Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fixing Flat Tires on the Road of Faith

Andrea Palpant Dilley spent six years of her childhood in Kenya, where her father was a medical missionary.  Her family lived among the people they served, among who were refugees from Idi Amin’s reign of terror in Uganda.  A refugee from Uganda who worked with her father led Andrea to faith in Jesus Christ.

Andrea’s family did not live in some missionary compound sheltered from the harsh reality of life outside.  Her parents made the decision to raise Andrea and her brothers at their side, as they worked to ease the suffering of the people of Lugulu, Kenya.  Andrea learned the meaning of giving a cup of cold water in Jesus Christ’s name from observing her parents and those who worked with them in the hospital.  She learned what it meant to give and receive love. Likewise, she learned to share the grief and sorrow of those around her, as well as her own.

Back in the United States as a thirteen year old seventh grader, Andrea began to question what it meant to be a Christian.  It was an awakening to the need for a reasoned and confident faith.  Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and like thinking Christians throughout history, Andrea set out on the pilgrim’s journey to a faith based upon a reasoned understanding of her faith, not on emotion or a blind, mindless acceptance of some creed or systematic theology.

After graduating from high school, Andrea enrolled at Whitworth College, a private Christian liberal arts college located in Spokane, Washington.  Whitworth promotes itself as a college with a healthy tension between Christian commitment and intellectual curiosity.  Put another way, their goal is to help students to think, not tell them what to think.

As a symbolic gesture of her decision to explore the mysteries and uncertainties of the pilgrim’s journey, Andrea chipped the Ichthus sticker off her car.  It was a way of turning away from a simplistic “pop” faith and the plastic culture that came with it.

In her book, FAITH AND OTHER FLAT TIRES, A MEMOIR:  SEARCHING FOR GOD ON THE ROUGH ROAD OF DOUBT (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2012), Andrea Palpant Dilley uses John Bunyan’s story of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS as the model for her own journey of faith, a journey which she acknowledges is a lifelong pilgrimage. 

FAITH AND OTHER FLAT TIRES is her first book, but I hope not her last.  I enjoyed this book for its realism.  Her journey is mine, also.  The decision to follow Jesus Christ is only the beginning.  There is far more mystery in Christianity than any of us can begin to understand.  Our risen Lord invites us to stop at the inn, to share a meal with Him, and listen as He explains the great parable, the greatest story ever told, or as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien put it, the “true myth.”

I choose to end my review with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from his book of poetry titled, THE BOOK OF PILGRIMAGE, as quoted by Ms. Dilley:

Whom should I turn to,

If not the one whose darkness

Is darker than the night, the only one

Who keeps vigil with no candle,

And is not afraid—

The deep one, whose being I trust.

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And the Winner is . . .

Those of you who read my blog are aware that I entered a short story in NPR’s contest, “Three-Minute Fiction:  Round 8.”  As expected, my story, “Return to Brighton Manor,” was not chosen as the winning entry from among the more than 6,000 short stories submitted.  Nevertheless, I had fun writing what was only my second attempt at fiction.  I am looking forward to entering Round 9 in the fall.

Author Luis Alberto Urrea was the judge who made the final selection.  He read more than a hundred of the stories, himself.  He was assisted by members of several writing workshops and university writing programs.  All of the stories were read, yes even mine, by some courageous volunteer. 

The winning submission is “Rainy Wedding” by Carrie MacKillop of Charlotte, Vermont.  Listening to it read professionally by Susan Stanford on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” I can see why it was chosen.  I love it.  

I find it interesting that Carrie MacKillop does not have any formal training in creative writing.  She has a bachelor’s degree in English UCLA, but failed to be accepted into their creative writing program.  I’ll bet they now wish that they had made a different decision.  I wonder how many agents have called her, since she was announced as the winner.

I do hope that she will write more.  Luis Alberto Urrea predicts that she is America‘s next great writer.  Perhaps.  She is off to a good start.

And so I say congratulations to Carrie MacKillop.

To listen to “Rainy Wedding”:   http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=153115410&m=153152952

Other entries considered exceptionally good can be read on NPR’s webpage:  http://www.npr.org/2012/05/20/153115410/three-minute-fiction-the-round-8-winner-is

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Return to Brighton Manor

 She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door.  Finding the book in an old trunk led Kate back to Brighton Manor.  She stayed at the Manor in 1940, during the London Blitz.  Being only seventeen years old, she felt safer in the country. 

Brighton Manor was the residence of Lord and Lady Hamilton, distant relations on her mother’s side.  Kate felt welcomed, but her relationship with her hosts remained polite and proper.  She was a guest of the Hamiltons, and only “for the duration,” as she reminded herself.

It was different with their son, Andrew.  He was three years older than Kate.  She forgot about the Blitz when he was present.  She enjoyed listening to him.  He made her laugh. 

One afternoon, they were together in the garden discussing English literature.  The rhododendrons were in full bloom, and the air was full of their fragrance.   Andrew was listening to every word she said.  That he listened and seemed to enjoy her company was one of the things she liked about him. 

