CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 3

We haven’t had a tour like this for a while!

The CSFF Tour is finishing up discussing the new book Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. It has provoked a wide range of responses, from praise to “couldn’t get into it” to “can’t recommend it.” The writing is almost universally praised, but the style sometimes threw people off. Others had some questions about issues raised in the book, or agendas being promoted. There’s a lot to consider, and I can’t sum it all up. Be sure to go to Becky Miller’s page where she keeps track of all who have posted.

I’ve even had a hard time narrowing down what I want to discuss, but beforewarned:

THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

One of the issues brought up very prominently is immigration. Two of the characters are from Mexico, and they cross over illegally. One of them comes feeling a holy call to preach, and the other needs work to save up so his family can buy a little restaurant so they can support themselves in their own village. Both of them have noble reasons to come, but they do it by following a coyote across the desert. Another character is a pastor who opens a ministry to the Hispanic immigrants in the city, without differentiating between legal and illegal immigrants.

Athol Dickson gets a little comment in about the “artificiality” of borders, and he may be more sympathetic to one side over the other, but on the whole, I thought he showed issues as they are. Some illegal immigrants go about their business to support themselves or their family. Some get drunk and cause significant problems and suffering. And the rich businessman who rails against illegal immigrants has a Mexican servant for his house for years.

Some of the debate on the tour has been whether it is okay for Christians to do something good by breaking the law – the old “ends justifying the means” argument. I don’t want to be a relativist or utilitarian in my thinking, but I can’t help but think of missionaries who work in closed countries as “tentmakers”, working in their trade so they can share the gospel unofficially, or those who smuggle Bibles into lands where it is forbidden. Certainly there are people who shouldn’t be here, and I’m not equating coming for work to gospel work. I just can’t seem to think of it as a purely black and white issue.

I always end up thinking of this:
” ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” Leviticus 19:33-34

Others on the tour have noted that if one really feels called to preach in America, they could work on getting here by the “proper channels”, and that certainly is true. No denying that, but waiting 7 years for red tape makes for a poor novel!

Another interesting issue is the contrast in faith. In Alejandro’s time he works with two fellow friars. The head abbott is very legalistic, doesn’t show grace to the Indians they’re trying to reach, and seems to horde worldly goods. The other friar is well-received by the Indians for the way he integrates with them, but ends up leaving his heritage to “cross over.” Then Athol cleverly duplicates this in two of his modern day characters, the wealthy Delano and poor preacher Tucker.

At first glance Delano is the obvious self-righteous character, as he sits in his mansion looking down on those “illegals” and other immoral elements that he feels the church needs protection from. Yet Tucker has his own brand of self-righteousness, as he becomes hard to the wealthy gringo churches that won’t help him reach out to the downtrodden. Both become examples of what we should avoid on either side of the spectrum.

A self-described “prophet” once told a group I was in that the Lord doesn’t believe in “balance.” There is the Kingdom way, and the devil’s way, and that balance was a Greek or Eastern ideal that shouldn’t be in the church. Certainly he is right in that I always want to walk in God’s ways. However, I am a fallen sinner that routinely screws up, and sometimes the balance in tension that Christianity has developed over time (free will vs. sovereignty, grace vs. law, love vs. justice) is the only way we can keep from getting too off track. If anyone knows how to perfectly stay in His will, let me know – I’ll be the first to sign up!

Well, if you couldn’t tell, Lost Mission was a provocative book! I will go on record as saying it is in a good way, making people think about a variety of issues. I could go into more, but who’s going to read this as long as it is anyway! If it intrigues you, check it out. I think you’ll be glad you did.

CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 3

We haven’t had a tour like this for a while!

The CSFF Tour is finishing up discussing the new book Lost Mission by Athol Dickson. It has provoked a wide range of responses, from praise to “couldn’t get into it” to “can’t recommend it.” The writing is almost universally praised, but the style sometimes threw people off. Others had some questions about issues raised in the book, or agendas being promoted. There’s a lot to consider, and I can’t sum it all up. Be sure to go to Becky Miller’s page where she keeps track of all who have posted.

