Book Review

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#Deconstruction#Religion101

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some things which are “all the rage”?   One Sunday as I was visiting with people before our services started, I said hi to an 8 year old who had double bell-bottom jeans on. I had just spoken with two older teen girls who were wearing bell-bottoms. I asked the older girls if bell-bottoms were coming back and they said, “Yeah.” Then I commented how I wore them while in high school.  That, my friends, was over 50 years ago. Yikes!

Anyway, one of the things which is “all the rage” right now is something very sad. It is called Deconstruction. No, that is not what you do when you flip a house-tear it down to its nubs and rebuild it. The deconstruction I am speaking of is that which speaks of someone’s faith. Some very high profile people have come out as “deconstructors” of their faith. Josh Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”). A worship leader for Hillsong. The former lead singer of Hawk Nelson. The Gungors who have gone on to what is called Progressive Christianity (avoid at all costs). Tons of books have been written; podcasts recorded; articles written and posted via blogs; social media posts; you name it. One of the best I have ever read concerning Deconstruction is a new book by Michael J. Kruger entitled Surviving Religion 101.

Surviving Religion 101

Michael takes a unique approach in his book.  He addresses the whole deal with deconstruction by writing letters to his daughter.  When he wrote this book, Emma was in her first year of college at UNC (University of North Carolina), home of the infamous Bart Ehrman, a renowned deconstructionist whose life passion seems to be destroying peoples’ faith.  There are a total of 15 chapters, each chapter a letter where he addresses concerns Emma might face as she interacts on campus with both teachers and fellow students.  A short list of what he addresses: the intelligence of her professors; her morals being seen as intolerant; the same-sex argument; hell is a fairy tale; the issue of suffering; science and the Christian faith; there are several chapter on the reliability of the Bible; and others.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first bought this book and began reading,  but I can honestly say this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read on this subject. Probably because it is not technical but practical.  My brain is on overload at times because I want to absorb all he writes but that is impossible for my mind to accomplish. But I do know I have underlined a ton of sentences and will revisit this book as I find myself in the place where I need to.  If you know of someone who is seriously questioning their faith, or is even in the process of deconstructing their faith, this is a book you need to put into their hands. It won’t answer every question but it sure will make you (and the person you care about) think. And it will show you that the Christian faith can and will stand up to scrutiny.

#Broken#FindingStrength

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some books which you labor through; some you breeze through; some you savor like a fine pizza (fooled you didn’t I?); and some you read that you don’t want to put down and think, “I suspect somewhere along the line I will read that again. I most definitely will pass it along to someone else when the time is right.”

I found and read one of those books just recently:

Strength at the Broken Places: A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God's Grace

I am not sure where I heard about Greg’s book. It may have been a podcast. It may have been while reading another book. But wherever it was, I’m grateful. This book is subtitled A Memoir of Facing Career and Family Failure and Finding Hope Through God’s Grace.  It was that and more.

From the earliest memories of his childhood Greg’s life was broken. An unsettled parental relationship which eventually wound up in divorce. A mother who never really recovered from the divorce.  High school years which had both success and failure. The loss of his grandfather (Big Pa) deeply affected him. Then it was off to college and surprisingly for this “going nowhere young man” college became a much better experience. His grades were so bad in high school Greg started college on academic probation. But he found his niche. He found it even more when his relationship to Christ blossomed and he met Terri Lynn, who eventually became his wife.

It would be nice to say that Greg’s life was all peaches and cream after that. It was the exact opposite. Seminary. A doctorate.  Several different pastorates. Things began to fall apart though as he allowed his demons from his childhood (and other events) continue to haunt him.  A failed marriage. A failed job or two. Shame from his past. He is definitely one of those men who found his identity in his job.

Eventually, he found another wife who was committed to Christ.  I wish I could say that it was a “happily ever after” kind of life but it wasn’t. She even moved out when his “demons” came back. Ultimately though he sought help in the form of a Christian counselor and two mentors who helped him rise above the “demon” past. Today Greg is the pastor of Lost Pines Cowboy Church in Texas. God has used him, his past, and his present to help others and to make the future something to look forward to.

