Thursday, October 10, 2019
T. J. Tao is the pen name of Michael J. Orr (wordsmithmojo.com). Now based in southern Idaho, he and his family survived the Camp Fire, and though he wanted to publish a factual account, "the truth was that our story had no ending, yet." Conspiracy theories hung in the air.
So he "settled on fiction, weaving the story with more than twenty very real survivor stories (including my own) and some of the conspiracy theory storylines: gold, corruption, government land grabs, etc."
Then he "found a ridge in west-central Idaho that had much the same shape and many of the same features as the ridge that Paradise sits on." The novel's focus is on the town of Genna (Maltese, he says, for "Paradise") with a fire that started in Bear County near Bonneville Road and so was dubbed the Bonn Fire."
The result is a riveting story of a corrupt town manager, a scheme to secure mineral rights along the eastern ridge by any means necessary, murderous henchmen, a dedicated sheriff, and the heroism of first responders and local citizens in the midst of the worst fire in Idaho's history.
"Burn Scar: A Contemporary Disaster Thriller" ($16.99 in paperback from WordsmithMojo Publishing; also for Amazon Kindle), by T.J. Tao, also fictionally imports the "firenado" (from the Carr Fire) to plague Genna's Rite Aid.
Three weeks before the fire, "Mayor Joana Moody was in the midst of an unexpectedly difficult bid for re-election to the Town Council of Genna. ... In most towns and cities, the Town Manager worked for and at the pleasure of the Council. Not in Genna, here Jillian Dupree ran the show. ... She needed Mayor Moody" pretty much as a pawn as Jillian maneuvered the idea of bolting a sewer system onto the eastern cliffside into a fortune for herself.
The novelist is not pleased with Council doings or with "Idaho Electric Power." (Locations and identities of some key players are thinly veiled.) Despite some editing infelicities the story is a page turner in its own right, with a satisfying conclusion.
There's comeuppance that lends an air of finality to something that never really will be finished.
Thursday, October 03, 2019
In 2001, with almost three decades in the pastorate, Chicoan Gaylord Enns experienced debilitating burnout. Months later he faced cancer surgery. Granted time away from his congregation to regain his strength, he began studying the Bible and, on May 1, 2002, found the answer to a simple question that profoundly changed his life.
The story is told in "Love Revolution: Rediscovering The Lost Command Of Jesus (Revised Edition)" ($15.99 in paperback from Love Revolution Press, loverevolutionnow.org; also for Amazon Kindle).
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells his followers to make disciples, "baptizing them ... and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." For Enns, baptism referred to faith in Jesus Christ--but what exactly had Jesus commanded?
Enns writes that Jesus taught many things, but only commanded one thing, as in John 15:12: "Love each other as I have loved you." As Enns observes, "I had started ... with a question: What all did Jesus command His disciples to obey? ... It was the New Commandment--His Command."
This contrasts with the Old Covenant commands, the first, to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" and the second, to "love your neighbor as yourself." How can one ever fulfill the first? Doesn't the second interfere with it? As Enns writes, "I struggled with a nagging sense that I wasn't really living up to what God expected of me. My responsibilities as a husband, father, son, friend and pastor kept me from being as devoted to God as I felt I should be."
Jesus' command broke through all this. "Rather than shouting 'I love You, God!' into the sky for hours, I began to realize that maybe I should give just a couple of shouts and then go back into the kitchen and help my wife clean up the pots and pans after dinner. ... In the New Covenant, loving God and loving our neighbor are expressed as we put our faith in Jesus Christ and love one another."
Enns is a winsome writer and a gentle guide. Readers will find much food for thought.