Tag Archives: atheism

Wingspread Ezine for January, 2023

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

January 2023                                                  James P. Hurd

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  • Blessed Unbeliever release!
  • Writers Corner
  • New story: Clutchers Car Club
  • This month’s puzzler
  • Wingspread Ezine subscription information
  • Wisdom


In Blessed Believer, Sean McIntosh has good reason to doubt his fundamentalist faith— he’s just lost his girlfriend and his life dream of aviation. But when he turns to unbelief, he finds it harder than he ever imagined—especially at Torrey Bible Institute! So he commits a secret act of sacrilege to convince himself he’s an atheist. It’s a long journey back to his girlfriend, his life dream, and his faith. (Wipf and Stock, 2023.)

Buy here: https://wipfandstock.com/9781666756951/blessed-unbeliever/
or on Amazon (Kindle format coming soon).

Writers Corner

Word of the Month: ENDORSEMENTS: The short paragraphs written on the back cover, recommending a book to the reader (see above).

Tip of the month: PROOFREADING. 1. Print out your piece and read it out loud to yourself. 2. Get a couple of people (readers or writers preferred) to read your piece through. 3. Professional proofreading is expensive but may be necessary.

Your turn:     What is the most memorable line you’re read, or heard in a movie? Email me your favorite at hurd@usfamily.net. Example: Where Harry says, “Go ahead; make my day” (Clint Eastwood, Sudden Impact, 1983).

I’ll post your responses here next week.

Last week I asked you about the best short story you’ve ever read. Two of my personal favorites come to mind.

Jack London, “Two Boys on a Mountain.” Makes your hands sweat.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Hollow of the Three Hills,” about an unfaithful wife encountering a witch. Horror and despair.

This is the woman I married . . .

New story: Clutchers Car Club  


This is a background story based on my novel, Blessed Unbeliever, about Sean McIntosh and Kathleen Wilberforce in the 1950s. It gives some background on Reggie Radcliffe, Sean’s enemy.

After he arrived at Stanton, Reggie Radcliffe single-handedly birthed the Clutchers Car Club—a coterie of church kids, all motorheads. One dark Tuesday night in spring 1959, the Clutchers gathered as usual in the barn at Jeff Adam’s Villa Park orange ranch. A dry Santa Ana wind whipped the branches, flinging oranges off the trees like projectiles. Cars pulled in and parked among the trees. As the guys walked into the barn, which was swept and all alight, a small radio played Bobby Darin—“I want a dream lover, so I don’t have to dream alone. . . .”    
To read more, click above   

(Leave a comment on the website and share with others: https://jimhurd.com . Thanks.)

This month’s puzzler

This is from a book of riddles collected by Agnes Rogers. Mrs. Simmons, a suburban housewife, was very fond of her mother-in-law. One morning after breakfast, she went shopping and then stopped as she often did, to have a mid-morning cup of coffee with the older woman. When Mrs. Simmons returned home, the first thing she saw was the grizzly remains of her husband . . .

Instead of calling a doctor or the police, she calmly went about her domestic chores. Why?

Answer to last month’s puzzler: You recall the defendant was rightly convicted by the jury but the judge was compelled to let him go free. Why? Answer: The guy was one half of a Siamese twin and it would have been unfair to the other half if the guy was imprisoned. (I know: a rare occurrence, and kind of a lame puzzler! Please do not erase me from your memory!  😊)

“Was it something I said?”

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There’s this hot dog stand, and a Buddhist walks up and says, “Make me one with everything.” 

Why did the Hindu patient refuse to take Novocain from the Buddhist dentist?
He wanted to transcend dental medication.

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”   C.S. Lewis

More football

“A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.” 
– Frank Leahy / Notre Dame 

“He doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades and he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”
-Ohio State’s Urban Meyer on one of his players: 

“I never graduated from Iowa. But I was only there for two terms – Truman’s and Eisenhower’s” 
– Alex Karras / Iowa 

Cook County Hospital

Chicago’s Torrey Bible Institute required each student to do “Practical Christian Work” (PCW).  The height (or depth) of Sean’s PCW experience happened on his only visit to Cook County Hospital.

One day in October five TBI students left TBI’s arch, walked to State Street and disappeared down the stairs to the “L.” A drunk lay face up on the station platform, still as stone, his skin hanging on his bones flaccid and greyish, like a too-large coat on a fasting man. Heedless of the chilly day, he lay insensible as two flies crawled over his scalp. Sean felt guilty stepping around him.

A rising roar and bright light signaled the “L”’s arrival. They boarded the great integrator, filled with people of all social classes, colors and races wanting to get somewhere fast. Sean swayed, holding onto the strap. Not much talking¾people stared straight ahead or read the paper. You couldn’t talk much anyway over the thunder of the train.

All at once the train burst into daylight and rose onto elevated tracks. Sean felt like a bird, looking down on the heads of pedestrians, the tops of cars and busses, and gazing across at the office buildings with their windows framing people working at their desks.

Soon the PCW group disembarked, descended the steel steps and headed toward the hospital, inhaling the diesel exhaust from the busses, keeping their heads down to protect their faces from the Chicago freckles.

