Friday, June 26, 2015

Later Summer Reading Thriller!

Trial Run is the latest fiction work by Thomas Locke. It is just in time to enliven your summer reading. It’s the perfect book for that vacation at the beach, or the mountains, or just to read in your home over the weekend. Wherever you take it, I think you will find it hard to put down until you reach the last page!

The plot for this work will require you to suspend your beliefs for a little while as all good science fiction. The gap is not that wide however between what you read and what you know that you can’t make the leap safely. You just have to make sure you can come back safely. That’s a little inside insight that you will get when you read Trial Run. The story makes you totally believe in the possibility of the research being done and the settings allow you to identify with both the possibility and probability of these types of experiments being done at a facility near you!

The character development in the story is exactly what we have come to expect from Locke. They are rich, deep, and slightly problematic. They don’t always measure up to what you hope they would be and yet they surprise us in ways that makes us smile as we read. The imagery is detailed and delightfully laid out so as to elicit an almost tangible mental image of the settings of the story.

Locke and the publisher have remedied one of the issues I had with the story prior to its release.  They have released a free prequel to Trial Run. Here’s the promotional copy for that as well as the link where you can download it for free:
            Discover how it all began in this explosive prequel to Trial Run
There isn’t much that can throw Charlie Hazard off balance. But the mystery woman with the striking eyes and the intense request to follow her—now—just might accomplish it.
Knowing little more than her beautiful name, Charlie leaves his post as a guard at the Satellite Beach community center for what he thinks is just another risk-containment job.
But Gabriella, an experimental psychologist, has far more in store for him than protection duty—if the two of them survive the test.
Leave behind your perceptions of what is possible and race into the unknown corridors of human consciousness in this breakneck prequel to Thomas Locke’s Trial Run. Click here to download “Double Edge,” free from your favorite online bookseller.

I was most displeased with the ending of the book. Not because of the content, or the writing, simply that it was over. Without giving away the plot, I can’t wait to the next volume in the series. I think you will as well when you finish reading this summer thriller!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What I learned from watching the Facebook discussion of the Confederate Flag Issue

There are several things which have become clear from reading my Facebook news feed over the past week. Now before I dive into those things let me make a couple of things perfectly clear. One I have a diverse group of friends on Facebook from around the world. Two, not all of them would agree on just about anything. Three, if we can’t be civil and disagree, let’s just agree that we probably shouldn’t be Facebook friends. Facebook and in some sense all social media sites are great places to engage in social discussions. That’s why they are called social media right? But these days posting your thoughts on social media can get you ostracized, castigated, and even fired. I get that we have to be willing to take the heat for what we say, but when did it become a reflection of my employer when I say something on my personal time? Well that’s a thought for a different blog.
So what have I learned from this week on Facebook?

1.      You can find someone who seems intelligent to back your position on the history of the Confederate flag no matter what it is.
I have seen an article claiming that the history of the flag is steeped in racism and the desire to subjugate black people written by a white guy from LA via Harvard University. I have also seen an article claiming that the flag should be respected because black southerners fought to repel the northern invaders written by a black professor from a school in Virginia. There are articles postulating most everything about the flag, so pick your position and you can find something to back it up.

2.      More people have cared about the Confederate Battle Flag this week than I have witnessed in my entire 54 years prior to this week.
I grew up in the south. Born in Alabama, reared as a southern man, never lived north of Kentucky, proud of my heritage, and yet I have never owned a confederate flag. Well unless you count the one on the General Lee car that I had once as a toy! I know that some have misused the flag over the years and the tragic, senseless, racist act of the shooter in Charleston made that crystal clear again this week. But the truth is I never saw that many people who cared about whether the flag was sold in Walmart or anywhere else until this week. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. There are plenty of things that are sold that are offensive to somebody. If it doesn’t sell, it won’t be there long!

3.      People seem to be more easily offended these days.
That goes for people on both sides of this issue. I had relatives that fought in the civil war. They didn’t die thankfully but they fought. I am not offended if states do not want to fly the confederate flag over their state houses. I can understand why some would be upset if their relatives did die and someone removed the markers of their graves because it bore the flag. I can understand black Americans who lost loved ones to slavery or during the civil rights movement not wanting the flag to fly over their homes and capitals. If you say one thing you offend one group, if you say something else you offend the others. We can all find something that we are offended by if we look hard enough. I think some look harder than others to find them!

4.      Not everyone who lives in the south is a racist, but all of us, regardless of where we live have been infected by racism.
To ignore our history is to be doomed to repeat it. I cannot help that I was born in the south during a time of social unrest and civil rights battles. I never put out a sign that said “Coloreds only” or “Whites Only”. I never went to a segregated school. But I had parents that lived through those eras and passed on some of those things to me. I have stereotypes of people imprinted in my mind and heart. To say I don’t is to lie. But the gospel of Jesus challenges me to leave those thoughts and to learn to see all men and women as brothers and sisters. It’s not always easy to break free from those thoughts that have been a part of our heritage no matter where we are from. Although I cannot know what others from the north or black men and women experienced growing up, I image that they too have stereotypes and prejudices that they have to battle.

5.      Who we were doesn’t have to define who we can become.
The images of black and white men and women from Charleston coming together in the wake of the tragedy reminds me that we are not required to repeat history. We have the choice to help love overcome hate. There will always be those who want to remind us of our past failures. We didn’t always do the right thing in the south. But I don’t think any region of people or nation for that matter has a spotless history. We can continue to work hard to bridge the gap between the races so that dream of Dr. King can truly become a reality. A dream by the way that originated in the heart of God for His kingdom long before it was so well articulated by Reverend King. The dream of the Father is to see people from every tongue, every tribe, and every nation, living and worshiping as one people. And that dream will one day become a reality!

