Damascus Countdown by Joel C. Rosenberg

Damascus Count DownI have to say thanks once again, to my friend Leslie, who introduced me to this wonderful author back in 2009. The first book of his I ever read, was “The Last Jihad.” I guess that ever since I began reading Christian fiction over 17 or so years ago, (I began with Frank Peretti , “This Present Darkness,”) I have felt like the Lord was using it as as a way to let us know what He is planning. Let’s face it, we are so divided in different denominations, and monickers,  that we rarely listen to the same teachers…but Christian fiction crosses those boundaries, allowing us to get different viewpoints, without compromising our commitments to our particular denominations. I’m Pentecostal!

“Damascus Countdown” is the third book in his “Twelfth Imam” trilogy. To really get the most out of this incredibly written book, you will want to read them in order, “The Twelfth Imam,” first, “The Tehran Initiative,” next, and then “Damascus Countdown.”

Each of these books chronicles the Biblical last days events that will be unfolding in the Middle East. Yes, they are fiction, but I think this is because they haven’t happened yet. If Noah would have written a book about why he was building an ark, then his contemporaries would have called it a fictional work as well….until it started to rain

As you read Joel Rosenberg’s books, and then flip on CNN Headline, or Fox News,  then you too will see the beginning raindrops.

Within the 465 pages of “Damascus Countdown,” published by Tyndale House Publishers, Israel has launched a first strike on Iran, and taking out six of their nuclear warheads. The US prepares to condemn this attack, and the Twelfth Imam is planning a horrific retaliation.

When CIA agent David Shirazi learns that there are more Iranian nuclear warheads, he and his team race to find them in order to neutralize them, but find that the danger is not limited to Iran, but also the governments of other Mideastern countries, Pakistan and Syria.

The author, Joel Rosenberg, born in 1967,  is a born again Jewish believer, who accepted Christ when he was 17 years old. At one time he worked for Rush Limbaugh as a research assistant, and in the past has worked on US presidential campaigns, and as a consultant for Benjamin Netanyahu. I firmly believe that he has been raised up for “such a time as this.”

The word “dispensationalism” comes to mind when I think of Joel Rosenberg’s novels, and I guess that I would fall in this category as well. Dispensationalism as Wikipedia defines it, is an evangelical, futurist, Biblical interpretation that says that God has and continues to relate to us, (human beings) in different ways under the different Biblical covenants, during periods in history,  which are known as dispensations.

We believe that we of the Christian church, are in a sense, distinct from Israel, and there will be a pre-tribulation rapture, after which God will fulfill all of His promises to the nation of Israel.

Whether or not you believe this way, may be one of the most crucial decisions of your life.  Give yourself the opportunity to examine what you believe with regard to this., and if you are like most of us, the events as outlined in Scripture, of the “last days,” are difficult to grasp. Joel Rosenberg’s novels  will help you. He is truly, I believe a gift of the Lord to us in these times, that we might know what is to come.

Read Joel Rosenberg, in fact, read all of his books. You will never see the end times the same way again, and Headline News will make sense in a way that it never has for you. It will also help you understand what the Bible is saying. If you are like me, I need all the help I can get.

I promise!

 

Posted in fiction | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why Has All This Happened To Us? by W.T. Hamilton

Why has thisDuring one of my visits to my library, I came across this book, “Why Has All This Happened To Us,” by W.T.Hamilton. Since it would only cost me a dime, I decided to pick it up. I’m like everyone else, I suppose, and often struggle with understanding why certain things happen to us. I mean, I love my Lord, and daily count my blessings, but still I wonder why bad things happen to good people, and conversely some folks who don’t give the Lord even a passing glance, seem to have a golden ticket through life.

I was hoping I might find some answers in it’s 150 pages. I have to say that I think I did. As soon as I opened the first page, there was a message from the author’s son Nick, that his father had passed away from cancer on May 14, 1986. Since the copyright on this book was 1986, by the 20th Century Christian Publishers, I realized that W.T. Hamilton, even in his impending departure, was trying to help us understand the mercy of God.  Here is the author in 1951.

WT Hamilton

There is also a very brief  biography of him on this website: http://www.therestorationmovement.com/hamilton.htm

I enjoy knowing a little about those who touch my life with theirs.  W.T. Hamilton was a really a very Godly man.

