Fiction review: The Ticket

The Ticket, by Debra Coleman Jeter is a coming-of-age novel about a girl named Tray. She lives with her mother, dad, and grandmother. Sometimes her mother can be sweet, but more often than not, Tray takes care of her mother and suffers her criticism. Her mom is mentally ill and seems to be bi-polar in actions and words. Tray has no idea what will come next. Her father is gone a lot and doesn’t try to communicate when he’s home. Only the grandmother shows her consistent love.

Tray is tall and gangly and uncomfortable with her looks—not helped by having a gorgeous mother who criticizes her for not being pretty. She’s left out of the cool group at school and going through typical adolescent thoughts and mood swings. I get the impression she’s around twelve years old, the book says she’s fourteen. Tray tends to deal with people by making snide remarks. Tray loves clothes—though she can’t afford many new ones—and draws the clothes she wishes she had.

Near the beginning of the story, her father wins the lottery—thus the book’s title. All through the book this fact is handled masterfully. I absolutely loved this plot thread.

As the story develops, a man flashes Tray and almost kidnaps her, and following that trauma are several family disasters in rapid succession.

Debra Jeter is an excellent writer and weaves the story of Tray’s family and personal issues so well that you hardly perceive it. I read the Kindle version and found no errors. She writes wonderfully crafted sentences, and the plot is very good. The ending is satisfying and sweet.

But, I can’t recommend this book because of too much information about: personal bodily functions, adolescent development, and the way-too-graphic flasher scene. I would never recommend it for any teen. The Ticket is realistic, but I don’t think several of these details help anyone’s thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

Also, though this is a “Christian” book, there are few true Christians in it and no clarity at all with them. The grandmother reads her Bible and sometimes quotes a verse—as well as pithy, non-biblical sayings. I get the impression she is a true Christian. There’s another family that seems to be Christian, but there’s nothing more. The lack of any spirituality left me feeling disappointed.

Also, be aware of: immodest clothing, mild language (that alludes to but stops just short of a curse word), and gambling (not glorified).

My sincere hope is that the author will use her incredible talent to write a truly redemptive story in the future.

Proverbs 6, Part 1

In our study of Proverbs, we get a lot of practical advice. Remember, this is both a message from father to son and the inspired Word of God. When we read any book of the Bible, we need to see what’s there for us—which is, frankly, all of it. What is God saying to us? How can we learn from this passage? How can I put what I’ve learned into practice? All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In Proverbs 6, there are two distinct sections. One (verses 1-19) is a collection of various items of good, practical advice. The other is a warning about fornication and adultery (verses 20-35). So, let’s see what we learn.

The first five verses are about promising to pay exhorbitant interest rates on a loan. Some say that it permits cosigning for relatives but not others, and there are all kinds of interpretations. Some even believe that this first verse means that one cannot biblically take out a loan of any kind. Most commentators disagree. The consensus seems to be that signing a note demanding high interest rates is not wise. The Bible says to get out of it as soon as you can: Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler (verses 3-5). For us, it probably would apply to credit card debt and taking on other kinds of foolish debts where the interest could ruin us financially. The Bible is so practical!

Verses 6-11 express a powerful teaching against laziness. Part of this section goes like this: How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man (9-11). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul instructs, For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12). This isn’t about someone who cannot work for some reason; it’s about people who choose not to work out of laziness. In the Thessalonians passage, it goes on to say that those with too much time on their hands stuck their noses into other people’s business and made trouble in the churches. It also admonished against working too hard. I love how the Bible urges balance in every part of our lives. Basically this Proverb along with 2 Thessalonians 3 teach not to be lazy, but also not a workaholic.

Verses 12-15 describe a wicked person. He has a perverse mouth (verse 12). Isn’t it interesting that the first thing we learn about this person is the way he speaks? Jesus said, O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). As Christian women, our speech should be like the Virtuous Woman, who openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26).

The wicked person winks with his eyes, speaks with his feet, and teaches with his fingers. I read two commentaries that said that these actions of body language might be signals to his evil cohorts. I’m not sure. My experience is that wicked people seem to be friendly on the outside. They might wink and do the right things outwardly, yet they are rotten inside, because of a wicked heart. Whether signals or false appearances, Frowardness (Perversity) is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. His reward isn’t pretty: Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy (Proverbs 6:14-15). Do you know anyone like this? It’s sad, indeed. This is someone who doesn’t respect others. He’s all about his own agenda—which is to disturb and sow discord, maybe even commit crimes. When a woman is wicked, she may have some of the characteristics of the next section.

We could call verses 16-19 “The Abomination List.” These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

  1. a proud look
  2. a lying tongue
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations
  5. feet that be swift in running to mischief
  6. a false witness that speaketh lies
  7. he that soweth discord among brethren

In the Bible, God calls other things abominations, as well, but this list is the longest and contains the majority of them.

Which one is mentioned twice? Lying. Isn’t that food for thought?

This Proverb is long, and I’m going to divide it into two posts for its two parts.

