THE MOVIE VERSUS THE BOOK: WILL THE REAL FORREST GUMP PLEASE STAND

By James A. Wilson

The exception proves the rule. I bristle at people who take the artistic creation of another and rework it to suit their vision, claiming they have improved the original. Films like Noah, depicting the quintessential man of God worshipping the very serpent who set in motion the events leading to the flood, or The DaVinci Code – book and movie – in which the celibate Jesus of all accepted accounts is portrayed as married and just awaiting discovery by the scholars of esoteria are examples. I just have this thing about doing whatever you like with your own creation but respecting the creations of others. Yet Forrest Gump, one of my favorite movies, turns out to be a radical departure from the book on which it is based. Praise the Lord!

Gump is the exception proving the rule because of the evident approval of author Winston Groom for the recasting offered up by the film’s producers. Groom apparently cooperated fully with the production – he receives writing credit parallel with the screenplay’s author – and cut a deal for production of the Gump sequel. This work is the exception that proves the rule because it steals nothing. Yet the differences cry out.

The written Gump is a self-described idiot, and seriously self-conscious of the designation. He is also – it turns out – a so-called idiot savant, a person of apparently low intelligence who unaccountably excels in some disciplines at genius level. Forrest becomes a harmonica virtuoso overnight, has a gift for mathematics, and the hand-eye coordination of a world class ping pong player. The cinematic Gump is labeled-by-others mentally impaired but learns from his mother that “stupid is as stupid does,” and pursues life because it is there. He does excel at ping pong, but only because he obeys the instruction to keep his eye on the ball and lacks the intelligence to be distracted by extraneous noise and movement. He is a person of simple faith and intense faithfulness whose life intersects one miracle after another, from the falling away of his leg braces to the deluge of shrimp he receives when he goes out one more time, heedless of the storm warnings driving other shrimpers to shore because he believes God told him to set sail.

Gump of the book is a hapless individual stumbling from one adventure to another without anyone knowing why; his story is devoid of the quality of miracle so prevalent in the film.

There is likewise neither rhyme nor reason behind the choices characters make in the book; their motivations are clear in the film. Jenny has no known reason for her promiscuity and drug use in the book; he movie Jenny is an abused child who ultimately responds to Forrest’s faithful love, but in the book simply grows tired of her lifestyle. Lieutenant Dan is devastated because he believed in destiny and feels without purpose after his injury; he too responds to Forrest’s faith and faithfulness – in the film. In the book he is just one more person drowning until rescued – for no apparent reason – in his picaresque existence. Forrest himself is a creature of circumstance who cannot even comprehend being faithful to Jenny in the book, in contrast to the movie. This is important because the film characters grow beyond their circumstances while nobody ever changes in the book, with the possible exception of Curtis – a bully who makes no appearance in the movie.

The faithfulness central to the person of Forrest offers the hope in the film; its absence in the book leaves everyone awash in a sea of happenstance.

Simplicity is not remotely like stupidity. The book Forrest is stupid when he allows the Jenny he has loved and pursued all his life to get away following anonymous sex in an alley. The film Forrest is simple: when lives need saving he does his best, when Lt. Dan asks if he found Jesus he answers he had not known Jesus was lost – they’ve always been in touch – from obeying the call to enter the hurricane being business as usual to whenever Jenny needs him he is there. It is as different as night and day.

Will the real Forrest please stand? I choose to believe he is the man of the movie rather than the victim of circumstance the book portrays. The movie man understands that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get; the book man could echo that sentiment. But the movie man understands the chocolates are a gift from a giver; that makes all the difference.

