Wednesday, January 20, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: "A Place Called Heaven" - by Dr. Larry Ollison

BOOK REVIEW
A Place Called Heaven
by Dr. Larry Ollison
(Harrison House Publishers)
__________

Where do we go when
we die? What will
Heaven look like?
What will we look like
when we get there? 
__________

Truth be told, I'd been saved since I was a little kid, way back in the early '70s. But my salvation merely was a "fire insurance policy" I purchased based on concerns raised in Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was then and there when I learned how Jesus was the Son of God, and through "accepting" Him as my "Savior," I would escape eternal hell fire and damnation — an easy sell, especially when you're seven.

My eternity was sealed. I had comfort in knowing I'd purchased a solid "policy." But it was based ALL on religion  the very force that ultimately would push me away from God as I discovered "sex, drugs & rock and roll" in my teens. It wasn't until after decades of pursuing that misguided lifestyle that I experienced what old school church folk refer to as a bona fide "come to Jesus" moment. And at age 48, I finally grasped the relationship factor of my policy. I've said it (many times) before, but I'll say it again (and again) — there's a BIG dif between religion and relationship.

In short order, I became so passionate about living for Jesus and sharing the Good News gospel, I jumped head first into writing my second book, C'MON! Released in January 2012, it reflected a decidedly bigger, better and brighter message than I offered in my 2010 debut memoir.

While it certainly is true that "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17 / NLT), it also is true (sadly) that little can squelch the passion of a Christian quite as effectively as the input of other Christians. Those people can be a nasty bunch, sometimes.

When I first began pitching the initial C'MON! manuscript in late 2011, I received a scathing email response from one particular prominent Christian literary agent. Instead of offering me a "pat on the back," he delivered a "punch to the privates" — revealing how I was an uneducated fraud  ill-equipped and unqualified to offer a worthy testimony. And if I truly wanted to honor God, I needed to "shut up." But I didn't allow this fella to squelch my passion. I took his condemnation as a challenge. I plugged into a church home and began serving. In no time, I was involved in youth ministry and I even enrolled in Bible college. Two years later, I headed out on my first of several international missionary trips. BTW, I now hold a degree in Bible Studies. Yeah, I'm shocked too!

It was during my Bible college experience when our class was assigned to read Life is in the Blood, by a celebrated author I'd never heard of before. His name  Larry Ollison. In short order, I adopted the Walk on the Water Faith Church pastor as my quasi spiritual life coach. I've now read every-single-one of Dr. Ollison's books, and he's something of a buddy — although we've never met. Ollison has become the wise old owl who I hang out with, as I tear through the pages of his various titles during my morning devotions at my favorite local java joint.

The cool thing about Ollison is he never talks over his readers. He's no "Mr. Smarty Pants." He always speaks to his readers  which is particularly helpful (and appreciated), especially for a reformed Nugent nut like me.

The older I get, the more I seek, and the more I realize just how little I know. Thanks for a spirit of humility, Jesus. Hence, despite that diploma hanging on my wall, I still can get hung up on various aspects of Bible study.

At various times in the Bible, Jesus challenges us to trust him. He even once got a bit ticked off with his disciples — referring to them as, “faithless people!" (Mark 9:19 NLT). As one who does trust Him, completely, I have total confidence in having an "eternal home"  one that's far more marvelous than my pea-sized brain can fathom. So, when it comes to details regarding Heaven, my (humble) kneejerk reaction often is, "Who cares?" — God's "got me" on this, so why sweat it. However, based on the relationship factor outlined in my "policy," I continue seeking knowledge and understanding. Thanks to Dr. Ollison, I have a qualified "advisor" (Proverbs 11:14 NLT) to hook me and reel me in.

In his latest book, A Place Called Heaven, Ollison breaks down "end times," while painting a vivid portrait of eternity in his typical engaging, conversational style  with the wisdom and knowledge of some of my other favorite Christian Living authors, including the late Warren W. Wiersbe and Kenneth E. Hagin.

Where do we go when we die? What will Heaven look like? What will we look like when we get there? Will there be reruns of Match Game shown in Heaven? While Ollison doesn't address all of those questions, he hits the biggies.

