Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review of Emissary from Thomas Locke

Emissary is the initial release from author Thomas Locke. If you enjoy reading The Hobbit or other fantasy fiction, you will definitely enjoy reading this work. It has all the elements that make for great fiction.

Front Cover

The readers are introduced to Hyam the central figure in the story on the first page and from there they join him on his journey of discovery. During the story he must deal with his past and the affect his past will have on his future. We discover a race thought to have been long dead. We find that the way forward is often to visit the ancient past.

Without giving the plot away, readers will enjoy traveling along this journey with Hyam. The characters that are introduced are believable and engaging. The action is enough to keep the reader engaged without being too intense for the young reader. The romance is well done and definitely tasteful for all ages.

If you are looking for a last minute gift book for readers of any age, then Emissary is a rare find. Young and old will find the story engaging and hard to put down. It’s the perfect book for the holiday travel season or to start off your 2015 reading plan. I highly recommend Thomas Locke’s initial offering and look forward to reading the next volume as soon as it is released. I think you will too!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The College Football Playoff Championship and the New Coach at UF!

So many people over the weekend asked me two questions, so I thought I would answer them more fully today after having a little time to mull them over.

Question 1, “What did I think of the hire of the new head coach at Florida?”
The University of Florida hired Jim McElwain as the their new coach to replace Will Muschamp. Both share a common thread in that they were on Nick Saban’s staff at one time. McElwain is considered an offensive minded coach. His offenses have been very successful wherever he has been. Clearly this is a positive step for a Gator team that has been offensively challenged over the last four years to say the least. Whether it is a great hire will depend on how well he can assemble a staff. Think about it, most head coaches do well when they have great coordinators on both sides of the ball. Guys who will probably move on to the NFL or become Head Coaches themselves. When that isn’t the case on one side of the ball, the HC is usually the coordinator in reality if not in title. Coordinator are usually only great when they have really good position coaches under them who can get guys to do things they never thought they could do and do them over and over again with success. And all of the coaches are only as good for the most part as the players they can recruit. If you give me guys who are more talented and stronger and faster than my opponents on a regular basis, I think I could coach them to more wins than losses. And the guys you have on the team are only as good as the strength coaches who train them. Everyone gets their fair share of 4 and 5 star recruits at the big schools, but what happens to them once they get there. Do they get better or stay the same? Do they get bigger, stronger, and faster or do they plateau? This is the job of the strength staff and to me that is the most important hire that McElwain will make in the coming weeks. If you want to win the battles on the field, you have to put the work in during the off-season and conditioning periods. Can you find a guy who can get your players to work to get better off the field so they can do more on it? I like the hire, he wasn’t my first choice but he might have been the first choice of the reasonable candidates!

Question 2, “What do you think of the playoff rankings?”
I would have kept FSU at four to maintain the regional battle to sell tickets in New Orleans but I like the four teams that were selected. If OSU hadn’t lost their starting/backup QB the week before I think they would have been #4 then. The committee had to think like I did that the loss of the first two QB’s would be too much for Urban Meyer’s team to overcome. But they were wrong. I actually picked OSU to beat Wisconsin in my picks league. I have seen the kind of magic Urban can work first hand. There is no better coach at getting guys to believe they can win than that guy. My Bama friends ought to be nervous about that matchup too. I know that Saban is a great big game coach as well and is probably my second choice for getting a team ready to play a big game. Neither of them will sleep much in the next three weeks! Oregon was lock and there was no way you could keep FSU out as the defending champ and being undefeated, even with a less than stellar schedule. I am not sure that TCU or Baylor played a tougher schedule than the Noles either.

Here’s a suggestion for the NCAA or the power picks or whoever is now in charge. Let each conference have a true championship game regardless of the number of conference teams! Decide it on the field and yes I know Baylor beat TCU. Ole Miss beat Bama too but that doesn’t mean they are the better team. And here’s another suggestion, go ahead and expand the system to either 8 or 16 teams. The FCS players do it and it’s not too much on them academically, physically, or too much money for their athletic programs. Do you really think more Florida fans are going to go to Birmingham for the no-name bowl against ECU than they would for a first round game against someone in a playoff, not that the Gators would be anywhere near a playoff this year?

