Revival, by Stephen King

Revival follows the interactions of Jamie Morton and a small town reverend, Charles Jacobs, over the span of several decades. Jamie and Charles first meet when Jamie is a young boy. Jacobs is the new reverend at their local church. He infuses new life into the church, and things are going great until tragedy strikes Jacobs and his family. Everything begins to crumble at that point. Jacobs loses faith, and so does Jamie. But not before Jacobs apparently healed Jamie’s older brother’s voice with electricity.

Time goes by, and Jamie runs across Jacobs again at a state fair. Jacobs, having always been fascinated by electricity and lightning, is running an attraction at the fair, involving electricity and photography. Not exactly fake, but not exactly real, either. Jamie is strung out, addicted to heroin, having just been kicked out of his touring rock band. When he passes out at Jacobs’s demonstration, he awakes to find himself in Jacobs’s RV.

Jacobs eventually convinces Jamie to travel with him to his workshop in Oklahoma, where Jacobs administers a sort of shock therapy to him. Jamie will never touch drugs again. This is just the beginning, though.

Later on, Jamie encounters Jacobs once again. He seems to have returned to his religious roots, running a healing ministry. Again, electricity is involved. The intensity gains force as the story goes on, and strange things begin to happen to a number of people that Charles Daniel Jacobs has “healed.” Things that are not good.

All of this comes to a head with one big event, toward the end of the book. Jacobs blackmails Jamie into helping him by offering to heal his first love from his teenage years, who is dying from cancer. Jacobs is intent on seeing what is behind the “door” that many of his “patients” have seen, immediately after their “healing.” He finds out. I’m sure he wishes he hadn’t.

I enjoyed the book, although it is far from a favorite. As has been the case more than once, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. But it held my attention, and I enjoyed the character development and interaction.

TTFN, y’all!

God’s Prayer Program, by T.M. Moore

There’s a bit too much alliteration in this book. And the word “program” is, quite possibly, used more times than there are pages in the book.

However, I did find some positive things in the book. There are a number of good reasons given as to why we should consider using the Psalms as a foundation for our prayers.

I love the Psalms, and have for at least two decades. Maybe that came out wrong. I have always loved the Psalms, but for at least two decades they have captivated my soul. I do believe that they are, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the “prayer book of the Bible.” And this is one place where T.M. Moore nails it.

I was able to, in a way, get around the over-usage of the word “program,” and glean some positive things. Moore begins by alerting us to the need for the idea of using Psalms as the basis for our prayer life. Most of us need some serious help when it comes to praying, and pretty much anything we need can be found in the lengthy book that can be found in the exact middle of most Bibles (unless there are several hundred pages of study helps in the back of yours, in which case you will likely find Revelation in the middle). I have long felt that that this is no accident.

For centuries, the Psalms were prayed, daily, by the Church. Some monks would even pray through them in a week, or perhaps even one day. Somewhere along the way, the church lost track of this. We got modern. We got techno. But we lost something precious. We forgot about praying the Psalms.

Moore specifically gives us his goal for praying the Psalms. He borrows from Athanasius who, in the fourth century said, “He who recites the psalms is uttering [them] in his own words, and each sings them as if they were written concerning him . . . [H]e handles them as if he is speaking about himself. And the things spoken are such that he lifts them up to God as himself acting and speaking them from himself.” Moore goes on to say, “Simply put, the goal of learning to pray the psalms is to make the psalms our own prayers.”

Moore lists several ways to pray the Psalms. You can pray them verbatim. There are many psalms with which this will work just fine. But then there are others that you might want to paraphrase as you pray. You can allow the reading of a psalm to inspire you to pray for other people and/or circumstances.

Of course, anyone familiar with Psalms knows that there are a few “problem” psalms. The most obvious of these is Psalm 137. You know the one. It begins “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Not so bad, at first, but it’s the ending that is troublesome. “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” I can’t very well pray THAT!! But I can read that psalm and allow it to inspire me to pray for persecuted and oppressed Christians in other parts of the world where scenarios such as that might just be reality.

