Monday, September 08, 2008


Well, Molly didn't really fly at the game Friday night. The cheerleaders didn't do any tosses, but she did hop up on another girl's shoulders. As I sat in the bleachers watching the game and the girls, I couldn't help thinking that I was taking part in a true American tradition. How many other teenage girls sang the National Anthem while thousands, hundreds of thousands of boys stood on a football field in uniform with their hands over their hearts? In a moment like that politics, religion, race, and income levels don't matter. We're all just parents cheering for our kids and enjoying the camaraderie of trying to stay warm on uncomfortable bleacher seats. It seems like the quintessential American experience, as cheesy as that sounds.

Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney is the unlikely story of a young, black single mom, Gina, who experiences the wounds of Christ on Ash Wednesday, the drug-addicted journalist, Anthony, who can't seem to stay away from her, and the story that God makes through them. As a Protestant, the stigmata is something that seems unreal to me, more than a little bit crazy, and Burney tackles the story from just that frame of reference. Gina suffers from bi-polar disorder and is a Protestant, so even she can't be sure if this eruption of bleeding from her hands and feet is real or just another twist of her fragmented mind. Anthony has been a drug addict for so long, he doesn't know any other kind of life, and more than three hours away from heroin has him writhing in pain from withdrawal, but one touch from Gina's hands, and the craving and addiction is gone. Anthony and Gina become connected to each other while he cares for her and her daughter, Zoe. Anthony tells Gina stories of saints who have suffered stigmata throughout the centuries to help her make sense of her own story that is quickly disintegrating. Anthony's mother, Veronica, has caused him no end of suffering through her hatred of his conception. When she discovers Gina and her wounds, she takes charge and determines to make this her chance to be a part of something bigger. Her religious zealotry gives the story a sense of urgency and also helps ground the story. Burney captures the wide range of reactions to Gina's story with startling clarity. The most powerful message in the book is Gina's passion for Christ, her Lover. The faith that I experience is so weak and watered down compared to the love that she (and the other stigmatics from history) bears. Gina makes me want more. I want that kind of passion in my faith, even if it means suffering. I want to love God that whole-heartedly. Burney weaves Scripture with the writings of saints into a powerful love story that leaves the reader wounded, wanting more from their own faith.

I'm kicking off a new book contest today. I'm giving away a copy of Saturdays with Stella by Allison Pittman to one lucky winner. It's a non-fiction humorous book about how one woman learned lessons about faith in God through her dog Stella. To win a copy, send me an email before Thursday, September 11th at 10 pm. I'll announce the winner here on Friday. Good luck!
Today's pic is Molly's cheerleading squad before the game; Molly is in the lower left in the picture.