My heart's rumbled a bit the last few months. Through articles in the Tennessean about snake handling churches and conversations with friends about the charismata, I've slowly confronted the spectre of my childhood church.
To be clear, my childhood church did not handle snakes. A thin line seems to separate charismatic churches, however. Why do some embrace Mark 16:18 to the fullest, while others ignore snakes and focus on tongues?
Truthfully, I don't know what to make of those years. I'm not sure if what I deemed manipulative practice or spiritual abuse really went down that way or if my young self misinterpreted those events. It could be a bit of both. I'm learning how to sift the good from the bad, remembering the funny songs we sang in Sunday school and how I felt sitting next to my parents while they prepared to lead worship with their guitars. At the very least, it was the foundation of my faith.
I don't know what I believe about the more Spirit-led spiritual gifts. I don't know what to make of the God-whispers that have crept up in my life this past year. Have I been closed off in some way? Is it easier to couch it in familiar, more comfortable terms?
I say all this so you'll understand how tentatively I opened the first pages of The Healer of Fox Hollow.
Amazon description: Right from the start, Layla Tompkin’s way forward is full of detours after her mother dies in breech birth, leaving only her and her devoted, sorrowful father, Ed. Then, at the age of five, Layla is rendered mute after a horrible accident. “God is leading Layla to speak in new tongues,” proclaims Pastor Simpson at the local serpent handling church. Soon after, Layla is found to possess the gift of healing and her reputation spreads...Doubt and the miraculous, loss and survival, hurt and forgiveness collide when a secret challenges what everyone holds true, leaving Layla, her family and the community profoundly changed in a story about what it means to be truly healed.
The way in which Layla perceived the world around her struck me. While her family loved her, they were limited in their ability to address her concerns. She had no one, really, to help her interpret the trauma she experienced or what she experienced in church. Because of her inability to speak, she has to find other ways to communicate until she's old enough to write but impressions have been made by then. Impressions which shape the next 14 years of the story. I understood Layla's confusion and how she yearned for someone to explain her gift to her.
Some characters are more richly drawn than others. While I grew frustrated at times on Layla's behalf, their responses make sense given their specific circumstances. (I realize this is cryptic but I don't want to spoil the story.) The way Layla's father cared for his daughter from infancy and through trauma was beautiful and sacrificial. The stories of people Layla met with for on-going healing rang true. And then there's a character that rides into town on a motorcycle who holds a special place in my heart. That's all I'm saying about that.
Leonard progressively reveals Layla's gift of healing to us, first through others' reactions and then inside glimpses of how Layla connected with those who sought relief from their ailments. Layla's inability to speak makes her a good listener but her gift also shows her the root of peoples' pain, past whatever they told her. In spite of the manipulations and those wanting to use Layla's gift for their own gain, we also see the beauty of healing and how the Spirit can draw us closer.
Leonard doesn't make any statements about the charismata or Layla's church; the reader is left to draw their own conclusion. This in itself was healing for me. In fact, by the time the book ended, I was moved to tears. I believe I'll be pondering Layla's story for some time to come.
Note: While the subject matter often turns in the direction of faith, this book doesn't appear to be in the Christian fiction category. There's some language and (trigger warning) a rape scene. Plus, the author doesn't spell out what we should make of the Church People or present the gospel. In my perfect world, it would qualify as Christian fiction because it deftly depicts the grittiness of life and the truth of grace and redemption.
TLC Books is graciously giving away a copy of The Healer of Fox Hollow to one reader! This giveaway is limited to US and Canada residents only.
- Leave a comment. Tell me about your childhood church experience, what you think about spiritual gifts, or what you've been reading lately. Or something else altogether.
For extra entries:
- Subscribe to HopefulLeigh and get my posts by email or feed reader, then leave a separate comment that you've done so. If you already do this because you're a rockstar, then leave a separate comment saying so.
- Tweet about the giveaway and leave a separate comment saying so.
The giveaway will run through next Wednesday August 22 8 am CST. The winner will be notified by email. If I do not hear back within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
UPDATE: Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Kelly!
Disclosure: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours with no expectation I would provide a positive review. The thoughts, opinions, and reactions are entirely my own.
Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate link included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, I'll get a few pennies to help support this site, as well as my book habit. Thanks for your support!