In Which the Journey Is More Like a Roller Coaster {Book Club}

In Which the Journey Is More Like a Roller Coaster

Anyone else feeling like they got emotional whiplash from this section?

Chase Falson’s journey in chapters 7-9 of Chasing Francis is jam-packed with hills and valleys. Honestly, I’m not sure how his heart could stand it. A few new characters arrive as he meets Carla and Liam Cudder while exploring in Rome, both impacting his life in unique ways. Then comes Sister Irene and her brother’s intense and heartbreaking story of experiencing the genocide in Rwanda. Maggie is not a new character, but she shows up in Italy with her energy and opinions and loyal care for Chase.

One thing that struck me through this whole section is the power of art and story. When I stand before a beautiful painting, I admire the skill of the artist. I’m captured by the elements of the piece, but it moves me. I’m moved to action, to praise, to wonder. What is the story behind this? What was going on in the heart and mind of the artist? What part of my story resonates deeply with it?

The same can be said of majestic music or a really, really good book. Even if it is simply to acknowledge the skill involved, I am moved to respond and this becomes part of my story.

When Dr. Emmanuel Mukamana took the stage in chapter 8 to tell his story, I thought of a building in the red-light district of Cambodia’s capital. It was gutted and crumbling, a physical symbol to me of the history and even spiritual state of this country still marked by its own genocide. But as my teammate and I passed this building on our weekly prayer walk through the area, I was often reminded of how God brings beauty from the ashes. That’s what my heart longed for.

Out of the horrors of Dr. Mukamana’s story came forgiveness and restoration. His story had power to stir up the hearts of those who heard it, to point to the forgiveness and healing found in God. Chase got to experience some of this up close as he interacted with the attendees at the conference, learned from Sister Irene and participated in the commissioning at the close of the conference.

What struck you from these chapters about the power of art and beauty and story?

I’m glad that we got to go along with Chase and Carla to hear the presentation by Liam Cudder, and then for their dinner conversation afterward. I loved this quote from Cudder:

“We did not recognize that the redeemed imagination was capable of producing works of beauty that revealed Glory”.

Just think of all the things that we have because of the power of imagination! Inventions, books, music, art, pioneers and adventurers, breakthroughs, and so much more.

I loved pretending when I was a kid. My siblings and I could spend hours acting out stories of prairie settlers or Olympic champions, using jump ropes to mark off roads or a large mound of dirt as a mountain.

As we get older we don’t live in a make-believe world, but I wonder if it takes a fair amount of imagination in our role as overseas workers.

We dream up projects and plans where none exist. We work toward goals that seem impossible, figuring out ways to get past the obstacles that crop up. We work to bring beauty from the ashes of places marked by atheism or corruption, fighting for Glory in the places He is not yet known.

What does the role of imagination play in your life?

What did you think of this section? If you were Chase, how would you have handled all the experiences, wisdom and emotions thrown at you?

We will finish up Chasing Francis next week!

January 28: Chapters 10-12, Epilogue                          

What’s Coming up:

In February we’ll be reading Rachel Pieh Jones’ book Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa! Grab your copy today. Here’s the reading schedule:

Feb 4 – Prologue – chapter 5

Feb 11 – chapter 6 – chapter 9

Feb 18 – chapter 10 – chapter 13

Feb 25 – chapter 14 – epilogue

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


  1. Rachel Kahindi January 21, 2020

    I loved the part of this section on art and beauty. It reminded me of a book I read last year called Images and Idols (Reclaiming Creativity). We can tend to get so practical in the Church and in outreach efforts – trying to get the biggest ROI, and creativity/art/beauty seem to be extras. Creation is extravagant, so is beauty. We are made to revel in God’s glory, reflected in beauty, not efficiency.

    Here’s a paragraph from Images and Idols:
    Why did God take the time to make Eden beautiful?
    To answer this, it helps to see that the two provisions God highlights in the garden are taste and beauty. That which is “good for food” is also “pleasant to the sight” (Gen 2:9). This isn’t arbitrary. Instead, Eden shows us that God always intended for life and beauty to be connected. They are a pair. In God’s estimation, to know life is to know beauty, and to know beauty is to know life. To know both, then, is to know God’s purposes in this world. Eden is the epicenter of life, which means life and beauty are tethered to one another in God.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 27, 2020

      I love that quote about Eden, Rachel! Thanks for sharing that!

  2. T January 21, 2020

    I wanted to read quickly, so I’d see what was going to happen next, but I also wanted to read really slowly in order to put on, to learn some of these attitudes. I settled for saying that I’d come back and reread the quotes about art and beauty.
    I know that some peace making groups are meeting in very difficult areas, and I hope that there will be exponentially more. Seeing real live people in front of you and getting to know them enough to see them not as the enemy,but as people…so important!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 27, 2020

      T, in so many situations in our world today it can be easy to focus on the differences or the issue and forget the humanity of those involved. Actually sitting down with someone and hearing their story (really listening to it) can make such a big difference. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Michele January 25, 2020

    I loved this section, especially the focus on art and beauty. One of my favorite quotes is, “The object of all great art is beauty, and it makes us nostalgic for God.” Another is, “People living in the postmodern world, however, are faced with a dilemma. Their hearts long to find ultimate meaning, while at the same time their critical minds do not believe it exists. We are homesick, but have no home.” That sums up what I see so many people, both in Kathmandu and in my own family in America, dealing with. I love how art and story can be a” subversive “way to connect them with the reality of the Creator who loves them. I have a friend who’s made a this the focus of her ministry and this chapter gave me words for why I think what she’s doing is so powerful.
    I was also reminded of a book related to this subject I read years ago called The Evidential Power of Beauty by a Catholic priest called Thomas Dubay. Justin throwing that one out there for anyone else who wants to dig into this idea a little more! 🙂

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 27, 2020

      That quote about making us nostalgic for God is so good! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michele, and that book recommendation!

  4. Grace L January 27, 2020

    There is so much I loved in these three chapters as I read through the book a second time. One part that struck me as so very interesting was in chapter 7 while Chase is having dinner with Liam and Carla. As Carla listened to Liam talk about arts and the church, she suddenly exclaimed, “It’s like speaking in tongues.” Carla went on to say, “Art, music, dance, theater, literature, film – they’re all a way of speaking in tongues!”

    Chase adds to the conversation with “Of course! They’re spiritual languages that communicate truths about God that human language doesn’t have the words to express. That’s why the church needs to rediscover them.”

    I have a background in art and my experience in art school back in the 1960’s seemed so far from any religious experience I had while growing up in a Protestant church. But later in life as I came back to faith, I began to really appreciate the depths of the Christian art. I was also part of a fellowship that spoke in tongues, but never connected this spiritual gift with the arts. Just a few years ago, I attended a live performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. It was held in a church and my husband and I were in the front row. I was in ecstacy as I experienced this performance and felt like this is what it must be like to be in heaven worshiping before the throne. My husband, who was a music major in college also pointed out to me that everything that Bach wrote, he would sign the score, “For the glory of God!”

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 27, 2020

      Grace, that’s so cool to hear about your background in art and how you’ve connected to God through it. I wish that was something we could experience more of today. I don’t have a background in music or art, but I can say that I’ve had some powerful God-moments experiencing beauty in a concert or cathedral where I can appreciate the beauty of the architecture or art.

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