[notable] “An Echo in the Darkness” by Francine Rivers

One thing I love about the Mark of the Lion series is that the stories move. I mean, through the dialogue you learn what’s happened since you last left a character. There’s no lengthy description of how so-and-so left for Rome with what’s-her-face, you learn about it when this character tells that character. In writing like that, Rivers moves the story along fluidly. These books take place over a period of years and it’s only 3 books! Moving right along!

In all of this series, the point of view changes a lot. However, it’s easy to figure out what’s going on when the POV switches. Not all writers can master this device as well as Rivers. So kudos for that.

If you’ve read the first book, “A Voice in the Wind”, but you haven’t started the second book…there’s something you hope happens. There’s that cliffhanger that leaves you speechless…and you dream of a happy ending magically revealing itself. All questions are answered in the second book. That’s all I’m going to say. Is that cryptic enough? Too cryptic?

The first book ends so insanely that I’m afraid I’ll reveal too much of what happens and it’ll ruin it! Dilema!

When I wrote about “A Voice in the Wind”, I mentioned how bold Francine Rivers is. In this second book, her boldness continues. This time, though, she’s dealing with questions that I think every Christian has asked at some point:

Why do good people die?

Who is this God?

Why did the apostles die such terrible deaths?

What’s nice about this book is that the reader follows along as a character makes it his mission to see these questions answered.

One of the most moving parts of this book to me (and this time by “moving”, I mean the inspiring kind of “moving”) is when two of the characters travel to the Asklepion to select a dying person to try and nurse back to health. The devastation there is incredible. There are countless male and female slaves left there by their masters to die. Then, the narrator points out the various “early morning worshippers” that arrive on “plush, veiled litters born aloft by slaves”. The main character is overwhelmed and seeks God’s guidance on who He wants them to rescue. The character asks her friend,

“Is it better to hide from what’s happening in the world than to know?”

That’s some powerful stuff, Francine!

I love how much history Rivers includes in this series. In the first book, it’s history-heavy in the beginning, but power through! In the second book, the history continues. There’s more about the gods of Rome and Greece as well as some more Judean history which I always think is interesting.

As always, Francine Rivers book rocked my world. I’m sock-less. They’ve been rocked off. I rate this book 850/5. Yeah. The first book only got an 800/5. This one’s just a teensy bit better, in my opinion.

Also, this book made me cry a few times. That’s cause for 50 more points. Then again, I’m kind of a weeper. So it’s no surprise I reached for tissues while reading this book.

What do you think? Have you read this series? I may take a break before picking up the third book in the series. I already own it, so we’ll see how long I can resist it. Probably not long.

Now I’m reading: “The Atonement Child” by Francine Rivers

a new kind of fame.

I think at some point, every little girl wants to be a singer. Boys, maybe you, too. Right? Even if they’re not talented in the least bit, we all want to shine. (This is the part where I could get into how every note you sing is music to God’s ears, even if Simon Cowell would scowl at you…see what I did there? It’s called rhyming.) Anyway, that’s true though, right? I was thinking about how I’ll be remembered and who would  remember me when I’m gone, etc., and my daily devotional just happened to be this verse:

“Don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in Heaven.” – Luke 10:20

Oooh, my name is registered in Heaven. Wait, what’s with that first part? Evil spirits obey me? Whoa..slow down.

This verse needs a little context, otherwise you could take it and run off with it to Egypt.

In the first part of Luke 10, Christ sends 72 disciples out to spread the “good news” of Jesus. He sent them to towns and villages that He was planning to visit. Verse 3 has the well known, “…behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” bit. He tells them what to take with them and what to do.

Then in verse 17, the 72 disciples run back to Jesus declaring that “the demons are subject to [them] in [Jesus’] name”.

Then, Christ tells them, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (verse 19).

That’s some major bestowing of power, Jesus! He has given us the power over the enemy! Nothing can hurt us when we dwell in Christ. Incredible words of power.

