Traveling in the proverbial desert, there is no end in sight. The circular reasoning of paths repeated, mirages giving false hopes, and the searing heat of weighing unthinkable options comprise the desert experience.
For now, I'm there. Wherever that is.
As a writer, I'm dry. As a human, I'm soaked in tears. As a woman of God, I'm tasting sips of supernatural water to sustain me. And I know there is purpose in it all.
This isn't new, though every new desert has its own particulars and visuals. Most of the time I bring these desert experiences upon myself. This time I think it's coming from the external sorrows of others and the choice to read instead of write. Again.
Life can go from oasis to desert to oasis to desert. Through every experience we can choose to remain faithful or go off chasing mirages. I know this because I've chased plenty of them. No more. I wait. I absorb the stifling heat and endure the stinging salty water of my tears.
If you wonder how I really am: I'm good. Don't worry. Been here. Done this. And the Lord is faithful. Even when I'm not.
Father, thank you for always always rescuing me. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The first Charles Martin novel I read and reviewed was back in June of 2012. That was Chasing Fireflies published in 2007. I've finally added my second Charles Martin novel, Wrapped in Rain, to the mix, published in 2005 by Thomas Nelson. No excuses for my slowness in joining the long line of appreciative readers, especially since I truly enjoyed both books.
Wrapped in Raintells the timeless story of Tucker Rain (aka Tucker Mason by birth) and his half-brother, same father Rex Mason, Matthew Rain (aka Matthew Mason). Housed in the massive mansion known as Waverly Hall by the heartless and cruel Rex Rain, who turned anything he touched into more money to indulge his wanton ways, but raised by their loving and God-honoring housekeeper Miss Ella Rain, the two youngsters grew up in fear and loathing of their father whose only attention to them was given via fists and painful outbursts or by his outright ignoring their existence. They learned to hide in massive unused fireplaces and wherever they could to escape his drunken rages while they waited for him to leave again on business.
As it turned out, Miss Ella Rain suffered his serious wrath along with the boys, but she never quit praying for the man or "her" two boys. She gave them her time, her deepest love, and taught them to develop their skills under her encouraging instruction coupled with her strict but loving discipline using the bible as the ultimate authority.
Tucker tells most of the story from his perspective, having achieved recognition the world over for his photography. His brother Matthew, who everyone calls Mutt, hasn't faired so well. His scars from Waverly Hall and Rex Mason are more obvious and he's spent the last several years at Spiraling Oaks under the sensitive care of "Gibby", his psychiatrist. Hearing so many voices which orchestrate much of his reactionary behavior, Mutt finally decides it's time to leave Spiraling Oaks. He escapes, and Gibby calls Tucker.
In the middle of rescuing his brother, Tucker finds himself rescuing his childhood first love Katie and her five year old son Jase. Divorced and trying to outrun a violent ex-husband, Waverly Hall, Miss Ella's old cottage, and the barn which houses Miss Ella's brother's and Tuck's stallion Glue suddenly have new residents.
With stunning visuals painted with careful words, Charles Martin fills in most of the blanks with multiple flashbacks and Tucker's running conversation with the deceased Miss Ella who typifies the Holy Spirit. There are all kinds of pain in this story with much needed healings, forgiveness, emptiness, and resolutions. With a satisfying and hard-fought-for happy ending, Charles Martin gives us pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, rare bits of humor and absurdity, and the tough journey of unmitigated evil versus unfettered goodness. When the remembrance of Miss Ella's incessant faith finally overcomes the residual evil crushing Tucker's soul, the results give him back his hope for a life worth living.
As a sidenote, I glanced at the Amazon reviews of Wrapped in Rain and was somewhat surprised to find a "one-star" account which gave a picture of some of today's culture. The questions posed by this female reviewer depicted the immediate reliance and dependence on government intervention via Child Protective Services, etc., to solve this situation. I wondered how she could've read this story and not understood the isolation of the inhabitants of Waverly Hall (let alone how incompetent the government can sadly be in these kinds of situations), the mindset and heart of a faith-filled and loving black woman whose call it was to take care of those boys at all costs. She obviously didn't like the story but possibly for all the wrong reasons.
