Saturday, July 28, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This post was written by my son Derek as a writing assignment.  For another review by Derek you can go to Farenheit 451

In her book to To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses a rape case to express the relationships among four different people groups in the southern town, Maycomb: the white middle class, the white country folk, the poor whites, and the black people. The story is told through the eyes of nine year old Scout Louise who lives in the middle class.

The middle class does not usually associate with the white farmers. When Scout tries to invite a farm boy over for dinner, her Aunt Alexandria disapproves, saying that those type of people are unclean and would not fit in with the neighborhood kids. Many of the middle class kids share the same opinion. In school, the teacher comments on a farm boy's poverty, and lack of having enough food, while the rest of the class show indifference saying that it is normal for him.

The middle class and the white poor families treat each other with a little more hostility. The town kids show contempt toward the poor kids when they show up to school only on the first day just to get attendance. The impoverished blame everyone else for their troubles, instead of the poor parents who do not take care of their families. Because of the irresponsibility of the poor parents, the town folks do not respect them.

Because her father Atticus is not racist, Scout Louise holds no hatred for the poor black community, unlike the rest of the white populace. Though the separate white communities are different from each other they choose to stick with their race and defend a cruel white poor father in a court case where he is unjustly condemning a black man. After the rest of the white groups help the impoverished white man win the case, they tell him to crawl back into his hole where he came from.

In conclusion, Harper Lee tries to show the lines that seperate of all the different communities. Middle class, poor and country whites and the black people. The white communities treat each other differently, with either indifference or disdain. However, these differences between the white groups are overlooked when they have to choose between a guilty white man and an innocent black man. They side with the guilty white man. Even though they all despise him they believe they must stick with their skin color even though they know what he did was wrong. To Kill A Mockingbird provides an insight into these racial and class relationships in a Southern town in the 1940's.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Confronting Jezebel: Discerning and Defeating the Spirit of Control by Steve Sampson

Morgan le Fay by John William Waterhouse

(I'm currently  reading La Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Mallory and Morgan is a real Jezebel although as you'll read, Jezebels can be either sex)

We’ve heard the name Jezebel- at least those of us who have studied the Chronicles and 1st and 2nd Kings of the Old Testament. Jezebel was King Ahab’s wife. She was the daughter of a pagan king and she brought the worship of Baal and Asherah into Jerusalem where it remained a firm fixture until the Babylonian exile.

What sort of person was Jezebel? Aside from the devastation she wrecked on Israel she was a power monger who used manipulation and intimidation to control others. She emasculated men, surrounding herself with eunuchs and worked through Ahab, who was weak, and, not only did whatever his wife wanted him to, enjoyed letting her take the reins and rule the country.

Mr. Sampson’s book Confronting Jezebel helps us to recognize the Jezebels in our lives, families, workplaces and churches today. Chapter by chapter he breaks down the common traits of a Jezebel personality and how they operate in personal relationships, at the workplace and especially in church. Of all places, churches seem to be the most vulnerable to Jezebel spirits.

Without rewriting the book I want to list a few of the character traits Jezebels exhibit in order to help others recognize these traits in people with whom they have personal or professional relationships or if they recognize these traits in themselves.

First of all, Jezebels can be either gender. They are not limited to females.
Jezebels were often victims of controlling people in their childhood which in turn made them control terrorists. They are extremely insecure. All of their existence is concentrated on putting themselves in positions of control.

In personal relationships they will dominate their partner. Women do this through manipulation and withholding sex. Men do it through intimidation: verbal and sometimes physical abuse. If you try to stand up to them, they will do everything in their power to make your life hell.

Jezebels are master manipulators. They know how to charm people and make lots of friends. In the church they can finagle their ways into positions of authority, and then use it to control the pastor or even get the pastor ousted. They have an almost magical ability to turn half a congregation against a pastor.

Sometimes the Jezebel is the pastor. He can surround himself with a crowd of “yes men” who believe he can do no wrong. This pastor will then rule the congregation through fear and intimidation, often driving the church into bankruptcy with extravagant living. When he destroys one church he moves on to the next. His ability to mesmerize entire churches allows him to do the same thing over and over again.

In the workplace this person will seem like the one who gets everything done, working long hours and arranging things so they look like the one who came up with every great idea, whether they did or not. They are able to scare fellow workers into not exposing them. They are relentless back stabbers and will often even try to get their bosses fired; their thirst for control is so insatiable.

Sampson’s book enables the reader to discern if a Jezebel is in their life and how to confront and defeat this spirit.

This is a good book for all of us to read because no one has gone through life without being assaulted by one of these control freaks. It’s good to read a book where you recognize the symptoms and then learn of the cure. It can save a lot of misery down the road or, if you find you’re already married or working with a Jezebel you can develop weapons to fight against them.

