The God-Talk Club – Tornadoes!

[This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between the characters and real people or the places and real places is strictly accidental. What’s more, this is practice fiction, wherein I practice writing dialogue, so any resemblance to real fiction is accidental as well. This is the second of the series. I introduced the God-Talk Club here, and provide some additional information on the current characters here. Comments, including criticism, are welcome.]

Mark settled into his normal seat at the Roadside Cafe a little later than usual. “His” seat was still not taken, but he noticed that none of the others were there. Before he had even thought about ordering, he saw Ellen, who had been here every time he had, bringing his normal large Coke.

“What would you do if I told you I didn’t want a large Coke,” he asked, smiling.

Ellen’s face fell for just a moment, then she realized he was joking. She paused for a second as she put the drink down and gave Mark his straw. “I’d probably get fired,” she said.

It was Mark’s turn to be speechless. “Surely the wouldn’t fire you for a thing like that!”

“No, not really.” Ellen giggled. “But it was good to see the look on your face.”

Mark laughed. “OK. Got me!”

“What do you guys do here anyhow?”

“We plot the downfall of civilization,” said someone from behind Ellen. It was Mac.

Mark looked up at her. McKenzie “Mac” Strong was celebrating warmer weather with a halter top. He suspected she mostly wanted to offend Jerry Simonson, who had commented on female modesty during their discussion the previous Friday night. He thought the comment had been directed at Mandy Kelly, a stay-at-home Mom in her 40s with four children, but Mac had taken it to heart. She enjoyed teasing the conservative elder and Sunday School teacher.

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Book: Pilate’s Wife

This book is well out of the norm for my reading, but the topic caught my attention, as well as the dearth of information with which the author had to work. It is hard to write a good novel about a historical character when almost nothing is known about that character. It doesn’t really matter what you write, somebody is not going to like it.

The first thing to note about this book is the subtitle: A Novel of the Roman Empire. Those who are expected a Biblical novel, one primarily oriented toward Biblical characters, themes, and goals will be sorely disappointed. The setting is primarily Rome and Roman social life in the provinces; Palestine only plays a small role when Pilate is sent there. In a Christian novel, Biblically based, one might expect a great deal said about Jesus and other Biblical characters. That is not the case here.

Second, one should be aware this is written about a woman by a woman, and it focuses on the woman’s perspective. In historical novels of this period that is not all that usual, because it is hard to keep things interesting when men are running the show and all the chief characters are women. I got the annoying feeling that the lead characters spend their time largely being pushed around by other people, with only brief moments when they can be themselves. Of course, that feeling is probably an accurate reflection of what it was like to be a woman at that time.

For historical connections, the author uses a couple of less probable reconstructions about Jesus, but those elements are not impossible, merely not proven, so that can be forgiven. It does make for some added interest in the story.

I have to rate this book at 3, because I found it interesting but not exceptionally so. I must note, however, that this is not due to any weakness of the book, but rather to my limited interest in the subject matter. Within its necessary constraints it is a good book.

Thanking him for Faithfulness

(Scripture: Luke 17:11-19; 2 Timothy 2:8-15)

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any of the people, places, or events to anyone real is purely coincidental.

Janiva Jeffreys slipped through the doors of the church and found a seat near the back. It was a small church, with the yard poorly kept and the building itself in some disrepair. It fit well in the neighborhood, run down, deteriorating, a three dimensional display of how little people cared.

I could live in a place like this, she thought. I used to live in a place like this.

She didn’t recognize the man at the podium. He radiated authority and certainty. But the man behind him, sitting to his right, him she recognized. It was his picture, included with a newspaper story, that had brought her here. He would be thirty years older than she remembered, and he showed every year of it, but he was definitely the same man. It was a moment in her life that she would never forget. She had moved on from that moment and become a different woman. At that moment she had been a whore—she used the word in her own mind—pursued by her pimp from one direction and by the police from another. She had had no hope, no future. But for thirty years she had not seen him or heard of him.

I never really thanked him, she thought. I never knew his name, nor he mine. I just pointed to where I wanted to get out and then I ran and hid.

The man at the podium was speaking. “As the Bishop responsible for this area,” he said, “it is my responsibility to take action on this church. With only five members left, and less than a tenth of the budget necessary, we have no choice. This final meeting is just to explain what is going to happen and when.”

“The only thing that would save this congregation now would be around $50,000 that we do not have, and also some idea that the church can accomplish something in this community. We have explored every avenue that we know, we have exhausted all options. We don’t want to close the church, but there is no other option.”

