A View of Catholicism Today

This I believe. I believe in heaven.  I believe in God.  I believe each of us has a soul that after death resides with God and angels and the souls of countless others in eternity.  I believe that angels exist, reside in eternity and are God’s messengers to we dwelling on Earth.  I believe that any creature capable of loving, caring and having feelings for others has a soul that too, after death, resides in heaven.  That goes especially for animals.

I am also a Catholic

I am a mightily disturbed Catholic over the public outing of those miscreants who call themselves priests.

 

I have countless times over my adult years said “I’m a Catholic in spite of the Church.”

 

I identify as a Catholic mainly from communal, social, and family reasons.  I’m from a half Italian, half Sicilian family.  The distinction is verification that I know the difference.  I went to Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and a Jesuit college (the distinction is intentional as many within the church cast a skeptical eye towards Jesuits, even calling the head of the order “the Black Pope”.)  My relatives are Catholic.  For the most part, my friends and classmates are Catholic.  I attend Catholic Sunday services. Quite unintentionally I’m a founding Grand Knight of my parish counsel in Maryland.  I consider myself part of my new Texas Catholic parish community.

 

Being Catholic is part of my identity.  I would not feel comfortable or honest to say otherwise.

 

The Catholic religion is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a legitimate part of what followers call Christianity. We don’t worship statutes as some think.  We don’t worship angels.  We don’t worship Saints.  We worship one God and it doesn’t, to me at least, matter what anyone calls the Supreme Being, even using the Hebraic phrase that acknowledges God but refuses to use a name to that effect.

 

I also need to be very clear that I really bridle at being asked if I’m a Christian.  If you can’t tell what I believe from the way I act then I don’t deserve to use that description anyway.

 

Another reason I don’t subscribe to the “have you accepted Christ” club is that I find it a tad insulting and just as offensive as Muslims demanding fealty to Mohammad’s cult of belief.  I say cult because any group that believes “others” who, for whatever reason, refuse to join that group deserve death is no fellowship that worships the true God.

 

If, as many claim, Mohammed was an impressive and quite successful plagiarist of world religions his epic work’s most despicable admonishment that non-believers must be slain can be traced to an equally disgusting era of intolerance of those from whom he borrowed ideas including the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition was one.  Oliver Cromwell and his Roundhead Generals genocidal slaughter of Irish Catholics as compelled by “the wrath of God” is another.  Witch trials were part of that horrid mindset.

 

The idea of any one religion claiming exclusivity to (pick a name) heaven, paradise, nirvana, or whatever the name du jour for eternal happiness might be is utter, egotistical bull.

 

My attitude is simply that what I practice as a form of worship is none of your business. As I said, my life is my membership card and if that’s not good enough for you…that’s your problem, not mine.

 

That said I have a very real problem with the historical and present Catholic Church, the regal structure of the clergy and the offenses against God and mankind that follow.

 

I can’t stand anything that walks like, talks like or has pretensions of royalty.  I’m sure it’s due to equal parts of my Sicilian/Italian genetic disdain for overbearing authority and the intrinsic importance of independence to being American.  Bow to a King or Queen or kiss a Cardinal’s ring…thank you no.  I’ve shaken a few Presidents’ hands but taking a knee to anyone or any group is out of the question.  We are all the “Chosen.”  Why else would we be here?  We all deserve equal respect until we prove otherwise.  And, we are all servants no matter if others call us by any exalted title.

 

In my seven decades as a Catholic I’ve encountered priests who understand their role as servants of God and their fellow humans, and I’ve known many who posture as divine arbiters of human behavior.  I’ve found Irish Catholic priests more often than not tend to act like petty tyrants who demand the faithful follow their every idiotic command as coming directly from the mouth of God.

 

The recent, but by no means new, revelations of the wholesale sexual depravity of some Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were not shocking.  They didn’t shake my faith or cause me to jettison my identity as a Catholic.  The horrific sexual predator practices among scores of priests in Pennsylvania is but one of the most recent in a long-standing history of that abomination.  Not that such damnable behavior is restricted only to the Catholic clergy.

