Beneath A Scarlet Sky – Mark Sullivan

Each month, with Amazon Prime I am eligible for the Kindle First program, and can download one Kindle First title for free each month, a month before its official release date.  Last month, this book, “Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, was the one of the offerings, and as I enjoy historical literature I decided to give it a try.

This is the one of the most incredible books I have ever read.

“Beneath A Scarlet Sky” chronicles the amazing events in the life of Pino Lella, a 17 year old Italian teenager, who in the short span of two years grew from a typical fun loving teen to one of the greatest unsung hero’s of World War II.

In the summer of 1943, the allies began to bomb Milan, so Pino’s parents (who are in the leather goods business) send him to join his  younger brother Mimo at a Catholic School in Casa Alpina, in the Alps. Here under the direction of Father Re, Pino is drafted into service  of the Italian resistance, risking his own life as the first guide leading the escapes of many Nazi persecuted Italian Jews over the Alps into neutral Switzerland.

But this is only the beginning of his heroism…

When Pino is about to turn 18, his parents request his return to Milan. Fearful that he will be drafted into the Fascist army, they convince him to join the TODT Organization, which is the civil and engineering group of the Third Reich.  Though unhappy about becoming a German soldier,  Pino acquiesces to his parents wishes, and becomes injured. His injury leads to the appointment as the personal driver for General Leyers, the commanding general of TODT.

Pino becomes a spy for the resistance…but dreams of life after the war, with the love of his life, Anna.

But destiny has other plans.

My favorite quote from this book, comes from a conversation between Cardinal Schuster and Pino, after the war. Cardinal Schuster reassures Pino:

“Faith is a strange creature,” Schuster said. “Like a falcon that nests year after year in the same place, but then flies away, sometimes for years, only to return again stronger than ever.”

“Beneath A Scarlet Sky,” by Mark Sullivan is 524 pages, and was published May 1st by Lake Union Publishing.

Below is Pino Lella in 2015

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Let This Mind Be In You – Bradford Scott

Let This Mind Be In You_150One of my favorite studies, is Hebrew. I’m very much on the left side of the Bell Curve with it, but I love it non-the-less.  It started when I began to see that as I read my Bible, I assumed that what I was reading, (and consequently understanding,) was actually what God intended for me to get out of His word.  Then, almost by accident, I was looking up a word in the Strong’s Concordance, (which is a kind of dictionary for the Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible), and I saw that the word didn’t exactly mean what I thought it did.

So, I thought that maybe there were a lot of other words that I really didn’t have a handle on either. That’s how I got interested in Hebrew.

There is much more to this, but basically, that’s how my interest began.

So, first I began to look at Paleo-Hebrew, or “ancient” Hebrew. I learned that they drew pictures to represent letters, just like Egyptian hieroglyphics. This pictures eventually “evolved” into letters, some of which actually ended up as the English letters we use today, (but that’s another teaching I suppose).  Anyway, my interest was peaked.

I found a very interesting and enlightening website, created by a fellow named Jeff Benner:

“The Ancient Hebrew Research Center.”

He really helped me begin my journey, well worth visiting!

Why was this so interesting to me?  Because, of this scripture, Philippians 2:5:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”

Your mind is for thinking. What this verse says to me, is “Think like Jesus.”

How do we do this?  I think first we have to understand how and why we think like we do now, with some critical analysis. Not, just take it for granted that we are thinking about EVERYTHING correctly. By “everything,” I mean; the way make choices, the reasons we say what we say, the relationship we have with God, and Jesus…the list is as eternal as Heaven I think!

So now what?

This book, “Let This Mind Be In You,” by Bradford Scott, is also a  great starting point. It is a comprehensive comparison of the Eastern mind of Jesus’ day, (Hebrew) and the Western mind of today (Greek).  It offers historical and sensible explanations of, “How we got here, and why we think like we do.”

Then it shows the contrast between the two, and this will allow you to “examine yourself.” You can then begin to see how you think compares to how the Hebrew mind sees things.

Will this transform you immediately? Sadly no…but it is a fantastic place to begin your transformation, your metamorphosis…really.