Schedule the early bowl games as the first couple of rounds if you want to keep the bowls. More people would come than have been coming to the games in the past years anyway. And let’s keep the games moving along. Don’t wait 30 days to play the games that count the most. Play them next week or give one week off for finals and then start the tourney. Heck drop one of the games against a FCS opponent and start a week earlier. Share the revenue among all the teams and most would still come out on top. Just give us more games that count. I’d rather see two teams that had a chance to win the National championship really compete than see a game between Utah and Colorado State where nothing is on the line. And by the way if they were in a playoff, McElwain would still be there coaching his players in the bowl game instead of here in Florida and I would still be okay with that.

If there were an 8 team playoff the first round matchups would be:
Alabama versus Michigan State with the winner playing the winner of Ohio State versus Baylor
Oregon versus Mississippi State with the winner playing the winner of Florida State versus TCU

If there were 16 teams in the playoff the first round matchups would be:
Alabama against Missouri with the winner playing the winner of Michigan State against Ole Miss
Oregon against Arizona State with the winner playing the winner of Mississippi State against Arizona
FSU against UCLA with the winner playing the winner of TCU against Kansas State
Ohio State against Georgia with the winner playing the winner of Baylor against Georgia Tech

Obviously the committee would have ranked them differently to prevent a repeat of conference championship games but it some cases this year’s conference championships would have mimicked first round games under a different system. But what would have happened if Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and Arizona had won the conference title games? Chaos would have ruled the day!

In the end, it’s better than the BCS but I would still like to expand it. Then a team could play a tougher schedule and risk a loss or two and still be in the hunt for the title. It would keep teams from scheduling an FCS team for the final home game every other year and make the regular season all the more interesting knowing that even with two losses, you had a shot for the national title if you can win four in a row!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why would you say that Charlie Crist? "At least not in an ad"

Most of the time I try to steer clear of purely political issues mainly because I have friends on both sides of many of those issues. Well most of the issues really. But this morning I saw something on TV that just made me shake my head. My family calls it the “Eddie head shake”.

Former Governor Charlie Crist who was once a Republican when he won, then an independent, now running for Governor again as a Democrat ran an ad about  equal pay for women. Now I am all for equal pay for equal work with equal experience, so that’s not the issue. Nor is the issue really that Crist has allegedly received almost a million dollars for his campaign from Strip Club owners at least one of whom has been investigated for prostitution. That doesn't seem like a business model that is for women’s rights but he can justify that however he wants to do so.

No my issue is with the end of the ad where Charlie says, “on my first day as Governor I will sign an executive order requiring equal pay for women.” When did the state of Florida become a haven for dictators? At least ones that hold public office?

Charlie has been hanging with President Obama too much. When did it become ok to publicly announce that you are going to circumvent the constitution by doing an end run on the Senate and House of Representatives for the state of Florida? Can you imagine this kind of campaign strategy 20 or 30 or 50 years ago? Elect me and I will essentially pass a law with my mighty pen that state senators and representatives are tasked to do in our constitution but haven't on behalf of all women! And if you think that’s the only time he would use that pen, you might as well move to the Mojave and take along your jet ski for the oasis that is a part of the hundred acres I have to sell you!

Folks it is time to take back our government and there is no better place to start than with this election. This ad ought to be attacked by the Scott camp immediately. But even if they don’t the grass roots folks of the state of Florida ought to rise up and vote against Crist even if you like his views. Why, because if this is the kind of leadership we will get on day one, imagine what kinds of things King Charles would do in the waning days of his rule!

Our nation was founded by battling against this kind of one person tyranny. Our forefathers set forth a new nation with a new governing strategy as a way to balance our government so this kind of total rule would never take place in our land. I am not a political science major and I am sure there is a time and place for correct use of the executive order but this doesn't seem like the right time or right place for it to me.

If I had some tea and lived near a harbor I just might have a party. But I don’t and I am not a tea party member. I am just a guy who thinks that this type of leadership has no place in Tallahassee or Washington. One of his early ads attacked Scott for not being “government for the people, by the people.” Maybe Charlie flipped PR firms since then because it seems Charlie’s motto should be “government by me, regardless of the laws set up by the people.”

