Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Flabbergasted Trilogy

The so-called “Christian fiction” genre has grown steadily over the past two decades, boosted by the fact that stores devoted solely to Christian books have continued to do well even as other brick-and-mortar bookstores have fallen on hard times. The problem with most of these Christian novels is that while they do have religious overtones and far less sex, language, and violence than mainstream fiction, they are too often not very well-written stories. One notable exception is the Flabbergasted trilogy by Ray Blackston.

Flabbergasted is Blackston’s debut novel, and it gives the name to the trilogy that ultimately followed. Set in Greenville, South Carolina, Flabbergasted is one of the best beach novels I have ever come across. The characters are vividly drawn and definitely grow on you as narrator Jay Jarvis and his friends navigate the Southern singles scene by, of all things, visiting various church singles Sunday school classes. Not a bad idea for those tired of the online dating sites.

I was well into the book before I realized that it fell into the “Christian fiction” description, because unlike many others of its kind, it was not dogma converted into a novel. When the subject of the gospel did finally appear it was not watered down, but was presented with clarity in the midst of a very humorous situation. From girls who church-hop looking for husbands to missionaries with a fondness for throwing food at people, this is an entertaining group of characters, not some fictionalized hellfire-and-brimstone sermon.

The second book in the series is A Delirious Summer. The premise is similar to Flabbergasted, but with a twist. The narrator this time is Neil Rucker, a missionary on furlough for the summer looking for a wife in the wilds of Greenville, where he encounters many of the same people Jay Jarvis met in the first book. He quickly finds that Carolina beaches may be even more dangerous than the Amazon jungle, and watching this young man try to navigate the Greenville social scene is a lot of fun. Allie, Darcy, and Alexis form one of the most hilarious (if sometimes dangerous) trios I’ve read in a long time.

The final novel in the series is Lost in Rooville, and it is here that Blackston falls a little flat. For most of the book the characters are lost in the Australian Outback, and while there are entertaining parts, taking the setting outside of South Carolina hurts the story somewhat. We do get to see the resolution of these myriad relationships that started in the first two books, however, and that combined with the familiar and likable characters makes it worth reading.

So if you’re looking for some well-written, funny, and sometimes enlightening novels for the approaching autumn nights, check out the Flabbergasted trilogy, particularly the first two books. If nothing else, you’ll never look at dating the same way again.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Check Out the New Podcast!

We are finally moving into the 21st century (slowly but surely). Check out the new podcast on Anchor here or at the link below.

Why a podcast when we already have the blog? I don't see it as an either/or situation. There are people who don't have much time to read, but can easily listen to a podcast on their way to work. The goal at Light in the Darkness has always been to reach as many people as possible with the Good News.

In addition, I have always wanted this to be an interactive experience and a podcast allows both for interviews with guests and comments from listeners. Lively discussions are always good.

So take a minute and check out the podcast. There will be some overlap between it and blog, there will also be content unique to each platform.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Read the Bible in 2019

Many of us made resolutions for the new year today, and most involve some type of self-improvement: join a gym, start a diet, quit smoking, spend less time on social media, etc. These are all worthy goals (even if most will fall by the wayside by February), but we typically overlook that a new year gives us the opportunity for spiritual goal-setting as well. And one of the best spiritual goals we can set is to spend more time reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible.

A Google search will yield any number of solid Bible-reading plans, the most popular being one that takes you through the entire Bible in one year. However, I do not recommend that plan here, simply because of the abandonment rate even among long-time readers of the Scriptures. They start strong, but fade somewhere around the middle of Leviticus. Rather, I am going to suggest a few options that are less ambitious but perhaps more valuable because you are more likely to stick with them.

The following are all simple to remember because they involve reading one chapter per day:

1. The New Testament in One Year. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, and starting tomorrow (Jan 2), there are 260 weekdays remaining in 2019. This means that by reading one chapter each weekday (with weekends available for catching up any missed days) you will finish the New Testament in exactly one year, reading in small enough portions to easily finish each day but large enough sections to retain the context.

2. Overview of the New Testament. This plan involves only a few books of the New Testament, but gives a solid overview, especially if you have little or no prior familiarity with the Bible. Again reading one chapter per day, read the following books in this order: the Gospel of Luke, Acts, the Gospel of John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John.. You will finish before the year is out, of course; in fact, it will take exactly 120 days. But by the end of that 120 days my guess is that you won't stop.

3. A Sample of the Old Testament. This plan is by its very nature incomplete (thus "sample" rather than "overview") but it will show God's plan of salvation from the beginning and also help you understand many of the Old Testament references in the New Testament. In this order read: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra,  Nehemiah, Jonah, and Malachi.

With any of these plans, I also recommend that you read a Psalm each morning or evening. The Psalms are the prayer book/songbook of the Bible, and are quoted often throughout the New Testament. Most importantly, they are invaluable in developing your own prayer life.

Whether you use one of these plans or another you find, my prayer is that 2019 will see you become both more familiar with the Word of God and with the God of the Word. Happy reading, and Happy New Year!