So, this whole “names are registered in Heaven” thing. Let’s talk about that. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, He writes our names in the Book of Life. The names in this book cannot be erased. I’m a visual learner; I see everything in my head. So when I think about my name being written in the Book of Life, I literally can see in my head a stereotypical Jesus-look-alike scribbling my name in a huge book with a quill and a smile. Isn’t that a lovely image? His hair is probably wavy and luscious, I mean…let’s be real. It’s Jesus.

Where do you love seeing your name? I’m one of those people that thrives off of positive reinforcement. If there’s some kind of contest or prize for people who do a good job, I’m going to win it. I’m a people-pleaser to the max. It’s a sickness.

Are you one of those people that wants to see their name in lights someday? A Barbra Streisand type, maybe? You know, her name is taken down off of billboards and glowing, neon signs. Her name will one day fade away and be forgotten, as crazy as that may sound. But to have your name in the Book of Life is eternal recognition.

You are loved, chosen, without fault, adopted, His forever.

Stop striving to have your name in the world records, history books, billboards, Yahoo, plaques, etc. You don’t have to make a great name for yourself in this world. Your name is written in Heaven, where it really matters. You are so beloved. He sent His Son for you, after all.

…Barbra Streisand forgotten…yeah, right…who am I kidding…I’m a funny girl...get it…

[noteworthy] “Like an Avalanche”

First of all, I’m from Texas. I’ve always lived in Texas. I am completely unfamiliar with avalanches. The closest I come to one is when I’m watching “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and they cause a racket which brings down a whole bunch of snow.

But I know what it’s like to be caught up in grace like an avalanche.

“Like an Avalanche” is probably one of my favorite Hillsong United songs. I love all of their music, but this song is so moving to me.

This song was written by Joel Houston and Dylan Thomas of Hillsong and when I was researching the lyrics and where the song came from, I found out that this song came after they’d given up on writing for the evening. They were writing song after song and all of a sudden, they’d written “Like an Avalanche”.

It’s almost as though this song wanted to be written.

I love the pictures that this song paints. Trading Your righteousness for shame, despite all my pride and foolish ways. What a vision! No matter how many times we mess up, it doesn’t erase the everlasting love that abounds in His righteousness. Praise God for that!

I love the overwhelming sense of being small. That may seem like a weird statement, but think about it. I have to be reminded that He is big and I am small. And I find myself here on my knees again, caught up in grace like an avalanche. On my knees AGAIN. Not, on my knees this one time because I’m so fantastic. Not, on my knees a little bit this one time. On my knees once again, here I am and Your love overwhelms me. Wow.

This is one of those songs that I listen to almost daily. I allow this song to consume me. The lyrics are so lovely, you know? They’re just…lovely. The words are so incredibly powerful.

Beautiful God. From darkness into light. King for a slave. Infinite embrace. This love..burning in my heart. Savior and friend. Your Word is the lamp unto my path. Forever I’m humbled by Your love.

Take my life, take all that I am. With all that I am, I will love You.

Take my heart, take all that I have. Jesus, how I adore You.

Every once and a while we all have to be reminded how to confess our love. Why is that so hard to do sometimes? Jesus, how I adore You; how I love You.

Nothing compares to this love, love, love – burning in my heart. 

[notable] “The Lightkeeper’s Daughter” by Colleen Coble

Mardel is a dangerous place for me to go to. They have that crazy sale area that has books for like…$3. And $5. And even $2! It’s pure insanity. And purely heavenly.

I went to Mardel simply to get a wedding gift and came out with a handful of books. “The Lightkeeper’s Daughter” by Colleen Coble was one of these books. This book is the first of the Mercy Falls Novels. I actually got an even better deal because I paid $5 for a two-volume book. So, it has this book as well as the sequel, “The Lightkeeper’s Bride”.

“The Lightkeeper’s Daughter” is one of those books that you think you have all figured out. In my case, I had about 3 different scenarios figured out and thought one of them was bound to be right. I was wrong. All of my thoughts were wrong.

This book has mystery, romance, murder, insanity, shipwrecks, lying, conniving, backstabbing, oh my!