But maybe that’s just my opinion and I’d say the same thing if Scott made an ad promoting his desire to set policy with an executive order for all my Democratic friends. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

I didn't want to be at a football game!

At some point in the game on Saturday night, I had a sobering realization. I didn’t really want to be in the Swamp. For the first time in my almost 53 years, I didn’t want to be at a football game. I think some of that had to do with the fact that I hadn’t seen my grandson all week and knew that I wouldn’t get to on Sunday either due to other commitments I had made. But the primary reason was the fact that I can’t stand the way this staff coaches.

I know that some will say I am a poor loser and that is true. I hate losing more than I like winning. 30 years later and I can still name you the losses that kept our High School baseball team from competing in our state tournaments during my Junior and Senior years. I have few memories of the wins for sure, maybe because there were so many more of them than losses. But the angst goes much deeper than that. For the first time in the 28 years that I have been a fan of the Gators as my adopted team when the Lord led us to Gainesville, I just don’t believe that this team can win a game against an equally or more talented opponent. I didn’t expect them to win and even when we were ahead, I never really thought they could hold on and defeat maybe the worst LSU team since Nick Saban became their head coach. Yeah I know Les Miles is the coach now so you go back and find when Saban took over at LSU and you will know I mean for a long time!

I will not criticize players who are only kids doing the best they can to compete. I know they should catch the ball. I know they should block better. I know they should be able to throw it better. I know they should be able to cover better. I know, I know, I know. But I also know that they are still learning. They have to get to class, maintain a gpa that keeps them on the team, try to have a social life, and just be a nearly normal college student too. Not a single one of them who played for the Gators wanted to lose that game. Their effort was good for the most part even if the outcome on every play wasn’t. I have worked with enough athletes to know the pressure they place on themselves is greater than any pressure applied by fans and a crowd. They are human. They make mistakes.

I have come to the point where I do not believe this coaching staff can get them ready to play each week. We had a two week period to get ready for the Vols and we looked like we hadn’t practiced at all during that period. We won that game because the Vols are in worse shape than we are but that still doesn’t fix the fact that we didn’t look prepared to play. We had no emotion, no juice as they like to say now. This was a game that the Gators had to win and they looked flatter than a pancake pantry flapjack!

Saturday night in the Swamp, the place was rocking like the old days. In spite of the fact that there were still empty seats to be found in almost every section, it was a great atmosphere. The LSU faithful didn’t travel like they usually do either so some of those seats belonged to the Tigers I am sure, but most of them should have been filled with Gator fans for the best home game on the schedule this year. And even with the first appearance of a tandem Ms. Two Bits by former Gator pitchers Stacy Nelson and Hannah Rogers, I just couldn’t shake the fact that I would watch a team play scared, not be prepared, and lack leadership, as has been the case for much of the last two years.

After the game I couldn’t understand why our QB ran the ball 21 times. Then today I came across this quote from an article online at Gatorsports.com. This is from our head coach.  

“They were doing some things as far as outnumbering us in the box,” Muschamp said. “We needed to establish the run. We used the quarterback, which really creates an extra gap for you in the run game.

This is why I have no faith in our coaching staff! Your solution to getting LSU to stop loading the box is to run the ball more and use your QB who is a good but not great runner to do so? How many times did you think to go back to that post pattern from the slot receiver that would have been open every time you wanted to throw it when they had a zero safety coverage? Instead of only throwing go routes on the outside, utilizing the deeper routes over the middle to force the safeties to drop out of the box might be a way to get them out of loading the box. There are lots of ways to get a defense to stop loading the box but I don’t think I have ever heard a coach say the way to do it is by running the QB off tackle. We didn’t do that with Tebow. We just said they could load the box and still not stop Tim.