I received this book for free from Bethany Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.

or buy on Kindle for 9.96

Other posts on this book:
Cheryl Cope

Sunday, July 15, 2012

SEAL of God by Chad Williams with David Thomas

  This is the fourth in a series of book reviews I’m writing on America at war and the second about Navy SEALs.

       Chad Williams was the quintessential California party dude.  Whatever he did he excelled at and what he seemed to excel at most was getting drunk, high, and partying at all hours of the night.  So it came as no little surprise to his family when he informed them that he wanted to become a Navy SEAL. 

     In an effort to dissuade him, his father got a former Navy SEAL who was a personal trainer and technical advisor to the Survivor reality TV series (I’m guessing Chad’s parents weren’t hurting financially) to act as his personal trainer for nine months. 

    The tactic backfired.  Chad worked with US Navy SEAL, Scott Helvenston, until Scott one day informed him, “I’ve never said this to anyone else I’ve trained, but you WILL become a Navy SEAL.”

     Scott later reenlisted and served in Iraq where he was brutally murdered in an ambush on the streets of Fallujah.   Becoming a SEAL now became a goal for Chad to avenge Scott’s death. 

     The bulk of Chad’s book describes the training he went through in Hell week.  The other books I’ve read describe Hell Week too, but none go into as much detail as this one.  By the time Chad finally graduates from the program you feel as though you’d gone through it with him.  He also spends a lot of time talking about the technical training that prepared them to perform various jobs.  

      Becoming a Navy SEAL did not change Chad’s lifestyle. The only difference was now when he got drunk and bar hopped all night, he won the bar brawls he got into.  He seemed to thrive off brawling.  He describes waking up and having someone else’s blood all over him and having no memory of what even happened.

       Then one night, while he was on break between missions, his parents informed him that he could no longer stay at their house.  His reckless lifestyle was taking its toll on them and they could no longer tolerate it.  This put a monkey wrench in Chad’s plans because he was hiding a keg in their garage.  He thought fast.  Then he informed them that actually he wanted to stay one more night and go to church with them.

    His delighted parents acquiesced.  Chad figured sitting through a church service was a small price to pay.
After the church he could go back home, sneak his keg out and take off. 

     At the service the pastor, Greg Laurie, talked about the Syrian commander Naaman who had leprosy.  As Laurie described Naaman’s condition, his visit to the prophet Elisha and subsequent healing, Chad recognized himself.  He was a commander, just like Naaman and even though he didn’t have a physical ailment, he knew he had a spiritual leprosy that was eating away at his soul.  To the astonishment of his family and girlfriend (who only came so they could party together later) he walked down and committed his life to Christ.

     As hellacious as training to be a SEAL was, Chad was about to discover that being persecuted for being a Christian could be even worse.  When he returned to his team, they discovered a new Chad.  One that didn’t want to drink, brawl or go to Strip Bars anymore.  This enraged them.  The beatings and torture he received at the hands of his fellow SEALS was so bad he had to be moved to another team because it was feared they might murder him.  It recalls to mind:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  (John 3:19, 20)

     Chad still completed his tour of duty.  Chad is only twenty-seven and got out of the SEALS a couple of years ago so most of his assignments he’s not allowed to talk about.  However the few assignments he does describe, such as circumventing an ambush just like Scott’s in Iraq as well as working to fight Islamic insurgents in the Phillipines are exciting.  Heavy weapons were his specialty.  The SEALS on the teams he was deployed with were surprised that a Christian could indeed cover your back with a  RWS-rigged RG-33 and keep you alive.

    Even though the Navy offered him a ninety-thousand –dollar bonus to sign a new contract, he knew he had entered into a new season.  One time while on the beach he shared his new found faith with people willing to listen.  Afterwards a man came up to him and said that he needed to become a SEAL for God. 

    SEALS don’t advertize who they are so Chad didn’t understand how this man knew he was a SEAL.  It turns out the man didn’t.  But God did.  That was a turning point for him. 

     Chad currently is in evangelism ministry working with Ray Comfort and Greg Laurie, the man who preached on Naaman.

   I read this book in one sitting.  It’s the most enjoyable of all three books I’ve read about Navy Seals, especially his descriptions of Hell Week.  Like I said, most of the book describes his experience in Hell week, watching other men bigger and tougher than him give up, the camaraderie that developed between those that lasted.  Out of 173 who started the program, Chad was one of 13 who finished it. If nothing else, the book is worth reading for that part alone.

However, I think Chad proved his real worth when, after becoming a Navy SEAL, he did the most courageous thing and became a SEAL of God.

I bought this book.