One more thing. My pastor, Brother Winston Baker at the First Assembly Church here in beautiful Moultrie, GA, has always taught us that every truth in God’s Word, will always have at least a “second witness,” to authenticate it.

Consider Romans 12:2:

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Check out: “Let This Mind Be In You” by Bradford Scott

Shalom 🙂

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A Time To Die by Gilbert Morris

$T2eC16VHJH8E9qSEWJvfBRW6D7P!dQ~~_35Oh the joy of a public library!  I never would have dreamed that when I spent $.60 to purchase these much worn, but complete set of books in Mr. Morris’ “American Odyssey” series that I would find so much pleasure in them!

And to think, all it cost me were 6 dimes. I must be, by far, one of the most blessed fellows that has ever had the honor of living on this earth.

In this 2nd volume of the six book series, “A Time To Die,” the lives of the Stuarts continue to unfold. World War I is beginning to boil, and the Stuarts find themselves falling off the ledge of desire and patriotism. America still has yet to join the fray, but this doesn’t deter the Amos, Owen or Gavin as they each begin to step on the stones that God has laid for them, across this raging river of life.

With her world wide pursuits in theater, Lylah Stuart finds herself in Europe at the same time, and finds her heart has been captured by one that neither her brothers, nor her country will approve of.

As the world anxiously awaits the nod from President Woodrow Wilson, entrance into this fracas, Gavin decides to stretch his own wings in the French Foreign Legion. There, Gavin will encounter the infamous Baron Manifred von Richhofen, who is more familiarly known as the Red Baron.

Little does he know how great a part this man will play in his and the rest of the Stuart’s lives.

One of my favorites aspects of this book, as well as the series is how the author weaves the facts of history. Here is a favorite passage, where Amos, now a star reporter for The New York Journal, the widely circulated newspaper owned by William Randolph Hearst, has come to the home of his old friend, none other than Theodore Roosevelt, to discuss his views on President Wilson’s attitude about not entering the war yet:

“Roosevelt stared at him, a sharp light in his eyes. ” You’re here to find out what I think about the European war. Isn’t that so Stuart? Amos shrugged ans smiled slightly, ” Sir, I think I know how you feel. I’ve been listening to you for a long time. But, if you don’t mind, I’d like to hear it directly.”

“Mind? Of course I don’t mind,” Roosevelt said, shaking his head. He looked around the room at the many trophies;at the trophies of a lifetime, really spent fighting for his country he loved so dearly. “We’ll have to fight Stuart,” he said without hesitation. ” No way out now. It’s got to be. Everyone seems to know that pretty much…” he paused, then shrugged his husky shoulders. ” That is, everyone except President Wilson and Secretary of State Bryan.” 


I believe that Theodore Roosevelt was an amazing man.

The beauty of the writing of Gilbert Morris, is that he never fails to show how God works in the lives of his children. As you read, you almost get the feeling that you are privileged to stand almost outside of time, and watch the unfolding of the lives of this family. It is so incredible to see how intricately woven together their lives and the true history of our nation, and what reliance on God can accomplish.

I am so glad I am a Christian. I am so glad to be living in America. I know that right now, we have turned from God in many ways, but as long as He bears us, we must never stop praying for our glorious country. We must have faith…faith like Saeed Abedini.

Pastor Abedini was arrested in his birth country, Iran in September 2012  for building orphanages. Because he is an American Christian pastor, who shared God’s love, he has been sentenced to 8 years, asked to recant his faith, which he will not do. He truly loves the people of Iran, and wants them to experience the joy that is found only in Christ.


I want to have a faith like Pastor Saeed.

The reason I brought this up, is that books like “A Time to Die,” help to instill that kind of courage in us. God works in many ways to build us up in our own faith, and one of these ways I believe is to use fine authors such as Gilbert Morris.

Please read this series…you will not be disappointed I promise…

…and please add Pastor Saeed to your prayer list. Pray for him to remain strong, and ask the Lord to bless him. Pray for his freedom.