There are benefits to praying the Psalms, including a deeper sense of the presences of God, a more comprehensive prayer life (Psalms runs the gamut of the emotional state of humanity), greater consistency in prayer, more freedom in prayer, and an enhanced prayer life.

Don’t be fooled, though. Prayer is hard work. And our enemy definitely doesn’t want us to be praying. So if you plan to make use of this wonderful tool, be prepared for obstacles to rise up in your path.

I have already begun praying Psalms, but am still working on incorporating them more into my daily prayer life. Moore offers some sample schedules at the end of the book, but, frankly, I found the monthly one to be a bit confusing. I do know that if I read five psalms a day, I can read through all of them in a month. So that’s where I’m starting. I also believe that, based on a previous book that I read (The Psalter Reclaimed, by Gordon J. Wenham), that they are arranged the way they are for a purpose, and for that reason, will be reading them in sequence.

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in using Psalms as a foundation for their prayer lives. Hopefully, you can get around the many appearances of that word, “program.”

TTFN, y’all!

Clinging: The Experience of Prayer, by Emilie Griffin

This is an incredible little book. Weighing in at only 72 pages, it might not seem worth your while, but it most definitely is, especially if you are interested in developing a deeper, more intimate prayer life.

This is not a theology book, nor is it a technical kind of “how to pray” book. This is a book about doing exactly what the title says: Clinging. Clinging to what or who, you ask? Clinging to God/Jesus. Clinging to our Father like there is no one or nothing else that can help us.

I was immediately captivated in the first page of the forward when Ms. Griffin says, citing William Johnston, “the mystic must cling to God (‘for God is his truest being’), but need not cling to views and ideas about God.” Earlier in the forward, she says, “As for ‘clinging,’ I have consciously chosen an image of attachment to God, in hopes of conveying our dependency on him.” And truthfully clinging to God will detach us from “false dependencies that bind us hand and foot.”

There are seven chapters, each describing an aspect of prayer. The first, rightfully so, is called “Beginning.” Again, I was captivated by the first few lines. “There is a moment between intending to pray and actually praying that is as dark as any moment in our lives. It is the split second between thinking about prayer and really praying. For some of us, this split second may last for decades.”

That still gives me goosebumps, for it is truth. Beginning is the hardest part of prayer, isn’t it? We think about it, we plan for it, we commit that we will do it, and then we do almost anything else to keep from actually starting it.

The book works through other aspects, such as yielding and transparency, then concludes with the final chapter, “Clinging.” This paragraph sums it all up quite well.

“We must cling to the one reality that does not crumple. The one rock that will not be washed loose in the tide and onslaught of anything. We must cling to the one reality that will hold firm, though the earth be destroyed and the mountains flung into the sea and the sun put out. We must cling to the One who holds eternity in his hand, who will not perish in the end, and who has power to save us, too. The One who knew us before we existed, in whose thought and by whose hand we exist from moment to moment. He chose and shaped us from our mother’s womb to be intimate with him. This intimacy is what we were made for. Apart from it, we feel at odds with existence and even with ourselves. Close to him, we are at peace. This is the one intimacy of which we need not be afraid, for it will not disappoint or betray us. On God we can loose all the intensity of what we are, all the passion and the longing we feel. This is the one surrender we can make in utter trust, knowing that we can rest our whole weight there and nothing will give way.”

Clinging. This is my goal in prayer and devotion. I want to cling to my Father like there is nothing else.

I will be reading this book again. I can easily see it being one of those that becomes completely worn out over time.

TTFN, y’all!

The Psalter Reclaimed, by Gordon J. Wenham

psalter-reclaimed

Psalms has long been my favorite book of the Bible. I have said for years that I don’t think it’s an accident that they are in the center of the Bible. In most non-study editions, you can open the book in the middle and you will find yourself in Psalms. And in Psalms you can find prayers that address pretty much every emotion that you will ever experience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “The Prayer Book of the Bible.”

