Jamie Greening Wows with Christian Fiction That Doesnt Suck!

There are thousands of “murder mystery” books out there, and a thousand more examples of message fiction. The true test of a good author is one who can craft a good story in a celebrated genre with a thoughtful message that doesn’t come across as, well, preachy.

Ironically, Jamie Greening does just that with his latest Pastor Butch Gregory novel, How Great is the Darkness. Combining the fast-paced thrills and light-hearted, banter reminiscent of some of Jim Butcher’s best work with moments of adroit, theological and philosophical depth that make you take pause and think not only of the state of the world but also the state of your heart, Greening’s story and characters are the literary progeny of some of the greatest Christian storytellers in the last half century.

If you’re looking for a book you can literally not put down, both for the story and the meaning BEHIND the story, look no further than How Great is the Darkness. It won’t disappoint.

The Candidates

The problem with a two-party system (or even a 10-party system) is you have to make choices. Candidate A might say he wants to put an end to the death penalty and institute a complicated economic policy that is DAMN NEAR GUARANTEED to give everybody a million dollars. But he/she also hates people from Kansas and says he plans to nuke the state once elected. Candidate B wants to give away free cars to everyone in the electorate, but in order to do that you have to give all your money to the government, and 1/5 of all people in the United States will be sent to work camps three months out of the year.

If you vote for Candidate A, you will be called a Kansas-hater and all your friends will say the blood of the midwest is on your hands. If you vote for Candidate B, everyone will say you support the next, great American concentration camps. You will also be compared to Hitler at every turn. People will photoshop mustaches on your facebook photos. It will not be pretty.

Those are your choices. Pick one.

Sure, there are some third party candidates (and there is always the option of voting for baseball players like that one idiot you know), but the sad reality is either the Kansas-masher or the New Hitler will be your next President no matter what you do. You can choose the lesser of two evils or throw your vote away on a third party.

What do you do?

You think back to past elections, like the one in 2000 where Candidate Q promised to give everyone free healthcare but we had to change our middle name to “Feldspar.” Also, people named Bob had to break their pinky fingers over and over on months with more than four Fridays in them. He won. And what’s the world like today? Nobody is named Feldspar, and only a few people followed through on the pinky breaking thing. Everyone wonders whether they were stupid for doing that (hint: they were).

Then there was the candidate in 2004 who promised to really take the fight to the BadEvilDoers from OverThere-i-Stan, who everyone was afraid of for some damn reason. All he required was the right to run a porn website out of the White House and a cadre of people with red hair who followed him around all day telling him how awesome they thought he was. People didn’t like him all that much for that. Well … some people did, but those people are weird. Anyway, he fought the BadEvilDoers for a while, then gave up and focused on Education, which was nicer than the porn website, which never really took off in the end. And thank God for that!

So you realize that every time there has been a presidential election in this country, all the major candidates are painted as THE WORST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD by the opposition and the media and people with blogs and bad youtube channels. And yeah, this time around, Candidate A says he likes to grab women by their genitals and that he wants to deport people who worship the wrong God. And sure, some people say Candidate B sold our national secrets to our enemies and ruined the lives of those people who accused her husband of sexual assault when HE was in the White House, but are these things REALLY true? All the BadThings from past presidential cycles turned out to be not as bad as we might have thought. And, gosh, it sure would be nice to have that million dollars Candidate A keeps talking about. He probably won’t bomb Kansas, right? Who would do that? That’s crazy! If he does, maybe he’ll let people leave first BEFORE he bombs it. Why would anyone want to live in Kansas anyway? It’s so … flat!

Granted, both LOOK bad, and the supporters on both sides are RABID in their hatred of you for having made your choice, even though you REALLY don’t want to bomb Kasnas OR open up concentration camps so people can get a car. Nobody wants that. Not really. But that’s what everyone SAYS everyone else wants.

Because people are crazy in election seasons. Stark raving mad. Completely insane. Like that guy who votes for baseball players. Only with malicious intent.

So you walk into the voting booth and you vote for someone despite their many failings and hope for the best. Maybe it will be like last time. Maybe those BadThings won’t really happen. And, if they do, you plan to stand up to THE MAN even Your Candidate wins. Because you have some friends that live in Kansas. And you don’t like the idea of work camps. You vote for one of the two Candidates and you promise to work with the people on the other side as best you can. It would be nice if there was a Candidate out there who was AllGood and a Candidate who was Allbad. But, like Ben Stiller said in that one movie your college roommate kept watching all the time instead of working (or paying bills), “There aren’t any good guys. There aren’t any bad guys. It’s just a bunch of guys.” It would be nice if you could ignore the failings of one in support of the other. But you can’t. In the real world, you have to choose some things. People don’t always understand WHY you choose as you do, and they might call you names for having done it. But you still have to do it. Because this is real life and real living means making hard choices. Plus, you’d have to be an idiot to vote for a baseball player instead. Right?