I’ve even had a hard time narrowing down what I want to discuss, but beforewarned:

THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

One of the issues brought up very prominently is immigration. Two of the characters are from Mexico, and they cross over illegally. One of them comes feeling a holy call to preach, and the other needs work to save up so his family can buy a little restaurant so they can support themselves in their own village. Both of them have noble reasons to come, but they do it by following a coyote across the desert. Another character is a pastor who opens a ministry to the Hispanic immigrants in the city, without differentiating between legal and illegal immigrants.

Athol Dickson gets a little comment in about the “artificiality” of borders, and he may be more sympathetic to one side over the other, but on the whole, I thought he showed issues as they are. Some illegal immigrants go about their business to support themselves or their family. Some get drunk and cause significant problems and suffering. And the rich businessman who rails against illegal immigrants has a Mexican servant for his house for years.

Some of the debate on the tour has been whether it is okay for Christians to do something good by breaking the law – the old “ends justifying the means” argument. I don’t want to be a relativist or utilitarian in my thinking, but I can’t help but think of missionaries who work in closed countries as “tentmakers”, working in their trade so they can share the gospel unofficially, or those who smuggle Bibles into lands where it is forbidden. Certainly there are people who shouldn’t be here, and I’m not equating coming for work to gospel work. I just can’t seem to think of it as a purely black and white issue.

I always end up thinking of this:
” ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” Leviticus 19:33-34

Others on the tour have noted that if one really feels called to preach in America, they could work on getting here by the “proper channels”, and that certainly is true. No denying that, but waiting 7 years for red tape makes for a poor novel!

Another interesting issue is the contrast in faith. In Alejandro’s time he works with two fellow friars. The head abbott is very legalistic, doesn’t show grace to the Indians they’re trying to reach, and seems to horde worldly goods. The other friar is well-received by the Indians for the way he integrates with them, but ends up leaving his heritage to “cross over.” Then Athol cleverly duplicates this in two of his modern day characters, the wealthy Delano and poor preacher Tucker.

At first glance Delano is the obvious self-righteous character, as he sits in his mansion looking down on those “illegals” and other immoral elements that he feels the church needs protection from. Yet Tucker has his own brand of self-righteousness, as he becomes hard to the wealthy gringo churches that won’t help him reach out to the downtrodden. Both become examples of what we should avoid on either side of the spectrum.

A self-described “prophet” once told a group I was in that the Lord doesn’t believe in “balance.” There is the Kingdom way, and the devil’s way, and that balance was a Greek or Eastern ideal that shouldn’t be in the church. Certainly he is right in that I always want to walk in God’s ways. However, I am a fallen sinner that routinely screws up, and sometimes the balance in tension that Christianity has developed over time (free will vs. sovereignty, grace vs. law, love vs. justice) is the only way we can keep from getting too off track. If anyone knows how to perfectly stay in His will, let me know – I’ll be the first to sign up!

Well, if you couldn’t tell, Lost Mission was a provocative book! I will go on record as saying it is in a good way, making people think about a variety of issues. I could go into more, but who’s going to read this as long as it is anyway! If it intrigues you, check it out. I think you’ll be glad you did.

CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 2

There is a lot to ponder in Lost Mission. I’m sure there will be some interesting discussion, and you’ll be able to find all of the posts from the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy tour at Becky Miller’s blog.

Yesterday I gave an introduction, so check that out for an overview of the plot. Today I will give my thoughts on the book as a review, and then I’ll follow up with thoughts on various plot points and themes.

First things first: isn’t that a great cover? It captures quite nicely the mood of the book. The story is told from the past flowing into the present time. The author chooses an interesting “omniscient” point of view, where he interjects his interpretation on the narrative from time to time. Nowadays writing teachers frown on this, but it was a useful literary tool in the past, and it is used to good effect here (although it takes a little getting used to).