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A Time to Be Born by Gilbert Morris

Time to Be BornI’ve noticed something about myself, and my reading tastes. The older I get, the more I am interested in the moral  history of America. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to older books, from the 50’s, they offer a glimpse of a United States that once was. This is probably due to my interest in the Hebraic mindset…the early Hebrews, would look to the past for answers to the problems they face. I want a righteous America again, where divorce is not the first option, babies are born to loving mom’s and dads, and people had a fear of God, even those who were not in church. That’s the America that I find in this book, again, courtesy of my favorite lunchtime hangout, my public library.  This whole set only cost me four bits, ($.50 to the uninformed,) because there are 5 in this series, written by who I have found to be a wonderful writer, Gilbert Morris.

The first book of this series, known as “The American Odessy Series,” is entitled, ” A Time to Be Born,” and it chronicles the story of the Stuart family, particulary, Lylah and her brothers Amos and Owen.  The Stuarts are a family that live in Arkansas, and their story begins in 1897. Lylah, is the first to leave home, to find and follow what she believes to be her dream, and Amos and Owen soon follow. They are the three oldest of eight children, a mother whose trust in the Lord has sustained her family, as well as a husband who has had his struggles.

In this first book, Lylah, runs off from the Bible school at Fort Smith, to chase the dream of becoming an actress. Amos, also yearning to spread his wings in the world, goes off in search of her, and little brother Owen eventually follows.  Each finds their path in a different field, but it is evident that the hand of God is upon them. I can’t help but think how this book is such a testimony to the power of a praying mother, and those prayers that we cling to can bear fruit in generations to come.

This series is very reminiscent of “Spencer’s Mountain,” Earl Hamner Jr., a book that I wrote about in March of last year, in 2013. Hmmm, maybe March is “books about families month for me. It is going to prove to be a great series, and I am already anticipating the sadness that I will experience when the series ends.  I am grateful that Gilbert Morris has written many books, because I believe I will be searching this author out for years to come.

Here is a photo of Mr. Morris. Doesn’t he look like the kindest individual? He reminds me of, and I hope if he ever reads this, he will take it as a compliment, my favorite person growing up…Mister Rogers.

Gilbert Morris


I bet that Gilbert Morris is the type of fellow that you might bump into at a place like Huddle House, a very popular breakfast all day grill here in South Georgia, having a cup of coffee and talking about God and gardens….

….and an America that trusts in the Lord. I can’t wait to read the next one in this series, “A Time to Die.”  Thank you Mr. Morris for loving the Lord, and choosing writing as a career. You have blessed us all so wonderfully!!!!






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Rooms by James L. Rubart


Rooms coverA young friend of mine, Zack Ulakovits, (who when I first met him many years ago was a crazy kid in my kid’s church, at the church where my wife and I were involved in children’s ministry,) gave this book to me, telling me that I would enjoy it.  I have to say that I did…and I have to say that Zack, (who now attends college,)  is one of the finest young men I have ever known. He even asked me to write a letter of reference for him, as he was entering college, which was a real honor for me.

Anyway, when I began reading, “Rooms,” by James Rubart, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little put off by the front cover “blurb” by Robert Liparulo, ” An extraordinary read, part, ‘The Screwtape Letters,’ part ‘The Shack,’” mainly because I am a huge C.S.Lewis fan, and thought that,” The Screwtape Letters,” was a work of genius, and that the “Shack,” was, in my opinion, one of the most diabolical warping of the Scriptures that had ever been penned. -Honestly, I didn’t know what to think.

I am a big believer in “blurbs.” If I see a promotional comment by an author that I don’t like, I will often pass that book by…..but conversely, if the author is a favorite of mine, then I will more than likely pick it up.  In this case, not wishing to disappoint my pal Zack, (and also knowing him and the fact that we shared the same taste in books by certain authors, such as  Ted Dekker, and Frank Peretti), I went on his assessment.

I was pleasantly surprised, as it did prove to be a pretty good read. Again, as I have mentioned before in other reviews, a little hard leaning on the Western Greek interpretation of the Scriptures (which was written intentionally to an Eastern Hebraic understanding), but recognizing this, I was able to look for what the author was trying to share through the life of Micah Taylor, the rich young software entrepreneur, and really enjoyed the journey of discovery that the hero of the story encounters. I am not going to say too much, because unlike my other posts which are usually on books that have been around for many years, I sure don’t want to spoil this one for anyone.

