book review: the watermark, travis thrasher

"It's one of those subtle marks on stationery that you can't see unless you hold it up to the light. For some reason, I think of that word when I think of you. For so long, you've been running from the light, Sheridan. But now your life has been held up to the light. And the mark that's always been there is now obvious to all who know you.

"No matter what you've done, what mistakes you've made, what you can't go back and change, you still belong to Jesus.... He's marked you for life."
THE WATERMARK is a beautiful story of second chances set in suburban Chicago. Perhaps that's just one reason why it hit such a chord in my heart. Those of you who know me well will remember we spent one year in the windy city, working in a Christian school and helping with the church's youth group. We don't talk about it much. It's not that we didn't love the ministry. And even though the year was marked with heartaches for the church and school, I think it's mostly that we left when we did. The story of John Mark, the one who separated from Paul but was later counted useful to him again, is just one of the biblical examples that's been an encouragement as we seek to serve our Lord faithfully again. See, God's story offers not just second chances, but chance after chance after chance. And it's not a night & day, wrong turns right in a flash (except in the reality of  God declaring us righteous at salvation). So often we wander, even after salvation. I think of a dear friend who at one time was so thrilled to have been saved and then later became convinced that he was a homosexual and couldn't understand why God had made him that way. Some would say he was never saved. Really? I tend to believe he's so far from the light, the watermark's not visible. The best thing we can do is love him and invite him back into the light. But this is supposed to be a book review, so I'll get on with the book.

I literally started THE WATERMARK after supper and finished it before midnight. The basic idea of this novella by Travis Thrasher is that God's mark on a believer may not be obvious when that person has turned from God and gotten himself entangled in the darkness of sin, but as that person is again exposed to the light, the watermark of salvation is obvious.

Told in the first person POV of Sheridan, Thrasher does a phenomenal job of maintaining that POV through three major story parts: "an undeniable past," "an uncertain present," and "an unexpected future." Sheridan's is a voice easy to listen to, convincing and honest.

When Sheridan decides to go back to Covenant College after a seven-year cessation, he's not deciding to turn his life back over to God, just hoping to finish something he started a long time ago. There's been so much pain and guilt in the mean time, and there's still not a whole lot of hopefulness. 

But through a newly developing friendship with a girl aptly named Genevie, Sheridan begins to rediscover his relationship with God.

"Show, don't tell," is one of those writing rules that you hear repeatedly, and it's one that Thrasher demonstrates with this novel, often even when you wish he'd just tell you what or why. But because he withholds the information so well, I'm not going to mess up his story and tell you now. You're going to have to read his book. Don't worry, you'll be glad you did.

The cover identifies THE WATERMARK as "a tender story of forgiveness and hope." And even though (for whatever reason) the dust jacket is lavender, it's not just for girls.

I definitely see potential for THE WATERMARK to be used in outreach ministries and with those who either grew up in a Christian home or went to a Christian college but have turned away from the God they once loved. The gospel is clear yet gentle, cushioned in a well-crafted story with believable characters and on-going struggles.

There are a few things that date the book, such as references to cassette tapes, yet those are so easily overlooked and the story itself is timeless. This is how God works: then, now, past, present, and future.

I picked my copy up from our public library, so it's available. But I'm guessing I'll be buying more than one copy to loan or give out. And I'll conclude by quoting Francine Rivers, "I loved THE WATERMARK. It is a moving story about redemption and love that delivers a punch to the heart at the end."

Proverbs 2

When I read it silently, I still hear this 2nd chapter of Proverbs in an Australian accent. On that Aussie mission team I mentioned in my last post, we got to spend a couple of weeks at a Christian camp counseling young people. The memory passage for the week was this one: Proverbs 2. And I still remember sitting on a rock wall, listening to that better-than-Brit accent say "ev-ry good pauth" (verse 9). It messes it up when I try to say it out loud. Like with the store keeper who told my American friend attempting the Aussie accent, "Keep practicin', mate," mine is obviously not authentic. They say we are too particular with our pronounciations. Ah well. They also say "snickerdoodles" are what doggies leave in the yard, rather than a "cinnamon sugar 'biscuit'" (cookie). But that's not really what this post is even about.

Proverbs Time with your kids. Chapter 2.

Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? I'll never forget this past Mother's Day when my seven year old made up a series of clues I had to figure out to find my little potted morning glory. It was precious.

The word "treasure" (verse 1) and the simile "seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures" (verse 4) are priceless pictures.

God has wisdom just "stored up" (verse 7), and He's promised to protect us on our quest ("He is a shield ... guarding ... watching over," verses 7 & 8).

So, we're goin' on a treasure hunt. We get to search for "hidden" treasures.

Allen Arnold hit it on the head in his recent article on Leadership: "I lead others best when I follow Jesus first." As moms or aunts or classroom teachers or girl scout troop leaders or ... whatever role(s) God's given  us, if we want our kids to seek for the wisdom treasures God has stored up for them, we first must seek for the treasures He has stored up for us.

Is there anything sweeter than a child pulling open his Bible before he can even truly read simply because he's following mommy or daddy's example? Have my kids seen me on my treasure hunt, digging for wisdom, devoting myself to the fear of the Lord, raising my voice ... not at them, but ... to the Lord begging for understanding? 

And then, do I take that next step and teach them how to dig into the Word? These Proverb talks are a great place to start.

Extra: Pirate Treasure Hunt Tips and (my favorite part) a photo of pirate face cupcakes! Great for SS party or birthday treat for that special kiddo.

love on purpose

Luke 11:11What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Raising kids is not a hobby, as much as some in our American culture would like to view it that way. It's 24/7 investment. Like starting a business, it takes a lot of work if you're gonna get it off the ground and headed in a profitable direction. It's best when there's a partnership--two parents teaming together for the same goal. But even when that's not a possibility, remember you're in this with God.

He encourages us to not be weary in doing well, but to take opportunities to show love to others, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6). If the household of faith, how much more so, our own individual believing household?

Titus goes so far as to tell us that one way to make God's Word appetizing to others--to prevent His Word from being reviled or blasphemed, a bad taste in someone's mouth--is for believers to live certain ways. Whereas Luke address fathers, Titus addresses young mothers, telling us to love our husbands and their children.

Recently, I've seen what intentional love does for a kid and so encouraged that I'm not going to give this one up. It takes forethought and creativity, but it is so worth it. Specifically for your children, how can you show them love?

  • Put a snack on their seat in the car for when they first get in from school.
  • Swing through Chik-fil-A for a kid's Icedream cone.
  • Plan an excursion after-school: to the park or a pet store or a friend's garden or the farmer's market where they get pick out a favorite fruit
  • Stop by the library for kids' events, Snakes Alive shown to the right: not so recent, but I love this pix! Upcoming events here in Greenville.
  • Go home and make Jell-O together, the quick set kind so you can have it for supper that night!
  • Read them a book--one on one!
  • Tell them, "I love you!" just because and give them a hug....
What other ideas can you think of that are intentional, non-expense acts of kindness for your children? Add a comment.

In the mean time, enjoy your kids. Show them you love them ... on purpose!