stay in there all day.  I thought they'd lost interest and left but...  No.  Thankfully, I heard Josh here only moments after I saw them."  Loreena beamed at Joshua.  "Impeccable timing."

JenniAnn bowed her head, realizing Joshua had championed the froyo trip for reasons beyond Belle's craving.

"I'm very glad we were there.  Hopefully they'll think long and hard before they imagine harassing anyone again.  No one deserves to be frightened and bullied simply for being who they are," Joshua asserted.

"This guy..."  Loreena hugged Joshua's arm then looked to JenniAnn.  "You know, I'll admit my own biases.  When I first saw Josh here...  I did NOT have him pegged as someone who would be particularly understanding... let alone flat-out affirming!"

"He's pretty incredible," JenniAnn agreed, beaming at Joshua.  "I'd love to hear more about the particulars of how you two met."

"Well..."  Loreena looked at Belle who was happily digging into her froyo sundae.  "I might have to spell a bit."

"That's okay!" JenniAnn assured.

Joshua smiled, eager to hear Loreena's account of their first meeting.

"Well, we met in the laundry room of the apartment complex... sort of," Loreena began.


February 2018

Loreena hummed to herself as she folded a load of laundry, waiting for her second load to finish drying.  She was grateful no one else was there.  It made things easier.

And then she heard footsteps...

Loreena threw the rest of her clothes into a basket in a jumble then yanked open the dryer door.  If the clothes were still damp, she'd just have to air them out in her apartment.

"Hi there!"

Loreena looked up to find a Middle-Eastern man smiling down at her.

"Hi," she replied, trying to pitch her voice as high as possible so as not to raise his suspicions.

"My name's Josh.  I recently moved in with Mason.  I think we're on the same floor," Joshua introduced, holding his hand out.

"Same floor.  Yeah."  Loreena nodded, focusing on emptying the dryer instead of shaking the offered hand.  "I need to get to work," she blurted out before grabbing her basket and making a run for it.

Joshua frowned and gazed heavenward then focused on his own laundry.

Mason ambled in behind him.

"Oh good.  There's a washer and dryer for each of us."


Joshua watched with concern as Mason prepped his laundry load then plopped onto a bench and resumed drinking as he scrolled through his phone.

After half an hour of patiently listening to an inebriated Mason complain about work, the washers buzzed and Joshua prepared to move his clothes into a dryer.  When he opened the dryer door, he found it wasn't empty.  He withdrew a shimmering bra and some brightly colored leggings.

Mason laughed at the sight of Joshua holding the two garments.

"Not a good look for you, Josh," he teased.

Joshua rolled his eyes and smiled.

"I saw who was here before us.  I'll return these as soon as I get the dryer loaded.  Will you watch it for me?"

"Sure.  But... it wasn't Loreena, was it?"

Joshua nodded.

"Yeah, why?"

Mason frowned.

"Well, it's just...  She's..."


"She's a transwoman," Mason whispered.  "You're not going to be, like... weird or anything, are you?"

Joshua cocked his head.

"Why would I be weird?"

"I just mean... with you being religious and all.  She's had a hard time and I don't..."

Joshua squeezed Mason's shoulder.

"You don't have to worry.  I have lots of transgender friends."

Mason balked.

"You do?"

"Sure.  So... you'll watch my laundry?"

"Yeah.  Of course."

"Thank you."  Joshua smiled at Mason then took a few moments to fold the clothes, carefully hiding the bra between the folds of the leggings so as to not embarrass Loreena.  "Be right back."


Joshua trekked back up the stairs and made his way to Loreena's apartment.  He knocked politely and waited.

After a few moments, the door cracked open but remained chained.

Joshua smiled at Loreena through the crack.

"Hi.  Sorry to bother you but I think you forgot a couple things in the dryer.  I didn't want you to miss them.  I, umm, I can just set them down here in the hall or..."

Loreena noted the kindness in the stranger's eyes and smile.  She turned away from the door, closed her eyes briefly, then turned back around and unchained the door.

"I'll take them.  Thank you.  That was very kind of you.  Josh, did you say?"