Choosing things is hard. Life is hard. Sometimes these things just suck. The important thing to remember is that just because THINGS suck and CHOICES suck, it doesn’t mean YOU suck. And it doesn’t mean your friends suck, either. They did the best they could. God forgive us. We all did.

Except for that one guy who votes for baseball players. Man, that guy is an idiot.

Baseball, Forgiveness, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

“Life is hard,” my Grandma would tell me. “Eventually someone will hurt you. When that happens, you get to decide: fight back, or forgive. It’s up to you. What will you do?”

As a kid, I played baseball in the field behind my Grandma’s house. We played every day, all day, and each day for lunch, my Grandma made us her world-famous peanut butter sandwiches. These were beautiful: a single piece of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter spread on top. That’s simple enough, but what made them special was she wrote your name into the peanut butter so you knew THIS one was yours.

Read the rest at Redleg Nation.

Rituals

This time of year is always tough. Football season is ramping up, the weather has hinted that it might start to cool off a bit here soon, and the kids have gone back to school. Even those of you who are not either a student or a parent have, at the very least, spent a long commute caught in the sloth-like wake of a school bus, wondering why we haven’t developed flying cars be now.

The answer: because your stupid teenagers would drive those flying cars, crashing into each other, killing thousands. Then where would we be?

There’s lots to distract us from our favorite pastime. Heck, I’ve even given up on Fantasy Baseball. My team, the Florida Dumpster Fire, has descended into last place, breaking decades-long records for ineptitude in our keeper league. It’s easy, in seasons like this, where the impossibility of a postseason was a foregone conclusion before the Findlay Market Parade took its first steps on Opening Day. Back then, we thought anything might happen. Now, we know that nothing has and nothing will. How do we keep things relevant?

Read the rest over at Redlegnation

Elevator Conversations: Reality and the Meaning of Existence

Not Person: I read your latest Elevator Conversations post.
Me: Yeah? Did you like it?
Not Person: No.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: You made it up, didn’t you? You make them all up!
Me: I make some of them up. Most are real. And others are a mix.
Not Person: You shouldn’t do that.
Me: Shouldn’t do what?
Not Person: Make those up.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: It’s like you’re lying!
Me: Lying has intent to deceive. This has intent to entertain.
Not Person: Well, I think you should stop.
Me: Okay, but you’re not gonna like it.
Not Person: …Why?
Me: Because I made YOU up, and…
Not Person: No, wait!
Me: …If I stop…
Not Person: …I take it back!
Me: … you stop.
Not Person: Nooooooooooooo!

Not Person disappears into a puff of existential smoke. Other Person steps into the elevator.

Other Person: Why are you talking to yourself?
Me: You wouldn’t understand. … Can you push floor 3?

Other Person pushes the button and steps to the side.

Other Person: Stupid, drunk, homeless people.
Me: Hey! I’m not homeless.
Other person: You sure smell like it.

The doors close. The elevator goes away.

#elevatorconversations

Elevator Conversations: Cleanliness

Two men step into a crowded elevator.

Man #1: You should just give up and get contacts. They really are better than glasses.
Man #2: No way. I’d have to start washing my hands.
Man #1: …You mean more, right? You’d have to wash your hands … more?
Man #2: No.

Everyone in the elevator steps to the side opposite Man #2.

#elevatorconversations

Elevator Conversations: Hats

I stood next to the elevator, holding my hat in one hand; my cell phone in the other. A lady approaches, pushes the button. She sees my hat and her eyes go wide.

Lady: We’re not supposed to wear hats
Me: It’s okay. I’m not wearing it.
Lady: We’re not supposed to wear hats!
Me: It’s okay … I’m not wearing it.
Lady: I’m telling someone.
Me: But….I’m not …
Lady (angrily): We’re not supposed to wear hats.

She storms off, just as the elevator arrives.

Me: I don’t even work here, Lady….

#elevatorconversations

Elevator Conversations: Sleepy Time

Two men standing in an elevator. One has a large bruise on his forehead.

Man #1: Dude. What happened to your face?
Man #2: Oh nothing. I just fell asleep in the shower and knocked my head against the faucet.
Man #1: Wow. I bet that woke you up.pretty quick, huh?
Man #2: No. I slept there for a good thirty minutes before my wife came in to see what was going on.
Man #1: Heh
Man #2: She said the tile amplified my snoring and it sounded like a wild animal being drowned in our bathroom.
Man #1: Why’d it take her thirty minutes?
Man #2: This wasn’t the first time this has happened.

#ElevatorConversations