Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: (The NEW) Ben Hur

Estimated ship date: 06/06/2016
ISBN: 9781496411068
Author: Carol Wallace
Publisher:  Tyndale House 
MSRP: $15.99


Yes, you read that right.  The NEW Ben Hur.

Now, I've always been a fan of the old Lew Wallace classic.  When I heard that his great-great-granddaughter Carol Wallace was coming out with a new version, I had, simply HAD to get my mitts on a copy!

Yet before diving into the new book, it might be a good idea to chat about the original, so here goes...

Judah Ben Hur is a contemporary of Jesus.  He is a Jew (in case you can't guess) born to a fairly well-off merchant family.  He's quite content with that life until a freak accident and false accusation propel him headlong into an epic adventure.

Now, I know "epic adventure" sounds cliché, but in this case it is the best way to describe it.  His is an adventure that spans the ancient world, giving you a very vivid picture of life in those times.  He interacts with all different groups (Jew, Roman, Christian, ...) as well as all different social strata from Galley Slave and leper, on up.

However, I don't want you get the wrong impression and think this is a dry history lesson.  Ben Hur must fight his way across the Roman world to stay one step ahead of those actively trying to destroy him!

One last thing I want to add is that the subtitle of the book is "A Tale of the Christ".  This is quite true, though I was very impressed how Wallace never allows even such a big, important thing to eclipse the story he is trying to tell.  In other words, this story is about BEN HUR and the author does a fantastic job of keeping that straight.

As a Christian author, and more specifically, as an action/adventure author, Ben Hur represents everything I aspire to write.  I guess that's why when Carol Wallace did a rewrite it was like a moth to a flame.

The new book has been redone in modern style and language.  It sticks very, very close to the original story -- some places being nearly identical, in fact.  (And, for the record, yes I was reading them side-by-side.)  Really, you could say that this is the original without all the boring parts and wordiness that can make the original a little tedious to read sometimes.

Though there is some material removed, I'd hesitate to call it an "abridged" version.  I hate those!  Carol Wallace was very careful to trim away things that got in the way of the pacing, so in that regard I can appreciate that.

As an additional bonus there is an afterward that talks about the original author, his war experience and the writing and life of the book.  To a geek like me, this alone is worth the price of admission.
(To whet you appetite:  Did you know, if it wasn't for a chance meeting with a militant Atheist, one of the greatest Christian books of all time would never have been written!??)


This is a prefect way to introduce Ben Hur to your teens.  It is an enjoyable read that is fast-paced and adventurous.  Your boy will love it!

In fact, I could see this as a parental sneak-attack.  "Oh, you loved the book?  Did you know there's more to the story?"  Hand him a copy of the original to expand his vocabulary.


The preceding review was done on materials sent to me for free from the publisher.  If you would like your own book reviewed, please use the contact information here on my blog ( or message me through social media. 

Additional Info:

Author Links: 
goodreads profile

Author's interview about the book:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Juggernaught: Chapter 4 - Peregrini

The year was 477, AD.  The location, some untamed an unnamed section of the barbaric European wilderness.

Mac Creiche was a Peregrini monk and student of the (later to be dubbed 'Saint') Brandan.
(Not to be confused with Saint Mac Creiche, nor Saint Brendan the Navigator, respectively.)

It can be common to think of all monks as inwardly-focused and cloister-bound.  The Irish Peregrini were anything but.  Though commonly poor and always celibate, these decisions more out of a practical necessity that their dangerous mission demanded.

Brendan and his team of twelve young disciples had set out from Ireland some years earlier with the intention of ministering in England.  After a reasonably short boat trip they made landfall in England, ready and anxious to begin.  Yet plans were already about to change for them.  They were surprised upon arrival to encounter the heresy of Pelagianism running rampant through Londinium's muddy streets.

These people preached that man's sinful nature was nothing more than a myth.  An error as rudimentary as this should be simple enough to correct with a mild dose of scripture - a nice, clean way to ease into their missionary life.  (Or, so thought young Mac Creiche.)

He soon learned that lies may be easy to refute, but when that happens, the liars turn nasty!

The team barely escaped with their lives from the hands of the heretics in control.  Many would literally bear the scars of that incident to their dying day.

Finding themselves trapped on the far side of the town, with an angry mob between them and home, they took the only path open to them:  forward.  They found themselves swept up with the tide of native Britons, escaping from the isle that bore their name, and crossed the English channel to the Gaulish coast.

The relative peace the Britons had enjoyed under Roman rule was now over and the Saxons had no remorse about driving them off their land.  To one group's thinking, the land was yours because you were born to it.  To the other, the land was yours because you conquered it.

After landing in modern-day Brittany in the central coast of modern-day France, the group wandered and preached their way across the barbarian continent.  They left a series of churches and monasteries behind them like bread crumbs to mark the way.  Those few churches already in wild Gaul were also revived from being irrelevant and stagnant political pawns to living and life-changing bodies.

The Peregrini life was crushing work, often done on empty stomachs, but they blazed a trail through the physical and spiritual wilderness that was ancient Europe.

