God Forbid – Alyssa Rabil

I love reading books about religion. Factual, fiction, speculative, and pretty much everything in between. This is the first in a two-book series. This story is unlike any religious stories I have read so far.

God Forbid Image

Completely fictional, this story focuses on the major players in the religious stories you are likely familiar with; Jesus, Lucifer, Gabriel, and other key players.

This story moves between Nabil and Albert and the people they interact with. Nabil seems to be stalked non-stop by Cannon, with some friends, or maybe they aren’t friends, who seem overly interested in his every move.

Albert has made a name for himself due to his numerous, up-to-this-point-unsuccessful, suicide attempts. Known as Suicide Man, he has managed to gain quite a following of people, his own website, and numerous viral videos.

So how would Jesus, and Lucifer, function living in our world today? A more important question is how would they function when they are not 100% aware of who exactly they are, and their importance to life for millions of people.

I am looking forward to the release of this second novel, and you can find more information on Alyssa’s website, found here: http://captainlilybob.com/books/

To Heaven and Back – Mary C. Neal, MD

To Heaven and Back book cover

Mary C. Neal, a highly skilled Orthopedic surgeon, drowned in a kayak accident. A trip down a waterfall found her pinned underwater, unable to be rescued by her companions before she drowned. This trip led to another profound trip that would change her life forever.

Mary wasn’t raised in what some may consider an overly-religious environment. She knew who God and Jesus were, but her family’s religious activities did not move beyond attending church on Sunday. The divorce of her parents at a time when divorce was still uncommon, 1971, filled Mary with embarrassment and an overpowering desire to drive away any man who was interested in her mother.

Allowing her life to spin out of control, drugs and alcohol became a part of her teenage life until an automobile accident would change her life. A missionary trip to Mexico would put her on the path to her future medical career.

As an adult, Mary had the ideal family life; the white picket fence with all the extras. After the kayaking accident, her brief trip to heaven had her feeling joy and love that she still finds difficult to describe. She was saddened when she was told it was not her time, and she had to return to Earth, and her body.

This was the beginning of a very difficult, very intense healing process for Mary, both physically and emotionally. Like others who have had this experience, Mary did not want to be on Earth, she wanted to be in her heavenly home. It was not that she did not love her family, it was due to the profound feelings she experienced while in heaven.

A premonition from her son that he would not reach his 18th birthday indeed came true, and brings another aspect to this story of how her experience helped her accept and handle such a devastating situation.

This book is one of several detailing life-after-death experiences. It does have a fairly strong religious overtone to it, but it is certainly not bashing you over the head telling you to “repent and be saved!” I do have a strong faith, but have also had others who are not religious read this book and tell me they thoroughly enjoyed it.

“The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

A difficult read emotionally, but one you can’t put down. I questioned myself as to whether or not I really wanted to read it, once I was told what the story was about. As a parent, it is like reading your most terrible fear come to life.

This has turned into one of those books that book clubs are raving about; there are even versions with the questions in the back that you can use for book clubs. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. I just tend to feel that books that do this are promoting themselves for the wrong reason (this is just my personal opinion).

"The Shack" by William Paul young
“The Shack” by William Paul Young

As sad and heartbreaking as this story is, I have read it 4 times now. It is one of those stories that reminds me of what my faith is supposed to do in my life, and how no matter what I am doing every day of the week as far as my religion is concerned, I can still be closer to God.

If you haven’t read or heard about this story, the premise is as follows: a loving family strong in faith suffers the unthinkable when their child is kidnapped, and murdered. A young 6 year old girl, innocent to all the evils in the world, and the fact that bad things really do happen to good people. (As a mother to 4 girls, the youngest who was 6 when I first read this, that was why I hesitated to read it).

The rest of the story deals with a father’s anger, guilt, and faith, and a weekend spent with God, in various forms. As a religious person whom still sometimes struggles with understanding the Triune God, this story presents this in a way that brings it home to me, making it make sense. Does that make sense?

Mack, the father, suffers in a deep depression, while functioning on the outside, for four years. Receiving a note in the mail that is suspicious at best, Mack spends a weekend in the shack where his daughter’s life ended, and comes to terms with not only her murder, but so much more. Nan, his wife, had a strong faith that did not seem to waver as Mack struggled to get through each day. This weekend would also help him understand how Nan kept a strong faith through the most difficult part of their lives.

How would you like having breakfast with Jesus, or growing a garden with His help? Would you even know how to approach him? From the story:

What should you do when you come to the door of a house, or cabin in this case, where God might be? Should you knock? Presumably God already knew that Mack was there. Maybe he ought to simply walk in and introduce himself, but that seemed equally absurd. And how should he address him? Should he call him “Father,” or “Almighty One,” or perhaps “Mr. God,” and would it be best if he fell down and worshipped? Not that he was really in the mood (Young, Wm. Paul, 2007, pg. 84).