 

Catholicism to me is not an exclusive club, nor the only community whose membership enjoys favor with the Divine although church figures throughout history would beg to differ. I do not hold the Catholic clergy or their hierarchy of pretentious titles – monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even the Pope – in any particular awe.  They are just men doing a job who tend to wear funny outfits.  Respect I give for the individual on a sliding scale depending on their dedication to service to all of us, humans and animals alike.

 

There is but one God. To me, it does not matter the flavor of believe espoused: Christianity, Islam, Protestant faith etc. with which one identifies.  (Islam is mentioned here with a figurative cautionary asterisk attached.)

 

A great lesson was taught me when my wife and I sought a cleric to preside over our marriage ceremony.  We made inquiries of a wide range of religions.  The local, Maryland Catholic priest declined.  He said our previous, less than successful forays into domestic disfunction, required the past unions to be annulled.  The idea that children even those from the worst parental pairings would be, in theory, the offspring of a newly deemed non-existent union was pretty offensive and insulting.  Even a minister whose website proclaimed theirs was a community of progressive thinking, acceptance, and quite “universal” that met in a glorified tree house said “no.”  One man, whose initials begin with “Kenn,” stepped forward. I believe his background was Baptist…and definitely former Marine.

Rev Kenn Blanchard at Duke University

Attending the event were many Catholics including two nuns.  One of the nuns approached me once the vows were made and documents signed and said that the Reverend’s service was the single most spiritual she’d ever seen.  No robes, no altars, no organs accompanying vocalists singing hymnal or Hollywood songs.  It was a spiritual event orchestrated by a true clergyman saying true words in honor of the true God.

 

So,in spite of the church and too many predators in priest clothing, I remain a Catholic but my form of worship is grounded in how I live my life, embrace others, open my heart to the companionship of those who passed before me and accept the many gifts, both positive and painful, the Divine One allows me to experience during my journey here.

A Visit to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte

Billy Graham Library

It’s supposedly the #1 attraction in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, the Billy Graham Library. That means it’s more popular than NASCAR. Although I had seen the billboards advertising the Billy Graham Library and I routinely visit Charlotte and the surrounding area, I hadn’t visited until … my parents joined me in Charlotte for a family wedding. I grew up watching Billy Graham’s amazing crusades on our black and white TV, back in the ’60s. As a teen, I went forward to answer the call at a crusade in my hometown of Sioux Falls. And now, it seemed fitting, right, to go to the library and to visit the resting place of Rev. Graham and his wife, Ruth, at the library in Charlotte with my parents, the wonderful people who not only brought me into the world, but also, who started me on my journey of being a Christian.

Billy Graham library

These are my lovely parents, who are standing in front of the Billy Graham Library on a wet and chilly April day in Charlotte. The grounds are gorgeous.

Billy Graham Library barnInside the Billy Graham Library

Although the building looks “barnish,” it houses valuable documents and artifacts that chronicle Graham’s mission in life — to preach the gospel of Christ. Rev. Graham preached for almost 80 years, and you can follow, chronologically, his own journey. The Library is hosting special displays this year:

  • June-August: “New Frontiers” – 1980s & 1990s
  • September-October: “Looking to the Future” – 2000s & 2010s
  • November-December: “Then and Now” – Today

I especially liked the display that featured the time that Rev. Graham went to Berlin. It features live footage of the occasion, and the magnitude of the crowds is really, rather overwhelming. There is a hunger in the world to hear the word.

displayVisitors to the library will follow the life and journey of Billy Graham, and also learn about his #1 helpmate, his soulmate, Ruth Bell Graham — whose parents were missionaries in China. Find out more about this lovely lady and about how her plans, of eventually returning to China as a missionary, were changed and melded into an even greater plan.

Billy Graham's preaching bibleThis is a super interesting display — the preaching Bible that Billy Graham used on his crusades across the world.

Billy GrahamThroughout the library, you will be exposed to videos and photographs of the world and the times and how Rev. Graham effected change.

guns on display Billy Graham LibraryHow can I even improve on this little piece of information. Life changing. You’ll find nuggets of wisdom and pearls of knowledge throughout the journey in the museum, which will take at least 2 hours. Make sure to visit the gift shop, where you may find Rev. Graham and his team’s books, as well as several devotional books and lovely mementos of your visit.

