Background of Argosy Junction:
In Argosy Junction, a small group of like-minded families grows more and more unified of mind. There is a community living sub-culture lives. But everything changes when deviations from the core are seen as sin and rebellion rather than individual methods of applying principles. I’d seen this happening repeatedly with friends and online, and it hit home closely. You see, I love rules. I confess that I love how ‘spiritual’ I look with rules. In fact, I tend to lean toward Phariseeism in my heart. So writing this book showed me where I might end up if not careful.
Nothing that the church in this book encouraged was wrong in and of itself. Much of it is a part of my own life. From clothing choices to gender roles, I support them all. And this book was not intended to be a vilification of anyone’s personal convictions. [clickToTweet tweet=”Sub-culture lives can be beautiful when we don’t elevate our choices above the One we claim to serve.” quote=”Sub-culture lives can be beautiful when we don’t elevate our choices above the One we claim to serve.”]
My point in writing this book wasn’t to attack anyone’s application of scripture.
Rather, my purpose was to show what happens when we make our applications law where Scripture does not. I took each tiny extreme to its “logical” conclusion and showed the pain that resulted and how that pain affects different people. You see the varying ways that different people respond. From growing hard, to panic at change, clinging closer to the rules, to utter rejection of the Lord and His church, people handle the extremes very differently.
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The characters in Argosy Junction all have a familiar feel to them–as if I know them, but of course, I don’t. Still, I discovered that I identified way too closely with Matt’s frustration at Lane when she defined all Christians by the narrow experience she had.
Haven’t we all seen that? Someone says, “Christians are hypocrites” and we think, “Yeah, and non-Christians aren’t?” or “Christians hate rock music” and we think, “Gee, better not tell that church down the street that… who knew they weren’t saved!” (And yeah, I can’t stand rock music myself, but that doesn’t make me more spiritual than the gal who loves it. It makes me different. And different is good. Just look at Jesus’ disciples!)
From Lane, I mostly learned what not to do. I learned not to let the body of Christ wound me enough to drive me from the One who saved me in the first place. No one–not one person–can pluck us from God’s hand. But man, from the way we see Christians behave toward one another sometimes, it sure seems like we do our best to send them running of their own accord. Lane taught me that wrong wins when you let it get to you–when you take your eyes off Jesus and let the waves of criticism, doubt, legalism, and condemnation overpower you.
From Matt, I learned gentleness to the broken. Yes, he loses his patience and gets pretty ticked off sometimes, but generall,y he is kind, gentle, and more of a salve on her raw heart than further abrasion. He knows when to push her and when to back off and let the Lord work. He is wise. He’s going to make a good shepherd someday–if a bit of a reluctant one.
Warren taught me that peer pressure doesn’t end when you become an adult, a spouse, a parent, a parent of adults–ever. He taught me that trying to serve the Lord and be obedient to the Word can sometimes become the idol rather than the God it was intended to serve. And he taught me repentance–just how beautiful repentance really is. I love Warren.
But more than all the others, Frank taught me. He taught me what happens when I let my bitterness affect my children. When I make rules more important than people. When I try to make my children into clones of me. I think Frank kept me from pushing my children to do what God would not have required of them. I wish he were real. I’d thank him.
Of course, a primary theme centers on sub-culture lives, but there’s more.
When the story ended and I began editing, I discovered a lot of unintentional symbolism in it. I’d originally created an opening scene with a bison ready to charge. My dear friend Judy had an obstetrician who met her husband in Montana. She (the obstetrician) had been reading a book and looked up to see a bison pawing the ground. Her thought:
A Jeep raced across the countryside, a door flew open, and my friend’s doctor was ordered into the Jeep by a park ranger (who eventually became her husband). She later discovered that Mr. Bison was ready to “charge” or whatever bisons do when they attack.
I had considered using that as my opening scene.
I thought it’d be fun to put her story into print, but I was changing it up quite a bit. Then I learned from fellow author, Cathe Swanson that there is a book somewhere that begins with a very similar story happening in the Outback or some place like that. Well, I didn’t want that. So, I went for comic relief and brought in sheep.
