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Just Shy of Harmony

Just Shy of Harmony

4.6 8
by Philip Gulley

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Come Home to Harmony ...

Thousands of readers have fallen in love with Harmony, the small town with the kindly spirit whose endearing and eccentric residents are like old friends. Join them for Sam Gardner's second year as pastor of his quirky flock.


Come Home to Harmony ...

Thousands of readers have fallen in love with Harmony, the small town with the kindly spirit whose endearing and eccentric residents are like old friends. Join them for Sam Gardner's second year as pastor of his quirky flock.

Editorial Reviews

Anchor - Charles Osgood
"Philip Gulley is a beautiful writer. His ‘Just Shy of Harmony’ is just shy of perfect."
Lynne Hinton
“Filled with humor and grace, this is a delightful homespun tale.”
Charles Osgood—Anchor
“Philip Gulley is a beautiful writer. His ‘Just Shy of Harmony’ is just shy of perfect.”
Charles Osgood--Anchor
“Philip Gulley is a beautiful writer. His ‘Just Shy of Harmony’ is just shy of perfect.”
American Profile Magazine
“...A real-life microcosm of mankind... No wonder he’s been called Indiana’s Garrison Keillor.”
Christian Retailing
“The master storyteller has done it again ... Readers will want to keep this one at their bedside.”
Just Shy of Harmony continues the story begun so charmingly in Home to Harmony. Here, once again, the members of Sam Gardner's Harmony Friends Meeting find answers, some of them surprising, to life's little mishaps and mysteries.
Publishers Weekly
When Sam Gardner reads an article about "the ten warning signs of depression" in a Christian magazine, he discovers that he has seven of them. The article closes by telling readers that if they have seven or more signs of depression, they should see their pastor. The trouble is, Sam is the pastor. He's tired of writing sermons and exhausted by his congregation's resistance to any change more meaningful than installing a new vanity in the women's bathroom. In this refreshingly candid novel, a sequel of sorts to Home to Harmony, the members of Harmony's quirky Friends Meeting engage in various struggles with depression and doubt. Like Jan Karon, Gulley has a gift for understanding the hilarity and pathos of small churches in small towns. With his characteristic wry humor, he develops a host of side characters, from Dale Hinshaw, the self-righteous and infuriating church elder, to the salt-of-the-earth lottery winner, Jessie Peacock. Gulley is unflinching at depicting some of the church members' narrow-mindedness, but he never succumbs to stereotype. While some readers may initially have a difficult time adjusting to the way Gulley often switches from the past to the present tense, this device helps the book play out like a comfortable, down-to-earth conversation. Many readers will relate to Sam's honest struggles with faith and will appreciate the book's subtle message: that Sam's faith is rekindled only when he steps away from congregational infighting and begins to help others. This story is a winner. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Philip Gulley Harmony Series
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Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.63(d)

Read an Excerpt

Just Shy of Harmony

Chapter One

Just Shy of Harmony

Sam Gardner sat on the porch the Monday after Easter. It was early in the morning. The Grant kids were walking past on their way to school.

"Are Levi and Addison ready?" Billy Grant yelled from the sidewalk.

"They'll be right out," Sam answered.

The window by the porch swing was propped open. Sam could hear his wife, Barbara, giving their boys last-minute instructions.

"Levi, don't forget your lunch money. Addison, if you have to go pee-pee, tell the teacher. Please don't go in your pants. Just raise your hand and ask to use the bathroom. Can you do that, honey?"

The boys walked out the front door with their mother following behind, adjusting their shirt collars and smoothing their hair. "Behave yourselves. Obey your teachers."

Barbara settled herself on the porch swing next to Sam. She let out a heavy sigh.

"Addison's kindergarten teacher called yesterday. Do you know he's wet his pants twice in the past week?"

"He is an unusually moist child," Sam agreed.

A pickup truck rattled past their house. Ellis and Miriam Hodge driving Amanda to school. Ellis bumped the truck horn.

"There go the Hodges," Sam observed.

"I really like them," Barbara said.

"I wish we had ten more just like them."

They swung back and forth in a companionable silence.

"I was looking at thecalendar," Barbara said. "I had forgotten this Sunday is Goal-Setting Sunday."

Sam groaned. "Oh, that's right. I'd forgotten too. I don't think I'll go."

"You have to go. You're the pastor."

"Maybe I'll get lucky and die before then."

But the Lord didn't see fit to spare him. Instead, Goal-Setting Sunday gnawed at Sam the entire week.