But the really revealing events that confirmed my feelings happened late in the game. After the interception, I didn’t care that we were about to lose the game. I was so floored by the events that happened after Pittman was injured that I could barely contain myself. Our head coach took forever to even go check on his condition. Even Les Miles, who I have no positive regard for as a coach, came all the way across the field to check on his player who also went down. Our coach was too busy trying to coach up the defense to get a miracle stop to win the game while one of the young men he’s responsible for lay on the field being held in place by trainers and being strapped to a backboard. This from the staff that usually doesn’t coach our players during time outs. They seem to prefer to let the players dance to the hype music. And when he did go over, he was there less than 10 seconds. I am sure a scared and hurting Pittman appreciated the support. Again from the Gatorsports report these where his comments post game:

“Our reports are Latroy is going to be fine,” Muschamp said. “He had movement in everything. It's always scary in a situation where a young man is put in that situation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him right now. I think everything is going to be fine.”
Maybe he said he was going to go check on him and that didn’t get reported by Robbie Andreu. Maybe he just didn’t get asked the right question. But given the fact that he barely came over to check on the kid, I suspect that he spent more time working on his coaches show post game than he did at the hospital. You have a Defensive Coordinator who could have been working on what you wanted to do next on the field while you take care of your players. Most folks would have given a pass if Will had said that he didn’t have a lot to add to the coaches show since he was with Latroy and his family and maybe he was.

But the most telling point of that whole scary scenario was the fact that the LSU players were seen on a knee with some praying while too many of our guys were huddled around the coaches working out what we needed to do next on defense. Our guys didn’t even rally around Pittman until after a number of the LSU players came to speak to him before he was carted off the field after being placed on the backboard. This is a team that does not appear to be together. They don’t look or act like they are close at all. And that is a direct result of the way they are coached.

And that is why I don’t have a lot of faith that this team can rally to make this season more than another mediocre one. Perhaps homecoming will renew in me a passion for this team. I want to believe in them, I really do, but this staff just makes it so dang hard to do so!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Most Authentic Music You Will Hear This Year, Maybe Ever!

I read a brief review of Colony House’s debut album, When I Was Younger, on Facebook and I was intrigued enough to buy it on ITunes. Part of the draw was that I knew the band was made up of Steven Curtis Chapman’s sons Will and Caleb and Scott Mills. A couple of years ago we had the chance to have Caleb and Will be a part of our Florida Collegiate Conference and heard them play some of their original music. I also had the chance to visit with them and hear Caleb’s heart for his music and mission in life.

Now after listening to it for a number of times, I agree with that original review. It gets better every time I listen to it. It is not a traditional Christian album by any means but it may be the most authentic Christian album in quite some time. You are not going to hear many tracks that you will hear on the main Christian radio stations because they just don’t fit the formula. But if you want to hear a journey of authentic pain and healing then this record will speak to you on behalf of Christ’s compassion and love.

The most authentic song on the record for me is Won’t Give Up. If you know the Chapmans’ story then you will recognize the family pain in losing their sister to the tragic accident. The song opens with the lines: “I wear the guilt upon my chest cause I feel like I’ve earned it. And keep the blood stains on my hands to show that I’ve done this. Oh how I wish I could escape that day. Take back time and make everything ok but I can’t.” It is a picture set to a haunting melody that chronicles the battle that takes place inside of even a believer when a tragedy like that happens. If this song doesn’t get stuck in your head and heart then you have no compassion and you have never experienced any tragedy in your own life. It ends with the image of Jesus reaching back for the lonely.

The band has done a great job of putting the songs in a specific play list. The song that follows Won’t Give Up is Moving Forward. It begins with “I found life and I found laughter in forgiveness I found rest. On the shoulders of redemption I found hope when hope was dead.” Isn’t that happens when Jesus brings us through terrible times of painful struggles. We can find a life that gives us reason to live. It isn’t a journey that is easy but it is a journey that makes life full again despite the loss that we think will crush us in the moment. That is what God means when He promises in Romans that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. Those redeeming moments only happen after the darkest hours of pain and suffering.

The rest of the songs are a mix of struggle and hope. Some deal with growing up and learning how to love. Some deal with the fact that we often wait for things to change in our lives to discover that the thing that really changes is us. The sound is heavily mastered and layered and will attract some to the project and may make others shy away from it. For me, I love the different mix of sounds and effects. I found it a fresh breath in the midst of so much of the same kind of music these days.