The gist is that Micah, who has life by the tail, CEO of RimSoft, romantically involved with his beautiful business partner Julie, receives a letter of inheritance from his deceased great uncle Archie, (who was the uncle his dad had told him to stay away from.)  His Uncle Archie had left him a home…in fact, actually had built him a home, at Cannon Beach, on the Oregon Coast, where Micah had spent youthful summers camping with his family twenty years prior.

Simple enough….but what entails becomes a journey in which Micah will begin to realize who he really is, but even more importantly, who God is.

Micah begins to understand that this is more than a house. It is the very floor-plan of his own… soul.

Within it’s 375 pages, “Rooms,” published by the B&H Publishing Group, in April 2010, had me looking at my own life, and the priority that I place on things. Being a Pentecostal, it was not too unrealistic to our current understandings, and it in no way was anything but honoring to the Lord.  The author, James L. Rubart does have his own interpretations of how he views what it means to be a Christian.  I can sure appreciate them, but he does tend to make it a little too easy, like it’s the cure for all of the problems we face in life.

I don’t quite share all of the author’s views, but I understand them. Christ in me is my only hope of glory, but as Christians, we still must deal with living in a fallen world.  Bad things do happen to good people, (to coin a phrase,) and for a new believer, after reading this book, they might think that now that  they have accepted Christ, ( I prefer “being born again”,) they will have no more worries. To this line of thinking, I want to say, “Please read the Book of Job.”

But I enjoyed it none-the-less, and have much respect for the author.  I mentioned earlier in this review, the Western Greek mind vs. the Eastern Hebraic way of thinking.  I am sure no expert, but I really feel that we have a responsibility to “renew” our minds to understand this more. Please know that I am struggling my way through this as well.

The Bible was originally written to middle eastern people in a nomadic lifestyle, and often we try to read it as if it were written to twentieth century urban dwellers. We apply definitions to words in ways that they may not have been intended, and as a result built our beliefs on possibly errors in interpretation. We are also a people that want to know, “what’s beyond the horizon,” and applaud one another other for “scaling the wall.”  The Hebraic mind, on the other hand, doesn’t place so much empasis on those things which cannot seen, and tends to focus on dealing with that which is at hand. They look forward to the past for answers, the westerner looks to the future.

I really don’t know which is right or which is better, or even if there is truth in both. One think that I do know, however, is that “Rooms,” by James L. Rubart is a very enjoyable book. I think you will like it, whatever your bend, Pentecostal or otherwise.

Thank you Zack Ulakovits!!!! Your reading taste has proven again, impeccable my friend, and I know you are going to do mighty things in our Lord’s Kingdom in the years ahead!!!!


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Fire of Heaven Trilogy by Bill Myers

Fire of Heaven TrilogyOne of my favorite people in the world, Mary Lou, who used to be my co-worker, blessed me with this book as she was leaving our company. I was so sorry to see her go, as she was by far one of the sweetest ladies I have ever known. She was always doing for others, and was always positive, with a smile on her face, even as she was leaving, (our company was downsizing).  May our Lord continue to bless you Mary Lou, all who know you, can truly see Him in you!

This brings me to the wonderful gift she left me, “Fire of Heaven Trilogy,” by Bill Myers.  I have had a wonderful time reading these three books in one volume. The books , “Blood of Heaven, Threshold, and Fire of Heaven,” are definitely meant to be together, as each one leads into the following one….

The first of the trilogy, “Blood of Heaven,” is about  death row convict, named Michael Coleman who volunteers to participate in an experiment. It seems that a blood stain on a thorn from a vine that may have been revered as a religious artifact over 2000 years old preserved in wax. It was enough to extract DNA, and develop a way to introduce it into the bloodstream of a human being. So begins the story, that intersects with the life of Katherine Lyons, and her son Eric, and takes into:

“Threshold,” the second book of the trilogy. This story centers around a young man named Brandon Martus, a preacher’s kid, who is typical ornery, but possesses a gift that leads him to become the subject of the Moran Research Institute, led by Dr Helmut Reichner, and his young assistant, Sarah Weintraub, a project in the paranormal.

In the final book, “Fire of Heaven,” Brandon and Sarah are now man and wife, Brandon realizing that his power is from God, and he and Sarah are the final two witnesses in the Book of Revelation. The are also reunited with Katherine and Eric Lyons who we met in the first book.

