Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by Heather Day Gilbert is another fun and scary adventure with exotic pet sitter, Belinda. This time, she’s working in a wolf preserve.

She hasn’t been on the job long when a man is found dead, his face mauled, and a wolf standing guard above him.

Belinda has a hard time believing anyone would want to kill this person, and she becomes curious. Were the wolves to blame or not?

Before long, another man emerges from a wolf enclosure with an injured hand. After that, another man is dead. This time, there isn’t a mark on him—and he was the wolves’ feeder.

What is happening? Why these deaths?

As Belinda gets closer to her co-workers, she also gets closer to the truth.

I was surprised. Author Heather Day Gilbert made me guess that several different people might be guilty, and she fooled me about the real culprit.

These books are very well written, and I liked this one even more than Snake in the Grass, which was fun, as well. (My review of Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass can be accessed here.) I look forward to reading the next one in the Belinda Blake series: Birds of a Feather.

While Mrs. Gilbert is a Christian writer, there are no overt Christian themes in this series. They are, though, perfectly clean reading, delightful, and without any objectionable elements beyond the fact that some of the characters drink alcohol.

Who am I?

I’m a woman from the Bible. Who am I?

One evening, I arrive at the well as is my custom, and an elderly man is sitting there. I can’t figure out why any man would be waiting in that place. Maybe he is unwell. I ask him if he wants some water. He gratefully takes a dipperful. The old man seems tired but also excited, as if he were anticipating something special. I’m not sure what to think.

I volunteer to give his camels water, and he accepts. I lift many pitchers full. The man is appreciative and emotional. He bows his head and worships the LORD. Blessed be the LORD God of my master, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.

He gives me beautiful jewelry, which I wear immediately. In turn, I offer hospitality to him and his animals.

My brother greets the stranger warmly. The man refuses to eat without first telling the story of his mission. Frankly, it’s a long one. He goes back to the history behind his master and that he’d been sent to the relatives to pick out a wife for his master’s son. He tells my family about his prayer and my appearing and giving the camels water.

It seems strange to me that he would pray that way, and I honestly think most young women would treat animals well. What do I know?

My brother and father listen. Indeed, all the household listens intently to the fascinating story. When the man asks my father and brother if I will go with him to be his master’s son’s wife, they reply yes.

The man bows himself to the ground and worships God. Then, he gives me even more jewels of silver and gold and beautiful clothing. He also gives gifts to my brother and mother.

Everyone is in party mode tonight, eating and drinking and rejoicing.

I go to bed wondering what kind of man I will find at the end of my journey. Is he tall, kind … dare I dream handsome? It takes me a while to come to terms with my fate. In one day, I am engaged to marry someone I have never seen. Will he think I am pretty? Too late now. The agreement has been made. My father and brother are all for this match and I have no say. But, if the Lord indeed led this servant to me, it will be okay. I rest in the will of God and my family.

The next morning, the man is in a hurry to whisk me away. My mother and brother protest, saying they want me to stay at home at least ten days. But the man insists that we leave today.

My family lets me decide. I tell them I am willing.

I’m soon on my way, tears brimming as I turn away from home and family, promising to return someday. My nurse and maids travel with me, riding on camels, like princesses.

I peep from behind my veil to meet my husband. He is beautiful, and I sing a little song of praise to God in my heart.

Soon, we are married. He actually loves me. I didn’t dare to hope for my husband’s heart. It is wonderful to be married to this man. God knew what He was doing when he directed my father-in-law’s servant to me.

God blesses us with two sons, twins. The Lord tells me clearly, The elder shall serve the younger.

I make a huge mistake and decide our younger son is my favorite. I make another mistake, putting our son and his inheritance before my husband in my affections. Two deceptions later, I lose him forever. For he must flee, and I will die before he returns.

God has mercy on my favorite son and makes him—and our elder son—fathers of nations.

Who am I?

Who is my husband?

What are the names of our sons?

Which nations did they found?

For bragging rights, can you name my father and brother?

For extra credit, what specific kinds of jewelry did the servant give me at the well?

Halftime and holiness

While the Super Bowl is a recent memory, let me comment on several subjects.

The first is that it seems like it was a very exciting football game. I like American football but live in Spain where “futbol” means soccer. I didn’t see the game except for a few highlight touchdowns on the news the day after. I’m sorry I missed the football.

Second, it seems like the halftime entertainment either was the “best in years” or “terrible,” depending on people’s opinions. I didn’t see it, but apparently, it included some kind of a striptease. I saw a few seconds of women gyrating on the stage in a news clip. Frankly, that felt demeaning, and I switched channels.