Charles Martin created a somber but beautiful tale of lonely, broken, and needy people who were united in their adulthood and given another chance to break away from a past that wanted to define their present. Instead, a gentle, loving housekeeper's faith conquered all the evil, and love did in fact win just like Miss Ella said it would. Her memory soaked them in love and wrapped them in rain.
Father, you have those stories we need to tell. Help us tell them to honor you. Lead us and may we always follow. Please continue to bless Charles Martin as he follows your lead. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The late 60's and early to mid-70s were definitely a time of not getting "satisfaction". A new wave of irresponsible behaviors, philosophies, sexual revolution, and unrest typified the segment in time known to some as the "Love Generation". In reality it was anything but love and could've just as easily been labeled - and probably was by someone - the "lust" generation. As a result of the changing times, those of us who were coming of age in this time period experienced much confusion and no satisfaction.
Young people were inundated with all kinds of illegal drug use finding its way into a sort of hip-ness and cool, tempting all who had no solid ground of information, no reasonable way to examine what was being offered, or no resistance to being "cool".
Everything from music, to dress and appearance, to expressions, exploded in favor of unguarded behaviors, loose morals, and the tearing down of anything that restricted them. The leftwing political slant erupted with anti-war protests, lauding communism, and "dropping out" of society's restrictions.
It was a time of dissatisfaction with "the norm", a time to burn bras while touting women's values. The Jesus Movement sprang up but was often coupled with the smoking of marijuana and more "free" love. Those who legitimately found the Lord during the chaos presented a sound gospel to any who might desire real Truth and a way out of the churning whirlwind of wanton lusts.
Sometimes I wonder how I made it through that tumultuous time intact. At other times I recognize I didn't. The music of the day lured me into false actions preempted by wrong thinking. Times swirled with excitement, and the truly great musicians of the day tempted naïve young people with serpentine lyrics into activities and positions some would never escape.
There came a day when I saw it all for what it was: a façade designed by the enemy of our souls to trample on values and exploit the shallow thought processes of the day. I grew up. I wanted more from life than the "drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll" "cool-ness" of that era. But I didn't know how to find what I wanted, what I didn't have, what I needed. I could not get "no satisfaction".
Until the Lord Jesus Christ rescued me. He used a painting, a young professional quarterback, and the aching in my heart. Bingo. Life saved. Values returned. I finally had it: the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Bona fide Satisfaction.
Jesus, why you value me I have no idea, but I am so utterly thankful you did and you do. You are the ultimate. Thank you always. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
So much to restrict us, to tell us what to write, how to write, what to think, do, and emulate as writers. Not unlike life in general.
We are bound to responsible behaviors and creativity. It's important to stand for value and honesty, integrity, truth, beauty. All the things that make life doable in the best sense.
Although some would disagree, the spiritual aspects of creativity and conduct define us as people.
No one will argue that religions occupy a large part of human life. And, although atheism isn't regarded as a religion by those who profess it, their unbelief is adhered to, defended, and practiced precisely as a religion. Whether they like it or not.
Writing is an experience some do for fun, merely for expression. Others do it to earn a living because it's a practice they've studied, perfected, and turned it into their careers. Still others aim for that level with their writing, to be recognized, to be productive, to be regarded as a professional in their chosen field.
Writing fiction often gets bogged down in do's and don'ts, stifling the freedom in telling stories. It's no secret there must be some guidance in the process, but reading the literature of the past ensures us what is now preached from the writers' pulpit will one day be passé and considered less than stellar writing.
When freedom and honesty permeate fiction, a reader is released to experience the story unbound by instruction, restrictions, trends, or commonplace assumptions by writers who wish to stick to "what sells".
And when freedom, honesty, and the heart of a writer are released to flow from the pens or keyboards of writers . . . the experience is unleashed.
Unbound . . .
Father, your release to write unbound is a great gift. Thank you for your liberties. Remaining true to you . . . In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
Here are five things I would love to have/use if ever I had the chance. (Fat chance, but still . . .)
I. My own tailor.
II. Custom-made shoes.
III. A personal trainer.
IV. A cook.
V. A swimming pool.
Luxuries. I won't ever have them. And I don't yearn for them or even hope for them. But any one of those five (V) items would be so cool. How 'bout you? Any luxuries you'd indulge if you could?