6.      The gospel of Jesus Christ remains the only hope for effective change in people’s lives.

Taking down the flag of the confederate armies from the SC state buildings may be a symbolic step, but it won’t change the heart of a white supremacist or a member of the Black Panther party. It won’t help heal the hearts or lessen the grief of those who are attending the funerals of their loved ones killed while praying in church. It won’t really bridge the gap between whites and blacks in SC or anywhere else for that matter. The only way to change is to change from the inside. I know that the gospel message of love has changed me. It has changed the way I look at people who are different from me. We are all sinners in need of a savior. We all have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. We all have the right to become sons and daughters of the King because the Father resurrected the Son on the third day. We have the opportunity to live together because Jesus tore down the wall separating us so that there are now no divisions based on race or gender or nationality. We haven’t arrived yet, but with the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit we have the call to press on. We gather not around the confederate flag or the American flag, but around the cross of Jesus Christ as our symbol of hope and unity. I hope you will join us there!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Historical Fiction Release from Davis Bunn, The Pilgrim is a must read!

The summer is a time when I traditionally try to catch up on my reading. Currently I am working on 5 different books. So when I was invited to read Davis Bunn’s soon to be released book entitled The Pilgrim, I agreed thinking that I would get to it sometime in later June. But once I downloaded the copy, I couldn’t help taking a sneak peak. That was a huge mistake!

While I did manage to read a few chapters of the others, the story of The Pilgrim captivated my attention from the first page. Bunn certainly didn’t disappoint those who are his fans with his latest work. The characters are rich with detail and emotion. The settings are meticulously set with vivid detail and imagery. The plot of the story is both open and hidden at the same time. The only real problem with the work was that I was finished way too soon!

Without giving away the plot, the story is a blend of historical and Christian fiction involving Helena the mother of Constantine the Great and her documented pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem. True historians may take some issue with Bunn’s interpretation and somewhat loose play with the dates and events. Although I must confess I had to look up the background of the story to check and see if the main characters were historical or fictional. Some of the characters you meet on the pages belong to both of those categories as is the case with all good historical fiction.

There is drama, action, character development, and the gospel woven intricately within the story lines of the novel. Each chapter draws you further into the story and the plot turns will make you want to continue to read even when you need to put the book down to do other things with your life. There are moral messages of peace and reconciliation found within the pages. The author has managed to craft several sermons within the story that the discerning reader will find as delicious food for the soul.

The Pilgrim is set to be released on July 17, 2015 from Franciscan Media. I would advise you to pre-order your copy or kindle version if you prefer. You will thoroughly enjoy this work and if you are like me, it may even make you do a little historical research to find out what all is fiction and what all is history in the newest great work from my friend and author, Davis Bunn.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Franciscan Media in exchange for my honest review.
Link to The Pilgrim page on Davis Bunn’s website

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thank you God for letting me know Wassie Griffin!

As a sports fan and serious, well somewhat serious, golfer, this was one of the best experiences of my life. People ask you , “Have you ever been to the Masters?”, and you can say yes! Well at least I went to the practice round once!

This photo is several years old now. The person standing on my left is Eddie Houk. He and I once flew in his Piper Cherokee airplane from Gainesville to Great Falls Montana for a mission trip. I learned how to navigate in a three hour cram session the night before we took off. That’s only one of many adventures that he and I have shared. And no, I am not at liberty to say what the rest are! He’s retired now and still lives here in Gainesville.

The man on my far right is Bob Halfacre. Bob has been and continues to be a mentor and confidant and dedicated prayer warrior for me. His two boys were just youth when I became the youth and college pastor at Westside way back in 1987 when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and I had permed hair! He later taught college Sunday School for me and is one of the few people I know personally who has the true gift of evangelism. If you don’t know Jesus, better stay away from Bob if you don’t want to! There are hundreds if not thousands who are glad they didn’t follow that advice. He’s retired now and lives over in Crescent Beach. I miss seeing him on a regular basis because I always feel better and a little more like Jesus when I do.

The other man holding the flag is Wassie Griffin. He’s the real reason for the post, the photo, and the change on my facebook cover today. He’s the one who got the tickets for the practice round. He’s the one who invited the young guy, me, to come along with them. He’s the guy who organized the trip, booked the hotel rooms along the way and the golf outing on the way back. He’s also retired for many years and today, he’s pain free and home with Jesus.

Wassie was many things during my time on staff at Westside back in the day. Back then he was an administrator at North Florida Regional Hospital. He loved playing golf and he allowed me to come with him on many occasions. He has always had a keen mind. He was a thinker, a deep thinker, about business, family, politics, religion, and whatever else might be on the front page right up until his death. Wassie was generous with his time, his money, and his wisdom. He was one that you wanted to talk with before you made a major decision. You might not like what he told you, but at least you knew it was for your benefit.

Wassie and Mary his wife are the kind of people you want as neighbors, family, and friends. You smile when you see them and you sigh when you have to say goodbye. It has been hard watching Wassie battle the disease that finally set him free from these earthly bonds, but through it all, he never wavered. His smile remained, his joy endured, his faith grew even stronger. Like so many others before him, his body gave out but his soul remained forever young.
And so those of us who were fortunate enough to know Wassie Griffin sighed this morning and maybe cried a few tears to hear of his death. Those of us who know Jesus await the chance to see his bright smile again when we go to the place where he is today.

I am thankful for the many things Wassie shared with me. I am a better man today because of the opportunity to hang out with men like those pictured above. My prayer is that one day, other younger men will remember me the same way and in so doing I will have honored the legacy of Wassie by pouring my life into those who come after us.