Joshua nodded eagerly as he handed Loreena her clothes.

Once she set down the items, Loreena held her hand out.

"Loreena.  Pleased to meet you, Josh.  I'm sorry that I was rude earlier.  I just... I get nervous sometimes... meeting new people."

"No worries at all, Loreena.  I understand completely."

And Loreena sensed that he did.  Somehow.

"Well, umm, since you took the time to come up here... I was just going to treat myself to some tea and cookies.  Would you care to join me?" Loreena invited, surprised at herself.

"That would be great!" Joshua accepted, beaming.

Loreena ushered him to a bistro set situated near her window. 

"Lady Grey all right with you?"

"Absolutely, thank you."

Soon the two were seated across from each other with their cups of tea and a plate of cookies.

"So how did you meet Mason?" Loreena inquired.

"He put an ad out for a roommate and I needed a place to stay.  Our interview went well... and here I am!"

"Is he... okay?  I worry about him sometimes."

Joshua stared into his cup of tea.

"He struggles.  But I have a lot of hope for him."

Loreena smiled.

"So what do you do for a living, Josh?"

"I'm a carpenter... handyman.  And sometimes I help out at some friends' theatre."

Loreena perked up.

"A theater?  Like a movie theater or live?"

"Live.  St. Genesius' Community Theatre.  They specialize in musicals."

"I've heard of them!  I always mean to go to their Jesus Christ Superstar but never seem to make it there.  Are you ever in any of the shows?"

"Well... actually... I played Jesus a few years back.  My friend Peter does now and he's fantastic."

"Jesus..." Loreena repeated.

Joshua nodded.

"That's... I would think that would be very difficult."


"You actually... you look like I'd imagine Jesus to look.  Except..."  Loreena went silent.

"Not as handsome?" Joshua kidded.

"Well, I only mean... in the movies he's usually so... I'm not saying you're not..."

Joshua laughed and patted Loreena's arm.

"You don't have to say anything more.  I'm very aware that I don't have movie star good looks.  But... I am who I am."  Joshua shrugged.

"Yes..."  Loreena studied Joshua as he nibbled on a cookie.

"These are very good."

"I'm glad you like them.  Old family recipe.  So do you... sorry if this is too personal but... do you believe in Him?  Jesus, I mean."

Joshua swallowed his cookie.

"I'm not a Christian.  I'm Jewish, actually.  But, yes, I believe Jesus is God if that's what you mean."

Loreena nodded, her nerves flaring again.

"You do realize...  I... I'm trans?  Transgender?"

Joshua nodded.

"Yeah.  I knew."

He smiled gently and shrugged.

Loreena returned his smile then shook her head.

"I'm sorry...  It's just... I read sometimes about the awful persecution trans people face in Middle Eastern countries and...  I'm sorry!  I just realized I assumed you were, well, of Middle Eastern descent but I don't even..."

"I am.  My family hails from Bethlehem."

"Bethlehem..."  Loreena smiled, amused.  "How appropriate!  Anyway... I know firsthand some of the vitriol we face from Christians and so...  I assumed that maybe... maybe you were kind only because you didn't know."

"Nope.  I knew.  People are people.  And God loves all people.  Jesus died for all people," Joshua asserted.  "And don't worry.  You were kind to me despite your reservations.  Trust me, I know what real racism looks and feels like."

Loreena frowned.

"I imagine you do...  So we have that in common."  She sipped her tea, recalling so many incidents from her past, then waved to a nearby family photo.  "My family.  I was raised very Christian.  Sang in the church choir every Sunday... envying the girls in their pretty dresses and big bows and hats.  When I was older, I started doing drag.  My family wasn't crazy about it.  But they dealt with it.  I mean... Tyler Perry was doing it, in a manner, they reasoned.  And they loved him.  And I thought that would be enough, you know?  But it just made it harder to take all the make-up and the extensions and the dresses off and just go back to being miserable Lorenzo.  I wasn't Lorenzo."

Joshua nodded and smiled sympathetically.

"I was either going to be my real self... be Loreena... or I was going to be dead.  Being Loreena seemed like the better alternative.  My family apparently disagrees.  So... no more family, no more church."