“Why Has All This Happened To Us?,” is a reminder that God has a eternal purpose for us all. What I understood was that God does not bring suffering upon us, but masterfully uses circumstances to shape us into the image and character of His Son, Jesus. My beloved pastor Winston Baker, of the First Assembly Church, here in Moultrie, Ga, teaches us, that the mystery of the Gospel is “How God puts God back inside of man.” W.T.Hamilton, has revealed to me one of the tools that God uses to do this, by bringing us through the circumstances of a fallen world, into His perfect one. It will not be easy, and none of us are immune to problems. This is not a feel good, inspirational book, that tries to find a silver lining in the storm clouds of life. It is a genuine look at how we might handle the circumstances, in the lives of others, and even the author himself.

A very important portion of this book to me, was when I read on page 54, how the author handled the news when he learned that he had cancer:

My first thought: Is God here? Yes. Positively. In a special way! I never doubted that for a moment. The Father who is present when a sparrow falls to the earth is not going to be absent when one of his children is faced with such bleak news. So, I could talk to him. He was there, you know. But what should I ask for? Well, what would be in keeping with his will? What did he have in mind for me? Those were the questions that came immediately to mind.

Oh, how many have heard those words without such hope? Mr. Hamilton goes on to discuss how he reminded himself of those wonderful attributes of God, and how no matter what he was facing, God would not fail him.

In addition to the personal struggle, much of the rest of the book, continues to illustrate how so many in the Scriptures themselves faced trials and tremendous circumstances.

When I had turned the final page of this wonderful book, I too, knew that though life may take some unexpected turns, I will be able to trust that God will use it for his purposes for my good. I am glad for this knowledge.

Interesting to me, inside the front page of this book is a handwritten inscription written from Mary and Flavil Nichols, gifting and thanking John and Evelyn Stewart for their friendship and hospitality, back on April 29, 1988.  I learned, from looking up a little additional information,  that Flavil was the brother of Carrie (Nichols)  Hamilton, the author’s wife. I bet they shared many of these books to those they met along life’s path.

I like little details like this. Makes things much more personal.

I am so thankful to have read this wonderful book. I hope that you get the chance to as well. Also, if you are ever in Moultrie, Ga please come by and visit our church. You will find that Winston Baker, is of the John the Baptist company of preachers. There isn’t one like him anywhere else.

Thank you W. T. Hamilton for this book. You have truly blessed me!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in nonfiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane

TwistedThingOn one of my regular visits to the “for sale,” shelves of my local library, I came across a real gem. It was a book by Mickey Spillane.  I had heard of Mickey Spillane, but never read any of his works. I knew he wrote crime and detective novels, but never having had read this genre,  I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought, “Shoot, for $.25 why not give it a try?” So I reached for it, and when I picked it up, and opened it I found that it was an autographed copy!  And, it was a first edition, to boot!  That in itself made it incredibly exciting. It wasn’t in very good shape to be honest, a little worn, and the book jacket was missing. But, other than this it was quite an exciting find!

The first thing I did when I got back to my computer, was to look and see whether or not it was a genuine autograph. I searched it, and to my pleasant surprise, it certainly matched the style of the others that I saw.  This was a great find!!! I sure love my library!!!

Mickey Spillane's Autograph

“Hi- A big hello from Mike and me! Mickey Spillane”

This book, “The Twisted Thing,” by Mickey Spillane, was published in 1966 by E.P.Dutton & Company, Inc. It’s 219 pages, and it’s one of his signature “Mike Hammer” series.  It is a very well written, “Who done it,” where private investigator Mike Hammer takes on a case to solve the case of the kidnapping of the very gifted son of a prominent and wealthy scientist, Rudolph York. However, finding the fourteen year old, boy genius, Ruston York proves no challenge, but when Mr. York is found murdered, in the apartment of his trusted lab assistant, then he really has a case on his hands. Mike finds that he has become one of the prime suspects!

This book is definitely not one for the kids however. That was the only disappointment for me.  I don’t lean toward books or writers that feel like they have provide intimate details regarding the romance portions in their works, and although more tastefully offered in this book than most non-Christian authors of today, (“You will know them by their fruits.” Matt 7:16,) Mr. Spillane is no exception.  I can sure see why he was so popular as a writer, because aside from this aspect of his work, he really knows how to bring a reader into the action. I enjoyed his command of the craft.

In this brief excerpt, Mike Hammer has just arrived at the residence of Mr. York, and has asked a reluctant doorman to see him, “And right away.”

” I guess I might as well have told him I wanted a ransom payment right then the way he looked at me. I’ve been taken for a lot of things in my life, but this was the first for a snatch artist. He started to stutter, swallowed, then waved his hand in the general direction of the living room. I followed him in.

