hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘church’

A Review of Deconversion: a Journey from Religion to Reason

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 5, 2018

Deconverted: a Journey from Religion to ReasonDeconverted: a Journey from Religion to Reason by Seth Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book! Seth Andrews lived my own exact life growing up, and we were both traumatized by the same types of things (the movie, “Thief In The Night!”), and we were both fundies/evangelicals for much of our younger lives before we both started asking ourselves some questions, before asking others, and began reading and researching, and while Andrews reached his conclusions and belief system before I did, I admire his resolve and his courage for “coming out” as an atheist in a strong Bible Belt city, because I live in the biggest Bible Belt city in America (I believe it was so named last year…), and unless you’re a Red State Republican bible thumper here, you don’t really feel very welcome in this city, and while I haven’t spent years as an out and out atheist as Andrews has, I may as well, because when I’m not on my feet “praising the lord,” I stick out like a sore thumb, and it can make one very uncomfortable. Yes, there there are “liberal” Christians here, as well as a few Muslims, about 25 Jews, possibly a few Hindus, although I haven’t seen any, some agnostics, some atheists, but no place to really gather and not be in church, because the only alternative is the Unitarian CHURCH, and while it’s a catchall for all beliefs and while they tend to make fun of fundies, it’s still called a “church,” so that kind of defeats the purpose. I’m reading Dawkins, Hitchins, Barker, George W Smith, and others right now, and it’s been really refreshing, and for the first time in my life, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, like I’ve been liberated, and I have Barker and Seth Andrews to thank in many ways, because unlike Hitchins, they’ve BEEN there, they understand, they know what it’s like to “deconvert” and how traumatic that can be for so many reasons, and I have found this book very helpful and very freeing and I recommend it for anyone going through a similar process or who has questions, doubts, etc. It helps fill it the holes, or flesh out the holes one finds gaping wide open in the christian bible. And the stress is not on what one believes, but what one doesn’t believe, unlike what many people think. Atheism is merely “a lack of belief in a god” or supernatural being, etc. It’s NOT a philosophical antithetical belief system, although individual atheists can choose to have antithetical beliefs or any belief they want; it pushes no life agenda, just ration, reason, being a good person, and a lack of belief in a god. That’s it, that’s all. It’s very simple. If there is no rational evidence to convince you that a god exists, you are thus not obligated to believe in a god, nor should anyone else. Very simple. Sure, you can go full blown philosophical and George W Smith does that, but it’s not necessary, and you can find out why by reading most of these authors and finding out in less than 10 minutes. In any event, I’m elated I came across this book and now I listen to the author’s podcasts and have found help, comfort, and entertainment in them. Strongly recommended for those encountering spiritual doubts….

View all my reviews

Posted in book reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

2014 in Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2014

At the end of the past two years, I believe, I’ve written about what took place during that year, so I’m doing so again. Here’s the synopsis, as best my memory can recollect.

In January, my mother celebrated her 84th birthday, so we spent a little time with her. The month was otherwise uneventful.

In February, we put our old house on the market and moved to our new house. We’re pretty grateful for the trade. Our old house was in what looked like a nice neighborhood, but it was actually nearly a ghetto. It was very loud and had a lot of crime. Now, we’re up on top of a mountain in a quiet neighborhood with no crime. We feel good about that.

February also saw the death of our beloved cat Toby. He was only six and it didn’t seem fair. He essentially died of kidney failure, although we sadly had to put him to sleep (which seems to me to be a pansy way of saying we killed him). We had him cremated and keep his ashes with my late cat Rocky’s ashes. We still miss Toby a lot.

We also got a membership to a good shooting range in February and have enjoyed that a lot.

March was pretty uneventful.

In April, I got a new car. I traded in my lemon BMW 530i for a 2011 Toyota Camry and couldn’t be happier. I found it on Autotrader at a dealer in Atlanta and went down there, beat someone else coming to buy it — barely — test drove it, and left with it to come home. It’s been a great car.

Sometime around April also saw the return of my head pain that I’ve had since 2010. I have trigeminal neuralgia, so I have to take a lot of pain pills and have had a number of procedures to try and combat it.

Additionally, Gretchen’s birthday is in April, so we went up to Baltimore to celebrate it with her friends and family. We had a very good time. It was great to see everyone and we got to go to an Orioles game, a museum, some good restaurants and even saw some friends in Virginia on the way.

