John Hartog II, retired pastor, Bible college teacher, missionary, devoted husband and father of two, attempts to distill into 101 brief accounts decades’ worth of experiences, life lessons, travel, and family adventures. They revolve around his life as a pastor, his marriage to Martha, their two sons, their pets, and the various congregations he serves.
Many of the entries are slight, with a folksy charm that has a way of teetering into hokum. Subtlety is not Hartog’s strong suit. For example, when his family visits a general store to “chew the fat,” he feels compelled to add: “Now, don’t get the idea that we went to the store, bought us a slab of bacon, and began chewing it for fun!”
Hartog overuses exclamation points (“She especially enjoyed feeding her chickens!”) and turns minor incidents into pages of text, as if he were the first to have his flight canceled or his luggage lost. His 420-page book might have been more successful at half that length. God plays a strong supporting role, safeguarding the pastor as he rattles around in rusted cars and rickety school buses, such as the one he drives in tiny Lipscomb, Texas, population 73, to supplement his income as pastor. His mostly soft sell turns hard in the end, with an appendix titled “Heaven is a wonderful place!” and ending with: “Won’t you come and go with me? Trust Jesus Christ as your Savior today!”
Readers looking for a sophisticated narrative won’t find it here. Still, it’s evident Hartog finds pleasure in writing and sharing his stories, and they could be of interest to older readers nostalgic for tales of a simpler world in which gas sold for 16 cents a gallon and hamburgers cost 15 cents.