Have you ever seen a pack of alley cats all set up for a midnight brawl when something interrupts them? The spin on a dime withe the hair still up their backs and watch the intruder through hostile eye slits as though they were ready to tear  him so they could continue their own fight. An intense, watchful stare of mutual hate and fear.

That’s what I ran into, only instead of cats it was people.”  (pg 15)

If you are interested in Mickey Spillane, then check out this article on Wikipedia:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Spillane

His full name was Frank Morrison Spillane, and he was a Jehovah Witness. He was born in 1918 and passed from this life in 2006. At the time of his death, of pancreatic cancer, at age 88, he was living in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. I had vacationed there many times as well, its a beautiful place!

One last thought, and I find that after I read an author who has passed on, I wonder what he is thinking right now. He will be either in Heaven or Hell. There is no other option.  I truly hope that Mickey Spillane went into eternity knowing Jesus as His Savior.

An interesting tidbit, the book is dedicated “To Sid Graedon.”who saw the charred edges.”

Sid Graedon was a publicity and marketing executive at Spillane’s paperback publisher, and a close friend. Mickey often gave his manuscripts and proofs to him.

I really appreciate the craft of Mickey Spillane.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mortal by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee

12870151I’ve been reading the Christian fiction author Ted Dekker  for a long time. My wonderful bibliophile friend Leslie at the YMCA, introduced him to me several years ago, so when she recommended his latest series, a trilogy, “The Books of Mortals,” I leapt at the chance to read them. I had just finished Dekker’s “The Circle Trilogy,” and was ready to get back into his world again.  This series begins with the first book called “Forbidden,” which I read before I began my book review site, in 2011. In June of 2012, “Mortal,” came out, but I have just now had the chance to read it. It’s book 2 in the series, and Book 3 will be “Sovereign,” which will be out this summer. I can’t wait.

So when you get ready to have your eyes truly opened, and understand what being a Christian is from a perspective that you have never dreamed of, then please plan to read “The Books of Mortals,” series.  I will give you this tidbit too, the series actually has a short story prequel that is free to download.  One place you can get it is here (you will have to set up an account but these days you have to do that everywhere):

http://www.christianbook.com/keeper-short-story-prequel-forbidden-ebook/ted-dekker/9781455513437/pd/19729EB

This will set the scene for “Forbidden.” This first book of the trilogy, begins with a civilization of perfect peace, no diseases, and a perfect world order…and no passion, no emotion, except fear. It has been engineered through alchemy, genetically created, resulting in every living soul on earth, actually being dead. Then Rom Sebastian acquires a mysterious  vial of ancient blood with an obscure message, and brings himself back to Life. He begins the journey of bringing this Life to a dead humanity again, as well as….(you will have to read it, but do read the prequel “The Keeper” if you can, as it will explain much.)

In this, the second book of the series, “Mortal” many others have joined Rom Sebastian in life, but now “The Order” has created an army to destroy forever those who are truly alive. The final hope for humanity rests on a Sovereign leader, Jonathan, who will become 18 years old in a matter of days, and he is the hope of the living. But the army of “Dark Bloods” that are lead by control and power crazed Saric, who is determined to become ruler, will stop at nothing to destroy any who oppose him.

 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.- 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV.

What I love about Dekker’s and Lee’s books is not that they are gripping and intense reading, although they are, nor is it the great writing. It’s the fact that I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, and my relationship to my Savior, and others when I finish them. Their books are the best fictional allegories to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the life of being a true follower of Christ that I have ever read.

What does it mean to, “Study to shew thyself approved?” how do we rightly “divide the word of Truth?” I believe it means to look for every avenue to understand what Christ is really saying to us today, where He is and how to serve Him. To divide this Truth will take a two edged sword. I also believe that this is the true mission of Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee in this series, as they use the power of fiction to impart the Truth, and help to form the mind of Christ in us, (as in the fashion of a true “John the Baptist” pastor.)  When they someday stand before our Lord, He won’t ask them how many books they sold, He will ask “How many eyes were opened?” Then He will joyfully tell them, and usher them into His Kingdom. I believe this, because I know that have helped to open one set of eyes for sure….mine.

Please, don’t miss the chance to awaken…read “The Books of Mortals,” prequel “The Keepers,” “Forbidden,” “Mortal,” and soon to come out “Sovereign.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography by William Barclay

Barclay Spiritual AutobioOne one of my many visits to my favorite bookseller, my local library, as I was going through the shelves in the “For Sale” section, I found this book, “William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography.” published by William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids in 1977.