"I'm so sorry you had to face that," Joshua apologized.  "I know it's not what Jesus would want."

"I don't think it is, either.  Jesus was always with the marginalized... and you can't get much more marginalized than transwomen of color."

"No... you can't," Joshua agreed, his eyes welling.

"So I've liked thinking Jesus is with me.  Turns out He is... just down the hall."  Loreena winked at Joshua.

Smiling, Joshua patted her hand.

"Well, I'm glad we got to properly meet.  And you're right, you know.  Jesus is with you."

"Thank you."  Loreena beamed at him.  "That means a lot."

"You're welcome.  Well...  I better head back downstairs so Mason doesn't think I abandoned him to fold my clothes.  But it really was a pleasure to meet you, Loreena.  Don't be a stranger."

"You either!  I'll see you around, Josh."

"I'll see you, Loreena," Joshua vowed

The two rose and parted with a hug at the woman's door.

Once Joshua was gone, Loreena resumed putting away her clothes.  She retrieved the leggings that Joshua had returned and, as she laid them in her drawer, realized there was something else.  She gaped as she extracted her bra.   Then she put aside her embarrassment and smiled as she imagined her new friend nonchalantly folding it and tucking it in her leggings.

"Bless him," she murmured.


Summer 2019

"And so that is how I met Joshua... when he returned my leggings and B-R-A to me," Loreena finished proudly.  "We ran into each other a few times, grabbed coffee together.  And he was good enough to stay in touch with me even after he moved out of Mason's place.  Then, not terribly long after, my company sent me to Kansas City to help with training there.  I just got back... five weeks ago, I guess it's been."

"And how was Kansas City?" Joshua inquired.

"Good, actually!  I was a little nervous.  I mean... you never know about the Midwest..."

JenniAnn laughed.

"Sorry.  I'm from Nebraska."

Loreena's eyes went wide.

"Oh, I'm sorry!  I don't mean..."

"No, no.  I totally get it.  It's a really mixed bag.  Lots of lovely, open-minded people.  And lots of... not so much open-minded people.  I imagine KC is similar."

"Yeah.  Thankfully, I really connected with my teammates there.  And they were a good buffer on the rare occasion something did come up when we were out.  But I was glad to get back home.  This morning was my first... real incident... since getting back.  I mean I occasionally have some awkwardness in the communal areas of the apartment... hence the help from Mason and Roger.  But never anything like happened out there."

"I'm glad it's not frequent," JenniAnn replied.  "But it shouldn't happen at all."

"No, it shouldn't," Joshua agreed.

"But at least we're making progress."  Loreena smiled at Belle.  "I have a lot of hope when I think of the kids today."

Belle returned her smile.

"Your dress is pretty," she blurted out.

"Thank you, sweetie.  You have a very pretty dress, too!"

Belle took another bite of her froyo then pointedly shifted her gaze from a claw machine in the opposite corner to Joshua.

"Can we play?" she requested.

Joshua laughed then turned to JenniAnn.

"Fine, fine..."  She reached into her purse and handed Belle a couple dollar bills.  "But when Joshua says it's time to stop, it's time to stop.  Got it?"

"Okay, Mama!"

"Now... if you ladies will excuse me..."  Joshua rose, smiled at JenniAnn and Loreena, then went with Belle to the claw machine.

JenniAnn and Loreena smiled after them.  The former's attention only shifted when she felt a hand on her arm.  She looked over to find Loreena peering at her.

"Since he's stepped away...  Can... can we please talk about April?  Mason and Roger gave me updates but... how bad was it really?"

JenniAnn eyes filled as she remembered the day Joshua had been shot

"Physically... it was scary for a bit there.  But Joshua healed pretty quickly.  Emotionally...  It was rough.  Still is sometimes.  Joshua cares so much about everyone...  Even people who hurt him."

Loreena nodded.

"I've noticed..."

In the woman's shining eyes, JenniAnn saw immense love.  And she marveled at how Loreena had come to care so deeply about Joshua, even if she didn't recognize him, despite all the hateful, divisive things others had said. 