A forlorn young woman walked toward them as she carried some dirt and a small plant in the chalice of her cupped hands, crying, looking like a poster child for the human condition. Thin and slightly built, she wore open sandals and only a light windbreaker against the cold. “What’s wrong?” Sean asked.

 “God just gave me this gift, the most precious gift in the world—the Tree of Life. [She held up the small plant cradled in her dirty hands.] And now it’s dying.” She raised her supplicant eyes to him. “I don’t know where to plant it, how to water it, how to care for it. The world’s so cruel and I am so sick. If this plant dies, I die with it; the whole world dies. Please help me!”

Sean stood speechless. Tanya from the PCW team put her arm around the bedraggled girl’s bony shoulders, then turned to whisper to Sean, “She smells of alcohol.” The whole group sympathized, but they had to get to their hospital assignment, so they prayed for her, sat her on a bench hunched and shivering, then walked away. Sean glanced back over his shoulder at her pitiful form, her hands still clutching the Tree of Life.

Cook County Hospital’s Beaux Arts façade featured sweet cherubs and rampant roaring lions anchored by fluted Ionic columns, reminiscent of a magnificent woman past her prime. Known as “Chicago’s Ellis Island,” Cook County embraced all who came, all who otherwise could not afford medical care.

They entered the huge doors and walked across the cracked floor tiles. “Look at those sagging doors,” Sean said to Tanya, “and the paint peeling from the walls.” Bleak, unwashed windows looked out at the great city.

TBI’s Practical Christian Work director had given no orientation—only told them to walk the halls and talk to people. The rooms smelled of urine and rubbing alcohol and overflowed with beds. IV feeds hung down from hooks; oxygen tubes protruded from patients’ noses. A woman moaned and thrashed about. One old man raised his head, crying out. A young boy kept calling “nurse, nurse!” Patients lay on wheeled gurneys lining the hallways. One man had a body cast on, steel rods protruding out of his shins to hold broken bones in place. Harried nurses passed from one patient to the other, their voices echoing through the vast building.  

The PCW director had told them, “Just submerge yourself; do more than get your feet wet. Figure it out yourself. Let God guide you.”

Sean wondered, Why am I here? These desperate people, some terminally ill with no one to talk to. How talk to them? I have enough trouble talking to people I know!

Somehow he got separated from the others and found himself at a cul de sac in front of locked doorsl Then an orderly walked up to a keypad. “Here; I’ll punch you in.” Sean wondered (too late) where the other TBI students were. The doors slammed behind him and he entered purgatory—the mental health ward. Perhaps the hospital staff imagined that these naïve Bible Institute students could distract the patients, entertain them, and relieve the orderlies for a few minutes.

A Negro girl about twelve years old sat at a table and looked up at him. “They say I killed my two kittens. But I loved my little kittens. I don’t know…. They just ate something and died. I took their little bodies out and buried them in the back yard but our dog dug them up and was eating them just as Daddy got home…. He whupped me. Mommy said she’s coming back this afternoon to pick me up. I don’t like it here.” Tremulous, sobbing, she paused coloring in her book and turned to look at her beat-up, dark-faced, doll. “Abigail says Daddy can’t come home anymore because he drinks too much.” Then turning back to Sean, “I love my mommy and daddy. They’re coming to get me.” When Sean tried to touch her, she recoiled.

Raising up from his chair, a shriveled man mistook Sean for his son. “So good to see you, Roger. They treat me terrible here; I’m so glad you’re taking me home!”

A heavy-set woman lay on her bed, just staring up at Sean. He froze. What should I do? he wondered. Read the Bible? Pray? Try to engage her in conversation?

Then the woman yelled, “Turkey, turkey, turkey!” Was she anticipating Thanksgiving?

Another man whispered, “My daughter brought me here with a bad fever. They’re discharging me tomorrow. Some of these people are crazy.”

Another: “God will send fire to consume the whole world. Most of these people are lost souls but I’m saved by the blood of the lamb.”

A middle-aged woman smiled at Sean, then whispered, “I’m a virgin; I’ve kept myself for Christ, but one of the doctors tried to rape me. I screamed and he ran away. Everybody woke up. Nobody believes me, but God protected me.”

The orderly walked up. “A psychiatrist makes rounds…. We keep the dangerous ones in a different ward. Most of these just need medication—they’re not a threat to anybody. Not much we can do. Nobody ever visits them; not even their relatives.” He punched Sean out of the lockup.

Walking into the men’s bathroom, Sean stared at the urinal, trying to control his urge to vomit. He wanted to feel compassion but instead, felt only revulsion. The piety of the mentally ill shocked him. How could Christianity be true if crazy people believed it? he wondered. Where is God in the lives of these troubled people? The sick and injured, bereft of grace, cut off from the love of family and from God. Who cares about these people? Do I even care?

His own lack of compassion, his emotional weakness, guilted him. Kathy would flourish here, he thought. She harbors a huge heart that embraces all kinds of hurting people. But he vowed to himself—I’ll never come back here again.

Shaken, he joined the other TBI students in the entry hall. Some of them enthused about their conversations; others remained silent. A visit to Cook County Hospital gives your faith a reality check, Sean thought. What a failure I was!