Tag Archive: book


[See part one, two, or three] “I was driving to Bossier City to do a little gambling. I knew it was, well, a gamble, but I was getting desperate and needed money. I wasn’t going to be stupid about it – I had a limit. But I was worried about losing, having nothing to show for it, and having it end up on the list of bad choices that for some reason I always had trouble avoiding. I was listening to the radio and trying not to think about it when the tire blew.

I replaced the blown tire with the factory “donut” in the trunk, knowing I was on borrowed time to get a replacement. My budget blew with the tire if I couldn’t get it fixed cheap. Putting the flat tire in the trunk, I got in and started the car. At the same time, the passenger door opened and a man fell into the seat with a pistol pointed at me.

He told me to drive and I drove. I’m already on probation for being stupid in public and I didn’t want to end up dead or in jail. He said he just broke out of jail. He rambled on about being set up for the charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Which I thought a little weird since he was doing just that with me. But I kept driving.

We were just coming around a curve when he hit my shoulder and told me to pull in to the gas station on the left. Which I did, barely avoiding a gray Prius pulling out of the station.

I managed to pull up to the pump without colliding with anything more important than the trash can. It did not fall over, but I knocked it into the other side of the pump. After which a car coming in from the other direction knocked it nearly back in place. As I shifted into park, he handed me a Visa credit card with a name I was pretty damn sure wasn’t his. But I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask him.

“Use it like a credit card and fill up the tank. The zip code is 75234. Then go inside and go to the blonde behind the food counter. Tell her you need two barbecue sandwiches with regular chips and waters on the fly. Say it just like that. She’ll know what to do.”

“I hate to bring this up, but I’m going to need to get my tire fixed. This donut isn’t going to last much longer.”

“Fill the tank up and I’ll let you know.” He turned to his phone and  began to send a text as I was getting the gas.

“Get in and back into the bay and the mechanic will fix the tire,” he said as I looked into the car after filling the gas tank.

Which I did and the mechanic did, putting the tire on the car and the donut in the trunk. All while my inconvenient passenger was sitting in the car, and I stood nervously by. I got in the car, started it, pulled out of the bay and stopped, putting the car in park. I turned and looked at the guy.

“Should I get the sandwiches now?”

“Of course, do you remember what to say”

“I’ve got it.”

And I did. I walked into the station and went straight to the food counter.

“May I help you?” the blonde asked.

“I need two barbecue sandwiches with regular chips and waters on the fly.” By now I was getting kinda hungry. I knew it must be some sort of code, but I hoped the sandwiches were real. I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen and it never hurts to have barbecue first. Fortunately, she handed me the food and waters. Unfortunately, things began to take a nasty turn.

When I got back to the car, my passenger was now the driver. He motioned for me to get in the back seat. As I was opening the door, I heard the shots. I was in the car and closing the door when the blonde came running out of the gas station with a gun in her left hand and a bag in the right.

“Let’s go, Pete,” she said to the driver as she jumped into the passenger seat.

“I thought we weren’t going to use names, Sharon.”

” Just drive.”

I’m thinking, well great, I just ran into a modern day Bonnie and freaking Clyde. Talk about bad choices and bad luck. I was better than fifty percent positive I wasn’t going to get to Bossier City. I was hoping I would get to keep the money I had on me.

I saw the speed trap coming. Pete didn’t. Apparently, neither did Sharon.

[Peace be with you.]

[Read part one and part two]

“Everyone be quiet and stay calm and no one will get hurt,” the gunman commanded. “The shot was an accident. No sudden noises.”

Antonio knew that if the police were not outside by now, they would be soon. He also knew the gunman was becoming more nervous by the minute and he did not want to get caught in the middle, which was now an increasingly likely situation.

“The police are going to be here soon, if they aren’t here now. I’d like to help you if I can,” Antonio said in the most calming voice he could muster with his nerves on overdrive.

“Why would you do that?

“Because I’m a preacher and it’s my job to help people with their problems.”

“So how can you help?”

“I have a cell phone with the number of the sheriff and he will listen to me.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I helped his family out. Like I said, it’s what I do.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“I’m a preacher, for God’s sake! I don’t have an ulterior motive.”

“A what?”