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at praynorthstate@gmail.com

New Book Releases July 16th, 2019

by Sean Frankel

Here are some of the top new books that are coming out this week! #titletuesday


The New Release Titles:
A Grave End by Wendy Roberts – Mystery
A Pinch of Phoenix by Heidi Lang – Children’s Mystery
Atmosphaera Incognita by Neal Stephenson – Science Fiction
Bark of Night by David Rosenfelt – Mystery
Buried by Ellison Cooper – Thriller
Changeling by William Ritter – Young Adult
Earth by Ben Bova – Science Fiction
File Zero by Jack Mars – Thriller
Iron Will by Bj Daniels – Romance
Jack of Spades by Diane Capri – Thriller
Judge Not by Ciara Graves – Fantasy
Just My Luck by Jennifer Honeybourn – Young Adult
Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber – Contemporary Romance
Red Metal by Mark Greaney – Military Thriller
Rules of War by Matthew J Betley – Thriller
Shamed by Linda Castillo – Amish Mystery Thriller
Skin Deep by Karen Chance – Urban Fantasy
Sophia, Princess Among Beasts by James Patterson – Fantasy
Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews – Urban Fantasy
Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman – Mystery Thriller
Temptations Darling by Johanna Lindsay – Historical Romance
The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah E Ladd – Historical Christian Fiction
The New Girl by Daniel Silva – Thriller
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Historical Fiction
The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson – Thriller
The Pawful Truth by Miranda James – Cozy Mystery
The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin – Young Adult
The Second Worst Restaurant in France by Alexander McCall Smith – Humor Fiction
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – Sci/Fi
Untamed Delights by Suzanne Wright – Paranormal Romance
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal – Fiction
Window On The Bay by Debbie Macomber – Romance

Road Trip Reading Recommendations

By Ashley Owens

‘Tis the season to go traveling!

Guess who finally took a vacation! That’s right – my partner, our little one, and I went up to the Washington mountains in the Pacific Northwest for over a week! We went to the beach, did some book shopping, hit a couple of breweries, went hiking multiple times, and also just relaxed & did nothing in the family house! My daughter discovered her love of the beach, and macaroni & cheese. It was a beautiful time.

Because I’m a bookworm, and also because I’m hecka extra, I packed 6 books AND my kindle. We drove up to Washington from California – a 12 hour drive in total – but split it over 2 days and stayed in Oregon on our way there and back. So I feel like I was totally justified in bringing all of those books! That’s a lot of time in the car! And that doesn’t even include all of our smaller trips when we were actually in Washington. Plus I’m a mood reader, so I like to have many options available to me while I’m away to make sure I have a good time while I’m reading.

This got me thinking though, about which books may be more conducive to road trip reading. So without further ado, here are some road trip reading recommendations!

Penryn and the End of Days series by Susan Ee

I have definitive proof that this trilogy is very much readable on a road trip; my best friend read ALL 3 BOOKS when we were driving home from Washington to California (yes, I clearly make this trip a lot). They’re short, gripping, full of action, all-consuming, and clearly totally addicting. And lots of the plot takes place on the road… albeit walking & hiking through a post-apocalyptic world, but still!

This series follows Penryn Young, a 17-year-old San Franciscan, as she tries to navigate the world that has suddenly come apart around her as a result of fallen angels feuding with each other. She’s a badass heroine, who also happens to be a super loyal older sister and falls (reluctantly) for one of the afore-mention fallen angels, named Raffe.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This is another book that I can vouch for it’s road trip readability, as I read it on a road trip to Lake Tahoe in May! 2 months later and I am literally still thinking about this book every damn day. It’s a super cute, fun, quick read that still manages to hit you in the feels. The main characters talk like real people – something I feel like never happens in YA or NA books – which makes it relatable as heck. I laughed, I cried, what a time I had.

This book is about Alex and Henry, the first son of the US and the Prince of England respectively, in a sort of alternate reality where a female is the President of America. That’s right – it’s gay! (are you shocked) It features one of my all-time favorite tropes: the hate-to-love romance.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Is it cheating to include a book about a road trip in this list? Even if it is, I don’t care because this book is the only road trip book I have ever actually liked.

This book is both cute and sad at times. It’s one of those Young Adult books that actually has substantive writing and characters. I liked the ways I got to know Amy and Roger, Roger in particular is so crush-worthy to me. The story’s pacing is one you can completely fall into and follow along with well. Amy is a very thoughtful character and that shows in the writing, but there are also these super adorable little “road trip” themed moments specifically that make this great for a car ride: playlists, grocery shopping lists, car games, etc.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I would actually recommend this audiobook specifically for a road trip. The narrator is superb, and the silliness & adventure of the book comes across as this adventure story being told to you by a story-teller. It’s got everything; pirates, queer characters, science, robberies, smut. It’s amazing.

The Percy Jackson & the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Or really any of his books. They’re fantastic and like a slightly older Harry Potter but full of Greek mythology. Like, it’s my favorite series of all time, so I don’t know how else to sell you on them, but I guarantee you will be hooked.

Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

Why are these books not more well-known?! They are a riot! And they have history and fantasy and steampunk and steamy times. They make for some amazing stories to get engrossed in and laugh out loud at, and just have a great time with it while stuck in the car.

My Lady Jane by Cythnia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

Very similarly to “Gentleman’s Guide,” this book is surprisingly hilarious. I would also recommend this as an audiobook too! The absurdity of this book and the funny lines will keep you entertained on your road trip!