I highly recommend this book. It was readable but not fluffy. Greg painted himself warts and all. Everyone can benefit from reading this book and then passing it along. I plan to do just that whenever I find someone who could really benefit from his experiences.  I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if there was a grading system.

#AnotherGospel#Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

When I first moved to Spencer to pastor Owen Valley Christian Fellowship (11/05), I was quite ignorant of a “new wave” that had struck the Christian landscape. It didn’t take me long to acclimate myself to this new teaching since a former staff member ascribed to it.  Even as I say that it wasn’t a “you are here now so I want you to know what I believe” type of situation. It unfolded over time until it became a full-blown storm.

First, the names. Rob Bell. Brian McClaren. Tony Jones. William Paul Young. Richard Rohr.

Second, the movement.  I soon found out the movement was known as Emergent.

Third, the teachings. Pure heresy. Questioning the Virgin Birth. The Bible’s Inerrancy. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience. The Atonement. Penal Substitution (The cross was cosmic child abuse). And others.

Fourth, the response. Rob Bell disappeared off the face of the evangelical planet to become Oprah’s guru. #terrible loss#sarcasm.  And to my delight I thought it had disappeared off the face of the planet and had gone the way of the dodo bird.

Fifth, finding out I was wrong about #4. (not RB but the disappearing act of Emergent).  It went underground and since has become more known by another name-one that sounds much more “Christian”- Progressive Christianity. Doesn’t that sound like a cool-sounding name? It sounds relevant (whatever that is supposed to mean). It sounds…woke. (Can I tell you how much I dislike that term in any way, shape or form or use?).  I use that term to mean I got out of bed. I woke up.

Anyway, I thought Emergent was dead and buried but Alisa Childers has shaken my comfortable world with the revelation that, no it hasn’t died, it has just been repackaged with a new name. Same old garbage just a new name. Alisa has a history with this movement. As a member of the seminal girl group ZOEgirl she traveled the globe singing about Jesus, but it wasn’t until she attended a class (albeit it innocently) taught by a progressive pastor that her house of cards almost came tumbling down in a heap. Fortunately, the Spirit who lived in her was waking her and stirring her to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” (I John 4:1)  She almost deconstructed (the term used for evangelicals who toss the historic Christian faith aside to often become an agnostic or atheist, aka woke).  Her experience led her to study and ultimately write a book called Another Gospel? She pulls no punches on truth. She pulls no punches in exposing the false teaching of Progressive Christianity. In fact, it is her life’s mission.  Her review of Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl Wash Your Face, went viral as did her review of Jen Hatmaker’s latest book.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Words fail. I picked last year’s Book of the Year (Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity). I personally feel this is worthy of being considered in that class for 2020.  I’ve been listening to Alisa’s podcasts as well and find them a rich source of information and thought.  I might suggest you consider checking that out as well.  You can find her at alisachilders.com

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

#Disgusting#Ending

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

I’ve decided to end my discussion of the following book with this post. First, I am not sure it serves much good in reviewing this book. While many who are involved in the church in a more “official” capacity might find the book important, I’m not sure the “rank-and-file” folks will. Those who read here seem to be more of the latter. Second, I found a much better and much more concise review here. Tim Challies is a much better writer and analyzer than I am. So I suggest you read his review.

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

But, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts from the latter half of the book:

#1- I had to stifle a gag reflex as I read the chapter on “Our Sexual Utopias.” I don’t blame Ms. Burton. She was “writing as she sees them.” But what she says is happening and will probably happen was enough to make me gag. I felt dirty when I was done. The acceptance of polyamory is chilling. (I have only one to keep happy. I can’t imagine having more than one…in the same house!!)  Polyamory calls our culture the “toxic monogamy culture.” WOW! I wonder what God thinks of that? A 2015 poll shows 25% of American adults find polyamory acceptable and that number skyrockets to 58% among adults who consider religion “not at all” important.  Adults interested in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) find it acceptable. Kink is in. Open marriage. You can say “thanks” to Fifty Shades of Gray for popularizing the whole kink thing.  Their philosophy is “If we had a god, that god would be consent.”  But one little line says it all: “My number one relationship is with myself.” (p.161)  Gag reflex subdued only by coming to the end of the chapter and taking a break.