One of Ollison's frequent go-to bullet points is, "the power of the blood." And as a result of the blood shed by Jesus, Ollison reveals there ain't no "purgatory." Ha — take THAT one, "man-made religion!" However, for believers, there is a wonderful period in "Paradise" (Luke 23:43 NLT).  Hooray for RELATIONSHIP! But, as they say, "Wait! There's more!" Church Age believers need not fear the Tribulation, as we already will have been rescued to Paradise during the Rapture.

Ollison's writing style speaks plainly to the Everyman. However, A Place Called Heaven isn't a "light" or "quick" read. In fact, it's a comprehensive college course, crammed into a concise 250 pages. And even for as smart as I am (that's sarcasm, BTW), I still can get a bit overwhelmed by trying to process the enormity of the topic. Heck, I'm still hung up on the great Ginger vs. Mary Ann debate.

The myriad life experiences Ollison weaves in makes the content all the more relatable. And his first-hand accounts of others' testimonies, as well as his music-related perspectives and other personal insights further strengthen the narrative.

I once worked as an assistant for a world-famous, platinum-selling rock star. While traveling with him across the country in his luxury tour bus on various big-time arena concert tours, he only ate at established "name" restaurants (e.g. Olive Garden, P.F. Chang's, Outback, etc.) — even if we were in a major city, near an indie restaurant known for its unique cuisine, he only trusted name-brand eateries. As he told me, they created a consistent, quality product, and you always knew what you were gonna get. I'm the same way with the Christian authors whose work I consume. The message is far too important for me to trust a potentially unreliable messenger. In that regard, it could be said that with A Place Called Heaven, Larry Ollison proves (once again) to be the "Cracker Barrel" of Christian Living authors. Mmm, Mmm! I just LOVE their dumplings!

-Christopher Long
(January 2021)



- A SHOT OF POISON -
"10th Anniversary Edition"
(October 2020)
__________

- SUPERSTAR -
__________

- SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

- C'MON! -
(2012)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

TOP TEN PEOPLE I WANT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH (The 2021 Edition)

 
TOP TEN PEOPLE
I WANT TO HAVE
COFFEE WITH
(The 2021 Edition)
__________

When I published my
first "coffee chat" piece
back in 2013, I had no
idea it would become
such a popular annual
feature. I hope you dig
my latest installment.
__________

I start each morning diving into my daily Bible study. But it's tough (for me) to experience quality time in the Word without a fresh, piping hot morning jolt and a lil' sweet treat on the side. Oddly, even at 5:00 or 6:00am, I run into all sorts of folks at my local java joint. These casual run-ins often lead to more in depth conversations — connection can be quite an incredible thing.

A few years ago, I realized just what a wonder environment the coffee shop setting is for getting to know people  calming and relaxing. I've enjoyed engaging many peeps in compelling coffee conversations over the years, yet my brew-based bucket list seems never-ending.

10

He's been creating timeless
 music for the last 45+ years.
His weekly Underground
Garage radio show will be
hitting its 20th anniversary
next year. And his record
company, Wicked Cool, is
the the grooviest label going.
But what I really would like
to get out of "Miami" Steve
during a coffee sit-down
is all the juicy behind-the-
scenes dish from his days on
the TV series, The Sopranos,
portraying Silvio Dante.
I dunno, Tone. It don't look
too good.
__________

9

On the surface, it would
seem that I have absolutely
nothing in common with
the 31-year-old New York
congresswoman. However,
a coffee experience might
help us to discover some
common ground. Plus,
she's so doggone fine, I'm
dying to know what her
hair smells like. TMI?
__________

8

The dude is a freaking pop
culture icon. I totally dig
his turbo-charged band and
his high-octane podcast.
As long as we didn't have
to talk about wrestling, I'd
wager a bet that a coffee
conversation would be a
straight-up smack-down.
__________

7

My interest in pursuing
actress for coffee merely
is driven by a professional
desire to get a good story,
as a journalist. No, really.
__________

6

I met the celebrated TV
and radio host backstage
a few years ago while I
was working for a famous
rock group. He was totally
likeable and completely
easy going. Based on our
shared passion for classic
hard rock, a coffee chat
likely would be lengthy
and high-energy, for sure.
__________