“A reason for lying to you. Just let me call him. If you don’t like what I say you can shoot me. And I wouldn’t give you a reason to do that. But I need to know why you’re doing this. Are you here to rob them?”

“I’m not here to rob the place. I’m not sure how things got this far. Make the call.”

Antonio could sense desperation in the man’s voice. He hadn’t always been a preacher and he knew the difference between an evil man and a desperate one. He pulled out his phone and called Sheriff Martinez.

“Hello, Antonio. I’m a little occupied at the moment.”

“No more than I, Oscar. I’m in the restaurant with the gunman’s arm around my chest.” He felt the gunman relax his hold a bit.

“Was anyone hurt by the shot?”

“No, someone dropped something in the kitchen which surprised him and he reacted. The bullet went into the counter after going through a chair.”

“What does he want?”

“That’s what we’re trying to ascertain. If you’ll let us get to the chapel, we’ll try to resolve the situation without involving the people in here. We’ll be coming out the main door.”

“You got a line on this nimrod?”

“So far anyway. But remember, he’s one of God’s people.”

“But not one of the chosen, Antonio. Call me when you’re in the chapel.”

“First chance I get.” Antonio hung up the phone and returned it to his pocket.

“What’s the chapel?” the gunman said in his ear, tightening the grip on his chest.

“The semitrailer in the parking lot. I’m surprised you missed it.”

“I wasn’t looking for a chapel.” He pushed Antonio toward the door between the two rooms.

“Point taken,” Antonio said as he reached out with his hand and unlocked the door.

The gunman put the pistol in his pocket and stayed behind Antonio. Antonio nodded slightly to Fred as they passed the cash register. The two men walked out the front door of the truck stop and headed for the trailer. Police cars were parked in front of the restaurant. A group of officers gathered behind the cars watching the two walk toward the chapel. .

As the two men walked up the steps of the trailer, Antonio glanced toward the restaurant. A couple of deputies were coming out of the door looking toward the chapel. The gunman  followed Antonio into the chapel and locked the door behind him. Antonio walked over to his desk, swiveled the chair around, and sat down facing the gunman.

“So now that we’re here alone, what do I call you?” Antonio asked him.

The gunman held the gun on Antonio and looked confused. He was trying to get straight in his head the significant turn his original, albeit on-the-fly, plan had taken.

“I’m Jason,” he said finally.

“Well, Jason, I’m Antonio. Brother Antonio. Sheriff Martinez is expecting me to call him shortly and have the answers to some questions. Why don’t you tell me your story and let’s figure out how to wrap this thing up, whatever it is. What brought you to the truck stop with a gun?”

“A flat tire, an escapee from jail, a woman, two barbeque sandwiches, and a few bad choices,” Jason said with a sigh and look of resignation.

[Peace be with you.]

[This is the Sunday post, but there was this game…] Read part one.

Immediately upon spotting the gun, Antonio felt the man’s left arm come around and clamp his chest under his chin, reclaiming his vise grip on Antonio’s right shoulder. Although he  had an urge to turn his head to see where the pistol was pointed, the preacher decided instantaneously that it would not be the wisest choice he could make. His heart was beating so fast that it seemed determined to fly out of his chest. At the same time his brain struggled between telling his eyes to close tightly to feel the barrel of the gun should it be pointed at his head, and telling them to remain open to eliminate the element of surprise.

Francis dropped the coffee pot, which shattered, sending hot coffee and shards of glass onto her shoes and legs. Her fear of the man holding Antonio and the gun offset the pain in her legs. That, and she was praying harder than she ever remembered praying. She wondered if it would matter to the gunman if he knew Antonio was a preacher.

The instant the coffee pot shattered, Fred Martinez, the owner of the truck stop who was still at the cash register, stepped on the floor alarm under the register that signaled the police. He always had unruly customers, but he had the alarm installed when a late night birthday party got  out of control. With the use of credit and debit cards, the truck stop never had enough cash that he thought someone would rob the place at gunpoint. Especially with all the glass and traffic.

“Pull down the shades, and turn the sign around!” the gunman demanded, pointing the gun at Francis – who fought hard against the fainting spell, which along with her fear, was turning her legs to jello.