Finally, we celebrated our one year anniversary in April. It was pretty low key, but we had a good time remembering our wedding and honeymoon to the beach the year before.

In May, I got a SCCY CPX-1 9 mm through an online auction site for a very good price and a Beretta PX4 Storm at a gun show. Neither gun has turned out to be my favorite — a Ruger SR9c is — but I was happy to have them. Meanwhile, Gretchen turned out to be a pro with our Marlin .22 rifle.

I believe it was May, too, when Mom moved from here back up to Knoxville, her old home. It was sad to see her go, but it was good for her to be back with her many friends and at her old church, which she had missed. She got a nice one level condo and is living on her own. We do worry about her though.

In June, we thought we had a buyer for our old house, finally. We had had to lower the price three times and it was going for practically nothing. We were about to take an $18,000 loss on it. However, the financing for this buyer fell through, so we were back at square one.

In June, I also had a disability hearing. It was my second time in court for it and I was denied for the fourth time. However, my lawyer appealed. And the judge left open the chance that he might rule in my favor if my orthopedist provided appropriate information.

July was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. That was very sad. We went to visit his gravestone in the cemetery where he’s buried in Knoxville. In July, I also had the first of three neurological procedures for my head pain. It didn’t really work, so that was disappointing.

We also had a new buyer for our old home in July. They were doing FHA financing though, so it would take awhile. They agreed to buy the house at very nearly the price we were asking. The closing was set for October.

I think August was pretty uneventful. I had been doing a lot of traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville to help Mom out with things. That got old. We also started looking for a new church, even though I was on the vestry of our old church. It was simply too small and too old. We were the youngest people there and people were dying off and no one new was joining. It was a dying church. So we started going to other Episcopal churches, as well as Methodist and Presbyterian.

In September, I celebrated my 48th birthday and tried not to get too depressed.

During that month, I also had two more surgical procedures for my head pain, but neither helped. It was discouraging.

October came around and the financing for our house’s buyer fell through the day before the closing. We were livid and so were they. However, our realtor worked the phones and found a new lender within two days, so they were approved and a new closing was set for about two weeks away.

I also had my third court hearing for my disability. My lawyers prepared me for disappointment. They said everything would hinge on what the medical expert would say and they didn’t expect much. When the judge started questioning the expert, though, I was shocked to hear him say my back was too bad to work and that, combined with my trigeminal neuralgia and other assorted things, meant I couldn’t work at all. So the judge finally ruled in my favor and I got disability. I was shocked and elated, because I had been trying for this for over three years and now finally I got it.

During this time, my insomnia had gotten worse and I was consistently getting up between 2 and 3:30 AM, which was frustrating.

We did something pretty fun in October. For my birthday, Gretchen got me Penguins tickets to go see them play the Predators in Nashville. So we went up there, went to Bridgestone Arena, which was nice, and saw the Pens win 3-0. It was very fun and we had a great time. We also had a fantastic meal at a nearby restaurant before the game. Oh, and there were a ton of Pens fans there too!

October is also the month for Halloween. We never had kids come to our house at our old place, but we had about 25 kids come to our new house, so we were tickled about that.

In November, we traveled to Saint Simons Island GA, where I used to live, to go to the beach and take a nice vacation. The weather was still good and we had a nice time. We also went to Savannah and Jekyll Island. It was a great vacation.

In November, we also finally sold our old house and with the money I was able to pay off all of my old student loans, which was a sizable sum, so that was great. However, we discovered a water leak in the kitchen the day before the closing. The buyers still bought the home, but we went through a nightmare getting repairs to the floors and cabinets done while these people got impatient waiting to move in. I don’t blame them, but they drove me nuts.

Additionally, we had a new addition to the family this month. Ace, a three month old tabby cat, joined, per Gretchen’s strong wishes. He’s a bundle of energy, but he’s been fun.

This month, in December, I finally got my disability award letter and a lump sum for my back pay. I also got my Medicare card, even though I’m retaining my Obamacare insurance cause it’s frankly better.

We also found a new church we’re joining next week. It’s Rivermont Presbyterian Church, which is a UPUSA church. It’s bigger with more people of all ages and has a number of Sunday Schools to attend, so we’re excited.

