I was thinking of other ways to blog about books besides book reviews, and it came to me that one of the biggest reasons I read Christian fiction is that the stories challenge my faith. The spiritual arcs the characters endure always make me reflect on my struggles in faith. So, I’d like to start a feature called Where Faith Meets Fiction. These posts will highlight fictional books I’ve recently read/reviewed with a spiritual theme that has spoken to me personally.
For my first Where Fiction Meets Faith installment, I wanted to start with a character who stopped me mid-page with his spiritual revelation. In Kathleen Denly’s novel, Sing in the Sunlight, her hero, Richard Stevens, got into an argument with his new bride–a bride of convenience. He’s doing his best to woo her because he wants to have a marriage built on love instead of responsibility. In this scene, he loses his temper and hurts his efforts to convince his bride to love and trust him. But it’s the conviction he feels after this argument that struck me.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Richard buried his face in his hands. What had he been thinking? He hadn’t. That was the problem. He’d let the frustration build up and take charge. And what had they been arguing about? Attending church. A mirthless laugh escaped his lips as he slid to the floor, his back to the door. If this weren’t proof that he needed a Savior, he didn’t know what was.
When I first read this, I was preparing my heart and mind for the 2021 Resurrection Sunday by reading devotionals and setting aside time for prayer. But it’s funny how God inserts His lessons into our plans if we pay attention. Easter is a time to reflect on Christ’s majesty as the Son of God and on the sacrifice He made by suffering through the humiliation and pain of death through crucifixion. But to me, it is also the season of hope. Jesus gifted us hope when He defeated death and left an empty tomb for Mary and the other women to find on Sunday morning.
This hope is rooted in the His mercy and grace. And how often do we take His grace for granted? That’s exactly what made me stop mid-page and reflect as I was reading Richard’s story.
How often do we forget we need His grace every day? And do we grasp how thankful we should be for His willingness to pay the ransom for our sins with His own life?
In Kathleen’s story, Richard was a godly man. He made a conscious decision every day to walk with God and follow God’s will in his life. This meant he was disciplined in his words and actions, and he looked to God for guidance in decisions in his life. But Richard’s obedience wasn’t enough because he had moments where he failed, where he was disobedient–just like all of us.
Can you imagine if we didn’t have the gift of His grace? If we had to strive for righteousness all on our own? Oh, my. How we would fail, too.
In the story, it seemed so ordinary, an argument between man and wife. But it didn’t take much for Richard to allow his anger to take control of his tongue and say hurtful things–sinful things. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, he was in need of grace.
Have you ever stopped to think of all the little things we do every day that aren’t pleasing to God? Of all the mistakes that prove we still fight a sin nature even while striving to walk the righteous path? This scene from Sing in the Sunlight brought my NEED for grace into the forefront of my mind. It was a reminder my eternity depends on my reliance on grace because I am human, cursed through sin but redeemed through a promise. And the more I learn to surrender to my need for grace, the more I learn the depth of the abundant life He has planned for me.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10
I’m thankful that by surrendering my life to Christ, I gain unimaginable freedom. It may be difficult for the world to understand, but the more we are dependent on Christ and His grace, the more we gain.
I’m also thankful for authors who are willing to write their stories with the purpose of bringing people closer to God and to bring Him glory. I reached out to Sing in the Sunlight author, Kathleen Denly, while writing this post, and she was gracious enough to send me some insight into her character Richard as well as the inspiration behind her writing.
A Note from the Author: Kathleen Denly
I have a confession: Richard might be my favorite of the heroes I’ve written thus far. While not perfect, his sincere and selfless heart is positively swoonworthy. But the thing is, he wasn’t supposed to exist. Not originally. When I wrote my debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness, the industry rumor was that publishers weren’t interested in series novels by unknown authors. So Waltz in the Wilderness was intended to be a stand alone novel. To my surprise, however, the first publisher to show interest in that novel asked for proposals of additional books to follow it. So I asked myself, “Of my Waltz in the Wilderness characters, whose story needs to be told?” Richard was my answer because I felt he had so much to tell which I couldn’t include in that first novel and I knew that his deep-seated desire to protect women would make him a great hero. Not to mention his great sense of humor that made him fun to write.
If you read all three of my Chaparral Hearts novels, you may notice a pattern among my main characters–they all have complicated relationships with their parents. However–without giving any spoilers–I think Richard’s parental relationships may be the most complicated. All of these relationships are, in some way, reflections of my experiences as a foster parent, foster program volunteer, and foster youth mentor. Exploring how Richard’s parental relationships formed and changed him leading up to and through the events of Sing in the Sunlight was both challenging and fascinating. If I have learned anything through my interactions with the foster system, and others who have touched my life, it’s that while our childhood experiences do affect us, they do not determine who we become. That is determined by our relationship with God. It’s my hope that that is a truth which shines through each of my stories.
Thank you Kathleen for giving us a closer look into Richard and the inspiration behind your characters. It’s a blessing to read stories with such strong themes of faith and truth.
Here’s More About the Book:
Richard Stevens isn’t who he thinks he is. Neither is the woman who now claims his last name.
Disfiguring scars stole Clarinda Humphrey’s singing career, her home, and her family, but she refuses to let her appearance steal her future. While attending The Young Ladies Seminary in 1858 Benicia, California, she finds a man who promises to love and cherish her. Instead he betrays her, leaving her with child, and Clarinda must take drastic measures to ensure her child doesn’t suffer for her foolishness.
Richard Stevens’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected, and when a shocking letter turns even his past into a mystery, he travels to San Francisco in search of guidance. On the way, he encounters a mysterious young woman hiding beneath a veil. That night he experiences a dream that sends him on a quest to find the bride God has chosen for him. He never imagines she’s already told everyone they’re married.
Unwilling to lie, nor accept a marriage of mere convenience, Richard wants the real thing. Yet Clarinda’s not interested in love, only a chance to save her child. Can he help her rise above the pain that runs deeper than her scars to accept a love worth every risk?
You can read my full review here.
Thanks for stopping by the blog today! Do you have a book with a faith arc that has touched you in some way? I’d love if you’d share it with me in the comments below!
Happy reading and God bless,