5

Through her wildly popular
YouTube series, I recently
discovered New York-
based teenage drummer,
Brooke Colucci, and her
hard-hitting band, Plush.
An avid drummer myself
(albeit one with marginal
skill), I recognize that the
amount of talent this young
woman possesses is almost
inconceivable. Truth be
told, there's so much that
I want to talk to her about
regarding all aspects of
drumming, we would
need to order up at least
three rounds of java.
__________

4

As a young tween growing
up during the early and mid
'70s, I had little interest in the
anointed rock heavyweights
of the day. My passion was
rooted in R&B. Sly and the
Family Stone, The O'Jays
and Rufus were MY "Zep,"
"Stones" and "Beatles." And
for me, the pick of the litter
were the sweet and stanky,
funk-fueled Ohio Players.
Lead guitarist and co-vocalist,
Leroy "Sugar" Bonner was
MY "Hendrix." He still is.
Sadly, Bonner passed away
in January 2013, so a coffee
chat with the soul superstar
will have to wait a few more
years. I sure hope there's
a Starbucks in Heaven!
__________

3
MRS. REPHLO

If we're fortunate, we have
one amazing teacher who
had a profound, positive,
lasting affect on us when we
were young. I was blessed
to have had several of those
teachers. Bernice Rephlo
was my 5th grade teacher
('73-'74). She was gloriously,
wonderfully insane. Nearly
everything I know about
having confidence, writing,
performing and music, I
learned from Mrs. Rephlo.
The last time I saw her was
in 1980. She passed away
a few years later. If I only
could have a coffee chat
with her now, I would thank
her for all she did for me.
__________

2

When I reflect on the time I
spent on tour working for
the platinum-selling rock
band, Poison, my fondest
memories are of the coffee
experiences I shared with
lead guitarist, CC DeVille.
These days, I doubt he'd
piss on me if I was on fire.
However, given where we
both have arrived spiritually
in recent years, if we ever
did reconnect, we'd likely
have a lively conversation
about Jesus. Nothin' but a
good time, to be sure!
__________

1

Okay, so I have a thing for
Lillie Mae. But just for the
record, I never said that I
wanted to wear her skin.
My therapist just likes to
twist my words occasionally.
So much for Dr. / patient
confidentiality. Anyway,
the 29-year-old guitar
pickin', fiddle phenom
would have little to fear
by having coffee with me.
___________

Well, there ya go. I hope you had fun with my latest caffeine-crazed commentary. So, who's on your brew-based bucket list? Feel free to post your personal thoughts in the "Comment" section below.

-Christopher Long
(January 2021)

__________

TOP TEN PEOPLE I WANT
TO HAVE COFFEE WITH
__________




- A SHOT OF POISON -
"10th Anniversary Edition"
(October 2020)
__________

- SUPERSTAR -
__________

- SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

- C'MON! -
(2012)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

CHRISTMAS 2020: A Time for Caring

CHRISTMAS 2020
A Time for Caring
__________

At the end of this often
traumatic year, there
are countless stories
of people in need, all
across our country. But
one story in particular
captured my attention
— and it's one that I
felt moved to share.
__________

Back in the old rock and roll glory days of the mid '80s, one of my favorite metal bands was the burgeoning NYC-based brigade, Nuclear Assault. By 1989, the crazed hard-core collective was touring nationally in support their album, Handle with Care. As result of the record's massive success, the brash, irreverent combo also was blowing up on the popular weekly Saturday night MTV program, Headbanger's Ball. Along the way, my band, Dead Serios, found ourselves as a frequent opening act for Nuclear Assault. And by the early '90s, I'd developed a close personal friendship with their lead guitarist, Anthony Bramante.

BADA BING, BADA BANG!
(Goofin' with Anthony in 1990)

Simply put, Anthony is a no-nonsense Brooklyn guy. Truth be told, he could easily have played the convincing part of a streetwise stand-in on any episode of The Sopranos  Fuhgettaboutit! Even after more than 30 years, he remains a dear friend who I respect and admire a great deal. And when Anthony speaks, I listen. So, when he called me recently to share the harrowing and courageous story of his friend, Kevin Devine, I took the tale to heart.