Billy Graham farm homeRev. Graham had his family home moved to this site, keeping 80% of the original materials. He lived in this house from the age of 9 until he left for college. The interior is similar to how the Graham family lived, with original appliances and furniture, along with fascinating photographs.

billy Graham gravesiteRev. Graham passed away in February 2018, at the age of 99, and his grave is located on the site near his wife’s grave.

No admission charge, but a donation is accepted.

Visit the Billy Graham Library.

 

Five Rookie Podcast Mistakes You Can Fix Today

Gardner Douglas is the host of the Oyster Ninja Podcast

As a content creator and editor of podcast, I have seen shows come and go. I have created over a dozen myself that have faded away into the ether. A friend of mine started a podcast based on his niche of being a professional oyster shucker. Before I met him, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I want to share some things Gardner Douglas also known as the Oyster Ninja has done right and identify some things you can do to fix or avoid the rookie mistakes all new podcasters make.

Let me share a little about Gardner.

He is a married US Army veteran and a devoted family man.  Gardner has been shucking oysters for ten years and can be found in the DC metropolitan area. Gardner learned the art of shucking from his father, and fellow oyster champion, Samuel “Sam Sam” Fisher. Gardner has shucked at the best raw bars in DC including Whaleys, Rappahannock River Oysters, The Local Oyster, and The Walrus & Ale Oyster bar. He has also shucked at DC’s most premier events include Chef for Equality, the DC oyster Festival, The St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, Shuck-n-Suck, and The Oyster Riot at Dc’s Historical restaurant, Old Ebbits Grill. As a business owner, running his own oyster catering service and mobile raw bar, Gardner has shucked for some of DC’s most elite.

He is also a champion oyster shucker.

• Ranking 6th place in the 2016 National Oyster Shucking Championship.
• 2017’s Best Shucker in Philly,
• Ranked 2nd place at the 2016 Best Shucker in Baltimore and Baltimore Rotary Competition
• Ranked 5th place in the Boston Seafood Expo Shucking Competition.

Currently, Gardner can be heard sharing his knowledge about oysters and shucking skills with the world via his podcast The Oyster Ninja, which centers around oysters, oyster shuckers, farmers and other oyster related things. The Oyster Ninja can also be spotted in the Eating Oysters: Chesapeake Style a Maryland PBS documentary.

Whether on camera or behind an oyster bar, Gardner Douglas’ personality is infectious. He draws you into the art of oyster shucking as if you were watching a performance. Gardner Douglas’ shucking skills are a work of art. There is no wonder that they call him the Oyster Ninja, as his techniques make shucking oysters look as easy as eating them. The art of oyster shucking is lost on most until you decide to try opening an oyster yourself.  Gardner is a sought after expert that works with caterers, bars, parties, and special event to provide the seafood delicacies.

Oyster Ninja Podcast

How do you not screw up?

Here are are things to help you avoid making rookie mistakes in podcast. Everybody is selling something.  so you have to specialize in this crowded world in order to survive. Gardner’s niche is in the seafood industry. He prepares and presents oysters for bars, cocktail parties and high end events. He was born almost with a oyster knife in his hand. He learned from his father who passed an Eastern Shore tradition to him. Gardner is also concerned about the environment. His niche is as deep as the ocean. He has a lot of things to pull from, he just didn’t know it at first.

The first goal for a successful podcaster is preparation. You have to know where you want to go. You don’t have to have all the answers but you have to know that you are providing a service, or a reason for us to listen. How long is your show going to be? What persona are you going to portray? What does your album art look like? These are just a handful of questions that will frame your show before you even find a microphone you want to buy in Amazon. I suggested Gardner get a notebook and write his vision down. Something happens when you put it on paper. For me, its more concrete and fluid than coming from a keyboard. I am very proud of my brother Gardner. He actually listened to me on more than one occasion and is doing well.

The second goal is to figure out who wants what you are selling. In other words, you have to identify your target audience. This one takes a little time. Everybody does;t want what you have. Everybody won’t like your voice, your delivery, your accent, your graphics, or something. The good news is those that do, will love you to pieces. They might not look like you or live near you but the good news is, they are somewhere on this big blue marble. Your job is to find them, connect with them and deliver.