All in all, it was an enjoyable group of books to read, a little on the sensational side, for my tastes. I mean, I do love Christian fiction, but in this book, which is my first introduction to Bill Myers, I think he is a very creative and imaginative writer.

It’s evident that he really knows his Bible, and if all his works are like this one, I can see the appeal he would have for a world that looks for the paranormal, as the evidence of eternity. I do believe there is a danger in this if it is our only exposure to the Power of Christ, and please know I mean no disrespect to Mr. Myers.

I believe that God speaks to us in very intimate ways, using mostly genuine and logical methods.  I’m not saying that He doesn’t use dreams, and visions, and lets face it, His Word is full of prophets, and miracles, but it seems like the greatest miracle of all, is the changed heart of a man who comes to know Christ. A man who has spent his life in selfishness ambitions, and upon being introduced to the living Christ, begins to realize his responsibility to the Lord and his own family.

That is the miracle of my life.  It’s my prayer that people won’t look to the miraculous as the only evidence of a loving Savior, but will look to the incredible experiences that are found within the heart.

This is a fun book to read, and like Frank Peretti’s books, these type of work offers a look into the fantastical aspects that can surround those that are following Christ. Other books like the writings of Brock and Bodie Thoene, “The A.D. Chronicles,” offer us glimpses of our Christian heritage.

All genres are needed and very much welcome.  I hope kind reader, that you are a believer.  If not, please read this book then sit down with a trusted and loving friend and discuss any questions you may have. Please, above all thing in this life, know Christ. He already knows you and and is waiting for you to reach to Him.

May God bless you mightily!





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Jabez A Novel by Thom Lemmons

Jabez by Thom Lemmons I read a very  interesting article on the Gizmag website this month by a fellow named Brian Dodson. It was entitled, ” A good book can change your life…and your brain.”  It basically discussed how when we read stories,  it kind of “transports” us into the shoes of the characters that we identify with, and just like real life experiences change us biologically, so does reading about experiences, even fictional ones.

Here’s the article: A good book can change your brain .

“Jabez A Novel” by Thom Lemmons, was such a book for me.  It has to be one of the shortest ones I’ve read in a long while, only 129 pages. It was published in 2001 by Waterbrook Press.  I think the title, “Jabez A Novel.” was intentional and gently humorous, because the person Jabez is only mentioned briefly in the Bible, 1st Chronicles, 4:9-11.

Jabez prayed the prayer that so many of us desire of God every day in our own ways. One fellow, Bruce Wilkinson even wrote a “prosperity” book about the prayer. I really never cared for those kind of books though, but that’s just my opinion.

It worked for him I guess, He sold tons official “Prayer of Jabez” products like mugs, backpacks, candles, mouse pads, and even jewelry.  Even his wife Darlene jumped in and wrote a version for women.

People like this scare me, because they tend  mix God and the world, and it really confuses those who really want to know Him, and like my pastor Brother Winston Baker of The First Assembly Church of Moultrie, always says, “God doesn’t like a mixture.”

Thom Lemmons on the other hand, really tried to give us a story that might help us understand the life of this person.  He did a lot of  research, and produced a very enjoyable work. Here is an interesting passage in which Jabez is talking about his mother:

“My mother was neither ugly nor beautiful, though I suppose she had once been pleasing enough to look at. She was of normal size, but in my memory she is always small. Even as a child I felt a need to be careful with her, the way you have to be careful with babies or sick people. Since I was the youngest in the household, I was the one at her beck and call. i was her errand runner, her helper.”

Much of the book focused on his mother. I really appreciated this, because I know how important mom’s are. I lost my mom in 2008, and I really miss her.  Here is my favorite all time picture of her with my dad when they were young!

My Mom and Dad

Also, Jabez struggled with his name, because in Hebrew it means: “he causes pain.”  Thom Lemmons has expertly painted a wonderful  picture of how the life of Jabez might have been, and he has taken great care to be very accurate.  His book reminds me of a couple of other favorite authors, Brock and Brodie Thoene.  If you enjoy this book, then you will also enjoy their work.