"The plus side," JenniAnn continued through the lump in her throat, "is Joshua is also keenly aware of the depth of love so many people feel for him.  He never loses sight of that... and he never stops loving us in return."

Loreena's smile grew.

"No... he doesn't," she agreed.  "Almost like... God."

JenniAnn beamed.

"Just like God," she added.

The two smiled at each other than watched, fondly, as Joshua guided Belle's hands as they played their game.


That evening, Andrew peeked over his Kindle as JenniAnn paced their room, brushing her hair.  She was humming something...  It took him a few moments to recognize it: "What Wondrous Love."

He smiled.  JenniAnn had been in a daze ever since she had returned from New York City with Joshua and Belle... and a carton of red velvet frozen yogurt which he had very much enjoyed.

"Laja, you doing okay?  Do you need help?"

JenniAnn smiled, made a few more strokes of her brush, then joined Andrew in bed.

"I'm fine.  Really fine.  Just..."

"Joshua?" Andrew affectionately teased.

Beaming, JenniAnn nodded.

"I didn't get a chance to tell you earlier but... Belle and I met another of his friends today."

"An apostle?" Andrew questioned, his eye brows arched in surprise.

"No, no.  Nothing like that.  I mean someone living here and now.  A lady who lives in the same apartment building as Mason.  She met Joshua when he was there."


"Her name is Loreena and... she's a transwoman."

Andrew's expression softened.

"And I dunno...  I mean I believed that Joshua would be compassionate and non-judgmental and loving.  But... I suppose there was a part of me that didn't know.  But... I do now, Andrew.  He was... so lovely with her.  So affirming."

The angel of death smiled.  He wasn't surprised at all.

"And we talked about... April... briefly.  I could see how much Loreena cared about Joshua, how much it upset her that someone would hurt him.  She doesn't know who he is... but it was kinda like she did on some level.  And she knows he loves her.  I just... it was beautiful.  He was... is... beautiful," JenniAnn concluded.

Andrew pulled JenniAnn to him and kissed her hair.

"He is," he agreed heartily.

"I wish I could tell everyone... Loreena especially," JenniAnn murmured. 

"Maybe some day," Andrew offered hopefully.

"Yeah...  We exchanged cell numbers and promised to keep in touch so... yeah... maybe some day," JenniAnn echoed, snuggling against Andrew.

In the room above theirs, Joshua smiled and strummed on his guitar as he imagined the day.

In New York, Loreena sat at her bistro table and startled, then stared in wonder, at the beautiful white bird that had landed on her balcony.  She wondered why it brought Joshua to mind...

The End

And since Andrew didn't get much attention in the story...

Ask a JABB Co-Founder- Questions About Andrew

Question: You've said before that, originally, JenniAnn was supposed to end up with Eliot.  That obviously didn't happen and the nature of Andrew's and JenniAnn's relationship changed.  What prompted you to change your mind?

Answer: Lots of things...  Firstly, I just grew more comfortable with sensuality and sexuality AND asexuality.  Secondly, I really started to see Andrew in the Dyeland stories as distinct from Andrew in TBAA.  Within the Dyeland stories, the latter is inspired by the former but they aren't the same.  TBAA-Andrew was informed by the intent of the TBAA writers, the network, societal norms, etc.  Dyeland-Andrew is a unique creation of God, existing wholly independent of human society although obviously impacted by it.  Thirdly, I became really interested in the idea of kind of but not exactly subverting the usual romantic arc.  Like what does that look like when marriage and sex aren't options?  Finally, I came to appreciate that my favorite genre is really family drama a la This Is Us and I wanted the Dyeland stories to become more about this family-of-choice that grows around Andrew and less about his assignments... except wherein his assignments become family.  And if you're going to do a family drama, it makes sense to have a matriarch and a patriarch at the center. 

But I think the biggest component in this shift was... of all things... a maturation in my own understanding of sin. 

