This summer in Vacation Bible School we reenacted Saul’s conversion. We made gray paper chains and carried them to “Damascus.” We circled the room muttering threats against those awful Christians who kept preaching that God wanted us to trust in Jesus rather than follow a list of rules.
It’s noisy at our place on the lake in northern Wisconsin. It’s Fourth of July weekend and everybody and their cousins have come to the lake. Speed boat wakes set our swim raft bouncing. A small plane climbs over the water from the airfield a mile up the road. Children laugh and squeal as they splash. (I LOVE the sound of children laughing! Boomboxes not so much.)
It’s a time when we eat hotdogs, watch fireworks, and consider what this country means to us. For some it is freedom to choose, to control their own destinies. For others that promise of freedom has yet to be realized. We struggle politically, socially and economically, yet we all love this land and long to see her live up to the greatness of her ideals.
Please welcome Stephanie Landem to “My Times and Places.” I first met Stephanie at a critique group we were both a part of and soon recognized a sister in the Lord. She was unpublished at the time. It has been fun to see her grow as a writer. I loved her biblical fiction, especially The Tomb, the story of Martha of Bethany. She just released In A Far-Off Land. It’s still biblical fiction in a way—a retelling of one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, this time set in 1930s Hollywood. It’s a wonderful read with great characters you will really care about!
Stephanie, the idea for this book obviously came from Jesus’ parable of The Lost Son (sometimes called The Prodigal Son). What made you decide on 1930s Hollywood as the right setting for such a retelling?
Do you remember ignoring your parents’ announcement of "Lights out!" by continuing to read that new novel? And do you remember the next “reminder,” after you simply tried to get in a couple of paragraphs more? They finally turned out your light, but you were so desperate to know whether Darcy would ever return, or whether Gandalf, Sydney Carton, or Mitch McDeere would survive, that you reached under your bed and pulled out a flashlight. The plot you were so caught up in revolved around some kind of conflict that demanded resolution.
In a similar way, composers elicit responses from you, when, by skillfully using harmony and melody, they narrate a musical story of conflict and resolution, tension and release. The following is a brief attempt to describe some important ways Handel accomplishes this in Messiah.
Who is Silvia? What is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.
Will Shakespeare never had the chance meet my friend Sylvia Patterson-Scott who helped me to write The Gospel According to George, but I'd like to introduce her to you. Sylvia and I met in 1983, when my family was preparing to move to Mozambique (see my bio page). She and her husband, Beverly, a violist with the Indianapolis Symphony, had joined my home church in Indianapolis. They invited us—the missionaries—for dinner and, to our great delight after our years in Brazil, served Costa Rican black beans and rice.
The idea for The Gospel According to George came to me at a Messiah sing-along at Yale University several years ago. The beautiful hall was crowded with enthusiastic music lovers who brought their own scores or bought one at the door. The soloists were exquisite, the music powerful.
The Chinese graduate student sitting next to me had never heard the oratorio before; she only knew that it was famous. She didn’t sing, but as a Christian, she came along to find out what all the excitement was about. At the intermission she turned to me. “Do all these people believe what they are singing?” she asked in an awed voice. Sadly, I had to confess that most loved the music but had no idea what it was about. After that I couldn’t shake the idea of a book to take Messiah-lovers beyond the music to grasp the depth and breadth of the story Handel told.
It wasn’t like I had never seen a crucifixion before. Of course I had. Even as a child in Gaul, I had witnessed executions. My grandfather died resisting the legions. My grandmother still hates them. My mother does not. At least, she married my father, a legionary from northern Italy who took his parcel of land along the banks of the Somme when he retired and married her.
No, I, Decimus Longinus, Centurion of the Tenth Legion, had seen many crucifixions over the years. This wasn’t even the first I had carried out. It was part of the job when you were a Roman centurion—a part I would like to forget. For some reason, the locals never seem to take kindly to Roman rule, no matter the improvements Rome brings in roads, baths, aqueducts, and free trade.
The little procession approached the city gate jammed with pilgrims come for the local Passover feast—something about their invisible god “passing over” houses with blood on the doorposts.
Blood. Gruesome thing to celebrate.
As far as I could tell, it was some kind of commemoration of their independence from…Egypt maybe? A thousand years ago. As long they focused on the distant past, it made no difference to me.
“Move along!” I shouted in a vain attempt to clear the way.
“I’m excited,” I said, surprised to feel the flutter of my heart.
“Me too,” my husband admitted with a grin.
Our car inched forward in the line, not nearly as slowly as the drive-thru Christmas light display in Duluth last December. But then, this time we had an appointment—an appointment we had waited months for—our first dose of the Moderna anti-Covid-19 vaccine.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
Add http://www.leannehardy.net/1/feed to your RSS feed.
To receive an e-mail when I post a new blog, please subscribe.