We celebrated Christmas last week and had a great holiday season. We sent and got a lot of cards and exchanged some great gifts and had a good time. Of course it’s also bowl month, so that’s good.

In sports, my Steelers have made the playoffs, so I have big hopes for them. My Pirates made the playoffs for the second year in a row, but didn’t get anywhere. There’s always next year, right? My Penguins made the playoffs, but got bounced out in the second round by the Rangers, so that was disappointing. They’re playing now and even though they have a TON of injuries, they’re still having a good season. Meanwhile my Vols made a bowl game for the first time in four years and they’ll be playing Iowa on January 2. I’m hoping for a win.

So, it was an up and down year. I still have head pain. I still have insomnia. Gretchen was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus. That’s bad. But we got a new house, a new car, paid off my student loans, and I got disability, so that’s all good. We’re hoping for a great 2015 and we hope all of you have a great 2015 too. Cheers!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Our Little Church | SouthernHon

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 28, 2014

Our Little Church | SouthernHon.

My wife wrote this about our little church and the dilemma we face….

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Snippets of 2013

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2014

Last December 31st, I wrote an End of the Year Post where I wrote about highlights (and lowlights) of each month. In fact, I did so for the previous year as well. Well, obviously I didn’t this year. However, I thought I’d take some time to write a few snippets about some things that happened in 2013.

In April, Gretchen and I got married. We had a lovely wedding and an awesome reception attended by a number of close friends and family members. Then we headed for the beach at Gulf Shores, AL, where we had a blast. The weather was perfect, we did a lot of fun things, went over to Pensacola FL for a day trip, and returned home feeling good.

However, on July 28, my father died while mowing my grass, completely unexpectedly. I was at a meeting and had returned home just in time to hear him stop mowing. Minutes later he was on the ground moaning, and as Mom and I tried to give him CPR, he died. Ten minutes after we were at the hospital, the doctor came in with the bad news. It was devastating.

Three days later, our house was broken into while Gretchen was at work and I was on my way home from Knoxville with Mom. These thugs had kicked in our wooden front door and took our big screen tv and my iMac. We felt very victimized and we couldn’t get anyone to come replace the door, so I sat up all night watching the door with my Glock to make sure we weren’t invaded. The next day, we had a metal door installed. Days later, we had an alarm system installed. We felt a lot safer, but not completely safe.

On August 8th, Dad’s funeral was held in Knoxville TN. About 1,000 people attended. I spoke, as did two others. Afterwards, Gretchen, Mom, and I had to stand in a receiving line for about four hours as everyone tried to speak with us. Many of my friends came, even from as far away as Nashville and Virginia, and I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them because we were crushed with people. Family came from all over and that was nice. Sad circumstances, but good to see them.

I spent much of August and September traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville with Mom to deal with funeral directors, pastors, financial advisers, lawyers, insurance professionals, and more. Mom has gotten increasingly flustered over the course of the year and relies on me a lot for things that Dad used to do for her, which truthfully doesn’t make me entirely comfortable. But she’s old and lonely and needs help, and I’m the only one there for her, along with Gretchen.

On a different note, I  had only two very minor surgical procedures last year — one in October and one in December, both on my back. I don’t think they’ve helped and am looking at major surgery or living in constant pain. Neither option seems good.

In sports, my Penguins nearly made the Stanley Cup last year and are doing well this year, while my Steelers recovered from a horrible start to nearly make the playoffs. The Pirates did make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, and the Vols football team had a rough year, but with a new coach and decent recruits, so I have high hopes for the future.

A few months ago, Gretchen joined the bell choir at church, and last month, I was voted onto the Vestry. I am to be installed today. It’s a weighty responsibility and I hope I do well.

A few weeks ago, there was a shooting with a fatality at our only local grocery store about a half mile from us. And there is so much crime in this neighborhood that even though we love this house, we’re looking for a new one in a crime free neighborhood, probably closer to Mom — although she’s thinking about moving back to Knoxville. We have found three good houses so far, with one being on top, so now we have to seriously clean our house and pick it up before we can put it on the market. The main problem is even though we live in a nice middle class neighborhood, the general area isn’t too good and there’s so much crime, that property prices are severely deflated and we’re not bound to get very much for this awesome house and will have to pay a lot more for the next one. That blows.