Francis was not sure how her legs kept moving, but she moved toward the windows as quickly as she dared. As she reached up for the shade on the last window by the door, she spotted Steve Striden at the pump putting gas in his blue Ford F150. He looked around toward the restaurant. Francis tried to catch Steve’s eye as she pulled down the shade. She turned the open sign around in the window, glancing again toward the pump.

“Lock the door,” said the gunman, who had backed up against the wall dividing the restaurant from the store. “Now this one,” he said after she locked the front door, nodding to the door to his right.

The gunman still held Antonio in front of him. Antonio had said so many prayers they had turned into one long prayer. When the gunman had relocated – pulling Antonio with him – the preacher nearly lost his balance. He was sweating buckets and knew the gunman was, too.

Antonio was struggling to keep his bladder in check against the fear and coffee. But that did not keep him from noticing that the man with the gun and arm around his chest was getting nervous. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Which was when someone dropped something in the kitchen, Antonio felt the gunman twitch as he pointed the gun toward the kitchen, the gun fired, and Antonio’s ears rang.

Rose Parade 1Cyndy and I were watching the Rose Parade this morning, as we do pretty much every New Year’s Day. The tv hosts are tolerable – more so, say, than those of the Macy’s Parade – and there is little more to watch on over 300 channels than marathons of shows we never wanted to see again. Not to mention the movies that we have already seen ad infinitum or do not want to watch anyway. Be that as it may, we usually end up watching the parade, which was themed Oh, The Places You Will Go this year, in honor of Dr. Seuss.

It is fascinating to see the huge creations painstakingly fashioned from plants with such vibrant colors. On the winning float an oversized Cat in the Hat was reading Oh, The Places You Will Go to Sally and her older brother while Thing 1 and Thing 2 looked on. Thing 1’s purple-colored hair was applied with tweezers. My patience has increased over the years, but is nowhere near the level it would take to complete that task.

While I was in the backyard getting some fresh air, my mind wandered and ended up in my childhood. My first books were the Dr. Seuss books. My parents signed up for the book club and each month we would receive a new Dr. Seuss book hot off the press. Since I was two years older than my brother, Dennis, I was always the first one to read them. There were days when I sat on the front porch, waiting for the mailman.

The day the book(s) came, I would rip open the package, remove the books, and head for my favorite bush in front of the left corner of the house. The bush was big enough to hide under and read. My memory is a little fuzzy on the bush – it could have been a weeping willow, which would make more sense. My mother later passed along the books to other parents with small children. I’ve often wondered while watching Antiques Roadshow how much that original set would be worth. As well as the Hot Wheels set that Dennis and I had running throughout the house that Mom also passed along when we no longer used them.

Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – this year’s Rose Parade held a little more interest for me than in other years. It also caused me to take a journey into the past and beckoned me to consider the new year and the places I will go. Not just to physical locations, but also in my personal and spiritual journeys.

Happy New Year everyone! May you all be blessed throughout the year and may your joys and successes outnumber the disappointments and shortcomings.

The full title of Rubel Shelly’s book published by Leafwood Publishers (ACU Press) is “I Knew Jesus Before He Was A Christian…and I Liked Him Better Then.” When I was asked to review the book, I was intrigued by the title. As I began to read, it became apparent that the title was not merely cute to boost sales, but was entirely appropriate for the material. Our small group was deciding what book to study next and I suggested this one. Rather than read through it before the group studied it, I waited to review the book in order to include it’s effectiveness for a small group study.

The conclusion is that I Knew Jesus… works well for small groups. Precisely because it compares the original churches to churches now and the Jesus of the Bible to the Jesus nonbelievers perceive to be preached in churches today. The subject is – and should be – on the minds of all church and small group members.

Shelly begins by asserting that we can be both pro-Jesus and pro-church simultaneously. But not as long as a perception exists of disconnect between the two. Changing the perception necessarily requires elimination of the disconnect. The author quotes Stephen King when he wrote, “And while I believe in God, I have no use for organized religion..”

That is what many Christians have heard, unfortunately, far too often. Then there is the oft-quoted “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” In chapter four, Shelly tells the story of author Anne Rice. Rice renounced the Catholic religion at age eighteen. After a series of tragedies, including  the near loss of her life, she renewed her commitment to the Catholic faith. Rice wrote a book about the experience, dedicated herself to “glorifying God,” and launched a series of Christ the Lord books.

