Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sibella Giorello’s “The Stones Cry Out”

Raleigh Harmon has a bundle of interesting characteristics. She’s a native of Richmond, Virginia, and went to school with Richmond high society. She has friends who own James River plantations, including the father of her one-time boyfriend. The boyfriend, by the way, served jail time, and he’s interested in resuming their relationship. Raleigh’s beloved stepfather was killed by an unknown assailant on a Richmond street. Her mother has occasional bouts of dementia. She’s a trained geologist. And she’s an FBI agent.

That’s quite a lot, but there’s more.

She’s asked to lead a civil rights investigation into the death of a black man who fell from a factory roof to his death, followed almost immediately by a police detective falling to his death. Raleigh’s boss wants the investigation over before it begins. Racial tensions are growing.

This is the story of The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello. And it is a story where it’s impossible to get bored – it’s got more action packed into it than a Rambo movie, including the heroine swinging off a building to collect evidence.

The novel is the first of the Raleigh Harmon mystery series. Giorello has written several of them, as well as a young adult series and a number of other works.

Sibella Gioiello
In this one, the reader gets some of the back story of Raleigh’s life – her immediate family, growing up in Richmond and living on Monument Avenue, her friends and professional acquaintances, and how she came back to Richmond after working in an FBI forensics research laboratory in Washington, D.C. And Giorello includes a considerable amount of local Richmond color and topography, as well as an understory about faith.

The series is, I suspect, aimed largely at young women. Raleigh is resourceful, independent, decisive, and knows how to get things done. She also knows how to get around obstacles like her boss, and isn’t beyond bending rules to do that.

I’m looking forward to reading more about the resourceful and interesting Raleigh Harmon.

Top photograph: The FBI building in Richmond, Virginia.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The discipline became a joy

When I became a Christian during my last semester at college, the state of my Biblical understanding left a great deal to be desired. I had attended two years of catechism when I was 12 and 13; the Lutheran Church required it and even if it hadn’t my mother would have. So every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year I was at our church with the other students, studying Lutheran teachings and general Christian doctrine from 4 to 5 p.m.

I have to say it was not a self-imposed discipline. I can remember days of hoping the taxi wouldn’t show up in time, an extremely rare occurrence.

When I became a Christian in 1973, and fully understood what that meant, things changed. Up to that time I understood myself as a cultural Christian; after that I was a Christian by belief, and trying desperately to understand what that meant and entailed.

For two to three years afterward, I drifted. Our working hours at the newspaper in Texas generally precluded church attendance. Once we were in Houston, we joined a large Methodist church. On the surface it was healthy. Below the surface it was beginning to be wracked by theological change. We eventually left, and found a smaller non-denominational church.

We got involved in a Young Couples class, we made friends, we found an older couple who was related to one of my college roommates. But my Biblical understanding was still lacking. I knew some the basic stories from children’s Sunday School. But I did not understand the context, the details, the meanings, how the Bible fit together, and how it shaped my faith.

Then our church announced a new program. One of the pastors, who happened to be a Ph.D., would be teaching a series of religious college extension courses. Over time, other teachers were brought it as well. The program was appealing to people interested in missions, since many missionary organizations required a certain number of college courses. I hadn’t thought about being a missionary, but I signed up because the courses offered to help fill some deep holes in my understanding.

I’d take a course a semester, and we’d meet on Wednesday nights for 60 to 90 minutes. The first course was Old Testament Survey, and I found it to be a wonder. The lectures, the readings, the discussion, and the questions from some 30 of us in the course were like rain on parched ground for me. The course required a project; mine was a genealogy of the Old Testament high priests, and fitting them within both the Biblical accounts and the historical accounts. (I’ve kept this paper, and it’s still useful 40 years later.)

That course was followed by New Testament Survey and Bible Study Methods. Both were just as good as the first one. Our textbook for New Testament Survey was a harmony of the gospels – the accounts laid side by side so you could see similarities, differences, possible conflicts, and other issues. And I remember the final exam for Bible Study Methods – an explication of the shortest verse in the Bible (“Jesus wept.”)

The courses required discipline, but the discipline was a joy. Those courses helped ground me in my faith. 

“We tend to equate discipline with rules and performance standards,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness.  “God equates it with firm but loving care for our souls.”

And those courses, and those teachers, cared for my soul.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Discipline of Grace. To see other posts on this chapter, “The Discipline of Grace,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Linnaea Mallette via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finding Edna and Winifred in the Antique Shop

I was in an antique shop, called Dappled Gray Antiques, in the downtown section of my suburb in St. Louis. The “dappled gray” came from a carousel horse in the window, and the shop was filled with both antiques and stuff that was old if not valuable. I ignored the stuff, antique or not, and found my way to the back, where the bookcases were filled with old books.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
The books were generally of two kinds. Most obvious and most beautiful were sets from the 19th century, like Ulysses Grant’s Autobiography (published by Mark Twain), William Prescott’s three-volume Ferdinand and Isabella (eighth edition published in 1841), and Theodore Mommsen’s four-volume History of Rome (1868). The second category of books were fiction and poetry from the late 19th and early 20th century.

None of the books were outrageously expensive, as most were not first or even second editions. The Ferdinand and Isabella set was $75 and the Grant Autobiography was $35. The individual novels and poetry books, priced considerably less than the sets, were all hardbacks; the shop didn’t handle paperbacks.

Looking through the shelves, I saw a small, slim little volume entitled The Buck in the Snow and Other Poems. The poet was Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), and this volume was the sixth edition published in 1928.

To continue reading, please see my post today at TweetspeakPoetry.