The River of Doom

River of Doom

By: Scott Heaton

It was supposed to be a relaxing day of tubing down the Guadalupe River. But like most things in my life, it didn’t go according to the plan. The water was freezing cold, my tube was deflated, and to top it all off the river was wilder than usual after the recent Texas thunderstorms. It felt more like a six flags roller coaster than a relaxing weekend trip.

After hours of gritting my teeth and flexing my core to stay afloat, I could finally see the end of the aquatic ride from hell. But lo and behold, there was a small sloping waterfall to complete my tubing excursion. I’m sure on any other day it would have been a delightful dip down to the finish, but today it seemed like Niagra Falls.

I sat up on the tube as high as I could and clenched the flaming-hot, sun-soaked rubber of my tube mumbling a silent prayer to the river gods. And then I heard her…

A girl was crying about 10 yards in front of me, holding onto a rock for dear life. She lost her tube somehow and her crocodile tears made her look like she was seeing the Grim Reaper march toward her swinging his bloodstained scythe.

Being the modern gentlemen that I am, I could not let the damsel in distress remain in her state of peril, so I waddled on over to her watery prison and bravely offered her my tube so that she could safely float down the rapids. Without acknowledging my fearless sacrifice, or even voicing the smallest feelings of appreciation, she ripped the tube from under my butt and tumbled down the rapids, not looking once at her savior who was stranded in her former state.

I would like to think I stayed calm in the situation, but freezing water pounding against your sun-burnt chest can rattle the mind of any man. I recalled our so called ‘training’ before we got on the river, from the toothless redneck who droned through his speech that he had probably given everyday for 20 years,  “If ya find yerself without yer tube, make sure ya put yer feet in front a ya.”

So I did the only thing I could, I put my feet in front of me and braved the deadly rapids.

Down and down I tumbled crashing into more rocks than I care to remember. While my head came above the water in precious spurts, I could hear the crowd gathered on shore gasping in horror each time I pounded another stone.

“At least I’ll die a hero,” I thought, “That is, if that stupid girl would ever tell anyone what I did.”

But despite my pessimism, I survived the falls and somehow crawled out of the river of doom. My worried friends pulled me out of the river and tried to stifle their concern upon seeing my cuts and bruises. My pride was doing ok, knowing that I had done something noble. Then, the prettiest girl in the group walked up to me, and I thought for sure she would confess her undying love after having seen my selflessness.

She had a towel over her shoulder that she extended my way and bent over so she could whisper in my ear. I thought I could die and go to heaven… that is until she told me,

“Scott, you lost your trunks in the water, and you must’ve rolled through a nest of leeches.”

To this day my friends still call me leech-butt.

The River of Doom

River of Doom
By: Scott Heaton

It was supposed to be a relaxing day of tubing down the Guadalupe River. But like most things in my life, it didn’t go according to the plan. The water was freezing cold, my tube was deflated, and to top it all off the river was wilder than usual after the recent Texas thunderstorms. It felt more like a six flags roller coaster than a relaxing weekend trip.
After hours of gritting my teeth and flexing my core to stay afloat, I could finally see the end of the aquatic ride from hell. But lo and behold, there was a small sloping waterfall to complete my tubing excursion. I’m sure on any other day it would have been a delightful dip down to the finish, but today it seemed like Niagra Falls.
I sat up on the tube as high as I could and clenched the flaming-hot, sun-soaked rubber of my tube mumbling a silent prayer to the river gods. And then I heard her…
A girl was crying about 10 yards in front of me, holding onto a rock for dear life. She lost her tube somehow and her crocodile tears made her look like she was seeing the Grim Reaper march toward her swinging his bloodstained scythe.
Being the modern gentlemen that I am, I could not let the damsel in distress remain in her state of peril, so I waddled on over to her watery prison and bravely offered her my tube so that she could safely float down the rapids. Without acknowledging my fearless sacrifice, or even voicing the smallest feelings of appreciation, she ripped the tube from under my butt and tumbled down the rapids, not looking once at her savior who was stranded in her former state.
I would like to think I stayed calm in the situation, but freezing water pounding against your sun-burnt chest can rattle the mind of any man. I recalled our so called ‘training’ before we got on the river, from the toothless redneck who droned through his speech that he had probably given everyday for 20 years, “If ya find yerself without yer tube, make sure ya put yer feet in front a ya.”
So I did the only thing I could, I put my feet in front of me and braved the deadly rapids.
Down and down I tumbled crashing into more rocks than I care to remember. While my head came above the water in precious spurts, I could hear the crowd gathered on shore gasping in horror each time I pounded another stone.
“At least I’ll die a hero,” I thought, “That is, if that stupid girl would ever tell anyone what I did.”
But despite my pessimism, I survived the falls and somehow crawled out of the river of doom. My worried friends pulled me out of the river and tried to stifle their concern upon seeing my cuts and bruises. My pride was doing ok, knowing that I had done something noble. Then, the prettiest girl in the group walked up to me, and I thought for sure she would confess her undying love after having seen my selflessness.
She had a towel over her shoulder that she extended my way and bent over so she could whisper in my ear. I thought I could die and go to heaven… that is until she told me,
“Scott, you lost your trunks in the water, and you must’ve rolled through a nest of leeches.”
To this day my friends still call me leech-butt.