On an unrelated note, after two months of trying, we were finally able to sign up for Obamacare last month! We’re getting a great deal with Blue Cross with a $1,000 deductible for the both of us and a subsidy, making our payment only $35 a month! That’s sweet. Last week, I paid our first premium. Gretchen’s been without health insurance for over a year and desperately needs to see a doctor, and I’ve been on COBRA, which is about to run out, so we have high hopes for this. The only hitch is that it doesn’t cover all of my meds, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but hopefully something will work out.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we spent the evening and the night on the Delta Queen riverboat hotel, celebrating with a bunch of people we didn’t know, listening to a covers band that ranged from horrible to decent, depending on the song. We had champagne and kissed at midnight, and we had a good time, although our cabin room was tiny. Heh.

I guess that about covers it. Hopefully 2014 will be a good year. 2010, 2011, and 2012 were horrible years for me, while 2013 was mixed, so I’m hoping 2014 will be the best of the bunch. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2013

I know, I know, I haven’t actually blogged here in a long time. It’s been mostly book reviews. But that’s what you people like, right? So anyway, this week was the 14 week anniversary of my dad’s death. And I finished up a grief support group I had been in for eight weeks. I’m not sure how helpful it was. Some of the people were there who had loved ones die years ago. I honestly think I’m handling this much better than many of them. And mine was the most recent. Of course, I miss Dad a lot. But I’m moving forward. It’s the only way to go. Meanwhile, Mom’s going crazy on the weekends, which is when she and Dad used to do things together. She’s very lonely. She’s considering moving back to Knoxville, where she has hundreds of friends and where her home church is. We had all talked about moving together, but Gretchen and I like the house that we’re in and we’re not that keen on moving, so Mom might go on her own. Which would make me worry and feel guilty. *sigh*

Our cat, Toby, has been having some problems. I took him to the vet three weeks ago. He has kidney damage. He’s overweight at 21 pounds and drinks water incessantly. Of course, he is a Maine Coon, and they like water, but still, it’s amazing to see how much he drinks. He actually gets in the shower with us, gets in the sink to drink from the faucet, drinks from my wife’s bath water. It’s crazy! We’ve put him on some kidney food the vet prescribed. This is actually the third one. The first two, neither cat would eat. They went on two three day hunger strikes before I caved and fed them their old food. The vet said don’t let them starve — if they don’t eat the “right” stuff, feed them their old stuff. Fortunately, this third type of food they are eating. I don’t know how this will help Toby, but we want him around for awhile. He’s only six.

My Steelers have won two in a row and play the Browns tomorrow. I really think we’ll win that one. My Vols play Vandy tonight and it’s a must win game. If we win this and beat Kentucky next week, we should get to a bowl game. If we lose, the season’s pretty much over. And Vandy’s no longer a pushover. They’re pretty good. So, I don’t have high hopes. Still, go Vols! Meanwhile, my Penguins have won three straight and are now 15-8 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, which is cool. I hope he wins another MVP this year. He deserves it. Of course, he has to stay healthy, but hopefully he will.

I was having trouble with my car seat. It wouldn’t move forward. Instead, it turned to the right, thus twisting my body right and making it impossible for me to see. Therefore, I had to put my seat all the way back at its lowest position and couldn’t see over the steering wheel. In any case, it was dangerous, so I took the car into the garage. I also asked them to check a window and to replace my two windshield wiper fluid jugs, both of which had cracked (for an astronomical price). Turns out they wanted to charge me a fortune just to take my seat out and apart because it was so complicated. It’s a Nissan dealer, but I have a BMW (which I’ll never buy again). They told me it was either a motor or a track issue and the part to replace it from the BMW dealer would be about $1,000 and all the work together would come to almost $2,000! I was astounded. Still, I had to have it done, so I said go ahead. I’d just have to put it on my credit card. So I was elated to get a call from them a couple of days ago telling me they could fix the front to back tracking and the recline, but not one other thing, but if I was okay with that, they wouldn’t need this extra part and it would save me a grand. Naturally, I jumped at that! When I picked it up yesterday, it was considerably less than I expected it to be, so I was overjoyed. Still, I’m never buying another BMW as long as I live.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been reading the usual sci fi. I’ve been reading biographies. They’ve been pretty interesting. I’m in a zone.