That Thursday he read the "Twenty-five Years Ago This Week" column in the Harmony Herald. There was a mention of Dale Hinshaw's long-ago mission trip. Twenty-five years ago, one of their goals had been the development of "Lawn Mower Evangelism." Compelled by the Almighty, Dale had ridden across the state on his John Deere lawn tractor. Whenever he passed someone in their yard, Dale would give them a Bible tract and witness to them.

"We just have to throw the seed out there," Dale had told the Herald. "There's no telling what the Lord can do with it." Then he was quoted as saying, "Near as I can figure, I averaged eight miles to the gallon."

This Sunday promised to be another glorious chapter in the goal-setting history of Harmony Friends Meeting.

The first Goal-Setting Sunday was held in 1970, the year Pastor Taylor came to Harmony fresh from seminary, chock-full of grand ideas. Sam was nine years old and has a vague recollection of Pastor Taylor standing at the chalkboard in the meetinghouse basement, encouraging them to splendid heights.

In 1970, their goals were, one, to spread the gospel to every tribe and person in the world, two, to end world hunger, and, three, to carpet the Sunday school rooms.

They'd carpeted the Sunday school rooms first, donated a box of canned goods to a food pantry, and then lost their enthusiasm to do anything more.

Goal-Setting Sunday had gone downhill from there, each year a stark testimony to the growing apathy of the church.

At the last Goal-Setting Sunday, Dale Hinshaw had proposed painting Jesus Saves on the meetinghouse roof as a witness to people in airplanes. "They're up there in the wild blue yonder, bucking up and down in the turbulence. The pilot's telling them to fasten their seat belts. They'll look out the window and see our roof, and it'll fix their minds on the eternal. If they're not open to the Lord then, they never will be."

That was when Sam had proposed doing away with Goal-Setting Sunday. "Why do we even bother? We set these goals and make a big deal out of it for a month or so, then we forget all about it. When we do remember it, we feel bad that we didn't do anything. Why don't we just skip Goal-Setting Sunday this year?"

That had gone over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.

Dale had quoted from the book of Revelation about lukewarm churches and how God would spew them out of his mouth. "Do you want the Lord to spit us out, Sam? Is that what you want? 'Cause I tell you right now, that's what He'll do. You're leading us down a slippery slope. First, we'll stop doing the Goal-Setting Sunday, then the next thing you know there'll be fornication right here in the church. You watch and see."

Any deviation from tradition had Dale Hinshaw prophesying an outbreak of fornication in the church pews. It took Sam several years to learn he was better off keeping quiet and not suggesting anything new.

"Just go along with it," his wife had told him. "It's only one Sunday a year. Let them do whatever they're going to do. It's easier that way."

So when Dale suggested at the elders meeting that it was time for Goal-Setting Sunday, Sam didn't argue.

They scheduled it for the first Sunday after Easter, which is when they've always held it, lest fornication break out in the church.

Dale came to the meetinghouse on Goal-Setting Sunday clutching a briefcase. An ominous sign. After worship, everyone clumped downstairs. Miriam Hodge, the last bastion of sanity in the congregation and, providentially, the head elder, stood at the blackboard, chalk in hand. She asked Sam to pray, so he used the opportunity to talk about the importance of tasteful ministry.

"Dear God," Sam prayed, "may whatever we do bring honor to your name. Let our ministry be proper and reverent, befitting your magnificence."

He'd no...

Just Shy of Harmony. Copyright © by Philip Gulley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Lynne Hinton
“Filled with humor and grace, this is a delightful homespun tale.”
Charles Osgood-Anchor
“Philip Gulley is a beautiful writer. His ‘Just Shy of Harmony’ is just shy of perfect.”

Meet the Author

Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister, writer, husband, and father. He is the bestselling author of Front Porch Tales, the acclaimed Harmony series, and is coauthor of If Grace Is True and If God Is Love. Gulley lives with his wife and two sons in Indiana, and is a frequent speaker at churches, colleges, and retreat centers across the country.

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Just Shy of Harmony 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't pass it up!
Ilovemister More than 1 year ago
This book was just as good as the first one. I love this series. I ordered the 3rd installment and can't wait to get it. These are worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If representing the authors parish i fear he may have trouble with his flock if they recognize themselves mom
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story. Very tender and real. Loved it.
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MIJul More than 1 year ago
I like all the Harmony books. As a church secretary, I can relate to a lot of what is written and enjoy the humor.