In The Psalter Reclaimed, Gordon J. Wenham gives us a brief, but somewhat in depth discussion of the book of Psalms. He discusses singing the Psalms and why we should do that. He speaks of praying the Psalms and why we should do that. There are a couple of chapters on how we should read the Psalms. I confess that those got a little over my head, because he began talking about different types of biblical criticism, which I have done little to no study about.

But one thing I did learn in those chapters is that Wenham, as well as other theologians, definitely believe that the arrangement of the Psalms into five distinct “books” is no accident. They are not randomly thrown together. There seems to be a reason for the order and placement of these prayers and songs. Therefore, Gordon believes that each of the Psalms should be read, sung, prayed in context with the entirety of the rest of the book.

There is even a chapter on “The Ethics of the Psalms,” in which Wenham addresses an issue that has not been touched on very much, and that is that the Psalms are also good for teaching the law of God.

He also has a chapter on the somewhat controversial “emprecatory” Psalms. You know, the ones where the psalmist prays that the enemy’s babies will be dashed against the rocks? These, he believes are necessary for us to pray and sing, as well. Even though we, ourselves, do not have such enemies as David and Israel had, when we pray these prayers, we could be praying them for people in the world who DO have such enemies, people who are oppressed in other nations. Gordon disagrees with those would completely remove these from their prayerbooks.

There is a Greek word that Wenham addresses in the next to last chapter, and that word is “hesed.” This is a word that, out of all the times found in the Old Testament, more than half of them are in the Psalms. It simply means “steadfast love.” And perhaps the best example of the usage of that word is in Psalm 103. Gordon provides us with an in depth look at that Psalm in chapter 7.

Finally, he addresses “The Nations in the Psalms.” This topic turned out to be more complex for him than he realized it would be.

All of these chapters were given as lectures at various places in the world, and, I believe, edited slightly for book form.

This is a wonderful overview of Psalms, and I recommend it for anyone who is as fascinated with the book as I am. I do plan on reading this one again, more slowly and taking note of each individual Psalm that is referenced throughout the book.

TTFN, y’all

Adam Immortal, by Carley Eason Evans

adam-immortal

If I’m not mistaken, this is Ms. Evans’s first foray into Science Fiction, and it doesn’t disappoint. Adam is a robot, programmed to be a surgeon. He is what is known as a “mechanical,” which differs from a “humanoid” in that he isn’t manufactured to appear human. His shape is, more or less, human, but he is made of blue plastic, and his lips do not move when he talks.

The story is written in first person, from the perspective of Dr. Mark Michaels, a “Fellow” at a teaching hospital in Louisville. When Adam arrives, it becomes apparent that he is better and faster than any human surgeon. Dr. Michaels, for the most part, is not intimidated by this, but some of his senior surgeons are quite resentful.

As this story progresses, it ventures into territory that is both frightening and awkward. The idea of robot autonomy is addressed, and that is an unsettling concept. Both Adam and Millie, the nanny/housekeeper/cook humanoid that belongs to the Michaels family, at some point develop a measure of autonomy.

There are some even more unsettling twists that occur as the story unfolds, but I will not divulge those in this review.

The story was enjoyable to me, although not my favorite novel of Carley’s. To this date, that still remains I Am Sofie. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the ending, though. I don’t really feel like it ended; rather, it just stopped, and I wanted more. In addition, there were ways in which this story reminded me quite a bit of Asimov’s Bicentennial Man. Of course, Ms. Evans may also take that as a compliment, me comparing her to Isaac Asimov.

There may come a day when the question of robot autonomy is addressed in our society. I, personally, will never feel that machines should have “rights,” no matter how intricate and complex they become. If, however, what happens in Adam Immortal happens in real life, that will be an entirely different, and quite uncomfortable issue.

TTFN, y’all!

Auraria, by Tim Westover

auraria

Auraria, Georgia was a real town. Today it is counted among the many “ghost towns” in the country. It rose to a population of around 1000 during the Georgia Gold Rush of 1832.