This poet I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago — Cliff Brooks — and I have exchanged some books we’ve written. I got an email from him yesterday saying he really thought the books I sent him were awesome and wouldn’t mind featuring me on his radio show. That’s pretty cool. I was once interviewed on Air America for 30 minutes, but that was years ago. Still, it was a national show and that was neat. Who knows?

Gretchen and I live in a nice middle class neighborhood, but there’s a shocking amount of crime here, and that’s disturbing. You may recall that our house was broken into in August and some things were stolen. They kicked in our front door, which was wooden. We subsequently got a metal door. And an alarm service, which makes us feel a lot safer. It’s possible we may have a handgun for emergencies, but we really wouldn’t have much need for it, other than target practice. I found out a couple days ago, I’m going to be getting my old .22 rifle (with scope) I used when I was young pretty soon. It was a great rifle and it’ll be fun getting out on a range again with that. And it can be used as home security too. Can never be too safe. We also each have pepper spray. We carry that with us all the time. The crime really is worrisome. And the cops don’t seem to care very much. They care about the rich areas of town, but the rest of us can go suck it, right? *sigh*

Ending on a positive note, there’s a large likelihood I may be selected to serve on our church’s vestry in a few weeks. If so, it would certainly be an honor and a responsibility I wouldn’t take lightly. I might even attend church more frequently. LOL! Gretchen’s in the new bell choir they just started. She’s also in the flower guild, and I serve as the church’s webmaster. We’re fairly active there.

I guess that’s all for now. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Random

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 1, 2013

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a non-book review here, so I thought I’d write down a few thoughts. My father has been dead three months now. That’s still very hard to believe. His gravestone was just put in, so Gretchen and I will be going to Knoxville to view it soon. Last weekend, we went down to Atlanta to visit my old friend Dee, another friend Paul (and his wife), and a new friend, all at a sit down dinner that Dee worked her butt off to prepare and she did a great job. We had a good time, but we chose to drive back to Chattanooga that night instead of spending the night, and it was a grueling drive back. There were no lights on the freeway and no reflectors in the pavement, so it was really hard to see.

Meanwhile, my Steelers suck, my Vols aren’t doing that great, and my Farragut Admirals are having a rough year. At least the Penguins are off to a decent start. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring. That’s good.

Gretchen and I signed up for Obamacare. Even though it’s getting a bad rap, we’re tentatively excited about it. Gretchen doesn’t have insurance, and my family’s been paying $715 a month for my COBRA, which is about to run out. With this new policy, we’ll have a $1,000 deductible (shared), no co-pays, both of us covered for a total of $485 a month. All but one of my meds are covered, I think. It’s been a hassle getting signed up, yes, but hopefully this will work out well.

I started a new blog. It’s called Scott’s Book Reviews and it’s just going to be my book reviews, not all of which I post here. It can be found on Blogger. I hope to add all of my old book reviews and then add to it over time as I continue to read and review books. It’ll also include books I review that don’t appear on Goodreads. Frankly, I don’t know why I started it, as it does seem a little redundant I’ll admit, but I wanted to get them all under one roof, so to speak.

I keep seeing politicians saying things that sound stupid, particularly Ted Cruz. I’m sick of both parties, frankly, and wish we could just start over again. Actually, many years ago when I was a young kid, I lived in Canada with my parents. If we had the money — and could endure the cold — we’d probably move to Canada to get the hell out of this crazy ass country. The right wing nut jobs are dragging this country down, IMO, and the religious right is right there with them. Which makes me so glad for my church. I joined the Episcopal church last month, after attending one here with Gretchen for the past year and a half. It’s pretty much exactly what we’re looking for in a church, especially with no evangelicals, so that’s nice. No praise music, good sermons, saying the peace. It’s all good.

On a different note, Apple is driving me nuts! I downloaded iOS 7.0.3 for my iPhone and it hosed it completely! When I went to install the backup, since I had to restore to factory settings, virtually nothing came through. It took me the better part of a day to get my phone working again. Very frustrating. Gretchen had the same thing happen to her  with iOS 7. Meanwhile, my iMac’s cordless keyboard keeps cutting out and it’s driving me insane! I can’t type two sentences without having to stop and get it working again. I’m hoping new batteries will take care of it. If not, I may have to get a corded keyboard, assuming I can find one that works with Apple products.

