Book review · Inspiring Reads · Memoir · Nonfiction

Review of Behind the Lights

If you’ve enjoyed music from “for KING & COUNTRY,” then you may be familiar with members Joel and Luke Smallbone. They are brothers of Rebecca St. James, who I had thought blazed a trail for them with her own career in the Christian music industry. But really the Smallbone family as a whole has been on this journey together. They gave their plans to God, let Him lead and carve that path for them, leaving the outcomes to Him.

And what a life they have had!

In her book “Behind the Lights,” Helen Smallbone gave her perspective of their family’s journey through what she called “the extraordinary,” “outside the box of normal” life so far. I learned about the book after seeing the tribute song, “Unsung Hero,” created by Joel and Luke. Rebecca, in her opening letter for the book, said it’s like sitting down and chatting with her mother, and I agree. She reminded me of all those times I used to sit with my relatives in the living room and listen to their stories.

A Methodist minister’s daughter, Helen lived with her three brothers in Australia. She talked about giving her life to Jesus Christ after attending a Billy Graham crusade in Sydney. She met her husband David when he came to stay with her family. From their early courtship to marriage and the arrival of all seven of their children, Helen told story after story about their reliance on God for provision. They stayed in the center of His will. He always came through in sometimes miraculous, unbelievable, faith-building ways.

David Smallbone worked at a small record company when Helen married him. Before that, he had played double bass and sang in local after-church coffee shops. He recognized how much he enjoyed managing the band more than performing. He went from managing his brothers’ band Family to working alongside international Christian artists touring in Australian.

And here’s where I had a flashback to the music I listened to as a teen in the mid-1980s. David worked with artists like Keith Green, Leon Patillo, Phil Keaggy, Andrae Crouch, Stryper, Petra, Carman and David Meece. Australia had a union policy where someone native needed to sing as part of the concert, so that’s when Rebecca first got her start singing onstage at 12 years old. She sang before Carman at his concert.

Helen talked about their move to the United States in 1991 and life in Tennessee. (The journey wasn’t easy.) The couple raised 7 incredibly hard-working children, even before they took to the stage. They worked together as a family to make money from raking leaves, mowing yards, landscaping, cleaning houses, and babysitting.

All the kids had a role to play in helping the family, and they would turn over their earnings without complaint. What a work ethic! They did their part and in turn gained a sense of purpose and self-worth. Eventually Rebecca started performing and writing music, which led to the life they have today.

I enjoyed hearing Helen’s memories of each of her children and what they are doing today. I especially loved the how the Joel and Luke started “for KING & COUNTRY.” Helen shared some glimpses in the stories behind “It’s not over yet” and “Burn the ships.” The former song had been written for their sister, Libby, their youngest child, who I think I related to the most. I too have had baffling medical symptoms, multiple doctor visits, no answers and unending health conditions. I said, “Twins.” Libby battled for too long before she learned she had been suffering from Lyme disease — 2006-2012. Such a strong young woman.

Helen and another younger mom, Heather Rae Houle, from their church started mentoring other mamas about 11 years ago. Five years ago, they took their mentoring group to a wider audience and called it “MUMlife Community.” Rahny Taylor from AccessMore approached Helen about doing a podcast. At first, Helen said no, but then told him only if she could do them with Heather. They have now recorded several sessions. If you’re a mom looking for encouraging words from other some seasoned mamas, visit MUMLIFE – Mothers Uplifting Mothers.

Helen ended her memoir with words of encouragement and included some from David. Their words were an altar call and a benediction. She told readers that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them. They can trust their agenda to Jesus. She encouraged them to live out the purpose God has for their lives and trust Him for their tomorrows. And don’t worry about life not looking like those of the rest of the world. I needed to hear that. She said sometimes we are taken down paths in life that we wouldn’t choose, but God is working all things for our good.

Thank you Netgalley and K-LOVE books for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Behind the Lights comes out April 12, 2022. To preorder, go to the websites K-LOVE here, Christianbook here, or visit Amazon for an electronic copy here.


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