Tim Westover takes a real location and turns into a tale of fantasy and imagination. While there might have been gold at Auraria, there probably weren’t spirits and moon maidens. There really was a resort hotel, known as “Queen of the Mountain,” where people enjoyed bathing in and drinking mineral waters.

In this tale, a man named Holtzclaw travels to Auraria, under direction of his employer, H.E. Shadburn, to buy up all of the land in the town. It seems that Shadburn had some lofty ambitions for the area, which involved creating a lake and building his own “Queen of the Mountain.”

The first thing Holtzclaw encounters upon his arrival to the area, is a boy fishing off of a cliff. This would not be unusual, but for the fact that there was no water below him, only mist. What made it even more unusual was that they boy caught a fish. Believing it was a trick, Holtzclaw brushed it off and continued on.

In Auraria, he encountered many strange things. There was a ghostly wife, who appeared to Holtzclaw to be very much alive. There was a springhouse that blew icy winds out of it. There was an invisible piano player named “Mr. Bad Thing” at one of the inns. In that same inn, the proprietor, Abigail Thompson, only served sweet potatoes. The inn was called Old Rock Falls. Then there was Princess Trahlyta. Trahlyta is thought to have been a true Cherokee maiden who lived on a nearby mountain. Her beauty was known around the area. When she refused to wed a Cherokee warrior named Wahsega, he kidnapped her and took her to his home. She begged for release, but he would not hear of it. As she grew weaker, she eventually asked to be buried near her mountain paradise. There is actually a pile of stones in Stonepile Gap, Georgia, that is alleged to be her grave. Legend has it that the highway department has tried to move the grave multiple times, each time resulting in the “accidental death” of a crew member.

Mr. Westover’s tale of a real place, mixed in with some fantastical imagination, is quite enjoyable. Weaved into it is, in my opinion, a morality tale of what happens when greed drives your life. You see, to the people who live in this little mining town, gold means nothing. In fact, they, with the help of Princess Trahlyta, are trying to completely wash it away. But when Holtzclaw gets wind of all this gold, even seeing the “moon maidens” washing it off of their bodies, he gets greedy.

Things seem to be going very well, but then tragedy strikes, not entirely unexpected. No spoilers will be shared here, but I can say that the story has a happy ending, with which I was entirely satisfied. In fact, it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to.

TTFN, y’all!

Night & Fear: A centenary collection of stories by Cornell Woolrich

night-and-fear

I had never heard of Cornell Woolrich before I randomly picked up this book at Half Price Books. It looked interesting, it was short stories, and it did not disappoint. Says the bio on the cover, “Cornell Woolrich wrote his first novel in 1926, and throughout the next four decades his fiction riveted the reading public with unparalleled mystery, suspense, and horror. America’s most popular pulps – Dime Detective, Black Mask, and Detective Fiction Weekly – published hundreds of his stories.” Movies such as Hitchcock’s Rear Window were based on his work.

This collection, published in 2004, includes 14 of his short stories. The genre might be considered “noir.” I could certainly see the sort of “Sin City” vibe as I read these stories. They kept my attention to the point that I didn’t want to leave my breaks at work so I could finish the story I was reading.

One of my favorites, “The Case of the Killer-Diller,” involved a young lady in a jazz band that played their own rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero,” which drove a person mad to the point that he killed someone every time he heard it. But he made the killing appear to be a suicide. No one seriously began questioning it until the third time.

Another good one, “The Heavy Sugar,” was about some stolen jewelry that had been hidden in a sugar bowl in a local diner. A regular patron observes the strange behavior of a guy moving from table to table, ordering another cup of coffee, and then spooning sugar into it.

“The Fatal Footlights” told the tale of a woman killed by simply denying a necessity from her. You see, she danced in a burlesque show, completely covered in gold paint. Someone took her cleanser so she couldn’t take it off between shows, which, ultimately, caused her death by prolonged exposure to the paint.

Some of the stories involve detectives, some don’t. All of them involve some kind of crime. All of them are simply written, yet well-written, in order to capture the imagination and keep it held captive until the end.

I would love to find some more of Woolrich’s work.

TTFN, y’all!