On July 28, 2010, Anne Rice posted a statement on her Facebook page that she was giving up Christianity and doing it “in the name of Christ.” She said that she remained committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or part of Christianity. Rice followed the next day with “my conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I don’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following his followers.”

Which is precisely the point Shelly is making. The Jesus of the Bible – and by extension, of the original churches – is not the Jesus the people of the world see proclaimed by many of today’s churches. We should strive to be more like the Jesus of the Bible than the Jesus we portray through the filter of our organizational structure and polity. Rubel Shelly, in I Knew Jesus…, looks at different aspects of the disconnect and barriers between Jesus and the church. The author challenges and encourages the reader to work toward solutions in their own lives and churches, with questions found in the discussion guide.

Too many people have decided they are done with the church. They do not want to have anything to do with the church. “But you just might get attention with this radical, engaging, challenging, life-transforming, healing, rescuing person named Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I think it is the only hope we have for communicating with a postmodern world. The best argument is…a living demonstration of kindness and acceptance, grace made incarnate, or love emptying itself for the sake of others.”

In I Knew Jesus Before He was a Christian, Shelly uses real-life and biblical examples to illustrate that while church membership may be declining, there are still souls searching for the life-affirming love of Christ. For a church to be a model of the first Christian churches and the life Christ displayed, they must first exhibit Jesus in the community and participate in ministering to those in need.

Peace be with you.

[I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers for a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.]

I was fortunate to be included in an authors and illustrators signing at the local library, Manske Library, on Saturday. About 20 local authors and illustrators were present from 3 to 5 p.m. to sell and sign books and meet with the public. Belinda Jacks, Library Director, was very hospitable.

I was there to promote my book, The Minutes of Salem Baptist Church, the story of a pioneer church north of Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1800s and early 1900s. I was also promoting my upcoming poetry book, Timepieces, Contrasts, and Memories, and other upcoming projects. It is comforting to converse with other members of a profession that is largely a lonely one.

An author signing is an interesting event. Readers have a chance to meet authors and illustrators who have a chance to tell their stories. Illustrators such as Pat Kochan, a professional artist at the Artisan’s Studio-Gallery in Farmers Branch, with her book of watercolor paintings that capture the history of downtown Dallas. The book is titled Once Upon a Time in Dallas.

Authors like Tracey Richardson, originally from New Orleans, with her book, Florestine, telling the story of her ancestor about whom little is known. Taking the known facts and stories, Richardson used fiction to fill in Florestine’s back story. Or Lynette Norris Wilkinson, who grew up in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Living in Dallas by the time of Hurricane Katrina, she found herself with 16 family members and friends on her doorstep who had lost everything – except what was in their cars – during the hurricane. Which led her to write the book, UNTOLD: The New Orleans 9th Ward You Never Knew, and create the corresponding website with stories of the survivors. Proceeds from the book benefit New Orleans charities.

Martha Trevino Castilleja talked about her children’s book, The Courage of Little Alex, a story of doing wonders with faith and courage. Castilleja’s other book, Something to Remember, is a story about families surviving the devastating flood of 1954 in Acuna, Mexico, and the bordering town of Del Rio, Texas. In Dr. Grace Allman Burke’s book, The Stranger’s Son, the reader sees what it might have been like to witness the events from the Bible’s book of Exodus through twelve year old Gershom’s eyes. After reading the book, they will have a “whole new appreciation for what it meant to be Moses child.

Stay tuned – as they say – for more authors’ stories.

Peace be with you.

Times of love,

Times of grace,

Years of waking up

To your sweet, lovely face.

Times of sorrow,

Times of tears,

Years of having you

To love away my fears.

As I have you,

You have me,

We are us,

Us is we.

Our love was beautiful

Thirty years ago,

It is amazing now,

Incredible, mind-boggling.

Thinking of you

Being in love with me,

Makes me dizzy

And it is difficult to see.

When I think

of the beauty that is you,

I’m so thankful it was us

On whom God’s love sparks flew.

Our love is so complete

I sometimes get silly, or nervous,

Living in awe of the magnificence

That is the we that God gave us.

[From the upcoming book, Timepieces, Contrasts, and Memories, by Dan Roark.]

Peace be with you.