When I first became a Christian, almost twenty years ago, I somehow owned a set of  “Daily Study Bible” Series. that had been written by this man. These were very instrumental in my beginnings as a follower of Christ, and I was so grateful for them. I gave them away years ago to a friend, and though often wished I still had them as a reference, never have I regretted giving them away.

In this book, I have learned a great deal about the man, who has written over 20 or so books in the course of his life, and to whom I will be eternally grateful for his labor, (particularly in the authorship of his Daily Bible study,) as it was instrumental in my growth. His in-depth analysis of the Scriptures, set the bar for me in my first steps of this walk and gave me a starting pace in my life race to understand God’s Word.

Thank you Mr. Barclay.

William-Barclay

A Scottish preacher, and professor at the University of Glasglow in Scotland, the author William Barclay describes his  autobiography, as his “Testament of Faith.” He writes it at the time of his retirement, “Recently as I received my old age pension papers,” as he puts it. He speaks of his mother, his father, and his growing up years. It seems that he credits those in his life as being what influenced him, parents, teacher, and others.  So many times an autobiography is a portrait of the struggles, and overcoming victories one has had, but Mr. Barclay, who considers himself somewhat “a natural believer,” never really doubting God or His love, dedicated himself to making God’s Word clear for the average man, the laymen.

This he has done admirably throughout his life, his autobiography is a testimony to this.

I was especially grateful for his views on prayer, and his sharing of certain things he has learned about it over the years. I have condensed a few of these below, (and in the words of the author):

First, I believe that God will not do for me what I can do for myself. Prayer must never be regarded as a labor saving device. If I am ill, if there is something wrong with my body, I need not pray for cure, unless I am prepared to take my trouble to the physician, unless I am prepared to sacrifice certain habits and pleasures, unless I am prepared to accept a certain discipline in my life….

Second, I do not think that it is right to pray for things. The one thing to be said about this is that it is an acid test of a thing if you can talk about it and mention it, and think about it in the presence of God at all….I pray to make the best possible use of what I have, and to do the best possible work where I am….

Third – and this I think is the most important lesson that the years have taught me – I do not think that prayer is ever evasion, that prayer saves us from having to face things which we do not want to face, and which are going to hurt if we face them….What prayer does in enable us, not to find a way round the hard thing, but to go straight through it, not to avoid it, but to accept it and overcome it. Prayer is not evasion: prayer is conquest.  Prayer does not offer a way of escape, it offers me a way to victory….

Fourth, I believe that real prayer is simply being in the presence of God. When I am in trouble, and when I go to my friend, I don’t want anything from him except himself, to be with him for a time….

This alone was worth the reading. I find great comfort in these words, and it has already strengthened me.

In the beginning of a Christian walk, I think that most everyone believes that anybody that names the Name of Christ, will think as they do. As we walk it out, and learn more Truth, we will find that this isn’t always the case. The reason I say this, in as much as I appreciate Mr. Barclay, and I have the most respect for him, he has also graciously offered that he is a “confirmed Universalist” in his beliefs.  In a nutshell, this indicates that Mr. Barclay believes that ALL of mankind, that is every human being, will eventually be saved, gain entrance into Heaven, with our risen Lord. However, some will have to come via the route of passing through the punishment of Hell to get there.  In his belief, Hell is a place of punishment, that for human beings that is remedial in it’s purpose. ” It is the fire that will separate the alloy from the gold, the surgery that will remove the diseased thing, the cautery which burns out that which cannot be removed any other way.” (pg.59, Barclay)

Mr. Barclay also offers Scripture which he is convinced supports this belief, and if viewed through this lens, I can surely see why he believes it so. My lens is not his however, and therefore, I cannot subscribe to this declaration. I believe that though all men are given the opportunity to know Christ, they have a choice whether or not to follow Him. Hell was never designed for man, but neither was death. It was the choice made by Adam and Eve, that brought us death. It is by our choice through to the mercy of God,  that will give us Life…and that choice must be Christ.

That being said, I can honestly say that I am much richer for having William Barclay works in my life.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

180px-Tuesdays_with_Morrie_book_coverThis book was an enjoyable variation to my usual book fare, in that it was written more recently, (if 1997 can be considered recent.)  “Tuesdays with Morrie” is subtitled: “an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson.” I found it at a neighborhood yard sale, for only $1.00 during one of our recent visits to Savannah GA. If you have never been to Savannah, please put in on your life list of “Cities to visit.”  It is a wonderful place to go, (and plan to visit yard sales, on Saturday morning….you’ll have a blast! In fact, at the same sale, I purchased a Thomas Kincaid beautifully framed collector’s set of prints, for only $5.00.)