Well, I have a brutal headache, so I’m going to cut this short now. Sorry about that. But I’ve just been rambling anyway, so who cares, right? Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Memorable Weekend

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 15, 2012

Hi. I feel like I’ve been out of touch for awhile now, so it’s about time I’m writing. My Aunt Katherine died a week and a half ago, in Winston-Salem, NC. She was my favorite aunt. I hadn’t seen her in years, since something like 1994. But we kept up with cards and phone calls and Mom kept me posted on what she’d been up to. She was 84 and her health was failing, so it wasn’t a huge shock, but still, when I got the call, I cried for an hour or two. I can’t believe she’s gone. She was preceded in death a couple of years ago by her husband, my Uncle Earl. I have five cousins — their children.

Aunt Katherine’s memorial service was last Saturday in Winston-Salem. My fiance and I joined my parents for an eight hour car ride through East Tennessee over the mountains and on to northwest North Carolina. We arrived last Friday night and found our hotel before going to a local steakhouse for dinner. Then we went over to my aunt’s house, where my cousin Stephen was living. He had cared for his mother for the last three years of his life, and frankly, it had worn on him. She had gotten a rare form of dementia and had turned mean, unfortunately. She had always been loud and bossy, but also loving and warm. Now she was just mean. It’s sad. We visited with Stephen for awhile, whom I had not seen since 1994, and then went back to our hotel rooms. I was disappointed to find out he wouldn’t be attending the memorial service the next day. Additionally, my cousins Susan and Katherine couldn’t make it over from California, so just three of her children would be there. Later at the hotel, Gretchen and I went to the bar and discovered the Winston-Salem Shag Club was meeting and dancing there. It was kind of funny. For those of you unfamiliar with the shag, it’s a Southern dance. Been around a long time. We had a drink and hit the sack.

Saturday morning, I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought that maybe 10 people might show up for a 10 minute service. Boy, was I wrong! A lot of people showed up and the service was long. I first spotted my cousin Jane (with her husband), whom I hadn’t seen since 1985. It was nice to see her. Then her brother Kenneth, and his wife Betsy, showed up. I was really dumbfounded when my cousin Gray appeared. I’ve only seen him once, back when I was a young child in the early 1970s. He was older than me. He dad — my Uncle Tom — had died young. I never knew him. Now Gray was here, and with him a sister — Bunny. I had heard of Bunny for years, but — get this — I did not know we were cousins. I had thought we were second or third cousins or somehow related, but no one had ever told me Uncle Tom had three children (one is deceased). I was stunned to meet a new cousin at my age. It was awe inspiring. I was further excited to see my Aunt Francis, who came up from Savannah, and her son Chan, with his wife Lana, up from St Petersburg. It was a large family gathering — something I’ve never been a part of, as I’ve never lived near family and grew up not knowing any. I guess Aunt Katherine was my favorite aunt because I knew her best, but we still only saw each other two or three times a decade. Isn’t that tragic? I never met my grandparents on either side. They all died. I’ve never known what it’s like to have grandparents. That’s always saddened me.

The service was held in a Lutheran church, where my aunt attended. It was a traditional service. Many of Aunt Katherine’s former bridge partners showed up, which was nice. In fact, there were quite a few people there. It was touching. Jane got up and spoke, as did Betsy. Then my mother — the only remaining one of she and her siblings — got up and spoke. I wanted to, but decided not to as it seemed to be just the immediate family doing so.

After the service, ladies from the church served us lunch, and we gathered to look at old photographs and memorabilia. Gray and I caught up a bit. Like me, he’s a writer and editor, which was interesting. I talked to Bunny for a few minutes. Jane was the life of the party, as she always was growing up. Center of attention, and all that. Her husband, Craig, is very quiet in contrast. After we finished there, most of us headed back to the house, where we gathered together and talked. And ate goodies. Betsy was animated and she and I had a nice chat. It was especially good to see Kenneth, who’s probably my favorite cousin as I’ve kept up the most with him. He even came over to Chattanooga last year to visit, which was awesome. It was great being able to introduce Gretchen, my fiance, to everyone. They all liked her and even though she’s an introvert, she did well and I was proud of her. Many pictures were taken, and some were even decent, although I’m far from photogenic.

Late in the afternoon, we left and drove down to Old Salem, particularly to see the all women’s school, Salem College, where my maternal grandmother attended school years ago. I have a bum hip these days, so walking around was very difficult for me, but it was still nice to see some of these old buildings. When we returned to our hotel that night, we all watched football. I watched Alabama lose to Texas A&M in disbelief.