#2-The whole influence of Silicon Valley on the grand scheme of things. Politically and financially potent this mostly godless climate has run amuck on traditional values. Just ask FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others. Disagree and you are wiped clean as if you don’t exist.  And, oh yeah, let’s not forget #Black Lives Matter, the Marxist organization whose goal is to ruin families and our country. Too bad a good message (by the way..all lives matter) got hi-jacked by godless, Marxists who want nothing more than to tear apart our country.  The rise of “social justice”-the idea that American is at its core built on white supremacy, patriarchy, repression, and hatred- is the hot topic of the day. Even in churches…churches which have lost their focus on Jesus and the Gospel.  They (feminist utopians) see “white men as banks just giving money to fund their s***…Everything would be female, queer, Black, trans art…Every club a drag bar.”  (King Princess-p.179)  Can I gag now?

#3- Atavism (nostalgic, masculinist vision of animal humanity). It is largely an agnostic faith, with little time for gods beyond nature.  In a nutshell to the new Utopians (Unitarians fit this), atavism  is a reimagined, renewed world in which human beings transcend our moral and physical limitations.  The atavists are looking backward.  New atavists are followers of Jordan Peterson and others like him.  Nietzsche disciple, Julius Evola, condemns Christianity for fostering a religion based on womanly qualities like emotion.  Follow that thinking and you have Hitler and Mussolini to name a few. Welcome back Fascism.  Not that all of Peterson’s advice is bad. In actuality, some of it is good: “Stand up straight. Clean your room. Avoid people who drag you down. Treat yourself with dignity. Live for something.” (p.217) Alt-right atavism-unlike its more conservative Petersonian incarnation- is a religion of meaninglessness, one that worships violence and destruction for their own sake. Makes you wonder if we are watching that on our streets and TV’s at this very moment.

#4- New Thought/New Age garbage. AOC even released her birth time to eager astrologers-and the mainstream media breathlessly covered it (surprise surprise). This is called Remixed spiritualism. Norman Vincent Peale, Joel Osteen, the health/wealth proponents all figure in this mix as well.

The church needs to be aware of the struggles it will face in the future due to the shifting cultural stance toward God, the Bible and the church in general.  Reading this book gives a chilling picture of what has been and will continue coming down the pike.

#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I knew of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. A rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

#Forgiveness#Childhood/AdultTrauma

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my posts on Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World to do a far more enticing and exciting book. There is one thing for sure about old age: unless you write something down you are sure to forget it. It isn’t that earth-shattering but I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I saw this book for the first time. I don’t know if I was reading a book and it was mentioned, or was just passing by it on Amazon but I stopped, read the short blurb on it and decided to get it. Or I may have seen his book on The Uniform of Leadership, decided to buy it and saw this one right beside. No matter. 🙂  I just want to say one thing: GO BUY THIS BOOK!!

Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us

Jason Romano is with a Christian sports magazine called Sports Spectrum.  He also has a podcast that I have started listening to.   Before that he was involved behind the scenes at ESPN for close to 17 years. Before that he was an abused child-mostly verbally abused (never physically) by an alcoholic father.  It is quite a story.

I’m not going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the story. It is much too involved than I have time to get into here, but I will tell you that this is Jason’s story of struggling with his father’s alcoholism; his own response to it because of his Christian faith; and moving forward when those we love hurt us the most.

This is a FANTASTIC book for you or anyone you know who is struggling with forgiving someone who has hurt you/them in the past by their behavior or even continuing to do so.  It took Jason lots of years to finally forgive his father and…well I can’t tell you how it changed things or if it did.  I guess you will have to read the book to find out.  🙂  Since I’m a sports fan, I enjoyed some of his stories of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and their candid talk about their drug abuse and how it ruined their careers.  Both have found Christ and are doing their best to warn others of their path. But I want to make this clear: you do NOT have to be a sports fan to read this book.

I am buying an extra copy of this book to have in my office to hand out. I am that sold on this book.  By the way: have I told you that you ought to get a copy of this book and read it?  Warning: you may need some tissues handy.

#Memories#BookReview

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

Caution: this is a fairly long post.