As simply as I can put it, this book is a labor of love of the author, to honor his favorite professor in college, Morrie Schwartz, whom he has discovered is in the later stages of ALS.  Mitch decided to reconnect with him after seeing him on television. Morrie was being interviewed, by Ted Koppel, on ABC’s “Nightline.” Mitch, soon after, made the trip of over a thousand miles, to visit with his old mentor. This became a series of visits, always on a Tuesday, that was in a sense picking up where the teacher and student left off over 16 years prior.  It is a very pleasant book, as the author very appropriately inserts flashback passages to remind us of their relationship in in the ’70s,  to contrast his current visits with Morrie.   Here is a photo I found on another website, not quite sure of the original source, but it depicts Morrie and Mitch, during one of their visits.

Morrie & Mitch

The book is mainly a book of the wisdom of Morrie, on a variety of topics, such as; the world, regrets, family, religion, emotion, marriage, forgiveness, and several others. One passage that comes to mind, is their discussion about death, which occurred during their fourth Tuesday visit:

Everyone knows they’re going to die, ” he said again, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

So we kid ourselves about death, I said.

“”Yes. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.

How can you ever be prepared to die?

“Do what the Buddhists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?'”

The thought that the passage ultimately comes to, is summed up by Morrie, “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

Morrie was born Jewish, but became an agnostic in his teens. He enjoyed the philosophies of Buddhism and Christianity.  Mitch says, in his final months, he seemed to transcend all religious differences, as death has a way of doing this.

One feature of the book that meant a great deal to me, was how Mitch related the progression of this dreadful disease.  My cousin Allen, (Richard Allen Lake II)  also died of ALS, just last year. We were best friends growing up, but like Mitch and Morrie, over the years we lost contact. We spoke occasionally, and it was always wonderful, but our lives went separate. When he passed away, I felt the  loss, wishing I could have spent more time with him. Here he is during our best friend days, 40 plus years ago:

Allen I remember

In a way, Mitch’s time with Morrie, became a little like I could imagine my time would have been with Allen. Allen was one of the smartest guys I have ever known. He really cared for others, and was a wonderful husband and a good father to his boys. They took care of him during his last months. They were good sons.

I have to say thank you to Mitch Albom, for giving me a chance to spend some memory time with my cousin Allen as well. In a way, I know him better too.

I hope that Morrie Schwartz came to know Christ. That was the one thing that really wasn’t clear in “Tuesday’s with Morrie.” I know my cousin Allen knew Him, in one of our last conversations, we talked at length about God, and knowing Jesus.  I am glad that I know Christ. I hope you do was well, and that you are growing to love Him more and more every day.

Please read “Tuesdays With Morrie.” You will certainly enjoy it.

 

 

Posted in nonfiction | Leave a comment

Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr.

spencersStrolling down the “Books for Sale” shelves at my local library, (one of my all time favorite past times), I came across this incredible find, “Spencer’s Mountain” by Earl Hamner, Jr.  Published in 1961, this 247 page masterpiece was written by Earl Hamner Jr.  The book is based on Earl’s own childhood experiences in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, (and I have to confess that I found reading about this author’s life, was just about as interesting as  any book I have ever read. Earl Hamner Jr. was a pretty amazing fellow.)

“Spencer’s Mountain” begins, “On the day before Thanksgiving the Spencer clan began to gather.  It was a custom that at this time during the year the nine sons would come together in New Dominion. On Thanksgiving Eve they would celebrate their reunion with food and drink and talk. On the day itself the men would leave at dawn to hunt for deer.”

It almost sounds like the beginning narration of a weekly “The Waltons.” By all rights it should, as “The Waltons”was an Emmy awarding winning television series that was created by none other than this incredible man, Earl Hamner Jr. (He was even the narrator  for each episode.) Actually, the Waltons was based on Earl’s next “Spencer” novel, “The Homecoming, a novel about Spencer’s Mountain.” written in 1970 and from this the tv series was birthed.