I finished it in 2 days. Not just because I had bundles of time at my disposal, but because I was desperate to find out what happens.

Coble is one of those authors that loves her characters, so they have their happy ending. This is no “Game of Thrones”.

I’d say this is a feel good novel. You like certain characters who end up personally deceiving you, but the heroine is so blissfully happy in the end that you forget all about how you were wronged. And yes, I took the offense very personally.

The Amazon.com description of this books says:

Growing up as the lightkeeper’s daughter on a remote island at the turn of the century, Addie Sullivan has lived a hardscrabble life. When a long-lost and wealthy relative finds her and enlists her to work as a governess at a lavish estate, she hopes to discover the truth of her heritage. But at Eaton Hall, nothing is as it seems. Not the idyllic family she hoped for, not the child she was hired to help, not even the aloof man she’s immediately attracted to. Soon she must turn for help to Lieutenant John North, a man who views her with suspicion. As Addie edges closer to the truth, danger threatens even as her romance with John blossoms and together they unravel a decades-old mystery. As Addie faces down her enemy, she discovers that faith in her one true Father is all she needs.

She leaves her home, everything is topsy-turvey, obviously she falls in love with John, she solves a mystery. Boom.

Even though the description of the book gives a lot away, you don’t know who’s going to try and get away with what. There are still some surprises in store. You think you have it all figured out…but you don’t. Coble’s sneaky.

Addie’s story of faith is a little more subtle than say…oh, I don’t know…Hadassah’s or Angel’s. However, Addie relies on God’s guidance throughout her struggles and her faith in Him is touching. Also, her faith inspires the man she loves to return to God, which is always nice to see.

Altogether, I’d give this book a 4/5. I enjoyed the characters and the plot was different from any book I’ve read before. Three cheers for Addie Sullivan and Colleen Coble! Hip hip! I’m probably not going to jump into the sequel. But I do plan on reading it at some point. I already own it, after all.

Now I’m reading: “In the Shadow of the Sun King” by Golden Keyes Parsons [[edit: I didn’t make it past the first 4 chapterszzzzzzzzz.]]

[notable] “A Voice in the Wind” by Francine Rivers

This is not the first time I’ve read this book. A few friends recommended it my freshman year of college and it changed my life.

Not in like a “I’ve never read anything like this it’s so fantastic I can’t wait to read it again and tell everyone about it” run-on sentence kind of way. It literally changed my life. My life has been changed. Changed, my life has been.

I have it on my Kindle. Which means I can read it whenever I want. God personally invented Kindles. That’s the only logical explanation.

If you’ve ever read a book by Francine Rivers (such as “Redeeming Love”) then you know that it’s fantastic just because she dreamed it up.

The Amazon.com description about “A Voice in the Wind” says:

This first book in the classic best-selling Mark of the Lion series brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget—Hadassah. Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, a young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

HA! That doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the glory of this book. There’s love, romance, flirting…oh, and stuff like violence, glory, honor, there’s a lack of chivalry, Christians in hiding, Christians being attacked, Jews being attacked…everything a moving novel needs!

And there’s a German. Oh boy, is there a German.

So yes, there are a lot of surface, superficial wonderful things about this book. The love story makes my heart melt. But there is also an incredible love story between the main character, Hadassah, and God. If you’ve read my latest post then you’ll know I recently lost faith in humanity but have gained it back. This book helped me to do that.

Of course there are characters you wish you could strangle (*cough*JULIA*cough*), but your heart breaks for them as well because they are lost and don’t understand their actions.

Francine Rivers is a bold lady. She touches on abortion, homosexuality, adultery, murder, classism, racism, sexism, all the other -isms, and then has the gaul to leave the reader wondering about the fate of their beloved heroine! Talk about a cliffhanger. Believe me, you’ll want to keep reading the series. You should just purchase or borrow the first two at the same time, just so you can immediately begin the second when you’ve finished the first.