I grew up in a church tradition which was somewhat mixed. Part Baptist. Part Christian Church/Church of Christ. Mostly the former, at least for the first 17 years of my life. That all changed when we got a new pastor who then encouraged me to attend a Bible college in KY. I made a real spiritual decision to attend there…they said I could play basketball.  🙂 After a few games I was starting as a Freshman. Goal accomplished. While there I became exposed to what was called the Restoration Movement (RM).  I had never heard of that until my Senior year. But after 3 classes I was hooked. Hook, line and sinker as they say.  I became almost rabid in what I “preached” as doctrine.  Baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit was the only valid baptism. All others were lost.  Non-eternal security. The evil of denominations. Among others. I became very legalistic.

The founders of this movement were Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W Stone and Walter Scott, with Alexander becoming the figurehead. Think Martin Luther. John Calvin. John and Charles Wesley. All men whom I honestly feel never wanted to start something that would become isolated from the norm. They became known as the Reformers, hence the Reformation Movement. Their goal was to reform the church, to shake off the shackles of Catholicism with its abhorrent practices, and present something different. Campbell’s movement was called (by him) the current Reformation. By others it was called the Restoration Movement because it was seen as an effort to restore the ancient order of things.

I left that movement/denomination years ago. I have no allegiance to it. But I have to admit some curiosity when I saw a book recommended on one of the blogs I read:

A Life of Alexander Campbell (Library of Religious Biography (LRB))

I decided to buy it since I tend to be a somewhat eclectic reader.  Granted there are some books I avoid like a plague (anything with Bethel or Hillsong involved); any name it/claim it book; any “God wants you to feel better about yourself” book; or an out and out “secular” book.  I do like to read biographies from time to time as a change of pace, so I bought this book.

WOW were my eyes opened!

When one learns of another initially, there is almost an aura which surrounds the “hero.” Further study dims the halo. Even further study takes the halo away. While I was grateful for my time in the RM when I was there, I have been away from it long enough to be somewhat jaded. When I read this book,  I found myself having mixed feelings. While awed by Alexander’s mind, I was somewhat taken aback by his attitude.  He was often arrogant and condescending to anyone who disagreed with him. He was (are you ready for this?) somewhat of a white supremacist (not the KKK kind but the kind who believed the white race was superior). He didn’t have slaves and thought slavery was abhorrent, but did not see the Scriptures as denying the right to have them. He lamented the Civil War.  He was opinionated and had a brilliant mind to support that. He was also benevolent and untiring in his effort to further the cause of Christ and the “ancient order of things.” He loved to debate and was involved in several.  It was actually during one of his debates that he cemented his belief in baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But he was also open to “brothers in error,” those who were not immersed and had never been taught of its importance/”essentiality,” who could be considered his brothers.  I found as I read an exasperation developing because he could be inconsistent in his teaching.  He could appeal to both the sectarians (we are the only ones) and the ecumenist (everyone will make it) depending on how one took his writing.  He could preach on immersion in water as the point of forgiveness, yet also preach the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice as the only requirement for salvation. 

Foster summed him up with these words: “AC was a complex, brilliant, indefatigable, arrogant, racist, aggressive, prolific leader who made a lasting impact on the Christian world. He was a man whom God used and whom God chastened. His spiritual descendants have inherited every one of his characteristics. They have been passionate for the truth of Scripture and the will of God. They have been tempted and have often succumbed to the arrogance of believing they alone were legitimately struggling to follow God (a belief, however, not unique to Campbell’s heirs).  A dominantly rationalistic approach to truth resulted in internal divisions within the movement whose name he now shares, ironically, with Barton W. Stone.” (p.331)  {My note: It is sometimes known as the Stone-Campbell Movement} 

Further note: in 1906 a split occurred  when the church of Christ (non-instrumental) wanted to be known in a census as separate from the movement. A further split occurred in the late 1920s when the more liberal side known as the Disciples of Christ decided some of the core doctrines were not true, like the Virgin Birth and others).  