 [Re-posted from former blog] The Noticer, by Andy Andrews, published by Thomas Nelson, is an interestingly quick read. The plot was rather predictable. Jones (no Mr., just Jones) is the noticer, a seemingly ageless old man who appears in the life of people who are at a major crossroads in their life. Jones appears without warning and talks them through their situation and helps them to get a new perspective, after which they are forever changed.

The old man appears to be a charismatic person who not only quietly demands the listener’s attention through his steady voice and calm demeanor, but also renders the person incapable of hearing anything but his voice. His listeners pay rapt attention to what he is saying without knowing why. After talking to him the listener not only has a new perspective on his/her life, but actually feels refreshed.

Despite the predictability, I kept reading, hoping there would be a change in the plot or a surprise. The way in which Jones adjusted his vocabulary and conversational style to each listener was interesting and well done. The Christian overtones were subtle yet solidly present. Some of the dialogue though, seemed as if Jones was approaching Christ-like status, and was rather tame and too obvious.

The ending, while also rather predictable, and drawn out more than necessary, was still successful enough to leave the reader with a warm feeling. It was not, however, the desired effect that Jones had on his listeners throughout the book. All in all, The Noticer is a pleasant and heartwarming story despite occasional straying and the predictability aspect. While I wouldn’t recommend The Noticer to everyone, there are many people to whom I would certainly recommend it. The book would make an appropriate gift for someone going through any type of crisis in their life.

Peace be with you.

 I was given this book by Thomas Nelson for reviewing purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation other than the book itself.

[Re-posted from former blog.] Christianity in Crisis 21st Century, written by Hank Hanegraaff, published by Thomas Nelson, is a book every Christian should have on his or her bookshelf. I wished I had read Hanegraaff’s first book, Christianity in Crisis when it was published in 1993. It would not have changed my views, but would have given me a source to which to turn for proof in my discussions on the subject. I commend Hanegraaff for having the faith and mission to read and listen to these preachers of fallacies and their obvious distortion of God’s word in order to alert the general populace of Christians – many who have themselves been deceived by prosperity and faith healing preachers.

In the 1970’s, after a night of sitting with my jaw on the floor while watching the 700 Club, Pastor Gene Scott, and the like, I wrote a song called Buy One God (Get One Free) portraying the ridiculousness of the prosperity gospel. At the time, I felt alone in my convictions, not even being able to bring the subject up in church. Now I find that I am not alone – thanks to Hanagraaff and others – but the problem has grown much larger and more ingrained in our society and economy.

It is not necessary that I repeat some of his arguments here – he does an excellent job and you must read it for yourself. Although you will be completely repelled and incensed at the audacity of these false preachers – which under other circumstances would leave you feeling lost and praying that it was not so – Hanegraaff points out the fallacies, which offsets the discomfort brought on by their demented interpretation of scripture.

In chapter seven, Back to Basics – as well as the appendixes – Hanegraaff leaves the Christian readers with positive thoughts and theology on their journey through the teachings and theology of these false “prophets.” The reader finishes the book with the comfort of knowing that there are those such as Hank Hanegraaff to point out the false preachers and their fallacies.

Peace be with you.

I was given this book by Thomas Nelson for reviewing purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation other than the book itself.

[Re-posted from former blog.] I received the Word Of Promise The Gift of Psalms from Thomas Nelson Publishers yesterday. Since I am in the midst of several projects, I skimmed through the book, then popped the first cd into the computer – planning to read/hear one psalm and devotional and put the book aside for the moment. I found I could neither put the book down nor turn the cd(s) off. I previously thought having celebrities read the Bible would cause the listener to be distracted from the biblical message. Pleasantly, I was mistaken. Although it did distract me a little, the voices of the well-chosen celebrities enhanced the reading of the Psalms – as did the use of the King James version.

The devotionals by Lori Jones are a mixture of exegesis and devotional – as opposed to the common types of devotional. However, readers and listeners who prefer the more common devotional styles will not be disappointed with the mixture. The exegesis adds a contextual view of the scriptures and their application in the world today.

The Gift of Psalms provides an inspirational way to start the day or to take a spiritual break from a hectic schedule. The WOP New Testament Audio Bible is also available.

Peace be with you.

I was given this book by Thomas Nelson for reviewing purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation other than the book itself.

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