Introverts in the Church: Finding Out Place in an Extroverted Culture

The following book review, I think will be helpful to those who are in the church, and specifically to those in the church that have felt like they just don’t fit.

I have been heavily involved in ministry for a few years now, and it is undoubtedly a rewarding enjoyable job, but the fact of the matter is- it’s hard. At times the lifestyle seems to be a whirlwind of frenzied meetings, counseling, and emotionally-charged-busyness. And it was in the midst of feeling like this that I ‘Stumbled Upon’ a book by Adam McHugh called Introverts in the Church.

Let me start off by saying that for the longest time I have considered myself an extrovert, because I do well in crowds and tend to be talkative in a big group. However, this is a common misconception- (very simplified) an extroverted individual is someone who gets energy from being around other people, and an introverted person is one who recharges by being alone. Once I understood this, it became obvious that I was an introvert. The combination of this discovery, and feeling inadequate to do ministry due to the aforesaid feelings, I committed to using some of my Amazon.com gift card money and purchased McHugh’s book.

Here are few quotes that made me jump up and down with excitement, because it is precisely how I felt/feel about ministry in our culture:

“American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”

“It’s as if the moment we surrender our lives to Christ we are issued a flashing neon sign that says “GO!” There is a restless energy to evangelicalism that leads to a full schedule and a fast pace. Some have said that, in Christian culture, busyness is next to Godliness. We are always in motion, constantly growing never expanding.”

“We (introverts) don’t avoid social situations like we would a trip to the dentist, but sometimes we avoid them like we might avoid exercise, because we lack the energy for it. Long periods without quiet refueling leave introverts feeling physically exhausted and emotionally hollow.”

I kept reading the limitless artillery of quotes like this and I was thrilled. I thought, “I’m not the only one!” I kept standing up from my recliner to hunt down my wife so I could read her McHugh’s words that so accurately represented my heart.

Introverts in the church helped me to understand, that I’m not bad at ministry, but that I am an introvert in a extroverted ‘business.’ It also helped me to understand that I can still be successful in ministry while offering helpful tips on how to construct a schedule that works well with my introverted-ness. The fact of the matter is- introverts function differently. We require serious amounts of time to collect our thoughts and process alone. And in a culture of church that posts billboards that say things like ‘When Christians rest they rust’ it can be difficult to do this. (By the way I really did see a sign that said that).

So if you feel out of place in ministry, because it seems so overly-busy, or if ministry-related meetings take discipline for you to attend,  or if the words “The Great Commission” make you cringe in guilt and shame, while simultaneously giving you crippling anxiety, please, please read this book.

For those that are concerned that McHugh will essentially advise introverts to retreat from community, you couldn’t be more wrong. He fully knows that community is essential, especially for introverts, and also places a high a value on the Great Commission, and offers helpful ways for introverts to approach our mandate that seems to be so difficult.

This one is a must read.

5 of 5.

Inheritance

At last, young adult fantasy readers can rejoice! Christopher Paolini’s final book in the Inheritance Cycle has been released, and with a staggeringly creative name: Inheritance.