I am always in awe of the practicality of the Bible. In this section, it has taught us about loans, laziness, and the characteristics of a wicked person. We also have a list of abominations, which includes: pride, lying (twice!), murder, scheming, willingness to commit crimes, and sowing discord among believers. I’m afraid I’ve been guilty of two of them. How about you?

I think this list helps us with God’s perspective. Can we gloss over sins? I don’t think so—especially when the Lord puts them in the category of abominations. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

Since we’re all guilty, we can be so very thankful for God’s provision of salvation through Christ: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Have you asked Jesus to save you? For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert captivated me first because I have read this author’s books before, and second because of its brilliant, whimsical cover. I couldn’t resist; I had to read it.

The opening scene has Belinda Blake, a cute little blond, meeting gorgeous Stone Carrington the 5th, her landlord’s son. She has a ball python wrapped around her neck, taking the snake for a walk, as its doting owner requested.

Exotic pet sitter, Belinda, is soon into mystery and intrigue after she finds a dead woman wearing Louboutin stilletos in her flowerbed.

Add to the dead woman a shedding python and the aqua-eyed, tennis playing rich boy next door, and you have all the ingredients for a great read.

Believe me, it doesn’t disappoint. More mysteries, possible culprits—Mrs. Gilbert had me suspecting almost everyone—and it’s a fun book for rainy afternoons.

The content is clean with nothing besides innocent friendship kisses. Some of the characters drink to excess (not viewed in a favorable light).

I enjoyed it and can hardly wait to read the sequel, which might be even better.

Stay tuned.

Women of the Bible 12: Who are we?

We’re only mentioned once in the Bible, but what it says about us is important: we “labor in the Lord.” Currently, we serve in the church in Rome.

Some think we’re twins. We are surely sisters. Since the Bible doesn’t reveal our identity and we don’t appear in other sources, history will only surmise. Our names indicate we were brought up “delicately,” which might indicate nobility. Some even think we’re in Ceasar’s household.

Whoever we are, we’re famous throughout the centuries for one thing: being active in our local church. Laboring—working hard—for the Lord.

And, this positive testimony is the legacy we would desire.

A few years after we’re mentioned in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, he would write: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:10-14).

We are thankful for God’s redemption in our lives—two gentile sisters, able to serve God thanks to His power in us.

Who are we?

Where in Romans are we mentioned?

Image thanks to: www.LumoProject.com.

Fiction review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece, by Francine Rivers came highly recommended, and truthfully, I can understand why. But, I was disappointed. I have never read Francine Rivers before, and this book makes me wonder if I want to give her a second chance. I might, but I might not. Let me explain.

The protagonist, born Bobby Ray Dean, is now a successful artist who uses the professional name, Roman Velasco. He has grown up on the streets—not of his own choosing—and doing graffiti, running from the police, and rebelling against all authorities in his life, even those who love him. He does bad-boy graffiti all over the world–his character obviously inspired by Banksy.

Years later, he does the kind of art that sells, and with his innate talent, he makes a lot of money.

Grace Moore (notice her name, very significant) comes to work for him. She’s a lovely person, a single mom who is determined to overcome. She is also a new Christian. Of course, she’s beautiful, and so is he, and there’s an immediate physical attraction between the two protagonists. But, to her credit, Grace keeps her boundaries, and Roman despairs of ever having a relationship with her.

It’s here in the story where I believe the author gets into stuff that’s so unbelievable that I just couldn’t go with it. Both Grace and Roman have visions of angels, demons, and hell. Roman ends up with an injury caused by a demon biting him. (Seriously! Kind of like Jacob in the Bible, only that was Jesus.) It’s the familiar near-death heaven story, only he goes to hell and comes back. I just can’t.  

Another problem for me was the author’s allusions to swearing. Sometimes, she comes very close to providing the reader with the specific words. I don’t feel comfortable with that.

There are the descriptions of sex, semi-nudity, the nightclub scene, and one-night stands that went farther than I wanted to read about. It isn’t play-by-play graphic but enough that I didn’t appreciate it.

Frankly, I think The Masterpiece has several serious flaws, one being it was unbelievable. Too much had happened to both of the protagonists. There are too many loose ends for me and too many coincidences, along with the weird spiritual visions and iffy theology. For example, because Roman has the experience of almost going to hell, and Jesus reaches out to him and brings him back, the author says more than once that Jesus saved him. Later, he really does repent, giving his life to the Lord in true salvation. (Sorry for the spoiler, but this is important to me.) Salvation is when people repent of sin, see themselves as needing a Savior, and call out to Jesus for salvation, and not when they see visions. I felt this was misleading. It bothered me greatly that the most unbelievable part of the book is the supposedly spiritual part. I know this is fiction, but I don’t think authors should play with scenes about God.

Another thing that bothered me was jumping back to different years in the main characters’ pasts and then back to the present. It happens a lot in this book. Why couldn’t the author have made it flow a little better? I wonder why the editor permitted this.

Although the ending was satisfying, the art masterpiece I expected to be revealed at the end of the book seems to have gotten lost somewhere, and a different painting ends up there.

I cannot personally recommend this book.