We left late the next morning, because we planned on stopping in Asheville to visit one of my dearest friends, Ami, an old college friend. She’s now a married mother of three and very busy, so it was nice of her to fit us into her schedule. Her step-mother was there visiting from Maryland, and as I hadn’t seen her since 1990, it was nice to talk to her. Ami looked great! I swear, she looks younger every time I see her. I want to know what her secret is. She came over to Chattanooga to visit me last year, so it was nice to be in her cute home up in the mountains. It was also nice to finally be able to introduce Gretchen to Ami. They had become friends over the past couple of years because of me, and they got along marvelously. When they met in person, it felt like they already knew each other very well. It was too short of a visit, but I’m glad it worked out.

On the way back to Chattanooga, we stopped in Knoxville at the church I grew up in. You could call it a mega-church, although it’s not nearly as big as some. For a mid-sized Southern city, I guess it’s fairly large, with about 5,000 members, six buildings, lots of land, and lots of money, with an operating budget close to 7 million dollars. It was encouraging to see their missions hall chock full of hundreds of big baskets of food items to be given to local missions and charities. It’s a rich mega-church, but they do have good people there and they do a lot of good work. They support more missionaries than any other Presbyterian church in their denomination, which is interesting. They even have six houses where they let missionaries on furlough stay when they’re back in the States. Naturally, my parents ran into a ton of people they knew, which extended our stay there, and naturally, they had to show Gretchen around. I had mixed feelings about being there. I’m generally not a big fan of mega-churches and I’m no longer an evangelical, so I don’t really support their teachings there, but there are a lot of good people at that church and they do a lot of good things, so I guess it’s a decent place. Still, it brought back a rash of memories from my growing up days, not all of which were good. Gretchen seemed to like it, although like me, she’s generally not a big fan of mega-churches. Instead of building two story gymnasiums and Internet cafes and coffee houses, more money could be given to the poor. That’s how we see it. I guess it’s different strokes for different folks. I do miss the size of the church though. My parents are attending a Presbyterian church here with 53 people in it, and Gretchen and I are attending an Episcopalian church here with about 60 or 70 people in it. It’s definitely different.

We got home around 6:30 Sunday night and unpacked. Gretchen and I were tired from a long weekend, so we simply ordered a pizza and watched some football. It had been an emotional weekend, but generally a good one, and it was so good to reunite with old friends and family members, as well as meet new ones. I hope to keep up with these cousins of mine now that I have some of their contact info, and maybe, just maybe, some might be able to make it to our wedding next spring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Review of More Ready than you Realize

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 14, 2012

More Ready Than You Realize: The Power of Everyday ConversationsMore Ready Than You Realize: The Power of Everyday Conversations by Brian D. McLaren

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I usually like McLaren’s books and I wanted to like this one, but in the end, I didn’t finish it because I just couldn’t buy the primary premise. It’s a book about how the Christian church needs to revitalize its efforts at evangelism to a postmodern world by changing guilt inducing preaching to a series of conversations. Fine. I’m OK with that. However, McLaren constructs the book with the skeleton of a series of emails, allegedly legitimate, from a woman he calls “Alice” in order to protect her identity. Alice is a college student who, for reasons that are never clearly explained, WANTS to become a Christian very badly but is turned off by the intolerance, judgmental attitudes, etc., etc., of contemporary evangelical Christianity. Why she’s so desperate to become a Christian eludes me. Anyway, they meet at a book signing of his and he helps her pack some stuff while during which time she admits to having glanced at his book and found it interesting. So she starts emailing him. He claims to include the emails in their entirety, misspelling and all, for authenticity purposes. OK, this girl might be a smart college student for all I know, but the emails are absolutely insipid! Just trite ramblings. And then McLaren gleans somehow “meaningful” elements from them, stretching to in some occasions it seems to me, and he apparently responds to her emails so as to answer the various religious/theological/spiritual questions she has. But while he’s apparently saved ALL of her emails to him, he saved NONE of his to her (ever heard of checking your Sent Mail outbox Brian?), so we can only go on his word that he made a brief comment or two addressing her concerns. I found this profoundly disturbing. I mean, it feels like he’s trying to hide something! What’s going on here? And as this woman draws closer and closer to God and Christianity, he continues to encourage her through these email “conversations” all the while printing her emails in their entirety and none of his. What teachings is he sharing with her so that she grows? We’re never told. I made it to page 95 before giving up in disgust. I think it’s largely a useless book, which perhaps had some promise in its premise, but is ultimately insipid. Pity.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Bad Religion