Hadassah is so immersed in her devotion to the Lord that it shakes you to your soul. She endures so much heartbreak and hardship and yet stands firm in her belief and in her faith. She lives in a time when it is extremely dangers to be a Christian, let alone tell others about your faith. Who are we to live in a comfortable world and be silent? Hadassah is a true heroine. My first daughter will probably be named Hadassah and she will hate me until she’s old enough to read this book. Then she’ll understand.

I’m a sucker for a good romance novel. I forgot how much better a book can be when that romance is between a woman and her Savior. Sure, a knight in shining armor makes me have sweet dreams, but a book like this reminds me that I already have my Knight.

I wish I could be like Hadassah. That’s what a good book should do to you, right? It should make you say I need to change. I’m better than this.

So basically what I’m saying is that I’m rating this book 800/5. It’s that good.

The other two books in this series are called “An Echo in the Darkness” and “As Sure as the Dawn”. The entire triology is called “The Mark of the Lion Series”.

Now I’m reading: “The Lightkeeper’s Daughter” by Colleen Coble

a little something about seasoning.

It’s been a long time, friends. A lot has happened in the last 5 months. I’ve been so incredibly busy with school, work, friends, family, etc., that I haven’t even had time to stop and put my thoughts down.

I’ve been busy. What an excuse, right? Are you buying that?

Lately, though, He has given me rest (Matt. 11:28) and I’ve been able to sleep peacefully (Psalm 4:8). I’m probably the most anxious person in the world. Seriously. If there’s an anxiety contest out there somewhere, I want in. Even though He tells me not to be anxious about anything (Phil. 4:6), I’m anxious about everything. Sick of the word “anxious”, yet? Yeah, me too.

Over the last few months, I’ve become a person I never expected out of myself. Have you ever done that? Realized you’ve been on a path your whole life and never strayed…then wondered what it’d be like to stray? Well, I’m pretty weak apparently, because I gave in. I haven’t taken up drugs or anything that most people would consider “straying from the path of righteousness”, but I can tell you that today was the first time I’ve been to church in a while.

*gasp*

I know. Believe me. You don’t even want me to start in on my list of excuses for that one.

After I click to post this blog, I know a few people are going to be all worried and concerned, but have faith in the God you love as much as I do.

I was so in love with my Redeemer that I began to believe it wasn’t real; it couldn’t be. How could a love that all consuming with a non-physical person be possible? I thought I was being silly, in a sense.

I was wrong.

Oh, how I’ve missed those intimate times with my Savior. I’ve missed reading His love letters to me and hearing others sing about His love. I became complacent and I can tell you now that that will never happen again.

I decided to rely on myself for a while. That didn’t turn out so well. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I became conformed to the patterns of this world (Rom. 12:2), which is exactly what I was warned not to do.

I saw people I thought were my friends and “good” Christians (whatever that means) turning and revealing their true colors. I lost faith in what it means to be a follower of Christ.

I saw how love-less the world has become and it scared me. Pastors and youth ministers are teaching about people who are wrong and are living in sin, but they’re not teaching that their congregation and students should LOVE THE SINNERS ANYWAY. We’re all sinners, after all. Aren’t we? I became bitter with the church and their uniformed teachings about wrong versus right. I thought about all the issues I’ve taken to people I admired in the church and thought…why didn’t they tell me that love was the answer?

Today at a new church that I’m going to be checking out, the pastor said something that echoed in my brain: “Do we care more about the point we’re trying to make or the difference we can make in people’s lives?”

Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Full of GRACE and SEASONED with salt.

Have you been graceful with a flicker of salt, or are you pouring on the salt and throwing in a, “but Jesus loves you” in the end?

My dear friend Amanda invited me to check out her church in Mansfield and I can already tell that I’m in the right place. I can’t wait to get involved with the youth group and see those teenagers fall in love with their Prince of Peace. They’ll probably inspire me to keep writing. Well, they’ll inspire me and the Lord will compel my fingers to type. That’s usually how it works out. It’s interesting how this blog has so far been inspired by  2 different youth groups that the Lord has put in my path. I see a pattern forming.

Listening to: “Running” by Hillsong Live