I’d like to spend a little more time talking about names. Names are very important in ancient Hebrew. We westerners  just call each other by name without giving it much thought, we name our children after favorite relatives, or celebrities, but in the Bible, every name had a purpose. Names described the character or often the destiny of a person.  The Hebrew word for name is “shem” and it means character.  When God formed man, He breathed the breath of life , (or in Hebrew, “nĕshamah”. )  Notice that “sham” or “shem” is at the center of this word. What God was doing was placing His character into Adam. Subsequently, this is how He gave man His image, and how we acquire it.  One way to think about it is that your pastor breathes out the Word of God into you every Sunday from the pulpit. If you receive it, you are in the process of gaining His image too, (or you hope you are.)

Jabez’s mother gave him his name. But within him was the character of God, and God heard his prayer.  God hears our prayers too, but the key is to remember to pray in His character. In the “Name” of Jesus, means in the character of Jesus.  Make sure your requests to God are in line with His nature and character. Then you are breathing out His “nĕshamah,” back to Him, and remember, His Word will not return void.

So, when you hear folks talking about “Taking the Name of God in vain,” what it really means is when you claim to be a follower of Christ, but intentionally do things that you know bring disgrace to Him, you are literally taking “His Name in vain.” It really isn’t cursing, although that’s not a good thing to do either.

Pretty cool stuff.  I hope you enjoy this book, “Jabez” by Thom Lemmons, as much as I did.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and score a copy at a used book sale. Mine cost a quarter, courtesy of my favorite lunchtime hangout, my public library. It was sure worth it!




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The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

The Golden JourneyIf only my high school pals could see me now!!! There I was a punk of a kid, growing up in West Virginia, long hair, and wisp of a mustache with a cigarette hanging off my lips. I’d start every morning of school on the pinball machine at the doughnut shop across the street from my high school. Oh…my grades were fine, I just wanted to look tough. You couldn’t put a book into my hands….

Now I find myself haunting my local library, scouring the for sale shelves for gems, like this one, “The Golden Journey,” by one of my very favorite authors in the whole world, Agnes Sligh Turnbull.  I had to (gratefully, may God bless our public library,) shell out another two bits for this 303 page, 1955 “Mona Lisa, between two cardboard covers,” that was published by The Riverside Press, Cambridge.

Again, Mrs. Turnbull has produced a true work of art. How I wish I could have met this wonderful author. This book, she dedicated to her husband, James Lyall Turnbull, for his unfailing interest, encouragement, and critical assistance through the years. They were wed in 1918, right before he left for World War 1. They were married until his death in 1955 from a heart condition. He was an executive in a lighting fixture company.

Mr Turnbull must have been a very fine man. A favorite pastor of mine, Paul Washer, says that a husband actually has responsibility for what his wife becomes. It distrust is sown, then the wife is insecure and may never reach her potential. James Lyall Turnbull, must have truly been a wonderful husband…just look at Mrs. Turnbull.

“The Golden Journey,” is the story of a father’s desperation, a daughter’s resignation, and a young man’s determination.  James Kirkland, a financially  powerful  political star-maker, desires a husband for his beautiful daughter Anne, who has lost the use of her legs, due to the tragedy of an accident.  He meets Paul Devereux, a young lawyer on the fast track up the ladder, and secures an agreement with him, that he will advance Paul’s career on the condition that he can make Anne fall in love with him, and marry him.  What Mr. Kirkland doesn’t count on is the firm mettle of this man, and his own daughter’s strong willfulness.  It is an incredible story of the kind of leadership that our own country so desperately needs in every branch of government today.
Perhaps a paragraph will illustrate what I am saying. Here, Paul has asked Anne to marry him, and she has shared her concerns that it may not work because of her condition:

“‘But even so, Paul, even with all our love, how can we think of marriage…as I am?'”

