Category Archives: Book Reviews

Dr. Giddy’s humble opinions on what he has read.

Big Fish – My Father’s Death: Take 2 (An excerpt)

It’s been a LONG time since I have written anything…

But in re-reading one of my favorite books that is full of many good stories and excerpts; I wanted to share one of my favorite sections here.

A fella by the name of Daniel Wallace wrote the following in his book, Big Fish.  “Big Fish” is a little book that chronicles the life and death of Edward Bloom from his son’s perspective. It is an incredibly imaginative tale and I enjoy the style and format of the book.

The section that I feel compelled to share is nearly the entire chapter appropriately named, My Father’s Death: Take 2. The setting is the son sitting beside his father’s death bed in the guest room of their home, and it reads:

Slowly we lose our idiot smiles and just look at each other, plainly.

“Hey,” my father says, “I’ll miss you.”

“And me you.”

“Really?” he says.

“Of course, Dad. I’m the one -”

“Still here,” he says. “So it figures that you’d be the one doing the missing.”

“Do you,” I say, as if the words were being willed by a force inside of me, “do you believe-”
I stop myself…

“Believe what?” he asks me, fixing me with those eyes, those small blue eyes, trapping me there. So I say it.

“In Heaven,” I say.

“Do I believe in Heaven?”

“And God and all that stuff,” I say, because I don’t know. I don’t know if he believes in God or life after death or the possibility that we all come back as someone or something else. I don’t know if he believes in Hell, either, or angels, or the Elysian Fields, or the Loch Ness Monster. We never talked about these things when he was healthy…

And I expect him to ignore it now. But suddenly his eyes widen and seem to clear, as if he were siezed by the prospect of what awaited him after his death – other than an empty guest room. As if this is the first time the thought has occurred to him.

“What a question,” he says, his voice rising full. “I don’t know if I can really say, one way or the other. But that reminds me – and stop me if you’ve heard this one – of the day Jesus was watching the gates for St. Peter. Anyway, Jesus is giving him a hand one day when a man walks shuffling up the path to Heaven.
‘What have you done to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’ Jesus asks him
And the man says, ‘Well, not much really. I’m just a poor carpenter who led a quiet life. The only remarkable thing about my life was my son.’
‘Your son?’ Jesus asks, getting interested.
‘Yes, he was quite a son,’ the man says. ‘He went through a most unusual birth and later a great transformation. He also became quite well known throughout the world and is still loved by many today.’
Christ looks at the man, embraces him tightly and says, ‘Father, father!’
And the old man hugs him back and says, ‘Pinnocchio?'”

He wheezes, I smile, shaking my head.
“Heard it,” I say.

“You were supposed to stop me,” he says, clearly exhausted after the telling. “How many breaths do I have left? You don’t want me to waste them on twice-told jokes, do you?”

“It’s not like you’ve learned any new ones lately,” I say. “Anyway, this is sort of a best-of thing. A compilation.Edward Bloom’s Collected Jokes. They’re funny, Dad, don’t worry. But you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hes lived his whole life like a turtle, within an emotional carapace that makes for the perfect defense: there’s absolutely no way in. My hope is that in these last moments he’ll show me the vulnerable and tender underbelly of his self, but this isn’t happening, yet, and I’m a fool to think that it will. This is the way it has gone from the beginning: every time we get close to something meaningful, serious, or delicate, he tells a joke. There is never a yes or no, what do you think, here, according to me, is the meaning of life.

“Why do you think that is?” I say out loud, as though he can hear me thinking.
And somehow, he can.

“Never felt comfortable addressing these things head-on… Who really knows for certain? Proof is unavailable. So one day I think yes, the next no. Other days, I’m on the fence. Is there a God? Some days I really believe there is, others, I’m not so sure. Under these less than ideal conditions, a good joke somehow seems more appropriate. At least you can laugh.”

“But a joke,” I say. “It’s funny for a minute or two and that’s it. You’re left with nothing. Even if you changed your mind every other day I’d rather – I wished you’d shared some of these things with me. Even your doubts would have been better than a constant stream of jokes.”

“You’re right,” he says… as though he can’t believe that I have chosen now, of all times, to give him this assignment. It’s a burden, and I see it weighing on him, pressing the life right out, and I truly can’t believe I did it, said it the way I have.

“Still,” he says, “if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that’s all you’d have: a bunch of doubts. But, now, see, you’ve got all these great jokes.”

“They’re not all so great,” I say…

His eyes close and I’m scared, my heart jumps,  and I feel as though I should get Mother, but as I begin to move away he grips my hand lightly in his own.