This is a project that we can play in our BCM center and non-Christians will have no problem falling in love with the songs. They don’t all require a faith statement to enjoy or agree with. They chronicle the common struggles of mankind but in the end they point to Jesus to those with discerning ears to hear the message of hope in the songs and the occasional glimpses of direct references to Jesus’ love. If you have friends that are dealing with difficult situations, I would highly recommend that you give them a copy of When I Was Younger. You will find a great springboard to that conversation you have been hoping to have with them about the love and grace of God bringing hope and healing to even the darkest situations.

Thank you Colony House for giving us such a raw and honest glance into the process of redemption. May the Lord use this project to bring many to that glorious place where they lose control and find hope and healing in Jesus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yes Mr. President We Should Be Ashamed

Friends, family and others hold candles for the victim of a school shooting at a vigil Tuesday, June 10 in Troutdale, Oregon, near Portland. A student shot and killed another student at Reynolds High School before apparently taking his own life, law enforcement sources said.

Short post today! 

In light of another school shooting our president said America should be ashamed because of the repeated, to quote him weekly occurrences. Now I am not privy to the intel that the president has but that seems a little excessive to me. But for once I agree with the President. America should be ashamed, but not in the way that he wants us to be ashamed. Before this is over it will be spun to be another reason why we need stricter gun control laws.

I don’t believe the problem lies with the guns! We should be ashamed because we have allowed or created a culture that doesn’t value life anymore. I am 52 and I don’t ever remember a school shooting when I was growing up. We had guns all around us; some of us even had them in our trucks or cars at schools. But we would never think to shoot someone with them unless they were the communists attacking all the way from Russia. We knew the damage guns could do because we were taught how to shoot and properly handle firearms by our dads and granddads. We also knew both of them would wear our backsides out if we even thought of brandishing a gun in anger at someone.

We valued life and we were disciplined by spankings not by telling us to go think about our bad choices. We have taught our children not to hit so they don’t fight it out anymore on the schoolyard. I am not advocating violence but I can tell you that I had my small share of scraps with other guys including my best friend once because we didn’t see eye to eye on something. But most often the fight ended there. A bruised eye or ego. Now they build up the anger until it comes spewing out in excessive violence. We need to get back to teaching that life is sacred and should never be taken without just cause. We need to help our young men learn to be men who handle their differences without shooting someone. And we don’t need to turn them into girls to make them fit into our systems either. As our old friend, Daddy Byrd, once said, “oh let him be, he’s just being a boy. Rowdy boys are happy boys!”

So yes Mr. President we should be ashamed because we have lost our moral compass as a nation. Instead of trying to pass gun laws which won’t help curb the problem, maybe you should use the “bully pulpit” to help our nation regain the moral fortitude we need to address the real problems that lead to these senseless acts of violence.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jameis Winston incident leads me to ask "How much is your integrity worth?"

Ok, so you have to admit that many of the facebook and internet memes that are going around regarding the Jameis Winston and Publix crab legs incident are funny. Even more so if you are a Gator fan and maybe not so much if you are a fan of the college out west. But it begs a bigger question. How much is your integrity worth? And by "your", I also include mine!

No really, how much would it take for you to try to steal something, get away without paying for something, to not return an overage given to you by a cashier? Would you be okay with keeping something that cost a quarter? What about $100? Or maybe even a $100,000? What amount would someone have to dangle in front of you to get you to cash in your integrity? Whatever you think about Jameis as football player or as a man, hasn’t that been hurt just a little by the fact that he somehow forgot that he didn’t go through the line or forgot to put the crab legs out of the shopping basket or cart and onto the checkout line? And that was for only $32. So if you want to know what his integrity is worth to him, just check the receipt to see how much he saved by shoplifting at Publix today! Those who don't shop at Publix may not get the irony in that last statement but that is what every cashier at Publix tells you when they hand you your receipt!