Blood For Blood trilogy by Catherine Doyle

This is the most addictive series I have ever read, without question. It’s basically Romeo & Juliet but with the Italian mafia in Chicago in modern days. Like, these books are ridiculously dramatic, and I LIVE for it. I guarantee you that you will not want to do anything but be consumed with these books when you read them! The love triangle alone is enough to engross you.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

So the first appealing thing about this book is that it’s short – so no matter how long your car ride is, you can probably finish it within the trip. Secondly, it’s FULL of plot twists… so to say that you will be hooked is an understatement And thirdly, just holy cow is this a page turner!


To find more blogs and articles from Ashley Owens visit her website;
http://wp.sparkylovesbooks.com/

LIFE IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS AND CERTAINLY MINE

By James A. Wilson

Nothing much has changed. In 2011 I was invited to testify before the California Commission on the Status of Women. Citing the trauma most women endure post-abortion, I said if the state wanted to address suffering women they could stop funding thirty thousand abortions yearly.

I remember the audible gasp from the audience, and the hissed, “This time he’s gone too far.” I remember with equal clarity the chairperson’s effort to encourage dialogue over diatribe; she asked if I was willing to hear views other than my own. I answered I had been listening to such views for more than thirty years and was happy to keep listening, so long as I received – for a change – a chance to be heard as well. The Planned Parenthood representative agreed to dialogue with me, yet when I approached her on a break to seek an appointment she huffed, “I’ve got better things to do than talk to you,” and stalked out of the room. It is not about exchange of ideas; it is about who is entitled to speak and who is not.

More recently presidential candidate Senator Kristin Gillibrand excoriated a Texas city council for banning abortions in their city. Her perspective was clear – men have no business making decisions concerning a woman’s body. Her rivals for her party’s nomination agree with her and are – frankly – just as aggressive over whether women may legitimately weigh in on what they consider not open to discussion. The common agenda is not to win an argument but to be abusive enough to stifle speech they find disagreeable.

I’ve got some news for Kristin and her friends.

I was an unwanted child. Had my mother had the option in the 1940s to cancel my life I most certainly would not have gotten past the abortionist’s knife. I am glad I was born and grew to manhood. I say the issue of disposing of unwanted children by abortion is very much my business. I am still willing to listen, but I will not be inhibited by those who – because they have no argument – resort to bullying others into silence. I exercise my right to speak as an American, a citizen of God’s Kingdom, and a survivor of my mother’s revulsion at my presence in her womb.

By the way, it is not all about abortion and infanticide, this effort to stifle speech. Tim Cook, the openly gay CEO of Apple, made a very fine address to the graduates of Stanford University about accepting responsibility for unintended consequences if they would accept credit for unforeseeable successes. He exhorted them to see themselves as part of a story they would not get to finish, not unlike the author of the Letter to the Hebrews commending the prophets and martyrs who anticipated the coming of Christ and paved the road for Him, knowing they would not see Him in this life and choosing to believe their sacrifice gave them abundance where it counts. He had me – despite my disagreement with his political agenda – until his deeper agenda came out.

The unintended consequences are all about enabling what he calls hate speech and fake news. Coming from a gay activist this is obvious code for what spells out later. He does not want to win a debate over the LGBTQ program; he wants to stop conversation in its tracks. Freedom of speech and (Christian) faith are just too dangerous in his world to be tolerated.

The suppression does not end with gender and sexuality.

Actor John Cusack has joined with congressional members Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib to make blatantly anti-Semitic/anti-Israeli statements. Cusack re-tweeted a drawing of a Star-of-David decorated sleeve from which descends a hand busy crushing a crowd with the caption, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

The laugh is Cusack hoisted himself on his own petard. Although he has received criticism for his blatant anti-Semitism, it is open season on Jews all over the world from UN condemnation of Israel after Palestinians bombard Israeli civilians with seven hundred rockets in one day to the still unaddressed hatred of Jews emanating from Democratic members of Congress such as Ilhan Omar. By Cusack’s twisted logic the indisputable conclusion is Jews rule nobody, since everybody feels free to condemn them.

The abortion lobby, on the other hand, is beyond criticism for most pundits and kingmakers; departures from this faux orthodoxy are punished with labels from anti-choice to anti-women. The alternative sexuality lobby is equally protected; top Australian footballer Israel Folau is vilified all over his country for quoting a Bible verse that includes gays as sinners among many others – Go Fund Me even took down the page supporting his legal defense and withheld donations given for it – and singer Taylor Swift is in trouble not for criticizing same-sex-attracted but for supporting them with too-little-too-late.