Something I remember being taught was that it wasn't enough to avoid sin... one should also avoid the *appearance* of sin.  So Andrew and JenniAnn should never act like they were in a sexual relationship because, even though they weren't and never would be, someone might *assume* they were and that would be wrong.  But when one reads the Gospels... Jesus doesn't actually seem to care much about the appearance of sin in the absence of actual sin.  He wasn't stupid.  He knew what people would think about Him hanging around with prostitutes and tax collectors.  But He still did it.  He didn't arrange His life in such a way as to avoid the appearance of sin.  So why would Andrew and JenniAnn limit their lives just to avoid the appearance of sin?  Why would God want them to?  He wouldn't.  He specifically told people not to judge.  If they choose to do so in defiance of that... that's on them.

Tangent: There is what I view as an unhealthy idea of protecting others from sin in older Catholic moral theology.  I don't hear much about it any more so hopefully it died.  In my opinion, its zenith is the virgin martyrs.  These saintly women were killed for refusing marriage and/or the sexual advances of men.  In the most extreme form, the virgin martyr allows herself to be killed rather than raped to thus save the man from the sin of rape.  (Which begs the question...  What does that matter now that he's committed the sin of murder?)  This is insanity to me.  It also runs counter to another (IMO better) idea in Catholic moral theology that if you intend to commit a sin and are only prevented from it due to unforeseen external influence, you have still committed that sin in your heart and need to repent for it.  The example I was taught is if you plan to kill someone, load up your gun, start driving to their house, and then get side-swiped and your car is totaled and you're taken to the hospital, you've still, in a sense, committed murder because you fully intended to do it and would have if not for getting in a wreck.  Anyway...

So I set aside worries that an openly affectionate Andrew and JenniAnn would, somehow, inspire scandal and focused on the ways God might use their relationship for good: providing a stable home life for their kids, giving Max positive role models, improving Andrew's ability to relate to his assignments, giving Violeta the best tools to adjust to life outside of Heaven, and, simply, making them better, more at peace people. 

Question: What are some of the hardest parts of writing about Andrew?

Answer:  Well, I'll start with the one that's most recently become an issue.  As an angel, Andrew should pretty much always be on the side of doing what's right... even if it goes against his personal interests.  And that's a lot of why I've been struggling to get very far with the story of Andrew and JenniAnn and their family riding out the pandemic.  When I started the story, what seemed moral to me was for all of them to isolate at Willowveil to protect themselves and others.  Andrew and Andrew alone would leave to get necessities since, as an angel, he could neither catch nor spread COVID.  This might make some people miffed at Andrew but he would argue for this plan of action still because it would keep people safe.

And then George Floyd was killed. 

I'm no longer convinced that keeping people without pre-existing health concerns holed up in Willowveil and the surrounding area really is the most moral solution.  Because racism is also a public health issue.  And they may want to participate in peaceful demonstrations.  So now that story looks different because what course of action Andrew advocates for isn't as obvious.  So my solution is to never write a scene past the current day.  So, for example, I can write a scene set on May 21st now... but not one set one July 7th.  Because who knows what might happen by July 7th that might make Andrew's actions look dubious. 

This is even more of an issue with Joshua.  It's fun to do the scenes where the Friends ask him questions but sometimes I have to strike some of those because I don't want Joshua to provide an answer that might get disproven by science.  Even in the story above, I personally wonder why people are transgender and it was tempting to have JenniAnn ask.  Does something happen during fetal development?  Is it simply God's plan to teach us tolerance and respect for the vast variety of His creation?  I dunno.  And science hasn't come to one definitive answer.  In preparation for this story, I read some queer theology and there wasn't consensus there, either, so I didn't feel right about having Joshua commit to an answer beyond the obvious: God loves everyone.

But going back to Andrew, it's sometimes difficult to not want him to just really let loose and scream at some people... because I want to scream at them.  Like I'm not gonna lie... it would have been very satisfying for me to write about Andrew verbally mauling Rex Remus and maybe knocking him around some.  But obviously Andrew isn't going to behave like that!  Sometimes I can give those parts to another, less angelic, character.  But sometimes I also just have to reign myself in.  Nobody would be well-served by beating up Rex. 

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for being part of so many projects that spoke compassionately to people who, too often, face harassment and other harm.  May we seek to bring hope and compassion to them as he did.

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)