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 6, 2012

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of HereticsBad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has strengths and weaknesses. One thing that was an initial turnoff to me, although I got used to it, is it’s quite dry and has an almost textbook feel to it, particularly the first half which consists of a history lesson of how the Church (Protestant and Catholic) has come to its present state dating back to the late 1800s. I mean, it’s somewhat interesting, but there’s only so much about 1920s fundamentalist preachers I want to read about.

Douthat’s premise is that we’ve fallen off the wagon as a Christian nation, and he highlights three main areas where this has happened. One is the “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel preaching that seems so prevalent these days, and he particularly takes Joel Osteen to task. I got into this chapter, because I utterly despise this type of preacher. I think they have nothing in common with the can’t serve God and Mammon instructions found in the Bible. I think they’re frauds. Apparently Douthat does to. He then moves on to New Agers, like Chopra, Dyer, etc., only he doesn’t call it New Age. Instead he refers to this movement as the God Within movement. Call it what you like, but it’s a watered down, Eastern influenced form of pseduo-Christianity at best, and he calls a spade a spade. The third primary heresy here is the current politicization of Christianity, most notably contemporary Evangelicals and how they’ve hijacked the Republican party. I have much to say about that, but I’ll resist the temptation for the time being. In my opinion, Douthat didn’t spend enough time on this one, because I think this particular heresy is the one that is poisoning American society and politics and it makes me ill.

Here’s where the author loses me though. His last chapter is called “The Recovery of Christianity,” and he gives a series of examples of what he thinks needs to take place to bring the religion back to sanity and the masses in general. (He’s a Catholic and spend a lot of time on Catholicism in this book.) Here are his theories:

1. Christianity should be political without being partisan.
2. Christianity should be ecumenical but also confessional.
3. Christianity should be moralistic but also holistic.
4. Christianity should be oriented toward sanctity and beauty.

And then he goes into minor detail on each topic. And forgive me if I misread this, but it seems to me that he’s arguing for an early 20th century Catholicism returning in order to get things back on track. His ideas, the terminology he employs, his pleas all ring of a stern yesteryear, and it’s beyond odd to me that he’s arguing for a return to the roots when he just wrote an entire book criticizing how Christianity has been full of charlatans and frauds and how it’s gone uphill, but mostly downhill for decades, and now he wants a return to the Middle Ages. OK, harsh assessment, but perhaps you get the picture. It just didn’t jibe with the rest of the book, and while I thought the bulk of the book was well researched and written in a civil, even way (I would have hated to see a Baptist write this!), the last chapter just kills off everything he’s said for me. It’s blotto. Utter crap. Maybe not everyone will agree, and I do think the book is worth reading while skipping the final chapter, but I can’t get over that last chapter. I cautiously recommend this to anyone interested in seeing what has happened to the Church over the last century and what it means for today.
View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
Dancing With Cats

Politics, religion, culture, opinion

Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

Simple Living Over 50

Defining Life's Changes

The Book Review Directory

Over 150 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

Chaos Inc.

18+M/s-D/s DD/lg the life of a polyamorous sexually active "little" brat who doesn't give a flying squirrel fart what others think

A.D. Martin

writing - novels - film - television - video games - other stuff

In My Words

Life in my own words, my thoughts, my daily happenings, whatever....

Ravings of a Madman

(and other assorted things)

Crumpled Paper Cranes

Fumbling by Leisure, Singing to Cake

My Blog News And Blues Reviews

WHATEVER YOU'RE LOOKING FOR

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.

Piece of Mind

Everything in my blog is sprinkled with wizard dust.

Kiss My Glass Boston

Wine, cocktails, whatever.

My Preconceived Life

trying to add another person to the planet

bluchickenninja.com

graphic designer, bibliophile, spoonie

Drunken Dragon Reviews

A Fantasy Blog Gone Horribly Wrong.

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Megan Has OCD

About Mental Health, Daily Struggles, and Whatever Else Pops in My Head