The third goal we all must take after we get going is to actually take action. It is easy to get a paralysis of analysis. There is always something else to buy. There is always something just not quite right. One of the great things about social media and tech today is that you fix it on the go. Gardner did that and has made connections already that he will use when the time is right. Yoda said it best, “Do or Do Not, There is No Try.”

The fourth thing you should be working on is to solve certain problems for specific people. When someone invest their time with you, do something for them. Teach them. Inspire them. Make them laugh, think, moan or cry. Whatever you do, just don’t be boring.

The fifth and final goal of this blogpost is to do what Gardner is doing well. Create a “tribe” and tap into a more loyal and highly engaged audience. Even though he isn’t creating a podcast episode every week he is still working on building his base. He is working social media and good old fashion networking to share what his show will be. He has enough episodes for newcomers to listen to and a lot of upcoming shucking events where he meets potential clients, guest and listeners. He is not resting even though you don’t hear him.

oyster ninja podcast knife gardner douglas Five Rookie Mistakes You Can Fix Today About Your Podcast
oyster ninja podcast knife by gardner douglas

The Oyster Ninja podcast is going to be successful. Right now, Gardner is being a good Christian father and husband so the podcast creation has not been as regular as maybe required to grow exponentially but he knows it. He chooses to do the right things, and I am positive that when the time is right, you’ll see and hear a lot more about and from the Oyster Ninja.  This is his new knife he created to get a buzz going.

If you can’t wait, you’ll find him on social media:

instagram: oysterninjapc
Facebook: The Oyster Ninja Podcast
Email: oysterninjapc@gmail.com

Remember there are five things you can do to avoid the rookie mistakes I made. Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance. (plan) Figure out who your audience is going to be. After you get and idea of what your show is going to be — do it. To be successful, solve a problem. Have a reason for your show that is of more interest than you just being cute. Create a tribe from your identified audience and change the world; or why else do this?

The world is your oyster, shuck it! – Kenn Blanchard

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

are you spiritual or religious

Titles

How many times have you heard someone describing their faith status as being spiritual but not religious?  What do you identify as in your Christian walk?

As Christians we struggle with titles and identifying words for what we do and what we are.  Words have always been important.  They define us.  In a time where identity is topical.  What do you call yourself as related to Christianity?  Not only do we have goo- gobs of denominations but even more differences internally.

If you think about it, I bet it is because of the shortcomings you have witnessed, lived and survived as a Christian.  Have you heard the podcast?

Are you religious? Religion is our attempt at worshipping God in the manner of our preference. To be spiritual is to recognize the existence of God, angels and demons. That is not saying much, actually. Demons recognize God, they just don’t worship Him.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

It is not secret that the concept of organized religion has come short for most people. If the truth be told we have come short of what God wants for us.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

Our churches are imperfect because we are in it. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

One thing about deciding if we are religious or spiritual is from our failing as a religious community is forgetting who the real enemy is. We fight each other. We fight the pastor. We fight the deacons. We fight non-Christians. We fight people that show us our shortcomings. We fight a lot for people trying to be like Jesus. The real enemy is spiritual. It is the unseen forces that inhabit our dwellings, and people in our lives. Being demon possessed sounds horrible but lets move away from the Exorcist type movies and think about what happens to us daily.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Have you ever had a family event go south (go to hell) after it started off great? There was love and peace in the home and then without warning someone ignites a firestorm of mean spirited conversation that destroys the joy. It is often the family member that doesn’t go to church. Or how about after a guest comes over. It is not the guest necessarily but as if a presence came in with them that changed the dynamic of the event.

This event influences more people than presenting the Gospel. It is why it happens. It is demonic.

How about a home that goes from warm to cold. A day that goes from great to horrible as if a virus of evil passes through it. I submit that this is exactly what happened.
How about the church business meeting? Those are often the worse. Meetings held were we talk about everything but evangelizing, saving people from eternal death or helping someone. They are ripe for evil influences. Meetings were we are more concerned with parliamentary procedure than prayer. Prayer is more important than we realize.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have enemies in the spiritual realms. Satan and his minions hate you. They seek to stop your growth, delay your progress, kill your joy. What’s worse is you accept it on a daily basis as normal. You blame everything and everyone else.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

It doesn’t just happen in church or in the movies.   It happens so often we miss it. Think about family times that turn out to make you NOT want to be around those who love you unconditionally. Think about all the times we have allowed ourselves to be angered, frustrated, or whatever is the opposite of what God would prefer.