“I was a good dad,” he says. A statement of not unassailable fact he leaves hanging there, as if for my appraisal. I look at him, at it.

“You are a good dad,” I say.

“Thanks,” he says, and his eyelids flutter a bit, as if he’s heard what he’s come to hear. This is what is meant by last words: they are keys to unlock the afterlife. They’re not last words but passwords, and as soon as they’re spoken you can go.

“So what is it today, Dad?”

“What is what?” he says dreamily.

“God and Heaven and all that. What do you think: yes or no? Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel differently, I understand that. But now, right now, what are you feeling? I really want to know, Dad, Dad?” I say, for he seems to be drifting away from me into the deepest sleep. “Dad?” I say.

And he opens his eyes and looks at me with his pale baby blues suddenly full of an urgency and he says, he says to me, he says to his son sitting beside his bed waiting for him to die, he says, “Pinocchio?”

So there it is…
Does it hit you anything like the way it does me?

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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Book Reviews, Musings


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Through The Looking Glass: Deuteronomy

Today, as I peer through the Looking Glass, I turn the final page of a book that is near to my heart…

Deuteronomy has long been one of my “favorite” books of the Bible.
I know, some may feel this is nearly heretical – to have a “favorite”…
Of course, I love them all very deeply, and sincerely.  After all, it is Deuteronomy 8:3 that states we are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  Yet, a few of the books particularly stand out and speak to me over and over again.  Job, Deuteronomy, Luke, Ecclesiastes, and Philippians to name a few.

Deuteronomy appeals to me for several reasons – and, yes, one of them is that is simply a FUN word to say…
Go ahead and say it out loud.  Surely you smiled at the sound?  Doo – Ter – On – O – Me!
I know, I am incredibly spiritual…  Deep theological meanderings.

Seriously, I enjoy it because it is easy to follow.
Moses speaking, time and again, to the very human people of Israel.  Teaching them the ways of their God – over and over again.  Moses does not speak in riddles.  He plainly lays out God’s truths.  No where is the truth of the Godhead clearer, and stated as succinctly as it is in the sixth chapter (although throughout Old and New Testament the oneness is plain).
Here is what is known as the Shema in Hebrew:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃ וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ׃ וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיֹּום עַל־לְבָבֶךָ׃ וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ׃ וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאֹות עַל־יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ׃ וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל־מְזוּזֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ׃

Here it is in English:

Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.

I remember about six years ago, at an annual event my wife and I like to attend, we met an elderly Jewish man who was dying of cancer.  He was a central figure of the event because of his story of survival – he had endured Hitler’s concentration camps, and here he was decades later, riddled with cancer.  As we approached, he shook our hands and my wife asked if he would mind if we prayed with him.  He smiled, looked us both in the eyes, held up the index finger of his right hand, pointed it above his head and said:  “God is One.”
To which we enthusiastically agreed and commenced to say a prayer with him.

(I know, enthusiastically emphasizing the Oneness of the Godhead is even more heretical nowadays than having favorite books… Sorry, this clown doesn’t buy into the threeness concept of the trinity)

At last year’s event, he stood and spoke to everyone – healthier than ever!
Unity, Oneness and Prayer works!

BUT – the central theme of the book, and what I heard over and over again as I read it during these past weeks is really summed up in one word: LOVE.

Plainly God is first.  Love Him passionately, fervently, and with your entire being.  There are many, many “laws” in Deuteronomy that taught the people of Israel how to love their God.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  Wear this, don’t wear that.  Worship Me this way, don’t worship Me like that.  Destroy the idols temple, build Mine this way.  Place a high value on purity, and a high price tag on impurity.  All things designed to establish His preeminence and differentiate between the true God and the surrounding idols.

Secondly chapter after chapter is dedicated to what boils down to three words: Love thy neighbor (to quote Jesus).  Treat your family this way, don’t treat them that way.  Treat your countrymen this way, don’t treat them that way.  Treat the foreigner this way, don’t treat them that way.  Every “law” given concerning inter-human relationships boiled down to loving people – be it blood relative, fellow citizen, or resident alien, and treating them the way you want to be treated.

The Jewish man I mentioned earlier.  Enduring the concentration camps.  He made it to the freedom of America, and he raised his children here during the 1950’s and 1960’s…  In the heat of the Civil Rights movement – with hate rampant on both sides of the “white” and “colored” sides.  Yet he raised his kids to love.  I have no idea if he raised them in a synagogue or a church, but I do know one of his sons.

I have heard his son tell the story more than once how that when he was eight years old he saw the numbers tattooed on his father’s wrists and asked what it was.  His father didn’t explain to him what the numbers stood for or the horrors he endured at the hands of men full of hate.