Jo wondered why I was reading this book- “You aren’t in school anymore.”  I told her I feel I am because I can never stop learning. At times I slogged through this book (especially the earlier part) because of some details the author needed to give. But at other times I didn’t want to stop reading.  AC’s sharp mind deteriorated into dementia, a sad ending to a shining light. I don’t know that I will ever read this again, but I do know I will keep it in my office for possible future reference.  If you like biographies, especially of religious figures and figureheads, you will enjoy reading this. I have a greater appreciation now for my past, but more so for my decision to pursue another path.

#DancingPrince#BookReview

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Where do I start? My mind is full. So full I am having trouble putting words to my fingers. How does a person respond when he is sad a series has ended? I felt that way after watching Back to the Future 3 (which meant the end of the Back to the Future trilogy) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That is how I felt when I closed the book on Dancing Prince, the final book in a 5 book series by my blogging friend, Glynn Young. 

The series started with Dancing Priest,  where aspiring Olympic cyclist Michael Kent was introduced.  But as you find out he was more than a cyclist, much more. A devastating wreck in the cycling event changed Michael’s life forever. He was eventually to move to the states where he met up again with Sarah, his love in England, but one he had wiped off his map.  Through the next 3 novels- A Light Shining, Dancing King, and Dancing Prophet-  Glynn moves Michael and Sarah into new challenges until he finally becomes the King of England and she the Queen.

I’m going to let fellow blogger, Martha Orlando, take it from here. She did a masterful job of reviewing Dancing Prince, and like her I am hesitant to say much more lest I give the book away.  Please take a few moments to read her review. 

What I want to say deals more with my personal emotions. I found myself twisting and turning with each turn of the plot. Unexpected twists. Unprepared-for turns. I simply had trouble putting the book down. If it hadn’t been for Glynn I might have gotten more stuff done at home. I might have decided to cut the grass instead of saying, “It’s too hot to do much of anything.” And doggone it if he didn’t make it hard to put the book down and go to bed! And I agree with Martha: make sure you have some kleenex handy.   I was thoroughly captivated by this story-by all 5 books in the series to be honest. I can see me picking them up again and rereading them (I’ve already read the earlier 2 at least twice trying to prepare for the next one).  I have already passed Dancing Priest on to a fellow reader and I suspect she will want to read the rest. 

I highly recommend you start with the first and then read the rest in order.  And Glynn: thanks for a much-loved series of books. I don’t know how I could recommend a series more highly than this one. By the way: you can read more about the series at Glynn’s website.  You can also order them through Amazon.  You can read more of Glynn’s writing at his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends.

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

After reading I’ve Seen the End of You by surgeon Lee Warren, it was a no-brainer that I would read his first book, No Place to Hide.  I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about it was he was a surgeon in Iraq and had to deal with some PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome).  PTSD is very common in combat soldiers and it manifests itself in multiple ways. It is also found in accident victims-accidents of many different kinds. I was particularly interested because there are several men in the church I pastor who were in either Desert Storm or Iraq and suffer from PTSD, from mild to severe. A friend of mine has it due to watching his best friend die almost literally in his arms after a horrible accident involving a 90+ year old man ramming his car into several cyclists while on an MS ride.  (And he got off almost scot-free due to $$$$).

Here is my review of No Place to Hide:

I have never been in armed conflict. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War but was in Bible college so I was exempt. BTW: that was not why I went to Bible college. I was virtually illiterate about the news and Vietnam. I think my parents knew I would have been toast if I had signed up for the military because I could not find a job after my Freshman year in college and my uncle (un-brave soul that he was) took me to a recruiting station. My mom was contacted by the recruiter and she discouraged it.  Anyway, I have only read or listened to the horrors of that conflict as well as Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion. To say my eyes were opened would be an understatement.  Lee was a brain surgeon with a successful practice but he received his papers to go to Balad Air Base for four months.  I will spare you the gory details but to say his time at Balad was a vacation would do him a great injustice. It would do all those who served in any capacity a great injustice.

While at Balad he was required to treat our military personnel, but also innocent Iraqi citizens, and our enemies, terrorist bombers included. The descriptions of what some of our personnel went through were enough to give me nightmares if I had allowed it. Innocent citizens punished for making a living by becoming translators or voting was enough to make my blood boil.  And to make it worse was for all medical personnel giving their best to save the suicide bombers and others responsible for much of the bloodshed on their own people was almost more than I could stand.  I just can’t understand that kind of hate, especially that which was done in the name of a “peaceful religion and God (Allah).”