As the years went by, the disciples of Brandan matured to the point where, they too, were ready to strike out on their own.  Brandan explained, "Just as every seed grows up t' be like its parent, so all Disciples grow t' become the next Teachers.  From thence comes great forests and churches."  Following his example, the new Teachers drew Disciples of their own from the converted barbarians.  Twelve, plus one more to fill the newly-created vacancy in Brandan's retinue.

Soon Mac Creiche found himself the only Irishman remaining out of the original twelve.

This day, his own time would come.  Quite unexpected, it was.  He just settled down for his breakfast: a hand-torn hunk of plain brown bread and a slice of cheese.  A pull of mulled cider (lovingly made from apples the nearby monastery) made it a finer meal than a monk could ask for.

Of course, the prayer of thanks for such abundant fare had to be long-winded. 

As he prayed, the monk lifted his eyes heavenward and was greeted with the sight of a lone, snow-white goose.  East, it flew, "Towards th' blessed city, all 'eaven be praised!", he commented aloud as the thought struck him.

He had been taught by his mentor to always be aware of the signs and revelations from the Lord Most High, but now that he had seen one, he doubted.  "What say ye, Lord?", he cried aloud to the clear blue sky, "Be this your hand, or but a bird like any other?"

Many other things he cried as well, calling to the heavens for answers to this perplexing new experience.  He got no response.

Once he finished beating his breast and ranting against the clear blue, the man looked down and smiled.  Just as patient as the Lord, the goose sat calmly watching the man vent his frustrations.

The new smile slowly drained from his face, however, when he realized that the animal had used the opportunity to nibble his bread down to nothing but crumbs.

"Infernal beast!" he declared, making a move to shoo it away.

Then he thought better of it.  "Ah, well.  I suppose e'en answers to prayer need t' eat."

He threw the goose his cheese, too.

The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

God's not Dead: review + alternate ending

God's not Dead 2 is out.  Which, for a titewad like me, means it's about time to watch the first movie. :)

I'm, of course, exaggerating.
Though I did get it a yard sale for 2 bucks, so there you go, I guess.

Anyway, as both an author and somebody whose had a fringe relationship with Christian films, I really have to say, this one was a pretty big step backwards.  There were some great big-name actors in it, but (with the exception of Kevin Sorbo, who did a great job) it seemed like they got the actor and then tried to figure out a part for them.  The Duck Dynasty folks, and even the Newsboys band felt pretty patched-in and otherwise unnecessary to the story.

Oh, but it was worse than that!  There were a good dozen unrelated subplots that they tried to juggle.  Pick any two and we'd have had a pretty good movie.  As it was, they tried to force them all to interact to seem like they were inter-related, but the relationships were very thin and unnecessary to one another.

Let's see... the student's professor's girlfriend's brother's girlfriend interviews Willie Robertson whose pastor is also the pastor of the student's professor's girlfriend AND hosting and African missionary at the same time.  Seriously!  I'm not making this up!

At no point in the process did any of the creative team stop and question this mess??

But okay, let's put the plot spaghetti aside.

I must say, my main reason for not watching this sooner was the fear that the interaction between Christian student and Atheist professor would be... I dunno... disrespectful proof-texting and quote slamming.  Unhelpful.  Pointless.  Rude.

I had nightmares of a 90 minute rendition of some internet joke where a smarmy freshman puts a know-it-all professor "in his place".

I was pleased in the beginning when the kid's pastor advises against just that, saying, "don't try to be clever".

This advice is quickly forgotten as the kid starts in on all of the latest and greatest apologetics talking points.  We could simply go online and read this information from the original sources... but here they are all over again -- in movie form!  In fact, he begins the presentation, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury..." which is uprooted straight from Lee Strobel's work and plunked down here for little to no reason.

Even so, they did... not quite as bad as anticipated.  The student, while not openly disrespectful, seems merely to keep his fool mouth shut when hallway confrontations arise.  (Admittedly, he probably keeps a cork in it better than I'd be able to.  So, hat-tip there, I guess.)

 If you came here for just the review, I'd advise you to stop there.  The rest of this article contains spoilers like its going out of style!

Finally, if you can sigh through the unnecessary sub-plots and (arguably redundant) lectures, there's still the ending to deal with.  That seemed most contrived of all.

So, as expected, the student wins the argument and proves once and for all time that Christians are smarter than Atheists.
(Or, at least, proves that we can be smug, condescending, intellectuals too?  And that's a good thing??)

Hold on a minute though, the professor said that he was going to fail the student and thus get his revenge, whether he wins the debate or not.  The screenwriter must have choked on his cappuccino when he realized he'd painted himself into this corner!  What to do... what to do...  "Hey!  I know!  We can kill him!"  after a moment... "Oh yeah.  This is a Christian movie, so maybe he can change his mind for no clear reason and get saved first."



After mulling it over, I think it could be solved though, and in a much more Christ-like way.
Actually, in a more Apostle Paul-like way. (Though by proxy... you know...)

1 Corinthians chapter 2 is so great.  Really hard to find a good place to stop, but try this on for size.
    When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
    Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 
I can't help but take a step back and see things from the Atheist professor's point of view.  Here, he lost somebody very dear to him, and holds a grudge against God.  The student has technically nailed the argument when he says that the militant Atheist does not doubt God's existence, but dislikes God's existence.  The trouble is (and this is where I think the ending starts to barf) is the student shouts this out in front of the class.

