On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Cover of "Jesse Stone: Night Passage"

What does Tom Selleck have to do with spiritual gifts? If you’ll bear with me through a few paragraphs, I’ll try to retrace my train of thought.


I’ve loved Tom Selleck since he was Magnum P.I., so I was really excited in early 2005 when I saw advertisements for a made-for-TV movie called Stone Cold. Selleck had the starring role as Jesse Stone, chief of police in a small town called Paradise. It wasn’t great cinema, but it was great Selleck. He played the part as if it had been written especially for him. In the next two years, three more Jesse Stone movies were aired, each one better than the last. The movies were based on a series of novels by Robert B. Parker, and I fell more in love with him than with Selleck. I’ve always been a sucker for a good mystery, and Parker was the best. His story lines were good enough to hold the reader’s interest but simple enough to allow his rich cast of characters to shine.


Parker died in January of 2010, but the Jesse Stone movies continued. Selleck and Michael Brandman


Cover of "Stone Cold"

Cover of Stone Cold

took over the writing, keeping the same characters and following the same formula, but it wasn’t Parker. The plots became more involved, and the clipped, smart-mouthed dialogue that had been reserved for Stone was adopted by all the characters, and it lost a lot of its impact.


The beauty of the written word is that it doesn’t die with the author, and Parker left behind quite a legacy. In my post called “Confessions of a Book Junkie” I wrote about my list of books I’ve read or intend to read. The list is over 40 double-spaced pages, and Parker’s works account for 3 pages. The Jesse Stone saga is a 9-book series, and two more have been added by Michal Brandman. I haven’t read the new ones, but reviews have the same complaints I had about the later movies. Parker wrote several other series including Sunny Randall and Phillip Marlowe, but my favorite by far is the Spenser series, 41books about a wise-cracking private eye and his thuggish but sophisticated sometimes-partner Hawk.


I went to the library Monday afternoon, and a book with “Parker” on the spine caught my eye. It was titled Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby, A Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins. I was skeptical, but I brought it home and finished it within 48 hours. I can’t say Atkins completely nailed it, but he came awfully close. The plot was right, and the relationship between Susan and Spenser was spot on. He caught Parker’s ability to write a steamy love scene while keeping it almost G rated. Some of the eating scenes and clothing descriptions were a little self conscious, and Hawk was a little too uptown ghetto and not enough mysterious sophisticate, but he was close. Most important, Spenser was the perfect blend of street wise intellectual and soft-hearted tough guy.


In my post called “Writing – How Did I do That? I talked about developing a “voice” as a writer, a style that is as personal and individual as a fingerprint. As I read Lullaby, I wondered how hard it would be to write in someone else’s voice. Ghost writers must have to sublimate their own voice, and editors and publishers have to keep their edits true to the voice of the author. I started writing late in life, so it’s hard for me to imagine stifling something I’ve worked so hard to develop. Maybe it’s an ability that comes with experience, but it seems like it would feel a little schizophrenic.


While I thought about writing with someone else’s voice, I wondered about trying to serve with someone else’s spiritual gift. The subject of spiritual gifts can be controversial, especially when you focus on the more “flamboyant” gifts, but I’m more concerned with the “treasures in jars of clay” (II Corinthians 4:7) kind of gifts. My brother is a retired minister, but he fills the pulpit in a small country church twice a month. There is a young girl there who rushes to the back of the sanctuary at the end of the service where she grabs a stool and sits in the center of the exit. She makes sure that no one leaves the building without a warm hug and a brilliant smile. That’s a gift, but not one that a shy person could handle very well. The Apostle Paul wrote in several of his letters about the individuality of gifts:


We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:6

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. I Corinthians 12:4

It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11

I think we cause ourselves unnecessary anguish when we try to serve with some else’s gift or write with someone else’s voice. I’m currently serving as coordinator for a ladies’ conference our church is hosting next year. I worked for years as a secretary, an administrator, a manager. I have a knack for solving problems and bringing order to chaos, and I have no problem speaking in front of people. On the other hand, there is a lady in steering committee who loves to cook and is very good at it. When the subject food comes up in any of the conference planning meetings, all I have to do is look at her.


“I’ll take care of it,” she says. “Just don’t ask me to say anything.”


That’s okay with me, especially if she doesn’t ask me to bring an attractive dessert.


My thoughts wandered from Tom Selleck to spiritual gifts, noting that some writers are successful when writing with somebody else’s voice and some, not so much. At least for now I think I’ll stick with the voice I’ve developed and with my own little jar of clay.







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