When she finished speaking, she paused to hear what he had to say about the topic.  He looked into her eyes, smiled, and said:  “Do you know that when you are talking very seriously, the tip of your nose bobs up and down?”  She stared at him in disbelief for a moment, and then burst out laughing.

“Have you ever read anything by Jane Austen?” he asked. 

Kate was surprised by the question.  Jane Austen was not an author one expected a man to enjoy reading.  She smiled and moved closer to him.

Kate and Andrew soon were spending a great deal of time together.  They talked and laughed.  They began to make plans for the future, “when the war is over,” they told each other.

During their last time together before Andrew left to serve “king and country,” he presented her with a beautifully bound copy of Sense and Sensibility.  “So you wouldn’t forget me,” he said.

“I won’t,” she promised.  They kissed and stood for a long time embracing each other.  It was the last time they were together.

Andrew did not return from the war.  He died in North Africa, a fallen hero.

The Hamiltons sold Brighton Manor during the lean years after the war.  The new owners converted it into a kind of bed and breakfast.  Kate often thought of returning someday, but she kept putting it off.

Then she discovered the copy of Sense and Sensibility, and she knew that she had to go back.  Now, years after the war ended, she was back at Brighton Manor, sitting alone on a bench in the garden.  Soon she was smiling.  In her mind’s eye she saw herself walking with Andrew among the rhododendrons and neatly groomed bushes.

“Do you really enjoy reading Jane Austen?” she asked.

copyright 2012 by Paul R. Waibel

Teavangelicals: A New Fad among Evangelicals

THE TEAVANGELICALICALS:  THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE EVANGELICALS AND THE TEA PARTY ARE TAKING BACK AMERICA (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2012) is obviously one of those books thrown together quickly so as to capitalize on something trendy, in this case the Tea Party’s moment in the ongoing comedy that is American politics.

The slick cover is laid out in red, white, and blue with a picture of a tea cup and saucer, the capitol rotunda in the cup, and a yellow tag from a tea bag dangling on the side.  The tag is a miniature of the famous Gadsden Flag with a rattlesnake coiled and poised to strike.  Embossed on the side of the cup next to the dangling tag is a cross.  The image of a snake side by side with the image of the cross is obviously meant to imply some sort of alliance.

The book cover is indicative of the problem I have with the message it contains.  Obviously whoever designed the cover intends it to be a visual symbol of the book’s title, Teavangelicals.  It is an inspired design, but it no doubt says a lot more about the book’s target audience than the editors intended.

Juxtaposing a coiled snake, the symbol of evil, with the Christian cross, a symbol of hope is much worse than being simply incongruous.  This oversight is indicative of the audience to whom the book is being marketed.

Those who identify with the Tea Party movement and the radical rightwing of the Republican Party, although very diverse in their socio-economic backgrounds, tend to be profoundly ignorant of American history, church history, and history in general.  Their lack of familiarity with history is matched by their ignorance of the Bible which, if they read it at all, they read through an ideological grid.

David Brody, author of TEAVANGELICALS, is Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.  He appears frequently on the CBN’s 700 Club and hosts a television program called The Brody File.  Given the persona of CBN’s founder and former presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, one should not be surprised to learn that Mr. Brody was commanded by none other than God to write this book.  Why?  No doubt to encourage patriotic Americans in 2012 to rise up against the spirit of Anti-Christ who, they believe, occupies Washington, DC.

Mr. Brody’s home page describes him as a frequent contributor to Glenn Beck’s GBTV network and a regular news analyst for FOX NEWS.  Zondervan Publishing and FOX NEWs network are both owned by the infamous billionaire media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch.  I am not attempting some “guilt by association” trick, but merely suggesting that a certain mentality is common to this whole assembly of characters.

I have not gone through the book chapter by chapter pointing out the numerous factual errors, distortions of fact, and simple invention of “facts.”  Those familiar with, but not under the spell of, FOX NEWS, The 700 Club, or the now defunct NEWS OF THE WORLD can easily imagine.  Those interested should consult Joel L. Watts, “This generation’s Mein Kampf” [http://www.amazon.com/The-Teavangelicals-Evangelicals-America-ebook/dp/B006BEEU78].

TEAVANGELICALS will sell well for a brief period.  Then it will become a remainder offered for a mere buck or two, and finally end up (hopefully unread) among boxes of similar books at church yard sells.  With so many good books being published, I cannot recommend this one.

Until next time, be good to all of God’s creation, and always live under the mercy.

Lost in the Ruins

Product Image

I chose BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter to read and review for several reasons. First, I liked the cover, a picture of an old town resting on a rocky ledge somewhere along the coast of Italy. Second, I liked the title. Third, the synopsis of the novel on the back cover promised both mystery and romance. I was disappointed.

After reading the first third of the book, one hundred pages, I found myself confused. What was going on? I had almost no idea. I was promised a “dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel,” but what I found was a slow moving story of two people who meet in Porto Vergogna, Italy in 1962. From there the story jumps to present day Hollywood and then back and forth in time and place.

When I paused after reading the first hundred pages and had virtually no idea of what was happening, I decided to close the book and read something else.

Jess Walter is an accomplished author. He has fans. No doubt many of them will enjoy reading BEAUTIFUL RUINS, but it is not for me.