Good news is suppression is not working.

Israel enjoys a resurgence of popular support in the Trump era. Comfort with the gay agenda has slipped to minority status even amongst millennials and Folau has received two million dollars for his defense from other sources; even the Australian Prime Minister has spoken against the persecution he endures. Sixty per cent of Americans now want to ban all or most abortions. The bullies have overplayed their hand.

Of course the reality is criticism – in isolation – achieves nothing, much less condemnation. What is needed is behavior expressing accountability plus blessing. That of course requires repentance from all of us, but it’s worth it. The last time the world saw this phenomenon the Iron Curtain fell.

But it begins with this: Life is everybody’s business.

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at praynorthstate@gmail.com

New Book Tuesday :: July 9th, 2019

by Sean Frankel

Below is a list of books released today! There are some REALLY good ones that came out today! If you want us to order any of them for you then feel free to email or call us!

A Rogue Meets a Scandalous Lady by Jennifer Ashley
Age of Legends by Michael J Sullivan
Bad Axe County by John Galligan
Bishop’s Knight by Katie Reus
Death in a Desert Land by Andrew Wilson
Dragonfly by Leila Meacham
Expire by Danielle Girard
Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey
Just Love by Prescott Lane
Killer In The Carriage House by Sheila Connolly
Knife by Jo Nesbo 
Maybe This Time by Kasie West
One Little Secret by Cate Holohan
Peach Clobbered by Anna Gerard 
Salvation Day by Kali Wallace
Serafina and the Seven Stars by Robert Beatty
Soul Keeper by Cathryn Marr 
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Spring House by Mary Ellen Taylor
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
The Damaged by Brett Battles
The Dreaming Tree by Matthew Mather
The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
The Need by Helen Phillips
The Prenup by Lauren Layne
The Shameless by Ace Atkins
The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson
The Sum Of All Shadows by Eric Van Lustbader 
The Toll by Cherie Priest
The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty
Under Currents by Nora Robert
Wilder Girls by Rory Power

INDEPENDENCE DAY AND ITS DECLARATION

by James A. Wilson

Independence Day comes in the midst of unbelievable polarization in these United States. Charlottsville, Virginia, home to Thomas Jefferson, has decided to make no official recognition of his birthday. The author of the Declaration of Independence was our first secretary of state, second vice president, and third president. He doubled our expanse through the Louisiana Purchase and led us through our first post-revolutionary war. But…he was a slave owner.

Slavery and slave holding is indefensible and inexcusable;

Make no mistake. But how sad that – against his unique accomplishments – this is all that matters to the arbiters of hindsight. Truly those who can do and those who cannot criticize.

Major media outlets describe the observance of our nation’s birth as obnoxious. Actually, it is the consuming hatred for our president behind such sentiments that is obnoxious. And sad.

Nike has pulled an edition of its shoes off the market because an angry former NFL quarterback objects to the depiction of Betsy Ross’ flag on the shoes; people owned slaves at that time. Indeed they did, and it was a horror, but it was people like Ross who loved God and their country enough to eradicate slavery as rapidly as circumstances permitted. Politically correct types like the current complainers made every effort to perpetuate slavery at the time – see Democrat Party, origins and history – while the spiritual ancestors of today’s conservatives brought it down. I abhor the polarization and hatred on both sides of today, but I honor Arizona’s governor for taking a stand and pulling state subsidies from Nike.

Is this kind of self-consumption what our nation is about from her beginnings? I don’t think so.

The Declaration of Independence begins with a statement of respect for the opinions of mankind – that’s right, respect even for those who may disagree. It moves forward with this startling and unprecedented statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” There is more, but the business end is in the above. What did we – and I do mean we – actually say?

We said – for openers – that what we are about to commit our lives toward is self-evident truth. It is not subject to argumentation, mathematical formula, social science studies, or even a poll. What comes next – we said – is so patently obvious any human being should be able to see and embrace it. The revolutionaries staked their lives on that reality and not one of them emerged from the war without having lost lives, family, freedom or property.

It is our imperfect effort to embody this truth that we celebrate each July Fourth. We’ve made a lot of progress in two and a half centuries; I am deeply proud to be an American. There is racism here, but no more than anywhere else and a good deal less than in most nations. We wrote a constitution counting each black person as three fifths of one not to dehumanize but to facilitate the end of slavery by making it difficult for slave states to dominate government. We fought the bloodiest war of our history to accomplish that feat and thousands – black and white – gave their lives in the struggle for civil rights for all. The fight has been hard won but today we enter a campaign filled with people of multiple colors and races, men and women; we elected a black man in 2008 and 12. I cannot say I support any of their positions, but I cherish a nation in which all are welcome to serve.