Father, I don't need any of the above. You know my heart. As the song goes: prone to wander. But I belong to you, and that's all I need. Thank you for rescuing me. Words are never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness." Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)
In today's world sin is on the uptake, increasingly blatant, ascending in power, exposure, and endorsement. Many times the desire for its dominance in a life can be clearly seen in the eyes. Other times the discernment of the viewer must be keen in order to recognize the darkness Jesus spoke of in the above scripture.
Drawn to the darkness or light, we reflect our holiness or our evil in our eyes. Maybe with practiced care, we can disguise the evil for a time, but it will reveal itself eventually. It can't be permanently hidden.
In brilliant or subdued colors the eyes display so much of who we are. We transmit such depth through those mysterious orbs, masking or revealing pain, smiles and laughter expressed in the eyes, joys, regrets, mistakes, and monumental successes expunged via our eyes.
Designed for worship, to regale beauty and express grace, the eyes suffered the consequence of sin like all the body parts. Light or dark, it's in the eyes . . .
Father, I need your pure light to shine through my sinfulness. Let my expression be one of light. Always. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
New TV series episodes are coming to the end of their first season. Monday evening gave us the finale for Intelligence starring Josh Holloway, Marg Helgenberger, and Meghan Ory among other good character actors in this only slightly futuristic but more contemporary drama. And an intriguing first season it proved to be with charismatic actors and credible scripts.
Well cast and genuinely entertaining, Intelligence will return next season after the not unexpected but certainly twisted cliffhanger.
God, you know each one. Reach them, Lord. We're all desperate for you - whether we know it or not. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I almost chose not to review this novel. Not because it's poorly written or any of those kinds of reasons. Lisa Samson is a great storyteller and a gifted writer. The Sky Beneath My Feet, published by Thomas Nelson, is a contemporary novel which could be labeled Women's Fiction because of the first person telling by Elizabeth/Eliza/Beth of her predicament when her husband Rick is granted a month long vacation away from his duties as Men's Pastor at their large church. When Beth is given a key by a generous parishoner to a beach bungalow in Florida for their vacation, she is shocked to learn what Rick has planned for his vacation.
So, the reason I wasn't going to review this story is because I didn't really like Beth. Or Rick. Or their son Eli who turned 16 about midway through the book. Nor did I like the portrayal of their church because it depicted (and mocked) so many characteristics, problem areas, and Christian clichés of many churches today. However, part of those problems are personified in people like Beth and Rick. And although clumsy and selfish in his aim to remedy a problem, Rick at least attempted to find a solution. Beth chose to whine, complain, and pout.
When Beth's brother Gregory comes to visit seeking a dire favor, Beth accompanies him to a scary part of town to rescue a young girl who's addicted to heroine and staying at a ramshackle house called Mission Up. Somehow visiting this place causes Beth to find a purpose she discarded when she married Rick and had two sons.
There's a conflict between wealth and poverty, works and faith, and people who attend and do ministry in the church but appear unable to hear from God. This story seems to subtly point the finger at those who don't do ministry where it's greatly needed, but ignores the glaring problem of those who haphazardly seek after or randomly listen to the Lord. Admittedly, we all travel through the spiritual deserts of our making, experiencing an unquenchable dryness in our walks, but much of that is our own doing. We allow distance between us and the Lord because of so many variables that create it, all unique to personal situations. God is patient and uses whatever it takes to draw us back to Him. Purpose is what Beth and Rick needed to get their focuses back to what matters and this is where they were finally able to find some unity in their directives.
And this is why I wasn't going to review the book - because I just talked about the underlying message or agenda of the story rather than the story itself. I was distracted by the agenda, and the unraveling of the message took an unusual journey to arrive at its ultimate destination. The journey was only sometimes compelling because the individuals involved weren't really very satisfying.
This review is not to criticize Lisa Samson. She's a superior talent, and she always writes with purpose. Honestly, I just didn't feel like the means to the end worked to accomplish the intended agenda - or perhaps the story itself didn't work for me. Which is of course just my opinion.
I'd still recommend any of Lisa's novels to readers who want a different kind of story from a very good writer who always looks at people and life from a unique perspective, creating unusual characters and meaningful, thought-provoking literature.
Father, please watch over Lisa, minister to her heart and soul, renew her spirit, and keep her safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.