For those of us that have a college degree, we will only discuss Inheritance with those who have read the previous books, or we will cautiously read the e-book version or thumb through the pages of the 800+ page clunker after strategically removing the dust jacket (This is so all the cool people won’t see us reading a book with a dragon on the cover).

Inheritance is the followup to Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr (I still have no idea how to pronounce this word or about 50% of the names in the book- in fact I’ve found it difficult to talk to others about the players in the books, because we never seem to understand who the other is talking about).

Inheritance is the final showdown between Galbatorix, the evil King of Alagaesia and Eragon the Rider; along with his colorful cast of friends: Saphira, his dragon who suffers from spells of vanity, Arya, the smokin’ hot elf who is out of Eragon’s league, Roran, his totally awesome hammer wielding cousin and many, many, many more… seriously.

If you haven’t read the books and enjoy good fantasy stories that are an easy (but not necessarily quick) read- check out the Inheritance Cycle. A word of warning: Do not read these books if you are on the hunt for spectacular character development or spellbinding writing. In fact if you are looking for literature with such qualities… run far, far away from Paolini’s works.

BUT! If you want a great storyline, it doesn’t get much better. To me, its kind of like Star Wars. What an awesome story!

Just don’t pay any attention to the script.

In Paolini’s defense, he started writing the series when he was 15. So if you start reading Eragon, keep in mind that the very raw writing comes from the desk of a brilliant high school student. And you should also be encouraged that the books increase in quality and level of enjoyment with each new installment.

3.5 out of 5.

If anyone hasn’t embarked on the series and is going to start, or is rereading before starting the finale, count how many times in the series the phrase ‘waking dreams’ is used and let me know… it will get really, really, annoying.

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Crazy Love… Crazy for reading it?

For some reason I haven’t been able to enjoy Christian books too much. I typically make it a rule not to read too many ‘popular’ Christian books. You know the ones that I’m talking about – they either have the word ‘revolution’ or ‘generation’ in them. Because to me, these books are volumes that keep restating the same thing over and over and over… it’s like the smoke alarm going off in your home… you get the message, no need to hear it again. And I’ll be honest, in some ways Francis Chan’s ‘Crazy Love’ doesn’t say anything new at all, and will most likely be a restatement of sermons you have been hearing forever.

But…

Chan has an ability to connect emotions with these truths. He goes beyond the neglect of the heart that some theologians and pastors seems to do, by using a keen gift to help these age old truths resonate deep within your spirit. Crazy Love is about looking at what Jesus says, and then painting a very basic picture of what the Christian life would look like for modern day Americans who want to be real with the words of our savior. Chan hits the nail on the head when he admits that we too often hear stories of people that are radically living for God, and we assume that they are some sort of super Christians who wear capes while taking communion and holding baptismal services every time they go to WAL MART. But the fact of the matter is: The Sermon on the Mount should be Christianity 101… ouch.

The book is very simply written and steers clear of any Christian jargon (this is a PLUS! Who the heck knows what ‘asking Jesus into your heart, accepting him, soaking, or ‘the anointing’ means anyway?) And each chapter is prefaced with an online video made by Chan that prepares your mind for the reading… I found that they were a fantastic way to keep me focused on the material and gave me food for thought throughout the day.

A quick word of warning: I very rarely will point out theological issues I have with a book, but… Chan is an advocate of ‘Lordship Salvation’ and thinks that a Christian must ‘prove’ their faith with good works, and that a disciple and a Christian are the same thing. For a response to why I think this is WRONG and HARMFUL check out a lesson I gave at church.

Check out parts 1 and 2 as well if you are interested.

Overall, Crazy Love was an enjoyable, challenging book that didn’t ‘teach’ me anything, but got me to take a closer look at my life and ask myself: What am I doing right now that requires faith?

3rd shelf of 5.

If You Like Reading, You Need To Read This Book

“Excuse me if I enjoy myself rather obviously!” he said to Gregory, smiling. “I don’t often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the other way.”

A couple of weekends ago I had the absolute pleasure of reading a real button clicker (I was reading the book on my kindle). One of my closest friends who is an avid non fiction reader told me to check out a crime/suspense novel written by one of my favorite authors: G.K. Chesterton. (For a brief intro on Chesterton, the only thing that needs to be said is that C.S. Lewis considered him to be one of his greatest influences). Even though it was a book written over a hundred years ago, I ordered it (for free) on my kindle. I was taking a relaxing weekend away in Austin with my wife while sitting in a delightful, rustic coffee shop completely unaware of how much the book would blow me away.