This truth includes but is not limited to three propositions: All of us are created equal in our being, equally entitled to whatever benefits emerge from our creation and equally authorized to live out that creation. All of us enjoy unlimited access to life itself, the liberty without which life is not worth much, and the pursuit – not necessarily the achievement – of happiness. All legitimate governments are instituted for the sole purpose of guaranteeing those rights. Underlying these three is the clear assertion of a personal Creator, one who endows.

We have developed an economic and healthcare system – not to mention a science base that sent men to the moon and developed the internet – that are the envy of the world. The economy – as one example – was also hard fought. We went from faith unfettered capitalism is the best way for everyone to have that chance to pursue happiness to an era in which we learned it was still the best – but only when restricted by law to a leveled playing field. We have watched other nations suffer under socialism and communism and decided to perfect what we have rather than imitate them.

We have ground still to gain, but is the cup half empty or more than three quarters full? Can we look squarely at the reality some of our heroes are flawed and less than heroic human beings who nonetheless birthed the greatest nation on earth? Can we celebrate the reality that this intentional Creator achieved America partnering with such flawed human beings and He can achieve even greater things with us as we repent and turn our hearts toward Him more and more?

The authors of our Declaration of Independence seem to believe this. Being content to judge our forebears trashes us more than it trashes them. Let us celebrate what we have and redouble our efforts to become all that Jefferson and his colleagues hoped and prayed for.

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at praynorthstate@gmail.com

New Book Releases :: Week of July 2nd, 2019

by Sean Frankel

Below is a list of all the popular books releasing the week of July 2nd, 2019.

A Fatal Game by Nicholas Searle 
A Grave for Two by Anne Holt 
Across the Void by S K Vaughn 
Almost Midnight by Paul Doiron
Alpha and Omega by Harry Turtledove
Any Way The Wind Blows by Seanan McGuire
Betrayal in Time by Julie McElwain
Booking the Crook by Laurie Cass
Colorado Cowboy SEAL by Laurie Marie Altom
Deep River by Karl Marlantes
Dragonslayer by Duncan M Hamilton
Edge of Valor by Josh Hayes
Emperor of the Universe by David Lubar
Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey
Fire Girl, Forest Boy by Chloe Daykin
Fractured Hopes by Greg Alldredge
Ghost House by Pandora Pine
Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger
Growing Things by Paul Tremblay
Hadassah, Queen Esther of Persia by Diana Wallis Taylor
Heart of Blackness by Spencer Quinn
Heart of Hell by Wayne Barlowe
Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin
Home on the Ranch: Oklahoma Bull Rider by Christine Wenger
Home on the Ranch: The Rancher’s Surprise by Pamela Britton
HOT SEAL Hero by Lynn Raye Harris
It Wasn’t Me by Lani Lynn Vale
Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn by  Andrei Codrescu, Lafcadio Hearn and Jack Zipes
Lawfully Trusted by Marie Higgins
Layover by David Bell
Married to a Stranger by Laura V Hilton
Milady by Laura L Sullivan
My Dog Made Me Write This Book by Elizabeth Fensham
Never Look Back by A L Gaylin
Off The Grid by Robert McCaw
Paper Son by S J Rozan
Plague World by Alex Scarrow
Pretend You’re Mine by River Laurent
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estrep 
River Of Night by Mike Massa
Serafina and the Seven Star by Robert Beatty
Slugger by Martin Holmen
Someone to Honour by Mary Balogh
Starfall by Mark Gardner
Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear
Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig
Surfside Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Tangle by Adriana Locke
Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia
The Book of Lies by Melissa McShane
The Day of the Jackelope by Eldritch Black
The Echo Park Castaways by M G Hennessey
The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar
The Four Guardians by Matt Laney
The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
The Hard Stuff by David Gordon
The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl
The Labyrinth of the Faun by Cornelia Funke
The Mountain Master of Sha Tin by Ian Hamilton
The Odd Sisters by Serena Valentino 
The Shameless by Ace Atkins
The Sheikh’s Forbidden Tryst by Lara Hunter and Holly Rayner
Through The Night by Tamsen Schultz
To Spell With It by Amanda M Lee
Under Currents by Nora Roberts
Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
When You Need to Move a Mountain by Linda Evans Shepherd
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

HUMBLE TURTLES TRUMP HAUGHTY GIRAFFES

By James A. Wilson

I received a Facebook forward from a friend of an aphorism from Bishop TD Jakes. It reads, “When you are a giraffe and you receive criticism from turtles, they are reporting the view from the level they are on.” I admire Bishop Jakes, but this is easily interpreted as, “When lowly servants have a problem with lofty leaders – and say so – they reveal themselves as unappreciative of their betters.” The Church of Jesus Christ spends an awful lot of time and attention making that crippling and downright damning mistake.