I had to wait until close to the final 40 or so pages before Lee was discharged to read about the PTSD. While in Iraq his marriage fell apart (it was already heading there before deployment), and he came home broken and bruised, but missed greatly by his children.  It was after all of that and his marriage to Lisa that his PTSD hit him hard. I’m not going to go into detail about it. There is no need to. I’d just say, “Read the book.”

But I will tell you this: if you did not respect our men and women of the military before, you will after reading this book. It does not matter if they were in combat or a doctor in a field hospital, they went through horrendous conditions that I cannot fathom. Plan to be challenged. Plan to have your eyes opened. Plan to find respect for our military personnel. Plan to have tissues  handy. But also plan to see Dr. Warren give praise to God for bringing him out alive and able to minister as a top brain surgeon.

#OutoftheBlue#VictoryStory

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

“What is it with me?” I have to ask. This is the third book review in a row? This is the second that has to deal with cancer. You might be wondering the same thing. Is Bill trying to tell us something? Truthfully, not that I know of. Who knows what is going on inside my body…or yours for that matter.

While I was reading Dream Big by Bob Goff (my review is here) Bob told how he was asked to do a Preface for a book by Greg Murtha. So I pursued it a bit further since Bob told a little of Greg’s story and it sounded interesting. Greg wrote a book called Out of the Blue and finished it on June 19, 2017. He went “to the head of the line” on June 22, 2017.  This book is Greg’s story and life lessons learned during 5 years of chemotherapy and fighting through 75 chemo treatments.  This was literally one of those books I had trouble putting down.  I started reading it Saturday evening since I didn’t have to preach and had to pry it out of my hands to go to bed. Then as I tossed and turned I wondered if I should have just stayed up and read some more. I finished it Sunday night after attending church with friends, having lunch with them, and coming home to cut grass. The rest of my evening was spent putting the finishing touches on reading this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

Greg was a hard-driving and successful man, but by his own admission not a great husband or father. Provider? Yes. Engaged? No.  But here is how his journey began: “On a cold December morning in 2011, I ran eleven miles on the picturesque Crocket Hills Trail in Middle Tennessee…As a 46 year old man in what I thought was peak physical condition, eleven miles was nothing. Afterward, sweating but pumped, I headed for the bathroom at the YMCA. That’s when my runner’s high deflated. It appeared as if someone had poured a container of bright-red blood into the toilet. It was a lot of blood, and I realized instantly, this is not good.”

So begins his story of 5 years/75 treatments. And so begins one of the most captivating books you will ever read.  One month after that 11 mile run, Greg and Tracey (his wife) found out he had Aggressive Stage 3 colon cancer (I’ll leave out the details)  which soon became Stage 4.  Out of the blue his life was changed forever.  Out of the blue his well-planned life had been radically changed. Hence, now you know the reason for the title of the book.

And out of the blue I was slammed by the lessons Greg learned.  How often, even though I want to be a pastor who is tender and open to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, have I walked past people who are obviously hurting?  How many times have I been so preoccupied with my own issues or concerns that I have failed to see the signs of others who are needing someone to care?  How many times have I sensed that nudge from the Spirit to reach out and failed to do so? I can honestly say…way too many.  I shed tears during this book.  Not for Greg but for how his heart was made tender for others. How his heart was molded into a heart like Jesus.  And I shed tears because I am so lacking in that department. Like Joni, Greg says cancer was a blessing and he wouldn’t change a thing.  His biggest regret was leaving behind his wife of 23+ years and his 15 year old son.

Out of the blue God taught me how I needed to be much more open to others; how I needed to be much more sensitive to His voice and available to His lead.  I say “out of the blue” because I was not expecting this book to be what it was-a lesson in listening to God’s voice and acting upon it.  Greg’s journey on this earth is over, but then again, maybe it has just begun…in me. I pray my heart will be open to the Father’s leading as his was.

Get this book. But just be forewarned: you will be hit out of the blue with powerful lessons.

Out of the Blue: The Unexpected Adventure of Life Interrupted