Where do you and I cut corners in our lives? Do we not put in a full day of work and then say we did? How much is our integrity worth? Do we try to “take” others when we are in a position to sell them something extra they don’t need or try to get an extra discount for something just because we are in the ministry? How much is our integrity worth? Do we not pay our taxes because we think the government will misuse the funds? Ok, so maybe that one wouldn’t qualify! Nope it still does, how much is your integrity worth?

Maybe there is something in all of us that wants to get something for nothing in this life. We think we will feel better if we have it and perhaps there is a rush in getting away with something forbidden or stolen as the old adage goes. But the reality is if we are a child of God, this cannot be our attitude anymore. We are to look out for the good of others first. I remember the day my bank teller gave me $100 more in cash than I had asked for at the drive through. I didn’t count it until I stopped to turn out of the parking lot. When I went back to give it to her, she argued with me that she hadn’t made a mistake until I showed her my receipt and the cash amount she gave me back. It didn’t show up in her records. Had I driven away no one would have ever known but me and God. But she would have had to make up the difference when her drawer didn’t match up. My gain would have hurt her. How much is your integrity worth both to you and those you come in contact with every day?

David knew the value of his integrity when he wrote in Psalm 41:12 “You supported me because of my integrity and set me in Your presence forever.” Maybe your integrity is more valuable than you thought?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does God still speak directly to people today? A review of The Turning by Davis Bunn

I always enjoy reading whatever Davis Bunn writes. The Turning was no exception. The characters are believable and as usual well developed. Their lives are interwoven through a series of events and a calling they could not ignore. The story is a definite page turner as the reader gets involved in the lives of the main characters.

Here is a plot summary provided by the release team of The Turning:
The message was unexpected but instantly recognizable. 
A voice resonated from a distance and somehow from within.  Against all earthly logic, it carried a divine command.  And five very different people knew they were summoned to obey.
Their actions were demanding, but not particularly grand.  Only later would they see a pattern emerge - one that links their tasks together and comes to challenge the cultural direction of the nation.  They realize that one small personal response unveiled a new realm of moral responsibility.  And this affirmation of everyday hope captures the attention of millions.
But power and money are at stake.  Malicious elements soon align themselves to counter the trend.  To succeed they must also undermine its source.  Can we really believe that God speaks to people today?  Surely this must be dismissed as superstition or delusion.  These well-intentioned but misguided individuals should not be allowed to cast our society back into the Dark Ages.
The public debate and media frenzy place an unprecedented spotlight on knowing and doing God's will.  The five encounter threats, but try to remain steadfast in their faith.  Had God indeed imparted wisdom on selected individuals?  Is this sweep of events part of his divine purpose? 
The movement may herald a profound renewal - one that some are calling The Turning...

The plot line could be ripped from the headlines of any newspaper in the world. The battle for hope against despair and hopelessness is an underlying reason for many of our current world issues. Bunn addresses this in a unique way that moves the reader to explore the foundational truths of God in a genuine way. He weaves theology and Biblical truth throughout the novel in a way that adds to the story in a natural flow.

The only issue I had with the book was the abrupt ending. If there is a sequel in the works then my problem would be lessened but still a concern for me. Without spoiling the book for the reader, I found the end to lack the powerful punch of the rest of the story. It reads like the publishers were pushing for a completion before Davis had a chance to fully complete the story. Even if there is a second book in this series, the ending should have been developed more fully. Many of the characters' stories are left hanging in the wind and even the central plot is not resolved in my opinion. I was left wanting another chapter or two to wrap things up.

I had also heard this book was a part of a different kind of project but the book reads like any of Davis' other books. I expected that the little prayer book mentioned in the story might be a separate product released by either Davis or the publisher. And while it might be forthcoming, I am not aware of any such product. Maybe I just got the info wrong from the outset. I still would love to see that kind of concerted effort in the future.

While the efforts of the Mundrose agency in the book was used to influence culture in a negative way, the concept of creating cultural trends is something believers should take seriously. My friend, who is now home with the Lord, Bob Briner wrote a book titled Roaring Lambs years ago that addressed that very issue. If you haven't read it, I would highly suggest that you find a copy and read it. Believers have the chance to change culture but only if we are willing to get involved in the media because the media does influence culture. I think we need to be the ones who really set the tone for culture in ways that draws them to the positive message of hope in Jesus. The Turning points people to the powerful effects of a media campaign and the battle between the Christian worldview and those who believe that hope is dead.

