Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rose House & The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper

In defense of Martha:

Last night while reading through Neb Hayden's amazing devotional When the Good News Gets Even Better, I studied the three versions in the Gospels about Mary of Bethany pouring the perfumed oil over Jesus. It's a beautiful story of humility and love for Mary's Savior. While the disciples were distracted and focused on Jesus taking an earthly throne and declaring himself Messiah so he could save Israel from their Roman occupiers, Mary had spent time at Jesus' feet and knew that he was going into the city to die. She understood his words and knew his death was coming soon.

Hayden makes a small condemnation of Martha, Mary's always busy sister based on John 12:2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Two little words: Martha served, and Hayden makes the assumption that she, like the disciples, still doesn't see what's going on.

Now I absolutely adore Hayden's book, so don't think that I am dismissing the rest of this amazing book, but I think that just maybe he got Martha's motivations wrong.

This poor woman has been getting a bad rap for over 2000 years. Used as an example of missing the point when it comes to Jesus, there are even books about her, including Joanna Weaver's terrific Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.

But I think that maybe we should give Martha's serving another look. Afterall, when Jesus arrived after the death of Lazarus, Martha said that she always knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. She obviously had spent less time worrying about her clean house and listened to the message Jesus had been teaching. Consider this: maybe she and Mary had purchased the nard together, maybe Mary's outpouring of love was really a gift from both of them. And while Mary gave her lavish show of devotion, Martha quietly served, because in making a warm, delicious meal she was showing her love as well.

Yesterday Doogie came over for a farewell supper. Jesse and I can't afford the hotel room to go with him up to Superior this weekend, so I decided to make him a special meal and cake. He spent much of the afternoon here, and I knew that every moment with him was precious, but what did I do? I cleaned. I washed clothes, hung them on the line, and put them away. I baked his cake. I straightened the bathroom. Why? Because the pain of his departure was so keen that I couldn't spend too much time near him or I burst into tears (no, I am not handling the empty nest thing well, pray for me). I focused my energy elsewhere to distract me, but I also worked hard baking a cake to show him my love.

Last week, we received news that Jesse's cousin John's cancer has returned. He's been in remission for less than a year only to discover that the abdominal cancer was back. What's worse is that tests showed that he also has Stage 4 colon cancer. It was missed last year and has now progressed to a terrifying state. I ache for them and want to show the whole family my love, but I'm not the kind of person who always knows the right words to say or who can offer real comfort just by their presence. I know where my gifts lie, so what am I doing for the family? I'm serving...food. Tonight I doubled my recipe for supper and dropped half off with them along with some chocolate cake. That's how I deal with pain and how I show my love.

Could Martha have been doing the same thing? When I picture the scene in their house in Bethany, I see this: Jesus sitting with his disciples, they are chatting, but the joy that was present in their earlier meals is gone. A dark pall hangs over them. Mary approaches and drops to her knees in front of Jesus. As she opens the bottle and pours the perfume over his feet, conversation stops. She takes her hair and gently rubs the oil into his feet, and Jesus' eyes fill with love for her act of devotion to him. Martha quietly brings another bowl of figs and places it on the rug in front of them, but the bowl is dropped just a bit, because her eyes are locked on her sister. At the sound, Jesus' eyes move from Mary to Martha to see her tear-filled eyes meet his, and he smiles, because he knows.

He knows our heart, and he knows why we serve. It may not be in a way that others recognize, but it is filled with love.

Rose House
by Tina Ann Forkner is the second book in the La Rosaleda series following Ruby Among Us. I do recommend reading the first book in this series, because there is a great deal of emphasis on the hope that Rose House offers. Lillian Diamon visits Rose House shortly after the death of her husband and twin children, but after being followed by mysterious men, she cuts her visit short. She doesn't return for four years, but when she does, she discovers that someone has painted a picture of her in the moment of her deepest grief. At first, she is angry at the intrusion, but upon meeting the mysterious artist, Truman, she finds herself drawn to him. Before she can make room for him in her heart, she has to release the grief at her loss and the bitterness at her sister's part in it. This book just didn't work for me as well as Ruby Among Us. The various plots didn't knit together neatly, and the purpose for the antagonist's murderous rage is never really disclosed. I didn't understand why he didn't just leave Lillian and Geena alone, no deep dark secrets were exposed to explain it. The romance between Lillian and Truman is the saving grace of the novel, but there is too little of it. Forkner is a terrific author, and I'm sure that her next book will be again evidence of that.

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper by Kathleen Y'Barbo is the most fun I've had reading a romance novel in a long time! Eugenia "Gennie" Cooper wants just a little adventure in her life before getting married to her father's choice, so when the opportunity for a trip to Denver posing as a governess arrives, she can't help but take it. Working in the Beck household is a little more adventure than she had bargained for however. Charlotte, her ten year old charge, has been allowed to run wild for five years without a mother's influence. I stayed up until 3 am finishing this book, because I just couldn't put it down! Every time I thought I'd come to a place I could put it aside until morning Y'Barbo threw another monkey wrench into the works! This refreshing novel kept the best of romantic cliches and turned the rest on their head. I loved it!

The contest for all of the books I review this week (including these two) is going until 10 pm Thursday. To win, just send me an email with your best guess to what time I was born on August 28, 1973. The best guess so far is just 24 minutes off!


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting about Rose House and for your sweet attitude about your review. I really appreciate your thoughts, Christy.