Because I was such a fan of the Waltons, reading “Spencer’s Mountain, was like one big “Waltons” episode for me. It is the story of a family, and their lives in the depression era. It had a “Grapes of Wrath” type of feel to it, and the writer has a way of transporting you into the story.  Unfortunately, one downside was that as I read it, I saw the characters from the Waltons, some even shared the same names. Interestingly, “Johnboy” was really “Clayboy” in the book, his dad being, of course, “Clay Spencer” instead of “John Walton.”  After I got this adjusted in my brain, the book flowed wonderfully.

It took me several lunch hours at work to read this book, (I am an accounts receivable manager by day, and a gospel bluegrass banjo player by night,) however being honest, I couldn’t wait to get out to my favorite bench, to “head for the mountain.” There were so many passages which illustrated the wonder of this novel, it has been hard to select a favorite, but here goes…

In this passage, Zebulon, the grandfather of the clan, has been accidentally and tragically crushed by a tree that Clay and Clayboy were cutting down. His wife, Eliza is at his side, holding his hand as he is leaving this world:

“When life ebbed away, when the blood no longer made its spasmodic voyage through the hand she held, she looked at his face. The fierce of beautiful visage relaxed, and something not quite a smile, but akin to it, took its place, a waxed artificial slack expression that was neither pain, nor joy but was simply death.
Something she could not name rose from forgotten wells and the old woman remembered her husband in the vigor of his youth.  He had been a man to be proud of and the tears that fell from her old eyes were the tears of a young girl.”

I am so glad to have read this book, and learned about the man that wrote it.  One additional bit of trivia I enjoyed learning was that Earl Hamner Jr. the author, also wrote for “The Twilight Zone.” His first episode for it, is also by many, considered the best, and it is entitled, “The Hunt,” about an old mountain fellow who dies and is walking the road to that leads either to Heaven or Hell with his faithful blue tick hound at his side.  Although it really wasn’t Biblically accurate, it has still been one of my favorite episodes, because, as the summation at end (narrated by Rod Sterling,) states, “A man will walk into Hell with both eyes open, but even the Devil can’t fool a dog.”

This is a sad but true statement. I know that in my own walk, without my Bible,  my church The First Assembly of God, and my beloved pastor Winston Baker, I would be easily fooled too. I’m definitely not the sharpest pencil in the box. The best way not to be fooled is by making sure that you find yourself in a church that preaches from God’s Word. By the way, I also believe that little country churches are the best by far! It’s hard to imagine that love can be taught by a pastor who heads a congregation so large that he doesn’t even know the names of his sheep.

Speaking of names, another interesting tidbit, is the name “Spencer Mountain,” came from the maiden name of Earl’s grandmother,  Susan Henry “Spencer” Hamner. He had a habit of using family names in putting titles to his projects.

In your life list of books to be read, be sure to add “Spencer’s Mountain,” by Earl Hamner Jr. You will really enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

Posted in fiction | Leave a comment

The Dedicated by Willa Gibbs

The DedicatedIn perusing the “For Sale” shelf at my local library, where you can always find me at noon just about every Wednesday, I noticed this one, “The Dedicated” by Willa Gibbs.  When I read inside the front cover, it had additional title, which had been employed when it was first published in England.  “A Novel Of Two Doctors,” and I learned that it was the story of the incredible battle against smallpox in London during the 1700’s.

At twenty-five cents, I knew I was holding a real bargain.

This short 224 page masterpiece, was gripping from it’s introductory prologue, which brings you in during “the year of Bonaparte’s ascension to power in France,” to finally, an author’s note by Willa Gibbs, that rewards you with the understanding that what you just read is true, and that you are better for having read it.  “The Dedicated” is a fictionalized account of the battles that were faced by Doctor Edward Jenner, and his cowpox vaccine that  saved England, France and  mankind from the mortal foe, smallpox.

You are first introduced to Jeremy Sterns, the owner of a popular news journal of London, The Postboy. A battle for his support is waged by Dr. William Woodville, scholar, and prominent physician,  and his attractive and charming sister Marion, who easily employs her wiles on behalf of her brother. William is the champion of innoculation, that is introducing the virus to a person, then allowing it to take it’s course under careful care and quarentine. The only problem was that the person innoculated would still be contagious during recuperation, and it was very expensive in cost and time only available to those who could afford the price.

On the other side of this dilemma was Dr. Edward Jenner, a simple country physician, who tends “the aches and pains of country folk,” as well as their animals. He years ago, noticed that cows came down with a non fatal disease that resembled smallpox, “cowpox” and when this disease was introduced into the bloodstream of human beings, then they became immune to smallpox.