About Davis Bunn
Davis Bunn is a four-time Christy Award-winning, best-selling author now serving as writer-in-residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Defined by readers and reviewers as a "wise teacher," "gentleman adventurer," "consummate writer," and "Renaissance man," his work in business took him to over 40 countries around the world, and his books have sold more than seven million copies in sixteen languages.
Twitter: @davisbunn

Video trailer for THE TURNING, by best-selling author, Davis Bunn.  
Davis Bunn talks about his upcoming novel, THE TURNING.

Read chapters 1-3 of “The Turning” by Davis Bunn for free: http://statictab.com/fvrrsxz (Like his Facebook page to start reading.)

I received a complimentary copy of The Turning from River North Fiction in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Florida Weather and Your Spiritual Life

I can’t speak for most Floridians, but as a long time transplant from Alabama let me state for the record that I love living in Florida. We think it is freezing when the temperature hits 50 degrees. We don’t like it when the sun doesn’t shine every day. We hate the gray sky. And this thing that most of you call Winter, lasts for less than a week total in the months of January and February. We post it all over the internet and social media just to make all of our friends who had to move away from here just a little jealous. We love the fact that it might rain for an hour but then the sun comes out, the birds start singing, and animated cartoon animals start playing out in the meadow. Ok so the last part doesn’t happen unless you are at Disney World. Which is another reason to love being a Floridian!

We don’t do well with extended periods of cold weather, rain, or gloomy skies. I know some of my northern friends and Canadians brethren are already rolling their eyes in disgust. Many of them have great reasons for living in other areas of the country and I get them sometimes. But if you can live in paradise which is what my phone calls our area on the weather app, (it might do that for everyone in every location too!) then why wouldn’t you. But there is a time when we need a few rain storms to come through even in paradise. If we didn’t get those rain showers in the summer and days like today when it is a slow soaking rain, we couldn’t live here. We are parallel to some of the great deserts in the world. The difference is those pesky summer showers and the fronts than bring us rain from time to time. If we didn’t have the rain, then we couldn’t have the perpetual state of green around us. But the truth is most of us don’t like those rainy days.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We prefer all of our days to be filled with the Lord’s sunshine. We want to spend each day basking in the glory of His love and being warmed by the experience of His presence in tangible ways. We love the fact that His love keeps the cold of doubt at bay. We even sing hymns to that affect like Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee. We wake up every morning and pray that today will be a great day that will bring us peace, love and happiness. And there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting that for us, our family, and our friends.

However, have you ever stopped to consider that those storms that come our way bring growth to our faith the same way the rain brings necessary water to the plants in our yards and the grass that makes other states envious? Maybe the Lord is trying to get a message to us that can’t be delivered in the warm sunny meadows of our lives. Many great men and women of faith have written about the “Dark Night of the Soul” that they went through and how the Lord used those dark and dreary days to teach them to depend more fully on the character and certainty of God’s promises. So maybe a little rain cloud in our spiritual journey grows to become a full blown hurricane not to destroy us but to make us stronger and replenish our dry soul. I have been there too. I am not there now by the way.

But the Lord laid this on my heart this morning during my drive into the office and during my devotional time. So maybe this is for just one of you who will read this or maybe you know someone who is in the middle of a storm and you need to pass it on to them. Or maybe there is a storm coming in my life and the Lord just wanted to remind me of the truth of His grace. Spend some time reading and meditating on Psalm 107 if you find yourself in that position. Here’s just a little of it to get you started.
28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
29He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.
31Let them give thanks to the Lord

for His faithful love

Monday, January 27, 2014

A great tour with a borrowed bike

Last Saturday my friends at Chain Reaction let me test ride the Jamis Coda Sport bike. I was involved with several others doing a bike tour from downtown to the west side of Gainesville. The ride was to remember the 50 year history of Westside Baptist Church here in Gainesville. The ride started downtown at the old site of First Baptist Church the mother church for Westside. We made our way through campus to the old location at 4039 Newberry Road. After a time of reflection and prayer we traveled north and then west to the new location of the church facilities.  It was a great day even if it was one of the coldest bike rides of my life.