Each chapter starts in the late 1700’s, talking about Fray Alejandro and his fellow priests as they establish a mission in the Southwestern desert to reach a tribe of indigenous people, but it slides thematically into the present time. There are four main characters followed: Lupe is a Mexican of Mayan descent who feels a supernatural call to preach to the Americanos, and crosses the border to follow her mission. Delano Wright is a very wealthy man with lots of land, a devout person who loses his unfaithful wife at the start of the book, and is left raising his precious teen daughter Harmony. Tucker is a fresh seminary graduate who goes to the desert to find his calling, and discovers it in an unexpected encounter. Finally, Ramon Rodriguez is also drawn to the USA from Mexico in order to save enough that his family can buy a small restaurant and he can return home.

The story starts slowly as we are introduced to each character over the course of several chapters. Honestly, the book was a bit of a drag initially, as I contended with the different writing style and the various people. Soon, the tendrils of each storyline start to cross and interweave until a rich tapestry develops. John Otte stated it well, that he started the book and read it as a duty, then he grew to want to, and finally he had to read to finish it. I can totally identify with that.

There is a satisfaction seeing the different points intersect, but it also a book that raises some thoughts that should make us consider carefully our own viewpoints. Can faith be flexible, or is in intransient? Where does righteousness cancel out mercy, if ever? Can we break a law to do the right thing? Some books are only meant to entertain. Lost Mission is certainly entertaining, but it is a thought-provoking book, one of the deepest I’ve read in a while.

The characters certainly drive the story, as their experiences are key to developing the plot. Each one is created with laudable and lamentable characteristics, and their flawed response to life is the key to the suspense in the book. Even finishing the book over a week ago, they have stayed with me.

The book has a few flaws, as any work. There is a major plot development that disappears as ash after a fire, and I thought it needed more than a casual dismissal at the end. There was a mention of us being aware or having some form of consciousness prior to our birth (page 68). I live in an area with a high concentration of LDS followers, and this idea of a spiritual existence prior to birth is a key point for them, one that I don’t believe is Biblical. I was dismayed to see it passed off in this book. It isn’t a major point at all – I think he was trying to be poetic, but my context affects how I see it, and I can’t let it pass without comment.

Overall, I can highly recommend reading Lost Mission for anyone who wants to be challenged in their thinking and wants a rich tale to chew on for a while. It isn’t the easiest to enter into, but it is a destination that will enrich and potentially prick you as well.

As I said, check back tomorrow for final thoughts on some themes from the book, and check out my tourmates at the link above!

CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 2

There is a lot to ponder in Lost Mission. I’m sure there will be some interesting discussion, and you’ll be able to find all of the posts from the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy tour at Becky Miller’s blog.

Yesterday I gave an introduction, so check that out for an overview of the plot. Today I will give my thoughts on the book as a review, and then I’ll follow up with thoughts on various plot points and themes.

First things first: isn’t that a great cover? It captures quite nicely the mood of the book. The story is told from the past flowing into the present time. The author chooses an interesting “omniscient” point of view, where he interjects his interpretation on the narrative from time to time. Nowadays writing teachers frown on this, but it was a useful literary tool in the past, and it is used to good effect here (although it takes a little getting used to).

Each chapter starts in the late 1700’s, talking about Fray Alejandro and his fellow priests as they establish a mission in the Southwestern desert to reach a tribe of indigenous people, but it slides thematically into the present time. There are four main characters followed: Lupe is a Mexican of Mayan descent who feels a supernatural call to preach to the Americanos, and crosses the border to follow her mission. Delano Wright is a very wealthy man with lots of land, a devout person who loses his unfaithful wife at the start of the book, and is left raising his precious teen daughter Harmony. Tucker is a fresh seminary graduate who goes to the desert to find his calling, and discovers it in an unexpected encounter. Finally, Ramon Rodriguez is also drawn to the USA from Mexico in order to save enough that his family can buy a small restaurant and he can return home.

The story starts slowly as we are introduced to each character over the course of several chapters. Honestly, the book was a bit of a drag initially, as I contended with the different writing style and the various people. Soon, the tendrils of each storyline start to cross and interweave until a rich tapestry develops. John Otte stated it well, that he started the book and read it as a duty, then he grew to want to, and finally he had to read to finish it. I can totally identify with that.