Reality is giraffes are distinguished by long necks that are easily lopped off, an absence of vocal chords rendering them wordless, and inability to eat leaves below treetop level; they never get down to the fruit. Turtles are among the most resilient animals God created. They plod along – the hare and the tortoise come to mind – and are so difficult to kill they live a long time after their very hearts are ripped from their bodies. They wait for the fruit to come to them, at the level they occupy. Native Americans of virtually every tribe are so impressed with the enduring qualities of the turtle they call North America Turtle Island and themselves the people of Turtle Island. My money is on the turtles.

I confess I grow wearier each day of hearing some pastor, prophet, bishop or apostle touted to be a third, fourth or even fifth generation holder of that office, and somehow credible because of that. There is no mention in scripture – not one – of pastoral or prophetic DNA passing down the generations. Great doctrinal battles were fought over this issue from colonial times to the present day and the conclusion – if three Great Awakenings and countless revivals teach anything – is that God has uncountable children but not a single grandchild, much less great grandchildren. If these leaders rate respect – and many do – it is because they speak the word-already-spoken by God, not because their ancestors spoke it.

The same absurdity rears its head when we speak of academic or even spiritual pedigree in the Church. Going back to the Old Testament we find prophetic voices like Isaiah and Joel descended from priestly families with the training to match. But we find equally authoritative voices emanating from the mouths of Amos and Elijah, two country boys without pedigree, called by the Lord as they did the mundane jobs of their earthly calling. It does not matter what or where we obtained our degree, or our credentialing. The only thing that matters is whether we speak the recognizable – by the Holy Spirit – Word of the Lord.

The Lord could care less about the size of a congregation; His work is done effectively in all sized and shaped – and denominationally backgrounded – gatherings. He makes clear He is impressed not by how many programs we run – or how many pews we fill – but by the wounds we dress and the feet we wash. He finds wounds dressed and feet bathed in congregations of thousands and dozens and single digit gatherings – and says as much when He washes the feet of His closest friends on the night before His death. And the corker is giraffes can scarcely see the ground, let alone reach down to bathe ground level feet; it takes folks of turtle height to bathe their brethren and love them into a new day.

Another great doctrinal battle was fought in the fifth century and apparently needs revisiting. Back then a leader named Pelagius began teaching human perfection – through human effort – was possible. He claimed Jesus’ perfect humanity as the proof, ignoring the saving dynamic of Cross and Resurrection as the only essential for righteousness and abundant life. To make matters worse, this teaching buttressed the already budding elitism in the Church, grounded of course in standards for perfection set by the already self-satisfied. Of course this teaching flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching about leadership by foot-washing and acceptable worship only in Spirit and in Truth. Paul elaborates on this reality when he writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards…(nor) influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish…the weak…the lowly…and the despised…so that no one may boast…”

Pelagius’ teaching was condemned as heretical – nonsense – before the middle of that century. The practical outfall of elitism is the death of vision and creativity followed by social, cultural, and spiritual decline. Unfortunately Pelagius’ descendants are resurgent today; we see their faces every time we are told we cannot appreciate people who just live on a higher level than the rest of us.

No army in history has known the unbounded and unbroken success of the Israel Defense Force. Hounded and hunted by enemies exponentially larger and wealthier, they have never lost a war against enemies so bent on their destruction their first loss will be their last. The IDF has an officer corps and chain of command like any military organization; orders given on the battlefield are obeyed. But the lowliest private is expected to question strategies and orders outside the cauldron of battle because God’s chosen people know stripes and epaulets do not necessarily confer wisdom. IDF members are concerned with getting it right, not with the rank of who claims to have it right. This attitude spills over into the private sector and accounts for the high level of innovation and incredible success of the Israeli economy despite few resources and unrelenting pressure from a world of existential hatred for them.

From a human perspective giraffes are far more impressive than turtles. However – meaning no offense to Bishop Jakes – my money is still on the turtles.

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at praynorthstate@gmail.com