‘The Man who was Thursday’ is a difficult book to write a review for, because it is packed with twists and turns from the get go, and to be perfectly honest I just don’t want to give anything away (this is assuming of course that those of you who have been reading my reviews are accepting every post as gold, and laboriously following through with my supreme recommendations). The book opens with a debate between two philosophers: Syme, and Gregory, who both have remarkable secrets that are revealed quickly. The rest of the novel is the unraveling of the secrets, and one man’s adventure to bring a secret society of anarchists to justice. It is a remarkable page turner that explores the motifs of loneliness, friendship, and individuality, but keep in mind that the novel is written by a DEEP Catholic thinker, and will inevitably turn towards a resolution that magnifies the Father that Chesterton devoutly worshiped. The tale of secret societies will have you shouting, nail biting, page turning, along with sleep-losing.

I am very hesitant to give books such a high praise, but this one was instantly a favorite. Chesterton’s enchanting writing will leave you spellbound, and with a goofy grin on your face, as he is no stranger to sarcasm, wit, and satire. The stunning conclusion will leave you in a state of raw contemplation, and perhaps even confusion (unless you are of the higher echelons of society with a powerful intellect… if you’re reading my reviews, don’t worry,  you most likely fall into such a category).  But great novels, in my opinion, always do this. If you’re looking for sheer entertainment, this book is for you. But if that is ALL you’re looking for, steer clear of this psychological thriller.

5 of 5… easily.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Volume 1

“At long last, you may no longer distinguish what binds you from what is you.”

Upon seeing the title: the Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, and having a small inkling of the book being set in colonial times, my mind leapt to the ridiculous plots that are often scoured through the pages of the young adult section: Caesar Octavian runs into Bill & Ted in the midst of their excellent adventure and travels forward in time to colonial America? False. However, the book really was an unexpected treat.

Octavian Nothing is a wild story about a mild mannered African boy, owned by a man named Josiah Gitney, a philosopher instructor of the Novanglian College of Lucidity. The college is headquarters to all sorts of pseudo-scientific experiments (I know you’re still on the thread of Young Adult fiction here, so what’s probably going through your mind is like a colonial version of Bill Nye the science guy where Bill wears wigs and heels…sorry) such as Octavian weighing his excrement, and comparing it with his consumption of food; all aimed at unearthing the differences between blacks and whites.  Octavian and his mother, despite being in this horrific environment, are actually treated very well. But why?

Early on in the book the reader is introduced to a mysterious door (in classic Narnian fashion) that Octavian is strictly forbidden access to, but his curiosity soon gets the better of him (just like all young boys). Octavian’s ignorance of his petrifying situation soon melts away as the secrets behind the door are revealed… he begins to understand that he is indeed a slave and is possibly at the hands of a corrupt organization that has dressed him in silks, and has given him a classical education to serve a very specific agenda. The tale is grounded in this spectacular revelation, and how young Octavian not only deals with it emotionally, but also upon his choices that are birthed from the pain of his enslavement, and the cruelty of the bizarre experiments.

M.T. Anderson’s dense writing in this novel gives you the sensation of chewing a savory steak dinner. His voice and diction are beyond rich and complex, while effectively giving the reader the feeling of being enveloped in the thick of 1770’s America. After reading the book, I’m still confused at why it is classified as young adult fiction. The vocabulary is advanced and there are dark scenes throughout the novel peppered with 3 instances of completely unneeded sexuality. However, Octavian Nothing would be a powerful novel for young adults to read because it breeds an absolute hatred for the institution of slavery. And even though Octavian Nothing is not about a Roman Emperor traveling through time with two high school slackers, its powerful commentary on injustice, slavery, and nationalism was a worth-while read for me and I believe for readers of a younger generation.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is an intriguing read, but a little bit difficult to struggle through at times. However, hang in there, the last 50 pages made M.T. Anderson’s first crack at historical fiction a beautiful masterpiece… the beginning of a story that I will undoubtedly finish in its sequel.

4th shelf out of 5.