A former Madison Square Garden staffer, Kevin became friends with Anthony as a co-worker in their current US Postal gig. All was well for the 55-year-old husband and father — until COVID hit earlier this year. No "respecter of person," the virus attacked Kevin last spring, and he soon was hospitalized. Throughout the ordeal, it seemed almost certain that Kevin wasn't going to make it. Then, a miracle.

Read Kevin Devine's
courageous story, and
donate to his GoFundMe
campaign HERE.

By late summer, Kevin did rebound. After a long rehabilitation process, he finally was released from the hospital and was allowed recently to return home to be with his family. But Kevin's full recovery will be a long road, indeed. Plus, given how he's been out of work for months and likely will remain at home for several more months to come, his family's financial situation is dire. The related medical bills — also astronomical.

Fortunately, Antony apprised me of a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Kevin and his family. While I realize there are many fantastic charities seeking much-needed donations during the holidays, this one certainly is worthy of consideration. I invite you to check out the link posted above, and respond as you feel led. Thanks, and...

M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S-!

-Christopher Long
(December 2020)


- A SHOT OF POISON -
"10th Anniversary Edition"
(October 2020)
__________

- SUPERSTAR -
__________

- SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

- C'MON! -
(2012)

Friday, December 18, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: "Finding Hope When Things Look Hopeless" by Dr. Larry Ollison

BOOK REVIEW
Finding Hope When
Things Look Hopeless
by Dr. Larry Ollison
(Harrison House Publishers)
__________

Although I never have
spoken to or even met
the man, Larry Ollison
has impacted my life
more profoundly than
David Lee Roth. And
in my world, that's a
pretty hefty statement.
__________

It's kind of a wacky story, really. At the time, I'd devoured every title from author and pastor, Larry Ollison. Yet, shortly after getting my hands on a copy of his then-latest book, Finding Hope When Things Look Hopeless, in 2017, it somehow "fell through the cracks" — likely a result of being distracted by moving from my former residence to a new one. And I soon forgot all about Larry's book. Hang on — that's not the wacky part.

Fast forward THREE years — November 2020. I was digging through a crate containing some of my old rock and roll memorabilia that oddly had wound up at my GF's house. And there it was — buried under folders filled with '80s era magazine clippings of Lita Ford and Joan Jett, I found my long-lost copy of Larry's book — at the exact time I needed to rediscover it.

The cool thing about Larry is that he's a "straight-up dude" — young enough to have experienced Hendrix and raced Chevy's back in the day, but old enough to possess immeasurable faith-based wisdom as the founder of Walk on the Water Ministries. For his legions of followers, Larry combines his "Everyman" perspectives from the past with his current spot-on spiritual insights — resulting in a slew of compelling "life guides."

Us church folk are quite familiar with the term, "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17 / NLT). We also recognize that a great way for Christian friends to "sharpen" each other is through "small group" experiences. And that concept allows Larry to be most effective. Through his personable, conversational style, he creates an intimate super-small group vibe, as he shares powerful biblical messages with readers one-on-one. And it's that unique ability that makes Finding Hope so impactful.

In today's troubled times, it's tough to find hope, and easy to lose hope. However, Larry shows that there IS hope for believers, based on our faith in Christ and the promises found in the Word of God. He reveals further how the words we receive can produce victory, while the words we speak can bring defeat. Pursuing our dreams and dealing with broken heartedness also are two of Larry's primary bullet points.

The book of Proverbs speaks specifically of the importance in surrounding ourselves with "qualified" advisers. And Larry devotes an entire chapter to seeking and securing healthy personal relationships cornerstone content, to be sure.