One thing that  excites me  about books that are written prior to the 1960’s is the eloquence of the writing. Here is a passage to illustrate what I mean.  Jeremy Sterns, has been taken to jail for reasons he didn’t know, and who would show up as his rescuer, but none other than Marion Woodville. The following is their first meeting…

His keen ears caught a sound of movement. Jeremy swung around, falling naturally into a pose of aggressive defense. He was just in time to observe a young woman rising gracefully from a low couch. Astonished, he dropped his hands, the links of the chain clashing. She moved toward him in a gliding walk. “Regal” was the word that leaped to his mind. A queen might have profited by imitating that graceful, self-assured carriage. Her small head, capped with dark curls through which a jeweled ribbon aimlessly wandered, was like some exquisite flower above the long-throated white neck, pearl-like and translucent. She was wearing a demi-habiliment of white muslin with crimson velvet points, definitely expensive.”

In this book, published by William Morrow & Company, in New York, you will be treated to passage after passage of excellent writing. And when finished you will know more about the story of smallpox, then most, as well as having developed an affection and appreciation  for good old country doctors.

Another interesting thing I found was that the cover sleeve picture was illustrated by Irving Seidmont Docktor  and artist and educator best known for his work as a book and magazine illustrator in the 1950s and 1960s.

You can learn more about him here, a very interesting individual as well :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irv_Docktor

To sum up,  “The Dedicated,” was a book about the struggle to bring truth to mankind. The truth of a cure for a devastating condition, that robbed men of hope, and their lives.  What I find amazing is how it mirrors a greater struggle, of this kind. The struggle to bring the Truth of Christ to a world infected with the devastating condition of Sin. The greatest obstacle to this is also pride, for just as Dr. Woodville was not willing to even let the true cure stand in the way of his desire to be applauded,  how often does pride keep one from coming to the knowledge that they don’t have the ability to save themselves? Sin like smallpox can only be defeated by vaccination of the Blood of  One, who took the condition on and destroyed it.

If you get the chance someday, read “The Dedicated” by Willa Gibbs. You will enjoy the journey.

 

Posted in fiction | Leave a comment

Root Of All Evil by E.X.Ferrars

Rood of all evilSometimes I just like to take a chance, and read an author that I have never heard of. My local library easily allows me to do this with their many offerings of books for sale. For $.25 (a mere two-bits), I was able to acquire this little gem, “Root Of All Evil,” written by E.X. Ferrars, a short 182 page crime mystery, published by Doubleday & Company, in 1984. What sold me on it, however, was the photo of the writer on the back.

The author,  E.X. Ferrars aka Morna Doris MacTaggart Brown, had a 45 year career as a crime and detective fiction writer, until her death in March of 1995. (She was born in 1907).

Just one look at her, and I thought, “She looks like she would be a good fiction writer, and she reminds me of my grandmother, Stella Burns.” My grandmother would have been a good writer, I bet, since she had such a love of reading, and was very articulate.  So, I suppose in a way, I decided to honor my grandmother’s memory, by reading Mrs. Ferrars.  I was not disappointed.

E.-X.-Ferrars

This book, I found out later,  is the second in a series of detective novels that involve a main character named “Andrew Basnett,” who is a 70 year old retired botany professor, from one of London University’s colleges.  He has just received a phone call from Felicity, an 85 year old very well-to-do cousin of his dear departed wife Nell, inviting him to come visit her in her Berkshire home for the Easter holiday.  He accepts, and so begins a visit that will entrench him in a mystery, that begins with the confession to a murder that hasn’t even taken place yet!  A family party ensues  with all of Felicity’s children and grandchildren, lending to the intrigue, Andrew finds himself swimming with everyone  in a sea of suspicion. If I were to share any more, it would make me a spoiler, and this mystery will surely have you guessing.

This was a very pleasurable book to read, no great revelations, just an enjoyable pallet cleanser. The reason I say this is often after reading a novel, I feel changed somewhat, as some new understanding has been offered me about something that came up in the book. This book was just a nice read and a good mystery.  I do think I know why it didn’t raise me up however, (except with her very excellent writing style, easy to follow.)

I found out through looking at the author, E.X. Ferrars,  did not profess any faith. In fact, it is mentioned on “Wikipedia” that she most likely assisted in turning her first husband from evangelism to agnosticism.  When she died she was buried in a nonreligious manner.  I found this to be so sad, if true,  to have lived this life, and never known Christ, and then to have no Eternity with Him. Perhaps the researcher who supplied this information may gotten it wrong. I hope so. You can read about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Ferrars

Hopelessness seems to breed hopelessness, and a life without Christ is the most hopeless state of all. The greatest mystery of all time, is how God puts Himself back into man, (after the Fall).  For any not to not avail themselves of this glorious Privilege, is the second greatest mystery to me.