There is a satisfaction seeing the different points intersect, but it also a book that raises some thoughts that should make us consider carefully our own viewpoints. Can faith be flexible, or is in intransient? Where does righteousness cancel out mercy, if ever? Can we break a law to do the right thing? Some books are only meant to entertain. Lost Mission is certainly entertaining, but it is a thought-provoking book, one of the deepest I’ve read in a while.

The characters certainly drive the story, as their experiences are key to developing the plot. Each one is created with laudable and lamentable characteristics, and their flawed response to life is the key to the suspense in the book. Even finishing the book over a week ago, they have stayed with me.

The book has a few flaws, as any work. There is a major plot development that disappears as ash after a fire, and I thought it needed more than a casual dismissal at the end. There was a mention of us being aware or having some form of consciousness prior to our birth (page 68). I live in an area with a high concentration of LDS followers, and this idea of a spiritual existence prior to birth is a key point for them, one that I don’t believe is Biblical. I was dismayed to see it passed off in this book. It isn’t a major point at all – I think he was trying to be poetic, but my context affects how I see it, and I can’t let it pass without comment.

Overall, I can highly recommend reading Lost Mission for anyone who wants to be challenged in their thinking and wants a rich tale to chew on for a while. It isn’t the easiest to enter into, but it is a destination that will enrich and potentially prick you as well.

As I said, check back tomorrow for final thoughts on some themes from the book, and check out my tourmates at the link above!

CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 1

Are you ready to get Lost?
This month the CSFF Tour is featuring an intriguing book, Lost Mission. It is the latest book by Athol Dickson, who has written some memorable books in the CBA market over the last few years. I recall on the old blog faith*in*fiction that his book River Rising was highly touted. I read his last book, Winter Haven in ’09, and came away feeling that it was a good enough book, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations from prior publicity.

Does Lost Mission rise to the level of his reputation?

Before I answer that, I need to address some context…

What would a Mexican housekeeper, a minister running a shelter ministry, a grief-stricken billionaire, and an illegal immigrant working in construction have in common with an ugly Franscican friar from the 1700’s? As smoke from different little conflagurations can swirl together before it becomes a gigantic flame, so these disparate people are drawn together in a dramatic repeat of the doom of the Mission de Santa Dolores, the Spanish mission where Fray Alejandro met the flames so many years ago. Will they succumb to the same evil, or will faith rise above the fire?

Lost Mission is being marketed as “magical realism”, as smoke from a fire in the 1700’s helps guide one of the main characters, Lupe de la Garza even in the present time. There’s a lot to dig into with this book – enough that it deserves a couple more posts to delve into the mysteries.

But if you can’t wait, check out my compatriots below or visit Athol Dickson’s blog. Just be sure to follow the smoke back here tomorrow, winds permitting…

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Tour – Lost Mission Day 1

Are you ready to get Lost?
This month the CSFF Tour is featuring an intriguing book, Lost Mission. It is the latest book by Athol Dickson, who has written some memorable books in the CBA market over the last few years. I recall on the old blog faith*in*fiction that his book River Rising was highly touted. I read his last book, Winter Haven in ’09, and came away feeling that it was a good enough book, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations from prior publicity.

Does Lost Mission rise to the level of his reputation?

Before I answer that, I need to address some context…

What would a Mexican housekeeper, a minister running a shelter ministry, a grief-stricken billionaire, and an illegal immigrant working in construction have in common with an ugly Franscican friar from the 1700’s? As smoke from different little conflagurations can swirl together before it becomes a gigantic flame, so these disparate people are drawn together in a dramatic repeat of the doom of the Mission de Santa Dolores, the Spanish mission where Fray Alejandro met the flames so many years ago. Will they succumb to the same evil, or will faith rise above the fire?

Lost Mission is being marketed as “magical realism”, as smoke from a fire in the 1700’s helps guide one of the main characters, Lupe de la Garza even in the present time. There’s a lot to dig into with this book – enough that it deserves a couple more posts to delve into the mysteries.

But if you can’t wait, check out my compatriots below or visit Athol Dickson’s blog. Just be sure to follow the smoke back here tomorrow, winds permitting…

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.