Instead he took him to a park in their Oklahoma town on a hot summer day.  The father told the son to drink from the fountain that was there marked “Whites only”, and then from the one marked “Colored Only.”  And to describe the difference on the taste if he could.  There was no difference.

Then the father took the son to the train station and showed him the fan cooled, spacious waiting room for “Whites Only,” and then the stuffy, cramped waiting room labeled “Colored Only.”  The father didn’t explain Hitler, and all that went with that, instead he pointed out the hatred the Americans that freed him were showing each other and said: “That is what caused my scars.”

(You can read the elder man’s full story in the book titled: Until We Meet Again)

It is the lesson of Deuteronomy – LOVE.  God first, and mankind second.

I have a long, long way to go.

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Book Reviews, Looking Glass


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Through The Looking Glass: Acts

Finished Acts (again) today!

This time, what struck me the most was the lack of an “us against them” mentality among the early Christians…

They had church in the temple with other Jewish sects, and also in pagan temples with folks that served gods that were repulsive to Israel.  Yet, they breached their differences with tact (for the most part), and dialogue.  When the “opposing sides” got upset – be it Jew or Gentile – and demanded prison or death, the Christians kept their cool and continued to “speak the truth with love.”  Calm, cool, and collected.

And what a powerful difference they made in their world…

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Book Reviews, Looking Glass, Musings


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Life Is So Good

Life Is So Good
In a nutshell – this is the story of a black man born in Texas in 1898.  He lived during three centuries and 2 millenia.  Because school was not an option for him, he was illiterate – for a hundred years…  But, in his old age, decided he would like to go to school – and so he did.

The powerful thing (to me) about this story is not the obvious message of “you’re never too old to learn, and change your life,” but rather the message of “no matter what life throws at you – YOU are the one that is responsible for how YOU choose to live it.”

After reading it the first time, I decided it would be mandatory reading for my kids – even though I didn’t have any at the time.  Now I do have children, and recently I assigned my 10-year-old to read it.  Judging by the dog-eared pages, he is enjoying it.  My hope is he will love it as much as I do and glean from it some life lessons that will make him a better person.  Lessons like:
People are people – Don’t hold it against them – No matter what.
When George was 10 he watched a young teenaged friend of his get lynched for something the boy didn’t do.
He witnessed – as a kid – another kid get murdered by a bunch of angry white folks for something the boy did NOT do.
George could have spent his entire life hating white people.
George could have lived his entire life justifiably angry – there were plenty of folks there that could have and should have stopped what was happening.
George could have spent his entire life upset with authority – the sheriff watched over the situation.
Instead, George listened to his father who told him:
“Some of those white folks was mean and nasty.  Some were just scared.  It doesn’t matter though.  You have no right to judge another human being.  Don’t you ever forget.”

When you don’t know what to say…  Say the wrong thing.
This isn’t really something I necessarily learned, but it is definitely something I can relate to –
Unintentionally hurting someone with foolish words and not being able to fix it.

George was 14 and working on a white family’s farm.  They had a daughter (Ashley) not too far off from his age and she would bring them lunch in the field.  Ashley was one of the first white people to speak to George simply as a person – this being the early 1900’s, in Texas, that’s a big deal.  Her being a white girl, him being a black boy, both being teenagers…  that’s a scary big deal for him.
After sometime of Ashley trying to just talk to George  she asked, “George, why don’t you ever talk to me?”
He just shrugged. So Ashe asked, “You don’t want to talk to me?”
George nodded and mumbled, “Yeah, I guess that’s it.”
Now, that wasn’t it at all…
George could tell right away that was the wrong thing to say – as she turned away with tears in her eyes.  He didn’t intend to hurt her, but he did – and he never did find a way to fix it.

When dealing with stubbornness – don’t throw stones, use sugar.
On their farm they had a faithful mule that did much of the work.  Of course, mules have a reputation as being stubborn – ol’ Blue could be one of them from time-to-time.  George tells the story of one such time in which he could not get Blue to do what needed to be done.  In a fit – the only one he admits to – George picks up a rock and throws it at the mule.  Instead of hitting Blue’s flank, he hits the mule in the eye…  George hurt the animal pretty badly and carried the regret the rest of his life.  George knew how to motivate the animal using something the animal liked – but this time he chose to throw stones instead and did far greater harm than he did good.
Surely that’s a parable everyone can understand…

The story of George Dawson

Yes... Yes it is.

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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Book Reviews


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Through The Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass.

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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Book Reviews, Looking Glass, Musings


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James? He’s Amish… He doesn’t have a TV.