My reason for explaining all of this is to show how unintentional the use of sheep in the book was. For the sheep rancher’s family to be the ones who have walked away from the Lord’s “flock” was a bit of irony that I couldn’t have planned if I’d tried.
On top of that, seeing the shepherd being one of the main people who led the Lord’s flock down that path away from His “green pastures,” really brought home the point that we always look to The Shepherd, not just a shepherd and how important it is for the Lord’s shepherds to keep His flock in His fields and not lead them astray.
The cover of this book has so much unintentional symbolism it almost hurts.
At first, I was looking at page after page of sheep pictures, pictures of the Montana Rockies, and horses. I tried ranches, boots, and even guitars and hats.
Finally, I realized that maybe a piece of barbed wire would give enough empty space for words, so I looked for that. The moment I saw this barbed wire with a bit of wool attached to it, I knew I’d found my cover.
As I recently contemplated the picture, my heart constricted.
The Lord puts protective fences around our hearts and lives. He does this out of love and concern for our physical, spiritual, and emotional safety. That’s what the piece of fence on the book would symbolize, but it has a barb.
That barb is just like the additional rules and regulations man adds to the Lord’s fences. Perfectly harmless if you keep an eye out for the fence and keep away, but if you aren’t careful and get too close, it can hurt.
If you look very closely, you’ll see that the wool on that barb is tinged with blood. Oh, how it hurts me to realize how often the church is the cause of Christians’ deepest wounds.
The cover shows all of this, and I can’t take credit for it.
It wasn’t intentional. I don’t like to credit or discredit the Lord’s hand in anything. To say the Lord did this, implies that somehow my cover is ‘inspired’ and that is not what I mean to say. However, I can’t help but wonder if the Lord didn’t lead me to the very picture that I needed for my book, knowing that there was this subtle story within the picture that symbolizes a major theme in this book.
There has been mixed response to Argosy Junction. The story isn’t fast paced and initially, it was edited by “bad advice” so to speak. So, many readers had issues with it. And I’m okay with that. Not everyone is going to love every book, and some people are not going to like any of my books.
This is a very unusual novel. It is filled more with thoughts and feelings than action, yet, it held me spellbound. It slowed only at one place, when Matt went back to the city, and he and Lane are emailing back and forth, but neither would express how they really felt about the other. After that, I couldn’t put the book down and read into the early morning hours to finish it. ~J Hopkins
Very Interesting book on many levels. The love story between Matt & Lane and the love Matt has for God. The conflict between the Argosy family and the Brethren is so compelling that I found myself getting angry at the way these people could be so easily manipulated by the leader. ~S. Bragg
This one made me smile:
If Lane had been a real person I encountered, I would probably have quickly lost patience with all of her whining about “Christians” and “Christianity” (misconceptions which were based on her family’s previous experience as members of an emerging religious cult)…which probably says more about me than the book. I think a lot of the long-drawn-out religious conversations with Matt could have been edited considerably, too–not that they wouldn’t have occurred in real life, but they didn’t need to be as extensive in a novel. ~Jeannette
Third time’s the charm?
Just read Argosy Junction for the third time. There’s something about this book that I love. I agree with some of the other reviewers that Lane is a bit whiny about her opinions about Christians and her refusal to consider any other point of view but her own. Her extreme anger when her father asks forgiveness of those he feels he wronged in the Brethren is an example of this. But I have also seen this reaction in people in my own life. This is really a story about coming to grips with your past, whether it’s things you’ve done or things that have been done to you. ~Joy from VA
Argosy Junction is a flawed book.
I don’t pretend it isn’t. All of my books are flawed. They were written by a flawed author and about flawed people. One thing that I find amusing is how often people think that I approve of my characters’ behavior simply because I have them behave that way.
I don’t. Lane is arrogant, prideful, and full of repressed (and not-so-repressed) angst. Matt has his own problems, starting with his failure to see what he’s asking of her at the end of the book (but that will be covered in a sequel).
Before I close, I wanted to share the lesson I learned before I ever started writing this book–the lesson that drove me to write every word on every page.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Method over principle becomes spiritual tyranny in the hands of the self-righteous.” quote=”Method over principle becomes spiritual tyranny in the hands of the self-righteous.”]
Note: this post contains similar content to THIS one. I’ll be combining them eventually.