“I solve problems in my life by sharing in the lives of others. I grow spiritually by encountering the wisdom of people who have thought through issues that still cause me to struggle.” Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart
Sometimes I avoid Christian fiction because I am held back by my personal bias that their plots are superficial or formulaic; i.e. too much romance, problems solved too easily. But I also crave hope and strength from the books I read. I certainly don’t want a “gray” book, which offers only hopeless tragedy or no answers to life’s problems!
The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson (Integrity Publishers, 2003) may have a bright neon-colored cover but what lies between the pages is not a “light” read. The main character, suburban elementary school teacher Jodi Baxter, encounters real-life issues and problems when she gets assigned to a “random” prayer group at an urban Christian Women’s Conference. Her reluctance and naiveté are not enough to keep her from becoming sucked into the vortex of the lives of eleven other women who are culturally diverse, but in need of the genuine caring of one another. In Jodi’s own words: “We were a drawer of mismatched socks if ever there was one –I wasn’t sure we even liked each other. But we were Prayer Group Twenty-Six and we had the chance… to give God a sacrifice of praise and love a young woman who was fresh out of prison.”
What results is an amazing journey of true heart connections. As the reader I related to many of the book’s characters; even those who were so different from me. The author describes two women in the prayer group: Avis (the classy principal of the elementary school): “she had a kind of authority — not bossy, just firm, confident — that gathered up the loose ends and knotted them so they wouldn’t fray any further.” (p. 27) and Florida (5 years saved, 5 years sober) : “Our lives were about as different as two people’s could be, but I liked her. Really like her. I could only imagine everything she’d been through, but she was so upbeat. So close to God. Where did that come from?” (p. 84)
Jodi’s spiritual journey drew me right in. Her connection with God and the prayer group women keep her from drowning when faced with a horrific personal crisis. I truly learned from this story: to pray more in faith, to leave assumptions of others at the door, to persevere in friendship when others are in trouble. I don’t know how autobiographical this story is, but the dedication page may indicate that author Neta Jackson learned some of these lessons herself: “To my sisters in the women’s Bible study…who loved me anyway and stretched my faith.”
If the story and the characters grab hold of you, six more Yada Yada Prayer Group books await. My friend Heidi, a die-hard non-fiction reader, succumbed to the book series’ appeal and is currently reading book #4. Learn more about the author: http://daveneta.com/index.htm.
I had the fun experience of hearing back from Neta Jackson by email, thanking me for my positive blog post about the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. She has written another wonderful series – the first title is Where Do I Go?