LOL…  yup, I’ve heard that before.

While it’s true I don’t have a TV, I am not Amish.  But the Amish are an interesting people – and America is fascinated by these folks that live among us.  It’s very interesting to me that, for the most part, you don’t hear anything negative about this group.  Nearly all other society/religious groups that present views or teach values that are different from the mainstream are quickly vilified and thrown into the “cult” category.  Yet the Amish are nearly universally admired and respected by mainstream America.

I am by no means an Amish Expert.  What I “know” of the Amish is this: they ride around in horse & buggies, live in closed communities, have funny names, beards, and hats but do not have electricity, are incredibly self-reliant, and, yet, still somehow have a need to shop at Walmart. 

I recently stumbled upon an audio book titled “Amish Values for Your Family” by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  Suzanne is an Amish Expert.  For a living she writes Amish fiction and nonfiction.  She has studied the Amish lifestyle for a good portion of her life – it seems her grand father was Amish.  Her writing does not attempt to convert America to the Amish life, but rather focuses on how we in mainstream America can incorporate their principles into our daily lives.  And that is exactly what “Amish Values for Your Family” is designed to do. 

For the rest of this blog I will recap what I took away from listening to her book.  I definitely recommend you check out this book – especially if you have young children and struggle to live an incredibly fast paced life that seems to be consumed with E-this & E-that (or i-this & i-that)…

The statistics:

  • Since 1990 American children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week.
  • Structured sports time for kids has doubled – and definitely become exponentially more competitive.
  • Parents are spending 40% LESS time with their children than they did in the 1980’s.
  • Family’s eat dinner together 33% less and vacation together 28% less… some of my best memories are from these two activities – I can’t rob my children of these!


  • Divorce is nearly 0%.
  • The Amish have a 90% retention rate… meaning that 9 out of 10 that are raised Amish stay Amish.  I don’t believe there is a “faith” or other belief system (not to exclude atheist, agnostic, or even the political realm) that can come close to that number… and who holds a belief that they don’t want their kids to embrace?
  • Depression is only about a fifth as common among the Amish.  So those that want to claim the low divorce and high retention rate is due to oppression and coercive tactics have to explain how they can be so happy to be oppressed – and I imagine the number of Amish on the popular American anti-depressant drugs is nill.  So we can’t claim they’re drugged into it either.
  • The Amish have a much lower rate of heart disease and cancer than those of us in the mainstream.  Think of how many of your loved ones have been prematurely taken from your life because of these killers.  No doubt this is due to the Amish’s ability to harvest their own foods organically versus relying on the processed and synthetic foods most of us consume daily.

The Proverbs:
The book is laced with Amish wisdom.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The kind of ancestors you have are not as important as the ones your children have.
  • Very few burdens are heavy if everyone lifts.
  • Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yeild to that which is about us.
  • Pray for a good harvest, but continue to hoe.
  • A happy home is more than a roof over your head, it’s a foundation under your feet.

The Stories:
Last week I was sitting in my recliner with my laptop on my lap (crazy, huh?).  Kimberly was looking at facebook on her phone.  Noah was playing Madden ’08 Football on the Wii.  Kaity was on the computer in the school room.  Annabelle was playing on the Nintendo DSi.  I’m not sure what the dogs and fish were doing.  It was bed time when I realized what we were doing.  I just had to shake my head.  The next night we unplugged and sat around the table playing Skip Bo.

While the book is filled with story after story depicting Amish life – my favorite story was about a father and son that were building a rabbit hutch together.  They were pretty close to their neighbors who were not Amish.  While they were working on it the neighbor man came over and asked how much money they had spent buying the materials to build the hutch.  After the answer was given the neighbor scoffed and told the Amish father that the store in town had hutches on sale for half that price, they wouldn’t have had to spend the whole day working in the sun – they could’ve just bought it and saved some money too!  The Amish father said they looked at those, but decided they could make a hutch that would last much longer than the store bought one.  The neighbor stuck to his belief they should have just bought the hutch – “No need to re-invent the wheel,” he said. 

The Amish father shook his head and replied, “Unless you’re trying to teach your son how to use a hammer and saw.  Unless you want to give your son skills he can use for a lifetime.  And you’re trying to teach him to build things that last.  To take pleasure in his work.  Unless you don’t mind missing those good talks a father and son have while they’re working together, side by side.  If you don’t mind missing those things, then – sure, you can buy the hutch down at the feed store.”

This man could NOT afford to buy the hutch.

And honestly, can any of us afford that half-priced hutch?


Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Book Reviews, My Life


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