Though making the point, he is being disrespectful and rude.  In "winning" the argument, he is losing the greater spiritual battle.  Quite the opposite of Corinthians, isn't it?

If I was writing this, I'd drop all the way back to the beginning of the film.  Remember the enrollment dude makes a big point that he has 22 days to withdraw from the class.  (And then this fact just disappears.  What is up with that, anyway?)  Well, why not use that information?  It is pretty easy to fathom a schedule where the first day of class, followed by three weeks of debates puts him just past the withdrawal point.

Then, say, just as in the this version the entire class comes to Christ through his arguments.  Also, he finds out about the pain in the professor's past the same way.

Now, week 3.  His very last chance to withdraw and salvage his career.  Probably the rest of the class has already bailed because they know the professor will be none-to-happy with their new decision.  They urge him to quit... but the doesn't!  They're all trying to convince him, "you've proved your point", etc, etc.  He says, "No.  There's something important I've got to do.  I'm staying."  Well, okay...

The day of the final debate comes and there's a standing-room-only crowd there... students, faculty, everybody on campus has heard of this...

The professor, he's sweating now.  The kid has already shown that he won't be intimidated and can hold his own.  Now is he going to be humiliated in his own classroom with the whole school watching?

The kid, he stands up with his notes.  "I prepared some really great stuff for this week."  Then he takes out a lighter, torches it, and drops it in a metal trash can.  Instead of using the time for some slam-dunk argument, he willingly gives it all up - his future and everything - for what?

I'll tell you 'for what'.  So he can fall down on his knees in prayer for his professor!  That he can cry out to God to bring reconciliation and healing into the man's life for the wounds he has suffered!

Why would this freshman sacrifice career, girlfriend, winning, and everything else just to see another man reconciled?  The same reason the Apostle did.  The Love of God, man!  A self-sacrificial love -- even a love for our enemies!  (Where else do you find that!??)

No, the Kingdom of God isn't about clever ways win arguments.  It's about people.

And to me, that's the kind of movie that the world needs to see.

Live YOUR adventure,
 - E.L. Fletcher

Book Review: Eden Hill

 ISBN: 978-1496410832
(To be released:  July 1, 2016)

Description (mine):

Virgil and  Mavine Osgood are simple folks from Eden Hill - a typical 1960's smalltown USA.  They own and operate the one and only gas station in town and even though business is good as usual, their marriage seems to be stagnant.

Things get even more dicey one day, when a young go-getter name Alexander Cornelius and his pregnant wife JoAnn move into town and start building a shiny new chain service station right across the street!

For reasons that he can't comprehend, Virgil's partner and mentor Welby seems unconcerned by the new arrivals -- even to the point of being supportive of their business!


The first thing you'll notice about this book is 1960's retro feel is very strong.  From the classic car on the cover to the colors... even the chapter headings have an adorable little gas pump image incorporated into them.

Vintage product names and newspaper headlines abound as barbershop arguments center around FDR, Kennedy, and Nixon.

Whether you lived through this period, or you're just fond of its style, you'll definitely love the "look and feel" of this book.

As far of the story goes, all of the events and situations are very realistic and flow naturally.  Though the pacing is remarkably slower than my own stories, it never drags at all.  Likewise, the conflicts are strong and leave the reader just as concerned as the characters about what's going to happen.

If I had one negative thing to say, it would be that there are a lot of characters to keep straight in your head.  Basically, you get introduced to the entire town, their diverse stories, and struggles.  All this is not wasted.  It comes together to create character interactions that are natural and forms what seems to be a complete picture of the Eden Hill community.  Therefore, even the mental cost of going, "wait, who was 'Arlie', again?" serves a purpose.

There are some great fun moments in this book, like when the grocer accidentally pulls the raingutter off the church, and the continual trouble Virgil's son Vee and his friend Frank are always getting into.

There are also some tender tear-jerkers as well, like hairdresser's "depression baby" and the surprise fellowship between the white Baptist church and the "negro" (just how they talked back then) Pentecostal church from across town.

My personal favorite is a combination of both, when poor, uneducated, Virgil decides to treat his wife to an "intimate romantic dinner" (as the magazine from the hair salon calls it).  The problem is he doesn't understand what that phrase even means!  Suffice it to say it, what happens is so disastrous and sweet, that you'll be laughing and crying... both at the same time!


In a generic sense, I think anybody not looking for anything particular, but just an all-around a good story, would like this one.

Where this really shines though, is it would be a FANTASTIC gift for somebody who lived in the 60's, a classic car buff, or somebody into nostalgia / Americana.

In fact, even though this is a "Christian book", the way the Gospel is presented in terms of real-life situations may make this a good choice for non-believers who fall into the above categories.

Live YOUR adventure!
  -E.L. Fletcher

Disclaimer:  The preceding review was done on materials sent to me for free from the publisher.  If you would like your own book reviewed, please use the contact information here on my blog ( or message me through social media.