 He had gone over his arguments so often in his mind that they poured from him now, with the fierceness of established conviction.  “I will tell you,” he said, “just how it is on my side, for I know that is what troubles you. I love you, the essential you, your mind, your spirit, your body. The fact that you cannot walk does not alter that. Then there would be the completely selfish side of my marriage to you. I’ve known a number of unhappy husbands and in most cases it’s because the wives get to leading their own lives. Take Harvey, our other senior partner, for instance. He can never get his wife on the phone. Just once I heard him make a comment when he didn’t know I was within earshot. ‘My God,’ he said, ‘is she never at home?’ Now when we are married, I would know that when I come back from work, you would be there, waiting for me, ready to listen to all my problems and the story of my day. I’ve dreamed of this.  It may seem a small thing to you, but it’s bigger than you know, even if utterly selfish on my side. You see, the capacity to run about is not the supreme qualification for a wife.”

I have often wished that the young people of this generation could somehow rediscover authors like Ms. Agnes Turnbull. Perhaps the young men, may become like Mr. Turnbull.  There are so many “marriage help” books out there, but there is nothing like a good story of sheer integrity to cause a person to look inwardly at their own lives.

As a follower of Christ, I am often asked about which books are best for growth? My first question, is, “What do you want to grow into?” Sometimes the answers are found not looking forward to the newest and latest, but backward to the tried and true.

The ancient Hebrews had a neat way of seeing things. We western thinkers look to the future and think of the past as behind us, but the Hebrews saw the past before them, and the future behind. The past they surmise is in front of us, because we can see it. The future however is behind us, out of our vision and unknown. In addition to this, they would not worry about what they did not know, and focus on what they do know.

We could take lessons. Looking to the past for answers…hindsight is 20/20.  Reading books from the past, have really given me a vision for what I want my life to be. Thank you Mr and Mrs. Turnbull. You have truly blessed me.  I am grateful for you. May every teen with wisp of a mustache have the chance to know you through your wonderful gift of writing!

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The Richlands by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

TheRichlandsI feel so blessed the day that I stumbled onto this magnificent writer, Ms. Agnes Sligh Turnbull. This may seem funny, as I don’t really think she is necessarily a writer that attracts many male readers. Her stories are ones that tug at your heart, about family and relationships. I am the father of two teenage daughters, and believe me, I have learned more about how to relate to my girls, from Ms. Turnbull, that any of the many books I have read on marriage and family.  In all of her books, Ms. Turnbull reminds us of what is truly important, that we love and honor our commitments to one another. I am so grateful to her for the many hours of relaxation I have had as I became friends with the characters she has created.

This work stands far and above all others to me, at least so far.  It is ” The Richlands,” published by Houghton Mifflin Company Boston,  in 1974. It is only 259 pages, but  no finer story have I ever read.

It’s the tale of Jim Ryall, a well learned man, who chooses not to go to college and become a lawyer as his father had hoped for him, but to follow in his fathers footsteps of continuing to run the magnificient family farm, known as , “The Richlands.” Jim has two younger brothers, and a Scottish servant that live with him in the grand stone residence on the land. It is the story of lives within one life, of the triumphs and of the disappointments of living. It is a story, that when it finally ended on page 259, I felt a great loss, the kind where dear friends are moving away, and you realize that you will never see them again. This is how I felt about the Ryall family.

A passage from this novel, may better illustrate, so I have chosen the first few lines of chapter one where I was introduced to this family:

“It was not quite sunset, yet the day was fading. A long shadow had fallen across the eastern end of the big stone house; the leaves of the maple on the path to the barn on one side and those on the way to the springhouse on the other all had a bright, quickening light on them, while all over the sky there spread a faint gleaming color which told that the sun would soon show his full glory.

The young man on the chestnut horse looked around him as though his eyes could never take in enough of the scene. He sat easily without a saddle, the reins loose in his hands, now and then caressing the horses neck or leaning over to stroke her nose, while the animal responded with quiet movements of affection.” 

This is a beginning that one can rest in, with a steaming cup of coffee, and a big easy chair…and this is how I enjoyed this wonderful work.

We all need order in our lives, and peacefulness. God has built this desire into us. We can get so busy in the day to day, that soon we have frenzied ourselves into an anxious grave. Ms. Turnbull allows us a time to relax, without interference, without car insurance commercials, or blaring radio ads. Reading one of her books is a time to forget all the cares of this world, and disappear for awhile.

I enjoyed the time I was able to spend at “The Richlands,” and as I mentioned before I will miss them.  I am better for having known them it seems to me. Isn’t that weird to say about fictional characters?