Other articles on Navy SEALS and Military novels

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Second Coming by John MacArthur

Michelangelo's "Last Judgement" Sistine Chapel

 I’ve been reading a number of books about the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. For years I’ve heard about futurist, milliniasts, amillianists, post millianists, historicists, spiritualists and lately preterists. A facebook friend has recently informed the rest of us that he is a hyperpreterist which kind of set me off on this journey. This book review is the fourth in a series that I will be posting of the various books I’ve been reading about the Book of Revelation and God’s final judgement on the earth.

While Hanegraaff’s book is mostly from a partial preterist stance, MacArthur seems to take a primarily futurist viewpoint. (I should point out that both Hanegraaff and MacArthur consider full or hyper preterism as heretical.) After debunking hyperpreterism in his chapters, “Why Christ Must Return,” and “Is Christ’s Coming Imminent?” he expounds on Jesus’ Olivet discourse recorded in Matthew 24 and 25 in chapter three, “Christ’s Greatest Prophetic Discourse.” This is a wonderful expository on this very important sermon Jesus gave his followers about the fall of Jerusalem- a prophecy that was fulfilled in 70 A.D.

The next couple of chapters go step by step through the gospels showing what must happen on earth to prepare for Christ’s second coming and a description of the tribulation.

MacAruthur’s next thrust is into the belly of those who believe they can know the day of Christ’s return. In his chapters “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? and “The Danger of Foolish Expectations”, he shows through scripture how it is unbiblical for anyone to assume they can predict the day when Jesus comes again. The final two chapters are about being ready like the wise virgins, not wasting the opportunity we have now to do God’s appointed work and how the final judgement is going to be when Christ separates the sheep (his followers) and the goats (nonbelievers).

The Second Coming is a highly readable, interesting and informative book about a hotly debated topic. I recommend it as an invaluable resource to anybody studying this subject.

I bought this book.

or $8.69 on Kindle

For more information:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meet David Watts, Jr. Author of Hope in Hungnam

Today I am pleased to interview the author of Hope in Hungnam, David Watts, Jr. For the book review, you can go here.

David, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into writing?

Well, I live in East Texas with my wife, three children and various dogs and cats.  By day I work as technology consultant and project manager.  By night, I write.  Often, my work has me traveling each week back and forth across the country.

My dad was a preacher, and perhaps that influenced me at a young age to take an interest in writing. I always saw him writing: writing sermons, articles, bulletins, etc. I think that I realized at a young age that writing was a very important way to reach people. Of course, I also did a lot of reading as a kid and I think when you love good stories, you start wanting to write good stories.

How old were you when you started writing?

I was in the sixth grade or so when I first tried to write a novel. It was science fiction and was undoubtedly horrible. I never finished it, but the notion was in my head. About 13 years ago I wrote several short stories while I was traveling all over the country on business and have just finally published these as a small collection.

Is historical fiction your favorite genre?

In short, I love the power of telling stories. But I've especially grown to love the power of historical fiction. As a kid in school I hated history. It was boring and stuffy. But through powerful historical fiction we can bring these stories to life and put the reader in the story. Good historical fiction is a time machine!

What caused you to take an interest in this particular story from the Korean War?

I remember watching a special on TV about US Korean War vets that go back to South Korea and meet up with their South Korean counterparts.  It was interesting of course to see their reunion, and to see them visit sites near the DMZ(demilitarized zone).  But in the middle of this special, there was about a 10 minute focus on the story of the evacuation from Hungnam and in particular, the work done by the Captain and crew of the SS Meredith Victory.  I was completely amazed that virtually no one had heard of this story.

And what was it in particular that caused you to take an interest in the story of the evacuation?

I think it was really the fact that no one has heard of it. I remember the narrator saying that if this event had happened during World War II, there would have been movies made about it by now. I also remember a comment making a comparison between Oskar Schindler and Leonard P. LaRue, the Captain of theMeredith Victory.

 The comment in particular was that Schindler saved a thousand or so while LaRue saved 14,000, yet while everyone knows the name Schindler, no one has heard of Captain LaRue. At that moment, I knew I had to write something of the story of the evacuation and the Meredith Victory. Of course, none of this comparison detracts from the remarkable work done by Oskar Schindler to save so many Jews from slaughter during World War II. Rather, it makes me want to tell the story of the Meredith Victory and Captain LaRue.

You mentioned that the Meredith Victory saved 14,000 refugees? That’s an incredible number of people. Was this in one voyage?

Yes, it’s one of the incredible aspects of the story. This was one voyage, one ship, and not a particularly large ship at that. I’ve toured one of the few remaining Victory class ships, the SS American Victory.  It was berthed next to one of the modern cruise ships.  In comparison, it was absolutely tiny.  I imagined it carrying 14,000 while the much larger and much more modern cruise ship might carry two or three thousand.  Today, the Meredith Victory still holds the Guinness World Record for the gretaest number of persons evacuated on a single ship.

