Take Heart {Book Club}

I’ve been thinking about how we (humans) try to control risks. For some reason we act as if, when we take a risk intentionally, the results are more in our control. It is very hard to give up that control, even if it means getting the results we were hoping for.

In homeschool this year, we are reading the book of Exodus. We’ve just gotten to the parting of the Red Sea. The Israelites were totally freaking out. Moses told them, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14) The results that they wanted–freedom, the Promised Land–are coming, but not the way they imagined, and things are definitely not in their control. If they did things their own way, how would that turn out? (We’ll find out when we get to the book of Numbers.)

In Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar, Chariline doesn’t necessarily want to be in danger, but she believes that she has some control in the risks she takes. This is why she was willing to sneak into the Kandake’s palace back in Meroë. It was very dangerous, but she believed it was the only way she could find her father. Her rash decisions remind me a bit of Simon Peter.

In contrast is a character named Theo, introduced to us way back in chapter 3 (and apparently also in previous books by Tessa Afshar!). It wasn’t immediately apparent how he fit into the story, but he dominates the chapters we read this week. He owns a ship called the Parmys, which was blown way off course by a storm. Probably it was not uncommon for this to happen, and financially it could be devastating.

Though their business would suffer, Theo eventually felt at peace about it, confident that God had a task for them in Caesarea. When his plans were interrupted, he trusted and rested in God’s sovereignty. “He sensed again, with a curious certainty, that God had allowed this encroachment on Theo’s plans for a purpose.”

Back to the “present” in the story. Chariline visited her close friends, Philip and his daughters, and met Theo and his captain Taharqa. Chariline was intent on going to Rome, finding her father, and saving the life of the Kandake. Hermione told her, “In my experience, God starts to tell us something, and before the sentence is out of his mouth, we finish it off the way we prefer.” Surprisingly, after praying together, Hermione revealed to Chariline a hiding place on Theo’s ship, which they knew was going to Rome.

Theo’s past is a mystery. He seemed to hide much of himself (maybe this is where he exercises control of his risks), yet he proved to be wise, faithful, and caring. As he nursed Chariline through her fever and back to health, they had some very meaningful conversations. My favorite was when he talked about one of Yeshua’s favorite sayings: take heart. “Take heart when you are afraid. When you are overwhelmed by trouble. When you are ashamed. When you are hopeless. When you are despondent. Take heart.”

Later, Theo told Chariline, “Don’t bank your life on finding Vitruvia. Or your father. Don’t bank your life on besting your grandfather…whatever happens, you can bet your whole life on this: God is not an abandoner.”

I can hear Moses’ words here, too. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

The book is about finding her father, so I’m certain she will, but as I try to get into Chariline’s mind, these are my thoughts: The answer to the prayers that night at Philip’s house (revealing the hiding spot) seem to indicate that God is leading Chariline to her father. But, following Hermione’s advice, perhaps she shouldn’t jump to conclusions. What she can know for sure is that God is not an abandoner. For that reason, Chariline can take heart, whether she finds her father or not, before that happens, and after it, as well.

What encouraged you in these chapters? How do you react to God’s interruptions in your plans? What reminds you to take heart when life is out of control?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

Oct 19 Ch 18 – Ch 26

Oct 26 Ch 27 – Epilogue

Next Month’s Book

Our November book is Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love by Ann Mah.

Here’s a summary:

When journalist Ann Mah’s husband is given a diplomatic assignment in Paris, Mah–a lifelong foodie and Francophile–begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a yearlong post alone, overturning Mah’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light. So, not unlike another diplomat’s wife, Julia Child, Mah must find a life for herself in a new city.

Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions, Mah combats her loneliness by seeking out the true stories behind the country’s signature regional dishes, exploring the history and taste of everything from cassoulet to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. Among encounters with lively chefs, farmers and restaurateurs–and somewhere between Paris and the south of France–she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Photo by Juan Nino on Unsplash

9 Comments

  1. Bayta Schwarz October 12, 2021

    I love the title you picked for this post! I actually went away and looked up the “take heart” passages in the Gospels and have been pondering them since 😊

    I also loved the “Don’t bank your life on…” quote. Long for them, enjoy them (when they happen), give yourself permission to feel the pain of not having them – but have God’s character and faithfulness be your foundation in the highs and lows of life.

    Also, that was quite the cliffhanger this section left us with! I’m so glad this is a story and not real life, so we don’t need to worry about it potentially ending like this 😉

    1. Rachel Kahindi October 13, 2021

      Ha! I didn’t realize until I was reading this a couple of weeks ago that the week’s chapters ended in such a cliffhanger. It was kind of perfect. 😀

  2. Grace L October 12, 2021

    I was encouraged by Theo and how steadfast he was in caring for Chariline. He went way more above and beyond what any ordinary person would have been expected to do. It seems he might have just left her in Myra when she got so sick, but he was determined to take care of her and get her to Rome. It was also encouraging to see the strength of his faith and how he shared that with Chariline.

    One thing I like about Afshar’s books is that she usually has at least one character who has strong faith in God and another one who comes to faith or grows in faith. I liked how in Chapter 17, it was Chariline who was now witnessing to Sophocles. We can see that her faith has grown during the long sea journey and all the challenges she had faced. It does often seem like our faith grows the most when we go through trials that seem beyond us.

    As for Theo and the mysteries of his background, much of that is laid out in one of Afshar’s previous book, Thief of Corinth. I read it a couple of years ago but now I am intrigued to go back and reread it again. I am sure that much of it will come out later in the book we are reading.

  3. Rachel Kahindi October 13, 2021

    “…our faith grows the most when we go through trials that seem beyond us” Yes! I’ve definitely experienced that. It’s in those times that I really can’t stand on my own that my faith grows.

    Having read the next few chapters, I’ve seen a few more glimpses of Theo’s past, but he’s still secretive. There seems to be a theme of secret keeping running throughout the book. I’m curious how things will get tied up in the end.

    1. Grace L October 13, 2021

      I have only read one more chapter for this coming week so I don’t know how Afshar will develop Theo’s character. But I do think there is something in his relationship with Chariline that will help bring about the hurts of his past and bring healing to him also. I am more interested to see how Afshar is developing Theo and Chariline’s characters than whether Chariline ever finds her father. I do find it puzzling about this “bad” guy that has been sent to kill Chariline; not sure how he really plays into the plot other than to create some tension.

  4. JoyH October 14, 2021

    Is this something I can give to my 14-year-old daughter to read? Sensuality? Language? I don’t have time to read it now, but she thought it looked good as we went through the archives of books read here.

    1. Rachel Kahindi October 16, 2021

      There’s no profanity or sex. There is a romance and some kissing. There’s a brief mention of a rape and a suicide that took place before the events of the book.

  5. Grace L October 14, 2021

    Hi Joy,

    I have read most of Tessa Afshar’s books. They are wholesome and usually center around a young woman who has had a difficult past, often including rejection. The language is fine in her books. The only thing I would point out is that sometimes, after this young woman gets married, she ends up struggling with her sexual relationship with her husband because of her past. It is nothing graphic at all, but it does touch on that aspect of a husband and wife’s relationship.

    Afshar’s books bring in a lot of mature spirituality in her characters. Either that, or spiritual growth in her characters. So whether it would be appropriate for your 14 year old daughter might depend on her own maturity and awareness of these issues. But just thinking about the main character in this book – Chariline does not have a background in sexual encounters. In fact, because of her being biracial, she thinks that she will never be able to get married. It will be interesting to see how her relationship with Theo works out.

  6. JoyH October 17, 2021

    Thank you both for your replies! I appreciate your taking the time to help me.

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