You ever had family dinner time destroyed? The family is enjoying themselves and feeling the love and thankful to God about their blessings and then it hits.

How about in the home with a child that all of a sudden disrespects you, hits a hot button of yours.

It happens in church. It splits the church. It undoes the fabric of a church congregation which is actually another family.

Let’s talk about demons in the movies. They often say snarky stuff at first. It’s funny sometimes. It is a diversion. The next level is often hurtful truths. They are not all knowing but having been around longer than we have and able to confer with other demons on stuff about us and our families that appear impressive. They use that information to push your buttons. It came shame us, or fill us up with false pride. And it is always subtle. There is no being in red with horns and a pointed tail to scare us. The monster comes only after your confront it and try to cast it out. Then you get the ugly thing that spits, fights, curses God and blasphemes.

Casting out demons is no joke. It is not for the weak in faith. Not many of us are strong enough to do it. Look at what happened to the posers that tried it in Acts 19:13-16

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I don’t want you running out of the house naked and wounded.

Reading Scripture the Holy Spirit cautions us that to do it successfully it must be done by someone strong in their faith, cleaned and prepared by fasting and prayer.

In the movies, The Exorcist (spoiler alert) both priest died. Prayer is still crucial for us on a day to day activity before we deal with anyone.

Suggestions:
Before your next conversation with your spouse pray.
Before your next meeting pray.
Before your next event pray.

You want to pray to rid your home of indwelling or wandering evil.
You want to pray to protect your family while home. Think of evil as a roach in your home or church. You need to fumigate it with prayer.

Call the Holy Spirit to replace what is there. That is done through prayer and praise.

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I want to give you a title if you must have one. Instead of being religious or spiritual, how about being a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is no ambiguity or gray area there. But I must warn you there is no middle of the road answer. You are either His or you are not…

Matthew 10:33 says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Amen?

Make Good Choices a sign pointing to choices
Make Good Choices

 

 

Crank up the Christian Tunes When Working Out

woman music christian music

About 30 pounds ago, I was a fitness instructor – jumping around on the fault line in Southern California, leading people through step aerobics and high impact workouts. See, I’ve dated myself already. So now, 30 years and 30 pounds later, I’m back in the gym and one of the first things I changed about my workout? The music. I decided to add Christian tunes to my workout regime.

Cranking up the Christian Tunes

Instead of listening to metallic rock, hard-driving and fast-packed thumping music with nasty words, I’ve switched the sound system over to Christian Rock. I’m revisiting the songs from 15 years ago, when I played in a Christian band at a big Baptist church in Missouri, and I’m starting with this CD, Integrity’s iWorship, “No Boundaries. It is a 2 CD collection of 33 worship songs, including these artists – Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Israel & New Breed and more. I look forward to exploring more modern Christian music as I practice this new choice of music in the gym.

I reference Ecclesiastes 3:3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.

christian tunesI like to think of it this way. As I tear down muscle fibers, to rebuild themselves, I am also tearing myself down again and listening to the words through these songs, and rebuilding myself. I am able to hear the words, think through them and leave after a workout with a stronger purpose in living the life that God wants me to live.

What are some Christian artists and songs that you do or would listen to when you work out?

Barb BairdOur friend, Barbara Baird, has been a Sunday School teacher, a concert choir accompanist at a Baptist college, a singer in church choirs and a keyboardist with Christian rock bands. She’s also a travel writer, a gun writer, a wife, mom and granny who lives in the Ozarks. She’ll contribute tips on lifestyle topics – such as travel, exercise, safety and who knows what else? Find her at Ozarkian.com and Womensoutdoornews.com.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Ray Keating

I came out of the intelligence world in 2014 and was invited to write a review for an author I now consider a friend.  The review was printed in the Washington Times right before my birthday and I took it as a blessing.

