God at Work in the World

By Mark Shannon

First of all, thank you all for your prayers for Mitzi and me as we traveled to Florida a couple weeks ago.  We had a great time and your prayers were much appreciated.

It really was one of my favorite trips of the last several years.

We went to St Petersburg to attend a convention dedicated to fans of mystery stories.  There were over 1600 people in attendance that came from all over the world.

The convention is an annual event and is known as Bouchercon.  Anthony Boucher was a writer, an editor, and a critic in the mid-twentieth century.  He reviewed mysteries in the New York Times and elsewhere and popularized the mystery novel in the eyes of the literary establishment.  So each year authors, publishers, and fans of the mystery story come together and talk all things mysterious.

We saw and met many established novelists and writers, many of them bestsellers that you may be familiar with.  We also met many people who are not household names but who write books. Everyone we met and talked with was first and foremost a fan.  Everybody came to be among the people who write and enjoy reading mysteries.

I’ll tell you about two people we met and say a few more things before I connect some dots and bring it all back to Jesus.

If you Google a question on the order of:  “Who can read the most books in a year?” one of the names that comes up in the answers is that of Sarah Weinman.  She has been known to read over 400 books in a year. She is an author, an authority on the history of mystery fiction, a blogger, and a critic.  Her newest book is called “The Real Lolita”. This is a true-crime story about the novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov and its connection to a real-life kidnapping case.  I bought the book and we met Sarah after she spoke at an event. I asked her how many books she can read in a year and she said: “I’m down to one a day.”

My long-lost sister!

She said that her mind just works in a certain way that allows her to read quickly and comprehensively.  I told her about the contest that Mitzi and I have. We challenge each other every year to see who can read the most books.  Sarah looked at Mitzi in a knowing way and said: “Who wins the contest?” Mitzi proudly admitted that she always does and Sarah kind of looked like she already knew that.  I guess it’s a girl thing.

At one panel discussion I shook hands with a man named Brendan Dubois.  He has been writing mystery short stories since at least the 1980’s and also writes a series of novels about an ex-CIA agent who investigates crimes.  He has a distinctive style that really nails the tough-guy character and I think I could recognize that he wrote a story even if I didn’t know the author’s name.  

Brendan appeared on “Jeopardy” in 2012 and he features that fact prominently on his publicity materials.  When he appeared on the show I recognized his name and was glad when he won the game. He lost the next day but it’s a treasured event in his life.

I complimented him on his writing and told him that I saw him on “Jeopardy”.  I said Mitzi and I watch the show every night. He thanked me and said that he still watches every night too.

So that gives you a glimpse into what we were up to a few weeks ago.  Mitzi and I both had a great time and she made a few friends as well. Mitzi met a woman from Ohio who writes a series about a woman who owns an herbal tea shop and solves murders in her spare time.

What does all this talk of murder and mayhem have to do with Jesus and church and being a Christian?

Well, I’ll give you some clues and you see if you can answer this riddle.

Can you name a place where everyone speaks the same language, where people come together from wildly different backgrounds because of a common bond or experience that unites them all?  A place where you can walk up to people who are considered famous and talk to them like they were just ordinary folks? A place where you can walk into any room and instantly feel like you are among friends—even when you’ve never met anyone there before?

As I reflected on the trip I’ve described, I thought about how Heaven must be.  We’ll all be there because of what Jesus did for us. He met each of us under different circumstances but we’ll all have a story to tell that ends in the same way.  We’ll all understand each other’s stories because we’ll have similarities in common with them. All the famous people we ever heard about who are there will just be people who were sinners first and Christians second.  We’ll all feel welcome in whatever corner of Heaven we’ll find ourselves in and we’ll all celebrate together the Lord who brought us all together in the first place.

I saw Heaven at a convention of people who write and read mysteries.  

Where will you see Heaven this week?