That being said, I would read E.X. Ferrars again. I  hope you will also.

Posted in fiction | Leave a comment

Ironweed by William Kennedy

200px-IronweedNovelThis one is another one of my ten cent specials, courtesy of my favorite haunt, (what a word…haunt is), which is my local library. All I can say is “diamonds strewn along the curb,” but nobody else must see them, because I seem to find them every time I look on the “Books for Sale” shelf. I found a real gem here, Ironweed by William Kennedy.  I wish I had an interesting story to share as to the reason I read it, but it was only that it looked interesting, and it said “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.” To be honest, like most people, I’ve heard about the Pulitzer Prize all my life, but never took the time to learn what exactly it is. I just figured it was a pretty prestigious award for good writing.  So, I pulled ten coppers from my change purse, and plunked them down, and that’s all it cost me to acquire this prize winner!

Ironweed is the story of a homeless fellow named Francis Phelan an ex-professional baseball player, who originally left his wife, and his life in Albany, NY, after he accidentally dropped his infant son Gerald, killing him, while possibly drunk.  If focuses on his 1938 return to Albany, and with him are the memories and (and sad hallucinations), of three others that he has killed in his life.  It is just what I said, the story of a homeless man, his companions, and his sojourn on the street, most of all trying to live with himself.  It regularly branches off into the lives of the others that are tied to Francis, but it always returns to him.  Francis is trying to find peace.

By the way, the book is titled after a plant, Tall Ironweed. It’s actually a member of the Sunflower family, and named such because of it’s tough and very strong  stem.

William Kennedy, the author, was born and raised Catholic in Albany, NY. This accounts to me of the confession, redemption, nature of this book. I also think he is a very good writer, and pens scenes like I have yet to read of another. In this early part of the book, Francis has just finished some soup at the Mission of Holy Redemption, and was leaving to wander the streets. He spies Sandra, a pitiful  woman that he propped up against the building earlier in the evening. She was drunk, and the mission would not allow anyone in who was drunk…

“Francis, wearing his new socks, was first out of the mission,  first to cast an anxious glance around the corner of the building at Sandra, who sat propped where he had left her, her eyes sewn as tightly closed by the darkness as the eyes of a diurnal bird.  Francis touched her firmly with a finger and she moved, but without opening her eyes. He looked up at the full moon, a liver cinder illuminating this night for bleeding women and frothing madmen, and which warmed him with the enormous shadow it thrust forward in his own path. When Sandra moved he leaned over and put the back of his hand against her cheek and felt the ice of her flesh.”

Ironweed will not leave you feeling good about yourself, nor will you be overwhelmed with pity. You may be shocked and repulsed at times, (as I was), but you can be sure that you will know something more about yourself after you read it, that you didn’t know before.  William Kennedy really opens his readers to the world of the hopeless homeless. You will not enjoy this journey as you walk with Francis , but it is a walk that will change you.  Ironweed is a 227 page paperback published by Viking Press in 1983.  I can’t say it was the most enjoyable book I have ever read, and the language, (and the imagery),  gets very rough in some places, so it’s no bedtime story for the kids.   As a Christian, I struggle sometimes, and have thrown books away, when they seemed to go in a direction that I thought was unnecessarily raunchy, (like M. Scott Peck’s book, “A Bed by the Window”), but the adult allusions to the unmentionable side of the homeless plight in this book were well fitted to show a side of humanity that most of us know very little about.  It is painful to know what some human beings have to go through in this walk through life. I prayed after reading this book, that I might have a bigger heart for those who have fallen down along the road.

I believe there is a Francis Phelan in all of our lives.  Maybe that’s what made it a Pulitzer Prize winner.  It was a worthy book, tough in moments, but worthy.

Lord Jesus,  thank you for my life, my home, and my family. I see their value even more now.

Interesting fact. The photo of the man on the cover is actually the picture of an poor unknown Tupelo Mississippi farmer, originally photographed by Margaret Bourke-White, part of 1937  work, “Have You Seen Their Faces?” by Erskine Caldwell and Margaret. It is a book about the poverty of the sharecropper of the south.

Have You Seen Their Faces
The caption reads: “There were plenty of people who couldn’t get a living out of a farm long before the Government heard about it”.

I wonder who he was?

 

Posted in fiction | Leave a comment