So tell us more about how you wrote this story. This is historical fiction, so what parts are true and what parts are fiction?

You’re right, Hope in Hungnam is written as historical fiction. The underlying details are all true. The Battle at Chosin Reservoir, the evacuation down to Hungnam, the escape from Hungnam, the role and actions of the officers and crew of the Meredith Victory. The technical details are as accurate as I have been able to make them. 

Since I first learned of this story about six years ago, I’ve been researching and reading as much as possible. I have been privileged to have access to many newspaper articles, stories and clippings which were published when the news of the Meredith Victory’s accomplishments were first reported. 

I've also been able to meet with, or in some cases correspond with, surviving officers and crew from the voyage. I’ve even been able to talk with one of the 14,000 refugees that was on board the Meredith Victory. So, hopefully, I’ve been able to get the heart of the story accurate.

What about the hero and heroine?

The part about the American soldier and the Korean woman is fiction.  When you try to wrestle with the reality of 100,000 civilians rescued from North Korea-it really is staggering.  So I thought I would try to really humanize the story by zooming in on what the rescue of just three people (Tae-bok and her children) meant.  How did even that small thing change the world?  And of course, if just the rescue of those three changed the world (even in a small way), how much more so the rescue of 100,00?

Although they are fictitious, I am convinced this sort of story has played out many times in reality. Even in the shadow of death, folks will find ways to bridge the cultural divides between them and fall in love.

You’ve spoken with surviving crew members and one of the actual refugees that was onboard the ship?

Indeed, it has been a real thrill to get their first hand accounts. As far as I know, there are only three of the original forty-six man crew still living. I’ve been able to talk with all three of them. One of the men served on board the ship in an administrative function. One served as part of the bridge crew. One served in the engine room. So it has been great to get a very full perspective.

And the refugee?

Yes, he was fourteen years old at the time of the evacuation. He left his home in North Korea with his father and was rescued by the Meredith Victory. It has been absolutely great to get his perspective. And I’m thrilled that his portion of the story has been woven into Hope in Hungnam.

You mentioned that it was said that if this event had occurred in World War II, there would have been movies made about it by now. Should we expect a Hope in Hungnam movie some day?

I’m content just to get the story published and to make sure this important part of history is more widely known. But, I think this story has everything to make a great movie: War, combat, love, hatred, racism, reconciliation, drama on the high seas, and perhaps most importantly: hope.

Is hope a key theme in your book?

Yes, I believe hope is certainly a key theme running through the book. I’ve tried to paint an accurate picture of US Military forces during the darkest days of the Korean War – desperate for survival, desperate for meaning, and with very little hope. But the same was also true for many of the civilians fleeing from Communism. Yet the whole story drives inexorably toward Hungnam and in the darkest moments of the war, hope refuses to be vanquished. As long as there is life, there is hope.

And now some questions for all of us writers:  

How did you get published?

I decided to publish independently with (a) Createspace for the paperback format and (b) Kindle Direct for the Kindle version. I chose to go exclusive with Amazon for at least the first 90 days in order to participate in their lending program. Since I'm in their program, it allows those who are Amazon Prime to borrow the book for free, and yet I still get some royalty on each borrow.

Did you not consider traditional publishing, sending query letters to agents etc.?

I did try to find an agent, but I was concerned about the fact that many of this generation are passing from us quickly. I just could not justify holding the story for six months, or a year, or perhaps longer. This was very poignant for me as I wanted the four men that were there (Burly Smith, Merl Smith, J. Robert Lunney and DH Won) to have access to this story. I just hated the notion of waiting any longer. This issue has been made very real to me as my father-in-law's brother served in Korea. He has begun to slip into the ravages of Alzheimers. Sadly, It seems I was not quite fast enough for him.

Any writing advice?  
My best advice to is hire a good editor. I know its expensive, but if the story is important and needs to be told - hire an editor to make it all that it can be. For me, I felt it was my duty to put everything I had into the story. After all, these men risked their lives to take 100,000 to freedom. All I had to do was risk a relatively small amount of money. And, nobody was shooting at me!

Can you recommend any good books on writing?
I did buy and study several books on writing and such to try to improve my craft. I'm a little torn about them. I think it is possible to spend endless time reading about writing, and thus you end up never writing. I know we  need some education on the craft of writing, but I'm wary of spending too much time talking about the craft and too little time practicing the craft.

David, thanks for the interview and God's blessings on your book and future writing endeavors!

For more information:

Youtube Hope in Hungnam

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