I think not, and neither will you after you read, “The Richlands,” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull.

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Tathea by Anne Perry

Tathea“The scream tore the night apart. Ta-Thea sat upright, the sweat cold on her skin. Moonlight poured through the long windows onto the marble floor. The screaming came again, then a man shouting and a clash of metal. But it was impossible, here in the palace!,” excerpted from page one, Chapter One, of Tathea, by Anne Perry.

Wow!, is all I can say about this work, and this author, Anne Perry. On another one of my weekly sojourns to my local library, to see what fallen apples may be gleaned from the ground for the mere cents in my pocket, I found this book, “Tathea.” It was the first delving into the world of the fantastical,  by this New York times bestselling author that had already become well read and revered, Anne Perry. She has written many other works, but this one, she herself, believes is her crowning achievement.

I really enjoyed this book. I decided to not pursue everything I could learn about the author prior to reading it, as I often have done in the past, but this time, I wanted to see what I could learn from the work itself. It was a wonderful book, and extremely educational on several fronts. Tathea, copyright 1999, was published by Ace Books in New York, who are owned by The Berkley Publishing Group, which is a division of Penguin Putnam Inc. It is 522 pages. One thing in the acknowledgements is that it was printed by Shadow Mountain Publishing, and this  is a general-trade imprint of Deseret Book, which is owned by the Mormon Church. Many of the  Shadow Mountain authors are Mormons too….

…as is Anne Perry, but the book does not indicate this in any way. I am not a Mormon, so at first, I felt a little tricked. I just read this wonderfully written book, and then found out it may have been used as a stealth device to lead me into a world that I may not have explored on my own, and this gave me pause. Really! Then I thought, “Nah, I should have done my homework, and studied the author before I got so involved in this novel.” If I had, then I probably would not have read it.

In an interview with Dennis Lythgoe, the author, Anne Perry speaks of her purpose in writing this book, ” Everything else I’ve done,” she said,” has been moving toward this. The inspiration came from who I am. I believe very strongly that one of the most powerful ways to reach people who do not wish to open the scriptures and who are not actively searching for something is to tell them stories. You can move people by stories, whether they wish to be moved or not.”

Anne Perry moved me. I enjoyed “Tathea” and am better for it.  It would definitely fall in the category of fantasy, spiritual quest, and it is a book of the search and discovery for one’s purpose in life. Tathea, the main character will easily win your heart, and as she moves through the stages of her development, you will find yourself moved as well.  As she seeks to embrace truth, and faces all those worldly temptations, you will find yourself nodding your head in agreement, and amazed at how simply grasped the truths she learns are.  You will meet her Tathea’s guide, Ishrafeli, a Christ like figure, who leads and aids her in her quests.

Here’s where you must now make a decision. Tathea’s journey is, I believe, an allegory for Joseph Smith, the LDS pioneer who discovered the original plates which became, “The Book of Mormon.” His guide was the angel Moroni.

If you would like to know more about this, you can try this article found on Dialogue Journal:

Anne Perry’s Tathea: A Preliminary Consideration

Again, I must be honest that I really did enjoy the book, but cannot recommend it to those friends whom I share my reading exploits with. The main reason, is that I do not always know how a book, a movie, etc, will be perceived by someone else. I would not want someone to be influenced by a work that I recommended, and cause them to stumble.  Had I know that “Tathea” was an allegory of the Mormon faith, I would not have read it, but having read it, I did enjoy the gift for writing that Anne Perry has cultivated.

I don’t agree with the Mormon belief’s, and although the folks that I know that are Mormon, are for the most part genuinely pleasant people, (which I admire,) I can’t wrap my brain around many of their articles of faith.

That being said, I appreciate the work that went into “Tathea,” and what I learned from it.  I was genuinely moved by this story, and will never forget what Anne Perry said, “You can move people by stories, whether they wish to be moved or not.” What a responsibility on our authors.  We must remember that when we move people against their wishes, we must also realize that we become responsible for the consequences that befall them…both good and bad.

I am glad that God does not trick people into moving against their wishes.  Oh, He surely is a God that moves people, but He is and always will  allow people to choose if they want to go or not. Me? I want to go!





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