There seems to be an appetite for this kind of lewd entertainment, especially at the Super Bowl. Many years ago, Michael Jackson was the halftime act. (Again, I live in Spain and had never seen Michael Jackson do anything, so I watched.) I thought it was pretty cool that when everyone expected him to be on stage, he appeared way up in the stands. But, after about one minute of his dirty dance moves, I was moved to turn off the TV in disgust. Since that year, there has been a “wardrobe malfunction.” Not too long ago, the featured songs included cop-killing lyrics, performed by a star in skimpy clothing.

Is there a demand for this sick and bawdy brand of entertainment? You betcha.

Franklin Graham came out with a statement about Sunday’s performance. He said the halftime show sent the message “that sexual exploitation of women is okay.” He added that “millions of children (were) watching. This exhibition was Pepsi showing young girls that sexual exploitation of women is okay. With the exploitation of women on the rise worldwide, instead of lowering the standard, we as a society should be raising it. I’m disappointed in Pepsi and the NFL.”

I understand that the actors were paid huge amounts of money to put on a show. They probably do similar—but less spectacular—things when they normally perform. I wouldn’t know.

It’s time for the Christian community to draw a few clear lines. They should not merely be, “Oh my! Can you believe what we just saw?” while still watching.

The Christian community (as well as society at large) needs a heart change.

When I was a child, we sang, “Be careful, little eyes what you see.” Never was that more needed than now.

The Psalmist said, I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3).

Job proclaimed, I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1)

Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

Paul admonished Christians: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

My purpose is not to rail against a performance that I didn’t watch. It is, rather, to encourage my fellow Christian women to be pure in what we allow ourselves—and our children—to view.

How can you set your own entertainment standards?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it pure?
  2. Does it promote pure thoughts and emotions?
  3. Is there good moral tone?
  4. Will I be more Christlike after viewing this?

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Fiction review: Secrets

Secrets is the first book in the Glenbrooke Series by Robin Jones Gunn. I was looking for a fun read that wasn’t sad or complicated, and someone in my reading group recommended this series. I’m glad she did.

Jessica Morgan is driving to her life-changing beginning as a schoolteacher in the little town of Glenbrooke, Oregon. Unfortunately, the hospital is her first taste of her new life. With her lip sewn up and almost no money, she gives the nurse a false last name that she sees on a box in the room: Fenton.

Her rescuer is a firefighter named Kyle, who seems to be the most popular man in Glenbrooke. Jessica isn’t surprised, since he’s friendly, good-looking, and kind.

When school starts, the interim principal seems to have it in for Jessica. When she finds out that Jessica’s using a false name, the treatment gets worse.

Add to that the fact that all Jessica has eaten in several days are Ramen noodles and what she can scrounge at work, and Jessica is desperate. Why didn’t she bring more money with her? With her false name and her desire to hide from her father, she is stuck.

Jessica’s friendly neighbors and Kyle offer to help, but Jessica’s pride won’t let her open up or accept charity.

I can’t go any further without spoiling the story, but there are a lot of sweet, mature elements. I have read Robin Jones Gunn before, but this book stands out with its layers of thoughtful plotting. I enjoyed it, and I think you will, too. I especially loved the ending. It’s well-written Christian fiction.

The help meet formula: 10 tips for wives

If you’re like me, you might have thought a formula exists. Man marries a woman, who is automatically designed to be that perfect little help meet. This concept is found in two verses in the Bible, Genesis 2:18 and 20b: And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.… but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

We all know what “help” means. The difficulty is with the word “meet.” It has been translated as “suitable” and “compatible.”

So, what was Eve, after all?

She was Adam’s suitable companion, “a helper like himself.”* They were commanded to do the same things together, like tending the garden and taking care of it. But, Adam was the one that God addressed with His rules. Adam was responsible for Eve and the head of the family. (Genesis 3:9 God calls Adam’s name and asks for his explanation of their sin, then He questions Eve, verse 13.) They were in it together. Adam and Eve walked in the Garden together and communed with God. Later, they sinned together, hid together, made excuses together, and were punished together. God made fur clothing for both of them.

What does this teach us today?

How is a wife a help meet?

I am not sure there is a formula at all except for the idea that, in marriage, we’re in it together—and wives are supposed to be helpful.

Isn’t that profound?

Well, maybe it’s not the earthshaking “how to be a great wife” you wanted, but it’s what God tells us we’re created to be: suitable helpers.

Let’s make it practical.

How can I help my husband? I can:

  1. Speak kind words. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26).
  2. Keep the home. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27).
  3. Be industrious. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:31).
  4. Look nice. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple (Proverbs 31:22).
  5. Honor and respect my husband. The wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:33b). She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:12).
  6. Recognize him as the head of our home. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body (Ephesians 5:23).
  7. Love him. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).
  8. Understand my role in church services. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence (1 Timothy 2:12).
  9. Love  and respect God. A woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30b).
  10. Spread joy. And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation (Psalm 35:9).

Let’s be suitable helpers for our husbands todayheirs together of the grace of life (from 1 Peter 3:7).

*from etymonline.com