The Coda Sport was a great bike for the tour. It was strong and steady on the sidewalks downtown and as we made our way along SW 2nd avenue and Newberry Road. It was a comfortable ride over various surfaces including bike paths and bike lanes. It was nimble with great brakes for close riding and would be awesome on campus for a student commuter. On the way back, I was able to ride at my own pace and it was quick enough with the gears on board for a long ride on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This bike can do it all and the price can’t be beat. If you need a comfortable bike that can be used from commuting to some serious touring, then this would be a great bike to buy. It has definitely made its way onto my wish list for my next bike purchase.

It was great to travel back down the road with several friends and even better to have friend who allow you to borrow a bike because your road bike would have made the trip much harder. Thanks Chain Reaction for the loaner and thanks Life South for letting us tour our old church facilities that are now a part of saving lives in a very different sort of way!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Glavine and Maddux go into the Hall of Fame Together!

              Congratulations to Former Braves Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux for being selected to the HOF. Growing up as a Braves fan, I really enjoyed watching them pitch for “my” team. I remember watching Maddux pitch for the Cubs when I was in graduate school in Kentucky and was in awe of his great control of the ball and the game as a whole. I was ecstatic when the Braves picked him up for the ’93 season. There are many who have written about his career and that’s not my style anyway so I will get to the relatively untold story in a few lines.
               Tom Glavine to me was always the epitome of the smooth, crafty left-handed pitchers. Why is it that the ball seems to move more when it comes from the left side? I don’t know it is true, but it sure seems like they can make it move more than the right handed guys can. He never seemed to be un-nerved or rattled. He just dominated the other team’s lineup without breaking a sweat or so it seemed.
               When the two of them were in the starting rotation for the Braves, I felt like Atlanta would never have a three or four game losing streak because I was confident neither of them would lose two starts in a row. The great run of the Braves was in large measure a result of a tremendous pitching staff anchored by both of these now Hall of Fame Players.
               In December I was in Atlanta for a conference and the organizers arranged for the group to tour Turner Field and have dinner in the 755 club. We were given a tour of the stadium including the dugout and clubhouse as well as the press box. In addition we were able to use the throwing and hitting games located on the concourse of the stadium. But the real treat was after dinner, Javier Lopez and Brian Jordan, spent some time with the group relating their stories of how they were discovered and developed within the Braves organization and baseball in general.
               Among the many stories they shared was one related by Jordan in response to the question, “Who was the best player you ever played with or against?” I wish I had recorded it so I could quote it verbatim but I will recount it to you as close as I can. I offer my apologies to Brian in advance if I get any of the details wrong in this article.
               He said that prior to a game when they were going over the scouting report of the opposing team, Maddux told him he was going to help him do something that Jordan had never done before. He said when this certain guy comes up, I am going to get him to hit you a line drive one hopper between the first and second baseman. You play the guy shallow and charge hard and throw him out at first. Jordan said he was a bit skeptical that anybody could have that much control of a batter. So when the guy came up to the plate, Jordan moved in closer than normal. He said all I could think about was what if this guy hits one over my head, but that is what Maddux wants so I am going to do it. Sure enough, Maddux throws a pitch and the guy hits a screamer between first and second. It bounced once in the outfield and Jordan charged the ball and threw the guy out at first base. He said after that he believed Maddux could do anything to any batter he wanted to with a baseball in his hand.
               Lopez added that it was great to be able to catch both of them because he knew that it would be a quick game with either of them on the mound. They were there during the transition to the “Power Arms” era that baseball is now in where the emphasis is on how hard can you thrown. And they were definitely not in that category. They relied on the ability to change speeds and move the ball around in and out of the zone to be effective.

               It is fitting that they enter the HOF in the same class. As a Braves fan it is hard to think of one without the other. They will now forever be linked together in the HOF as well. Now the question becomes will Smoltz join them in that rotation as well?