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The God-Talk Club is Born

Note: This is the start of a new series, without the end of any others. I will expand on this in the series page. Briefly, I want to practice writing dialog, try various ways of presenting it, and also try presenting different views on various theological topics in a sympathetic way. Basically I’m practicing here, so read at your own risk. Of course, that’s not much different from anything else on this blog!

Also, all characters, places, events, and churches in this story are fictional. It is a work of fiction.

* * * * *

Mark wasn’t too sure why he pulled into the roadside cafe. He rarely ate out. As a seminary student on a partial scholarship but without church support he had to be careful with his money. But tonight he needed to get working on a three page paper, and he couldn’t think how he was going to do it.

It was Saturday night, the paper was due Monday morning. He felt silly as he thought about that. He was a veteran of countless all nighters in which he had produced 10, 15, or 20 pages in a night with no problem, complete with footnotes, formatted according to the professor’s requirements. Yet he had this feeling of dread.

“You will write three pages on what it means to you personally to be a Christian. No references, no quotations, not even Bible verses. Just three pages from you.”

There was a short time of silence in the class. For many of them, half or more of a paper could be made up of summing up other people’s views and providing references for them.

“But Dr. Youngman,” said one, “References to the great teachers of the past are important! I can’t imagine talking about Christianity without referencing some of the great thinkers in Christian history.”

“Well, you’re going to learn to imagine it. Just three pages.”

“Exactly?” asked another student.

“Make it between 2.9 and 3.1 pages. Edit it until you get it to the right length.”

“What if I’m not a Christian,” asked another student.

“Good question,” said the professor. “One assumes that most students at a seminary are Christians, but one may be wrong. If you are not a Christian, then write about what it means to you to say someone else is a Christian.”

“And if we’re not sure, not committed?”

“Write about why you’re not sure then, 3 pages, all your words.”

“I don’t think I can express myself in three pages. You’ve given us a broad subject.”

“Narrow it down.”

“But how? What is the most important thing for me to talk about?”

“That’s what you should be asking yourself.”

“What if I can’t think of three full pages?”

“Consider the impact of a zero for this assignment on your grade, and feel the motivation flowing over you.”

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The “Evil” Chronicles of Narnia

I can’t help calling attention to this page from the Balaam’s Ass web site for the rampant paranoia, lack of humor, and failure to comprehend represented throughout.

The following opening says it all:

John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley all died on the same day.

They all went to the same place.
Kennedy went to hell because he trusted in the Roman Whore.
Huxley went to hell because he trusted in himself alone and his hybrid Eastern mystic notions.
And, Lewis went to hell because he invented a new god, and he ended his life a Taoist.
We will prove it here.

Oh well, not quite all:

Though a highly acclaimed and widely published “Christian” author, when judged by his own words with the King James Bible it becomes clear that he was indeed a fool in the most extreme sense of the word, yet a very subtle one that was and is extremely useful to his father the devil.

As soon as someone says they are going to judge something by the King James Bible, I know they are not to be taken seriously. The level of vitriol in this material on Lewis is interesting, though amongst KJV-Only advocates, it’s not too surprising. Once one sets out to pursue ignorance, where does one stop?

Book: The Christmas Candle

Why am I talking about a Christmas book when it’s nearly June? Well, my wife got it from the library and recommended it to me, and I have never really cared when I read seasonal literature, so bear with me for a few moments on this.

I generally don’t like cute little inspirational books. Their sweet stories are just too blatant and obvious, and they don’t do that much for me. In this case there are some exceptions to that rule. Yes, this book is sweet. It’s in a cute binding. It’s not terribly complex.

But there are some profound points. This story invites us to think not only about whether miracles are possible, but how they work as well. It invites us to think about how God can work through the simplest and most subtle of things rather than the most obvious and exciting.

In a village, every 25 years there is a special candle that seems to work miracles for whatever person receives it. In the year of our story there’s a new young pastor who doesn’t want to be there, and believes that all the talk about miracles just raises hopes that are sure to be dashed.

You’ll be surprised by the ending. It was great fun for me.

Book: Chasing Faith by Mark Miller

I don’t usually do this, but I want to mention a book I haven’t read. While displaying books at Pine Forest United Methodist Church craft show on November 11, I had a chat with author Mark Miller about his book Chasing Faith. It’s going to be some time before I’ll have time to read the book, but the author impressed me with his energy and enthusiasm for his topic as well as his coherent description of his purpose in writing this book.

This book is only available through the publisher Trent’s Prints, and again I haven’t read it, but I wanted to call attention to the entry. Take a look at the catalog page and consider communicating with the author.