This book is part of a series of books for ‘smart kids’, which introduces advanced vocabulary, basic scientific principles in an easy-to-understand context, references literature and history, all the while telling an exciting adventure story, set in a mysterious mountaintop abbey, with characters with character — a welcome relief to the modern books offered on the altar of pop culture.
In Echoes of Thunder, Joe Livingstone learns the difference between arrogance and confidence, as his expertise with fireworks becomes a metaphor for a dynamic encounter with a higher power, whose magnificence prompts a Job-like response in Joe,
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6
In case you don’t get to enjoy a fireworks display today, here is a fun description of a fireworks display at the beginning of the book.
The crescendos and drum cadences of this piece were a perfect accompaniment to the backdrop of the artistry in the night sky. However, Joe, never one to be content to be the background, took center stage and his pyrotechnic creations were worthy of the awe they inspired.
Using the night sky as a black canvas, Joe painted a brilliant masterpiece of colorful delights. The music from the ensemble provided a seamless intro to each explosion, and the perfect timing of the blasts provided a syncopation of rhythmic artistry. The perfect balance resulted in a symphony of color splashing across the sky. Although the conductor wove the music with his baton, it was Joe who was weaving a tapestry in the sky, entwined with music from the band.
As the piece gained intensity, so did the display, until in one climactic movement when the timpani were building the suspense, the crowd held their breath in hushed anticipation for the piece de résistance. Based on the preceding beauty, it would surely be magnificent, and as the conductor dramatically suspended the music, there was a whiz, a weak pop, and a shudder of smoke in the bushes near the open barn doors. Then flashes of explosions burst forth, as the guests shrieked and took cover from the exploding arsenal at the entrance of the barn.
Later in the book, Joe has an encounter with powerful magnificence that puts his own arrogance into perspective:
“Blind. Blind. I really am blind,” Joe cried. He lay back on the ground, into a soft bed of fragrant flowers, and in his blindness, Joe sensed that he was in a safe place. He calmed his recent fears, breathed in the fresh clean air, and pondered what he should do next. As he lay there in the daisies and the warmth of the sun, his recent injuries, and traumatic journey caused him to drift into a dazed slumbering dream.
It was a dream from which he never wished to awaken. His brow was caressed and bathed with water as warm as the sun. The healing water was fragrant with chamomile, and a fragrance of barberry emanated as his darkened eyes were bathed. A few drops of a bitter substance that tasted like the white fibrous skin of a grapefruit was dropped onto his tongue.
His wounds were cleansed and a healing ointment of herbs like comfrey and calendula was applied. His bruised and bloody hands were soaked in chamomile, and a healing salve massaged into his broken flesh. As he lay in relaxed repose, he dreamed that a voice of a pretty maiden was singing a song without words, but in his dream, he learned to recognize the words, as he listened to her song.
“As a drop of rain joyously joins the stream, as a single beam of sunlight joins to make the ray, even a drop rises in the sun, it joins again with others in the cloud, until it becomes rain, again to water the earth. All of the waters join together in cloud, sea and storm to refresh the land with its joy. It is joy to serve like the raindrop or the sunbeam.”
“What is your name,” Joe asked the beautiful ministering angel. He knew she was as beautiful as her voice and as sweet as the touch of her hand.
“Some people call me Gloria,” she answered.
The lady held a cup to Joe’s dry lips, and he tasted the sweetest water he’d ever known; it had a flavor of papaya. She brushed his hair from his brow, and said, “Sleep, my son. I will find your mother now.” She rose and walked out of his dream. Joe thought the lady’s words couldn’t sound any sweeter until she said the word mother – the sweetest word a lost boy can hear.
Tears came unbidden to his eyes, and he reached up to brush them away quickly, forgetting the greasy salve on his hands. The ointment burned his eyes for a moment, and as he blinked, his eyes flashed with bursts of light, and as he lay on his back, on a bank of daisies, in a beautiful lady’s garden, he saw a wondrous sight, whether in his mind as a result of the ointment, or the result of a dream precipitated by the movie set, or as a symptom of his sudden blindness and head injury, I cannot say. Joe never knew.
Suddenly he saw clouds rumbling before him — thick black heaving swirling thunderclouds. As the clouds danced an ominously choreographed tango of trepidation, the earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountain shook; they trembled in anger. Smoke rose from a giant cauldron of calumny on the mountaintop, as two forms rose from the boiling broth of bravado into the dark skies above where Joe lay.
“I am ruler of the sky,” thundered the voice of the figure who held a thunderbolt in his clenched fist.
“I am ruler of the earth and sea,” roared the voice of the trident.
“I will not share my glory with another,” declared Zeus.
“I will be the supreme power,” shrieked Poseidon.
As each form thundered its arrogance, it became larger and more billowing, a darker cloud of defiance.
“I can shake the foundations of the earth,” boasted Poseidon as the earth rumbled and heaved, spewing lava and fiery smoke into the sky.
“I can split the skies with thunder, and hurl lightening bolts of destruction to your earth,” Zeus declared.
As each entity built a monument to their magnificence, they increased in size until they filled the earth and sky. As they boasted and proclaimed their preeminence, their pedestals rose – one from the earth to the sky, the other from the sky to the earth. Each pedestal was dark with power. As the pedestals neared each other, the ferocity of the foment increased.
The earthquakes of Poseidon caused great heaving volcanoes to split open the earth and spew fiery lava and plumes of smoke into the air.
Zeus’ thunderbolts ripped through the sky, licking up the waters of the ocean, producing dark heavy storm clouds that flung rain, hail and ice to put out the fiery messages of molten lava. Lightening balls hurled through the air.
“I will destroy the sky,” shouted Poseidon as he raised his trident.
“I will destroy the sea and earth,” shouted Zeus as he raised his fist.
Before each had opportunity to send their final crashing blow that would destroy each other’s kingdom and ultimately their own in a fiery melting of the elements, their pedestals rising up from the depths and down from the heights, crashed into each other, splitting asunder and collapsing into a great and glorious demise.
Instantly the heavens parted and rolled up like a window shade does when the string is jerked and loosed, rolling up to allow the sun to stream into a gloomy darkened room. Suddenly the two fallen foes cringed in terror and slunk away in silence, like the steam from the soup trails into nothingness as you blow over the broth in your spoon.
A rushing mighty wind heralded the approach of a power that soared on the wings of the wind. It made the darkness its covering and no eye could see its approach, but no ear could deny its presence. And as Joe rose to his knees to honor the approach of one who ruled the rulers, a flash of light turned everything white, and then Joe’s blindness returned as he collapsed to the ground.
Hope you get a chance to have a blast tonight! And thank God for the freedom to enjoy your family and friends in a land that still has the liberty to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and always remember where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Cor 3:17).