How does Mack first see God? As a large, African-American woman,  embracing him as someone whom finally sees a long-lost friend after many, many years. Smelling of his mother’s perfume, Mack fights to stop the tears that start to flow in front of this “stranger.” Next a small Asian woman approached him, a collector of tears is what she told Mack she was, and shimmered in a way that made it difficult for him to look at her. The third person to join them in the shack is a man of Middle Eastern descent, an obvious laborer with his tool belt full of tools. Confused, Mack asks all of them, “Are there more of you?”

“No Mackenzie.” The black woman chuckled. “We is all that you get, and believe me, we’re more than enough” (pg. 87).

So Mack has his three companions for the weekend, each with a specific purpose to help him deal with his grief, his faith, and his anger. They break down his walls, the barriers in his heart, and show him that in order to be free from his guilt and grief, he absolutely must forgive his enemy; the man who murdered his child.

This story is full of emotion, sadness, and even hope as Mack goes on this journey to reveal what is truly in his heart, and learns how to be healed of the emotional pain that has consumed his life, and in turn his family’s life, for the past four years.

Whatever your beliefs may be, or not be, this is a story to be read by everyone, whether you have Faith or not. It makes points that seem generic to humankind in general, without trying to force someone else’s beliefs on you. You understand the story, and the lessons it seems to present without ever really trying.

This is definitely a book I will pick up for the 5th time, and likely even more than that.

The Shack. 2007. William Paul Young. Windblown Media: Newbury Park, California.

I Actually Finished It!

I finished “Killing Jesus“, a week later than I planned. I have to say I was much more interested in it once it got to the life of Jesus and his eventual crucifixion.

It was as graphic as I expected it to be, with a few things left out that really surprised me. I don’t think they were left out because they were considered myths, because they are in every single other story or show about Jesus’s life, including the 4 gospels in the Bible.

the first of these was when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and as he is being captured. Peter takes out his sword and cuts off Malchus’s ear. It is at this point that Jesus tells him to put the sword away, and reattaches Malchus’s ear. On pages 223-224, the chopping off of the ear is mentioned; but not the reattachment.

The other thing that was excluded was when Peter is inside the temple walls and he denies knowing Jesus 3 times, before the rooster crows. I was very surprised that neither of these things were mentioned, when I find them vital to showing not only the loyalty of Jesus’s disciples, but also the fact that they were scared of their own upcoming punishment for following Jesus and believing in his ministry.

A passage that I found very interesting was when Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for eating with person’s who were considered unclean. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth enters into the stomach and then out of the body. But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All of these evils come from inside and make a man unclean” (O’Reilly, B., Dugard, M., 2013, Killing Jesus, pp -160-161).

So, on a lighter note, I think it’s time to find a more upbeat book to read next 🙂 I have a couple books on my bookshelf that I have not read yet, but I think I am going to bypass those for now,  go to Barnes and Nobles, and pick up a Joanne Fluke book. If you have never read her books, she includes recipes in her book as the main character runs a bakery. After reading several of her books, I think it’s time to try out some of those recipes!

Oh, and they are always based on someone’s murder, and I know that isn’t upbeat, but the stories have a humorous side to them and always ends with the good guy winning. Who can’t like that in a story? 🙂

Slowly but Surely

I have managed to make it to the second part of “Killing Jesus.” It is holding my attention much better as it is to the parts I am familiar with, as far as the life Jesus led up to his crucifixion. There were some very difficult parts to read that described the torture the Romans used on anyone who did not obey them.

An excerpt: The soldiers of Antipas forced Judas of Gamala to his knees, facing a low post. He was tied to the wooden shaft with his hands above his head. Two soldiers retrieved short-handled whips, whose three leather tendrils were tipped with lead balls and mutton bones….As each lash was inflicted, the leather thongs tore open the skin and muscles, even as the lead and bone created more deep bruising.” (Killing Jesus. O’Reilly, B. Dugard, M. 2013, pg 83)

You get the general idea of the brutality these citizens faced. I cannot even imagine how much more graphic this will get when it gets to how Jesus was crucified, but this section here literally took my breath away. I think the visual picture I have in my head from watching Jesus get lashed in “The Passion of the Christ” is what made it even more real to me. That is what I kept seeing as I read this passage and beyond. (As a note, this is not the infamous Judas who betrayed Jesus, but one of many Judas’s during the time Jesus lived.)

On a lighter note, I plan on having this book finished by Saturday morning, and I have an awesome give-away coming up soon for one lucky person. Details to come!

May you be able to read as long as there are stories to be told 🙂