I have received a copy of the past three Pastor Stephen Grant novels ever since and it is my go to summer read. Since The River there have been, four books.  Ray is a great writer.  His work will take you there.  Here’s what I wrote in 2014.

Just opened his latest called, “Reagan Country.”  Here’s my first review of…

 ‘The River’

Ray Keating’s novel, “The River,” takes you on an intriguing summer ride from Langley to the Vatican with Stephen Grant, a former CIA agent who leaves his intelligence career behind and becomes a pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on East Long Island.

Mr. Keating’s storytelling is so lifelike that I almost thought I had worked with him when I was at Langley. Like the fictitious pastor, I actually spent 20 years working for the U.S. intelligence community, and once I started reading “The River,” I had to keep reading because it was so well-crafted and easy to follow and because it depicted a personal struggle that I knew all too well. I simply could not put it down.

What Ian Fleming’s 007 series has probably done for ex-MI-6 agents and Tom Clancy has done for retired CIA officers, Mr. Keating has done for the minority of former CIA agents who have served their country by working in the intelligence community, but now wish to serve God.

To me as a pastor, one of the interesting points of this story was the accuracy in the complexity of serving God as a Christian leader today. Apart from the espionage and action-oriented references to guns and tactics, there were real life, tear-jerking moments in a couple of instances that reminded me of some struggles that ministers face in sharing loss, grieving families and anger.

The book also highlighted my own inner search for truth in having made the transition from being a former active member of the U.S. intelligence community to being a Lutheran pastor. Undeniably, “thou shalt not kill” is an important part of the Bible, but during my own spiritual journey, those words took on a heightened level of contemplation.

Mr. Keating’s writing does not gloss over how things are and the responses we often hear, and that made the story richer for me because it wasn’t neat and sexy like a shaken martini in a James Bond thriller. It was a great blend of so many elements that actually happen in the intelligence community.

“The River” takes us to the core of moral principle; that is the battle between good versus evil, right versus wrong and the differences between one’s past and present lives, leaving the reader in deep reflection about the blurred lines that inspire inner conflict in anyone who has a past that they must reconcile with.

After all, in real life, the pieces rarely fit as neatly as we would like them to, and contrary to the old adage, time does not always allow all the hurt to heal before we get hit with something else. That is the kind of realism the reader is privy to in “The River,” because Mr. Keating weaves a convincing tale. After all, we are all seeking answers of some kind, whether they are to questions or merely settling on what is comfortable.

Mr. Keating also allows you to discover how each of his characters’ tick in a style and tone reminiscent of some of the best loved books of all time. The details and descriptions of “The River” brought me back into the secret corridors of the agency, trying to recall who the chief of station was as I read. Then, I wondered what operations were going on.

This riveting page-turner reminded me of some of my own experiences, such as the time I was training with a SEAL team that just happened to be at the facility I was working at as a member of the firearms-training team. I couldn’t help but wonder which of the nondescript young men I’d met back then would have become Mr. Keating’s Stephen Grant.

Which of the guys that I have run with, been bested by and traded insults with in the typical Navy versus Marine banter would it have been?

As soon as the story progressed, I knew this guy. The more I read, the more I understood him. A real-life version of Pastor Grant and I would have been friends. We would have commiserated on politics and poor choices of our youth, and surely, we would have debated church doctrines.

The book was so rich in content and story that I expected the meaning to be connected to one of the songs by Garth Brooks, Joni Mitchell or even Bruce Springsteen. All three artists of different genres have songs about “The River,” and the reader can’t be sure which one until the end of the story.

Many spy-novel authors try to appeal to members of the intelligence community as well as the average American looking for a little international intrigue and James Bond excitement. With Mr. Keating’s Pastor Grant, he has touched upon a small fraternity within the intelligence community of those who have wanted to serve both God and country — but necessarily in that order.

You can get them on AMAZON.com

THE RIVER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL

By Ray Keating

CreateSpace, $13.99, 272 pages

other books in this series:

  • Murderer’s Row
  • Wine Into Water
  • Lionhearts
  • Reagan Country

Kenneth V. Blanchard is a former CIA analyst and Baptist pastor.