Another cool thing about Larry is that he isn't some slick, toothy "Brylcreem Prophet." He's a laser-focused pastor and teacher — an acknowledged, trustworthy authority on the Word of God. Although Finding Hope does offer readers wise words of tremendous encouragement, it ain't a "Twinkie— it's a "T-Bone." And for those who either are "famished" or merely seeking "refreshment," Finding Hope is both nutritious and delicious. (5-Star)

-Christopher Long
(December 2020)


- A SHOT OF POISON -
"10th Anniversary Edition"
(October 2020)
__________

- SUPERSTAR -
__________

- SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

- C'MON! -
(2012)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

MY TEN FAVORITE RECORDS OF 2020

MY TEN FAVORITE
RECORDS OF 2020
__________

Simply put, it's what I do.
Holed-up in my sunshine-
filled FL loft, I consume
music, while surrounded
by my posse of precious
pups, 18/7. Hey, Roomie!
We're out of Milk-Bones
— AGAIN!
__________

In a word, 2020 was a freakshow — particularly in the U.S. Aside from the ensuing health crisis and the crazed presidential campaign, it was a year of widespread social unrest. But even during a time of tremendous tension, there was a bumper crop of new music to be brought to market. 

From Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Green Day and Deep Purple, 2020 saw an array of releases drop from a menagerie of heavyweight rock vets. Eminem, Drake, Cardi B and The Weeknd fed their faithful flocks a few new flavors, and Taylor, Katy, Kesha and Miley all went "gaga." Nü rock kingpins Deftones, Five Finger Death Punch and Dance Gavin Dance issued new sets, along with nü country heartthrobs Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Sam HuntEven little Mandy Moore came out of musical exile this year, while teenage newcomers Gracie Abrams and Claire Rosinkranz made huge splashes

Truth be told, nobody is qualified to determine the “best” records from any particular year. To suggest otherwise is absurd  to each his own, ya know. Plus, there’s just so much new music always being produced, it's unlikely that anybody has the resources to access or consume it all. However, everybody has “favorites” — the records that pop onto our personal radars and speak to us loudest. This list reflects MY favorites from 2020. SPOILER ALERT: my personal taste is rather eclectic. As long as you’ve got great riffs, tasty hooks, crisp words and a compelling story, I’m probably on board — although I tend to walk the paths less traveled.

Much thanks to the many dedicated publicists who kept my inbox blowing up on a daily basis this year with press releases of artists and downloads of records I might otherwise have missed. I look forward to working with you all again in 2021.
__________

10
Power Up

As they say, "Only the strong
survive." And after 45 years,
AC/DC continue powering
through. In 2020, the iconic
combo delivered one of their
most solid slabs in years.
__________

9
The Loneliness in Me

Reminiscent of Nashville’s
golden era, this 12-song
twang fest serves as a
stylistic Ouija board,
with Brooke channeling
an array of legendary
country music spirits.

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

8
The Ride

Big vocals, big hooks.
Big riffs, big beats.
Big words, big messages
– BIG, BIG, BIG!

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

7
Hate for Sale

It’s painful to witness a once-
formidable quarterback slogging
through the league past his prime.
However, with Hate for Sale, the
Pretenders still prove impressive.

Read my official v13 review
__________

6
BLACK EYED SOUL
Yes

The seventh studio record
from Knoxville-based roots
duo, Black Eyed Soul is a
solid effort — easily one
of the strongest records of
their impressive 20+ story

Read my official v13 review
__________

5
The Second Album

This bona fide super-group
delivered a fab feel-good
with their sophomore set.

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

4
Blvds of Splendor

An important record, the latest
solo set from rock trailblazer,
Cherie Currie, delivers ALL
“thriller” and NO “filler.

Read my official v13 review
__________

3
Fine Line

Harry Styles continues to
raise the bar – defining what
a true pop star should be.

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

2
Last Will & Testament

A soaring seduction that
owns roadhouse authenticity
and drips cathouse allure.

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

1
Golden

A dazzling debut from an
amazing young pop artist.

Read my official Ink19 review
__________

So, there ya go — I hope you had fun with this year's wrap-up overview. I sure had fun putting it together. Maybe I turned you on to something cool. Heck, maybe you’ll turn me on to something groovy in the “Comment” section below. At any rate, M-E-R-R-Y  C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S — here’s to a bigger, better and brighter NEW year — one in which we all love each other a little bit more.

-Christopher Long
(December 2020)


- A SHOT OF POISON -
"10th Anniversary Edition"
(October 2020)
__________

- SUPERSTAR -
__________

- SHOUT IT OUT LOUD -
(2014)
__________

- C'MON! -
(2012)